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Title: Bliss, and Other Stories
Author: Katherine Mansfield
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 15
Language: English
Date first posted: March 2015
Date most recently updated: March 2015

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Bliss, and Other Stories
Author: Katherine Mansfield

* * *

BLISS
AND OTHER STORIES

Published 1920

*

"..._but I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle danger, we
pluck this flower, safety._"

*

TO
JOHN MIDDLETON MURRY

*

CONTENTS

PRELUDE
JE NE PARLE PAS FRANÇAIS
BLISS
THE WIND BLOWS
PSYCHOLOGY
PICTURES
THE MAN WITHOUT A TEMPERAMENT
MR. REGINALD PEACOCK'S DAY
SUN AND MOON
FEUILLE D'ALBUM
A DILL PICKLE
THE LITTLE GOVERNESS
REVELATIONS
THE ESCAPE

*

PRELUDE

1

THERE was not an inch of room for Lottie and Kezia in the buggy. When
Pat swung them on top of the luggage they wobbled; the grandmother's
lap was full and Linda Burnell could not possibly have held a lump of
a child on hers for any distance. Isabel, very superior, was perched
beside the new handy-man on the driver's seat. Hold-alls, bags and
boxes were piled upon the floor. "These are absolute necessities that
I will not let out of my sight for one instant," said Linda Burnell,
her voice trembling with fatigue and excitement.

Lottie and Kezia stood on the patch of lawn just inside the gate all
ready for the fray in their coats with brass anchor buttons and little
round caps with battleship ribbons. Hand in hand, they stared with
round solemn eyes first at the absolute necessities and then at their
mother.

"We shall simply have to leave them. That is all. We shall simply have
to cast them off," said Linda Burnell. A strange little laugh flew
from her lips; she leaned back against the buttoned leather cushions
and shut her eyes, her lips trembling with laughter. Happily at that
moment Mrs. Samuel Josephs, who had been watching the scene from
behind her drawing-room blind, waddled down the garden path.

"Why nod leave the chudren with be for the afterdoon, Brs. Burnell?
They could go on the dray with the storeban when he comes in the
eveding. Those thigs on the path have to go, dod't they?"

"Yes, everything outside the house is supposed to go," said Linda
Burnell, and she waved a white hand at the tables and chairs standing
on their heads on the front lawn. How absurd they looked! Either they
ought to be the other way up, or Lottie and Kezia ought to stand on
their heads, too. And she longed to say: "Stand on your heads,
children, and wait for the store-man." It seemed to her that would be
so exquisitely funny that she could not attend to Mrs. Samuel Josephs.

The fat creaking body leaned across the gate, and the big jelly of a
face smiled. "Dod't you worry, Brs. Burnell. Loddie and Kezia can have
tea with by chudren in the dursery, and I'll see theb on the dray
afterwards."

The grandmother considered. "Yes, it really is quite the best plan. We
are very obliged to you, Mrs. Samuel Josephs. Children, say 'thank
you' to Mrs. Samuel Josephs."

Two subdued chirrups: "Thank you, Mrs. Samuel Josephs."

"And be good little girls, and--come closer--" they advanced, "don't
forget to tell Mrs. Samuel Josephs when you want to..."

"No, granma."

"Dod't worry, Brs. Burnell."

At the last moment Kezia let go Lottie's hand and darted towards the
buggy.

"I want to kiss my granma good-bye again."

But she was too late. The buggy rolled off up the road, Isabel
bursting with pride, her nose turned up at all the world, Linda
Burnell prostrated, and the grandmother rummaging among the very
curious oddments she had had put in her black silk reticule at the
last moment, for something to give her daughter. The buggy twinkled
away in the sunlight and fine golden dust up the hill and over. Kezia
bit her lip, but Lottie, carefully finding her handkerchief first, set
up a wail.

"Mother! Granma!"

Mrs. Samuel Josephs, like a huge warm black silk tea cosy, enveloped
her.

"It's all right, by dear. Be a brave child. You come and blay in the
dursery!"

She put her arm round weeping Lottie and led her away. Kezia followed,
making a face at Mrs. Samuel Josephs' placket, which was undone as
usual, with two long pink corset laces hanging out of it...

Lottie's weeping died down as she mounted the stairs, but the sight of
her at the nursery door with swollen eyes and a blob of a nose gave
great satisfaction to the S. J.'s, who sat on two benches before a
long table covered with American cloth and set out with immense plates
of bread and dripping and two brown jugs that faintly steamed.

"Hullo! You've been crying!"

"Ooh! Your eyes have gone right in."

"Doesn't her nose look funny."

"You're all red-and-patchy."

Lottie was quite a success. She felt it and swelled, smiling timidly.

"Go and sit by Zaidee, ducky," said Mrs. Samuel Josephs, "and Kezia,
you sid ad the end by Boses."

Moses grinned and gave her a nip as she sat down; but she pretended
not to notice. She did hate boys.

"Which will you have?" asked Stanley, leaning across the table very
politely, and smiling at her. "Which will you have to begin
with--strawberries and cream or bread and dripping?"

"Strawberries and cream, please," said she.

"Ah-h-h-h." How they all laughed and beat the table with their
teaspoons. Wasn't that a take in! Wasn't it now! Didn't he fox her!
Good old Stan!

"Ma! She thought it was real."

Even Mrs. Samuel Josephs, pouring out the milk and water, could not
help smiling. "You bustn't tease theb on their last day," she wheezed.

But Kezia bit a big piece out of her bread and dripping, and then
stood the piece up on her plate. With the bite out it made a dear
little sort of a gate. Pooh! She didn't care! A tear rolled down her
cheek, but she wasn't crying. She couldn't have cried in front of
those awful Samuel Josephs. She sat with her head bent, and as the
tear dripped slowly down, she caught it with a neat little whisk of
her tongue and ate it before any of them had seen.



2

After tea Kezia wandered back to their own house. Slowly she walked up
the back steps, and through the scullery into the kitchen. Nothing was
left in it but a lump of gritty yellow soap in one corner of the
kitchen window sill and a piece of flannel stained with a blue bag in
another. The fireplace was choked up with rubbish. She poked among it
but found nothing except a hair-tidy with a heart painted on it that
had belonged to the servant girl. Even that she left lying, and she
trailed through the narrow passage into the drawing-room. The Venetian
blind was pulled down but not drawn close. Long pencil rays of
sunlight shone through and the wavy shadow of a bush outside danced on
the gold lines. Now it was still, now it began to flutter again, and
now it came almost as far as her feet. Zoom! Zoom! a blue-bottle
knocked against the ceiling; the carpet-tacks had little bits of red
fluff sticking to them.

The dining-room window had a square of coloured glass at each corner.
One was blue and one was yellow. Kezia bent down to have one more look
at a blue lawn with blue arum lilies growing at the gate, and then at
a yellow lawn with yellow lilies and a yellow fence. As she looked a
little Chinese Lottie came out on to the lawn and began to dust the
tables and chairs with a corner of her pinafore. Was that really
Lottie? Kezia was not quite sure until she had looked through the
ordinary window.

Upstairs in her father's and mother's room she found a pill box black
and shiny outside and red in, holding a blob of cotton wool.

"I could keep a bird's egg in that," she decided.

In the servant girl's room there was a stay-button stuck in a crack of
the floor, and in another crack some beads and a long needle. She knew
there was nothing in her grandmother's room; she had watched her pack.
She went over to the window and leaned against it, pressing her hands
against the pane.

Kezia liked to stand so before the window. She liked the feeling of
the cold shining glass against her hot palms, and she liked to watch
the funny white tops that came on her fingers when she pressed them
hard against the pane. As she stood there, the day flickered out and
dark came. With the dark crept the wind snuffling and howling. The
windows of the empty house shook, a creaking came from the walls and
floors, a piece of loose iron on the roof banged forlornly. Kezia was
suddenly quite, quite still, with wide open eyes and knees pressed
together. She was frightened. She wanted to call Lottie and to go on
calling all the while she ran downstairs and out of the house. But IT
was just behind her, waiting at the door, at the head of the stairs,
at the bottom of the stairs, hiding in the passage, ready to dart out
at the back door. But Lottie was at the back door, too.

"Kezia!" she called cheerfully. "The storeman's here. Everything is on
the dray and three horses, Kezia. Mrs. Samuel Josephs has given us a
big shawl to wear round us, and she says to button up your coat. She
won't come out because of asthma."

Lottie was very important.

"Now then, you kids," called the storeman. He hooked his big thumbs
under their arms and up they swung. Lottie arranged the shawl "most
beautifully" and the storeman tucked up their feet in a piece of old
blanket.

"Lift up. Easy does it."

They might have been a couple of young ponies. The storeman felt over
the cords holding his load, unhooked the brakechain from the wheel,
and whistling, he swung up beside them.

"Keep close to me," said Lottie, "because otherwise you pull the shawl
away from my side, Kezia."

But Kezia edged up to the storeman. He towered beside her big as a
giant and he smelled of nuts and new wooden boxes.



3

It was the first time that Lottie and Kezia had ever been out so late.
Everything looked different--the painted wooden houses far smaller
than they did by day, the gardens far bigger and wilder. Bright stars
speckled the sky and the moon hung over the harbour dabbling the waves
with gold. They could see the lighthouse shining on Quarantine Island,
and the green lights on the old coal hulks.

"There comes the Picton boat," said the storeman, pointing to a little
steamer all hung with bright beads.

But when they reached the top of the hill and began to go down the
other side the harbour disappeared, and although they were still in
the town they were quite lost. Other carts rattled past. Everybody
knew the storeman.

"Night, Fred."

"Night O," he shouted.

Kezia liked very much to hear him. Whenever a cart appeared in the
distance she looked up and waited for his voice. He was an old friend;
and she and her grandmother had often been to his place to buy grapes.
The storeman lived alone in a cottage that had a glasshouse against
one wall built by himself. All the glasshouse was spanned and arched
over with one beautiful vine. He took her brown basket from her, lined
it with three large leaves, and then he felt in his belt for a little
horn knife, reached up and snapped off a big blue cluster and laid it
on the leaves so tenderly that Kezia held her breath to watch. He was
a very big man. He wore brown velvet trousers, and he had a long brown
beard. But he never wore a collar, not even on Sunday. The back of his
neck was burnt bright red.

"Where are we now?" Every few minutes one of the children asked him
the question.

"Why, this is Hawk Street, or Charlotte Crescent."

"Of course it is," Lottie pricked up her ears at the last name; she
always felt that Charlotte Crescent belonged specially to her. Very
few people had streets with the same name as theirs.

"Look, Kezia, there is Charlotte Crescent. Doesn't it look different?"
Now everything familiar was left behind. Now the big dray rattled into
unknown country, along new roads with high clay banks on either side,
up steep, steep hills, down into bushy valleys, through wide shallow
rivers. Further and further. Lottie's head wagged; she drooped, she
slipped half into Kezia's lap and lay there. But Kezia could not open
her eyes wide enough. The wind blew and she shivered; but her cheeks
and ears burned.

"Do stars ever blow about?" she asked.

"Not to notice," said the storeman.

"We've got a nuncle and a naunt living near our new house," said
Kezia. "They have got two children, Pip, the eldest is called, and the
youngest's name is Rags. He's got a ram. He has to feed it with a
nenamuel teapot and a glove top over the spout. He's going to show us.
What is the difference between a ram and a sheep?"

"Well, a ram has horns and runs for you."

Kezia considered. "I don't want to see it frightfully," she said. "I
hate rushing animals like dogs and parrots. I often dream that animals
rush at me--even camels--and while they are rushing, their heads swell
e-enormous."

The storeman said nothing. Kezia peered up at him, screwing up her
eyes. Then she put her finger out and stroked his sleeve; it felt
hairy. "Are we near?" she asked.

"Not far off, now," answered the storeman. "Getting tired?"

"Well, I'm not an atom bit sleepy," said Kezia. "But my eyes keep
curling up in such a funny sort of way." She gave a long sigh, and to
stop her eyes from curling she shut them...When she opened them
again they were clanking through a drive that cut through the garden
like a whip lash, looping suddenly an island of green, and behind the
island, but out of sight until you came upon it, was the house. It was
long and low built, with a pillared verandah and balcony all the way
round. The soft white bulk of it lay stretched upon the green garden
like a sleeping beast. And now one and now another of the windows
leaped into light. Someone was walking through the empty rooms
carrying a lamp. From a window downstairs the light of a fire
flickered. A strange beautiful excitement seemed to stream from the
house in quivering ripples.

"Where are we?" said Lottie, sitting up. Her reefer cap was all on one
side and on her cheek there was the print of an anchor button she had
pressed against while sleeping. Tenderly the storeman lifted her, set
her cap straight, and pulled down her crumpled clothes. She stood
blinking on the lowest verandah step watching Kezia who seemed to come
flying through the air to her feet.

"Ooh!" cried Kezia, flinging up her arms. The grandmother came out of
the dark hall carrying a little lamp. She was smiling.

"You found your way in the dark?" said she.

"Perfectly well."

But Lottie staggered on the lowest verandah step like a bird fallen
out of the nest. If she stood still for a moment she fell asleep, if
she leaned against anything her eyes closed. She could not walk
another step.

"Kezia," said the grandmother, "can I trust you to carry the lamp?"

"Yes, my granma."

The old woman bent down and gave the bright breathing thing into her
hands and then she caught up drunken Lottie. "This way."

Through a square hall filled with bales and hundreds of parrots (but
the parrots were only on the wall-paper) down a narrow passage where
the parrots persisted in flying past Kezia with her lamp.

"Be very quiet," warned the grandmother, putting down Lottie and
opening the dining-room door. "Poor little mother has got such a
headache."

Linda Burnell, in a long cane chair, with her feet on a hassock, and a
plaid over her knees, lay before a crackling fire. Burnell and Beryl
sat at the table in the middle of the room eating a dish of fried
chops and drinking tea out of a brown china teapot. Over the back of
her mother's chair leaned Isabel. She had a comb in her fingers and in
a gentle absorbed fashion she was combing the curls from her mother's
forehead. Outside the pool of lamp and firelight the room stretched
dark and bare to the hollow windows.

"Are those the children?" But Linda did not really care; she did not
even open her eyes to see.

"Put down the lamp, Kezia," said Aunt Beryl, "or we shall have the
house on fire before we are out of the packing cases. More tea,
Stanley?"

"Well, you might just give me five-eighths of a cup," said Burnell,
leaning across the table. "Have another chop, Beryl. Tip-top meat,
isn't it? Not too lean and not too fat." He turned to his wife.
"You're sure you won't change your mind, Linda darling?"

"The very thought of it is enough." She raised one eyebrow in the way
she had. The grandmother brought the children bread and milk and they
sat up to table, flushed and sleepy behind the wavy steam.

"I had meat for my supper," said Isabel, still combing gently.

"I had a whole chop for my supper, the bone and all and Worcester
sauce. Didn't I, father?"

"Oh, don't boast, Isabel," said Aunt Beryl.

Isabel looked astounded. "I wasn't boasting, was I, Mummy? I never
thought of boasting. I thought they would like to know. I only meant
to tell them."

"Very well. That's enough," said Burnell. He pushed back his plate,
took a tooth-pick out of his pocket and began picking his strong white
teeth.

"You might see that Fred has a bite of something in the kitchen before
he goes, will you, mother?"

"Yes, Stanley." The old woman turned to go.

"Oh, hold on half a jiffy. I suppose nobody knows where my slippers
were put? I suppose I shall not be able to get at them for a month or
two--what?"

"Yes," came from Linda. "In the top of the canvas hold-all marked
'urgent necessities.'"

"Well you might get them for me will you, mother?"

"Yes, Stanley."

Burnell got up, stretched himself, and going over to the fire he
turned his back to it and lifted up his coat tails.

"By Jove, this is a pretty pickle. Eh, Beryl?"

Beryl, sipping tea, her elbows on the table, smiled over the cup at
him. She wore an unfamiliar pink pinafore; the sleeves of her blouse
were rolled up to her shoulders showing her lovely freckled arms, and
she had let her hair fall down her back in a long pig-tail.

"How long do you think it will take to get straight--couple of
weeks--eh?" he chaffed.

"Good heavens, no," said Beryl airily. "The worst is over already. The
servant girl and I have simply slaved all day, and ever since mother
came she has worked like a horse, too. We have never sat down for a
moment. We have had a day."

Stanley scented a rebuke.

"Well, I suppose you did not expect me to rush away from the office
and nail carpets--did you?"

"Certainly not," laughed Beryl. She put down her cup and ran out of
the dining-room.

"What the hell does she expect us to do?" asked Stanley. "Sit down and
fan herself with a palm leaf fan while I have a gang of professionals
to do the job? By Jove, if she can't do a hand's turn occasionally
without shouting about it in return for..."

And he gloomed as the chops began to fight the tea in his sensitive
stomach. But Linda put up a hand and dragged him down to the side of
her long chair.

"This is a wretched time for you, old boy," she said. Her cheeks were
very white but she smiled and curled her fingers into the big red hand
she held. Burnell became quiet. Suddenly he began to whistle "Pure as
a lily, joyous and free"--a good sign.

"Think you're going to like it?" he asked.

"I don't want to tell you, but I think I ought to, mother," said
Isabel. "Kezia is drinking tea out of Aunt Beryl's cup."



4

They were taken off to bed by the grandmother. She went first with a
candle; the stairs rang to their climbing feet. Isabel and Lottie lay
in a room to themselves, Kezia curled in her grandmother's soft bed.

"Aren't there going to be any sheets, my granma?"

"No, not to-night."

"It's tickly," said Kezia, "but it's like Indians." She dragged her
grandmother down to her and kissed her under the chin. "Come to bed
soon and be my Indian brave."

"What a silly you are," said the old woman, tucking her in as she
loved to be tucked.

"Aren't you going to leave me a candle?"

"No. Sh--h. Go to sleep."

"Well, can I have the door left open?"

She rolled herself up into a round but she did not go to sleep. From
all over the house came the sound of steps. The house itself creaked
and popped. Loud whispering voices came from downstairs. Once she
heard Aunt Beryl's rush of high laughter, and once she heard a loud
trumpeting from Burnell blowing his nose. Outside the window hundreds
of black cats with yellow eyes sat in the sky watching her--but she
was not frightened. Lottie was saying to Isabel:

"I'm going to say my prayers in bed to-night."

"No you can't, Lottie." Isabel was very firm. "God only excuses you
saying your prayers in bed if you've got a temperature." So Lottie
yielded:

  Gentle Jesus meek anmile,
  Look pon a little chile.
  Pity me, simple Lizzie
  Suffer me to come to thee.

And then they lay down back to back, their little behinds just
touching, and fell asleep.



Standing in a pool of moonlight Beryl Fairfield undressed herself. She
was tired, but she pretended to be more tired than she really
was--letting her clothes fall, pushing back with a languid gesture her
warm, heavy hair.

"Oh, how tired I am--very tired."

She shut her eyes a moment, but her lips smiled. Her breath rose and
fell in her breast like two fanning wings. The window was wide open;
it was warm, and somewhere out there in the garden a young man, dark
and slender, with mocking eyes, tip-toed among the bushes, and
gathered the flowers into a big bouquet, and shipped under her window
and held it up to her. She saw herself bending forward. He thrust his
head among the bright waxy flowers, sly and laughing. "No, no," said
Beryl. She turned from the window and dropped her nightgown over her
head.

"How frightfully unreasonable Stanley is sometimes," she thought,
buttoning. And then, as she lay down, there came the old thought, the
cruel thought--ah, if only she had money of her own.

A young man, immensely rich, has just arrived from England. He meets
her quite by chance...The new governor is unmarried...There
is a ball at Government house...Who is that exquisite creature in
_eau de nil_ satin? Beryl Fairfield...



"The thing that pleases me," said Stanley, leaning against the side of
the bed and giving himself a good scratch on his shoulders and back
before turning in, "is that I've got the place dirt cheap, Linda. I
was talking about it to little Wally Bell to-day and he said he simply
could not understand why they had accepted my figure. You see land
about here is bound to become more and more valuable...in about
ten years' time...of course we shall have to go very slow and cut
down expenses as fine as possible. Not asleep--are you?"

"No, dear, I've heard every word," said Linda.

He sprang into bed, leaned over her and blew out the candle.

"Good night, Mr. Business Man," said she, and she took hold of his
head by the ears and gave him a quick kiss. Her faint far-away voice
seemed to come from a deep well.

"Good night, darling." He slipped his arm under her neck and drew her
to him.

"Yes, clasp me," said the faint voice from the deep well.



Pat the handy man sprawled in his little room behind the kitchen. His
sponge-bag coat and trousers hung from the door-peg like a hanged man.
From the edge of the blanket his twisted toes protruded, and on the
floor beside him there was an empty cane bird-cage. He looked like a
comic picture.

"Honk, honk," came from the servant girl. She had adenoids.

Last to go to bed was the grandmother.

"What. Not asleep yet?"

"No, I'm waiting for you," said Kezia. The old woman sighed and lay
down beside her. Kezia thrust her head under the grandmother's arm and
gave a little squeak. But the old woman only pressed her faintly, and
sighed again, took out her teeth, and put them in a glass of water
beside her on the floor.

In the garden some tiny owls, perched on the branches of a lace-bark
tree, called: "More pork; more pork." And far away in the bush there
sounded a harsh rapid chatter: "Ha-ha-ha...Ha-ha-ha."



5

Dawn came sharp and chill with red clouds on a faint green sky and
drops of water on every leaf and blade. A breeze blew over the garden,
dropping dew and dropping petals, shivered over the drenched paddocks,
and was lost in the sombre bush. In the sky some tiny stars floated
for a moment and then they were gone--they were dissolved like
bubbles. And plain to be heard in the early quiet was the sound of the
creek in the paddock running over the brown stones, running in and out
of the sandy hollows, hiding under clumps of dark berry bushes,
spilling into a swamp of yellow water flowers and cresses.

And then at the first beam of sun the birds began. Big cheeky birds,
starlings and mynahs, whistled on the lawns, the little birds, the
goldfinches and linnets and fan-tails flicked from bough to bough. A
lovely kingfisher perched on the paddock fence preening his rich
beauty, and a _tui_ sang his three notes and laughed and sang them
again.

"How loud the birds are," said Linda in her dream. She was walking
with her father through a green paddock sprinkled with daisies.
Suddenly he bent down and parted the grasses and showed her a tiny
ball of fluff just at her feet. "Oh, Papa, the darling." She made a
cup of her hands and caught the tiny bird and stroked its head with
her finger. It was quite tame. But a funny thing happened. As she
stroked it began to swell, it ruffled and pouched, it grew bigger and
bigger and its round eyes seemed to smile knowingly at her. Now her
arms were hardly wide enough to hold it and she dropped it into her
apron. It had become a baby with a big naked head and a gaping
bird-mouth, opening and shutting. Her father broke into a loud
clattering laugh and she woke to see Burnell standing by the windows
rattling the Venetian blind up to the very top.

"Hullo," he said. "Didn't wake you, did I? Nothing much wrong with the
weather this morning."

He was enormously pleased. Weather like this set a final seal on his
bargain. He felt, somehow, that he had bought the lovely day, too--got
it chucked in dirt cheap with the house and ground. He dashed off to
his bath and Linda turned over and raised herself on one elbow to see
the room by daylight. All the furniture had found a place--all the old
paraphernalia--as she expressed it. Even the photographs were on the
mantelpiece and the medicine bottles on the shelf above the
wash-stand. Her clothes lay across a chair--her outdoor things, a
purple cape and a round hat with a plume in it. Looking at them she
wished that she was going away from this house, too. And she saw
herself driving away from them all in a little buggy, driving away
from everybody and not even waving.

Back came Stanley girt with a towel, glowing and slapping his thighs.
He pitched the wet towel on top of her hat and cape, and standing firm
in the exact centre of a square of sunlight he began to do his
exercises. Deep breathing, bending and squatting like a frog and
shooting out his legs. He was so delighted with his firm, obedient
body that he hit himself on the chest and gave a loud "Ah." But this
amazing vigour seemed to set him worlds away from Linda. She lay on
the white tumbled bed and watched him as if from the clouds.

"Oh, damn! Oh, blast!" said Stanley, who had butted into a crisp white
shirt only to find that some idiot had fastened the neck-band and he
was caught. He stalked over to Linda waving his arms.

"You look like a big fat turkey," said she.

"Fat. I like that," said Stanley. "I haven't a square inch of fat on
me. Feel that."

"It's rock--it's iron," mocked she.

"You'd be surprised," said Stanley, as though this were intensely
interesting, "at the number of chaps at the club who have got a
corporation. Young chaps, you know--men of my age." He began parting
his bushy ginger hair, his blue eyes fixed and round in the glass, his
knees bent, because the dressing table was always--confound it--a bit
too low for him. "Little Wally Bell, for instance," and he
straightened, describing upon himself an enormous curve with the
hairbrush. "I must say I've a perfect horror..."

"My dear, don't worry. You'll never be fat. You are far too
energetic."

"Yes, yes, I suppose that's true," said he, comforted for the
hundredth time, and taking a pearl pen-knife out of his pocket he
began to pare his nails.

"Breakfast, Stanley." Beryl was at the door. "Oh, Linda, mother says
you are not to get up yet." She popped her head in at the door. She
had a big piece of syringa stuck through her hair.

"Everything we left on the verandah last night is simply sopping this
morning. You should see poor dear mother wringing out the tables and
the chairs. However, there is no harm done----" this with the faintest
glance at Stanley.

"Have you told Pat to have the buggy round in time? It's a good six
and a half miles to the office."

"I can imagine what this early start for the office will be like,"
thought Linda. "It will be very high pressure indeed."

"Pat, Pat." She heard the servant girl calling. But Pat was evidently
hard to find; the silly voice went baa--baaing through the garden.

Linda did not rest again until the final slam of the front door told
her that Stanley was really gone.

Later she heard her children playing in the garden. Lottie's stolid,
compact little voice cried: "Ke--zia. Isa--bel." She was always
getting lost or losing people only to find them again, to her great
surprise, round the next tree or the next corner. "Oh, there you are
after all." They had been turned out after breakfast and told not to
come back to the house until they were called. Isabel wheeled a neat
pramload of prim dolls and Lottie was allowed for a great treat to
walk beside her holding the doll's parasol over the face of the wax
one.

"Where are you going to, Kezia?" asked Isabel, who longed to find some
light and menial duty that Kezia might perform and so be roped in
under her government.

"Oh, just away," said Kezia...

Then she did not hear them any more. What a glare there was in the
room. She hated blinds pulled up to the top at any time, but in the
morning it was intolerable. She turned over to the wall and idly, with
one finger, she traced a poppy on the wall-paper with a leaf and a
stem and a fat bursting bud. In the quiet, and under her tracing
finger, the poppy seemed to come alive. She could feel the sticky,
silky petals, the stem, hairy like a gooseberry skin, the rough leaf
and the tight glazed bud. Things had a habit of coming alive like
that. Not only large substantial things like furniture, but curtains
and the patterns of stuffs and the fringes of quilts and cushions. How
often she had seen the tassel fringe of her quilt change into a funny
procession of dancers with priests attending...For there were
some tassels that did not dance at all but walked stately, bent
forward as if praying or chanting. How often the medicine bottles had
turned into a row of little men with brown top-hats on; and the
washstand jug had a way of sitting in the basin like a fat bird in a
round nest.

"I dreamed about birds last night," thought Linda. What was it? She
had forgotten. But the strangest part of this coming alive of things
was what they did. They listened, they seemed to swell out with some
mysterious important content, and when they were full she felt that
they smiled. But it was not for her, only, their sly secret smile;
they were members of a secret society and they smiled among
themselves. Sometimes, when she had fallen asleep in the daytime, she
woke and could not lift a finger, could not even turn her eyes to left
or right because THEY were there; sometimes when she went out of a
room and left it empty, she knew as she clicked the door to that THEY
were filling it. And there were times in the evenings when she was
upstairs, perhaps, and everybody else was down, when she could hardly
escape from them. Then she could not hurry, she could not hum a tune;
if she tried to say ever so carelessly--"Bother that old
thimble"--THEY were not deceived. THEY knew how frightened she was;
THEY saw how she turned her head away as she passed the mirror. What
Linda always felt was that THEY wanted something of her, and she knew
that if she gave herself up and was quiet, more than quiet, silent,
motionless, something would really happen.

"It's very quiet now," she thought. She opened her eyes wide, and she
heard the silence spinning its soft endless web. How lightly she
breathed; she scarcely had to breathe at all.

Yes, everything had come alive down to the minutest, tiniest particle,
and she did not feel her bed, she floated, held up in the air. Only
she seemed to be listening with her wide open watchful eyes, waiting
for someone to come who just did not come, watching for something to
happen that just did not happen.



6

In the kitchen at the long deal table under the two windows old Mrs.
Fairfield was washing the breakfast dishes. The kitchen window looked
out on to a big grass patch that led down to the vegetable garden and
the rhubarb beds. On one side the grass patch was bordered by the
scullery and wash-house and over this whitewashed lean-to there grew a
knotted vine. She had noticed yesterday that a few tiny corkscrew
tendrils had come right through some cracks in the scullery ceiling
and all the windows of the lean-to had a thick frill of ruffled green.

"I am very fond of a grape vine," declared Mrs. Fairfield, "but I do
not think that the grapes will ripen here. It takes Australian sun."
And she remembered how Beryl when she was a baby had been picking some
white grapes from the vine on the back verandah of their Tasmanian
house and she had been stung on the leg by a huge red ant. She saw
Beryl in a little plaid dress with red ribbon tie-ups on the shoulders
screaming so dreadfully that half the street rushed in. And how the
child's leg had swelled! "T--t--t--t!" Mrs. Fairfield caught her
breath remembering. "Poor child, how terrifying it was." And she set
her lips tight and went over to the stove for some more hot water. The
water frothed up in the big soapy bowl with pink and blue bubbles on
top of the foam. Old Mrs. Fairfield's arms were bare to the elbow and
stained a bright pink. She wore a grey foulard dress patterned with
large purple pansies, a white linen apron and a high cap shaped like a
jelly mould of white muslin. At her throat there was a silver crescent
moon with five little owls seated on it, and round her neck she wore a
watch guard made of black beads.

It was hard to believe that she had not been in that kitchen for
years; she was so much a part of it. She put the crocks away with a
sure, precise touch, moving leisurely and ample from the stove to the
dresser, looking into the pantry and the larder as though there were
not an unfamiliar comer. When she had finished, everything in the
kitchen had become part of a series of patterns. She stood in the
middle of the room wiping her hands on a check cloth; a smile beamed
on her lips; she thought it looked very nice, very satisfactory.

"Mother! Mother! Are you there?" called Beryl.

"Yes, dear. Do you want me?"

"No. I'm coming," and Beryl rushed in, very flushed, dragging with her
two big pictures.

"Mother, whatever can I do with these awful hideous Chinese paintings
that Chung Wah gave Stanley when he went bankrupt? It's absurd to say
that they are valuable, because they were hanging in Chung Wah's fruit
shop for months before. I can't make out why Stanley wants them kept.
I'm sure he thinks them just as hideous as we do, but it's because of
the frames," she said spitefully. "I suppose he thinks the frames
might fetch something some day or other."

"Why don't you hang them in the passage?" suggested Mrs. Fairfield;
"they would not be much seen there."

"I can't. There is no room. I've hung all the photographs of his
office there before and after building, and the signed photos of his
business friends, and that awful enlargement of Isabel lying on the
mat in her singlet." Her angry glance swept the placid kitchen. "I
know what I'll do. I'll hang them here. I will tell Stanley they got a
little damp in the moving so I have put them in here for the time
being."

She dragged a chair forward, jumped on it, took a hammer and a big
nail out of her pinafore pocket and banged away.

"There! That is enough! Hand me the picture, mother."

"One moment, child." Her mother was wiping over the carved ebony
frame.

"Oh, mother, really you need not dust them. It would take years to
dust all those little holes." And she frowned at the top of her
mother's head and bit her lip with impatience. Mother's deliberate way
of doing things was simply maddening. It was old age, she supposed,
loftily.

At last the two pictures were hung side by side. She jumped off the
chair, stowing away the little hammer.

"They don't look so bad there, do they?" said she. "And at any rate
nobody need gaze at them except Pat and the servant girl--have I got a
spider's web on my face, mother? I've been poking into that cupboard
under the stairs and now something keeps tickling my nose."

But before Mrs. Fairfield had time to look Beryl had turned away.
Someone tapped on the window: Linda was there, nodding and smiling.
They heard the latch of the scullery door lift and she came in. She
had no hat on; her hair stood up on her head in curling rings and she
was wrapped up in an old cashmere shawl.

"I'm so hungry," said Linda: "where can I get something to eat,
mother? This is the first time I've been in the kitchen. It says
'mother' all over; everything is in pairs."

"I will make you some tea," said Mrs. Fairfield, spreading a clean
napkin over a corner of the table, "and Beryl can have a cup with
you."

"Beryl, do you want half my gingerbread?" Linda waved the knife at
her. "Beryl, do you like the house now that we are here?"

"Oh yes, I like the house immensely and the garden is beautiful, but
it feels very far away from everything to me. I can't imagine people
coming out from town to see us in that dreadful jolting bus, and I am
sure there is not anyone here to come and call. Of course it does not
matter to you because----"

"But there's the buggy," said Linda. "Pat can drive you into town
whenever you like."

That was a consolation, certainly, but there was something at the back
of Beryl's mind, something she did not even put into words for
herself.

"Oh, well, at any rate it won't kill us," she said dryly, putting down
her empty cup and standing up and stretching. "I am going to hang
curtains." And she ran away singing:

  How many thousand birds I see
  That sing aloud from every tree...

"...birds I see That sing aloud from every tree..." But when
she reached the dining-room she stopped singing, her face changed; it
became gloomy and sullen.

"One may as well rot here as anywhere else," she muttered savagely,
digging the stiff brass safety-pins into the red serge curtains.

The two left in the kitchen were quiet for a little. Linda leaned her
cheek on her fingers and watched her mother. She thought her mother
looked wonderfully beautiful with her back to the leafy window. There
was something comforting in the sight of her that Linda felt she could
never do without. She needed the sweet smell of her flesh, and the
soft feel of her cheeks and her arms and shoulders still softer. She
loved the way her hair curled, silver at her forehead, lighter at her
neck, and bright brown still in the big coil under the muslin cap.
Exquisite were her mother's hands, and the two rings she wore seemed
to melt into her creamy skin. And she was always so fresh, so
delicious. The old woman could bear nothing but linen next to her body
and she bathed in cold water winter and summer.

"Isn't there anything for me to do?" asked Linda.

"No, darling. I wish you would go into the garden and give an eye to
your children; but that I know you will not do."

"Of course I will, but you know Isabel is much more grown up than any
of us."

"Yes, but Kezia is not," said Mrs. Fairfield.

"Oh, Kezia has been tossed by a bull hours ago," said Linda, winding
herself up in her shawl again.

But no, Kezia had seen a bull through a hole in a knot of wood in the
paling that separated the tennis lawn from the paddock. But she had
not liked the bull frightfully, so she had walked away back through
the orchard, up the grassy slope, along the path by the lace bark tree
and so into the spread tangled garden. She did not believe that she
would ever not get lost in this garden. Twice she had found her way
back to the big iron gates they had driven through the night before,
and then had turned to walk up the drive that led to the house, but
there were so many little paths on either side. On one side they all
led into a tangle of tall dark trees and strange bushes with flat
velvet leaves and feathery cream flowers that buzzed with flies when
you shook them--this was the frightening side, and no garden at all.
The little paths here were wet and clayey with tree roots spanned
across them like the marks of big fowls' feet.

But on the other side of the drive there was a high box border and the
paths had box edges and all of them led into a deeper and deeper
tangle of flowers. The camellias were in bloom, white and crimson and
pink and white striped with flashing leaves. You could not see a leaf
on the syringa bushes for the white clusters. The roses were in
flower--gentlemen's button-hole roses, little white ones, but far too
full of insects to hold under anyone's nose, pink monthly roses with a
ring of fallen petals round the bushes, cabbage roses on thick stalks,
moss roses, always in bud, pink smooth beauties opening curl on curl,
red ones so dark they seemed to turn black as they fell, and a certain
exquisite cream kind with a slender red stem and bright scarlet
leaves.

There were clumps of fairy bells, and all kinds of geraniums, and
there were little trees of verbena and bluish lavender bushes and a
bed of pelagoniums with velvet eyes and leaves like moths' wings.
There was a bed of nothing but mignonette and another of nothing but
pansies--borders of double and single daisies and all kinds of little
tufty plants she had never seen before.

The red-hot pokers were taller than she; the Japanese sunflowers grew
in a tiny jungle. She sat down on one of the box borders. By pressing
hard at first it made a nice seat. But how dusty it was inside! Kezia
bent down to look and sneezed and rubbed her nose.

And then she found herself at the top of the rolling grassy slope that
led down to the orchard...She looked down at the slope a moment;
then she lay down on her back, gave a squeak and rolled over and over
into the thick flowery orchard grass. As she lay waiting for things to
stop spinning, she decided to go up to the house and ask the servant
girl for an empty match-box. She wanted to make a surprise for the
grandmother...First she would put a leaf inside with a big violet
lying on it, then she would put a very small white picotee, perhaps,
on each side of the violet, and then she would sprinkle some lavender
on the top, but not to cover their heads.

She often made these surprises for the grandmother, and they were
always most successful.

"Do you want a match, my granny?"

"Why, yes, child, I believe a match is just what I'm looking for."

The grandmother slowly opened the box and came upon the picture
inside.

"Good gracious, child! How you astonished me!"

"I can make her one every day here," she thought, scrambling up the
grass on her slippery shoes.

But on her way back to the house she came to that island that lay in
the middle of the drive, dividing the drive into two arms that met in
front of the house. The island was made of grass banked up high.
Nothing grew on the top except one huge plant with thick, grey-green,
thorny leaves, and out of the middle there sprang up a tall stout
stem. Some of the leaves of the plant were so old that they curled up
in the air no longer; they turned back, they were split and broken;
some of them lay flat and withered on the ground.

