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Title: The Lost Girl (published 1921 in the USA)
Author: D H Lawrence
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eBook No.: 0700831.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: June 2007
Date most recently updated: June 2007

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Title: The Lost Girl (published 1921 in the USA)
Author: D H Lawrence




Take a mining townlet like Woodhouse, with a population of ten thousand
people, and three generations behind it. This space of three generations
argues a certain well-established society. The old "County" has fled from
the sight of so much disembowelled coal, to flourish on mineral rights in
regions still idyllic. Remains one great and inaccessible magnate, the
local coal owner: three generations old, and clambering on the bottom
step of the "County," kicking off the mass below. Rule him out.

A well established society in Woodhouse, full of fine shades, ranging
from the dark of coal-dust to grit of stone-mason and sawdust of
timber-merchant, through the lustre of lard and butter and meat, to the
perfume of the chemist and the disinfectant of the doctor, on to the
serene gold-tarnish of bank-managers, cashiers for the firm, clergymen
and such-like, as far as the automobile refulgence of the general-manager
of all the collieries. Here the _ne plus ultra_. The general manager
lives in the shrubberied seclusion of the so-called Manor. The genuine
Hall, abandoned by the "County," has been taken over as offices by the

Here we are then: a vast substratum of colliers; a thick sprinkling of
tradespeople intermingled with small employers of labour and diversified
by elementary schoolmasters and nonconformist clergy; a higher layer of
bank-managers, rich millers and well-to-do ironmasters, episcopal clergy
and the managers of collieries, then the rich and sticky cherry of the
local coal-owner glistening over all.

Such the complicated social system of a small industrial town in the
Midlands of England, in this year of grace 1920. But let us go back a
little. Such it was in the last calm year of plenty, 1913.

A calm year of plenty. But one chronic and dreary malady: that of the odd
women. Why, in the name of all prosperity, should every class but the
lowest in such a society hang overburdened with Dead Sea fruit of odd
women, unmarried, unmarriageable women, called old maids? Why is it that
every tradesman, every school-master, every bank-manager, and every
clergyman produces one, two, three or more old maids? Do the
middle-classes, particularly the lower middle-classes, give birth to more
girls than boys? Or do the lower middle-class men assiduously climb up or
down, in marriage, thus leaving their true partners stranded? Or are
middle-class women very squeamish in their choice of husbands?

However it be, it is a tragedy. Or perhaps it is not.

Perhaps these unmarried women of the middle-classes are the famous
sexless-workers of our ant-industrial society, of which we hear so much.
Perhaps all they lack is an occupation: in short, a job. But perhaps we
might hear their own opinion, before we lay the law down.

In Woodhouse, there was a terrible crop of old maids among the "nobs,"
the tradespeople and the clergy. The whole town of women, colliers' wives
and all, held its breath as it saw a chance of one of these daughters of
comfort and woe getting off. They flocked to the well-to-do weddings with
an intoxication of relief. For let class-jealousy be what it may, a woman
hates to see another woman left stalely on the shelf, without a chance.
They all _wanted_ the middle-class girls to find husbands. Every one
wanted it, including the girls themselves. Hence the dismalness.

Now James Houghton had only one child: his daughter Alvina. Surely Alvina

But let us retreat to the early eighties, when Alvina was a baby: or even
further back, to the palmy days of James Houghton. In his palmy days,
James Houghton was _crême de la crême_ of Woodhouse society. The
house of Houghton had always been well-to-do: tradespeople, we must
admit; but after a few generations of affluence, tradespeople acquire a
distinct _cachet_. Now James Houghton, at the age of twenty-eight,
inherited a splendid business in Manchester goods, in Woodhouse. He was a
tall, thin, elegant young man with side-whiskers, genuinely refined,
somewhat in the Bulwer style. He had a taste for elegant conversation and
elegant literature and elegant Christianity: a tall, thin, brittle young
man, rather fluttering in his manner, full of facile ideas, and with a
beautiful speaking voice: most beautiful. Withal, of course, a tradesman.
He courted a small, dark woman, older than himself, daughter of a
Derbyshire squire. He expected to get at least ten thousand pounds with
her. In which he was disappointed, for he got only eight hundred. Being
of a romantic-commercial nature, he never forgave her, but always treated
her with the most elegant courtesy. To see him peel and prepare an apple
for her was an exquisite sight. But that peeled and quartered apple was
her portion. This elegant Adam of commerce gave Eve her own back, nicely
cored, and had no more to do with her. Meanwhile Alvina was born.

Before all this, however, before his marriage, James Houghton had built
Manchester House. It was a vast square building--vast, that is, for
Woodhouse--standing on the main street and highroad of the small but
growing town. The lower front consisted of two fine shops, one for
Manchester goods, one for silk and woollens. This was James Houghton's
commercial poem.

For James Houghton was a dreamer, and something of a poet: commercial, be
it understood. He liked the novels of George Macdonald, and the fantasies
of that author, extremely. He wove one continual fantasy for himself, a
fantasy of commerce. He dreamed of silks and poplins, luscious in texture
and of unforeseen exquisiteness: he dreamed of carriages of the "County"
arrested before his windows, of exquisite women ruffling charmed,
entranced to his counter. And charming, entrancing, he served them his
lovely fabrics, which only he and they could sufficiently appreciate. His
fame spread, until Alexandra, Princess of Wales, and Elizabeth, Empress
of Austria, the two best-dressed women in Europe, floated down from
heaven to the shop in Woodhouse, and sallied forth to show what could be
done by purchasing from James Houghton.

We cannot say why James Houghton failed to become the Liberty or the
Snelgrove of his day. Perhaps he had too much imagination. Be that as it
may, in those early days when he brought his wife to her new home, his
window on the Manchester side was a foam and a may-blossom of muslins and
prints, his window on the London side was an autumn evening of silks and
rich fabrics. What wife could fail to be dazzled! But she, poor darling,
from her stone hall in stony Derbyshire, was a little bit repulsed by the
man's dancing in front of his stock, like David before the ark.

The home to which he brought her was a monument. In the great bedroom
over the shop he had his furniture _built:_ built of solid mahogany:
oh too, too solid. No doubt he hopped or skipped himself with
satisfaction into the monstrous matrimonial bed: it could only be mounted
by means of a stool and chair. But the poor, secluded little woman, older
than he, must have climbed up with a heavy heart, to lie and face the
gloomy Bastille of mahogany, the great cupboard opposite, or to turn
wearily sideways to the great cheval mirror, which performed a perpetual
and hideous bow before her grace. Such furniture! It could never be
removed from the room.

The little child was born in the second year. And then James Houghton
decamped to a small, half-furnished bedroom at the other end of the
house, where he slept on a rough board and played the anchorite for the
rest of his days. His wife was left alone with her baby and the built-in
furniture. She developed heart disease, as a result of nervous

But like a butterfly James fluttered over his fabrics. He was a tyrant to
his shop-girls. No French marquis in a Dickens' novel could have been
more elegant and _raffiné_ and heartless. The girls detested him.
And yet, his curious refinement and enthusiasm bore them away. They
submitted to him. The shop attracted much curiosity. But the
poor-spirited Woodhouse people were weak buyers. They wearied James
Houghton with their demand for common zephyrs, for red flannel which they
would scallop with black worsted, for black alpacas and bombazines and
merinos. He fluffed out his silk-striped muslins, his India
cotton-prints. But the natives shied off as if he had offered them the
poisoned robes of Herakles.

There was a sale. These sales contributed a good deal to Mrs. Houghton's
nervous heart-disease. They brought the first signs of wear and tear into
the face of James Houghton. At first, of course, he merely marked down,
with discretion, his less-expensive stock of prints and muslins,
nuns-veilings and muslin delaines, with a few fancy braidings and
trimmings in guimp or bronze to enliven the affair. And Woodhouse bought

After the sale, however, James Houghton felt himself at liberty to plunge
into an orgy of new stock. He flitted, with a tense look on his face, to
Manchester. After which huge bundles, bales and boxes arrived in
Woodhouse, and were dumped on the pavement of the shop. Friday evening
came, and with it a revelation in Houghton's window: the first piques,
the first strangely-woven and honey-combed toilet covers and bed quilts,
the first frill-caps and aprons for maid-servants: a wonder in white.
That was how James advertised it. "A Wonder in White." Who knows but that
he had been reading Wilkie Collins' famous novel!

As the nine days of the wonder-in-white passed and receded, James
disappeared in the direction of London. A few Fridays later he came out
with his Winter Touch. Weird and wonderful winter coats, for
ladies--everything James handled was for ladies, he scorned the coarser
sex--: weird and wonderful winter coats for ladies, of thick, black,
pock-marked cloth, stood and flourished their bear-fur cuffs in the
back-ground, while tippets, boas, muffs and winter-fancies coquetted in
front of the window-space. Friday-night crowds gathered outside: the
gas-lamps shone their brightest: James Houghton hovered in the
back-ground like an author on his first night in the theatre. The result
was a sensation. Ten villages stared and crushed round the plate glass.
It was a sensation: but what sensation! In the breasts of the crowd,
wonder, admiration, _fear_, and ridicule. Let us stress the word
fear. The inhabitants of Woodhouse were afraid lest James Houghton should
impose his standards upon them. His goods were in excellent taste: but
his customers were in as bad taste as possible. They stood outside and
pointed, giggled, and jeered. Poor James, like an author on his first
night, saw his work fall more than flat.

But still he believed in his own excellence: and quite justly. What he
failed to perceive was that the crowd hated excellence. Woodhouse wanted
a gently graduated progress in mediocrity, a mediocrity so stale and flat
that it fell outside the imagination of any sensitive mortal. Woodhouse
wanted a series of vulgar little thrills, as one tawdry mediocrity was
imported from Nottingham or Birmingham to take the place of some tawdry
mediocrity which Nottingham and Birmingham had already discarded. That
Woodhouse, as a very condition of its own being, hated any approach to
originality or real taste, this James Houghton could never learn. He
thought he had not been clever enough, when he had been far, far too
clever already. He always thought that Dame Fortune was a capricious and
fastidious dame, a sort of Elizabeth of Austria or Alexandra, Princess of
Wales, elegant beyond his grasp. Whereas Dame Fortune, even in London or
Vienna, let alone in Woodhouse, was a vulgar woman of the middle and
lower middle-class, ready to put her heavy foot on anything that was not
vulgar, machine-made, and appropriate to the herd. When he saw his
delicate originalities, as well as his faint flourishes of draper's
fantasy, squashed flat under the calm and solid foot of vulgar Dame
Fortune, he fell into fits of depression bordering on mysticism, and
talked to his wife in a vague way of higher influences and the angel
Israfel. She, poor lady, was thoroughly scared by Israfel, and completely
unhooked by the vagaries of James.

At last--we hurry down the slope of James' misfortunes--the real days of
Houghton's Great Sales began. Houghton's Great Bargain Events were really
events. After some years of hanging on, he let go splendidly. He marked
down his prints, his chintzes, his dimities and his veilings with a grand
and lavish hand. Bang went his blue pencil through 3/11, and nobly he
subscribed 1/0¾. Prices fell like nuts. A lofty one-and-eleven rolled
down to six-three, 1/6 magically shrank into 4¾d, whilst good solid
prints exposed themselves at 3¾d per yard.

Now this was really an opportunity. Moreover the goods, having become a
little stale during their years of ineffectuality, were beginning to
approximate to the public taste. And besides, good sound stuff it was, no
matter what the pattern. And so the little Woodhouse girls went to school
in petties and drawers made of material which James had destined for fair
summer dresses: petties and drawers of which the little Woodhouse girls
were ashamed, for all that. For if they should chance to turn up their
little skirts, be sure they would raise a chorus among their companions:
"Yah-h-h, yer've got Houghton's threp'ny draws on!"

All this time James Houghton walked on air. He still saw the Fata Morgana
snatching his fabrics round her lovely form, and pointing him to wealth
untold. True, he became also Superintendent of the Sunday School. But
whether this was an act of vanity, or whether it was an attempt to
establish an Entente Cordiale with higher powers, who shall judge.

Meanwhile his wife became more and more an invalid; the little Alvina was
a pretty, growing child. Woodhouse was really impressed by the sight of
Mrs. Houghton, small, pale and withheld, taking a walk with her dainty
little girl, so fresh in an ermine tippet and a muff. Mrs. Houghton in
shiny black bear's-fur, the child in the white and spotted ermine,
passing silent and shadowy down the street, made an impression which the
people did not forget.

But Mrs. Houghton had pains at her heart. If, during her walk, she saw
two little boys having a scrimmage, she had to run to them with pence and
entreaty, leaving them dumbfounded, whilst she leaned blue at the lips
against a wall. If she saw a carter crack his whip over the ears of the
horse, as the horse laboured uphill, she had to cover her eyes and avert
her face, and all her strength left her.

So she stayed more and more in her room, and the child was given to the
charge of a governess. Miss Frost was a handsome, vigorous young woman of
about thirty years of age, with grey-white hair and gold-rimmed
spectacles. The white hair was not at all tragical: it was a family

Miss Frost mattered more than any one else to Alvina Houghton, during the
first long twenty-five years of the girl's life. The governess was a
strong, generous woman, a musician by nature. She had a sweet voice, and
sang in the choir of the chapel, and took the first class of girls in the
Sunday-School of which James Houghton was Superintendent. She disliked
and rather despised James Houghton, saw in him elements of a hypocrite,
detested his airy and gracious selfishness, his lack of human feeling,
and most of all, his fairy fantasy. As James went further into life, he
became a dreamer. Sad indeed that he died before the days of Freud. He
enjoyed the most wonderful and fairy-like dreams, which he could describe
perfectly, in charming, delicate language. At such times his beautifully
modulated voice all but sang, his grey eyes gleamed fiercely under his
bushy, hairy eyebrows, his pale face with its side-whiskers had a strange
lueur, his long thin hands fluttered occasionally. He had become meagre
in figure, his skimpy but genteel coat would be buttoned over his breast,
as he recounted his dream-adventures, adventures that were half Edgar
Allan Poe, half Andersen, with touches of Vathek and Lord Byron and
George Macdonald: perhaps more than a touch of the last. Ladies were
always struck by these accounts. But Miss Frost never felt so strongly
moved to impatience as when she was within hearing.

For twenty years, she and James Houghton treated each other with a
courteous distance. Sometimes she broke into open impatience with him,
sometimes he answered her tartly: "Indeed, indeed! Oh, indeed! Well,
well, I'm sorry you find it so--" as if the injury consisted in her
finding it so. Then he would flit away to the Conservative Club, with a
fleet, light, hurried step, as if pressed by fate. At the club he played
chess--at which he was excellent--and conversed. Then he flitted back at
half-past twelve, to dinner.

The whole morale of the house rested immediately on Miss Frost. She saw
her line in the first year. She must defend the little Alvina, whom she
loved as her own, and the nervous, petulant, heart-stricken woman, the
mother, from the vagaries of James. Not that James had any vices. He did
not drink or smoke, was abstemious and clean as an anchorite, and never
lowered his fine tone. But still, the two unprotected ones must be
sheltered from him. Miss Frost imperceptibly took into her hands the
reins of the domestic government. Her rule was quiet, strong, and
generous. She was not seeking her own way. She was steering the poor
domestic ship of Manchester House, illuminating its dark rooms with her
own sure, radiant presence: her silver-white hair, and her pale, heavy,
reposeful face seemed to give off a certain radiance. She seemed to give
weight, ballast, and repose to the staggering and bewildered home. She
controlled the maid, and suggested the meals--meals which James ate
without knowing what he ate. She brought in flowers and books, and, very
rarely, a visitor. Visitors were out of place in the dark sombreness of
Manchester House. Her flowers charmed the petulant invalid, her books she
sometimes discussed with the airy James: after which discussions she was
invariably filled with exasperation and impatience, whilst James
invariably retired to the shop, and was heard raising his musical voice,
which the work-girls hated, to one or other of the work-girls.

James certainly had an irritating way of speaking of a book. He talked of
incidents, and effects, and suggestions, as if the whole thing had just
been a sensational-aesthetic attribute to himself. Not a grain of human
feeling in the man, said Miss Frost, flushing pink with exasperation. She
herself invariably took the human line.

Meanwhile the shops began to take on a hopeless and frowsy look. After
ten years' sales, spring sales, summer sales, autumn sales, winter sales,
James began to give up the drapery dream. He himself could not bear any
more to put the heavy, pock-holed black cloth coat, with wild bear cuffs
and collar, on to the stand. He had marked it down from five guineas to
one guinea, and then, oh ignoble day, to ten-and-six. He nearly kissed
the gipsy woman with a basket of tin saucepan-lids, when at last she
bought it for five shillings, at the end of one of his winter sales. But
even she, in spite of the bitter sleety day, would not put the coat on in
the shop. She carried it over her arm down to the Miners' Arms. And
later, with a shock that really hurt him, James, peeping bird-like out of
his shop door, saw her sitting driving a dirty rag-and-bone cart with a
green-white, mouldy pony, and flourishing her arms like some wild and
hairy-decorated squaw. For the long bear-fur, wet with sleet, seemed like
a chevaux de frise of long porcupine quills round her forearms and her
neck. Yet such good, such wonderful material! James eyed it for one
moment, and then fled like a rabbit to the stove in his back regions.

The higher powers did not seem to fulfil the terms of treaty which James
hoped for. He began to back out from the Entente. The Sunday School was a
great trial to him. Instead of being carried away by his grace and
eloquence, the nasty louts of colliery boys and girls openly banged their
feet and made deafening noises when he tried to speak. He said many acid
and withering things, as he stood there on the rostrum. But what is the
good of saying acid things to those little fiends and gallbladders, the
colliery children. The situation was saved by Miss Frost's sweeping
together all the big girls, under her surveillance, and by her organizing
that the tall and handsome blacksmith who taught the lower boys should
extend his influence over the upper boys. His influence was more than
effectual. It consisted in gripping any recalcitrant boy just above the
knee, and jesting with him in a jocular manner, in the dialect. The
blacksmith's hand was all a blacksmith's hand need be, and his dialect
was as broad as could be wished. Between the grip and the homely idiom no
boy could endure without squealing. So the Sunday School paid more
attention to James, whose prayers were beautiful. But then one of the
boys, a protege of Miss Frost, having been left for half an hour in the
obscure room with Mrs. Houghton, gave away the secret of the blacksmith's
grip, which secret so haunted the poor lady that it marked a stage in the
increase of her malady, and made Sunday afternoon a nightmare to her. And
then James Houghton resented something in the coarse Scotch manner of the
minister of that day. So that the superintendency of the Sunday School
came to an end.

At the same time, Solomon had to divide his baby. That is, he let the
London side of his shop to W. H. Johnson, the tailor and haberdasher, a
parvenu little fellow whose English would not bear analysis. Bitter as it
was, it had to be. Carpenters and joiners appeared, and the premises were
completely severed. From her room in the shadows at the back the invalid
heard the hammering and sawing, and suffered. W H. Johnson came out with
a spick-and-span window, and had his wife, a shrewd, quiet woman, and his
daughter, a handsome, loud girl, to help him on Friday evenings. Men
flocked in--even women, buying their husbands a sixpence-halfpenny tie.
They could have bought a tie for four-three from James Houghton. But no,
they would rather give sixpence-halfpenny for W. H. Johnson's fresh but
rubbishy stuff. And James, who had tried to rise to another successful
sale, saw the streams pass into the other doorway, and heard the heavy
feet on the hollow boards of the other shop: his shop no more.

After this cut at his pride and integrity he lay in retirement for a
while, mystically inclined. Probably he would have come to Swedenborg,
had not his clipt wings spread for a new flight. He hit upon the
brilliant idea of working up his derelict fabrics into ready-mades: not
men's clothes, oh no: women's, or rather, ladies'. Ladies' Tailoring,
said the new announcement.

James Houghton was happy once more. A zig-zag wooden stair-way was rigged
up the high back of Manchester House. In the great lofts sewing-machines
of various patterns and movements were installed. A manageress was
advertised for, and work-girls were hired. So a new phase of life
started. At half-past six in the morning there was a clatter of feet and
of girls' excited tongues along the back-yard and up the wooden stairway
outside the back wall. The poor invalid heard every clack and every
vibration. She could never get over her nervous apprehension of an
invasion. Every morning alike, she felt an invasion of some enemy was
breaking in on her. And all day long the low, steady rumble of
sewing-machines overhead seemed like the low drumming of a bombardment
upon her weak heart. To make matters worse, James Houghton decided that
he must have his sewing-machines driven by some extra-human force. He
installed another plant of machinery--acetylene or some such
contrivance--which was intended to drive all the little machines from one
big belt. Hence a further throbbing and shaking in the upper regions,
truly terrible to endure. But, fortunately or unfortunately, the
acetylene plant was not a success. Girls got their thumbs pierced, and
sewing machines absolutely refused to stop sewing, once they had started,
and absolutely refused to start, once they had stopped. So that after a
while, one loft was reserved for disused and rusty, but expensive

Dame Fortune, who had refused to be taken by fine fabrics and fancy
trimmings, was just as reluctant to be captured by ready-mades. Again the
good dame was thoroughly lower middle-class. James Houghton designed
"robes." Now Robes were the mode. Perhaps it was Alexandra, Princess of
Wales, who gave glory to the slim, glove-fitting Princess Robe. Be that
as it may, James Houghton designed robes. His work-girls, a race even
more callous than shop-girls, proclaimed the fact that James tried-on his
own inventions upon his own elegant thin person, before the privacy of
his own cheval mirror. And even if he did, why not? Miss Frost, hearing
this legend, looked sideways at the enthusiast.

Let us remark in time that Miss Frost had already ceased to draw any
maintenance from James Houghton. Far from it, she herself contributed to
the upkeep of the domestic hearth and board. She had fully decided never
to leave her two charges. She knew that a governess was an impossible
item in Manchester House, as things went. And so she trudged the country,
giving music lessons to the daughters of tradesmen and of colliers who
boasted pianofortes. She even taught heavy-handed but dauntless colliers,
who were seized with a passion to "play." Miles she trudged, on her round
from village to village: a white-haired woman with a long, quick stride,
a strong figure, and a quick, handsome smile when once her face awoke
behind her gold-rimmed glasses. Like many short-sighted people, she had a
certain intent look of one who goes her own way.

The miners knew her, and entertained the highest respect and admiration
for her. As they streamed in a grimy stream home from pit, they diverged
like some magic dark river from off the pavement into the horse-way, to
give her room as she approached. And the men who knew her well enough to
salute her, by calling her name "Miss Frost!" giving it the proper
intonation of salute, were fussy men indeed. "She's a lady if ever there
was one," they said. And they meant it. Hearing her name, poor Miss Frost
would flash a smile and a nod from behind her spectacles, but whose black
face she smiled to she never, or rarely knew. If she did chance to get an
inkling, then gladly she called in reply "Mr. Lamb," or "Mr. Calladine."
In her way she was a proud woman, for she was regarded with cordial
respect, touched with veneration, by at least a thousand colliers, and by
perhaps as many colliers' wives. That is something, for any woman.

Miss Frost charged fifteen shillings for thirteen weeks' lessons, two
lessons a week. And at that she was considered rather dear. She was
supposed to be making money. What money she made went chiefly to support
the Houghton household. In the meanwhile she drilled Alvina thoroughly in
theory and pianoforte practice, for Alvina was naturally musical, and
besides this she imparted to the girl the elements of a young lady's
education, including the drawing of flowers in watercolour, and the
translation of a Lamartine poem.

Now incredible as it may seem, fate threw another prop to the falling
house of Houghton, in the person of the manageress of the work-girls,
Miss Pinnegar. James Houghton complained of Fortune, yet to what other
man would Fortune have sent two such women as Miss Frost and Miss
Pinnegar, _gratis?_ Yet there they were. And doubtful if James was
ever grateful for their presence.

If Miss Frost saved him from heaven knows what domestic debacle and
horror, Miss Pinnegar saved him from the workhouse. Let us not mince
matters. For a dozen years Miss Frost supported the heart-stricken,
nervous invalid, Clariss Houghton: for more than twenty years she
cherished, tended and protected the young Alvina, shielding the child
alike from a neurotic mother and a father such as James. For nearly
twenty years she saw that food was set on the table, and clean sheets
were spread on the beds: and all the time remained virtually in the
position of an outsider, without one grain of established authority.

And then to find Miss Pinnegar! In her way, Miss Pinnegar was very
different from Miss Frost. She was a rather short, stout, mouse-coloured,
creepy kind of woman with a high colour in her cheeks, and dun, close
hair like a cap. It was evident she was not a lady: her grammar was not
without reproach. She had pale grey eyes, and a padding step, and a soft
voice, and almost purplish cheeks. Mrs. Houghton, Miss Frost, and Alvina
did not like her. They suffered her unwillingly.

But from the first she had a curious ascendancy over James Houghton. One
would have expected his aesthetic eye to be offended. But no doubt it was
her voice: her soft, near, sure voice, which seemed almost like a secret
touch upon her hearer. Now many of her hearers disliked being secretly
touched, as it were beneath their clothing. Miss Frost abhorred it: so
did Mrs. Houghton. Miss Frost's voice was clear and straight as a
bell-note, open as the day. Yet Alvina, though in loyalty she adhered to
her beloved Miss Frost, did not really mind the quiet suggestive power of
Miss Pinnegar. For Miss Pinnegar was not vulgarly insinuating. On the
contrary, the things she said were rather clumsy and downright. It was
only that she seemed to weigh what she said, secretly, before she said
it, and then she approached as if she would slip it into her hearer's
consciousness without his being aware of it. She seemed to slide her
speeches unnoticed into one's ears, so that one accepted them without the
slightest challenge. That was just her manner of approach. In her own
way, she was as loyal and unselfish as Miss Frost. There are such poles
of opposition between honesties and loyalties.

Miss Pinnegar had the _second_ class of girls in the Sunday School,
and she took second, subservient place in Manchester House. By force of
nature, Miss Frost took first place. Only when Miss Pinnegar spoke to Mr.
Houghton--nay, the very way she addressed herself to him--"What do
_you_ think, Mr. Houghton?"--then there seemed to be assumed an
immediacy of correspondence between the two, and an unquestioned priority
in their unison, his and hers, which was a cruel thorn in Miss Frost's
outspoken breast. This sort of secret intimacy and secret exulting in
having, _really_, the chief power, was most repugnant to the
white-haired woman. Not that there was, in fact, any secrecy, or any form
of unwarranted correspondence between James Houghton and Miss Pinnegar.
Far from it. Each of them would have found any suggestion of such a
possibility repulsive in the extreme. It was simply an implicit
correspondence between their two psyches, an immediacy of understanding
which preceded all expression, tacit, wireless.

Miss Pinnegar lived in: so that the household consisted of the invalid,
who mostly sat, in her black dress with a white lace collar fastened by a
twisted gold brooch, in her own dim room, doing nothing, nervous and
heart-suffering; then James, and the thin young Alvina, who adhered to
her beloved Miss Frost, and then these two strange women. Miss Pinnegar
never lifted up her voice in household affairs: she seemed, by her
silence, to admit her own inadequacy in culture and intellect, when
topics of interest were being discussed, only coming out now and then
with defiant platitudes and truisms--for almost defiantly she took the
commonplace, vulgarian point of view; yet after everything she would turn
with her quiet, triumphant assurance to James Houghton, and start on some
point of business, soft, assured, ascendant. The others shut their ears.

Now Miss Pinnegar had to get her footing slowly. She had to let James run
the gamut of his creations. Each Friday night new wonders, robes and
ladies' "suits"--the phrase was very new--garnished the window of
Houghton's shop. It was one of the sights of the place, Houghton's window
on Friday night. Young or old, no individual, certainly no female left
Woodhouse without spending an excited and usually hilarious ten minutes
on the pavement under the window. Muffled shrieks of young damsels who
had just got their first view, guffaws of sympathetic youths, continued
giggling and expostulation and "Eh, but what price the umbrella skirt, my
girl!" and "You'd like to marry me in _that_, my boy--what? not
half!"--or else "Eh, now, if you'd seen me in _that_ you'd have
fallen in love with me at first sight, shouldn't you?"--with a probable
answer "I should have fallen over myself making haste to get away"--loud
guffaws:--all this was the regular Friday night's entertainment in
Woodhouse. James Houghton's shop was regarded as a weekly comic issue.
His piqué costumes with glass buttons and sort of steel-trimming collars
and cuffs were immortal.

But why, once more, drag it out. Miss Pinnegar served in the shop on
Friday nights. She stood by her man. Sometimes when the shrieks grew
loudest she came to the shop door and looked with her pale grey eyes at
the ridiculous mob of lasses in tam-o-shanters and youths half buried in
caps. And she imposed a silence. They edged away.

Meanwhile Miss Pinnegar pursued the sober and even tenor of her own way.
Whilst James lashed out, to use the local phrase, in robes and "suits,"
Miss Pinnegar steadily ground away, producing strong, indestructible
shirts and singlets for the colliers, sound, serviceable aprons for the
colliers' wives, good print dresses for servants, and so on. She executed
no flights of fancy. She had her goods made to suit her people. And so,
underneath the foam and froth of James' creative adventure flowed a slow
but steady stream of output and income. The women of Woodhouse came at
last to _depend_ on Miss Pinnegar. Growing lads in the pit reduce
their garments to shreds with amazing expedition. "I'll go to Miss
Pinnegar for thy shirts this time, my lad," said the harassed mothers,
"and see if _they'll_ stand thee." It was almost like a threat. But
it served Manchester House.

James bought very little stock in these days: just remnants and pieces
for his immortal robes. It was Miss Pinnegar who saw the travellers and
ordered the unions and calicoes and grey flannel. James hovered round and
said the last word, of course. But what was his last word but an echo of
Miss Pinnegar's penultimate! He was not interested in unions and twills.

His own stock remained on hand. Time, like a slow whirl-pool churned it
over into sight and out of sight, like a mass of dead seaweed in a
backwash. There was a regular series of sales fortnightly. The display of
"creations" fell off. The new entertainment was the Friday-night's sale.
James would attack some portion of his stock, make a wild jumble of it,
spend a delirious Wednesday and Thursday marking down, and then open on
Friday afternoon. In the evening there was a crush. A good moire
underskirt for one-and-eleven-three was not to be neglected, and a
handsome string-lace collarette for six-three would iron out and be worth
at least three-and-six. That was how it went: it would nearly all of it
iron out into something really nice, poor James' crumpled stock. His
fine, semi-transparent face flushed pink, his eyes flashed as he took in
the sixpences and handed back knots of tape or packets of pins for the
notorious farthings. What matter if the farthing change had originally
cost him a halfpenny! His shop was crowded with women peeping and pawing
and turning things over and commenting in loud, unfeeling tones. For
there were still many comic items. Once, for example, he suddenly heaped
up piles of hats, trimmed and untrimmed, the weirdest, sauciest, most
screaming shapes. Woodhouse enjoyed itself that night.

And all the time, in her quiet, polite, think-the-more fashion Miss
Pinnegar waited on the people, showing them considerable forbearance and
just a tinge of contempt. She became very tired those evenings--her hair
under its invisible hairnet became flatter, her cheeks hung down purplish
and mottled. But while James stood she stood. The people did not like
her, yet she influenced them. And the stock slowly wilted, withered. Some
was scrapped. The shop seemed to have digested some of its indigestible

James accumulated sixpences in a miserly fashion. Luckily for her
work-girls, Miss Pinnegar took her own orders, and received payments for
her own productions. Some of her regular customers paid her a shilling a
week--or less. But it made a small, steady income. She reserved her own
modest share, paid the expenses of her department, and left the residue
to James.

James had accumulated sixpences, and made a little space in his shop. He
had desisted from "creations." Time now for a new flight. He decided it
was better to be a manufacturer than a tradesman. His shop, already only
half its original size, was again too big. It might be split once more.
Rents had risen in Woodhouse. Why not cut off another shop from his

No sooner said than done. In came the architect, with whom he had played
many a game of chess. Best, said the architect, take off one good-sized
shop, rather than halve the premises. James would be left a little
cramped, a little tight, with only one-third of his present space. But as
we age we dwindle.

More hammering and alterations, and James found himself cooped in a long,
long narrow shop, very dark at the back, with a high oblong window and a
door that came in at a pinched corner. Next door to him was a cheerful
new grocer of the cheap and florid type. The new grocer whistled "Just
Like the Ivy," and shouted boisterously to his shop-boy. In his doorway,
protruding on James' sensitive vision, was a pyramid of
sixpence-halfpenny tins of salmon, red, shiny tins with pink halved
salmon depicted, and another yellow pyramid of fourpence-halfpenny tins
of pineapple. Bacon dangled in pale rolls almost over James' doorway,
whilst straw and paper, redolent of cheese, lard, and stale eggs filtered
through the threshold.

This was coming down in the world, with a vengeance. But what James lost
downstairs he tried to recover upstairs. Heaven knows what he would have
done, but for Miss Pinnegar. She kept her own workrooms against him, with
a soft, heavy, silent tenacity that would have beaten stronger men than
James. But his strength lay in his pliability. He rummaged in the empty
lofts, and among the discarded machinery. He rigged up the engines
afresh, bought two new machines, and started an elastic department,
making elastic for garters and for hat-chins.

He was immensely proud of his first cards of elastic, and saw Dame
Fortune this time fast in his yielding hands. But, becoming used to
disillusionment, he almost welcomed it. Within six months he realized
that every inch of elastic cost him exactly sixty per cent. more than he
could sell it for, and so he scrapped his new department. Luckily, he
sold one machine and even gained two pounds on it.

After this, he made one last effort. This was hosiery webbing, which
could be cut up and made into as-yet-unheard-of garments. Miss Pinnegar
kept her thumb on this enterprise, so that it was not much more than
abortive. And then James left her alone.

Meanwhile the shop slowly churned its oddments. Every Thursday afternoon
James sorted out tangles of bits and bobs, antique garments and
occasional finds. With these he trimmed his window, so that it looked
like a historical museum, rather soiled and scrappy. Indoors he made
baskets of assortments: threepenny, sixpenny, ninepenny and shilling
baskets, rather like a bran pie in which everything was a plum. And then,
on Friday evening, thin and alert he hovered behind the counter, his coat
shabbily buttoned over his narrow chest, his face agitated. He had shaved
his side-whiskers, so that they only grew becomingly as low as his ears.
His rather large, grey moustache was brushed off his mouth. His hair,
gone very thin, was brushed frail and floating over his baldness. But
still a gentleman, still courteous, with a charming voice he suggested
the possibilities of a pad of green parrots' tail-feathers, or of a few
yards of pink-pearl trimming or of old chenille fringe. The women would
pinch the thick, exquisite old chenille fringe, delicate and faded,
curious to feel its softness. But they wouldn't give threepence for it.
Tapes, ribbons, braids, buttons, feathers, jabots, bussels, appliqués,
fringes, jet-trimmings, bugle-trimmings, bundles of old coloured
machine-lace, many bundles of strange cord, in all colours, for
old-fashioned braid-patterning, ribbons with H.M.S. Birkenhead, for boys'
sailor caps--everything that nobody wanted, did the women turn over and
over, till they chanced on a find. And James' quick eyes watched the slow
surge of his flotsam, as the pot boiled but did not boil away. Wonderful
that he did not think of the days when these bits and bobs were new
treasures. But he did not.

And at his side Miss Pinnegar quietly took orders for shirts, discussed
and agreed, made measurements and received instalments.

The shop was now only opened on Friday afternoons and evenings, so every
day, twice a day, James was seen dithering bareheaded and hastily down
the street, as if pressed by fate, to the Conservative Club, and twice a
day he was seen as hastily returning, to his meals. He was becoming an
old man: his daughter was a young woman: but in his own mind he was just
the same, and his daughter was a little child, his wife a young invalid
whom he must charm by some few delicate attentions--such as the peeled

At the club he got into more mischief. He met men who wanted to extend a
brickfield down by the railway. The brickfield was called Klondyke. James
had now a new direction to run in: down hill towards Bagthorpe, to
Klondyke. Big penny-daisies grew in tufts on the brink of the yellow clay
at Klondyke, yellow eggs-and-bacon spread their midsummer mats of flower.
James came home with clay smeared all over him, discoursing brilliantly
on grit and paste and presses and kilns and stamps. He carried home a
rough and pinkish brick, and gloated over it. It was a hard brick, it was
a non-porous brick. It was an ugly brick, painfully heavy and

This time he was sure: Dame Fortune would rise like Persephone out of the
earth. He was all the more sure, because other men of the town were in
with him at this venture: sound, moneyed grocers and plumbers. They were
all going to become rich.

Klondyke lasted a year and a half, and was not so bad, for in the end,
all things considered, James had lost not more than five per cent. of his
money. In fact, all things considered, he was about square. And yet he
felt Klondyke as the greatest blow of all. Miss Pinnegar would have aided
and abetted him in another scheme, if it would but have cheered him. Even
Miss Frost was nice with him. But to no purpose. In the year after
Klondyke he became an old man, he seemed to have lost all his feathers,
he acquired a plucked, tottering look.

Yet he roused up, after a coal-strike. Throttle-Ha'penny put new life
into him. During a coal-strike the miners themselves began digging in the
fields, just near the houses, for the surface coal. They found a
plentiful seam of drossy, yellowish coal behind the Methodist New
Connection Chapel. The seam was opened in the side of a bank, and
approached by a footrill, a sloping shaft down which the men walked. When
the strike was over, two or three miners still remained working the soft,
drossy coal, which they sold for eight-and-sixpence a ton--or sixpence a
hundredweight. But a mining population scorned such dirt, as they called

James Houghton, however, was seized with a desire to work the Connection
Meadow seam, as he called it. He gathered two miner partners--he trotted
endlessly up to the field, he talked, as he had never talked before, with
inumerable colliers. Everybody he met he stopped, to talk Connection

And so at last he sank a shaft, sixty feet deep, rigged up a
corrugated-iron engine-house with a winding-engine, and lowered his men
one at a time down the shaft, in a big bucket. The whole affair was
ricketty, amateurish, and twopenny. The name Connection Meadow was
forgotten within three months. Everybody knew the place as
Throttle-Ha'penny. "What!" said a collier to his wife: "have we got no
coal? You'd better get a bit from Throttle-Ha'penny."

"Nay," replied the wife, "I'm sure I shan't. I'm sure I shan't burn that
muck, and smother myself with white ash."

It was in the early Throttle-Ha'penny days that Mrs. Houghton died. James
Houghton cried, and put a black band on his Sunday silk hat. But he was
too feverishly busy at Throttle-Ha'penny, selling his hundredweights of
ash-pit fodder, as the natives called it, to realize anything else.

He had three men and two boys working his pit, besides a superannuated
old man driving the winding engine. And in spite of all jeering, he
flourished. Shabby old coal-carts rambled up behind the New Connection,
and filled from the pit-bank. The coal improved a little in quality: it
was cheap and it was handy. James could sell at last fifty or sixty tons
a week: for the stuff was easy getting. And now at last he was actually
handling money. He saw millions ahead.

This went on for more than a year. A year after the death of Mrs.
Houghton, Miss Frost became ill and suddenly died. Again James Houghton
cried and trembled. But it was Throttle-Ha'penny that made him tremble.
He trembled in all his limbs, at the touch of success. He saw himself
making noble provision for his only daughter.

But alas--it is wearying to repeat the same thing over and over. First
the Board of Trade began to make difficulties. Then there was a fault in
the seam. Then the roof of Throttle-Ha'penny was so loose and soft, James
could not afford timber to hold it up. In short, when his daughter Alvina
was about twenty-seven years old, Throttle-Ha'penny closed down. There
was a sale of poor machinery, and James Houghton came home to the dark,
gloomy house--to Miss Pinnegar and Alvina.

It was a pinched, dreary house. James seemed down for the last time. But
Miss Pinnegar persuaded him to take the shop again on Friday evening. For
the rest, faded and peaked, he hurried shadowily down to the club.


The heroine of this story is Alvina Houghton. If we leave her out of the
first chapter of her own story it is because, during the first
twenty-five years of her life, she really was left out of count, or so
overshadowed as to be negligible. She and her mother were the phantom
passengers in the ship of James Houghton's fortunes.

In Manchester House, every voice lowered its tone. And so from the first
Alvina spoke with a quiet, refined, almost convent voice. She was a thin
child with delicate limbs and face, and wide, grey-blue, ironic eyes.
Even as a small girl she had that odd ironic tilt of the eyelids which
gave her a look as if she were hanging back in mockery. If she were, she
was quite unaware of it, for under Miss Frost's care she received no
education in irony or mockery. Miss Frost was straightforward,
good-humoured, and a little earnest. Consequently Alvina, or Vina as she
was called, understood only the explicit mode of good-humoured

It was doubtful which shadow was greater over the child: that of
Manchester House, gloomy and a little sinister, or that of Miss Frost,
benevolent and protective. Sufficient that the girl herself worshipped
Miss Frost: or believed she did.

Alvina never went to school. She had her lessons from her beloved
governess, she worked at the piano, she took her walks, and for social
life she went to the Congregational Chapel, and to the functions
connected with the chapel. While she was little, she went to Sunday
School twice and to Chapel once on Sundays. Then occasionally there was a
magic lantern or a penny reading,' to which Miss Frost accompanied her.
As she grew older she entered the choir at chapel, she attended Christian
Endeavour and P. S. A., and the Literary Society on Monday evenings.
Chapel provided her with a whole social activity, in the course of which
she met certain groups of people, made certain friends, found opportunity
for strolls into the country and jaunts to the local entertainments. Over
and above this, every Thursday evening she went to the subscription
library to change the week's supply of books, and there again she met
friends and acquaintances. It is hard to overestimate the value of church
or chapel--but particularly chapel--as a social institution, in places
like Woodhouse. The Congregational Chapel provided Alvina with a whole
outer life, lacking which she would have been poor indeed. She was not
particularly religious by inclination. Perhaps her father's beautiful
prayers put her off. So she neither questioned nor accepted, but just let

She grew up a slim girl, rather distinguished in appearance, with a
slender face, a fine, slightly arched nose, and beautiful grey-blue eyes
over which the lids tilted with a very odd, sardonic tilt. The sardonic
quality was, however, quite in abeyance. She was ladylike, not vehement
at all. In the street her walk had a delicate, lingering motion, her face
looked still. In conversation she had rather a quick, hurried manner,
with intervals of well-bred repose and attention. Her voice was like her
father's, flexible and curiously attractive.

Sometimes, however, she would have fits of boisterous hilarity, not quite
natural, with a strange note half pathetic, half jeering. Her father
tended to a supercilious, sneering tone. In Vina it came out in mad
bursts of hilarious jeering. This made Miss Frost uneasy. She would watch
the girl's strange face, that could take on a gargoyle look. She would
see the eyes rolling strangely under sardonic eye-lids, and then Miss
Frost would feel that never, never had she known anything so utterly
alien and incomprehensible and unsympathetic as her own beloved Vina. For
twenty years the strong, protective governess reared and tended her lamb,
her dove, only to see the lamb open a wolf's mouth, to hear the dove
utter the wild cackle of a daw or a magpie, a strange sound of derision.
At such times Miss Frost's heart went cold within her. She dared not
realize. And she chid and checked her ward, restored her to the usual
impulsive, affectionate demureness. Then she dismissed the whole matter.
It was just an accidental aberration on the girl's part from her own true
nature. Miss Frost taught Alvina thoroughly the qualities of her own true
nature, and Alvina believed what she was taught. She remained for twenty
years the demure, refined creature of her governess' desire. But there
was an odd, derisive look at the back of her eyes, a look of old
knowledge and deliberate derision. She herself was unconscious of it. But
it was there. And this it was, perhaps, that scared away the young men.

Alvina reached the age of twenty-three, and it looked as if she were
destined to join the ranks of the old maids, so many of whom found cold
comfort in the Chapel. For she had no suitors. True there were
extraordinarily few young men of her class--for whatever her condition,
she had certain breeding and inherent culture--in Woodhouse. The young
men of the same social standing as herself were in some curious way
outsiders to her. Knowing nothing, yet her ancient sapience went deep,
deeper than Woodhouse could fathom. The young men did not like her for
it. They did not like the tilt of her eyelids.

Miss Frost, with anxious foreseeing, persuaded the girl to take over some
pupils, to teach them the piano. The work was distasteful to Alvina. She
was not a good teacher. She persevered in an off-hand way, somewhat
indifferent, albeit dutiful.

When she was twenty-three years old, Alvina met a man called Graham. He
was an Australian, who had been in Edinburgh taking his medical degree.
Before going back to Australia, he came to spend some months practising
with old Dr. Fordham in Woodhouse--Dr. Fordham being in some way
connected with his mother.

Alexander Graham called to see Mrs. Houghton. Mrs. Houghton did not like
him. She said he was creepy. He was a man of medium height, dark in
colouring, with very dark eyes, and a body which seemed to move inside
his clothing. He was amiable and polite, laughed often, showing his
teeth. It was his teeth which Miss Frost could not stand. She seemed to
see a strong mouthful of cruel, compact teeth. She declared he had dark
blood in his veins, that he was not a man to be trusted, and that never,
never would he make any woman's life happy.

Yet in spite of all, Alvina was attracted by him. The two would stay
together in the parlour, laughing and talking by the hour. What they
could find to talk about was a mystery. Yet there they were, laughing and
chatting, with a running insinuating sound through it all which made Miss
Frost pace up and down unable to bear herself.

The man was always running in when Miss Frost was out. He contrived to
meet Alvina in the evening, to take a walk with her. He went a long walk
with her one night, and wanted to make love to her. But her upbringing
was too strong for her.

"Oh no," she said. "We are only friends."

He knew her upbringing was too strong for him also.

"We're more than friends," he said. "We're more than friends."

"I don't think so," she said.

"Yes we are," he insisted, trying to put his arm round her waist. "Oh,
don't!" she cried. "Let us go home."

And then he burst out with wild and thick protestations of love, which
thrilled her and repelled her slightly.

"Anyhow I must tell Miss Frost," she said.

"Yes, yes," he answered. "Yes, yes. Let us be engaged at once."

As they passed under the lamps he saw her face lifted, the eyes shining,
the delicate nostrils dilated, as of one who scents battle and laughs to
herself. She seemed to laugh with a certain proud, sinister recklessness.
His hands trembled with desire.

So they were engaged. He bought her a ring, an emerald set in tiny
diamonds. Miss Frost looked grave and silent, but would not openly deny
her approval.

"You like him, don't you? You don't dislike him?" Alvina insisted.

"I don't dislike him," replied Miss Frost. "How can I? He is a perfect
stranger to me."

And with this Alvina subtly contented herself. Her father treated the
young man with suave attention, punctuated by fits of jerky hostility and
jealousy. Her mother merely sighed, and took sal volatile.

To tell the truth, Alvina herself was a little repelled by the man's
love-making. She found him fascinating, but a trifle repulsive. And she
was not sure whether she hated the repulsive element, or whether she
rather gloried in it. She kept her look of arch, half-derisive
recklessness, which was so unbearably painful to Miss Frost, and so
exciting to the dark little man. It was a strange look in a refined,
really virgin girl--oddly sinister. And her voice had a curious
bronze-like resonance that acted straight on the nerves of her hearers:
unpleasantly on most English nerves, but like fire on the different
susceptibilities of the young man--the darkie, as people called him.

But after all, he had only six weeks in England, before sailing to
Sydney. He suggested that he and Alvina should marry before he sailed.
Miss Frost would not hear of it. He must see his people first, she said.

So the time passed, and he sailed. Alvina missed him, missed the extreme
excitement of him rather than the human being he was. Miss Frost set to
work to regain her influence over her ward, to remove that arch,
reckless, almost lewd look from the girl's face. It was a question of
heart against sensuality. Miss Frost tried and tried to wake again the
girl's loving heart--which loving heart was certainly not occupied by
that man. It was a hard task, an anxious, bitter task Miss Frost had set

But at last she succeeded. Alvina seemed to thaw. The hard shining of her
eyes softened again to a sort of demureness and tenderness. The influence
of the man was revoked, the girl was left uninhabited, empty and uneasy.

She was due to follow her Alexander in three months' time, to Sydney.
Came letters from him, en route--and then a cablegram from Australia. He
had arrived. Alvina should have been preparing her trousseau, to follow.
But owing to her change of heart, she lingered indecisive.

"Do you love him, dear?" said Miss Frost with emphasis, knitting her
thick, passionate, earnest eyebrows. "Do you love him sufficiently?
_That's_ the point."

The way Miss Frost put the question implied that Alvina did not and could
not love him--because Miss Frost could not. Alvina lifted her large, blue
eyes, confused, half-tender towards her governess, half shining with
unconscious derision.

"I don't really know," she said, laughing hurriedly. "I don't really."
Miss Frost scrutinized her, and replied with a meaningful: "Well--!"

To Miss Frost it was clear as daylight. To Alvina not so. In her periods
of lucidity, when she saw as clear as daylight also, she certainly did
not love the little man. She felt him a terrible outsider, an inferior,
to tell the truth. She wondered how he could have the slightest
attraction for her. In fact she could not understand it at all. She was
as free of him as if he had never existed. The square green emerald on
her finger was almost nonsensical. She was quite, quite sure of herself.

And then, most irritating, a complete _volte face_ in her feelings.
The clear-as-daylight mood disappeared as daylight is bound to disappear.
She found herself in a night where the little man loomed large, terribly
large, potent and magical, while Miss Frost had dwindled to nothingness.
At such times she wished with all her force that she could travel like a
cablegram to Australia. She felt it was the only way. She felt the dark,
passionate receptivity of Alexander overwhelmed her, enveloped her even
from the Antipodes. She felt herself going distracted--she felt she was
going out of her mind. For she could not act.

Her mother and Miss Frost were fixed in one line. Her father said: "Well,
of course, you'll do as you think best. There's a great risk in going so
far--a great risk. You would be entirely unprotected."

"I don't mind being unprotected," said Alvina perversely. "Because you
don't understand what it means," said her father.

He looked at her quickly. Perhaps he understood her better than the

"Personally," said Miss Pinnegar, speaking of Alexander, "I don't care
for him. But every one has their own taste."

Alvina felt she was being overborne, and that she was letting herself be
overborne. She was half relieved. She seemed to nestle into the
well-known surety of Woodhouse. The other unknown had frightened her.

Miss Frost now took a definite line.

"I feel you don't love him, dear. I'm almost sure you don't. So now you
have to choose. Your mother dreads your going--she dreads it. I am
certain you would never see her again. She says she can't bear it--she
can't bear the thought of you out there with Alexander. It makes her
shudder. She suffers dreadfully, you know. So you will have to choose,
dear. You will have to choose for the best."

Alvina was made stubborn by pressure. She herself had come fully to
believe that she did not love him. She was quite sure she did not love
him. But out of a certain perversity, she wanted to go.

Came his letter from Sydney, and one from his parents to her and one to
her parents. All seemed straightforward--not very cordial, but
sufficiently. Over Alexander's letter Miss Frost shed bitter tears. To
her it seemed so shallow and heartless, with terms of endearment stuck in
like exclamation marks. He seemed to have no thought, no feeling for the
girl herself. All he wanted was to hurry her out there. He did not even
mention the grief of her parting from her English parents and friends:
not a word. Just a rush to get her out there, winding up with "And now,
dear, I shall not be myself till I see you here in Sydney--Your
ever-loving Alexander." A selfish, sensual creature, who would forget the
dear little Vina in three months, if she did not turn up, and who would
neglect her in six months, if she did. Probably Miss Frost was right.

Alvina knew the tears she was costing all round. She went upstairs and
looked at his photograph--his dark and impertinent muzzle. Who was
_he_, after all? She did not know him. With cold eyes she looked at
him, and found him repugnant.

She went across to her governess's room, and found Miss Frost in a
strange mood of trepidation.

"Don't trust me, dear, don't trust what I say," poor Miss Frost
ejaculated hurriedly, even wildly. "Don't notice what I have said. Act
for yourself, dear. Act for yourself entirely. I am sure I am wrong in
trying to influence you. I know I am wrong. It is wrong and foolish of
me. Act just for yourself, dear--the rest doesn't matter. The rest
doesn't matter. Don't take _any_ notice of what I have said. I know
I am wrong."

For the first time in her life Alvina saw her beloved governess
flustered, the beautiful white hair looking a little draggled, the grey,
nearsighted eyes, so deep and kind behind the gold-rimmed glasses, now
distracted and scared. Alvina immediately burst into tears and flung
herself into the arms of Miss Frost. Miss Frost also cried as if her
heart would break, catching her indrawn breath with a strange sound of
anguish, forlornness, the terrible crying of a woman with a loving heart,
whose heart has never been able to relax. Alvina was hushed. In a second,
she became the elder of the two. The terrible poignancy of the woman of
fifty-two, who now at last had broken down, silenced the girl of
twenty-three, and roused all her passionate tenderness. The terrible
sound of "Never now, never now--it is too late," which seemed to ring in
the curious, indrawn cries of the elder woman, filled the girl with a
deep wisdom. She knew the same would ring in her mother's dying cry.
Married or unmarried, it was the same--the same anguish, realized in all
its pain after the age of fifty--the loss in never having been able to
relax, to submit.

Alvina felt very strong and rich in the fact of her youth. For her it was
not too late. For Miss Frost it was for ever too late.

"I don't want to go, dear," said Alvina to the elder woman. "I know I
don't care for him. He is nothing to me."

Miss Frost became gradually silent, and turned aside her face. After this
there was a hush in the house. Alvina announced her intention of breaking
off her engagement. Her mother kissed her, and cried, and said, with the
selfishness of an invalid:

"I couldn't have parted with you, I couldn't." Whilst the father said: "I
think you are wise, Vina. I have thought a lot about it."

So Alvina packed up his ring and his letters and little presents, and
posted them over the seas. She was relieved, really: as if she had
escaped some very trying ordeal. For some days she went about happily, in
pure relief. She loved everybody. She was charming and sunny and gentle
with everybody, particularly with Miss Frost, whom she loved with a deep,
tender, rather sore love. Poor Miss Frost seemed to have lost a part of
her confidence, to have taken on a new wistfulness, a new silence and
remoteness. It was as if she found her busy contact with life a strain
now. Perhaps she was getting old. Perhaps her proud heart had given way.

Alvina had kept a little photograph of the man. She would often go and
look at it. Love?--no, it was not love! It was something more primitive
still. It was curiosity, deep, radical, burning curiosity. How she looked
and looked at his dark, impertinent-seeming face. A flicker of derision
came into her eyes. Yet still she looked.

In the same manner she would look into the faces of the young men of
Woodhouse. But she never found there what she found in her photograph.
They all seemed like blank sheets of paper in comparison. There was a
curious pale surface-look in the faces of the young men of Woodhouse: or,
if there was some underneath suggestive power, it was a little abject or
humiliating, inferior, common. They were all either blank or common.


Of course Alvina made everybody pay for her mood of submission and
sweetness. In a month's time she was quite intolerable.

"I can't stay here all my life," she declared, stretching her eyes in a
way that irritated the other inmates of Manchester House extremely. "I
know I can't. I can't bear it. I simply can't bear it, and there's an end
of it. I can't, I tell you. I can't bear it. I'm buried alive--simply
buried alive. And it's more than I can stand. It is, really."

There was an odd clang, like a taunt, in her voice. She was trying them

"But what do you want, dear?" asked Miss Frost, knitting her dark brows
in agitation.

"I want to go away," said Alvina bluntly.

Miss Frost gave a slight gesture with her right hand, of helpless
impatience. It was so characteristic, that Alvina almost laughed. "But
where do you want to go?" asked Miss Frost.

"I don't know. I don't care," said Alvina. "Anywhere, if I can get out of

"Do you wish you had gone to Australia?" put in Miss Pinnegar.

"No, I don't wish I had gone to Australia," retorted Alvina with a rude
laugh. "Australia isn't the only other place besides Woodhouse."

Miss Pinnegar was naturally offended. But the curious insolence which
sometimes came out in the girl was inherited direct from her father.

"You see, dear," said Miss Frost, agitated: "if you knew what you wanted,
it would be easier to see the way."

"I want to be a nurse," rapped out Alvina.

Miss Frost stood still, with the stillness of a middle-aged disapproving
woman, and looked at her charge. She believed that Alvina was just
speaking at random. Yet she dared not check her, in her present mood.

Alvina was indeed speaking at random. She had never thought of being a
nurse--the idea had never entered her head. If it had she would certainly
never have entertained it. But she had heard Alexander speak of Nurse
This and Sister That. And so she had rapped out her declaration. And
having rapped it out, she prepared herself to stick to it. Nothing like
leaping before you look.

"A nurse!" repeated Miss Frost. "But do you feel yourself fitted to be a
nurse? Do you think you could bear it?"

"Yes, I'm sure I could," retorted Alvina. "I want to be a maternity
nurse--" She looked strangely, even outrageously, at her governess. "I
want to be a maternity nurse. Then I shouldn't have to attend
operations." And she laughed quickly.

Miss Frost's right hand beat like a wounded bird. It was reminiscent of
the way she beat time, insistently, when she was giving music lessons,
sitting close beside her pupils at the piano. Now it beat without time or
reason. Alvina smiled brightly and cruelly.

"Whatever put such an idea into your head, Vina?" asked poor Miss Frost.

"I don't know," said Alvina, still more archly and brightly. "Of course
you don't mean it, dear," said Miss Frost, quailing. "Yes, I do. Why
should I say it if I don't."

Miss Frost would have done anything to escape the arch, bright, cruel
eyes of her charge.

"Then we must think about it," she said, numbly. And she went away.

Alvina floated off to her room, and sat by the window looking down on the
street. The bright, arch look was still on her face. But her heart was
sore. She wanted to cry, and fling herself on the breast of her darling.
But she couldn't. No, for her life she couldn't. Some little devil sat in
her breast and kept her smiling archly.

Somewhat to her amazement, he sat steadily on for days and days. Every
minute she expected him to go. Every minute she expected to break down,
to burst into tears and tenderness and reconciliation. But no--she did
not break down. She persisted. They all waited for the old loving Vina to
be herself again. But the new and recalcitrant Vina still shone hard. She
found a copy of _The Lancet_, and saw an advertisement of a home in
Islington where maternity nurses would be fully trained and equipped in
six months' time. The fee was sixty guineas. Alvina declared her
intention of departing to this training home. She had two hundred pounds
of her own, bequeathed by her grandfather.

In Manchester House they were all horrified--not moved with grief, this
time, but shocked. It seemed such a repulsive and indelicate step to
take. Which it was. And which, in her curious perverseness, Alvina must
have intended it to be. Mrs. Houghton assumed a remote air of silence, as
if she did not hear any more, did not belong. She lapsed far away. She
was really very weak. Miss Pinnegar said: "Well, really, if she wants to
do it, why, she might as well try." And, as often with Miss Pinnegar,
this speech seemed to contain a veiled threat.

"A maternity nurse!" said James Houghton. "A maternity nurse! What
exactly do you mean by a maternity nurse?"

"A trained mid-wife," said Miss Pinnegar curtly. "That's it, isn't it? It
is as far as I can see. A trained mid-wife."

"Yes, of course," said Alvina brightly.

"But--!" stammered James Houghton, pushing his spectacles up on to his
forehead, and making his long fleece of painfully thin hair uncover his
baldness. "I can't understand that any young girl of any--any upbringing,
any upbringing whatever, should want to choose such a--such--an--occupation.
I can't understand it."

"Can't you?" said Alvina brightly.

"Oh, well, if she _does_--" said Miss Pinnegar cryptically.

Miss Frost said very little. But she had serious confidential talks with
Dr. Fordham. Dr. Fordham didn't approve, certainly he didn't--but neither
did he see any great harm in it. At that time it was rather the thing for
young ladies to enter the nursing profession, if their hopes had been
blighted or checked in another direction! And so, enquiries were made.
Enquiries were made.

The upshot was, that Alvina was to go to Islington for her six months'
training. There was a great bustle, preparing her nursing outfit. Instead
of a trousseau, nurse's uniforms in fine blue-and-white stripe, with
great white aprons. Instead of a wreath of orange blossom, a rather chic
nurse's bonnet of blue silk, and for a trailing veil, a blue silk fall.

Well and good! Alvina expected to become frightened, as the time drew
neat But no, she wasn't a bit frightened. Miss Frost watched her
narrowly. Would there not be a return of the old, tender, sensitive,
shrinking Vina--the exquisitely sensitive and nervous, loving girl? No,
astounding as it may seem, there was no return of such a creature. Alvina
remained bright and ready, the half-hilarious clang remained in her
voice, taunting. She kissed them all good-bye, brightly and sprightlily,
and off she set. She wasn't nervous.

She came to St. Pancras, she got her cab, she drove off to her
destination--and as she drove, she looked out of the window. Horrid,
vast, stony, dilapidated, crumbly-stuccoed streets and squares of
Islington, grey, grey, greyer by far than Woodhouse, and interminable.
How exceedingly sordid and disgusting! But instead of being repelled and
heartbroken, Alvina enjoyed it. She felt her trunk rumble on the top of
the cab, and still she looked out on the ghastly dilapidated flat facades
of Islington, and still she smiled brightly, as if there were some charm
in it all. Perhaps for her there was a charm in it all. Perhaps it acted
like a tonic on the little devil in her breast. Perhaps if she had seen
tufts of snowdrops--it was February--and yew-hedges and cottage windows,
she would have broken down. As it was, she just enjoyed it. She enjoyed
glimpsing in through uncurtained windows, into sordid rooms where human
beings moved as if sordidly unaware. She enjoyed the smell of a toasted
bloater, rather burnt. So common! so indescribably common! And she
detested bloaters, because of the hairy feel of the spines in her mouth.
But to smell them like this, to know that she was in the region of "penny
beef-steaks," gave her a perverse pleasure.

The cab stopped at a yellow house at the corner of a square where some
shabby bare trees were flecked with bits of blown paper, bits of paper
and refuse cluttered inside the round railings of each tree. She went up
some dirty-yellowish steps, and rang the "Patients'" bell, because she
knew she ought not to ring the "Tradesmen's." A servant, not exactly
dirty, but unattractive, let her into a hall painted a dull drab, and
floored with cocoa-matting, otherwise bare. Then up bare stairs to a room
where a stout, pale common woman with two warts on her face, was drinking
tea. It was three o'clock. This was the matron. The matron soon deposited
her in a bedroom, not very small, but bare and hard and dusty-seeming,
and there left her. Alvina sat down on her chair, looked at her box
opposite her, looked round the uninviting room, and smiled to herself.
Then she rose and went to the window: a very dirty window, looking down
into a sort of well of an area, with other wells ranging along, and
straight opposite like a reflection another solid range of back-premises,
with iron stair-ways and horrid little doors and washing and little W.
C.'s and people creeping up and down like vermin. Alvina shivered a
little, but still smiled. Then slowly she began to take off her hat. She
put it down on the drab-painted chest of drawers.

Presently the servant came in with a tray, set it down, lit a naked
gas-jet, which roared faintly, and drew down a crackly dark-green blind,
which showed a tendency to fly back again alertly to the ceiling.

"Thank you," said Alvina, and the girl departed.

Then Miss Houghton drank her black tea and ate her bread and margarine.

Surely enough books have been written about heroines in similar
circumstances. There is no need to go into the details of Alvina's six
months in Islington.

The food was objectionable--yet Alvina got fat on it. The air was
filthy--and yet never had her colour been so warm and fresh, her skin so
soft. Her companions were almost without exception vulgar and coarse--yet
never had she got on so well with women of her own age--or older than
herself. She was ready with a laugh and a word, and though she was unable
to venture on indecencies herself, yet she had an amazing faculty for
looking knowing and indecent beyond words, rolling her eyes and pitching
her eyebrows in a certain way--oh, it was quite sufficient for her
companions! And yet, if they had ever actually demanded a dirty story or
a really open indecency from her, she would have been floored.

But she enjoyed it. Amazing how she enjoyed it. She did not care how
revolting and indecent these nurses were--she put on a look as if she
were in with it all, and it all passed off as easy as winking. She swung
her haunches and arched her eyes with the best of them. And they behaved
as if she were exactly one of themselves. And yet, with the curious cold
tact of women, they left her alone, one and all, in private: just ignored

It is truly incredible how Alvina became blooming and bouncing at this
time. Nothing shocked her, nothing upset her. She was always ready with
her hard, nurse's laugh and her nurse's quips. No one was better than she
at _double-entendres_. No one could better give the nurse's
leer. She had it all in a fortnight. And never once did she feel anything
but exhilarated and in full swing. It seemed to her she had not a
moment's time to brood or reflect about things--she was too much in the
swing. Every moment, in the swing, living, or active in full swing. When
she got into bed she went to sleep. When she awoke, it was morning, and
she got up. As soon as she was up and dressed she had somebody to answer,
something to say, something to do. Time passed like an express train--and
she seemed to have known no other life than this.

Not far away was a lying-in hospital. A dreadful place it was. There she
had to go, right off, and help with cases. There she had to attend
lectures and demonstrations. There she met the doctors and students.
Well, a pretty lot they were, one way and another. When she had put on
flesh and become pink and bouncing she was just their sort: just their
very ticket. Her voice had the right twang, her eyes the right roll, her
haunches the right swing. She seemed altogether just the ticket. And yet
she wasn't.

It would be useless to say she was not shocked. She was profoundly and
awfully shocked. Her whole state was perhaps largely the result of shock:
a sort of play-acting based on hysteria. But the dreadful things she saw
in the lying-in hospital, and afterwards, went deep, and finished her
youth and her tutelage for ever. How many infernos deeper than Miss Frost
could ever know, did she not travel? the inferno of the human animal, the
human organism in its convulsions, the human social beast in its
abjection and its degradation.

For in her latter half she had to visit the slum cases. And such cases! A
woman lying on a bare, filthy floor, a few old coats thrown over her, and
vermin crawling everywhere, in spite of sanitary inspectors. But what did
the woman, the sufferer, herself care! She ground her teeth and screamed
and yelled with pains. In her calm periods she lay stupid and
indifferent--or she cursed a little. But abject, stupid indifference was
the bottom of it all: abject, brutal indifference to everything--yes,
everything. Just a piece of female functioning, no more.

Alvina was supposed to receive a certain fee for these cases she attended
in their homes. A small proportion of her fee she kept for herself, the
rest she handed over to the Home. That was the agreement. She received
her grudged fee callously, threatened and exacted it when it was not
forthcoming. Ha!--if they didn't have to pay you at all, these
slum-people, they would treat you with more contempt than if you were one
of themselves. It was one of the hardest lessons Alvina had to learn--to
bully these people, in their own hovels, into some sort of obedience to
her commands, and some sort of respect for her presence. She had to fight
tooth and nail for this end. And in a week she was as hard and callous to
them as they to her. And so her work was well done. She did not hate
them. There they were. They had a certain life, and you had to take them
at their own worth in their own way. What else! If one should be gentle,
one was gentle. The difficulty did not lie there. The difficulty lay in
being sufficiently rough and hard: that was the trouble. It cost a great
struggle to be hard and callous enough. Glad she would have been to be
allowed to treat them quietly and gently, with consideration. But pah--it
was not their line. They wanted to be callous, and if you were not
callous to match, they made a fool of you and prevented your doing your

Was Alvina her own real self all this time? The mighty question arises
upon us, what is one's own real self? It certainly is not what we think
we are and ought to be. Alvina had been bred to think of herself as a
delicate, tender, chaste creature with unselfish inclinations and a pure,
"high" mind. Well, so she was, in the more-or-less exhausted part of
herself. But high-mindedness had really come to an end with James
Houghton, had really reached the point, not only of pathetic, but of dry
and anti-human, repulsive quixotry. In Alvina high-mindedness was already
stretched beyond the breaking point. Being a woman of some flexibility of
temper, wrought through generations to a fine, pliant hardness, she flew
back. She went right back on high-mindedness. Did she thereby betray it?

We think not. If we turn over the head of the penny and look at the tail,
we don't thereby deny or betray the head. We do but adjust it to its own
complement. And so with high-mindedness. It is but one side of the
medal--the crowned reverse. On the obverse the three legs still go
kicking the soft-footed spin of the universe, the dolphin flirts and the
crab leers.

So Alvina spun her medal, and her medal came down tails. Heads or tails?
Heads for generations. Then tails. See the poetic justice.

Now Alvina decided to accept the decision of her fate. Or rather, being
sufficiently a woman, she didn't decide anything. She _was_ her own
fate. She went through her training experiences like another being. She
was not herself, said Everybody. When she came home to Woodhouse at
Easter, in her bonnet and cloak, Everybody was simply knocked out.
Imagine that this frail, pallid, diffident girl, so ladylike, was now a
rather fat, warm-coloured young woman, strapping and strong-looking, and
with a certain bounce. Imagine her mother's startled, almost expiring:

"Why, Vina dear!"

Vina laughed. She knew how they were all feeling.

"At least it agrees with your _health_," said her father,
sarcastically, to which Miss Pinnegar answered:

"Well, that's a good deal."

But Miss Frost said nothing the first day. Only the second day, at
breakfast, as Alvina ate rather rapidly and rather well, the white-haired
woman said quietly, with a tinge of cold contempt:

"How changed you are, dear!"

"Am I?" laughed Alvina. "Oh, not really." And she gave the arch look with
her eyes, which made Miss Frost shudder.

Inwardly, Miss Frost shuddered, and abstained from questioning. Alvina
was always speaking of the doctors: Doctor Young and Doctor Headley and
Doctor James. She spoke of theatres and music-halls with these young men,
and the jolly good time she had with them. And her blue-grey eyes seemed
to have become harder and greyer, lighter somehow. In her wistfulness and
her tender pathos, Alvina's eyes would deepen their blue, so beautiful.
And now, in her floridity, they were bright and arch and light-grey. The
deep, tender, flowery blue was gone for ever. They were luminous and
crystalline, like the eyes of a changeling.

Miss Frost shuddered, and abstained from question. She wanted, she
_needed_ to ask of her charge: "Alvina, have you betrayed yourself
with any of these young men?" But coldly her heart abstained from
asking--or even from seriously thinking. She left the matter untouched
for the moment. She was already too much shocked.

Certainly Alvina represented the young doctors as very nice, but rather
fast young fellows. "My word, you have to have your wits about you with
them!" Imagine such a speech from a girl tenderly nurtured: a speech
uttered in her own home, and accompanied by a florid laugh, which would
lead a chaste, generous woman like Miss Frost to imagine--well, she
merely abstained from imagining anything. She had that strength of mind.
She never for one moment attempted to answer the question to herself, as
to whether Alvina had betrayed herself with any of these young doctors,
or not. The question remained stated, but completely unanswered--coldly
awaiting its answer. Only when Miss Frost kissed Alvina good-bye at the
station, tears came to her eyes, and she said hurriedly, in a low voice:

"Remember we are all praying for you, dear!"

"No, don't do that!" cried Alvina involuntarily, without knowing what she

And then the train moved out, and she saw her darling standing there on
the station, the pale, well-modelled face looking out from behind the
gold-rimmed spectacles, wistfully, the strong, rather stout figure
standing very still and unchangeable, under its coat and skirt of dark
purple, the white hair glistening under the folded dark hat. Alvina threw
herself down on the seat of her carriage. She loved her darling. She
would love her through eternity. She knew she was right--amply and
beautifully right, her darling, her beloved Miss Frost. Eternally and
gloriously right.

And yet--and yet--it was a right which was fulfilled. There were other
rights. There was another side to the medal. Purity and
high-mindedness--the beautiful, but unbearable tyranny. The beautiful,
unbearable tyranny of Miss Frost! It was time now for Miss Frost to die.
It was time for that perfected flower to be gathered to immortality. A
lovely _immortel_. But an obstruction to other, purple and carmine
blossoms which were in bud on the stem. A lovely edelweiss--but time it
was gathered into eternity. Black-purple and red anemones were due, real
Adonis blood, and strange individual orchids, spotted and fantastic. Time
for Miss Frost to die. She, Alvina, who loved her as no one else would
ever love her, with that love which goes to the core of the universe,
knew that it was time for her darling to be folded, oh, so gently and
softly, into immortality. Mortality was busy with the day after her day.
It was time for Miss Frost to die. As Alvina sat motionless in the train,
running from Woodhouse to Tibshelf, it decided itself in her.

She was glad to be back in Islington, among all the horrors of her
confinement cases. The doctors she knew hailed her. On the whole, these
young men had not any too deep respect for the nurses as a whole. Why
drag in respect? Human functions were too obviously established to make
any great fuss about. And so the doctors put their arms round Alvina's
waist, because she was plump, and they kissed her face, because the skin
was soft. And she laughed and squirmed a little, so that they felt all
the more her warmth and softness under their arm's pressure.

"It's no use, you know," she said, laughing rather breathless, but
looking into their eyes with a curious definite look of unchangeable
resistance. This only piqued them.

"What's no use?" they asked.

She shook her head slightly.

"It isn't any use your behaving like that with me," she said, with the
same challenging definiteness, finality: a flat negative.

"Who're you telling?" they said.

For she did not at all forbid them to "behave like that." Not in the
least. She almost encouraged them. She laughed and arched her eyes and
flirted. But her backbone became only the stronger and firmer. Soft and
supple as she was, her backbone never yielded for an instant. It could
not. She had to confess that she liked the young doctors. They were
alert, their faces were clean and bright-looking. She liked the sort of
intimacy with them, when they kissed her wrestled in the empty
laboratories or corridors--often in the intervals of most critical and
appalling cases. She liked their arm round her waist, the kisses as she
reached back her face, straining away, the sometimes desperate struggles.
They took unpardonable liberties. They pinched her haunches and attacked
her in unheard-of ways. Sometimes her blood really came up in the fight,
and she felt as if, with her hands, she could tear any man, any male
creature, limb from limb. A super-human, voltaic force filled her. For a
moment she surged in massive, inhuman, female strength. The men always
wilted. And invariably, when they wilted, she touched them with a sudden
gentle touch, pitying. So that she always remained friends with them.
When her curious Amazonic power left her again, and she was just a mere
woman, she made shy eyes at them once more, and treated them with the
inevitable female-to-male homage.

The men liked her. They cocked their eyes at her, when she was not
looking, and wondered at her. They wondered over her. They had been
beaten by her, every one of them. But they did not openly know it. They
looked at her, as if she were Woman itself, some creature not quite
personal. What they noticed, all of them, was the way her brown hair
looped over her ears. There was something chaste, and noble, and war-like
about it. The remote quality which hung about her in the midst of her
intimacies and her frequencies, nothing high or lofty, but something
given to the struggle and as yet invincible in the struggle, made them
seek her out.

They felt safe with her. They knew she would not let them down. She would
not intrigue into marriage, or try and make use of them in any way. She
didn't care about them. And so, because of her isolate self-sufficiency
in the fray, her wild, overweening backbone, they were ready to attend on
her and serve her. Headley in particular hoped he might overcome her. He
was a well-built fellow with sandy hair and a pugnacious face. The
battle-spirit was really roused in him, and he heartily liked the woman.
If he could have overcome her he would have been mad to marry her.

With him, she summoned up all her mettle. She had never to be off her
guard for a single minute. The treacherous suddenness of his attack--for
he was treachery itself--had to be met by the voltaic suddenness of her
resistance and counter-attack. It was nothing less than magical the way
the soft, slumbering body of the woman could leap in one jet into
terrible, overwhelming voltaic force, something strange and massive, at
the first treacherous touch of the man's determined hand. His strength
was so different from hers--quick, muscular, lambent. But hers was deep
and heaving, like the strange heaving of an earthquake, or the heave of a
bull as it rises from earth. And by sheer non-human power, electric and
paralysing, she could overcome the brawny red-headed fellow.

He was nearly a match for her. But she did not like him. The two were
enemies--and good acquaintances. They were more or less matched. But as
he found himself continually foiled, he became sulky, like a bear with a
sore head. And then she avoided him.

She really liked Young and James much better. James was a quick, slender,
dark-haired fellow, a gentleman, who was always trying to catch her out
with his quickness. She liked his fine, slim limbs, and his exaggerated
generosity. He would ask her out to ridiculously expensive suppers, and
send her sweets and flowers, fabulously recherché. He was always
immaculately well-dressed.

"Of course, as a lady _and_ a nurse," he said to her, "you are two
sorts of women in one."

But she was not impressed by his wisdom.

She was most strongly inclined to Young. He was a plump young man of
middle height, with those blue eyes of a little boy which are so knowing:
particularly of a woman's secrets. It is a strange thing that these
childish men have such a deep, half-perverse knowledge of the other sex.
Young was certainly innocent as far as acts went. Yet his hair was going
thin at the crown already.

He also played with her--being a doctor, and she a nurse who encouraged
it. He too touched her and kissed her: and did not rouse her to contest.
For his touch and his kiss had that nearness of a little boy's, which
nearly melted her. She could almost have succumbed to him. If it had not
been that with him there was no question of succumbing. She would have
had to take him between her hands and caress and cajole him like a
cherub, into a fall. And though she would have liked to do so, yet that
inflexible stiffness of her backbone prevented her. She could not do as
she liked. There was an inflexible fate within her, which shaped her

Sometimes she wondered to herself, over her own virginity. Was it worth
much, after all, behaving as she did? Did she care about it, anyhow?
Didn't she rather despise it? To sin in thought was as bad as to sin in
act. If the thought was the same as the act, how much more was her
behaviour equivalent to a whole committal? She wished she were wholly
committed. She wished she had gone the whole length.

But sophistry and wishing did her no good. There she was, still isolate.
And still there was that in her which would preserve her intact,
sophistry and deliberate intention notwithstanding. Her time was up. She
was returning to Woodhouse virgin as she had left it. In a measure she
felt herself beaten. Why? Who knows. But so it was, she felt herself
beaten, condemned to go back to what she was before. Fate had been too
strong for her and her desires: fate which was not an external
association of forces, but which was integral in her own nature. Her own
inscrutable nature was her fate: sore against her will.

It was August when she came home, in her nurse's uniform. She was beaten
by fate, as far as chastity and virginity went. But she came home with
high material hopes. Here was James Houghton's own daughter. She had an
affluent future ahead of her. A fully-qualified maternity nurse, she was
going to bring all the babies of the district easily and triumphantly
into the world. She was going to charge the regulation fee of two guineas
a case: and even on a modest estimate of ten babies a month, she would
have twenty guineas. For well-to-do mothers she would charge from three
to five guineas. At this calculation she would make an easy three hundred
a year, without slaving either. She would be independent, she could laugh
every one in the face.

She bounced back into Woodhouse to make her fortune.


It goes without saying that Alvina Houghton did not make her fortune as a
maternity nurse. Being her father's daughter, we might almost expect that
she did not make a penny. But she did--just a few pence. She had exactly
four cases--and then no more.

The reason is obvious. Who in Woodhouse was going to afford a two-guinea
nurse, for a confinement? And who was going to engage Alvina Houghton,
even if they were ready to stretch their purse-strings? After all, they
all knew her as _Miss_ Houghton, with a stress on the _Miss_,
and they could not conceive of her as Nurse Houghton. Besides, there
seemed something positively indecent in technically engaging one who was
so much part of themselves. They all preferred either a simple mid-wife,
or a nurse procured out of the unknown by the doctor.

If Alvina wanted to make her fortune--or even her living--she should have
gone to a strange town. She was so advised by every one she knew. But she
never for one moment reflected on the advice. She had become a maternity
nurse in order to practise in Woodhouse, just as James Houghton had
purchased his elegancies to sell in Woodhouse. And father and daughter
alike calmly expected Woodhouse demand to rise to their supply. So both
alike were defeated in their expectations.

For a little while Alvina flaunted about in her nurse's uniform. Then she
left it off. And as she left it off she lost her bounce, her colour, and
her flesh. Gradually she shrank back to the old, slim, reticent pallor,
with eyes a little too large for her face. And now it seemed her face was
a little too long, a little gaunt. And in her civilian clothes she seemed
a little dowdy, shabby. And altogether, she looked older: she looked more
than her age, which was only twenty-four years. Here was the old Alvina
come back, rather battered and deteriorated, apparently. There was even a
tiny touch of the trollops in her dowdiness--so the shrewd-eyed
collier-wives decided. But she was a lady still, and unbeaten. Undeniably
she was a lady. And that was rather irritating to the well-to-do and
florid daughter of W. H. Johnson, next door but one. Undeniably a lady,
and undeniably unmastered. This last was irritating to the good-natured
but easy-coming young men in the Chapel Choir, where she resumed her
seat. These young men had the good nature of dogs that wag their tails
and expect to be patted. And Alvina did not pat them. To be sure, a pat
from such a shabbily-black-kid-gloved hand would not have been so
flattering--she need not imagine it! The way she hung back and looked at
them, the young men, as knowing as if she were a prostitute, and yet with
the well-bred indifference of a lady--well, it was almost offensive.

As a matter of fact, Alvina was detached for the time being from her
interest in young men. Manchester House had settled down on her like a
doom. There was the quartered shop, through which one had to worm one's
encumbered way in the gloom--unless one liked to go miles round a back
street, to the yard entry. There was James Houghton, faintly powdered
with coal-dust, flitting back and forth in a fever of nervous frenzy, to
Throttle-Ha'penny--so carried away that he never saw his daughter at all
the first time he came in, after her return. And when she reminded him of
her presence, with her--"Hello, father!"--he merely glanced hurriedly at
her, as if vexed with her interruption, and said:

"Well, Alvina, you're back. You're back to find us busy." And he went off
into his ecstasy again.

Mrs. Houghton was now very weak, and so nervous in her weakness that she
could not bear the slightest sound. Her greatest horror was lest her
husband should come into the room. On his entry she became blue at the
lips immediately, so he had to hurry out again. At last he stayed away,
only hurriedly asking, each time he came into the house, "How is Mrs.
Houghton? Ha!" Then off into uninterrupted Throttle-Ha'penny ecstasy once

When Alvina went up to her mother's room, on her return, all the poor
invalid could do was to tremble into tears, and cry faintly: "Child, you
look dreadful. It isn't you."

This from the pathetic little figure in the bed had struck Alvina like a

"Why not, mother?" she asked.

But for her mother she had to remove her nurse's uniform. And at the same
time, she had to constitute herself nurse. Miss Frost, and a woman who
came in, and the servant had been nursing the invalid between them. Miss
Frost was worn and rather heavy: her old buoyancy and brightness was
gone. She had become irritable also. She was very glad that Alvina had
returned to take this responsibility of nursing off her shoulders. For
her wonderful energy had ebbed and oozed away.

Alvina said nothing, but settled down to her task. She was quiet and
technical with her mother. The two loved one another, with a curious
impersonal love which had not a single word to exchange: an almost
after-death love. In these days Mrs. Houghton never talked--unless to
fret a little. So Alvina sat for many hours in the lofty, sombre bedroom,
looking out silently on the street, or hurriedly rising to attend the
sick woman. For continually came the fretful murmur:


To sit still--who knows the long discipline of it, nowadays, as our
mothers and grandmothers knew. To sit still, for days, months, and
years--perforce to sit still, with some dignity of tranquil bearing.
Alvina was old-fashioned. She had the old, womanly faculty for sitting
quiet and collected--not indeed for a life-time, but for long spells
together. And so it was during these months nursing her mother. She
attended constantly on the invalid: she did a good deal of work about the
house: she took her walks and occupied her place in the choir on Sunday
mornings. And yet, from August to January, she seemed to be seated in her
chair in the bedroom, sometimes reading, but mostly quite still, her
hands quietly in her lap, her mind subdued by musing. She did not even
think, not even remember. Even such activity would have made her presence
too disturbing in the room. She sat quite still, with all her activities
in abeyance--except that strange will-to-passivity which was by no means
a relaxation, but a severe, deep, soul-discipline.