Whatever could it be? She had never seen anything like it before. She
stood and stared. And then she saw her mother coming down the path.

"Mother, what is it?" asked Kezia.

Linda looked up at the fat swelling plant with its cruel leaves and
fleshy stem. High above them, as though becalmed in the air, and yet
holding so fast to the earth it grew from, it might have had claws
instead of roots. The curving leaves seemed to be hiding something;
the blind stem cut into the air as if no wind could ever shake it.

"That is an aloe, Kezia," said her mother.

"Does it ever have any flowers?"

"Yes, Kezia," and Linda smiled down at her, and half shut her eyes.
"Once every hundred years."



7

On his way home from the office Stanley Burnell stopped the buggy at
the Bodega, got out and bought a large bottle of oysters. At the
Chinaman's shop next door he bought a pineapple in the pink of
condition, and noticing a basket of fresh black cherries he told John
to put him a pound of those as well. The oysters and the pine he
stowed away in the box under the front seat, but the cherries he kept
in his hand.

Pat, the handy-man, leapt off the box and tucked him up again in the
brown rug.

"Lift yer feet, Mr. Burnell, while I give yer a fold under," said he.

"Right! Right! First-rate!" said Stanley. "You can make straight for
home now."

Pat gave the grey mare a touch and the buggy sprang forward.

"I believe this man is a first-rate chap," thought Stanley. He liked
the look of him sitting up there in his neat brown coat and brown
bowler. He liked the way Pat had tucked him in, and he liked his eyes.
There was nothing servile about him--and if there was one thing he
hated more than another it was servility. And he looked as if he was
pleased with his job--happy and contented already.

The grey mare went very well; Burnell was impatient to be out of the
town. He wanted to be home. Ah, it was splendid to live in the
country--to get right out of that hole of a town once the office was
closed; and this drive in the fresh warm air, knowing all the while
that his own house was at the other end, with its garden and paddocks,
its three tip-top cows and enough fowls and ducks to keep them in
poultry, was splendid too.

As they left the town finally and bowled away up the deserted road his
heart beat hard for joy. He rooted in the bag and began to eat the
cherries, three or four at a time, chucking the stones over the side
of the buggy. They were delicious, so plump and cold, without a spot
or a bruise on them.

Look at those two, now--black one side and white the other--perfect! A
perfect little pair of Siamese twins. And he stuck them in his
button-hole...By Jove, he wouldn't mind giving that chap up there
a handful--but no, better not. Better wait until he had been with him
a bit longer.

He began to plan what he would do with his Saturday afternoons and his
Sundays. He wouldn't go to the club for lunch on Saturday. No, cut
away from the office as soon as possible and get them to give him a
couple of slices of cold meat and half a lettuce when he got home. And
then he'd get a few chaps out from town to play tennis in the
afternoon. Not too many--three at most. Beryl was a good player,
too....He stretched out his right arm and slowly bent it, feeling the
muscle...A bath, a good rub-down, a cigar on the verandah after
dinner...

On Sunday morning they would go to church--children and all. Which
reminded him that he must hire a pew, in the sun if possible and well
forward so as to be out of the draught from the door. In fancy he
heard himself intoning extremely well: "When thou did overcome the
_Sharp_ness of Death Thou didst open the _King_dom of Heaven to _all_
Believers." And he saw the neat brass-edged card on the corner of the
pew--Mr. Stanley Burnell and family...The rest of the day he'd
loaf about with Linda...Now they were walking about the garden;
she was on his arm, and he was explaining to her at length what he
intended doing at the office the week following. He heard her saying:
"My dear, I think that is most wise."...Talking things over with
Linda was a wonderful help even though they were apt to drift away
from the point.

Hang it all! They weren't getting along very fast. Pat had put the
brake on again. Ugh! What a brute of a thing it was. He could feel it
in the pit of his stomach.

A sort of panic overtook Burnell whenever he approached near home.
Before he was well inside the gate he would shout to anyone within
sight: "Is everything all right?" And then he did not believe it was
until he heard Linda say: "Hullo! Are you home again?" That was the
worst of living in the country--it took the deuce of a long time to
get back...But now they weren't far off. They were on the top of
the last hill; it was a gentle slope all the way now and not more than
half a mile.

Pat trailed the whip over the mare's back and he coaxed her: "Goop
now. Goop now."

It wanted a few minutes to sunset. Everything stood motionless bathed
in bright, metallic light and from the paddocks on either side there
streamed the milky scent of ripe grass. The iron gates were open. They
dashed through and up the drive and round the island, stopping at the
exact middle of the verandah.

"Did she satisfy yer, Sir?" said Pat, getting off the box and grinning
at his master.

"Very well indeed, Pat," said Stanley.

Linda came out of the glass door; her voice rang in the shadowy quiet.
"Hullo! Are you home again?"

At the sound of her his heart beat so hard that he could hardly stop
himself dashing up the steps and catching her in his arms.

"Yes, I'm home again. Is everything all right?"

Pat began to lead the buggy round to the side gate that opened into
the courtyard.

"Here, half a moment," said Burnell. "Hand me those two parcels." And
he said to Linda, "I've brought you back a bottle of oysters and a
pineapple," as though he had brought her back all the harvest of the
earth.

They went into the hall; Linda carried the oysters in one hand and the
pineapple in the other. Burnell shut the glass door, threw his hat
down, put his arms round her and strained her to him, kissing the top
of her head, her ears, her lips, her eyes.

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" said she. "Wait a moment. Let me put down these
silly things," and she put the bottle of oysters and the pine on a
little carved chair. "What have you got in your button-hole--cherries?"
She took them out and hung them over his ear.

"Don't do that, darling. They are for you."

So she took them off his ear again. "You don't mind if I save them.
They'd spoil my appetite for dinner. Come and see your children. They
are having tea."

The lamp was lighted on the nursery table. Mrs. Fairfield was cutting
and spreading bread and butter. The three little girls sat up to table
wearing large bibs embroidered with their names. They wiped their
mouths as their father came in ready to be kissed. The windows were
open; a jar of wild flowers stood on the mantelpiece, and the lamp
made a big soft bubble of light on the ceiling.

"You seem pretty snug, mother," said Burnell, blinking at the light.
Isabel and Lottie sat one on either side of the table, Kezia at the
bottom--the place at the top was empty.

"That's where my boy ought to sit," thought Stanley. He tightened his
arm round Linda's shoulder. By God, he was a perfect fool to feel as
happy as this!

"We are, Stanley. We are very snug," said Mrs. Fairfield, cutting
Kezia's bread into fingers.

"Like it better than town--eh, children?" asked Burnell.

"Oh, yes," said the three little girls, and Isabel added as an
after-thought: "Thank you very much indeed, father dear."

"Come upstairs," said Linda. "I'll bring your slippers."

But the stairs were too narrow for them to go up arm in arm. It was
quite dark in the room. He heard her ring tapping on the marble
mantelpiece as she felt for the matches.

"I've got some, darling. I'll light the candles."

But instead he came up behind her and again he put his arms round her
and pressed her head into his shoulder.

"I'm so confoundedly happy," he said.

"Are you?" She turned and put her hands on his breast and looked up at
him.

"I don't know what has come over me," he protested.

It was quite dark outside now and heavy dew was falling. When Linda
shut the window the cold dew touched her finger tips. Far away a dog
barked. "I believe there is going to be a moon," she said.

At the words, and with the cold wet dew on her fingers, she felt as
though the moon had risen--that she was being strangely discovered in
a flood of cold light. She shivered; she came away from the window and
sat down upon the box ottoman beside Stanley.

* * * * *

In the dining-room, by the flicker of a wood fire, Beryl sat on a
hassock playing the guitar. She had bathed and changed all her
clothes. Now she wore a white muslin dress with black spots on it and
in her hair she had pinned a black silk rose.

  Nature has gone to her rest, love,
     See, we are alone.
  Give me your hand to press, love,
     Lightly within my own.

She played and sang half to herself, for she was watching herself
playing and singing. The firelight gleamed on her shoes, on the ruddy
belly of the guitar, and on her white fingers...

"If I were outside the window and looked in and saw myself I really
would be rather struck," thought she. Still more softly she played the
accompaniment--not singing now but listening.

..."The first time that I ever saw you, little girl--oh, you had no
idea that you were not alone--you were sitting with your little feet
upon a hassock, playing the guitar. God, I can never forget..."
Beryl flung up her head and began to sing again:

  Even the moon is aweary...

But there came a loud bang at the door. The servant girl's crimson
face popped through.

"Please, Miss Beryl, I've got to come and lay."

"Certainly, Alice," said Beryl, in a voice of ice. She put the guitar
in a corner. Alice lunged in with a heavy black iron tray.

"Well, I have had a job with that oving," said she. "I can't get
nothing to brown."

"Really!" said Beryl.

But no, she could not stand that fool of a girl. She ran into the dark
drawing-room and began walking up and down...Oh, she was
restless, restless. There was a mirror over the mantel. She leaned her
arms along and looked at her pale shadow in it. How beautiful she
looked, but there was nobody to see, nobody.

"Why must you suffer so?" said the face in the mirror. "You were not
made for suffering...Smile!"

Beryl smiled, and really her smile was so adorable that she smiled
again--but this time because she could not help it.



8

"Good morning, Mrs. Jones."

"Oh, good morning, Mrs. Smith. I'm so glad to see you. Have you
brought your children?"

"Yes, I've brought both my twins. I have had another baby since I saw
you last, but she came so suddenly that I haven't had time to make her
any clothes, yet. So I left her...How is your husband?"

"Oh, he is very well, thank you. At least he had a nawful cold but
Queen Victoria--she's my godmother, you know--sent him a case of
pineapples and that cured it im--mediately. Is that your new servant?"

"Yes, her name's Gwen. I've only had her two days. Oh, Gwen, this is
my friend, Mrs. Smith."

"Good morning, Mrs. Smith. Dinner won't be ready for about ten
minutes."

"I don't think you ought to introduce me to the servant. I think I
ought to just begin talking to her."

"Well, she's more of a lady-help than a servant and you do introduce
lady-helps, I know, because Mrs. Samuel Josephs had one."

"Oh, well, it doesn't matter," said the servant, carelessly, beating
up a chocolate custard with half a broken clothes peg. The dinner was
baking beautifully on a concrete step. She began to lay the cloth on a
pink garden seat. In front of each person she put two geranium leaf
plates, a pine needle fork and a twig knife. There were three daisy
heads on a laurel leaf for poached eggs, some slices of fuchsia petal
cold beef, some lovely little rissoles made of earth and water and
dandelion seeds, and the chocolate custard which she had decided to
serve in the pawa shell she had cooked it in.

"You needn't trouble about my children," said Mrs. Smith graciously.
"If you'll just take this bottle and fill it at the tap--I mean at the
dairy."

"Oh, all right," said Gwen, and she whispered to Mrs. Jones: "Shall I
go and ask Alice for a little bit of real milk?"

But someone called from the front of the house and the luncheon party
melted away, leaving the charming table, leaving the rissoles and the
poached eggs to the ants and to an old snail who pushed his quivering
horns over the edge of the garden seat and began to nibble a geranium
plate.

"Come round to the front, children. Pip and Rags have come."

The Trout boys were the cousins Kezia had mentioned to the storeman.
They lived about a mile away in a house called Monkey Tree Cottage.
Pip was tall for his age, with lank black hair and a white face, but
Rags was very small and so thin that when he was undressed his
shoulder blades stuck out like two little wings. They had a mongrel
dog with pale blue eyes and a long tail turned up at the end who
followed them everywhere; he was called Snooker. They spent half their
time combing and brushing Snooker and dosing him with various awful
mixtures concocted by Pip, and kept secretly by him in a broken jug
covered with an old kettle lid. Even faithful little Rags was not
allowed to know the full secret of these mixtures...Take some
carbolic tooth powder and a pinch of sulphur powdered up fine, and
perhaps a bit of starch to stiffen up Snooker's coat...But that
was not all; Rags privately thought that the rest was gun-powder...And
he never was allowed to help with the mixing because of the
danger..."Why if a spot of this flew in your eye, you would be
blinded for life," Pip would say, stirring the mixture with an iron
spoon. "And there's always the chance--just the chance, mind you--of
it exploding if you whack it hard enough...Two spoons of this in
a kerosene tin will be enough to kill thousands of fleas." But Snooker
spent all his spare time biting and snuffling, and he stank
abominably.

"It's because he is such a grand fighting dog," Pip would say. "All
fighting dogs smell."

The Trout boys had often spent the day with the Burnells in town, but
now that they lived in this fine house and boncer garden they were
inclined to be very friendly. Besides, both of them liked playing with
girls--Pip, because he could fox them so, and because Lottie was so
easily frightened, and Rags for a shameful reason. He adored dolls.
How he would look at a doll as it lay asleep, speaking in a whisper
and smiling timidly, and what a treat it was to him to be allowed to
hold one...

"Curve your arms round her. Don't keep them stiff like that. You'll
drop her," Isabel would say sternly.

Now they were standing on the verandah and holding back Snooker who
wanted to go into the house but wasn't allowed to because Aunt Linda
hated decent dogs.

"We came over in the bus with Mum," they said, "and we're going to
spend the afternoon with you. We brought over a batch of our
gingerbread for Aunt Linda. Our Minnie made it. It's all over nuts."

"I skinned the almonds," said Pip. "I just stuck my hand into a
saucepan of boiling water and grabbed them out and gave them a kind of
pinch and the nuts flew out of the skins, some of them as high as the
ceiling. Didn't they, Rags?"

Rags nodded. "When they make cakes at our place," said Pip, "we always
stay in the kitchen, Rags and me, and I get the bowl and he gets the
spoon and the egg beater. Sponge cake's best. It's all frothy stuff,
then."

He ran down the verandah steps to the lawn, planted his hands on the
grass, bent forward, and just did not stand on his head.

"That lawn's all bumpy," he said. "You have to have a flat place for
standing on your head. I can walk round the monkey tree on my head at
our place. Can't I, Rags?"

"Nearly," said Rags faintly.

"Stand on your head on the verandah. That's quite flat," said Kezia.

"No, smarty," said Pip. "You have to do it on something soft. Because
if you give a jerk and fall over, something in your neck goes click,
and it breaks off. Dad told me."

"Oh, do let's play something," said Kezia.

"Very well," said Isabel quickly, "we'll play hospitals. I will be the
nurse and Pip can be the doctor and you and Lottie and Rags can be the
sick people."

Lottie didn't want to play that, because last time Pip had squeezed
something down her throat and it hurt awfully.

"Pooh," scoffed Pip. "It was only the juice out of a bit of mandarin
peel."

"Well, let's play ladies," said Isabel. "Pip can be the father and you
can be all our dear little children."

"I hate playing ladies," said Kezia. "You always make us go to church
hand in hand and come home and go to bed."

Suddenly Pip took a filthy handkerchief out of his pocket. "Snooker!
Here, sir," he called. But Snooker, as usual, tried to sneak away, his
tail between his legs. Pip leapt on top of him, and pressed him
between his knees.

"Keep his head firm, Rags," he said, and he tied the handkerchief
round Snooker's head with a funny knot sticking up at the top.

"Whatever is that for?" asked Lottie.

"It's to train his ears to grow more close to his head--see?" said
Pip. "All fighting dogs have ears that lie back. But Snooker's ears
are a bit too soft."

"I know," said Kezia. "They are always turning inside out. I hate
that."

Snooker lay down, made one feeble effort with his paw to get the
handkerchief off, but finding he could not, trailed after the
children, shivering with misery.



9

Pat came swinging along; in his hand he held a little tomahawk that
winked in the sun.

"Come with me," he said to the children, "and I'll show you how the
kings of Ireland chop the head off a duck."

They drew back--they didn't believe him, and besides, the Trout boys
had never seen Pat before.

"Come on now," he coaxed, smiling and holding out his hand to Kezia.

"Is it a real duck's head? One from the paddock?"

"It is," said Pat. She put her hand in his hard dry one, and he stuck
the tomahawk in his belt and held out the other to Rags. He loved
little children.

"I'd better keep hold of Snooker's head if there's going to be any
blood about," said Pip, "because the sight of blood makes him awfully
wild." He ran ahead dragging Snooker by the handkerchief.

"Do you think we ought to go?" whispered Isabel. "We haven't asked or
anything. Have we?"

At the bottom of the orchard a gate was set in the paling fence. On
the other side a steep bank led down to a bridge that spanned the
creek, and once up the bank on the other side you were on the fringe
of the paddocks. A little old stable in the first paddock had been
turned into a fowl house. The fowls had strayed far away across the
paddock down to a dumping ground in a hollow, but the ducks kept close
to that part of the creek that flowed under the bridge.

Tall bushes overhung the stream with red leaves and yellow flowers and
clusters of blackberries. At some places the stream was wide and
shallow, but at others it tumbled into deep little pools with foam at
the edges and quivering bubbles. It was in these pools that the big
white ducks had made themselves at home, swimming and guzzling along
the weedy banks.

Up and down they swam, preening their dazzling breasts, and other
ducks with the same dazzling breasts and yellow bills swam upside down
with them.

"There is the little Irish navy," said Pat, "and look at the old
admiral there with the green neck and the grand little flagstaff on
his tail."

He pulled a handful of grain from his pocket and began to walk towards
the fowl-house, lazy, his straw hat with the broken crown pulled over
his eyes.

"Lid. Lid--lid--lid--lid----" he called.

"Qua. Qua--qua--qua--qua----" answered the ducks, making for land, and
flapping and scrambling up the bank they streamed after him in a long
waddling line. He coaxed them, pretending to throw the grain, shaking
it in his hands and calling to them until they swept round him in a
white ring.

From far away the fowls heard the clamour and they too came running
across the paddock, their heads thrust forward, their wings spread,
turning in their feet in the silly way fowls run and scolding as they
came.

Then Pat scattered the grain and the greedy ducks began to gobble.
Quickly he stooped, seized two, one under each arm, and strode across
to the children. Their darting heads and round eyes frightened the
children--all except Pip.

"Come on, sillies," he cried, "they can't bite. They haven't any
teeth. They've only got those two little holes in their beaks for
breathing through."

"Will you hold one while I finish with the other?" asked Pat. Pip let
go of Snooker. "Won't I? Won't I? Give us one. I don't mind how much
he kicks."

He nearly sobbed with delight when Pat gave the white lump into his
arms.

There was an old stump beside the door of the fowl-house. Pat grabbed
the duck by the legs, laid it flat across the stump, and almost at the
same moment down came the little tomahawk and the duck's head flew off
the stump. Up the blood spurted over the white feathers and over his
hand.

When the children saw the blood they were frightened no longer. They
crowded round him and began to scream. Even Isabel leaped about
crying: "The blood! The blood!" Pip forgot all about his duck. He
simply threw it away from him and shouted, "I saw it. I saw it," and
jumped round the wood block.

Rags, with cheeks as white as paper, ran up to the little head, put
out a finger as if he wanted to touch it, shrank back again and then
again put out a finger. He was shivering all over.

Even Lottie, frightened little Lottie, began to laugh and pointed at
the duck and shrieked: "Look, Kezia, look."

"Watch it!" shouted Pat. He put down the body and it began to
waddle--with only a long spurt of blood where the head had been; it
began to pad away without a sound towards the steep bank that led to
the stream...That was the crowning wonder.

"Do you see that? Do you see that?" yelled Pip. He ran among the
little girls tugging at their pinafores.

"It's like a little engine. It's like a funny little railway engine,"
squealed Isabel.

But Kezia suddenly rushed at Pat and flung her arms round his legs and
butted her head as hard as she could against his knees.

"Put head back! Put head back!" she screamed.

When he stooped to move her she would not let go or take her head
away. She held on as hard as she could and sobbed: "Head back! Head
back!" until it sounded like a loud strange hiccup.

"It's stopped. It's tumbled over. It's dead," said Pip.

Pat dragged Kezia up into his arms. Her sun-bonnet had fallen back,
but she would not let him look at her face. No, she pressed her face
into a bone in his shoulder and clasped her arms round his neck.

The children stopped screaming as suddenly as they had begun. They
stood round the dead duck. Rags was not frightened of the head any
more. He knelt down and stroked it, now.

"I don't think the head is quite dead yet," he said. "Do you think it
would keep alive if I gave it something to drink?"

But Pip got very cross: "Bah! You baby." He whistled to Snooker and
went off.

When Isabel went up to Lottie, Lottie snatched away.

"What are you always touching me for, Isabel?"

"There now," said Pat to Kezia. "There's the grand little girl."

She put up her hands and touched his ears. She felt something. Slowly
she raised her quivering face and looked. Pat wore little round gold
ear-rings. She never knew that men wore ear-rings. She was very much
surprised.

"Do they come on and off?" she asked huskily.



10

Up in the house, in the warm tidy kitchen, Alice, the servant girl,
was getting the afternoon tea. She was "dressed." She had on a black
stuff dress that smelt under the arms, a white apron like a large
sheet of paper, and a lace bow pinned on to her hair with two jetty
pins. Also her comfortable carpet slippers were changed for a pair of
black leather ones that pinched her corn on her little toe something
dreadful...

It was warm in the kitchen. A blow-fly buzzed, a fan of whity steam
came out of the kettle, and the lid kept up a rattling jig as the
water bubbled. The clock ticked in the warm air, slow and deliberate,
like the click of an old woman's knitting needle, and sometimes--for
no reason at all, for there wasn't any breeze--the blind swung out and
back, tapping the window.

Alice was making water-cress sandwiches. She had a lump of butter on
the table, a barracouta loaf, and the cresses tumbled in a white
cloth.

But propped against the butter dish there was a dirty, greasy little
book, half unstitched, with curled edges, and while she mashed the
butter she read:

"To dream of black-beetles drawing a hearse is bad. Signifies death of
one you hold near or dear, either father, husband, brother, son, or
intended. If beetles crawl backwards as you watch them it means death
from fire or from great height such as flight of stairs, scaffolding,
etc.

"Spiders. To dream of spiders creeping over you is good. Signifies
large sum of money in near future. Should party be in family way an
easy confinement may be expected. But care should be taken in sixth
month to avoid eating of probable present of shell fish..."

  How many thousand birds I see.

Oh, life. There was Miss Beryl. Alice dropped the knife and slipped
the _Dream Book_ under the butter dish. But she hadn't time to hide it
quite, for Beryl ran into the kitchen and up to the table, and the
first thing her eye lighted on were those greasy edges. Alice saw Miss
Beryl's meaning little smile and the way she raised her eyebrows and
screwed up her eyes as though she were not quite sure what that could
be. She decided to answer if Miss Beryl should ask her: "Nothing as
belongs to you, Miss." But she knew Miss Beryl would not ask her.

Alice was a mild creature in reality, but she had the most marvellous
retorts ready for questions that she knew would never be put to her.
The composing of them and the turning of them over and over in her
mind comforted her just as much as if they'd been expressed. Really,
they kept her alive in places where she'd been that chivvied she'd
been afraid to go to bed at night with a box of matches on the chair
in case she bit the tops off in her sleep, as you might say.

"Oh, Alice," said Miss Beryl. "There's one extra to tea, so heat a
plate of yesterday's scones, please. And put on the Victoria sandwich
as well as the coffee cake. And don't forget to put little doyleys
under the plates--will you? You did yesterday, you know, and the tea
looked so ugly and common. And, Alice, don't put that dreadful old
pink and green cosy on the afternoon teapot again. That is only for
the mornings. Really, I think it ought to be kept for the
kitchen--it's so shabby, and quite smelly. Put on the Japanese one.
You quite understand, don't you?"

Miss Beryl had finished.

  That sing aloud from every tree...

she sang as she left the kitchen, very pleased with her firm handling
of Alice.

Oh, Alice was wild. She wasn't one to mind being told, but there was
something in the way Miss Beryl had of speaking to her that she
couldn't stand. Oh, that she couldn't. It made her curl up inside, as
you might say, and she fair trembled. But what Alice really hated Miss
Beryl for was that she made her feel low. She talked to Alice in a
special voice as though she wasn't quite all there; and she never lost
her temper with her--never. Even when Alice dropped anything or forgot
anything important Miss Beryl seemed to have expected it to happen.

"If you please, Mrs. Burnell," said an imaginary Alice, as she
buttered the scones, "I'd rather not take my orders from Miss Beryl. I
may be only a common servant girl as doesn't know how to play the
guitar, but..."

This last thrust pleased her so much that she quite recovered her
temper.

"The only thing to do," she heard, as she opened the dining-room door,
"is to cut the sleeves out entirely and just have a broad band of
black velvet over the shoulders instead..."



11

The white duck did not look as if it had ever had a head when Alice
placed it in front of Stanley Burnell that night. It lay, in
beautifully basted resignation, on a blue dish--its legs tied together
with a piece of string and a wreath of little balls of stuffing round
it.

It was hard to say which of the two, Alice or the duck, looked the
better basted; they were both such a rich colour and they both had the
same air of gloss and strain. But Alice was fiery red and the duck a
Spanish mahogany.

Burnell ran his eye along the edge of the carving knife. He prided
himself very much upon his carving, upon making a first-class job of
it. He hated seeing a woman carve; they were always too slow and they
never seemed to care what the meat looked like afterwards. Now he did;
he took a real pride in cutting delicate shaves of cold beef, little
wads of mutton, just the right thickness, and in dividing a chicken or
a duck with nice precision...

"Is this the first of the home products?" he asked, knowing perfectly
well that it was.

"Yes, the butcher did not come. We have found out that he only calls
twice a week."

But there was no need to apologise. It was a superb bird. It wasn't
meat at all, but a kind of very superior jelly. "My father would say,"
said Burnell, "this must have been one of those birds whose mother
played to it in infancy upon the German flute. And the sweet strains
of the dulcet instrument acted with such effect upon the infant
mind...Have some more, Beryl? You and I are the only ones in this house
with a real feeling for food. I'm perfectly willing to state, in a
court of law, if necessary, that I love good food."

Tea was served in the drawing-room, and Beryl, who for some reason had
been very charming to Stanley ever since he came home, suggested a
game of crib. They sat at a little table near one of the open windows.
Mrs. Fairfield disappeared, and Linda lay in a rocking-chair, her arms
above her head, rocking to and fro.

"You don't want the light--do you, Linda?" said Beryl. She moved the
tall lamp so that she sat under its soft light.

How remote they looked, those two, from where Linda sat and rocked.
The green table, the polished cards, Stanley's big hands and Beryl's
tiny ones, all seemed to be part of one mysterious movement. Stanley
himself, big and solid, in his dark suit, took his ease, and Beryl
tossed her bright head and pouted. Round her throat she wore an
unfamiliar velvet ribbon. It changed her, somehow--altered the shape
of her face--but it was charming, Linda decided. The room smelled of
lilies; there were two big jars of arums in the fire-place.

"Fifteen two--fifteen four--and a pair is six and a run of three is
nine," said Stanley, so deliberately, he might have been counting
sheep.

"I've nothing but two pairs," said Beryl, exaggerating her woe because
she knew how he loved winning.

The cribbage pegs were like two little people going up the road
together, turning round the sharp corner, and coming down the road
again. They were pursuing each other. They did not so much want to get
ahead as to keep near enough to talk--to keep near, perhaps that was
all.

But no, there was always one who was impatient and hopped away as the
other came up, and would not listen. Perhaps the white peg was
frightened of the red one, or perhaps he was cruel and would not give
the red one a chance to speak...

In the front of her dress Beryl wore a bunch of pansies, and once when
the little pegs were side by side, she bent over and the pansies
dropped out and covered them.

"What a shame," said she, picking up the pansies. "Just as they had a
chance to fly into each other's arms."

"Farewell, my girl," laughed Stanley, and away the red peg hopped.

The drawing-room was long and narrow with glass doors that gave on to
the verandah. It had a cream paper with a pattern of gilt roses, and
the furniture, which had belonged to old Mrs. Fairfield, was dark and
plain. A little piano stood against the wall with yellow pleated silk
let into the carved front. Above it hung an oil painting by Beryl of a
large cluster of surprised looking clematis. Each flower was the size
of a small saucer, with a centre like an astonished eye fringed in
black. But the room was not finished yet. Stanley had set his heart on
a Chesterfield and two decent chairs. Linda liked it best as it was...

Two big moths flew in through the window and round and round the
circle of lamplight.

"Fly away before it is too late. Fly out again."

Round and round they flew; they seemed to bring the silence and the
moonlight in with them on their silent wings...

"I've two kings," said Stanley. "Any good?"

"Quite good," said Beryl.

Linda stopped rocking and got up. Stanley looked across. "Anything the
matter, darling?"

"No, nothing. I'm going to find mother."

She went out of the room and standing at the foot of the stairs she
called, but her mother's voice answered her from the verandah.

The moon that Lottie and Kezia had seen from the storeman's wagon was
full, and the house, the garden, the old woman and Linda--all were
bathed in dazzling light.

"I have been looking at the aloe," said Mrs. Fairfield. "I believe it
is going to flower this year. Look at the top there. Are those buds,
or is it only an effect of light?"

As they stood on the steps, the high grassy bank on which the aloe
rested rose up like a wave, and the aloe seemed to ride upon it like a
ship with the oars lifted. Bright moonlight hung upon the lifted oars
like water, and on the green wave glittered the dew.

"Do you feel it, too," said Linda, and she spoke to her mother with
the special voice that women use at night to each other as though they
spoke in their sleep or from some hollow cave--"Don't you feel that it
is coming towards us?"

She dreamed that she was caught up out of the cold water into the ship
with the lifted oars and the budding mast. Now the oars fell striking
quickly, quickly. They rowed far away over the top of the garden
trees, the paddocks and the dark bush beyond. Ah, she heard herself
cry: "Faster! Faster!" to those who were rowing.

How much more real this dream was than that they should go back to the
house where the sleeping children lay and where Stanley and Beryl
played cribbage.

"I believe those are buds," said she. "Let us go down into the garden,
mother. I like that aloe. I like it more than anything here. And I am
sure I shall remember it long after I've forgotten all the other
things."

She put her hand on her mother's arm and they walked down the steps,
round the island and on to the main drive that led to the front gates.

Looking at it from below she could see the long sharp thorns that
edged the aloe leaves, and at the sight of them her heart grew
hard...She particularly liked the long sharp thorns...Nobody would
dare to come near the ship or to follow after.

"Not even my Newfoundland dog," thought she, "that I'm so fond of in
the daytime."

For she really was fond of him; she loved and admired and respected
him tremendously. Oh, better than anyone else in the world. She knew
him through and through. He was the soul of truth and decency, and for
all his practical experience he was awfully simple, easily pleased and
easily hurt...

If only he wouldn't jump at her so, and bark so loudly, and watch her
with such eager, loving eyes. He was too strong for her; she had
always hated things that rush at her, from a child. There were times
when he was frightening--really frightening. When she just had not
screamed at the top of her voice: "You are killing me." And at those
times she had longed to say the most coarse, hateful things...

"You know I'm very delicate. You know as well as I do that my heart is
affected, and the doctor has told you I may die any moment. I have had
three great lumps of children already..."

Yes, yes, it was true. Linda snatched her hand from mother's arm. For
all her love and respect and admiration she hated him. And how tender
he always was after times like those, how submissive, how thoughtful.
He would do anything for her; he longed to serve her...Linda
heard herself saying in a weak voice:

"Stanley, would you light a candle?"

And she heard his joyful voice answer: "Of course I will, my darling."
And he leapt out of bed as though he were going to leap at the moon
for her.

It had never been so plain to her as it was at this moment. There were
all her feelings for him, sharp and defined, one as true as the other.
And there was this other, this hatred, just as real as the rest. She
could have done her feelings up in little packets and given them to
Stanley. She longed to hand him that last one, for a surprise. She
could see his eyes as he opened that...

She hugged her folded arms and began to laugh silently. How absurd
life was--it was laughable, simply laughable. And why this mania of
hers to keep alive at all? For it really was a mania, she thought,
mocking and laughing.

"What am I guarding myself for so preciously? I shall go on having
children and Stanley will go on making money and the children and the
gardens will grow bigger and bigger, with whole fleets of aloes in
them for me to choose from."

She had been walking with her head bent, looking at nothing. Now she
looked up and about her. They were standing by the red and white
camellia trees. Beautiful were the rich dark leaves spangled with
light and the round flowers that perch among them like red and white
birds. Linda pulled a piece of verbena and crumpled it, and held her
hands to her mother.

"Delicious," said the old woman. "Are you cold, child? Are you
trembling? Yes, your hands are cold. We had better go back to the
house."

"What have you been thinking about?" said Linda. "Tell me."

"I haven't really been thinking of anything. I wondered as we passed
the orchard what the fruit trees were like and whether we should be
able to make much jam this autumn. There are splendid healthy currant
bushes in the vegetable garden. I noticed them to-day. I should like
to see those pantry shelves thoroughly well stocked with our own jam..."



12

"MY DARLING NAN,

Don't think me a piggy wig because I haven't written before. I haven't
had a moment, dear, and even now I feel so exhausted that I can hardly
hold a pen.

Well, the dreadful deed is done. We have actually left the giddy whirl
of town, and I can't see how we shall ever go back again, for my
brother-in-law has bought this house 'lock, stock and barrel,' to use
his own words.

In a way, of course, it is an awful relief, for he has been
threatening to take a place in the country ever since I've lived with
them--and I must say the house and garden are awfully nice--a million
times better than that awful cubby-hole in town.

But buried, my dear. Buried isn't the word.

We have got neighbours, but they are only farmers--big louts of boys
who seem to be milking all day, and two dreadful females with rabbit
teeth who brought us some scones when we were moving and said they
would be pleased to help. But my sister who lives a mile away doesn't
know a soul here, so I am sure we never shall. It's pretty certain
nobody will ever come out from town to see us, because though there is
a bus it's an awful old rattling thing with black leather sides that
any decent person would rather die than ride in for six miles.

Such is life. It's a sad ending for poor little B. I'll get to be a
most awful frump in a year or two and come and see you in a mackintosh
and a sailor hat tied on with a white china silk motor veil. So
pretty.

Stanley says that now we are settled--for after the most awful week of
my life we really are settled--he is going to bring out a couple of
men from the club on Saturday afternoons for tennis. In fact, two are
promised as a great treat to-day. But, my dear, if you could see
Stanley's men from the club...rather fattish, the type who look
frightfully indecent without waistcoats--always with toes that turn in
rather--so conspicuous when you are walking about a court in white
shoes. And they are pulling up their trousers every minute--don't you
know--and whacking at imaginary things with their rackets.

I used to play with them at the club last summer, and I am sure you
will know the type when I tell you that after I'd been there about
three times they all called me Miss Beryl. It's a weary world. Of
course mother simply loves the place, but then I suppose when I am
mother's age I shall be content to sit in the sun and shell peas into
a basin. But I'm not--not--not.

What Linda thinks about the whole affair, per usual, I haven't the
slightest idea. Mysterious as ever...

My dear, you know that white satin dress of mine. I have taken the
sleeves out entirely, put bands of black velvet across the shoulders
and two big red poppies off my dear sister's _chapeau._ It is a great
success, though when I shall wear it I do not know."


Beryl sat writing this letter at a little table in her room. In a way,
of course, it was all perfectly true, but in another way it was all
the greatest rubbish and she didn't believe a word of it. No, that
wasn't true. She felt all those things, but she didn't really feel
them like that.

It was her other self who had written that letter. It not only bored,
it rather disgusted her real self.

"Flippant and silly," said her real self. Yet she knew that she'd send
it and she'd always write that kind of twaddle to Nan Pym. In fact, it
was a very mild example of the kind of letter she generally wrote.

Beryl leaned her elbows on the table and read it through again. The
voice of the letter seemed to come up to her from the page. It was
faint already, like a voice heard over the telephone, high, gushing,
with something bitter in the sound. Oh, she detested it to-day.

"You've always got so much animation," said Nan Pym. "That's why men
are so keen on you." And she had added, rather mournfully, for men
were not at all keen on Nan, who was a solid kind of girl, with fat
hips and a high colour--"I can't understand how you can keep it up.
But it is your nature, I suppose."

What rot. What nonsense. It wasn't her nature at all. Good heavens, if
she had ever been her real self with Nan Pym, Nannie would have jumped
out of the window with surprise...My dear, you know that white
satin of mine...Beryl slammed the letter-case to.

She jumped up and half unconsciously, half consciously she drifted
over to the looking-glass.

There stood a slim girl in white--a white serge skirt, a white silk
blouse, and a leather belt drawn in very tightly at her tiny waist.

Her face was heart-shaped, wide at the brows and with a pointed
chin--but not too pointed. Her eyes, her eyes were perhaps her best
feature; they were such a strange uncommon colour--greeny blue with
little gold points in them.

She had fine black eyebrows and long lashes--so long, that when they
lay on her cheeks you positively caught the light in them, someone or
other had told her.

Her mouth was rather large. Too large? No, not really. Her underlip
protruded a little; she had a way of sucking it in that somebody else
had told her was awfully fascinating.

Her nose was her least satisfactory feature. Not that it was really
ugly. But it was not half as fine as Linda's. Linda really had a
perfect little nose. Hers spread rather--not badly. And in all
probability she exaggerated the spreadiness of it just because it was
her nose, and she was so awfully critical of herself. She pinched it
with a thumb and first finger and made a little face...

Lovely, lovely hair. And such a mass of it. It had the colour of fresh
fallen leaves, brown and red with a glint of yellow. When she did it
in a long plait she felt it on her backbone like a long snake. She
loved to feel the weight of it dragging her head back, and she loved
to feel it loose, covering her bare arms. "Yes, my dear, there is no
doubt about it, you really are a lovely little thing."

At the words her bosom lifted; she took a long breath of delight, half
closing her eyes.