For the moment there was a sense of prosperity--or probable prosperity,
in the house. And there was an abundance of Throttle-Ha'penny coal. It
was dirty ashy stuff. The lower bars of the grate were constantly blanked
in with white powdery ash, which it was fatal to try to poke away. For if
you poked and poked, you raised white cumulus clouds of ash, and you were
left at last with a few darkening and sulphurous embers. But even so, by
continuous application, you could keep the room moderately warm, without
feeling you were consuming the house's meat and drink in the grate. Which
was one blessing.

The days, the months darkened past, and Alvina returned to her old
thinness and pallor. Her fore-arms were thin, they rested very still in
her lap, there was a ladylike stillness about them as she took her walk,
in her lingering, yet watchful fashion. She saw everything. Yet she
passed without attracting any attention.

Early in the year her mother died. Her father came and wept
self-conscious tears, Miss Frost cried a little, painfully. And Alvina
cried also: she did not quite know why or wherefore. Her poor mother!
Alvina had the old-fashioned wisdom to let be, and not to think. After
all, it was not for her to reconstruct her parents' lives. She came after
them. Her day was not their day, their life was not hers. Returning
up-channel to re-discover their course was quite another matter from
flowing downstream into the unknown, as they had done thirty years
before. This supercilious and impertinent exploration of the generation
gone by, by the present generation, is nothing to our credit. As a matter
of fact, no generation repeats the mistakes of the generation ahead, any
more than any river repeats its course. So the young need not be so proud
of their superiority over the old. The young generation glibly makes its
own mistakes: and how detestable these new mistakes are, why, only the
future will be able to tell us. But be sure they are quite as detestable,
quite as full of lies and hypocrisy, as any of the mistakes of our
parents. There is no such thing as _absolute_ wisdom.

Wisdom has reference only to the past. The future remains for ever an
infinite field for mistakes. You can't know beforehand.

So Alvina refrained from pondering on her mother's life and fate.
Whatever the fate of the mother, the fate of the daughter will be
otherwise. That is organically inevitable. The business of the daughter
is with her own fate, not with her mother's.

Miss Frost however meditated bitterly on the fate of the poor dead woman.
Bitterly she brooded on the lot of woman. Here was Clariss Houghton,
married, and a mother--and dead. What a life! Who was responsible? James
Houghton. What ought James Houghton to have done differently? Everything.
In short, he should have been somebody else, and not himself. Which is
the _reductio ad absurdum_ of idealism. The universe should be
something else, and not what it is: so the nonsense of idealistic
conclusion. The cat should not catch the mouse, the mouse should not
nibble holes in the table-cloth, and so on and so on, in the House that
Jack Built.

But Miss Frost sat by the dead in grief and despair. This was the end of
another woman's life: such an end! Poor Clariss: guilty James. Yet why?
Why was James more guilty than Clariss? Is the only aim and end of a
man's life, to make some woman, or parcel of women, happy? Why? Why
should anybody expect to be _made happy_, and develop heart-disease
if she isn't? Surely Clariss' heart-disease was a more emphatic sign of
obstinate self-importance than ever James' shop-windows were. She
expected to be _made happy_. Every woman in Europe and America
expects it. On her own head then if she is made unhappy: for her
expectation is arrogant and impertinent. The be-all and end-all of life
doesn't lie in feminine happiness--or in any happiness. Happiness is a
sort of soap-tablet--he won't be happy till he gets it,' and when he's
got it, the precious baby, it'll cost him his eyes and his stomach. Could
anything be more puerile than a mankind howling because it isn't happy:
like a baby in the bath!

Poor Clariss, however, was dead--and if she had developed heart-disease
because she wasn't happy, well, she had died of her own heart-disease,
poor thing. Wherein lies every moral that mankind can wish to draw.

Miss Frost wept in anguish, and saw nothing but another woman betrayed to
sorrow and a slow death. Sorrow and a slow death, because a man had
married her. Miss Frost wept also for herself, for her own sorrow and
slow death. Sorrow and slow death, because a man had _not_ married
her. Wretched man, what is he to do with these exigeant and
never-to-be-satisfied women? Our mothers pined because our fathers drank
and were rakes. Our wives pine because we are virtuous but inadequate.
Who is this sphinx, this woman? Where is the Oedipus that will solve her
riddle of happiness, and then strangle her?--only to marry his own

In the months that followed her mother's death, Alvina went on the same,
in abeyance. She took over the housekeeping, and received one or two
overflow pupils from Miss Frost, young girls to whom she gave lessons in
the dark drawing-room of Manchester House. She was busy--chiefly with
housekeeping. There seemed a great deal to put in order after her
mother's death.

She sorted all her mother's clothes--expensive, old-fashioned clothes,
hardly worn. What was to be done with them? She gave them away, without
consulting anybody. She kept a few private things, she inherited a few
pieces of jewellery. Remarkable how little trace her mother left--hardly
a trace.

She decided to move into the big, monumental bedroom in front of the
house. She liked space, she liked the windows. She was strictly mistress,
too. So she took her place. Her mother's little sitting-room was cold and

Then Alvina went through all the linen. There was still abundance, and it
was all sound. James had had such large ideas of setting up house, in the
beginning. And now he begrudged the household expenses, begrudged the
very soap and candles, and even would have liked to introduce margarine
instead of butter. This last degradation the women refused. But James was
above food.

The old Alvina seemed completely herself again. She was quiet, dutiful,
affectionate. She appealed in her old, childish way to Miss Frost, and
Miss Frost called her "Dear!" with all the old protective gentleness. But
there was a difference. Underneath her appearance of appeal, Alvina was
almost coldly independent. She did what she thought she would. The old
manner of intimacy persisted between her and her darling. And perhaps
neither of them knew that the intimacy itself had gone. But it had. There
was no spontaneous interchange between them. It was a kind of deadlock.
Each knew the great love she felt for the other. But now it was a love
static, inoperative. The warm flow did not run any more. Yet each would
have died for the other, would have done anything to spare the other

Miss Frost was becoming tired, dragged looking. She would sink into a
chair as if she wished never to rise again--never to make the effort. And
Alvina quickly would attend on her, bring her tea and take away her
music, try to make everything smooth. And continually the young woman
exhorted the elder to work less, to give up her pupils. But Miss Frost
answered quickly, nervously:

"When I don't work I shan't live."

"But why--?" came the long query from Alvina. And in her expostulation
there was a touch of mockery for such a creed.

Miss Frost did not answer. Her face took on a greyish tinge.

In these days Alvina struck up an odd friendship with Miss Pinnegar,
after so many years of opposition. She felt herself more in sympathy with
Miss Pinnegar--it was so easy to get on with her, she left so much
unsaid. What was left unsaid mattered more to Alvina now than anything
that was expressed. She began to hate outspokenness and direct
speaking-forth of the whole mind. It nauseated her. She wanted tacit
admission of difference, not open, wholehearted communication. And Miss
Pinnegar made this admission all along. She never made you feel for an
instant that she was one with you. She was never even near. She kept
quietly on her own ground, and left you on yours. And across the space
came her quiet commonplaces--but fraught with space.

With Miss Frost all was openness, explicit and downright. Not that Miss
Frost trespassed. She was far more well-bred than Miss Pinnegar. But her
very breeding had that Protestant, northern quality which assumes that we
have all the same high standards, really, and all the same divine nature,
intrinsically. It is a fine assumption. But willy-nilly, it sickened
Alvina at this time.

She preferred Miss Pinnegar, and admired Miss Pinnegar's humble wisdom
with a new admiration. The two were talking of Dr. Headley, who, they
read in the newspaper, had disgraced himself finally.

"I suppose," said Miss Pinnegar, "it takes his sort to make all sorts."

Such bits of homely wisdom were like relief from cramp and pain, to
Alvina. "It takes his sort to make all sorts." It took her sort too. And
it took her father's sort--as well as her mother's and Miss Frost's. It
took every sort to make all sorts. Why have standards and a regulation
pattern? Why have a human criterion? There's the point! Why, in the name
of all the free heavens, have human criteria? Why? Simply for bullying
and narrowness.

Alvina felt at her ease with Miss Pinnegar. The two women talked away to
one another, in their quiet moments: and slipped apart like conspirators
when Miss Frost came in: as if there was something to be ashamed of. If
there was, heaven knows what it might have been, for their talk was
ordinary enough. But Alvina liked to be with Miss Pinnegar in the
kitchen. Miss Pinnegar wasn't competent and masterful like Miss Frost:
she was ordinary and uninspired, with quiet, unobserved movements. But
she was deep, and there was some secret satisfaction in her very quality
of secrecy.

So the days and weeks and months slipped by, and Alvina was hidden like a
mole in the dark chambers of Manchester House, busy with cooking and
cleaning and arranging, getting the house in her own order, and attending
to her pupils. She took her walk in the afternoon. Once and only once she
went to Throttle-Ha'penny, and, seized with sudden curiosity, insisted on
being wound down in the iron bucket to the little workings underneath.
Everything was quite tidy in the short gang-ways down below, timbered and
in sound order. The miners were competent enough. But water dripped
dismally in places, and there was a stale feeling in the air.

Her father accompanied her, pointed her to the seam of yellow-flecked
coal, the shale and the bind, the direction of the trend. He had already
an airy-fairy kind of knowledge of the whole affair, and seemed like some
not quite trustworthy conjuror who had conjured it all up by sleight of
hand. In the background the miners stood grey and ghostly, in the
candle-light, and seemed to listen sardonically. One of them, facile in
his subordinate way as James in his authoritative, kept chiming in:

"Ay, that's the road it goes, Miss Huffen--yis, yo'll see th' roof theer
bellies down a bit--s' loose. No, you dunna get th' puddin' stones i'
this pit--s' not deep enough. Eh, they come down on you plumb, as if th'
roof had laid its egg on you. Ay, it runs a bit thin down here--six
inches. You see th' bed's soft, it's a sort o' clay-bind, it's not clunch
such as you get deeper. Oh, it's easy workin'--you don't have to knock
your guts out. There's no need for shots, Miss Huffen--we bring it
down--you see here--" And he stooped, pointing to a shallow, shelving
excavation which he was making under the coal. The working was low, you
must stoop all the time. The roof and the timbered sides of the way
seemed to press on you. It was as if she were in her tomb for ever, like
the dead and everlasting Egyptians. She was frightened, but fascinated.
The collier kept on talking to her, stretching his bare, grey-black hairy
arm across her vision, and pointing with his knotted hand. The
thick-wicked tallow candles guttered and smelled. There was a thickness
in the air, a sense of dark, fluid presence in the thick atmosphere, the
dark, fluid, viscous voice of the collier making a broad-vowelled,
clapping sound in her ear. He seemed to linger near her as if he knew--as
if he knew--what? Something for ever unknowable and inadmissible,
something that belonged purely to the underground: to the slaves who work
underground: knowledge humiliated, subjected, but ponderous and
inevitable. And still his voice went on clapping in her ear, and still
his presence edged near her, and seemed to impinge on her--a smallish,
semi-grotesque, grey-obscure figure with a naked brandished forearm: not
human: a creature of the subterranean world, melted out like a bat,
fluid. She felt herself melting out also, to become a mere vocal ghost, a
presence in the thick atmosphere. Her lungs felt thick and slow, her mind
dissolved, she felt she could cling like a bat in the long swoon of the
crannied, underworld darkness. Cling like a bat and sway for ever
swooning in the draughts of the darkness--

When she was up on the earth again she blinked and peered at the world in
amazement. What a pretty, luminous place it was, carved in substantial
luminosity. What a strange and lovely place, bubbling iridescent-golden
on the surface of the underworld. Iridescent golden--could anything be
more fascinating! Like lovely glancing surface on fluid pitch. But a
velvet surface. A velvet surface of golden light, velvet-pile of gold and
pale luminosity, and strange beautiful elevations of houses and trees,
and depressions of fields and roads, all golden and floating like
atmospheric majolica. Never had the common ugliness of Woodhouse seemed
so entrancing. She thought she had never seen such beauty--a lovely
luminous majolica, living and palpitating, the glossy, svelte
world-surface, the exquisite face of all the darkness. It was like a
vision. Perhaps gnomes and subterranean workers, enslaved in the era of
light, see with such eyes. Perhaps that is why they are absolutely blind
to conventional ugliness. For truly nothing could be more hideous than
Woodhouse, as the miners had built it and disposed it. And yet, the very
cabbage-stumps and rotten fences of the gardens, the very back-yards were
instinct with magic, molten as they seemed with the bubbling-up of the
under-darkness, bubbling up of majolica weight and luminosity, quite
ignorant of the sky, heavy and satisfying.

Slaves of the underworld! She watched the swing of the grey colliers
along the pavement with a new fascination, hypnotized by a new vision.
Slaves--the underground trolls and iron-workers, magic, mischievous, and
enslaved, of the ancient stories. But tall--the miners seemed to her to
loom tall and grey, in their enslaved magic. Slaves who would cause the
superimposed day-order to fall. Not because, individually, they wanted
to. But because, collectively, something bubbled up in them, the force of
darkness which had no master and no control. It would bubble and stir in
them as earthquakes stir the earth. It would be simply disastrous,
because it had no master. There was no dark master in the world. The
puerile world went on crying out for a new Jesus, another Saviour from
the sky, another heavenly superman. When what was wanted was a Dark
Master from the underworld.

So they streamed past her, home from work--grey from head to foot,
distorted in shape, cramped, with curious faces that came out pallid from
under their dirt. Their walk was heavy-footed and slurring, their bearing
stiff and grotesque. A stream they were--yet they seemed to her to loom
like strange, valid figures of fairy-lore, unrealized and as yet
unexperienced. The miners, the iron-workers, those who fashion the stuff
of the underworld.

As it always comes to its children, the nostalgia of the repulsive,
heavy-footed Midlands came over her again, even whilst she was there in
the midst. The curious, dark, inexplicable and yet insatiable craving--as
if for an earthquake. To feel the earth heave and shudder and shatter the
world from beneath. To go down in the debacle.

And so, in spite of everything, poverty, dowdiness, obscurity, and
nothingness, she was content to stay in abeyance at home for the time.
True, she was filled with the same old, slow, dreadful craving of the
Midlands: a craving insatiable and inexplicable. But the very craving
kept her still. For at this time she did not translate it into a desire,
or need, for love. At the back of her mind somewhere was the fixed idea,
the fixed intention of finding love, a man. But as yet, at this period,
the idea was in abeyance, it did not act. The craving that possessed her
as it possesses everybody, in a greater or less degree, in those parts,
sustained her darkly and unconsciously.

A hot summer waned into autumn, the long, bewildering days drew in, the
transient nights, only a few breaths of shadow between noon and noon,
deepened and strengthened. A restlessness came over everybody. There was
another short strike among the miners. James Houghton, like an excited
beetle, scurried to and fro, feeling he was making his fortune. Never had
Woodhouse been so thronged on Fridays with purchasers and money-spenders.
The place seemed surcharged with life.

Autumn lasted beautiful till end of October. And then, suddenly, cold
rain, endless cold rain, and darkness heavy, wet, ponderous. Through the
wind and rain it was a toil to move. Poor Miss Frost, who had seemed
almost to blossom again in the long hot days, regaining a free
cheerfulness that amounted almost to liveliness, and who even caused a
sort of scandal by her intimacy with a rather handsome but common
stranger, an insurance agent who had come into the place with a good,
unused tenor voice--now she wilted again. She had given the rather florid
young man tea in her room, and had laboured away at his fine, metallic
voice, correcting him and teaching him and laughing with him and spending
really a remarkable number of hours alone with him in her room in
Woodhouse--for she had given up tramping the country, and had hired a
music-room in a quiet street, where she gave her lessons. And the young
man had hung round, and had never wanted to go away. They would prolong
their tête-à-tête and their singing on till ten o'clock at night, and
Miss Frost would return to Manchester House flushed and handsome and a
little shy, while the young man, who was common, took on a new boldness
in the streets. He had auburn hair, high colouring, and a rather
challenging bearing. He took on a new boldness, his own estimate of
himself rose considerably, with Miss Frost and his trained voice to
justify him. He was a little insolent and condescending to the natives,
who disliked him. For their lives they could not imagine what Miss Frost
could find in him. They began even to dislike her, and a pretty scandal
was started about the pair, in the pleasant room where Miss Frost had her
piano, her books, and her flowers. The scandal was as unjust as most
scandals are. Yet truly, all that summer and autumn Miss Frost had a new
and slightly aggressive cheerfulness and humour. And Manchester House saw
little of her, comparatively.

And then, at the end of September, the young man was removed by his
Insurance Company to another district. And at the end of October set in
the most abominable and unbearable weather, deluges of rain and north
winds, cutting the tender, summer-unfolded people to pieces. Miss Frost
wilted at once. A silence came over her. She shuddered when she had to
leave the fire. She went in the morning to her room, and stayed there all
the day, in a hot, close atmosphere, shuddering when her pupils brought
the outside weather with them to her.

She was always subject to bronchitis. In November she had a bad
bronchitis cold. Then suddenly one morning she could not get up. Alvina
went in and found her semi-conscious.

The girl was almost mad. She flew to the rescue. She despatched her
father instantly for the doctor, she heaped the sticks in the bedroom
grate and made a bright fire, she brought hot milk and brandy.

"Thank you, dear, thank you. It's a bronchial cold," whispered Miss Frost
hurriedly, trying to sip the milk. She could not. She didn't want it.

"I've sent for the doctor," aid Alvina, in her cool voice, wherein none
the less there rang the old hesitancy of sheer love.

Miss Frost lifted her eyes:

"There's no need," she said and she smiled winsomely at Alvina.

It was pneumonia. Useless to talk of the distracted anguish of Alvina
during the next two days. She was so swift and sensitive in her nursing,
she seemed to have second sight. She talked to nobody. In her silence her
soul was along with the soul of her darling. The long semi-consciousness
and the tearing pain of pneumonia, the anguished sickness.

But sometimes the grey eyes would open and smile with delicate
winsomeness at Alvina, and Alvina smiled back, with a cheery, answering
winsomeness. But tha costs something.

On the evening of the second day, Miss Frost got her hand from under the
bedclothes, and laic it on Alvina's hand. Alvina leaned down to her.

"Everything is for you, my love," whispered Miss Frost, looking with
strange eyes on Alvina's ace.

"Don't talk, Miss Frost," moaned Alvina.

"Everything is for you," murmured the sick woman--"except--" and she
enumerated some thy legacies which showed her generous, thoughtful

"Yes, I shall remember," sad Alvina, beyond tears now.

Miss Frost smiled with her old bright, wonderful look, that had a touch
of queenliness in it.

"Kiss me, dear," she whispered.

Alvina kissed her, and could not suppress the whimpering of her too-much

The night passed slowly. Sometimes the grey eyes of the sick woman rested
dark, dilated, haggard on Alvina's face, with a heavy, almost accusing
look, sinister. Then they closed again. And sometimes they looked
pathetic, with a mute, stricken appeal. Then again they closed--only to
open again tense with pain. Alvina wiped her blood-phlegmed lips.

In the morning she died--lay there haggard, death-smeared, with her
lovely white hair smeared also, and disorderly: she who had been so
beautiful and clean always.

Alvina knew death--which is untellable. She knew that her darling carried
away a portion of her own soul into death.

But she was alone. And the agony of being alone, the agony of grief,
passionate, passionate grief for her darling who was torn into death--the
agony of self-reproach, regret; the agony of remembrance; the agony of
the looks of the dying woman, winsome, and sinisterly accusing, and
pathetically, despairingly appealing--probe after probe of mortal agony,
which throughout eternity would never lose its power to pierce to the

Alvina seemed to keep strangely calm and aloof all the days after the
death. Only when she was alone she suffered till she felt her heart
really broke.

"I shall never feel anything any more," she said in her abrupt way to
Miss Frost's friend, another woman of over fifty.

"Nonsense, child!" expostulated Mrs. Lawson gently.

"I shan't! I shall never have a heart to feel anything any more," said
Alvina, with a strange, distraught roll of the eyes.

"Not like this, child. But you'll feel other things--"

"I haven't the heart," persisted Alvina.

"Not yet," said Mrs. Lawson gently. "You can't expect--But time--time
brings back--"

"Oh well--but I don't believe it," said Alvina.

People thought her rather hard. To one of her gossips Miss Pinnegar

"I thought she'd have felt it more. She cared more for her than she did
for her own mother--and her mother knew it. Mrs. Houghton complained
bitterly, sometimes, that _she_ had _no_ love. They were everything
to one another, Miss Frost and Alvina. I should have thought she'd
have felt it more. But you never know. A good thing if she doesn't,

Miss Pinnegar herself did not care one little bit that Miss Frost was
dead. She did not feel herself implicated.

The nearest relatives came down, and everything was settled. The will was
found, just a brief line on a piece of notepaper expressing a wish that
Alvina should have everything. Alvina herself told the verbal requests.
All was quietly fulfilled.

As it might well be. For there was nothing to leave. Just sixty-three
pounds in the bank--no more: then the clothes, piano, books and music.
Miss Frost's brother had these latter, at his own request: the books and
music, and the piano. Alvina inherited the few simple trinkets, and about
forty-five pounds in money.

"Poor Miss Frost," cried Mrs. Lawson, weeping rather bitterly--"she saved
nothing for herself. You can see why she never wanted to grow old, so
that she couldn't work. You can see. It's a shame, it's a shame, one of
the best women that ever trod earth."

Manchester House settled down to its deeper silence, its darker gloom.
Miss Frost was irreparably gone. With her, the reality went out of the
house. It seemed to be silently waiting to disappear. And Alvina and Miss
Pinnegar might move about and talk in vain. They could never remove the
sense of waiting to finish: it was all just waiting to finish. And the
three, James and Alvina and Miss Pinnegar, waited lingering through the
months, for the house to come to an end. With Miss Frost its spirit
passed away: it was no more. Dark, empty-feeling, it seemed all the time
like a house just before a sale.


Throttle-Ha'penny worked fitfully through the winter, and in the spring
broke down. By this time James Houghton had a pathetic, childish look
which touched the hearts of Alvina and Miss Pinnegar. They began to treat
him with a certain feminine indulgence, as he fluttered round, agitated
and bewildered. He was like a bird that has flown into a room and is
exhausted, enfeebled by its attempts to fly through the false freedom of
the window-glass. Sometimes he would sit moping in a corner, with his
head under his wing. But Miss Pinnegar chased him forth, like the
stealthy cat she was, chased him up to the workroom to consider some
detail of work, chased him into the shop to turn over the old debris of
the stock. At one time he showed the alarming symptom of brooding over
his wife's death. Miss Pinnegar was thoroughly scared. But she was not
inventive. It was left to Alvina to suggest: "Why doesn't father let the
shop, and some of the house?"

Let the shop! Let the last inch of frontage on the street! James thought
of it. Let the shop! Permit the name of Houghton to disappear from the
list of tradesmen? Withdraw? Disappear? Become a nameless nobody,
occupying obscure premises?

He thought about it. And thinking about it, became so indignant at the
thought that he pulled his scattered energies together within his frail
frame. And then he came out with the most original of all his schemes.
Manchester House was to be fitted up as a boarding-house for the better
classes, and was to make a fortune catering for the needs of these
gentry, who had now nowhere to go. Yes, Manchester House should be fitted
up as a sort of quiet family hotel for the better classes. The shop
should be turned into an elegant hall-entrance, carpeted, with a
hall-porter and a wide plate-glass door, round-arched, in the round arch
of which the words: "Manchester House" should appear large and
distinguished, making an arch also, whilst underneath, more refined and
smaller, should show the words: "Private Hotel." James was to be
proprietor and secretary, keeping the books and attending to
correspondence: Miss Pinnegar was to be manageress, superintending the
servants and directing the house, whilst Alvina was to occupy the
equivocal position of "hostess." She was to shake hands with the guests:
she was to play the piano, and she was to nurse the sick. For in the
prospectus James would include: "Trained nurse always on the premises."

"Why!" cried Miss Pinnegar, for once brutally and angrily hostile to him:
"You'll make it sound like a private lunatic asylum."

"Will you explain why?" answered James tartly.

For himself, he was enraptured with the scheme. He began to tot up ideas
and expenses. There would be the handsome entrance and hall: there would
be an extension of the kitchen and scullery: there would be an installing
of new hot-water and sanitary arrangements: there would be a light
lift-arrangement from the kitchen: there would be a handsome glazed
balcony or loggia or terrace on the first floor at the back, over the
whole length of the back-yard. This loggia would give a wonderful outlook
to the south-west and the west. In the immediate foreground, to be sure,
would be the yard of the livery-stables and the rather slummy dwellings
of the colliers, sloping downhill. But these could be easily overlooked,
for the eye would instinctively wander across the green and shallow
valley, to the long upslope opposite, showing the Manor set in its clump
of trees, and farms and haystacks pleasantly dotted, and moderately far
off coal-mines with twinkling headstocks and narrow railway-lines
crossing the arable fields, and heaps of burning slag. The balcony or
covered terrace--James settled down at last to the word
_terrace_--was to be one of the features of the house: _the_
feature. It was to be fitted up as a sort of elegant lounging restaurant.
Elegant teas, at two-and-six per head, and elegant suppers, at five
shillings without wine, were to be served here.

As a teetotaller and a man of ascetic views, James, in his first shallow
moments, before he thought about it, assumed that his house should be
entirely non-alcoholic. A temperance house! Already he winced. We all
know what a provincial Temperance Hotel is. Besides, there is magic in
the sound of wine. _Wines Served_. The legend attracted him
immensely--as a teetotaller, it had a mysterious, hypnotic influence. He
must have wines. He knew nothing about them. But Alfred Swayn, from the
Liquor Vaults, would put him in the running in five minutes.

It was most curious to see Miss Pinnegar turtle up' at the mention of
this scheme. When first it was disclosed to her, her colour came up like
a turkey's in a flush of indignant anger.

"It's ridiculous. It's just ridiculous!" she blurted, bridling and
ducking her head and turning aside, like an indignant turkey.

"Ridiculous! Why? Will you explain why!" retorted James, turtling also.

"It's absolutely ridiculous!" she repeated, unable to do more than

"Well, we'll see," said James, rising to superiority.

And again he began to dart absorbedly about, like a bird building a nest.
Miss Pinnegar watched him with a sort of sullen fury. She went to the
shop door to peep out after him. She saw him slip into the Liquor Vaults,
and she came back to announce to Alvina:

"He's taken to drink!"

"Drink?" said Alvina.

"That's what it is," said Miss Pinnegar vindictively. "Drink!"

Alvina sank down and laughed till she was weak. It all seemed really too
funny to her--too funny.

"I can't see what it is to laugh at," said Miss Pinnegar.
"Disgraceful--it's disgraceful! But I'm not going to stop to be made a
fool of. I shall be no manageress, I tell you. It's absolutely
ridiculous. Who does he think will come to the place? He's out of his
mind--and it's drink; that's what it is! Going into the Liquor Vaults at
ten o'clock in the morning! That's where he gets his ideas--out of
whiskey--or brandy! But he's not going to make a fool of me."

"Oh dear!" sighed Alvina, laughing herself into composure and a little
weariness. "I know it's _perfectly_ ridiculous. We shall have to
stop him."

"I've said all I can say," blurted Miss Pinnegar.

As soon as James came in to a meal, the two women attacked him. "But
father," said Alvina, "there'll be nobody to come."

"Plenty of people--plenty of people," said her father. "Look at The
Shakespeare's Head, in Knarborough."

"Knarborough! Is this Knarborough!" blurted Miss Pinnegar. "Where are the
business men here? Where are the foreigners coming here for business,
where's our lace-trade and our stocking-trade?"

"There _are_ business men," said James. "And there are ladies."

"Who," retorted Miss Pinnegar, "is going to give half-a-crown for a tea?
They expect tea and bread-and-butter for fourpence, and cake for
sixpence, and apricots or pineapple for ninepence, and ham-and-tongue for
a shilling, and fried ham and eggs and jam and cake as much as they can
eat for one-and-two. If they expect a knife-and-fork tea for a shilling,
what are you going to give them for half-a-crown?"

"I know what I shall offer," said James. "And we may make it two
shillings." Through his mind flitted the idea of 1/11½--but he rejected
it. "You don't realize that I'm catering for a higher class of custom--"

"But there _isn't_ any higher class in Woodhouse, father," said
Alvina, unable to restrain a laugh.

"If you create a supply you create a demand," he retorted.

"But how can you create a supply of better class people?" asked Alvina

James took on his refined, abstracted look, as if he were preoccupied on
higher planes. It was the look of an obstinate little boy who poses on
the side of the angels--or so the women saw it.

Miss Pinnegar was prepared to combat him now by sheer weight of
opposition. She would pitch her dead negative will obstinately against
him. She would not speak to him, she would not observe his presence, she
was stone deaf and stone blind: there _was_ no James. This nettled
him. And she miscalculated him. He merely took another circuit, and rose
another flight higher on the spiral of his spiritual egotism. He believed
himself finely and sacredly in the right, that he was frustrated by lower
beings, above whom it was his duty to rise, to soar. So he soared to
serene heights, and his Private Hotel seemed a celestial injunction, an
erection on a higher plane.

He saw the architect: and then, with his plans and schemes, he saw the
builder and contractor. The builder gave an estimate of six or seven
hundred--but James had better see the plumber and fitter who was going to
install the new hot water and sanitary system. James was a little dashed.
He had calculated much less. Having only a few hundred pounds in
possession after Throttle-Ha'penny, he was prepared to mortgage
Manchester House if he could keep in hand a sufficient sum of money for
the running of his establishment for a year. He knew he would have to
sacrifice Miss Pinnegar's work-room. He knew, and he feared Miss
Pinnegar's violent and unmitigated hostility. Still--his obstinate spirit
rose--he was quite prepared to risk everything on this last throw.

Miss Allsop, daughter of the builder, called to see Alvina. The All-sops
were great Chapel people, and Cassie Allsop was one of the old maids. She
was thin and nipped and wistful looking, about forty-two years old. In
private, she was tyrannously exacting with the servants, and spiteful,
rather mean with her motherless nieces. But in public she had this
nipped, wistful look.

Alvina was surprised by this visit. When she found Miss Allsop at the
back door, all her inherent hostility awoke.

"Oh, is it you, Miss Allsop! Will you come in."

They sat in the middle room, the common living room of the house.

"I called," said Miss Allsop, coming to the point at once, and speaking
in her Sunday-school-teacher voice, "to ask you if you know about this
Private Hotel scheme of your father's?"

"Yes," said Alvina.

"Oh, you do! Well, we wondered.. Mr. Houghton came to father about the
building alterations yesterday. They'll be awfully expensive."

"Will they?" said Alvina, making big, mocking eyes.

"Yes, very. What do _you_ think of the scheme?"

"I?--well--!" Alvina hesitated, then broke into a laugh. "To tell the
truth I haven't thought much about it at all."

"Well I think you should," said Miss Allsop severely. "Father's sure it
won't pay--and it will cost I don't know how much. It is bound to be a
dead loss. And your father's getting on. You'll be left stranded in the
world without a penny to bless yourself with. I think it's an awful
outlook for you."

"Do you?" said Alvina.

Here she was, with a bang, planked upon the shelf among the old maids.

"Oh, I do. Sincerely! I should do all I could to prevent him, if I were

Miss Allsop took her departure. Alvina felt herself jolted in her mood.
An old maid along with Cassie Allsop!--and James Houghton fooling about
with the last bit of money, mortgaging Manchester House up to the hilt.
Alvina sank in a kind of weary mortification, in which _her_
peculiar obstinacy persisted devilishly and spitefully. "Oh well, so be
it," said her spirit vindictively. "Let the meagre, mean, despicable fate
fulfil itself." Her old anger against her father arose again.

Arthur Witham, the plumber, came in with James Houghton to examine the
house. Arthur Witham was also one of the Chapel men--as had been his
common, interfering, uneducated father before him. The father had left
each of his sons a fair little sum of money, which Arthur, the eldest,
had already increased ten-fold. He was sly and slow and uneducated also,
and spoke with a broad accent. But he was not bad-looking, a tight fellow
with big blue eyes, who aspired to keep his "h's" in the right place, and
would have been a gentleman if he could.

Against her usual habit, Alvina joined the plumber and her father in the
scullery. Arthur Witham saluted her with some respect. She liked his blue
eyes and tight figure. He was keen and sly in business, very watchful,
and slow to commit himself. Now he poked and peered and crept under the
sink. Alvina watched him half disappear--she handed him a candle--and she
laughed to herself seeing his tight, well-shaped hind-quarters protruding
from under the sink like the wrong end of a dog from a kennel. He was
keen after money, was Arthur--and bossy, creeping slyly after his own
self-importance and power. He wanted power--and he would creep quietly
after it till he got it: as much as he was capable of. His "h's" were a
barbed-wire fence and entanglement, preventing his unlimited progress.

He emerged from under the sink, and they went to the kitchen and
afterwards upstairs. Alvina followed them persistently, but a little
aloof, and silent. When the tour of inspection was almost over, she said

"Won't it cost a great deal?"

Arthur Witham slowly shook his head. Then he looked at her. She smiled
rather archly into his eyes.

"It won't be done for nothing," he said, looking at her again. "We can go
into that later," said James, leading off the plumber.

"Good morning, Miss Houghton," said Arthur Witham. "Good morning, Mr.
Witham," replied Alvina brightly.

But she lingered in the background, and as Arthur Witham was going she
heard him say: "Well, I'll work it out, Mr. Houghton. I'll work it out,
and let you know tonight. I'll get the figures by tonight."

The younger man's tone was a little off-hand, just a little supercilious
with her father, she thought. James's star was setting.

In the afternoon, directly after dinner, Alvina went out. She entered the
shop, where sheets of lead and tins of paint and putty stood about,
varied by sheets of glass and fancy paper. Lottie Witham, Arthur's wife,
appeared. She was a woman of thirty-five, a bit of a shrew, with social
ambitions and no children.

"Is Mr. Witham in?" said Alvina.

Mrs. Witham eyed her.

"I'll see," she answered, and she left the shop.

Presently Arthur entered, in his shirt-sleeves: rather

"I don't know what you'll think of me, and what I've come for," said
Alvina, with hurried amiability. Arthur lifted his blue eyes to her, and
Mrs. Witham appeared in the background, in the inner doorway.

"Why, what is it?" said Arthur stolidly.

"Make it as dear as you can, for father," said Alvina, laughing

Arthur's blue eyes rested on her face. Mrs. Witham advanced into the

"Why? What's that for?" asked Lottie Witham shrewdly.

Alvina turned to the woman.

"Don't say anything," she said. "But we don't want father to go on with
this scheme. It's bound to fail. And Miss Pinnegar and I can't have
anything to do with it anyway. I shall go away."

"It's bound to fail," said Arthur Witham stolidly.

"And father has no money, I'm sure," said Alvina.

Lottie Witham eyed the thin, nervous face of Alvina. For some reason, she
liked her. And of course, Alvina was _considered_ a lady in
Woodhouse. That was what it had come to, with James's declining fortunes:
she was merely considered a lady. The consideration was no longer

"Shall you come in a minute?" said Lottie Witham, lifting the flap of the
counter. It was a rare and bold stroke on Mrs. Witham's part. Alvina's
immediate instinct was to refuse. But she liked Arthur Witham, in his
shirt sleeves.

"Well--I must be back in a minute," she said, as she entered the
embrasure of the counter. She felt as if she were really venturing on new
ground. She was led into the new drawing-room, done in new
peacock-and-bronze brocade furniture, with gilt and brass and white
walls. This was the Withams' new house, and Lottie was proud of it. The
two women had a short confidential chat. Arthur lingered in the doorway a
while, then went away.

Alvina did not really like Lottie Witham. Yet the other woman was sharp
and shrewd in the uptake, and for some reason she fancied Alvina. So she
was invited to tea at Manchester House.

After this, so many difficulties rose up in James Houghton's way that he
was worried almost out of his life. His two women left him alone. Outside
difficulties multiplied on him till he abandoned his scheme--he was
simply driven out of it by untoward circumstances.

Lottie Witham came to tea, and was shown over Manchester House. She had
no opinion at all of Manchester House--wouldn't hang a cat in such a
gloomy hole. _Still_, she was rather impressed by the sense of

"Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed as she stood in Alvina's bedroom, and
looked at the enormous furniture, the lofty tableland of the bed.

"Oh my goodness! I wouldn't sleep in _that_ for a trifle, by myself!
Aren't you frightened out of your life? Even if I had Arthur at one side
of me, I should be that frightened on the other side I shouldn't know
what to do. Do you sleep here by yourself?"

"Yes," said Alvina laughing. "I haven't got an Arthur, even for one

"Oh, my word, you'd want a husband on both sides, in that bed," said
Lottie Witham.

Alvina was asked back to tea--on Wednesday afternoon, closing day. Arthur
was there to tea--very ill at ease and feeling as if his hands were
swollen. Alvina got on better with his wife, who watched closely to learn
from her guest the secret of repose. The indefinable repose and
inevitability of a lady--even of a lady who is nervous and agitated--this
was the problem which occupied Lottie's shrewd and active, but
lower-class mind. She even did not resent Alvina's laughing attempts to
draw out the clumsy Arthur: because Alvina was a lady, and her tactics
must be studied.

Alvina really liked Arthur, and thought a good deal about him--heaven
knows why. He and Lottie were quite happy together, and he was absorbed
in his petty ambitions. In his limited way, he was invincibly ambitious.
He would end by making a sufficient fortune, and by being a town
councillor and a J.P. But beyond Woodhouse he did not exist. Why then
should Alvina be attracted by him? Perhaps because of his "closeness,"
and his secret determinedness.

When she met him in the street she would stop him--though he was always
busy--and make him exchange a few words with her. And when she had tea at
his house, she would try to rouse his attention. But though he looked at
her, steadily, with his blue eyes, from under his long lashes, still, she
knew, he looked at her objectively. He never conceived any connection
with her whatsoever.

It was Lottie who had a scheming mind. In the family of three brothers
there was one--not black sheep, but white. There was one who was climbing
out, to be a gentleman. This was Albert, the second brother. He had been
a school-teacher in Woodhouse: had gone out to South Africa and occupied
a post in a sort of Grammar School in one of the cities of Cape Colony.
He had accumulated some money, to add to his patrimony. Now he was in
England, at Oxford, where he would take his belated degree. When he had
got his degree, he would return to South Africa to become head of his
school, at seven hundred a year.

Albert was thirty-two years old, and unmarried. Lottie was determined he
should take back to the Cape a suitable wife: presumably Alvina. He spent
his vacations in Woodhouse--and he was only in his first year at Oxford.
Well now, what could be more suitable--a young man at Oxford, a young
lady in Woodhouse. Lottie told Alvina all about him, and Alvina was quite
excited to meet him. She imagined him a taller, more fascinating,
educated Arthur.

For the fear of being an old maid, the fear of her own virginity was
really gaining on Alvina. There was a terrible sombre futility,
nothingness, in Manchester House. She was twenty-six years old. Her life
was utterly barren now Miss Frost had gone. She was shabby and penniless,
a mere household drudge: for James begrudged even a girl to help in the
kitchen. She was looking faded and worn. Panic, the terrible and deadly
panic which overcomes so many unmarried women at about the age of thirty,
was beginning to overcome her. She would not care about marriage, if even
she had a lover. But some sort of terror hunted her to the search of a
lover. She would become loose, she would become a prostitute, she said to
herself, rather than die off like Cassie Allsop and the rest, wither
slowly and ignominiously and hideously on the tree. She would rather kill

But it needs a certain natural gift to become a loose woman or a
prostitute. If you haven't got the qualities which attract loose men,
what are you to do? Supposing it isn't in your nature to attract loose
and promiscuous men! Why, then you can't be a prostitute, if you try your
head off nor even a loose woman. Since _willing_ won't do it. It
requires a second party to come to an agreement.

Therefore all Alvina's desperate and profligate schemes and ideas fell to
nought before the inexorable in her nature. And the inexorable in her
nature was highly exclusive and selective, an inevitable negation of
looseness or prostitution. Hence men were afraid of her--of her power,
once they had committed themselves. She would involve and lead a man on,
she would destroy him rather than not get of him what she wanted. And
what she wanted was something serious and risky. Not mere marriage--oh
dear no! But a profound and dangerous interrelationship. As well ask the
paddlers in the small surf of passion to plunge themselves into the
heaving gulf of mid-ocean. Bah, with their trousers turned up to their
knees it was enough for them to wet their toes in the dangerous sea. They
were having nothing to do with such desperate nereids as Alvina.

She had cast her mind on Arthur. Truly ridiculous. But there was
something compact and energetic and wilful about him that she magnified
tenfold and so obtained, imaginatively, an attractive lover. She brooded
her days shabbily away in Manchester House, busy with housework drudgery.
Since the collapse of Throttle-Ha'penny, James Houghton had become so
stingy that it was like an inflammation in him. A silver sixpence had a
pale and celestial radiance which he could not forego, a nebulous
whiteness which made him feel he had heaven in his hold. How then could
he let it go. Even a brown penny seemed alive and pulsing with mysterious
blood, potent, magical. He loved the flock of his busy pennies, in the
shop, as if they had been divine bees bringing him sustenance from the
infinite. But the pennies he saw dribbling away in household expenses
troubled him acutely, as if they were live things leaving his fold. It
was a constant struggle to get from him enough money for necessities.

And so the household diet became meagre in the extreme, the coal was eked
out inch by inch, and when Alvina must have her boots mended she must
draw on her own little stock of money. For James Houghton had the
impudence to make her an allowance of two shillings a week. She was very
angry. Yet her anger was of that dangerous, half-ironical sort which
wears away its subject and has no outward effect. A feeling of
half-bitter mockery kept her going. In the ponderous, rather sordid
nullity of Manchester House she became shadowy and absorbed, absorbed in
nothing in particular, yet absorbed. She was always more or less busy:
and certainly there was always something to be done, whether she did it
or not.

The shop was opened once a week, on Friday evenings. James Houghton
prowled round the warehouses in Knarborough and picked up job lots of
stuff, with which he replenished his shabby window. But his heart was not
in the business. Mere tenacity made him hover on with it.

In midsummer Albert Witham came to Woodhouse, and Alvina was invited to
tea. She was very much excited. All the time imagining Albert a taller,
finer Arthur, she had abstained from actually fixing her mind upon this
latter little man. Picture her disappointment when she found Albert quite
unattractive. He was tall and thin and brittle, with a pale, rather dry,
flattish face, and with curious pale eyes. His impression was one of
uncanny flatness, something like a lemon sole. Curiously flat and
fish-like he was, one might have imagined his backbone to be spread like
the backbone of a sole or a plaice. His teeth were sound, but rather
large and yellowish and flat. A most curious person.

He spoke in a slightly mouthing way, not well bred in spite of Oxford.
There was a distinct Woodhouse twang. He would never be a gentleman if he
lived for ever. Yet he was not ordinary. Really an odd fish: quite
interesting, if one could get over the feeling that one was looking at
him through the glass wall of an aquarium: that most horrifying of all
boundaries between two worlds. In an aquarium fish seem to come smiling
broadly to the doorway, and there to stand talking to one, in a mouthing
fashion, awful to behold. For one hears no sound from all their mouthing
and staring conversation. Now although Albert Witham had a good strong
voice, which rang like water among rocks in her ear, still she seemed
never to hear a word he was saying. He smiled down at her and fixed her
and swayed his head, and said quite original things, really. For he was a
genuine odd fish. And yet she seemed to hear no sound, no word from him:
nothing came to her. Perhaps as a matter of fact fish do actually
pronounce streams of watery words, to which we, with our aerial-resonant
ears, are deaf for ever.

The odd thing was that this odd fish seemed from the very first to
imagine she had accepted him as a follower. And he was quite prepared to
follow. Nay, from the very first moment he was smiling on her with a sort
of complacent delight--compassionate, one might almost say--as if there
was a full understanding between them. If only she could have got into
the right state of mind, she would really rather have liked him. He
smiled at her, and said really interesting things between his big teeth.
There was something rather nice about him. But, we must repeat, it was as
if the glass wall of an aquarium divided them.

Alvina looked at Arthur. Arthur was short and dark-haired and nicely
coloured. But, now his brother was there, he too seemed to have a dumb,
aqueous silence, fish-like and aloof, about him. He seemed to swim like a
fish in his own little element. Strange it all was, like Alice in
Wonderland. Alvina understood now Lottie's strained sort of thinness, a
haggard, sinewy, sea-weedy look. The poor thing was all the time swimming
for her life.

For Alvina it was a most curious tea-party. She listened and smiled and
made vague answers to Albert, who leaned his broad, thin brittle
shoulders towards her. Lottie seemed rather shadowily to preside. But it
was Arthur who came out into communication. And now, uttering his rather
broad-mouthed speeches, she seemed to hear in him a quieter, subtler
edition of his father. His father had been a little, terrifically
loud-voiced, hard-skinned man, amazingly uneducated and amazingly
bullying, who had tyrannized for many years over the Sunday School
children during morning service. He had been an odd-looking creature with
round grey whiskers: to Alvina, always a creature, never a man: an
atrocious leprecaun from under the Chapel floor. And how he used to dig
the children in the back with his horrible iron thumb, if the poor things
happened to whisper or nod in chapel!

These were his children--most curious chips of the old block. Who ever
would have believed she would have been taking tea with them. "Why don't
you have a bicycle, and go out on it?" Arthur was saying.

"But I can't ride," said Alvina.

"You'd learn in a couple of lessons. There's nothing in riding a

"I don't believe I ever should," laughed Alvina.

"You don't mean to say you're nervous?" said Arthur rudely and

"I _am_," she persisted.

"You needn't be nervous with me," smiled Albert broadly, with his odd,
genuine gallantry. "I'll hold you on."

"But I haven't got a bicycle," said Alvina, feeling she was slowly
colouring to a deep, uneasy blush.

"You can have mine to learn on," said Lottie. "Albert will look after

"There's your chance," said Arthur rudely. "Take it while you've got it."

Now Alvina did not want to learn to ride a bicycle. The two Miss Carlins,
two more old maids, had made themselves ridiculous for ever by becoming
twin cycle fiends. And the horrible energetic strain of peddling a
bicycle over miles and miles of high-way did not attract Alvina at all.
She was completely indifferent to sight-seeing and scouring about. She
liked taking a walk, in her lingering indifferent fashion. But rushing
about in any way was hateful to her. And then, to be taught to ride a
bicycle by Albert Witham! Her very soul stood still.

"Yes," said Albert, beaming down at her from his strange pale eyes. "Come
on. When will you have your first lesson?"

"Oh," cried Alvina in confusion. "I can't promise. I haven't time,

"Time!" exclaimed Arthur rudely. "But what do you do wi' yourself all

"I have to keep house," she said, looking at him archly.

"House! You can put a chain round its neck, and tie it up," he retorted.

Albert laughed, showing all his teeth.

"I'm sure you find plenty to do, with everything on your hands," said
Lottie to Alvina.

"I do!" said Alvina. "By evening I'm quite tired--though you mayn't
believe it, since you say I do nothing," she added, laughing confusedly
to Arthur.

But he, hard-headed little fortune-maker, replied:

"You have a girl to help you, don't you!"

Albert, however, was beaming at her sympathetically.

"You have too much to do indoors," he said. "It would do you good to get
a bit of exercise out of doors. Come down to the Coach Road tomorrow
afternoon, and let me give you a lesson. Go on."

Now the coach-road was a level drive between beautiful park-like
grass-stretches, down in the valley. It was a delightful place for
learning to ride a bicycle, but open in full view of all the world.
Alvina would have died of shame. She began to laugh nervously and
hurriedly at the very thought.

"No, I can't. I really can't. Thanks, awfully," she said.

"Can't you really!" said Albert. "Oh well, we'll say another day, shall

"When I feel I can," she said.

"Yes, when you feel like it," replied Albert.

"That's more it," said Arthur. "It's not the time. It's the nervousness."
Again Albert beamed at her sympathetically, and said:

"Oh, I'll hold you. You needn't be afraid."

"But I'm not afraid," she said.

"You won't _say_ you are," interposed Arthur. "Women's faults
mustn't be owned up to."

Alvina was beginning to feel quite dazed. Their mechanical, overbearing
way was something she was unaccustomed to. It was like the jaws of a pair
of insentient iron pincers. She rose, saying she must go.

Albert rose also, and reached for his straw hat, with its coloured band.

"I'll stroll up with you, if you don't mind," he said. And he took his
place at her side along the Knarborough Road, where everybody turned to
look. For, of course, he had a sort of fame in Woodhouse. She went with
him laughing and chatting. But she did not feel at all comfortable. He
seemed so pleased. Only he was not pleased with _her_. He was
pleased with himself on her account: inordinately pleased with himself.
In his world, as in a fish's, there was but his own swimming self: and if
he chanced to have something swimming alongside and doing him credit,
why, so much the more complacently he smiled.

He walked stiff and erect, with his head pressed rather back, so that he
always seemed to be advancing from the head and shoulders, in a flat kind
of advance, horizontal. He did not seem to be walking with his whole
body. His manner was oddly gallant, with a gallantry that completely
missed the individual in the woman, circled round her and flew home
gratified to his own hive. The way he raised his hat, the way he inclined
and smiled flatly, even rather excitedly, as he talked, was all a little
discomforting and comical.

He left her at the shop door, saying:

"I shall see you again, I hope."

"Oh, yes," she replied, rattling the door anxiously, for it was locked.
She heard her father's step at last tripping down the shop.

"Good-evening, Mr. Houghton," said Albert suavely and with a certain
confidence, as James peered out.

"Oh, good-evening!" said James, letting Alvina pass, and shutting the
door in Albert's face.

"Who was that?" he asked her sharply.

"Albert Witham," she replied.

"What has _he_ got to do with you?" said James shrewishly. "Nothing,
I hope."

She fled into the obscurity of Manchester House, out of the grey summer
evening. The Withams threw her off her pivot, and made her feel she was
not herself. She felt she didn't know, she couldn't feel, she was just
scattered and decentralized. And she was rather afraid of the Witham
brothers. She might be their victim. She intended to avoid them.

The following days she saw Albert, in his Norfolk jacket and flannel
trousers and his straw hat, strolling past several times and looking in
through the shop door and up at the upper windows. But she hid herself
thoroughly. When she went out, it was by the back way. So she avoided

But on Sunday evening, there he sat, rather stiff and brittle in the old
Withams' pew, his head pressed a little back, so that his face and neck
seemed slightly flattened. He wore very low, turn-down starched collars
that showed all his neck. And he kept looking up at her during the
service--she sat in the choir-loft--gazing up at her with apparently
love-lorn eyes and a faint, intimate smile--the sort of
_je-sais-tout_ look of a private swain. Arthur also occasionally
cast a judicious eye on her, as if she were a chimney that needed
repairing, and he must estimate the cost, and whether it was worth it.

Sure enough, as she came out through the narrow choir gate into
Knarborough Road, there was Albert stepping forward like a policeman, and
saluting her and smiling down on her.

"I don't know if I'm presuming--" he said, in a mock deferential way that
showed he didn't imagine he _could_ presume.

"Oh, not at all," said Alvina airily. He smiled with assurance. "You
haven't got any engagement, then, for this evening?" he said. "No," she
replied simply.

"We might take a walk. What do you think?" he said, glancing down the
road in either direction.

What, after all, was she to think? All the girls were pairing off with
the boys for the after-chapel stroll and spoon.

"I don't mind," she said.

"But I can't go far. I've got to be in at nine."

"Which way shall we go?" he said.

He steered off, turned downhill through the common gardens, and proposed
to take her the not-very-original walk up Flint's Lane, and along the
railway line--the colliery railway, that is--then back up the Marlpool
Road: a sort of circle. She agreed.

They did not find a great deal to talk about. She questioned him about
his plans, and about the Cape. But save for bare outlines, which he gave
readily enough, he was rather close.

"What do you do on Sunday nights as a rule?" he asked her.

"Oh, I have a walk with Lucy Grainger--or I go down to Hallam'sor go
home," she answered.

"You don't go walks with the fellows, then?"

"Father would never have it," she replied.

"What will he say now?" he asked, with self-satisfaction. "Goodness
knows!" she laughed.

"Goodness usually does," he answered archly.

When they came to the rather stumbly railway, he said:

"Won't you take my arm?"--offering her the said member. "Oh, I'm all
right," she said. "Thanks,"

"Go on," he said, pressing a little nearer to her, and offering his arm.
"There's nothing against it, is there?"

"Oh, it's not that," she said.

And feeling in a false position, she took his arm, rather unwillingly. He
drew a little nearer to her, and walked with a slight prance.

"We get on better, don't we?" he said, giving her hand the tiniest
squeeze with his arm against his side.

"Much!" she replied, with a laugh.

Then he lowered his voice oddly.

"It's many a day since I was on this railroad," he said.

"Is this one of your old walks?" she asked, malicious.

"Yes, I've been it once or twice--with girls that are all married now."

"Didn't you want to marry?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't know. I may have done. But it never came off, somehow. I've
sometimes thought it never would come off."


"I don't know, exactly. It didn't seem to, you know. Perhaps neither of
us was properly inclined."

"I should think so," she said.

"And yet," he admitted slyly, "I should _like_ to marry--" To this
she did not answer.

"Shouldn't you?" he continued.

"When I meet the right man," she laughed.

"That's it," he said. "There, that's just it! And you _haven't_ met
him?" His voice seemed smiling with a sort of triumph, as if he had
caught her out.

"Well--once I thought I had--when I was engaged to Alexander."

"But you found you were mistaken?" he insisted.

"No. Mother was so ill at the time--"

"There's always something to consider," he said.

She kept on wondering what she should do if he wanted to kiss her. The
mere incongruity of such a desire on his part formed a problem. Luckily,
for this evening he formulated no desire, but left her in the shop-door
soon after nine, with the request:

"I shall see you in the week, shan't I?"

"I'm not sure. I can't promise now," she said hurriedly. "Goodnight."

What she felt chiefly about him was a decentralized perplexity, very much
akin to no feeling at all.

"Who do you think took me for a walk, Miss Pinnegar?" she said, laughing,
to her confidante.

"I can't imagine," replied Miss Pinnegar, eyeing her.

"You never would imagine," said Alvina. "Albert Witham."

"Albert Witham!" exclaimed Miss Pinnegar, standing quite motionless.

"It may well take your breath away," said Alvina.

"No, it's not that!" hurriedly expostulated Miss Pinnegar. "Well--! Well,
I declare!--" and then, on a new note: "Well, he's very eligible, I

"Most eligible!" replied Alvina.

"Yes, he is," insisted Miss Pinnegar. "I think it's very good."

"What's very good?" asked Alvina.

Miss Pinnegar hesitated. She looked at Alvina. She reconsidered. "Of
course he's not the man I should have imagined for you, but--"

"You think he'll do?" said Alvina.

"Why not?" said Miss Pinnegar. "Why shouldn't he do--if you like him."

"Ah--!" cried Alvina, sinking on the sofa with laugh. "That's it."

"Of course you couldn't have anything to do with him if you don't care
for him," pronounced Miss Pinnegar.

Albert continued to hang around. He did not make any direct attack for a
few days. Suddenly one evening he appeared at the back door with a bunch
of white stocks in his hand. His face lit up with a sudden, odd smile
when she opened the door--a broad, pale-gleaming, remarkable smile.

"Lottie wanted to know if you'd come to tea tomorrow," he said straight
out, looking at her with the pale light in his eyes, that smiled palely
right into her eyes, but did not see her at all. He was waiting on the
doorstep to come in.

"Will you come in?" said Alvina. "Father is in."

"Yes, I don't mind," he said, pleased. He mounted the steps, still
holding his bunch of white stocks.

James Houghton screwed round in his chair and peered over his spectacles
to see who was coming.

"Father," said Alvina, "you know Mr. Witham, don't you?"

James Houghton half rose. He still peered over his glasses at the

"Well--I do by sight. How do you do?"

He held out his frail hand.

Albert held back, with the flowers in his own hand, and giving his broad,
pleased, pale-gleaming smile from father to daughter, he said:

"What am I to do with these? Will you accept them, Miss Houghton?" He
stared at her with shining, pallid smiling eyes.

"Are they for me?" she said, with false brightness. "Thank you."

James Houghton looked over the top of his spectacles, searchingly, at the
flowers, as if they had been a bunch of white and sharp-toothed ferrets.
Then he looked as suspiciously at the hand which Albert at last extended
to him. He shook it slightly, and said:

"Take a seat."

"I'm afraid I'm disturbing you in your reading," said Albert, still
having the drawn, excited smile on his face.

"Well--" said James Houghton. "The light is fading."

Alvina came in with the flowers in a jar. She set them on the table.

"Haven't they a lovely scent?" she said.

"Do you think so?" he replied, again with the excited smile. There was a
pause. Albert, rather embarrassed, reached forward, saying:

"May I see what you're reading!" And he turned over the book. "'Tommy
and Grizel!' Oh yes! What do you think of it?"

"Well," said James, "I am only in the beginning."

"I think it's interesting, myself," said Albert, "as a study of a man who
can't get away from himself. You meet a lot of people like that. What I
wonder is why they find it such a drawback."

"Find what a drawback?" asked James.

"Not being able to get away from themselves. That self-consciousness. It
hampers them, and interferes with their power of action. Now I wonder why
self-consciousness should hinder a man in his action? Why does it cause
misgiving? I think I'm self-conscious, but I don't think I have so many
misgivings. I don't see that they're necessary."

"Certainly I think Tommy is a weak character. I believe he's a despicable
character," said James.

"No, I don't know so much about that," said Albert. "I shouldn't say
weak, exactly. He's only weak in one direction. No, what I wonder is why
he feels guilty. If you feel self-conscious, there's no need to feel
guilty about it, is there?"

He stared with his strange, smiling stare at James.

"I shouldn't say so," replied James. "But if a man never knows his own
mind, he certainly can't be much of a man."

"I don't see it," replied Albert. "What's the matter is that he feels
guilty for not knowing his own mind. That's the unnecessary part. The
guilty feeling--"

Albert seemed insistent on this point, which had no particular interest
for James.

"Where we've got to make a change," said Albert, "is in the feeling that
other people have a right to tell us what we ought to feel and do. Nobody
knows what another man ought to feel. Every man has his own special
feelings, and his own right to them. That's where it is with education.
You ought not to want all your children to feel alike. Their natures are
all different, and so they should all feel different, about practically

"There would be no end to the confusion," said James.

"There needn't be any confusion to speak of. You agree to a number of
rules and conventions and laws, for social purposes. But in private you
feel just as you do feel, without occasion for trying to feel something

"I don't know," said James. "There are certain feelings common to
humanity, such as love, and honour, and truth."

"Would you call them feelings?" said Albert. "I should say what is common
is the idea. The idea is common to humanity, once you've put it into
words. But the feeling varies with every man. The same idea represents a
different kind of feeling in every different individual. It seems to me
that's what we've got to recognize if we're going to do anything with
education. We don't want to produce mass feelings. Don't you agree?"

Poor James was too bewildered to know whether to agree or not to agree.

"Shall we have a light, Alvina?" he said to his daughter.

Alvina lit the incandescent gas-jet that hung in the middle of the room.
The hard white light showed her somewhat haggard-looking as she reached
up to it. But Albert watched her, smiling abstractedly. It seemed as if
his words came off him without affecting him at all. He did not think
about what he was feeling, and he did not feel what he was thinking
about. And therefore she hardly heard what he said. Yet she believed he
was clever.

It was evident Albert was quite blissfully happy, in his own way, sitting
there at the end of the sofa not far from the fire, and talking
animatedly. The uncomfortable thing was that though he talked in the
direction of his interlocutor, he did not speak _to_ him: merely
said his words towards him. James, however, was such an airy feather
himself he did not remark this, but only felt a little self-important at
sustaining such a subtle conversation with a man from Oxford. Alvina, who
never expected to be interested in clever conversations, after a long
experience of her father, found her expectation justified again. She was
not interested.

The man was quite nicely dressed, in the regulation tweed jacket and
flannel trousers and brown shoes. He was even rather smart, judging from
his yellow socks and yellow-and-brown tie. Miss Pinnegar eyed him with
approval when she came in.

"Good-evening!" she said, just a trifle condescendingly, as she shook
hands. "How do you find Woodhouse, after being away so long?" Her way of
speaking was so quiet, as if she hardly spoke aloud.

"Well," he answered. "I find it the same in many ways."

"You wouldn't like to settle here again?"

"I don't think I should. It feels a little cramped, you know, after a new
country. But it has its attractions." Here he smiled meaningful.

"Yes," said Miss Pinnegar. "I suppose the old connections count for

"They do. Oh decidedly they do. There's no associations like the old
ones." He smiled flatly as he looked towards Alvina.

"You find it so, do you!" returned Miss Pinnegar. "You don't find that
the new connections make up for the old?"

"Not altogether, they don't. There's something missing--" Again he looked
towards Alvina. But she did not answer his look.

"Well," said Miss Pinnegar. "I'm glad we still count for something, in
spite of the greater attractions. How long have you in England?"

"Another year. Just a year. This time next year I expect I shall be
sailing back to the Cape." He smiled as if in anticipation. Yet it was
hard to believe that it mattered to him--or that anything mattered.

"And is Oxford agreeable to you?" she asked.

"Oh, yes. I keep myself busy."

"What are your subjects?" asked James.

"English and History. But I do mental science for my own interest."

Alvina had taken up a piece of sewing. She sat under the light, brooding
a little. What _had_ all this to do with her. The man talked on, and
beamed in her direction. And she felt a little important. But moved or
touched?--not the least in the world.

She wondered if any one would ask him to supper--bread and cheese and
currant-loaf, and water, was all that offered. No one asked him, and at
last he rose.

"Show Mr. Witham out through the shop, Alvina," said Miss Pinnegar.

Alvina piloted the man through the long, dark, encumbered way of the
shop. At the door he said:

"You've never said whether you're coming to tea on Thursday."

"I don't think I can," said Alvina.

He seemed rather taken aback.

"Why?" he said. "What stops you?"

"I've so much to do."

He smiled slowly and satirically.

"Won't it keep?" he said.

"No, really. I can't come on Thursday--thank you so much. Goodnight!" She
gave him her hand and turned quickly into the shop, closing the door. He
remained standing in the porch, staring at the closed door. Then, lifting
his lip, he turned away.

"Well," said Miss Pinnegar decidedly, as Alvina reentered. "You can say
what you like--but I think he's _very pleasant, very_ pleasant."

"Extremely intelligent," said James Houghton, shifting in his chair. "I
was awfully bored," said Alvina.

They both looked at her, irritated.

After this she really did what she could to avoid him. When she saw him
sauntering down the street in all his leisure, a sort of anger possessed
her. On Sunday, she slipped down from the choir into the Chapel, and out
through the main entrance, whilst he awaited her at the small exit. And
by good luck, when he called one evening in the week, she was out. She
returned down the yard. And there, through the uncurtained window, she
saw him sitting awaiting her. Without a thought, she turned on her heel
and fled away. She did not come in till he had gone.

"How late you are!" said Miss Pinnegar. "Mr. Witham was here till ten
minutes ago."

"Yes," laughed Alvina. "I came down the yard and saw him. So I went back
till he'd gone."

Miss Pinnegar looked at her in displeasure:

"I suppose you know your own mind," she said.

"How do you explain such behaviour?" said her father pettishly.

"I didn't want to meet him," she said.

The next evening was Saturday. Alvina had inherited Miss Frost's task of
attending to the Chapel flowers once a quarter. She had been round the
gardens of her friends, and gathered the scarlet and hot yellow and
purple flowers of August, asters, red stocks, tall Japanese sunflowers,
coreopsis, geraniums. With these in her basket she slipped out towards
evening, to the Chapel. She knew Mr. Calladine, the caretaker would not
lock up till she had been.

The moment she got inside the Chapel--it was a big, airy, pleasant
building--she heard hammering from the organ-loft, and saw the flicker of
a candle. Some workman busy before Sunday. She shut the baize door behind
her, and hurried across to the vestry, for vases, then out to the tap,
for water. All was warm and still.

It was full early evening. The yellow light streamed through the side
windows, the big stained-glass window at the end was deep and full of
glowing colour, in which the yellows and reds were richest. Above in the
organ-loft the hammering continued. She arranged her flowers in many
vases, till the communion table was like the window, a tangle of strong
yellow, and crimson, and purple, and bronze-green. She tried to keep the
effect light and kaleidoscopic, an interplay of tossed pieces of strong,
hot colour, vibrating and lightly intermingled. It was very gorgeous, for
a communion table. But the day of white lilies was over.

Suddenly there was a terrific crash and bang and tumble, up in the
organ-loft, followed by a cursing.

"Are you hurt?" called Alvina, looking up into space. The candle had

But there was no reply. Feeling curious, she went out of the Chapel to
the stairs in the side porch, and ran up to the organ. She went round the
side--and there she saw a man in his shirt-sleeves sitting crouched in
the obscurity on the floor between the organ and the wall of the back,
while a collapsed pair of steps lay between her and him. It was too dark
to see who it was.

"That rotten pair of steps came down with me," said the infuriated voice
of Arthur Witham, "and about broke my leg."

Alvina advanced towards him, picking her way over the steps. He was
sitting nursing his leg.

"Is it bad?" she asked, stooping towards him.

In the shadow he lifted up his face. It was pale, and his eyes were
savage with anger. Her face was near his.

"It is bad," he said furious because of the shock. The shock had thrown
him off his balance.

"Let me see," she said.

He removed his hands from clasping his shin, some distance above the
ankle. She put her fingers over the bone, over his stocking, to feel if
there was any fracture. Immediately her fingers were wet with blood. Then
he did a curious thing. With both his hands he pressed her hand down over
his wounded leg, pressed it with all his might, as if her hand were a
plaster. For some moments he sat pressing her hand over his broken shin,
completely oblivious, as some people are when they have had a shock and a
hurt, intense on one point of consciousness only, and for the rest

Then he began to come to himself. The pain modified itself. He could not
bear the sudden acute hurt to his shin. That was one of his sensitive,
unbearable parts.

"The bone isn't broken," she said professionally. "But you'd better get
the stocking out of it."

Without a thought, he pulled his trouser-leg higher and rolled down his
stocking, extremely gingerly, and sick with pain. "Can you show a light?"
he said.

She found the candle. And she knew where matches always rested, on a
little ledge of the organ. So she brought him a light, whilst he examined
his broken shin. The blood was flowing, but not so much. It was a nasty
cut bruise, swelling and looking very painful. He sat looking at it
absorbedly, bent over it in the candle-light.

"It's not so very bad, when the pain goes off," she said, noticing the
black hairs of his shin. "We'd better tie it up. Have you got a

"It's in my jacket," he said.

She looked round for his jacket. He annoyed her a little, by being
completely oblivious of her. She got his handkerchief and wiped her
fingers on it. Then of her own kerchief she made a pad for the wound.

"Shall I tie it up, then?" she said.

But he did not answer. He sat still nursing his leg, looking at his hurt,
while the blood slowly trickled down the wet hairs towards his ankle.
There was nothing to do but wait for him.

"Shall I tie it up, then?" she repeated at length, a little impatient. So
he put his leg a little forward.

She looked at the wound, and wiped it a little. Then she folded the pad
of her own handkerchief, and laid it over the hurt. And again he did the
same thing, he took her hand as if it were a plaster, and applied it to
his wound, pressing it cautiously but firmly down. She was rather angry.
He took no notice of her at all. And she, waiting, seemed to go into a
dream, a sleep, her arm trembled a little, stretched out and fixed. She
seemed to lose count, under the firm compression he imposed on her. It
was as if the pressure on her hand pressed her into oblivion.

"Tie it up," he said briskly.

And she, obedient, began to tie the bandage with numb fingers. He seemed
to have taken the use out of her.

When she had finished, he scrambled to his feet, looked at the organ
which he was repairing, and looked at the collapsed pair of steps.

"A rotten pair of things to have, to put a man's life in danger," he
said, towards the steps. Then stubbornly, he rigged them up again, and
stared again at his interrupted job.

"You won't go on, will you?" she asked.

"It's got to be done, Sunday tomorrow," he said. "If you'd hold them
steps a minute! There isn't more than a minute's fixing to do. It's all
done, but fixing."

"Hadn't you better leave it," she said.

"Would you mind holding the steps, so that they don't let me down again,"
he said. Then he took the candle, and hobbled stubbornly and angrily up
again, with spanner and hammer. For some minutes he worked, tapping and
readjusting, whilst she held the ricketty steps and stared at him from
below, the shapeless bulk of his trousers. Strange the difference--she
could not help thinking it--between the vulnerable hairy, and somehow
childish leg of the real man, and the shapeless form of these workmen's
trousers. The kernel, the man himself--seemed so tender--the covering so
stiff and insentient.

And was he not going to speak to her--not one human word of recognition?
Men are the most curious and unreal creatures. After all he had made use
of her. Think how he had pressed her hand gently but firmly down, down
over his bruise, how he had taken the virtue out of her, till she felt
all weak and dim. And after that was he going to relapse into his tough
and ugly workman's hide, and treat her as if _she_ were a pair of
steps, which might let him down or hold him up, as might be.

As she stood clinging to the steps she felt weak and a little hysterical.
She wanted to summon her strength, to have her own back from him. After
all he had taken the virtue from her, he might have the grace to say
thank you, and treat her as if she were a human being.

At last he left off tinkering, and looked round.

"Have you finished?" she said.

"Yes," he answered crossly.

And taking the candle he began to clamber down. When he got to the bottom
he crouched over his leg and felt the bandage.

"That gives you what for," he said, as if it were her fault. "Is the
bandage holding?" she said.

"I think so," he answered churlishly.

"Aren't you going to make sure?" she said.

"Oh, it's all right," he said, turning aside and taking up his tools.
"I'll make my way home."

"So will I," she answered.

She took the candle and went a little in front. He hurried into his coat
and gathered his tools, anxious to get away. She faced him, holding the

"Look at my hand," she said, holding it out. It was smeared with blood,
as was the cuff of her dress--a black-and-white striped cotton dress.

"Is it hurt?" he said.

"No, but look at it. Look here!" She showed the bloodstains on her dress.

"It'll wash out," he said, frightened of her.

"Yes, so it will. But for the present it's there. Don't you think you
ought to thank me?"

He recoiled a little.

"Yes," he said. "I'm very much obliged."

"You ought to be more than that," she said.

He did not answer, but looked her up and down.

"We'll be going down," he said. "We s'll have folks talking."

Suddenly she began to laugh. It seemed so comical. What a position! The
candle shook as she laughed. What a man, answering her like a little
automaton! Seriously, quite seriously he said it to her--"We s'll have
folks talking!" She laughed in a breathless, hurried way, as they tramped

At the bottom of the stairs Calladine, the caretaker, met them. He was a
tall thin man with a black moustache--about fifty years old. "Have you
done for tonight, all of you?" he said, grinning in echo to Alvina's
still fluttering laughter.

"That's a nice rotten pair of steps you've got up there for a deathtrap,"
said Arthur angrily. "Come down on top of me, and I'm lucky I haven't got
my leg broken. It is near enough."

"Come down with you, did they?" said Calladine good-humouredly. "I never
knowed 'em come down wi' me."

"You ought to, then. My leg's as near broke as it can be."

"What, have you hurt yourself?"

"I should think I have. Look here--" And he began to pull up his trouser
leg. But Alvina had given the candle to Calladine, and fled. She had a
last view of Arthur stooping over his precious leg, while Calladine
stooped his length and held down the candle.

When she got home she took off her dress and washed herself hard and
washed the stained sleeve, thoroughly, thoroughly, and threw away the
wash water and rinsed the wash-bowls with fresh water, scrupulously. Then
she dressed herself in her black dress once more, did her hair, and went

But she could not sew--and she could not settle down. It was Saturday
evening, and her father had opened the shop, Miss Pinnegar had gone to
Knarborough. She would be back at nine o'clock. Alvina set about to make
a mock woodcock, or a mock something or other, with cheese and an egg and
bits of toast. Her eyes were dilated and as if amused, mocking, her face
quivered a little with irony that was not all enjoyable.

"I'm glad you've come," said Alvina, as Miss Pinnegar entered. "The
supper's just done. I'll ask father if he'll close the shop."

Of course James would not close the shop, though he was merely wasting
light. He nipped in to eat his supper, and started out again with a
mouthful the moment he heard the ping of the bell. He kept his customers
chatting as long as he could. His love for conversation had degenerated
into a spasmodic passion for chatter.

Alvina looked across at Miss Pinnegar, as the two sat at the meagre
supper-table. Her eyes were dilated and arched with a mocking, almost
satanic look.

"I've made up my mind about Albert Witham," said Alvina. Miss Pinnegar
looked at her.

"Which way?" she asked, demurely, but a little sharp.

"It's all off," said Alvina, breaking into a nervous laugh.

"Why? What has happened?"

"Nothing has happened. I can't stand him."

"Why?--suddenly--" said Miss Pinnegar.

"It's not sudden," laughed Alvina. "Not at all. I can't stand him. I
never could. And I won't try. There! Isn't that plain?" And she went off
into her hurried laugh, partly at herself, partly at Arthur, partly at
Albert, partly at Miss Pinnegar.

"Oh, well, if you're so sure--" said Miss Pinnegar rather bitingly.

"I _am_ quite sure--" said Alvina. "I'm quite certain."

"Cock-sure people are often most mistaken," said Miss Pinnegar. "I'd
rather have my own mistakes than somebody else's rights," said Alvina.

"Then don't expect anybody to pay for your mistakes," said Miss Pinnegar.

"It would be all the same if I did," said Alvina.

When she lay in bed, she stared at the light of the street-lamp on the
wall. She was thinking busily: but heaven knows what she was thinking.
She had sharpened the edge of her temper. She was waiting till tomorrow.
She was waiting till she saw Albert Witham. She wanted to finish off with
him. She was keen to cut clean through any correspondence with him. She
stared for many hours at the light of the street-lamp, and there was a
narrowed look in her eyes.

The next day she did not go to Morning Service, but stayed at home to
cook the dinner. In the evening she sat in her place in the choir. In the
Withams' pew sat Louie and Albert--no Arthur. Albert kept glancing up.
Alvina could not bear the sight of him--she simply could not bear the
sight of him. Yet in her low, sweet voice she sang the alto to the hymns,
right to the vesper:

"Lord keep us safe this night
Secure from all our fears,
May angels guard us while we sleep
Till morning light appears--"

As she sang her alto, and as the soft and emotional harmony of the vesper
swelled luxuriously through the chapel, she was peeping over her folded
hands at Lottie's hat. She could not bear Lottie's hats. There was
something aggressive and vulgar about them. And she simply detested the
look of the back of Albert's head, as he too stooped to the vesper
prayer. It looked mean and rather common. She remembered Arthur had the
same look, bending to prayer. There!--why had she not seen it before!
That petty, vulgar little look! How could she have thought twice of
Arthur. She had made a fool of herself, as usual. Him and his little leg.
She grimaced round the chapel, waiting for people to bob up their heads
and take their departure.

At the gate Albert was waiting for her. He came forward lifting his hat
with a smiling and familiar "Good evening!"

"Good evening," she murmured.

"It's ages since I've seen you," he said. "And I've looked out for you

It was raining a little. She put up her umbrella.

"You'll take a little stroll. The rain isn't much," he said.

"No, thank you," she said. "I must go home."

"Why, what's your hurry! Walk as far as Beeby Bridge. Go on."

"No, thank you."

"How's that? What makes you refuse?"

"I don't want to."

He paused and looked down at her. The cold and supercilious look of
anger, a little spiteful, came into his face.

"Do you mean because of the rain?" he said.

"No. I hope you don't mind. But I don't want to take any more walks. I
don't mean anything by them."

"Oh, as for that," he said, taking the words out of her mouth. "Why
should you mean anything by them!" He smiled down on her. She looked him
straight in the face.

"But I'd rather not take any more walks, thank you--none at all," she
said, looking him full in the eyes.

"You wouldn't!" he replied, stiffening.

"Yes. I'm quite sure," she said.

"As sure as all that, are you!" he said, with a sneering grimace. He
stood eyeing her insolently up and down.

"Good-night," she said. His sneering made her furious. Putting her
umbrella between him and her, she walked off.

"Good-night then," he replied, unseen by her. But his voice was sneering
and impotent.

She went home quivering. But her soul was burning with satisfaction. She
had shaken them off.

Later she wondered if she had been unkind to him. But it was done--and
done for ever. _Vogue la galère_.


The trouble with her ship was that it would _not_ sail. It rode
waterlogged in the rotting port of home. All very well to have wild,
reckless moods of irony and independence, if you have to pay for them by
withering dustily on the shelf.

Alvina fell again into humility and fear: she began to show symptoms of
her mother's heart trouble. For day followed day, month followed month,
season after season went by, and she grubbed away like a housemaid in
Manchester House, she hurried round doing the shopping, she sang in the
choir on Sundays, she attended the various chapel events, she went out to
visit friends, and laughed and talked and played games. But all the time,
what was there actually in her life? Not much. She was withering towards
old-maiddom. Already in her twenty-eighth year, she spent her days
grubbing in the house, whilst her father became an elderly, frail man
still too lively in mind and spirit. Miss Pinnegar began to grow grey and
elderly too, money became scarcer and scarcer, there was a black day
ahead when her father would die and the home be broken up, and she would
have to tackle life as a worker.

There lay the only alternative: in work. She might slave her days away
teaching the piano, as Miss Frost had done: she might find a subordinate
post as nurse: she might sit in the cash-desk of some shop. Some work of
some sort would be found for her. And she would sink into the routine of
her job, as did so many women, and grow old and die, chattering and
fluttering. She would have what is called her independence. But,
seriously faced with that treasure, and without the option of refusing
it, strange how hideous she found it.

Work!--a job! More even than she rebelled against the Withams did she
rebel against a job. Albert Witham was distasteful to her--or rather, he
was not exactly distasteful, he was chiefly incongruous. She could never
get over the feeling that he was mouthing and smiling at her through the
glass wall of an aquarium, he being on the watery side. Whether she would
ever be able to take to his strange and dishuman element, who knows?
Anyway it would be some sort of an adventure: better than a job. She
rebelled with all her backbone against the word _job_. Even the
substitutes, _employment_ or _work_, were detestable, unbearable.
Emphatically, she did not want to work for a wage. It was too
humiliating. Could anything be more _infra dig_ than the performing
of a set of special actions day in day out, for a life-time, in order to
receive some shillings every seventh day. Shameful! A condition of shame.
The most vulgar, sordid and humiliating of all forms of slavery: so
mechanical. Far better be a slave outright, in contact with all the whims
and impulses of a human being, than serve some mechanical routine of
modern work.

She trembled with anger, impotence, and fear. For months, the thought of
Albert was a torment to her. She might have married him. He would have
been strange, a strange fish. But were it not better to take the strange
leap, over into his element, than to condemn oneself to the routine of a
job? He would have been curious and dishuman. But after all, it would
have been an experience. In a way, she liked him. There was something odd
and integral about him, which she liked. He was not a liar. In his own
line, he was honest and direct. Then he would take her to South Africa: a
whole new _milieu_. And perhaps she would have children. She
shivered a little. No, not his children! He seemed so curiously
cold-blooded. And yet, why not? Why not his curious, pale, half
cold-blooded children, like little fishes of her own? Why not? Everything
was possible: and even desirable, once one could see the strangeness of
it. Once she could plunge through the wall of the aquarium! Once she
could kiss him!

Therefore Miss Pinnegar's quiet harping on the string was unbearable.

"I can't understand that you disliked Mr. Witham so much?" said Miss

"We never can understand those things," said Alvina. "I can't understand
why I dislike tapioca and arrowroot--but I do."

"That's different," said Miss Pinnegar shortly.

"It's no more easy to understand," said Alvina.

"Because there's no need to understand it," said Miss Pinnegar. "And is
there need to understand the other?"

"Certainly. I can see nothing wrong with him," said Miss Pinnegar.

Alvina went away in silence. This was in the first months after she had
given Albert his dismissal. He was at Oxford again--would not return to
Woodhouse till Christmas. Between her and the Woodhouse Withams there was
a decided coldness. They never looked at her now--nor she at them.

None the less, as Christmas drew near Alvina worked up her feelings.
Perhaps she would be reconciled to him. She would slip across and smile
to him. She would take the plunge, once and for all--and kiss him and
marry him and bear the little half-fishes, his children. She worked
herself into quite a fever of anticipation.

But when she saw him, the first evening, sitting stiff and staring flatly
in front of him in Chapel, staring away from everything in the world, at
heaven knows what--just as fishes stare--then his dishumanness came over
her again like an arrest, and arrested all her flights of fancy. He
stared flatly in front of him, and flatly set a wall of oblivion between
him and her. She trembled and let be.

After Christmas, however, she had nothing at all to think forward to. And
it was then she seemed to shrink: she seemed positively to shrink. "You
never spoke to Mr. Witham?" Miss Pinnegar asked.

"He never spoke to me," replied Alvina.

"He raised his hat to me."

"_You_ ought to have married him, Miss Pinnegar," said Alvina. "He
would have been right for you." And she laughed rather mockingly.

"There is no need to make provision for me," said Miss Pinnegar.

And after this, she was a long time before she forgave Alvina, and was
really friendly again. Perhaps she would never have forgiven her if she
had not found her weeping rather bitterly in her mother's abandoned

Now so far, the story of Alvina is commonplace enough. It is more or less
the story of thousands of girls. They all find work. It is the ordinary
solution of everything. And if we were dealing with an ordinary girl we
should have to carry on mildly and dully down the long years of
employment; or, at the best, marriage with some dull schoolteacher or

But we protest that Alvina is not ordinary. Ordinary people, ordinary
fates. But extraordinary people, extraordinary fates. Or else no fate at
all. The all-to-one-pattern modern system is too much for most
extraordinary individuals. It just kills them off or throws them disused

There have been enough stories about ordinary people. I should think the
Duke of Clarence must even have found malmsey nauseating, when he choked
and went purple and was really asphyxiated in a butt of it. And ordinary
people are no malmsey. Just ordinary tap-water. And we have been drenched
and deluged and so nearly drowned in perpetual floods of ordinariness,
that tap-water tends to become a really hateful fluid to us. We loathe
its out-of-the-tap tastelessness. We detest ordinary people. We are in
peril of our lives from them: and in peril of our souls too, for they
would damn us one and all to the ordinary. Every individual should, by
nature, have his extraordinary points. But nowadays you may look for them
with a microscope, they are so worn-down by the regular machine-friction
of our average and mechanical days.

There was no hope for Alvina in the ordinary. If help came, it would have
to come from the extraordinary. Hence the extreme peril of her case.
Hence the bitter fear and humiliation she felt as she drudged shabbily on
in Manchester House, hiding herself as much as possible from public view.
Men can suck the heady juice of exalted self-importance from the bitter
weed of failure--failures are usually the most conceited of men: even as
was James Houghton. But to a woman, failure is another matter. For her it
means failure to live, failure to establish her own life on the face of
the earth. And this is humiliating, the ultimate humiliation.

And so the slow years crept round, and the completed coil of each one was
a further heavy, strangling noose. Alvina had passed her twenty-sixth,
twenty-seventh, twenty-eighth and even her twenty-ninth year. She was in
her thirtieth. It ought to be a laughing matter. But it isn't.

Ach, schon zwanzig
Ach, schon zwanzig
Immer noch durch's Leben tanz' ich
Jeder, Jeder will mich küssen
Mir das Leben zu versüssen.

Ach, schon dreissig
Ach, schon dreissig
Immer Mädchen, Mädchen heiss' ich.
In dem Zopf schon graue Härchen
Ach, wie schnell vergehn die Jährchen.

Ach, schon vierzig
Ach, schon vierzig
Und noch immer Keiner find 'sich.
Im gesicht schon graue Flecken
Ach, das muss im Spiegel stecken.

Ach, schon fünfzig
Ach, schon fünfzig
Und noch immer Keiner will 'mich;
Soll ich mich mit Bänden zieren
Soll ich einen Schleier führen?
Dann heisst's, die Alte putzt sich,
Sie ist fu'fzig, sie ist fu'fzig.

True enough, in Alvina's pig-tail of soft brown the grey hairs were
already showing. True enough, she still preferred to be thought of as a
girl. And the slow-footed years, so heavy in passing, were so
imperceptibly numerous in their accumulation.

But we are not going to follow our song to its fatal and dreary
conclusion. Presumably, the _ordinary_ old-maid heroine nowadays is
destined to die in her fifties, she is not allowed to be the long-liver
of the bygone novels. Let the song suffice her.

James Houghton had still another kick in him. He had one last scheme up
his sleeve. Looking out on a changing world, it was the popular novelties
which had the last fascination for him. The Skating Rink, like another
Charybdis, had all but entangled him in its swirl as he pushed painfully
off from the rocks of Throttle-Ha'penny. But he had escaped, and for
almost three years had lain obscurely in port, like a frail and finished
bark, selling the last of his bits and bobs, and making little splashes
in warehouse-oddments. Miss Pinnegar thought he had really gone quiet.

But alas, at that degenerated and shabby, down-at-heel club he met
another tempter: a plump man who had been in the music-hall line as a
sort of agent. This man had catered for the little shows of little towns.
He had been in America, out West, doing shows there. He had trailed his
way back to England, where he had left his wife and daughter. But he did
not resume his family life. Wherever he was, his wife was a hundred miles
away. Now he found himself more or less stranded in Woodhouse. He had
_nearly_ fixed himself up with a music-hall in the Potteries--as
manager: he had all-but got such another place at Ickley, in Derbyshire:
he had forced his way through the industrial and mining townlets,
prospecting for any sort of music-hall or show from which he could get a
picking. And now, in very low water, he found himself at Woodhouse.

Woodhouse had a cinema already: a famous Empire run-up by Jordan, the sly
builder and decorator who had got on so surprisingly. In James's younger
days, Jordan was an obscure and illiterate nobody. And now he had a motor
car, and looked at the tottering James with sardonic contempt, from under
his heavy, heavy-lidded dark eyes. He was rather stout, frail in health,
but silent and insuperable, was A. W Jordan.

"I missed a chance there," said James, fluttering. "I missed a rare
chance there. I ought to have been first with a cinema."

He admitted as much to Mr. May, the stranger who was looking for some
sort of "managing" job. Mr. May, who also was plump and who could hold
his tongue, but whose pink, fat face and light-blue eyes had a loud look,
for all that, put the speech in his pipe and smoked it. Not that he
smoked a pipe: always cigarettes. But he seized on James's admission, as
something to be made the most of.

Now Mr. May's mind, though quick, was pedestrian, not winged. He had come
to Woodhouse not to look at Jordan's "Empire," but at the temporary
wooden structure that stood in the old Cattle Market "Wright's
Cinematograph and Variety Theatre." Wright's was not a superior show,
like the Woodhouse Empire. Yet it was always packed with colliers and
work-lasses. But unfortunately there was no chance of Mr. May's getting a
finger in the Cattle Market pie. Wright's was a family affair. Mr. and
Mrs. Wright and a son and two daughters with their husbands: a tight old
lock-up family concern. Yet it was the kind of show that appealed to Mr.
May: pictures between the turns. The cinematograph was but an item in the
program, amidst the more thrilling incidents--to Mr. May--of conjurors,
popular songs, five-minute farces, performing birds, and comics. Mr. May
was too human to believe that a show should consist entirely of the
dithering eye-ache of a film.

He was becoming really depressed by his failure to find any opening. He
had his family to keep--and though his honesty was of the variety sort,
he had a heavy conscience in the direction of his wife and daughter.
Having been so long in America, he had acquired American qualities, one
of which was this heavy sort of private innocence, coupled with
complacent and natural unscrupulousness in "matters of business." A man
of some odd sensitiveness in material things, he liked to have his
clothes neat and spick, his linen immaculate, his face clean-shaved like
a cherub. But alas, his clothes were now old-fashioned, so that their
rather expensive smartness was detrimental to his chances, in spite of
their scrupulous look of having come almost new out of the bandbox that
morning. His rather small felt hats still curved jauntily over his full
pink face. But his eyes looked lugubrious, as if he felt he had not
deserved so much bad luck, and there were bilious lines beneath them.

So Mr. May, in his room in the Moon and Stars, which was the best inn in
Woodhouse--he must have a good hotel--lugubriously considered his
position. Woodhouse offered little or nothing. He must go to Alfreton.
And would he find anything there? Ah, where, where in this hateful world
was there refuge for a man saddled with responsibilities, who wanted to
do his best and was given no opportunity? Mr. May had travelled in his
Pullman car and gone straight to the best hotel in the town, like any
other American with money--in America. He had done it smart, too. And
now, in this grubby penny-picking England, he saw his boots being
worn-down at the heel, and was afraid of being stranded without cash even
for a railway ticket. If he had to clear out without paying his hotel
bill--well, that was the world's fault. He had to live. But he must
perforce keep enough in hand for a ticket to Birmingham. He always said
his wife was in London. And he always walked down to Lumley to post his
letters. He was full of evasions.

So again he walked down to Lumley to post his letters. And he looked at
Lumley. And he found it a damn god-forsaken hell of a hole. It was a long
straggle of a dusty road down in the valley, with a pale-grey dust and
spatter from the pottery, and big chimneys bellying forth black smoke
right by the road. Then there was a short cross-way, up which one saw the
iron foundry, a black and rusty place. A little further on was the
railway junction, and beyond that, more houses stretching to Hathersedge,
where the stocking factories were busy. Compared with Lumley, Woodhouse,
whose church could be seen sticking up proudly and vulgarly on an
eminence, above trees and meadow-slopes, was an idyllic heaven.

Mr. May turned in to the Derby Hotel to have a small whiskey. And of
course he entered into conversation.

"You seem somewhat quiet at Lumley," he said, in his odd,
refined-showman's voice. "Have you _nothing at all_ in the way of

"They all go up to Woodhouse, else to Hathersedge."

"But couldn't you support some place of your own--some _rival_ to
Wright's Variety?"

"Ay--'appen--if somebody started it."

And so it was that James was inoculated with the idea of starting a
cinema on the virgin soil of Lumley. To the women he said not a word. But
on the very first morning that Mr. May broached the subject, he became a
new man. He fluttered like a boy, he fluttered as if he had just grown

"Let us go down," said Mr. May, "and look at a site. You pledge yourself
to nothing--you don't compromise yourself. You merely have a site in your

And so it came to pass that, next morning, this oddly assorted couple
went down to Lumley together. James was very shabby, in his black coat
and dark grey trousers, and his cheap grey cap. He bent forward as he
walked, and still nipped along hurriedly, as if pursued by fate. His face
was thin and still handsome. Odd that his cheap cap, by incongruity, made
him look more a gentleman. But it did. As he walked he glanced alertly
hither and thither, and saluted everybody.

By his side, somewhat tight and tubby, with his chest out and his head
back, went the prim figure of Mr. May, reminding one of a consequential
bird of the smaller species. His plumbago-grey suit fitted exactly--save
that it was perhaps a little tight. The jacket and waistcoat were bound
with silk braid of exactly the same shade as the cloth. His soft collar,
immaculately fresh, had a dark stripe like his shirt. His boots were
black, with grey suede uppers: but a _little_ down at heel. His
dark-grey hat was jaunty. Altogether he looked very spruce, though a
_little_ behind the fashions: very pink faced, though his blue eyes
were bilious beneath: very much on the spot, although the spot was the
wrong one.

They discoursed amiably as they went, James bending forward, Mr. May
bending back. Mr. May took the refined man-of-the-world tone.

"Of course," he said--he used the two words very often, and pronounced
the second, rather mincingly, to rhyme with _sauce_: "Of course,"
said Mr. May, "it's a disgusting place--_disgusting_! I never was in
a worse, in all the _cauce_ of my travels. But _then_--that
isn't the point--"

He spread his plump hands from his immaculate shirt-cuffs.

"No, it isn't. Decidedly it isn't. That's beside the point altogether.
What we want--" began James.

"Is an audience--of _cauce_--! And we have it--! Virgin soil--!"

"Yes, decidedly. Untouched! An unspoiled market."

"An unspoiled market!" reiterated Mr. May, in full confirmation, though
with a faint flicker of a smile. "How very _fortunate_ for us."

"Properly handled," said James. "Properly handled."

"Why yes--of _cauce_! Why _shouldn't_ we handle it properly!"

"Oh, we shall manage that, we shall manage that," came the quick,
slightly husky voice of James.

"Of _cauce_ we shall! Why bless my life, if we can't manage an
audience in Lumley, what _can_ we do."

"We have a guide in the matter of their taste," said James. "We can see
what Wright's are doing--and Jordan's--and we can go to Hathersedge and
Knarborough and Alfreton--beforehand, that is--"

"Why certainly--if you think it's _necessary_. I'll do all that for
you. _And_ I'll interview the managers and the performers
themselves--as if I were a journalist, don't you see. I've done a fair
amount of journalism, and nothing easier than to get cards from various

"Yes, that's a good suggestion," said James. "As if you were going to
write an account in the newspapers--excellent."

"And so simple! You pick up just _all_ the information you require."

"Decidedly--decidedly!" said James.

And so behold our two heroes sniffing round the sordid backs and wasted
meadows and marshy places of Lumley. They found one barren patch where
two caravans were standing. A woman was peeling potatoes, sitting on the
bottom step of her caravan. A half-caste girl came up with a large
pale-blue enamelled jug of water. In the background were two booths
covered up with coloured canvas. Hammering was heard inside.

"Good-morning!" said Mr. May, stopping before the woman. "'Tisn't fair
time, is it?"

"No, it's no fair," said the woman.

"I see. You're just on your own. Getting on all right?"

"Fair," said the woman.

"Only fair! Sorry. Good-morning."

Mr. May's quick eye, roving round, had seen a negro stoop from under the
canvas that covered one booth. The negro was thin, and looked young but
rather frail, and limped. His face was very like that of the young negro
in Watteau's drawing--pathetic, wistful, north-bitten. In an instant Mr.
May had taken all in: the man was the woman's husband--they were
acclimatized in these regions: the booth where he had been hammering was
a Hoop-La. The other would be a cocoanut-shy. Feeling the instant
American dislike for the presence of a negro, Mr. May moved off with

They found out that the woman was a Lumley woman, that she had two
children, that the negro was a most quiet and respectable chap, but that
the family kept to itself, and didn't mix up with Lumley.

"I should think so," said Mr. May, a little disgusted even at the

Then he proceeded to find out how long they had stood on this
ground--three months--how long they would remain--only another week, then
they were moving off to Alfreton fair--who was the owner of the
pitch--Mr. Bows, the butcher. Ah! And what was the ground used for? Oh,
it was building land. But the foundation wasn't very good.

"The very thing! Aren't we _fortunate_!" cried Mr. May, perking up
the moment they were in the street. But this cheerfulness and brisk
perkiness was a great strain on him. He missed his eleven o'clock whiskey
terribly--terribly--his pick-me-up! And he daren't confess it to James,
who, he knew, was T-T. So he dragged his weary and hollow way up to
Woodhouse, and sank with a long "Oh!" of nervous exhaustion in the
private bar of the Moon and Stars. He wrinkled his short nose. The smell
of the place was distasteful to him. The _disgusting_ beer that the
colliers drank. Oh!--he _was_ so tired. He sank back with his
whiskey and stared blankly, dismally in front of him. Beneath his eyes he
looked more bilious still. He felt thoroughly out of luck, and petulant.

None the less he sallied out with all his old bright perkiness, the next
time he had to meet James. He hadn't yet broached the question of costs.
When would he be able to get an advance from James? He _must_ hurry
the matter forward. He brushed his crisp, curly brown hair carefully
before the mirror. How grey he was at the temples! No wonder, dear me,
with such a life! He was in his shirt-sleeves. His waistcoat, with its
grey satin back, fitted him tightly. He had filled out--but he hadn't
developed a corporation. Not at all. He looked at himself sideways, and
feared dismally he was thinner. He was one of those men who carry
themselves in a birdie fashion, so that their tail sticks out a little
behind, jauntily. How wonderfully the satin of his waistcoat had worn! He
looked at his shirt-cuffs. They were going. Luckily, when he had had the
shirts made he had secured enough material for the renewing of cuffs and
neck-bands. He put on his coat, from which he had flicked the faintest
suspicion of dust, and again settled himself to go out and meet James on
the question of an advance. He simply must have an advance.

He didn't get it that day, none the less. The next morning he was ringing
for his tea at six o'clock. And before ten he had already flitted to
Lumley and back, he had already had a word with Mr. Bows, about that
pitch, and, overcoming all his repugnance, a word with the quiet, frail,
sad negro, about Alfreton fair, and the chance of buying some sort of
collapsible building, for his cinematograph.

With all this news he met James--not at the shabby club, but in the
deserted reading-room of the so-called Artizans Hall--where never an
artizan entered, but only men of James's class. Here they took the
chess-board and pretended to start a game. But their conversation was
rapid and secretive.

Mr. May disclosed all his discoveries. And then he said, tentatively:

"Hadn't we better think about the financial part now? If we're going to
look round for an erection--" curious that he always called it an
erection--"we shall have to know what we are going to spend."

"Yes--yes. Well--" said James vaguely, nervously, giving a glance at Mr.
May. Whilst Mr. May abstractedly fingered his black knight.

"You see at the moment," said Mr. May, "I have no funds that I can
represent in cash. I have no doubt a little _later_--if we need
it--I can find a few hundreds. Many things are _due_--numbers of
things. But it is so difficult to _collect_ one's dues, particularly
from America." He lifted his blue eyes to James Houghton. "Of course we
can _delay_ for some time, until I get my supplies. Or I can act
just as your manager--you can _employ_ me--"

He watched James's face. James looked down at the chess-board. He was
fluttering with excitement. He did not want a partner. He wanted to be in
this all by himself. He hated partners.

"You will agree to be manager, at a fixed salary?" said James hurriedly
and huskily, his fine fingers slowly rubbing each other, along the sides.

"Why yes, willingly, if you'll give me the option of becoming your
partner upon terms of mutual agreement, later on."

James did not quite like this.

"What terms are you thinking of?" he asked.

"Well, it doesn't matter for the moment. Suppose for the moment I enter
an engagement as your manager, at a salary, let us say, of--of what, do
you think?"

"So much a week?" said James pointedly.

"Hadn't we better make it monthly?"

The two men looked at one another.

"With a month's notice on either hand?" continued Mr. May. "How much?"
said James, avaricious.

Mr. May studied his own nicely kept hands.

"Well, I don't see how I can do it under twenty pounds a month. Of course
it's ridiculously low. In America I _never_ accepted less than three
hundred dollars a month, and that was my poorest and lowest. But of
_cauce_, England's not America--more's the pity."

But James was shaking his head in a vibrating movement. "Impossible!" he
replied shrewdly. "Impossible! Twenty pounds a month? Impossible. I
couldn't do it. I couldn't think of it."

"Then name a figure. Say what you _can_ think of," retorted Mr. May,
rather annoyed by this shrewd, shaking head of a doddering provincial,
and by his own sudden collapse into mean subordination.

"I can't make it more than ten pounds a month," said James sharply.

"What!" screamed Mr. May. "What am I to live on? What is my wife to live

"I've got to make it pay," said James. "If I've got to make it pay, I
must keep down expenses at the beginning."

"No,--on the contrary. You must be prepared to spend something at the
beginning. If you go in a pinch-and-scrape fashion in the beginning, you
will get nowhere at all. Ten pounds a month! Why it's impossible! Ten
pounds a month! But how am I to _live_?"

James's head still vibrated in a negative fashion. And the two men came
to no agreement _that_ morning. Mr. May went home more sick and
weary than ever, and took his whiskey more biliously. But James was lit
with the light of battle.

Poor Mr. May had to gather together his wits and his sprightliness for
his next meeting. He had decided he must make a percentage in other ways.
He schemed in all known ways. He would accept the ten pounds--but really,
did ever you hear of anything so ridiculous in your life, _ten
pounds_!--dirty old screw, dirty, screwing old woman! He would
accept the ten pounds; but he would get his own back.

He flitted down once more to the negro, to ask him of a certain wooden
show-house, with section sides and roof, an old travelling theatre which
stood closed on Selverhay Common, and might probably be sold. He pressed
across once more to Mr. Bows. He wrote various letters and drew up
certain notes. And the next morning, by eight o'clock, he was on his way
to Selverhay: walking, poor man, the long and uninteresting seven miles
on his small and rather tight-shod feet, through country that had been
once beautiful but was now scrubbled all over with mining villages, on
and on up heavy hills and down others, asking his way from uncouth
clowns, till at last he came to the Common, which wasn't a Common at all,
but a sort of village more depressing than usual: naked, high, exposed to
heaven and to full barren view.

There he saw the theatre-booth. It was old and sordid-looking, painted
dark-red and dishevelled with narrow, tattered announcements. The grass
was growing high up the wooden sides. If only it wasn't rotten? He
crouched and probed and pierced with his penknife, till a
country-policeman in a high helmet like a jug saw him, got off his
bicycle and came stealthily across the grass wheeling the same bicycle,
and startled poor Mr. May almost into apoplexy by demanding behind him,
in a loud voice:

"What're you after?"

Mr. May rose up with flushed face and swollen neck-veins, holding his
pen-knife in his hand.

"Oh," he said, "good-morning." He settled his waistcoat and glanced over
the tall, lanky constable and the glittering bicycle. "I was taking a
look at this old erection, with a view to buying it. I'm afraid it's
going rotten from the bottom."

"Shouldn't wonder," said the policeman suspiciously, watching Mr. May
shut the pocket knife.

"I'm afraid that makes it useless for my purpose," said Mr. May. The
policeman did not deign to answer.

"Could you tell me where I can find out about it, anyway?" Mr. May used
his most affable, man of the world manner. But the policeman continued to
stare him up and down, as if he were some marvellous specimen unknown on
the normal, honest earth.

"What, find out?" said the constable.

"About being able to buy it," said Mr. May, a little testily. It was with
great difficulty he preserved his man-to-man openness and brightness.
"They aren't here," said the constable.

"Oh indeed! Where _are_ they? And _who_ are they?"

The policeman eyed him more suspiciously than ever.

"Cowlard's their name. An' they live in Offerton when they aren't

"Cowlard--thank you." Mr. May took out his pocket-book.
"C-o-w-l-a-r-d--is that right? And the address, please?"

"I dunno th' street. But you can find out from the Three Bells. That's
Missis' sister."

"The Three Bells--thank you. Offerton did you say?"


"Offerton!--where's that?"

"About eight mile."

"Really--and how do you get there?"

"You can walk--or go by train."

"Oh, there is a station?"

"Station!" The policeman looked at him as if he were either a criminal or
a fool.

"Yes. There _is_ a station there?"

"Ay--biggest next to Chesterfield--"

Suddenly it dawned on Mr. May.

"Oh-h!" he said. "You mean _Alfreton_--"

"Alfreton, yes." The policeman was now convinced the man was a wrong-'un.
But fortunately he was not a pushing constable, he did not want to rise
in the police-scale: thought himself safest at the bottom.

"And which is the way to the station here?" asked Mr. May. "Do yer want
Pinxon or Bull'ill?"

"Pinxon or Bull'ill?"

"There's two," said the policeman.

"For Selverhay?" asked Mr. May.

"Yes, them's the two."

"And which is the best?"

"Depends what trains is runnin'. Sometimes yer have to wait an hour or

"You don't know the trains, do you--?"

"There's one in th' afternoon--but I don't know if it'd be gone by the
time you get down."

"To where?"


"Oh Bull'ill! Well, perhaps I'll try. Could you tell me the way?"

When, after an hour's painful walk, Mr. May came to Bullwell Station and
found there was no train till six in the evening, he felt he was earning
every penny he would ever get from Mr. Houghton.

The first intelligence which Miss Pinnegar and Alvina gathered of the
coming adventure was given them when James announced that he had let the
shop to Marsden, the grocer next door. Marsden had agreed to take over
James's premises at the same rent as that of the premises he already
occupied, and moreover to do all alterations and put in all fixtures
himself. This was a grand scoop for James: not a penny was it going to
cost him, and the rent was clear profit.

"But when?" cried Miss Pinnegar.

"He takes possession on the first of October."

"Well--it's a good idea. The shop isn't worth while," said Miss Pinnegar.

"Certainly it isn't," said James, rubbing his hands: a sign that he was
rarely excited and pleased.

"And you'll just retire, and live quietly," said Miss Pinnegar.

"I shall see," said James. And with those fatal words he wafted away to
find Mr. May.

James was now nearly seventy years old. Yet he nipped about like a leaf
in the wind. Only, it was a frail leaf.

"Father's got something going," said Alvina, in a warning voice.

"I believe he has," said Miss Pinnegar pensively. "I wonder what it is,

"I can't imagine," laughed Alvina. "But I'll bet it's something
awful--else he'd have told us."

"Yes," said Miss Pinnegar slowly. "Most likely he would. I wonder what it
can be."

"I haven't an idea," said Alvina.

Both women were so retired, they had heard nothing of James's little
trips down to Lumley. So they watched like cats for their man's return,
at dinner-time.

Miss Pinnegar saw him coming along talking excitedly to Mr. May, who, all
in grey, with his chest perkily stuck out like a robin, was looking
rather pinker than usual. Having come to an agreement, he had ventured on
whiskey and soda in honour, and James had actually taken a glass of port.

"Alvina!" Miss Pinnegar called discreetly down the shop. "Alvina! Quick!"

Alvina flew down to peep round the corner of the shop window. There stood
the two men, Mr. May like a perky, pink-faced grey bird standing cocking
his head in attention to James Houghton, and occasionally catching James
by the lapel of his coat, in a vain desire to get a word in, whilst
James's head nodded and his face simply wagged with excited speech, as he
skipped from foot to foot, and shifted round his listener.

"Who _ever_ can that common-looking man be?" said Miss Pinnegar, her
heart going down to her boots.

"I can't imagine," said Alvina, laughing at the comic sight. "Don't you
think he's dreadful?" said the poor elderly woman. "Perfectly impossible.
Did ever you see such a pink face?"

"_And_ the braid binding!" said Miss Pinnegar in indignation.
"Father might almost have sold him the suit," said Alvina.

"Let us hope he hasn't sold your father, that's all," said Miss Pinnegar.

The two men had moved a few steps further towards home, and the women
prepared to flee indoors. Of course it was frightfully wrong to be
standing peeping in the high street at all. But who could consider the
proprieties now?

"They've stopped again," said Miss Pinnegar, recalling Alvina.

The two men were having a few more excited words, their voices just

"I do wonder who he can be," murmured Miss Pinnegar miserably. "In the
theatrical line, I'm sure," declared Alvina.

"Do you think so?" said Miss Pinnegar. "Can't be! Can't be!"

"He couldn't be anything else, don't you think?"

"Oh I _can't_ believe it, I can't."

But now Mr. May had laid his detaining hand on James's arm. And now he
was shaking his employer by the hand. And now James, in his cheap little
cap, was smiling a formal farewell. And Mr. May, with a graceful wave of
his grey-suede-gloved hand, was turning back to the Moon and Stars,
strutting, whilst James was running home on tip-toe, in his natural

Alvina hastily retreated, but Miss Pinnegar stood it out. James started
as he nipped into the shop entrance, and found her confronting him.
"Oh--Miss Pinnegar!" he said, and made to slip by her.

"Who was that man?" she asked sharply, as if James were a child whom she
could endure no more.

"Eh? I beg your pardon?" said James, starting back.

"Who was that man?"

"Eh? Which man?"

James was a little deaf, and a little husky.

"The man--" Miss Pinnegar turned to the door. "There! That man!"

James also came to the door, and peered out as if he expected to see a
sight. The sight of Mr. May's tight and perky back, the jaunty little hat
and the grey suede hands retreating quite surprised him. He was angry at
being introduced to the sight.

"Oh," he said. "That's my manager." And he turned hastily down the shop,
asking for his dinner.

Miss Pinnegar stood for some moments in pure oblivion in the shop
entrance. Her consciousness left her. When she recovered, she felt she
was on the brink of hysteria and collapse. But she hardened herself once
more, though the effort cost her a year of her life. She had never
collapsed, she had never fallen into hysteria.

She gathered herself together, though bent a little as from a blow, and,
closing the shop door, followed James to the living room, like the
inevitable. He was eating his dinner, and seemed oblivious of her entry.
There was a smell of Irish stew.

"What manager?" said Pinnegar, short, silent, and inevitable in the

But James was in one of his abstractions, his trances.

"What manager?" persisted Miss Pinnegar.

But he still bent unknowing over his plate and gobbled his Irish stew.

"Mr. Houghton!" said Miss Pinnegar, in a sudden changed voice. She had
gone a livid yellow colour. And she gave a queer, sharp little rap on the
table with her hand.

James started. He looked up bewildered, as one startled out of sleep.

"Eh?" he said, gaping. "Eh?"

"Answer me," said Miss Pinnegar. "What manager?"

"Manager? Eh? Manager? What manager?"

She advanced a little nearer, menacing in her black dress. James shrank.

"What manager?" he re-echoed. "My manager. The manager of my cinema."

Miss Pinnegar looked at him, and looked at him, and did not speak. In
that moment all the anger which was due to him from all womanhood was
silently discharged at him, like a black bolt of silent electricity. But
Miss Pinnegar, the engine of wrath, felt she would burst.

"Cinema! Cinema! Do you mean to tell me--" but she was really suffocated,
the vessels of her heart and breast were bursting. She had to lean her
hand on the table.

It was a terrible moment. She looked ghastly and terrible, with her
mask-like face and her stony eyes and her bluish lips. Some fearful
thunderbolt seemed to fall. James withered, and was still. There was
silence for minutes, a suspension.

And in those minutes, she finished with him. She finished with him for
ever. When she had sufficiently recovered, she went to her chair, and sat
down before her plate. And in a while she began to eat, as if she were

Poor Alvina, for whom this had been a dreadful and uncalled-for moment,
had looked from one to another, and had also dropped her head to her
plate. James too, with bent head, had forgotten to eat. Miss Pinnegar ate
very slowly, alone.

"Don't you want your dinner, Alvina?" she said at length. "Not as much as
I did," said Alvina.

"Why not?" said Miss Pinnegar. She sounded short, almost like Miss Frost.
Oddly like Miss Frost.

Alvina took up her fork and began to eat automatically.

"I always think," said Miss Pinnegar, "Irish stew is more tasty with a
bit of Swede" in it."

"So do I, really," said Alvina. "But Swedes aren't come yet."

"Oh! Didn't we have some on Tuesday?"

"No, they were yellow turnips--but they weren't Swedes."

"Well then, yellow turnip. I like a little yellow turnip," said Miss

"I might have put some in, if I'd known," said Alvina.

"Yes. We will another time," said Miss Pinnegar.

Not another word about the cinema: not another breath. As soon as James
had eaten his plum tart, he ran away.

"What can he have been doing?" said Alvina when he had gone. "Buying a
cinema show--and that man we saw is his manager. It's quite simple."

"But what are we going to do with a cinema show?" said Alvina.

"It's what is _he_ going to do. It doesn't concern me. It's no
concern of mine. I shall not lend him anything, I shall not think about
it, it will be the same to me as if there _were_ no cinema. Which is
all I have to say," announced Miss Pinnegar.

"But he's gone and done it," said Alvina.

"Then let him go through with it. It's no affair of mine. After all, your
father's affairs don't concern me. It would be impertinent of me to
introduce myself into them."

"They don't concern _me_ very much," said Alvina.

"You're different. You're his daughter. He's no connection of mine, I'm
glad to say. I pity your mother."

"Oh, but he was always alike," said Alvina.

"That's where it is," said Miss Pinnegar.

There was something fatal about her feelings. Once they had gone cold,
they would never warm up again. As well try to warm up a frozen mouse. It
only putrifies.

But poor Miss Pinnegar after this looked older, and seemed to get a
little round-backed. And the things she said reminded Alvina so often of
Miss Frost.

James fluttered into conversation with his daughter the next evening,
after Miss Pinnegar had retired.

"I told you I had bought a cinematograph building," said James. "We are
negotiating for the machinery now: the dynamo and so on."

"But where is it to be?" asked Alvina.

"Down at Lumley. I'll take you and show you the site tomorrow. The
building--it is a frame-section travelling theatre--will arrive on
Thursday--next Thursday."

"But who is in with you, father?"

"I am quite alone--quite alone," said James Houghton. "I have found an
excellent manager, who knows the whole business thoroughly--a Mr. May.
Very nice man. Very nice man."

"Rather short and dressed in grey?"

"Yes. And I have been thinking--if Miss Pinnegar will take the cash and
issue tickets: if she will take over the ticket-office: and you will play
the piano: and if Mr. May learns the control of the machine--he is having
lessons now--: and if I am the indoors attendant, we shan't need any more

"Miss Pinnegar won't take the cash, father."

"Why not? Why not?"

"I can't say why not. But she won't do anything--and if I were you I
wouldn't ask her."

There was a pause.

"Oh, well," said James, huffy. "She isn't indispensable."

And Alvina was to play the piano! Here was a blow for her! She hurried
off to her bedroom to laugh and cry at once. She just saw herself at that
piano, banging off the _Merry Widow Waltz_, and, in tender moments,
_The Rosary_. Time after time, _The Rosary_. While the pictures
flickered and the audience gave shouts and some grubby boy called
"Chot-let, penny a bar! Chot-let, penny a bar! Chot-let, penny a bar!"
away she banged at another tune.

What a sight for the gods! She burst out laughing. And at the same time,
she thought of her mother and Miss Frost, and she cried as if her heart
would break. And then all kinds of comic and incongruous tunes came into
her head. She imagined herself dressing up with most priceless
variations. _Linger Longer Lucy_, for example. She began to spin
imaginary harmonies and variations in her head, upon the theme of
_Linger Longer Lucy_.

Linger longer Lucy, linger longer Loo.
How I love to linger longer linger long o' you.
Listen while I sing, love, promise you'll be true,
And linger longer longer linger linger longer Loo.

All the tunes that used to make Miss Frost so angry. All the Dream
Waltzes and Maiden's Prayers, and the awful songs.

For in Spooney-ooney Island
Is there any one cares for me?
In Spooney-ooney Island
Why surely there ought to be.

Poor Miss Frost! Alvina imagined herself leading a chorus of collier
louts, in a bad atmosphere of "Woodbines" and oranges, during the
intervals when the pictures had collapsed.

How'd you like to spoon with me?
How'd you like to spoon with me?
(_Why ra-ther!_)

Underneath the oak-tree nice and shady
Calling me your tootsey-wootsey lady?
How'd you like to hug and squeeze,
(_Just try me!_)

Dandle me upon your knee,
Calling me your little lovey-dovey
How'd you like to spoon with me?
(_Oh-h--Go on!_)

Alvina worked herself into quite a fever, with her imaginings. In the
morning she told Miss Pinnegar.

"Yes," said Miss Pinnegar, "you see me issuing tickets, don't you?
Yes--well. I'm afraid he will have to do that part himself. And you're
going to play the piano. It's a disgrace! It's a disgrace! It's a
disgrace! It's a mercy Miss Frost and your mother are dead. He's lost
every bit of shame--every bit--if he ever had any--which I doubt very
much. Well, all I can say, I'm glad I am not concerned. And I'm sorry for
you, for being his daughter. I'm heart sorry for you, I am. Well,
well--no sense of shame--no sense of shame--"

And Miss Pinnegar padded out of the room.

Alvina walked down to Lumley and was shown the site and was introduced to
Mr. May. He bowed to her in his best American fashion, and treated her
with admirable American deference.

"Don't you think," he said to her, "it's an admirable scheme?"

"Wonderful," she replied.

"Of cauce," he said, "the erection will be a merely temporary one. Of
cauce it won't be anything to _look_ at: just an old wooden
travelling theatre. But _then_--all we need is to make a start."

"And you are going to work the film?" she asked.

"Yes," he said with pride, "I spend every evening with the operator at
Marsh's in Knarborough. Very interesting I find it--very interesting
indeed. And _you_ are going to play the piano?" he said, perking his
head on one side and looking at her archly.

"So father says," she answered.

"But what do _you_ say?" queried Mr. May.

"I suppose I don't have any say."

"Oh but _surely_. Surely you won't do it if you don't wish to. That
would never do. Can't we hire some young fellow--?" And he turned to Mr.
Houghton with a note of query.

"Alvina can play as well as anybody in Woodhouse," said James. "We
mustn't add to our expenses. And wages in particular--"

"But surely Miss Houghton will have her wage. The labourer is worthy of
his hire. Surely! Even of _her_ hire, to put it in the feminine. And
for the same wage you could get some unimportant fellow with strong
wrists. I'm afraid it will tire Miss Houghton to death--"

"I don't think so," said James. "I don't think so. Many of the turns she
will not need to accompany--"

"Well, if it comes to that," said Mr. May, "I can accompany some of them
myself, when I'm not operating the film. I'm not an expert pianist--but I
can play a little, you know--" And he trilled his fingers up and down an
imaginary keyboard in front of Alvina, cocking his eye at her smiling a
little archly.

"I'm sure," he continued, "I can accompany anything except a man juggling
dinner-plates--and then I'd be afraid of making him drop the plates. But
songs--oh, songs! _Con molto espressione!_"

And again he trilled the imaginary keyboard, and smiled his rather fat
cheeks at Alvina.

She began to like him. There was something a little dainty about him,
when you knew him better--really rather fastidious. A showman, true
enough! Blatant too. But fastidiously so.

He came fairly frequently to Manchester House after this. Miss Pinnegar
was rather stiff with him and he did not like her. But he was very happy
sitting chatting tête-à-tête with Alvina.

"Where is your wife?" said Alvina to him.

"My wife! Oh, don't speak of _her_," he said comically. "She's in

"Why not speak of her?" asked Alvina.

"Oh, every reason for not speaking of her. We don't get on at _all_
well, she and I."

"What a pity," said Alvina.

"Dreadful pity! But what are you to do?" He laughed comically. Then he
became grave. "No," he said. "She's an impossible person."

"I see," said Alvina.

"I'm sure you _don't_ see," said Mr. May. "Don't--" and here he laid
his hand on Alvina's arm--"don't run away with the idea that she's
_immoral!_ You'd never make a greater mistake. Oh dear me, no.
Morality's her strongest point. Live on three lettuce leaves, and give
the rest to the char. That's her. Oh, dreadful times we had in those
first years. We only lived together for three years. But dear _me!_
how awful it was!"


"There was no pleasing the woman. She wouldn't eat. If I said to her
'What shall we have for supper, Grace?' as sure as anything she'd answer
'Oh, I shall take a bath when I go to bed--that will be my supper.' She
was one of these advanced vegetarian women, don't you know."

"How extraordinary!" said Alvina.

"Extraordinary! I should think so. Extraordinary hard lines on _me_.
And she wouldn't let _me_ eat either. She followed me to the kitchen
in a _fury_ while I cooked for myself. Why imagine! I prepared a
dish of champignons: oh, most _beautiful_ champignons, beautiful--and
I put them on the stove to fry in butter: beautiful young champignons.
I'm hanged if she didn't go into the kitchen while my back was turned,
and pour a pint of old carrot-water into the pan. I was _furious_.
Imagine!--beautiful fresh young champignons--"

"Fresh mushrooms," said Alvina.

"Mushrooms--most beautiful things in the world. Oh! don't you think so?"
And he rolled his eyes oddly to heaven.

"They _are_ good," said Alvina.

"I should say so. And swamped--_swamped_ with her dirty old carrot
water. Oh I was so angry. And all she could say was, 'Well, I didn't want
to waste it!' Didn't want to waste her old carrot water, and so
_ruined_ my champignons. _Can_ you imagine such a person?"

"It must have been trying."

"I should think it was. I lost weight. I lost I don't know how many
pounds, the first year I was married to that woman. She hated me to eat.
Why, one of her great accusations against me, at the last, was when she
said: 'I've looked round the larder,' she said to me, 'and seen it was
quite empty, and I thought to myself _Now_ he _can't_ cook a
supper! And _then_ you did!' There! What do you think of that? The
spite of it! 'And _then_ you did!"

"What did she expect you to live on?" asked Alvina.

"Nibble a lettuce leaf with her, and drink water from the tap--and then
elevate myself with a Bernard Shaw pamphlet. That was the sort of woman
she was. All it gave _me_ was gas in the stomach."

"So overbearing!" said Alvina.

"Oh!" he turned his eyes to heaven, and spread his hands. "I didn't
believe my senses. I didn't know such people existed. And her friends! Oh
the dreadful friends she had--these Fabians!" Oh, their eugenics. They
wanted to examine my private morals, for eugenic reasons. Oh, you can't
imagine such a state. Worse than the Spanish Inquisition. And I stood it
for three years. _How_ I stood it, I don't know--"

"Now don't you see her?"

"Never! I never let her know where I am! But I _support_ her, of

"And your daughter?"

"Oh, she's the dearest child in the world. I saw her at a friend's when I
came back from America. Dearest little thing in the world. But of
_cauce_ suspicious of me. Treats me as if she didn't _know_

"What a pity!"

"Oh--unbearable!" He spread his plump, manicured hands, on one finger of
which was a green intaglio ring.

"How old is your daughter?"


"What is her name?"

"Lemma. She was born in Rome, where I was managing for Miss Maud Callum,
the _danseuse_."

Curious the intimacy Mr. May established with Alvina at once. But it was
all purely verbal, descriptive. He made no physical advances. On the
contrary, he was like a dove-grey, disconsolate bird pecking the crumbs
of Alvina's sympathy, and cocking his eye all the time to watch that she
did not advance one step towards him. If he had seen the least sign of
coming-on-ness in her, he would have fluttered off in a great dither.
Nothing _horrified_ him more than a woman who was coming-on towards
him. It horrified him, it exasperated him, it made him hate the whole
tribe of women: horrific two-legged cats without whiskers. If he had been
a bird, his innate horror of a cat would have been such. He liked the
_angel_, and particularly the angel-mother in woman. Oh!--that he
worshipped. But coming-on-ness!

So he never wanted to be seen out-of-doors with Alvina; if he met her in
the street he bowed and passed on: bowed very deep and reverential,
indeed, but passed on, with his little back a little more strutty and
assertive than ever. Decidedly he turned his back on her in public.

But Miss Pinnegar, a regular old, grey, dangerous she-puss, eyed him from
the corner of her pale eye, as he turned tail.

"So unmanly!" she murmured. "In his dress, in his way, in everything--so

"If I was you, Alvina," she said, "I shouldn't see so much of Mr. May, in
the drawing-room. People will talk."

"I should almost feel flattered," laughed Alvina.

"What do you mean?" snapped Miss Pinnegar.

None the less, Mr. May was dependable in matters of business. He was up
at half-past five in the morning, and by seven was well on his way. He
sailed like a stiff little ship before a steady breeze, hither and
thither, out of Woodhouse and back again, and across from side to side.
Sharp and snappy, he was, on the spot. He trussed himself up, when he was
angry or displeased, and sharp, snip-snap came his words, rather like

"But how is it--" he attacked Arthur Witham--"that the gas isn't
connected with the main yet? It was to be ready yesterday."

"We've had to wait for the fixings for them brackets," said Arthur.

"_Had_ to _wait_ for _fixings!_ But didn't you know a
fortnight ago that you'd want the fixings?"

"I thought we should have some as would do."

"Oh! you thought so! Really! Kind of you to think so. And have you just
thought about those that are coming, or have you made sure?"

Arthur looked at him sullenly. He hated him. But Mr. May's sharp touch
was not to be foiled.

"I hope you'll go further than _thinking_," said Mr. May. "Thinking
seems such a slow process. And when do you expect the fittings--?"


"What! Another day! Another day _still!_ But you're strangely
indifferent to time, in your line of business. Oh! _Tomorrow!_
Imagine it! Two days late already, and then _tomorrow!_ Well I hope
by tomorrow you mean _Wednesday_, and not tomorrow's tomorrow, or
some other absurd and fanciful date that you've just _thought
about_. But now, _do_ have the thing finished by tomorrow--" here
he laid his hand cajoling on Arthur's arm. "You promise me it will all be
ready by tomorrow, don't you?"

"Yes, I'll do it if anybody could do it."

"Don't say 'if anybody could do it.' Say it shall be done."

"It shall if I can possibly manage it--"

"Oh--very well then. Mind you manage it--and thank you very much. I shall
be _most_ obliged, if it _is_ done."

Arthur was annoyed, but he was kept to the scratch. And so, early in
October the place was ready, and Woodhouse was plastered with placards
announcing "Houghton's Pleasure Palace." Poor Mr. May could not but see
an irony in the Palace part of the phrase. "We can guarantee the
_pleasure_," he said. "But personally, I feel I can't take the
responsibility for the palace."

But James, to use the vulgar expression, was in his eye-holes. "Oh,
father's in his eye-holes," said Alvina to Mr. May.

"Oh!" said Mr. May, puzzled and concerned.

But it merely meant that James was having the time of his life. He was
drawing out announcements. First was a batch of vermilion strips, with
the mystic script, in big black letters: Houghton's Picture Palace,
underneath which, quite small: Opens at Lumley on October 7th, at 6:30
P.M. Everywhere you went, these vermilion and black bars sprang from the
wall at you. Then there were other notices, in delicate pale-blue and
pale red, like a genuine theatre notice, giving full programs. And
beneath these a broad-letter notice announced, in green letters on a
yellow ground: "Final and Ultimate Clearance Sale at Houghton's,
Knarborough Road, on Friday, September 30th. Come and Buy Without Price."

James was in his eye-holes. He collected all his odds and ends from every
corner of Manchester House. He sorted them in heaps, and marked the heaps
in his own mind. And then he let go. He pasted up notices all over the
window and all over the shop: "Take what you want and Pay what you Like."

He and Miss Pinnegar kept shop. The women flocked in. They turned things
over. It nearly killed James to take the prices they offered. But take
them he did. But he exacted that they should buy one article at a time.
"One piece at a time, if you don't mind," he said, when they came up with
their three-a-penny handfuls. It was not till later in the evening that
he relaxed this rule.

Well, by eleven o'clock he had cleared out a good deal--really, a very
great deal--and many women had bought what they didn't want, at their own
figure. Feverish but content, James shut the shop for the last time. Next
day, by eleven, he had removed all his belongings, the door that
connected the house with the shop was screwed up fast, the grocer
strolled in and looked round his bare extension, took the key from James,
and immediately set his boy to paste a new notice in the window, tearing
down all James's announcements. Poor James had to run round, down
Knarborough Road, and down Wellington Street as far as the Livery Stable,
then down long narrow passages, before he could get into his own house,
from his own shop.

But he did not mind. Every hour brought the first performance of his
Pleasure Palace nearer. He was satisfied with Mr. May: he had to admit
that he was satisfied with Mr. May. The Palace stood firm at last--oh, it
was so ricketty when it arrived!--and it glowed with a new coat, all
over, of dark-red paint, like ox-blood. It was tittivated up with a touch
of lavender and yellow round the door and round the decorated wooden
eaving. It had a new wooden slope up to the doors--and inside, a new
wooden floor, with red-velvet seats in front, before the curtain, and old
chapel-pews behind. The collier youths recognized the pews.

"Hey! These 'ere's the pews out of the old Primitive Chapel."

"Sorry ah! We'n come ter hear t' parson."

Theme for endless jokes. And the Pleasure Palace was christened, in some
lucky stroke, Houghton's Endeavour, a reference to that particular Chapel
effort called the Christian Endeavour, where Alvina and Miss Pinnegar
both figured.

"Wheer art off, Sorry?"


"Houghton's Endeavour?"



So, when one laconic young collier accosted another. But we anticipate.

Mr. May had worked hard to get a program for the first week. His pictures
were: "The Human Bird," which turned out to be a ski-ing film from
Norway, purely descriptive; "The Pancake," a humorous film: and then his
grand serial: "The Silent Grip." And then, for Turns, his first item was
Miss Poppy Trherne, a lady in innumerable petticoats, who could whirl
herself into anything you like, from an arum lily in green stockings to a
rainbow and a Catherine wheel and a cup-and-saucer: marvellous, was Miss
Poppy Traherne. The next turn was The Baxter Brothers, who ran up and
down each other's backs and up and down each other's front, and stood on
each other's heads and on their own heads, and perched for a moment on
each other's shoulders, as if each of them was a flight of stairs with a
landing, and the three of them were three flights, three storeys up, the
top flight continually running down and becoming the bottom flight, while
the middle flight collapsed and became a horizontal corridor.

Alvina had to open the performance by playing an overture called "Welcome
All": a ridiculous piece. She was excited and unhappy. On the Monday
morning there was a rehearsal, Mr. May conducting. She played "Welcome
All," and then took the thumbed sheets which Miss Poppy Traherne carried
with her. Miss Poppy was rather exacting. As she whirled her skirts she
kept saying: "A little faster, please"--"A little slower"--in a rather
haughty, official voice that was somewhat muffled by the swim of her
drapery. "Can you give it _expression?_" she cried, as she got the
arum lily in full blow, and there was a sound of real ecstasy in her
tones. But why she should have called "Stronger! Stronger!" as she came
into being as a cup and saucer, Alvina could not imagine: unless Miss
Poppy was fancying herself a strong cup of tea.

However, she subsided into her mere self, panted frantically, and then,
in a hoarse voice, demanded if she was in the bare front of the show. She
scorned to count "Welcome All." Mr. May said Yes. She was the first item.
Whereupon she began to raise a dust. Mr. Houghton said, hurriedly
interposing, that he meant to make a little opening speech. Miss Poppy
eyed him as if he were a cuckoo-clock, and she had to wait till he'd
finished cuckooing. Then she said:

"That's not every night. There's six nights to a week." James was
properly snubbed. It ended by Mr. May metamorphizing himself into a pug
dog: he said he had got the "costoom" in his bag: and doing a
lump-of-sugar scene with one of the Baxter Brothers, as a brief first
item. Miss Poppy's professional virginity was thus saved from outrage.

At the back of the stage there was half-a-yard of curtain screening the
two dressing-rooms, ladies and gents. In her spare time Alvina sat in the
ladies' dressing room, or in its lower doorway, for there was not room
right inside. She watched the ladies making up--she gave some slight
assistance. She saw the men's feet, in their shabby pumps, on the other
side of the curtain, and she heard the men's gruff voices. Often a slangy
conversation was carried on through the curtain--for most of the turns
were acquainted with each other: very affable before each other's faces,
very sniffy behind each other's backs.

Poor Alvina was in a state of bewilderment. She was extremely nice--oh,
much too nice with the female turns. They treated her with a sort of
off-hand friendliness, and they snubbed and patronized her and were a
little spiteful with her because Mr. May treated her with attention and
deference. She felt bewildered, a little excited, and as if she was not

The first evening actually came. Her father had produced a pink crêpe de
Chine blouse and a back-comb massed with brilliants--both of which she
refused to wear. She stuck to her black blouse and black shirt, and her
simple hair-dressing. Mr. May said "Of cauce! She wasn't intended to
attract attention to herself." Miss Pinnegar actually walked down the
hill with her, and began to cry when she saw the oxblood red erection,
with its gas-flares in front. It was the first time she had seen it. She
went on with Alvina to the little stage door at the back, and up the
steps into the scrap of dressing-room. But she fled out again from the
sight of Miss Poppy in her yellow hair and green knickers with green-lace
frills. Poor Miss Pinnegar! She stood outside on the trodden grass behind
the Band of Hope, and really cried. Luckily she had put a veil on.

She went valiantly round to the front entrance, and climbed the steps.
The crowd was just coming. There was James's face peeping inside the
little ticket-window.

"One!" he said officially, pushing out the ticket. And then he recognized
her. "Oh," he said, "_You're_ not going to pay."

"Yes I am," she said, and she left her fourpence, and James's coppery,
grimy fingers scooped it in, as the youth behind Miss Pinnegar shoved her

"Ail way down, fourpenny," said the man at the door, poking her in the
direction of Mr. May, who wanted to put her in the red velvet. But she
marched down one of the pews, and took her seat.

The place was crowded with a whooping, whistling, excited audience. The
curtain was down. James had let it out to his fellow tradesmen, and it
represented a patchwork of local adverts. There was a fat porker and a
fat pork-pie, and the pig was saying: "You all know where to find me.
Inside the crust at Frank Churchill's, Knarborough Road, Woodhouse."
Round about the name of W. H. Johnson floated a bowler hat, a
collar-and-necktie, a pair of braces and an umbrella. And so on and so
on. It all made you feel very homely. But Miss Pinnegar was sadly hot and
squeezed in her pew.

Time came, and the colliers began to drum their feet. It was exactly the
excited, crowded audience Mr. May wanted. He darted out to drive James
round in front of the curtain. But James, fascinated by raking in the
money so fast, could not be shifted from the pay-box, and the two men
nearly had a fight. At last Mr. May was seen shooing James, like a
scuffled chicken, down the side gangway and on to the stage.

James before the illuminated curtain of local adverts, bowing and
beginning and not making a single word audible! The crowd quieted itself,
the eloquence flowed on. The crowd was sick of James, and began to
shuffle. "Come down, come down!" hissed Mr. May frantically from in
front. But James did not move. He would flow on all night. Mr. May waved
excitedly at Alvina, who sat obscurely at the piano, and darted on to the
stage. He raised his voice and drowned James. James ceased to wave his
penny-blackened hands, Alvina struck up "Welcome All" as loudly and
emphatically as she could.

And all the time Miss Pinnegar sat like a sphinx--like a sphinx. What she
thought she did not know herself. But stolidly she stared at James, and
anxiously she glanced sideways at the pounding Alvina. She knew Alvina
had to pound until she received the cue that Mr. May was fitted in his
pug-dog "Costoom."

A twitch of the curtain. Alvina wound up her final flourish, the curtain
rose, and:

"Well really!" said Miss Pinnegar, out loud.

There was Mr. May as a pug dog begging, too lifelike and too impossible.
The audience shouted. Alvina sat with her hands in her lap. The Pug was a
great success.

Curtain! A few bars of Toreador--and then Miss Poppy's sheets of music.
Soft music. Miss Poppy was on the ground under a green scarf. And so the
accumulating dilation, on to the whirling climax of the perfect arum
lily. Sudden curtain, and a yell of ecstasy from the colliers. Of all
blossoms, the arum, the arum lily is most mystical and portentous.

Now a crash and rumble from Alvina's piano. This is the storm from whence
the rainbow emerges. Up goes the curtain--Miss Poppy twirling till her
skirts lift as in a breeze, rise up and become a rainbow above her now
darkened legs. The footlights are all but extinguished. Miss Poppy is all
but extinguished also.

The rainbow is not so moving as the arum lily. But the Catherine wheel,
done at the last moment on one leg and then an amazing leap into the air
backwards, again brings down the house.

Miss Poppy herself sets all store on her cup and saucer. But the
audience, vulgar as ever, cannot quite see it.

And so, Alvina slips away with Miss Poppy's music-sheets, while Mr. May
sits down like a professional at the piano and makes things fly for the
up-and-down-stairs Baxter Bros. Meanwhile, Alvina's pale face hovering
like a ghost in the side darkness, as it were under the stage.

The lamps go out: gurglings and kissings--and then the dither on the
screen: "The Human Bird," in awful shivery letters. It's not a very good
machine, and Mr. May is not a very good operator. Audience distinctly
critical. Lights up--an "Chot-let, penny a bar! Chot-let, penny a bar!"
even as in Alvina's dream--and then "The Pancake"--so the first half
over. Lights up for the interval.

Miss Pinnegar sighed and folded her hands. She looked neither to right
nor to left. In spite of herself, in spite of outraged shame and decency,
she was excited. But she felt such excitement was not wholesome. In vain
the boy most pertinently yelled "Chot-let" at her. She looked neither to
right nor left. But when she saw Alvina nodding to her with a quick smile
from the side gangway under the stage, she almost burst into tears. It
was too much for her, all at once. And Alvina looked almost indecently
excited. As she slipped across in front of the audience, to the piano, to
play the seductive "Dream Waltz!" she looked almost fussy, like her
father. James, needless to say, flittered and hurried hither and thither
around the audience and the stage, like a wagtail on the brink of a pool.

The second half consisted of a comic drama acted by two Baxter Bros.,
disguised as women, and Miss Poppy disguised as a man--with a couple of
locals thrown in to do the guardsman and the Count. This went very well.
The winding up was the first instalment of "The Silent Grip."

When lights went up and Alvina solemnly struck "God Save Our Gracious
King," the audience was on its feet and not very quiet, evidently hissing
with excitement like doughnuts in the pan even when the pan is taken off
the fire. Mr. Houghton thanked them for their courtesy and attention, and
hoped--And nobody took the slightest notice.

Miss Pinnegar stayed last, waiting for Alvina. And Alvina, in her
excitement, waited for Mr. May and her father.

Mr. May fairly pranced into the empty hall.

"Well!" he said, shutting both his fists and flourishing them in Miss
Pinnegar's face. "How did it go?"

"I think it went very well," she said.

"Very well! I should think so, indeed. It went like a house on fire.
What? Didn't it?" And he laughed a high, excited little laugh.

James was counting pennies for his life, in the cash-place, and dropping
them into a Gladstone bag. The others had to wait for him. At last he
locked his bag.

"Well," said Mr. May, "done well?"

"Fairly well," said James, huskily excited. "Fairly well."

"Only fairly? Oh-h!" And Mr. May suddenly picked up the bag. James turned
as if he would snatch it from him. "Well! Feel that, for fairly well!"
said Mr. May, handing the bag to Alvina.

"Goodness!" she cried, handing it to Miss Pinnegar.

"Would you believe it?" said Miss Pinnegar, relinquishing it to James.
But she spoke coldly, aloof.

Mr. May turned off the gas at the meter, came talking through the
darkness of the empty theatre, picking his way with a flash-light.

"C'est le premier pas qui coute," he said, in a sort of American French,
as he locked the doors and put the key in his pocket. James tripped
silently alongside, bowed under the weight of his Gladstone bag of

"How much have we taken, father?" asked Alvina gaily.

"I haven't counted," he snapped.

When he got home he hurried upstairs to his bare chamber. He swept his
table clear, and then, in an expert fashion, he seized handfuls of coin
and piled them in little columns on his board. There was an army of fat
pennies, a dozen to a column, along the back, rows and rows of fat brown
rank-and-file. In front of these, rows of slim halfpence, like an
advance-guard. And commanding all, a stout column of half-crowns, a few
stoutish and important florin-figures, like general and colonels, then
quite a file of shillings, like so many captains, and a little cloud of
silvery lieutenant sixpences. Right at the end, like a frail drummer boy,
a thin stick of three-penny pieces.

There they all were: burly dragoons of stout pennies, heavy and holding
their ground, with a screen of halfpenny light infantry, officered by the
immovable half-crown general, who in his turn was flanked by all his
staff of florin colonels and shilling captains, from whom lightly moved
the nimble six-penny lieutenants all ignoring the wan, frail Joey of the

Time after time James ran his almighty eye over his army. He loved them.
He loved to feel that his table was pressed down, that it groaned under
their weight. He loved to see the pence, like innumerable pillars of
cloud, standing waiting to lead on into wildernesses of unopened
resource, while the silver, as pillars of light, should guide the way
down the long night of fortune. Their weight sank sensually into his
muscle, and gave him gratification. The dark redness of bronze, like
full-blooded fleas, seemed alive and pulsing, the silver was magic as if


Mr. May and Alvina became almost inseparable, and Woodhouse buzzed with
scandal. Woodhouse could not believe that Mr. May was absolutely final in
his horror of any sort of coming-on-ness in a woman. It could not believe
that he was only _so_ fond of Alvina because she was like a sister
to him, poor, lonely, harassed soul that he was: a pure sister who really
hadn't any body. For although Mr. May was rather fond, in an epicurean
way, of his own body, yet other people's bodies rather made him shudder.
So that his grand utterance on Alvina was: "She's not physical, she's

He even explained to her one day how it was, in his naïve fashion.

"There are two kinds of friendships," he said, "physical and mental. The
physical is a thing of the moment. Of cauce you quite _like_ the
individual, you remain quite nice with them, and so on,--to keep the
thing as decent as possible. It is quite decent, so long as you keep it
so. But it is a thing of the moment. Which you know. It may last a week
or two, or a month or two. But you know from the beginning it is going to
end--quite finally--quite soon. You take it for what it is. But it's so
different with the mental friendships. _They_ are lasting. They are
eternal--if anything human (he said yuman) ever is eternal, ever
_can_ be eternal." He pressed his hands together in an odd cherubic
manner. He was quite sincere: if man ever _can_ be quite sincere.

Alvina was quite content to be one of his mental and eternal friends, or
rather _friendships_--since she existed in _abstractu_ as far
as he was concerned. For she did not find him at all physically moving.
Physically he was not there: he was oddly an absentee. But his naïveté
roused the serpent's tooth of her bitter irony.

"And your wife?" she said to him.

"Oh, my wife! Dreadful thought! _There_ I made the great mistake of
trying to find the two in one person! And _didn't_ I fall between
two stools! Oh dear, _didn't_ I? Oh, I fell between the two stools
beautifully, beautifully! And _then_--she nearly set the stools on
top of me. I thought I should never get up again. When I was physical,
she was mental--Bernard Shaw and cold baths for supper!--and when I was
mental she was physical, and threw her arms round my neck. In the
morning, mark you. Always in the morning, when I was on the alert for
business. Yes, invariably. What do you think of it? Could the devil
himself have invented anything more trying? Oh dear me, don't mention it.
Oh, what a time I had! Wonder I'm alive. Yes, really! Although you

Alvina did more than smile. She laughed outright. And yet she remained
good friends with the odd little man.

He bought himself a new, smart overcoat, that fitted his figure, and a
new velour hat. And she even noticed, one day when he was curling himself
up cosily on the sofa, that he had pale blue silk underwear, and purple
silk suspenders. She wondered where he got them, and how he afforded
them. But there they were.

James seemed for the time being wrapt in his undertaking--particularly in
the takings part of it. He seemed for the time being contented--or nearly
so, nearly so. Certainly there was money coming in. But then he had to
pay off all he had borrowed to buy his erection and its furnishings, and
a bulk of pennies sublimated into a very small £.S.D. account, at the

The Endeavour was successful--yes, it was successful. But not
overwhelmingly so. On wet nights Woodhouse did not care to trail down to
Lumley. And then Lumley was one of those depressed, negative spots on the
face of the earth which have no pull at all. In that region of sharp
hills with fine hill-brows, and shallow, rather dreary canal-valleys, it
was the places on the hill-brows, like Woodhouse and Hathersedge and
Rapton which flourished, while the dreary places down along the canals
existed only for work-places, not for life and pleasure. It was just like
James to have planted his endeavour down in the stagnant dust and rust of
potteries and foundries, where no illusion could bloom.

He had dreamed of crowded houses every night, and of raised prices. But
there was no probability of his being able to raise his prices. He had to
figure lower than the Woodhouse Empire. He was second-rate from the
start. His hope now lay in the tramway which was being built from
Knarborough away through the country--a black country indeed--through
Woodhouse and Lumley and Hathersedge, to Rap-ton. When once this
tramway-system was working, he would have a supply of youths and lasses
always on tap, as it were. So he spread his rainbow wings towards the
future, and began to say:

"When we've got the trams, I shall buy a new machine and finer lenses,
and I shall extend my premises."

Mr. May did not talk business to Alvina. He was terribly secretive with
respect to business. But he said to her once, in the early year following
their opening:

"Well, how do you think we're doing, Miss Houghton?"

"We're not doing any better than we did at first, I think," she said.
"No," he answered. "No! That's true. That's perfectly true. But why? They
seem to like the programs."

"I think they do," said Alvina. "I think they like them when they're
there. But isn't it funny, they don't seem to want to come to them. I
know they always talk as if we were second-rate. And they only come
because they can't get to the Empire, or up to Hathersedge. We're a
stop-gap. I know we are."

Mr. May looked down in the mouth. He cocked his blue eyes at her,
miserable and frightened. Failure began to frighten him abjectly. "Why do
you think that is?" he said.

"I don't believe they like the turns," she said.

"But look how they applaud them! _Look_ how pleased they are!"

"I know. I know they like them once they're there, and they see them. But
they don't come again. They crowd the Empire--and the Empire is only
pictures now: and it's much cheaper to run."

He watched her dismally.

"I can't believe they want nothing but pictures. I can't believe they
want everything in the flat," he said, coaxing and miserable. He himself
was not interested in the film. His interest was still the human interest
in living performers and their living feats. "Why," he continued, "they
are ever so much more excited after a good turn, than after any film."

"I know they are," said Alvina. "But I don't believe they want to be
excited in that way."

"In what way?" asked Mr. May plaintively.

"By the things which the artistes do. I believe they're jealous."

"Oh nonsense!" exploded Mr. May, starting as if he had been shot. Then he
laid his hand on her arm. "But forgive my rudeness! I don't mean it, of
_cauce!_ But do you mean to say that these collier louts and factory
girls are jealous of the things the artistes do, because they could never
do them themselves?"

"I'm sure they are," said Alvina.

"But I _can't_ believe it," said Mr. May, pouting up his mouth and
smiling at her as if she were a whimsical child. "What a low opinion you
have of human nature!"

"Have I?" laughed Alvina. "I've never reckoned it up. But I'm sure that
these common people here are jealous if anybody does anything or has
anything they can't have themselves."

"I can't believe it," protested Mr. May "Could they be so _silly!_
And then why aren't they jealous of the extraordinary things which are
done on the film?"

"Because they don't see the flesh-and-blood people. I'm sure that's it.
The film is only pictures, like pictures in the _Daily Mirror_. And
pictures don't have any feelings apart from their own feelings. I mean
the feelings of the people who watch them. Pictures don't have any life
except in the people who watch them. And that's why they like them.
Because they make them feel that they are everything."

"The pictures make the colliers and lasses feel that they themselves are
everything? But how? They identify themselves with the heroes and
heroines on the screen?"

"Yes--they take it all to themselves--and there isn't anything except
themselves. I know it's like that. It's because they can spread
themselves over a film, and they _can't_ over a living performer.
They're up against the performer himself. And they hate it."

Mr. May watched her long and dismally

"I _can't_ believe people are like that!--sane people!" he said.
"Why, to me the whole joy is in the living personality, the curious
_personality_ of the artiste. That's what I enjoy so much."

"I know. But that's where you're different from them."

"But _am_ I?"

"Yes. You're not as up to the mark as they are."

"Not up to the mark? What do you mean? Do you mean they are more

"No, but they're more modern. You like things which aren't yourself. But
they don't. They hate to admire anything that they can't take to
themselves. They hate anything that isn't themselves. And that's why they
like pictures. It's all themselves to them, all the time."

He still puzzled.

"You know I don't follow you," he said, a little mocking, as if she were
making a fool of herself.

"Because you don't know them. You don't know the common people. You don't
know how conceited they are."

He watched her a long time.

"And you think we ought to cut out the variety, and give nothing but
pictures, like the Empire?" he said.

"I believe it takes best," she said.

"And costs less," he answered. "But _then_! It's so dull. Oh my _word_,
it's so dull. I don't think I could bear it."

"And our pictures aren't good enough," she said. "We should have to get a
new machine, and pay for the expensive films. Our pictures do shake, and
our films are rather ragged."

"But then, _surely_ they're good enough!" he said.

That was how matters stood. The Endeavour paid its way, and made just a
margin of profit--no more. Spring went on to summer, and then there was a
very shadowy margin of profit. But James was not at all daunted. He was
waiting now for the trams, and building up hopes since he could not build
in bricks and mortar.

The navvies were busy in troops along the Knarborough Road, and down
Lumley Hill. Alvina became quite used to them. As she went down the hill
soon after six o'clock in the evening, she met them trooping home. And
some of them she liked. There was an outlawed look about them as they
swung along the pavement--some of them; and there was a certain lurking
set of the head which rather frightened her because it fascinated her.
There was one tall young fellow with a red face and fair hair, who looked
as if he had fronted the seas and the arctic sun. He looked at her. They
knew each other quite well, in passing. And he would glance at perky Mr.
May. Alvina tried to fathom what the young fellow's look meant. She
wondered what he thought of Mr. May.

She was surprised to hear Mr. May's opinion of the navvy.

"_He's_ a handsome young man, now!" exclaimed her companion one evening as
the navvies passed. And all three turned round, to find all three turning
round. Alvina laughed, and made eyes. At that moment she would cheerfully
have gone along with the navvy. She was getting so tired of Mr. May's
quiet prance.

On the whole, Alvina enjoyed the cinema and the life it brought her. She
accepted it. And she became somewhat vulgarized in her bearing. She was
_déclassée:_ she had lost her class altogether. The other daughters of
respectable tradesmen avoided her now, or spoke to her only from a
distance. She was supposed to be "carrying on" with Mr. May.

Alvina did not care. She rather liked it. She liked being _déclassé_. She
liked feeling an outsider. At last she seemed to stand on her own ground.
She laughed to herself as she went back and forth from Woodhouse to
Lumley, between Manchester House and the Pleasure Palace. She laughed
when she saw her father's theatre-notices plastered about. She laughed
when she saw his thrilling announcements in the _Woodhouse Weekly_. She
laughed when she knew that all the Woodhouse youths recognized her, and
looked on her as one of their inferior entertainers. She was off the map:
and she liked it.

For after all, she got a good deal of fun out of it. There was not only
the continual activity. There were the artistes. Every week she met a new
set of stars--three or four as a rule. She rehearsed with them on Monday
afternoons, and she saw them every evening, and twice a week at matinees.
James now gave two performances each evening--and he always had _some_
audience. So that Alvina had opportunity to come into contact with all
the odd people of the inferior stage. She found they were very much of a
type: a little frowsy, a little flea-bitten as a rule, indifferent to
ordinary morality, and philosophical even if irritable. They were often
very irritable. And they had always a certain fund of callous philosophy.
Alvina did not _like_ them--you were not supposed, really, to get deeply
emotional over them. But she found it amusing to see them all and know
them all. It was so different from Woodhouse, where everything was priced
and ticketed. These people were nomads. They didn't care a straw who you
were or who you weren't. They had a most irritable professional vanity,
and that was all. It was most odd to watch them. They weren't very
squeamish. If the young gentlemen liked to peep round the curtain when
the young lady was in her knickers: oh, well, she rather roundly told
them off, perhaps, but nobody minded. The fact that ladies wore knickers
and black silk stockings thrilled nobody, any more than grease-paint or
false moustaches thrilled. It was all part of the stock-in-trade. As for
immorality--well, what did it amount to? Not a great deal. Most of the
men cared far more about a drop of whiskey than about any more carnal
vice, and most of the girls were good pals with each other, men were only
there to act with: even if the act was a private love-farce of an
improper description. What's the odds? You couldn't get excited about it:
not as a rule.

Mr. May usually took rooms for the artistes in a house down in Lumley.
When any one particular was coming, he would go to a rather better-class
widow in Woodhouse. He never let Alvina take any part in the making of
these arrangements, except with the widow in Woodhouse, who had long ago
been a servant at Manchester House, and even now came in to do cleaning.

Odd, eccentric people they were, these entertainers. Most of them had a
streak of imagination, and most of them drank. Most of them were
middle-aged. Most of them had an abstracted manner; in ordinary life,
they seemed left aside, somehow. Odd, extraneous creatures, often a
little depressed, feeling life slip away from them. The cinema was
killing them.

Alvina had quite a serious flirtation with a man who played a flute and
piccolo. He was about fifty years old, still handsome, and growing stout.
When sober, he was completely reserved. When rather drunk, he talked
charmingly and amusingly--oh, most charmingly. Alvina quite loved him.
But alas, _how_ he drank! But what a charm he had! He went, and she saw him
no more.

The usual rather American-looking, clean-shaven, slightly pasty young man
left Alvina quite cold, though he had an amiable and truly chivalrous
_galanterie_. He was quite likeable. But so unattractive. Alvina was more
fascinated by the odd fish: like the lady who did marvellous things with
six ferrets, or the Jap who was tattooed all over, and had the most
amazing strong wrists, so that he could throw down any collier, with one
turn of the hand. Queer cuts these!--but just a little bit beyond her.
She watched them rather from a distance. She wished she could jump across
the distance. Particularly with the Jap, who was almost quite naked, but
clothed with the most exquisite tattooing. Never would she forget the
eagle that flew with terrible spread wings between his shoulders, or the
strange mazy pattern that netted the roundness of his buttocks. He was
not very large, but nicely shaped, and with no hair on his smooth,
tattooed body. He was almost blue in colour--that is, his tattooing was
blue, with pickings of brilliant vermilion: as for instance round the
nipples, and in a strange red serpent's-jaws over the navel. A serpent
went round his loins and haunches. He told her how many times he had had
blood-poisoning, during the process of his tattooing. He was a queer,
black-eyed creature, with a look of silence and toad-like lewdness. He
frightened her. But when he was dressed in common clothes, and was just a
cheap, shoddy-looking European Jap, he was more frightening still. For
his face--he was not tattooed above a certain ring low on his neck--was
yellow and flat and basking with one eye open, like some age-old serpent.
She felt he was smiling horribly all the time: lewd, unthinkable. A
strange sight he was in Woodhouse, on a sunny morning; a shabby-looking
bit of riff-raff of the East, rather down at the heel. Who could have
imagined the terrible eagle of his shoulders, the serpent of his loins,
his supple, magic skin?

The summer passed again, and autumn. Winter was a better time for James
Houghton. The trams, moreover, would begin to run in January.

He wanted to arrange a good program for the week when the trams started.
A long time head, Mr. May prepared it. The one item was the
Natcha-Kee-Tawara Troupe. The Natcha-Kee-Tawara Troupe consisted of five
persons, Madame Rochard and four young men. They were a strictly Red
Indian troupe. But one of the young men, the German Swiss, was a famous
yodeller, and another, the French Swiss, was a good comic with a French
accent, whilst Madame and the German did a screaming two-person farce.
Their great turn, of course, was the Natcha-Kee-Tawara Red Indian scene.

The Natcha-Kee-Tawaras were due in the third week in January, arriving
from the Potteries on the Sunday evening. When Alvina came in from Chapel
that Sunday evening, she found her widow, Mrs. Rollings, seated in the
living room talking with James, who had an anxious look. Since opening
the Pleasure Palace James was less regular at Chapel. And moreover, he
was getting old and shaky, and Sunday was the one evening he might spend
in peace. Add that on this particular black Sunday night it was sleeting
dismally outside, and James had already a bit of a cough, and we shall
see that he did right to stay at home.

Mrs. Rollings sat nursing a bottle. She was to go to the chemist for some
cough-cure, because Madame had got a bad cold. The chemist was gone to
Chapel--he wouldn't open till eight.

Madame and the four young men had arrived at about six. Madame, said Mrs.
Rollings, was a little fat woman, and she was complaining all the time
that she had got a cold on her chest, laying her hand on her chest and
trying her breathing and going "He-e-e-er! Herr!" to see if she could
breathe properly. She, Mrs. Rollings, had suggested that Madame should
put her feet in hot mustard and water, but Madame said she must have
something to clear her chest. The four young men were four nice civil
young fellows. They evidently liked Madame. Madame had insisted on
cooking the chops for the young men. She herself had eaten one, but she
laid her hand on her chest when she swallowed. One of the young men had
gone out to get her some brandy, and he had come back with half-a-dozen
large bottles of Bass as well.

Mr. Houghton was very much concerned over Madame's cold. He asked the
same questions again and again, to try and make sure how bad it was. But
Mrs. Rollings didn't seem quite to know. James wrinkled his brow.
Supposing Madame could not take her part! He was most anxious.

"Do you think you might go across with Mrs. Rollings and see how this
woman is, Alvina?" he said to his daughter.

"I should think you'll never turn Alvina out on such a night," said Miss
Pinnegar. "And besides, it isn't right. Where is Mr. May? It's his
business to go."

"Oh!" returned Alvina. "_I_ don't mind going. Wait a minute, I'll see if we
haven't got some of those pastilles for burning. If it's very bad, I can
make one of those plasters mother used."

And she ran upstairs. She was curious to see what Madame and her four
young men were like.

With Mrs. Rollings she called at the chemist's back door, and then they
hurried through the sleet to the widow's dwelling. It was not far. As
they went up the entry they heard the sound of voices. But in the kitchen
all was quiet. The voices came from the front room.

Mrs. Rollings tapped.

"Come in!" said a rather sharp voice. Alvina entered on the widow's

"I've brought you the cough stuff," said the widow. "And Miss Huff'n's
come as well, to see how you was."

Four young men were sitting round the table in their shirt-sleeves, with
bottles of Bass. There was much cigarette smoke. By the fire, which was
burning brightly, sat a plump, pale woman with dark bright eyes and
finely-drawn eyebrows: she might be any age between forty and fifty.
There were grey threads in her tidy black hair. She was neatly dressed in
a well-made black dress with a small lace collar. There was a slight look
of self-commiseration on her face. She had a cigarette between her
drooped fingers.

She rose as if with difficulty, and held out her plump hand, on which
four or five rings showed. She had dropped the cigarette unnoticed into
the hearth.

"How do you do," she said. "I didn't catch your name." Madame's voice was
a little plaintive and plangent now, like a bronze reed mournfully

"Alvina Houghton," said Alvina.

"Daughter of him as owns the thee-etter where you're goin' to act,"
interposed the widow.

"Oh yes! Yes! I see. Miss Houghton. I didn't know how it was said.
Huffton--yes? Miss Houghton. I've got a bad cold on my chest--" laying
her plump hand with the rings on her plump bosom. "But let me introduce
you to my young men--" A wave of the plump hand, whose forefinger was
very slightly cigarette-stained, towards the table.

The four young men had risen, and stood looking at Alvina and Madame. The
room was small, rather bare, with horse-hair and white-crochet
antimacassars and a linoleum floor. The table also was covered with a
brightly-patterned American oil-cloth, shiny but clean. A naked gas-jet
hung over it. For furniture, there were just chairs, arm-chairs, table,
and a horse-hair antimacassar-ed sofa. Yet the little room seemed very
full--full of people, young men with smart waistcoats and ties, but
without coats.

"That is Max," said Madame. "I shall tell you only their names, and not
their family names, because that is easier for you--"

In the meantime Max had bowed. He was a tall Swiss with almond eyes and a
flattish face and a rather stiff, ramrod figure.

"And that is Louis--" Louis bowed gracefully. He was a Swiss Frenchman,
moderately tall, with prominent cheek-bones and a wing of glossy black
hair falling on his temple.

"And that is Géoffroi--Geoffrey--" Geoffrey made his bow--a
broad-shouldered, watchful, taciturn man from Alpine France.

"And that is Francesco--Frank--" Francesco gave a faint curl of his lip,
half smile, as he saluted her involuntarily in a military fashion. He was
dark, rather tall and loose, with yellow-tawny eyes. He was an Italian
from the south. Madame gave another look at him. "He doesn't like his
English name of Frank. You will see, he pulls a face. No, he doesn't like
it. We call him Ciccio also--" But Ciccio was dropping his head
sheepishly, with the same faint smile on his face, half grimace, and
stooping to his chair, wanting to sit down.

"These are my family of young men," said Madame. "We are drawn from three
races, though only Ciccio is not of our mountains. Will you please to sit

They all took their chairs. There was a pause.

"My young men drink a little beer, after their horrible journey. As a
rule, I do not like them to drink. But tonight they have a little beer. I
do not take any myself, because I am afraid of inflaming myself." She
laid her hand on her breast, and took long, uneasy breaths. "I feel it. I
feel it _here_." She patted her breast. "It makes me afraid for tomorrow.
Will you perhaps take a glass of beer? Ciccio, ask for another glass--"
Ciccio, at the end of the table, did not rise, but looked round at Alvina
as if he presumed there would be no need for him to move. The odd,
supercilious curl of the lip persisted. Madame glared at him. But he
turned the handsome side of his cheek towards her, with the faintest
flicker of a sneer.

"No, thank you. I never take beer," said Alvina hurriedly.

"No? Never? Oh!" Madame folded her hands, but her black eyes still darted
venom at Ciccio. The rest of the young men fingered their glasses and put
their cigarettes to their lips and blew the smoke down their noses,

Madame closed her eyes and leaned back a moment. Then her face looked
transparent and pallid, there were dark rings under her eyes, the
beautifully-brushed hair shone dark like black glass above her ears. She
was obviously unwell. The young men looked at her, and muttered to one

"I'm afraid your cold is rather bad," said Alvina. "Will you let me take
your temperature?"

Madame started and looked frightened.

"Oh, I don't think you should trouble to do that," she said.

Max, the tall, highly-coloured Swiss, turned to her, saying:

"Yes, you must have your temperature taken, and then we s'll know, shan't
we. I had a hundred and five when we were in Redruth."

Alvina had taken the thermometer from her pocket. Ciccio meanwhile
muttered something in French--evidently something rude--meant for Max.

"What shall I do if I can't work tomorrow!" moaned Madame, seeing Alvina
hold up the thermometer towards the light. "Max, what shall we do?"

"You will stay in bed, and we must do the White Prisoner scene," said
Max, rather staccato and official.

Ciccio curled his lip and put his head aside. Alvina went across to
Madame with the thermometer. Madame lifted her plump hand and fended off
Alvina, while she made her last declaration:

"Never--never have I missed my work, for a single day, for ten years.
Never. If I am going to lie abandoned, I had better die at once."

"Lie abandoned!" said Max. "You know you won't do no such thing. What are
you talking about?"

"Take the thermometer," said Geoffrey roughly, but with feeling.

"Tomorrow, see, you will be well quite certain!" said Louis. Madame
mournfully shook her head, opened her mouth, and sat back with closed
eyes and the stump of the thermometer comically protruding from a corner
of her lips. Meanwhile Alvina took her plump white wrist and felt her

"We can practise--" began Geoffrey.

"Sh!" said Max, holding up his finger and looking anxiously at Alvina and
Madame, who still leaned back with the stump of the thermometer jauntily
perking up from her pursed mouth, while her face was rather ghastly.

Max and Louis watched anxiously. Geoffrey sat blowing the smoke down his
nose, while Ciccio callously lit another cigarette, striking a match on
his boot-heel and puffing from under the tip of his rather long nose.
Then he took the cigarette from his mouth, turned his head, slowly spat
on the floor, and rubbed his foot on his spit. Max flapped his eyelids
and looked all disdain, murmuring something about "ein schmutziges
italienisches Volk," whilst Louis, refusing either to see or to hear,
framed the word "chien" on his lips.

Then quick as lightning both turned their attention again to Madame.

Her temperature was a hundred and two.

"You'd better go to bed," said Alvina. "Have you eaten anything?"

"One little mouthful," said Madame plaintively.

Max sat looking pale and stricken, Louis had hurried forward to take
Madame's hand. He kissed it quickly, then turned aside his head because
of the tears in his eyes. Geoffrey gulped beer in large throatfuls, and
Ciccio, with his head bent, was watching from under his eyebrows.

"I'll run round for the doctor--" said Alvina.

"Don't! Don't do that, my dear! Don't you go and do that! I'm likely to a

"Liable to a temperature," murmured Louis pathetically. "I'll go to bed,"
said Madame, obediently rising.

"Wait a bit. I'll see if there's a fire in the bedroom," said Alvina.

"Oh, my dear, you are too good. Open the door for her, Ciccio--"

Ciccio reached across at the door, but was too late. Max had hastened to
usher Alvina out. Madame sank back in her chair.

"Never for ten years," she was wailing. "Quoi faire, h, quoi faire! Que
ferez-vous, mes pauvres, sans votre Kishwégin. Que vais-je faire, mourir
dans un tel pays! La bonne demoiselle--la bonne demoiselleelle a du
coeur. Elle pourrait aussi être belle, s'il y avait un peu plus de
chair. Max, liebster, schau ich Behr elend aus? Ach, oh jeh, oh jeh!"

"Ach nein, Madame, ach nein. Nicht so furchtbar elend," said Max.

"Manca it cuore solamente al Ciccio," moaned Madame. "Che natura povera,
senza sentimento--niente di bello. Ahimé, che amico, che ragazzo duro,

"Trova?" said Ciccio, with a curl of the lip. He looked, as he dropped
his long, beautiful lashes, as if he might weep for all that, if he were
not bound to be misbehaving just now.

So Madame moaned in four languages as she posed pallid in her arm-chair.
Usually she spoke in French only, with her young men. But this was an
extra occasion.

"La pauvre Kishwégin!" murmured Madame. "Elle va finir au monde. Elle
passe--la pauvre Kishwégin."

Kishwégin was Madame's Red Indian name, the name under which she danced
her Squaw's fire-dance.

Now that she knew she was ill, Madame seemed to become more ill. Her
breath came in little pants. She had a pain in her side. A feverish flush
seemed to mount her cheek. The young men were all extremely
uncomfortable. Louis did not conceal his tears. Only Ciccio kept the thin
smile on his lips, and added to Madame's annoyance and pain.

Alvina came down to take her to bed. The young men all rose, and kissed
Madame's hand as she went out: her poor jewelled hand, that was faintly
perfumed with eau de Cologne. She spoke an appropriate good-night, to
each of them.

"Good-night, my faithful Max, I trust myself to you. Good-night, Louis,
the tender heart. Good-night valiant Geoffrey. Ah Ciccio, do not add to
the weight of my heart. Be good _braves_, all, be brothers in one accord.
One little prayer for poor Kishwégin. Good-night!"

After which valediction she slowly climbed the stairs, putting her hand
on her knee at each step, with the effort.

"No--no," she said to Max, who would have followed to her assistance. "Do
not come up. No--no!"

Her bedroom was tidy and proper.

"Tonight," she moaned, "I shan't be able to see that the boys' rooms are
well in order. They are not to be trusted, no. They need an overseeing
eye: especially Ciccio; especially Ciccio!"

She sank down by the fire and began to undo her dress.

"You must let me help you," said Alvina. "You know I have been a nurse."

"Ah, you are too kind, too kind, dear young lady. I am a lonely old
woman. I am not used to attentions. Best leave me."

"Let me help you," said Alvina.

"Alas, ahimé! Who would have thought Kishwégin would need help. I danced
last night with the boys in the theatre in Leek: and tonight I am put to
bed in--what is the name of this place, dear?--It seems I don't remember

"Woodhouse," said Alvina.

"Woodhouse! Woodhouse! Is there not something called Woodlouse? I
believe. Ugh, horrible! Why is it horrible?"

Alvina quickly undressed the plump, trim little woman. She seemed so
soft. Alvina could not imagine how she could be a dancer on the stage,
strenuous. But Madame's softness could flash into wild energy, sudden
convulsive power, like a cuttle-fish. Alvina brushed out the long black
hair, and plaited it lightly. Then she got Madame into bed.

"Ah," sighed Madame, "the good bed! The good bed! But cold--it is so
cold. Would you hang up my dress, dear, and fold my stockings?"

Alvina quickly folded and put aside the dainty underclothing. queer,
dainty woman, was Madame, even to her wonderful threaded black-and-gold

"My poor boys--no Kishwégin tomorrow! You don't think I need see a
priest, dear? A priest!" said Madame, her teeth chattering.

"Priest! Oh no! You'll be better when we can get you warm. I think it's
only a chill. Mrs. Rollings is warming a blanket--"

Alvina ran downstairs. Max opened the sitting-room door and stood
watching at the sound of footsteps. His rather bony fists were clenched
beneath his loose shirt-cuffs, his eyebrows tragically lifted.