But even as she looked the smile faded from her lips and eyes. Oh God,
there she was, back again, playing the same old game. False--false as
ever. False as when she'd written to Nan Pym. False even when she was
alone with herself, now.

What had that creature in the glass to do with her, and why was she
staring? She dropped down to one side of her bed and buried her face
in her arms.

"Oh," she cried, "I am so miserable--so frightfully miserable. I know
that I'm silly and spiteful and vain; I'm always acting a part. I'm
never my real self for a moment." And plainly, plainly, she saw her
false self running up and down the stairs, laughing a special trilling
laugh if they had visitors, standing under the lamp if a man came to
dinner, so that he should see the light on her hair, pouting and
pretending to be a little girl when she was asked to play the guitar.
Why? She even kept it up for Stanley's benefit. Only last night when
he was reading the paper her false self had stood beside him and
leaned against his shoulder on purpose. Hadn't she put her hand over
his, pointing out something so that he should see how white her hand
was beside his brown one.

How despicable! Despicable! Her heart was cold with rage. "It's
marvellous how you keep it up," said she to the false self. But then
it was only because she was so miserable--so miserable. If she had
been happy and leading her own life, her false life would cease to be.
She saw the real Beryl--a shadow...a shadow. Faint and
unsubstantial she shone. What was there of her except the radiance?
And for what tiny moments she was really she. Beryl could almost
remember every one of them. At those times she had felt: "Life is rich
and mysterious and good, and I am rich and mysterious and good, too."
Shall I ever be that Beryl for ever? Shall I? How can I? And was there
ever a time when I did not have a false self?...But just as she
had got that far she heard the sound of little steps running along the
passage; the door handle rattled. Kezia came in.

"Aunt Beryl, mother says will you please come down? Father is home
with a man and lunch is ready."

Botheration! How she had crumpled her skirt, kneeling in that idiotic
way.

"Very well, Kezia." She went over to the dressing table and powdered
her nose.

Kezia crossed too, and unscrewed a little pot of cream and sniffed it.
Under her arm she carried a very dirty calico cat.

When Aunt Beryl ran out of the room she sat the cat up on the dressing
table and stuck the top of the cream jar over its ear.

"Now look at yourself," said she sternly.

The calico cat was so overcome by the sight that it toppled over
backwards and bumped and bumped on to the floor. And the top of the
cream jar flew through the air and rolled like a penny in a round on
the linoleum--and did not break.

But for Kezia it had broken the moment it flew through the air, and
she picked it up, hot all over, and put it back on the dressing table.

Then she tip-toed away, far too quickly and airily...




JE NE PARLE PAS FRANÇAIS

I DO not know why I have such a fancy for this little café. It's dirty
and sad, sad. It's not as if it had anything to distinguish it from a
hundred others--it hasn't; or as if the same strange types came here
every day, whom one could watch from one's corner and recognise and
more or less (with a strong accent on the less) get the hang of.

But pray don't imagine that those brackets are a confession of my
humility before the mystery of the human soul. Not at all; I don't
believe in the human soul. I never have. I believe that people are
like portmanteaux--packed with certain things, started going, thrown
about, tossed away, dumped down, lost and found, half emptied
suddenly, or squeezed fatter than ever, until finally the Ultimate
Porter swings them on to the Ultimate Train and away they rattle...

Not but what these portmanteaux can be very fascinating. Oh, but very!
I see myself standing in front of them, don't you know, like a Customs
official.

"Have you anything to declare? Any wines, spirits, cigars, perfumes,
silks?"

And the moment of hesitation as to whether I am going to be fooled
just before I chalk that squiggle, and then the other moment of
hesitation just after, as to whether I have been, are perhaps the two
most thrilling instants in life. Yes, they are, to me.

But before I started that long and rather far-fetched and not
frightfully original digression, what I meant to say quite simply was
that there are no portmanteaux to be examined here because the
clientele of this café, ladies and gentlemen, does not sit down. No,
it stands at the counter, and it consists of a handful of workmen who
come up from the river, all powdered over with white flour, lime or
something, and a few soldiers, bringing with them thin, dark girls
with silver rings in their ears and market baskets on their arms.

Madame is thin and dark, too, with white cheeks and white hands. In
certain lights she looks quite transparent, shining out of her black
shawl with an extraordinary effect. When she is not serving she sits
on a stool with her face turned, always, to the window. Her
dark-ringed eyes search among and follow after the people passing, but
not as if she was looking for somebody. Perhaps, fifteen years ago,
she was; but now the pose has become a habit. You can tell from her
air of fatigue and hopelessness that she must have given them up for
the last ten years, at least...

And then there is the waiter. Not pathetic--decidedly not comic. Never
making one of those perfectly insignificant remarks which amaze you so
coming from a waiter, (as though the poor wretch were a sort of cross
between a coffee-pot and a wine bottle and not expected to hold so
much as a drop of anything else). He is grey, flat-footed and
withered, with long, brittle nails that set your nerves on edge while
he scrapes up your two sous. When he is not smearing over the table or
flicking at a dead fly or two, he stands with one hand on the back of
a chair, in his far too long apron, and over his other arm the
three-cornered dip of dirty napkin, waiting to be photographed in
connection with some wretched murder. "Interior of Café where Body was
Found." You've seen him hundreds of times.

Do you believe that every place has its hour of the day when it really
does come alive? That's not exactly what I mean. It's more like this.
There does seem to be a moment when you realize that, quite by
accident, you happen to have come on to the stage at exactly the
moment you were expected. Everything is arranged for you--waiting for
you. Ah, master of the situation! You fill with important breath. And
at the same time you smile, secretly, slyly, because Life seems to be
opposed to granting you these entrances, seems indeed to be engaged in
snatching them from you and making them impossible, keeping you in the
wings until it is too late, in fact...Just for once you've beaten
the old hag.

I enjoyed one of these moments the first time I ever came in here.
That's why I keep coming back, I suppose. Revisiting the scene of my
triumph, or the scene of the crime where I had the old bitch by the
throat for once and did what I pleased with her.

Query: Why am I so bitter against Life? And why do I see her as a
rag-picker on the American cinema, shuffling along wrapped in a filthy
shawl with her old claws crooked over a stick?

Answer: The direct result of the American cinema acting upon a weak
mind.

Anyhow, the "short winter afternoon was drawing to a close," as they
say, and I was drifting along, either going home or not going home,
when I found myself in here, walking over to this seat in the corner.

I hung up my English overcoat and grey felt hat on that same peg
behind me, and after I had allowed the waiter time for at least twenty
photographers to snap their fill of him, I ordered a coffee.

He poured me out a glass of the familiar, purplish stuff with a green
wandering light playing over it, and shuffled off, and I sat pressing
my hands against the glass because it was bitterly cold outside.

Suddenly I realized that quite apart from myself, I was smiling.
Slowly I raised my head and saw myself in the mirror opposite. Yes,
there I sat, leaning on the table, smiling my deep, sly smile, the
glass of coffee with its vague plume of steam before me and beside it
the ring of white saucer with two pieces of sugar.

I opened my eyes very wide. There I had been for all eternity, as it
were, and now at last I was coming to life...

It was very quiet in the café. Outside, one could just see through the
dusk that it had begun to snow. One could just see the shapes of
horses and carts and people, soft and white, moving through the
feathery air. The waiter disappeared and reappeared with an armful of
straw. He strewed it over the floor from the door to the counter and
round about the stove with humble, almost adoring gestures. One would
not have been surprised if the door had opened and the Virgin Mary had
come in, riding upon an ass, her meek hands folded over her big belly...

That's rather nice, don't you think, that bit about the Virgin? It
comes from the pen so gently; it has such a "dying fall." I thought so
at the time and decided to make a note of it. One never knows when a
little tag like that may come in useful to round off a paragraph. So,
taking care to move as little as possible because the "spell" was
still unbroken (you know that?), I reached over to the next table for
a writing pad.

No paper or envelopes, of course. Only a morsel of pink
blotting-paper, incredibly soft and limp and almost moist, like the
tongue of a little dead kitten, which I've never felt.

I sat--but always underneath, in this state of expectation, rolling
the little dead kitten's tongue round my finger and rolling the soft
phrase round my mind while my eyes took in the girls' names and dirty
jokes and drawings of bottles and cups that would not sit in the
saucers, scattered over the writing pad.

They are always the same, you know. The girls always have the same
names, the cups never sit in the saucers; all the hearts are stuck and
tied up with ribbons.

But then, quite suddenly, at the bottom of the page, written in green
ink, I fell on to that stupid, stale little phrase: _Je ne parle pas
français._

There! it had come--the moment--the _geste!_ And although I was so
ready, it caught me, it tumbled me over; I was simply overwhelmed. And
the physical feeling was so curious, so particular. It was as if all
of me, except my head and arms, all of me that was under the table,
had simply dissolved, melted, turned into water. Just my head remained
and two sticks of arms pressing on to the table. But, ah! the agony of
that moment! How can I describe it? I didn't think of anything. I
didn't even cry out to myself. Just for one moment I was not. I was
Agony, Agony, Agony.

Then it passed, and the very second after I was thinking: "Good God!
Am I capable of feeling as strongly as that? But I was absolutely
unconscious! I hadn't a phrase to meet it with! I was overcome! I was
swept off my feet! I didn't even try, in the dimmest way, to put it
down!"

And up I puffed and puffed, blowing off finally with: "After all I
must be first-rate. No second-rate mind could have experienced such an
intensity of feeling so...purely."



The waiter has touched a spill at the red stove and lighted a bubble
of gas under a spreading shade. It is no use looking out of the
window, Madame; it is quite dark now. Your white hands hover over your
dark shawl. They are like two birds that have come home to roost. They
are restless, restless...You tuck them, finally, under your warm
little armpits.

Now the waiter has taken a long pole and clashed the curtains
together. "All gone," as children say.

And besides, I've no patience with people who can't let go of things,
who will follow after and cry out. When a thing's gone, it's gone.
It's over and done with. Let it go then! Ignore it, and comfort
yourself, if you do want comforting, with the thought that you never
do recover the same thing that you lose. It's always a new thing. The
moment it leaves you it's changed. Why, that's even true of a hat you
chase after; and I don't mean superficially--I mean profoundly
speaking...I have made it a rule of my life never to regret and
never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy, and no one
who intends to be a writer can afford to indulge in it. You can't get
it into shape; you can't build on it; it's only good for wallowing in.
Looking back, of course, is equally fatal to Art. It's keeping
yourself poor. Art can't and won't stand poverty.

_Je ne parle pas français. Je ne parle pas français._ All the while I
wrote that last page my other self has been chasing up and down out in
the dark there. It left me just when I began to analyse my grand
moment, dashed off distracted, like a lost dog who thinks at last, at
last, he hears the familiar step again.

"Mouse! Mouse! Where are you? Are you near? Is that you leaning from
the high window and stretching out your arms for the wings of the
shutters? Are you this soft bundle moving towards me through the
feathery snow? Are you this little girl pressing through the
swing-doors of the restaurant? Is that your dark shadow bending
forward in the cab? Where are you? Where are you? Which way must I
turn? Which way shall I run? And every moment I stand here hesitating
you are farther away again. Mouse! Mouse!"

Now the poor dog has come back into the café, his tail between his
legs, quite exhausted.

"It was a...false...alarm. She's nowhere...to...be
seen."

"Lie down then! Lie down! Lie down!"



My name is Raoul Duquette. I am twenty-six years old and a Parisian, a
true Parisian. About my family--it really doesn't matter. I have no
family; I don't want any. I never think about my childhood. I've
forgotten it.

In fact, there's only one memory that stands out at all. That is
rather interesting because it seems to me now so very significant as
regards myself from the literary point of view. It is this.

When I was about ten our laundress was an African woman, very big,
very dark, with a check handkerchief over her frizzy hair. When she
came to our house she always took particular notice of me, and after
the clothes had been taken out of the basket she would lift me up into
it and give me a rock while I held tight to the handles and screamed
for joy and fright. I was tiny for my age, and pale, with a lovely
little half-open mouth--I feel sure of that.

One day when I was standing at the door, watching her go, she turned
round and beckoned to me, nodding and smiling in a strange secret way.
I never thought of not following. She took me into a little outhouse
at the end of the passage, caught me up in her arms and began kissing
me. Ah, those kisses! Especially those kisses inside my ears that
nearly deafened me.

When she set me down she took from her pocket a little round fried
cake covered with sugar, and I reeled along the passage back to our
door.

As this performance was repeated once a week it is no wonder that I
remember it so vividly. Besides, from that very first afternoon, my
childhood was, to put it prettily, "kissed away." I became very
languid, very caressing, and greedy beyond measure. And so quickened,
so sharpened, I seemed to understand everybody and be able to do what
I liked with everybody.

I suppose I was in a state of more or less physical excitement, and
that was what appealed to them. For all Parisians are more than
half--oh, well, enough of that. And enough of my childhood, too. Bury
it under a laundry basket instead of a shower of roses and _passons
oultre._



I date myself from the moment that I became the tenant of a small
bachelor flat on the fifth floor of a tall, not too shabby house, in a
street that might or might not be discreet. Very useful, that...There
I emerged, came out into the light and put out my two horns with
a study and a bedroom and a kitchen on my back. And real furniture
planted in the rooms. In the bedroom a wardrobe with a long glass, a
big bed covered with a yellow puffed-up quilt, a bed table with a
marbled top and a toilet set sprinkled with tiny apples. In my
study--English writing table with drawers, writing chair with leather
cushions, books, arm-chair, side table with paper-knife and lamp on it
and some nude studies on the walls. I didn't use the kitchen except to
throw old papers into.

Ah, I can see myself that first evening, after the furniture men had
gone and I'd managed to get rid of my atrocious old concierge--walking
about on tip-toe, arranging and standing in front of the glass with my
hands in my pockets and saying to that radiant vision: "I am a young
man who has his own flat. I write for two newspapers. I am going in
for serious literature. I am starting a career. The book that I shall
bring out will simply stagger the critics. I am going to write about
things that have never been touched before. I am going to make a name
for myself as a writer about the submerged world. But not as others
have done before me. Oh, no! Very naively, with a sort of tender
humour and from the inside, as though it were all quite simple, quite
natural. I see my way quite perfectly. Nobody has ever done it as I
shall do it because none of the others have lived my experiences. I'm
rich--I'm rich."

All the same I had no more money than I have now. It's extraordinary
how one can live without money...I have quantities of good
clothes, silk underwear, two evening suits, four pairs of patent
leather boots with light uppers, all sorts of little things, like
gloves and powder boxes and a manicure set, perfumes, very good soap,
and nothing is paid for. If I find myself in need of right-down
cash--well, there's always an African laundress and an outhouse, and I
am very frank and _bon enfant_ about plenty of sugar on the little
fried cake afterwards...

And here I should like to put something on record. Not from any
strutting conceit, but rather with a mild sense of wonder. I've never
yet made the first advances to any woman. It isn't as though I've
known only one class of woman--not by any means. But from little
prostitutes and kept women and elderly widows and shop girls and wives
of respectable men, and even advanced modern literary ladies at the
most select dinners and soirées (I've been there), I've met invariably
with not only the same readiness, but with the same positive
invitation. It surprised me at first. I used to look across the table
and think "Is that very distinguished young lady, discussing _le
Kipling_ with the gentleman with the brown beard, really pressing my
foot?" And I was never really certain until I had pressed hers.

Curious, isn't it? I don't look at all like a maiden's dream...

I am little and light with an olive skin, black eyes with long lashes,
black silky hair cut short, tiny square teeth that show when I smile.
My hands are supple and small. A woman in a bread shop once said to
me: "You have the hands for making fine little pastries." I confess,
without any clothes I am rather charming. Plump, almost like a girl,
with smooth shoulders, and I wear a thin gold bracelet above my left
elbow.

But, wait! Isn't it strange I should have written all that about my
body and so on? It's the result of my bad life, my submerged life. I
am like a little woman in a café who has to introduce herself with a
handful of photographs. "Me in my chemise, coming out of an eggshell...Me
upside down in a swing, with a frilly behind like a
cauliflower..." You know the things.



If you think what I've written is merely superficial and impudent and
cheap you're wrong. I'll admit it does sound so, but then it is not
all. If it were, how could I have experienced what I did when I read
that stale little phrase written in green ink, in the writing-pad?
That proves there's more in me and that I really am important, doesn't
it? Anything a fraction less than that moment of anguish I might have
put on. But no! That was real.

"Waiter, a whisky."

I hate whisky. Every time I take it into my mouth my stomach rises
against it, and the stuff they keep here is sure to be particularly
vile. I only ordered it because I am going to write about an
Englishman. We French are incredibly old-fashioned and out of date
still in some ways. I wonder I didn't ask him at the same time for a
pair of tweed knickerbockers, a pipe, some long teeth and a set of
ginger whiskers.

"Thanks, _mon vieux._ You haven't got perhaps a set of ginger
whiskers?"

"No, monsieur," he answers sadly. "We don't sell American drinks."

And having smeared a corner of the table he goes back to have another
couple of dozen taken by artificial light.

Ugh! The smell of it! And the sickly sensation when one's throat
contracts.

"It's bad stuff to get drunk on," says Dick Harmon, turning his little
glass in his fingers and smiling his slow, dreaming smile. So he gets
drunk on it slowly and dreamily and at a certain moment begins to sing
very low, very low, about a man who walks up and down trying to find a
place where he can get some dinner.

Ah! how I loved that song, and how I loved the way he sang it, slowly,
slowly, in a dark, soft voice:

  There was a man
  Walked up and down
  To get a dinner in the town...

It seemed to hold, in its gravity and muffled measure, all those tall
grey buildings, those fogs, those endless streets, those sharp shadows
of policemen that mean England.

And then--the subject! The lean, starved creature walking up and down
with every house barred against him because he had no "home." How
extraordinarily English that is...I remember that it ended where
he did at last "find a place" and ordered a little cake of fish, but
when he asked for bread the waiter cried contemptuously, in a loud
voice: "We don't serve bread with one fish ball."

What more do you want? How profound those songs are! There is the
whole psychology of a people; and how un-French--how un-French!

"Once more, Deeck, once more!" I would plead, clasping my hands and
making a pretty mouth at him. He was perfectly content to sing it for
ever.



There again. Even with Dick. It was he who made the first advances.

I met him at an evening party given by the editor of a new review. It
was a very select, very fashionable affair. One or two of the older
men were there and the ladies were extremely _comme il faut._ They sat
on cubist sofas in full evening dress and allowed us to hand them
thimbles of cherry brandy and to talk to them about their poetry. For,
as far as I can remember, they were all poetesses.

It was impossible not to notice Dick. He was the only Englishman
present, and instead of circulating gracefully round the room as we
all did, he stayed in one place leaning against the wall, his hands in
his pockets, that dreamy half smile on his lips, and replying in
excellent French in his low, soft voice to anybody who spoke to him.

"Who is he?"

"An Englishman. From London. A writer. And he is making a special
study of modern French literature."

That was enough for me. My little book, _False Coins_ had just been
published. I was a young serious writer who was making a special study
of modern English literature.

But I really had not time to fling my line before he said, giving
himself a soft shake, coming right out of the water after the bait, as
it were: "Won't you come and see me at my hotel? Come about five
o'clock and we can have a talk before going out to dinner."

"Enchanted!"

I was so deeply, deeply flattered that I had to leave him then and
there to preen and preen myself before the cubist sofas. What a catch!
An Englishman, reserved, serious, making a special study of French
literature...

That same night a copy of _False Coins_ with a carefully cordial
inscription was posted off, and a day or two later we did dine
together and spent the evening talking.

Talking--but not only of literature. I discovered to my relief that it
wasn't necessary to keep to the tendency of the modern novel, the need
of a new form, or the reason why our young men appeared to be just
missing it. Now and again, as if by accident, I threw in a card that
seemed to have nothing to do with the game, just to see how he'd take
it. But each time he gathered it into his hands with his dreamy look
and smile unchanged. Perhaps he murmured: "That's very curious." But
not as if it were curious at all.

That calm acceptance went to my head at last. It fascinated me. It led
me on and on till I threw every card that I possessed at him and sat
back and watched him arrange them in his hand.

"Very curious and interesting..."

By that time we were both fairly drunk, and he began to sing his song
very soft, very low, about the man who walked up and down seeking his
dinner.

But I was quite breathless at the thought of what I had done. I had
shown somebody both sides of my life. Told him everything as sincerely
and truthfully as I could. Taken immense pains to explain things about
my submerged life that really were disgusting and never could possibly
see the light of literary day. On the whole I had made myself out far
worse than I was--more boastful, more cynical, more calculating.

And there sat the man I had confided in, singing to himself and
smiling...It moved me so that real tears came into my eyes. I saw
them glittering on my long silky lashes--so charming.



After that I took Dick about with me everywhere, and he came to my
flat, and sat in the arm-chair, very indolent, playing with the
paper-knife. I cannot think why his indolence and dreaminess always
gave me the impression he had been to sea. And all his leisurely slow
ways seemed to be allowing for the movement of the ship. This
impression was so strong that often when we were together and he got
up and left a little woman just when she did not expect him to get up
and leave her, but quite the contrary, I would explain: "He can't help
it, Baby. He has to go back to his ship." And I believed it far more
than she did.

All the while we were together Dick never went with a woman. I
sometimes wondered whether he wasn't completely innocent. Why didn't I
ask him? Because I never did ask him anything about himself. But late
one night he took out his pocket-book and a photograph dropped out of
it. I picked it up and glanced at it before I gave it to him. It was
of a woman. Not quite young. Dark, handsome, wild-looking, but so full
in every line of a kind of haggard pride that even if Dick had not
stretched out so quickly I wouldn't have looked longer.

"Out of my sight, you little perfumed fox-terrier of a Frenchman,"
said she.

(In my very worst moments my nose reminds me of a fox-terrier's.)

"That is my Mother," said Dick, putting up the pocket-book.

But if he had not been Dick I should have been tempted to cross
myself, just for fun.



This is how we parted. As we stood outside his hotel one night waiting
for the concierge to release the catch of the outer door, he said,
looking up at the sky: "I hope it will be fine to-morrow. I am leaving
for England in the morning."

"You're not serious."

"Perfectly. I have to get back. I've some work to do that I can't
manage here."

"But--but have you made all your preparations?"

"Preparations?" He almost grinned. "I've none to make."

"But--_enfin_, Dick, England is not the other side of the boulevard."

"It isn't much farther off," said he. "Only a few hours, you know."
The door cracked open.

"Ah, I wish I'd known at the beginning of the evening!"

I felt hurt. I felt as a woman must feel when a man takes out his
watch and remembers an appointment that cannot possibly concern her,
except that its claim is the stronger. "Why didn't you tell me?"

He put out his hand and stood, lightly swaying upon the step as though
the whole hotel were his ship, and the anchor weighed.

"I forgot. Truly I did. But you'll write, won't you? Good night, old
chap. I'll be over again one of these days."

And then I stood on the shore alone, more like a little fox-terrier
than ever...

"But after all it was you who whistled to me, you who asked me to
come! What a spectacle I've cut wagging my tail and leaping round you,
only to be left like this while the boat sails off in its slow, dreamy
way...Curse these English! No, this is too insolent altogether.
Who do you imagine I am? A little paid guide to the night pleasures of
Paris?...No, monsieur. I am a young writer, very serious, and
extremely interested in modern English literature. And I have been
insulted--insulted."



Two days after came a long, charming letter from him, written in
French that was a shade too French, but saying how he missed me and
counted on our friendship, on keeping in touch.

I read it standing in front of the (unpaid for) wardrobe mirror. It
was early morning. I wore a blue kimono embroidered with white birds
and my hair was still wet; it lay on my forehead, wet and gleaming.

"Portrait of Madame Butterfly," said I, "on hearing of the arrival of
_ce cher Pinkerton_."

According to the books I should have felt immensely relieved and
delighted. "...Going over to the window he drew apart the curtains
and looked out at the Paris trees, just breaking into buds and
green...Dick! Dick! My English friend!"

I didn't. I merely felt a little sick. Having been up for my first
ride in an aeroplane I didn't want to go up again, just now.



That passed, and months after, in the winter, Dick wrote that he was
coming back to Paris to stay indefinitely. Would I take rooms for him?
He was bringing a woman friend with him.

Of course I would. Away the little fox-terrier flew. It happened most
usefully, too; for I owed much money at the hotel where I took my
meals, and two English people requiring rooms for an indefinite time
was an excellent sum on account.

Perhaps I did rather wonder, as I stood in the larger of the two rooms
with Madame, saying "Admirable," what the woman friend would be like,
but only vaguely. Either she would be very severe, flat back and
front, or she would be tall, fair, dressed in mignonette green,
name--Daisy, and smelling of rather sweetish lavender water.

You see, by this time, according to my rule of not looking back, I had
almost forgotten Dick. I even got the tune of his song about the
unfortunate man a little bit wrong when I tried to hum it...



I very nearly did not turn up at the station after all. I had arranged
to, and had, in fact, dressed with particular care for the occasion.
For I intended to take a new line with Dick this time. No more
confidences and tears on eyelashes. No, thank you!

"Since you left Paris," said I, knotting my black silver-spotted tie
in the (also unpaid for) mirror over the mantelpiece, "I have been
very successful, you know. I have two more books in preparation, and
then I have written a serial story, _Wrong Doors_, which is just on
the point of publication and will bring me in a lot of money. And then
my little book of poems," I cried, seizing the clothes-brush and
brushing the velvet collar of my new indigo-blue overcoat, "my little
book--_Left Umbrellas_--really did create," and I laughed and waved
the brush, "an immense sensation!"

It was impossible not to believe this of the person who surveyed
himself finally, from top to toe, drawing on his soft grey gloves. He
was looking the part; he was the part.

That gave me an idea. I took out my notebook, and still in full view,
jotted down a note or two...How can one look the part and not be
the part? Or be the part and not look it? Isn't looking--being? Or
being--looking? At any rate who is to say that it is not?...

This seemed to me extraordinarily profound at the time, and quite new.
But I confess that something did whisper as, smiling, I put up the
notebook: "You--literary? you look as though you've taken down a bet
on a racecourse!" But I didn't listen. I went out, shutting the door
of the flat with a soft, quick pull so as not to warn the concierge of
my departure, and ran down the stairs quick as a rabbit for the same
reason.



But ah! the old spider. She was too quick for me. She let me run down
the last little ladder of the web and then she pounced. "One moment.
One little moment, Monsieur," she whispered, odiously confidential.
"Come in. Come in." And she beckoned with a dripping soup ladle. I
went to the door, but that was not good enough. Right inside and the
door shut before she would speak.

There are two ways of managing your concierge if you haven't any
money. One is--to take the high hand, make her your enemy, bluster,
refuse to discuss anything; the other is--to keep in with her, butter
her up to the two knots of the black rag tying up her jaws, pretend to
confide in her, and rely on her to arrange with the gas man and to put
off the landlord.

I had tried the second. But both are equally detestable and
unsuccessful. At any rate whichever you're trying is the worse, the
impossible one.

It was the landlord this time...Imitation of the landlord by the
concierge threatening to toss me out...Imitation of the concierge
by the concierge taming the wild bull...Imitation of the landlord
rampant again, breathing in the concierge's face. I was the concierge.
No, it was too nauseous. And all the while the black pot on the gas
ring bubbling away, stewing out the hearts and livers of every tenant
in the place.

"Ah!" I cried, staring at the clock on the mantelpiece, and then,
realizing that it didn't go, striking my forehead as though the idea
had nothing to do with it. "Madame, I have a very important
appointment with the director of my newspaper at nine-thirty. Perhaps
to-morrow I shall be able to give you..."

Out, out. And down the métro and squeezed into a full carriage. The
more the better. Everybody was one bolster the more between me and the
concierge. I was radiant.

"Ah! pardon, Monsieur!" said the tall charming creature in black with
a big full bosom and a great bunch of violets dropping from it. As the
train swayed it thrust the bouquet right into my eyes. "Ah! pardon,
Monsieur!"

But I looked up at her, smiling mischievously.

"There is nothing I love more, Madame, than flowers on a balcony."

At the very moment of speaking I caught sight of the huge man in a fur
coat against whom my charmer was leaning. He poked his head over her
shoulder and he went white to the nose; in fact his nose stood out a
sort of cheese green.

"What was that you said to my wife?"

Gare Saint Lazare saved me. But you'll own that even as the author of
_False Coins_, _Wrong Doors_, _Left Umbrellas_, and two in
preparation, it was not too easy to go on my triumphant way.



At length, after countless trains had steamed into my mind, and
countless Dick Harmons had come rolling towards me, the real train
came. The little knot of us waiting at the barrier moved up close,
craned forward, and broke into cries as though we were some kind of
many-headed monster, and Paris behind us nothing but a great trap we
had set to catch these sleepy innocents.

Into the trap they walked and were snatched and taken off to be
devoured. Where was my prey?

"Good God!" My smile and my lifted hand fell together. For one
terrible moment I thought this was the woman of the photograph, Dick's
mother, walking towards me in Dick's coat and hat. In the effort--and
you saw what an effort it was--to smile, his lips curled in just the
same way and he made for me, haggard and wild and proud.

What had happened? What could have changed him like this? Should I
mention it?

I waited for him and was even conscious of venturing a fox-terrier wag
or two to see if he could possibly respond, in the way I said: "Good
evening, Dick! How are you, old chap? All right?"

"All right. All right." He almost gasped. "You've got the rooms?"

Twenty times, good God! I saw it all. Light broke on the dark waters
and my sailor hadn't been drowned. I almost turned a somersault with
amusement.

It was nervousness, of course. It was embarrassment. It was the famous
English seriousness. What fun I was going to have! I could have hugged
him.

"Yes, I've got the rooms," I nearly shouted. "But where is Madame?"

"She's been looking after the luggage," he panted. "Here she comes,
now."

Not this baby walking beside the old porter as though he were her
nurse and had just lifted her out of her ugly perambulator while he
trundled the boxes on it.

"And she's not Madame," said Dick, drawling suddenly.

At that moment she caught sight of him and hailed him with her minute
muff. She broke away from her nurse and ran up and said something,
very quick, in English; but he replied in French: "Oh, very well. I'll
manage."

But before he turned to the porter he indicated me with a vague wave
and muttered something. We were introduced. She held out her hand in
that strange boyish way Englishwomen do, and standing very straight in
front of me with her chin raised and making--she too--the effort of
her life to control her preposterous excitement, she said, wringing my
hand (I'm sure she didn't know it was mine), _Je ne parle pas
Français._

"But I'm sure you do," I answered, so tender, so reassuring, I might
have been a dentist about to draw her first little milk tooth.

"Of course she does." Dick swerved back to us. "Here, can't we get a
cab or taxi or something? We don't want to stay in this cursed station
all night. Do we?"

This was so rude that it took me a moment to recover; and he must have
noticed, for he flung his arm round my shoulder in the old way,
saying: "Ah, forgive me, old chap. But we've had such a loathsome,
hideous journey. We've taken years to come. Haven't we?" To her. But
she did not answer. She bent her head and began stroking her grey
muff; she walked beside us stroking her grey muff all the way.

"Have I been wrong?" thought I. "Is this simply a case of frenzied
impatience on their part? Are they merely 'in need of a bed,' as we
say? Have they been suffering agonies on the journey? Sitting,
perhaps, very close and warm under the same travelling rug?" and so on
and so on while the driver strapped on the boxes. That done----

"Look here, Dick. I go home by métro. Here is the address of your
hotel. Everything is arranged. Come and see me as soon as you can."

Upon my life I thought he was going to faint. He went white to the
lips.

"But you're coming back with us," he cried. "I thought it was all
settled. Of course you're coming back. You're not going to leave us."
No, I gave it up. It was too difficult, too English for me.

"Certainly, certainly. Delighted. I only thought, perhaps..."

"You must come!" said Dick to the little fox-terrier. And again he
made that big awkward turn towards her.

"Get in, Mouse."

And Mouse got in the black hole and sat stroking Mouse II and not
saying a word.



Away we jolted and rattled like three little dice that life had
decided to have a fling with.

I had insisted on taking the flap seat facing them because I would not
have missed for anything those occasional flashing glimpses I had as
we broke through the white circles of lamplight.

They revealed Dick, sitting far back in his corner, his coat collar
turned up, his hands thrust in his pockets, and his broad dark hat
shading him as if it were a part of him--a sort of wing he hid under.
They showed her, sitting up very straight, her lovely little face more
like a drawing than a real face--every line was so full of meaning and
so sharp cut against the swimming dark.

For Mouse was beautiful. She was exquisite, but so fragile and fine
that each time I looked at her it was as if for the first time. She
came upon you with the same kind of shock that you feel when you have
been drinking tea out of a thin innocent cup and suddenly, at the
bottom, you see a tiny creature, half butterfly, half woman, bowing to
you with her hands in her sleeves.

As far as I could make out she had dark hair and blue or black eyes.
Her long lashes and the two little feathers traced above were most
important.

She wore a long dark cloak such as one sees in old-fashioned pictures
of Englishwomen abroad. Where her arms came out of it there was grey
fur--fur round her neck, too, and her close-fitting cap was furry.

"Carrying out the mouse idea," I decided.



Ah, but how intriguing it was--how intriguing! Their excitement came
nearer and nearer to me, while I ran out to meet it, bathed in it,
flung myself far out of my depth, until at last I was as hard put to
it to keep control as they.

But what I wanted to do was to behave in the most extraordinary
fashion--like a clown. To start singing, with large extravagant
gestures, to point out of the window and cry: "We are now passing,
ladies and gentlemen, one of the sights for which _notre Paris_ is
justly famous," to jump out of the taxi while it was going, climb over
the roof and dive in by another door; to hang out of the window and
look for the hotel through the wrong end of a broken telescope, which
was also a peculiarly ear-splitting trumpet.

I watched myself do all this, you understand, and even managed to
applaud in a private way by putting my gloved hands gently together,
while I said to Mouse: "And is this your first visit to Paris?"

"Yes, I've not been here before."

"Ah, then you have a great deal to see."

And I was just going to touch lightly upon the objects of interest and
the museums when we wrenched to a stop.



Do you know--it's very absurd--but as I pushed open the door for them
and followed up the stairs to the bureau on the landing I felt somehow
that this hotel was mine.

There was a vase of flowers on the window sill of the bureau and I
even went so far as to re-arrange a bud or two and to stand off and
note the effect while the manageress welcomed them. And when she
turned to me and handed me the keys (the _garçon_ was hauling up the
boxes) and said: "Monsieur Duquette will show you your rooms"--I had a
longing to tap Dick on the arm with a key and say, very
confidentially: "Look here, old chap. As a friend of mine I'll be only
too willing to make a slight reduction..."

Up and up we climbed. Round and round. Past an occasional pair of
boots (why is it one never sees an attractive pair of boots outside a
door?). Higher and higher.

"I'm afraid they're rather high up," I murmured idiotically. "But I
chose them because..."

They so obviously did not care why I chose them that I went no
further. They accepted everything. They did not expect anything to be
different. This was just part of what they were going through--that
was how I analysed it.

"Arrived at last." I ran from one side of the passage to the other,
turning on the lights, explaining.

"This one I thought for you, Dick. The other is larger and it has a
little dressing-room in the alcove."

My "proprietary" eye noted the clean towels and covers, and the bed
linen embroidered in red cotton. I thought them rather charming rooms,
sloping, full of angles, just the sort of rooms one would expect to
find if one had not been to Paris before.

Dick dashed his hat down on the bed.

"Oughtn't I to help that chap with the boxes?" he asked--nobody.

"Yes, you ought," replied Mouse, "they're dreadfully heavy."

And she turned to me with the first glimmer of a smile: "Books, you
know." Oh, he darted such a strange look at her before he rushed out.
And he not only helped, he must have torn the box off the _garçon's_
back, for he staggered back, carrying one, dumped it down and then
fetched in the other.

"That's yours, Dick," said she.

"Well, you don't mind it standing here for the present, do you?" he
asked, breathless, breathing hard (the box must have been tremendously
heavy). He pulled out a handful of money. "I suppose I ought to pay
this chap."

The _garçon_, standing by, seemed to think so too.

"And will you require anything further, Monsieur?"

"No! No!" said Dick impatiently.

But at that Mouse stepped forward. She said, too deliberately, not
looking at Dick, with her quaint clipped English accent: "Yes, I'd
like some tea. Tea for three."

And suddenly she raised her muff as though her hands were clasped
inside it, and she was telling the pale, sweaty _garçon_ by that
action that she was at the end of her resources, that she cried out to
him to save her with "Tea. Immediately!"



This seemed to me so amazingly in the picture, so exactly the gesture
and cry that one would expect (though I couldn't have imagined it) to
be wrung out of an Englishwoman faced with a great crisis, that I was
almost tempted to hold up my hand and protest.

"No! No! Enough. Enough. Let us leave off there. At the word--tea. For
really, really, you've filled your greediest subscriber so full that
he will burst if he has to swallow another word."

It even pulled Dick up. Like someone who has been unconscious for a
long long time he turned slowly to Mouse and slowly looked at her with
his tired, haggard eyes, and murmured with the echo of his dreamy
voice: "Yes. That's a good idea." And then: "You must be tired, Mouse.
Sit down."

She sat down in a chair with lace tabs on the arms; he leaned against
the bed, and I established myself on a straight-backed chair, crossed
my legs and brushed some imaginary dust off the knees of my trousers.
(The Parisian at his ease.)

There came a tiny pause. Then he said: "Won't you take off your coat.
Mouse?"

"No, thanks. Not just now."

Were they going to ask me? Or should I hold up my hand and call out in
a baby voice: "It's my turn to be asked."

No, I shouldn't. They didn't ask me.

The pause became a silence. A real silence.

"...Come, my Parisian fox-terrier! Amuse these sad English! It's no
wonder they are such a nation for dogs."

But, after all--why should I? It was not my "job," as they would say.
Nevertheless, I made a vivacious little bound at Mouse.

"What a pity it is that you did not arrive by daylight. There is such
a charming view from these two windows. You know, the hotel is on a
corner and each window looks down an immensely long, straight street."