"Is she much ill?" he asked.

"I don't know. But I don't think so. Do you mind heating the blanket
while Mrs. Rollings makes thin gruel?"

Max and Louis stood heating blankets. Louis' trousers were cut rather
tight at the waist, and gave him a female look. Max was straight and
stiff. Mrs. Rollings asked Geoffrey to fill the coal-scuttles and carry
one upstairs. Geoffrey obediently went out with a lantern to the
coal-shed. Afterwards he was to carry up the horse-hair arm-chair.

"I must go home for some things," said Alvina to Ciccio. "Will you come
and carry them for me?"

He started up, and with one movement threw away his cigarette. He did not
look at Alvina. His beautiful lashes seemed to screen his eyes. He was
fairly tall, but loosely built for an Italian, with slightly sloping
shoulders. Alvina noticed the brown, slender Mediterranean hand, as he
put his fingers to his lips. It was a hand such as she did not know,
prehensile and tender and dusky. With an odd graceful slouch he went into
the passage and reached for his coat.

He did not say a word, but held aloof as he walked with Alvina.

"I'm sorry for Madame," said Alvina, as she hurried rather breathless
through the night. "She does think for you men."

But Ciccio vouchsafed no answer, and walked with his hands in the pockets
of his water-proof, wincing from the weather.

"I'm afraid she will never be able to dance tomorrow," said Alvina. "You
think she won't be able?" he said.

"I'm almost sure she won't."

After which he said nothing, and Alvina also kept silence till they came
to the black dark passage and encumbered yard at the back of the house.

"I don't think you can see at all," she said. "It's this way." She groped
for him in the dark, and met his groping hand.

"This way," she said.

It was curious how light his fingers were in their clasp--almost like a
child's touch. So they came under the light from the window of the

Alvina hurried indoors, and the young man followed.

"I shall have to stay with Madame tonight," she explained hurriedly.
"She's feverish, but she may throw it off if we can get her into a
sweat." And Alvina ran upstairs collecting things necessary. Ciccio stood
back near the door, and answered all Miss Pinnegar's entreaties to come
to the fire with a shake of the head and a slight smile of the lips,
bashful and stupid.

"But do come and warm yourself before you go out again," said Miss
Pinnegar, looking at the man as he drooped his head in the distance. He
still shook dissent, but opened his mouth at last.

"It makes it colder after," he said, showing his teeth in a slight,
stupid smile.

"Oh well, if you think so," said Miss Pinnegar, nettled. She couldn't
make heads or tails of him, and didn't try,

When they got back, Madame was light-headed, and talking excitedly of her
dance, her young men. The three young men were terrified. They had got
the blankets scorching hot. Alvina smeared the plasters and applied them
to Madame's side, where the pain was. What a white-skinned, soft, plump
child she seemed! Her pain meant a touch of pleurisy, for sure. The men
hovered outside the door. Alvina wrapped the poor patient in the hot
blankets, got a few spoonfuls of hot gruel and whiskey down her throat,
fastened her down in bed, lowered the light and banished the men from the
stairs. Then she sat down to watch. Madame chafed, moaned, murmured
feverishly. Alvina soothed her, and put her hands in bed. And at last the
poor dear became quiet. Her brow was faintly moist. She fell into a quiet
sleep, perspiring freely. Alvina watched her still, soothed her when she
suddenly started and began to break out of the bed-clothes, quieted her,
pressed her gently, firmly down, folded her tight and made her submit to
the perspiration against which, in convulsive starts, she fought and
strove, crying that she was suffocating, she was too hot, too hot.

"Lie still, lie still," said Alvina. "You must keep warm."

Poor Madame moaned. How she hated seething in the bath of her own
perspiration. Her wilful nature rebelled strongly. She would have thrown
aside her coverings and gasped into the cold air, if Alvina had not
pressed her down with that soft, inevitable pressure.

So the hours passed, till about one o'clock, when the perspiration became
less profuse, and the patient was really better, really quieter. Then
Alvina went downstairs for a moment. She saw the light still burning in
the front room. Tapping, she entered. There sat Max by the fire, a
picture of misery, with Louis opposite him, nodding asleep after his
tears. On the sofa Geoffrey snored lightly, while Ciccio sat with his
head on the table, his arms spread out, dead asleep. Again she noticed
the tender, dusky Mediterranean hands, the slender wrists, slender for a
man naturally loose and muscular.

"Haven't you gone to bed?" whispered Alvina. "Why?"

Louis started awake. Max, the only stubborn watcher, shook his head

"But she's better," whispered Alvina. "She's perspired. She's better.
She's sleeping naturally."

Max stared with round, sleep-whitened, owlish eyes, pessimistic and

"Yes," persisted Alvina. "Come and look at her. But don't wake her,
whatever you do."

Max took off his slippers and rose to his tall height. Louis, like a
scared chicken, followed. Each man held his slippers in his hand. They
noiselessly entered and peeped stealthily over the heaped bedclothes.
Madame was lying, looking a little flushed and very girlish, sleeping
lightly, with a strand of black hair stuck to her cheek, and her lips
lightly parted.

Max watched her for some moments. Then suddenly he straightened himself,
pushed back his brown hair that was brushed up in the German fashion, and
crossed himself, dropping his knee as before an altar; crossed himself
and dropped his knee once more; and then a third time crossed himself and
inclined before the altar. Then he straightened himself again, and turned

Louis also crossed himself. His tears burst out. He bowed and took the
edge of a blanket to his lips, kissing it reverently. Then he covered his
face with his hand.

Meanwhile Madame slept lightly and innocently on.

Alvina turned to go. Max silently followed, leading Louis by the arm.
When they got downstairs, Max and Louis threw themselves in each other's
arms, and kissed each other on either cheek, gravely, in Continental

"She is better," said Max gravely, in French.

"Thanks to God," replied Louis.

Alvina witnessed all this with some amazement. The men did not heed her.
Max went over and shook Geoffrey, Louis put his hand on Ciccio's
shoulder. The sleepers were difficult to wake. The wakers shook the
sleeping, but in vain. At last Geoffrey began to stir. But in vain Louis
lifted Ciccio's shoulders from the table. The head and the hands dropped
inert. The long black lashes lay motionless, the rather long, fine Greek
nose drew the same light breaths, the mouth remained shut. Strange fine
black hair, he had, close as fur, animal, and naked, frail-seeming, tawny
hands. There was a silver ring on one hand.

Alvina suddenly seized one of the inert hands that slid on the tablecloth
as Louis shook the young man's shoulders. Tight she pressed the hand.
Ciccio opened his tawny-yellowish eyes, that seemed to have been put in
with a dirty finger, as the saying goes, owing to the sootiness of the
lashes and brows. He was quite drunk with his first sleep, and saw

"Wake up," said Alvina, laughing, pressing his hand again.

He lifted his head once more, suddenly clasped her hand, his eyes came to
consciousness, his hand relaxed, he recognized her, and he sat back in
his chair, turning his face aside and lowering his lashes.

"Get up, great beast," Louis was saying softly in French, pushing him as
ox-drivers sometimes push their oxen. Ciccio staggered to his feet.

"She is better," they told him. "We are going to bed."

They took their candles and trooped off upstairs, each one bowing to
Alvina as he passed. Max solemnly, Louis gallant, the other two dumb and
sleepy. They occupied the two attic chambers.

Alvina carried up the loose bed from the sofa, and slept on the floor
before the fire in Madame's room.

Madame slept well and long, rousing and stirring and settling off again.
It was eight o'clock before she asked her first question. Alvina was
already up.

"Oh--alors--Then I am better, I am quite well. I can dance today."

"I don't think today," said Alvina. "But perhaps tomorrow."

"No, today," said Madame. "I can dance today, because I am quite well. I
am Kishwégin."

"You are better. But you must lie still today. Yes, really--you will find
you are weak when you try to stand."

Madame watched Alvina's thin face with sullen eyes.

"You are an Englishwoman, severe and materialist," she said.

Alvina started and looked round at her with wide blue eyes.

"Why?" she said. There was a wan, pathetic look about her, a sort of
heroism which Madame detested, but which now she found touching. "Come!"
said Madame, stretching out her plump jewelled hand. "Come, I am an
ungrateful woman. Come, they are not good for you, the people, I see it.
Come to me."

Alvina went slowly to Madame, and took the outstretched hand. Madame
kissed her hand, then drew her down and kissed her on either cheek,
gravely, as the young men had kissed each other.

"You have been good to Kishwégin, and Kishwégin has a heart that
remembers. There, Miss Houghton, I shall do what you tell me. Kishwégin
obeys you." And Madame patted Alvina's hand and nodded her head sagely.

"Shall I take your temperature?" said Alvina.

"Yes, my dear, you shall. You shall bid me, and I shall obey."

So Madame lay back on her pillow, submissively pursing the thermometer
between her lips and watching Alvina with black eyes.

"It's all right," said Alvina, as she looked at the thermometer.

"Normal!" re-echoed Madame's rather guttural voice. "Good! Well, then
when shall I dance?"

Alvina turned and looked at her.

"I think, truly," said Alvina, "it shouldn't be before Thursday or

"Thursday!" repeated Madame. "You say Thursday?" There was a note of
strong rebellion in her voice.

"You'll be so weak. You've only just escaped pleurisy. I can only say
what I truly think, can't I?"

"Ah, you Englishwomen," said Madame, watching with black eyes. "I think
you like to have your own way. In all things, to have your own way. And
over all people. You are so good, to have your own way. Yes, you good
Englishwomen. Thursday. Very well, it shall be Thursday. Till Thursday,
then, Kishwégin does not exist."

And she subsided, already rather weak, upon her pillow again. When she
had taken her tea and was washed and her room was tidied, she summoned
the young men. Alvina had warned Max that she wanted Madame to be kept as
quiet as possible this day.

As soon as the first of the four appeared, in his shirt-sleeves and his
slippers, in the doorway, Madame said:

"Ah, there you are, my young men! Come in! Come in! It is not Kishwégin
addresses you. Kishwégin does not exist till Thursday, as the English
demoiselle makes it." She held out her hand, faintly perfumed with eau de
Cologne--the whole room smelled of eau de Cologne--and Max stooped his
brittle spine and kissed it. She touched his cheek gently with her other

"My faithful Max, my support."

Louis came smiling with a bunch of violets and pinky anemones. He laid
them down on the bed before her, and took her hand, bowing and kissing it

"You are better, dear Madame?" he said, smiling long at her.

"Better, yes, gentle Louis. And better for thy flowers, chivalric heart."
She put the violets and anemones to her face with both hands, and then
gently laid them aside to extend her hand to Geoffrey.

"The good Geoffrey will do his best, while there is no Kishwégin?" she
said as he stooped to her salute.

"Bien sûr," Madame."

"Ciccio, a button off thy shirt-cuff. Where is my needle?" She looked
round the room as Ciccio kissed her hand.

"Did you want anything?" said Alvina, who had not followed the French.

"My needle, to sew on this button. It is there, in the silk bag."

"I will do it," said Alvina.

"Thank you."

While Alvina sewed on the button, Madame spoke to her young men,
principally to Max. They were to obey Max, she said, for he was their
eldest brother. This afternoon they would practise well the scene of the
White Prisoner. Very carefully they must practise, and they must find
some one who would play the young squaw--for in this scene she had
practically nothing to do, the young squaw, but just sit and stand. Miss
Houghton--but ah, Miss Houghton must play the piano, she could not take
the part of the young squaw. Some other then.

While the interview was going on, Mr. May arrived, full of concern.
"Shan't we have the procession!" he cried.

"Ah, the procession!" cried Madame.

The Natcha-Kee-Tawara Troupe upon request would signalize its entry into
any town by a procession. The young men were dressed as Indian _braves_,
and headed by Kishwégin they rode on horseback through the main streets.
Ciccio, who was the crack horseman, having served a very well-known
horsey Marchese in an Italian cavalry regiment, did a bit of show riding.

Mr. May was very keen on the procession. He had the horses in readiness.
The morning was faintly sunny, after the sleet and bad weather. And now
he arrived to find Madame in bed and the young men holding council with

"How very unfortunate!" cried Mr. May. "How very unfortunate!"

"Dreadful! Dreadful!" wailed Madame from the bed.

"But can't we do _anything?_"

"Yes--you can do the White Prisoner scene--the young men can do that, if
you find a dummy squaw. Ah, I think I must get up after all."

Alvina saw the look of fret and exhaustion in Madame's face.

"Won't you all go downstairs now?" said Alvina. "Mr. Max knows what you
must do."

And she shooed the five men out of the bedroom.

"I must get up. I won't dance. I will be a dummy. But I must be there. It
is too dre-eadful, too dre-eadful!" wailed Madame.

"Don't take any notice of them. They can manage by themselves. Men are
such babies. Let them carry it through by themselves."

"Children--they are all children!" wailed Madame. "All children! And so,
what will they do without their old _gouvernante?_ My poor _braves_, what
will they do without Kishwégin? It is too dreadful, too dre-eadful, yes.
The poor Mr. May--so _disappointed_."

"Then let him be disappointed," cried Alvina, as she forcibly tucked up
Madame and made her lie still.

"You are hard! You are a hard Englishwoman. All alike. All alike!" Madame
subsided fretfully and weakly. Alvina moved softly about. And in a few
minutes Madame was sleeping again.

Alvina went downstairs. Mr. May was listening to Max, who was telling in
German all about the White Prisoner scene. Mr. May had spent his boyhood
in a German school. He cocked his head on one side, and, laying his hand
on Max's arm, entertained him in odd German. The others were silent.
Ciccio made no pretence of listening, but smoked and stared at his own
feet. Louis and Geoffrey half understood, so Louis nodded with a look of
deep comprehension, whilst Geoffrey uttered short, snappy
"Ja!--Ja!--Doch!--Eben!" rather irrelevant.

"I'll be the squaw," cried Mr. May in English, breaking off and turning
round to the company. He perked up his head in an odd, parrot-like
fashion. "_I'll_ be the squaw! What's her name? Kishwégin? I'll be
Kishwégin." And he bridled and beamed self-consciously.

The two tall Swiss looked down on him, faintly smiling. Ciccio, sitting
with his arms on his knees on the sofa, screwed round his head and
watched the phenomenon of Mr. May with inscrutable, expressionless

"Let us go," said Mr. May, bubbling with new importance. "Let us go and
rehearse _this morning_, and let us do the procession this afternoon, when
the colliers are just coming home. There! What? Isn't that exactly the
idea? Well! Will you be ready at once, _now?_"

He looked excitedly at the young men. They nodded with slow gravity, as
if they were already _braves_. And they turned to put on their boots. Soon
they were all trooping down to Lumley, Mr. May prancing like a little
circus-pony beside Alvina, the four young men rolling ahead.

"What do you think of it?" cried Mr. May. "We've saved the
situation--what? Don't you think so? Don't you think we can congratulate

They found Mr. Houghton fussing about in the theatre. He was on
tenterhooks of agitation, knowing Madame was ill.

Max gave a brilliant display of yodelling.

"But I must _explain_ to them," cried Mr. May. "I must _explain_ to them
what yodel means."

And turning to the empty theatre, he began, stretching forth his hand.

"In the high Alps of Switzerland, where eternal snows and glaciers reign
over luscious meadows full of flowers, if you should chance to awaken, as
I have done, in some lonely wooden farm amid the mountain pastures,
you--er--you--let me see--if you--no--if you should chance to _spend the
night_ in some lonely wooden farm, amid the upland pastures, dawn will
awake you with a wild, inhuman song, you will open your eyes to the first
gleam of icy, eternal sunbeams, your ears will be ringing with weird
singing, that has no words and no meaning, but sounds as if some wild and
icy god were warbling to himself as he wandered among the peaks of dawn.
You look forth across the flowers to the blue snow, and you see, far off,
a small figure of a man moving among the grass. It is a peasant singing
his mountain song, warbling like some creature that lifted up its voice
on the edge of the eternal snows, before the human race began--"

During this oration James Houghton sat with his chin in his hand,
devoured with bitter jealousy, measuring Mr. May's eloquence. And then he
started, as Max, tall and handsome now in Tyrolese costume, white shirt
and green, square braces, short trousers of chamois leather stitched with
green and red, firm-planted naked knees, naked ankles and heavy shoes,
warbled his native Yodel strains, a piercing and disturbing sound. He was
flushed, erect, keen tempered and fierce and mountainous. There was a
fierce, icy passion in the man. Alvina began to understand Madame's
subjection to him.

Louis and Geoffrey did a farce dialogue, two foreigners at the same
moment spying a purse in the street, struggling with each other and
protesting they wanted to take it to the policeman, Ciccio, who stood
solid and ridiculous. Mr. Houghton nodded slowly and gravely, as if to
give his measured approval.

Then all retired to dress for the great scene. Alvina practised the music
Madame carried with her. If Madame found a good pianist, she welcomed the
accompaniment: if not, she dispensed with it.

"Am I all right?" said a smirking voice.

And there was Kishwégin, dusky, coy, with long black hair and a short
chamois dress, gaiters and moccasins and bare arms: so coy, and so
smirking. Alvina burst out laughing.

"But shan't I do?" protested Mr. May, hurt.

"Yes, you're wonderful," said Alvina, choking. "But I must laugh."

"But why? Tell me why?" asked Mr. May anxiously "Is it my _appearance_ you
laugh at, or is it only _me_? If it's me I don't mind. But if it's my
appearance, tell me so."

Here an appalling figure of Ciccio in war-paint strolled on to the stage.
He was naked to the waist, wore scalp-fringed trousers, was
dusky-red-skinned, had long black hair and eagle's feathers--only two
feathers--and a face wonderfully and terribly painted with white, red,
yellow, and black lines. He was evidently pleased with himself. His
curious soft slouch, and curious way of lifting his lip from his white
teeth, in a sort of smile, was very convincing.

"You haven't got the girdle," he said, touching Mr. May's plump
waist--"and some flowers in your hair."

Mr. May here gave a sharp cry and a jump. A bear on its hind legs, slow,
shambling, rolling its loose shoulders, was stretching a paw towards him.
The bear dropped heavily on four paws again, and a laugh came from its

"You won't have to dance," said Geoffrey out of the bear.

"Come and put in the flowers," said Mr. May anxiously, to Alvina.

In the dressing-room, the dividing-curtain was drawn. Max, in deerskin
trousers but with unpainted torso looked very white and strange as he put
the last touches of war-paint on Louis' face. He glanced round at Alvina,
then went on with his work. There was a sort of nobility about his erect
white form and stiffly-carried head, the semi-luminous brown hair. He
seemed curiously superior.

Alvina adjusted the maidenly Mr. May. Louis arose, a _brave_ like Ciccio,
in war-paint even more hideous. Max slipped on a tattered hunting-shirt
and cartridge belt. His face was a little darkened. He was the white

They arranged the scenery, while Alvina watched. It was soon done. A back
cloth of tree-trunks and dark forest: a wigwam, a fire, and a cradle
hanging from a pole. As they worked, Alvina tried in vain to dissociate
the two _braves_ from their war-paint. The lines were drawn so cleverly
that the grimace of ferocity was fixed and horrible, so that even in the
quiet work of scene-shifting Louis' stiffish, female grace seemed full of
latent cruelty, whilst Ciccio's more muscular slouch made her feel slue
would not trust him for one single moment. Awful things men were, savage,
cruel, underneath their civilization.

The scene had its beauty. It began with Kishwégin alone at the door of
the wigwam, cooking, listening, giving an occasional push to the hanging
cradle, and, if only Madame were taking the part, crooning an Indian
cradle-song. Enter the _brave_ Louis with his white prisoner, Max, who
has his hands bound to his side. Kishwégin gravely salutes her
husband--the bound prisoner is seated by the fire--Kishwégin serves
food, and asks permission to feed the prisoner. The _brave_ Louis,
hearing a sound, starts up with his bow and arrow. There is a dumb scene
of sympathy between Kishwégin and the prisoner--the prisoner wants his
bonds cut. Re-enter the _brave_ Louis--he is angry with Kishwégin--enter
the _brave_ Ciccio hauling a bear, apparently dead. Kishwégin examines
the bear, Ciccio examines the prisoner. Ciccio tortures the prisoner,
makes him stand, makes him caper unwillingly. Kishwégin swings the
cradle and croons. The men rise once more and bend over the prisoner. As
they do so, there is a muffled roar. The bear is sitting up. Louis
swings round, and at the same moment the bear strikes him down. Ciccio
springs forward and stabs the bear, then closes with it. Kishwégin runs
and cuts the prisoner's bonds. He rises, and stands trying to lift his
numbed and powerless arms, while the bear slowly crushes Ciccio, and
Kishwégin kneels over her husband. The bear drops Ciccio lifeless, and
turns to Kishwégin. At that moment Max manages to kill the bear--he
takes Kishwégin by the hand and kneels with her beside the dead Louis.

It was wonderful how well the men played their different parts. But Mr.
May was a little too frisky as Kishwégin. However, it would do.

Ciccio got dressed as soon as possible, to go and look at the horses
hired for the afternoon procession. Alvina accompanied him, Mr. May and
the others were busy.

"You know I think it's quite wonderful, your scene," she said to Ciccio.

He turned and looked down at her. His yellow, dusky-set eyes rested on
her good-naturedly, without seeing her, his lip curled in a
self-conscious, contemptuous sort of smile.

"Not without Madame," he said, with the slow, half-sneering, stupid
smile. "Without Madame--" he lifted his shoulders and spread his hands
and tilted his brows--"fool's play, you know."

"No," said Alvina. "I think Mr. May is good, considering. What does
Madame _do?_" she asked a little jealously.

"Do?" He looked down at her with the same long, half-sardonic look of his
yellow eyes, like a cat looking casually at a bird which flutters past.
And again he made his shrugging motion. "She does it all, really. The
others--they are nothing--what they are Madame has made them. And now
they think they've done it all, you see. You see, that's it."

"But how has Madame made it all? Thought it out, you mean?"

"Thought it out, yes. And then _done_ it. You should see her dance--ah! You
should see her dance round the bear, when I bring him in! Ah, a beautiful
thing, you know. She claps her hand--" And Ciccio stood still in the
street, with his hat cocked a little on one side, rather common-looking,
and he smiled along his fine nose at Alvina, and he clapped his hands
lightly, and he tilted his eyebrows and his eyelids as if facially he
were imitating a dance, and all the time his lips smiled stupidly. As he
gave a little assertive shake of his head, finishing, there came a great
yell of laughter from the opposite pavement, where a gang of pottery
lasses, in aprons all spattered with grey clay, and hair and boots and
skin spattered with pallid spots, had stood to watch. The girls opposite
shrieked again, for all the world like a gang of grey baboons. Ciccio
turned round and looked at them with a sneer along his nose. They yelled
the louder. And he was horribly uncomfortable, walking there beside
Alvina with his rather small and effeminately-shod feet.

"How stupid they are," said Alvina. "I've got used to them."

"They should be--" he lifted his hand with a sharp, vicious
movement--"_smacked_" he concluded, lowering his hand again. "Who is going
to do it?" said Alvina.

He gave a Neapolitan grimace, and twiddled the fingers of one hand
outspread in the air, as if to say: "There you are! You've got to thank
the fools who've failed to do it."

"Why do you all love Madame so much?" Alvina asked.

"How, love?" he said, making a little grimace. "We like her--we love
her--as if she were a mother. You say _love_--" He raised his shoulders
slightly, with a shrug. And all the time he looked down at Alvina from
under his dusky eye-lashes, as if watching her sideways, and his mouth
had the peculiar, stupid, self-conscious, half-jeering smile. Alvina was
a little bit annoyed. But she felt that a great instinctive
good-naturedness came out of him, he was self-conscious and constrained,
knowing she did not follow his language of gesture. For him, it was not
yet quite natural to express himself in speech. Gesture and grimace were
instantaneous, and spoke worlds of things, if you would but accept them.

But certainly he was stupid, in her sense of the word. She could hear Mr.
May's verdict of him: "Like a child, you know, just as charming and just
as tiresome and just as stupid."

"Where is your home?" she asked him.

"In Italy." She felt a fool.

"Which part?" she insisted.

"Naples," he said, looking down at her sideways, searchingly. "It must be
lovely," she said.

"Ha--!" He threw his head on one side and spread out his hands, as if to
say--"What do you want, if you don't find Naples lovely."

"I should like to see it. But I shouldn't like to die," she said. "What?"

"They say 'See Naples and die,'" she laughed.

He opened his mouth, and understood. Then he smiled at her directly.

"You know what that means?" he said cutely. "It means see Naples and die
afterwards. Don't die _before_ you've seen it." He smiled with a knowing

"I see! I see!" she cried. "I never thought of that."

He was pleased with her surprise and amusement.

"Ah Naples!" he said. "She is lovely--" He spread his hand across the air
in front of him--"The sea--and Posilippo--and Sorrento--and Capri--Ah-h!
You've never been out of England?"

"No," she said. "I should love to go."

He looked down into her eyes. It was his instinct to say at once he would
take her.

"You've seen nothing--nothing," he said to her.

"But if Naples is so lovely, how could you leave it?" she asked. "What?"

She repeated her question. For answer, he looked at her, held out his
hand, and rubbing the ball of his thumb across the tips of his fingers,
said, with a fine, handsome smile:

"Pennies! Money! You can't earn money in Naples. Ah, Naples is beautiful,
but she is poor. You live in the sun, and you earn fourteen, fifteen
pence a day--"

"Not enough," she said.

He put his head on one side and tilted his brows, as if to say "What are
you to do?" And the smile on his mouth was sad, fine, and charming. There
was an indefinable air of sadness or wistfulness about him, something so
robust and fragile at the same time, that she was drawn in a strange way.

"But you'll go back?" she said.


"To Italy. To Naples."

"Yes, I shall go back to Italy," he said, as if unwilling to commit
himself. "But perhaps I shan't go back to Naples."


"Ah, never! I don't say never. I shall go to Naples, to see my mother's
sister. But I shan't go to live--"

"Have you a mother and father?"

"I? No! I have a brother and two sisters--in America. Parents, none. They
are dead."

"And you wander about the world--" she said.

He looked at her, and made a slight, sad gesture, indifferent also. "But
you have Madame for a mother," she said.

He made another gesture this time: pressed down the corners of his mouth
as if he didn't like it. Then he turned with the slow, fine smile.

"Does a man want two mothers? Eh?" he said, as if he posed a conundrum.

"I shouldn't think so," laughed Alvina.

He glanced at her to see what she meant, what she understood. "My mother
is dead, see!" he said. "Frenchwomen--Frenchwomen they have their babies
till they are a hundred--"

"What do you mean?" said Alvina, laughing.

"A Frenchman is a little man when he's seven years old--and if his mother
comes, he is a little baby boy when he's seventy. Do you know that?"

"I _didn't_ know it," said Alvina.

"But now--you do," he said, lurching round a corner with her.

They had come to the stables. Three of the horses were there, including
the thoroughbred Ciccio was going to ride. He stood and examined the
beasts critically. Then he spoke to them with strange sounds, patted
them, stroked them down, felt them, slid his hand down them, over them,
under them, and felt their legs.

Then, he looked up from stooping there under the horses, with a long,
slow look of his yellow eyes, at Alvina. She felt unconsciously
flattered. His long, yellow look lingered, holding her eyes. She wondered
what he was thinking. Yet he never spoke. He turned again to the horses.
They seemed to understand him, to prick up alert.

"This is mine," he said, with his hand on the neck of the old
thoroughbred. It was a bay with a white blaze.

"I think he's nice," she said. "He seems so sensitive."

"In England," he answered suddenly, "horses live a long time, because
they _don't_ live--never alive--see? In England railway-engines are alive,
and horses go on wheels." He smiled into her eyes as if she understood.
She was a trifle nervous as he smiled at her from out of the stable, so
yellow-eyed and half-mysterious, derisive. Her impulse was to turn and go
away from the stable. But a deeper impulse made her smile into his face,
as she said to him:

"They like you to touch them."

"Who?" His eyes kept hers. Curious how _dark_ they seemed, with only a
yellow ring of pupil. He was looking right into her, beyond her usual
self, impersonal.

"The horses," she said. She was afraid of his long, cat-like look. Yet
she felt convinced of his ultimate good-nature. He seemed to her to be
the only passionately good-natured man she had ever seen. She watched him
vaguely, with strange vague trust, implicit belief in him. In him--in

That afternoon the colliers trooping home in the winter afternoon were
rejoiced with a spectacle: Kishwégin, in her deerskin, fringed gaiters
and fringed frock of deerskin, her long hair down her back, and with
marvellous cloths and trappings on her steed, riding astride on a tall
white horse, followed by Max in chieftain's robes and chieftain's long
head-dress of dyed feathers, then by the others in war-paint and feathers
and brilliant Navajo blankets. They carried bows and spears. Ciccio was
without his blanket, naked to the waist, in war-paint, and brandishing a
long spear. He dashed up from the rear, saluted the chieftain with his
arm and his spear on high as he swept past, suddenly drew up his rearing
steed, and trotted slowly back again, making his horse perform its paces.
He was extraordinarily velvety and alive on horseback.

Crowds of excited, shouting children ran chattering along the pavements.
The colliers, as they tramped grey and heavy, in an intermittent stream
uphill from the low grey west, stood on the pavement in wonder as the
cavalcade approached and passed, jingling the silver bells of its
trappings, vibrating the wonderful colours of the barred blankets and
saddle cloths, the scarlet wool of the accoutrements, the bright tips of
feathers. Women shrieked as Ciccio, in his war-paint, wheeled near the
pavement. Children screamed and ran. The colliers shouted. Ciccio smiled
in his terrifying war-paint, brandished his spear and trotted softly,
like a flower on its stem, round to the procession.

Miss Pinnegar and Alvina and James Houghton had come round into
Knarborough Road to watch. It was a great moment. Looking along the road
they saw all the shop-keepers at their doors, the pavements eager. And
then, in the distance, the white horse jingling its trappings of scarlet
hair and bells, with the dusky Kishwégin sitting on the saddle-blanket of
brilliant, lurid stripes, sitting impassive and all dusky above that
intermittent flashing of colour: then the chieftain, dark-faced, erect,
easy, swathed in a white blanket, with scarlet and black stripes, and all
his strange crest of white, tip-dyed feathers swaying down his back: as
he came nearer one saw the wolfskin and the brilliant moccasins against
the black sides of his horse: Louis and Geoffrey followed, lurid, horrid
in the face, wearing blankets with stroke after stroke of blazing colour
upon their duskiness, and sitting stern, holding their spears: lastly,
Ciccio, on his bay horse with a green seat, flickering hither and thither
in the rear, his feathers swaying, his horse sweating, his face ghastlily
smiling in its war-paint. So they advanced down the grey pallor of
Knarborough Road, in the late wintry afternoon. Somewhere the sun was
setting, and far overhead was a flush of orange.

"Well I never!" murmured Miss Pinnegar. "Well I never!"

The strange savageness of the striped Navajo blankets seemed to her
unsettling, advancing down Knarborough Road: she examined Kishwégin

"Can you _believe_ that that's Mr. May--he's exactly like a girl. Well,
well--it makes you wonder what is and what isn't. But aren't they good?
What? Most striking. Exactly like Indians. You can't believe your eyes.
My word what a terrifying race they--" Here she uttered a scream and ran
back clutching the wall as Ciccio swept past, brushing her with his
horse's tail, and actually swinging his spear so as to touch Alvina and
James Houghton lightly with the butt of it. James too started with a cry,
the mob at the corner screamed. But Alvina caught the slow, mischievous
smile as the painted horror showed his teeth in passing; she was able to
flash back an excited laugh. She felt his yellow-tawny eyes linger on
her, in that one second, as if negligently.

"I call that too much!" Miss Pinnegar was crying, thoroughly upset. "Now
that was unnecessary! Why it was enough to scare one to death. Besides,
it's dangerous. It ought to be put a stop to. I don't believe in letting
these show-people have liberties."

The cavalcade was slowly passing, with its uneasy horses and its flare of
striped colour and its silent riders. Ciccio was trotting softly back, on
his green saddle-cloth, suave as velvet, his dusky, naked torso

"Eh, you'd think he'd get his death," the women in the crowd were saying.

"A proper savage one, that. Makes your blood run cold--"

"Ay, an' a man for all that, take's painted face for what's worth. A
tidy man, I say."

He did not look at Alvina. The faint, mischievous smile uncovered his
teeth. He fell in suddenly behind Geoffrey, with a jerk of his steed,
calling out to Geoffrey in Italian.

It was becoming cold. The cavalcade fell into a trot, Mr. May shaking
rather badly. Ciccio halted, rested his lance against a lamp-post,
switched his green blanket from beneath him, flung it round him as he
sat, and darted off. They had all disappeared over the brow of Lumley
Hill, descending. He was gone too. In the wintry twilight the crowd
began, lingeringly, to turn away. And in some strange way, it manifested
its disapproval of the spectacle: as grown-up men and women, they were a
little bit insulted by such a show. It was an anachronism. They wanted a
direct appeal to the mind. Miss Pinnegar expressed it.

"Well," she said, when she was safely back in Manchester House, with the
gas lighted, and as she was pouring the boiling water into the tea-pot,
"You may say what you like. It's interesting in a way, just to show what
savage Red-Indians were like. But it's childish. It's only childishness.
I can't understand, myself, how people can go on liking shows. Nothing
happens. It's not like the cinema, where you see it all and take it all
in at once; you know everything at a glance. You don't know anything by
looking at these people. You know they're only men dressed up, for money.
I can't see why you should encourage it. I don't hold with idle
show-people, parading round, I don't, myself. I like to go to the cinema
once a week. It's instruction, you take it all in at a glance, all you
need to know, and it lasts you for a week. You can get to know everything
about people's actual lives from the cinema. I don't see why you want
people dressing up and showing off."

They sat down to their tea and toast and marmalade, during this harangue.
Miss Pinnegar was always like a douche of cold water to Alvina, bringing
her back to consciousness after a delicious excitement. In a minute
Madame and Ciccio and all seemed to become unreal--the actual
unrealities: while the ragged dithering pictures of the film were actual,
real as the day. And Alvina was always put out when this happened. She
really hated Miss Pinnegar. Yet she had nothing to answer. They were
unreal, Madame and Ciccio and the rest. Ciccio was just a fantasy blown
in on the wind, to blow away again. The real, permanent thing was
Woodhouse, the _semper idem_ Knarborough Road, and the unchangeable grubby
gloom of Manchester House, with the stuffy, padding Miss Pinnegar, and
her father, whose fingers, whose very soul seemed dirty with pennies.
These were the solid, permanent fact. These were life itself. And Ciccio,
splashing up on his bay horse and green cloth, he was a mountebank and an
extraneous nonentity, a coloured old rag blown down the Knarborough Road
into Limbo. Into Limbo. Whilst Miss Pinnegar and her father sat frowstily
on for ever, eating their toast and cutting off the crust, and sipping
their third cup of tea. They would never blow away--never, never.
Woodhouse was there to eternity. And the Natcha-Kee-Tawara Troupe was
blowing like a rag of old paper into Limbo. Nothingness! Poor Madame!
Poor gallant histrionic Madame! The frowsy Miss Pinnegar could crumple
her up and throw her down the utilitarian drain, and have done with her.
Whilst Miss Pinnegar lived on for ever.

This put Alvina into a sharp temper.

"Miss Pinnegar," she said. "I do think you go on in the most unattractive
way sometimes. You're a regular spoil-sport."

"Well," said Miss Pinnegar tartly. "I don't approve of your way of sport,
I'm afraid."

"You can't disapprove of it as much as I hate your spoil-sport
existence," said Alvina in a flare.

"Alvina, are you mad!" said her father.

"Wonder I'm not," said Alvina, "considering what my life is."


Madame did not pick up her spirits, after her cold. For two days she lay
in bed, attended by Mrs. Rollings and Alvina and the young men. But she
was most careful never to give any room for scandal. The young men might
not approach her save in the presence of some third party. And then it
was strictly a visit of ceremony or business.

"Oh, your Woodhouse, how glad I shall be when I have left it," she said
to Alvina. "I feel it is unlucky for me."

"Do you?" said Alvina. "But if you'd had this bad cold in some places,
you might have been much worse, don't you think."

"Oh my dear!" cried Madame. "Do you think I could confuse you in my
dislike of this Woodhouse? Oh no! You are not Woodhouse. On the contrary,
I think it is unkind for you also, this place. You look--also--what shall I
say--thin, not very happy."

It was a note of interrogation.

"I'm sure I dislike Woodhouse much more than you can," replied Alvina.

"I am sure. Yes! I am sure. I see it. Why don't you go away? Why don't
you marry?"

"Nobody wants to marry me," said Alvina.

Madame looked at her searchingly, with shrewd black eyes under her arched

"How!" she exclaimed. "How don't they? You are not bad looking, only a
little too thin--too haggard--"

She watched Alvina. Alvina laughed uncomfortably.

"Is there _nobody?_" persisted Madame.

"Not now," said Alvina. "Absolutely nobody." She looked with a confused
laugh into Madame's strict black eyes. "You see I didn't care for the
Woodhouse young men, either. I _couldn't_."

Madame nodded slowly up and down. A secret satisfaction came over her
pallid, waxy countenance, in which her black eyes were like twin swift
extraneous creatures: oddly like two bright little dark animals in the

"Sure!" she said, sapient. "Sure! How could you? But there are other men
besides these here--" She waved her hand to the window. "I don't meet
them, do I?" said Alvina.

"No, not often. But sometimes! sometimes!"

There was a silence between the two women, very pregnant. "Englishwomen,"
said Madame, "are so practical. Why are they?"

"I suppose they can't help it," said Alvina. "But they're not half so
practical and clever as _you_, Madame."

"Oh la--la! I am practical differently. I am practical im-practically--"
she stumbled over the words. "But your Sue now, in Jude the Obscure--is
it not an interesting book? And is she not always too prac-tically
practical. If she had been impractically practical she could have been
quite happy. Do you know what I mean?--no. But she is ridiculous. Sue: so
Anna Karénine. Ridiculous both. Don't you think?"

"Why?" said Alvina.

"Why did they both make everybody unhappy, when they had the man they
wanted, and enough money? I think they are both so silly. If they had
been beaten, they would have lost all their practical ideas and troubles,
merely forgot them, and been happy enough. I am a woman who says it. Such
ideas they have are not tragical. No, not at all. They are nonsense, you
see, nonsense. That is all. Nonsense. Sue and Anna, they
are--non-sensical. That is all. No tragedy whatsoever. Nonsense. I am a
woman. I know men also. And I know nonsense when I see it. Englishwomen
are all nonsense: the worst women in the world for nonsense."

"Well, I am English," said Alvina.

"Yes, my dear, you are English. But you are not necessarily so
nonsensical. Why are you at all?"

"Nonsensical?" laughed Alvina. "But I don't know what you call my

"Ah," said Madame wearily. "They never understand. But I like you, my
dear. I am an old woman--"

"Younger than I," said Alvina.

"Younger than you, because I am practical from the heart, and not only
from the head. You are not practical from the heart. And yet you have a

"But all Englishwomen have good hearts," protested Alvina.

"No! No!" objected Madame. "They are all ve-ry kind, and ve-ry practical
with their kindness. But they have no heart in all their kindness. It is
all head, all head: the kindness of the head."

"I can't agree with you," said Alvina.

"No. No. I don't expect it. But I don't mind. You are very kind to me,
and I thank you. But it is from the head, you see. And so I thank you
from the head. From the heart--no."

Madame plucked her white fingers together and laid them on her breast
with a gesture of repudiation. Her black eyes stared spitefully.

"But Madame," said Alvina, nettled, "I should never be half such a good
business woman as you. Isn't that from the head?"

"Ha! Of course! Of course you wouldn't be a good business woman. Because
you are kind from the head. I--" she tapped her forehead and shook her
head--"I am not kind from the head. From the head I am business-woman,
good business-woman. Of course I am a good business-woman--of course!
But--" here she changed her expression, widened her eyes, and laid her
hand on her breast--"when the heart speaks--then I listen with the heart.
I do not listen with the head. The heart hears the heart. The head--that
is another thing. But you have blue eyes, you cannot understand. Only
dark eyes--" She paused and mused.

"And what about yellow eyes?" asked Alvina, laughing.

Madame darted a look at her, her lips curling with a very faint, fine
smile of derision. Yet for the first time her black eyes dilated and
became warm.

"Yellow eyes like Ciccio's?" she said, with her great watchful eyes and
her smiling, subtle mouth. "They are the darkest of all." And she shook
her head roguishly.

"Are they!" said Alvina confusedly, feeling a blush burning up her throat
into her face.

"Ha--ha!" laughed Madame. "Ha-ha! I am an old woman, you see. My heart is
old enough to be kind, and my head is old enough to be clever. My heart
is kind to few people--very few--especially in this England. My young men
know that. But perhaps to you it is kind."

"Thank you," said Alvina.

"There! From the head _Thank you_. It is not well done, you see. You see!"

But Alvina ran away in confusion. She felt Madame was having her on a

Mr. May enjoyed himself hugely playing Kishwégin. When Madame came
downstairs Louis, who was a good satirical mimic, imitated him. Alvina
happened to come into their sitting-room in the midst of their bursts of
laughter. They all stopped and looked at her cautiously.

"Continuez! Continuez!" said Madame to Louis. And to Alvina: "Sit down,
my dear, and see what a good actor we have in our Louis."

Louis glanced round, laid his head a little on one side and drew in his
chin, with Mr. May's smirk exactly, and wagging his tail slightly, he
commenced to play the false Kishwégin. He sidled and bridled and
ejaculated with raised hands, and in the dumb show the tall Frenchman
made such a ludicrous caricature of Mr. Houghton's manager that Madame
wept again with laughter, whilst Max leaned back against the wall and
giggled continuously like some pot involuntarily boiling. Geoffrey spread
his shut fists across the table and shouted with laughter, Ciccio threw
back his head and showed all his teeth in a loud laugh of delighted
derision. Alvina laughed also. But she flushed. There was a certain
biting, annihilating quality in Louis' derision of the absentee. And the
others enjoyed it so much. At moments Alvina caught her lip between her
teeth, it was so screamingly funny, and so annihilating. She laughed in
spite of herself. In spite of herself she was shaken into a convulsion of
laughter. Louis was masterful--he mastered her psyche. She laughed till
her head lay helpless on the chair, she could not move. Helpless, inert
she lay, in her orgasm of laughter. The end of Mr. May. Yet she was hurt.

And then Madame wiped her own shrewd black eyes, and nodded slow
approval. Suddenly Louis started and held up a warning finger. They all
at once covered their smiles and pulled themselves together. Only Alvina
lay silently laughing.

"Oh, good morning, Mrs. Rollings!" they heard Mr. May's voice. "Your
company is lively. Is Miss Houghton here? May I go through?" They heard
his quick little step and his quick little tap.

"Come in," called Madame.

The Natcha-Kee-Tawaras all sat with straight faces. Only poor Alvina lay
back in her chair in a new weak convulsion. Mr. May glanced quickly
round, and advanced to Madame.

"Oh, good-morning, Madame, so glad to see you downstairs," he said,
taking her hand and bowing ceremoniously. "Excuse my intruding on your
mirth!" He looked archly round. Alvina was still incompetent. She lay
leaning sideways in her chair, and could not even speak to him.

"It was evidently a good joke," he said. "May I hear it too?"

"Oh," said Madame, drawling. "It was no joke. It was only Louis making a
fool of himself, doing a turn."

"Must have been a good one," said Mr. May. "Can't we put it on?"

"No," drawled Madame, "it was nothing--just a nonsensical mood of the
moment. Won't you sit down? You would like a little whiskey?--yes?"

Max poured out whiskey and water for Mr. May.

Alvina sat with her face averted, quiet, but unable to speak to Mr. May.
Max and Louis had become polite. Geoffrey stared with his big, dark-blue
eyes stolidly at the newcomer. Ciccio leaned with his arms on his knees,
looking sideways under his long lashes at the inert Alvina.

"Well," said Madame, "and are you satisfied with your houses?"

"Oh yes," said Mr. May. "Quite! The two nights have been excellent.

"Ah--I am glad. And Miss Houghton tells me I should not dance tomorrow,
it is too soon."

"Miss Houghton _knows_," said Mr. May archly.

"Of course!" said Madame. "I must do as she tells me."

"Why yes, since it is for your good, and not hers."

"Of course! Of course! It is very kind of her."

"Miss Houghton is _most_ kind--to _every one_," said Mr. May.

"I am sure," said Madame. "And I am very glad you have been such a good
Kishwégin. That is very nice also."

"Yes," replied Mr. May. "I begin to wonder if I have mistaken my
vocation. I should have been _on_ the boards, instead of behind them."

"No doubt," said Madame. "But it is a little late--"

The eyes of the foreigners, watching him, flattered Mr. May.

"I'm afraid it is," he said. "Yes. Popular taste is a mysterious thing.
How do you feel, now? Do you feel they appreciate your work as much as
they did?"

Madame watched him with her black eyes.

"No," she replied. "They don't. The pictures are driving us away. Perhaps
we shall last for ten years more. And after that, we are finished."

"You think so," said Mr. May, looking serious.

"I am sure," she said, nodding sagely.

"But why is it?" said Mr. May, angry and petulant.

"Why is it? I don't know. I don't know. The pictures are cheap, and they
are easy, and they cost the audience nothing, no feeling of the heart, no
appreciation of the spirit, cost them nothing of these. And so they like
them, and they don't like us, because they must _feel_ the things we do,
from the heart, and appreciate them from the spirit. There!"

"And they don't want to appreciate and to feel?" said Mr. May.

"No. They don't want. They want it all through the eye, and finished--so!
Just curiosity, impertinent curiosity. That's all. In all countries, the
same. And so--in ten years' time--no more Kishwégin at all."

"No. Then what future have you?" said Mr. May gloomily.

"I may be dead--who knows. If not, I shall have my little apartment in
Lausanne, or in Bellizona, and I shall be a bourgeoise once more, and the
good Catholic which I am."

"Which I am also," said Mr. May.

"So! Are you? An American Catholic?"



Mr. May never felt more gloomy in his life than he did that day. Where,
finally, was he to rest his troubled head?

There was not all peace in the Natcha-Kee-Tawara group either. For
Thursday, there was to be a change of program--"Kishwégin's Wedding--"
(with the white prisoner, be it said)--was to take the place of the
previous scene. Max of course was the director of the rehearsal. Madame
would not come near the theatre when she herself was not to be acting.

Though very quiet and unobtrusive as a rule, Max could suddenly assume an
air of _hauteur_ and overbearing which was really very annoying. Geoffrey
always fumed under it. But Ciccio it put into unholy, ungovernable
tempers. For Max, suddenly, would reveal his contempt of the Eyetalian,
as he called Ciccio, using the Cockney word.

"Bah! quelle tête de veau," said Max, suddenly contemptuous and angry
because Ciccio, who really was slow at taking in the things said to him,
had once more failed to understand.

"Comment?" queried Ciccio, in his slow, derisive way.

"_Comment_." sneered sneered Max, in echo. "_What? What_? Why what _did_ I
say? Calf's-head I said. Pig's-head, if that seems more suitable to you."

"To whom? To me or to you?" said Ciccio, sidling up.

"To you, lout of an Italian."

Max's colour was up, he held himself erect, his brown hair seemed to rise
erect from his forehead, his blue eyes glared fierce.

"That is to say, to me, from an uncivilized German pig, ah? ah?"

All this in French. Alvina, as she sat at the piano, saw Max tall and
blanched with anger; Ciccio with his neck stuck out, oblivious and
convulsed with rage, stretching his neck at Max. All were in ordinary
dress, but without coats, acting in their shirt-sleeves. Ciccio was
clutching a property knife.

"Now! None of that! None of that!" said Mr. May, peremptory. But Ciccio,
stretching forward taut and immobile with rage, was quite unconscious.
His hand was fast on his stage knife.

"A dirty Eyetalian," said Max, in English, turning to Mr. May. "They
understand nothing."

But the last word was smothered in Ciccio's spring and stab. Max half
started on to his guard, received the blow on his collar-bone, near the
pommel of the shoulder, reeled round on top of Mr. May, whilst Ciccio
sprang like a cat down from the stage and bounded across the theatre and
out of the door, leaving the knife rattling on the boards behind him. Max
recovered and sprang like a demon, white with rage, straight out into the
theatre after him.

"Stop--stop--!" cried Mr. May.

"Hake, Max! Max, Max, attends!" cried Louis and Geoffrey, as Louis sprang
down after his friend. Thud went the boards again, with the spring of a

Alvina, who had been seated waiting at the piano below, started up and
overturned her chair as Ciccio rushed past her. Now Max, white, with set
blue eyes, was upon her.

"Don't--!" she cried, lifting her hand to stop his progress. He saw her,
swerved, and hesitated, turned to leap over the seats and avoid her, when
Louis caught him and flung his arms round him.

"Max--attends, ami! Laisse le partir. Max, to sais que je t'aime. Tu le
sais, ami. Tu le sais. Laisse le patir."

Max and Louis wrestled together in the gangway, Max looking down with
hate on his friend. But Louis was determined also, he wrestled as
fiercely as Max, and at last the latter began to yield. He was panting
and beside himself. Louis still held him by the hand and by the arm.

"Let him go, brother, he isn't worth it. What does he understand, Max,
dear brother, what does he understand? These fellows from the south, they
are half children, half animal. They don't know what they are doing. Has
he hurt you, dear friend? Has he hurt you? It was a dummy knife, but it
was a heavy blow--the dog of an Italian. Let us see."

So gradually Max was brought to stand still. From under the edge of his
waistcoat, on the shoulder, the blood was already staining the shirt.
"Are you cut, brother, brother?" said Louis. "Let us see."

Max now moved his arm with pain. They took off his waistcoat and pushed
back his shirt. A nasty blackening wound, with the skin broken. "If the
bone isn't broken!" said Louis anxiously. "If the bone isn't broken! Lift
thy arm, frére--lift. It hurts you--so--No--no--it is not broken--no--the
bone is not broken."

"There is no bone broken, I know," said Max.

"The animal. He hasn't done _that_, at least."

"Where do you imagine he's gone?" asked Mr. May.

The foreigners shrugged their shoulders, and paid no heed. There was no
more rehearsal.

"We had best go home and speak to Madame," said Mr. May, who was very
frightened for his evening performance.

They locked up the Endeavour. Alvina was thinking of Ciccio. He was gone
in his shirt sleeves. She had taken his jacket and hat from the
dressing-room at the back, and carried them under her rain-coat, which
she had on her arm.

Madame was in a state of perturbation. She had heard some one come in at
the back, and go upstairs, and go out again. Mrs. Rollings had told her
it was the Italian, who had come in in his shirt-sleeves and gone out in
his black coat and black hat, taking his bicycle, without saying a word.
Poor Madame! She was struggling into her shoes, she had her hat on, when
the others arrived.

"What is it?" she cried.

She heard a hurried explanation from Louis.

"Ah, the animal, the animal, he wasn't worth all my pains!" cried poor
Madame, sitting with one shoe off and one shoe on. "Why, Max, why didst
thou not remain man enough to control that insulting mountain temper of
thine. Have I not said, and said, and said that in the Natcha-Kee-Tawara
there was but one nation, the Red Indian, and but one tribe, the tribe of
Kishwe? And now thou hast called him a dirty Italian, or a dog of an
Italian, and he has behaved like an animal. Too much, too much of an
animal, too little _esprit_." But thou, Max, art almost as bad. Thy temper
is a devil's, which maybe is worse than an animal's. Ah, this Woodhouse,
a curse is on it, I know it is. Would we were away from it. Will the week
never pass? We shall have to find Ciccio. Without him the company is
ruined--until I get a substitute. I must get a substitute. And how?--and
where?--in this country?--tell me that. I am tired of Natcha-Kee-Tawara.
There is no true tribe of Kishwe--no, never. I have had enough of
Natcha-Kee-Tawara. Let us break up, let us part, my braves, let us say
adieu here in this _funeste_ Woodhouse."

"Oh, Madame, dear Madame," said Louis, "let us hope. Let us swear a
closer fidelity, dear Madame, our Kishwégin. Let us never part. Max, thou
dost not want to part, brother, well-loved? Thou dost not want to part,
brother whom I love? And thou, Geoffrey, thou--"

Madame burst into tears, Louis wept too, even Max turned aside his face,
with tears. Alvina stole out of the room, followed by Mr. May. In a while
Madame came out to them.

"Oh," she said. "You have not gone away! We are wondering which way
Ciccio will have gone, on to Knarborough or to Marchay. Geoffrey will go
on his bicycle to find him. But shall it be to Knarborough or to

"Ask the policeman in the market-place," said Alvina. "He's sure to have
noticed him, because Ciccio's yellow bicycle is so uncommon."

Mr. May tripped out on this errand, while the others discussed among
themselves where Ciccio might be.

Mr. May returned, and said that Ciccio had ridden off down the
Knarborough Road. It was raining slightly.

"Ah!" said Madame. "And now how to find him, in that great town. I am
afraid he will leave us without pity."

"Surely he will want to speak to Geoffrey before he goes," said Louis.
"They were always good friends."

They all looked at Geoffrey. He shrugged his broad shoulders. "Always
good friends," he said. "Yes. He will perhaps wait for me at his cousin's
in Battersea." In Knarborough, I don't know."

"How much money had he?" asked Mr. May.

Madame spread her hands and lifted her shoulders.

"Who knows?" she said.

"These Italians," said Louis, turning to Mr. May. "They have always
money. In another country, they will not spend one sou if they can help.
They are like this--" And he made the Neapolitan gesture drawing in the
air with his fingers.

"But would he abandon you all without a word?" cried Mr. May. "Yes! Yes!"
said Madame, with a sort of stoic pathos. "_He_ would. He alone would do
such a thing. But he would do it."

"And what point would he make for?"

"What point? You mean where would he go? To Battersea, no doubt, to his
cousin--and then to Italy, if he thinks he has saved enough money to buy
land, or whatever it is."

"And so good-bye to him," said Mr. May bitterly.

"Geoffrey ought to know," said Madame, looking at Geoffrey. Geoffrey
shrugged his shoulders, and would not give his comrade away.

"No," he said. "I don't know. He will leave a message at Battersea, I
know. But I don't know if he will go to Italy."

"And you don't know where to find him in Knarborough?" asked Mr. May,
sharply, very much on the spot.

"No--I don't. Perhaps at the station he will go by train to London." It
was evident Geoffrey was not going to help Mr. May.

"Alors!" said Madame, cutting through this futility. "Go thou to
Knarborough, Geoffrey, and see--and be back at the theatre for work. Go
now. And if thou can'st find him, bring him again to us. Tell him to come
out of kindness to me. Tell him."

And she waved the young man away. He departed on his nine mile ride
through the rain to Knarborough.

"They know," said Madame. "They know each other's places. It is a little
more than a year since we came to Knarborough. But they will remember."

Geoffrey rode swiftly as possible through the mud. He did not care very
much whether he found his friend or not. He liked the Italian, but he
never looked on him as a permanency. He knew Ciccio was dissatisfied, and
wanted a change. He knew that Italy was pulling him away from the troupe,
with which he had been associated now for three years or more. And the
Swiss from Martigny knew that the Neapolitan would go, breaking all ties,
one day suddenly back to Italy. It was so, and Geoffrey was philosophical
about it.

He rode into town, and the first thing he did was to seek out the
music-hall artistes at their lodgings. He knew a good many of them. They
gave him a welcome and a whiskey--but none of them had seen Ciccio. They
sent him off to other artistes, other lodging-houses. He went the round
of associates known and unknown, of lodgings strange and familiar, of
third-rate possible public houses. Then he went to the Italians down in
the Marsh--he knew these people always ask for one another. And then,
hurrying, he dashed to the Midland Station, and then to the Great Central
Station, asking the porters on the London departure platform if they had
seen his pal, a man with a yellow bicycle, and a black bicycle cape. All
to no purpose.

Geoffrey hurriedly lit his lamp and swung off in the dark back to
Woodhouse. He was a powerfully built, imperturbable fellow. He pressed
slowly uphill through the streets, then ran downhill into the darkness of
the industrial country. He had continually to cross the new tram-lines,
which were awkward, and he had occasionally to dodge the
brilliantly-illuminated tram-cars which threaded their way across-country
through so much darkness. All the time it rained, and his back wheel
slipped under him, in the mud and on the new tram-track.

As he pressed in the long darkness that lay between Slaters Mill and
Durbeyhouses, he saw a light ahead--another cyclist. He moved to his side
of the road. The light approached very fast. It was a strong acetylene
flare. He watched it. A flash and a splash and he saw the humped back of
what was probably Ciccio going by at a great pace on the low racing

"Hi Cic'--! Ciccio!" he yelled, dropping off his own bicycle.

"Ha-er-er!" he heard the answering shout, unmistakably Italian, way down
the darkness.

He turned--saw the other cyclist had stopped. The flare swung round, and
Ciccio softly rode up. He dropped off beside Geoffrey. "Toi!" said

"Hé! Où vas-tu?"

"Hé!" ejaculated Ciccio.

Their conversation consisted a good deal in noises variously ejaculated.

"Coming back?" asked Geoffrey.

"Where've you been?" retorted Ciccio.

"Knarborough--looking for thee. Where have you--?"

"Buckled my front wheel at Durbeyhouses."

"Come off?"




"Max is all right."


"Come on, come back with me."

"Nay." Ciccio shook his head.

"Madame's crying. Wants thee to come back."

Ciccio shook his head.

"Come on, Cic'--" said Geoffrey.

Ciccio shook his head.

"Never?" said Geoffrey.

"Basta--had enough," said Ciccio, with an invisible grimace. "Come for a
bit, and we'll clear together."

Ciccio again shook his head.

"What, is it adieu?"

Ciccio did not speak.

"Don't go, comrade," said Geoffrey.

"Faut," said Ciccio, slightly derisive.

"Eh alors! I'd like to come with thee. What?"


"Doesn't matter. Thou'rt going to Italy?"

"Who knows!--seems so."

"I'd like to go back."

"Eh alors!" Ciccio half veered round.

"Wait for me a few days," said Geoffrey.


"See you tomorrow in Knarborough. Go to Mrs. Pym's, Hampden Street.
Gittiventi is there. Right, eh?"

"I'll think about it."

"Eleven o'clock, eh?"

"I'll think about it."

"Friends ever--Ciccio--eh?" Geoffrey held out his hand.

Ciccio slowly took it. The two men leaned to each other and kissed
farewell, on either cheek.

"Tomorrow, Cic'--"

"Au revoir, Gigi."

Ciccio dropped on to his bicycle and was gone in a breath. Geoffrey
waited a moment for a tram which was rushing brilliantly up to him in the
rain. Then he mounted and rode in the opposite direction. He went
straight down to Lumley, and Madame had to remain on tenterhooks till ten

She heard the news, and said:

"Tomorrow I go to fetch him." And with this she went to bed.

In the morning she was up betimes, sending a note to Alvina. Alvina
appeared at nine o'clock.

"You will come with me?" said Madame. "Come. Together we will go to
Knarborough and bring back the naughty Ciccio. Come with me, because I
haven't all my strength. Yes, you will? Good! Good! Let us tell the young
men, and we will go now, on the tram-car."

"But I am not properly dressed," said Alvina.

"Who will see?" said Madame. "Come, let us go."

They told Geoffrey they would meet him at the corner of Hampden Street at
five minutes to eleven.

"You see," said Madame to Alvina, "they are very funny, these young men,
particularly Italians. You must never let them think you have caught
them. Perhaps he will not let us see him--who knows? Perhaps he will go
off to Italy all the same."

They sat in the bumping tram-car, a long and wearying journey. And then
they tramped the dreary, hideous streets of the manufacturing town. At
the corner of the street they waited for Geoffrey, who rode up muddily on
his bicycle.

"Ask Ciccio to come out to us, and we will go and drink coffee at the
Geisha Restaurant--or tea or something," said Madame.

Again the two women waited wearily at the street-end. At last Geoffrey
returned, shaking his head.

"He won't come?" cried Madame.


"He says he is going back to Italy?"

"To London."

"It is the same. You can never trust them. Is he quite obstinate?"
Geoffrey lifted his shoulders. Madame could see the beginnings of
defection in him too. And she was tired and dispirited.

"We shall have to finish the Natcha-Kee-Tawara, that is all," she said

Geoffrey watched her stolidly, impassively.

"Dost thou want to go with him?" she asked suddenly.

Geoffrey smiled sheepishly, and his colour deepened. But he did not

"Go then--" she said. "Go then! Go with him! But for the sake of my
honour, finish this week at Woodhouse. Can I make Miss Houghton's father
lose these two nights? Where is your shame? Finish this week and then go,
go--But finish this week. Tell Francesco that. I have finished with him.
But let him finish this engagement. Don't put me to shame, don't destroy
my honour, and the honour of the Natcha-Kee-Tawara. Tell him that."

Geoffrey turned again into the house. Madame, in her chic little black
hat and spotted veil, and her trim black coat-and-skirt, stood there at
the street-corner staring before her, shivering a little with cold, but
saying no word of any sort.

Again Geoffrey appeared out of the doorway. His face was impassive.

"He says he doesn't want," he said.

"Ah!" she cried suddenly in French, "the ungrateful, the animal! He shall
suffer. See if he shall not suffer. The low canaille, without faith or
feeling. My Max, thou wert right. Ah, such canaille should be beaten, as
dogs are beaten, till they follow at heel. Will no one beat him for me,
no one? Yes. Go back. Tell him before he leaves England he shall feel the
hand of Kishwégin, and it shall be heavier than the Black Hand. Tell him
that, the coward, that causes a woman's word to be broken against her
will. Ah, canaille, canaille! Neither faith nor feeling, neither faith
nor feeling. Trust them not, dogs of the south." She took a few agitated
steps down the pavement. Then she raised her veil to wipe away her tears
of anger and bitter disappointment.

"Wait a bit," said Alvina. "I'll go." She was touched.

"No. Don't you!" cried Madame.

"Yes I will," she said. The light of battle was in her eyes. "You'll come
with me to the door," she said to Geoffrey.

Geoffrey started obediently, and led the way up a long narrow stair,
covered with yellow-and-brown oilcloth, rather worn, on to the top of the

"Ciccio," he said, outside the door.

"Oui!" came the curly voice of Ciccio.

Geoffrey opened the door. Ciccio was sitting on a narrow bed, in a rather
poor attic, under the steep slope of the roof.

"Don't come in," said Alvina to Geoffrey, looking over her shoulder at
him as she entered. Then she closed the door behind her, and stood with
her back to it, facing the Italian. He sat loose on the bed, a cigarette
between his fingers, dropping ash on the bare boards between his feet. He
looked up curiously at Alvina. She stood watching him with wide, bright
blue eyes, smiling slightly, and saying nothing. He looked up at her
steadily, on his guard, from under his long black lashes.

"Won't you come?" she said, smiling and looking into his eyes. He flicked
off the ash of his cigarette with his little finger. She wondered why he
wore the nail of his little finger so long, so very long. Still she
smiled at him, and still he gave no sign.

"Do come!" she urged, never taking her eyes from him.

He made not the slightest movement, but sat with his hands dropped
between his knees, watching her, the cigarette wavering up its blue
thread of smoke.

"Won't you?" she said, as she stood with her back to the door. "Won't you
come?" She smiled strangely and vividly.

Suddenly she took a pace forward, stooped, watching his face as if
timidly, caught his brown hand in her own and lifted it towards herself.
His hand started, dropped the cigarette, but was not withdrawn.

"You will come, won't you?" she said, smiling gently into his strange,
watchful yellow eyes, that looked fixedly into hers, the dark pupil
opening round and softening. She smiled into his softening round eyes,
the eyes of some animal which stares in one of its silent, gentler
moments. And suddenly she kissed his hand, kissed it twice, quickly, on
the fingers and the back. He wore a silver ring. Even as she kissed his
fingers with her lips, the silver ring seemed to her a symbol of his
subjection, inferiority. She drew his hand slightly. And he rose to his

She turned round and took the door-handle, still holding his fingers in
her left hand.

"You are coming, aren't you?" she said, looking over her shoulder into
his eyes. And taking consent from his unchanging eyes, she let go his
hand and slightly opened the door. He turned slowly, and taking his coat
from a nail, slung it over his shoulders and drew it on. Then he picked
up his hat, and put his foot on his half-smoked cigarette, which lay
smoking still. He followed her out of the room, walking with his head
rather forward, in the half loutish, sensual-subjected way of the

As they entered the street, they saw the trim, French figure of Madame
standing alone, as if abandoned. Her face was very white under her
spotted veil, her eyes very black. She watched Ciccio following behind
Alvina in his dark, hang-dog fashion, and she did not move a muscle until
he came to a standstill in front of her. She was watching his face.

"Te voila donc!" she said, without expression. "Allons boire un café, hé?
Let us go and drink some coffee." She had now put an inflection of
tenderness into her voice. But her eyes were black with anger. Ciccio
smiled slowly, the slow, fine, stupid smile, and turned to walk

Madame said nothing as they went. Geoffrey passed on his bicycle, calling
out that he would go straight to Woodhouse.

When the three sat with their cups of coffee, Madame pushed up her veil
just above her eyes, so that it was a black band above her brows. Her
face was pale and full like a child's, but almost stonily expressionless,
her eyes were black and inscrutable. She watched both Ciccio and Alvina
with her black, inscrutable looks.

"Would you like also biscuits with your coffee, the two of you?" she
said, with an amiable intonation which her strange black looks belied.

"Yes," said Alvina. She was a little flushed, as if defiant, while Ciccio
sat sheepishly, turning aside his ducked head, the slow, stupid, yet fine
smile on his lips.

"And no more trouble with Max, hein?--you Ciccio?" said Madame, still
with the amiable intonation and the same black, watching eyes. "No more
of these stupid scenes, hein? What? Do you answer me.

"No more from me," he said, looking up at her with a narrow, catlike look
in his derisive eyes.

"Ho? No? No more? Good then! It is good! We are glad, aren't we, Miss
Houghton, that Ciccio has come back and there are to be no more
rows?--hein?--aren't we?"

"_I'm_ awfully glad," said Alvina.

"Awfully glad--yes--awfully glad! You hear, you Ciccio. And you remember
another time. What? Don't you? Hé"

He looked up at her, the slow, derisive smile curling his lips. "Sure,"
he said slowly, with subtle intonation.

"Yes. Good! Well then! Well then! We are all friends. We are all friends,
aren't we, all the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras? Hé? What you think? What you say?"

"Yes," said Ciccio, again looking up at her with his yellow, glinting

"All right! All right then! It is all right--forgotten--" Madame sounded
quite frank and restored. But the sullen watchfulness in her eyes, and
the narrowed look in Ciccio's, as he glanced at her, showed another state
behind the obviousness of the words. "And Miss Houghton is one of us!
Yes? She has united us once more, and so she has become one of us."
Madame smiled strangely from her blank, round white face.

"I should love to be one of the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras," said Alvina.

"Yes--well--why not? Why not become one? Why not? What you say, Ciccio?
You can play the piano, perhaps do other things. Perhaps better than
Kishwégin. What you say, Ciccio, should she not join us? Is she not one
of us?"

He smiled and showed his teeth but did not answer.

"Well, what is it? Say then? Shall she not?"

"Yes," said Ciccio, unwilling to commit himself.

"Yes, so I say! So I say. Quite a good idea! We will think of it, and
speak perhaps to your father, and you shall come! Yes."

So the two women returned to Woodhouse by the tram-car, while Ciccio rode
home on his bicycle. It was surprising how little Madame and Alvina found
to say to one another.

Madame effected the reunion of her troupe, and all seemed pretty much as
before. She had decided to dance the next night, the Saturday night. On
Sunday the party would leave for Warsall, about thirty miles away, to
fulfil their next engagement.

That evening Ciccio, whenever he had a moment to spare, watched Alvina.
She knew it. But she could not make out what his watching meant. In the
same way he might have watched a serpent, had he found one gliding in the
theatre. He looked at her sideways, furtively, but persistently. And yet
he did not want to meet her glance. He avoided her, and watched her. As
she saw him standing, in his negligent, muscular, slouching fashion, with
his head dropped forward, and his eyes sideways, sometimes she disliked
him. But there was a sort of _finesse_ about his face. His skin was
delicately tawny, and slightly lustrous. The eyes were set in so dark,
that one expected them to be black and flashing. And then one met the
yellow pupils, sulphureous and remote. It was like meeting a lion. His
long, fine nose, his rather long, rounded chin and curling lips seemed
refined through ages of forgotten culture. He was waiting: silent there,
with something muscular and remote about his very droop, he was waiting.
What for? Alvina could not guess. She wanted to meet his eye, to have an
open understanding with him. But he would not. When she went up to talk
to him, he answered in his stupid fashion, with a smile of the mouth and
no change of the eyes, saying nothing at all. Obstinately he held away
from her. When he was in his war-paint, for one moment she hated his
muscular, handsome, downward-drooping torso: so stupid and full. The fine
sharp uprightness of Max seemed much finer, clearer, more manly. Ciccio's
velvety, suave heaviness, the very heave of his muscles, so full and
softly powerful, sickened her.

She flashed away angrily on her piano. Madame, who was dancing Kishwégin
on the last evening, cast sharp glances at her. Alvina had avoided Madame
as Ciccio had avoided Alvina--elusive and yet conscious, a distance, and
yet a connection.

Madame danced beautifully. No denying it, she was an artist. She became
something quite different: fresh, virginal, pristine, a magic creature
flickering there. She was infinitely delicate and attractive. Her braves
became glamorous and heroic at once, and magically she cast her spell
over them. It was all very well for Alvina to bang the piano crossly. She
could not put out the glow which surrounded Kishwégin and her troupe.
Ciccio was handsome now: without war-paint, and roused, fearless and at
the same time suggestive, a dark, mysterious glamour on his face,
passionate and remote. A stranger--and so beautiful. Alvina flashed at
the piano, almost in tears. She hated his beauty. It shut her apart. She
had nothing to do with it.

Madame, with her long dark hair hanging in finely-brushed tresses, her
cheek burning under its dusky stain, was another creature. How soft she
was on her feet. How humble and remote she seemed, as across a chasm from
the men. How submissive she was, with an eternity of inaccessible
submission. Her hovering dance round the dead bear was exquisite: her
dark, secretive curiosity, her admiration of the massive, male strength
of the creature, her quivers of triumph over the dead beast, her cruel
exultation, and her fear that he was not really dead. It was a lovely
sight, suggesting the world's morning, before Eve had bitten any
white-fleshed apple, whilst she was still dusky, dark-eyed, and still.
And then her stealthy sympathy with the white prisoner! Now indeed she
was the dusky Eve tempted into knowledge. Her fascination was ruthless.
She kneeled by the dead brave, her husband, as she had knelt by the bear:
in fear and admiration and doubt and exultation. She gave him the least
little push with her foot. Dead meat like the bear! And a flash of
delight went over her, that changed into a sob of mortal anguish. And
then, flickering, wicked, doubtful, she watched Ciccio wrestling with the

She was the clue to all the action, was Kishwégin. And her dark _braves_
seemed to become darker, more secret, malevolent, burning with a cruel
fire, and at the same time wistful, knowing their end. Ciccio laughed in
a strange way, as he wrestled with the bear, as he had never laughed on
the previous evenings. The sound went out into the audience, a soft,
malevolent, derisive sound. And when the bear was supposed to have
crushed him, and he was to have fallen, he reeled out of the bear's arms
and said to Madame, in his derisive voice:

"Vivo sempre, Madame." And then he fell.

Madame stopped as if shot, hearing his words: "I am still alive, Madame."
She remained suspended motionless, suddenly wilted. Then all at once her
hand went to her mouth with a scream:

"The Bear!"

So the scene concluded itself. But instead of the tender, half-wistful
triumph of Kishwégin, a triumph electric as it should have been when she
took the white man's hand and kissed it, there was a doubt, a hesitancy,
a nullity, and Max did not quite know what to do.

After the performance, neither Madame nor Max dared say anything to
Ciccio about his innovation into the play. Louis felt he had to speak--it
was left to him.

"I say, Cic'--" he said, "why did you change the scene? It might have
spoiled everything if Madame wasn't such a genius. Why did you say that?"

"Why," said Ciccio, answering Louis' French in Italian, "I am tired of
being dead, you see."

Madame and Max heard in silence.

When Alvina had played _God Save the King_ she went round behind the stage.
But Ciccio and Geoffrey had already packed up the property, and left.
Madame was talking to James Houghton. Louis and Max were busy together.
Mr. May came to Alvina.

"Well," he said. "That closes another week. I think we've done very well,
in face of difficulties, don't you?"

"Wonderfully," she said.

But poor Mr. May spoke and looked pathetically. He seemed to feel
forlorn. Alvina was not attending to him. Her eye was roving. She took no
notice of him.

Madame came up.

"Well, Miss Houghton," she said, "time to say good-bye, I suppose."

"How do you feel after dancing?" asked Alvina.

"Well--not so strong as usual--but not so bad, you know. I shall be all
right--thanks to you. I think your father is more ill than I. To me he
looks very ill."

"Father wears himself away," said Alvina.

"Yes, and when we are no longer young, there is not so much to wear.
Well, I must thank you once more--"

"What time do you leave in the morning?"

"By the train at half-past ten. If it doesn't rain, the young men will
cycle--perhaps all of them. Then they will go when they like--"

"I will come round to say good-bye--" said Alvina.

"Oh no--don't disturb yourself--"

"Yes, I want to take home the things--the kettle for the bronchitis, and
those things--"

"Oh thank you very much--but don't trouble yourself. I will send Ciccio
with them--or one of the others--"

"I should like to say good-bye to you all," persisted Alvina. Madame
glanced round at Max and Louis.

"Are we not all here? No. The two have gone. No! Well! Well what time
will you come?"

"About nine?"

"Very well, and I leave at ten. Very well. Then au revoir till the
morning. Good-night."

"Good-night," said Alvina. Her colour was rather flushed.

She walked up with Mr. May, and hardly noticed he was there. After
supper, when James Houghton had gone up to count his pennies, Alvina said
to Miss Pinnegar:

"Don't you think father looks rather seedy, Miss Pinnegar?"

"I've been thinking so a long time," said Miss Pinnegar tartly. "What do
you think he ought to do?"

"He's killing himself down there, in all weathers and freezing in that
box-office, and then the bad atmosphere. He's killing himself, that's

"What can we do?"

"Nothing so long as there's that place down there. Nothing at all."
Alvina thought so too. So she went to bed.

She was up in time, and watching the clock. It was a grey morning, but
not raining. At five minutes to nine, she hurried off to Mrs. Rollings.
In the back yard the bicycles were out, glittering and muddy according to
their owners. Ciccio was crouching mending a tire, crouching balanced on
his toes, near the earth. He turned like a quick-eared animal glancing up
as she approached, but did not rise.

"Are you getting ready to go?" she said, looking down at him. He screwed
his head round to her unwillingly, upside down, his chin tilted up at
her. She did not know him thus inverted. Her eyes rested on his face,
puzzled. His chin seemed so large, aggressive. He was a little bit
repellent and brutal, inverted. Yet she continued:

"Would you help me to carry back the things we brought for Madame?"

He rose to his feet, but did not look at her. He was wearing broken
cycling shoes. He stood looking at his bicycle tube.

"Not just yet," she said. "I want to say good-bye to Madame. Will you
come in half an hour?"

"Yes, I will come," he said, still watching his bicycle tube, which
sprawled nakedly on the floor. The forward drop of his head was curiously
beautiful to her, the straight, powerful nape of the neck, the delicate
shape of the back of the head, the black hair. The way the neck sprang
from the strong, loose shoulders was beautiful. There was something
mindless but _intent_ about the forward reach of his head. His face seemed
colourless, neutral-tinted and expressionless.

She went indoors. The young men were moving about making preparations.

"Come upstairs, Miss Houghton!" called Madame's voice from above. Alvina
mounted, to find Madame packing.

"It is an uneasy moment, when we are busy to move," said Madame, looking
up at Alvina as if she were a stranger.

"I'm afraid I'm in the way. But I won't stay a minute."

"Oh, it is all right. Here are the things you brought--" Madame indicated
a little pile--"and thank you _very_ much, _very_ much. I feel you saved my
life. And now let me give you one little token of my gratitude. It is not
much, because we are not millionaires in the Natcha-Kee-Tawara. Just a
little remembrance of our troublesome visit to Woodhouse."

She presented Alvina with a pair of exquisite bead moccasins, woven in a
weird, lovely pattern, with soft deerskin soles and sides.

"They belong to Kishwégin, so it is Kishwégin who gives them to you,
because she is grateful to you for saving her life, or at least from a
long illness."

"Oh--but I don't want to take them--" said Alvina.

"You don't like them? Why?"

"I think they're lovely, lovely! But I don't want to take them from

"If I give them, you do not take them from me. You receive them. He?" And
Madame pressed back the slippers, opening her plump jewelled hands in a
gesture of finality.

"But I don't like to take _these_," said Alvina. "I feel they belong to
Natcha-Kee-Tawara. And I don't want to rob Natcha-Kee-Tawara, do I? Do
take them back."

"No, I have given them. You cannot rob Natcha-Kee-Tawara in taking a pair
of shoes--impossible!"

"And I'm sure they are much too small for me."

"Ha!" exclaimed Madame. "It is that! Try."

"I know they are," said Alvina, laughing confusedly.

She sat down and took off her own shoe. The moccasin was a little too
short--just a little. But it was charming on the foot, charming.

"Yes," said Madame. "It is too short. Very well. I must find you
something else."

"Please don't," said Alvina. "Please don't find me anything. I don't want
anything. Please!"

"What?" said Madame, eyeing her closely. "You don't want? Why? You don't
want anything from Natcha-Kee-Tawara, or from Kishwégin? He? From which?"

"Don't give me anything, please," said Alvina.

"All right! All right then. I won't. I won't give you anything. I can't
give you anything you want from Natcha-Kee-Tawara."

And Madame busied herself again with the packing.

"I'm awfully sorry you are going," said Alvina.

"Sorry? Why? Yes, so am I sorry we shan't see you any more. Yes, so I am.
But perhaps we shall see you another time--he? I shall send you a
post-card. Perhaps I shall send one of the young men on his bicycle, to
bring you something which I shall buy for you. Yes? Shall I?"

"Oh! I should be awfully glad--but don't buy--" Alvina checked herself in
time. "Don't buy anything. Send me a little thing from Natcha-Kee-Tawara.
I _love_ the slippers--"

"But they are too small," said Madame, who had been watching her with
black eyes that read every motive. Madame too had her avaricious side,
and was glad to get back the slippers. "Very well--very well, I will do
that. I will send you some small thing from Natcha-Kee-Tawara, and one of
the young men shall bring it. Perhaps Ciccio? Hé?"

"Thank you _so_ much," said Alvina, holding out her hand. "Goodbye. I'm so
sorry you're going."

"Well--well! We are not going so very far. Not so very far. Perhaps we
shall see each other another day. It may be. Good-bye!"

Madame took Alvina's hand, and smiled at her winsomely all at once,
kindly, from her inscrutable black eyes. A sudden unusual kindness.
Alvina flushed with surprise and a desire to cry.

"Yes. I am sorry you are not with Natcha-Kee-Tawara. But we shall see.
Good-bye. I shall do my packing."

Alvina carried down the things she had to remove. Then she went to say
good-bye to the young men, who were in various stages of their toilet.
Max alone was quite presentable.

Ciccio was just putting on the outer cover of his front tire. She watched
his brown thumbs press it into place. He was quick and sure, much more
capable, and even masterful, than you would have supposed, seeing his
tawny Mediterranean hands. He spun the wheel round, patting it lightly.

"Is it finished?"

"Yes, I think." He reached his pump and blew up the tire. She watched his
softly-applied force. What physical, muscular force there was in him.
Then he swung round the bicycle, and stood it again on its wheels. After
which he quickly folded his tools.

"Will you come now?" she said.

He turned, rubbing his hands together, and drying them on an old cloth.
He went into the house, pulled on his coat and his cap, and picked up the
things from the table.

"Where are you going?" Max asked.

Ciccio jerked his head towards Alvina.

"Oh, allow me to carry them, Miss Houghton. He is not fit--" said Max.

True, Ciccio had no collar on, and his shoes were burst.

"I don't mind," said Alvina hastily. "He knows where they go. He brought
them before."

"But I will carry them. I am dressed. Allow me--" and he began to take
the things. "You get dressed, Ciccio."

Ciccio looked at Alvina.

"Do you want?" he said, as if waiting for orders.

"Do let Ciccio take them," said Alvina to Max. "Thank you ever so much.
But let him take them."

So Alvina marched off through the Sunday morning streets, with the
Italian, who was down at heel and encumbered with an armful of sick-room
apparatus. She did not know what to say, and he said nothing.

"We will go in this way," she said, suddenly opening the hall door. She
had unlocked it before she went out, for that entrance was hardly ever
used. So she showed the Italian into the sombre drawing-room, with its
high black bookshelves with rows and rows of calf-bound volumes, its old
red and flowered carpet, its grand piano littered with music. Ciccio put
down the things as she directed, and stood with his cap in his hands,
looking aside.

"Thank you so much," she said, lingering.

He curled his lips in a faint deprecatory smile.

"Nothing," he murmured.

His eye had wandered uncomfortably up to a portrait on the wall. "That
was my mother," said Alvina.

He glanced down at her, but did not answer.

"I am so sorry you're going away," she said nervously. She stood looking
up at him with wide blue eyes.

The faint smile grew on the lower part of his face, which he kept
averted. Then he looked at her.

"We have to move," he said, with his eyes watching her reservedly, his
mouth twisting with a half-bashful smile.

"Do you like continually going away?" she said, her wide blue eyes fixed
on his face.

He nodded slightly.

"We have to do it. I like it."

What he said meant nothing to him. He now watched her fixedly, with a
slightly mocking look, and a reserve he would not relinquish. "Do you
think I shall ever see you again?" she said.

"Should you like--?" he answered, with a sly smile and a faint shrug.

"I should like awfully--" a flush grew on her cheek. She heard Miss
Pinnegar's scarcely audible step approaching.

He nodded at her slightly, watching her fixedly, turning up the corners
of his eyes slyly, his nose seeming slyly to sharpen.

"All right. Next week, eh? In the morning?"

"Do!" cried Alvina, as Miss Pinnegar came through the door. He glanced
quickly over his shoulder.

"Oh!" cried Miss Pinnegar. "I couldn't imagine who it was." She eyed the
young fellow sharply.

"Couldn't you?" said Alvina. "We brought back these things."

"Oh yes. Well--you'd better come into the other room, to the fire," said
Miss Pinnegar.

"I shall go along. Good-bye!" said Ciccio, and with a slight bow to
Alvina, and a still slighter to Miss Pinnegar, he was out of the room and
out of the front door, as if turning tail.

"I suppose they're going this morning," said Miss Pinnegar.


Alvina wept when the Natchas had gone. She loved them so much, she wanted
to be with them. Even Ciccio she regarded as only one of the Natchas. She
looked forward to his coming as to a visit from the troupe.

How dull the theatre was without them! She was tired of the Endeavour.
She wished it did not exist. The rehearsal on the Monday morning bored
her terribly. Her father was nervous and irritable. The previous week had
tried him sorely. He had worked himself into a state of nervous
apprehension such as nothing would have justified, unless perhaps, if the
wooden walls of the Endeavour had burnt to the ground, with James inside
victimized like another Samson. He had developed a nervous horror of all
artistes. He did not feel safe for one single moment whilst he depended
on a single one of them.

"We shall have to convert into all pictures," he said in a nervous fever
to Mr. May. "Don't make any more engagements after the end of next

"Really!" said Mr. May. "Really! Have you quite decided?"

"Yes quite! Yes quite!" James fluttered. "I have written about a new
machine, and the supply of films from Chanticlers."

"Really!" said Mr. May. "Oh well then, in that case--" But he was filled
with dismay and chagrin.

"Of cauce," he said later to Alvina, "I can't _possibly_ stop on if we are
nothing but a picture show!" And he arched his blanched and dismal
eyelids with ghastly finality.

"Why?" cried Alvina.

"Oh--why!" He was rather ironic. "Well, it's not my line at _all_. I'm not
a _film-operator_!" And he put his head on one side with a grimace of
contempt and superiority.

"But you are, as well," said Alvina.

"Yes, _as well_. But not _only!_ You _may_ wash the dishes in the scullery. But
you're not only the _char_, are you?"

"But is it the same?" cried Alvina.

"Of cauce!" cried Mr. May. "Of _cauce_ it's the same."

Alvina laughed, a little heartlessly, into his pallid, stricken eyes.
"But what will you do?" she asked.

"I shall have to look for something else," said the injured but dauntless
little man. "There's nothing _else_, is there?"

"Wouldn't you stay on?" she asked.

"I wouldn't think of it. I wouldn't think of it." He turtled like an
injured pigeon.

"Well," she said, looking laconically into his face: "It's between you
and father--"

"Of _cauce!_" he said. "Naturally! Where else--!" But his tone was a little
spiteful, as if he had rested his last hopes on Alvina.

Alvina went away. She mentioned the coming change to Miss Pinnegar.

"Well," said Miss Pinnegar, judicious but aloof, "it's a move in the
right direction. But I doubt if it'll do any good."

"Do you?" said Alvina. "Why?"

"I don't believe in the place, and I never did," declared Miss Pinnegar.
"I don't believe any good will come of it."

"But why?" persisted Alvina. "What makes you feel so sure about it?"

"I don't know. But that's how I feel. And I have from the first. It was
wrong from the first. It was wrong to begin it."

"But why?" insisted Alvina, laughing.

"Your father had no business to be led into it. He'd no business to touch
this show business. It isn't like him. It doesn't belong to him. He's
gone against his own nature and his own life."

"Oh but," said Alvina, "father was a showman even in the shop. He always
was. Mother said he was like a showman in a booth."

Miss Pinnegar was taken aback.

"Well!" she said sharply. "If _that's_ what you've seen in him!"--there was
a pause. "And in that case," she continued tartly, "I think some of the
showman has come out in his daughter! or show-woman!--which doesn't
improve it, to my idea."

"Why is it any worse?" said Alvina. "I enjoy it--and so does father."

"No," cried Miss Pinnegar. "There you're wrong! There you make a mistake.
It's all against his better nature."

"Really!" said Alvina, in surprise. "What a new idea! But which is
father's better nature?"

"You may not know it," said Miss Pinnegar coldly, "and if so, I can never
tell you. But that doesn't alter it." She lapsed into dead silence for a
moment. Then suddenly she broke out, vicious and cold: "He'll go on till
he's killed himself, and _then_ he'll know."

The little adverb _then_ came whistling across the space like a bullet. It
made Alvina pause. Was her father going to die? She reflected. Well, all
men must die.

She forgot the question in others that occupied her. First, could she
bear it, when the Endeavour was turned into another cheap and nasty
film-shop? The strange figures of the artistes passing under her
observation had really entertained her, week by week. Some weeks they had
bored her, some weeks she had detested them, but there was always a
chance in the coming week. Think of the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras!

She thought too much of the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras. She knew it. And she
tried to force her mind to the contemplation of the new state of things,
when she banged at the piano to a set of dithering and boring pictures.
There would be her father, herself, and Mr. May--or a new operator, a new
manager. The new manager!--she thought of him for a moment--and thought
of the mechanical factory-faced persons who _managed_ Wright's and the
Woodhouse Empire.

But her mind fell away from this barren study. She was obsessed by the
Natcha-Kee-Tawaras. They seemed to have fascinated her. Which of them it
was, or what it was that had cast the spell over her, she did not know.
But she was as if hypnotized. She longed to be with them. Her soul
gravitated towards them all the time.

Monday passed, and Ciccio did not come: Tuesday passed: and Wednesday. In
her soul she was sceptical of their keeping their promise--either Madame
or Ciccio. Why should they keep their promise? She knew what these
nomadic artistes were. And her soul was stubborn within her.

On Wednesday night there was another sensation at the Endeavour. Mr. May
found James Houghton fainting in the box-office after the performance had
begun. What to do? He could not interrupt Alvina, nor the performance. He
sent the chocolate-and-orange boy across to the Pear Tree for brandy.

James revived. "I'm all right," he said, in a brittle fashion. "I'm all
right. Don't bother." So he sat with his head on his hand in the
box-office, and Mr. May had to leave him to operate the film.

When the interval arrived, Mr. May hurried to the box-office, a narrow
hole that James could just sit in, and there he found the invalid in the
same posture, semi-conscious. He gave him more brandy.

"I'm all right, I tell you," said James, his eyes flaring. "Leave me
alone." But he looked anything but all right.

Mr. May hurried for Alvina. When the daughter entered the ticket place,
her father was again in a state of torpor.

"Father," she said, shaking his shoulder gently. "What's the matter." He
murmured something, but was incoherent. She looked at his face. It was
grey and blank.

"We shall have to get him home," she said. "We shall have to get a cab."

"Give him a little brandy," said Mr. May.

The boy was sent for the cab, James swallowed a spoonful of brandy. He
came to himself irritably.

"What? What," he said. "I won't have all this fuss. Go on with the
performance, there's no need to bother about me." His eye was wild. "You
must go home, father," said Alvina.

"Leave me alone! Will you leave me alone! Hectored by women all my
life--hectored by women--first one, then another. I won't stand it--I
won't stand it--" He looked at Alvina with a look of frenzy as he lapsed
again, fell with his head on his hands on his ticket-board. Alvina looked
at Mr. May.

"We must get him home," she said. She covered him up with a coat, and sat
by him. The performance went on without music. At last the cab came.
James, unconscious, was driven up to Woodhouse. He had to be carried
indoors. Alvina hurried ahead to make a light in the dark passage.

"Father's ill!" she announced to Miss Pinnegar.

"Didn't I say so!" said Miss Pinnegar, starting from her chair.

The two women went out to meet the cab-man, who had James in his arms.

"Can you manage?" cried Alvina, showing a light.

"He doesn't weigh much," said the man.

"Tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-to-tu!" went Miss Pinnegar's tongue, in a rapid tut-tut
of distress. "What have I said, now," she exclaimed. "What have I said
all along?"

James was laid on the sofa. His eyes were half-shut. They made him drink
brandy, the boy was sent for the doctor, Alvina's bed was warmed. The
sick man was got to bed. And then started another vigil. Alvina sat up in
the sick room. James started and muttered, but did not regain
consciousness. Dawn came, and he was the same. Pneumonia and pleurisy and
a touch of meningitis. Alvina drank her tea, took a little breakfast, and
went to bed at about nine o'clock in the morning, leaving James in charge
of Miss Pinnegar. Time was all deranged.

Miss Pinnegar was a nervous nurse. She sat in horror and apprehension,
her eyebrows raised, starting and looking at James in terror whenever he
made a noise. She hurried to him and did what she could. But one would
have said she was repulsed, she found her task unconsciously repugnant.

During the course of the morning Mrs. Rollings came up and said that the
Italian from last week had come, and could he speak to Miss Houghton.

"Tell him she's resting, and Mr. Houghton is seriously ill," said Miss
Pinnegar sharply.

When Alvina came downstairs at about four in the afternoon she found a
package: a comb of carved bone, and a message from Madame: "To Miss
Houghton, with kindest greetings and most sincere thanks from Kishwégin."

The comb with its carved, beast-faced serpent was her portion. Alvina
asked if there had been any other message. None.

Mr. May came in, and stayed for a dismal half-hour. Then Alvina went back
to her nursing. The patient was no better, still unconscious. Miss
Pinnegar come down, red eyed and sullen looking. The condition of James
gave little room for hope.

In the early morning he died. Alvina called Mrs. Rollings, and they
composed the body. It was still only five o'clock, and not light. Alvina
went to lie down in her father's little, rather chilly chamber at the end
of the corridor. She tried to sleep, but could not. At half-past seven
she arose, and started the business of the new day. The doctor came--she
went to the registrar--and so on.

Mr. May came. It was decided to keep open the theatre. He would find some
one else for the piano, some one else to issue the tickets.

In the afternoon arrived Frederick Houghton, James's cousin and nearest
relative. He was a middle-aged, blond, florid, church-going draper from
Knarborough, well-to-do and very _bourgeois_. He tried to talk to Alvina in
a fatherly fashion, or a friendly, or a helpful fashion. But Alvina could
not listen to him. He got on her nerves.

Hearing the gate bang, she rose and hurried to the window. She was in the
drawing-room with her cousin, to give the interview its proper air of
solemnity. She saw Ciccio rearing his yellow bicycle against the wall,
and going with his head forward along the narrow, dark way of the back
yard, to the scullery door.

"Excuse me a minute," she said to her cousin, who looked up irritably as
she left the room.

She was just in time to open the door as Ciccio tapped. She stood on the
doorstep above him. He looked up, with a faint smile, from under his
black lashes.

"How nice of you to come," she said. But her face was blanched and tired,
without expression. Only her large eyes looked blue in their tiredness,
as she glanced down at Ciccio. He seemed to her far away.

"Madame asks how is Mr. Houghton," he said.

"Father! He died this morning," she said quietly.

"He died!" exclaimed the Italian, a flash of fear and dismay going over
his face.

"Yes--this morning." She had neither tears nor emotion, but just looked
down on him abstractedly, from her height on the kitchen step. He dropped
his eyes and looked at his feet. Then he lifted his eyes again, and
looked at her. She looked back at him, as from across a distance. So they
watched each other, as strangers across a wide, abstract distance.

He turned and looked down the dark yard, towards the gate where he could
just see the pale grey tire of his bicycle, and the yellow mudguard. He
seemed to be reflecting. If he went now, he went for ever. Involuntarily
he turned and lifted his face again towards Alvina, as if studying her
curiously. She remained there on the door-step, neutral, blanched, with
wide, still, neutral eyes. She did not seem to see him. He studied her
with alert, yellow-dusky, inscrutable eyes, until she met his look. And
then he gave the faintest gesture with his head, as of summons towards
him. Her soul started, and died in her. And again he gave the slight,
almost imperceptible jerk of the head, backwards and sideways, as if
summoning her towards him. His face too was closed and expressionless.
But in his eyes, which kept hers, there was a dark flicker of ascendancy.
He was going to triumph over her. She knew it. And her soul sank as if it
sank out of her body. It sank away out of her body, left her there
powerless, soulless.

And yet as he turned, with his head stretched forward, to move away: as
he glanced slightly over his shoulder: she stepped down from the step,
down to his level, to follow him. He went ducking along the dark yard,
nearly to the gate. Near the gate, near his bicycle, was a corner made by
a shed. Here he turned, lingeringly, to her, and she lingered in front of

Her eyes were wide and neutral and submissive, with a new, awful
submission as if she had lost her soul. So she looked up at him, like a
victim. There was a faint smile in his eyes. He stretched forward over

"You love me? Yes?--Yes?" he said, in a voice that seemed like a palpable
contact on her.

"Yes," she whispered involuntarily, soulless, like a victim. He put his
arm round her, subtly, and lifted her.

"Yes," he re-echoed, almost mocking in his triumph. "Yes. Yes!" And
smiling, he kissed her, delicately, with a certain finesse of knowledge.
She moaned in spirit, in his arms, felt herself dead, dead. And he kissed
her with a finesse, a passionate finesse which seemed like coals of fire
on her head.

They heard footsteps. Miss Pinnegar was coming to look for her. Ciccio
set her down, looked long into her eyes, inscrutably, smiling, and said:

"I come tomorrow."

With which he ducked and ran out of the yard, picking up his bicycle like
a feather, and, taking no notice of Miss Pinnegar, letting the yard-door
bang to behind him.

"Alvina!" said Miss Pinnegar.

But Alvina did not answer. She turned, slipped past, ran indoors and
upstairs to the little bare bedroom she had made her own. She locked the
door and kneeled down on the floor, bowing down her head to her knees in
a paroxysm on the floor. In a paroxysm--because she loved him. She
doubled herself up in a paroxysm on her knees on the floor--because she
loved him. It was far more like pain, like agony, than like joy. She
swayed herself to and fro in a paroxysm of unbearable sensation, because
she loved him.

Miss Pinnegar came and knocked at the door.

"Alvina! Alvina! Oh, you are there! Whatever are you doing? Aren't you
coming down to speak to your cousin?"

"Soon," said Alvina.

And taking a pillow from the bed, she crushed it against herself and
swayed herself unconsciously, in her orgasm of unbearable feeling. Right
in her bowels she felt it--the terrible, unbearable feeling. How could
she bear it.

She crouched over until she became still. A moment of stillness seemed to
cover her like sleep: an eternity of sleep in that one second. Then she
roused and got up. She went to the mirror, still, evanescent, and tidied
her hair, smoothed her face. She was so still, so remote, she felt that
nothing, nothing could ever touch her.

And so she went downstairs, to that horrible cousin of her father's. She
seemed so intangible, remote and virginal, that her cousin and Miss
Pinnegar both failed to make anything of her. She answered their
questions simply, but did not talk. They talked to each other. And at
last the cousin went away, with a profound dislike of Miss Alvina.

She did not notice. She was only glad he was gone. And she went about for
the rest of the day elusive and vague. She slept deeply that night,
without dreams.

The next day was Saturday. It came with a great storm of wind and rain
and hail: a fury. Alvina looked out in dismay. She knew Ciccio would not
be able to come--he could not cycle, and it was impossible to get by
train and return the same day. She was almost relieved. She was relieved
by the intermission of fate, she was thankful for the day of neutrality.

In the early afternoon came a telegram: Coming both tomorrow morning
deepest sympathy Madame. Tomorrow was Sunday: and the funeral was in the
afternoon. Alvina felt a burning inside her, thinking of Ciccio. She
winced--and yet she wanted him to come. Terribly she wanted him to come.

She showed the telegram to Miss Pinnegar.

"Good gracious!" said the weary Miss Pinnegar. "Fancy those people. And I
warrant they'll want to be at the funeral. As if he was anything to

"I think it's very nice of her," said Alvina.

"Oh well," said Miss Pinnegar. "If you think so. I don't fancy he would
have wanted such people following, myself. And what does she mean by
_both_. Who's the other?" Miss Pinnegar looked sharply at Alvina.

"Ciccio," said Alvina.

"The Italian! Why goodness me! What's _he_ coming for? I can't make you
out, Alvina. Is that his name, Chicho? I never heard such a name. Doesn't
sound like a name at all to me. There won't be room for them in the

"We'll order another."

"More expense. I never knew such impertinent people--"

But Alvina did not hear her. On the next morning she dressed herself
carefully in her new dress. It was black voile. Carefully she did her
hair. Ciccio and Madame were coming. The thought of Ciccio made her
shudder. She hung about, waiting. Luckily none of the funeral guests
would arrive till after one o'clock. Alvina sat listless, musing, by the
fire in the drawing-room. She left everything now to Miss Pinnegar and
Mrs. Rollings. Miss Pinnegar, red-eyed and yellow-skinned, was irritable
beyond words.

It was nearly mid-day when Alvina heard the gate. She hurried to open the
front door. Madame was in her little black hat and her black spotted
veil, Ciccio in a black overcoat was closing the yard door behind her.

"Oh, my dear girl!" Madame cried, trotting forward with outstretched
black-kid hands, one of which held an umbrella: "I am so shocked--I am so
shocked to hear of your poor father. Am I to believe it?--am I really?
No, I can't."

She lifted her veil, kissed Alvina, and dabbed her eyes. Ciccio came up
the steps. He took off his hat to Alvina, smiled slightly as he passed
her. He looked rather pale, constrained. She closed the door and ushered
them into the drawing-room.

Madame looked round like a bird, examining the room and the furniture.
She was evidently a little impressed. But all the time she was uttering
her condolences.

"Tell me, poor girl, how it happened?"

"There isn't much to tell," said Alvina, and she gave the brief account
of James's illness and death.

"Worn out! Worn out!" Madame said, nodding slowly up and down. Her black
veil, pushed up, sagged over her brows like a mourning band. "You cannot
afford to waste the stamina. And will you keep on the theatre--with Mr.

Ciccio was sitting looking towards the fire. His presence made Alvina
tremble. She noticed how the fine black hair of his head showed no
parting at all--it just grew like a close cap, and was pushed aside at
the forehead. Sometimes he looked at her, as Madame talked, and again
looked at her, and looked away.

At last Madame came to a halt. There was a long pause. "You will stay to
the funeral?" said Alvina.

"Oh my dear, we shall be too much--"

"No," said Alvina. "I have arranged for you--"

"There! You think of everything. But I will come, not Ciccio. He will not
trouble you."

Ciccio looked up at Alvina.

"I should like him to come," said Alvina simply. But a deep flush began
to mount her face. She did not know where it came from, she felt so cold.
And she wanted to cry.

Madame watched her closely.

"Siamo di accordo," came the voice of Ciccio.

Alvina and Madame both looked at him. He sat constrained, with his face
averted, his eyes dropped, but smiling.

Madame looked closely at Alvina.

"Is it true what he says?" she asked.

"I don't understand him," said Alvina. "I don't understand what he said."

"That you have agreed with him--"

Madame and Ciccio both watched Alvina as she sat in her new black dress.
Her eyes involuntarily turned to his.

"I don't know," she said vaguely. "Have I--?" and she looked at him.
Madame kept silence for some moments. Then she said gravely:
"Well!--yes!--well!" She looked from one to another. "Well, there is a
lot to consider. But if you have decided--"

Neither of them answered. Madame suddenly rose and went to Alvina. She
kissed her on either cheek.

"I shall protect you," she said.

Then she returned to her seat.

"What have you said to Miss Houghton?" she said suddenly to Ciccio,
tackling him direct, and speaking coldly.

He looked at Madame with a faint derisive smile. Then he turned to
Alvina. She bent her head and blushed.

"Speak then," said Madame, "you have a reason." She seemed mistrustful of

But he turned aside his face, and refused to speak, sitting as if he were
unaware of Madame's presence.

"Oh well," said Madame. "I shall be there, Signorino."

She spoke with a half-playful threat. Ciccio curled his lip. "You do not
know him yet," she said, turning to Alvina.

"I know that," said Alvina, offended. Then she added: "Wouldn't you like
to take off your hat?"

"If you truly wish me to stay," said Madame.

"Yes, please do. And will you hang your coat in the hall?" she said to

"Oh!" said Madame roughly. "He will not stay to eat. He will go out to

Alvina looked at him.

"Would you rather?" she said.

He looked at her with sardonic yellow eyes.

"If you want," he said, the awkward, derisive smile curling his lips and
showing his teeth.

She had a moment of sheer panic. Was he just stupid and bestial? The
thought went clean through her. His yellow eyes watched her sardonically.
It was the clean modelling of his dark, other-world face that decided
her--for it sent the deep spasm across her.

"I'd like you to stay," she said.

A smile of triumph went over his face. Madame watched him stonily as she
stood beside her chair, one hand lightly balanced on her hip. Alvina was
reminded of Kishwégin. But even in Madame's stony mistrust there was an
element of attraction towards him. He had taken his cigarette case from
his pocket.

"On ne fume pas dans le salon," said Madame brutally.

"Will you put your coat in the passage?--and do smoke if you wish," said

He rose to his feet and took off his overcoat. His face was obstinate and
mocking. He was rather floridly dressed, though in black, and wore boots
of black patent leather with tan uppers. Handsome he was--but undeniably
in bad taste. The silver ring was still on his finger--and his close,
fine, unparted hair went badly with smart English clothes. He looked
common--Alvina confessed it. And her heart sank. But what was she to do?
He evidently was not happy. Obstinacy made him stick out the situation.

Alvina and Madame went upstairs. Madame wanted to see the dead James. She
looked at his frail, handsome, ethereal face, and crossed herself as she

"Un bel homme, cependant," she whispered. "Mort en un jour. C'est trop
fort, voyez!" And she sniggered with fear and sobs.

They went down to Alvina's bare room. Madame glanced round, as she did in
every room she entered.

"This was father's bedroom," said Alvina. "The other was mine. He
wouldn't have it anything but like this--bare."

"Nature of a monk, a hermit," whispered Madame. "Who would have thought
it! Ah, the men, the men!"

And she unpinned her hat and patted her hair before the small mirror,
into which she had to peep to see herself. Alvina stood waiting.

"And now--" whispered Madame, suddenly turning: "What about this Ciccio,
hein?" It was ridiculous that she would not raise her voice above a
whisper, upstairs there. But so it was.

She scrutinized Alvina with her eyes of bright black glass. Alvina looked
back at her, but did not know what to say.

"What about him, hein? Will you marry him? Why will you?"

"I suppose because I like him," said Alvina, flushing.

Madame made a little grimace.

"Oh yes!" she whispered, with a contemptuous mouth. "Oh yes!--because you
like him! But you know nothing _of_ him--nothing. How can you like him, not
knowing him? He may be a real bad character. How would you like him

"He isn't, is he?" said Alvina.

"I don't know. I don't know. He may be. Even I, I don't know him--no,
though he has been with me for three years. What is he? He is a man of
the people, a boatman, a labourer, an artist's model. He sticks to

"How old is he?" asked Alvina.

"He is twenty-five--a boy only. And you? You are older."

"Thirty," confessed Alvina.

"Thirty! Well now--so much difference! How can you trust him? How can
you? Why does he want to marry you--why?"

"I don't know--" said Alvina.

"No, and I don't know. But I know something of these Italian men, who are
labourers in every country, just labourers and under-men always, always
down, down, down--" And Madame pressed her spread palms downwards. "And
so--when they have a chance to come up--" she raised her hand with a
spring--"they are very conceited, and they take their chance. He will
want to rise, by you, and you will go down, with him. That is how it is.
I have seen it before--yes--more than one time--"

"But," said Alvina, laughing ruefully. "He can't rise much because of me,
can he?"

"How not? How not? In the first place, you are English, and he thinks to
rise by that. Then you are not of the lower class, you are of the higher
class, the class of the masters, such as employ Ciccio and men like him.
How will he not rise in the world by you? Yes, he will rise very much. Or
he will draw you down, down--Yes, one or another. And then he thinks that
now you have money--now your father is dead--" here Madame glanced
apprehensively at the closed door--"and they all like money, yes, very
much, all Italians--"

"Do they?" said Alvina, scared. "I'm sure there won't _be_ any money. I'm
sure father is in debt."

"What? You think? Do you? Really? Oh poor Miss Houghton! Well--and will
you tell Ciccio that? Eh? Hein?"

"Yes--certainly--if it matters," said poor Alvina.

"Of course it matters. Of course it matters very much. It matters to him.
Because he will not have much. He saves, saves, saves, as they all do, to
go back to Italy and buy a piece of land. And if he has you, it will cost
him much more, he cannot continue with Natcha-Kee-Tawara. All will be
much more difficult--"

"Oh, I will tell him in time," said Alvina, pale at the lips.

"You will tell him! Yes. That is better. And then you will see. But he is
obstinate--as a mule. And if he will still have you, then you must think.
Can you live in England as the wife of a labouring man, a dirty
Eyetalian, as they all say? It is serious. It is not pleasant for you,
who have not known it. I also have not known it. But I have seen--"
Alvina watched with wide, troubled eyes, while Madame darted looks, as
from bright, deep black glass.

"Yes," said Alvina. "I should hate being a labourer's wife in a nasty
little house in a street--"

"In a house?" cried Madame. "It would not be in a house. They live many
together in one house. It would be two rooms, or even one room, in
another house with many people not quite clean, you see--"

Alvina shook her head.

"I couldn't stand that," she said finally.

"No!" Madame nodded approval. "No! you could not. They live in a bad way,
the Italians. They do not know the English home--never. They don't like
it. Nor do they know the Swiss clean and proper house. No. They don't
understand. They run into their holes to sleep or to shelter, and that is

"The same in Italy?" said Alvina.

"Even more--because there it is sunny very often--"

"And you don't need a house," said Alvina. "I should like that."

"Yes, it is nice--but you don't know the life. And you would be alone
with people like animals. And if you go to Italy he will beat you--he
will beat you--"

"If I let him," said Alvina.

"But you can't help it, away there from everybody. Nobody will help you.
If you are a wife in Italy, nobody will help you. You are his property,
when you marry by Italian law. It is not like England. There is no
divorce in Italy. And if he beats you, you are helpless--"

"But why should he beat me?" said Alvina. "Why should he want to?"

"They do. They are so jealous. And then they go into their ungovernable
tempers, horrible tempers--"

"Only when they are provoked," said Alvina, thinking of Max. "Yes, but
you will not know what provokes him. Who can say when he will be
provoked? And then he beats you--"

There seemed to be a gathering triumph in Madame's bright black eyes.
Alvina looked at her, and turned to the door.

"At any rate I know now," she said, in rather a flat voice.

"And it is _true_. It is all of it true," whispered Madame vindictively.
Alvina wanted to run from her.

"I _must_ go to the kitchen," she said. "Shall we go down?"

Alvina did not go into the drawing-room with Madame. She was too much
upset, and she had almost a horror of seeing Ciccio at that moment.

Miss Pinnegar, her face stained carmine by the fire, was helping Mrs.
Rollings with the dinner.

"Are they both staying, or only one?" she said tartly.

"Both," said Alvina, busying herself with the gravy, to hide her distress
and confusion.

"The man as well," said Miss Pinnegar. "What does the woman want to bring
_him_ for? I'm sure I don't know what your father would say a common
show-fellow, _looks_ what he is--and staying to dinner."

Miss Pinnegar was thoroughly out of temper as she tried the potatoes.
Alvina set the table. Then she went to the drawing-room. "Will you come
to dinner?" she said to her two guests.

Ciccio rose, threw his cigarette into the fire, and looked round. Outside
was a faint, watery sunshine: but at least it was out of doors. He felt
himself imprisoned and out of his element. He had an irresistible impulse
to go.

When he got into the hall he laid his hand on his hat. The stupid,
constrained smile was on his face.

"I'll go now," he said.

"We have set the table for you," said Alvina.

"Stop now, since you have stopped for so long," said Madame, darting her
black looks at him.

But he hurried on his coat, looking stupid. Madame lifted her eyebrows

"This is polite behaviour!" she said sarcastically.

Alvina stood at a loss.

"You return to the funeral?" said Madame coldly.

He shook his head.

"When you are ready to go," he said.

"At four o'clock," said Madame, "when the funeral has come home. Then we
shall be in time for the train."

He nodded, smiled stupidly, opened the door, and went.

"This is just like him, to be so--so--" Madame could not express herself
as she walked down to the kitchen.

"Miss Pinnegar, this is Madame," said Alvina.

"How do you do?" said Miss Pinnegar, a little distant and condescending.
Madame eyed her keenly.

"Where is the man? I don't know his name," said Miss Pinnegar. "He
wouldn't stay," said Alvina. "What _is_ his name, Madame?"

"Marasca--Francesco. Francesco Marasca--Neapolitan."

"Marasca!" echoed Alvina.

"It has a bad sound--a sound of a bad augury, bad sign," said Madame.
"Ma-rà-sca!" She shook her head at the taste of the syllables.

"Why do you think so?" said Alvina. "Do you think there is a meaning in
sounds? goodness and badness?"

"Yes," said Madame. "Certainly. Some sounds are good, they are for life,
for creating, and some sounds are bad, they are for destroying.
Ma-rà-sca!--that is bad, like swearing."

"But what sort of badness? What does it do?" said Alvina.

"What does it do? It sends life down--down--instead of lifting it up."

"Why should things always go up? Why should life always go up?" said

"I don't know," said Madame, cutting her meat quickly. There was a pause.

"And what about other names," interrupted Miss Pinnegar, a little lofty.
"What about Houghton, for example?"

Madame put down her fork, but kept her knife in her hand. She looked
across the room, not at Miss Pinnegar.

"Houghton--! Huff-ton!" she said. "When it is said, it has a sound
_against:_ that is, against the neighbour, against humanity. But when it is
written _Hough-ton_! then it is different, it is _for_."

"It is always pronounced _Huff-ton_," said Miss Pinnegar.

"By us," said Alvina.

"We ought to know," said Miss Pinnegar.

Madame turned to look at the unhappy, elderly woman. "You are a relative
of the family?" she said.

"No, not a relative. But I've been here many years," said Miss Pinnegar.

"Oh, yes!" said Madame. Miss Pinnegar was frightfully affronted. The
meal, with the three women at table, passed painfully.

Miss Pinnegar rose to go upstairs and weep. She felt very forlorn. Alvina
rose to wipe the dishes, hastily, because the funeral guests would all be
coming. Madame went into the drawing-room to smoke her sly cigarette.

Mr. May was the first to turn up for the lugubrious affair: very tight
and tailored, but a little extinguished, all in black. He never wore
black, and was very unhappy in it, being almost morbidly sensitive to the
impression the colour made on him. He was set to entertain Madame.

She did not pretend distress, but sat black-eyed and watchful, very much
her business self.

"What about the theatre?--will it go on?" she asked.

"Well I don't know. I don't know Miss Houghton's intentions," said Mr.
May. He was a little stilted today.

"It's hers?" said Madame.

"Why, as far as I understand--"

"And if she wants to sell out--?"

Mr. May spread his hands, and looked dismal, but distant. "You should
form a company, and carry on--" said Madame.

Mr. May looked even more distant, drawing himself up in an odd fashion,
so that he looked as if he were trussed. But Madame's shrewd black eyes
and busy mind did not let him off.

"Buy Miss Houghton out--" said Madame shrewdly.

"Of cauce," said Mr. May. "Miss Houghton herself must decide."

"Oh sure--! You--are you married?"


"Your wife here?"

"My wife is in London."

"And children--?"

"A daughter."

Madame slowly nodded her head up and down, as if she put thousands of
two-and-two's together.

"You think there will be much to come to Miss Houghton?" she said. "Do
you mean property? I really can't say. I haven't enquired."

"No, but you have a good idea, eh?"

"I'm afraid I haven't."

"No! Well! It won't be much, then?"

"Really, I don't know. I should say, not a _large_ fortune--!"

"No--eh?" Madame kept him fixed with her black eyes. "Do you think the
other one will get anything?"

"The _other one_--?" queried Mr. May, with an uprising cadence. Madame
nodded slightly towards the kitchen.

"The old one--the Miss--Miss Pin--Pinny--what you call her."

"Miss Pinnegar! The manageress of the work-girls? Really, I don't know at
all--" Mr. May was most freezing.

"Ha--ha! Ha--ha!" mused Madame quietly. Then she asked: "Which work-girls
do you say?"

And she listened astutely to Mr. May's forced account of the workroom
upstairs, extorting all the details she desired to gather. Then there was
a pause. Madame glanced round the room.

"Nice house!" she said. "Is it their own?"

"So I _believe_--"

Again Madame nodded sagely. "Debts perhaps--eh? Mortgage--" and she
looked slyly sardonic.

"Really!" said Mr. May, bouncing to his feet. "Do you mind if I go to
speak to Mrs. Rollings--"

"Oh no--go along," said Madame, and Mr. May skipped out in a temper.

Madame was left alone in her comfortable chair, studying details of the
room and making accounts in her own mind, until the actual funeral guests
began to arrive. And then she had the satisfaction of sizing them up.
Several arrived with wreaths. The coffin had been carried down and laid
in the small sitting-room--Mrs. Houghton's sitting-room. It was covered
with white wreaths and streamers of purple ribbon. There was a crush and
a confusion.

And then at last the hearse and the cabs had arrived--the coffin was
carried out--Alvina followed, on the arm of her father's cousin, whom she
disliked. Miss Pinnegar marshalled the other mourners. It was a wretched

But it was a great funeral. There were nine cabs, besides the
hearse--Woodhouse had revived its ancient respect for the house of
Houghton. A posse of minor tradesmen followed the cabs--all in black and
with black gloves. The richer tradesmen sat in the cabs.

Poor Alvina, this was the only day in all her life when she was the
centre of public attention. For once, every eye was upon her, every mind
was thinking about her. Poor Alvina! said every member of the Woodhouse
"middle class": Poor Alvina Houghton, said every collier's wife. Poor
thing, left alone--and hardly a penny to bless herself with. Lucky if
she's not left with a pile of debts. James Houghton ran through some
money in his day. Ay, if she had her rights she'd be a rich woman. Why,
her mother brought three or four thousands with her. Ay, but James sank
it all in Throttle-Ha'penny and Klondyke and the Endeavour. Well, he was
his own worst enemy. He paid his way. I'm not so sure about that. Look
how he served his wife, and now Alvina. I'm not so sure he was his own
worst enemy. He was bad enough enemy to his own flesh and blood. Ah well,
he'll spend no more money, anyhow. No, he went sudden, didn't he? But he
was getting very frail, if you noticed. Oh yes, why he fair seemed to
totter down to Lumley. Do you reckon as that place pays its way? What,
the Endeavour?--they say it does. They say it makes a nice bit. Well,
it's mostly pretty full. Ay, it is. Perhaps it won't be now Mr.
Houghton's gone. Perhaps not. I wonder if he _will_ leave much. I'm sure he
won't. Everything he's got's mortgaged up to the hilt. He'll leave debts,
you see if he doesn't. What is she going to do then? She'll have to go
out of Manchester House--her and Miss Pinnegar. Wonder what she'll do.
Perhaps she'll take up that nursing. She never made much of that, did
she--and spent a sight of money on her training, they say. She's a bit
like her father in the business line--all flukes. Pity some nice young
man doesn't turn up and marry her. I don't know, she doesn't seem to hook
on, does she? Why she's never had a proper boy. They make out she was
engaged once. Ay, but nobody ever saw him, and it was off as soon as it
was on. Can you remember she went with Albert Witham for a bit. Did she?
No, I never knew. When was that? Why, when he was at Oxford, you know,
learning for his head master's place. Why didn't she marry him then?
Perhaps he never asked her. Ay, there's that to it. She'd have looked
down her nose at him, times gone by. Ay, but that's all over, my boy.
She'd snap at anybody now. Look how she carries on with that manager.
Why, _that's_ something awful. Haven't you ever watched her in the Cinema?
She never lets him alone. And it's anybody alike. Oh, she doesn't respect
herself. I don't consider. No girl who respected herself would go on as
she does, throwing herself at every feller's head. Does she, though? Ay,
any performer or anybody. She's a tidy age, though. She's not much chance
of getting off. How old do you reckon she is? Must be well over thirty.
You never say. Well, she _looks_ it. She does beguy--a dragged old maid. Oh
but she sprightles up a bit sometimes. Ay, when she thinks she's hooked
on to somebody. I wonder why she never did take? It's funny. Oh, she was
too high and mighty before, and now it's too late. Nobody wants her. And
she's got no relations to go to either, has she? No, that's her father's
cousin who she's walking with. Look, they're coming. He's a fine-looking
man, isn't he? You'd have thought they'd have buried Miss Frost beside
Mrs. Houghton. You would, wouldn't you? I should think Alvina will lie by
Miss Frost. They say the grave was made for both of them. Ay, she was a
lot more of a mother to her than her own mother. She _was_ good to them,
Miss Frost was. Alvina thought the world of her. That's her stone--look,
down there. Not a very grand one, considering. No, it isn't. Look,
there's room for Alvina's name underneath. Sh!--

Alvina had sat back in the cab and watched from her obscurity the many
faces on the street: so familiar, so familiar, familiar as her own face.
And now she seemed to see them from a great distance, out of her
darkness. Her big cousin sat opposite her--how she disliked his presence.

In chapel she cried, thinking of her mother, and Miss Frost, and her
father. She felt so desolate--it all seemed so empty. Bitterly she cried,
when she bent down during the prayer. And her crying started Miss
Pinnegar, who cried almost as bitterly. It was all rather horrible. The
afterwards--the horrible afterwards.

There was the slow progress to the cemetery. It was a dull, cold day.
Alvina shivered as she stood on the bleak hillside, by the open grave.
Her coat did not seem warm enough, her old black seal-skin furs were not
much protection. The minister stood on the plank by the grave, and she
stood near, watching the white flowers blowing in the cold wind. She had
watched them for her mother--and for Miss Frost. She felt a sudden
clinging to Miss Pinnegar. Yet they would have to part. Miss Pinnegar had
been so fond of her father, in a quaint, reserved way. Poor Miss
Pinnegar, that was all life had offered her. Well, after all, it had been
a home and a home life. To which home and home life Alvina now clung with
a desperate yearning, knowing inevitably she was going to lose it, now
her father was gone. Strange, that he was gone. But he was weary, worn
very thin and weary. He had lived his day. How different it all was, now,
at his death, from the time when Alvina knew him as a little child and
thought him such a fine gentleman. You live and learn and lose.

For one moment she looked at Madame, who was shuddering with cold, her
face hidden behind her black spotted veil. But Madame seemed immensely
remote: so unreal. And Ciccio--what was his name? She could not think of
it. What was it? She tried to think of Madame's slow enunciation.
Marasca--maraschino. Marasca! Maraschino! What was maraschino? Where had
she heard it. Cudgelling her brains, she remembered the doctors, and the
suppers after the theatre. And maraschino--why, that was the favourite
white liqueur of the innocent Dr. Young. She could remember even now the
way he seemed to smack his lips, saying the word _maraschino_. Yet she
didn't think much of it. Hot, bitterish stuff--nothing: not like green
Chartreuse, which Dr. James gave her. Maraschino! Yes, that was it. Made
from cherries. Well, Ciccio's name was nearly the same. Ridiculous! But
she supposed Italian words were a good deal alike.

Ciccio, the marasca, the bitter cherry, was standing on the edge of the
crowd, looking on. He had no connection whatever with the
proceedings--stood outside, self-conscious, uncomfortable, bitten by the
wind, and hating the people who stared at him. He saw the trim, plump
figure of Madame, like some trim plump partridge among a flock of
barn-yard fowls. And he depended on her presence. Without her, he would
have felt too horribly uncomfortable on that raw hillside. She and he
were in some way allied. But these others, how alien and uncouth he felt
them. Impressed by their fine clothes, the English working-classes were
none the less barbarians to him, uncivilized: just as he was to them an
uncivilized animal. Uncouth, they seemed to him, all raw angles and
harshness, like their own weather. Not that he thought about them. But he
felt it in his flesh, the harshness and discomfort of them. And Alvina
was one of them. As she stood there by the grave, pale and pinched and
reserved looking, she was of a piece with the hideous cold grey
discomfort of the whole scene. Never had anything been more uncongenial
to him. He was dying to get away--to clear out. That was all he wanted.
Only some southern obstinacy made him watch, from the duskiness of his
face, the pale, reserved girl at the grave. Perhaps he even disliked her,
at that time. But he watched in his dislike.

When the ceremony was over, and the mourners turned away to go back to
the cabs, Madame pressed forward to Alvina.

"I shall say good-bye now, Miss Houghton. We must go to the station for
the train. And thank you, thank you. Good-bye."

"But--" Alvina looked round.

"Ciccio is there. I see him. We must catch the train."

"Oh but--won't you drive? Won't you ask Ciccio to drive with you in the
cab? Where is he?"

Madame pointed him out as he hung back among the graves, his black hat
cocked a little on one side. He was watching. Alvina broke away from her
cousin, and went to him.

"Madame is going to drive to the station," she said. "She wants you to
get in with her."

He looked round at the cabs.

"All right," he said, and he picked his way across the graves to Madame,
following Alvina.

"So, we go together in the cab," said Madame to him. Then: "Goodbye, my
dear Miss Houghton. Perhaps we shall meet once more. Who knows? My heart
is with you, my dear." She put her arms round Alvina and kissed her, a
little theatrically. The cousin looked on, very much aloof. Ciccio stood

"Come then, Ciccio," said Madame.

"Good-bye," said Alvina to him. "You'll come again, won't you?" She
looked at him from her strained, pale face.

"All right," he said, shaking her hand loosely. It sounded hopelessly

"You will come, won't you?" she repeated, staring at him with strained,
unseeing blue eyes.

"All right," he said, ducking and turning away.

She stood quite still for a moment, quite lost. Then she went on with her
cousin to her cab, home to the funeral tea.

"Good-bye!" Madame fluttered a black-edged handkerchief. But Ciccio, most
uncomfortable in his four-wheeler, kept hidden.

The funeral tea, with its baked meats and sweets, was a terrible affair.
But it came to an end, as everything comes to an end, and Miss Pinnegar
and Alvina were left alone in the emptiness of Manchester House.

"If you weren't here, Miss Pinnegar, I should be quite by myself," said
Alvina, blanched and strained.

"Yes. And so should I without you," said Miss Pinnegar doggedly. They
looked at each other. And that night both slept in Miss Pinnegar's bed,
out of sheer terror of the empty house.

During the days following the funeral, no one could have been more
tiresome than Alvina. James had left everything to his daughter,
excepting some rights in the work-shop, which were Miss Pinnegar's. But
the question was, how much did "everything" amount to? There was
something less than a hundred pounds in the bank. There was a mortgage on
Manchester House. There were substantial bills owing on account of the
Endeavour. Alvina had about a hundred pounds left from the insurance
money, when all funeral expenses were paid. Of that she was sure, and of
nothing else.

For the rest, she was almost driven mad by people coming to talk to her.
The lawyer came, the clergyman came, her cousin came, the old, stout,
prosperous tradesmen of Woodhouse came, Mr. May came, Miss Pinnegar came.
And they all had schemes, and they all had advice. The chief plan was
that the theatre should be sold up: and that Manchester House should be
sold, reserving a lease on the top floor, where Miss Pinnegar's
work-rooms were: that Miss Pinnegar and Alvina should move into a small
house, Miss Pinnegar keeping the workroom, Alvina giving music-lessons:
that the two women should be partners in the work-shop.

There were other plans, of course. There was a faction against the chapel
faction, which favoured the plan sketched out above. The theatre faction,
including Mr. May and some of the more florid tradesmen, favoured the
risking of everything in the Endeavour. Alvina was to be the proprietress
of the Endeavour, she was to run it on some sort of successful lines, and
abandon all other enterprise. Minor plans included the election of Alvina
to the post of parish nurse, at six pounds a month: a small private
school; a small haberdashery shop; and a position in the office of her
cousin's Knarborough business. To one and all Alvina answered with a
tantalizing: "I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't know. I can't
say yet. I shall see. I shall see." Till one and all became angry with
her. They were all so benevolent, and all so sure that they were
proposing the very best thing she could do. And they were all nettled,
even indignant that she did not jump at their proposals. She listened to
them all. She even invited their advice. Continually she said: "Well,
what do _you_ think of it?" And she repeated the chapel plan to the theatre
group, the theatre plan to the chapel party, the nursing to the
pianoforte proposers, the haberdashery shop to the private school
advocates. "Tell me what _you_ think," she said repeatedly. And they all
told her they thought _their_ plan was best. And bit by bit she told every
advocate the proposal of every other advocate. "Well, Lawyer Beeby
thinks--" and "Well now, Mr. Clay, the minister, advises--" and so on and
so on, till it was all buzzing through thirty benevolent and officious
heads. And thirty benevolently-officious wills were striving to plant
each one its own particular scheme of benevolence. And Alvina, naive and
pathetic, egged them all on in their strife, without even knowing what
she was doing. One thing only was certain. Some obstinate will in her own
self absolutely refused to have her mind made up. She would _not_ have her
mind made up for her, and she would not make it up for herself. And so
everybody began to say "I'm getting tired of her. You talk to her, and
you get no forrarder. She slips off to something else. I'm not going to
bother with her any more." In truth, Woodhouse was in a fever, for three
weeks or more, arranging Alvina's unarrangeable future for her. Offers of
charity were innumerable--for three weeks.

Meanwhile, the lawyer went on with the proving of the will and the
drawing up of a final account of James's property; Mr. May went on with
the Endeavour, though Alvina did not go down to play; Miss Pinnegar went
on with the work-girls: and Alvina went on unmaking her mind.

Ciccio did not come during the first week. Alvina had a post-card from
Madame, from Cheshire: rather far off. But such was the buzz and
excitement over her material future, such a fever was worked up round
about her that Alvina, the petty-propertied heroine of the moment, was
quite carried away in a storm of schemes and benevolent suggestions. She
answered Madame's post-card, but did not give much thought to the
Natcha-Kee-Tawaras. As a matter of fact, she was enjoying a real moment
of importance, there at the centre of Wood-house's rather domineering
benevolence: a benevolence which she unconsciously, but systematically
frustrated. All this scheming for selling out and making reservations and
hanging on and fixing prices and getting private bids for Manchester
House and for the Endeavour, the excitement of forming a Limited Company
to run the Endeavour, of seeing a lawyer about the sale of Manchester
House and the auctioneer about the sale of the furniture, of receiving
men who wanted to pick up the machines upstairs cheap, and of keeping
everything dangling, deciding nothing, putting everything off till she
had seen somebody else, this for the moment fascinated her, went to her
head. It was not until the second week had passed that her excitement
began to merge into irritation, and not until the third week had gone by
that she began to feel herself entangled in an asphyxiating web of
indecision, and her heart began to sing because Ciccio had never turned
up. Now she would have given anything to see the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras
again. But she did not know where they were. Now she began to loathe the
excitement of her property: doubtfully hers, every stick of it. Now she
would give anything to get away from Woodhouse, from the horrible buzz
and entanglement of her sordid affairs. Now again her wild recklessness
came over her.

She suddenly said she was going away somewhere: she would not say where.
She cashed all the money she could: a hundred-and-twenty-five pounds.
She took the train to Cheshire, to the last address of the
Natcha-Kee-Tawaras: she followed them to Stockport: and back to Chinley:
and there she was stuck for the night. Next day she dashed back almost to
Woodhouse, and swerved round to Sheffield. There, in that black town,
thank heaven, she saw their announcement on the wall. She took a taxi to
their theatre, and then on to their lodgings. The first thing she saw was
Louis, in his shirt sleeves, on the landing above.

She laughed with excitement and pleasure. She seemed another woman.
Madame looked up, almost annoyed, when she entered.

"I couldn't keep away from you, Madame," she cried.

"Evidently," said Madame.

Madame was darning socks for the young men. She was a wonderful mother
for them, sewed for them, cooked for them, looked after them most
carefully. Not many minutes was Madame idle.

"Do you mind?" said Alvina.

Madame darned for some moments without answering. "And how is everything
at Woodhouse?" she asked.

"I couldn't bear it any longer. I couldn't bear it. So I collected all
the money I could, and ran away. Nobody knows where I am."

Madame looked up with bright, black, censorious eyes, at the flushed girl
opposite. Alvina had a certain strangeness and brightness, which Madame
did not know, and a frankness which the Frenchwoman mistrusted, but found

"And all the business, the will and all?" said Madame.

"They're still fussing about it."

"And there is some money?"

"I have got a hundred pounds here," laughed Alvina. "What there will be
when everything is settled, I don't know. But not very much, I'm sure of

"How much do you think? A thousand pounds?"

"Oh, it's just possible, you know. But it's just as likely there won't be
another penny--"

Madame nodded slowly, as always when she did her calculations. "And if
there is nothing, what do you intend?" said Madame. "I don't know," said
Alvina brightly.

"And if there is something?"

"I don't know either. But I thought, if you would let me play for you, I
could keep myself for some time with my own money. You said perhaps I
might be with the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras. I wish you would let me."

Madame bent her head so that nothing showed but the bright black folds of
her hair. Then she looked up, with a slow, subtle, rather jeering smile.

"Ciccio didn't come to see you, hein?"

"No," said Alvina. "Yet he promised."

Again Madame smiled sardonically.

"Do you call it a promise?" she said. "You are easy to be satisfied with
a word. A hundred pounds? No more?"

"A hundred and twenty--"

"Where is it?"

"In my bag at the station--in notes. And I've got a little here--" Alvina
opened her purse, and took out some little gold and silver.

"At the station!" exclaimed Madame, smiling grimly: "Then perhaps you
have nothing."

"Oh, I think it's quite safe, don't you--?"

"Yes--maybe--since it is England. And you think a hundred and twenty
pounds is enough?"

"What for?"

"To satisfy Ciccio."

"I wasn't thinking of him," cried Alvina.

"No?" said Madame ironically. "I can propose it to him. Wait one moment."
She went to the door and called Ciccio.

He entered, looking not very good-tempered.

"Be so good, my dear," said Madame to him, "to go to the station and
fetch Miss Houghton's little bag. You have got the ticket, have you?"
Alvina handed the luggage ticket to Madame. "Midland Railway," said
Madame. "And, Ciccio, you are listening--? Mind! There is a hundred and
twenty pounds of Miss Houghton's money in the bag. You hear? Mind it is
not lost."

"It's all I have," said Alvina.

"For the time, for the time--till the will is proved, it is all the cash
she has. So mind doubly. You hear?"

"All right," said Ciccio.

"Tell him what sort of a bag, Miss Houghton," said Madame. Alvina told
him. He ducked and went. Madame listened for his final departure. Then
she nodded sagely at Alvina.

"Take off your hat and coat, my dear. Soon we will have tea--when Cic'
returns. Let him think, let him think what he likes. So much money is
certain, perhaps there will be more. Let him think. It will make all the
difference that there is so much cash--yes, so much--"

"But would it _really_ make a difference to him?" cried Alvina.

"Oh my dear!" exclaimed Madame. "Why should it not? We are on earth,
where we must eat. We are not in Paradise. If it were a thousand pounds,
then he would want very badly to marry you. But a hundred and twenty is
better than a blow to the eye, eh? Why sure!"

"It's dreadful, though--!" said Alvina.

"Oh la-la! Dreadful! If it was Max, who is sentimental, then no, the
money is nothing. But all the others--why, you see, they are men, and
they know which side to butter their bread. Men are like cats, my dear,
they don't like their bread without butter. Why should they? Nor do I,
nor do I."

"Can I help with the darning?" said Alvina.

"Hein? I shall give you Ciccio's socks, yes? He pushes holes in the
toes--you see?" Madame poked two fingers through the hole in the toe of a
red-and-black sock, and smiled a little maliciously at Alvina.

"I don't mind which sock I darn," she said.

"No? You don't? Well then, I give you another. But if you like I will
speak to him--"

"What to say?" asked Alvina.

"To say that you have so much money, and hope to have more. And that you
like him--Yes? Am I right? You like him very much?--hein? Is it so?"

"And then what?" said Alvina.

"That he should tell me if he should like to marry you also--quite
simply. What? Yes?"

"No," said Alvina. "Don't say anything--not yet."

"Hé? Not yet? Not yet. All right, not yet then. You will see--"

Alvina sat darning the sock and smiling at her own shamelessness. The
point that amused her most of all was the fact that she was not by any
means sure she wanted to marry him. There was Madame spinning her web
like a plump prolific black spider. There was Ciccio, the unrestful fly.
And there was herself, who didn't know in the least what she was doing.
There sat two of them, Madame and herself, darning socks in a stuffy
little bedroom with a gas fire, as if they had been born to it. And after
all, Woodhouse wasn't fifty miles away.

Madame went downstairs to get tea ready. Wherever she was, she
superintended the cooking and the preparation of meals for her young men,
scrupulous and quick. She called Alvina downstairs. Ciccio came in with
the bag.

"See, my dear, that your money is safe," said Madame.

Alvina unfastened her bag and counted the crisp white notes.

"And now," said Madame, "I shall lock it in my little bank, yes, where it
will be safe. And I shall give you a receipt, which the young men will

The party sat down to tea, in the stuffy sitting-room.

"Now, boys," said Madame, "what do you say? Shall Miss Houghton join the
Natcha-Kee-Tawaras? Shall she be our pianist?"

The eyes of the four young men rested on Alvina. Max, as being the
responsible party, looked business-like. Louis was tender, Geoffrey
round-eyed and inquisitive, Ciccio furtive.

"With great pleasure," said Max. "But can the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras afford
to pay a pianist for themselves?"

"No," said Madame. "No. I think not. Miss Houghton will come for one
month, to prove, and in that time she shall pay for herself. Yes? So she
fancies it."

"Can we pay her expenses?" said Max.

"No," said Alvina. "Let me pay everything for myself, for a month. I
should like to be with you, awfully--"

She looked across with a look half mischievous, half beseeching at the
erect Max. He bowed as he sat at table.

"I think we shall all be honoured," he said.

"Certainly," said Louis, bowing also over his tea-cup.

Geoffrey inclined his head, and Ciccio lowered his eyelashes in
indication of agreement.

"Now then," said Madame briskly, "we are all agreed. Tonight we will have
a bottle of wine on it. Yes, gentlemen? What d'you say? Chianti--hein?"

They all bowed above the table.

"And Miss Houghton shall have her professional name, eh? Because we
cannot say Miss Houghton--what?"

"Do call me Alvina," said Alvina.

"Alvina--Al-vy-na! No, excuse me, my dear, I don't like it. I don't like
this 'vy' sound. Tonight we shall find a name."

After tea they inquired for a room for Alvina. There was none in the
house. But two doors away was another decent lodging-house, where a
bedroom on the top floor was found for her.

"I think you are very well here," said Madame.

"Quite nice," said Alvina, looking round the hideous little room, and
remembering her other term of probation, as a maternity nurse.

She dressed as attractively as possible, in her new dress of black voile,
and imitating Madame, she put four jewelled rings on her fingers. As a
rule she only wore the mourning-rite of black enamel and diamond, which
had been always on Miss Frost's finger. Now she left off this, and took
four diamond rings, and one good sapphire. She looked at herself in her
mirror as she had never done before, really interested in the effect she
made. And in her dress she pinned a valuable old ruby brooch.

Then she went down to Madame's house. Madame eyed her shrewdly, with just
a touch of jealousy: the eternal jealousy that must exist between the
plump, pale partridge of a Frenchwoman, whose black hair is so glossy and
tidy, whose black eyes are so acute, whose black dress is so neat and
_chic_, and the rather thin Englishwoman in soft voile, with soft, rather
loose brown hair and demure, blue-grey eyes.

"Oh--a difference--what a difference! When you have a little more
flesh--then--" Madame made a slight click with her tongue. "What a good
brooch, eh?" Madame fingered the brooch. "Old paste--old

"No," said Alvina. "They are real rubies. It was my great-grandmother's."

"Do you mean it? Real? Are you sure--"

"I think I'm quite sure."

Madame scrutinized the jewels with a fine eye.

"Hm!" she said. And Alvina did not know whether she was sceptical, or
jealous, or admiring, or really impressed.

"And the diamonds are real?" said Madame, making Alvina hold up her

"I've always understood so," said Alvina.

Madame scrutinized, and slowly nodded her head. Then she looked into
Alvina's eyes, really a little jealous.

"Another four thousand francs there," she said, nodding sagely. "Really!"
said Alvina.

"For sure. It's enough--it's enough--"

And there was a silence between the two women.

The young men had been out shopping for the supper. Louis, who knew where
to find French and German stuff, came in with bundles, Ciccio returned
with a couple of flasks, Geoffrey with sundry moist papers of edibles.
Alvina helped Madame to put the anchovies and sardines and tunny and ham
and salami on various plates, she broke off a bit of fern from one of the
flower-pots, to stick in the pork-pie, she set the table with its ugly
knives and forks and glasses. All the time her rings sparkled, her red
brooch sent out beams, she laughed and was gay, she was quick, and she
flattered Madame by being very deferential to her. Whether she was
herself or not, in the hideous, common, stuffy sitting-room of the
lodging-house she did not know or care. But she felt excited and gay. She
knew the young men were watching her. Max gave his assistance wherever
possible. Geoffrey watched her rings, half spell-bound. But Alvina was
concerned only to flatter the plump, white, soft vanity of Madame. She
carefully chose for Madame the finest plate, the clearest glass, the
whitest-hafted knife, the most delicate fork. All of which Madame saw,
with acute eyes.

At the theatre the same: Alvina played for Kishwégin, only for Kishwégin.
And Madame had the time of her life.

"You know, my dear," she said afterward to Alvina, "I understand sympathy
in music. Music goes straight to the heart." And she kissed Alvina on
both cheeks, throwing her arms round her neck dramatically.

"I'm _so_ glad," said the wily Alvina.

And the young men stirred uneasily, and smiled furtively.

They hurried home to the famous supper. Madame sat at one end of the
table, Alvina at the other. Madame had Max and Louis by her side, Alvina
had Ciccio and Geoffrey. Ciccio was on Alvina's right hand: a delicate

They began with hors d'oeuvres and tumblers three parts full of Chianti.
Alvina wanted to water her wine, but was not allowed to insult the sacred
liquid. There was a spirit of great liveliness and conviviality. Madame
became paler, her eyes blacker, with the wine she drank, her voice became
a little raucous.

"Tonight," she said, "the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras make their feast of
affiliation. The white daughter has entered the tribe of the Hirondelles,
swallows that pass from land to land, and build their nests between roof
and wall. A new swallow, a new Huron from the tents of the pale-face,
from the lodges of the north, from the tribe of the Yenghees." Madame's
black eyes glared with a kind of wild triumph down the table at Alvina.
"Nameless, without having a name, comes the maiden with the red jewels,
dark-hearted, with the red beams. Wine from the pale-face shadows,
drunken wine for Kishwégin, strange wine for the braves in their
nostrils, Vaali, _à vous_."

Madame lifted her glass.

"Vaali, drink to her--Boire à elle--" She thrust her glass forwards in
the air. The young men thrust their glasses up towards Alvina, in a
cluster. She could see their mouths all smiling, their teeth white as
they cried in their throats: "Vaali! Vaali! Boire à vous."

Ciccio was near to her. Under the table he laid his hand on her knee.
Quickly she put forward her hand to protect herself. He took her hand,
and looked at her along the glass as he drank. She saw his throat move as
the wine went down it. He put down his glass, still watching her.

"Vaali!" he said, in his throat. Then across the table "Hé, Gigi-Viale! Le
Petit Chemin! Comment? Me prends-tu? L'allée--"

There came a great burst of laughter from Louis.

"It is good, it is good!" he cried. "Oh Madame! Viale, it is Italian for
the little way, the alley. That is too rich."

Max went off into a high and ribald laugh.

"L'allée italienne!" he said, and shouted with laughter.

"Alley or avenue, what does it matter," cried Madame in French, "so long
as it is a good journey."

Here Geoffrey at last saw the joke. With a strange determined flourish he
filled his glass, cocking up his elbow.

"A toi, Cic'--et bon voyage!" he said, and then he tilted up his chin and
swallowed in great throatfuls.

"Certainly! Certainly!" cried Madame. "To thy good journey, my Ciccio,
for thou art not a great traveller--"

"Na, pour ça, y'a plus d'une voie," said Geoffrey.

During this passage in French Alvina sat with very bright eyes looking
from one to another, and not understanding. But she knew it was something
improper, on her account. Her eyes had a bright, slightly-bewildered look
as she turned from one face to another. Ciccio had let go her hand, and
was wiping his lips with his fingers. He too was a little self-conscious.

"Assez de cette éternelle voix italienne," said Madame. "Courage, courage
au chemin d'Angleterre."

"Assez de cette éternelle voix rauque," said Ciccio, looking round.
Madame suddenly pulled herself together.

"They will not have my name. They will call you Allay!" she said to
Alvina. "Is it good? Will it do?"

"Quite," said Alvina.

And she could not understand why Gigi, and then the others after him,
went off into a shout of laughter. She kept looking round with bright,
puzzled eyes. Her face was slightly flushed and tender looking, she
looked naïve, young.

"Then you will become one of the tribe of Natcha-Kee-Tawara, of the name
Allaye? Yes?"

"Yes," said Alvina.

"And obey the strict rules of the tribe. Do you agree?"


"Then listen." Madame primmed and preened herself like a black pigeon,
and darted glances out of her black eyes.

"We are one tribe, one nation--say it."

"We are one tribe, one nation," repeated Alvina.

"Say all," cried Madame.

"We are one tribe, one nation--" they shouted, with varying accent.
"Good!" said Madame. "And no-nation do we know but the nation of the

"No nation do we know but the nation of the Hirondelles," came the ragged
chant of strong male voices, resonant and gay with mockery.

"Hurons--Hirondelles, means _swallows_," said Madame.

"Yes, I know," said Alvina.

"So! you know! Well, then! We know no nation but the Hirondelles."


"We have no law but Huron law!" sang the response, in a deep, sardonic


"We have no lawgiver except Kishwégin," they sang sonorous.


"We have no home but the tent of Kishwégin."


"There is no good but the good of Natcha-Kee-Tawara."


"We are the Hirondelles."


"We are Kishwégin."


"We are Mondagua--"


"We are Atonquois--"


"We are Pacohuila--"


"We are Walgatchka--"


"We are Allaye--"

"La musica! Pacohuila, la musica!" cried Madame, starting to her feet and
sounding frenzied.

Ciccio got up quickly and took his mandoline from its case.

"A--A--Ai--Aii--eee--ya--" began Madame, with a long, faint wail. And on
the wailing mandoline the music started. She began to dance a slight but
intense dance. Then she waved for a partner, and set up a tarantella
wail. Louis threw off his coat and sprang to tarantella attention, Ciccio
rang out the peculiar tarantella, and Madame and Louis danced in the
tight space.

"Brava--Brava!" cried the others, when Madame sank into her place. And
they crowded forward to kiss her hand. One after the other, they kissed
her fingers, whilst she laid her left hand languidly on the head of one
man after another, as she sat slightly panting. Ciccio however did not
come up, but sat faintly twanging the mandoline. Nor did Alvina leave her

"Pacohuila!" cried Madame, with an imperious gesture. "Allaye! Come--"

Ciccio laid down his mandoline and went to kiss the fingers of Kishwégin.
Alvina also went forward. Madame held out her hand. Alvina kissed it.
Madame laid her hand on the head of Alvina.

"This is the squaw Allaye, this is the daughter of Kishwégin," she said,
in her Tawara manner.

"And where is the _brave_ of Allaye, where is the arm that upholds the
daughter of Kishwégin, which of the Swallows spreads his wings over the
gentle head of the new one!"

"Pacohuila!" said Louis.

"Pacohuila! Pacohuila! Pacohuila!" said the others.

"Spread soft wings, spread dark-roofed wings, Pacohuila," said Kishwégin,
and Ciccio, in his shirt-sleeves solemnly spread his arms.

"Stoop, stoop, Allaye, beneath the wings of Pacohuila," said Kishwégin,
faintly pressing Alvina on the shoulder.

Alvina stooped and crouched under the right arm of Pacohuila. "Has the
bird flown home?" chanted Kishwégin, to one of the strains of their

"The bird is home--" chanted the men.

"Is the nest warm?" chanted Kishwégin.

"The nest is warm."

"Does the he-bird stoop--?"

"He stoops.

"Who takes Allaye?"


Ciccio gently stooped and raised Alvina to her feet.

"C'est ça!" said Madame, kissing her. "And now, children, unless the
Sheffield policeman will knock at our door, we must retire to our wigwams

Ciccio was watching Alvina. Madame made him a secret, imperative gesture
that he should accompany the young woman.

"You have your key, Allaye?" she said.

"Did I have a key?" said Alvina.

Madame smiled subtly as she produced a latch-key.

"Kishwégin must open your doors for you all," she said. Then, with a
slight flourish, she presented the key to Ciccio. "I give it to him?
Yes?" she added, with her subtle, malicious smile.

Ciccio, smiling slightly, and keeping his head ducked, took the key.
Alvina looked brightly, as if bewildered, from one to another.

"Also the light!" said Madame, producing a pocket flashlight, which she
triumphantly handed to Ciccio. Alvina watched him. She noticed how he
dropped his head forward from his straight, strong shoulders, how
beautiful that was, the strong, forward-inclining nape and back of the
head. It produced a kind of dazed submission in her, the drugged sense of
unknown beauty.

"And so good-night, Allaye--bonne nuit, fille des Tawara." Madame kissed
her, and darted black, unaccountable looks at her.

Each _brave_ also kissed her hand, with a profound salute. Then the men
shook hands warmly with Ciccio, murmuring to him.

He did not put on his hat nor his coat, but ran round as he was to the
neighbouring house with her, and opened the door. She entered, and he
followed, flashing on the light. So she climbed weakly up the dusty, drab
stairs, he following. When she came to her door, she turned and looked at
him. His face was scarcely visible, it seemed, and yet so strange and
beautiful. It was the unknown beauty which almost killed her.

"You aren't coming?" she quavered.

He gave an odd, half-gay, half-mocking twitch of his thick dark brows,
and began to laugh silently. Then he nodded again, laughing at her
boldly, carelessly, triumphantly, like the dark Southerner he was. Her
instinct was to defend herself. When suddenly she found herself in the

She gasped. And as she gasped, he quite gently put her inside her room,
and closed the door, keeping one arm round her all the time. She felt his
heavy muscular predominance. So he took her in both arms, powerful,
mysterious, horrible in the pitch dark. Yet the sense of the unknown
beauty of him weighed her down like some force. If for one moment she
would have escaped from that black spell of his beauty, she would have
been free. But she could not. He was awful to her, shameless so that she
died under his shamelessness, his smiling, progressive shamelessness. Yet
she could not see him ugly. If only she could, for one second, have seen
him ugly, he would not have killed her and made her his slave as he did.
But the spell was on her, of his darkness and unfathomed handsomeness.
And he killed her. He simply took her and assassinated her. How she
suffered no one can tell. Yet all the time, his lustrous dark beauty,

When later she pressed her face on his chest and cried, he held her
gently as if she was a child, but took no notice, and she felt in the
darkness that he smiled. It was utterly dark, and she knew he smiled, and
she began to get hysterical. But he only kissed her, his smiling
deepening to a heavy laughter, silent and invisible, but sensible, as he
carried her away once more. He intended her to be his slave, she knew.
And he seemed to throw her down and suffocate her like a wave. And she
could have fought, if only the sense of his dark, rich handsomeness had
not numbed her like a venom. So she washed suffocated in his passion.

In the morning when it was light he turned and looked at her from under
his long black lashes, a long, steady, cruel, faintly-smiling look from
his tawny eyes, searching her as if to see whether she were still alive.
And she looked back at him, heavy-eyed and half subjected. He smiled
slightly at her, rose, and left her. And she turned her face to the wall,
feeling beaten. Yet not quite beaten to death. Save for the fatal
numbness of her love for him, she could still have escaped him. But she
lay inert, as if envenomed. He wanted to make her his slave.

When she went down to the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras for breakfast she found them
waiting for her. She was rather frail and tender-looking, with wondering
eyes that showed she had been crying.

"Come, daughter of the Tawaras," said Madame brightly to her. "We have
been waiting for you. Good-morning, and all happiness, eh? Look, it is a
gift-day for you--"

Madame smilingly led Alvina to her place. Beside her plate was a bunch of
violets, a bunch of carnations, a pair of exquisite bead moccasins, and a
pair of fine doeskin gloves delicately decorated with feather-work on the
cuffs. The slippers were from Kishwégin, the gloves from Mondagua, the
carnations from Atonquois, the violets from Walgatchka--all _To the
Daughter of the Tawaras, Allaye_, as it said on the little cards.

"The gift of Pacohuila you know," said Madame, smiling. "The brothers of
Pacohuila are your brothers."

One by one they went to her and each one laid the back of her fingers
against his forehead, saying in turn:

"I am your brother Mondagua, Allaye!"

"I am your brother Atonquois, Allaye!"

"I am your brother Walgatchka, Allaye, best brother, you know--" So spoke
Geoffrey, looking at her with large, almost solemn eyes of affection.
Alvina smiled a little wanly, wondering where she was. It was all so
solemn. Was it all mockery, play-acting? She felt bitterly inclined to

Meanwhile Madame came in with the coffee, which she always made herself,
and the party sat down to breakfast. Ciccio sat on Alvina's right, but he
seemed to avoid looking at her or speaking to her. All the time he looked
across the table, with the half-asserted, knowing look in his eyes, at
Gigi: and all the time he addressed himself to Gigi, with the throaty,
rich, plangent quality in his voice, that Alvina could not bear, it
seemed terrible to her: and he spoke in French: and the two men seemed to
be exchanging unspeakable communications. So that Alvina, for all her
wistfulness and subjectedness, was at last seriously offended. She rose
as soon as possible from table. In her own heart she wanted attention and
public recognition from Ciccio--none of which she got. She returned to
her own house, to her own room, anxious to tidy everything, not wishing
to have her landlady in the room. And she half expected Ciccio to come to
speak to her.

As she was busy washing a garment in the bowl, her landlady knocked and
entered. She was a rough and rather beery-looking Yorkshire woman, not

"Oh, yo'n made yer bed then, han' yer!"

"Yes," said Alvina. "I've done everything."

"I see yer han. Yo'n bin sharp."

Alvina did not answer.

"Seems yer doin' yersen a bit o' weshin'."

Still Alvina didn't answer.

"Yo' can 'ing it i' th' back yard."

"I think it'll dry here," said Alvina.

"Isna much dryin' up here. Send us howd when 't's ready. Yo'll 'appen be
wantin' it. I can dry it off for yer t' kitchen. You don't take a drop o'
nothink, do yer?"

"No," said Alvina. "I don't like it."

"Summat a bit stronger 'n 't bottle, my sakes alive! Well, yo mun ha'e
yer fling, like t' rest. But coom na, which on 'em is it? I catched sight
on 'im goin' out, but I didna ma'e out then which on 'em it wor. He--eh,
it's a pity you don't take a drop of nothink, it's a world's pity. Is it
the fairest on 'em, the tallest."

"No," said Alvina. "The darkest one."

"Oh ay! Well, 's a strappin' anuff feller, for them as goes that road. I
thought Madame was partikler. I s'll charge yer a bit more, yer know. I
s'll 'ave to make a bit out of it. I'm partikler as a rule. I don't like
'em comin' in an' goin' out, you know. Things get said. You look so
quiet, you do. Come now, it's worth a hextra quart to me, else I shan't
have it, I shan't. You can't make as free as all that with the house, you
know, be it what it may--"

She stood red-faced and dour in the doorway. Alvina quietly gave her

"Nay, lass," said the woman, "if you share niver a drop o' th' lashins,
you mun split it. Five shillin's is oceans, ma wench. I'm not down on
you--not me. On'y we've got to keep up appearances a bit, you know. Dash
my rags, it's a caution!"

"I haven't got five shillings--" said Alvina.

"Yer've not? All right, gi'e 's ha 'efcrown today, an' t'other termorrer.
It'll keep, it'll keep. God bless you for a good wench. A' open 'eart 's
worth all your bum-righteousness. It is for me. An' a sight more. You're
all right, ma wench, you're all right--"

And the rather bleary woman went nodding away.

Alvina ought to have minded. But she didn't. She even laughed into her
ricketty mirror. At the back of her thoughts, all she minded was that
Ciccio did not pay her some attention. She really expected him now to
come to speak to her. If she could have imagined how far he was from any
such intention.

So she loitered unwillingly at her window high over the grey, hard,
cobbled street, and saw her landlady hastening along the black asphalt
pavement, her dirty apron thrown discreetly over what was most obviously
a quart jug. She followed the squat, intent figure with her eye, to the
public-house at the corner. And then she saw Ciccio humped over his
yellow bicycle, going for a steep and perilous ride with Gigi.

Still she lingered in her sordid room. She could feel Madame was
expecting her. But she felt inert, weak, incommunicative. Only a real
fear of offending Madame drove her down at last.

Max opened the door to let her in.

"Ah!" he said. "You've come. We were wondering about you."

"Thank you," she said, as she passed into the dirty hall where still two
bicycles stood.

"Madame is in the kitchen," he said.

Alvina found Madame trussed in a large white apron, busy rubbing a
yellow-fleshed hen with lemon, previous to boiling.

"Ah!" said Madame. "So there you are! I have been out and done my
shopping, and already begun to prepare the dinner. Yes, you may help me.
Can you wash leeks? Yes? Every grain of sand? Shall I trust you then--?"

Madame usually had a kitchen to herself, in the morning. She either
ousted her landlady, or used her as second cook. For Madame was a
gourmet, if not gourmand. If she inclined towards self-indulgence in any
direction, it was in the direction of food. She _loved_ a good table. And
hence the Tawaras saved less money than they might. She was an exacting,
tormenting, bullying cook. Alvina, who knew well enough how to prepare a
simple dinner, was offended by Madame's exactions. Madame turning back
the green leaves of a leek, and hunting a speck of earth down into the
white, like a flea in a bed, was too much for Alvina.

"I'm afraid I shall never be particular enough," she said. "Can't I do
anything else for you?"

"For me? I need nothing to be done for me. But for the young men--yes, I
will show you in one minute--"

And she took Alvina upstairs to her room, and gave her a pair of the thin
leather trousers fringed with hair, belonging to one of the braves. A
seam had ripped. Madame gave Alvina a fine awl and some waxed thread.

"The leather is not good in these things of Gigi's," she said. "It is
badly prepared. See, like this." And she showed Alvina another place
where the garment was repaired. "Keep on your apron. At the weekend you
must fetch more clothes, not spoil this beautiful gown of voile. Where
have you left your diamonds? What? In your room? Are they locked? Oh my
dear--!" Madame turned pale and darted looks of fire at Alvina. "If they
are stolen--!" she cried. "Oh! I have become quite weak, hearing you!"
She panted and shook her head. "If they are not stolen, you have the Holy
Saints alone to be thankful for keeping them. But run, run!"

And Madame really stamped her foot.

"Bring me everything you've got--every _thing_ that is valuable. I shall
lock it up. How _can_ you--"

Alvina was hustled off to her lodging. Fortunately nothing was gone. She
brought all to Madame, and Madame fingered the treasures lovingly.

"Now what you want you must ask me for," she said.

With what close curiosity Madame examined the ruby brooch. "You can have
that if you like, Madame," said Alvina.

"You mean--what?"

"I will give you that brooch if you like to take it--"

"Give me this--!" cried Madame, and a flash went over her face. Then she
changed into a sort of wheedling. "No--no. I shan't take it! I shan't
take it. You don't want to give away such a thing."

"I don't mind," said Alvina. "Do take it if you like it."

"Oh no! Oh no! I can't take it. A beautiful thing it is, really. It would
be worth over a thousand francs, because I believe it is quite genuine."

"I'm sure it's genuine," said Alvina. "Do have it since you like it."

"Oh, I can't! I can't!--"

"Yes do--"

"The beautiful red stones!--antique gems, antique gems--! And do you
really give it to me?"

"Yes, I should like to."

"You are a girl with a noble heart--" Madame threw her arms round
Alvina's neck, and kissed her. Alvina felt very cool about it. Madame
locked up the jewels quickly, after one last look.

"My fowl," she said, "which must not boil too fast."

At length Alvina was called down to dinner. The young men were at table,
talking as young men do, not very interestingly. After the meal, Ciccio
sat and twanged his mandoline, making its crying noise vibrate through
the house.

"I shall go and look at the town," said Alvina.

"And who shall go with you?" asked Madame.

"I will go alone," said Alvina, "unless you will come, Madame."

"Alas no, I can't. I can't come. Will you really go alone?"

"Yes, I want to go to the women's shops," said Alvina.

"You want to! All right then! And you will come home at tea-time, yes?"

As soon as Alvina had gone out Ciccio put away his mandoline and lit a
cigarette. Then after a while he hailed Geoffrey, and the two young men
sallied forth. Alvina, emerging from a draper's shop in Rotherhampton
Broadway, found them loitering on the pavement outside. And they strolled
along with her. So she went into a shop that sold ladies' underwear,
leaving them on the pavement. She stayed as long as she could. But there
they were when she came out. They had endless lounging patience.

"I thought you would be gone on," she said.

"No hurry," said Ciccio, and he took away her parcels from her, as if he
had a right. She wished he wouldn't tilt the flap of his black hat over
one eye, and she wished there wasn't quite so much waist-line in the cut
of his coat, and that he didn't smoke cigarettes against the end of his
nose in the street. But wishing wouldn't alter him. He strayed alongside
as if he half belonged, and half didn't--most irritating.

She wasted as much time as possible in the shops, then they took the tram
home again. Ciccio paid the three fares, laying his hand restrainingly on
Gigi's hand, when Gigi's hand sought pence in his trouser pocket, and
throwing his arm over his friend's shoulder, in affectionate but vulgar
triumph, when the fares were paid. Alvina was on her high horse.

They tried to talk to her, they tried to ingratiate themselves--but she
wasn't having any. She talked with icy pleasantness. And so the teatime
passed, and the time after tea. The performance went rather mechanically,
at the theatre, and the supper at home, with bottled beer and boiled ham,
was a conventionally cheerful affair. Even Madame was a little afraid of
Alvina this evening.

"I am tired, I shall go early to my room," said Alvina.

"Yes, I think we are all tired," said Madame.

"Why is it?" said Max metaphysically--"why is it that two merry evenings
never follow one behind the other."

"Max, beer makes thee a _farceur_ of a fine quality," said Madame. Alvina

"Please don't get up," she said to the others. "I have my key and can see
quite well," she said. "Good-night all."

They rose and bowed their good-nights. But Ciccio, with an obstinate and
ugly little smile on his face, followed her.

"Please don't come," she said, turning at the street door. But
obstinately he lounged into the street with her. He followed her to her

"Did you bring the flash-light?" she said. "The stair is so dark."

He looked at her, and turned as if to get the light. Quickly she opened
the house-door and slipped inside, shutting it sharply in his face. He
stood for some moments looking at the door, and an ugly little look
mounted his straight nose. He too turned indoors.

Alvina hurried to bed and slept well. And the next day the same, she was
all icy pleasantness. The Natcha-Kee-Tawaras were a little bit put out by
her. She was a spoke in their wheel, a scotch to their facility. She made
them irritable. And that evening--it was Friday--Ciccio did not rise to
accompany her to her house. And she knew they were relieved that she had

That did not please her. The next day, which was Saturday, the last and
greatest day of the week, she found herself again somewhat of an outsider
in the troupe. The tribe had assembled in its old unison. She was the
intruder, the interloper. And Ciccio never looked at her, only showed her
the half-averted side of his cheek, on which was a slightly jeering, ugly

"Will you go to Woodhouse tomorrow?" Madame asked her, rather coolly.
They none of them called her Allaye any more.

"I'd better fetch some things, hadn't I?" said Alvina.

"Certainly, if you think you will stay with us."

This was a nasty slap in the face for her. But:

"I want to," she said.

"Yes! Then you will go to Woodhouse tomorrow, and come to Mansfield on
Monday morning? Like that shall it be? You will stay one night at

Through Alvina's mind flitted the rapid thought--"They want an evening
without me." Her pride mounted obstinately. She very nearly said--"I may
stay in Woodhouse altogether." But she held her tongue.

After all, they were very common people. They ought to be glad to have
her. Look how Madame snapped up that brooch! And look what an uncouth
lout Ciccio was! After all, she was demeaning herself shamefully staying
with them in common, sordid lodgings. After all, she had been bred up
differently from that. They had horribly low standards--such low
standards--not only of morality, but of life altogether. Really, she had
come down in the world, conforming to such standards of life. She evoked
the images of her mother and Miss Frost: ladies, and noble women both.
Whatever could she be thinking of herself!

However, there was time for her to retrace her steps. She had not given
herself away. Except to Ciccio. And her heart burned when she thought of
him, partly with anger and mortification, partly, alas, with undeniable
and unsatisfied love. Let her bridle as she might, her heart burned, and
she wanted to look at him, she wanted him to notice her. And instinct
told her that he might ignore her for ever. She went to her room an
unhappy woman, and wept and fretted till morning, chafing between
humiliation and yearning.


Alvina rose chastened and wistful. As she was doing her hair, she heard
the plaintive nasal sound of Ciccio's mandoline. She looked down the
mixed vista of back-yards and little gardens, and was able to catch sight
of a portion of Ciccio, who was sitting on a box in the blue-brick yard
of his house, bare-headed and in his shirt-sleeves, twitching away at the
wailing mandoline. It was not a warm morning, but there was a streak of
sunshine. Alvina had noticed that Ciccio did not seem to feel the cold,
unless it were a wind or a driving rain. He was playing the
wildly-yearning Neapolitan songs, of which Alvina knew nothing. But,
although she only saw a section of him, the glimpse of his head was
enough to rouse in her that overwhelming fascination, which came and went
in spells. His remoteness, his southernness, something velvety and dark.
So easily she might miss him altogether! Within a hair's-breadth she had
let him disappear.

She hurried down. Geoffrey opened the door to her. She smiled at him in a
quick, luminous smile, a magic change in her.

"I could hear Ciccio playing," she said.

Geoffrey spread his rather thick lips in a smile, and jerked his head in
the direction of the back door, with a deep, intimate look into Alvina's
eyes, as if to say his friend was love-sick.

"Shall I go through?" said Alvina.

Geoffrey laid his large hand on her shoulder for a moment, looked into
her eyes, and nodded. He was a broad-shouldered fellow, with a rather
flat, handsome face, well-coloured, and with the look of the Alpine ox
about him, slow, eternal, even a little mysterious. Alvina was startled
by the deep, mysterious look in his dark-fringed ox-eyes. The odd arch of
his eyebrows made him suddenly seem not quite human to her. She smiled to
him again, startled. But he only inclined his head, and with his heavy
hand on her shoulder gently impelled her towards Ciccio.

When she came out at the back she smiled straight into Ciccio's face,
with her sudden, luminous smile. His hand on the mandoline trembled into
silence. He sat looking at her with an instant re-establishment of
knowledge. And yet she shrank from the long, inscrutable gaze of his
black-set, tawny eyes. She resented him a little. And yet she went
forward to him and stood so that her dress touched him. And still he
gazed up at her, with the heavy, unspeaking look, that seemed to bear her
down: he seemed like some creature that was watching her for his
purposes. She looked aside at the black garden, which had a wiry
gooseberry bush.

"You will come with me to Woodhouse?" she said.

He did not answer till she turned to him again. Then, as she met his

"To Woodhouse?" he said, watching her, to fix her.

"Yes," she said, a little pale at the lips.

And she saw his eternal smile of triumph slowly growing round his mouth.
She wanted to cover his mouth with her hand. She preferred his tawny eyes
with their black brows and lashes. His eyes watched her as a cat watches
a bird, but without the white gleam of ferocity. In his eyes was a deep,
deep sun-warmth, something fathomless, deepening black and abysmal, but
somehow sweet to her.

"Will you?" she repeated.

But his eyes had already begun to glimmer their consent. He turned aside
his face, as if unwilling to give a straight answer.

"Yes," he said.

"Play something to me," she cried.

He lifted his face to her, and shook his head slightly.

"Yes do," she said, looking down on him.

And he bent his head to the mandoline, and suddenly began to sing a
Neapolitan song, in a faint, compressed head-voice, looking up at her
again as his lips moved, looking straight into her face with a curious
mocking caress as the muted _voix blanche_ came through his lips at her,
amid the louder quavering of the mandoline. The sound penetrated her like
a thread of fire, hurting, but delicious, the high thread of his voice.
She could see the Adam's apple move in his throat, his brows tilted as he
looked along his lashes at her all the time. Here was the strange sphinx
singing again, and herself between its paws! She seemed almost to melt
into his power.

Madame intervened to save her.

"What, serenade before breakfast! You have strong stomachs, I say. Eggs
and ham are more the question, hein? Come, you smell them, don't you?"

A flicker of contempt and derision went over Ciccio's face as he broke
off and looked aside.

"I prefer the serenade," said Alvina. "I've had ham and eggs before."

"You do, hein? Well--always, you won't. And now you must eat the ham and
eggs, however. Yes? Isn't it so?"