"Yes," said she.

"Not that that sounds very charming," I laughed. "But there is so much
animation--so many absurd little boys on bicycles and people hanging
out of windows and--oh, well, you'll see for yourself in the
morning...Very amusing. Very animated."

"Oh, yes," said she.

If the pale, sweaty _garçon_ had not come in at that moment, carrying
the tea-tray high on one hand as if the cups were cannon-balls and he
a heavy weight lifter on the cinema...

He managed to lower it on to a round table.

"Bring the table over here," said Mouse. The waiter seemed to be the
only person she cared to speak to. She took her hands out of her muff,
drew off her gloves and flung back the old-fashioned cape.

"Do you take milk and sugar?"

"No milk, thank you, and no sugar."

I went over for mine like a little gentleman. She poured out another
cup.

"That's for Dick."

And the faithful fox-terrier carried it across to him and laid it at
his feet, as it were.

"Oh, thanks," said Dick.

And then I went back to my chair and she sank back in hers.

But Dick was off again. He stared wildly at the cup of tea for a
moment, glanced round him, put it down on the bed-table, caught up his
hat and stammered at full gallop: "Oh, by the way, do you mind posting
a letter for me? I want to get it off by to-night's post. I must. It's
very urgent..." Feeling her eyes on him, he flung: "It's to my
mother." To me: "I won't be long. I've got everything I want. But it
must go off to-night You don't mind? It...it won't take any time."

"Of course I'll post it. Delighted."

"Won't you drink your tea first?" suggested Mouse softly.

...Tea? Tea? Yes, of course. Tea...A cup of tea on the
bed-table...In his racing dream he flashed the brightest, most
charming smile at his little hostess.

"No, thanks. Not just now."

And still hoping it would not be any trouble to me he went out of the
room and closed the door, and we heard him cross the passage.



I scalded myself with mine in my hurry to take the cup back to the
table and to say as I stood there: "You must forgive me if I am
impertinent...if I am too frank. But Dick hasn't tried to disguise
it--has he? There is something the matter. Can I help?"

(Soft music. Mouse gets up, walks the stage for a moment or so before
she returns to her chair and pours him out, oh, such a brimming, such
a burning cup that the tears come into the friend's eyes while he
sips--while he drains it to the bitter dregs...)

I had time to do all this before she replied. First she looked in the
teapot, filled it with hot water, and stirred it with a spoon.

"Yes, there is something the matter. No, I'm afraid you can't help,
thank you." Again I got that glimmer of a smile. "I'm awfully sorry.
It must be horrid for you."

Horrid, indeed! Ah, why couldn't I tell her that it was months and
months since I had been so entertained?

"But you are suffering," I ventured softly, as though that was what I
could not bear to see.

She didn't deny it. She nodded and bit her under-lip and I thought I
saw her chin tremble.

"And there is really nothing I can do?" More softly still.

She shook her head, pushed back the table and jumped up.

"Oh, it will be all right soon," she breathed, walking over to the
dressing-table and standing with her back towards me. "It will be all
right. It can't go on like this."

"But of course it can't." I agreed, wondering whether it would look
heartless if I lit a cigarette; I had a sudden longing to smoke.

In some way she saw my hand move to my breast pocket, half draw out my
cigarette case and put it back again, for the next thing she said was:
"Matches...in...candlestick. I noticed them."

And I heard from her voice that she was crying.



"Ah! thank you. Yes. Yes. I've found them." I lighted my cigarette and
walked up and down, smoking.

It was so quiet it might have been two o'clock in the morning. It was
so quiet you heard the boards creak and pop as one does in a house in
the country. I smoked the whole cigarette and stabbed the end into my
saucer before Mouse turned round and came back to the table.

"Isn't Dick being rather a long time?"

"You are very tired. I expect you want to go to bed," I said kindly.
(And pray don't mind me if you do, said my mind.)

"But isn't he being a very long time?" she insisted.

I shrugged. "He is, rather."

Then I saw she looked at me strangely. She was listening.

"He's been gone ages," she said, and she went with little light steps
to the door, opened it, and crossed the passage into his room.

I waited. I listened too, now. I couldn't have borne to miss a word.
She had left the door open. I stole across the room and looked after
her. Dick's door was open, too. But--there wasn't a word to miss.

You know I had the mad idea that they were kissing in that quiet
room--a long comfortable kiss. One of those kisses that not only puts
one's grief to bed, but nurses it and warms it and tucks it up and
keeps it fast enfolded until it is sleeping sound. Ah! how good that
is.

It was over at last. I heard some one move and tip-toed away.

It was Mouse. She came back. She felt her way into the room carrying
the letter for me. But it wasn't in an envelope; it was just a sheet
of paper and she held it by the corner as though it was still wet.

Her head was bent so low--so tucked in her furry collar that I hadn't
a notion--until she let the paper fall and almost fell herself on to
the floor by the side of the bed, leaned her cheek against it, flung
out her hands as though the last of her poor little weapons was gone
and now she let herself be carried away, washed out into the deep
water.

Flash! went my mind. Dick has shot himself, and then a succession of
flashes while I rushed in, saw the body, head unharmed, small blue
hole over temple, roused hotel, arranged funeral, attended funeral,
closed cab, new morning coat...

I stooped down and picked up the paper and would you believe it--so
ingrained is my Parisian sense of _comme il faut_--I murmured "pardon"
before I read it.


"MOUSE, MY LITTLE MOUSE,

It's no good. It's impossible. I can't see it through. Oh, I do love
you. I do love you. Mouse, but I can't hurt her. People have been
hurting her all her life. I simply dare not give her this final blow.
You see, though she's stronger than both of us, she's so frail and
proud. It would kill her--kill her, Mouse. And, oh God, I can't kill
my mother! Not even for you. Not even for us. You do see that--don't
you.

It all seemed so possible when we talked and planned, but the very
moment the train started it was all over. I felt her drag me back to
her--calling. I can hear her now as I write. And she's alone and she
doesn't know. A man would have to be a devil to tell her and I'm not a
devil, Mouse. She mustn't know. Oh, Mouse, somewhere, somewhere in you
don't you agree? It's all so unspeakably awful that I don't know if I
want to go or not. Do I? Or is Mother just dragging me? I don't know.
My head is too tired. Mouse, Mouse--what will you do? But I can't
think of that, either. I dare not. I'd break down. And I must not
break down. All I've got to do is--just to tell you this and go. I
couldn't have gone off without telling you. You'd have been
frightened. And you must not be frightened. You won't--will you? I
can't bear--but no more of that. And don't write. I should not have
the courage to answer your letters and the sight of your spidery
handwriting----

Forgive me. Don't love me any more. Yes. Love me. Love me. Dick."


What do you think of that? Wasn't that a rare find? My relief at his
not having shot himself was mixed with a wonderful sense of elation. I
was even--more than even with my "that's very curious and interesting"
Englishman...

She wept so strangely. With her eyes shut, with her face quite calm
except for the quivering eyelids. The tears pearled down her cheeks
and she let them fall.

But feeling my glance upon her she opened her eyes and saw me holding
the letter.

"You've read it?"

Her voice was quite calm, but it was not her voice any more. It was
like the voice you might imagine coming out of a tiny, cold sea-shell
swept high and dry at last by the salt tide...

I nodded, quite overcome, you understand, and laid the letter down.

"It's incredible! incredible!" I whispered.

At that she got up from the floor, walked over to the wash-stand,
dipped her handkerchief into the jug and sponged her eyes, saying:
"Oh, no. It's not incredible at all." And still pressing the wet ball
to her eyes she came back to me, to her chair with the lace tabs, and
sank into it.

"I knew all along, of course," said the cold, salty little voice.
"From the very moment that we started. I felt it all through me, but I
still went on hoping--" and here she took the handkerchief down and
gave me a final glimmer--"as one so stupidly does, you know."

"As one does."

Silence.

"But what will you do? You'll go back? You'll see him?"

That made her sit right up and stare across at me.

"What an extraordinary idea!" she said, more coldly than ever. "Of
course I shall not dream of seeing him. As for going back--that is
quite out of the question. I can't go back."

"But..."

"It's impossible. For one thing all my friends think I am married."

I put out my hand--"Ah, my poor little friend."

But she shrank away. (False move.)

Of course there was one question that had been at the back of my mind
all this time. I hated it.

"Have you any money?"

"Yes, I have twenty pounds--here," and she put her hand on her breast.
I bowed. It was great deal more than I had expected.

"And what are your plans?"

Yes, I know. My question was the most clumsy, the most idiotic one I
could have put. She had been so tame, so confiding, letting me, at any
rate spiritually speaking, hold her tiny quivering body in one hand
and stroke her furry head--and now, I'd thrown her away. Oh, I could
have kicked myself.

She stood up. "I have no plans. But--it's very late. You must go now,
please."

How could I get her back? I wanted her back. I swear I was not acting
then.

"Do feel that I am your friend," I cried. "You will let me come
to-morrow, early? You will let me look after you a little--take care
of you a little? You'll use me just as you think fit?"

I succeeded. She came out of her hole...timid...but she came
out.

"Yes, you're very kind. Yes. Do come to-morrow. I shall be glad. It
makes things rather difficult because--" and again I clasped her
boyish hand--"_je ne parle pas français._"

Not until I was half-way down the boulevard did it come over me--the
full force of it.

Why, they were suffering...those two...really suffering. I
have seen two people suffer as I don't suppose I ever shall again...



Of course you know what to expect. You anticipate, fully, what I am
going to write. It wouldn't be me, otherwise.

I never went near the place again.

Yes, I still owe that considerable amount for lunches and dinners, but
that's beside the mark. It's vulgar to mention it in the same breath
with the fact that I never saw Mouse again.

Naturally, I intended to. Started out--got to the door--wrote and tore
up letters--did all those things. But I simply could not make the
final effort.

Even now I don't fully understand why. Of course I knew that I
couldn't have kept it up. That had a great deal to do with it. But you
would have thought, putting it at its lowest, curiosity couldn't have
kept my fox-terrier nose away...

_Je ne parle pas français._ That was her swan song for me.



But how she makes me break my rule. Oh, you've seen for yourself, but
I could give you countless examples.

...Evenings, when I sit in some gloomy café, and an automatic piano
starts playing a "mouse" tune (there are dozens of tunes that evoke
just her) I begin to dream things like...

A little house on the edge of the sea, somewhere far, far away. A girl
outside in a frock rather like Red Indian women wear, hailing a light,
barefoot boy who runs up from the beach.

"What have you got?"

"A fish." I smile and give it to her.

...The same girl, the same boy, different costumes--sitting at an
open window, eating fruit and leaning out and laughing.

"All the wild strawberries are for you, Mouse. I won't touch one."

...A wet night. They are going home together under an umbrella.
They stop on the door to press their wet cheeks together.



And so on and so on until some dirty old gallant comes up to my table
and sits opposite and begins to grimace and yap. Until I hear myself
saying: "But I've got the little girl for you, _mon vieux._ So
little...so tiny." I kiss the tips of my fingers and lay them upon my
heart. "I give you my word of honour as a gentleman, a writer,
serious, young, and extremely interested in modern English
literature."



I must go. I must go. I reach down my coat and hat. Madame knows me.
"You haven't dined yet?" she smiles.

"No, not yet, Madame."




BLISS

ALTHOUGH Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when
she wanted to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off
the pavement, to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and
catch it again, or to stand still and laugh at--nothing--at nothing,
simply.

What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own
street, you are overcome, suddenly, by a feeling of bliss--absolute
bliss!--as though you'd suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late
afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower
of sparks into every particle, into every finger and toe?...

Oh, is there no way you can express it without being "drunk and
disorderly"? How idiotic civilization is! Why be given a body if you
have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle?

"No, that about the fiddle is not quite what I mean," she thought,
running up the steps and feeling in her bag for the key--she'd
forgotten it, as usual--and rattling the letter-box. "It's not what I
mean, because---- Thank you, Mary"--she went into the hall. "Is nurse
back?"

"Yes, M'm."

"And has the fruit come?"

"Yes, M'm. Everything's come."

"Bring the fruit up to the dining-room, will you? I'll arrange it
before I go upstairs."

It was dusky in the dining-room and quite chilly. But all the same
Bertha threw off her coat; she could not bear the tight clasp of it
another moment, and the cold air fell on her arms.

But in her bosom there was still that bright glowing place--that
shower of little sparks coming from it. It was almost unbearable. She
hardly dared to breathe for fear of fanning it higher, and yet she
breathed deeply, deeply. She hardly dared to look into the cold
mirror--but she did look, and it gave her back a woman, radiant, with
smiling, trembling lips, with big, dark eyes and an air of listening,
waiting for something...divine to happen...that she knew must
happen...infallibly.

Mary brought in the fruit on a tray and with it a glass bowl, and a
blue dish, very lovely, with a strange sheen on it as though it had
been dipped in milk.

"Shall I turn on the light, M'm?"

"No, thank you. I can see quite well."

There were tangerines and apples stained with strawberry pink. Some
yellow pears, smooth as silk, some white grapes covered with a silver
bloom and a big cluster of purple ones. These last she had bought to
tone in with the new dining-room carpet. Yes, that did sound rather
far-fetched and absurd, but it was really why she had bought them. She
had thought in the shop: "I must have some purple ones to bring the
carpet up to the table." And it had seemed quite sense at the time.

When she had finished with them and had made two pyramids of these
bright round shapes, she stood away from the table to get the
effect--and it really was most curious. For the dark table seemed to
melt into the dusky light and the glass dish and the blue bowl to
float in the air. This, of course in her present mood, was so
incredibly beautiful...She began to laugh.

"No, no. I'm getting hysterical." And she seized her bag and coat and
ran upstairs to the nursery.



Nurse sat at a low table giving Little B her supper after her bath.
The baby had on a white flannel gown and a blue woollen jacket, and
her dark, fine hair was brushed up into a funny little peak. She
looked up when she saw her mother and began to jump.

"Now, my lovey, eat it up like a good girl," said Nurse, setting her
lips in a way that Bertha knew, and that meant she had come into the
nursery at another wrong moment.

"Has she been good, Nanny?"

"She's been a little sweet all the afternoon," whispered Nanny. "We
went to the park and I sat down on a chair and took her out of the
pram and a big dog came along and put its head on my knee and she
clutched its ear, tugged it. Oh, you should have seen her."

Bertha wanted to ask if it wasn't rather dangerous to let her clutch
at a strange dog's ear. But she did not dare to. She stood watching
them, her hands by her side, like the poor little girl in front of the
rich little girl with the doll.

The baby looked up at her again, stared, and then smiled so charmingly
that Bertha couldn't help crying:

"Oh, Nanny, do let me finish giving her her supper while you put the
bath things away."

"Well, M'm, she oughtn't to be changed hands while she's eating," said
Nanny, still whispering. "It unsettles her; it's very likely to upset
her."

How absurd it was. Why have a baby if it has to be kept--not in a case
like a rare, rare fiddle--but in another woman's arms?

"Oh, I must!" said she.

Very offended, Nanny handed her over.

"Now, don't excite her after her supper. You know you do, M'm. And I
have such a time with her after!"

Thank heaven! Nanny went out of the room with the bath towels.

"Now I've got you to myself, my little precious," said Bertha, as the
baby leaned against her.

She ate delightfully, holding up her lips for spoon and then waving
her hands. Sometimes she wouldn't let the spoon go; and sometimes,
just as Bertha had filled it, she waved it away to the four winds.

When the soup was finished Bertha turned round to the fire.

"You're nice--you're very nice!" said she, kissing her warm baby. "I'm
fond of you. I like you."

And, indeed, she loved Little B so much--her neck as she bent forward,
her exquisite toes as they shone transparent in the firelight--that
all her feeling of bliss came back again, and again she didn't know
how to express it--what to do with it.

"You're wanted on the telephone," said Nanny, coming back in triumph
and seizing _her_ Little B.



Down she flew. It was Harry.

"Oh, is that you, Ber? Look here. I'll be late. I'll take a taxi and
come along as quickly as I can, but get dinner put back ten
minutes--will you? All right?"

"Yes, perfectly. Oh, Harry!"

"Yes?"

What had she to say? She'd nothing to say. She only wanted to get in
touch with him for a moment. She couldn't absurdly cry: "Hasn't it
been a divine day!"

"What is it?" rapped out the little voice.

"Nothing. _Entendu_," said Bertha, and hung up the receiver, thinking
how more than idiotic civilization was.



They had people coming to dinner. The Norman Knights--a very sound
couple--he was about to start a theatre, and she was awfully keen on
interior decoration, a young man, Eddie Warren, who had just published
a little book of poems and whom everybody was asking to dine, and a
"find" of Bertha's called Pearl Fulton. What Miss Fulton did, Bertha
didn't know. They had met at the club and Bertha had fallen in love
with her, as she always did fall in love with beautiful women who had
something strange about them.

The provoking thing was that, though they had been about together and
met a number of times and really talked, Bertha couldn't yet make her
out. Up to a certain point Miss Fulton was rarely, wonderfully frank,
but the certain point was there, and beyond that she would not go.

Was there anything beyond it? Harry said "No." Voted her dullish, and
"cold like all blond women, with a touch, perhaps, of anæmia of the
brain." But Bertha wouldn't agree with him; not yet, at any rate.

"No, the way she has of sitting with her head a little on one side,
and smiling, has something behind it, Harry, and I must find out what
that something is."

"Most likely it's a good stomach," answered Harry.

He made a point of catching Bertha's heels with replies of that
kind..."liver frozen, my dear girl," or "pure flatulence," or "kidney
disease,"...and so on. For some strange reason Bertha liked this,
and almost admired it in him very much.

She went into the drawing-room and lighted the fire; then, picking up
the cushions, one by one, that Mary had disposed so carefully, she
threw them back on to the chairs and the couches. That made all the
difference; the room came alive at once. As she was about to throw the
last one she surprised herself by suddenly hugging it to her,
passionately, passionately. But it did not put out the fire in her
bosom. Oh, on the contrary!

The windows of the drawing-room opened on to a balcony overlooking the
garden. At the far end, against the wall, there was a tall, slender
pear tree in fullest, richest bloom; it stood perfect, as though
becalmed against the jade-green sky. Bertha couldn't help feeling,
even from this distance, that it had not a single bud or a faded
petal. Down below, in the garden beds, the red and yellow tulips,
heavy with flowers, seemed to lean upon the dusk. A grey cat, dragging
its belly, crept across the lawn, and a black one, its shadow, trailed
after. The sight of them, so intent and so quick, gave Bertha a
curious shiver.

"What creepy things cats are!" she stammered, and she turned away from
the window and began walking up and down...

How strong the jonquils smelled in the warm room. Too strong? Oh, no.
And yet, as though overcome, she flung down on a couch and pressed her
hands to her eyes.

"I'm too happy--too happy!" she murmured.

And she seemed to see on her eyelids the lovely pear tree with its
wide open blossoms as a symbol of her own life.

Really--really--she had everything. She was young. Harry and she were
as much in love as ever, and they got on together splendidly and were
really good pals. She had an adorable baby. They didn't have to worry
about money. They had this absolutely satisfactory house and garden.
And friends--modern, thrilling friends, writers and painters and poets
or people keen on social questions--just the kind of friends they
wanted. And then there were books, and there was music, and she had
found a wonderful little dressmaker, and they were going abroad in the
summer, and their new cook made the most superb omelettes...

"I'm absurd. Absurd!" She sat up; but she felt quite dizzy, quite
drunk. It must have been the spring.

Yes, it was the spring. Now she was so tired she could not drag
herself upstairs to dress.

A white dress, a string of jade beads, green shoes and stockings. It
wasn't intentional. She had thought of this scheme hours before she
stood at the drawing-room window.

Her petals rustled softly into the hall, and she kissed Mrs. Norman
Knight, who was taking off the most amusing orange coat with a
procession of black monkeys round the hem and up the fronts.

"...Why! Why! Why is the middle-class so stodgy--so utterly without
a sense of humour! My dear, it's only by a fluke that I am here at
all--Norman being the protective fluke. For my darling monkeys so
upset the train that it rose to a man and simply ate me with its eyes.
Didn't laugh--wasn't amused--that I should have loved. No, just
stared--and bored me through and through."

"But the cream of it was," said Norman, pressing a large
tortoiseshell-rimmed monocle into his eye, "you don't mind me telling
this, Face, do you?" (In their home and among their friends they
called each other Face and Mug.) "The cream of it was when she, being
full fed, turned to the woman beside her and said: 'Haven't you ever
seen a monkey before?'"

"Oh, yes!" Mrs. Norman Knight joined in the laughter. "Wasn't that too
absolutely creamy?"

And a funnier thing still was that now her coat was off she did look
like a very intelligent monkey--who had even made that yellow silk
dress out of scraped banana skins. And her amber ear-rings; they were
like little dangling nuts.

"This is a sad, sad fall!" said Mug, pausing in front of Little B's
perambulator. "When the perambulator comes into the hall----" and he
waved the rest of the quotation away.

The bell rang. It was lean, pale Eddie Warren (as usual) in a state of
acute distress.

"It _is_ the right house, _isn't_ it?" he pleaded.

"Oh, I think so--I hope so," said Bertha brightly.

"I have had such a _dreadful_ experience with a taxi-man; he was
_most_ sinister. I couldn't get him to _stop._ The _more_ I knocked
and called the _faster_ he went. And _in_ the moonlight this _bizarre_
figure with the _flattened_ head _crouching_ over the _lit-tle_ wheel..."

He shuddered, taking off an immense white silk scarf. Bertha noticed
that his socks were white, too--most charming.

"But how dreadful!" she cried.

"Yes, it really was," said Eddie, following her into the drawing-room.
"I saw myself _driving_ through Eternity in a _timeless_ taxi."

He knew the Norman Knights. In fact, he was going to write a play for
N. K. when the theatre scheme came off.

"Well, Warren, how's the play?" said Norman Knight, dropping his
monocle and giving his eye a moment in which to rise to the surface
before it was screwed down again.

And Mrs. Norman Knight: "Oh, Mr. Warren, what happy socks?"

"I _am_ so glad you like them," said he, staring at his feet. "They
seem to have got so _much_ whiter since the moon rose." And he turned
his lean sorrowful young face to Bertha. "There _is_ a moon, you
know."

She wanted to cry: "I am sure there is--often--often!"

He really was a most attractive person. But so was Face, crouched
before the fire in her banana skins, and so was Mug, smoking a
cigarette and saying as he flicked the ash: "Why doth the bridegroom
tarry?"

"There he is, now."

Bang went the front door open and shut. Harry shouted: "Hullo, you
people. Down in five minutes." And they heard him swarm up the stairs.
Bertha couldn't help smiling; she knew how he loved doing things at
high pressure. What, after all, did an extra five minutes matter? But
he would pretend to himself that they mattered beyond measure. And
then he would make a great point of coming into the drawing-room,
extravagantly cool and collected.

Harry had such a zest for life. Oh, how she appreciated it in him. And
his passion for fighting--for seeking in everything that came up
against him another test of his power and of his courage--that, too,
she understood. Even when it made him just occasionally, to other
people, who didn't know him well, a little ridiculous perhaps...For
there were moments when he rushed into battle where no battle was...She
talked and laughed and positively forgot until he had come
in (just as she had imagined) that Pearl Fulton had not turned up.

"I wonder if Miss Fulton has forgotten?"

"I expect so," said Harry. "Is she on the 'phone?"

"Ah! There's a taxi, now." And Bertha smiled with that little air of
proprietorship that she always assumed while her women finds were new
and mysterious. "She lives in taxis."

"She'll run to fat if she does," said Harry coolly, ringing the bell
for dinner. "Frightful danger for blond women."

"Harry--don't," warned Bertha, laughing up at him.

Came another tiny moment, while they waited, laughing and talking,
just a trifle too much at their ease, a trifle too unaware. And then
Miss Fulton, all in silver, with a silver fillet binding her pale
blond hair, came in smiling, her head a little on one side.

"Am I late?"

"No, not at all," said Bertha. "Come along." And she took her arm and
they moved into the dining-room.

What was there in the touch of that cool arm that could
fan--fan--start blazing--blazing--the fire of bliss that Bertha did
not know what to do with?

Miss Fulton did not look at her; but then she seldom did look at
people directly. Her heavy eyelids lay upon her eyes and the strange
half smile came and went upon her lips as though she lived by
listening rather than seeing. But Bertha knew, suddenly, as if the
longest, most intimate look had passed between them--as if they had
said to each other: "You, too?"--that Pearl Fulton stirring the
beautiful red soup in the grey plate was feeling just what she was
feeling.

And the others? Face and Mug, Eddie and Harry, their spoons rising and
falling--dabbing their lips with their napkins, crumbling bread,
fiddling with the forks and glasses and talking.

"I met her at the Alpha show--the weirdest little person. She'd not
only cut off her hair, but she seemed to have taken a dreadfully good
snip off her legs and arms and her neck and her poor little nose as
well."

"Isn't she very _liée_ with Michael Oat?"

"The man who wrote _Love in False Teeth?_"

"He wants to write a play for me. One act. One man. Decides to commit
suicide. Gives all the reasons why he should and why he shouldn't. And
just as he has made up his mind either to do it or not to do
it--curtain. Not half a bad idea."

"What's he going to call it--'Stomach Trouble'?"

"I _think_ I've come across the same _idea_ in a lit-tle French
review, _quite_ unknown in England."

No, they didn't share it. They were dears--dears--and she loved having
them there, at her table, and giving them delicious food and wine. In
fact, she longed to tell them how delightful they were, and what a
decorative group they made, how they seemed to set one another off and
how they reminded her of a play by Tchekof!

Harry was enjoying his dinner. It was part of his--well, not his
nature, exactly, and certainly not his pose--his--something or
other--to talk about food and to glory in his "shameless passion for
the white flesh of the lobster" and "the green of pistachio
ices--green and cold like the eyelids of Egyptian dancers."

When he looked up at her and said: "Bertha, this is a very admirable
_soufflée!_" she almost could have wept with child-like pleasure.

Oh, why did she feel so tender towards the whole world to-night?
Everything was good--was right. All that happened seemed to fill again
her brimming cup of bliss.

And still, in the back of her mind, there was the pear tree. It would
be silver now, in the light of poor dear Eddie's moon, silver as Miss
Fulton, who sat there turning a tangerine in her slender fingers that
were so pale a light seemed to come from them.

What she simply couldn't make out--what was miraculous--was how she
should have guessed Miss Fulton's mood so exactly and so instantly.
For she never doubted for a moment that she was right, and yet what
had she to go on? Less than nothing.

"I believe this does happen very, very rarely between women. Never
between men," thought Bertha. "But while I am making the coffee in the
drawing-room perhaps she will 'give a sign.'"

What she meant by that she did not know, and what would happen after
that she could not imagine.

While she thought like this she saw herself talking and laughing. She
had to talk because of her desire to laugh.

"I must laugh or die."

But when she noticed Face's funny little habit of tucking something
down the front of her bodice--as if she kept a tiny, secret hoard of
nuts there, too--Bertha had to dig her nails into her hands--so as not
to laugh too much.



It was over at last. And: "Come and see my new coffee machine," said
Bertha.

"We only have a new coffee machine once a fortnight," said Harry. Face
took her arm this time; Miss Fulton bent her head and followed after.

The fire had died down in the drawing-room to a red, flickering "nest
of baby phoenixes," said Face.

"Don't turn up the light for a moment. It is so lovely." And down she
crouched by the fire again. She was always cold..."without her
little red flannel jacket, of course," thought Bertha.

At that moment Miss Fulton "gave the sign."

"Have you a garden?" said the cool, sleepy voice.

This was so exquisite on her part that all Bertha could do was to
obey. She crossed the room, pulled the curtains apart, and opened
those long windows.

"There!" she breathed.

And the two women stood side by side looking at the slender, flowering
tree. Although it was so still it seemed, like the flame of a candle,
to stretch up, to point, to quiver in the bright air, to grow taller
and taller as they gazed--almost to touch the rim of the round, silver
moon.

How long did they stand there? Both, as it were, caught in that circle
of unearthly light, understanding each other perfectly, creatures of
another world, and wondering what they were to do in this one with all
this blissful treasure that burned in their bosoms and dropped, in
silver flowers, from their hair and hands?

For ever--for a moment? And did Miss Fulton murmur: "Yes. Just
_that._" Or did Bertha dream it?

Then the light was snapped on and Face made the coffee and Harry said:
"My dear Mrs. Knight, don't ask me about my baby. I never see her. I
shan't feel the slightest interest in her until she has a lover," and
Mug took his eye out of the conservatory for a moment and then put it
under glass again and Eddie Warren drank his coffee and set down the
cup with a face of anguish as though he had drunk and seen the spider.

"What I want to do is to give the young men a show. I believe London
is simply teeming with first-chop, unwritten plays. What I want to say
to 'em is: 'Here's the theatre. Fire ahead.'"

"You know, my dear, I am going to decorate a room for the Jacob
Nathans. Oh, I am so tempted to do a fried-fish scheme, with the backs
of the chairs shaped like frying pans and lovely chip potatoes
embroidered all over the curtains."

"The trouble with our young writing men is that they are still too
romantic. You can't put out to sea without being seasick and wanting a
basin. Well, why won't they have the courage of those basins?"

"A _dreadful_ poem about a _girl_ who was _violated_ by a beggar
without a nose in a lit-tle wood..."

Miss Fulton sank into the lowest, deepest chair and Harry handed round
the cigarettes.

From the way he stood in front of her shaking the silver box and
saying abruptly: "Egyptian? Turkish? Virginian? They're all mixed up,"
Bertha realized that she not only bored him; he really disliked her.
And she decided from the way Miss Fulton said: "No, thank you, I won't
smoke," that she felt it, too, and was hurt.

"Oh, Harry, don't dislike her. You are quite wrong about her. She's
wonderful, wonderful. And, besides, how can you feel so differently
about someone who means so much to me. I shall try to tell you when we
are in bed to-night what has been happening. What she and I have
shared."



At those last words something strange and almost terrifying darted
into Bertha's mind. And this something blind and smiling whispered to
her: "Soon these people will go. The house will be quiet--quiet. The
lights will be out. And you and he will be alone together in the dark
room--the warm bed..."

She jumped up from her chair and ran over to the piano.

"What a pity someone does not play!" she cried. "What a pity somebody
does not play."

For the first time in her life Bertha Young desired her husband.

Oh, she'd loved him--she'd been in love with him, of course, in every
other way, but just not in that way. And, equally, of course, she'd
understood that he was different. They'd discussed it so often. It had
worried her dreadfully at first to find that she was so cold, but
after a time it had not seemed to matter. They were so frank with each
other--such good pals. That was the best of being modern.

But now--ardently! ardently! The word ached in her ardent body! Was
this what that feeling of bliss had been leading up to? But then
then----

"My dear," said Mrs. Norman Knight, "you know our shame. We are the
victims of time and train. We live in Hampstead. It's been so nice."

"I'll come with you into the hall," said Bertha. "I loved having you.
But you must not miss the last train. That's so awful, isn't it?"

"Have a whisky, Knight, before you go?" called Harry.

"No, thanks, old chap."

Bertha squeezed his hand for that as she shook it.

"Good night, good-bye," she cried from the top step, feeling that this
self of hers was taking leave of them for ever.

When she got back into the drawing-room the others were on the move.

"...Then you can come part of the way in my taxi."

"I shall be _so_ thankful _not_ to have to face _another_ drive
_alone_ after my _dreadful_ experience."

"You can get a taxi at the rank just at the end of the street. You
won't have to walk more than a few yards."

"That's a comfort. I'll go and put on my coat."

Miss Fulton moved towards the hall and Bertha was following when Harry
almost pushed past.

"Let me help you."

Bertha knew that he was repenting his rudeness--she let him go. What a
boy he was in some ways--so impulsive--so--simple.

And Eddie and she were left by the fire.

"I _wonder_ if you have seen Bilks' _new_ poem called _Table d'Hôte_,"
said Eddie softly. "It's _so_ wonderful. In the last Anthology. Have
you got a copy? I'd _so_ like to _show_ it to you. It begins with an
_incredibly_ beautiful line: 'Why Must it Always be Tomato Soup?'"

"Yes," said Bertha. And she moved noiselessly to a table opposite the
drawing-room door and Eddie glided noiselessly after her. She picked
up the little book and gave it to him; they had not made a sound.

While he looked it up she turned her head towards the hall. And she
saw...Harry with Miss Fulton's coat in his arms and Miss Fulton
with her back turned to him and her head bent. He tossed the coat
away, put his hands on her shoulders and turned her violently to him.
His lips said: "I adore you," and Miss Fulton laid her moonbeam
fingers on his cheeks and smiled her sleepy smile. Harry's nostrils
quivered; his lips curled back in a hideous grin while he whispered:
"To-morrow," and with her eyelids Miss Fulton said: "Yes."

"Here it is," said Eddie. "'Why Must it Always be Tomato Soup?' It's
so _deeply_ true, don't you feel? Tomato soup is so _dreadfully_
eternal."

"If you prefer," said Harry's voice, very loud, from the hall, "I can
phone you a cab to come to the door."

"Oh, no. It's not necessary," said Miss Fulton, and she came up to
Bertha and gave her the slender fingers to hold.

"Good-bye. Thank you so much."

"Good-bye," said Bertha.

Miss Fulton held her hand a moment longer.

"Your lovely pear tree!" she murmured.

And then she was gone, with Eddie following, like the black cat
following the grey cat.

"I'll shut up shop," said Harry, extravagantly cool and collected.

"Your lovely pear tree--pear tree--pear tree!"

Bertha simply ran over to the long windows.

"Oh, what is going to happen now?" she cried.

But the pear tree was as lovely as ever and as full of flower and as
still.




THE WIND BLOWS

SUDDENLY--dreadfully--she wakes up. What has happened? Something
dreadful has happened. No--nothing has happened. It is only the wind
shaking the house, rattling the windows, banging a piece of iron on
the roof and making her bed tremble. Leaves flutter past the window,
up and away; down in the avenue a whole newspaper wags in the air like
a lost kite and falls, spiked on a pine tree. It is cold. Summer is
over--it is autumn--everything is ugly. The carts rattle by, swinging
from side to side; two Chinamen lollop along under their wooden yokes
with the straining vegetable baskets--their pigtails and blue blouses
fly out in the wind. A white dog on three legs yelps past the gate. It
is all over! What is? Oh, everything! And she begins to plait her hair
with shaking fingers, not daring to look in the glass. Mother is
talking to grandmother in the hall.

"A perfect idiot! Imagine leaving anything out on the line in weather
like this...Now my best little Teneriffe-work teacloth is simply
in ribbons. _What_ is that extraordinary smell? It's the porridge
burning. Oh, heavens--this wind!"

She has a music lesson at ten o'clock. At the thought the minor
movement of the Beethoven begins to play in her head, the trills long
and terrible like little rolling drums...Marie Swainson runs into
the garden next door to pick the "chrysanths" before they are ruined.
Her skirt flies up above her waist; she tries to beat it down, to tuck
it between her legs while she stoops, but it is no use--up it flies.
All the trees and bushes beat about her. She picks as quickly as she
can but she is quite distracted. She doesn't mind what she does--she
pulls the plants up by the roots and bends and twists them, stamping
her foot and swearing.

"For heaven's sake keep the front door shut! Go round to the back,"
shouts someone. And then she hears Bogey:

"Mother, you're wanted on the telephone. Telephone, Mother. It's the
butcher."

How hideous life is--revolting, simply revolting...And now her
hat-elastic's snapped. Of course it would. She'll wear her old tam and
slip out the back way. But Mother has seen.

"Matilda. Matilda. Come back im-me-diately! What on earth have you got
on your head? It looks like a tea cosy. And why have you got that mane
of hair on your forehead."

"I can't come back. Mother. I'll be late for my lesson."

"Come back immediately!"

She won't. She won't. She hates Mother. "Go to hell," she shouts,
running down the road.

In waves, in clouds, in big round whirls the dust comes stinging, and
with it little bits of straw and chaff and manure. There is a loud
roaring sound from the trees in the gardens, and standing at the
bottom of the road outside Mr. Bullen's gate she can hear the sea sob:
"Ah!...Ah!...Ah-h!" But Mr. Bullen's drawing-room is as quiet
as a cave. The windows are closed, the blinds half pulled, and she is
not late. The-girl-before-her has just started playing MacDowell's "To
an Iceberg." Mr. Bullen looks over at her and half smiles.

"Sit down," he says. "Sit over there in the sofa corner, little lady."

How funny he is. He doesn't exactly laugh at you...but there is
just something...Oh, how peaceful it is here. She likes this
room. It smells of art serge and stale smoke and chrysanthemums...there
is a big vase of them on the mantelpiece behind the pale photograph
of Rubinstein..._à mon ami Robert Bullen._...Over the black
glittering piano hangs "Solitude"--a dark tragic woman draped
in white, sitting on a rock, her knees crossed, her chin on her hands.

"No, no!" says Mr. Bullen, and he leans over the other girl, put his
arms over her shoulders and plays the passage for her. The
stupid--she's blushing! How ridiculous!

Now the-girl-before-her has gone; the front door slams. Mr. Bullen
comes back and walks up and down, very softly, waiting for her. What
an extraordinary thing. Her fingers tremble so that she can't undo the
knot in the music satchel. It's the wind...And her heart beats so
hard she feels it must lift her blouse up and down. Mr. Bullen does
not say a word. The shabby red piano seat is long enough for two
people to sit side by side. Mr. Bullen sits down by her.

"Shall I begin with scales," she asks, squeezing her hands together.
"I had some arpeggios, too."

But he does not answer. She doesn't believe he even hears...and
then suddenly his fresh hand with the ring on it reaches over and
opens Beethoven.

"Let's have a little of the old master," he says.

But why does he speak so kindly--so awfully kindly--and as though they
had known each other for years and years and knew everything about
each other.