Ciccio rose to his feet, and looked at Alvina: as he would have looked at
Gigi, had Gigi been there. His eyes said unspeakable things about Madame.
Alvina flashed a laugh, suddenly. And a good-humoured, half-mocking smile
came over his face too.

They turned to follow Madame into the house. And as Alvina went before
him, she felt his fingers stroke the nape of her neck, and pass in a soft
touch right down her back. She started as if some unseen creature had
stroked her with its paw, and she glanced swiftly round, to see the face
of Ciccio mischievous behind her shoulder.

"Now I think," said Madame, "that today we all take the same train. We go
by the Great Central as far as the junction, together. Then you, Allaye,
go on to Knarborough, and we leave you until tomorrow. And now there is
not much time."

"I am going to Woodhouse," said Ciccio in French.

"You also! By the train, or the bicycle?"

"Train," said Ciccio.

"Waste so much money?"

Ciccio raised his shoulders slightly.

When breakfast was over, and Alvina had gone to her room, Geoffrey went
out into the back yard, where the bicycles stood.

"Cic'," he said. "I should like to go with thee to Woodhouse. Come on
bicycle with me."

Ciccio shook his head.

"I'm going in train with _her_," he said.

Geoffrey darkened with his heavy anger.

"I would like to see how it is, there, _chez elle_," he said.

"Ask _her_," said Ciccio.

Geoffrey watched him suddenly.

"Thou forsakest me," he said. "I would like to see it, there."

"Ask her," repeated Ciccio. "Then come on bicycle."

"You're content to leave me," muttered Geoffrey.

Ciccio touched his friend on his broad cheek, and smiled at him with

"I don't leave thee, Gigi. I asked thy advice. You said, Go. But come. Go
and ask her, and then come. Come on bicycle, eh? Ask her! Go on! Go and
ask her."

Alvina was surprised to hear a tap at her door, and Gigi's voice, in his
strong foreign accent:

"Mees Houghton, I carry your bag."

She opened her door in surprise. She was all ready.

"There it is," she said, smiling at him.

But he confronted her like a powerful ox, full of dangerous force. Her
smile had reassured him.

"Na, Allaye," he said, "tell me something."

"What?" laughed Alvina.

"Can I come to Woodhouse?"


"Today. Can I come on bicycle, to tea, eh? At your house with you and
Ciccio? Eh?"

He was smiling with a thick, doubtful, half sullen smile.

"Do!" said Alvina.

He looked at her with his large, dark-blue eyes.

"Really, eh?" he said, holding out his large hand.

She shook hands with him warmly.

"Yes, really!" she said. "I wish you would."

"Good," he said, a broad smile on his thick mouth. And all the time he
watched her curiously, from his large eyes.

"Ciccio--a good chap, eh?" he said.

"Is he?" laughed Alvina.

"Ha-a--!" Gigi shook his head solemnly. "The best!" He made such solemn
eyes, Alvina laughed. He laughed too, and picked up her bag as if it were
a bubble.

"Na Cic'--" he said, as he saw Ciccio in the street. "Sommes d'accord."

"Ben!" said Ciccio, holding out his hand for the bag. "Donne."

"Ne-ne," said Gigi, shrugging.

Alvina found herself on the new and busy station that Sunday morning, one
of the little theatrical company. It was an odd experience. They were so
obviously a theatrical company--people apart from the world. Madame was
darting her black eyes here and there, behind her spotted veil, and
standing with the ostensible self-possession of her profession. Max was
circling round with large strides, round a big black box on which the red
words Natcha-Kee-Tawara showed mystic, and round the small bunch of stage
fittings at the end of the platform. Louis was waiting to get the
tickets, Gigi and Ciccio were bringing up the bicycles. They were a whole
train of departure in themselves, busy, bustling, cheerful--and curiously
apart, vagrants.

Alvina strolled away towards the half-open bookstall. Geoffrey was
standing monumental between her and the company. She returned to him.

"What time shall we expect you?" she said.

He smiled at her in his broad, friendly fashion.

"Expect me to be there? Why--" he rolled his eyes and proceeded to
calculate. "At four o'clock."

"Just about the time when we get there," she said.

He looked at her sagely, and nodded.

They were a good-humoured company in the railway carriage. The men smoked
cigarettes and tapped off the ash on the heels of their boots, Madame
watched every traveller with professional curiosity. Max scrutinized the
newspaper, Lloyds, and pointed out items to Louis, who read them over
Max's shoulder, Ciccio suddenly smacked Geoffrey on the thigh, and looked
laughing into his face. So till they arrived at the junction. And then
there was a kissing and a taking of farewells, as if the company were
separating for ever. Louis darted into the refreshment bar and returned
with little pies and oranges, which he deposited in the carriage, Madame
presented Alvina with a packet of chocolate. And it was "Good-bye,
good-bye, Allaye! Good-bye, Ciccio! Bon voyage. Have a good time, both."

So Alvina sped on in the fast train to Knarborough with Ciccio.

"I _do_ like them all," she said.

He opened his mouth slightly and lifted his head up and down. She saw in
the movement how affectionate he was, and in his own way, how emotional.
He loved them all. She put her hand to his. He gave her hand one sudden
squeeze, of physical understanding, then left it as if nothing had
happened. There were other people in the carriage with them. She could
not help feeling how sudden and lovely that moment's grasp of his hand
was: so warm, so whole.

And thus they watched the Sunday morning landscape slip by, as they ran
into Knarborough. They went out to a little restaurant to eat. It was one

"Isn't it strange, that we are travelling together like this?" she said,
as she sat opposite him.

He smiled, looking into her eyes.

"You think it's strange?" he said, showing his teeth slightly. "Don't
you?" she cried.

He gave a slight, laconic laugh.

"And I can hardly bear it that I love you so much," she said, quavering,
across the potatoes.

He glanced furtively round, to see if any one was listening, if any one
might hear. He would have hated it. But no one was near. Beneath the tiny
table, he took her two knees between his knees, and pressed them with a
slow, immensely powerful pressure. Helplessly she put her hand across the
table to him. He covered it for one moment with his hand, then ignored
it. But her knees were still between the powerful, living vice of his

"Eat!" he said to her, smiling, motioning to her plate. And he relaxed

They decided to go out to Woodhouse on the tram-car, a long hour's ride.
Sitting on the top of the covered car, in the atmosphere of strong
tobacco smoke, he seemed self-conscious, withdrawn into his own cover, so
obviously a dark-skinned foreigner. And Alvina, as she sat beside him,
was reminded of the woman with the negro husband, down in Lumley. She
understood the woman's reserve. She herself felt, in the same way,
something of an outcast, because of the man at her side. An outcast! And
glad to be an outcast. She clung to Ciccio's dark, despised foreign
nature. She loved it, she worshipped it, she defied all the other world.
Dark, he sat beside her, drawn in to himself, overcast by his presumed
inferiority among these northern industrial people. And she was with him,
on his side, outside the pale of her own people.

There were already acquaintances on the tram. She nodded in answer to
their salutation, but so obviously from a distance, that they kept
turning round to eye her and Ciccio. But they left her alone. The breach
between her and them was established for ever--and it was her will which
established it.

So up and down the weary hills of the hilly, industrial countryside, till
at last they drew near to Woodhouse. They passed the ruins of
Throttle-Ha'penny, and Alvina glanced at it indifferent. They ran along
the Knarborough Road. A fair number of Woodhouse young people were
strolling along the pavements in their Sunday clothes. She knew them all.
She knew Lizzie Bates's fox furs, and Fanny Clough's lilac costume, and
Mrs. Smitham's winged hat. She knew them all. And almost inevitably the
old Woodhouse feeling began to steal over her, she was glad they could
not see her, she was a little ashamed of Ciccio. She wished, for the
moment, Ciccio were not there. And .as the time came to get down, she
looked anxiously back and forth to see at which halt she had better
descend--where fewer people would notice her. But then she threw her
scruples to the wind, and descended into the staring, Sunday afternoon
street, attended by Ciccio, who carried her bag. She knew she was a
marked figure.

They slipped round to Manchester House. Miss Pinnegar expected Alvina,
but by the train, which came later. So she had to be knocked up, for she
was lying down. She opened the door looking a little patched in her
cheeks, because of her curious colouring, and a little forlorn, and a
little dumpy, and a little irritable.

"I didn't know there'd be two of you," was her greeting.

"Didn't you," said Alvina, kissing her. "Ciccio came to carry my bag."

"Oh," said Miss Pinnegar. "How do you do?" and she thrust out her hand to
him. He shook it loosely.

"I had your wire," said Miss Pinnegar. "You said the train. Mrs. Rollings
is coming in at four again--"

"Oh all right--" said Alvina.

The house was silent and afternoon-like. Ciccio took off his coat and sat
down in Mr. Houghton's chair. Alvina told him to smoke. He kept silent
and reserved. Miss Pinnegar, a poor, patch-cheeked, rather round-backed
figure with grey-brown fringe, stood as if she did not quite know what to
say or do.

She followed Alvina upstairs to her room.

"I can't think why you bring _him_ here," snapped Miss Pinnegar. "I don't
know what you're thinking about. The whole place is talking already."

"I don't care," said Alvina. "I like him."

"Oh--for shame!" cried Miss Pinnegar, lifting her hand with Miss Frost's
helpless, involuntary movement. "What do you think of yourself? And your
father a month dead."

"It doesn't matter. Father _is_ dead. And I'm sure the dead don't mind."

"I never _knew_ such things as you say."

"Why? I mean them."

Miss Pinnegar stood blank and helpless.

"You're not asking him to stay the night," she blurted.

"Yes. And I'm going back with him to Madame tomorrow. You know I'm part
of the company now, as pianist."

"And are you going to marry him?"

"I don't know."

"How _can_ you say you don't know! Why, it's awful. You make me feel I
shall go out of my mind."

"But I _don't_ know," said Alvina.

"It's incredible! Simply incredible! I believe you're out of your senses.
I used to think sometimes there was something wrong with your mother. And
that's what it is with you. You're not quite right in your mind. You need
to be looked after."

"Do I, Miss Pinnegar! Ah, well, don't you trouble to look after me, will

"No one will if I don't."

"I hope no one will."

There was a pause.

"I'm ashamed to live another day in Woodhouse," said Miss Pinnegar.

"_I'm_ leaving it for ever," said Alvina.

"I should think so," said Miss Pinnegar.

Suddenly she sank into a chair, and burst into tears, wailing:

"Your poor father! Your poor father!"

"I'm sure the dead are all right. Why must you pity him?"

"You're a lost girl!" cried Miss Pinnegar.

"Am I really?" laughed Alvina. It sounded funny.

"Yes, you're a lost girl," sobbed Miss Pinnegar, on a final note of

"I like being lost," said Alvina.

Miss Pinnegar wept herself into silence. She looked huddled and forlorn.
Alvina went to her and laid her hand on her shoulder.

"Don't fret, Miss Pinnegar," she said. "Don't be silly. I love to be with
Ciccio and Madame. Perhaps in the end I shall marry him. But if I
don't--" her hand suddenly gripped Miss Pinnegar's heavy arm till it
hurt--"I wouldn't lose a minute of him, no, not for anything would I."

Poor Miss Pinnegar dwindled, convinced.

"You make it hard for _me_, in Woodhouse," she said, hopeless. "Never
mind," said Alvina, kissing her. "Woodhouse isn't heaven and earth."

"It's been my home for forty years."

"It's been mine for thirty. That's why I'm glad to leave it." There was a

"I've been thinking," said Miss Pinnegar, "about opening a little
business in Tamworth. You know the Watsons are there."

"I believe you'd be happy," said Alvina.

Miss Pinnegar pulled herself together. She had energy and courage still.

"I don't want to stay here, anyhow," she said. "Woodhouse has nothing for
me any more."

"Of course it hasn't," said Alvina. "I think you'd be happier away
from it."

"Yes--probably I should--now!"

None the less, poor Miss Pinnegar was grey-haired, she was almost a
dumpy, odd old woman.

They went downstairs. Miss Pinnegar put on the kettle. "Would you like to
see the house?" said Alvina to Ciccio.

He nodded. And she took him from room to room. His eyes looked quickly
and curiously over everything, noticing things, but without criticism.

"This was my mother's little sitting-room," she said. "She sat here for
years, in this chair."

"Always here?" he said, looking into Alvina's face.

"Yes. She was ill with her heart. This is another photograph of her. I'm
not like her."

"Who is _that?_" he asked, pointing to a photograph of the handsome,
white-haired Miss Frost.

"That was Miss Frost, my governess. She lived here till she died. I loved
her--she meant everything to me."

"She also dead--?"

"Yes, five years ago."

They went to the drawing-room. He laid his hand on the keys of the piano,
sounding a chord.

"Play," she said.

He shook his head, smiling slightly. But he wished her to play. She sat
and played one of Kishwégin's pieces. He listened, faintly smiling. "Fine
piano--eh?" he said, looking into her face.

"I like the tone," she said.

"Is it yours?"

"The piano? Yes. I suppose everything is mine--in name at least. I don't
know how father's affairs are really."

He looked at her, and again his eye wandered over the room. He saw a
little coloured portrait of a child with a fleece of brownish-gold hair
and surprised eyes, in a pale-blue stiff frock with a broad dark-blue

"You?" he said.

"Do you recognize me?" she said. "Aren't I comical?"

She took him upstairs--first to the monumental bedroom. "This was
mother's room," she said. "Now it is mine."

He looked at her, then at the things in the room, then out of the window,
then at her again. She flushed, and hurried to show him his room, and the
bath-room. Then she went downstairs.

He kept glancing up at the height of the ceilings, the size of the rooms,
taking in the size and proportion of the house, and the quality of the

"It is a big house," he said. "Yours?"

"Mine in name," said Alvina. "Father left all to me--and his debts as
well, you see."

"Much debts?"

"Oh yes! I don't quite know how much. But perhaps more debts than there
is property. I shall go and see the lawyer in the morning. Perhaps there
will be nothing at all left for me, when everything is paid."

She had stopped on the stairs, telling him this, turning round to him,
who was on the steps above. He looked down on her, calculating. Then he
smiled sourly.

"Bad job, eh, if it is all gone--!" he said.

"I don't mind, really, if I can live," she said.

He spread his hands, deprecating, not understanding. Then he glanced up
the stairs and along the corridor again, and downstairs into the hall.

"A fine big house. Grand if it was yours," he said.

"I wish it were," she said rather pathetically, "if you like it so much."
He shrugged his shoulders.

"He!" he said. "How not like it!"

"I don't like it," she said. "Think it's a gloomy miserable hole. I hate
it. I've lived here all my life and seen everything bad happen here. I
hate it."

"Why?" he said, with a curious, sarcastic intonation.

"It's a bad job it isn't yours, for certain," he said, as they entered
the living-room, where Miss Pinnegar sat cutting bread and butter.

"What?" said Miss Pinnegar sharply.

"The house," said Alvina.

"Oh well, we don't know. We'll hope for the best," replied Miss Pinnegar,
arranging the bread and butter on the plate. Then, rather tart, she
added: "It _is_ a bad job. And a good many things are a bad job, besides
that. If Miss Houghton had what she _ought_ to have, things would be very
different, I assure you."

"Oh yes," said Ciccio, to whom this address was directed.

"Very different indeed. If all the money hadn't been--lost--in the way it
has, Miss Houghton wouldn't be playing the piano, for one thing, in a
cinematograph show."

"No, perhaps not," said Ciccio.

"Certainly not. It's not the right thing for her to be doing, _at all_!"

"You think not?" said Ciccio.

"Do you imagine it is?" said Miss Pinnegar, turning point blank on him as
he sat by the fire.

He looked curiously at Miss Pinnegar, grinning slightly. "He!" he said.
"How do I know!"

"I should have thought it was obvious," said Miss Pinnegar. "He!" he
ejaculated, not fully understanding.

"But of course those that are used to nothing better can't see anything
but what they're used to," she said, rising and shaking the crumbs from
her black silk apron, into the fire. He watched her.

Miss Pinnegar went away into the scullery. Alvina was laying a fire in
the drawing-room. She came with a dust-pan to take some coal from the
fire of the living-room.

"What do you want?" said Ciccio, rising. And he took the shovel from her

"Big, hot fires, aren't they?" he said, as he lifted the burning coals
from the glowing mass of the grate.

"Enough," said Alvina. "Enough! We'll put it in the drawing-room." He
carried the shovel of flaming, smoking coals to the other room, and threw
them in the grate on the sticks, watching Alvina put on more pieces of

"Fine, a fire! Quick work, eh? A beautiful thing, a fire! You know what
they say in my place: You can live without food, but you can't live
without fire."

"But I thought it was always hot in Naples," said Alvina.

"No, it isn't. And my village, you know, when I was small boy, that was
in the mountains, an hour quick train from Naples. Cold in the winter,
hot in the summer--"

"As cold as England?" said Alvina.

"Hé--and colder. The wolves come down. You could hear them crying in the
night, in the frost--"

"How terrifying--!" said Alvina.

"And they will kill the dogs! Always they kill the dogs. You know, they
hate dogs, wolves do." He made a queer noise, to show how wolves hate
dogs. Alvina understood, and laughed.

"So should I, if I was a wolf," she said.

"Yes--eh?" His eyes gleamed on her for a moment. "Ah but, the poor dogs!
You find them bitten--carried away among the trees or the stones, hard to
find them, poor things, the next day."

"How frightened they must be--!" said Alvina.

"Frightened--hu!" he made sudden gesticulations and ejaculations, which
added volumes to his few words.

"And did you like it, your village?" she said.

He put his head on one side in deprecation.

"No," he said, "because, you see--he, there is nothing to do--no
money--work--work--work--no life--you see nothing. When I was a small boy
my father, he died, and my mother comes with me to Naples. Then I go with
the little boats on the sea--fishing, carrying people--" He flourished
his hand as if to make her understand all the things that must be
wordless. He smiled at her--but there was a faint, poignant sadness and
remoteness in him, a beauty of old fatality, and ultimate indifference to

"And were you very poor?"

"Poor?--why yes! Nothing. Rags--no shoes--bread, little fish from the

His hands flickered, his eyes rested on her with a profound look of
knowledge. And it seemed, in spite of all, one state she was very much
the same to him as another, poverty was as much life as affluence. Only
he had a sort of jealous idea that it was humiliating to be poor, and so,
for vanity's sake, he would have possessions. The countless generations
of civilization behind him had left him an instinct of the world's
meaninglessness. Only his little modern education made money and
independence an _idée fixe_. Old instinct told him the world was nothing.
But modern education, so shallow, was much more efficacious than
instinct. It drove him to make a show of himself to the world. Alvina
watching him, as if hypnotized, saw his old beauty, formed through
civilization after civilization; and at the same time she saw his modern
vulgarian-ism, and decadence.

"And when you go back, you will go back to your old village?" she said.

He made a gesture with his head and shoulders, evasive, noncommittal.

"I don't know, you see," he said.

"What is the name of it?"

"Pescocalascio." He said the word subduedly, unwillingly. "Tell me
again," said Alvina.


She repeated it.

"And tell me how you spell it," she said.

He fumbled in his pocket for a pencil and a piece of paper. She rose and
brought him an old sketch-book. He wrote, slowly, but with the beautiful
Italian hand, the name of his village.

"And write your name," she said.

"Marasca Francesco," he wrote.

"And write the name of your father and mother," she said. He looked at
her enquiringly.

"I want to see them," she said.

"Marasca Giovanni," he wrote, and under that "Califano Maria."

She looked at the four names, in the graceful Italian script. And one
after the other she read them out. He corrected her, smiling gravely.
When she said them properly, he nodded.

"Yes," he said. "That's it. You say it well."

At that moment Miss Pinnegar came in to say Mrs. Rollings had seen
another of the young men riding down the street.

"That's Gigi! He doesn't know how to come here," said Ciccio, quickly
taking his hat and going out to find his friend.

Geoffrey arrived, his broad face hot and perspiring.

"Couldn't you find it?" said Alvina.

"I find the house, but I couldn't find no door," said Geoffrey.

They all laughed, and sat down to tea. Geoffrey and Ciccio talked to each
other in French, and kept each other in countenance. Fortunately for
them, Madame had seen to their table-manners. But still they were far too
free and easy to suit Miss Pinnegar.

"Do you know," said Ciccio in French to Geoffrey, "what a fine house this

"No," said Geoffrey, rolling his large eyes round the room, and speaking
with his cheek stuffed out with food. "Is it?"

"Ah--if it was _hers_, you know--"

And so, after tea, Ciccio said to Alvina:

"Shall you let Geoffrey see the house?"

The tour commenced again. Geoffrey, with his thick legs planted apart,
gazed round the rooms, and made his comments in French to Ciccio. When
they climbed the stairs, he fingered the big, smooth mahogany
bannister-rail. In the bedroom he stared almost dismayed at the colossal
bed and cupboard. In the bath-room he turned on the old-fashioned, silver

"Here is my room--" said Ciccio in French.

"Assez éloigné!" replied Gigi. Ciccio also glanced along the corridor.
"Yes," he said. "But an open course--"

"Look, my boy--if you could marry _this_--" meaning the house. "Ha, she
doesn't know if it's hers any more! Perhaps the debts cover every bit of

"Don't say so! Na, that's a pity, that's a pity! La pauvre fille--pauvre
demoiselle!" lamented Geoffrey.

"Isn't it a pity! What dost say?"

"A thousand pities! A thousand pities! Look, my boy, love needs no
havings, but marriage does. Love is for all, even the grasshoppers. But
marriage means a kitchen. That's how it is. La pauvre demoiselle; c'est
malheur pour elle."

"That's true," said Ciccio. "Et aussi pour moi. For me as well."

"For thee as well, cher! Perhaps--" said Geoffrey, laying his arm on
Ciccio's shoulder, and giving him a sudden hug. They smiled to each

"Who knows!" said Ciccio.

"Who knows, truly, my Cic'."

As they went downstairs to rejoin Alvina, whom they heard playing on the
piano in the drawing-room, Geoffrey peeped once more into the big

"Tu n'es jamais monté si haut, mon beau. Pour moi, ça serait difficile de
m'élever. J'aurais bien peur, moi. Tu to trouves aussi un peu ébahi,
hein? n'est-ce pas?"

"Y'a place pour trois," said Ciccio.

"Non, je crêverais, la haut. Pas pour moi!"

And they went laughing downstairs.

Miss Pinnegar was sitting with Alvina, determined not to go to Chapel
this evening. She sat, rather hulked, reading a novel. Alvina flirted
with the two men, played the piano to them, and suggested a game of

"Oh, Alvina, you will never bring out the cards tonight!" expostulated
poor Miss Pinnegar.

"But, Miss Pinnegar, it can't possibly hurt anybody."

"You know what I think--and what your father thought--and your mother and
Miss Frost--"

"You see I think it's only prejudice," said Alvina.

"Oh very well!" said Miss Pinnegar angrily.

And closing her book, she rose and went to the other room.

Alvina brought out the cards, and a little box of pence which remained
from Endeavour harvests. At that moment there was a knock. It was Mr.
May. Miss Pinnegar brought him in, in triumph.

"Oh!" he said. "Company! I heard you'd come, Miss Houghton, so I _hastened_
to pay my compliments. I didn't know you had _company_. How do you do,
Francesco! How do you do, Geoffrey. Comment allez-vous, alors?"

"Bien!" said Geoffrey. "You are going to take a hand?"

"Cards on Sunday evening! Dear me, what a revolution! Of course, I'm not
_bigoted_. If Miss Houghton asks me--"

Miss Pinnegar looked solemnly at Alvina.

"Yes, do take a hand, Mr. May," said Alvina.

"Thank you, I will then, if I may. Especially as I see those tempting
piles of pennies and ha'pennies. Who is bank, may I ask? Is Miss Pinnegar
going to play too?"

But Miss Pinnegar had turned her poor, bowed back, and departed. "I'm
afraid she's offended," said Alvina.

"But why? We don't put _her_ soul in danger, do we now? I'm a good
Catholic, you know, I _can't_ do with these provincial little creeds. Who
deals? Do you, Miss Houghton? But I'm afraid we shall have a rather _dry_
game? What? Isn't that your opinion?"

The other men laughed.

"If Miss Houghton would just _allow_ me to run round and bring something
in. Yes? May I? That would be _so_ much more cheerful. What is your choice,

"Beer," said Ciccio, and Geoffrey nodded.

"Beer! Oh really! Extraor'nary! I always take a little whiskey myself.
What kind of beer? Ale?--or bitter? I'm afraid I'd better bring bottles.
Now how can I secrete them? You haven't a small travelling case, Miss
Houghton? Then I shall look as if I'd just been taking a _journey_. Which I
have--to the Sun and back: and if _that_ isn't far enough, even for Miss
Pinnegar and John Wesley, why, I'm sorry."

Alvina produced the travelling case.

"Excellent!" he said. "Excellent! It will hold half-a-dozen beautifully.
Now--" he fell into a whisper--"hadn't I better sneak out at the front
door, and so escape the clutches of the watch-dog?"

Out he went, on tip-toe, the other two men grinning at him. Fortunately
there were glasses, the best old glasses, in the side cupboard in the
drawing room. But unfortunately, when Mr. May returned, a corkscrew was
in request. So Alvina stole to the kitchen. Miss Pinnegar sat dumped by
the fire, with her spectacles and her book. She watched like a lynx as
Alvina returned. And she saw the tell-tale corkscrew. So she dumped a
little deeper in her chair.

"There was a sound of revelry by night!" For Mr. May, after a long
depression, was in high feather. They shouted, positively shouted over
their cards, they roared with excitement, expostulation, and laughter.
Miss Pinnegar sat through it all. But at one point she could bear it no

The drawing-room door opened, and the dumpy, hulked, faded woman in a
black serge dress stood like a rather squat avenging angel in the

"What would your _father_ say to this?" she said sternly.

The company suspended their laughter and their cards, and looked around.
Miss Pinnegar wilted and felt strange under so many eyes. "Father!" said
Alvina. "But why father?"

"You lost girl!" said Miss Pinnegar, backing out and closing the door.
Mr. May laughed so much that he knocked his whiskey over. "There," he
cried, helpless, "look what she's cost me!" And he went off into another
paroxysm, swelling like a turkey.

Ciccio opened his mouth, laughing silently.

"Lost girl! Lost girl! How lost, when you are at home?" said Geoffrey,
making large eyes and looking hither and thither as if _he_ had lost

They all went off again in a muffled burst.

"No but, really," said Mr. May, "drinking and card-playing with strange
men in the drawing-room on Sunday evening, of _cauce_ it's scandalous.
It's _terrible!_ I don't know how ever you'll be saved, after such a
sin. And in Manchester House, too--!" He went off into another silent,
turkey-scarlet burst of mirth, wriggling in his chair and squealing
faintly: "Oh, I love it, I love it! _You lost girl_! Why of _cauce_
she's lost! And Miss Pinnegar has only just found it out Who _wouldn't_
be lost? Why even Miss Pinnegar would be lost if she could. Of _cauce_
she would! Quite natch'ral!"

Mr. May wiped his eyes, with his handkerchief which had unfortunately
mopped up his whiskey.

So they played on, till Mr. May and Geoffrey had won all the pennies,
except twopence of Ciccio's. Alvina was in debt.

"Well I think it's been a most agreeable game," said Mr. May. "Most
agreeable! Don't you all?"

The two other men smiled and nodded.

"I'm only sorry to think Miss Houghton has _lost_ so steadily all evening.
Really quite remarkable. But _then_--you see--I comfort myself with the
reflection 'Lucky in cards, unlucky in love.' I'm certainly _hounded_ with
misfortune in love. And I'm _sure_ Miss Houghton would rather be unlucky in
cards than in love. What, isn't it so?"

"Of course," said Alvina.

"There, you see, _of cauce_! Well, all we can do after that is to wish her
success in love. Isn't that so, gentlemen? I'm sure _we_ are all quite
willing to do our best to contribute to it. Isn't it so, gentlemen?
Aren't we all ready to do our best to contribute to Miss Houghton's
happiness in love? Well then, let us drink to it." He lifted his glass,
and bowed to Alvina. "With _every_ wish for your success in love, Miss
Houghton, and your _devoted_ servant--" He bowed and drank.

Geoffrey made large eyes at her as he held up his glass.

"_I_ know you'll come out all right in love, _I_ know," he said heavily. "And
you, Ciccio? Aren't you drinking?" said Mr. May.

Ciccio held up his glass, looked at Alvina, made a little mouth at her,
comical, and drank his beer.

"Well," said Mr. May, "_beer_ must confirm it, since words won't."

"What time is it?" said Alvina. "We must have supper."

It was past nine o'clock. Alvina rose and went to the kitchen, the men
trailing after her. Miss Pinnegar was not there. She was not anywhere.

"Has she gone to bed?" said Mr. May. And he crept stealthily upstairs on
tip-toe, a comical, flush-faced, tubby little man. He was familiar with
the house. He returned prancing.

"I heard her cough," he said. "There's a light under her door. She's gone
to bed. Now haven't I always said she was a good soul? I shall drink her
health. Miss Pinnegar--" and he bowed stiffly in the direction of the
stair--"your health, and a _good night's rest_"

After which, giggling gaily, he seated himself at the head of the table
and began to carve the cold mutton.

"And where are the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras this week?" he asked. They told

"Oh? And you two are cycling back to the camp of Kishwégin tonight? We
mustn't prolong our cheerfulness _too_ far."

"Ciccio is staying to help me with my bag tomorrow," said Alvina. "You
know I've joined the Tawaras permanently--as pianist."

"No, I didn't know that! Oh really! Really! Oh! Well! I see! Permanently!
Yes, I am surprised! Yes! As pianist? And if I might ask, what is your
share of the tribal income?"

"That isn't met," said Alvina.

"No! Exactly! Exactly! It _wouldn't_ be settled yet. And you say it is a
permanent engagement? Of _cauce_, at such a figure."

"Yes, it is a permanent engagement," said Alvina.

"Really! What a blow you give me! You won't come back to the Endeavour?
What? Not at all?"

"No," said Alvina. "I shall sell out of the Endeavour."

"Really! You've decided, have you? Oh! This is news to me. And is _this_
quite final, too?"

"Quite," said Alvina.

"I see! Putting two and two together, if I may say so--" and he glanced
from her to the young men--"I _see_. Most decidedly, most one-sidedly, if I
may use the vulgarism, I _see--e--e_! Oh! but what a blow you give me! What
a blow you give me!"

"Why?" said Alvina.

"What's to become of the Endeavour? and consequently, of poor me?"

"Can't you keep it going?--form a company?"

"I'm afraid I can't. I've done my best. But I'm afraid, you know, you've
landed me."

"I'm so sorry," said Alvina. "I hope not."

"Thank you for the _hope_," said Mr. May sarcastically.

"They say hope is sweet. I begin to find it a little _bitter!_"

Poor man, he had already gone quite yellow in the face. Ciccio and
Geoffrey watched him with dark-seeing eyes.

"And when are you going to let this fatal decision take effect?" asked
Mr. May.

"I'm going to see the lawyer tomorrow, and I'm going to tell him to sell
everything and clear up as soon as possible," said Alvina. "Sell
everything! This house, and all it contains?"

"Yes," said Alvina. "Everything."

"Really!" Mr. May seemed smitten quite dumb. "I feel as if the world had
suddenly come to an end," he said.

"But hasn't your world often come to an end before?" said Alvina.

"Well--I suppose, once or twice. But _never_ quite on top of me, you see,

There was a silence.

"And have you told Miss Pinnegar?" said Mr. May.

"Not finally. But she has decided to open a little business in Tam-worth,
where she has relations."

"Has she! And are you _really_ going to _tour_ with these young people--?"
he indicated Ciccio and Gigi. "And at _no_ salary!" His voice rose. "Why!
It's almost _White Slave Traffic_," on Madame's part. Upon my word!"

"I don't think so," said Alvina. "Don't you see that's insulting."

"_Insulting_! Well, I don't know. I think it's the _truth_--"

"Not to be said to me, for all that," said Alvina, quivering with anger.

"Oh!" perked Mr. May, yellow with strange rage. "Oh! I mustn't say what I
think! Oh!"

"Not if you think those things--" said Alvina.

"Oh really! The difficulty is, you see, I'm afraid I _do_ think them--"
Alvina watched him with big, heavy eyes.

"Go away," she said. "Go away! I won't be insulted by you."

"No _indeed!_" cried Mr. May, starting to his feet, his eyes almost bolting
from his head. "No _indeed!_ I wouldn't _think_ of insulting you in the
presence of these two young gentlemen."

Ciccio rose slowly, and with a slow, repeated motion of the head,
indicated the door.

"Allez!" he said.

"_Certainement!_" cried Mr. May, flying at Ciccio, verbally, like an
enraged hen yellow at the gills. "_Certainement!_ Je m'en vais. Cette
compagnie n'est pas de ma choix."

"Allez!" said Ciccio, more loudly.

And Mr. May strutted out of the room like a bird bursting with its own
rage. Ciccio stood with his hands on the table, listening. They heard Mr.
May slam the front door.

"Gone!" said Geoffrey.

Ciccio smiled sneeringly.

"Voyez, un cochon de lait," said Gigi amply and calmly.

Ciccio sat down in his chair. Geoffrey poured out some beer for him,

"Drink, my Cic', the bubble has burst, prfff!" And Gigi knocked in his
own puffed cheek with his fist. "Allaye, my dear, your health! We are the
Tawaras. We are Allaye! We are Pacohuila! We are Walgatchka! Allons! The
milk-pig is stewed and eaten. Voila!" He drank, smiling broadly.

"One by one," said Geoffrey, who was a little drunk: "One by one we put
them out of the field, they are _hors de combat_. Who remains? Pacohuila,
Walgatchka, Allaye--"

He smiled very broadly. Alvina was sitting sunk in thought and torpor
after her sudden anger.

"Allaye, what do you think about? You are the bride of Tawara," said

Alvina looked at him, smiling rather wanly.

"And who is Tawara?" she asked.

He raised his shoulders and spread his hands and swayed his head from
side to side, for all the world like a comic mandarin.

"There!" he cried. "The question! Who is Tawara? Who? Tell me! Ciccio is
he--and I am he--and Max and Louis--" he spread his hand to the distant
members of the tribe.

"I can't be the bride of all four of you," said Alvina, laughing.

"No--no! No--no! Such a thing does not come into my mind. But you are the
Bride of Tawara. You dwell in the tent of Pacohuila. And comes the day,
should it ever be so, there is no room for you in the tent of Pacohuila,
then the lodge of Walgatchka the bear is open for you. Open, yes, wide
open--" He spread his arms from his ample chest, at the end of the table.
"Open, and when Allaye enters, it is the lodge of Allaye, Walgatchka is
the bear that serves Allaye. By the law of the Pale Face, by the law of
the Yenghees, by the law of the Fransayes, Walgatchka shall be
husband-bear to Allaye, that day she lifts the door-curtain of his

He rolled his eyes and looked around. Alvina watched him. "But I might be
afraid of a husband-bear," she said.

Geoffrey got on to his feet.

"By the Manitou," he said, "the head of the bear Walgatchka is humble--"
here Geoffrey bowed his head--"his teeth are as soft as lilies--" here he
opened his mouth and put his finger on his small close teeth--"his hands
are as soft as bees that stroke a flower--" here he spread his hands and
went and suddenly flopped on his knees beside Alvina, showing his hands
and his teeth still, and rolling his eyes. "Allaye can have no fear at
all of the bear Walgatchka," he said, looking up at her comically.

Ciccio, who had been watching and slightly grinning, here rose to his
feet and took Geoffrey by the shoulder, pulling him up.

"Basta!" he said. "Tu es saoul. You are drunk, my Gigi. Get up. How are
you going to ride to Mansfield, hein?--great beast."

"Ciccio," said Geoffrey solemnly. "I love thee, I love thee as a brother,
and also more. I love thee as a brother, my Ciccio, as thou knowest.
But--" and he puffed fiercely--"I am the slave of Allaye, I am the tame
bear of Allaye."

"Get up," said Ciccio, "get up! Per bacco! She doesn't want a tame bear."
He smiled down on his friend.

Geoffrey rose to his feet and flung his arms round Ciccio.

"Cic'," he besought him. "Cic'--I love thee as a brother. But let me be
the tame bear of Allaye, let me be the gentle bear of Allaye."

"All right," said Ciccio. "Thou art the tame bear of Allaye." Geoffrey
strained Ciccio to his breast.

"Thank you! Thank you! Salute me, my own friend."

And Ciccio kissed him on either cheek. Whereupon Geoffrey immediately
flopped on his knees again before Alvina, and presented her his broad,
rich-coloured cheek.

"Salute your bear, Allaye," he cried. "Salute your slave, the tame bear
Walgatchka, who is a wild bear for all except Allaye and his brother
Pacohuila the Puma." Geoffrey growled realistically as a wild bear as he
kneeled before Alvina, presenting his cheek.

Alvina looked at Ciccio, who stood above, watching. Then she lightly
kissed him on the cheek, and said:

"Won't you go to bed and sleep?"

Geoffrey staggered to his feet, shaking his head.

"No--no--" he said. "No--no! Walgatchka must travel to the tent of
Kishwégin, to the Camp of the Tawaras."

"Not tonight, _mon brave_," said Ciccio. "Tonight we stay here, hein. Why
separate, hein?--frère?"

Geoffrey again clasped Ciccio in his arms.

"Pacohuila and Walgatchka are blood-brothers, two bodies, one blood. One
blood, in two bodies; one stream, in two valleys: one lake, between two

Here Geoffrey gazed with large, heavy eyes on Ciccio. Alvina brought a
candle and lighted it.

"You will manage in the one room?" she said. "I will give you another

She led the way upstairs. Geoffrey followed, heavily. Then Ciccio.

On the landing Alvina gave them the pillow and the candle, smiled, bade
them good-night in a whisper, and went downstairs again. She cleared away
the supper and carried away all glasses and bottles from the
drawing-room. Then she washed up, removing all traces of the feast. The
cards she restored to their old mahogany box. Manchester House looked
itself again.

She turned off the gas at the meter, and went upstairs to bed. From the
far room she could hear the gentle, but profound vibrations of Geoffrey's
snoring. She was tired after her day: too tired to trouble about anything
any more.

But in the morning she was first downstairs. She heard Miss Pinnegar, and
hurried. Hastily she opened the windows and doors to drive away the smell
of beer and smoke. She heard the men rumbling in the bath-room. And
quickly she prepared breakfast and made a fire. Mrs. Rollings would not
appear till later in the day. At a quarter to seven Miss Pinnegar came
down, and went into the scullery to make her tea.

"Did both the men stay?" she asked.

"Yes, they both slept in the end room," said Alvina.

Miss Pinnegar said no more, but padded with her tea and her boiled egg
into the living room. In the morning she was wordless.

Ciccio came down, in his shirt-sleeves as usual, but wearing a collar. He
greeted Miss Pinnegar politely.

"Good-morning!" she said, and went on with her tea.

Geoffrey appeared. Miss Pinnegar glanced once at him, sullenly, and
briefly answered his good-morning. Then she went on with her egg, slow
and persistent in her movements, mum.

The men went out to attend to Geoffrey's bicycle. The morning was slow
and grey, obscure. As they pumped up the tires, they heard some one
padding behind. Miss Pinnegar came and unbolted the yard door, but
ignored their presence. Then they saw her return and slowly mount the
outer stair-ladder, which went up to the top floor. Two minutes
afterwards they were startled by the irruption of the work-girls. As for
the work-girls, they gave quite loud, startled squeals, suddenly seeing
the two men on their right hand, in the obscure morning. And they
lingered on the stair-way to gaze in rapt curiosity, poking and
whispering, until Miss Pinnegar appeared overhead, and sharply rang a
bell which hung beside the entrance door of the workrooms.

After which excitements Geoffrey and Ciccio went in to breakfast, which
Alvina had prepared.

"You have done it all, eh?" said Ciccio, glancing round.

"Yes. I've made breakfast for years, now," said Alvina.

"Not many more times here, eh?" he said, smiling significantly. "I hope
not," said Alvina.

Ciccio sat down almost like a husband--as if it were his right. Geoffrey
was very quiet this morning. He ate his breakfast, and rose to go.

"I shall see you soon," he said, smiling sheepishly and bowing to Alvina.
Ciccio accompanied him to the street.

When Ciccio returned, Alvina was once more washing dishes. "What time
shall we go?" he said.

"We'll catch the one train. I must see the lawyer this morning."

"And what shall you say to him?"

"I shall tell him to sell everything--"

"And marry me?"

She started, and looked at him.

"You don't want to marry, do you?" she said.

"Yes, I do."

"Wouldn't you rather wait, and see--"

"What?" he said.

"See if there is any money."

He watched her steadily, and his brow darkened.

"Why?" he said.

She began to tremble.

"You'd like it better if there was money"

A slow, sinister smile came on his mouth. His eyes never smiled, except
to Geoffrey, when a flood of warm, laughing light sometimes suffused

"You think I should!"

"Yes. It's true, isn't it? You would!"

He turned his eyes aside, and looked at her hands as she washed the
forks. They trembled slightly. Then he looked back at her eyes again,
that were watching him large and wistful and a little accusing.

His impudent laugh came on his face.

"Yes," he said, "it is always better if there is money" He put his hand
on her, and she winced. "But I marry you for love, you know. You know
what love is--" And he put his arms round her, and laughed down into her

She strained away.

"But you can have love without marriage," she said. "You know that."

"All right! All right! Give me love, eh? I want that."

She struggled against him.

"But not now," she said.

She saw the light in his eyes fix determinedly, and he nodded. "Now!" he
said. "Now!"

His yellow-tawny eyes looked down into hers, alien and overbearing.

"I can't," she struggled. "I can't now."

He laughed in a sinister way: yet with a certain warm-heartedness. "Come
to that big room--" he said.

Her face flew fixed into opposition.

"I can't now, really," she said grimly.

His eyes looked down at hers. Her eyes looked back at him, hard and cold
and determined. They remained motionless for some seconds. Then, a stray
wisp of her hair catching his attention, desire filled his heart, warm
and full, obliterating his anger in the combat. For a moment he softened.
He saw her hardness becoming more assertive, and he wavered in sudden
dislike, and almost dropped her. Then again the desire flushed his heart,
his smile became reckless of her, and he picked her right up.

"Yes," he said. "Now."

For a second, she struggled frenziedly. But almost instantly she
recognized how much stronger he was, and she was still, mute and
motionless with anger. White, and mute, and motionless, she was taken to
her room. And at the back of her mind all the time she wondered at his
deliberate recklessness of her. Recklessly, he had his will of her--but
deliberately, and thoroughly, not rushing to the issue, but taking
everything he wanted of her, progressively, and fully, leaving her stark,
with nothing, nothing of herself--nothing.

When she could lie still she turned away from him, still mute. And he lay
with his arms over her, motionless. Noises went on, in the street,
overhead in the workroom. But theirs was complete silence.

At last he rose and looked at her.

"Love is a fine thing, Allaye," he said.

She lay mute and unmoving. He approached, laid his hand on her breast,
and kissed her.

"Love," he said, asserting, and laughing.

But still she was completely mute and motionless. He threw bedclothes
over her and went downstairs, whistling softly.

She knew she would have to break her own trance of obstinacy. So she
snuggled down into the bedclothes, shivering deliciously, for her skin
had become chilled. She didn't care a bit, really, about her own
downfall. She snuggled deliciously in the sheets, and admitted to herself
that she loved him. In truth, she loved him--and she was laughing to

Luxuriously, she resented having to get up and tackle her heap of broken
garments. But she did it. She took other clothes, adjusted her hair, tied
on her apron, and went downstairs once more. She could not find Ciccio:
he had gone out. A stray cat darted from the scullery, and broke a plate
in her leap. Alvina found her washing-up water cold. She put on more, and
began to dry her dishes.

Ciccio returned shortly, and stood in the doorway looking at her. She
turned to him, unexpectedly laughing.

"What do you think of yourself?" she laughed.

"Well," he said, with a little nod, and a furtive look of triumph about
him, evasive. He went past her and into the room. Her inside burned with
love for him: so elusive, so beautiful, in his silent passing out of her
sight. She wiped her dishes happily. Why was she so absurdly happy, she
asked herself? And why did she still fight so hard against the sense of
his dark, unseizable beauty? Unseizable, for ever unseizable! That made
her almost his slave. She fought against her own desire to fall at his
feet. Ridiculous to be so happy.

She sang to herself as she went about her work downstairs. Then she went
upstairs, to do the bedrooms and pack her bag. At ten o'clock she was to
go to the family lawyer.

She lingered over her possessions: what to take, and what not to take.
And so doing she wasted her time. It was already ten o'clock when she
hurried downstairs. He was sitting quite still, waiting. He looked up at

"Now I must hurry," she said. "I don't think I shall be more than an

He put on his hat and went out with her.

"I shall tell the lawyer I am engaged to you. Shall I?" she asked.

"Yes," he said. "Tell him what you like." He was indifferent.

"Because," said Alvina gaily, "we can please ourselves what we do,
whatever we say. I shall say we think of getting married in the summer,
when we know each other better, and going to Italy."

"Why shall you say all that?" said Ciccio.

"Because I shall _have_ to give some account of myself, or they'll make me
do something I don't want to do. You might come to the lawyer's with me,
will you? He's an awfully nice old man. Then he'd believe in you."

But Ciccio shook his head.

"No," he said. "I shan't go. He doesn't want to see _me_."

"Well, if you don't want to. But I remember your name, Francesco Marasca,
and I remember Pescocalascio."

Ciccio heard in silence, as they walked the half-empty, Monday-morning
street of Woodhouse. People kept nodding to Alvina. Some hurried
inquisitively across to speak to her and look at Ciccio. Ciccio however
stood aside and turned his back.

"Oh yes," Alvina said. "I am staying with friends, here and there, for a
few weeks. No, I don't know when I shall be back. Good-bye!"

"You're looking well, Alvina," people said to her. "I think you're
looking wonderful. A change does you good."

"It does, doesn't it," said Alvina brightly. And she was pleased she was
looking well.

"Well, good-bye for a minute," she said, glancing smiling into his eyes
and nodding to him, as she left him at the gate of the lawyer's house, by
the ivy-covered wall.

The lawyer was a little man, all grey. Alvina had known him since she was
a child: but rather as an official than an individual. She arrived all
smiling in his room. He sat down and scrutinized her sharply, officially,
before beginning.

"Well, Miss Houghton, and what news have you?"

"I don't think I've any, Mr. Beeby. I came to you for news."

"Ah!" said the lawyer, and he fingered a paper-weight that covered a pile
of papers. "I'm afraid there is nothing very pleasant, unfortunately. And
nothing very unpleasant either, for that matter." He gave her a shrewd
little smile.

"Is the will proved?"

"Not yet. But I expect it will be through in a few days' time."

"And are all the claims in?"

"Yes. I _think_ so. I think so!" And again he laid his hand on the pile of
papers under the paper-weight, and ran through the edges with the tips of
his fingers.

"All those?" said Alvina.

"Yes," he said quietly. It sounded ominous.

"Many!" said Alvina.

"A fair amount! A fair amount! Let me show you a statement."

He rose and brought her a paper. She made out, with the lawyer's help,
that the claims against her father's property exceeded the gross estimate
of his property by some seven hundred pounds.

"Does it mean we owe seven hundred pounds?" she asked.

"That is only on the _estimate_ of the property. It might, of course,
realize much more, when sold--or it might realize less."

"How awful!" said Alvina, her courage sinking.

"Unfortunate! Unfortunate! However, I don't think the realization of the
property would amount to less than the estimate. I don't think so."

"But even then," said Alvina. "There is sure to be something owing--"

She saw herself saddled with her father's debts.

"I'm afraid so," said the lawyer.

"And then what?" said Alvina.

"Oh--the creditors will have to be satisfied with a little less than they
claim, I suppose. Not a very great deal, you see. I don't expect they
will complain a great deal. In fact, some of them will be less badly off
than they feared. No, on that score we need not trouble further. Useless
if we do, anyhow. But now, about yourself. Would you like me to try to
compound with the creditors, so that you could have some sort of
provision? They are mostly people who know you, know your condition: and
I might try--"

"Try what?" said Alvina.

"To make some sort of compound. Perhaps you might retain a lease of Miss
Pinnegar's workrooms. Perhaps even something might be done about the
cinematograph. What would you like--?"

Alvina sat still in her chair, looking through the window at the ivy
sprays, and the leaf buds on the lilac. She felt she could not, she could
not cut off every resource. In her own heart she had confidently
expected a few hundred pounds: even a thousand or more. And that
would make her _something_ of a catch, to people who had nothing. But
now!--nothing!--nothing at the back of her but her hundred pounds. When
that was gone--!

In her dilemma she looked at the lawyer.

"You didn't expect it would be quite so bad?" he said.

"I think I didn't," she said.

"No. Well--it might have been worse."

Again he waited. And again she looked at him vacantly

"What do you think?" he said.

For answer, she only looked at him with wide eyes.

"Perhaps you would rather decide later."

"No," she said. "No. It's no use deciding later."

The lawyer watched her with curious eyes, his hand beat a little

"I will do my best," he said, "to get what I can for you."

"Oh well!" she said. "Better let everything go. I don't _want_ to hang on.
Don't bother about me at all. I shall go away, anyhow."

"You will go away?" said the lawyer, and he studied his finger-nails.
"Yes. I shan't stay here."

"Oh! And may I ask if you have any definite idea, where you will go?"

"I've got an engagement as pianist, with a travelling theatrical company"

"Oh indeed!" said the lawyer, scrutinizing her sharply. She stared away
vacantly out of the window. He took to the attentive study of his
finger-nails once more. "And at a sufficient salary?"

"Quite sufficient, thank you," said Alvina.

"Oh! Well! Well now!--" He fidgetted a little. "You see, we are all old
neighbours and connected with your father for many years. We--that is the
persons interested, and myself--would not like to think that you were
driven out of Woodhouse--er--er--destitute. If--er--we could come to some
composition--make some arrangement that would be agreeable to you, and
would, in some measure, secure you a means of livelihood--"

He watched Alvina with sharp blue eyes. Alvina looked back at him, still

"No--thanks awfully!" she said. "But don't bother. I'm going away"

"With the travelling theatrical company?"


The lawyer studied his finger-nails intensely

"Well," he said, feeling with a finger-tip an imaginary roughness of one
nail-edge. "Well, in that case--In that case--Supposing you have made an
irrevocable decision--"

He looked up at her sharply. She nodded slowly, like a porcelain

"In that case," he said, "we must proceed with the valuation and the
preparation for the sale."

"Yes," she said faintly.

"You realize," he said, "that everything in Manchester House, except your
private personal property, and that of Miss Pinnegar, belongs to the
claimants, your father's creditors, and may not be removed from the

"Yes," she said.

"And it will be necessary to make an account of everything in the house.
So if you and Miss Pinnegar will put your possessions strictly apart--But
I shall see Miss Pinnegar during the course of the day. Would you ask her
to call about seven--I think she is free then--"

Alvina sat trembling.

"I shall pack my things today," she said.

"Of course," said the lawyer, "any little things to which you may be
attached the claimants would no doubt wish you to regard as your own. For
anything of greater value--your piano, for example--I should have to make
a personal request--"

"Oh, I don't want anything--" said Alvina.

"No? Well! You will see. You will be here a few days?"

"No," said Alvina. "I'm going away today."

"Today! Is that also irrevocable?"

"Yes. I must go this afternoon."

"On account of your engagement? May I ask where your company is
performing this week? Far away?"


"Oh! Well then, in case I particularly wished to see you, you could come

"If necessary" said Alvina. "But I don't want to come to Woodhouse unless
it is necessary. Can't we write?"

"Yes--certainly! Certainly!--most things! Certainly! And now--"

He went into certain technical matters, and Alvina signed some documents.
At last she was free to go. She had been almost an hour in the room.

"Well, good-morning, Miss Houghton. You will hear from me, and I from
you. I wish you a pleasant experience in your new occupation. You are not
leaving Woodhouse for ever."

"Good-bye!" she said. And she hurried to the road.

Try as she might, she felt as if she had had a blow which knocked her
down. She felt she had had a blow.

At the lawyer's gate she stood a minute. There, across a little hollow,
rose the cemetery hill. There were her graves: her mother's, Miss
Frost's, her father's. Looking, she made out the white cross at Miss
Frost's grave, the grey stone at her parents'. Then she turned slowly,
under the church wall, back to Manchester House.

She felt humiliated. She felt she did not want to see anybody at all. She
did not want to see Miss Pinnegar, nor the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras: and least
of all, Ciccio. She felt strange in Woodhouse, almost as if the ground
had risen from under her feet and hit her over the mouth. The fact that
Manchester House and its very furniture was under seal to be sold on
behalf of her father's creditors made her feel as if all her Woodhouse
life had suddenly gone smash. She loathed the thought of Manchester
House. She loathed staying another minute in it.

And yet she did not want to go to the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras either. The
church clock above her clanged eleven. She ought to take the twelve-forty
train to Mansfield. Yet instead of going home she turned off down the
alley towards the fields and the brook.

How many times had she gone that road! How many times had she seen Miss
Frost bravely striding home that way, from her music-pupils. How many
years had she noticed a particular wild cherry-tree come into blossom, a
particular bit of black-thorn scatter its whiteness in among the pleached
twigs of a hawthorn hedge. How often, how many springs had Miss Frost
come home with a bit of this black-thorn in her hand!

Alvina did _not_ want to go to Mansfield that afternoon. She felt insulted.
She knew she would be much cheaper in Madame's eyes. She knew her own
position with the troupe would be humiliating. It would be openly a
little humiliating. But it would be much more maddeningly humiliating to
stay in Woodhouse and experience the full flavour of Woodhouse's
calculated benevolence. She hardly knew which was worse: the cool look of
insolent half-contempt, half-satisfaction with which Madame would receive
the news of her financial downfall, or the officious patronage which she
would meet from the Woodhouse magnates. She knew exactly how Madame's
black eyes would shine, how her mouth would curl with a sneering,
slightly triumphant smile, as she heard the news. And she could hear the
bullying tone in which Henry Wagstaff would dictate the Woodhouse
benevolence to her. She wanted to go away from them all--from them
all--for ever.

Even from Ciccio. For she felt he insulted her too. Subtly, they all did
it. They had regard for her possibilities as an heiress. Five hundred,
even two hundred pounds would have made all the difference. Useless to
deny it. Even to Ciccio. Ciccio would have had a lifelong respect for
her, if she had come with even so paltry a sum as two hundred pounds. Now
she had nothing, he would coolly withhold this respect. She felt he might
jeer at her. And she could not get away from this feeling.

Mercifully she had the bit of ready money. And she had a few trinkets
which might be sold. Nothing else. Mercifully, for the mere moment, she
was independent.

Whatever else she did, she must go back and pack. She must pack her two
boxes, and leave them ready. For she felt that once she had left, she
could never come back to Woodhouse again. If England had cliffs all
round--why, when there was nowhere else to go and no getting beyond, she
could walk over one of the cliffs. Meanwhile, she had her short run
before her. She banked hard on her independence.

So she turned back to the town. She would not be able to take the
twelve-forty train, for it was already mid-day. But she was glad. She
wanted some time to herself. She would send Ciccio on. Slowly she climbed
the familiar hill--slowly--and rather bitterly. She felt her native place
insulted her: and she felt the Natchas insulted her. In the midst of the
insult she remained isolated upon herself, and she wished to be alone.

She found Ciccio waiting at the end of the yard: eternally waiting, it
seemed. He was impatient.

"You've been a long time," he said.

"Yes," she answered.

"We shall have to make haste to catch the train."

"I can't go by this train. I shall have to come on later. You can just
eat a mouthful of lunch, and go now."

They went indoors. Miss Pinnegar had not yet come down. Mrs. Rollings was
busily peeling potatoes.

"Mr. Marasca is going by the train, he'll have to have a little cold
meat," said Alvina. "Would you mind putting it ready while I go

"Sharpses and Fullbankses sent them bills," said Mrs. Rollings. Alvina
opened them, and turned pale. It was thirty pounds, the total funeral
expenses. She had completely forgotten them.

"And Mr. Atterwell wants to know what you'd like put on th' headstone for
your father--if you'd write it down."

"All right."

Mrs. Rollings popped on the potatoes for Miss Pinnegar's dinner, and
spread the cloth for Ciccio. When he was eating, Miss Pinnegar came in.
She inquired for Alvina--and went upstairs.

"Have you had your dinner?" she said. For there was Alvina sitting
writing a letter.

"I'm going by a later train," said Alvina.

"Both of you?"

"No. He's going now."

Miss Pinnegar came downstairs again, and went through to the scullery.
When Alvina came down, she returned to the living room.

"Give this letter to Madame," Alvina said to Ciccio. "I shall be at the
hall by seven tonight. I shall go straight there."

"Why can't you come now?" said Ciccio.

"I can't possibly," said Alvina. "The lawyer has just told me father's
debts come to much more than everything is worth. Nothing is ours--not
even the plate you're eating from. Everything is under seal to be sold to
pay off what is owing. So I've got to get my own clothes and boots
together, or they'll be sold with the rest. Mr. Beeby wants you to go
round at seven this evening, Miss Pinnegar--before I forget."

"Really!" gasped Miss Pinnegar. "Really! The house and the furniture and
everything got to be sold up? Then we're on the streets! I can't believe

"So he told me," said Alvina.

"But how positively awful," said Miss Pinnegar, sinking motionless into a

"It's not more than I expected," said Alvina. "I'm putting my things into
my two trunks, and I shall just ask Mrs. Slaney to store them for me.
Then I've the bag I shall travel with."

"Really!" gasped Miss Pinnegar. "I can't believe it! And when have we got
to get out?"

"Oh, I don't think there's a desperate hurry. They'll take an inventory
of all the things, and we can live on here till they're actually ready
for the sale."

"And when will that be?"

"I don't know. A week or two."

"And is the cinematograph to be sold the same?"

"Yes--everything! The piano--even mother's portrait--"

"It's impossible to believe it," said Miss Pinnegar. "It's impossible. He
can never have left things so bad."

"Ciccio," said Alvina. "You'll really have to go if you are to catch the
train. You'll give Madame my letter, won't you? I should hate you to miss
the train. I know she can't bear me already, for all the fuss and upset I

Ciccio rose slowly, wiping his mouth.

"You'll be there at seven o'clock?" he said.

"At the theatre," she replied.

And without more ado, he left.

Mrs. Rollings came in.

"You've heard?" said Miss Pinnegar dramatically.

"I heard somethink," said Mrs. Rollings.

"Sold up! Everything to be sold up. Every stick and rag! I never thought
I should live to see the day," said Miss Pinnegar.

"You might almost have expected it," said Mrs. Rollings. "But you're all
right, yourself, Miss Pinnegar. Your money isn't with his, is it?"

"No," said Miss Pinnegar. "What little I have put by is safe. But it's
not enough to live on. It's not enough to keep me, even supposing I only
live another ten years. If I only spend a pound a week, it costs
fifty-two pounds a year. And for ten years, look at it, it's five hundred
and twenty pounds. And you couldn't say less. And I haven't half that
amount. I never had more than a wage, you know. Why, Miss Frost earned a
good deal more than I do. And _she_ didn't leave much more than fifty.
Where's the money to come from--?"

"But if you've enough to start a little business--" said Alvina.

"Yes, it's what I shall _have_ to do. It's what I shall have to do. And
then what about you? What about you?"

"Oh, don't bother about me," said Alvina.

"Yes, it's all very well, don't bother. But when you come to my age, you
know you've _got_ to bother, and bother a great deal, if you're not going
to find yourself in a position you'd be sorry for. You _have_ to bother.
And _you'll_ have to bother before you've done."

"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," said Alvina. "Ha,
sufficient for a good many days, it seems to me."

Miss Pinnegar was in a real temper. To Alvina this seemed an odd way of
taking it. The three women sat down to an uncomfortable dinner of cold
meat and hot potatoes and warmed-up pudding.

"But whatever you do," pronounced Miss Pinnegar; "whatever you do, and
however you strive, in this life, you're knocked down in the end. You're
always knocked down."

"It doesn't matter," said Alvina, "if it's only in the end. It doesn't
matter if you've had your life."

"You've never had your life, till you're dead," said Miss Pinnegar. "And
if you work and strive, you've a right to the fruits of your work."

"It doesn't matter," said Alvina laconically, "so long as you've enjoyed
working and striving."

But Miss Pinnegar was too angry to be philosophic. Alvina knew it was
useless to be either angry or otherwise emotional. None the less, she
also felt as if she had been knocked down. And she almost envied poor
Miss Pinnegar the prospect of a little, day-by-day haberdashery shop in
Tamworth. Her own problem seemed so much more menacing. "Answer or die,"
said the Sphinx of fate. Miss Pinnegar could answer her own fate
according to its question. She could say "haberdashery shop," and her
sphinx would recognize this answer as true to nature, and would be
satisfied. But every individual has his own, or her own fate, and her own
sphinx. Alvina's sphinx was an old, deep thoroughbred, she would take no
mongrel answers. And her thoroughbred teeth were long and sharp. To
Alvina, the last of the fantastic but purebred race of Houghton, the
problem of her fate was terribly abstruse.

The only thing to do was not to solve it: to stray on, and answer fate
with whatever came into one's head. No good striving with fate. Trust to
a lucky shot, or take the consequences.

"Miss Pinnegar," said Alvina. "Have we any money in hand?"

"There is about twenty pounds in the bank. It's all shown in my books,"
said Miss Pinnegar.

"We couldn't take it, could we?"

"Every penny shows in the books."

Alvina pondered again.

"Are there more bills to come in?" she asked. "I mean my bills. Do I owe

"I don't think you do," said Miss Pinnegar.

"I'm going to keep the insurance money, any way. They can say what they
like. I've got it, and I'm going to keep it."

"Well," said Miss Pinnegar, "it's not my business. But there's Sharps and
Fullbanks to pay."

"I'll pay those," said Alvina. "You tell Atterwell what to put on
father's stone. How much does it cost?"

"Five shillings a letter, you remember."

"Well, we'll just put the name and the date. How much will that be? James
Houghton. Born 17th January--"

"You'll have to put 'Also of,'" said Miss Pinnegar.

"Also of--" said Alvina. "One--two--three--four--five--six--Six
letters--thirty shillings. Seems an awful lot for _Also of_--"

"But you can't leave it out," said Miss Pinnegar. "You can't economize
over that."

"I begrudge it," said Alvina.


For days, after joining the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras, Alvina was very quiet,
subdued, and rather remote, sensible of her humiliating position as a
hanger-on. They none of them took much notice of her. They drifted on,
rather disjointedly. The cordiality, the _joie de vivre_ did not revive.
Madame was a little irritable, and very exacting, and inclined to be
spiteful. Ciccio went his way with Geoffrey.

In the second week, Madame found out that a man had been surreptitiously
inquiring about them at their lodgings, from the landlady and the
landlady's blowsy daughter. It must have been a detective--some shoddy
detective. Madame waited. Then she sent Max over to Mansfield, on some
fictitious errand. Yes, the lousy-looking dogs of detectives had been
there too, making the most minute enquiries as to the behaviour of the
Natcha-Kee-Tawaras, what they did, how their sleeping was arranged, how
Madame addressed the men, what attitude the men took towards Alvina.

Madame waited again. And again, when they moved to Doncaster, the same
two mongrel-looking fellows were lurking in the street, and plying the
inmates of their lodging-house with questions. All the Natchas caught
sight of the men. And Madame cleverly wormed out of the righteous and
respectable landlady what the men had asked. Once more it was about the
sleeping accommodation--whether the landlady heard anything in the
night--whether she noticed anything in the bedrooms, in the beds.

No doubt about it, the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras were under suspicion. They were
being followed, and watched. What for? Madame made a shrewd guess. "They
want to say we are immoral foreigners," she said.

"But what have our personal morals got to do with them?" said Max

"Yes--but the English! They are so pure," said Madame.

"You know," said Louis, "somebody must have put them up to it--"

"Perhaps," said Madame, "somebody on account of Allaye." Alvina went

"Yes," said Geoffrey. "White Slave Traffic! Mr. May said it." Madame
slowly nodded.

"Mr. May!" she said. "Mr. May! It is he. He knows all about morals--and
immortals. Yes, I know. Yes--yes--yes! He suspects all our immoral doings,
_mes braves_."

"But there aren't any, except mine," cried Alvina, pale to the lips.
"You! You! There you are!" Madame smiled archly, and rather mockingly.

"What are we to do?" said Max, pale on the cheekbones.

"Curse them! Curse them!" Louis was muttering, in his rolling accent.

"Wait," said Madame. "Wait. They will not do anything to us. You are only
dirty foreigners, _mes braves_. At the most they will ask us only to leave
their pure country."

"We don't interfere with none of them," cried Max.

"Curse them," muttered Louis.

"Never mind, _mon cher_. You are in a pure country. Let us wait."

"If you think it's me," said Alvina, "I can go away."

"Oh, my dear, you are only the excuse," said Madame, smiling indulgently
at her. "Let us wait, and see."

She took it smilingly. But her cheeks were white as paper, and her eyes
black as drops of ink, with anger.

"Wait and see!" she chanted ironically. "Wait and see! If we must leave
the dear country--then _adieu!_" And she gravely bowed to an imaginary

"I feel it's my fault. I feel I ought to go away," cried Alvina, who was
terribly distressed, seeing Madame's glitter and pallor, and the black
brows of the men. Never had Ciccio's brow looked so ominously black. And
Alvina felt it was all her fault. Never had she experienced such a
horrible feeling: as if something repulsive were creeping on her from
behind. Every minute of these weeks was a horror to her: the sense of the
low-down dogs of detectives hanging round, sliding behind them, trying to
get hold of some clear proof of immorality on their part. And then--the
unknown vengeance of the authorities. All the repulsive secrecy, and all
the absolute power of the police authorities. The sense of a great
malevolent power which had them all the time in its grip, and was
watching, feeling, waiting to strike the morbid blow: the sense of the
utter helplessness of individuals who were not even accused, only watched
and enmeshed! the feeling that they, the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras, herself
included, must be monsters of hideous vice, to have provoked all this:
and yet the sane knowledge that they, none of them, were monsters of
vice; this was quite killing. The sight of a policeman would send up
Alvina's heart in a flame of fear, agony; yet she knew she had nothing
legally to be afraid of. Every knock at the door was horrible.

She simply could not understand it. Yet there it was: they were watched,
followed. Of that there was no question. And all she could imagine was
that the troupe was secretly accused of White Slave Traffic by somebody
in Woodhouse. Probably Mr. May had gone the round of the benevolent
magnates of Woodhouse, concerning himself with her virtue, and currying
favour with his concern. Of this she became convinced, that it was
concern for her virtue which had started the whole business: and that the
first instigator was Mr. May, who had got round some vulgar magistrate or
County Councillor.

Madame did not consider Alvina's view very seriously. She thought it was
some personal malevolence against the Tawaras themselves, probably put up
by some other professionals, with whom Madame was not popular.

Be that as it may, for some weeks they went about in the shadow of this
repulsive finger which was following after them, to touch them and
destroy them with the black smear of shame. The men were silent and
inclined to be sulky. They seemed to hold together. They seemed to be
united into a strong, four-square silence and tension. They kept to
themselves--and Alvina kept to herself--and Madame kept to herself. So
they went about.

And slowly the cloud melted. It never broke. Alvina felt that the very
force of the sullen, silent fearlessness and fury in the Tawaras had
prevented its bursting. Once there had been a weakening, a cringing, they
would all have been lost. But their hearts hardened with black,
indomitable anger. And the cloud melted, it passed away. There was no

Early summer was now at hand. Alvina no longer felt at home with the
Natchas. While the trouble was hanging over, they seemed to ignore her
altogether. The men hardly spoke to her. They hardly spoke to Madame, for
that matter. They kept within the four-square enclosure of themselves.

But Alvina felt herself particularly excluded, left out. And when the
trouble of the detectives began to pass off, and the men became more
cheerful again, wanted her to jest and be familiar with them, she
responded verbally, but in her heart there was no response.

Madame had been quite generous with her. She allowed her to pay for her
room, and the expense of travelling. But she had her food with the rest.
Wherever she was, Madame bought the food for the party, and cooked it
herself. And Alvina came in with the rest: she paid no board.

She waited, however, for Madame to suggest a small salary--or at least,
that the troupe should pay her living expenses. But Madame did not make
such a suggestion. So Alvina knew that she was not very badly wanted. And
she guarded her money, and watched for some other opportunity.

It became her habit to go every morning to the public library of the town
in which she found herself, to look through the advertisements:
advertisements for maternity nurses, for nursery governesses, pianists,
travelling companions, even ladies' maids. For some weeks she found
nothing, though she wrote several letters.

One morning Ciccio, who had begun to hang round her again, accompanied
her as she set out to the library. But her heart was closed against him.

"Why are you going to the library?" he asked her. It was in Lancaster.

"To look at the papers and magazines."

"Ha-a! To find a job, eh?"

His cuteness startled her for a moment.

"If I found one I should take it," she said.

"He! I know that," he said.

It so happened that that very morning she saw on the notice-board of the
library an announcement that the Borough Council wished to engage the
services of an experienced maternity nurse, applications to be made to
the medical board. Alvina wrote down the directions. Ciccio watched her.

"What is a maternity nurse?" he said.

"An _accoucheuse!_" she said. "The nurse who attends when babies are born."

"Do you know how to do that?" he said, incredulous, and jeering slightly.

"I was trained to do it," she said.

He said no more, but walked by her side as she returned to the lodgings.
As they drew near the lodgings, he said:

"You don't want to stop with us any more?"

"I can't," she said.

He made a slight, mocking gesture.

"'I can't,'" he repeated. "Why do you always say you can't?"

"Because I can't," she said.

"Pff--!" he went, with a whistling sound of contempt.

But she went indoors to her room. Fortunately, when she had finally
cleared her things from Manchester House, she had brought with her her
nurse's certificate, and recommendations from doctors. She wrote out her
application, took the tram to the Town Hall and dropped it in the
letter-box there. Then she wired home to her doctor for another
reference. After which she went to the library and got out a book on her
subject. If summoned, she would have to go before the medical board on
Monday. She had a week. She read and pondered hard, recalling all her
previous experience and knowledge.

She wondered if she ought to appear before the board in uniform. Her
nurse's dresses were packed in her trunk at Mrs. Slaney's, in Woodhouse.
It was now May. The whole business at Woodhouse was finished. Manchester
House and all the furniture was sold to some boot-and-shoe people: at
least the boot-and-shoe people had the house. They had given four
thousand pounds for it--which was above the lawyer's estimate. On the
other hand, the theatre was sold for almost nothing. It all worked out
that some thirty-three pounds, which the creditors made up to fifty
pounds, remained for Alvina. She insisted on Miss Pinnegar's having half
of this. And so that was all over. Miss Pinnegar was already in Tamworth,
and her little shop would be opened next week. She wrote happily and
excitedly about it.

Sometimes fate acts swiftly and without a hitch. On Thursday Alvina
received her notice that she was to appear before the Board on the
following Monday. And yet she could not bring herself to speak of it to
Madame till the Saturday evening. When they were all at supper, she said:

"Madame, I applied for a post of maternity nurse, to the Borough of

Madame raised her eyebrows. Ciccio had said nothing.

"Oh really! You never told me."

"I thought it would be no use if it all came to nothing. They want me to
go and see them on Monday, and then they will decide--"

"Really! Do they! On Monday? And then if you get this work you will stay
here? Yes?"

"Yes, of course."

"Of course! Of course! Yes! H'm! And if not?"

The two women looked at each other.

"What?" said Alvina.

"If you _don't_ get it--! You are not _sure?_"

"No," said Alvina. "I am not a bit sure."

"Well then--! Now! And if you don't get it--?"

"What shall I do, you mean?"

"Yes, what shall you do?"

"I don't know."

"How! you don't know! Shall you come back to us, then?"

"I will if you like--"

"If I like! If _I_ like! Come, it is not a question of if _I_ like. It is
what do you want to do yourself."

"I feel you don't want me very badly," said Alvina.

"Why? Why do you feel? Who makes you? Which of us makes you feel so? Tell

"Nobody in particular. But I feel it."

"Oh we-ell! If nobody makes you, and yet you feel it, it must be in
yourself, don't you see? Eh? Isn't it so?"

"Perhaps it is," admitted Alvina.

"We-ell then! We-ell--" So Madame gave her her congé. "But if you like to
come back--if you _laike_--then--" Madame shrugged her shoulders--"you must
come, I suppose."

"Thank you," said Alvina.

The young men were watching. They seemed indifferent. Ciccio turned
aside, with his faint, stupid smile.

In the morning Madame gave Alvina all her belongings, from the little
safe she called her bank.

"There is the money--so--and so--and so--that is correct. Please
count it once more!--" Alvina counted it and kept it clutched in
her hand. "And there are your rings, and your chain, and your
locketsee--all--everything--! But not the brooch. Where is the
brooch? Here! Shall I give it back, hein?"

"I gave it to you," said Alvina, offended. She looked into Madame's black
eyes. Madame dropped her eyes.

"Yes, you gave it. But I thought, you see, as you have now not much
mo-oney, perhaps you would like to take it again--"

"No, thank you," said Alvina, and she went away, leaving Madame with the
red brooch in her plump hand.

"Thank goodness I've given her something valuable," thought Alvina to
herself, as she went trembling to her room.

She had packed her bag. She had to find new rooms. She bade goodbye to
the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras. Her face was cold and distant, but she smiled
slightly as she bade them good-bye.

"And perhaps," said Madame, "per-haps you will come to Wigan tomorrow
afternoon--or evening? Yes?"

"Thank you," said Alvina.

She went out and found a little hotel, where she took her room for the
night, explaining the cause of her visit to Lancaster. Her heart was hard
and burning. A deep, burning, silent anger against everything possessed
her, and a profound indifference to mankind.

And therefore, the next day, everything went as if by magic. She had
decided that at the least sign of indifference from the medical board
people she would walk away, take her bag, and go to Windermere. She had
never been to the Lakes. And Windermere was not far off. She would not
endure one single hint of contumely from any one else. She would go
straight to Windermere, to see the big lake. Why not do as she wished!
She could be quite happy by herself among the lakes. And she would be
absolutely free, absolutely free. She rather looked forward to leaving
the Town Hall, hurrying to take her bag and off to the station and
freedom. Hadn't she still got about a hundred pounds? Why bother for one
moment? To be quite alone in the whole world--and quite, quite free, with
her hundred pounds--the prospect attracted her sincerely.

And therefore, everything went charmingly at the Town Hall. The medical
board were charming to her--charming. There was no hesitation at all.
From the first moment she was engaged. And she was given a pleasant room
in a hospital in a garden, and the matron was charming to her, and the
doctors most courteous.

When could she undertake to commence her duties? When did they want her?
The very _moment_ she could come. She could begin tomorrow--but she had no
uniform. Oh, the matron would lend her uniform and aprons, till her box

So there she was--by afternoon installed in her pleasant little room
looking on the garden, and dressed in a nurse's uniform. It was all
sudden like magic. She had wired to Madame, she had wired for her box.
She was another person.

Needless to say, she was glad. Needless to say that, in the morning, when
she had thoroughly bathed, and dressed in clean clothes, and put on the
white dress, the white apron, and the white cap, she felt another person.
So clean, she felt, so thankful! Her skin seemed caressed and live with
cleanliness and whiteness, luminous she felt. It was so different from
being with the Natchas.

In the garden the snowballs, guelder-roses, swayed softly among green
foliage, there was pink may-blossom, and single scarlet may-blossom, and
underneath the young green of the trees, irises rearing purple and
moth-white. A young gardener was working--and a convalescent slowly
trailed a few paces.

Having ten minutes still, Alvina sat down and wrote to Ciccio: "I am glad
I have got this post as nurse here. Every one is most kind, and I feel at
home already. I feel quite happy here. I shall think of my days with the
Natcha-Kee-Tawaras, and of you, who were such a stranger to me.
Good-bye.--A. H."

This she addressed and posted. No doubt Madame would find occasion to
read it. But let her.

Alvina now settled down to her new work. There was of course a great deal
to do, for she had work both in the hospital and out in the town, though
chiefly out in the town. She went rapidly from case to case, as she was
summoned. And she was summoned at all hours. So that it was tiring work,
which left her no time to herself, except just in snatches.

She had no serious acquaintance with anybody, she was too busy. The
matron and sisters and doctors and patients were all part of her day's
work, and she regarded them as such. The men she chiefly ignored: she
felt much more friendly with the matron. She had many a cup of tea and
many a chat in the matron's room, in the quiet, sunny afternoons when the
work was not pressing. Alvina took her quiet moments when she could: for
she never knew when she would be rung up by one or other of the doctors
in the town.

And so, from the matron, she learned to crochet. It was work she had
never taken to. But now she had her ball of cotton and her hook, and she
worked away as she chatted. She was in good health, and she was getting
fatter again. With the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras, she had improved a good deal,
her colour and her strength had returned. But undoubtedly the nursing
life, arduous as it was, suited her best. She became a handsome,
reposeful woman, jolly with the other nurses, really happy with her
friend the matron, who was well-bred and wise, and never over-intimate.

The doctor with whom Alvina had most to do was a Dr. Mitchell, a
Scotchman. He had a large practice among the poor, and was an energetic
man. He was about fifty-four years old, tall, largely-built, with a good
figure, but with extraordinarily large feet and hands. His face was red
and clean-shaven, his eyes blue, his teeth very good. He laughed and
talked rather mouthingly. Alvina, who knew what the nurses told her, knew
that he had come as a poor boy and bottle-washer to Dr. Robertson, a
fellow-Scotchman, and that he had made his way up gradually till he
became a doctor himself, and had an independent practice. Now he was
quite rich--and a bachelor. But the nurses did not set their bonnets at
him very much, because he was rather mouthy and overbearing.

In the houses of the poor he was a great autocrat.

"What is that stuff you've got there!" he inquired largely, seeing a
bottle of somebody's Soothing Syrup by a poor woman's bedside. "Take it
and throw it down the sink, and the next time you want a soothing syrup
put a little boot-blacking in hot water. It'll do you just as much good."

Imagine the slow, pompous, large-mouthed way in which the red-faced,
handsomely-built man pronounced these words, and you realize why the poor
set such store by him.

He was eagle-eyed. Wherever he went, there was a scuffle directly his
foot was heard on the stairs. And he knew they were hiding something. He
sniffed the air: he glanced round with a sharp eye: and during the course
of his visit picked up a blue mug which was pushed behind the
looking-glass. He peered inside--and smelled it.

"Stout?" he said, in a tone of indignant inquiry: God-Almighty would
presumably take on just such a tone, finding the core of an apple flung
away among the dead-nettle of paradise: "Stout! Have you been drinking
stout?" This as he gazed down on the wan mother in the bed.

"They gave me a drop, doctor. I felt that low."

The doctor marched out of the room, still holding the mug in his hand.
The sick woman watched him with haunted eyes. The attendant women threw
up their hands and looked at one another. Was he going for ever? There
came a sudden smash. The doctor had flung the blue mug downstairs. He
returned with a solemn stride.

"There!" he said. "And the next person that gives you stout will be
thrown down along with the mug."

"Oh doctor, the bit o' comfort!" wailed the sick woman. "It ud never do
me no harm."

"Harm! Harm! With a stomach as weak as yours! Harm! Do you know better
than I do? What have I come here for? To be told by you what will do you
harm and what won't? It appears to me you need no doctor here, you know
everything already--"

"Oh no, doctor. It's not like that. But when you feel as if you'd sink
through the bed, an' you don't know what to do with yourself--"

"Take a little beef-tea, or a little rice pudding. Take _nourishment_,
don't take that muck. Do you hear--" charging upon the attendant women,
who shrank against the wall--"she's to have nothing alcoholic at all, and
don't let me catch you giving it her."

"They say there's nobbut fower per cent. i' stout," retorted the daring

"Fower per cent," mimicked the doctor brutally. "Why, what does an
ignorant creature like you know about fower per cent."

The woman muttered a little under her breath.

"What? Speak out. Let me hear what you've got to say, my woman. I've no
doubt it's something for my benefit--"

But the affronted woman rushed out of the room, and burst into tears on
the landing. After which Dr. Mitchell, mollified, largely told the
patient how she was to behave, concluding:

"Nourishment! Nourishment is what you want. Nonsense, don't tell me you
can't take it. Push it down if it won't go down by itself--"

"Oh doctor--"

"Don't say _oh doctor_ to me. Do as I tell you. That's _your_ business."
After which he marched out, and the rattle of his motor car was shortly

Alvina got used to scenes like these. She wondered why the people stood
it. But soon she realized that they loved it--particularly the women.

"Oh, nurse, stop till Dr. Mitchell's been. I'm scared to death of him,
for fear he's going to shout at me."

"Why does everybody put up with him?" asked innocent Alvina.

"Oh, he's good-hearted, nurse, he _does_ feel for you."

And everywhere it was the same: "Oh, he's got a heart, you know.
He's rough, but he's got a heart. I'd rather have him than your smarmy
slormin sort. Oh, you feel safe with Dr. Mitchell, I don't care what you

But to Alvina this peculiar form of blustering, bullying heart which had
all the women scurrying like chickens was not particularly attractive.

The men did not like Dr. Mitchell, and would not have him if possible.
Yet since he was club doctor and panel doctor, they had to submit. The
first thing he said to a sick or injured labourer, invariably, was:

"And keep off the beer."

"Oh ay!"

"Keep off the beer, or I shan't set foot in this house again."

"Tha's got a red enough face on thee, tha nedna shout."

"My face is red with exposure to all weathers, attending ignorant people
like you. I never touch alcohol in any form."

"No, an' I dunna. I drink a drop o' beer, if that's what you ca' touchin'
alcohol. An' I'm none th' wuss for it, tha sees."

"You've heard what I've told you."

"Ah, I have."

"And if you go on with the beer, you may go on with curing yourself. _I_
shan't attend you. You know I mean what I say, Mrs. Larrick"--this to the

"I do, doctor. And I know it's true what you say. An' I'm at him night
an' day about it--"

"Oh well, if he will hear no reason, he must suffer for it. He mustn't
think _I'm_ going to be running after him, if he disobeys my orders." And
the doctor stalked off, and the woman began to complain.

None the less the women had their complaints against Dr. Mitchell. If
ever Alvina entered a clean house on a wet day, she was sure to hear the
housewife chuntering.

"Oh my lawd, come in nurse! What a day! Doctor's not been yet. And he's
bound to come now I've just cleaned up, trapesin' wi' his gret feet. He's
got the biggest understandin's of any man i' Lancaster. My husband says
they're the best pair o' pasties th' kingdom. An' he does make such a
mess, for he never stops to wipe his feet on th' mat, marches straight up
your clean stairs--"

"Why don't you tell him to wipe his feet?" said Alvina.

"Oh my word! Fancy me telling him! He'd jump down my throat with both
feet afore I'd opened my mouth. He's not to be spoken to, he isn't. He's
my-lord, he is. You mustn't look, or you're done for."

Alvina laughed. She knew they all liked him for brow-beating them, and
having a heart over and above.

Sometimes he was given a good hit--though nearly always by a man. It
happened he was in a workman's house when the man was at dinner.

"Canna yer gi'e a man summat better nor this 'ere pap, Missis?" said the
hairy husband, turning up his nose at the rice pudding.

"Oh go on," cried the wife. "I hadna time for owt else." Dr. Mitchell was
just stooping his handsome figure in the doorway.

"Rice pudding!" he exclaimed largely. "You couldn't have anything more
wholesome and nourishing. I have a rice pudding every day of my
life--every day of my life, I do."

The man was eating his pudding and pearling his big moustache copiously
with it. He did not answer.

"Do you doctor!" cried the woman. "And never no different."

"Never," said the doctor.

"Fancy that! You're that fond of them?"

"I find they agree with me. They are light and digestible. And my stomach
is as weak as a baby's."

The labourer wiped his big moustache on his sleeve.

"Mine isna, tha sees," he said, "so pap's no use. 'S watter ter me. I
want ter feel as I've had summat: a bit o' suetty dumplin' an' a pint o'
hale, summat ter fill th' hole up. An' tha'd be th' same if tha did my

"If I did your work," sneered the doctor. "Why I do ten times the work
that any one of you does. It's just the work that has ruined my
digestion, the never getting a quiet meal, and never a whole night's
rest. When do you think _I_ can sit at table and digest my dinner? I have
to be off looking after people like you--"

"Eh, tha can ta'e th' titty-bottle wi' thee," said the labourer.

But Dr. Mitchell was furious for weeks over this. It put him in a black
rage to have his great manliness insulted. Alvina was quietly amused.

The doctor began by being rather lordly and condescending with her. But
luckily she felt she knew her work at least as well as he knew it. She
smiled and let him condescend. Certainly she neither feared nor even
admired him. To tell the truth, she rather disliked him: the great,
red-faced bachelor of fifty-three, with his bald spot and his stomach as
weak as a baby's, and his mouthing imperiousness and his good heart which
was as selfish as it could be. Nothing can be more cocksuredly selfish
than a good heart which believes in its own beneficence. He was a little
too much the teetotaller on the one hand to be so largely manly on the
other. Alvina preferred the labourers with their awful long moustaches
that got full of food. And he was a little too loud-mouthedly lordly to
be in human good taste.

As a matter of fact, he was conscious of the fact that he had risen to be
a gentleman. Now if a man is conscious of being a _gentleman_, he is bound
to be a little less than a _man_. But if he is gnawed with anxiety lest he
may _not_ be a gentleman, he is only pitiable. There is a third case,
however. If a man must loftily, by his manner, assert that he is _now_ a
gentleman, he shows himself a clown. For Alvina, poor Dr. Mitchell fell
into this third category, of clowns. She tolerated him good-humouredly,
as women so often tolerate ninnies and _poseurs_. She smiled to herself
when she saw his large and important presence on the board. She smiled
when she saw him at a sale, buying the grandest pieces of antique
furniture. She smiled when he talked of going up to Scotland, for grouse
shooting, or of snatching an hour on Sunday morning, for golf. And she
talked him over, with quiet, delicate malice, with the matron. He was no
favourite at the hospital.

Gradually Dr. Mitchell's manner changed towards her. From his imperious
condescension he took to a tone of uneasy equality. This did not suit
him. Dr. Mitchell had no equals: he had only the vast stratum of
inferiors, towards whom he exercised his quite profitable beneficence--it
brought him in about two thousand a year: and then his superiors, people
who had been born with money. It was the tradesmen and professionals who
had started at the bottom and clambered to the motor-car footing, who
distressed him. And therefore, whilst he treated Alvina on this uneasy
tradesman footing, he felt himself in a false position.

She kept her attitude of quiet amusement, and little by little he sank.
From being a lofty creature soaring over her head, he was now like a big
fish poking its nose above water and making eyes at her. He treated her
with rather presuming deference.

"You look tired this morning," he barked at her one hot day. "I think
it's thunder," she said.

"Thunder! Work, you mean," and he gave a slight smile. "I'm going to
drive you back."

"Oh no, thanks, don't trouble! I've got to call on the way."

"Where have you got to call?"

She told him.

"Very well. That takes you no more than five minutes. I'll wait for you.
Now take your cloak."

She was surprised. Yet, like other women, she submitted.

As they drove he saw a man with a barrow of cucumbers. He stopped the car
and leaned towards the man.

"Take that barrow-load of poison and _bury_ it!" he shouted, in his strong
voice. The busy street hesitated.

"What's that, mister?" replied the mystified hawker.

Dr. Mitchell pointed to the green pile of cucumbers.

"Take that barrow-load of poison, and bury it," he called, "before you do
anybody any more harm with it."

"What barrow-load of poison's that?" asked the hawker, approaching. A
crowd began to gather.

"What barrow-load of poison is that!" repeated the doctor. "Why your
barrow-load of cucumbers."

"Oh," said the man, scrutinizing his cucumbers carefully. To be sure,
some were a little yellow at the end. "How's that? Cumbers is right
enough: fresh from market this morning."

"Fresh or not fresh," said the doctor, mouthing his words distinctly,
"you might as well put poison into your stomach, as those things.
Cucumbers are the worst thing you can eat."

"Oh!" said the man, stuttering. "That's 'appen for them as doesn't like
them. I niver knowed a cumber do _me_ no harm, an' I eat 'em like a
happle." Whereupon the hawker took a "cumber" from his barrow, bit off
the end, and chewed it till the sap squirted. "What's wrong with that?"
he said, holding up the bitten cucumber.

"I'm not talking about what's wrong with that," said the doctor. "My
business is what's wrong with the stomach it goes into. I'm a doctor. And
I know that those things cause me half my work. They cause half the
internal troubles people suffer from in summertime."

"Oh ay! That's no loss to you, is it? Me an' you's partners. More cumbers
I sell, more graft for you, 'cordin' to that. What's wrong then.
_Cum-bers! Fine fresh Cum-berrrs! All fresh and juisty, all cheap and
tasty--!_" yelled the man.

"I am a doctor not only to cure illness, but to prevent it where I can.
And cucumbers are poison to everybody."

_"Cum-bers! Cum-bers! Fresh cumbers!_" yelled the man.

Dr. Mitchell started his car.

"When will they learn intelligence?" he said to Alvina, smiling and
showing his white, even teeth.

"I don't care, you know, myself," she said. "I should always let people
do what they wanted--"

"Even if you knew it would do them harm?" he queried, smiling with
amiable condescension.

"Yes, why not! It's their own affair. And they'll do themselves harm one
way or another."

"And you wouldn't try to prevent it?"

"You might as well try to stop the sea with your fingers."

"You think so?" smiled the doctor. "I see, you are a pessimist. You are a
pessimist with regard to human nature."

"Am I?" smiled Alvina, thinking the rose would smell as sweet. It seemed
to please the doctor to find that Alvina was a pessimist with regard to
human nature. It seemed to give her an air of distinction. In his eyes,
she seemed distinguished. He was in a fair way to dote on her.

She, of course, when he began to admire her, liked him much better, and
even saw graceful, boyish attractions in him. There was really something
childish about him. And this something childish, since it looked up to
her as if she were the saving grace, naturally flattered her and made her
feel gentler towards him.

He got in the habit of picking her up in his car, when he could. And he
would tap at the matron's door, smiling and showing all his beautiful
teeth, just about tea-time.

"May I come in?" His voice sounded almost flirty.


"I see you're having tea! Very nice, a cup of tea at this hour!"

"Have one too, doctor."

"I will with pleasure." And he sat down wreathed with smiles. Alvina rose
to get a cup. "I didn't intend to disturb you, nurse," he said. "Men are
always intruders," he smiled to the matron.

"Sometimes," said the matron, "women are charmed to be intruded upon."

"Oh really!" his eyes sparkled. "Perhaps _you_ wouldn't say so, nurse?" he
said, turning to Alvina. Alvina was just reaching at the cupboard. Very
charming she looked, in her fresh dress and cap and soft brown hair, very
attractive her figure, with its full, soft loins. She turned round to

"Oh yes," she said. "I quite agree with the matron."

"Oh, you do!" He did not quite know how to take it. "But you mind being
disturbed at your tea, I am sure."

"No," said Alvina. "We are so used to being disturbed."

"Rather weak, doctor?" said the matron, pouring the tea. "Very weak,

The doctor was a little laboured in his gallantry, but unmistakably
gallant. When he was gone, the matron looked demure, and Alvina confused.
Each waited for the other to speak.

"Don't you think Dr. Mitchell is quite coming out?" said Alvina.

"Quite! _Quite_ the ladies' man! I wonder who it is can be _bringing_ him
out. A very praiseworthy work, I am sure." She looked wickedly at Alvina.

"No, don't look at me," laughed Alvina, "_I_ know nothing about it."

"Do you think it may be _me_!" said the matron, mischievous. "I'm sure of
it, matron! He begins to show some taste at last."

"There now!" said the matron. "I shall put my cap straight." And she went
to the mirror, fluffing her hair and settling her cap.

"There!" she said, bobbing a little curtsey to Alvina.

They both laughed, and went off to work.

But there was no mistake, Dr. Mitchell was beginning to expand. With
Alvina he quite unbent, and seemed even to sun himself when she was near,
to attract her attention. He smiled and smirked and became oddly
self-conscious: rather uncomfortable. He liked to hang over her chair,
and he made a great event of offering her a cigarette whenever they met,
although he himself never smoked. He had a gold cigarette case.

One day he asked her in to see his garden. He had a pleasant old square
house with a big walled garden. He showed her his flowers and his
wall-fruit, and asked her to eat his strawberries. He bade her admire his
asparagus. And then he gave her tea in the drawing-room, with
strawberries and cream and cakes, of all of which he ate nothing. But he
smiled expansively all the time. He was a made man: and now he was really
letting himself go, luxuriating in everything; above all, in Alvina, who
poured tea gracefully from the old Georgian tea-pot, and smiled so
pleasantly above the Queen Anne tea-cups.

And she, wicked that she was, admired every detail of his drawing-room.
It was a pleasant room indeed, with roses outside the French door, and a
lawn in sunshine beyond, with bright red flowers in beds. But indoors, it
was insistently antique. Alvina admired the Jacobean sideboard and the
Jacobean arm-chairs and the Hepplewhite wall-chairs and the Sheraton
settee and the Chippendale stands and the Axminster carpet and the bronze
clock with Shakespeare and Ariosto reclining on it--yes, she even admired
Shakespeare on the clock--and the ormolu cabinet and the bead-work
foot-stools and the dreadful Sèvres dish with a cherub in it and--but why
enumerate. She admired _everything!_ And Dr. Mitchell's heart expanded in
his bosom till he felt it would burst, unless he either fell at her feet
or did something extraordinary. He had never even imagined what it was to
be so expanded: what a delicious feeling. He could have kissed her feet
in an ecstasy of wild expansion. But habit, so far, prevented his doing
more than beam.

Another day he said to her, when they were talking of age:

"You are as young as you feel. Why, when I was twenty I felt I had all
the cares and responsibility of the world on my shoulders. And now I am
middle-aged more or less, I feel as light as if I were just beginning
life." He beamed down at her.

"Perhaps you are only just beginning your own life," she said. "You have
lived for your work till now."

"It may be that," he said. "It may be that up till now I have lived for
others, for my patients. And now perhaps I may be allowed to live a
little more for myself." He beamed with real luxury, saw the real luxury
of life begin.

"Why shouldn't you?" said Alvina.

"Oh yes, I intend to," he said, with confidence.

He really, by degrees, made up his mind to marry now, and to retire in
part from his work. That is, he would hire another assistant, and give
himself a fair amount of leisure. He was inordinately proud of his house.
And now he looked forward to the treat of his life: hanging round the
woman he had made his wife, following her about, feeling proud of her and
his house, talking to her from morning till night, really finding himself
in her. When he had to go his rounds she would go with him in the car: he
made up his mind she would be willing to accompany him. He would teach
her to drive, and they would sit side by side, she driving him and
waiting for him. And he would run out of the houses of his patients, and
find her sitting there, and he would get in beside her and feel so snug
and so sure and so happy as she drove him off to the next case, he
informing her about his work.

And if ever she did not go out with him, she would be there on the
doorstep waiting for him the moment she heard the car. And they would
have long, cosy evenings together in the drawing-room, as he luxuriated
in her very presence. She would sit on his knees and they would be snug
for hours, before they went warmly and deliciously to bed. And in the
morning he need not rush off. He would loiter about with her, they would
loiter down the garden looking at every new flower and every new fruit,
she would wear fresh flowery dresses and no cap on her hair, he would
never be able to tear himself away from her. Every morning it would be
unbearable to have to tear himself away from her, and every hour he would
be rushing back to her. They would be simply everything to one another.
And how he would enjoy it! Ah!

He pondered as to whether he would have children. A child would take her
away from him. That was his first thought. But then--! Ah well, he would
have to leave it till the time. Love's young dream is never so delicious
as at the virgin age of fifty-three.

But he was quite cautious. He made no definite advances till he had put a
plain question. It was August Bank Holiday, that for ever black day of
the declaration of war, when his question was put. For this year of our
story is the fatal year 1914.

There was quite a stir in the town over the declaration of war. But most
people felt that the news was only intended to give an extra thrill to
the all-important event of Bank Holiday. Half the world had gone to
Blackpool or Southport, the other half had gone to the Lakes or into the
country. Lancaster was busy with a sort of fête, notwithstanding. And as
the weather was decent, everybody was in a real holiday mood.

So that Dr. Mitchell, who had contrived to pick up Alvina at the
Hospital, contrived to bring her to his house at half-past three, for

"What do you think of this new war?" said Alvina.

"Oh, it will be over in six weeks," said the doctor easily. And there
they left it. Only, with a fleeting thought, Alvina wondered if it would
affect the Natcha-Kee-Tawaras. She had never heard any more of them.

"Where would you have liked to go today?" said the doctor, turning to
smile at her as he drove the car.

"I think to Windermere--into the Lakes," she said.

"We might make a tour of the Lakes before long," he said. She was not
thinking, so she took no particular notice of the speech. "How nice!" she
said vaguely.

"We could go in the car, and take them as we chose," said the doctor.

"Yes," she said, wondering at him now.

When they had had tea, quietly and gallantly tête-à-tête in his
drawing-room, he asked her if she would like to see the other rooms of
the house. She thanked him, and he showed her the substantial oak
dining-room, and the little room with medical works and a revolving
chair, which he called his study: then the kitchen and the pantry, the
housekeeper looking askance; then upstairs to his bedroom, which was very
fine with old mahogany tall-boys and silver candle-sticks on the
dressing-table, and brushes with green ivory backs, and a hygienic white
bed and straw mats: then the visitors' bedroom corresponding, with its
old satin-wood furniture and cream-coloured chairs with large, pale-blue
cushions, and a pale carpet with reddish wreaths. Very nice, lovely,
awfully nice, I do like that, isn't that beautiful, I've never seen
anything like that! came the gratifying fireworks of admiration from
Alvina. And he smiled and gloated. But in her mind she was thinking of
Manchester House, and how dark and horrible it was, how she hated it, but
how it had impressed Ciccio and Geoffrey, how they would have loved to
feel themselves masters of it, and how done in the eye they were. She
smiled to herself rather grimly. For this afternoon she was feeling
unaccountably uneasy and wistful, yearning into the distance again: a
trick she thought she had happily lost.

The doctor dragged her up even to the slanting attics. He was a big man,
and he always wore navy blue suits, well-tailored and immaculate.
Unconsciously she felt that big men in good navy-blue suits, especially
if they had reddish faces and rather big feet and if their hair was
wearing thin, were a special type all to themselves, solid and rather
namby-pamby and tiresome.

"What very nice attics! I think the many angles which the roof makes, the
different slants, you know, are so attractive. Oh, and the fascinating
little window!" She crouched in the hollow of the small dormer window.
"Fascinating! See the town and the hills! I know I should want this room
for my own."

"Then have it," he said. "Have it for _one_ of your own."

She crept out of the window recess and looked up at him. He was leaning
forward to her, smiling, self-conscious, tentative, and eager. She
thought it best to laugh it off.

"I was only talking like a child, from the imagination," she said.

"I quite understand that," he replied deliberately. "But I am speaking
what I _mean_--"

She did not answer, but looked at him reproachfully. He was smiling and
smirking broadly at her.

"Won't you marry me, and come and have this garret for your own?" He
spoke as if he were offering her a chocolate. He smiled with curious

"I don't know," she said vaguely.

His smile broadened.

"Well now," he said, "make up your mind. I'm not good at _talking_ about
love, you know. But I think I'm pretty good at _feeling_ it, you know. I
want you to come here and be happy: with me." He added the two last words
as a sort of sly post-scriptum, and as if to commit himself finally.

"But I've never thought about it," she said, rapidly cogitating.

"I know you haven't. But think about it now--" He began to be hugely
pleased with himself. "Think about it now. And tell me if you could put
up with _me_, as well as the garret." He beamed and put his head a little
on one side--rather like Mr. May, for one second. But he was much more
dangerous than Mr. May. He was overbearing, and had the devil's own
temper if he was thwarted. This she knew. He was a big man in a navy blue
suit, with very white teeth.

Again she thought she had better laugh it off.

"It's you I _am_ thinking about," she laughed, flirting still. "It's you I
_am_ wondering about."

"Well," he said, rather pleased with himself, "you wonder about me till
you've made up your mind--"

"I will--" she said, seizing the opportunity. "I'll wonder about you till
I've made up my mind--shall I?"

"Yes," he said. "That's what I wish you to do. And the next time I ask
you, you'll let me know. That's it, isn't it?" He smiled indulgently down
on her: thought her face young and charming, charming.

"Yes," she said. "But don't ask me too soon, will you?"

"How, too soon--?" He smiled delightedly.

"You'll give me time to wonder about you, won't you? You won't ask me
again this month, will you?"

"This month?" His eyes beamed with pleasure. He enjoyed the
procrastination as much as she did. "But the month's only just begun!
However! Yes, you shall have your way. I won't ask you again this month."

"And I'll promise to wonder about you all the month," she laughed.
"That's a bargain," he said.

They went downstairs, and Alvina returned to her duties. She was very
much excited, very much excited indeed. A big, well-to-do man in a navy
blue suit, of handsome appearance, aged fifty-three, with white teeth and
a delicate stomach: it _was_ exciting. A sure position, a very nice home
and lovely things in it, once they were dragged about a bit. And of
course he'd adore her. That went without saying. She was as fussy as if
some one had given her a lovely new pair of boots. She was really fussy
and pleased with herself and _quite_ decided she'd take it all on. That was
how it put itself to her: she would take it all on.

Of course there was the man himself to consider. But he was quite
presentable. There was nothing at all against it: nothing at all. If he
had pressed her during the first half of the month of August, he would
almost certainly have got her. But he only beamed in anticipation.

Meanwhile the stir and restlessness of the war had begun, and was making
itself felt even in Lancaster. And the excitement and the unease began to
wear through Alvina's rather glamorous fussiness. Some of her old
fretfulness came back on her. Her spirit, which had been as if asleep
these months, now woke rather irritably, and chafed against its collar.
Who was this elderly man, that she should marry him? Who was he, that she
should be kissed by him. Actually kissed and fondled by him! Repulsive.
She avoided him like the plague. Fancy reposing against his broad, navy
blue waistcoat! She started as if she had been stung. Fancy seeing his
red, smiling face just above hers, coming down to embrace her! She pushed
it away with her open hand. And she ran away, to avoid the thought.

And yet! And yet! She would be so comfortable, she would be so well-off
for the rest of her life. The hateful problem of material circumstance
would be solved for ever. And she knew well how hateful material
circumstances can make life.

Therefore, she could not decide in a hurry. But she bore poor Dr.
Mitchell a deep grudge, that he could not grant her all the advantages of
his offer, and excuse her the acceptance of him himself. She dared not
decide in a hurry. And this very fear, like a yoke on her, made her
resent the man who drove her to decision.

Sometimes she rebelled. Sometimes she laughed unpleasantly in the man's
face: though she dared not go _too_ far: for she was a little afraid of him
and his rabid temper, also. In her moments of sullen rebellion she
thought of Natcha-Kee-Tawara. She thought of them deeply. She wondered
where they were, what they were doing, how the war had affected them.
Poor Geoffrey was a Frenchman--he would have to go to France to fight.
Max and Louis were Swiss, it would not affect them: nor Ciccio, who was
Italian. She wondered if the troupe was in England: if they would
continue together when Geoffrey was gone. She wondered if they thought of
her. She felt they did. She felt they did not forget her. She felt there
was a connection.

In fact, during the latter part of August she wondered a good deal more
about the Natchas than about Dr. Mitchell. But wondering about the
Natchas would not help her. She felt, if she knew where they were, she
would fly to them. But then she knew she wouldn't.

When she was at the station she saw crowds and bustle. People were seeing
their young men off. Beer was flowing: sailors on the train were tipsy:
women were holding young men by the lapel of the coat. And when the train
drew away, the young men waving, the women cried aloud and sobbed after

A chill ran down Alvina's spine. This was another matter, apart from her
Dr. Mitchell. It made him feel very unreal, trivial. She did not know
what she was going to do. She realized she must do something--take some
part in the wild dislocation of life. She knew that she would put off Dr.
Mitchell again.

She talked the matter over with the matron. The matron advised her to
procrastinate. Why not volunteer for war-service? True, she was a
maternity nurse, and this was hardly the qualification needed for the
nursing of soldiers. But still, she _was_ a nurse.

Alvina felt this was the thing to do. Everywhere was a stir and a seethe
of excitement. Men were active, women were needed too. She put down her
name on the list of volunteers for active service. This was on the last
day of August.

On the first of September Dr. Mitchell was round at the hospital early,
when Alvina was just beginning her morning duties there. He went into the
matron's room, and asked for Nurse Houghton. The matron left them

The doctor was excited. He smiled broadly, but with a tension of nervous
excitement. Alvina was troubled. Her heart beat fast.

"Now!" said Dr. Mitchell. "What have you to say to me?"

She looked up at him with confused eyes. He smiled excitedly and
meaningful at her, and came a little nearer.

"Today is the day when you answer, isn't it?" he said. "Now then, let me
hear what you have to say."

But she only watched him with large, troubled eyes, and did not speak. He
came still nearer to her.

"Well then," he said, "I am to take it that silence gives consent." And
he laughed nervously, with nervous anticipation, as he tried to put his
arm round her. But she stepped suddenly back.

"No, not yet," she said.

"Why?" he asked.

"I haven't given my answer," she said.

"Give it then," he said, testily.

"I've volunteered for active service," she stammered. "I felt I ought to
do something."

"Why?" he asked. He could put a nasty intonation into that monosyllable.
"I should have thought you would answer me first."

She did not answer, but watched him. She did not like him.

"I only signed yesterday," she said.

"Why didn't you leave it till tomorrow? It would have looked better." He
was angry. But he saw a half-frightened, half-guilty look on her face,
and during the weeks of anticipation he had worked himself up.

"But put that aside," he smiled again, a little dangerously. "You have
still to answer my question. Having volunteered for war service doesn't
prevent your being engaged to me, does it?"

Alvina watched him with large eyes. And again he came very near to her,
so that his blue-serge waistcoat seemed to impinge on her, and his
purplish red face was above her.

"I'd rather not be engaged, under the circumstances," she said. "Why?"
came the nasty monosyllable. "What have the circumstances got to do with

"Everything is so uncertain," she said. "I'd rather wait."

"Wait! Haven't you waited long enough? There's nothing at all to prevent
your getting engaged to me now. Nothing whatsoever! Come now. I'm old
enough not to be played with. And I'm much too much in love with you to
let you go on indefinitely like this. Come now!" He smiled imminent, and
held out his large hand for her hand. "Let me put the ring on your
finger. It will be the proudest day of my life when I make you my wife.
Give me your hand--"

Alvina was wavering. For one thing, mere curiosity made her want to see
the ring. She half lifted her hand. And but for the knowledge that he
would kiss her, she would have given it. But he would kiss her--and
against that she obstinately set her will. She put her hand behind her
back, and looked obstinately into his eyes.

"Don't play a game with me," he said dangerously.

But she only continued to look mockingly and obstinately into his eyes.

"Come," he said, beckoning for her to give her hand.

With a barely perceptible shake of the head, she refused, staring at him
all the time. His ungovernable temper got the better of him. He saw red,
and without knowing, seized her by the shoulder, swung her back, and
thrust her, pressed her against the wall as if he would push her through
it. His face was blind with anger, like a hot, red sun. Suddenly, almost
instantaneously, he came to himself again and drew back his hands,
shaking his right hand as if some rat had bitten it.

"I'm sorry!" he shouted, beside himself. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it.
I'm sorry." He dithered before her.

She recovered her equilibrium, and, pale to the lips, looked at him with
sombre eyes.

"I'm sorry!" he continued loudly, in his strange frenzy like a small boy.
"Don't remember! Don't remember! Don't think I did it."

His face was a kind of blank, and unconsciously he wrung the hand that
had gripped her, as if it pained him. She watched him, and wondered why
on earth all this frenzy. She was left rather cold, she did not at all
feel the strong feelings he seemed to expect of her. There was nothing so
very unnatural, after all, in being bumped up suddenly against the wall.
Certainly her shoulder hurt where he had gripped it. But there were
plenty of worse hurts in the world. She watched him with wide, distant

And he fell on his knees before her, as she backed against the bookcase,
and he caught hold of the edge of her dress-bottom, drawing it to him.
Which made her rather abashed, and much more uncomfortable.

"Forgive me!" he said. "Don't remember! Forgive me! Love me! Love me!
Forgive me and love me! Forgive me and love me!"

As Alvina was looking down dismayed on the great, red-faced, elderly man,
who in his crying-out showed his white teeth like a child, and as she was
gently trying to draw her skirt from his clutch, the door opened, and
there stood the matron, in her big frilled cap. Alvina glanced at her,
flushed crimson and looked down to the man She touched his face with her

"Never mind," she said. "It's nothing. Don't think about it." He caught
her hand and clung to it.

"Love me! Love me! Love me!" he cried.

The matron softly closed the door again, withdrawing.

"Love me! Love me!"

Alvina was absolutely dumbfounded by this scene. She had no idea men did
such things. It did not touch her, it dumbfounded her.

The doctor, clinging to her hand, struggled to his feet and flung his
arms round her, clasping her wildly to him.

"You love me! You love me, don't you?" he said, vibrating and beside
himself as he pressed her to his breast and hid his face against her
hair. At such a moment, what was the good of saying she didn't? But she
didn't. Pity for his shame, however, kept her silent, motionless and
silent in his arms, smothered against the blue-serge waistcoat of his
broad breast.

He was beginning to come to himself. He became silent. But he still
strained her fast, he had no idea of letting her go.

"You will take my ring, won't you?" he said at last, still in the
strange, lamentable voice. "You will take my ring."

"Yes," she said coldly. Anything for a quiet emergence from this scene.

He fumbled feverishly in his pocket with one hand, holding her still fast
by the other arm. And with one hand he managed to extract the ring from
its case, letting the case roll away on the floor. It was a diamond

"Which finger? Which finger is it?" he asked, beginning to smile rather
weakly. She extricated her hand, and held out her engagement finger. Upon
it was the mourning-ring Miss Frost had always worn. The doctor slipped
the diamond solitaire above the mourning ring, and folded Alvina to his
breast again.

"Now," he said, almost in his normal voice. "Now I know you love me." The
pleased self-satisfaction in his voice made her angry. She managed to
extricate herself.

"You will come along with me now?" he said.

"I can't," she answered. "I must get back to my work here."

"Nurse Allen can do that."

"I'd rather not."

"Where are you going today?"

She told him her cases.

"Well, you will come and have tea with me. I shall expect you to have tea
with me every day."

But Alvina was straightening her crushed cap before the mirror, and did
not answer.

"We can see as much as we like of each other now we're engaged," he said,
smiling with satisfaction.

"I wonder where the matron is," said Alvina, suddenly going into the cool
white corridor. He followed her. And they met the matron just coming out
of the ward.

"Matron!" said Dr. Mitchell, with a return of his old mouthing
importance. "You may congratulate Nurse Houghton and me on our
engagement--" He smiled largely.

"I may congratulate _you_, you mean," said the matron.

"Yes, of course. And both of us, since we are now one," he replied.

"Not quite, yet," said the matron gravely.

And at length she managed to get rid of him.

At once she went to look for Alvina, who had gone to her duties.

"Well, I _suppose_ it is all right," said the matron gravely.

"No it isn't," said Alvina. 'I shall never marry him."

"Ah, never is a long while! Did he hear me come in?"

"No, I'm sure he didn't."

"Thank goodness for that.'

"Yes indeed! It was perfectly horrible. Following me round on his knees
and shouting for me to love him! Perfectly horrible!"

"Well," said the matron. 'You never know what men will do till you've
known them. And then you need be surprised at nothing, _nothing_. I'm
surprised at nothing they do--"

"I must say," said Alvina, "I was surprised. Very unpleasantly."

"But you accepted him--'

"Anything to quieten him--like a hysterical child."

"Yes, but I'm not sure you haven't taken a very risky way of quietening
him, giving him what he wanted--"

"I think," said Alvina, "I can look after myself. I may be moved any day

"Well--!" said the matron. "He may prevent your getting moved, you know.
He's on the board. And if he says you are indispensable--"

This was a new idea for Alvina to cogitate. She had counted on a speedy
escape. She put his ring in her apron pocket, and there she forgot it
until he pounced on her in the afternoon, in the house of one of her
patients. He waited for her, to take her off.

"Where is your ring?" he said.

And she realized that it lay in the pocket of a soiled, discarded
apron--perhaps lost for ever.

"I shan't wear it on duty," she said. "You know that."

She had to go to tea with him. She avoided his love-making, by telling
him any sort of spooniness revolted her. And he was too much an old
bachelor to take easily to a fondling habit--before marriage, at least.
So he mercifully left her alone: he was on the whole devoutly thankful
she wanted to be left alone. But he wanted her to be there. That was his
greatest craving. He wanted her to be always there. And so he craved for
marriage: to possess her entirely, and to have her always there with him,
so that he was never alone. Alone and apart from all the world: but by
her side, always by her side.

"Now when shall we fix the marriage?" he said. "It is no good putting it
back. We both know what we are doing. And now the engagement is

He looked at her anxiously. She could see the hysterical little boy under
the great, authoritative man.

"Oh, not till after Christmas!" she said.

"After Christmas!" he started as if he had been bitten. "Nonsense! It's
nonsense to wait so long. Next month, at the latest."

"Oh no," she said. "I don't think so soon."

"Why not? The sooner the better. You had better send in your resignation
at once, so that you're free."

"Oh but is there any need? I may be transferred for war service."

"That's not likely. You're our only maternity nurse--"

And so the days went by. She had tea with him practically every
afternoon, and she got used to him. They discussed the furnishing--she
could not help suggesting a few alterations, a few arrangements according
to _her_ idea. And he drew up a plan of a wedding tour in Scotland. Yet she
was quite certain she would not marry him. The matron laughed at her
certainty. "You will drift into it," she said. "He is tying you down by
too many little threads."

"Ah, well, you'll see!" said Alvina.

"Yes," said the matron. "I _shall_ see."

And it was true that Alvina's will was indeterminate, at this time. She
was _resolved_ not to marry. But her will, like a spring that is hitched
somehow, did not fly direct against the doctor. She had sent in her
resignation, as he suggested. But not that she might be free to marry
him, but that she might be at liberty to flee him. So she told herself.
Yet she worked into his hands.

One day she sat with the doctor in the car near the station--it was
towards the end of September--held up by a squad of soldiers in khaki,
who were marching off with their band wildly playing, to embark on the
special troop train that was coming down from the north. The town was in
great excitement. War-fever was spreading everywhere. Men were rushing to
enlist--and being constantly rejected, for it was still the days of
regular standards.

As the crowds surged on the pavement, as the soldiers tramped to the
station, as the traffic waited, there came a certain flow in the opposite
direction. The 4:15 train had come in. People were struggling along with
luggage, children were running with spades and buckets, cabs were
crawling along with families: it was the seaside people coming home.
Alvina watched the two crowds mingle.

And as she watched she saw two men, one carrying a mandoline case and a
suit-case which she knew. It was Ciccio. She did not know the other man;
some theatrical individual. The two men halted almost near the car, to
watch the band go by. Alvina saw Ciccio quite near to her. She would have
liked to squirt water down his brown, handsome, oblivious neck. She felt
she hated him. He stood there, watching the music, his lips curling in
his faintly-derisive Italian manner, as he talked to the other man. His
eyelashes were as long and dark as ever, his eyes had still the
attractive look of being set in with a smutty finger. He had got the same
brownish suit on, which she disliked, the same black hat set slightly,
jauntily over one eye. He looked common: and yet with that peculiar
southern aloofness which gave him a certain beauty and distinction in her
eyes. She felt she hated him, rather. She felt she had been let down by

The band had passed. A child ran against the wheel of the standing car.
Alvina suddenly reached forward and made a loud, screeching flourish on
the hooter. Every one looked round, including the laden, tramping

"We can't move yet," said Dr. Mitchell.

But Alvina was looking at Ciccio at that moment. He had turned with the
rest, looking inquiringly at the car. And his quick eyes, the whites of
which showed so white against his duskiness, the yellow pupils so
non-human, met hers with a quick flash of recognition. His mouth began to
curl in a smile of greeting. But she stared at him without moving a
muscle, just blankly stared, abstracting every scrap of feeling, even of
animosity or coldness, out of her gaze. She saw the smile die on his
lips, his eyes glance sideways, and again sideways, with that curious
animal shyness which characterized him. It was as if he did not want to
see her looking at him, and ran from side to side like a caged weasel,
avoiding her blank, glaucous look.

She turned pleasantly to Dr. Mitchell.

"What did you say?" she asked sweetly.


Alvina found it pleasant to be respected as she was respected in
Lancaster. It is not only the prophet who hath honour _save_ in his own
country: it is every one with individuality. In this northern town Alvina
found that her individuality really told. Already she belonged to the
revered caste of medicine-men. And into the bargain she was a
personality, a person.

Well and good. She was not going to cheapen herself. She felt that even
in the eyes of the natives--the well-to-do part, at least--she lost a
_little_ of her distinction when she was engaged to Dr. Mitchell. The
engagement had been announced in _The Times, The Morning Post, The
Manchester Guardian_, and the local _News_. No fear about its being known.
And it cast a slight slur of vulgar familiarity over her. In Woodhouse,
she knew, it elevated her in the common esteem tremendously. But she was
no longer in Woodhouse. She was in Lancaster. And in Lancaster her
engagement pigeon-holed her. Apart from Dr. Mitchell she had a magic
potentiality. Connected with him, she was a known and labelled quantity.

This she gathered from her contact with the local gentry. The matron was
a woman of family, who somehow managed, in her big, white, frilled cap,
to be distinguished like an abbess of old. The really toney women of the
place came to take tea in her room, and these little teas in the hospital
were like a little elegant female conspiracy. There was a slight flavour
of art and literature about. The matron had known Walter Pater, in the
somewhat remote past.

Alvina was admitted to these teas with the few women who formed the toney
intellectual elite of this northern town. There was a certain freemasonry
in the matron's room. The matron, a lady-doctor, a clergyman's daughter,
and the wives of two industrial magnates of the place, these five, and
then Alvina, formed the little group. They did not meet a great deal
outside the hospital. But they always met with that curious female
freemasonry which can form a law unto itself even among most conventional
women. They talked as they would never talk before men, or before
feminine outsiders. They threw aside the whole vestment of convention.
They discussed plainly the things they thought about--even the most
secret--and they were quite calm about the things they did--even the most
impossible. Alvina felt that her transgression was a very mild affair,
and that her engagement was really _infra dig_.

"And are you going to marry him?" asked Mrs. Tuke, with a long, cool

"I can't _imagine_ myself--" said Alvina.

"Oh, but so many things happen outside one's imagination. That's where
your body has you. I can't _imagine_ that I'm going to have a child--" She
lowered her eyelids wearily and sardonically over her large eyes.

Mrs. Tuke was the wife of the son of a local manufacturer. She was about
twenty-eight years old, pale, with great dark-grey eyes and an arched
nose and black hair, very like a head on one of the lovely Syracusan
coins. The odd look of a smile which wasn't a smile, at the corners of
the mouth, the arched nose, and the slowness of the big, full, classic
eyes gave her the dangerous Greek look of the Syracusan women of the
past: the dangerous, heavily-civilized women of old Sicily: those who
laughed about the latomia.

"But do you think you can have a child without wanting it _at all_?" asked

"Oh, but there isn't _one bit_ of me wants it, not _one bit_. My _flesh_
doesn't want it. And my mind doesn't--yet there it is!" She spread her
fine hands with a flicker of inevitability.

"Something must want it," said Alvina.

"Oh!" said Mrs. Tuke. "The universe is one big machine, and we're just
part of it." She flicked out her grey silk handkerchief, and dabbed her
nose, watching with big, black-grey eyes the fresh face of Alvina.

"There's not _one bit_ of me concerned in having this child," she persisted
to Alvina. "My flesh isn't concerned, and my mind isn't. _And yet!--le
voilà!_--I'm just _planté_. I can't _imagine_ why I married Tommy. And
yet--I did--!" She shook her head as if it was all just beyond her, and the
pseudo-smile at the corners of her ageless mouth deepened.

Alvina was to nurse Mrs. Tuke. The baby was expected at the end of
August. But already the middle of September was here, and the baby had
not arrived.

The Tukes were not very rich--the young ones, that is. Tommy wanted to
compose music, so he lived on what his father gave him. His father gave
him a little house outside the town, a house furnished with expensive
bits of old furniture, in a way that the townspeople thought insane. But
there you are--Effie would insist on dabbing a rare bit of yellow brocade
on the wall, instead of a picture, and in painting apple-green shelves in
the recesses of the whitewashed wall of the dining-room. Then she
enamelled the hall-furniture yellow, and decorated it with curious green
and lavender lines and flowers, and had unearthly cushions and Sardinian
pottery with unspeakable peaked griffins.

What were you to make of such a woman! Alvina slept in her house these
days, instead of at the hospital. For Effie was a very bad sleeper. She
would sit up in bed, the two glossy black plaits hanging beside her
white, arch face, wrapping loosely round her dressing-gown of a sort of
plumbago-coloured, dark-grey silk lined with fine silk of metallic blue,
and there, ivory and jet-black and grey like black-lead, she would sit in
the white bed-clothes flicking her handkerchief and revealing a flicker
of kingfisher-blue silk and white silk night dress, complaining of her
neuritis nerve and her own impossible condition, and begging Alvina to
stay with her another half-hour, and suddenly studying the big, blood-red
stone on her finger as if she was reading something in it.

"I believe I shall be like the woman in the _Cent Nouvelles_ and carry my
child for five years. Do you know that story? She said that eating a
parsley leaf on which bits of snow were sticking started the child in
her. It might just as well--"

Alvina would laugh and get tired. There was about her a kind of half
bitter sanity and nonchalance which the nervous woman liked.

One night as they were sitting thus in the bedroom, at nearly eleven
o'clock, they started and listened. Dogs in the distance had also started
to yelp. A mandoline was wailing its vibration in the night outside,
rapidly, delicately quivering. Alvina went pale. She knew it was Ciccio.
She had seen him lurking in the streets of the town, but had never spoken
to him.

"What's this?" cried Mrs. Tuke, cocking her head on one side. "Music! A
mandoline! How extraordinary! Do you think it's a serenade?--" And she
lifted her brows archly.

"I should think it is," said Alvina.

"How extraordinary! What a moment to choose to serenade the lady! _Isn't_
it like life--! I _must_ look at it--"

She got out of bed with some difficulty, wrapped her dressing-gown round
her, pushed her feet into slippers, and went to the window. She opened
the sash. It was a lovely moonlight night of September. Below lay the
little front garden, with its short drive and its iron gates that closed
on the high-road. From the shadow of the high-road came the noise of the

"Hello, Tommy!" called Mrs. Tuke to her husband, whom she saw on the
drive below her. "How's your musical ear--?"

"All right. Doesn't it disturb you?" came the man's voice from the
moonlight below.

"Not a bit. I like it. I'm waiting for the voice. '_O Richard, O mon
roi!_'---" But the music had stopped.

"There!" cried Mrs. Tuke. "You've frightened him off! And we're dying to
be serenaded, aren't we, nurse?" She turned to Alvina. "Do give me my
fur, will you? Thanks so much. Won't you open the other window and look
out there--?"

Alvina went to the second window. She stood looking out.

"Do play again!" Mrs. Tuke called into the night. "Do sing something."
And with her white arm she reached for a glory rose that hung in the
moonlight from the wall, and with a flash of her white arm she flung it
toward the garden wall--ineffectually, of course.

"Won't you play again?" she called into the night, to the unseen. "Tommy,
go indoors, the bird won't sing when you're about."

"It's an Italian by the sound of him. Nothing I hate more than emotional
Italian music. Perfectly nauseating."

"Never mind, dear. I know it sounds as if all their insides were coming
out of their mouth. But we want to be serenaded, don't we, nurse?--"

Alvina stood at her window, but did not answer.

"Ah-h?" came the odd query from Mrs. Tuke. "Don't you like it?"

"Yes," said Alvina. "Very much."

"And aren't you dying for the song?"


"There!" cried Mrs. Tuke, into the moonlight. "Una canzone
bella-bella--molto bella--"

She pronounced her syllables one by one, calling into the night. It
sounded comical. There came a rude laugh from the drive below.

"Go indoors, Tommy! He won't sing if you're there. Nothing will sing if
you're there," called the young woman.

They heard a footstep on the gravel, and then the slam of the hall door.

"Now!" cried Mrs. Tuke.

They waited. And sure enough, came the fine tinkle of the mandoline, and
after a few moments, the song. It was one of the well-known Neapolitan
songs, and Ciccio sang it as it should be sung.

Mrs. Tuke went across to Alvina.

"Doesn't he put his bowels into it--?" she said, laying her hand on her
own full figure, and rolling her eyes mockingly. "I'm sure it's more
effective than senna-pods."

Then she returned to her own window, huddled her furs over her breast,
and rested her white elbows in the moonlight.

"Torn' a Surrientu,
Fammi campar--"

The song suddenly ended, in a clamorous, animal sort of yearning. Mrs.
Tuke was quite still, resting her chin on her fingers. Alvina also was
still. Then Mrs. Tuke slowly reached for the rose-buds on the old wall.

"Molta bella!" she cried, half ironically. "Molta bella! Je vous envoie
une rose--" And she threw the roses out on to the drive. A man's figure
was seen hovering outside the gate, on the high-road. "Entrez!" called
Mrs. Tuke. "Entrez! Prenez votre rose. Come in and take your rose."

The man's voice called something from the distance.

"What?" cried Mrs. Tuke.

"Je ne peux pas entrer."

"Vous ne pouvez pas entrer? Pourquoi alors! La porte n'est pas fermée a
clef. Entrez donc!"

"Non. On n'entre pas--" called the well-known voice of Ciccio.

"Quoi faire, alors! Alvina, take him the rose to the gate, will you? Yes
do! Their singing is horrible, I think. I can't go down to him. But do
take him the roses, and see what he looks like. Yes do!" Mrs. Tuke's eyes
were arched and excited. Alvina looked at her slowly. Alvina also was
smiling to herself.

She went slowly down the stairs and out of the front door. From a bush at
the side she pulled two sweet-smelling roses. Then in the drive she
picked up Effie's flowers. Ciccio was standing outside the gate.

"Allaye!" he said, in a soft, yearning voice.

"Mrs. Tuke sent you these roses," said Alvina, putting the flowers
through the bars of the gate.

"Allaye!" he said, caressing her hand, kissing it with a soft,
passionate, yearning mouth. Alvina shivered. Quickly he opened the gate
and drew her through. He drew her into the shadow of the wall, and put
his arms round her, lifting her from her feet with passionate yearning.

"Allaye!" he said. "I love you, Allaye, my beautiful, Allaye. I love you,
Allaye!" He held her fast to his breast and began to walk away with her.
His throbbing, muscular power seemed completely to envelop her. He was
just walking away with her down the road, clinging fast to her,
enveloping her.

"Nurse! Nurse! I can't see you! Nurse!--" came the long call of Mrs. Tuke
through the night. Dogs began to bark.

"Put me down," murmured Alvina. "Put me down, Ciccio."

"Come with me to Italy. Come with me to Italy, Allaye. I can't go to
Italy by myself, Allaye. Come with me, be married to me--Allaye,

His voice was a strange, hoarse whisper just above her face, he still
held her in his throbbing, heavy embrace.

"Yes--yes!" she whispered. "Yes--yes! But put me down, Ciccio. Put me

"Come to Italy with me, Allaye. Come with me," he still reiterated, in a
voice hoarse with pain and yearning.

"Nurse! Nurse! Wherever are you? Nurse! I want you," sang the uneasy,
querulous voice of Mrs. Tuke.

"Do put me down!" murmured Alvina, stirring in his arms.

He slowly relaxed his clasp, and she slid down like rain to earth. But
still he clung to her.

"Come with me, Allaye! Come with me to Italy!" he said.

She saw his face, beautiful, non-human in the moonlight, and she
shuddered slightly.

"Yes!" she said. "I will come. But let me go now. Where is your

He turned round and looked up the road.

"Nurse! You absolutely _must_ come. I can't bear it," cried the strange
voice of Mrs. Tuke.

Alvina slipped from the man, who was a little bewildered, and through the
gate into the drive.

"You must come!" came the voice in pain from the upper window. Alvina ran
upstairs. She found Mrs. Tuke crouched in a chair, with a drawn,
horrified, terrified face. As her pains suddenly gripped her, she uttered
an exclamation, and pressed her clenched fists hard on her face. "The
pains have begun," said Alvina, hurrying to her.

"Oh, it's horrible! It's horrible! I don't want it!" cried the woman in
travail. Alvina comforted her and reassured her as best she could. And
from outside, once more, came the despairing howl of the Neapolitan song,
animal and inhuman on the night.

"E to dic' Io part', addio!
T'alluntare di sta core,
Nel paese del amore
Tien' o cor' di non turnar'--
Ma nun me lasciar'--"

It was almost unendurable. But suddenly Mrs. Tuke became quite still, and
sat with her fists clenched on her knees, her two jet-black plaits
dropping on either side of her ivory face, her big eyes fixed staring
into space. At the line--

Ma nun me lasciar'--

she began to murmur softly to herself--"Yes, it's dreadful! It's
horrible! I can't understand it. What does it mean, that noise? It's as
bad as these pains. What does it mean? What does he say? I can understand
a little Italian--" She paused. And again came the sudden complaint:

Ma nun me lasciar'--

"Ma nun me lasciar'--!" she murmured, repeating the music. "That
means--Don't leave me! Don't leave me! But why? Why shouldn't one human
being go away from another? What does it mean? That _awful_ noise! Isn't
love the most horrible thing! I think it's horrible. It just does one in,
and turns one into a sort of howling animal. I'm howling with one sort of
pain, he's howling with another. Two hellish animals howling through the
night! I'm not myself, he's not himself. Oh, I think it's horrible. What
does he look like, Nurse? Is he beautiful? Is he a great hefty brute?"

She looked with big, slow, enigmatic eyes at Alvina.

"He's a man I knew before," said Alvina.

Mrs. Tuke's face woke from its half-trance.

"Really! Oh! A man you knew before! Where?"

"It's a long story," said Alvina. "In a travelling music-hall troupe."

"In a travelling music-hall troupe! How extraordinary! Why, how did you
come across such an individual--?"

Alvina explained as briefly as possible. Mrs. Tuke watched her.

"Really!" she said. "You've done all those things!" And she scrutinized
Alvina's face. "You've had some effect on him, that's evident," she said.
Then she shuddered, and dabbed her nose with her handkerchief. "Oh, the
flesh is a _beastly_ thing!" she cried. "To make a man howl outside there
like that, because you're here. And to make me howl because I've got a
child inside me. It's unbearable! What does he look like, really?"

"I don't know," said Alvina. "Not extraordinary. Rather a hefty brute--"

Mrs. Tuke glanced at her, to detect the irony.

"I should like to see him," she said. "Do you think I might?"

"I don't know," said Alvina, non-committal.

"Do you think he might come up? Ask him. Do let me see him."

"Do you really want to?" said Alvina.

"Of course--" Mrs. Tuke watched Alvina with big, dark, slow eyes. Then
she dragged herself to her feet. Alvina helped her into bed.

"Do ask him to come up for a minute," Effie said. "We'll give him a glass
of Tommy's famous port. Do let me see him. Yes do!" She stretched out her
long white arm to Alvina, with sudden imploring.

Alvina laughed, and turned doubtfully away.

The night was silent outside. But she found Ciccio leaning against a
gate-pillar. He started up.

"Allaye!" he said.

"Will you come in for a moment? I can't leave Mrs. Tuke."

Ciccio obediently followed Alvina into the house and up the stairs,
without a word. He was ushered into the bedroom. He drew back when he saw
Effie in the bed, sitting with her long plaits and her dark eyes, and the
subtle-seeming smile at the corners of her mouth.

"Do come in!" she said. "I want to thank you for the music. Nurse says it
was for her, but I enjoyed it also. Would you tell me the words? I think
it's a wonderful song."

Ciccio hung back against the door, his head dropped, and the shy,
suspicious, faintly malicious smile on his face.

"Have a glass of port, do!" said Effie. "Nurse, give us all one. I should
like one too. And a biscuit." Again she stretched out her long white arm
from the sudden blue lining of her wrap, suddenly, as if taken with the
desire. Ciccio shifted on his feet, watching Alvina pour out the port.

He swallowed his in one swallow, and put aside his glass.

"Have some more!" said Effie, watching over the top of her glass.

He smiled faintly, stupidly, and shook his head.

"Won't you? Now tell me the words of the song--"

He looked at her from out of the dusky hollows of his brow, and did not
answer. The faint, stupid half-smile, half-sneer was on his lips. "Won't
you tell them me? I understood one line--"

Ciccio smiled more pronouncedly as he watched her, but did not speak.

"I understood one line," said Effie, making big eyes at him. "_Ma non me
lasciare--Don't leave me_! There, isn't that it?"

He smiled, stirred on his feet, and nodded.

"Don't leave me! There, I knew it was that. Why don't you want Nurse to
leave you? Do you want her to be with you _every minute_?"

He smiled a little contemptuously, awkwardly, and turned aside his face,
glancing at Alvina. Effie's watchful eyes caught the glance. It was
swift, and full of the terrible yearning which so horrified her.

At the same moment a spasm crossed her face, her expression went blank.

"Shall we go down?" said Alvina to Ciccio.

He turned immediately, with his cap in his hand, and followed. In the
hall he pricked up his ears as he took the mandoline from the chest. He
could hear the stifled cries and exclamations from Mrs. Tuke. At the same
moment the door of the study opened, and the musician, a burly fellow
with troubled hair, came out.

"Is that Mrs. Tuke?" he snapped anxiously.

"Yes. The pains have begun," said Alvina.

"Oh God! And have you left her!" He was quite irascible. "Only for a
minute," said Alvina.

But with a _Pf_! of angry indignation, he was climbing the stairs. "She is
going to have a child," said Alvina to Ciccio. "I shall have to go back
to her." And she held out her hand.

He did not take her hand, but looked down into her face with the same
slightly distorted look of overwhelming yearning, yearning heavy and
unbearable, in which he was carried towards her as on a flood.

"Allaye!" he said, with a faint lift of the lip that showed his teeth,
like a pained animal: a curious sort of smile. He could not go away. "I
shall have to go back to her," she said.

"Shall you come with me to Italy, Allaye?"

"Yes. Where is Madame?"

"Gone! Gigi--all gone."

"Gone where?"

"Gone back to France--called up."

"And Madame and Louis and Max?"


He stood helplessly looking at her.

"Well, I must go," she said.

He watched her with his yellow eyes, from under his long black lashes,
like some chained animal, haunted by doom. She turned and left him

She found Mrs. Tuke wildly clutching the edge of the sheets, and crying:
"No, Tommy dear. I'm awfully fond of you, you know I am. But go away. Oh
God, go away. And put a space between us. Put a space between us!" she
almost shrieked.

He pushed up his hair. He had been working on a big choral work which he
was composing, and by this time he was almost demented.

"Can't you stand my presence!" he shouted, and dashed downstairs.

"Nurse!" cried Effie. "It's _no use_ trying to get a grip on life. You're
just at the mercy of _Forces_," she shrieked angrily.

"Why not?" said Alvina. "There are good life-forces. Even the will of God
is a life-force."

"You don't understand! I want to be _myself_ And I'm _not_ myself. I'm just
torn to pieces by _Forces_. It's horrible--"

"Well, it's not my fault. I didn't make the universe," said Alvina. "If
you have to be torn to pieces by forces, well, you have. Other forces
will put you together again."

"I don't want them to. I want to be myself. I don't want to be nailed
together like a chair, with a hammer. I want to be myself."

"You won't be nailed together like a chair. You should have faith in

"But I hate life. It's nothing but a mass of forces. _I_ am intelligent.
Life isn't intelligent. Look at it at this moment. Do you call this
intelligent? Oh--Oh! It's horrible! Oh--!" She was wild and sweating with
her pains. Tommy flounced out downstairs, beside himself. He was heard
talking to some one in the moonlight outside. To Ciccio. He had already
telephoned wildly for the doctor. But the doctor had replied that Nurse
would ring him up.

The moment Mrs. Tuke recovered her breath she began again.

"I hate life, and faith, and such things. Faith is only fear. And life is
a mass of unintelligent forces to which intelligent beings are submitted.
Prostituted. Oh--oh!!--prostituted--"

"Perhaps life itself is something bigger than intelligence," said Alvina.

"Bigger than intelligence!" shrieked Effie. "_Nothing_ is bigger than
intelligence. Your man is a hefty brute. His yellow eyes _aren't_
intelligent. They're _animal_--"

"No," said Alvina. "Something else. I wish he didn't attract me--"

"There! Because you're not content to be at the mercy of _Forces!_" cried
Effie. "I'm not. I'm not. I want to be myself. And so forces tear me to
pieces! Tear me to pie--eee--Oh-h-h! No!--"

Downstairs Tommy had walked Ciccio back into the house again, and the two
men were drinking port in the study, discussing Italy, for which Tommy
had a great sentimental affection, though he hated all Italian music
after the younger Scarlatti. They drank port all through the night, Tommy
being strictly forbidden to interfere upstairs, or even to fetch the
doctor. They drank three and a half bottles of port, and were discovered
in the morning by Alvina fast asleep in the study, with the electric
light still burning. Tommy slept with his fair and ruffled head hanging
over the edge of the couch like some great loose fruit, Ciccio was on the
floor, face downwards, his face in his folded arms.

Alvina had a great difficulty in waking the inert Ciccio. In the end, she
had to leave him and rouse Tommy first: who in rousing fell off the sofa
with a crash which woke him disagreeably. So that he turned on Alvina in
a fury, and asked her what the hell she thought she was doing. In answer
to which Alvina held up a finger warningly, and Tommy, suddenly
remembering, fell back as if he had been struck.

"She is sleeping now," said Alvina.

"Is it a boy or a girl?" he cried.

"It isn't born yet," she said.

"Oh God, it's an accursed fugue!" cried the bemused Tommy. After which
they proceeded to wake Ciccio, who was like the dead doll in Petrushka,
all loose and floppy. When he was awake, however, he smiled at Alvina,
and said: "Allaye!"

The dark, waking smile upset her badly.


The upshot of it all was that Alvina ran away to Scarborough without
telling anybody. It was in the first week in October. She asked for a
week-end, to make some arrangements for her marriage. The marriage was
presumably with Dr. Mitchell--though she had given him no definite word.
However, her month's notice was up, so she was legally free. And
therefore she packed a rather large bag with all her ordinary things, and
set off in her everyday dress, leaving the nursing paraphernalia behind.

She knew Scarborough quite well: and quite quickly found rooms which she
had occupied before, in a boarding-house where she had stayed with Miss
Frost long ago. Having recovered from her journey, she went out on to the
cliffs on the north side. It was evening, and the sea was before her.
What was she to do?

She had run away from both men--from Ciccio as well as from Mitchell. She
had spent the last fortnight more or less avoiding the pair of them. Now
she had a moment to herself. She was even free from Mrs. Tuke, who in her
own way was more exacting than the men. Mrs. Tuke had a baby daughter,
and was getting well. Ciccio was living with the Tukes. Tommy had taken a
fancy to him and had half engaged him as a sort of personal attendant:
the sort of thing Tommy would do, not having paid his butcher's bills.

So Alvina sat on the cliffs in a mood of exasperation. She was sick of
being badgered about. She didn't really want to marry anybody. Why should
she? She was thankful beyond measure to be by herself. How sick she was
of other people and their importunities! What was she to do? She decided
to offer herself again, in a little while, for war service--in a new town
this time. Meanwhile she wanted to be by herself.

She made excursions, she walked on the moors, in the brief but lovely
days of early October. For three days it was all so sweet and
lovely--perfect liberty, pure, almost paradisal.

The fourth day it rained: simply rained all day long, and was cold,
dismal, disheartening beyond words. There she sat, stranded in the
dismalness, and knew no way out. She went to bed at nine o'clock, having
decided in a jerk to go to London and find work in the war-hospitals at
once: not to leave off until she had found it.

But in the night she dreamed that Alexander, her first fiance, was with
her on the quay of some harbour, and was reproaching her bitterly, even
reviling her, for having come too late, so that they had missed their
ship. They were there to catch the boat--and she, for dilatoriness, was
an hour late, and she could see the broad stern of the steamer not far
off. Just an hour late. She showed Alexander her watch--exactly ten
o'clock, instead of nine. And he was more angry than ever, because her
watch was slow. He pointed to the harbour clock--it was ten minutes past

When she woke up she was thinking of Alexander. It was such a long time
since she had thought of him. She wondered if he had a right to be angry
with her.

The day was still grey, with sweepy rain-clouds on the sea--gruesome,
objectionable. It was a prolongation of yesterday. Well, despair was no
good, and being miserable was no good either. She got no satisfaction out
of either mood. The only thing to do was to act: seize hold of life and
wring its neck.

She took the time-table that hung in the hall: the time-table, that magic
carpet of today. When in doubt, move. This was the maxim. Move. Where to?

Another click of a resolution. She would wire to Ciccio and meet
him--where? York--Leeds--Halifax--? She looked up the places in the
time-table, and decided on Leeds. She wrote out a telegram, that she
would be at Leeds that evening. Would he get it in time? Chance it.

She hurried off and sent the telegram. Then she took a little luggage,
told the people of her house she would be back next day, and set off. She
did not like whirling in the direction of Lancaster. But no matter.

She waited a long time for the train from the north to come in. The first
person she saw was Tommy. He waved to her and jumped from the moving

"I say!" he said. "So glad to see you! Ciccio is with me. Effie insisted
on my coming to see you."

There was Ciccio climbing down with the bag. A sort of servant! This was
too much for her.

"So you came with your valet?" she said, as Ciccio stood with the bag.

"Not a bit," said Tommy, laying his hand on the other man's shoulder.
"We're the best of friends. I don't carry bags because my heart is rather
groggy. I say, nurse, excuse me, but I like you better in uniform. Black
doesn't suit you. You don't _mind_--"

"Yes, I do. But I've only got black clothes, except uniforms."

"Well look here now--! You're not going on anywhere tonight, are you?"

"It is too late."

"Well now, let's turn into the hotel and have a talk. I'm acting under
Effie's orders, as you may gather--"

At the hotel Tommy gave her a letter from his wife: to the tune of--don't
marry this Italian, you'll put yourself in a wretched hole, and one wants
to avoid getting into holes. _I know_--concluded Effie, on a sinister note.

Tommy sang another tune. Ciccio was a lovely chap, a rare chap, a treat.
He, Tommy, could quite understand any woman's wanting to marry
him--didn't agree a bit with Effie. But marriage, you know, was so final.
And then with this war on: you never knew how things might turn out: a
foreigner and all that. And then--you won't mind what I say--? We won't
talk about class and that rot. If the man's good enough, he's good enough
by himself. But is he your intellectual equal, nurse? After all, it's a
big point. You don't want to marry a man you can't talk to. Ciccio's a
treat to be with, because he's so natural. But it isn't a _mental_ treat--

Alvina thought of Mrs. Tuke, who complained that Tommy talked music and
pseudo-philosophy _by the hour_ when he was wound up. She saw Effie's long,
outstretched arm of repudiation and weariness.

"Of course!"--another of Mrs. Tuke's exclamations. "Why not _be_ atavistic
if you _can_ be, and follow at a man's heel just because he's a man. Be
like barbarous women, a slave."

During all this, Ciccio stayed out of the room, as bidden. It was not
till Alvina sat before her mirror that he opened her door softly, and

"I come in," he said, and he closed the door.

Alvina remained with her hair-brush suspended, watching him. He came to
her, smiling softly, to take her in his arms. But she put the chair
between them.

"Why did you bring Mr. Tuke?" she said.

He lifted his shoulders.

"I haven't brought him," he said, watching her.

"Why did you show him the telegram?"

"It was Mrs. Tuke took it."

"Why did you give it her?"

"It was she who gave it me, in her room. She kept it in her room till I
came and took it."

"All right," said Alvina. "Go back to the Tukes." And she began again to
brush her hair.

Ciccio watched her with narrowing eyes.

"What you mean?" he said. "I shan't go, Allaye. You come with me."

"Ha!" she sniffed scornfully. "I shall go where I like."

But slowly he shook his head.

"You'll come, Allaye," he said. "You come with me, with Ciccio." She
shuddered at the soft, plaintive entreaty.

"How can I go with you? How can I depend on you at all?"

Again he shook his head. His eyes had a curious yellow fire, beseeching,
plaintive, with a demon quality of yearning compulsion.

"Yes, you come with me, Allaye. You come with me, to Italy. You don't go
to that other man. He is too old, not healthy. You come with me to Italy.
Why do you send a telegram?"

Alvina sat down and covered her face, trembling.

"I can't! I can't! I can't!" she moaned. "I can't do it."

"Yes, you come with me. I have money. You come with me, to my place in
the mountains, to my uncle's house. Fine house, you like it. Come with
me, Allaye."

She could not look at him.

"Why do you want me?" she said.

"Why I want you?" He gave a curious laugh, almost of ridicule. "I don't
know that. You ask me another, eh?"

She was silent, sitting looking downwards.

"I can't, I think," she said abstractedly, looking up at him.

He smiled, a fine, subtle smile, like a demon's, but inexpressibly
gentle. He made her shiver as if she was mesmerized. And he was reaching
forward to her as a snake reaches, nor could she recoil.

"You come, Allaye," he said softly, with his foreign intonation. "You
come. You come to Italy with me. Yes?" He put his hand on her, and she
started as if she had been struck. But his hands, with the soft, powerful
clasp, only closed her faster.

"Yes?" he said. "Yes? All right, eh? All right!"--he had a strange
mesmeric power over her, as if he possessed the sensual secrets, and she
was to be subjected.

"I can't," she moaned, trying to struggle. But she was powerless.

Dark and insidious he was: he had no regard for her. How could a man's
movements be so soft and gentle, and yet so inhumanly regardless! He had
no regard for her. Why didn't she revolt? Why couldn't she? She was as if
bewitched. She couldn't fight against her bewitchment. Why? Because he
seemed to her beautiful, so beautiful. And this left her numb,
submissive. Why must she see him beautiful? Why was she will-less? She
felt herself like one of the old sacred prostitutes: a sacred prostitute.

In the morning, very early, they left for Scarborough, leaving a letter
for the sleeping Tommy. In Scarborough they went to the registrar's
office: they could be married in a fortnight's time. And so the fortnight
passed, and she was under his spell. Only she knew it. She felt
extinguished. Ciccio talked to her: but only ordinary things. There was
no wonderful intimacy of speech, such as she had always imagined, and
always craved for. No. He loved her--but it was in a dark, mesmeric way,
which did not let her be herself. His love did not stimulate her or
excite her. It extinguished her. She had to be the quiescent, obscure
woman: she felt as if she were veiled. Her thoughts were dim, in the dim
back regions of consciousness--yet, somewhere, she almost exulted.
Atavism! Mrs. Tuke's word would play in her mind. Was it atavism, this
sinking into extinction under the spell of Ciccio? Was it atavism, this
strange, sleep-like submission to his being? Perhaps it was. Perhaps it
was. But it was also heavy and sweet and rich. Somewhere, she was
content. Somewhere even she was vastly proud of the dark veiled eternal
loneliness she felt, under his shadow.

And so it had to be. She shuddered when she touched him, because he was
so beautiful, and she was so submitted. She quivered when he moved as if
she were his shadow. Yet her mind remained distantly clear. She would
criticize him, find fault with him, the things he did. But _ultimately_ she
could find no fault with him. She had lost the power. She didn't care.
She had lost the power to care about his faults. Strange, sweet,
poisonous indifference! She was drugged. And she knew it. Would she ever
wake out of her dark, warm coma? She shuddered, and hoped not. Mrs. Tuke
would say atavism. Atavism! The word recurred curiously.

But under all her questionings she felt well; a nonchalance deep as
sleep, a passivity and indifference so dark and sweet she felt it must be
evil. Evil! She was evil. And yet she had no power to be otherwise. They
were legally married. And she was glad. She was relieved by knowing she
could not escape. She was Mrs. Marasca. What was the good of trying to be
Miss Houghton any longer? Marasca, the bitter cherry. Some dark poison
fruit she had eaten. How glad she was she had eaten it! How beautiful he
was! And no one saw it but herself. For her it was so potent it made her
tremble when she noticed him. His beauty, his dark shadow. Ciccio really
was much handsomer since his marriage. He seemed to emerge. Before, he
had seemed to make himself invisible in the streets, in England,
altogether. But now something unfolded in him, he was a potent, glamorous
presence, people turned to watch him. There was a certain dark,
leopard-like pride in the air about him, something that the English
people watched.

He wanted to go to Italy. And now it was _his_ will which counted. Alvina,
as his wife, must submit. He took her to London the day after the
marriage. He wanted to get away to Italy. He did not like being in
England, a foreigner, amid the beginnings of the spy craze.

In London they stayed at his cousin's house. His cousin kept a restaurant
in Battersea, and was a flourishing London Italian, a real London product
with all the good English virtues of cleanliness and honesty added to an
Italian shrewdness. His name was Giuseppe Califano, and he was pale, and
he had four children of whom he was very proud. He received Alvina with
an affable respect, as if she were an asset in the family, but as if he
were a little uneasy and disapproving. She had _come down_ in marrying
Ciccio. She had lost caste. He rather seemed to exult over her
degradation. For he was a northernized Italian, he had accepted English
standards. His children were English brats. He almost patronized Alvina.

But then a long, slow look from her remote blue eyes brought him up
sharp, and he envied Ciccio suddenly, he was almost in love with her
himself. She disturbed him. She disturbed him in his new English aplomb
of a London _restaurateur_, and she disturbed in him the old Italian dark
soul, to which he was renegade. He tried treating her as an English lady.
But the slow, remote look in her eyes made this fall Rat. He had to be

And he was jealous of Ciccio. In Ciccio's face was a lurking smile, and
round his fine nose there seemed a subtle, semi-defiant triumph. After
all, he had triumphed over his well-to-do, Anglicized cousin. With a
stealthy, leopard-like pride Ciccio went through the streets of London in
those wild early days of war. He was the one victor, arching stealthily
over the vanquished north.

Alvina saw nothing of all these complexities. For the time being, she was
all dark and potent. Things were curious to her. It was curious to be in
Battersea, in this English-Italian household, where the children spoke
English more readily than Italian. It was strange to be high over the
restaurant, to see the trees of the park, to hear the clang of trams. It
was strange to walk out and come to the river. It was strange to feel the
seethe of war and dread in the air. But she did not question. She seemed
steeped in the passional influence of the man, as in some narcotic. She
even forgot Mrs. Tuke's atavism. Vague and unquestioning she went through
the days, she accompanied Ciccio into town, she went with him to make
purchases, or she sat by his side in the music hall, or she stayed in her
room and sewed, or she sat at meals with the Califanos, a vague
brightness on her face. And Mrs. Califano was very nice to her, very
gentle, though with a suspicion of malicious triumph, mockery, beneath
her gentleness. Still, she was nice and womanly, hovering as she was
between her English emancipation and her Italian subordination. She half
pitied Alvina, and was more than half jealous of her.

Alvina was aware of nothing--only of the presence of Ciccio. It was his
physical presence which cast a spell over her. She lived within his aura.
And she submitted to him as if he had extended his dark nature over her.
She knew nothing about him. She lived mindlessly within his presence,
quivering within his influence, as if his blood beat in her. She knew she
was subjected. One tiny corner of her knew, and watched.

He was very happy, and his face had a real beauty. His eyes glowed with
lustrous secrecy, like the eyes of some victorious, happy wild creature
seen remote under a bush. And he was very good to her. His tenderness
made her quiver into a swoon of complete self-forgetfulness, as if the
flood-gates of her depths opened. The depth of his warm, mindless,
enveloping love was immeasurable. She felt she could sink forever into
his warm, pulsating embrace.

Afterwards, later on, when she was inclined to criticize him, she would
remember the moment when she saw his face at the Italian Consulate in
London. There were many people at the consulate, clamouring for
passports--a wild and ill-regulated crowd. They had waited their turn and
got inside--Ciccio was not good at pushing his way. And inside a
courteous tall old man with a white beard had lifted the flap for Alvina
to go inside the office and sit down to fill the form. She thanked the
old man, who bowed as if he had a reputation to keep up.

Ciccio followed, and it was he who had to sit down and fill up the form,
because she did not understand the Italian questions. She stood at his
side, watching the excited, laughing, noisy, east-end Italians at the
desk. The whole place had a certain free-and-easy confusion, a human,
unofficial, muddling liveliness which was not quite like England, even
though it was in the middle of London.

"What was your mother's name?" Ciccio was asking her. She turned to him.
He sat with the pen perched flourishingly at the end of his fingers,
suspended in the serious and artistic business of filling in a form. And
his face had a dark luminousness, like a dark transparence which was shut
and has now expanded. She quivered, as if it was more than she could
bear. For his face was open like a flower right to the depths of his
soul, a dark, lovely translucency, vulnerable to the deep quick of his
soul. The lovely, rich darkness of his southern nature, so different from
her own, exposing itself now in its passional vulnerability, made her go
white with a kind of fear. For an instant, her face seemed drawn and old
as she looked down at him, answering his questions. Then her eyes became
sightless with tears, she stooped as if to look at his writing, and
quickly kissed his fingers that held the pen, there in the midst of the
crowded, vulgar Consulate.

He stayed suspended, again looking up at her with the bright, unfolded
eyes of a wild creature which plays and is not seen. A faint smile, very
beautiful to her, was on his face. What did he see when he looked at her?
She did not know, she did not know. And she would never know. For an
instant, she swore inside herself that God himself should not take her
away from this man. She would commit herself to him through every
eternity. And then the vagueness came over her again, she turned aside,
photographically seeing the crowd in the Consulate, but really
unconscious. His movement as he rose seemed to move her in her sleep, she
turned to him at once.

It was early in November before they could leave for Italy, and her dim,
lustrous state lasted all the time. She found herself at Charing Cross in
the early morning, in all the bustle of catching the Continental train.
Giuseppe was there, and Gemma his wife, and two of the children, besides
three other Italian friends of Ciccio. They all crowded up the platform.
Giuseppe had insisted that Ciccio should take second-class tickets. They
were very early. Alvina and Ciccio were installed in a second-class
compartment, with all their packages, Ciccio was pale, yellowish under
his tawny skin, and nervous. He stood excitedly on the platform talking
in Italian--or rather, in his own dialect--whilst Alvina sat quite still
in her corner. Sometimes one of the women or one of the children came to
say a few words to her, or Giuseppe hurried to her with illustrated
papers. They treated her as if she were some sort of invalid or angel,
now she was leaving. But most of their attention they gave to Ciccio,
talking at him rapidly all at once, whilst he answered, and glanced in
this way and that, under his fine lashes, and smiled his old, nervous,
meaningless smile. He was curiously upset.

Time came to shut the doors. The women and children kissed Alvina,

"You'll be all right, eh? Going to Italy--!" And then profound and
meaningful nods, which she could not interpret, but which were fraught
surely with good-fellowship.

Then they all kissed Ciccio. The men took him in their arms and kissed
him on either cheek, the children lifted their faces in eager
anticipation of the double kiss. Strange, how eager they were for this
embrace--how they all kept taking Ciccio's hand, one after the other,
whilst he smiled constrainedly and nervously.


The train began to move. Giuseppe ran alongside, holding Ciccio's hand
still; the women and children were crying and waving their handkerchiefs,
the other men were shouting messages, making strange, eager gestures. And
Alvina sat quite still, wonderingly. And so the big, heavy train drew
out, leaving the others small and dim on the platform. It was foggy, the
river was a sea of yellow beneath the ponderous iron bridge. The morning
was dim and dank.

The train was very full. Next to Alvina sat a trim French-woman reading
_L'Aiglon_. There was a terrible encumbrance of packages and luggage
everywhere. Opposite her sat Ciccio, his black overcoat open over his
pale-grey suit, his black hat a little over his left eye. He glanced at
her from time to time, smiling constrainedly. She remained very still.
They ran through Bromley and out into the open country. It was grey, with
shivers of grey sunshine. On the downs there was thin snow. The air in
the train was hot, heavy with the crowd and tense with excitement and
uneasiness. The train seemed to rush ponderously, massively, across the

And so, through Folkestone to the sea. There was sun in the sky now, and
white clouds, in the sort of hollow sky-dome above the grey earth with
its horizon walls of fog. The air was still. The sea heaved with a
sucking noise inside the dock. Alvina and Ciccio sat aft on the
second-class deck, their bags near them. He put a white muffler round
himself, Alvina hugged herself in her beaver scarf and muff. She looked
tender and beautiful in her still vagueness, and Ciccio, hovering about
her, was beautiful too, his estrangement gave him a certain wistful
nobility which for the moment put him beyond all class inferiority. The
passengers glanced at them across the magic of estrangement.

The sea was very still. The sun was fairly high in the open sky, where
white cloud-tops showed against the pale, wintry blue. Across the sea
came a silver sun-track. And Alvina and Ciccio looked at the sun, which
stood a little to the right of the ship's course.

"The sun!" said Ciccio, nodding towards the orb and smiling to her. "I
love it," she said.

He smiled again, silently. He was strangely moved: she did not know why.

The wind was cold over the wintry sea, though the sun's beams were warm.
They rose, walked round the cabins. Other ships were at sea--destroyers
and battleships, grey, low, and sinister on the water. Then a tall bright
schooner glimmered far down the channel. Some brown fishing smacks kept
together. All was very still in the wintry sunshine of the Channel.

So they turned to walk to the stern of the boat. And Alvina's heart
suddenly contracted. She caught Ciccio's arm, as the boat rolled gently.
For there behind, behind all the sunshine, was England. England, beyond
the water, rising with ash-grey, corpse-grey cliffs, and streaks of snow
on the downs above. England, like a long, ash-grey coffin slowly
submerging. She watched it, fascinated and terrified. It seemed to
repudiate the sunshine, to remain unilluminated, long and ash-grey and
dead, with streaks of snow like cerements. That was England! Her thoughts
flew to Woodhouse, the grey centre of it all. Home!

Her heart died within her. Never had she felt so utterly strange and
far-off. Ciccio at her side was as nothing, as spell-bound she watched,
away off, behind all the sunshine and the sea, the grey, snow-streaked
substance of England slowly receding and sinking, submerging. She felt
she could not believe it. It was like looking at something else. What? It
was like a long, ash-grey coffin, winter, slowly submerging in the sea.

She turned again to the sun. But clouds and veils were already weaving in
the sky. The cold was beginning to soak in, moreover. She sat very still
for a long time, almost an eternity. And when she looked round again
there was only a bank of mist behind, beyond the sea: a bank of mist, and
a few grey, stalking ships. She must watch for the coast of France.

And there it was already, looming up grey and amorphous, patched with
snow. It had a grey, heaped, sordid look in the November light. She had
imagined Boulogne gay and brilliant. Whereas it was more grey and dismal
than England. But not that magical, mystic, phantom look.

The ship slowly put about, and backed into the harbour. She watched the
quay approach. Ciccio was gathering up the luggage. Then came the first
cry one ever hears: "_Porteur! Porteur!_ Want a _porteur?_" A porter in a
blouse strung the luggage on his strap, and Ciccio and Alvina entered the
crush for the exit and the passport inspection. There was a tense, eager,
frightened crowd, and officials shouting directions in French and
English. Alvina found herself at last before a table where bearded men in
uniforms were splashing open the big pink sheets of the English
passports: she felt strange and uneasy, that her passport was
unimpressive and Italian. The official scrutinized her, and asked
questions of Ciccio. Nobody asked her anything--she might have been
Ciccio's shadow. So they went through to the vast, crowded cavern of a
Customs house, where they found their porter waving to them in the mob.
Ciccio fought in the mob while the porter whisked off Alvina to get seats
in the big train. And at last she was planted once more in a seat, with
Ciccio's place reserved beside her. And there she sat, looking across the
railway lines at the harbour, in the last burst of grey sunshine. Men
looked at her, officials stared at her, soldiers made remarks about her.
And at last, after an eternity, Ciccio came along the platform, the
porter trotting behind.

They sat and ate the food they had brought, and drank wine and tea. And
after weary hours the train set off through snow-patched country to
Paris. Everywhere was crowded, the train was stuffy without being warm.
Next to Alvina sat a large, fat, youngish Frenchman who overflowed over
her in a hot fashion. Darkness began to fall. The train was very late.
There were strange and frightening delays. Strange lights appeared in the
sky, everybody seemed to be listening for strange noises. It was all such
a whirl and confusion that Alvina lost count, relapsed into a sort of
stupidity. Gleams, flashes, noises and then at last the frenzy of Paris.

It was night, a black city, and snow falling, and no train that night
across to the Gare de Lyon. In a state of semi-stupefaction after all the
questionings and examinings and blusterings, they were finally allowed to
go straight across Paris. But this meant another wild tussle with a Paris
taxi-driver, in the filtering snow. So they were deposited in the Gare de

And the first person who rushed upon them was Geoffrey, in a rather grimy
private's uniform. He had already seen some hard service, and had a wild,
bewildered look. He kissed Ciccio and burst into tears on his shoulder,
there in the great turmoil of the entrance hall of the Gare de Lyon.
People looked, but nobody seemed surprised. Geoffrey sobbed, and the
tears came silently down Ciccio's cheeks.

"I've waited for you since five o'clock, and I've got to go back now.
Ciccio! Ciccio! I wanted so badly to see you. I shall never see thee
again, brother, my brother!" cried Gigi, and a sob shook him.

"Gigi! Mon Gigi. Tu as donc reçu ma lettre?"

"Yesterday. O Ciccio, Ciccio, I shall die without thee!"

"But no, Gigi, frère. You won't die."

"Yes, Ciccio, I shall. I know I shall."

"I say _no_, brother," said Ciccio. But a spasm suddenly took him, he
pulled off his hat and put it over his face and sobbed into it.

"Adieu, ami! Adieu!" cried Gigi, clutching the other man's arm. Ciccio
took his hat from his tear-stained face and put it on his head. Then the
two men embraced.

"_Toujours à toi_!" said Geoffrey, with a strange, solemn salute in front
of Ciccio and Alvina. Then he turned on his heel and marched rapidly out
of the station, his soiled soldier's overcoat flapping in the wind at the
door. Ciccio watched him go. Then he turned and looked with haunted eyes
into the eyes of Alvina. And then they hurried down the desolate platform
in the darkness. Many people, Italians, largely, were camped waiting
there, while bits of snow wavered down. Ciccio bought food and hired
cushions. The train backed in. There was a horrible fight for seats, men
scrambling through windows. Alvina got a place--but Ciccio had to stay in
the corridor.

Then the long night journey through France, slow and blind. The train was
now so hot that the iron plate on the floor burnt Alvina's feet. Outside
she saw glimpses of snow. A fat Italian hotel-keeper put on a smoking
cap, covered the light, and spread himself before Alvina. In the next
carriage a child was screaming. It screamed all the night--all the way
from Paris to Chambéry it screamed. The train came to sudden halts, and
stood still in the snow. The hotel-keeper snored. Alvina became almost
comatose, in the burning heat of the carriage. And again the train
rumbled on. And again she saw glimpses of stations, glimpses of snow,
through the chinks in the curtained windows. And again there was a jerk
and a sudden halt, a drowsy mutter from the sleepers, somebody uncovering
the light, and somebody covering it again, somebody looking out, somebody
tramping down the corridor, the child screaming.

The child belonged to two poor Italians--Milanese--a shred of a thin
little man, and a rather loose woman. They had five tiny children, all
boys: and the four who could stand on their feet all wore scarlet caps.
The fifth was a baby. Alvina had seen a French official yelling at the
poor shred of a young father on the platform.

When morning came, and the bleary people pulled the curtains, it was a
clear dawn, and they were in the south of France. There was no sign of
snow. The landscape was half southern, half Alpine. White houses with
brownish tiles stood among almond trees and cactus. It was beautiful, and
Alvina felt she had known it all before, in a happier life. The morning
was graceful almost as spring. She went out in the corridor to talk to

He was on his feet with his back to the inner window, rolling slightly to
the motion of the train. His face was pale, he had that sombre, haunted,
unhappy look. Alvina, thrilled by the southern country, was smiling

"This is my first morning abroad," she said.

"Yes," he answered.

"I love it here," she said. "Isn't this like Italy?"

He looked darkly out of the window, and shook his head.

But the sombre look remained on his face. She watched him. And her heart
sank as she had never known it sink before.

"Are you thinking of Gigi?" she said.

He looked at her, with a faint, unhappy, bitter smile, but he said
nothing. He seemed far off from her. A wild unhappiness beat inside her
breast. She went down the corridor, away from him, to avoid this new
agony, which after all was not her agony. She listened to the chatter of
French and Italian in the corridor. She felt the excitement and terror of
France, inside the railway carriage: and outside she saw white oxen
slowly ploughing, beneath the lingering yellow poplars of the sub-Alps,
she saw peasants looking up, she saw a woman holding a baby to her
breast, watching the train, she saw the excited, yeasty crowds at the
station. And they passed a river, and a great lake. And it all seemed
bigger, nobler than England. She felt vaster influences spreading around,
the Past was greater, more magnificent in these regions. For the first
time the nostalgia of the vast Roman and classic world took possession of
her. And she found it splendid. For the first time she opened her eyes on
a continent, the Alpine core of a continent. And for the first time she
realized what it was to escape from the smallish perfection of England,
into the grander imperfection of a great continent.

Near Chambéry they went down for breakfast to the restaurant car. And
secretly, she was very happy. Ciccio's distress made her uneasy. But
underneath she was extraordinarily relieved and glad. Ciccio did not
trouble her very much. The sense of the bigness of the lands about her,
the excitement of travelling with Continental people, the pleasantness of
her coffee and rolls and honey, the feeling that vast events were taking
place--all this stimulated her. She had brushed, as it were, the fringe
of the terror of the war and the invasion. Fear was seething around her.
And yet she was excited and glad. The vast world was in one of its
convulsions, and she was moving amongst it. Somewhere, she believed in
the convulsion, the event elated her.

The train began to climb up to Modane. How wonderful the Alps were!--what
a bigness, an unbreakable power was in the mountains! Up and up the train
crept, and she looked at the rocky slopes, the glistening peaks of snow
in the blue heaven, the hollow valleys with fir trees and low-roofed
houses. There were quarries near the railway, and men working. There was
a strange mountain town, dirty-looking. And still the train climbed up
and up, in the hot morning sunshine, creeping slowly round the mountain
loops, so that a little brown dog from one of the cottages ran alongside
the train for a long way, barking at Alvina, even running ahead of the
creeping, snorting train, and barking at the people ahead. Alvina,
looking out, saw the two unfamiliar engines snorting out their smoke
round the bend ahead. And the morning wore away to midday.

Ciccio became excited as they neared Modane, the frontier station. His
eye lit up again, he pulled himself together for the entrance into Italy.
Slowly the train rolled in to the dismal station. And then a confusion
indescribable, of porters and masses of luggage, the unspeakable crush
and crowd at the customs barriers, the more intense crowd through the
passport office, all like a madness.