He turns the page slowly. She watches his hand--it is a very nice hand
and always looks as though it had just been washed.

"Here we are," says Mr. Bullen.

Oh, that kind voice--Oh, that minor movement. Here come the little
drums...

"Shall I take the repeat?"

"Yes, dear child."

His voice is far, far too kind. The crotchets and quavers are dancing
up and down the stave like little black boys on a fence. Why is he
so...She will not cry--she has nothing to cry about...

"What is it, dear child?"

Mr. Bullen takes her hands. His shoulder is there--just by her head.
She leans on it ever so little, her cheek against the springy tweed.

"Life is so dreadful," she murmurs, but she does not feel it's
dreadful at all. He says something about "waiting" and "marking time"
and "that rare thing, a woman," but she does not hear. It is so
comfortable...for ever...

Suddenly the door opens and in pops Marie Swainson, hours before her
time.

"Take the allegretto a little faster," says Mr. Bullen, and gets up
and begins to walk up and down again.

"Sit in the sofa corner, little lady," he says to Marie.



The wind, the wind. It's frightening to be here in her room by
herself. The bed, the mirror, the white jug and basin gleam like the
sky outside. It's the bed that is frightening. There it lies, sound
asleep...Does Mother imagine for one moment that she is going to
darn all those stockings knotted up on the quilt like a coil of
snakes? She's not. No, Mother. I do not see why I should...The
wind--the wind! There's a funny smell of soot blowing down the
chimney. Hasn't anyone written poems to the wind?..."I bring fresh
flowers to the leaves and showers."...What nonsense.

"Is that you, Bogey?"

"Come for a walk round the esplanade, Matilda. I can't stand this any
longer."

"Right-o. I'll put on my ulster. Isn't it an awful day!" Bogey's
ulster is just like hers. Hooking the collar she looks at herself in
the glass. Her face is white, they have the same excited eyes and hot
lips. Ah, they know those two in the glass. Good-bye, dears; we shall
be back soon.

"This is better, isn't it?"

"Hook on," says Bogey.

They cannot walk fast enough. Their heads bent, their legs just
touching, they stride like one eager person through the town, down the
asphalt zigzag where the fennel grows wild and on to the esplanade. It
is dusky--just getting dusky. The wind is so strong that they have to
fight their way through it, rocking like two old drunkards. All the
poor little pahutukawas on the esplanade are bent to the ground.

"Come on! Come on! Let's get near."

Over by the breakwater the sea is very high. They pull off their hats
and her hair blows across her mouth, tasting of salt. The sea is so
high that the waves do not break at all; they thump against the rough
stone wall and suck up the weedy, dripping steps. A fine spray skims
from the water right across the esplanade. They are covered with
drops; the inside of her mouth tastes wet and cold.

Bogey's voice is breaking. When he speaks he rushes up and down the
scale. It's funny--it makes you laugh--and yet it just suits the day.
The wind carries their voices--away fly the sentences like little
narrow ribbons.

"Quicker! Quicker!"

It is getting very dark. In the harbour the coal hulks show two
lights--one high on a mast, and one from the stern.

"Look, Bogey. Look over there."

A big black steamer with a long loop of smoke streaming, with the
portholes lighted, with lights everywhere, is putting out to sea. The
wind does not stop her; she cuts through the waves, making for the
open gate between the pointed rocks that leads to...It's the light
that makes her look so awfully beautiful and mysterious..._They_
are on board leaning over the rail arm in arm.

"...Who are they?"

"...Brother and sister."

"Look, Bogey, there's the town. Doesn't it look small? There's the
post office clock chiming for the last time. There's the esplanade
where we walked that windy day. Do you remember? I cried at my music
lesson that day--how many years ago! Good-bye, little island,
good-bye..."

Now the dark stretches a wing over the tumbling water. They can't see
those two any more. Good-bye, good-bye. Don't forget...But the
ship is gone, now.

The wind--the wind.




PSYCHOLOGY

WHEN she opened the door and saw him standing there she was more
pleased than ever before, and he, too, as he followed her into the
studio, seemed very very happy to have come.

"Not busy?"

"No. Just going to have tea."

"And you are not expecting anybody?"

"Nobody at all."

"Ah! That's good."

He laid aside his coat and hat gently, lingeringly, as though he had
time and to spare for everything, or as though he were taking leave of
them for ever, and came over to the fire and held out his hands to the
quick, leaping flame.

Just for a moment both of them stood silent in that leaping light.
Still, as it were, they tasted on their smiling lips the sweet shock
of their greeting. Their secret selves whispered:

"Why should we speak? Isn't this enough?"

"More than enough. I never realized until this moment..."

"How good it is just to be with you..."

"Like this..."

"It's more than enough."

But suddenly he turned and looked at her and she moved quickly away.

"Have a cigarette? I'll put the kettle on. Are you longing for tea?"

"No. Not longing."

"Well, I am."

"Oh, you." He thumped the Armenian cushion and flung on to the
_sommier._ "You're a perfect little Chinee."

"Yes, I am," she laughed. "I long for tea as strong men long for
wine."

She lighted the lamp under its broad orange shade, pulled the curtains
and drew up the tea table. Two birds sang in the kettle; the fire
fluttered. He sat up clasping his knees. It was delightful--this
business of having tea--and she always had delicious things to
eat--little sharp sandwiches, short sweet almond fingers, and a dark,
rich cake tasting of rum--but it was an interruption. He wanted it
over, the table pushed away, their two chairs drawn up to the light,
and the moment came when he took out his pipe, filled it, and said,
pressing the tobacco tight into the bowl: "I have been thinking over
what you said last time and it seems to me..."

Yes, that was what he waited for and so did she. Yes, while she shook
the teapot hot and dry over the spirit flame she saw those other two,
him, leaning back, taking his ease among the cushions, and her, curled
up _en escargot_ in the blue shell arm-chair. The picture was so clear
and so minute it might have been painted on the blue teapot lid. And
yet she couldn't hurry. She could almost have cried: "Give me time."
She must have time in which to grow calm. She wanted time in which to
free herself from all these familiar things with which she lived so
vividly. For all these gay things round her were part of her--her
offspring--and they knew it and made the largest, most vehement
claims. But now they must go. They must be swept away, shooed
away--like children, sent up the shadowy stairs, packed into bed and
commanded to go to sleep--at once--without a murmur!

For the special thrilling quality of their friendship was in their
complete surrender. Like two open cities in the midst of some vast
plain their two minds lay open to each other. And it wasn't as if he
rode into hers like a conqueror, armed to the eyebrows and seeing
nothing but a gay silken flutter--nor did she enter his like a queen
walking soft on petals. No, they were eager, serious travellers,
absorbed in understanding what was to be seen and discovering what was
hidden--making the most of this extraordinary absolute chance which
made it possible for him to be utterly truthful to her and for her to
be utterly sincere with him.

And the best of it was they were both of them old enough to enjoy
their adventure to the full without any stupid emotional complication.
Passion would have ruined everything; they quite saw that. Besides,
all that sort of thing was over and done with for both of them--he was
thirty-one, she was thirty--they had had their experiences, and very
rich and varied they had been, but now was the time for
harvest--harvest. Weren't his novels to be very big novels indeed?
And her plays. Who else had her exquisite sense of real English
Comedy?...

Carefully she cut the cake into thick little wads and he reached
across for a piece.

"Do realize how good it is," she implored. "Eat it imaginatively. Roll
your eyes if you can and taste it on the breath. It's not a sandwich
from the hatter's bag--it's the kind of cake that might have been
mentioned in the Book of Genesis...And God said: 'Let there be
cake. And there was cake. And God saw that it was good.'"

"You needn't entreat me," said he. "Really you needn't. It's a queer
thing but I always do notice what I eat here and never anywhere else.
I suppose it comes of living alone so long and always reading while I
feed...my habit of looking upon food as just food...something
that's there, at certain times...to be devoured...to be...not
there." He laughed. "That shocks you. Doesn't it?"

"To the bone," said she.

"But--look here----" He pushed away his cup and began to speak very
fast. "I simply haven't got any external life at all. I don't know the
names of things a bit--trees and so on--and I never notice places or
furniture or what people look like. One room is just like another to
me--a place to sit and read or talk in--except," and here he paused,
smiled in a strange naive way, and said, "except this studio." He
looked round him and then at her; he laughed in his astonishment and
pleasure. He was like a man who wakes up in a train to find that he
has arrived, already, at the journey's end.

"Here's another queer thing. If I shut my eyes I can see this place
down to every detail--every detail...Now I come to think of
it--I've never realized this consciously before. Often when I am away
from here I revisit it in spirit--wander about among your red chairs,
stare at the bowl of fruit on the black table--and just touch, very
lightly, that marvel of a sleeping boy's head."

He looked at it as he spoke. It stood on the corner of the
mantelpiece; the head to one side down-drooping, the lips parted, as
though in his sleep the little boy listened to some sweet sound...

"I love that little boy," he murmured. And then they both were silent.

A new silence came between them. Nothing in the least like the
satisfactory pause that had followed their greetings--the "Well, here
we are together again, and there's no reason why we shouldn't go on
from just where we left off last time." That silence could be
contained in the circle of warm, delightful fire and lamplight. How
many times hadn't they flung something into it just for the fun of
watching the ripples break on the easy shores. But into this
unfamiliar pool the head of the little boy sleeping his timeless sleep
dropped--and the ripples flowed away, away--boundlessly far--into deep
glittering darkness.

And then both of them broke it. She said: "I must make up the fire,"
and he said: "I have been trying a new..." Both of them escaped.
She made up the fire and put the table back, the blue chair was
wheeled forward, she curled up and he lay back among the cushions.
Quickly! Quickly! They must stop it from happening again.

"Well, I read the book you left last time."

"Oh, what do you think of it?"

They were off and all was as usual. But was it? Weren't they just a
little too quick, too prompt with their replies, too ready to take
each other up? Was this really anything more than a wonderfully good
imitation of other occasions? His heart beat; her cheek burned and the
stupid thing was she could not discover where exactly they were or
what exactly was happening. She hadn't time to glance back. And just
as she had got so far it happened again. They faltered, wavered, broke
down, were silent. Again they were conscious of the boundless,
questioning dark. Again, there they were--two hunters, bending over
their fire, but hearing suddenly from the jungle beyond a shake of
wind and a loud, questioning cry...

She lifted her head. "It's raining," she murmured. And her voice was
like his when he had said: "I love that little boy."

Well. Why didn't they just give way to it--yield--and see what will
happen then? But no. Vague and troubled though they were, they knew
enough to realize their precious friendship was in danger. She was the
one who would be destroyed--not they--and they'd be no party to that.

He got up, knocked out his pipe, ran his hand through his hair and
said: "I have been wondering very much lately whether the novel of the
future will be a psychological novel or not. How sure are you that
psychology _qua_ psychology has got anything to do with literature at
all?"

"Do you mean you feel there's quite a chance that the mysterious
non-existent creatures--the young writers of to-day--are trying simply
to jump the psycho-analyst's claim?"

"Yes, I do. And I think it's because this generation is just wise
enough to know that it is sick and to realize that its only chance of
recovery is by going into its symptoms--making an exhaustive study of
them--tracking them down--trying to get at the root of the trouble."

"But oh," she wailed. "What a dreadfully dismal outlook."

"Not at all," said he. "Look here..." On the talk went. And now it
seemed they really had succeeded. She turned in her chair to look at
him while she answered. Her smile said: "We have won." And he smiled
back, confident: "Absolutely."

But the smile undid them. It lasted too long; it became a grin. They
saw themselves as two little grinning puppets jigging away in
nothingness.

"What have we been talking about?" thought he. He was so utterly bored
he almost groaned.

"What a spectacle we have made of ourselves," thought she. And she saw
him laboriously--oh, laboriously--laying out the grounds and herself
running after, putting here a tree and there a flowery shrub and here
a handful of glittering fish in a pool. They were silent this time
from sheer dismay.

The clock struck six merry little pings and the fire made a soft
flutter. What fools they were--heavy, stodgy, elderly--with positively
upholstered minds.

And now the silence put a spell upon them like solemn music. It was
anguish--anguish for her to bear it and he would die--he'd die if it
were broken...And yet he longed to break it. Not by speech. At
any rate not by their ordinary maddening chatter. There was another
way for them to speak to each other, and in the new way he wanted to
murmur: "Do you feel this too? Do you understand it at all?"...

Instead, to his horror, he heard himself say: "I must be off; I'm
meeting Brand at six."

What devil made him say that instead of the other? She jumped--simply
jumped out of her chair, and he heard her crying: "You must rush,
then. He's so punctual. Why didn't you say so before?"

"You've hurt me; you've hurt me! We've failed!" said her secret self
while she handed him his hat and stick, smiling gaily. She wouldn't
give him a moment for another word, but ran along the passage and
opened the big outer door.

Could they leave each other like this? How could they? He stood on the
step and she just inside holding the door. It was not raining now.

"You've hurt me--hurt me," said her heart. "Why don't you go? No,
don't go. Stay. No--go!" And she looked out upon the night.

She saw the beautiful fall of the steps, the dark garden ringed with
glittering ivy, on the other side of the road the huge bare willows
and above them the sky big and bright with stars. But of course he
would see nothing of all this. He was superior to it all. He--with his
wonderful "spiritual" vision!

She was right. He did see nothing at all. Misery! He'd missed it. It
was too late to do anything now. Was it too late? Yes, it was. A cold
snatch of hateful wind blew into the garden. Curse life! He heard her
cry "au revoir" and the door slammed.

Running back into the studio she behaved so strangely. She ran up and
down lifting her arms and crying: "Oh! Oh! How stupid! How imbecile!
How stupid!" And then she flung herself down on the _sommier_ thinking
of nothing--just lying there in her rage. All was over. What was over?
Oh--something was. And she'd never see him again--never. After a long
long time (or perhaps ten minutes) had passed in that black gulf her
bell rang a sharp quick jingle. It was he, of course. And equally, of
course, she oughtn't to have paid the slightest attention to it but
just let it go on ringing and ringing. She flew to answer.

On the doorstep there stood an elderly virgin, a pathetic creature who
simply idolized her (heaven knows why) and had this habit of turning
up and ringing the bell and then saying, when she opened the door: "My
dear, send me away!" She never did. As a rule she asked her in and let
her admire everything and accepted the bunch of slightly soiled
looking flowers--more than graciously. But to-day...

"Oh, I am so sorry," she cried. "But I've got someone with me. We are
working on some woodcuts. I'm hopelessly busy all evening."

"It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all, darling," said the good
friend. "I was just passing and I thought I'd leave you some violets."
She fumbled down among the ribs of a large old umbrella. "I put them
down here. Such a good place to keep flowers out of the wind. Here
they are," she said, shaking out a little dead bunch.

For a moment she did not take the violets. But while she stood just
inside, holding the door, a strange thing happened...Again she
saw the beautiful fall of the steps, the dark garden ringed with
glittering ivy, the willows, the big bright sky. Again she felt the
silence that was like a question. But this time she did not hesitate.
She moved forward. Very softly and gently, as though fearful of making
a ripple in that boundless pool of quiet she put her arms round her
friend.

"My dear," murmured her happy friend, quite overcome by this
gratitude. "They are really nothing. Just the simplest little
thrippenny bunch."

But as she spoke she was enfolded--more tenderly, more beautifully
embraced, held by such a sweet pressure and for so long that the poor
dear's mind positively reeled and she just had the strength to quaver:
"Then you really don't mind me too much?"

"Good night, my friend," whispered the other. "Come again soon."

"Oh, I will. I will."

This time she walked back to the studio slowly, and standing in the
middle of the room with half-shut eyes she felt so light, so rested,
as if she had woken up out of a childish sleep. Even the act of
breathing was a joy...

The _sommier_ was very untidy. All the cushions "like furious
mountains" as she said; she put them in order before going over to the
writing-table.

"I have been thinking over our talk about the psychological novel,"
she dashed off, "it really is intensely interesting."...And so on
and so on.

At the end she wrote: "Good night, my friend. Come again soon."




PICTURES

EIGHT o'clock in the morning. Miss Ada Moss lay in a black iron
bedstead, staring up at the ceiling. Her room, a Bloomsbury top-floor
back, smelled of soot and face powder and the paper of fried potatoes
she brought in for supper the night before.

"Oh, dear," thought Miss Moss, "I am cold. I wonder why it is that I
always wake up so cold in the mornings now. My knees and feet and my
back--especially my back; it's like a sheet of ice. And I always was
such a one for being warm in the old days. It's not as if I was
skinny--I'm just the same full figure that I used to be. No, it's
because I don't have a good hot dinner in the evenings."

A pageant of Good Hot Dinners passed across the ceiling, each of them
accompanied by a bottle of Nourishing Stout...

"Even if I were to get up now," she thought, "and have a sensible
substantial breakfast..." A pageant of Sensible Substantial
Breakfasts followed the dinners across the ceiling, shepherded by an
enormous, white, uncut ham. Miss Moss shuddered and disappeared under
the bedclothes. Suddenly, in bounced the landlady.

"There's a letter for you, Miss Moss."

"Oh," said Miss Moss, far too friendly, "thank you very much, Mrs.
Pine. It's very good of you, I'm sure, to take the trouble."

"No trouble at all," said the landlady. "I thought perhaps it was the
letter you'd been expecting."

"Why," said Miss Moss brightly, "yes, perhaps it is." She put her head
on one side and smiled vaguely at the letter. "I shouldn't be
surprised."

The landlady's eyes popped. "Well, I should, Miss Moss," said she,
"and that's how it is. And I'll trouble you to open it, if you please.
Many is the lady in my place as would have done it for you and have
been within her rights. For things can't go on like this, Miss Moss,
no indeed they can't. What with week in week out and first you've got
it and then you haven't, and then it's another letter lost in the post
or another manager down at Brighton but will be back on Tuesday for
certain--I'm fair sick and tired and I won't stand it no more. Why
should I, Miss Moss, I ask you, at a time like this, with prices
flying up in the air and my poor dear lad in France? My sister Eliza
was only saying to me yesterday--'Minnie,' she says, 'you're too
soft-hearted. You could have let that room time and time again,' says
she, 'and if people won't look after themselves in times like these,
nobody else will,' she says. 'She may have had a College eddication
and sung in West End concerts,' says she, 'but if your Lizzie says
what's true,' she says, 'and she's washing her own wovens and drying
them on the towel rail, it's easy to see where the finger's pointing.
And it's high time you had done with it,' says she."

Miss Moss gave no sign of having heard this. She sat up in bed, tore
open her letter and read:


"Dear Madam,

  Yours to hand. Am not producing at present, but have filed photo for
future ref.

    Yours truly,
      BACKWASH FILM CO."


This letter seemed to afford her peculiar satisfaction; she read it
through twice before replying to the landlady.

"Well, Mrs. Pine, I think you'll be sorry for what you said. This is
from a manager, asking me to be there with evening dress at ten
o'clock next Saturday morning."

But the landlady was too quick for her. She pounced, secured the
letter.

"Oh, is it! Is it indeed!" she cried.

"Give me back that letter. Give it back to me at once, you bad, wicked
woman," cried Miss Moss, who could not get out of bed because her
nightdress was slit down the back. "Give me back my private letter."
The landlady began slowly backing out of the room, holding the letter
to her buttoned bodice.

"So it's come to this, has it?" said she. "Well, Miss Moss, if I don't
get my rent at eight o'clock to-night, we'll see who's a bad, wicked
woman--that's all." Here she nodded, mysteriously. "And I'll keep this
letter." Here her voice rose. "It will be a pretty little bit of
evidence!" And here it fell, sepulchral, "_My lady._"

The door banged and Miss Moss was alone. She flung off the bed
clothes, and sitting by the side of the bed, furious and shivering,
she stared at her fat white legs with their great knots of greeny-blue
veins.

"Cockroach! That's what she is. She's a cockroach!" said Miss Moss. "I
could have her up for snatching my letter--I'm sure I could." Still
keeping on her nightdress she began to drag on her clothes.

"Oh, if I could only pay that woman, I'd give her a piece of my mind
that she wouldn't forget. I'd tell her off proper." She went over to
the chest of drawers for a safety-pin, and seeing herself in the glass
she gave a vague smile and shook her head. "Well, old girl," she
murmured, "you're up against it this time, and no mistake." But the
person in the glass made an ugly face at her.

"You silly thing," scolded Miss Moss. "Now what's the good of crying:
you'll only make your nose red. No, you get dressed and go out and try
your luck--that's what you've got to do."

She unhooked her vanity bag from the bedpost, rooted in it, shook it,
turned it inside out.

"I'll have a nice cup of tea at an A B C to settle me before I go
anywhere," she decided. "I've got one and thrippence--yes, just one
and three."

Ten minutes later, a stout lady in blue serge, with a bunch of
artificial "parmas" at her bosom, a black hat covered with purple
pansies, white gloves, boots with white uppers, and a vanity bag
containing one and three, sang in a low contralto voice:

  Sweet-heart, remember when days are forlorn
  It al-ways is dar-kest before the dawn.

But the person in the glass made a face at her, and Miss Moss went
out. There were grey crabs all the way down the street slopping water
over grey stone steps. With his strange, hawking cry and the jangle of
the cans the milk boy went his rounds. Outside Brittweiler's Swiss
House he made a splash, and an old brown cat without a tail appeared
from nowhere, and began greedily and silently drinking up the spill.
It gave Miss Moss a queer feeling to watch--a sinking--as you might
say.

But when she came to the A B C she found the door propped open; a man
went in and out carrying trays of rolls, and there was nobody inside
except a waitress doing her hair and the cashier unlocking cash-boxes.
She stood in the middle of the floor but neither of them saw her.

"My boy came home last night," sang the waitress.

"Oh, I say--how topping for you!" gurgled the cashier.

"Yes, wasn't it," sang the waitress. "He brought me a sweet little
brooch. Look, it's got 'Dieppe' written on it."

The cashier ran across to look and put her arm round the waitress'
neck.

"Oh, I say--how topping for you."

"Yes, isn't it," said the waitress. "O-oh, he is brahn. 'Hullo,' I
said, 'hullo, old mahogany.'"

"Oh, I say," gurgled the cashier, running back into her cage and
nearly bumping into Miss Moss on the way. "You are a _treat!"_ Then
the man with the rolls came in again, swerving past her.

"Can I have a cup of tea, Miss?" she asked.

But the waitress went on doing her hair. "Oh," she sang, "we're not
_open_ yet." She turned round and waved her comb at the cashier.

"_Are_ we, dear?"

"Oh, no," said the cashier. Miss Moss went out.

"I'll go to Charing Cross. Yes, that's what I'll do," she decided.
"But I won't have a cup of tea. No, I'll have a coffee. There's more
of a tonic in coffee...Cheeky, those girls are! Her boy came home
last night; he brought her a brooch with 'Dieppe' written on it." She
began to cross the road...

"Look out, Fattie; don't go to sleep!" yelled a taxi driver. She
pretended not to hear.

"No, I won't go to Charing Cross," she decided. "I'll go straight to
Kig and Kadgit. They're open at nine. If I get there early Mr. Kadgit
may have something by the morning's post...I'm very glad you
turned up so early, Miss Moss. I've just heard from a manager who
wants a lady to play...I think you'll just suit him. I'll give
you a card to go and see him. It's three pounds a week and all found.
If I were you I'd hop round as fast as I could. Lucky you turned up so
early..."

But there was nobody at Kig and Kadgit's except the charwoman wiping
over the "lino" in the passage.

"Nobody here yet, Miss," said the char.

"Oh, isn't Mr. Kadgit here?" said Miss Moss, trying to dodge the pail
and brush. "Well, I'll just wait a moment, if I may."

"You can't wait in the waiting-room, Miss. I 'aven't done it yet. Mr.
Kadgit's never 'ere before 'leven-thirty Saturdays. Sometimes 'e don't
come at all." And the char began crawling towards her.

"Dear me--how silly of me," said Miss Moss. "I forgot it was
Saturday."

"Mind your feet, _please_, Miss," said the char. And Miss Moss was
outside again.

That was one thing about Beit and Bithems; it was lively. You walked
into the waiting-room, into a great buzz of conversation, and there
was everybody; you knew almost everybody. The early ones sat on chairs
and the later ones sat on the early ones' laps, while the gentlemen
leaned negligently against the walls or preened themselves in front of
the admiring ladies.

"Hello," said Miss Moss, very gay. "Here we are again!"

And young Mr. Clayton, playing the banjo on his walking-stick, sang:
"Waiting for the Robert E. Lee."

"Mr. Bithem here yet?" asked Miss Moss, taking out an old dead powder
puff and powdering her nose mauve.

"Oh, yes, dear," cried the chorus. "He's been here for ages. We've all
been waiting here for more than an hour."

"Dear me!" said Miss Moss. "Anything doing, do you think?"

"Oh, a few jobs going for South Africa," said young Mr. Clayton.
"Hundred and fifty a week for two years, you know."

"Oh!" cried the chorus. "You _are_ weird, Mr. Clayton. Isn't he a
_cure?_ Isn't he a _scream_, dear? Oh, Mr. Clayton, you do make me
laugh. Isn't he a _comic?_"

A dark, mournful girl touched Miss Moss on the arm.

"I just missed a lovely job yesterday," she said. "Six weeks in the
provinces and then the West End. The manager said I would have got it
for certain if only I'd been robust enough. He said if my figure had
been fuller, the part was made for me." She stared at Miss Moss, and
the dirty dark red rose under the brim of her hat looked, somehow, as
though it shared the blow with her, and was crushed, too.

"Oh, dear, that was hard lines," said Miss Moss trying to appear
indifferent. "What was it--if I may ask?"

But the dark, mournful girl saw through her and a gleam of spite came
into her heavy eyes.

"Oh, no good to you, my dear," said she. "He wanted someone young, you
know--a dark Spanish type--my style, but more figure, that was all."

The inner door opened and Mr. Bithem appeared in his shirt sleeves. He
kept one hand on the door ready to whisk back again, and held up the
other.

"Look here, ladies----" and then he paused, grinned his famous grin
before he said--"_and bhoys._" The waiting-room laughed so loudly at
this that he had to hold both hands up. "It's no good waiting this
morning. Come back Monday; I'm expecting several calls on Monday."

Miss Moss made a desperate rush forward. "Mr. Bithem, I wonder if
you've heard from..."

"Now let me see," said Mr. Bithem slowly, staring; he had only seen
Miss Moss four times a week for the past--how many weeks? "Now, who
are you?"

"Miss Ada Moss."

"Oh, yes, yes; of course, my dear. Not yet, my dear. Now I had a call
for twenty-eight ladies to-day, but they had to be young and able to
hop it a bit--see? And I had another call for sixteen--but they had to
know something about sand-dancing. Look here, my dear, I'm up to the
eyebrows this morning. Come back on Monday week; it's no good coming
before that." He gave her a whole grin to herself and patted her fat
back. "Hearts of oak, dear lady," said Mr. Bithem, "hearts of oak!"

At the North-East Film Company the crowd was all the way up the
stairs. Miss Moss found herself next to a fair little baby thing about
thirty in a white lace hat with cherries round it.

"What a crowd!" said she. "Anything special on?"

"_Didn't_ you know, dear?" said the baby, opening her immense pale
eyes. "There was a call at nine-thirty for _attractive_ girls. We've
all been waiting for _hours._ Have you played for this company
before?" Miss Moss put her head on one side. "No, I don't think I
have."

"They're a lovely company to play for," said the baby. "A friend of
mine has a friend who gets thirty pounds a day...Have you
_arcted_ much for the _fil_-lums?"

"Well, I'm not an actress by profession," confessed Miss Moss. "I'm a
contralto singer. But things have been so bad lately that I've been
doing a little."

"It's _like_ that, isn't it, dear?" said the baby.

"I had a splendid education at the College of Music," said Miss Moss,
"and I got my silver medal for singing. I've often sung at West End
concerts. But I thought, for a change, I'd try my luck..."

"Yes, it's _like_ that, isn't it, dear?" said the baby.

At that moment a beautiful typist appeared at the top of the stairs.

"Are you all waiting for the North-East call?"

"Yes!" cried the chorus.

"Well, it's off. I've just had a phone through."

"But look here! What about our expenses?" shouted a voice.

The typist looked down at them, and she couldn't help laughing.

"Oh, you weren't to have been _paid._ The North-East never _pay_ their
crowds."

There was only a little round window at the Bitter Orange Company. No
waiting-room--nobody at all except a girl, who came to the window when
Miss Moss knocked, and said: "Well?"

"Can I see the producer, please?" said Miss Moss pleasantly. The girl
leaned on the window-bar, half shut her eyes and seemed to go to sleep
for a moment. Miss Moss smiled at her. The girl not only frowned; she
seemed to smell something vaguely unpleasant; she sniffed. Suddenly
she moved away, came back with a paper and thrust it at Miss Moss.

"Fill up the form!" said she. And banged the window down.

"Can you aviate--high-dive--drive a car--buck-jump--shoot?" read Miss
Moss. She walked along the street asking herself those questions.
There was a high, cold wind blowing; it tugged at her, slapped her
face, jeered; it knew she could not answer them. In the Square Gardens
she found a little wire basket to drop the form into. And then she sat
down on one of the benches to powder her nose. But the person in the
pocket mirror made a hideous face at her, and that was too much for
Miss Moss; she had a good cry. It cheered her wonderfully.

"Well, that's over," she sighed. "It's one comfort to be off my feet.
And my nose will soon get cool in the air...It's very nice in
here. Look at the sparrows. Cheep. Cheep. How close they come. I
expect somebody feeds them. No, I've nothing for you, you cheeky
little things..." She looked away from them. What was the big
building opposite--the Café de Madrid? My goodness, what a smack that
little child came down! Poor little mite! Never mind--up again...By
eight o'clock to-night...Café de Madrid. "I could just go in
and sit there and have a coffee, that's all," thought Miss Moss. "It's
such a place for artists too. I might just have a stroke of luck...A
dark handsome gentleman in a fur coat comes in with a friend,
and sits at my table, perhaps. 'No, old chap, I've searched London for
a contralto and I can't find a soul. You see, the music is difficult;
have a look at it.'" And Miss Moss heard herself saying: "Excuse
me, I happen to be a contralto, and I have sung that part many
times...Extraordinary! 'Come back to my studio and I'll try your voice
now.'...Ten pounds a week...Why should I feel nervous? It's
not nervousness. Why shouldn't I go to the Café de Madrid? I'm a
respectable woman--I'm a contralto singer. And I'm only trembling
because I've had nothing to eat to-day...'A nice little piece of
evidence, _my lady._'...Very well, Mrs. Pine. Café de Madrid. They
have concerts there in the evenings...'Why don't they begin?' The
contralto has not arrived...'Excuse me, I happen to be a
contralto; I have sung that music many times.'"

It was almost dark in the café. Men, palms, red plush seats, white
marble tables, waiters in aprons, Miss Moss walked through them all.
Hardly had she sat down when a very stout gentleman wearing a very
small hat that floated on the top of his head like a little yacht
flopped into the chair opposite hers.

"Good evening!" said he.

Miss Moss said, in her cheerful way: "Good evening!"

"Fine evening," said the stout gentleman.

"Yes, very fine. Quite a treat, isn't it?" said she.

He crooked a sausage finger at the waiter--"Bring me a large whisky"
--and turned to Miss Moss. "What's yours?"

"Well, I think I'll take a brandy if it's all the same."

Five minutes later the stout gentleman leaned across the table and
blew a puff of cigar smoke full in her face.

"That's a tempting bit o' ribbon!" said he.

Miss Moss blushed until a pulse at the top of her head that she never
had felt before pounded away.

"I always was one for pink," said she.

The stout gentleman considered her, drumming with her fingers on the
table.

"I like 'em firm and well covered," said he.

Miss Moss, to her surprise, gave a loud snigger.

Five minutes later the stout gentleman heaved himself up. "Well, am I
goin' your way, or are you comin' mine?" he asked.

"I'll come with you, if it's all the same," said Miss Moss. And she
sailed after the little yacht out of the café.




THE MAN WITHOUT A TEMPERAMENT

HE stood at the hall door turning the ring, turning the heavy signet
ring upon his little finger while his glance travelled coolly,
deliberately, over the round tables and basket chairs scattered about
the glassed-in verandah. He pursed his lips--he might have been going
to whistle--but he did not whistle--only turned the ring--turned the
ring on his pink, freshly washed hands.

Over in the corner sat The Two Topknots, drinking a decoction they
always drank at this hour--something whitish, greyish, in glasses,
with little husks floating on the top--and rooting in a tin full of
paper shavings for pieces of speckled biscuit, which they broke,
dropped into the glasses and fished for with spoons. Their two coils
of knitting, like two snakes, slumbered beside the tray.

The American Woman sat where she always sat against the glass wall, in
the shadow of a great creeping thing with wide open purple eyes that
pressed--that flattened itself against the glass, hungrily watching
her. And she knoo it was there--she knoo it was looking at her just
that way. She played up to it; she gave herself little airs. Sometimes
she even pointed at it, crying: "Isn't that the most terrible thing
you've ever seen! Isn't that ghoulish!" It was on the other side of
the verandah, after all...and besides it couldn't touch her, could
it, Klaymongso? She was an American Woman, wasn't she Klaymongso, and
she'd just go right away to her Consul. Klaymongso, curled in her lap,
with her torn antique brocade bag, a grubby handkerchief, and a pile
of letters from home on top of him, sneezed for reply.

The other tables were empty. A glance passed between the American and
the Topknots. She gave a foreign little shrug; they waved an
understanding biscuit. But he saw nothing. Now he was still, now from
his eyes you saw he listened. "Hoo-e-zip-zoo-oo!" sounded the lift.
The iron cage clanged open. Light dragging steps sounded across the
hall, coming towards him. A hand, like a leaf, fell on his shoulder. A
soft voice said: "Let's go and sit over there--where we can see the
drive. The trees are so lovely." And he moved forward with the hand
still on his shoulder, and the light, dragging steps beside his. He
pulled out a chair and she sank into it, slowly, leaning her head
against the back, her arms falling along the sides.

"Won't you bring the other up closer? It's such miles away." But he
did not move.

"Where's your shawl?" he asked.

"Oh!" She gave a little groan of dismay. "How silly I am, I've left it
upstairs on the bed. Never mind. Please don't go for it. I shan't want
it, I know I shan't."

"You'd better have it." And he turned and swiftly crossed the verandah
into the dim hall with its scarlet plush and gilt furniture--conjuror's
furniture--its Notice of Services at the English Church,
its green baize board with the unclaimed letters climbing the black
lattice, huge "Presentation" clock that struck the hours at the
half-hours, bundles of sticks and umbrellas and sunshades in the clasp
of a brown wooden bear, past the two crippled palms, two ancient
beggars at the foot of the staircase, up the marble stairs three at a
time, past the life-size group on the landing of two stout peasant
children with their marble pinnies full of marble grapes, and along
the corridor, with its piled-up wreckage of old tin boxes, leather
trunks, canvas hold-alls, to their room.

The servant girl was in their room, singing loudly while she emptied
soapy water into a pail. The windows were open wide, the shutters put
back, and the light glared in. She had thrown the carpets and the big
white pillows over the balcony rails; the nets were looped up from the
beds; on the writing table there stood a pan of fluff and match-ends.
When she saw him her small impudent eyes snapped and her singing
changed to humming. But he gave no sign. His eyes searched the glaring
room. Where the devil was the shawl!

"_Vous desirez, Monsieur?_" mocked the servant girl.

No answer. He had seen it. He strode across the room, grabbed the grey
cobweb and went out, banging the door. The servant girl's voice at its
loudest and shrillest followed him along the corridor.

"Oh, there you are. What happened? What kept you? The tea's here, you
see. I've just sent Antonio off for the hot water. Isn't it
extraordinary? I must have told him about it sixty times at least, and
still he doesn't bring it. Thank you. That's very nice. One does just
feel the air when one bends forward."

"Thanks." He took his tea and sat down in the other chair. "No,
nothing to eat."

"Oh do! Just one, you had so little at lunch and it's hours before
dinner."

Her shawl dropped off as she bent forward to hand him the biscuits. He
took one and put it in his saucer.

"Oh, those trees along the drive," she cried, "I could look at them
for ever. They are like the most exquisite huge ferns. And you see
that one with the grey-silver bark and the clusters of cream coloured
flowers, I pulled down a head of them yesterday to smell and the
scent"--she shut her eyes at the memory and her voice thinned away,
faint, airy--"was like freshly ground nutmegs." A little pause. She
turned to him and smiled. "You do know what nutmegs smell like--do
you, Robert?"

And he smiled back at her. "Now how am I going to prove to you that I
do?"

Back came Antonio with not only the hot water--with letters on a
salver and three rolls of paper.

"Oh, the post! Oh, how lovely! Oh, Robert, they mustn't be all for
you! Have they just come, Antonio?" Her thin hands flew up and hovered
over the letters that Antonio offered her, bending forward.

"Just this moment, Signora," grinned Antonio. "I took-a them from the
postman myself. I made-a the postman give them for me."

"Noble Antonio!" laughed she. "There--those are mine, Robert; the rest
are yours."

Antonio wheeled sharply, stiffened, the grin went out of his face. His
striped linen jacket and his flat gleaming fringe made him look like a
wooden doll.

Mr. Salesby put the letters into his pocket; the papers lay on the
table. He turned the ring, turned the signet ring on his little finger
and stared in front of him, blinking, vacant.

But she--with her teacup in one hand, the sheets of thin paper in the
other, her head tilted back, her lips open, a brush of bright colour
on her cheek-bones, sipped, sipped, drank...drank...

"From Lottie," came her soft murmur. "Poor dear...such trouble...left
foot. She thought...neuritis...Doctor Blyth...flat foot...massage.
So many robins this year...maid most satisfactory...Indian
Colonel...every grain of rice separate ...very heavy fall of snow."
And her wide lighted eyes looked up from the letter. "Snow, Robert!
Think of it!" And she touched the little dark violets pinned on her
thin bosom and went back to the letter.