They were out on the platform again, they had secured their places.
Ciccio wanted to have luncheon in the station restaurant. They went
through the passages. And there in the dirty station gangways and big
corridors dozens of Italians were lying on the ground, men, women,
children, camping with their bundles and packages in heaps. They were
either emigrants or refugees. Alvina had never seen people herd about
like cattle, dumb, brute cattle. It impressed her. She could not grasp
that an Italian labourer would lie down just where he was tired, in the
street, on a station, in any corner, like a dog.

In the afternoon they were slipping down the Alps towards Turin. And
everywhere was snow--deep, white, wonderful snow, beautiful and fresh,
glistening in the afternoon light all down the mountain slopes, on the
railway track, almost seeming to touch the train. And twilight was
falling. And at the stations people crowded in once more.

It had been dark a long time when they reached Turin. Many people
alighted from the train, many surged to get in. But Ciccio and Alvina had
seats side by side. They were becoming tired now. But they were in Italy.
Once more they went down for a meal. And then the train set off again in
the night for Alessandria and Genoa, Pisa and Rome.

It was night, the train ran better, there was a more easy sense in Italy.
Ciccio talked a little with other travelling companions. And Alvina
settled her cushion, and slept more or less till Genoa. After the long
wait at Genoa she dozed off again. She woke to see the sea in the
moonlight beneath her--a lovely silvery sea, coming right to the
carriage. The train seemed to be tripping on the edge of the
Mediterranean, round bays, and between dark rocks and under castles, a
night-time fairy-land, for hours. She watched spell-bound: spell-bound by
the magic of the world itself. And she thought to herself "Whatever life
may be, and whatever horror men have made of it, the world is a lovely
place, a magic place, something to marvel over. The world is an amazing

This thought dozed her off again. Yet she had a consciousness of tunnels
and hills and of broad marshes pallid under a moon and a coming dawn. And
in the dawn there was Pisa. She watched the word hanging in the station
in the dimness: "Pisa." Ciccio told her people were changing for
Florence. It all seemed wonderful to her--wonderful. She sat and watched
the black station--then she heard the sound of the child's trumpet. And
it did not occur to her to connect the train's moving on with the sound
of the trumpet.

But she saw the golden dawn, a golden sun coming out of level country.
She loved it. She loved being in Italy. She loved the lounging
carelessness of the train, she liked having Italian money, hearing the
Italians round her--though they were neither as beautiful nor as
melodious as she expected. She loved watching the glowing antique
landscape. She read and read again: "E pericoloso sporgersi," and "E
vietato fumare," and the other little magical notices on the carriages.
Ciccio told her what they meant, and how to say them. And sympathetic
Italians opposite at once asked him if they were married and who and what
his bride was, and they gazed at her with bright, approving eyes, though
she felt terribly bedraggled and travel-worn.

"You come from England? Yes! Nice contry!" said a man in a corner,
leaning forward to make this display of his linguistic capacity. "Not so
nice as this," said Alvina.


Alvina repeated herself.

"Not so nice? Oh? No! Fog, eh!" The fat man whisked his fingers in the
air, to indicate fog in the atmosphere. "But nice contry!

He sat up in triumph, having achieved this word. And the conversation
once more became a spatter of Italian. The women were very interested.
They looked at Alvina, at every atom of her. And she divined that they
were wondering if she was already with child. Sure enough, they were
asking Ciccio in Italian if she was "making him a baby." But he shook his
head and did not know, just a bit constrained. So they ate slices of
sausages and bread and fried rice-balls, with wonderfully greasy fingers,
and they drank red wine in big throatfuls out of bottles, and they
offered their fare to Ciccio and Alvina, and were charmed when she said
to Ciccio she _would_ have some bread and sausage. He picked the strips off
the sausage for her with his fingers, and made her a sandwich with a
roll. The women watched her bite it, and bright-eyed and pleased they
said, nodding their heads--

"Buono? Buono?"

And she, who knew this word, understood, and replied:

"Yes, good! Buono!" nodding her head likewise. Which caused immense
satisfaction. The women showed the whole paper of sausage slices, and
nodded and beamed and said:

"Se vuole ancora--!"

And Alvina bit her wide sandwich, and smiled, and said:

"Yes, awfully nice!"

And the women looked at each other and said something, and Ciccio
interposed, shaking his head. But one woman ostentatiously wiped a bottle
mouth with a clean handkerchief, and offered the bottle to Alvina,

"Vino buono. Vecchio! Vecchio!" nodding violently and indicating that she
should drink. She looked at Ciccio, and he looked back at her,

"Shall I drink some?" she said.

"If you like," he replied, making an Italian gesture of indifference.

So she drank some of the wine, and it dribbled on to her chin. She was
not good at managing a bottle. But she liked the feeling of warmth it
gave her. She was very tired.

"Si piace? Piace?"

"Do you like it," interpreted Ciccio.

"Yes, very much. What is very much?" she asked of Ciccio. "Molto."

"Si, molto. Of course, I knew molto, from music," she added.

The women made noises, and smiled and nodded, and so the train pulsed on
till they came to Rome. There was again the wild scramble with luggage, a
general leave taking, and then the masses of people on the station at
Rome. _Roma! Roma!_ What was it to Alvina but a name, and a crowded,
excited station, and Ciccio running after the luggage, and the pair of
them eating in a station restaurant?

Almost immediately after eating, they were in the train once more, with
new fellow travellers, running south this time towards Naples. In a daze
of increasing weariness Alvina watched the dreary, to her sordid-seeming
Campagna that skirts the railway, the broken aqueduct trailing in the
near distance over the stricken plain. She saw a tram-car, far out from
everywhere, running up to cross the railway. She saw it was going to

And slowly the hills approached--they passed the vines of the foothills,
the reeds, and were among the mountains. Wonderful little towns perched
fortified on rocks and peaks, mountains rose straight up off the level
plain, like old topographical prints, rivers wandered in the wild, rocky
places, it all seemed ancient and shaggy, savage still, under all its
remote civilization, this region of the Alban Mountains south of Rome. So
the train clambered up and down, and went round corners.

They had not far to go now. Alvina was almost too tired to care what it
would be like. They were going to Ciccio's native village. They were to
stay in the house of his uncle, his mother's brother. This uncle had been
a model in London. He had built a house on the land left by Ciccio's
grandfather. He lived alone now, for his wife was dead and his children
were abroad. Giuseppe was his son: Giuseppe of Battersea, in whose house
Alvina had stayed.

This much Alvina knew. She knew that a portion of the land down at
Pescocalascio belonged to Ciccio: a bit of half-savage, ancient earth
that had been left to his mother by old Francesco Califano, her
hard-grinding peasant father. This land remained integral in the
property, and was worked by Ciccio's two uncles, Pancrazio and Giovanni.
Pancrazio was the well-to-do uncle, who had been a model and had built a
"villa." Giovanni was not much good. That was how Ciccio put it.

They expected Pancrazio to meet them at the station. Ciccio collected his
bundles and put his hat straight and peered out of the window into the
steep mountains of the afternoon. There was a town in the opening between
steep hills, a town on a flat plain that ran into the mountains like a
gulf. The train drew up. They had arrived.

Alvina was so tired she could hardly climb down to the platform. It was
about four o'clock. Ciccio looked up and down for Pancrazio, but could
not see him. So he put his luggage into a pile on the platform, told
Alvina to stand by it, whilst he went off for the registered boxes. A
porter came and asked her questions, of which she understood nothing.
Then at last came Ciccio, shouldering one small trunk, whilst a porter
followed, shouldering another. Out they trotted, leaving Alvina abandoned
with the pile of hand luggage. She waited. The train drew out. Ciccio and
the porter came bustling back. They took her out through the little gate,
to where, in the flat desert space behind the railway, stood two great
drab motor-omnibuses, and a rank of open carriages. Ciccio was handing up
the handbags to the roof of one of the big post-omnibuses. When it was
finished the man on the roof came down, and Ciccio gave him and the
station porter each sixpence. The station-porter immediately threw his
coin on the ground with a gesture of indignant contempt, spread his arms
wide and expostulated violently. Ciccio expostulated back again, and they
pecked at each other, verbally, like two birds. It ended by the rolling
up of the burly, black moustached driver of the omnibus. Whereupon Ciccio
quite amicably gave the porter two nickel twopences in addition to the
sixpence, whereupon the porter quite lovingly wished him "buon' viaggio."

So Alvina was stowed into the body of the omnibus, with Ciccio at her
side. They were no sooner seated than a voice was heard, in
beautifully-modulated English:

"You are here! Why how have I missed you?"

It was Pancrazio, a smallish, rather battered-looking, shabby Italian of
sixty or more, with a big moustache and reddish-rimmed eyes and a
deeply-lined face. He was presented to Alvina.

"How have I missed you?" he said. "I was on the station when the train
came, and I did not see you."

But it was evident he had taken wine. He had no further opportunity to
talk. The compartment was full of large, mountain-peasants with black
hats and big cloaks and overcoats. They found Pancrazio a seat at the far
end, and there he sat, with his deeply-lined, impassive face and slightly
glazed eyes. He had yellow-brown eyes like Ciccio. But in the uncle the
eyelids dropped in a curious, heavy way, the eyes looked dull like those
of some old, rakish tom-cat, they were slightly rimmed with red. A
curious person! And his English, though slow, was beautifully pronounced.
He glanced at Alvina with slow, impersonal glances, not at all a stare.
And he sat for the most part impassive and abstract as a Red Indian.

At the last moment a large black priest was crammed in, and the door shut
behind him. Every available seat was let down and occupied. The second
great post-omnibus rolled away, and then the one for Mola followed,
rolling Alvina and Ciccio over the next stage of their journey.

The sun was already slanting to the mountain tops, shadows were falling
on the gulf of the plain. The omnibus charged at a great speed along a
straight white road, which cut through the cultivated level straight
towards the core of the mountain. By the road-side, peasant men in
cloaks, peasant women in full-gathered dresses with white bodices or
blouses having great full sleeves, tramped in the ridge of grass, driving
cows or goats, or leading heavily-laden asses. The women had coloured
kerchiefs on their heads, like the women Alvina remembered at the
Sunday-School treats, who used to tell fortunes with green little
love-birds. And they all tramped along towards the blue shadow of the
closing-in mountains, leaving the peaks of the town behind on the left.

At a branch-road the 'bus suddenly stopped, and there it sat calmly in
the road beside an icy brook, in the falling twilight. Great moth-white
oxen waved past, drawing a long, low load of wood; the peasants left
behind began to come up again, in picturesque groups. The icy brook
tinkled, goats, pigs and cows wandered and shook their bells along the
grassy borders of the road and the flat, unbroken fields, being driven
slowly home. Peasants jumped out of the omnibus on to the road, to
chat--and a sharp air came in. High overhead, as the sun went down, was
the curious icy radiance of snow mountains, and a pinkness, while shadow
deepened in the valley.

At last, after about half an hour, the youth who was conductor of the
omnibus came running down the wild side-road, everybody clambered in, and
away the vehicle charged, into the neck of the plain. With a growl and a
rush it swooped up the first loop of the ascent. Great precipices rose on
the right, the ruddiness of sunset above them. The road wound and
swirled, trying to get up the pass. The omnibus pegged slowly up, then
charged round a corner, swirled into another loop, and pegged heavily
once more. It seemed dark between the closing-in mountains. The rocks
rose very high, the road looped and swerved from one side of the wide
defile to the other, the vehicle pulsed and persisted. Sometimes there
was a house, sometimes a wood of oak-trees, sometimes the glimpse of a
ravine, then the tall white glisten of snow above the earthly blackness.
And still they went on and on, up the darkness.

Peering ahead, Alvina thought she saw the hollow between the peaks, which
was the top of the pass. And every time the omnibus took a new turn, she
thought it was coming out on the top of this hollow between the heights.
But no--the road coiled right away again.

A wild little village came in sight. This was the destination. Again no.
Only the tall, handsome mountain youth who had sat across from her,
descended grumbling because the 'bus had brought him past his road, the
driver having refused to pull up. Everybody expostulated with him, and he
dropped into the shadow. The big priest squeezed into his place. The 'bus
wound on and on, and always towards that hollow sky-line between the high

At last they ran up between buildings nipped between high rock-faces, and
out into a little market-place, the crown of the pass. The luggage was
got out and lifted down. Alvina descended. There she was, in a wild
centre of an old, unfinished little mountain town. The facade of a church
rose from a small eminence. A white road ran to the right, where a great
open valley showed faintly beyond and beneath. Low, squalid sort of
buildings stood around--with some high buildings. And there were bare
little trees. The stars were in the sky, the air was icy. People stood
darkly, excitedly about, women with an odd, shell-pattern head-dress of
gofered linen, something like a parlour-maid's cap, came and stared hard.
They were hard-faced mountain women.

Pancrazio was talking to Ciccio in dialect.

"I couldn't get a cart to come down," he said in English. "But I shall
find one here. Now what will you do? Put the luggage in Grazia's place
while you wait?--"

They went across the open place to a sort of shop called the Post
Restaurant. It was a little hole with an earthen floor and a smell of
cats. Three crones were sitting over a low brass brazier, in which
charcoal and ashes smouldered. Men were drinking. Ciccio ordered coffee
with rum--and the hard-faced Grazia, in her unfresh head-dress, dabbled
the little dirty coffee-cups in dirty water, took the coffee-pot out of
the ashes, poured in the old black boiling coffee three parts full, and
slopped the cup over with rum. Then she dashed in a spoonful of sugar, to
add to the pool in the saucer, and her customers were served.

However, Ciccio drank up, so Alvina did likewise, burning her lips
smartly. Ciccio paid and ducked his way out.

"Now what will you buy?" asked Pancrazio.

"Buy?" said Ciccio.

"Food," said Pancrazio. "Have you brought food?"

"No," said Ciccio.

So they trailed up stony dark ways to a butcher, and got a big red slice
of meat; to a baker, and got enormous flat loaves. Sugar and coffee they
bought. And Pancrazio lamented in his elegant English that no butter was
to be obtained. Everywhere the hard-faced women came and stared into
Alvina's face, asking questions. And both Ciccio and Pancrazio answered
rather coldly, with some _hauteur_. There was evidently not too much
intimacy between the people of Pescocalascio and these semi-townfolk of
Ossona. Alvina felt as if she were in a strange, hostile country, in the
darkness of the savage little mountain town.

At last they were ready. They mounted into a two-wheeled cart, Alvina and
Ciccio behind, Pancrazio and the driver in front, the luggage
promiscuous. The bigger things were left for the morrow. It was icy cold,
with a flashing darkness. The moon would not rise till later.

And so, without any light but that of the stars, the cart went spanking
and rattling downhill, down the pale road which wound down the head of
the valley to the gulf of darkness below. Down in the darkness into the
darkness they rattled, wildly, and without heed, the young driver making
strange noises to his dim horse, cracking a whip and asking endless
questions of Pancrazio.

Alvina sat close to Ciccio. He remained almost impassive. The wind was
cold, the stars flashed. And they rattled down the rough, broad road
under the rocks, down and down in the darkness. Ciccio sat crouching
forwards, staring ahead. Alvina was aware of mountains, rocks, and stars.

"I didn't know it was so _wild!_" she said.

"It is not much," he said. There was a sad, plangent note in his voice.
He put his hand upon her.

"You don't like it?" he said.

"I think it's lovely--wonderful," she said, dazed.

He held her passionately. But she did not feel she needed protecting. It
was all wonderful and amazing to her. She could not understand why he
seemed upset and in a sort of despair. To her there was magnificence in
the lustrous stars and the steepnesses, magic, rather terrible and grand.

They came down to the level valley bed, and went rolling along. There was
a house, and a lurid red fire burning outside against the wall, and dark
figures about it.

"What is that?" she said. "What are they doing?"

"I don't know," said Ciccio. "Cosa fanno li--eh?"

"Ka--? Fanno it buga'--" said the driver.

"They are doing some washing," said Pancrazio, explanatory. "Washing!"
said Alvina.

"Boiling the clothes," said Ciccio.

On the cart rattled and bumped, in the cold night, down the highway in
the valley. Alvina could make out the darkness of the slopes. Overhead
she saw the brilliance of Orion. She felt she was quite, quite lost. She
had gone out of the world, over the border, into some place of mystery.
She was lost to Woodhouse, to Lancaster, to England--all lost.

They passed through a darkness of woods, with a swift sound of cold
water. And then suddenly the cart pulled up. Some one came out of a
lighted doorway in the darkness.

"We must get down here--the cart doesn't go any further," said Pancrazio.

"Are we there?" said Alvina.

"No, it is about a mile. But we must leave the cart."

Ciccio asked questions in Italian. Alvina climbed down.

"Good-evening! Are you cold?" came a loud, raucous, American-Italian
female voice. It was another relation of Ciccio's. Alvina stared and
looked at the handsome, sinister, raucous-voiced young woman who stood in
the light of the doorway.

"Rather cold," she said.

"Come in, and warm yourself," said the young woman.

"My sister's husband lives here," explained Pancrazio.

Alvina went through the doorway into the room. It was a sort of inn. On
the earthen floor glowed a great round pan of charcoal, which looked like
a flat pool of fire. Men in hats and cloaks sat at a table playing cards
by the light of a small lamp, a man was pouring wine. The room seemed
like a cave.

"Warm yourself," said the young woman, pointing to the flat disc of fire
on the floor. She put a chair up to it, and Alvina sat down. The men in
the room stared, but went on noisily with their cards. Ciccio came in
with luggage. Men got up and greeted him effusively, watching Alvina
between whiles as if she were some alien creature. Words of American
sounded among the Italian dialect.

There seemed to be a confab of some sort, aside. Ciccio came and said to

"They want to know if we will stay the night here."

"I would rather go on home," she said.

He averted his face at the word home.

"You see," said Pancrazio, "I think you might be more comfortable here,
than in my poor house. You see I have no woman to care for it--"

Alvina glanced round the cave of a room, at the rough fellows in their
black hats. She was thinking how she would be "more comfortable" here.

"I would rather go on," she said.

"Then we will get the donkey," said Pancrazio stoically. And Alvina
followed him out on to the high-road.

From a shed issued a smallish, brigand-looking fellow carrying a lantern.
He had his cloak over his nose and his hat over his eyes. His legs were
bundled with white rag, crossed and crossed with hide straps, and he was
shod in silent skin sandals.

"This is my brother Giovanni," said Pancrazio. "He is not quite
sensible." Then he broke into a loud flood of dialect.

Giovanni touched his hat to Alvina, and gave the lantern to Pancrazio.
Then he disappeared, returning in a few moments with the ass. Ciccio came
out with the baggage, and by the light of the lantern the things were
slung on either side of the ass, in a rather precarious heap. Pancrazio
tested the rope again.

"There! Go on, and I shall come in a minute."

"Ay-er-er!" cried Giovanni at the ass, striking the flank of the beast.
Then he took the leading rope and led up on the dark highway, stalking
with his dingy white legs under his muffled cloak, leading the ass.
Alvina noticed the shuffle of his skin-sandalled feet, the quiet step of
the ass.

She walked with Ciccio near the side of the road. He carried the lantern.
The ass with its load plodded a few steps ahead. There were trees on the
road-side, and a small channel of invisible but noisy water. Big rocks
jutted sometimes. It was freezing, the mountain high-road was congealed.
High stars flashed overhead.

"How strange it is!" said Alvina to Ciccio. "Are you glad you have come

"It isn't my home," he replied, as if the word fretted him. "Yes, I like
to see it again. But it isn't the place for young people to live in. You
will see how you like it."

She wondered at his uneasiness. It was the same in Pancrazio. The latter
now came running to catch them up.

"I think you will be tired," he said. "You ought to have stayed at my
relation's house down there."

"No, I am not tired," said Alvina. "But I'm hungry."

"Well, we shall eat something when we come to my house."

They plodded in the darkness of the valley high-road. Pancrazio took the
lantern and went to examine the load, hitching the ropes. A great flat
loaf fell out, and rolled away, and smack came a little valise. Pancrazio
broke into a flood of dialect to Giovanni, handing him the lantern.
Ciccio picked up the bread and put it under his arm.

"Break me a little piece," said Alvina.

And in the darkness they both chewed bread.

After a while, Pancrazio halted with the ass just ahead, and took the
lantern from Giovanni.

"We must leave the road here," he said.

And with the lantern he carefully, courteously showed Alvina a small
track descending in the side of the bank, between bushes. Alvina ventured
down the steep descent, Pancrazio following showing a light. In the rear
was Giovanni, making noises at the ass. They all picked their way down
into the great white-bouldered bed of a mountain river. It was a wide,
strange bed of dry boulders, pallid under the stars. There was a sound of
a rushing river, glacial-sounding. The place seemed wild and desolate. In
the distance was a darkness of bushes, along the far shore.

Pancrazio swinging the lantern, they threaded their way through the
uneven boulders till they came to the river itself--not very wide, but
rushing fast. A long, slender, drooping plank crossed over. Alvina
crossed rather tremulous, followed by Pancrazio with the light, and
Ciccio with the bread and the valise. They could hear the click of the
ass and the ejaculations of Giovanni.

Pancrazio went back over the stream with the light. Alvina saw the dim
ass come up, wander uneasily to the stream, plant his fore legs, and
sniff the water, his nose right down.

"Er! Err!" cried Pancrazio, striking the beast on the flank.

But it only lifted its nose and turned aside. It would not take the
stream. Pancrazio seized the leading rope angrily and turned upstream.

"Why were donkeys made! They are beasts without sense," his voice floated
angrily across the chill darkness.

Ciccio laughed. He and Alvina stood in the wide, stony river-bed, in the
strong starlight, watching the dim figures of the ass and the men crawl
upstream with the lantern.

Again the same performance, the white muzzle of the ass stooping down to
sniff the water suspiciously, his hind-quarters tilted up with the load.
Again the angry yells and blows from Pancrazio. And the ass seemed to be
taking the water. But no! After a long deliberation he drew back. Angry
language sounded through the crystal air. The group with the lantern
moved again upstream, becoming smaller.

Alvina and Ciccio stood and watched. The lantern looked small up the
distance. But there--a clocking, shouting, splashing sound. "He is going
over," said Ciccio.

Pancrazio came hurrying back to the plank with the lantern. "Oh the
stupid beast! I could kill him!" cried he.

"Isn't he used to the water?" said Alvina.

"Yes, he is. But he won't go except where he thinks he will go. You might
kill him before he should go."

They picked their way across the river bed, to the wild scrub and bushes
of the farther side. There they waited for the ass, which came up
clicking over the boulders, led by the patient Giovanni. And then they
took a difficult, rocky track ascending between banks. Alvina felt the
uneven scramble a great effort. But she got up. Again they waited for the
ass. And then again they struck off to the right, under some trees.

A house appeared dimly.

"Is that it?" said Alvina.

"No. It belongs to me. But that is not my house. A few steps further. Now
we are on my land."

They were treading a rough sort of grass-land--and still climbing. It
ended in a sudden little scramble between big stones, and suddenly they
were on the threshold of a quite important-looking house: but it was all

"Oh!" exclaimed Pancrazio, "they have done nothing that I told them." He
made queer noises of exasperation.

"What?" said Alvina.

"Neither made a fire nor anything. Wait a minute--"

The ass came up. Ciccio, Alvina, Giovanni and the ass waited in the
frosty starlight under the wild house. Pancrazio disappeared round the
back. Ciccio talked to Giovanni. He seemed uneasy, as if he felt

Pancrazio returned with the lantern, and opened the big door. Alvina
followed him into a stone-floored, wide passage, where stood farm
implements, where a little of straw and beans lay in a corner, and whence
rose bare wooden stairs. So much she saw in the glimpse of lantern-light,
as Pancrazio pulled the string and entered the kitchen: a dim-walled room
with a vaulted roof and a great dark, open hearth, fireless: a bare room,
with a little rough dark furniture: an unswept stone floor: iron-barred
windows, rather small, in the deep-thickness of the wall, one-half shut
with a drab shutter. It was rather like a room on the stage, gloomy, not
meant to be lived in.

"I will make a light," said Pancrazio, taking a lamp from the
mantelpiece, and proceeding to wind it up.

Ciccio stood behind Alvina, silent. He had put down the bread and valise
on a wooden chest. She turned to him.

"It's a beautiful room," she said.

Which, with its high, vaulted roof, its dirty whitewash, its great black
chimney, it really was. But Ciccio did not understand. He smiled

The lamp was lighted. Alvina looked round in wonder.

"Now I will make a fire. You, Ciccio, will help Giovanni with the
donkey," said Pancrazio, scuttling with the lantern.

Alvina looked at the room. There was a wooden settle in front of the
hearth, stretching its back to the room. There was a little table under a
square, recessed window, on whose sloping ledge were newspapers,
scattered letters, nails and a hammer. On the table were dried beans and
two maize cobs. In a corner were shelves, with two chipped enamel plates,
and a small table underneath, on which stood a bucket of water with a
dipper. Then there was a wooden chest, two little chairs, and a litter of
faggots, cane, wine-twigs, bare maize-hubs, oak-twigs filling the corner
by the hearth.

Pancrazio came scrambling in with fresh faggots.

"They have not done what I told them, the tiresome people!" he said. "I
told them to make a fire and prepare the house. You will be uncomfortable
in my poor home. I have no woman, nothing, everything is wrong--"

He broke the pieces of cane and kindled them in the hearth. Soon there
was a good blaze. Ciccio came in with the bags and the food.

"I had better go upstairs and take my things off," said Alvina. "I am so

"You had better keep your coat on," said Pancrazio. "The room is cold."
Which it was, ice-cold. She shuddered a little. She took off her hat and

"Shall we fry some meat?" said Pancrazio.

He took a frying-pan, found lard in the wooden chest--it was the
food-chest--and proceeded to fry pieces of meat in a frying-pan over the
fire. Alvina wanted to lay the table. But there was no cloth.

"We will sit here, as I do, to eat," said Pancrazio. He produced two
enamel plates and one soup-plate, three penny iron forks and two old
knives, and a little grey, coarse salt in a wooden bowl. These he placed
on the seat of the settle in front of the fire. Ciccio was silent.

The settle was dark and greasy. Alvina feared for her clothes. But she
sat with her enamel plate and her impossible fork, a piece of meat and a
chunk of bread, and ate. It was difficult--but the food was good, and the
fire blazed. Only there was a film of wood-smoke in the room, rather
smarting. Ciccio sat on the settle beside her, and ate in large

"I think it's fun," said Alvina.

He looked at her with dark, haunted, gloomy eyes. She wondered what was
the matter with him.

"Don't you think it's fun?" she said, smiling.

He smiled slowly.

"You won't like it," he said.

"Why not?" she cried, in panic lest he prophesied truly.

Pancrazio scuttled in and out with the lantern. He brought wrinkled
pears, and green, round grapes, and walnuts, on a white cloth, and
presented them.

"I think my pears are still good," he said. "You must eat them, and
excuse my uncomfortable house."

Giovanni came in with a big bowl of soup and a bottle of milk. There was
room only for three on the settle before the hearth. He pushed his chair
among the litter of fire-kindling, and sat down. He had bright, bluish
eyes, and a fattish face--was a man of about fifty, but had a simple,
kindly, slightly imbecile face. All the men kept their hats on.

The soup was from Giovanni's cottage. It was for Pancrazio and him. But
there was only one spoon. So Pancrazio ate a dozen spoonfuls, and handed
the bowl to Giovanni--who protested and tried to refuse--but accepted,
and ate ten spoonfuls, then handed the bowl back to his brother, with the
spoon. So they finished the bowl between them. Then Pancrazio found
wine--a whitish wine, not very good, for which he apologized. And he
invited Alvina to coffee. Which she accepted gladly.

For though the fire was warm in front, behind was very cold. Pancrazio
stuck a long pointed stick down the handle of a saucepan, and gave this
utensil to Ciccio, to hold over the fire and scald the milk, whilst he
put the tin coffee-pot in the ashes. He took a long iron tube or
blow-pipe, which rested on two little feet at the far end. This he gave
to Giovanni to blow the fire.

Giovanni was a fire-worshipper. His eyes sparkled as he took the blowing
tube. He put fresh faggots behind the fire--though Pancrazio forbade him.
He arranged the burning faggots. And then softly he blew a red-hot fire
for the coffee.

"Banta! Basta!" said Ciccio. But Giovanni blew on, his eyes sparkling,
looking to Alvina. He was making the fire beautiful for her.

There was one cup, one enamelled mug, one little bowl. This was the
coffee-service. Pancrazio noisily ground the coffee. He seemed to do
everything, old, stooping as he was.

At last Giovanni took his leave--the kettle which hung on the hook over
the fire was boiling over. Ciccio burnt his hand lifting it off. And at
last, at last Alvina could go to bed.

Pancrazio went first with the candle--then Ciccio with the black
kettle--then Alvina. The men still had their hats on. Their boots tramped
noisily on the bare stairs.

The bedroom was very cold. It was a fair-sized room with a concrete floor
and white walls, and window-door opening on a little balcony. There were
two high white beds on opposite sides of the room. The wash-stand was a
little tripod thing.

The air was very cold, freezing, the stone floor was dead cold to the
feet. Ciccio sat down on a chair and began to take off his boots. She
went to the window. The moon had risen. There was a flood of light on
dazzling white snow tops, glimmering and marvellous in the evanescent
night. She went out for a moment on to the balcony. It was a
wonder-world: the moon over the snow heights, the pallid valley-bed away
below; the river hoarse, and round about her, scrubby, blue-dark
foot-hills with twiggy trees. Magical it all was--but so cold. "You had
better shut the door," said Ciccio.

She came indoors. She was dead tired, and stunned with cold, and
hopelessly dirty after that journey. Ciccio had gone to bed without

"Why does the bed rustle?" she asked him.

It was stuffed with dry maize-leaves, the dry sheathes from the
cobs--stuffed enormously high. He rustled like a snake among dead

Alvina washed her hands. There was nothing to do with the water but throw
it out of the door. Then she washed her face, thoroughly, in good hot
water. What a blessed relief! She sighed as she dried herself.

"It does one good!" she sighed.

Ciccio watched her as she quickly brushed her hair. She was almost
stupefied with weariness and the cold, bruising air. Blindly she crept
into the high, rustling bed. But it was made high in the middle. And it
was icy cold. It shocked her almost as if she had fallen into water. She
shuddered, and became semi-conscious with fatigue. The blankets were
heavy, heavy. She was dazed with excitement and wonder. She felt vaguely
that Ciccio was miserable, and wondered why.

She woke with a start an hour or so later. The moon was in the room. She
did not know where she was. And she was frightened. And she was cold. A
real terror took hold of her. Ciccio in his bed was quite still.
Everything seemed electric with horror. She felt she would die instantly,
everything was so terrible around her. She could not move. She felt that
everything around her was horrific, extinguishing her, putting her out.
Her very being was threatened. In another instant she would be

Making a violent effort she sat up. The silence of Ciccio in his bed was
as horrible as the rest of the night. She had a horror of him also. What
would she do, where should she flee? She was lost--lost--lost utterly.

The knowledge sank into her like ice. Then deliberately she got out of
bed and went across to him. He was horrible and frightening, but he was
warm. She felt his power and his warmth invade her and extinguish her.
The mad and desperate passion that was in him sent her completely
unconscious again, completely unconscious.


There is no mistake about it, Alvina was a lost girl. She was cut off
from everything she belonged to. Ovid isolated in Thrace' might well
lament. The soul itself needs its own mysterious nourishment. This
nourishment lacking, nothing is well.

At Pescocalascio it was the mysterious influence of the mountains and
valleys themselves which seemed always to be annihilating the
Englishwoman: nay, not only her, but the very natives themselves. Ciccio
and Pancrazio clung to her, essentially, as if she saved them also from
extinction. It needed all her courage. Truly, she had to support the
souls of the two men.

At first she did not realize. She was only stunned with the strangeness
of it all: startled, half-enraptured with the terrific beauty of the
place, half-horrified by its savage annihilation of her. But she was
stunned. The days went by.

It seems there are places which resist us, which have the power to
overthrow our psychic being. It seems as if every country has its potent
negative centres, localities which savagely and triumphantly refuse our
living culture. And Alvina had struck one of them, here on the edge of
the Abruzzi.

She was not in the village of Pescocalascio itself. That was a long
hour's walk away. Pancrazio's house was the chief of a tiny hamlet of
three houses, called Califano because the Califanos had made it. There
was the ancient, savage hole of a house, quite windowless, where
Pancrazio and Ciccio's mother had been born: the family home. Then there
was Pancrazio's villa. And then, a little below, another newish, modern
house in a sort of wild meadow, inhabited by the peasants who worked the
land. Ten minutes' walk away was another cluster of seven or eight
houses, where Giovanni lived. But there was no shop, no post nearer than
Pescocalascio, an hour's heavy road up deep and rocky, wearying tracks.

And yet, what could be more lovely than the sunny days: pure, hot, blue
days among the mountain foothills: irregular, steep little hills half
wild with twiggy brown oak-trees and marshes and broom heaths, half
cultivated, in a wild, scattered fashion. Lovely, in the lost hollows
beyond a marsh, to see Ciccio slowly ploughing with two great white oxen:
lovely to go with Pancrazio down to the wild scrub that bordered the
river-bed, then over the white-bouldered, massive desert and across
stream to the other scrubby savage shore, and so up to the highroad.
Pancrazio was very happy if Alvina would accompany him. He liked it that
she was not afraid. And her sense of the beauty of the place was an
infinite relief to him.

Nothing could have been more marvellous than the winter twilight.
Sometimes Alvina and Pancrazio were late returning with the ass. And then
gingerly the ass would step down the steep banks, already beginning to
freeze when the sun went down. And again and again he would balk the
stream, while a violet-blue dusk descended on the white, wide stream-bed,
and the scrub and lower hills became dark, and in heaven, oh, almost
unbearably lovely, the snow of the near mountains was burning rose,
against the dark-blue heavens. How unspeakably lovely it was, no one
could ever tell, the grand, pagan twilight of the valleys, savage, cold,
with a sense of ancient gods who knew the right for human sacrifice. It
stole away the soul of Alvina. She felt transfigured in it, clairvoyant
in another mystery of life. A savage hardness came in her heart. The gods
who had demanded human sacrifice were quite right, immutably right. The
fierce, savage gods who dipped their lips in blood, these were the true

The terror, the agony, the nostalgia of the heathen past was a constant
torture to her mediumistic soul. She did not know what it was. But it was
a kind of neuralgia in the very soul, never to be located in the human
body, and yet physical. Coming over the brow of a heathy, rocky hillock,
and seeing Ciccio beyond leaning deep over the plough, in his white
shirt-sleeves following the slow, waving, moth-pale oxen across a small
track of land turned up in the heathen hollow, her soul would go all
faint, she would almost swoon with realization of the world that had gone
before. And Ciccio was so silent, there seemed so much dumb magic and
anguish in him, as if he were for ever afraid of himself and the thing he
was. He seemed, in his silence, to _concentrate_ upon her so terribly. She
believed she would not live.

Sometimes she would go gathering acorns, large, fine acorns, a precious
crop in that land where the fat pig was almost an object of veneration.
Silently she would crouch filling the pannier. And far off she would hear
the sound of Giovanni chopping wood, of Ciccio calling to the oxen or
Pancrazio making noises to the ass, or the sound of a peasant's mattock.
Over all the constant speech of the passing river, and the real breathing
presence of the upper snows. And a wild, terrible happiness would take
hold of her, beyond despair, but very like despair. No one would ever
find her. She had gone beyond the world into the pre-world, she had
reopened on the old eternity.

And then Maria, the little elvish old wife of Giovanni, would come up
with the cows. One cow she held by a rope round its horns, and she hauled
it from the patches of young corn into the rough grass, from the little
plantation of trees in among the heath. Maria wore the full-pleated
white-sleeved dress of the peasants, and a red kerchief on her head. But
her dress was dirty, and her face was dirty, and the big gold rings of
her ears hung from ears which perhaps had never been washed. She was
rather smoke-dried too, from perpetual wood-smoke.

Maria in her red kerchief hauling the white cow, and screaming at it,
would come laughing towards Alvina, who was rather afraid of cows. And
then, screaming high in dialect, Maria would talk to her. Alvina smiled
and tried to understand. Impossible. It was not strictly a human speech.
It was rather like the crying of half-articulate animals. It certainly
was not Italian. And yet Alvina by dint of constant hearing began to pick
up the coagulated phrases.

She liked Maria. She liked them all. They were all very kind to her, as
far as they knew. But they did not know. And they were kind with each
other. For they all seemed lost, like lost, forlorn aborigines, and they
treated Alvina as if she were a higher being. They loved her that she
would strip maize-cobs or pick acorns. But they were all anxious to serve
her. And it seemed as if they needed some one to serve. It seemed as if
Alvina, the Englishwoman, had a certain magic glamour for them, and so
long as she was happy, it was a supreme joy and relief to them to have
her there. But it seemed to her she would not live.

And when she was unhappy! Ah, the dreadful days of cold rain mingled with
sleet, when the world outside was more than impossible, and the house
inside was a horror. The natives kept themselves alive by going about
constantly working, dumb and elemental. But what was Alvina to do?

For the house was unspeakable. The only two habitable rooms were the
kitchen and Alvina's bedroom: and the kitchen, with its little grated
windows high up in the wall, one of which had a broken pane and must keep
one-half of its shutters closed, was like a dark cavern vaulted and
bitter with wood-smoke. Seated on the settle before the fire, the hard,
greasy settle, Alvina could indeed keep the fire going, with faggots of
green oak. But the smoke hurt her chest, she was not clean for one
moment, and she could do nothing else. The bedroom again was just
impossibly cold. And there was no other place. And from far away came the
wild braying of an ass, primeval and desperate in the snow.

The house was quite large; but uninhabitable. Downstairs, on the left of
the wide passage where the ass occasionally stood out of the weather, and
where the chickens wandered in search of treasure, was a big, long
apartment where Pancrazio kept implements and tools and potatoes and
pumpkins, and where four or five rabbits hopped unexpectedly out of the
shadows. Opposite this, on the right, was the cantina, a dark place with
wine-barrels and more agricultural stores. This was the whole of the

Going upstairs, half way up, at the turn of the stairs was the opening of
a sort of barn, a great wire-netting behind which showed a glow of orange
maize-cobs and some wheat. Upstairs were four rooms. But Alvina's room
alone was furnished. Pancrazio slept in the unfurnished bedroom opposite,
on a pile of old clothes. Beyond was a room with litter in it, a chest of
drawers, and rubbish of old books and photographs Pancrazio had brought
from England. There was a battered photograph of Lord Leighton, among
others. The fourth room, approached through the corn-chamber, was always

Outside was just as hopeless. There had been a little garden within the
stone enclosure. But fowls, geese, and the ass had made an end of this.
Fowl-droppings were everywhere, indoors and out, the ass left his pile of
droppings to steam in the winter air on the threshold, while his
heart-rending bray rent the air. Roads there were none: only deep tracks,
like profound ruts with rocks in them, in the hollows, and rocky, grooved
tracks over the brows. The hollow grooves were full of mud and water, and
one struggled slipperily from rock to rock, or along narrow grass-ledges.

What was to be done, then, on mornings that were dark with sleet?
Pancrazio would bring a kettle of hot water at about half-past eight. For
had he not travelled Europe with English gentlemen, as a sort of
model-valet! Had he not loved his English gentlemen? Even now, he was
infinitely happier performing these little attentions for Alvina than
attending to his wretched domains.

Ciccio rose early, and went about in the hap-hazard, useless way of
Italians all day long, getting nothing done. Alvina came out of the icy
bedroom to the black kitchen. Pancrazio would be gallantly heating milk
for her, at the end of a long stick. So she would sit on the settle and
drink her coffee and milk, into which she dipped her dry bread. Then the
day was before her.

She washed her cup and her enamelled plate, and she tried to clean the
kitchen. But Pancrazio had on the fire a great black pot, dangling from
the chain. He was boiling food for the eternal pig--the only creature for
which any cooking was done. Ciccio was tramping in with faggots.
Pancrazio went in and out, back and forth from his pot.

Alvina stroked her brow and decided on a method. Once she was rid of
Pancrazio, she would wash every cup and plate and utensil in boiling
water. Well, at last Pancrazio went off with his great black pan, and she
set to. But there were not six pieces of crockery in the house, and not
more than six cooking utensils. These were soon scrubbed. Then she
scrubbed the two little tables and the shelves. She lined the food-chest
with clean paper. She washed the high window-ledges and the narrow
mantel-piece, that had large mounds of dusty candle-wax, in deposits.
Then she tackled the settle. She scrubbed it also. Then she looked at the
floor. And even she, English housewife as she was, realized the futility
of trying to wash it. As well try to wash the earth itself outside. It
was just a piece of stone-laid earth. She swept it as well as she could,
and made a little order in the faggot-heap in the corner. Then she washed
the little, high-up windows, to try and let in light.

And what was the difference? A dank wet soapy smell, and not much more.
Maria had kept scuffling admiringly in and out, crying her wonderment and
approval. She had most ostentatiously chased out an obtrusive hen, from
this temple of cleanliness. And that was all.

It was hopeless. The same black walls, the same floor, the same cold from
behind, the same green-oak wood-smoke, the same bucket of water from the
well--the same come-and-go of aimless busy men, the same cackle of wet
hens, the same hopeless nothingness.

Alvina stood up against it for a time. And then she caught a bad cold,
and was wretched. Probably it was the wood-smoke. But her chest was raw,
she felt weak and miserable. She could not sit in her bedroom, for it was
too cold. If she sat in the darkness of the kitchen she was hurt with
smoke, and perpetually cold behind her neck. And Pancrazio rather
resented the amount of faggots consumed for nothing. The only hope would
have been in work. But there was nothing in that house to be done. How
could she even sew?

She was to prepare the mid-day and evening meals. But with no pots, and
over a smoking wood fire, what could she prepare? Black and greasy, she
boiled potatoes and fried meat in lard, in a long-handled frying pan.
Then Pancrazio decreed that Maria should prepare macaroni with the tomato
sauce, and thick vegetable soup, and sometimes polenta. This coarse,
heavy food was wearying beyond words.

Alvina began to feel she would die, in the awful comfortless
meaninglessness of it all. True, sunny days returned and some magic. But
she was weak and feverish with her cold, which would not get better. So
that even in the sunshine the crude comfortlessness and inferior savagery
of the place only repelled her.

The others were depressed when she was unhappy.

"Do you wish you were back in England?" Ciccio asked her, with a little
sardonic bitterness in his voice. She looked at him without answering. He
ducked and went away.

"We will make a fire-place in the other bedroom," said Pancrazio.

No sooner said than done. Ciccio persuaded Alvina to stay in bed a few
days. She was thankful to take refuge. Then she heard a rare comeand-go.
Pancrazio, Ciccio, Giovanni, Maria and a mason all set about the
fire-place. Up and down stairs they went, Maria carrying stone and lime
on her head, and swerving in Alvina's doorway, with her burden perched
aloft, to shout a few unintelligible words. In the intervals of
lime-carrying she brought the invalid her soup or her coffee or her hot

It turned out quite a good job--a pleasant room with two windows, that
would have all the sun in the afternoon, and would see the mountains on
one hand, the far-off village perched up on the other. When she was well
enough they set off one early Monday morning to the market in Ossona.
They left the house by star-light, but dawn was coming by the time they
reached the river. At the highroad, Pancrazio harnessed the ass, and
after endless delay they jogged off to Ossona. The dawning mountains were
wonderful, dim-green and mauve and rose, the ground rang with frost.
Along the roads many peasants were trooping to market, women in their
best dresses, some of thick heavy silk with the white, full-sleeved
bodices, dresses green, lavender, dark-red, with gay kerchiefs on the
head: men muffled in cloaks, treading silently in their pointed skin
sandals: asses with loads, carts full of peasants, a belated cow.

The market was lovely, there in the crown of the pass, in the old town,
on the frosty sunny morning. Bulls, cows, sheep, pigs, goats stood and
lay about under the bare little trees on the platform high over the
valley: some one had kindled a great fire of brush-wood, and men crowded
round, out of the blue frost. From laden asses vegetables were unloaded,
from little carts all kinds of things, boots, pots, tin-ware, hats,
sweet-things, and heaps of corn and beans and seeds. By eight o'clock in
the December morning the market was in full swing: a great crowd of
handsome mountain people, all peasants, nearly all in costume, with
different head-dresses.

Ciccio and Pancrazio and Alvina went quietly about. They bought pots and
pans and vegetables and sweet-things and thick rush matting and two
wooden arm-chairs and one old soft arm-chair, going quietly and
bargaining modestly among the crowd, as Anglicized Italians do.

The sun came on to the market at about nine o'clock, and then, from the
terrace of the town gate, Alvina looked down on the wonderful sight of
all the coloured dresses of the peasant women, the black hats of the men,
the heaps of goods, the squealing pigs, the pale lovely cattle, the many
tethered asses--and she wondered if she would die before she became one
with it altogether. It was impossible for her to become one with it
altogether. Ciccio would have to take her to England again, or to
America. He was always hinting at America.

But then, Italy might enter the war. Even here it was the great theme of
conversation. She looked down on the seethe of the market. The sun was
warm on her. Ciccio and Pancrazio were bargaining for two cowskin rugs:
she saw Ciccio standing with his head rather forward. Her husband! She
felt her heart die away within her.

All those other peasant women, did they feel as she did?--the same sort
of acquiescent passion, the same lapse of life? She believed they did.
The same helpless passion for the man, the same remoteness from the
world's actuality? Probably, under all their tension of money and
money-grubbing and vindictive mountain morality and rather horrible
religion, probably they felt the same. She was one with them. But she
could never endure it for a life-time. It was only a test on her. Ciccio
must take her to America, or England--to America preferably.

And even as he turned to look for her, she felt a strange thrilling in
her bowels: a sort of trill strangely within her, yet extraneous to her.
She caught her hand to her flank. And Ciccio was looking up for her from
the market beneath, searching with that quick, hasty look. He caught
sight of her. She seemed to glow with a delicate light for him, there
beyond all the women. He came straight towards her, smiling his slow,
enigmatic smile. He could not bear it if he lost her. She knew how he
loved her--almost inhumanly, elementally, without communication. And she
stood with her hand to her side, her face frightened. She hardly noticed
him. It seemed to her she was with child. And yet in the whole
market-place she was aware of nothing but him.

"We have bought the skins," he said. "Twenty-seven lire each."

She looked at him, his dark skin, his golden eyes--so near to her, so
unified with her, yet so incommunicably remote. How far off was his being
from hers!

"I believe I'm going to have a child," she said.

"Eh?" he ejaculated quickly. But he had understood. His eyes shone
weirdly on her. She felt the strange terror and loveliness of his
passion. And she wished she could lie down there by that town gate, in
the sun, and swoon for ever unconscious. Living was almost too great a
demand on her. His yellow, luminous eyes watched her and enveloped her.
There was nothing for her but to yield, yield, yield. And yet she could
not sink to earth.

She saw Pancrazio carrying the skins to the little cart, which was tilted
up under a small, pale-stemmed tree on the platform above the valley.
Then she saw him making his way quickly back through the crowd, to rejoin

"Did you feel something?" said Ciccio.

"Yes--here--!" she said, pressing her hand on her side as the sensation
trilled once more upon her consciousness. She looked at him with remote,
frightened eyes.

"That's good--" he said, his eyes full of a triumphant, incommunicable

"Well!--And now," said Pancrazio, coming up, "shall we go and eat

They jogged home in the little flat cart in the wintry afternoon. It was
almost night before they had got the ass untackled from the shafts, at
the wild lonely house where Pancrazio left the cart. Giovanni was there
with the lantern. Ciccio went on ahead with Alvina, whilst the others
stood to load up the ass by the high-way.

Ciccio watched Alvina carefully. When they were over the river, and among
the dark scrub, he took her in his arms and kissed her with long,
terrible passion. She saw the snow-ridges flare with evening, beyond his
cheek. They had glowed dawn as she crossed the river outwards, they were
white-fiery now in the dusk sky as she returned. What strange valley of
shadow was she threading? What was the terrible man's passion that
haunted her like a dark angel? Why was she so much beyond herself?


Christmas was at hand. There was a heap of maize cobs still unstripped.
Alvina sat with Ciccio stripping them, in the corn-place.

"Will you be able to stop here till the baby is born?" he asked her.

She watched the films of the leaves come off from the burning gold maize
cob under his fingers, the long, ruddy cone of fruition. The heap of
maize on one side burned like hot sunshine, she felt it really gave off
warmth, it glowed, it burned. On the other side the filmy, crackly, sere
sheaths were also faintly sunny. Again and again the long, red-gold, full
ear of corn came clear in his hands, and was put gently aside. He looked
up at her, with his yellow eyes.

"Yes, I think so," she said. "Will you?"

"Yes, if they let me. I should like it to be born here."

"Would you like to bring up a child here?" she asked.

"You wouldn't be happy here, so long," he said, sadly.

"Would you?"

He slowly shook his head: indefinite.

She was settling down. She had her room upstairs, her cups and plates and
spoons, her own things. Pancrazio had gone back to his old habit, he went
across and ate with Giovanni and Maria, Ciccio and Alvina had their meals
in their pleasant room upstairs. They were happy alone. Only sometimes
the terrible influence of the place preyed on her.

However, she had a clean room of her own, where she could sew and read.
She had written to the matron and Mrs. Tuke, and Mrs. Tuke had sent
books. Also she helped Ciccio when she could, and Maria was teaching her
to spin the white sheep's wool into coarse thread.

This morning Pancrazio and Giovanni had gone off somewhere, Alvina and
Ciccio were alone on the place, stripping the last maize. Suddenly, in
the grey morning air, a wild music burst out: the drone of a bagpipe, and
a man's high voice half singing, half yelling a brief verse, at the end
of which a wild flourish on some other reedy wood instrument. Alvina sat
still in surprise. It was a strange, high, rapid, yelling music, the very
voice of the mountains. Beautiful, in our musical sense of the word, it
was not. But oh, the magic, the nostalgia of the untamed, heathen past
which it evoked.

"It is for Christmas," said Ciccio. "They will come every day now."

Alvina rose and went round to the little balcony. Two men stood below,
amid the crumbling of finely falling snow. One, the elder, had a bagpipe
whose bag was patched with shirting: the younger was dressed in greenish
clothes, he had his face lifted, and was yelling the verses of the
unintelligible Christmas ballad: short, rapid verses, followed by a
brilliant flourish on a short wooden pipe he held ready in his hand.
Alvina felt he was going to be out of breath. But no, rapid and high came
the next verse, verse after verse, with the wild scream on the little new
pipe in between, over the roar of the bagpipe. And the crumbs of snow
were like a speckled veil, faintly drifting the atmosphere and powdering
the littered threshold where they stood--a threshold littered with
faggots, leaves, straw, fowls and geese and ass droppings, and rag thrown
out from the house, and pieces of paper.

The carol suddenly ended, the young man snatched off his hat to Alvina
who stood above, and in the same breath he was gone, followed by the
bagpipe. Alvina saw them dropping hurriedly down the incline between the
twiggy wild oaks.

"They will come every day now, till Christmas," said Ciccio. "They go to
every house."

And sure enough, when Alvina went down, in the cold, silent house, and
out to the well in the still crumbling snow, she heard the sound far off,
strange, yelling, wonderful: and the same ache for she knew not what
overcame her, so that she felt one might go mad, there in the veiled
silence of these mountains, in the great hilly valley cut off from the

Ciccio worked all day on the land or round about. He was building a
little earth closet also: the obvious and unscreened place outside was
impossible. It was curious how little he went to Pescocalascio, how
little he mixed with the natives. He seemed always to withhold something
from them. Only with his relatives, of whom he had many, he was more
free, in a kind of family intimacy.

Yet even here he was guarded. His uncle at the mill, an unwashed, fat man
with a wife who tinkled with gold and grime, and who shouted a few lost
words of American, insisted on giving Alvina wine and a sort of cake made
with cheese and rice. Ciccio too was feasted, in the dark hole of a room.
And the two natives seemed to press their cheer on Alvina and Ciccio

"How nice they are!" said Alvina when she had left. "They give so

But Ciccio smiled a wry smile, silent.

"Why do you make a face?" she said.

"It's because you are a foreigner, and they think you will go away
again," he said.

"But I should have thought that would make them less generous," she said.

"No. They like to give to foreigners. They don't like to give to the
people here. Giocomo puts water in the wine which he sells to the people
who go by. And if I leave the donkey in her shed, I give Marta Maria
something, or the next time she won't let me have it. Ha, they are--they
are sly ones, the people here."

"They are like that everywhere," said Alvina.

"Yes. But nowhere they say so many bad things about people as
here--nowhere where I have ever been."

It was strange to Alvina to feel the deep-bed-rock distrust which all the
hill-peasants seemed to have of one another. They were watchful,
venomous, dangerous.

"Ah," said Pancrazio, "I am glad there is a woman in my house once more."

"But did _nobody_ come in and do for you before?" asked Alvina. "Why didn't
you pay somebody?"

"Nobody will come," said Pancrazio, in his slow, aristocratic English.
"Nobody will come, because I am a man, and if somebody should see her at
my house, they will all talk."

"Talk!" Alvina looked at the deeply-lined man of sixty-six. "But what
will they say?"

"Many bad things. Many bad things indeed. They are not good people here.
All saying bad things, and all jealous. They don't like me because I have
a house--they think I am too much a _signore_. They say to me 'Why do you
think you are a signore?' Oh, they are bad people, envious, you cannot
have anything to do with them."

"They are nice to me," said Alvina.

"They think you will go away. But if you stay, they will say bad things.
You must wait. Oh, they are evil people, evil against one another,
against everybody but strangers who don't know them--"

Alvina felt the curious passion in Pancrazio's voice, the passion of a
man who has lived for many years in England and known the social
confidence of England, and who, coming back, is deeply injured by the
ancient malevolence of the remote, somewhat gloomy hill-peasantry. She
understood also why he was so glad to have her in his house, so proud,
why he loved serving her. She seemed to see a fairness, a luminousness in
the northern soul, something free, touched with divinity such as "these
people here" lacked entirely.

When she went to Ossona with him, she knew everybody questioned him about
her and Ciccio. She began to get the drift of the questions--which
Pancrazio answered with reserve.

"And how long are they staying?"

This was an invariable, envious question. And invariably Pancrazio
answered with a reserved--

"Some months. As long as they like."

And Alvina could feel waves of black envy go out against Pancrazio,
because she was domiciled with him, and because she sat with him in the
flat cart, driving to Ossona.

Yet Pancrazio himself was a study. He was thin, and very shabby, and
rather out of shape. Only in his yellow eyes lurked a strange sardonic
fire, and a leer which puzzled her. When Ciccio happened to be out in the
evening he would sit with her and tell her stories of Lord Leighton and
Millais and Alma Tadema and other academicians dead and living. There
would sometimes be a strange passivity on his worn face, an impassive,
almost Red Indian look. And then again he would stir into a curious,
arch, malevolent laugh, for all the world like a debauched old tom-cat.
His narration was like this: either simple, bare, stoical, with a touch
of nobility; or else satiric, malicious, with a strange, rather repellent

"Leighton--he wasn't Lord Leighton then--he wouldn't have me to sit for
him, because my figure was too poor, he didn't like it. He liked fair
young men, with plenty of flesh. But once, when he was doing a picture--I
don't know if you know it? It is a crucifixion, with a man on a cross,
and--" He described the picture. "No! Well, the model had to be tied
hanging on to a wooden cross. And it made you suffer! Ah!" Here the odd,
arch, diabolic yellow flare lit up through the stoicism of Pancrazio's
eyes. "Because Leighton, he was cruel to his model. He wouldn't let you
rest. 'Damn you, you've got to keep still till I've finished with you,
you devil,' so he said. Well, for this man on the cross, he couldn't get
a model who would do it for him. They all tried it once, but they would
not go again. So they said to him, he must try Califano, because Califano
was the only man who would stand it. At last then he sent for me. 'I
don't like your damned figure, Califano,' he said to me 'but nobody will
do this if you won't. Now will you do it?' 'Yes!' I said, 'I will.' So he
tied me up on the cross. And he paid me well, so I stood it. Well, he
kept me tied up, hanging you know forwards naked on this cross, for four
hours. And then it was luncheon. And after luncheon he would tie me
again. Well, I suffered. I suffered so much, that I must lean against the
wall to support me to walk home. And in the night I could not sleep, I
could cry with the pains in my arms and my ribs, I had no sleep. 'You've
said you'd do it, so now you must,' he said to me. 'And I will do it,' I
said. And so he tied me up. This cross, you know, was on a little raised
place--I don't know what you call it--"

"A platform," suggested Alvina.

"A platform. Now one day when he came to do something to me, when I was
tied up, he slipped back over this platform, and he pulled me, who was
tied on the cross, with him. So we all fell down, he with the naked man
on top of him, and the heavy cross on top of us both. I could not move,
because I was tied. And it was so, with me on top of him, and the heavy
cross, that he could not get out. So he had to lie shouting underneath me
until some one came to the studio to untie me. No, we were not hurt,
because the top of the cross fell so that it did not crush us. 'Now you
have had a taste of the cross,' I said to him. 'Yes, you devil, but I
shan't let you off,' he said to me.

"To make the time go he would ask me questions. Once he said, 'Now,
Califano, what time is it? I give you three guesses, and if you guess
right once I give you sixpence.' So I guessed three o'clock. 'That's one.
Now then, what time is it?' Again, three o'clock. 'That's two guesses
gone, you silly devil. Now then, what time is it?' So now I was
obstinate, and I said _Three o'clock_. He took out his watch. 'Why damn
you, how did you know? I give you a shilling--' It was three o'clock, as
I said, so he gave me a shilling instead of sixpence as he had said--"

It was strange, in the silent winter afternoon, downstairs in the black
kitchen, to sit drinking a cup of tea with Pancrazio and hearing these
stories of English painters. It was strange to look at the battered
figure of Pancrazio, and think how much he had been crucified through the
long years in London, for the sake of late Victorian art. It was
strangest of all to see through his yellow, often dull, red-rimmed eyes
these blithe and well-conditioned painters. Pancrazio looked on them
admiringly and contemptuously, as an old, rakish tom-cat might look on
such frivolous well-groomed young gentlemen.

As a matter of fact Pancrazio had never been rakish or debauched, but
mountain-moral, timid. So that the queer, half-sinister drop of his
eyelids was curious, and the strange, wicked yellow flare that came into
his eyes was almost frightening. There was in the man a sort of
sulphur-yellow flame of passion which would light up in his battered body
and give him an almost diabolic look. Alvina felt that if she were left
much alone with him she would need all her English ascendancy not to be
afraid of him.

It was a Sunday morning just before Christmas when Alvina and Ciccio and
Pancrazio set off for Pescocalascio for the first time. Snow had
fallen--not much round the house, but deep between the banks as they
climbed. And the sun was very bright. So that the mountains were
dazzling. The snow was wet on the roads. They wound between oak-trees and
under the broom-scrub, climbing over the jumbled hills that lay between
the mountains, until the village came near. They got on to a broader
track, where the path from a distant village joined theirs. They were all
talking, in the bright clear air of the morning.

A little man came down an upper path. As he joined them near the village
he hailed them in English:

"Good morning. Nice morning."

"Does everybody speak English here?" asked Alvina.

"I have been eighteen years in Glasgow. I am only here for a trip."

He was a little Italian shop-keeper from Glasgow. He was most friendly,
insisted on paying for drinks, and coffee and almond biscuits for Alvina.
Evidently he also was grateful to Britain.

The village was wonderful. It occupied the crown of an eminence in the
midst of the wide valley. From the terrace of the high-road the valley
spread below, with all its jumble of hills, and two rivers, set in the
walls of the mountains, a wide space, but imprisoned. It glistened with
snow under the blue sky. But the lowest hollows were brown. In the
distance, Ossona hung at the edge of a platform. Many villages clung like
pale swarms of birds to the far slopes, or perched on the hills beneath.
It was a world within a world, a valley of many hills and townlets and
streams shut in beyond access.

Pescocalascio itself was crowded. The roads were sloppy with snow. But
none the less, peasants in full dress, their feet soaked in the skin
sandals, were trooping in the sun, purchasing, selling, bargaining for
cloth, talking all the time. In the shop, which was also a sort of inn,
an ancient woman was making coffee over a charcoal brazier, while a crowd
of peasants sat at the tables at the back, eating the food they had

Post was due at midday. Ciccio went to fetch it, whilst Pancrazio took
Alvina to the summit, to the castle. There, in the level region, boys
were snowballing and shouting. The ancient castle, badly cracked by the
last earthquake, looked wonderfully down on the valley of many hills
beneath, Califano a speck down the left, Ossona a blot to the right,
suspended, its towers and its castle clear in the light. Behind the
castle of Pescocalascio was a deep, steep valley, almost a gorge, at the
bottom of which a river ran, and where Pancrazio pointed out the
electricity works of the village, deep in the gloom. Above this gorge, at
the end, rose the long slopes of the mountains, up to the vivid snow--and
across again was the wall of the Abruzzi.

They went down, past the ruined houses broken by the earthquake. Ciccio
still had not come with the post. A crowd surged at the post-office door,
in a steep, black, wet side-street. Alvina's feet were sodden. Pancrazio
took her to the place where she could drink coffee and a strega, to make
her warm. On the platform of the highway, above the valley, people were
parading in the hot sun. Alvina noticed some ultra-smart young men. They
came up to Pancrazio, speaking English. Alvina hated their Cockney accent
and florid showy vulgar presence. They were more models. Pancrazio was
cool with them.

Alvina sat apart from the crowd of peasants, on a chair the old crone had
ostentatiously dusted for her. Pancrazio ordered beer for himself. Ciccio
came with letters--long-delayed letters, that had been censored. Alvina's
heart went down.

The first she opened was from Miss Pinnegar--all war and fear and
anxiety. The second was a letter, a real insulting letter from Dr.
Mitchell. "I little thought, at the time when I was hoping to make you my
wife, that you were carrying on with a dirty Italian organ-grinder. So
your fair-seeming face covered the schemes and vice of your true nature.
Well, I can only thank Providence which spared me the disgust and shame
of marrying you, and I hope that, when I meet you on the streets of
Leicester Square, I shall have forgiven you sufficiently to be able to
throw you a coin--"

Here was a pretty little epistle! In spite of herself, she went pale and
trembled. She glanced at Ciccio. Fortunately he was turning round talking
to another man. She rose and went to the ruddy brazier, as if to warm her
hands. She threw on the screwed-up letter. The old crone said something
unintelligible to her. She watched the letter catch fire--glanced at the
peasants at the table--and out at the wide, wild valley. The world beyond
could not help, but it still had the power to injure one here. She felt
she had received a bitter blow. A black hatred for the Mitchells of this
world filled her.

She could hardly bear to open the third letter. It was from Mrs. Tuke,
and again, all war. Would Italy join the Allies? She ought to, her every
interest lay that way. Could Alvina bear to be so far off, when such
terrible events were happening near home? Could she possibly be happy?
Nurses were so valuable now. She, Mrs. Tuke, had volunteered. She would
do whatever she could. She had had to leave off nursing Jenifer, who had
an _excellent_ Scotch nurse, much better than a mother. Well, Alvina and
Mrs. Tuke might yet meet in some hospital in France. So the letter ended.

Alvina sat down, pale and trembling. Pancrazio was watching her

"Have you bad news?" he asked.

"Only the war."

"Ha!" and the Italian gesture of half-bitter "what can one do?"

They were talking war--all talking war. The dandy young models had left
England because of the war, expecting Italy to come in. And everybody
talked, talked, talked. Alvina looked round her. It all seemed alien to
her, bruising upon the spirit.

"Do you think I shall ever be able to come here alone and do my shopping
by myself?" she asked.

"You must never come alone," said Pancrazio, in his curious, benevolent
courtesy. "Either Ciccio or I will come with you. You must never come so
far alone."

"Why not?" she said.

"You are a stranger here. You are not a contadina--" Alvina could feel
the oriental idea of women, which still leaves its mark on the
Mediterranean, threatening her with surveillance and subjection. She sat
in her chair, with cold wet feet, looking at the sunshine outside, the
wet snow, the moving figures in the strong light, the men drinking at the
counter, the cluster of peasant women bargaining for dress-material.
Ciccio was still turning talking in the rapid way to his neighbour. She
knew it was war. She noticed the movement of his finely-modelled cheek, a
little sallow this morning.

And she rose hastily.

"I want to go into the sun," she said.

When she stood above the valley in the strong, tiring light, she glanced
round. Ciccio inside the shop had risen, but he was still turning to his
neighbour and was talking with all his hands and all his body. He did not
talk with his mind and lips alone. His whole physique, his whole living
body spoke and uttered and emphasized itself.

A certain weariness possessed her. She was beginning to realize something
about him: how he had no sense of home and domestic life, as an
Englishman has. Ciccio's home would never be his castle. His castle was
the piazza of Pescocalascio. His home was nothing to him but a
possession, and a hole to sleep in. He didn't live in it. He lived in the
open air, and in the community. When the true Italian came out in him,
his veriest home was the piazza of Pescocalascio, the little sort of
market-place where the roads met in the village, under the castle, and
where the men stood in groups and talked, talked, talked. This was where
Ciccio belonged: his active, mindful self. His active, mindful self was
none of hers. She only had his passive self, and his family passion. His
masculine mind and intelligence had its home in the little public square
of his village. She knew this as she watched him now, with all his body
talking politics. He could not break off till he had finished. And then,
with a swift, intimate handshake to the group with whom he had been
engaged, he came away, putting all his interest off from himself.

She tried to make him talk and discuss with her. But he wouldn't. An
obstinate spirit made him darkly refuse masculine conversation with her.

"If Italy goes to war, you will have to join up?" she asked him. "Yes,"
he said, with a smile at the futility of the question. "And I shall have
to stay here?"

He nodded, rather gloomily.

"Do you want to go?" she persisted.

"No, I don't want to go."

"But you think Italy ought to join in?"

"Yes, I do."

"Then you _do_ want to go--"

"I want to go if Italy goes in--and she ought to go in--"

Curious, he was somewhat afraid of her, he half venerated her, and half
despised her. When she tried to make him discuss, in the masculine way,
he shut obstinately against her, something like a child, and the slow,
fine smile of dislike came on his face. Instinctively he shut off all
masculine communication from her, particularly politics and religion. He
would discuss both, violently, with other men. In politics he was
something of a Socialist, in religion a free-thinker. But all this had
nothing to do with Alvina. He would not enter on a discussion in English.

Somewhere in her soul, she knew the finality of his refusal to hold
discussion with a woman. So, though at times her heart hardened with
indignant anger, she let herself remain outside. The more so, as she felt
that in matters intellectual he was rather stupid. Let him go to the
piazza or to the wine-shop, and talk.

To do him justice, he went little. Pescocalascio was only half his own
village. The nostalgia, the campanilismo from which Italians suffer, the
craving to be in sight of the native church-tower, to stand and talk in
the native market place or piazza, this was only half formed in Ciccio,
taken away as he had been from Pescocalascio when so small a boy. He
spent most of his time working in the fields and woods, most of his
evenings at home, often weaving a special kind of fish-net or net-basket
from fine, frail strips of cane. It was a work he had learned at Naples
long ago. Alvina meanwhile would sew for the child, or spin wool. She
became quite clever at drawing the strands of wool from her distaff,
rolling them fine and even between her fingers, and keeping her bobbin
rapidly spinning away below, dangling at the end of the thread. To tell
the truth, she was happy in the quietness with Ciccio, now they had their
own pleasant room. She loved his presence. She loved the quality of his
silence, so rich and physical. She felt he was never very far away: that
he was a good deal a stranger in Califano, as she was: that he clung to
her presence as she to his. Then Pancrazio also contrived to serve her
and shelter her, he too, loved her for being there. They both revered her
because she was with child. So that she lived more and more in a little,
isolate, illusory, wonderful world then, content, moreover, because the
living cost so little. She had sixty pounds of her own money, always
intact in the little case. And after all, the highway beyond the river
led to Ossona, and Ossona gave access to the railway, and the railway
would take her anywhere.

So the month of January passed, with its short days and its bits of snow
and bursts of sunshine. On sunny days Alvina walked down to the desolate
river-bed, which fascinated her. When Pancrazio was carrying up stone or
lime on the ass, she accompanied him. And Pancrazio was always carrying
up something, for he loved the extraneous jobs like building a fire-place
much more than the heavy work of the land. Then she would find little
tufts of wild narcissus among the rocks, gold-centred pale little things,
many on one stem. And their scent was powerful and magical, like the
sound of the men who came all those days and sang before Christmas. She
loved them. There was green hellebore too, a fascinating plant--and one
or two little treasures, the last of the rose-coloured Alpine cyclamens,
near the earth, with snake-skin leaves, and so rose, so rose, like
violets for shadowiness. She sat and cried over the first she found:
heaven knows why.

In February, as the days opened, the first almond trees flowered among
grey olives, in warm, level corners between the hills. But it was March
before the real flowering began. And then she had continual bowl-fuls of
white and blue violets, she had sprays of almond blossom, silver-warm and
lustrous, then sprays of peach and apricot, pink and fluttering. It was a
great joy to wander looking for flowers. She came upon a bankside all
wide with lavender crocuses. The sun was on them for the moment, and they
were opened flat, great five-pointed, seven-pointed lilac stars, with
burning centres, burning with a strange lavender flame, as she had seen
some metal burn lilac-flamed in the laboratory of the hospital at
Islington. All down the oak-dry bankside they burned their great exposed
stars. And she felt like going down on her knees and bending her forehead
to the earth in an oriental submission, they were so royal, so lovely, so
supreme. She came again to them in the morning, when the sky was grey,
and they were closed, sharp clubs, wonderfully fragile on their stems of
sap, among leaves and old grass and wild periwinkle. They had wonderful
dark stripes running up their cheeks, the crocuses, like the clear proud
stripes on a badger's face, or on some proud cat. She took a handful of
the sappy, shut, striped flames. In her room they opened into a grand
bowl of lilac fire.

March was a lovely month. The men were busy in the hills. She wandered,
extending her range. Sometimes with a strange fear. But it was a fear of
the elements rather than of man. One day she went along the high-road
with her letters, towards the village of Casa Latina. The high-road was
depressing, wherever there were houses. For the houses had that sordid,
ramshackle, slummy look almost invariable on an Italian high-road. They
were patched with a hideous, greenish mould-colour, blotched, as if with
leprosy. It frightened her, till Pancrazio told her it was only the
copper sulphate that had sprayed the vines hitched on to the walls. But
none the less the houses were sordid, unkempt, shimmy. One house by
itself could make a complete slum.

Casa Latina was across the valley, in the shadow. Approaching it were
rows of low cabins--fairly new. They were the one-storey dwellings
commanded after the earthquake. And hideous they were. The village itself
was old, dark, in perpetual shadow of the mountain. Streams of cold water
ran around it. The piazza was gloomy, forsaken. But there was a great,
twin-towered church, wonderful from outside.

She went inside, and was almost sick with repulsion. The place was large,
whitewashed, and crowded with figures in glass cases and ex voto
offerings. The lousy-looking, dressed-up dolls, life size and tinselly,
that stood in the glass cases; the blood-streaked Jesus on the crucifix;
the mouldering, mumbling, filthy peasant women on their knees; all the
sense of trashy, repulsive, degraded fetish-worship was too much for her.
She hurried out, shrinking from the contamination of the dirty leather

Enough of Casa Latina. She would never go there again. She was beginning
to feel that, if she lived in this part of the world at all, she must
avoid the _inside_ of it. She must never, if she could help it, enter into
any interior but her own--neither into house nor church nor even shop or
post-office, if she could help it. The moment she went through a door the
sense of dark repulsiveness came over her. If she was to save her sanity
she must keep to the open air, and avoid any contact with human
interiors. When she thought of the insides of the native people she
shuddered with repulsion, as in the great, degraded church of Casa
Latina. They were horrible.

Yet the outside world was so fair. Corn and maize were growing green and
silken, vines were in the small bud. Everywhere little grape hyacinths
hung their blue bells. It was a pity they reminded her of the
many-breasted Artemis, a picture of whom, or of whose statue, she had
seen somewhere. Artemis with her clusters of breasts was horrible to her,
now she had come south: nauseating beyond words. And the milky grape
hyacinths reminded her.

She turned with thankfulness to the magenta anemones that were so gay.
Some one told her that wherever Venus had shed a tear for Adonis, one of
these flowers had sprung. They were not tear-like. And yet their
red-purple silkiness had something pre-world about it, at last. The more
she wandered, the more the shadow of the by-gone pagan world seemed to
come over her. Sometimes she felt she would shriek and go mad, so strong
was the influence on her, something pre-world and, it seemed to her now,
vindictive. She seemed to feel in the air strange Furies, Lemures, things
that had haunted her with their tomb-frenzied vindictiveness since she
was a child and had pored over the illustrated Classical Dictionary.
Black and cruel presences were in the under-air. They were furtive and
slinking. They bewitched you with loveliness, and lurked with fangs to
hurt you afterwards. There it was: the fangs sheathed in beauty: the
beauty first, and then, horribly, inevitably, the fangs.

Being a great deal alone, in the strange place, fancies possessed her,
people took on strange shapes. Even Ciccio and Pancrazio. And it came
that she never wandered far from the house, from her room, after the
first months. She seemed to hide herself in her room. There she sewed and
spun wool and read, and learnt Italian. Her men were not at all anxious
to teach her Italian. Indeed her chief teacher, at first, was a young
fellow called Bussolo. He was a model from London, and he came down to
Califano sometimes, hanging about, anxious to speak English.

Alvina did not care for him. He was a dandy with pale grey eyes and a
heavy figure. Yet he had a certain penetrating intelligence.

"No, this country is a country for old men. It is only for old men," he
said, talking of Pescocalascio. "You won't stop here. Nobody young can
stop here."

The odd plangent certitude in his voice penetrated her. And all the young
people said the same thing. They were all waiting to go away. But for the
moment the war held them up.

Ciccio and Pancrazio were busy with the vines. As she watched them
hoeing, crouching, tying, tending, grafting, mindless and utterly
absorbed, hour after hour, day after day, thinking vines, living vines,
she wondered they didn't begin to sprout vine-buds and vine stems from
their own elbows and neck-joints. There was something to her unnatural in
the quality of the attention the men gave to the wine. It was a sort of
worship, almost a degradation again. And heaven knows, Pancrazio's wine
was poor enough, his grapes almost invariably bruised with hail-stones,
and half-rotten instead of ripe.

The loveliness of April came, with hot sunshine. Astonishing the ferocity
of the sun, when he really took upon himself to blaze. Alvina was amazed.
The burning day quite carried her away. She loved it: it made her quite
careless about everything, she was just swept along in the powerful flood
of the sunshine. In the end, she felt that intense sunlight had on her
the effect of night: a sort of darkness, and a suspension of life. She
had to hide in her room till the cold wind blew again.

Meanwhile the declaration of war drew nearer, and became inevitable. She
knew Ciccio would go. And with him went the chance of her escape. She
steeled herself to bear the agony of the knowledge that he would go, and
she would be left alone in this place, which sometimes she hated with a
hatred unspeakable. After a spell of hot, intensely dry weather she felt
she would die in this valley, wither and go to powder as some exposed
April roses withered and dried into dust against a hot wall. Then the
cool wind came in a storm, the next day there was grey sky and soft air.
The rose-coloured wild gladioli among the young green corn were a dream
of beauty, the morning of the world. The lovely, pristine morning of the
world, before our epoch began. Rose-red gladioli among corn, in among the
rocks, and small irises, black-purple and yellow blotched with brown,
like a wasp, standing low in little desert places, that would seem
forlorn but for this weird, dark-lustrous magnificence. Then there were
the tiny irises, only one finger tall, growing in dry places, frail as
crocuses, and much tinier, and blue, blue as the eye of the morning
heaven, which was a morning earlier, more pristine than ours. The lovely
translucent pale irises, tiny and morning-blue, they lasted only a few
hours. But nothing could be more exquisite, like gods on earth. It was
the flowers that brought back to Alvina the passionate nostalgia for the
place. The human influence was a bit horrible to her. But the flowers
that came out and uttered the earth in magical expression, they cast a
spell on her, bewitched her and stole her own soul away from her.

She went down to Ciccio where he was weeding armfuls of rose-red gladioli
from the half-grown wheat, and cutting the lushness of the first weedy
herbage. He threw down his sheaves of gladioli, and with his sickle began
to cut the forest of bright yellow corn-marigolds. He looked intent, he
seemed to work feverishly.

"Must they all be cut?" she said, as she went to him.

He threw aside the great armful of yellow flowers, took off his cap, and
wiped the sweat from his brow. The sickle dangled loose in his hand.

"We have declared war," he said.

In an instant she realized that she had seen the figure of the old
post-carrier dodging between the rocks. Rose-red and gold-yellow of the
flowers swam in her eyes. Ciccio's dusk-yellow eyes were watching her.
She sank on her knees on a sheaf of corn-marigolds. Her eyes, watching
him, were vulnerable as if stricken to death. Indeed she felt she would

"You will have to go?" she said.

"Yes, we shall all have to go." There seemed a certain sound of triumph
in his voice. Cruel!

She sank lower on the flowers, and her head dropped. But she would not be
beaten. She lifted her face.

"If you are very long," she said, "I shall go to England. I can't stay
here very long without you."

"You will have Pancrazio--and the child," he said.

"Yes. But I shall still be myself. I can't stay here very long without
you. I shall go to England."

He watched her narrowly.

"I don't think they'll let you," he said.

"Yes they will."

At moments she hated him. He seemed to want to crush her altogether. She
was always making little plans in her mind--how she could get out of that
great cruel valley and escape to Rome, to English people. She would find
the English Consul and he would help her. She would do anything rather
than be really crushed. She knew how easy it would be, once her spirit
broke, for her to die and be buried in the cemetery at Pescocalascio.

And they would all be so sentimental about her--just as Pancrazio was.
She felt that in some way Pancrazio had killed his wife--not consciously,
but unconsciously, as Ciccio might kill _her_. Pancrazio would tell Alvina
about his wife and her ailments. And he seemed always anxious to prove
that he had been so good to her. No doubt he had been good to her, also.
But there was something underneath--malevolent in his spirit, some
caged-in sort of cruelty, malignant beyond his control. It crept out in
his stories. And it revealed itself in his fear of his dead wife. Alvina
knew that in the night the elderly man was afraid of his dead wife, and
of her ghost or her avenging spirit. He would huddle over the fire in
fear. In the same way the cemetery had a fascination of horror for
him--as, she noticed, for most of the natives. It was an ugly, square
place, all stone slabs and wall-cupboards, enclosed in foursquare stone
walls, and lying away beneath Pescocalascio village obvious as if it were
on a plate.

"That is our cemetery," Pancrazio said, pointing it out to her, "where we
shall all be carried some day."

And there was fear, horror in his voice. He told her how the men had
carried his wife there--a long journey over the hill-tracks, almost two

These were days of waiting--horrible days of waiting for Ciccio to be
called up. One batch of young men left the village--and there was a
lugubrious sort of saturnalia, men and women alike got rather drunk, the
young men left amid howls of lamentation and shrieks of distress. Crowds
accompanied them to Ossona, whence they were marched towards the railway.
It was a horrible event.

A shiver of horror and death went through the valley. In a lugubrious
way, they seemed to enjoy it.

"You'll never be satisfied till you've gone," she said to Ciccio. "Why
don't they be quick and call you?"

"It will be next week," he said, looking at her darkly. In the twilight
he came to her, when she could hardly see him.

"Are you sorry you came here with me, Allaye?" he asked. There was malice
in the very question.

She put down the spoon and looked up from the fire. He stood shadowy, his
head ducked forward, the firelight faint on his enigmatic, timeless,
half-smiling face.

"I'm not sorry," she answered slowly, using all her courage. "Because I
love you--"

She crouched quite still on the hearth. He turned aside his face. After a
moment or two he went out. She stirred her pot slowly and sadly. She had
to go downstairs for something.

And there on the landing she saw him standing in the darkness with his
arm over his face, as if fending a blow.

"What is it?" she said, laying her hand on him. He uncovered his face.

"I would take you away if I could," he said.

"I can wait for you," she answered.

He threw himself in a chair that stood at a table there on the broad
landing, and buried his head in his arms.

"Don't wait for me! Don't wait for me!" he cried, his voice muffled. "Why
not?" she said, filled with terror. He made no sign. "Why not?" she
insisted. And she laid her fingers on his head.

He got up and turned to her.

"I love you, even if it kills me," she said.

But he only turned aside again, leaned his arm against the wall, and hid
his face, utterly noiseless.

"What is it?" she said. "What is it? I don't understand." He wiped his
sleeve across his face, and turned to her.

"I haven't any hope," he said, in a dull, dogged voice.

She felt her heart and the child die within her.

"Why?" she said.

Was she to bear a hopeless child?

"You _have_ hope. Don't make a scene," she snapped. And she went
downstairs, as she had intended.

And when she got into the kitchen, she forgot what she had come for. She
sat in the darkness on the seat, with all life gone dark and still, death
and eternity settled down on her. Death and eternity were settled down on
her as she sat alone. And she seemed to hear him moaning upstairs--"I
can't come back. I can't come back." She heard it. She heard it so
distinctly, that she never knew whether it had been an actual utterance,
or whether it was her inner ear which had heard the inner, unutterable
sound. She wanted to answer, to call to him. But she could not. Heavy,
mute, powerless, there she sat like a lump of darkness, in that doomed
Italian kitchen. "I can't come back." She heard it so fatally.

She was interrupted by the entrance of Pancrazio.

"Oh!" he cried, startled when, having come near the fire, he caught sight
of her. And he said something, frightened, in Italian.

"Is it you? Why are you in the darkness?" he said.

"I am just going upstairs again."

"You frightened me."

She went up to finish the preparing of the meal. Ciccio came down to
Pancrazio. The latter had brought a newspaper. The two men sat on the
settle, with the lamp between them, reading and talking the news.

Ciccio's group was called up for the following week, as he had said. The
departure hung over them like a doom. Those were perhaps the worst days
of all: the days of the impending departure. Neither of them spoke about

But the night before he left she could bear the silence no more.

"You will come back, won't you?" she said, as he sat motionless in his
chair in the bedroom. It was a hot, luminous night. There was still a
late scent of orange blossom from the garden, the nightingale was shaking
the air with his sound. At times other, honey scents wafted from the

"You will come back?" she insisted.

"Who knows?" he replied.

"If you make up your mind to come back, you will come back. We have our
fate in our hands," she said.

He smiled slowly.

"You think so?" he said.

"I know it. If you don't come back it will be because you don't want
to--no other reason. It won't be because you can't. It will be because
you don't want to."

"Who told you so?" he asked, with the same cruel smile. "I know it," she

"All right," he answered.

But he still sat with his hands abandoned between his knees. "So make up
your mind," she said.

He sat motionless for a long while: while she undressed and brushed her
hair and went to bed. And still he sat there unmoving, like a corpse. It
was like having some unnatural, doomed, unbearable presence in the room.
She blew out the light, that she need not see him. But in the darkness it
was worse.

At last he stirred--he rose. He came hesitating across to her.

"I'll come back, Allaye," he said quietly. "Be damned to them all." She
heard unspeakable pain in his voice.

"To whom?" she said, sitting up.

He did not answer, but put his arms round her.

"I'll come back, and we'll go to America," he said.

"You'll come back to me," she whispered, in an ecstasy of pain and
relief. It was not her affair, where they should go, so long as he really
returned to her.

"I'll come back," he said.

"Sure?" she whispered, straining him to her.


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