...Snow. Snow in London. Millie with the early morning cup of tea.
"There's been a terrible fall of snow in the night, Sir." "Oh, has
there, Millie?" The curtains ring apart, letting in the pale,
reluctant light. He raises himself in the bed; he catches a glimpse of
the solid houses opposite framed in white, of their window boxes full
of great sprays of white coral...In the bathroom--overlooking the
back garden. Snow--heavy snow over everything. The lawn is covered
with a wavy pattern of cat's paws; there is a thick, thick icing on
the garden table; the withered pods of the laburnum tree are
white tassels; only here and there in the ivy is a dark leaf
showing...Warming his back at the dining-room fire, the paper drying
over a chair. Millie with the bacon. "Oh, if you please, Sir, there's
two little boys come as will do the steps and front for a shilling,
shall I let them?"...And then flying lightly, lightly down the
stairs--Jinnie. "Oh, Robert, isn't it wonderful! Oh, what a pity
it has to melt. Where's the pussy-wee?" "I'll get him from
Millie"..."Millie, you might just hand me up the kitten if you've
got him down there." "Very good, Sir." He feels the little beating
heart under his hand. "Come on, old chap, your Missus wants you."
"Oh, Robert, do show him the snow--his first snow. Shall I open
the window and give him a little piece on his paw to hold?..."



"Well, that's very satisfactory on the whole--very. Poor Lottie!
Darling Anne! How I only wish I could send them something of this,"
she cried, waving her letters at the brilliant, dazzling garden. "More
tea, Robert? Robert dear, more tea?"

"No, thanks, no. It was very good," he drawled.

"Well mine wasn't. Mine was just like chopped hay. Oh, here comes the
Honeymoon Couple."

Half striding, half running, carrying a basket between them and rods
and lines, they came up the drive, up the shallow steps.

"My! have you been out fishing?" cried the American Woman.

They were out of breath, they panted: "Yes, yes, we have been out in a
little boat all day. We have caught seven. Four are good to eat. But
three we shall give away. To the children."

Mrs. Salesby turned her chair to look; the Topknots laid the snakes
down. They were a very dark young couple--black hair, olive skin,
brilliant eyes and teeth. He was dressed "English fashion" in a
flannel jacket, white trousers and shoes. Round his neck he wore a
silk scarf; his head, with his hair brushed back, was bare. And he
kept mopping his forehead, rubbing his hands with a brilliant
handkerchief. Her white skirt had a patch of wet; her neck and throat
were stained a deep pink. When she lifted her arms big half-hoops of
perspiration showed under her arm-pits; her hair clung in wet curls to
her cheeks. She looked as though her young husband had been dipping
her in the sea, and fishing her out again to dry in the sun and
then--in with her again--all day.

"Would Klaymongso like a fish?" they cried. Their laughing voices
charged with excitement beat against the glassed-in verandah like
birds, and a strange saltish smell came from the basket.

"You will sleep well to-night," said a Topknot, picking her ear with a
knitting needle while the other Topknot smiled and nodded.

The Honeymoon Couple looked at each other. A great wave seemed to go
over them. They gasped, gulped, staggered a little and then came up
laughing--laughing.

"We cannot go upstairs, we are too tired. We must have tea just as we
are. Here--coffee. No--tea. No--coffee. Tea--coffee, Antonio!" Mrs.
Salesby turned.

"Robert! Robert!" Where was he? He wasn't there. Oh, there he was at
the other end of the verandah, with his back turned, smoking a
cigarette. "Robert, shall we go for our little turn?"

"Right." He stumped the cigarette into an ash-tray and sauntered over,
his eyes on the ground. "Will you be warm enough?"

"Oh, quite."

"Sure?"

"Well," she put her hand on his arm, "perhaps"--and gave his arm the
faintest pressure--"it's not upstairs, it's only in the hall--perhaps
you'd get me my cape. Hanging up."

He came back with it and she bent her small head while he dropped it
on her shoulders. Then, very stiff, he offered her his arm. She bowed
sweetly to the people on the verandah while he just covered a yawn,
and they went down the steps together.

"_Vous avez voo ça!_" said the American Woman.

"He is not a man," said the Two Topknots, "he is an ox. I say to my
sister in the morning and at night when we are in bed, I tell
her--_No_ man is he, but an ox!"

Wheeling, tumbling, swooping, the laughter of the Honeymoon Couple
dashed against the glass of the verandah.

The sun was still high. Every leaf, every flower in the garden lay
open, motionless, as if exhausted, and a sweet, rich, rank smell
filled the quivering air. Out of the thick, fleshy leaves of a cactus
there rose an aloe stem loaded with pale flowers that looked as though
they had been cut out of butter; light flashed upon the lifted spears
of the palms; over a bed of scarlet waxen flowers some big black
insects "zoom-zoomed"; a great, gaudy creeper, orange splashed with
jet, sprawled against a wall.

"I don't need my cape after all," said she. "It's really too warm." So
he took it off and carried it over his arm. "Let us go down this path
here. I feel so well to-day--marvellously better. Good heavens--look
at those children! And to think it's November!"

In a corner of the garden there were two brimming tubs of water. Three
little girls, having thoughtfully taken off their drawers and hung
them on a bush, their skirts clasped to their waists, were standing in
the tubs and tramping up and down. They screamed, their hair fell over
their faces, they splashed one another. But suddenly, the smallest,
who had a tub to herself, glanced up and saw who was looking. For a
moment she seemed overcome with terror, then clumsily she struggled
and strained out of her tub, and still holding her clothes above her
waist. "The Englishman! The Englishman!" she shrieked and fled away to
hide. Shrieking and screaming, the other two followed her. In a moment
they were gone; in a moment there was nothing but the two brimming
tubs and their little drawers on the bush.

"How--very--extraordinary!" said she. "What made them so frightened?
Surely they were much too young to..." She looked up at him. She
thought he looked pale--but wonderfully handsome with that great
tropical tree behind him with its long, spiked thorns.

For a moment he did not answer. Then he met her glance, and smiling
his slow smile, "_Très_ rum!" said he.

_Très_ rum! Oh, she felt quite faint. Oh, why should she love him so
much just because he said a thing like that. _Très_ rum! That was
Robert all over. Nobody else but Robert could ever say such a thing.
To be so wonderful, so brilliant, so learned, and then to say in that
queer, boyish voice...She could have wept.

"You know you're very absurd, sometimes," said she.

"I am," he answered. And they walked on.

But she was tired. She had had enough. She did not want to walk any
more.

"Leave me here and go for a little constitutional, won't you? I'll be
in one of these long chairs. What a good thing you've got my cape; you
won't have to go upstairs for a rug. Thank you, Robert, I shall look
at that delicious heliotrope...You won't be gone long?"

"No--no. You don't mind being left?"

"Silly! I want you to go. I can't expect you to drag after your
invalid wife every minute...How long will you be?"

He took out his watch. "It's just after half-past four. I'll be back
at a quarter past five."

"Back at a quarter past five," she repeated, and she lay still in the
long chair and folded her hands.

He turned away. Suddenly he was back again. "Look here, would you like
my watch?" And he dangled it before her.

"Oh!" She caught her breath. "Very, very much." And she clasped the
watch, the warm watch, the darling watch in her fingers. "Now go
quickly."

The gates of the Pension Villa Excelsior were open wide, jammed open
against some bold geraniums. Stooping a little, staring straight
ahead, walking swiftly, he passed through them and began climbing the
hill that wound behind the town like a great rope looping the villas
together. The dust lay thick. A carriage came bowling along driving
towards the Excelsior. In it sat the General and the Countess; they
had been for his daily airing. Mr. Salesby stepped to one side but the
dust beat up, thick, white, stifling like wool. The Countess just had
time to nudge the General.

"There he goes," she said spitefully.

But the General gave a loud caw and refused to look.

"It is the Englishman," said the driver, turning round and smiling.
And the Countess threw up her hands and nodded so amiably that he spat
with satisfaction and gave the stumbling horse a cut.

On--on--past the finest villas in the town, magnificent palaces,
palaces worth coming any distance to see, past the public gardens with
the carved grottoes and statues and stone animals drinking at the
fountain, into a poorer quarter. Here the road ran narrow and foul
between high lean houses, the ground floors of which were scooped and
hollowed into stables and carpenters' shops. At a fountain ahead of
him two old hags were beating linen. As he passed them they squatted
back on their haunches, stared, and then their "A-hak-kak-kak!" with
the slap, slap, of the stone on the linen sounded after him.

He reached the top of the hill; he turned a corner and the town was
hidden. Down he looked into a deep valley with a dried up river bed at
the bottom. This side and that was covered with small dilapidated
houses that had broken stone verandahs where the fruit lay drying,
tomato lanes in the garden, and from the gates to the doors a trellis
of vines. The late sunlight, deep, golden, lay in the cup of the
valley; there was a smell of charcoal in the air. In the gardens the
men were cutting grapes. He watched a man standing in the greenish
shade, raising up, holding a black cluster in one hand, taking the
knife from his belt, cutting, laying the bunch in a flat boat-shaped
basket. The man worked leisurely, silently, taking hundreds of years
over the job. On the hedges on the other side of the road there were
grapes small as berries, growing wild, growing among the stones. He
leaned against a wall, filled his pipe, put a match to it...



Leaned across a gate, turned up the collar of his mackintosh. It was
going to rain. It didn't matter, he was prepared for it. You didn't
expect anything else in November. He looked over the bare field. From
the corner by the gate there came the smell of swedes, a great stack
of them, wet, rank coloured. Two men passed walking towards the
straggling village. "Good day!" "Good day!" By Jove! he had to hurry
if he was going to catch that train home. Over the gate, across a
field, over the stile, into the lane, swinging along in the drifting
rain and dusk...Just home in time for a bath and a change before
supper...In the drawing-room; Jinnie is sitting pretty nearly in
the fire. "Oh, Robert, I didn't hear you come in. Did you have a good
time? How nice you smell! A present?" "Some bits of blackberry I
picked for you. Pretty colour." "Oh, lovely, Robert! Dennis and Beaty
are coming to supper." Supper--cold beef, potatoes in their jackets,
claret, household bread. They are gay--everybody's laughing. "Oh, we
all know Robert," says Dennis, breathing on his eyeglasses and
polishing them. "By the way, Dennis, I picked up a very jolly little
edition of..."



A clock struck. He wheeled sharply. What time was it. Five? A quarter
past? Back, back the way he came. As he passed through the gates he
saw her on the look-out. She got up, waved and slowly she came to meet
him, dragging the heavy cape. In her hand she carried a spray of
heliotrope.

"You're late," she cried gaily. "You're three minutes late. Here's
your watch, it's been very good while you were away. Did you have a
nice time? Was it lovely? Tell me. Where did you go?"

"I say--put this _on_," he said, taking the cape from her.

"Yes, I will. Yes, it's getting chilly. Shall we go up to our room?"

When they reached the lift she was coughing. He frowned.

"It's nothing. I haven't been out too late. Don't be cross." She sat
down on one of the red plush chairs while he rang and rang, and then,
getting no answer, kept his finger on the bell.

"Oh, Robert, do you think you ought to?"

"Ought to what?"

The door of the _salon_ opened. "What is that? Who is making that
noise?" sounded from within. Klaymongso began to yelp. "Caw! Caw!
Caw!" came from the General. A Topknot darted out with one hand to her
ear, opened the staff door, "Mr. Queet! Mr. Queet!" she bawled. That
brought the manager up at a run.

"Is that you ringing the bell, Mr. Salesby? Do you want the lift? Very
good, Sir. I'll take you up myself. Antonio wouldn't have been a
minute, he was just taking off his apron----" And having ushered them
in, the oily manager went to the door of the _salon._ "Very sorry you
should have been troubled, ladies and gentlemen." Salesby stood in the
cage, sucking in his cheeks, staring at the ceiling and turning the
ring, turning the signet ring on his little finger...

Arrived in their room he went swiftly over to the washstand, shook the
bottle, poured her out a dose and brought it across.

"Sit down. Drink it. And don't talk." And he stood over her while she
obeyed. Then he took the glass, rinsed it and put it back in its case.
"Would you like a cushion?"

"No, I'm quite all right. Come over here. Sit down by me just a
minute, will you, Robert? Ah, that's very nice." She turned and thrust
the piece of heliotrope in the lapel of his coat. "That," she said,
"is most becoming." And then she leaned her head against his shoulder,
and he put his arm round her.

"Robert----" her voice like a sigh--like a breath.

"Yes----"

They sat there for a long while. The sky flamed, paled; the two white
beds were like two ships...At last he heard the servant girl
running along the corridor with the hot water cans, and gently he
released her and turned on the light.

"Oh, what time is it? Oh, what a heavenly evening. Oh, Robert, I was
thinking while you were away this afternoon..."

They were the last couple to enter the dining-room. The Countess was
there with her lorgnette and her fan, the General was there with his
special chair and the air cushion and the small rug over his knees.
The American Woman was there showing Klaymongso a copy of the
_Saturday Evening Post._..."We're having a feast of reason and a
flow of soul." The Two Topknots were there feeling over the peaches
and the pears in their dish of fruit, and putting aside all they
considered unripe or overripe to show to the manager, and the
Honeymoon Couple leaned across the table, whispering, trying not to
burst out laughing.

Mr. Queet, in everyday clothes and white canvas shoes, served the
soup, and Antonio, in full evening dress, handed it round.

"No," said the American Woman, "take it away, Antonio. We can't eat
soup. We can't eat anything mushy, can we, Klaymongso?"

"Take them back and fill them to the rim!" said the Topknots, and they
turned and watched while Antonio delivered the message.

"What is it? Rice? Is it cooked?" The Countess peered through her
lorgnette. "Mr. Queet, the General can have some of this soup if it is
cooked."

"Very good, Countess."

The Honeymoon Couple had their fish instead.

"Give me that one. That's the one I caught. No it's not. Yes, it is.
No it's not. Well, it's looking at me with its eye so it must be. Tee!
Hee! Hee!" Their feet were locked together under the table.

"Robert, you're not eating again. Is anything the matter?"

"No. Off food, that's all."

"Oh, what a bother. There are eggs and spinach coming. You don't like
spinach, do you. I must tell them in future..."

An egg and mashed potatoes for the General.

"Mr. Queet! Mr. Queet!"

"Yes, Countess."

"The General's egg's too hard again."

"Caw! Caw! Caw!"

"Very sorry, Countess. Shall I have you another cooked, General?"

...They are the first to leave the dining-room. She rises,
gathering her shawl and he stands aside, waiting for her to pass,
turning the ring, turning the signet ring on his little finger. In the
hall Mr. Queet hovers. "I thought you might not want to wait for the
lift. Antonio's just serving the finger bowls. And I'm sorry the bell
won't ring, it's out of order. I can't think what's happened."

"Oh, I do hope..." from her.

"Get in," says he.

Mr. Queet steps after them and slams the door...

..."Robert, do you mind if I go to bed very soon? Won't you go down
to the _salon_ or out into the garden? Or perhaps you might smoke a
cigar on the balcony. It's lovely out there. And I like cigar smoke. I
always did. But if you'd rather..."

"No, I'll sit here."

He takes a chair and sits on the balcony. He hears her moving about in
the room, lightly, lightly, moving and rustling. Then she comes over
to him. "Good night, Robert."

"Good night." He takes her hand and kisses the palm. "Don't catch
cold."

The sky is the colour of jade. There are a great many stars; an
enormous white moon hangs over the garden. Far away lightning
flutters--flutters like a wing--flutters like a broken bird that tries
to fly and sinks again and again struggles.

The lights from the _salon_ shine across the garden path and there is
the sound of a piano. And once the American Woman, opening the French
window to let Klaymongso into the garden, cries: "Have you seen this
moon?" But nobody answers.

He gets very cold sitting there, staring at the balcony rail. Finally
he comes inside. The moon--the room is painted white with moonlight.
The light trembles in the mirrors; the two beds seem to float. She is
asleep. He sees her through the nets, half sitting, banked up with
pillows, her white hands crossed on the sheet. Her white cheeks, her
fair hair pressed against the pillow, are silvered over. He undresses
quickly, stealthily and gets into bed. Lying there, his hands clasped
behind his head...



...In his study. Late summer. The Virginia creeper just on the
turn...

"Well, my dear chap, that's the whole story. That's the long and the
short of it. If she can't cut away for the next two years and give a
decent climate a chance she don't stand a dog's--h'm--show. Better be
frank about these things." "Oh, certainly..." "And hang it all,
old man, what's to prevent you going with her? It isn't as though
you've got a regular job like us wage earners. You can do what you do
wherever you are----" "Two years." "Yes, I should give it two years.
You'll have no trouble about letting this house you know. As a matter
of fact..."

...He is with her. "Robert, the awful thing is--I suppose it's my
illness--I simply feel I could not go alone. You see--you're
everything. You're bread and wine, Robert, bread and wine. Oh, my
darling--what am I saying? Of course I could, of course I won't take
you away..."



He hears her stirring. Does she want something?

"Boogles?"

Good Lord! She is talking in her sleep. They haven't used that name
for years.

"Boogles. Are you awake?"

"Yes, do you want anything?"

"Oh, I'm going to be a bother. I'm so sorry. Do you mind? There's a
wretched mosquito inside my net--I can hear him singing. Would you
catch him? I don't want to move because of my heart."

"No, don't move. Stay where you are." He switches on the light, lifts
the net. "Where is the little beggar? Have you spotted him?"

"Yes, there, over by the corner. Oh, I do feel such a fiend to have
dragged you out of bed. Do you mind dreadfully?"

"No, of course not." For a moment he hovers in his blue and white
pyjamas. Then, "got him," he said.

"Oh, good. Was he a juicy one?"

"Beastly." He went over to the washstand and dipped his fingers in
water. "Are you all right now? Shall I switch off the light?"

"Yes, please. No. Boogles! Come back here a moment. Sit down by me.
Give me your hand." She turns his signet ring. "Why weren't you
asleep? Boogles, listen. Come closer. I sometimes wonder--do you mind
awfully being out here with me?"

He bends down. He kisses her. He tucks her in, he smoothes the pillow.

"Rot!" he whispers.




MR. REGINALD PEACOCK'S DAY

IF there was one thing that he hated more than another it was the way
she had of waking him in the morning. She did it on purpose, of
course. It was her way of establishing her grievance for the day, and
he was not going to let her know how successful it was. But really,
really, to wake a sensitive person like that was positively dangerous!
It took him hours to get over it--simply hours. She came into the room
buttoned up in an overall, with a handkerchief over her head--thereby
proving that she had been up herself and slaving since dawn--and
called in a low, warning voice: "Reginald!"

"Eh! What! What's that? What's the matter?"

"It's time to get up; it's half-past eight." And out she went,
shutting the door quietly after her, to gloat over her triumph, he
supposed.

He rolled over in the big bed, his heart still beating in quick, dull
throbs, and with every throb he felt his energy escaping him, his--his
inspiration for the day stifling under those thudding blows. It seemed
that she took a malicious delight in making life more difficult for
him than--Heaven knows--it was, by denying him his rights as an
artist, by trying to drag him down to her level. What was the matter
with her? What the hell did she want? Hadn't he three times as many
pupils now as when they were first married, earned three times as
much, paid for every stick and stone that they possessed, and now had
begun to shell out for Adrian's kindergarten?...And had he ever
reproached her for not having a penny to her name? Never a word--never
a sign! The truth was that once you married a woman she became
insatiable, and the truth was that nothing was more fatal for an
artist than marriage, at any rate until he was well over forty...Why
had he married her? He asked himself this question on an average
about three times a day, but he never could answer it satisfactorily.
She had caught him at a weak moment, when the first plunge into
reality had bewildered and overwhelmed him for a time. Looking back,
he saw a pathetic, youthful creature, half child, half wild untamed
bird, totally incompetent to cope with bills and creditors and all the
sordid details of existence. Well--she had done her best to clip his
wings, if that was any satisfaction for her, and she could
congratulate herself on the success of this early morning trick. One
ought to wake exquisitely, reluctantly, he thought, slipping down in
the warm bed. He began to imagine a series of enchanting scenes which
ended with his latest, most charming pupil putting her bare, scented
arms round his neck, and covering him with her long, perfumed hair.
"Awake, my love!"...

As was his daily habit, while the bath water ran, Reginald Peacock
tried his voice.

  When her mother tends her before the laughing mirror,
  Looping up her laces, tying up her hair,

he sang, softly at first, listening to the quality, nursing his voice
until he came to the third line:

  Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded...

and upon the word "wedded" he burst into such a shout of triumph that
the tooth-glass on the bathroom shelf trembled and even the bath tap
seemed to gush stormy applause...

Well, there was nothing wrong with his voice, he thought, leaping into
the bath and soaping his soft, pink body all over with a loofah shaped
like a fish. He could fill Covent Garden with it! "_Wedded_," he
shouted again, seizing the towel with a magnificent operatic gesture,
and went on singing while he rubbed as though he had been Lohengrin
tipped out by an unwary Swan and drying himself in the greatest haste
before that tiresome Elsa came along along...

Back in his bedroom, he pulled the blind up with a jerk, and standing
upon the pale square of sunlight that lay upon the carpet like a sheet
of cream blotting-paper, he began to do his exercises--deep breathing,
bending forward and back, squatting like a frog and shooting out his
legs--for if there was one thing he had a horror of it was of getting
fat, and men in his profession had a dreadful tendency that way.
However, there was no sign of it at present. He was, he decided, just
right, just in good proportion. In fact, he could not help a thrill of
satisfaction when he saw himself in the glass, dressed in a morning
coat, dark grey trousers, grey socks and a black tie with a silver
thread in it. Not that he was vain--he couldn't stand vain men--no;
the sight of himself gave him a thrill of purely artistic
satisfaction. "_Voilà tout!"_ said he, passing his hand over his sleek
hair.

That little, easy French phrase blown so lightly from his lips, like a
whiff of smoke, reminded him that someone had asked him again, the
evening before, if he was English. People seemed to find it impossible
to believe that he hadn't some Southern blood. True, there was an
emotional quality in his singing that had nothing of the John Bull in
it...The door-handle rattled and turned round and round. Adrian's
head popped through.

"Please, father, mother says breakfast is quite ready, please."

"Very well," said Reginald. Then, just as Adrian disappeared:
"Adrian!"

"Yes, father."

"You haven't said 'good morning.'"

A few months ago Reginald had spent a week-end in a very aristocratic
family, where the father received his little sons in the morning and
shook hands with them. Reginald thought the practice charming, and
introduced it immediately, but Adrian felt dreadfully silly at having
to shake hands with his own father every morning. And why did his
father always sort of sing to him instead of talk?...

In excellent temper, Reginald walked into the dining-room and sat down
before a pile of letters, a copy of the _Times_, and a little covered
dish. He glanced at the letters and then at his breakfast. There were
two thin slices of bacon and one egg.

"Don't you want any bacon?" he asked.

"No, I prefer a cold baked apple. I don't feel the need of bacon every
morning."

Now, did she mean that there was no need for him to have bacon every
morning, either, and that she grudged having to cook it for him?

"If you don't want to cook the breakfast," said he, "why don't you
keep a servant? You know we can afford one, and you know how I loathe
to see my wife doing the work. Simply because all the women we have
had in the past have been failures and utterly upset my regime, and
made it almost impossible for me to have any pupils here, you've given
up trying to find a decent woman. It's not impossible to train a
servant--is it? I mean, it doesn't require genius?"

"But I prefer to do the work myself; it makes life so much more
peaceful...Run along, Adrian darling, and get ready for school."

"Oh no, that's not it!" Reginald pretended to smile. "You do the work
yourself, because, for some extraordinary reason, you love to
humiliate me. Objectively, you may not know that, but, subjectively,
it's the case." This last remark so delighted him that he cut open an
envelope as gracefully as if he had been on the stage...


"DEAR MR. PEACOCK,

I feel I cannot go to sleep until I have thanked you again for the
wonderful joy your singing gave me this evening. Quite unforgettable.
You make me wonder, as I have not wondered since I was a girl, if this
is _all._ I mean, if this ordinary world is _all._ If there is not,
perhaps, for those of us who understand, divine beauty and richness
awaiting us if we only have the _courage_ to see it. And to make it
ours...The house is so quiet. I wish you were here now that I
might thank you in person. You are doing a great thing. You are
teaching the world to escape from life!

Yours, most sincerely,
  ÆNONE FELL.

P.S.--I am in every afternoon this week..."


The letter was scrawled in violet ink on thick, handmade paper.
Vanity, that bright bird, lifted its wings again, lifted them until he
felt his breast would break.

"Oh well, don't let us quarrel," said he, and actually flung out a
hand to his wife.

But she was not great enough to respond.

"I must hurry and take Adrian to school," said she. "Your room is
quite ready for you."

Very well--very well--let there be open war between them! But he was
hanged if he'd be the first to make it up again!

He walked up and down his room, and was not calm again until he heard
the outer door close upon Adrian and his wife. Of course, if this went
on, he would have to make some other arrangement. That was obvious.
Tied and bound like this, how could he help the world to escape from
life? He opened the piano and looked up his pupils for the morning.
Miss Betty Brittle, the Countess Wilkowska and Miss Marian Morrow.
They were charming, all three.

Punctually at half-past ten the door-bell rang. He went to the door.
Miss Betty Brittle was there, dressed in white, with her music in a
blue silk case.

"I'm afraid I'm early," she said, blushing and shy, and she opened her
big blue eyes very wide. "Am I?"

"Not at all, dear lady. I am only too charmed," said Reginald. "Won't
you come in?"

"It's such a heavenly morning," said Miss Brittle. "I walked across
the Park. The flowers were too marvellous."

"Well, think about them while you sing your exercises," said Reginald,
sitting down at the piano. "It will give your voice colour and
warmth."

Oh, what an enchanting idea! What a _genius_ Mr. Peacock was. She
parted her pretty lips, and began to sing like a pansy.

"Very good, very good, indeed," said Reginald, playing chords that
would waft a hardened criminal to heaven. "Make the notes round. Don't
be afraid. Linger over them, breathe them like a perfume."

How pretty she looked, standing there in her white frock, her little
blonde head tilted, showing her milky throat.

"Do you ever practise before a glass?" asked Reginald. "You ought to,
you know; it makes the lips more flexible. Come over here."

They went over to the mirror and stood side by side.

"Now sing--moo-e-koo-e-oo-e-a!"

But she broke down, and blushed more brightly than ever.

"Oh," she cried, "I can't. It makes me feel so silly. It makes me want
to laugh. I do look so absurd!"

"No, you don't. Don't be afraid," said Reginald, but laughed, too,
very kindly. "Now, try again!"

The lesson simply flew, and Betty Brittle quite got over her shyness.

"When can I come again?" she asked, tying the music up again in the
blue silk case. "I want to take as many lessons as I can just now. Oh,
Mr. Peacock, I _do_ enjoy them so much. May I come the day after
to-morrow?"

"Dear lady, I shall be only too charmed," said Reginald, bowing her
out.

Glorious girl! And when they had stood in front of the mirror, her
white sleeve had just touched his black one. He could feel--yes, he
could actually feel a warm glowing spot, and he stroked it. She loved
her lessons. His wife came in.

"Reginald, can you let me have some money? I must pay the dairy. And
will you be in for dinner to-night?"

"Yes, you know I'm singing at Lord Timbuck's at half-past nine. Can
you make me some clear soup, with an egg in it?"

"Yes. And the money, Reginald. It's eight and sixpence."

"Surely that's very heavy--isn't it?"

"No, it's just what it ought to be. And Adrian must have milk."

There she was--off again. Now she was standing up for Adrian against
him.

"I have not the slightest desire to deny my child a proper amount of
milk," said he. "Here is ten shillings."

The door-bell rang. He went to the door.

"Oh," said the Countess Wilkowska, "the stairs. I have not a breath."
And she put her hand over her heart as she followed him into the
music-room. She was all in black, with a little black hat with a
floating veil--violets in her bosom.

"Do not make me sing exercises, to-day," she cried, throwing out her
hands in her delightful foreign way. "No, to-day, I want only to sing
songs...And may I take off my violets? They fade so soon."

"They fade so soon--they fade so soon," played Reginald on the piano.

"May I put them here?" asked the Countess, dropping them in a little
vase that stood in front of one of Reginald's photographs.

"Dear lady, I should be only too charmed!"

She began to sing, and all was well until she came to the phrase: "You
love me. Yes, I _know_ you love me!" Down dropped his hands from the
keyboard, he wheeled round, facing her.

"No, no; that's not good enough. You can do better than that," cried
Reginald ardently. "You must sing as if you were in love. Listen; let
me try and show you." And he sang.

"Oh, yes, yes. I see what you mean," stammered the little Countess.
"May I try it again?"

"Certainly. Do not be afraid. Let yourself go. Confess yourself. Make
proud surrender!" he called above the music. And she sang.

"Yes; better that time. But I still feel you are capable of more. Try
it with me. There must be a kind of exultant defiance as well--don't
you feel?" And they sang together. Ah! now she was sure she
understood. "May I try once again?"

"You love me. Yes, I _know_ you love me."

The lesson was over before that phrase was quite perfect. The little
foreign hands trembled as they put the music together.

"And you are forgetting your violets," said Reginald softly.

"Yes, I think I will forget them," said the Countess, biting her
underlip. What fascinating ways these foreign women have!

"And you will come to my house on Sunday and make music?" she asked.

"Dear lady, I shall be only too charmed!" said Reginald.

  Weep ye no more, sad fountains
  Why need ye flow so fast?

sang Miss Marian Morrow, but her eyes filled with tears and her chin
trembled.

"Don't sing just now," said Reginald. "Let me play it for you." He
played so softly.

"Is there anything the matter?" asked Reginald. "You're not quite
happy this morning."

No, she wasn't; she was awfully miserable.

"You don't care to tell me what it is?"

It really was nothing particular. She had those moods sometimes when
life seemed almost unbearable.

"Ah, I know," he said; "if I could only help!"

"But you do; you do! Oh, if it were not for my lessons I don't feel I
could go on."

"Sit down in the arm-chair and smell the violets and let me sing to
you. It will do you just as much good as a lesson."

Why weren't all men like Mr. Peacock?

"I wrote a poem after the concert last night--just about what I felt.
Of course, it wasn't _personal._ May I send it to you?"

"Dear lady, I should be only too charmed!"

By the end of the afternoon he was quite tired and lay down on a sofa
to rest his voice before dressing. The door of his room was open. He
could hear Adrian and his wife talking in the dining-room.

"Do you know what that teapot reminds me of, Mummy? It reminds me of a
little sitting-down kitten."

"Does it, Mr. Absurdity?"

Reginald dozed. The telephone bell woke him.

"Ænone Fell is speaking. Mr. Peacock, I have just heard that you are
singing at Lord Timbuck's to-night. Will you dine with me, and we can
go on together afterwards?" And the words of his reply dropped like
flowers down the telephone.

"Dear lady, I should be only too charmed."

What a triumphant evening! The little dinner _tête-à-tête_ with Ænone
Fell, the drive to Lord Timbuck's in her white motor-car, when she
thanked him again for the unforgettable joy. Triumph upon triumph! And
Lord Timbuck's champagne simply flowed.

"Have some more champagne, Peacock," said Lord Timbuck. Peacock, you
notice--not Mr. Peacock--but Peacock, as if he were one of them. And
wasn't he? He was an artist. He could sway them all. And wasn't he
teaching them all to escape from life? How he sang! And as he sang, as
in a dream he saw their feathers and their flowers and their fans,
offered to him, laid before him, like a huge bouquet.

"Have another glass of wine, Peacock."

"I could have any one I liked by lifting a finger," thought Peacock,
positively staggering home.

But as he let himself into the dark flat his marvellous sense of
elation began to ebb away. He turned up the light in the bedroom. His
wife lay asleep, squeezed over to her side of the bed. He remembered
suddenly how she had said when he had told her he was going out to
dinner: "You might have let me know before!" And how he had answered:
"Can't you possibly speak to me without offending against even good
manners?" It was incredible, he thought, that she cared so little for
him--incredible that she wasn't interested in the slightest in his
triumphs and his artistic career. When so many women in her place
would have given their eyes...Yes, he knew it...Why not
acknowledge it?...And there she lay, an enemy, even in her
sleep....Must it ever be thus? he thought, the champagne still working.
Ah, if we only were friends, how much I could tell her now! About this
evening; even about Timbuck's manner to me, and all that they said to
me and so on and so on. If only I felt that she was here to come back
to--that I could confide in her--and so on and so on.

In his emotion he pulled off his evening boot and simply hurled it in
the corner. The noise woke his wife with a terrible start. She sat up,
pushing back her hair. And he suddenly decided to have one more try to
treat her as a friend, to tell her everything, to win her. Down he sat
on the side of the bed, and seized one of her hands. But of all those
splendid things he had to say, not one could he utter. For some
fiendish reason, the only words he could get out were: "Dear lady, I
should be so charmed--so charmed!"




SUN AND MOON

IN the afternoon the chairs came, a whole big cart full of little gold
ones with their legs in the air. And then the flowers came. When you
stared down from the balcony at the people carrying them the flower
pots looked like funny awfully nice hats nodding up the path.

Moon thought they were hats. She said: "Look. There's a man wearing a
palm on his head." But she never knew the difference between real
things and not real ones.

There was nobody to look after Sun and Moon. Nurse was helping Annie
alter Mother's dress which was much-too-long-and-tight-under-the-arms
and Mother was running all over the house and telephoning Father to be
sure not to forget things. She only had time to say: "Out of my way,
children!"

They kept out of her way--at any rate Sun did. He did so hate being
sent stumping back to the nursery. It didn't matter about Moon. If she
got tangled in people's legs they only threw her up and shook her till
she squeaked. But Sun was too heavy for that. He was so heavy that the
fat man who came to dinner on Sundays used to say: "Now, young man,
let's try to lift you." And then he'd put his thumbs under Sun's arms
and groan and try and give it up at last saying: "He's a perfect
little ton of bricks!"

Nearly all the furniture was taken out of the dining-room. The big
piano was put in a corner and then there came a row of flower pots and
then there came the goldy chairs. That was for the concert. When Sun
looked in a white faced man sat at the piano--not playing, but banging
at it and then looking inside. He had a bag of tools on the piano and
he had stuck his hat on a statue against the wall. Sometimes he just
started to play and then he jumped up again and looked inside. Sun
hoped he wasn't the concert.

But of course the place to be in was the kitchen. There was a man
helping in a cap like a blancmange, and their real cook, Minnie, was
all red in the face and laughing. Not cross at all. She gave them each
an almond finger and lifted them up on to the flour bin so that they
could watch the wonderful things she and the man were making for
supper. Cook brought in the things and he put them on dishes and
trimmed them. Whole fishes, with their heads and eyes and tails still
on, he sprinkled with red and green and yellow bits; he made squiggles
all over the jellies, he stuck a collar on a ham and put a very thin
sort of a fork in it; he dotted almonds and tiny round biscuits on the
creams. And more and more things coming.

"Ah, but you haven't seen the ice pudding," said Cook. "Come along."
Why was she being so nice, thought Sun as she gave them each a hand.
And they looked into the refrigerator.

Oh! Oh! Oh! It was a little house. It was a little pink house with
white snow on the roof and green windows and a brown door and stuck in
the door there was a nut for a handle.

When Sun saw the nut he felt quite tired and had to lean against Cook.

"Let me touch it. Just let me put my finger on the roof," said Moon,
dancing. She always wanted to touch all the food. Sun didn't.

"Now, my girl, look sharp with the table," said Cook as the housemaid
came in.

"It's a picture, Min," said Nellie. "Come along and have a look." So
they all went into the dining-room. Sun and Moon were almost
frightened. They wouldn't go up to the table at first; they just stood
at the door and made eyes at it.

It wasn't real night yet but the blinds were down in the dining-room
and the lights turned on--and all the lights were red roses. Red
ribbons and bunches of roses tied up the table at the corners. In the
middle was a lake with rose petals floating on it.

"That's where the ice pudding is to be," said Cook.

Two silver lions with wings had fruit on their backs, and the salt
cellars were tiny birds drinking out of basins.

And all the winking glasses and shining plates and sparkling knives
and forks--and all the food. And the little red table napkins made
into roses...

"Are people going to eat the food?" asked Sun.

"I should just think they were," laughed Cook, laughing with Nellie.
Moon laughed, too; she always did the same as other people. But Sun
didn't want to laugh. Round and round he walked with his hands behind
his back. Perhaps he never would have stopped if Nurse hadn't called
suddenly: "Now then, children. It's high time you were washed and
dressed." And they were marched off to the nursery.

While they were being unbuttoned Mother looked in with a white thing
over her shoulders; she was rubbing stuff on her face.

"I'll ring for them when I want them, Nurse, and then they can just
come down and be seen and go back again," said she.

Sun was undressed, first nearly to his skin, and dressed again in a
white shirt with red and white daisies speckled on it, breeches with
strings at the sides and braces that came over, white socks and red
shoes.

"Now you're in your Russian costume," said Nurse, flattening down his
fringe.

"Am I?" said Sun.

"Yes. Sit quiet in that chair and watch your little sister."

Moon took ages. When she had her socks put on she pretended to fall
back on the bed and waved her legs at Nurse as she always did, and
every time Nurse tried to make her curls with a finger and a wet brush
she turned round and asked Nurse to show her the photo of her brooch
or something like that. But at last she was finished too. Her dress
stuck out, with fur on it, all white; there was even fluffy stuff on
the legs of her drawers. Her shoes were white with big blobs on them.

"There you are, my lamb," said Nurse. "And you look like a sweet
little cherub of a picture of a powder-puff?" Nurse rushed to the
door. "Ma'am, one moment."

Mother came in again with half her hair down.

"Oh," she cried. "What a picture!"

"Isn't she," said Nurse.

And Moon held out her skirts by the tips and dragged one of her feet.
Sun didn't mind people not noticing him--much...

After that they played clean tidy games up at the table while Nurse
stood at the door, and when the carriages began to come and the sound
of laughter and voices and soft rustlings came from down below she
whispered: "Now then, children, stay where you are." Moon kept jerking
the table cloth so that it all hung down her side and Sun hadn't
any--and then she pretended she didn't do it on purpose.

At last the bell rang. Nurse pounced at them with the hair brush,
flattened his fringe, made her bow stand on end and joined their hands
together.

"Down you go!" she whispered.

And down they went. Sun did feel silly holding Moon's hand like that
but Moon seemed to like it. She swung her arm and the bell on her
coral bracelet jingled.

At the drawing-room door stood Mother fanning herself with a black
fan. The drawing-room was full of sweet smelling, silky, rustling
ladies and men in black with funny tails on their coats--like beetles.
Father was among them, talking very loud, and rattling something in
his pocket.

"What a picture!" cried the ladies. "Oh, the ducks! Oh, the lambs! Oh,
the sweets! Oh, the pets!"

All the people who couldn't get at Moon kissed Sun, and a skinny old
lady with teeth that clicked said: "Such a serious little poppet," and
rapped him on the head with something hard.

Sun looked to see if the same concert was there, but he was gone.
Instead, a fat man with a pink head leaned over the piano talking to a
girl who held a violin at her ear.

There was only one man that Sun really liked. He was a little grey
man, with long grey whiskers, who walked about by himself. He came up
to Sun and rolled his eyes in a very nice way and said: "Hullo, my
lad." Then he went away. But soon he came back again and said: "Fond
of dogs?" Sun said: "Yes." But then he went away again, and though Sun
looked for him everywhere he couldn't find him. He thought perhaps
he'd gone outside to fetch in a puppy.

"Good night, my precious babies," said Mother, folding them up in her
bare arms. "Fly up to your little nest."

Then Moon went and made a silly of herself again. She put up her arms
in front of everybody and said: "My Daddy must carry me."

But they seemed to like it, and Daddy swooped down and picked her up
as he always did.

Nurse was in such a hurry to get them to bed that she even interrupted
Sun over his prayers and said: "Get on with them, child, _do._" And
the moment after they were in bed and in the dark except for the
nightlight in its little saucer.

"Are you asleep?" asked Moon.

"No," said Sun. "Are you?"

"No," said Moon.

A long while after Sun woke up again. There was a loud, loud noise of
clapping from downstairs, like when it rains. He heard Moon turn over.

"Moon, are you awake?"

"Yes, are you."

"Yes. Well, let's go and look over the stairs."

They had just got settled on the top step when the drawing-room door
opened and they heard the party cross over the hall into the
dining-room. Then that door was shut; there was a noise of "pops" and
laughing. Then that stopped and Sun saw them all walking round and
round the lovely table with their hands behind their backs like he had
done...Round and round they walked, looking and staring. The man
with the grey whiskers liked the little house best. When he saw the
nut for a handle he rolled his eyes like he did before and said to
Sun: "Seen the nut?"

"Don't nod your head like that, Moon."

"I'm not nodding. It's you."

"It is not. I never nod my head."

"O-oh, you do. You're nodding it now."

"I'm not. I'm only showing you how not to do it."

When they woke up again they could only hear Father's voice very loud,
and Mother, laughing away. Father came out of the dining-room, bounded
up the stairs, and nearly fell over them.

"Hullo!" he said. "By Jove, Kitty, come and look at this."

Mother came out. "Oh, you naughty children," said she from the hall.

"Let's have 'em down and give 'em a bone," said Father. Sun had never
seen him so jolly.

"No, certainly not," said Mother.

"Oh, my Daddy, do! Do have us down," said Moon.

"I'm hanged if I won't," cried Father. "I won't be bullied. Kitty--way
there." And he caught them up, one under each arm.

Sun thought Mother would have been dreadfully cross. But she wasn't.
She kept on laughing at Father.

"Oh, you dreadful boy!" said she. But she didn't mean Sun.

"Come on, kiddies. Come and have some pickings," said this jolly
Father. But Moon stopped a minute.

"Mother--your dress is right off one side."

"Is it?" said Mother. And Father said "Yes" and pretended to bite her
white shoulder, but she pushed him away.

And so they went back to the beautiful dining-room.

But--oh! oh! what had happened. The ribbons and the roses were all
pulled untied. The little red table napkins lay on the floor, all the
shining plates were dirty and all the winking glasses. The lovely food
that the man had trimmed was all thrown about, and there were bones
and bits and fruit peels and shells everywhere. There was even a
bottle lying down with stuff coming out of it on to the cloth and
nobody stood it up again.

And the little pink house with the snow roof and the green windows was
broken--broken--half melted away in the centre of the table.

"Come on, Sun," said Father, pretending not to notice.

Moon lifted up her pyjama legs and shuffled up to the table and stood
on a chair, squeaking away.

"Have a bit of this ice," said Father, smashing in some more of the
roof.

Mother took a little plate and held it for him; she put her other arm
round his neck.

"Daddy. Daddy," shrieked Moon. "The little handle's left. The little
nut. Kin I eat it?" And she reached across and picked it out of the
door and scrunched it up, biting hard and blinking.

"Here, my lad," said Father.

But Sun did not move from the door. Suddenly he put up his head and
gave a loud wail.

"I think it's horrid--horrid--horrid!" he sobbed.

"There, you see!" said Mother. "You see!"

"Off with you," said Father, no longer jolly. "This moment. Off you
go!"

And wailing loudly, Sun stumped off to the nursery.




FEUILLE D'ALBUM

HE really was an impossible person. Too shy altogether. With
absolutely nothing to say for himself. And such a weight. Once he was
in your studio he never knew when to go, but would sit on and on until
you nearly screamed, and burned to throw something enormous after him
when he did finally blush his way out--something like the tortoise
stove. The strange thing was that at first sight he looked most
interesting. Everybody agreed about that. You would drift into the
café one evening and there you would see, sitting in a corner, with a
glass of coffee in front of him, a thin, dark boy, wearing a blue
jersey with a little grey flannel jacket buttoned over it. And somehow
that blue jersey and the grey jacket with the sleeves that were too
short gave him the air of a boy that has made up his mind to run away
to sea. Who has run away, in fact, and will get up in a moment and
sling a knotted handkerchief containing his nightshirt and his
mother's picture on the end of a stick, and walk out into the night
and be drowned...Stumble over the wharf edge on his way to the
ship, even...He had black close-cropped hair, grey eyes with long
lashes, white cheeks and a mouth pouting as though he were determined
not to cry...How could one resist him? Oh, one's heart was wrung
at sight. And, as if that were not enough, there was his trick of
blushing...Whenever the waiter came near him he turned
crimson--he might have been just out of prison and the waiter in the
know...

"Who is he, my dear? Do you know?"

"Yes. His name is Ian French. Painter. Awfully clever, they say.
Someone started by giving him a mother's tender care. She asked him
how often he heard from home, whether he had enough blankets on his
bed, how much milk he drank a day. But when she went round to his
studio to give an eye to his socks, she rang and rang, and though she
could have sworn she heard someone breathing inside, the door was not
answered...Hopeless!"

Someone else decided that he ought to fall in love. She summoned him
to her side, called him "boy," leaned over him so that he might smell
the enchanting perfume of her hair, took his arm, told him how
marvellous life could be if one only had the courage, and went round
to his studio one evening and rang and rang...Hopeless.

"What the poor boy really wants is thoroughly rousing," said a third.
So off they went to cafés and cabarets, little dances, places where
you drank something that tasted like tinned apricot juice, but cost
twenty-seven shillings a bottle and was called champagne, other
places, too thrilling for words, where you sat in the most awful
gloom, and where some one had always been shot the night before. But
he did not turn a hair. Only once he got very drunk, but instead of
blossoming forth, there he sat, stony, with two spots of red on his
cheeks, like, my dear, yes, the dead image of that ragtime thing they
were playing, like a "Broken Doll." But when she took him back to his
studio he had quite recovered, and said "good night" to her in
the street below, as though they had walked home from church
together...Hopeless.

After heaven knows how many more attempts--for the spirit of kindness
dies very hard in women--they gave him up. Of course, they were still
perfectly charming, and asked him to their shows, and spoke to him in
the café, but that was all. When one is an artist one has no time
simply for people who won't respond. Has one?

"And besides I really think there must be something rather fishy
somewhere...don't you? It can't all be as innocent as it looks!
Why come to Paris if you want to be a daisy in the field? No, I'm not
suspicious. But----"

He lived at the top of a tall mournful building overlooking the river.
One of those buildings that look so romantic on rainy nights and
moonlight nights, when the shutters are shut, and the heavy door, and
the sign advertising "a little apartment to let immediately" gleams
forlorn beyond words. One of those buildings that smell so unromantic
all the year round, and where the concierge lives in a glass cage on
the ground floor, wrapped up in a filthy shawl, stirring something in
a saucepan and ladling out tit-bits to the swollen old dog lolling on
a bead cushion...Perched up in the air the studio had a wonderful
view. The two big windows faced the water; he could see the boats and
the barges swinging up and down, and the fringe of an island planted
with trees, like a round bouquet. The side window looked across to
another house, shabbier still and smaller, and down below there was a
flower market. You could see the tops of huge umbrellas, with frills
of bright flowers escaping from them, booths covered with striped
awning where they sold plants in boxes and clumps of wet gleaming
palms in terra-cotta jars. Among the flowers the old women scuttled
from side to side, like crabs. Really there was no need for him to go
out. If he sat at the window until his white beard fell over the sill
he still would have found something to draw...

How surprised those tender women would have been if they had managed
to force the door. For he kept his studio as neat as a pin. Everything
was arranged to form a pattern, a little "still life" as it were--the
saucepans with their lids on the wall behind the gas stove, the bowl
of eggs, milk jug and teapot on the shelf, the books and the lamp with
the crinkly paper shade on the table. An Indian curtain that had a
fringe of red leopards marching round it covered his bed by day, and
on the wall beside the bed on a level with your eyes when you were
lying down there was a small neatly printed notice: GET UP AT ONCE.

Every day was much the same. While the light was good he slaved at his
painting, then cooked his meals and tidied up the place. And in the
evenings he went off to the café, or sat at home reading or making out
the most complicated list of expenses headed: "What I ought to be able
to do it on," and ending with a sworn statement..."I swear not to
exceed this amount for next month. Signed, Ian French."

Nothing very fishy about this; but those far-seeing women were quite
right. It wasn't all.

One evening he was sitting at the side window eating some prunes and
throwing the stones on to the tops of the huge umbrellas in the
deserted flower market. It had been raining--the first real spring
rain of the year had fallen--a bright spangle hung on everything, and
the air smelled of buds and moist earth. Many voices sounding languid
and content rang out in the dusky air, and the people who had come to
close their windows and fasten the shutters leaned out instead. Down
below in the market the trees were peppered with new green. What kind
of trees were they? he wondered. And now came the lamplighter. He
stared at the house across the way, the small, shabby house, and
suddenly, as if in answer to his gaze, two wings of windows opened and
a girl came out on to the tiny balcony carrying a pot of daffodils.
She was a strangely thin girl in a dark pinafore, with a pink
handkerchief tied over her hair. Her sleeves were rolled up almost to
her shoulders and her slender arms shone against the dark stuff.

"Yes, it is quite warm enough. It will do them good," she said,
putting down the pot and turning to some one in the room inside. As
she turned she put her hands up to the handkerchief and tucked away
some wisps of hair. She looked down at the deserted market and up at
the sky, but where he sat there might have been a hollow in the air.
She simply did not see the house opposite. And then she disappeared.

His heart fell out of the side window of his studio, and down to the
balcony of the house opposite--buried itself in the pot of daffodils
under the half-opened buds and spears of green...That room with
the balcony was the sitting-room, and the one next door to it was the
kitchen. He heard the clatter of the dishes as she washed up after
supper, and then she came to the window, knocked a little mop against
the ledge, and hung it on a nail to dry. She never sang or unbraided
her hair, or held out her arms to the moon as young girls are supposed
to do. And she always wore the same dark pinafore and the pink
handkerchief over her hair...Whom did she live with? Nobody else
came to those two windows, and yet she was always talking to some one
in the room. Her mother, he decided, was an invalid. They took in
sewing. The father was dead...He had been a journalist--very
pale, with long moustaches, and a piece of black hair falling over his
forehead.

By working all day they just made enough money to live on, but they
never went out and they had no friends. Now when he sat down at his
table he had to make an entirely new set of sworn statements...Not
to go to the side window before a certain hour: signed, Ian
French. Not to think about her until he had put away his painting
things for the day: signed, Ian French.

It was quite simple. She was the only person he really wanted to know,
because she was, he decided, the only other person alive who was just
his age. He couldn't stand giggling girls, and he had no use for
grown-up women...She was his age, she was--well, just like him.
He sat in his dusky studio, tired, with one arm hanging over the back
of his chair, staring in at her window and seeing himself in there
with her. She had a violent temper; they quarrelled terribly at times,
he and she. She had a way of stamping her foot and twisting her hands
in her pinafore...furious. And she very rarely laughed. Only when
she told him about an absurd little kitten she once had who used to
roar and pretend to be a lion when it was given meat to eat. Things
like that made her laugh...But as a rule they sat together very
quietly; he, just as he was sitting now, and she with her hands folded
in her lap and her feet tucked under, talking in low tones, or silent
and tired after the day's work. Of course, she never asked him about
his pictures, and of course he made the most wonderful drawings of her
which she hated, because he made her so thin and so dark...But
how could he get to know her? This might go on for years...

Then he discovered that once a week, in the evenings, she went out
shopping. On two successive Thursdays she came to the window wearing
an old-fashioned cape over the pinafore, and carrying a basket. From
where he sat he could not see the door of her house, but on the next
Thursday evening at the same time he snatched up his cap and ran down
the stairs. There was a lovely pink light over everything. He saw it
glowing in the river, and the people walking towards him had pink
faces and pink hands.

He leaned against the side of his house waiting for her and he had no
idea of what he was going to do or say. "Here she comes," said a voice
in his head. She walked very quickly, with small, light steps; with
one hand she carried the basket, with the other she kept the cape
together...What could he do? He could only follow...First
she went into the grocer's and spent a long time in there, and then
she went into the butcher's where she had to wait her turn. Then she
was an age at the draper's matching something, and then she went to
the fruit shop and bought a lemon. As he watched her he knew more
surely than ever he must get to know her, now. Her composure, her
seriousness and her loneliness, the very way she walked as though she
was eager to be done with this world of grown-ups all was so natural
to him and so inevitable.

"Yes, she is always like that," he thought proudly. "We have nothing
to do with these people."

But now she was on her way home and he was as far off as ever...She
suddenly turned into the dairy and he saw her through the window
buying an egg. She picked it out of the basket with such care--a brown
one, a beautifully shaped one, the one he would have chosen. And when
she came out of the dairy he went in after her. In a moment he was out
again, and following her past his house across the flower market,
dodging among the huge umbrellas and treading on the fallen flowers
and the round marks where the pots had stood...Through her door
he crept, and up the stairs after, taking care to tread in time with
her so that she should not notice. Finally, she stopped on the
landing, and took the key out of her purse. As she put it into the
door he ran up and faced her.

Blushing more crimson than ever, but looking at her severely he said,
almost angrily: "Excuse me, Mademoiselle, you dropped this."

And he handed her an egg.




A DILL PICKLE

AND then, after six years, she saw him again. He was seated at one of
those little bamboo tables decorated with a Japanese vase of paper
daffodils. There was a tall plate of fruit in front of him, and very
carefully, in a way she recognized immediately as his "special" way,
he was peeling an orange.

He must have felt that shock of recognition in her for he looked up
and met her eyes. Incredible! He didn't know her! She smiled; he
frowned. She came towards him. He closed his eyes an instant, but
opening them his face lit up as though he had struck a match in a dark
room. He laid down the orange and pushed back his chair, and she took
her little warm hand out of her muff and gave it to him.

"Vera!" he exclaimed. "How strange. Really, for a moment I didn't know
you. Won't you sit down? You've had lunch? Won't you have some
coffee?"

She hesitated, but of course she meant to.

"Yes, I'd like some coffee." And she sat down opposite him.

"You've changed. You've changed very much," he said, staring at her
with that eager, lighted look. "You look so well. I've never seen you
look so well before."

"Really?" She raised her veil and unbuttoned her high fur collar. "I
don't feel very well. I can't bear this weather, you know."

"Ah, no. You hate the cold..."

"Loathe it." She shuddered. "And the worst of it is that the older one
grows..."

He interrupted her. "Excuse me," and tapped on the table for the
waitress. "Please bring some coffee and cream." To her: "You are sure
you won't eat anything? Some fruit, perhaps. The fruit here is very
good."

"No, thanks. Nothing."

"Then that's settled." And smiling just a hint too broadly he took up
the orange again. "You were saying--the older one grows----"

"The colder," she laughed. But she was thinking how well she
remembered that trick of his--the trick of interrupting her--and of
how it used to exasperate her six years ago. She used to feel then as
though he, quite suddenly, in the middle of what she was saying, put
his hand over her lips, turned from her, attended to something
different, and then took his hand away, and with just the same
slightly too broad smile, gave her his attention again...Now we
are ready. That is settled.

"The colder!" He echoed her words, laughing too. "Ah, ah. You still
say the same things. And there is another thing about you that is not
changed at all--your beautiful voice--your beautiful way of speaking."
Now he was very grave; he leaned towards her, and she smelled the
warm, stinging scent of the orange peel. "You have only to say one
word and I would know your voice among all other voices. I don't know
what it is--I've often wondered--that makes your voice such
a--haunting memory.  Do you remember that first afternoon we spent
together at Kew Gardens? You were so surprised because I did not know
the names of any flowers. I am still just as ignorant for all your
telling me. But whenever it is very fine and warm, and I see some
bright colours--it's awfully strange--I hear your voice saying:
'Geranium, marigold and verbena.' And I feel those three words are all
I recall of some forgotten, heavenly language...You remember that
afternoon?"

"Oh, yes, very well." She drew a long, soft breath, as though the
paper daffodils between them were almost too sweet to bear. Yet, what
had remained in her mind of that particular afternoon was an absurd
scene over the tea table. A great many people taking tea in a Chinese
pagoda, and he behaving like a maniac about the wasps--waving them
away, flapping at them with his straw hat, serious and infuriated out
of all proportion to the occasion. How delighted the sniggering tea
drinkers had been. And how she had suffered.

But now, as he spoke, that memory faded. His was the truer. Yes, it
had been a wonderful afternoon, full of geranium and marigold and
verbena, and--warm sunshine. Her thoughts lingered over the last two
words as though she sang them.

In the warmth, as it were, another memory unfolded. She saw herself
sitting on a lawn. He lay beside her, and suddenly, after a long
silence, he rolled over and put his head in her lap.

"I wish," he said, in a low, troubled voice, "I wish that I had taken
poison and were about to die--here now!"

At that moment a little girl in a white dress, holding a long,
dripping water lily, dodged from behind a bush, stared at them, and
dodged back again. But he did not see. She leaned over him.

"Ah, why do you say that? I could not say that."

But he gave a kind of soft moan, and taking her hand he held it to his
cheek.

"Because I know I am going to love you too much--far too much. And I
shall suffer so terribly. Vera, because you never, never will love
me."

He was certainly far better looking now than he had been then. He had
lost all that dreamy vagueness and indecision. Now he had the air of a
man who has found his place in life, and fills it with a confidence
and an assurance which was, to say the least, impressive. He must have
made money, too. His clothes were admirable, and at that moment he
pulled a Russian cigarette case out of his pocket.

"Won't you smoke?"

"Yes, I will." She hovered over them. "They look very good."

"I think they are. I get them made for me by a little man in St.
James's Street. I don't smoke very much. I'm not like you--but when I
do, they must be delicious, very fresh cigarettes. Smoking isn't a
habit with me; it's a luxury--like perfume. Are you still so fond of
perfumes? Ah, when I was in Russia..."

She broke in: "You've really been to Russia?"

"Oh, yes. I was there for over a year. Have you forgotten how we used
to talk of going there?"

"No, I've not forgotten."

He gave a strange half laugh and leaned back in his chair. "Isn't it
curious. I have really carried out all those journeys that we planned.
Yes, I have been to all those places that we talked of, and stayed in
them long enough to--as you used to say, 'air oneself' in them. In
fact, I have spent the last three years of my life travelling all the
time. Spain, Corsica, Siberia, Russia, Egypt. The only country left is
China, and I mean to go there, too, when the war is over."

As he spoke, so lightly, tapping the end of his cigarette against the
ash-tray, she felt the strange beast that had slumbered so long within
her bosom stir, stretch itself, yawn, prick up its ears, and suddenly
bound to its feet, and fix its longing, hungry stare upon those far
away places. But all she said was, smiling gently: "How I envy you."

He accepted that. "It has been," he said, "very wonderful--especially
Russia. Russia was all that we had imagined, and far, far more. I even
spent some days on a river boat on the Volga. Do you remember that
boatman's song that you used to play?"

"Yes." It began to play in her mind as she spoke.

"Do you ever play it now?"

"No, I've no piano."

He was amazed at that. "But what has become of your beautiful piano?"

She made a little grimace. "Sold. Ages ago."

"But you were so fond of music," he wondered.

"I've no time for it now," said she.

He let it go at that. "That river life," he went on, "is something
quite special. After a day or two you cannot realize that you have
ever known another. And it is not necessary to know the language--the
life of the boat creates a bond between you and the people that's more
than sufficient. You eat with them, pass the day with them, and in the
evening there is that endless singing."

She shivered, hearing the boatman's song break out again loud and
tragic, and seeing the boat floating on the darkening river with
melancholy trees on either side..."Yes, I should like that," said
she, stroking her muff.

"You'd like almost everything about Russian life," he said warmly.
"It's so informal, so impulsive, so free without question. And then
the peasants are so splendid. They are such human beings--yes, that is
it. Even the man who drives your carriage has--has some real part in
what is happening. I remember the evening a party of us, two friends
of mine and the wife of one of them, went for a picnic by the Black
Sea. We took supper and champagne and ate and drank on the grass. And
while we were eating the coachman came up. 'Have a dill pickle,' he
said. He wanted to share with us. That seemed to me so right, so--you
know what I mean?"

And she seemed at that moment to be sitting on the grass beside the
mysteriously Black Sea, black as velvet, and rippling against the
banks in silent, velvet waves. She saw the carriage drawn up to one
side of the road, and the little group on the grass, their faces and
hands white in the moonlight. She saw the pale dress of the woman
outspread and her folded parasol, lying on the grass like a huge pearl
crochet hook. Apart from them, with his supper in a cloth on his
knees, sat the coachman. "Have a dill pickle," said he, and although
she was not certain what a dill pickle was, she saw the greenish glass
jar with a red chili like a parrot's beak glimmering through. She
sucked in her cheeks; the dill pickle was terribly sour...

"Yes, I know perfectly what you mean," she said.

In the pause that followed they looked at each other. In the past when
they had looked at each other like that they had felt such a boundless
understanding between them that their souls had, as it were, put their
arms round each other and dropped into the same sea, content to be
drowned, like mournful lovers. But now, the surprising thing was that
it was he who held back. He who said:

"What a marvellous listener you are. When you look at me with those
wild eyes I feel that I could tell you things that I would never
breathe to another human being."

Was there just a hint of mockery in his voice or was it her fancy? She
could not be sure.

"Before I met you," he said, "I had never spoken of myself to anybody.
How well I remember one night, the night that I brought you the little
Christmas tree, telling you all about my childhood. And of how I was
so miserable that I ran away and lived under a cart in our yard for
two days without being discovered. And you listened, and your eyes
shone, and I felt that you had even made the little Christmas tree
listen too, as in a fairy story."

But of that evening she had remembered a little pot of caviare. It had
cost seven and sixpence. He could not get over it. Think of it--a tiny
jar like that costing seven and sixpence. While she ate it he watched
her, delighted and shocked.

"No, really, that is eating money. You could not get seven shillings
into a little pot that size. Only think of the profit they must make..."
And he had begun some immensely complicated calculations...But now
good-bye to the caviare. The Christmas tree was on the table, and the
little boy lay under the cart with his head pillowed on the yard dog.

"The dog was called Bosun," she cried delightedly.

But he did not follow. "Which dog? Had you a dog? I don't remember a
dog at all."

"No, no. I mean the yard dog when you were a little boy." He laughed
and snapped the cigarette case to.

"Was he? Do you know I had forgotten that. It seems such ages ago. I
cannot believe that it is only six years. After I had recognized you
to-day--I had to take such a leap--I had to take a leap over my whole
life to get back to that time. I was such a kid then." He drummed on
the table. "I've often thought how I must have bored you. And now I
understand so perfectly why you wrote to me as you did--although at
the time that letter nearly finished my life. I found it again the
other day, and I couldn't help laughing as I read it. It was so
clever--such a true picture of me." He glanced up. "You're not going?"

She had buttoned her collar again and drawn down her veil.

"Yes, I am afraid I must," she said, and managed a smile. Now she knew
that he had been mocking.

"Ah, no, please," he pleaded. "Don't go just for a moment," and he
caught up one of her gloves from the table and clutched at it as if
that would hold her. "I see so few people to talk to nowadays, that I
have turned into a sort of barbarian," he said. "Have I said something
to hurt you?"

"Not a bit," she lied. But as she watched him draw her glove through
his fingers, gently, gently, her anger really did die down, and
besides, at the moment he looked more like himself of six years ago...

"What I really wanted then," he said softly, "was to be a sort of
carpet--to make myself into a sort of carpet for you to walk on so
that you need not be hurt by the sharp stones and the mud that you
hated so. It was nothing more positive than that--nothing more
selfish. Only I did desire, eventually, to turn into a magic carpet
and carry you away to all those lands you longed to see."

As he spoke she lifted her head as though she drank something; the
strange beast in her bosom began to purr...

"I felt that you were more lonely than anybody else in the world," he
went on, "and yet, perhaps, that you were the only person in the world
who was really, truly alive. Born out of your time," he murmured,
stroking the glove, "fated."

Ah, God! What had she done! How had she dared to throw away her
happiness like this. This was the only man who had ever understood
her. Was it too late? Could it be too late? _She_ was that glove that
he held in his fingers...

"And then the fact that you had no friends and never had made friends
with people. How I understood that, for neither had I. Is it just the
same now?"

"Yes," she breathed. "Just the same. I am as alone as ever."

"So am I," he laughed gently, "just the same."

Suddenly with a quick gesture he handed her back the glove and scraped
his chair on the floor, "But what seemed to me so mysterious then is
perfectly plain to me now. And to you, too, of course...It simply
was that we were such egoists, so self-engrossed, so wrapped up in
ourselves that we hadn't a corner in our hearts for anybody else. Do
you know," he cried, naive and hearty, and dreadfully like another
side of that old self again, "I began studying a Mind System when I
was in Russia, and I found that we were not peculiar at all. It's
quite a well known form of..."

She had gone. He sat there, thunder-struck, astounded beyond
words....And then he asked the waitress for his bill.

"But the cream has not been touched," he said. "Please do not charge
me for it."




THE LITTLE GOVERNESS

OH, dear, how she wished that it wasn't night-time. She'd have much
rather travelled by day, much much rather. But the lady at the
Governess Bureau had said: "You had better take an evening boat and
then if you get into a compartment for 'Ladies Only' in the train you
will be far safer than sleeping in a foreign hotel. Don't go out of
the carriage; don't walk about the corridors and _be sure_ to lock the
lavatory door if you go there. The train arrives at Munich at eight
o'clock, and Frau Arnholdt says that the Hotel Grunewald is only one
minute away. A porter can take you there. She will arrive at six the
same evening, so you will have a nice quiet day to rest after the
journey and rub up your German. And when you want anything to eat I
would advise you to pop into the nearest baker's and get a bun and
some coffee. You haven't been abroad before, have you?" "No." "Well, I
always tell my girls that it's better to mistrust people at first
rather than trust them, and it's safer to suspect people of evil
intentions rather than good ones...It sounds rather hard but
we've got to be women of the world, haven't we?"

It had been nice in the Ladies' Cabin. The stewardess was so kind and
changed her money for her and tucked up her feet. She lay on one of
the hard pink-sprigged couches and watched the other passengers,
friendly and natural, pinning their hats to the bolsters, taking off
their boots and skirts, opening dressing-cases and arranging
mysterious rustling little packages, tying their heads up in veils
before lying down. _Thud_, _thud_, _thud_, went the steady screw of
the steamer. The stewardess pulled a green shade over the light and
sat down by the stove, her skirt turned back over her knees, a long
piece of knitting on her lap. On a shelf above her head there was a
water-bottle with a tight bunch of flowers stuck in it. "I like
travelling very much," thought the little governess. She smiled and
yielded to the warm rocking.

But when the boat stopped and she went up on deck, her dress-basket in
one hand, her rug and umbrella in the other, a cold, strange wind flew
under her hat. She looked up at the masts and spars of the ship black
against a green glittering sky and down to the dark landing stage
where strange muffled figures lounged, waiting; she moved forward with
the sleepy flock, all knowing where to go to and what to do except
her, and she felt afraid. Just a little--just enough to wish--oh, to
wish that it was daytime and that one of those women who had smiled at
her in the glass, when they both did their hair in the Ladies' Cabin,
was somewhere near now. "Tickets, please. Show your tickets. Have your
tickets ready." She went down the gangway balancing herself carefully
on her heels. Then a man in a black leather cap came forward and
touched her on the arm. "Where for, Miss?" He spoke English--he must
be a guard or a stationmaster with a cap like that. She had scarcely
answered when he pounced on her dress-basket. "This way," he shouted,
in a rude, determined voice, and elbowing his way he strode past the
people. "But I don't want a porter." What a horrible man! "I don't
want a porter. I want to carry it myself." She had to run to keep up
with him, and her anger, far stronger than she, ran before her and
snatched the bag out of the wretch's hand. He paid no attention at
all, but swung on down the long dark platform, and across a railway
line. "He is a robber." She was sure he was a robber as she stepped
between the silvery rails and felt the cinders crunch under her shoes.
On the other side--oh, thank goodness!--there was a train with Munich
written on it. The man stopped by the huge lighted carriages. "Second
class?" asked the insolent voice. "Yes, a Ladies' compartment." She
was quite out of breath. She opened her little purse to find something
small enough to give this horrible man while he tossed her dress-basket
into the rack of an empty carriage that had a ticket, _Dames
Seules_, gummed on window. She got into the train and handed twenty
centimes. "What's this?" shouted the man, glaring at the money and
then at her, holding it up to his nose, sniffing at it as though he
had never in his life seen, much less held, such a sum. "It's a franc.
You know that, don't you? It's a franc. That's my fare!" A franc! Did
he imagine that she was going to give him a franc for playing a trick
like that just because she was a girl and travelling alone at night?
Never, never! She squeezed her purse in her hand and simply did not
see him--she looked at a view of St. Malo on the wall opposite and
simply did not hear him. "Ah, no. Ah, no. Four sous. You make a
mistake. Here, take it. It's a franc I want." He leapt on to the step
of the train and threw the money on to her lap. Trembling with terror
she screwed herself tight, tight, and put out an icy hand and took the
money--stowed it away in her hand. "That's all you're going to get,"
she said. For a minute or two she felt his sharp eyes pricking her all
over, while he nodded slowly, pulling down his mouth: "Ve-ry well.
_Trrrès bien._" He shrugged his shoulders and disappeared into the
dark. Oh, the relief! How simply terrible that had been! As she stood
up to feel if the dress-basket was firm she caught sight of herself in
the mirror, quite white, with big round eyes. She untied her "motor
veil" and unbuttoned her green cape. "But it's all over now," she said
to the mirror face, feeling in some way that it was more frightened
than she.

People began to assemble on the platform. They stood together in
little groups talking; a strange light from the station lamps painted
their faces almost green. A little boy in red clattered up with a huge
tea wagon and leaned against it, whistling and flicking his boots with
a serviette. A woman in a black alpaca apron pushed a barrow with
pillows for hire. Dreamy and vacant she looked--like a woman wheeling
a perambulator--up and down, up and down--with a sleeping baby inside
it. Wreaths of white smoke floated up from somewhere and hung below
the roof like misty vines. "How strange it all is," thought the little
governess, "and the middle of the night, too." She looked out from her
safe corner, frightened no longer but proud that she had not given
that franc. "I can look after myself--of course I can. The great thing
is not to----" Suddenly from the corridor there came a stamping of
feet and men's voices, high and broken with snatches of loud laughter.
They were coming her way. The little governess shrank into her corner
as four young men in bowler hats passed, staring through the door and
window. One of them, bursting with the joke, pointed to the notice
_Dames Seules_ and the four bent down the better to see the one little
girl in the corner. Oh dear, they were in the carriage next door. She
heard them tramping about and then a sudden hush followed by a tall
thin fellow with a tiny black moustache who flung her door open. "If
mademoiselle cares to come in with us," he said, in French. She saw
the others crowding behind him, peeping under his arm and over his
shoulder, and she sat very straight and still. "If mademoiselle will
do us the honour," mocked the tall man. One of them could be quiet no
longer; his laughter went off in a loud crack. "Mademoiselle is
serious," persisted the young man, bowing and grimacing. He took off
his hat with a flourish, and she was alone again.

"_En voiture. En voi-ture!_" Some one ran up and down beside the
train. "I wish it wasn't night-time. I wish there was another woman in
the carriage. I'm frightened of the men next door." The little
governess looked out to see her porter coming back again--the same man
making for her carriage with his arms full of luggage. But--but what
_was_ he doing? He put his thumb nail under the label _Dames Seules_
and tore it right off and then stood aside squinting at her while an
old man wrapped in a plaid cape climbed up the high step. "But this is
a ladies' compartment." "Oh, no, Mademoiselle, you make a mistake. No,
no, I assure you. Merci, Monsieur." "_En voi-turre!_" A shrill
whistle. The porter stepped off triumphant and the train started. For
a moment or two big tears brimmed her eyes and through them she saw
the old man unwinding a scarf from his neck and untying the flaps of
his Jaeger cap. He looked very old. Ninety at least. He had a white
moustache and big gold-rimmed spectacles with little blue eyes behind
them and pink wrinkled cheeks. A nice face--and charming the way he
bent forward and said in halting French: "Do I disturb you,
Mademoiselle? Would you rather I took all these things out of the rack
and found another carriage?" What! that old man have to move all those
heavy things just because she..."No, it's quite all right. You
don't disturb me at all." "Ah, a thousand thanks." He sat down
opposite her and unbuttoned the cape of his enormous coat and flung it
off his shoulders.

The train seemed glad to have left the station. With a long leap it
sprang into the dark. She rubbed a place in the window with her glove
but she could see nothing--just a tree outspread like a black fan or a
scatter of lights, or the line of a hill, solemn and huge. In the
carriage next door the young men started singing "_Un, deux, trois._"
They sang the same song over and over at the tops of their voices.

"I never could have dared to go to sleep if I had been alone," she
decided. "_I couldn't_ have put my feet up or even taken off my hat."
The singing gave her a queer little tremble in her stomach and,
hugging herself to stop it, with her arms crossed under her cape, she
felt really glad to have the old man in the carriage with her. Careful
to see that he was not looking she peeped at him through her long
lashes. He sat extremely upright, the chest thrown out, the chin well
in, knees pressed together, reading a German paper. That was why he
spoke French so funnily. He was a German. Something in the army, she
supposed--a Colonel or a General--once, of course, not now; he was too
old for that now. How spick and span he looked for an old man. He wore
a pearl pin stuck in his black tie and a ring with a dark red stone on
his little finger; the tip of a white silk handkerchief showed in the
pocket of his double-breasted jacket. Somehow, altogether, he was
really nice to look at. Most old men were so horrid. She couldn't bear
them doddery--or they had a disgusting cough or something. But not
having a beard--that made all the difference--and then his cheeks were
so pink and his moustache so very white. Down went the German paper
and the old man leaned forward with the same delightful courtesy: "Do
you speak German, Mademoiselle?" "_Ja, ein wenig, mehr als
Franzosisch_," said the little governess, blushing a deep pink colour
that spread slowly over her cheeks and made her blue eyes look almost
black. "Ach, so!" The old man bowed graciously. "Then perhaps you
would care to look at some illustrated papers." He slipped a rubber
band from a little roll of them and handed them across. "Thank you
very much." She was very fond of looking at pictures, but first she
would take off her hat and gloves. So she stood up, unpinned the brown
straw and put it neatly in the rack beside the dress-basket, stripped
off her brown kid gloves, paired them in a tight roll and put them in
the crown of the hat for safety, and then sat down again, more
comfortably this time, her feet crossed, the papers on her lap. How
kindly the old man in the corner watched her bare little hand turning
over the big white pages, watched her lips moving as she pronounced
the long words to herself, rested upon her hair that fairly blazed
under the light. Alas! how tragic for a little governess to possess
hair that made one think of tangerines and marigolds, of apricots and
tortoiseshell cats and champagne! Perhaps that was what the old man
was thinking as he gazed and gazed, and that not even the dark ugly
clothes could disguise her soft beauty. Perhaps the flush that licked
his cheeks and lips was a flush of rage that anyone so young and
tender should have to travel alone and unprotected through the night.
Who knows he was not murmuring in his sentimental German fashion:
"_Ja, es ist eine Tragoedie!_ Would to God I were the child's
grandpapa!"

"Thank you very much. They were very interesting." She smiled prettily
handing back the papers. "But you speak German extremely well," said
the old man. "You have been in Germany before, of course?" "Oh no,
this is the first time"--a little pause, then--"this is the first time
that I have ever been abroad at all." "Really! I am surprised. You
gave me the impression, if I may say so, that you were accustomed to
travelling." "Oh, well--I have been about a good deal in England, and
to Scotland, once." "So. I myself have been in England once, but I
could not learn English." He raised one hand and shook his head,
laughing. "No, it was too difficult for me...'Ow-do-you-do.
Please vich is ze vay to Leicestaire Squaare.'" She laughed too.
"Foreigners always say..." They had quite a little talk about it.
"But you will like Munich," said the old man. "Munich is a wonderful
city. Museums, pictures, galleries, fine buildings and shops,
concerts, theatres, restaurants--all are in Munich. I have travelled
all over Europe many, many times in my life, but it is always to
Munich that I return. You will enjoy yourself there." "I am not going
to _stay_ in Munich," said the little governess, and she added shyly,
"I am going to a post as governess to a doctor's family in Augsburg."
"Ah, that was it." Augsburg he knew. Augsburg--well--was not
beautiful. A solid manufacturing town. But if Germany was new to her
he hoped she would find something interesting there too. "I am sure I
shall." "But what a pity not to see Munich before you go. You ought to
take a little holiday on your way"--he smiled--"and store up some
pleasant memories." "I am afraid I could not do _that_," said the
little governess, shaking her head, suddenly important and serious.
"And also, if one is alone..." He quite understood. He bowed,
serious too. They were silent after that. The train shattered on,
baring its dark, flaming breast to the hills and to the valleys. It
was warm in the carriage. She seemed to lean against the dark rushing
and to be carried away and away. Little sounds made themselves heard;
steps in the corridor, doors opening and shutting--a murmur of
voices--whistling...Then the window was pricked with long needles
of rain...But it did not matter...it was outside...and
she had her umbrella...she pouted, sighed, opened and shut her
hands once and fell fast asleep.



"Pardon! Pardon!" The sliding back of the carriage door woke her with
a start. What had happened? Some one had come in and gone out again.
The old man sat in his corner, more upright than ever, his hands in
the pockets of his coat, frowning heavily. "Ha! ha! ha!" came from the
carriage next door. Still half asleep, she put her hands to her hair
to make sure it wasn't a dream. "Disgraceful!" muttered the old man
more to himself than to her. "Common, vulgar fellows! I am afraid they
disturbed you, gracious Fräulein, blundering in here like that." No,
not really. She was just going to wake up, and she took out silver
watch to look at the time. Half-past four. A cold blue light filled
the window panes. Now when she rubbed a place she could see bright
patches of fields, a clump of white houses like mushrooms, a road
"like a picture" with poplar trees on either side, a thread of river.
How pretty it was! How pretty and how different! Even those pink
clouds in the sky looked foreign. It was cold, but she pretended that
it was far colder and rubbed her hands together and shivered, pulling
at the collar of her coat because she was so happy.

The train began to slow down. The engine gave a long shrill whistle.
They were coming to a town. Taller houses, pink and yellow, glided by,
fast asleep behind their green eyelids, and guarded by the poplar
trees that quivered in the blue air as if on tiptoe, listening. In one
house a woman opened the shutters, flung a red and white mattress
across the window frame and stood staring at the train. A pale woman
with black hair and a white woollen shawl over her shoulders. More
women appeared at the doors and at the windows of the sleeping houses.
There came a flock of sheep. The shepherd wore a blue blouse and
pointed wooden shoes. Look! look what flowers--and by the railway
station too! Standard roses like bridesmaids' bouquets, white
geraniums, waxy pink ones that you would _never_ see out of a
greenhouse at home. Slower and slower. A man with a watering-can was
spraying the platform. "A-a-a-ah!" Somebody came running and waving
his arms. A huge fat woman waddled through the glass doors of the
station with a tray of strawberries. Oh, she was thirsty! She was very
thirsty! "A-a-a-ah!" The same somebody ran back again. The train
stopped.

The old man pulled his coat round him and got up, smiling at her. He
murmured something she didn't quite catch, but she smiled back at him
as he left the carriage. While he was away the little governess looked
at herself again in the glass, shook and patted herself with the
precise practical care of a girl who is old enough to travel by
herself and has nobody else to assure her that she is "quite all right
behind." Thirsty and thirsty! The air tasted of water. She let down
the window and the fat woman with the strawberries passed as if on
purpose; holding up the tray to her. "_Nein, danke,_" said the little
governess, looking at the big berries on their gleaming leaves. "_Wie
viel?_" she asked as the fat woman moved away. "Two marks fifty,
Fräulein." "Good gracious!" She came in from the window and sat down
in the corner, very sobered for a minute. Half a crown!
"H-o-o-o-o-o-e-e-e!" shrieked the train, gathering itself together to
be off again. She hoped the old man wouldn't be left behind. Oh, it
was daylight--everything was lovely if only she hadn't been so
thirsty. Where _was_ the old man--oh, here he was--she dimpled at him
as though he were an old accepted friend as he closed the door and,
turning, took from under his cape a basket of the strawberries. "If
Fräulein would honour me by accepting these..." "What for me?" But
she drew back and raised her hands as though he were about to put a
wild little kitten on her lap.

"Certainly, for you," said the old man. "For myself it is twenty years
since I was brave enough to eat strawberries." "Oh, thank you very
much. _Danke bestens_," she stammered, "_sie sind so sehr schön!_"
"Eat them and see," said the old man looking pleased and friendly.
"You won't have even one?" "No, no, no." Timidly and charmingly her
hand hovered. They were so big and juicy she had to take two bites to
them--the juice ran all down her fingers--and it was while she munched
the berries that she first thought of the old man as a grandfather.
What a perfect grandfather he would make! Just like one out of a book!

The sun came out, the pink clouds in the sky, the strawberry clouds
were eaten by the blue. "Are they good?" asked the old man. "As good
as they look?"

When she had eaten them she felt she had known him for years. She told
him about Frau Arnholdt and how she had got the place. Did he know the
Hotel Grunewald? Frau Arnholdt would not arrive until the evening. He
listened, listened until he knew as much about the affair as she did,
until he said--not looking at her--but smoothing the palms of his
brown suède gloves together: "I wonder if you would let me show you a
little of Munich to-day. Nothing much--but just perhaps a picture
gallery and the Englischer Garten. It seems such a pity that you
should have to spend the day at the hotel, and also a little
uncomfortable...in a strange place. _Nicht wahr?_ You would be
back there by the early afternoon or whenever you wish, of course, and
you would give an old man a great deal of pleasure."

It was not until long after she had said "Yes"--because the moment she
had said it and he had thanked her he began telling her about his
travels in Turkey and attar of roses--that she wondered whether she
had done wrong. After all, she really did not know him. But he was so
old and he had been so very kind--not to mention the strawberries...And
she couldn't have explained the reason why she said "No,"
and it was her _last_ day in a way, her last day to really enjoy
herself in. "Was I wrong? Was I?" A drop of sunlight fell into her
hands and lay there, warm and quivering. "If I might accompany you as
far as the hotel," he suggested, "and call for you again at about ten
o'clock." He took out his pocket-book and handed her a card. "Herr
Regierungsrat..." He had a title! Well, it was _bound_ to be all
right! So after that the little governess gave herself up to the
excitement of being really abroad, to looking out and reading the
foreign advertisement signs, to being told about the places they came
to--having her attention and enjoyment looked after by the charming
old grandfather--until they reached Munich and the Hauptbahnhof.
"Porter! Porter!" He found her a porter, disposed of his own luggage
in a few words, guided her through the bewildering crowd out of the
station down the clean white steps into the white road to the hotel.
He explained who she was to the manager as though all this had been
bound to happen, and then for one moment her little hand lost itself
in the big brown suède ones. "I will call for you at ten o'clock." He
was gone.

"This way, Fräulein," said a waiter, who had been dodging behind the
manager's back, all eyes and ears for the strange couple. She followed
him up two flights of stairs into a dark bedroom. He dashed down her
dress-basket and pulled up a clattering, dusty blind. Ugh! what an
ugly, cold room--what enormous furniture! Fancy spending the day in
here! "Is this the room Frau Arnholdt ordered?" asked the little
governess. The waiter had a curious way of staring as if there was
something _funny_ about her. He pursed up his lips about to whistle,
and then changed his mind. "_Gewiss_," he said. Well, why didn't he
go? Why did he stare so? "_Gehen Sie,_" said the little governess,
with frigid English simplicity. His little eyes, like currants, nearly
popped out of his doughy cheeks. "_Gehen Sie sofort,_" she repeated
icily. At the door he turned. "And the gentleman," said he, "shall I
show the gentleman upstairs when he comes?"



Over the white streets big white clouds fringed with silver--and
sunshine everywhere. Fat, fat coachmen driving fat cabs; funny women
with little round hats cleaning the tramway lines; people laughing and
pushing against one another; trees on both sides of the streets and
everywhere you looked almost, immense fountains; a noise of laughing
from the footpaths or the middle of the streets or the open windows.
And beside her, more beautifully brushed than ever, with a rolled
umbrella in one hand and yellow gloves instead of brown ones, her
grandfather who had asked her to spend the day. She wanted to run, she
wanted to hang on his arm, she wanted to cry every minute, "Oh, I am
so frightfully happy!" He guided her across the roads, stood still
while she "looked," and his kind eyes beamed on her and he said "just
whatever you wish." She ate two white sausages and two little rolls of
fresh bread at eleven o'clock in the morning and she drank some beer,
which he told her wasn't intoxicating, wasn't at all like English
beer, out of a glass like a flower vase. And then they took a cab and
really she must have seen thousands and thousands of wonderful
classical pictures in about a quarter of an hour! "I shall have to
think them over when I am alone."...But when they came out of the
picture gallery it was raining. The grandfather unfurled his umbrella
and held it over the little governess. They started to walk to the
restaurant for lunch. She, very close beside him so that he should
have some of the umbrella, too. "It goes easier," he remarked in a
detached way, "if you take my arm, Fräulein. And besides it is the
custom in Germany." So she took his arm and walked beside him while he
pointed out the famous statues, so interested that he quite forgot to
put down the umbrella even when the rain was long over.

After lunch they went to a café to hear a gipsy band, but she did not
like that at all. Ugh! such horrible men where there with heads like
eggs and cuts on their faces, so she turned her chair and cupped her
burning cheeks in her hands and watched her old friend instead...Then
they went to the Englischer Garten.

"I wonder what the time is," asked the little governess. "My watch has
stopped. I forgot to wind it in the train last night. We've seen such
a lot of things that I feel it must be quite late." "Late!" He stopped
in front of her laughing and shaking his head in a way she had begun
to know. "Then you have not really enjoyed yourself. Late! Why, we
have not had any ice cream yet!" "Oh, but I have enjoyed myself," she
cried, distressed, "more than I can possibly say. It has been
wonderful! Only Frau Arnholdt is to be at the hotel at six and I ought
to be there by five." "So you shall. After the ice cream I shall put
you into a cab and you can go there comfortably." She was happy again.
The chocolate ice cream melted--melted in little sips a long way down.
The shadows of the trees danced on the table cloths, and she sat with
her back safely turned to the ornamental clock that pointed to
twenty-five minutes to seven. "Really and truly," said the little
governess earnestly, "this has been the happiest day of my life. I've
never even imagined such a day." In spite of the ice cream her
grateful baby heart glowed with love for the fairy grandfather.

So they walked out of the garden down a long alley. The day was nearly
over. "You see those big buildings opposite," said the old man. "The
third storey--that is where I live. I and the old housekeeper who
looks after me." She was very interested. "Now just before I find a
cab for you, will you come and see my little 'home' and let me give
you a bottle of the attar of roses I told you about in the train? For
remembrance?" She would love to. "I've never seen a bachelor's flat in
my life," laughed the little governess.

The passage was quite dark. "Ah, I suppose my old woman has gone out
to buy me a chicken. One moment." He opened a door and stood aside for
her to pass, a little shy but curious, into a strange room. She did
not know quite what to say. It wasn't pretty. In a way it was very
ugly--but neat, and, she supposed, comfortable for such an old man.
"Well, what do you think of it?" He knelt down and took from a
cupboard a round tray with two pink glasses and a tall pink bottle.
"Two little bedrooms beyond," he said gaily, "and a kitchen. It's
enough, eh?" "Oh, quite enough." "And if ever you should be in Munich
and care to spend a day or two--why there is always a little nest--a
wing of a chicken, and a salad, and an old man delighted to be your
host once more and many many times, dear little Fräulein!" He took the
stopper out of the bottle and poured some wine into the two pink
glasses. His hand shook and the wine spilled over the tray. It was
very quiet in the room. She said: "I think I ought to go now." "But
you will have a tiny glass of wine with me--just one before you go?"
said the old man. "No, really no. I never drink wine. I--I have
promised never to touch wine or anything like that." And though he
pleaded and though she felt dreadfully rude, especially when he seemed
to take it to heart so, she was quite determined. "No, _really_,
please." "Well, will you just sit down on the sofa for five minutes
and let me drink your health?" The little governess sat down on the
edge of the red velvet couch and he sat down beside her and drank her
health at a gulp. "Have you really been happy to-day?" asked the old
man, turning round, so close beside her that she felt his knee
twitching against hers. Before she could answer he held her hands.
"And are you going to give me one little kiss before you go?" he
asked, drawing her closer still.

It was a dream! It wasn't true! It wasn't the same old man at all. Ah,
how horrible! The little governess stared at him in terror. "No, no,
no!" she stammered, struggling out of his hands. "One little kiss. A
kiss. What is it? Just a kiss, dear little Fräulein. A kiss." He
pushed his face forward, his lips smiling broadly; and how his little
blue eyes gleamed behind the spectacles! "Never--never. How can you!"
She sprang up, but he was too quick and he held her against the wall,
pressed against her his hard old body and his twitching knee and,
though she shook her head from side to side, distracted, kissed her on
the mouth. On the mouth! Where not a soul who wasn't a near relation
had ever kissed her before...

She ran, ran down the street until she found a broad road with tram
lines and a policeman standing in the middle like a clockwork doll. "I
want to get a tram to the Hauptbahnhof," sobbed the little governess.
"Fräulein?" She wrung her hands at him. "The Hauptbahnhof. There--there's
one now," and while he watched very much surprised, the little
girl with her hat on one side, crying without a handkerchief, sprang
on to the tram--not seeing the conductor's eyebrows, nor hearing the
_hochwohlgebildete Dame_ talking her over with a scandalized friend.
She rocked herself and cried out loud and said "Ah, ah!" pressing her
hands to her mouth. "She has been to the dentist," shrilled a fat old
woman, too stupid to be uncharitable. "_Na, sagen Sie 'mal_, what
toothache! The child hasn't one left in her mouth." While the tram
swung and jangled through a world full of old men with twitching knees.



When the little governess reached the hall of the Hotel Grunewald the
same waiter who had come into her room in the morning was standing by
table, polishing a tray of glasses. The sight of the little governess
seemed to fill him out with some inexplicable important content. He
was ready for her question; his answer came pat and suave. "Yes,
Fräulein, the lady has been here. I told her that you had arrived and
gone out again immediately with a gentleman. She asked me when you
were coming back again--but of course I could not say. And then she
went to the manager." He took up a glass from the table, held it up to
the light, looked at it with one eye closed, and started polishing it
with a corner of his apron. "...?" "Pardon, Fräulein? Ach, no,
Fräulein. The manager could tell her nothing--nothing." He shook his
head and smiled at the brilliant glass. "Where is the lady now?" asked
the little governess, shuddering so violently that she had to hold her
handkerchief up to her mouth. "How should I know?" cried the waiter,
and as he swooped past her to pounce upon a new arrival his heart beat
so hard against his ribs that he nearly chuckled aloud. "That's it!
that's it!" he thought. "That will show her." And as he swung the new
arrival's box on to his shoulders--hoop!--as though he were a giant
and the box a feather, he minced over again the little governess's
words, "_Gehen Sie. Gehen Sie sofort._ Shall I! Shall I!" he shouted
to himself.




REVELATIONS

FROM eight o'clock in the morning until about half-past eleven Monica
Tyrell suffered from her nerves, and suffered so terribly that these
hours were--agonizing, simply. It was not as though she could control
them. "Perhaps if I were ten years younger..." she would say. For
now that she was thirty-three she had queer little way of referring to
her age on all occasions, of looking at her friends with grave,
childish eyes and saying: "Yes, I remember how twenty years ago..."
or of drawing Ralph's attention to the girls--real girls--with lovely
youthful arms and throats and swift hesitating movements who sat near
them in restaurants. "Perhaps if I were ten years younger..."

"Why don't you get Marie to sit outside your door and absolutely
forbid anybody to come near your room until you ring your bell?"

"Oh, if it were as simple as that!" She threw her little gloves down
and pressed her eyelids with her fingers in the way he knew so well.
"But in the first place I'd be so conscious of Marie sitting there,
Marie shaking her finger at Rudd and Mrs. Moon, Marie as a kind of
cross between a wardress and a nurse for mental cases! And then,
there's the post. One can't get over the fact that the post comes, and
once it has come, who--who--could wait until eleven for the letters?"

His eyes grew bright; he quickly, lightly clasped her. "_My_ letters,
darling?"

"Perhaps," she drawled, softly, and she drew her hand over his reddish
hair, smiling too, but thinking: "Heavens! What a stupid thing to
say!"

But this morning she had been awakened by one great slam of the front
door. Bang. The flat shook. What was it? She jerked up in bed,
clutching the eiderdown; her heart beat. What could it be? Then she
heard voices in the passage. Marie knocked, and, as the door opened,
with a sharp tearing rip out flew the blind and the curtains,
stiffening, flapping, jerking. The tassel of the blind knocked--knocked
against the window. "Eh-h, _voilà!_" cried Marie, setting down
the tray and running. "_C'est le vent, Madame. C'est un vent
insupportable._"

Up rolled the blind; the window went up with a jerk; a whitey-greyish
light filled the room. Monica caught a glimpse of a huge pale sky and
a cloud like a torn shirt dragging across before she hid her eyes with
her sleeve.

"Marie! the curtains! Quick, the curtains!" Monica fell back into the
bed and then "Ring-ting-a-ping-ping, ring-ting-a-ping-ping." It was
the telephone. The limit of her suffering was reached; she grew quite
calm. "Go and see, Marie."

"It is Monsieur. To know if Madame will lunch at Princes' at
one-thirty to-day." Yes, it was Monsieur himself. Yes, he had asked
that the message be given to Madame immediately. Instead of replying,
Monica put her cup down and asked Marie in a small wondering voice
what time it was. It was half-past nine. She lay still and half closed
her eyes. "Tell Monsieur I cannot come," she said gently. But as the
door shut, anger--anger suddenly gripped her close, close, violent,
half strangling her. How dared he? How dared Ralph do such a thing
when he knew how agonizing her nerves were in the morning! Hadn't she
explained and described and even--though lightly, of course; she
couldn't say such a thing directly--given him to understand that this
was the one unforgivable thing.

And then to choose this frightful windy morning. Did he think it was
just a fad of hers, a little feminine folly to be laughed at and
tossed aside? Why, only last night she had said: "Ah, but you must
take me seriously, too." And he had replied: "My darling, you'll not
believe me, but I know you infinitely better than you know yourself.
Every delicate thought and feeling I bow to, I treasure. Yes, laugh! I
love the way your lip lifts"--and he had leaned across the table--"I
don't care who sees that I adore all of you. I'd be with you on
mountain-top and have all the searchlights of the world play upon us."

"Heavens!" Monica almost clutched her head. Was it possible he had
really said that? How incredible men were! And she had loved him--how
could she have loved a man who talked like that. What had she been
doing ever since that dinner party months ago, when he had seen her
home and asked if he might come and "see again that slow Arabian
smile"? Oh, what nonsense--what utter nonsense--and yet she remembered
at the time a strange deep thrill unlike anything she had ever felt
before.

"Coal! Coal! Coal! Old iron! Old iron! Old iron!" sounded from below.
It was all over. Understand her? He had understood nothing. That
ringing her up on a windy morning was immensely significant. Would he
understand that? She could almost have laughed. "You rang me up when
the person who understood me simply couldn't have." It was the end.
And when Marie said: "Monsieur replied he would be in the vestibule in
case Madame changed her mind," Monica said: "No, not verbena, Marie.
Carnations. Two handfuls."

A wild white morning, a tearing, rocking wind. Monica sat down before
the mirror. She was pale. The maid combed back her dark hair--combed
it all back--and her face was like a mask, with pointed eyelids and
dark red lips. As she stared at herself in the blueish shadowy glass
she suddenly felt--oh, the strangest, most tremendous excitement
filling her slowly, slowly, until she wanted to fling out her arms, to
laugh, to scatter everything, to shock Marie, to cry: "I'm free. I'm
free. I'm free as the wind." And now all this vibrating, trembling,
exciting, flying world was hers. It was her kingdom. No, no, she
belonged to nobody but Life.

"That will do, Marie," she stammered. "My hat, my coat, my bag. And
now get me a taxi." Where was she going? Oh, anywhere. She could not
stand this silent flat, noiseless Marie, this ghostly, quiet, feminine
interior. She must be out; she must be driving quickly--anywhere,
anywhere.

"The taxi is there, Madame." As she pressed open the big outer doors
of the flats the wild wind caught her and floated her across the
pavement. Where to? She got in, and smiling radiantly at the cross,
cold-looking driver, she told him to take her to her hairdresser's.
What would she have done without her hairdresser? Whenever Monica had
nowhere else to go to or nothing on earth to do she drove there. She
might just have her hair waved, and by that time she'd have thought
out a plan. The cross, cold driver drove at a tremendous pace, and she
let herself be hurled from side to side. She wished he would go faster
and faster. Oh, to be free of Princes' at one-thirty, of being the
tiny kitten in the swansdown basket, of being the Arabian, and the
grave, delighted child and the little wild creature..."Never
again," she cried aloud, clenching her small fist. But the cab had
stopped, and the driver was standing holding the door open for her.

The hairdresser's shop was warm and glittering. It smelled of soap and
burnt paper and wallflower brilliantine. There was Madame behind the
counter, round, fat, white, her head like a powder-puff rolling on a
black satin pin-cushion. Monica always had the feeling that they loved
her in this shop and understood her--the real her--far better than
many of her friends did. She was her real self here, and she and
Madame had often talked--quite strangely--together. Then there was
George who did her hair, young, dark, slender George. She was really
fond of him.

But to-day--how curious! Madame hardly greeted her. Her face was
whiter than ever, but rims of bright red showed round her blue bead
eyes, and even the rings on her pudgy fingers did not flash. They were
cold, dead, like chips of glass. When she called through the
wall-telephone to George there was a note in her voice that had never
been there before. But Monica would not believe this. No, she refused
to. It was just her imagination. She sniffed greedily the warm,
scented air, and passed behind the velvet curtain into the small
cubicle.

Her hat and jacket were off and hanging from the peg, and still George
did not come. This was the first time he had ever not been there to
hold the chair for her, to take her hat and hang up her bag, dangling
it in his fingers as though it were something he'd never seen
before--something fairy. And how quiet the shop was! There was not a
sound even from Madame. Only the wind blew, shaking the old house; the
wind hooted, and the portraits of Ladies of the Pompadour Period
looked down and smiled, cunning and sly. Monica wished she hadn't
come. Oh, what a mistake to have come! Fatal. Fatal. Where was George?
If he didn't appear the next moment she would go away. She took off
the white kimono. She didn't want to look at herself any more. When
she opened a big pot of cream on the glass shelf her fingers trembled.
There was a tugging feeling at her heart as though her happiness--her
marvellous happiness--were trying to get free.

"I'll go. I'll not stay." She took down her hat. But just at that
moment steps sounded, and, looking in the mirror, she saw George
bowing in the doorway. How queerly he smiled! It was the mirror of
course. She turned round quickly. His lips curled back in a sort of
grin, and--wasn't he unshaved?--he looked almost green in the face.

"Very sorry to have kept you waiting," he mumbled, sliding, gliding
forward.

Oh, no, she wasn't going to stay. "I'm afraid," she began. But he had
lighted the gas and laid the tongs across, and was holding out the
kimono.

"It's a wind," he said. Monica submitted. She smelled his fresh young
fingers pinning the jacket under her chin. "Yes, there is a wind,"
said she, sinking back into the chair. And silence fell. George took
out the pins in his expert way. Her hair tumbled back, but he didn't
hold it as he usually did, as though to feel how fine and soft and
heavy it was. He didn't say it "was in a lovely condition." He let it
fall, and, taking a brush out of a drawer, he coughed faintly, cleared
his throat and said dully: "Yes, it's a pretty strong one, I should
say it was."

She had no reply to make. The brush fell on her hair. Oh, oh, how
mournful, how mournful! It fell quick and light, it fell like leaves;
and then it fell heavy, tugging like the tugging at her heart. "That's
enough," she cried, shaking herself free.

"Did I do it too much?" asked George. He crouched over the tongs. "I'm
sorry." There came the smell of burnt paper--the smell she loved--and
he swung the hot tongs round in his hand, staring before him. "I
shouldn't be surprised if it rained." He took up a piece of her hair,
when--she couldn't bear it any longer--she stopped him. She looked at
him; she saw herself looking at him in the white kimono like a nun.
"Is there something the matter here? Has something happened?" But
George gave a half shrug and a grimace. "Oh, no, Madame. Just a little
occurrence." And he took up the piece of hair again. But, oh, she
wasn't deceived. That was it. Something awful had happened. The
silence--really, the silence seemed to come drifting down like flakes
of snow. She shivered. It was cold in the little cubicle, all cold and
glittering. The nickel taps and jets and sprays looked somehow almost
malignant. The wind rattled the window-frame; a piece of iron banged,
and the young man went on changing the tongs, crouching over her. Oh,
how terrifying Life was, thought Monica. How dreadful. It is the
loneliness which is so appalling. We whirl along like leaves, and
nobody knows--nobody cares where we fall, in what black river we float
away. The tugging feeling seemed to rise into her throat. It ached,
ached; she longed to cry. "That will do," she whispered. "Give me the
pins." As he stood beside her, so submissive, so silent, she nearly
dropped her arms and sobbed. She couldn't bear any more. Like a wooden
man the gay young George still slid, glided, handed her her hat and
veil, took the note, and brought back the change. She stuffed it into
her bag. Where was she going now?

George took a brush. "There is a little powder on your coat," he
murmured. He brushed it away. And then suddenly he raised himself and,
looking at Monica, gave a strange wave with the brush and said: "The
truth is, Madame, since you are an old customer--my little daughter
died this morning. A first child"--and then his white face crumpled
like paper, and he turned his back on her and began brushing the
cotton kimono. "Oh, oh," Monica began to cry. She ran out of the shop
into the taxi. The driver, looking furious, swung off the seat and
slammed the door again. "Where to?"

"Princes'," she sobbed. And all the way there she saw nothing but a
tiny wax doll with a feather of gold hair, lying meek, its tiny hands
and feet crossed. And then just before she came to Princes' she saw a
flower shop full of white flowers. Oh, what a perfect thought.
Lilies-of-the-valley, and white pansies, double white violets and
white velvet ribbon...From an unknown friend...From one who
understands...For a Little Girl...She tapped against the
window, but the driver did not hear; and, anyway, they were at
Princes' already.





THE ESCAPE

IT was his fault, wholly and solely his fault, that they had missed
the train. What if the idiotic hotel people had refused to produce the
bill? Wasn't that simply because he hadn't impressed upon the waiter
at lunch that they must have it by two o'clock? Any other man would
have sat there and refused to move until they handed it over. But no!
His exquisite belief in human nature had allowed him to get up and
expect one of those idiots to bring it to their room...And then,
when the _voiture_ did arrive, while they were still (Oh, Heavens!)
waiting for change, why hadn't he seen to the arrangement of the boxes
so that they could, at least, have started the moment the money had
come? Had he expected her to go outside, to stand under the awning in
the heat and point with her parasol? Very amusing picture of English
domestic life. Even when the driver had been told how fast he had to
drive he had paid no attention whatsoever--just smiled. "Oh," she
groaned, "if she'd been a driver she couldn't have stopped smiling
herself at the absurd, ridiculous way he was urged to hurry." And she
sat back and imitated his voice: "_Allez, vite, vite_"--and begged the
driver's pardon for troubling him...

And then the station--unforgettable--with the sight of the jaunty
little train shuffling away and those hideous children waving from the
windows. "Oh, why am I made to bear these things? Why am I exposed to
them?..." The glare, the flies, while they waited, and he and the
stationmaster put their heads together over the time-table, trying to
find this other train, which, of course, they wouldn't catch. The
people who'd gathered round, and the woman who'd held up that baby
with that awful, awful head..."Oh, to care as I care--to feel as
I feel, and never to be saved anything--never to know for one moment
what it was to...to..."

Her voice had changed. It was shaking now--crying now. She fumbled
with her bag, and produced from its little maw a scented handkerchief.
She put up her veil and, as though she were doing it for somebody
else, pitifully, as though she were saying to somebody else: "I know,
my darling," she pressed the handkerchief to her eyes.

The little bag, with its shiny, silvery jaws open, lay on her lap. He
could see her powder-puff, her rouge stick, a bundle of letters, a
phial of tiny black pills like seeds, a broken cigarette, a mirror,
white ivory tablets with lists on them that had been heavily scored
through. He thought: "In Egypt she would be buried with those things."

They had left the last of the houses, those small straggling houses
with bits of broken pot flung among the flower-beds and half-naked
hens scratching round the doorsteps. Now they were mounting a long
steep road that wound round the hill and over into the next bay. The
horses stumbled, pulling hard. Every five minutes, every two minutes
the driver trailed the whip across them. His stout back was solid as
wood; there were boils on his reddish neck, and he wore a new, a
shining new straw hat...

There was a little wind, just enough wind to blow to satin the new
leaves on the fruit trees, to stroke the fine grass, to turn to silver
the smoky olives--just enough wind to start in front of the carriage a
whirling, twirling snatch of dust that settled on their clothes like
the finest ash. When she took out her powder-puff the powder came
flying over them both.

"Oh, the dust," she breathed, "the disgusting, revolting dust." And
she put down her veil and lay back as if overcome.

"Why don't you put up your parasol?" he suggested. It was on the front
seat, and he leaned forward to hand it to her. At that she suddenly
sat upright and blazed again.

"Please leave my parasol alone! I don't want my parasol! And anyone
who was not utterly insensitive would know that I'm far, far too
exhausted to hold up a parasol. And with a wind like this tugging at
it...Put it down at once," she flashed, and then snatched the
parasol from him, tossed it into the crumpled hood behind, and
subsided, panting.

Another bend of the road, and down the hill there came a troop of
little children, shrieking and giggling, little girls with
sun-bleached hair, little boys in faded soldiers' caps. In their hands
they carried flowers--any kind of flowers--grabbed by the head, and
these they offered, running beside the carriage. Lilac, faded lilac,
greeny-white snowballs, one arum lily, a handful of hyacinths. They
thrust the flowers and their impish faces into the carriage; one even
threw into her lap a bunch of marigolds. Poor little mice! He had his
hand in his trouser pocket before her. "For Heaven's sake don't give
them anything. Oh, how typical of you! Horrid little monkeys! Now
they'll follow us all the way. Don't encourage them; you _would_
encourage beggars"; and she hurled the bunch out of the carriage with,
"Well, do it when I'm not there, please."

He saw the queer shock on the children's faces. They stopped running,
lagged behind, and then they began to shout something, and went on
shouting until the carriage had rounded yet another bend.

"Oh, how many more are there before the top of the hill is reached?
The horses haven't trotted once. Surely it isn't necessary for them to
walk the whole way."

"We shall be there in a minute now," he said, and took out his
cigarette-case. At that she turned round towards him. She clasped her
hands and held them against her breast; her dark eyes looked immense,
imploring, behind her veil; her nostrils quivered, she bit her lip,
and her head shook with a little nervous spasm. But when she spoke,
her voice was quite weak and very, very calm.

"I want to ask you something. I want to beg something of you," she
said. "I've asked you hundreds and hundreds of times before, but
you've forgotten. It's such a little thing, but if you knew what it
meant to me..." She pressed her hands together. "But you can't
know. No human creature could know and be so cruel." And then, slowly,
deliberately, gazing at him with those huge, sombre eyes: "I beg and
implore you for the last time that when we are driving together you
won't smoke. If you could imagine," she said, "the anguish I suffer
when that smoke comes floating across my face..."

"Very well," he said. "I won't. I forgot." And he put the case back.

"Oh, no," said she, and almost began to laugh, and put the back of her
hand across her eyes. "You couldn't have forgotten. Not that."

The wind came, blowing stronger. They were at the top of the hill.
"Hoy-yip-yip-yip," cried the driver. They swung down the road that
fell into a small valley, skirted the sea coast at the bottom of it,
and then coiled over a gentle ridge on the other side. Now there were
houses again, blue-shuttered against the heat, with bright burning
gardens, with geranium carpets flung over the pinkish walls. The
coast-line was dark; on the edge of the sea a white silky fringe just
stirred. The carriage swung down the hill, bumped, shook. "Yi-ip,"
shouted the driver. She clutched the sides of the seat, she closed her
eyes, and he knew she felt this was happening on purpose; this
swinging and bumping, this was all done--and he was responsible for
it, somehow--to spite her because she had asked if they couldn't go a
little faster. But just as they reached the bottom of the valley there
was one tremendous lurch. The carriage nearly overturned, and he saw
her eyes blaze at him, and she positively hissed, "I suppose you are
enjoying this?"

They went on. They reached the bottom of the valley. Suddenly she
stood up. "_Cocher! Cocher! Arrêtez-vous!_" She turned round and
looked into the crumpled hood behind. "I knew it," she exclaimed. "I
knew it. I heard it fall, and so did you, at that last bump."

"What? Where?"

"My parasol. It's gone. The parasol that belonged to my mother. The
parasol that I prize more than--more than..." She was simply beside
herself. The driver turned round, his gay, broad face smiling.

"I, too, heard something," said he, simply and gaily. "But I thought
as Monsieur and Madame said nothing..."

"There. You hear that. Then you must have heard it too. So _that_
accounts for the extraordinary smile on your face..."

"Look here," he said, "it can't be gone. If it fell out it will be
there still. Stay where you are. I'll fetch it."

But she saw through that. Oh, how she saw through it! "No, thank you."
And she bent her spiteful, smiling eyes upon him, regardless of the
driver. "I'll go myself. I'll walk back and find it, and trust you not
to follow. For"--knowing the driver did not understand, she spoke
softly, gently--"if I don't escape from you for a minute I shall go
mad."

She stepped out of the carriage. "My bag." He handed it to her.

"Madame prefers..."

But the driver had already swung down from his seat, and was seated on
the parapet reading a small newspaper. The horses stood with hanging
heads. It was still. The man in the carriage stretched himself out,
folded his arms. He felt the sun beat on his knees. His head was sunk
on his breast. "Hish, hish," sounded from the sea. The wind sighed in
the valley and was quiet. He felt himself, lying there, a hollow man,
a parched, withered man, as it were, of ashes. And the sea sounded,
"Hish, hish."

It was then that he saw the tree, that he was conscious of its
presence just inside a garden gate. It was an immense tree with a
round, thick silver stem and a great arc of copper leaves that gave
back the light and yet were sombre. There was something beyond the
tree--a whiteness, a softness, an opaque mass, half-hidden--with
delicate pillars. As he looked at the tree he felt his breathing die
away and he became part of the silence. It seemed to grow, it seemed
to expand in the quivering heat until the great carved leaves hid the
sky, and yet it was motionless. Then from within its depths or from
beyond there came the sound of a woman's voice. A woman was singing.
The warm untroubled voice floated upon the air, and it was all part of
the silence as he was part of it. Suddenly, as the voice rose, soft,
dreaming, gentle, he knew that it would come floating to him from the
hidden leaves and his peace was shattered. What was happening to him?
Something stirred in his breast. Something dark, something unbearable
and dreadful pushed in his bosom, and like a great weed it floated,
rocked...it was warm, stifling. He tried to struggle to tear at
it, and at the same moment--all was over. Deep, deep, he sank into the
silence, staring at the tree and waiting for the voice that came
floating, falling, until he felt himself enfolded.

* * * * *

In the shaking corridor of the train. It was night. The train rushed
and roared through the dark. He held on with both hands to the brass
rail. The door of their carriage was open.

"Do not disturb yourself, Monsieur. He will come in and sit down when
he wants to. He likes--he likes--it is his habit..._Oui, Madame,
je suis un peu souffrante...Mes nerfs._ Oh, but my husband is
never so happy as when he is travelling. He likes roughing it...My
husband...My husband..."

The voices murmured, murmured. They were never still. But so great was
his heavenly happiness as he stood there he wished he might live for
ever.


THE END


Transcriber's Note

Images of the source text used in this transcription are available
through the Internet Archive. See:

  archive.org/details/aej5451.0001.001.umich.edu

The following changes to the text were noted:

  - p. 2: Two subdued chirrups: "Thank you, Mrs. Samuel Josephs"--
    Added a period after "Josephs".

  - p. 3: The buggy tiwnkled away in the sunlight--Changed "tiwnkled"
    to "twinkled".

  - p. 14: lifted up his  oat tails.--Changed "oat" to "coat".

  - p. 101: the _garçon_ was hauing up the boxes--Changed "hauing" to
    "hauling".

  - p. 169: I have sung that music many times."--Inserted a closing
    single quotation mark before the closing double quotation mark.

  - p. 154: It doesn't matter at all, darling." said the good
    friend.--Changed period after "darling" to a comma.

  - p. 187: "That," she said, "is most becoming,"--Comma after
    "becoming" changed to a period.

  - p. 190: opening the French window to let Klaymongso into the
    garden, cries.--Changed the period after "cries" to a colon.

  - p. 201: What a _genius_ Mr Peacock was.--Inserted a period after
    "Mr".

  - p. 202: There she was--off again Now she--Inserted a period after
    "again".

  - p. 210: "That's where the ice pudding is to be," said Cook--Added
    a period to the end of the sentence.

  - p. 215: "I'm hanged if I won't," cried Father. I won't--Inserted
    an opening double quotation mark between "Father." and "I won't".

  - p. 258: "I think I ought to gonow."--Divided "gonow" into two
    words.


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