ONCE ABOARD THE LUGGER—
THE HISTORY OF GEORGE AND HIS MARY
A. S. M. HUTCHINSON
The Author's Advertisement Of His Novel
I. Excursions In A Garden II. Excursions In Melancholy III. Upon Modesty In Art: And Should Be Skipped IV. Excursions In A Hospital V. Upon Life: And May Be Missed VI. Magnificent Arrival Of A Heroine VII. Moving Passages With A Heroine VIII. Astonishing After-Effects Of A Heroine
Of his Mary.
I. Excursions In The Memory Of A Heroine II. Excursions In Vulgarity III. Excursions In The Mind Of A Heroine IV. Excursions In A Nursery V. Excursions At A Dinner-Table
Of Glimpses at a Period of this History: Of Love and of War.
I. Notes On The Building Of Bridges II. Excursions Beneath The Bridge III. Excursions In Love IV. Events And Sentiment Mixed In A Letter V. Beefsteak For 14 Palace Gardens VI. A Cab For 14 Palace Gardens
In which this History begins to rattle.
I. The Author Meanders Upon The Enduring Hills; And The Reader Will Lose Nothing By Not Accompanying Him II. An Exquisite Balcony Scene; And Something About Sausages III. Alarums And Excursions By Night IV. Mr. Marrapit Takes A Nice Warm Bath V. Miss Porter Swallows A Particularly Large Sweet VI. The Girl Comes Near The Lugger
Of Mr. Marrapit upon the Rack: Of George in Torment.
I. Prosiness Upon Events: So Uneventful That It Should Be Skipped II. Margaret Fishes; Mary Prays III. Barley Water For Mr. Marrapit IV. The Rape Of The Rose V. Horror At Herons' Holt VI. A Detective At Herons' Holt VII. Terror At Dippleford Admiral VIII. Panic At Dippleford Admiral IX. Disaster At Temple Colney
Of Paradise Lost and Found.
I. Mrs. Major Bids For Paradise II. Mrs. Major Finds The Lock III. Mrs. Major Gets The Key IV. George Has A Shot At Paradise V. Of Twin Cats: Of Ananias And Of Sapphira VI. Agony In Meath Street VII. Mr. William Wyvern In Meath Street VIII. Abishag The Shunamite In Meath Street IX. Excursions In A Newspaper Office X. A Perfectly Splendid Chapter
Last Shots from the Bridge
THE AUTHOR'S ADVERTISEMENT OF HIS NOVEL.
This book has its title from that dashing sentiment, "Once aboard the lugger and the girl is mine!" It is not to be read by those who in their novels would have the entertainment of characters that are brilliant or wealthy, noble of birth or admirable of spirit. Such have no place in this history. There is a single canon of novel-writing that we have sedulously kept before us in making this history, and that is the law which instructs the novelist to treat only of the manner of persons with whom he is well acquainted. Hence our characters are commonplace folks. We have the acquaintance of none other than commonplace persons, because none other than commonplace persons will have acquaintance with us.
And there are no problems in this history, nor is the reader to be tickled by any risks taken with nice deportment. This history may be kept upon shelves that are easily accessible. It is true that you will be invited to spend something of a night in a lady's bedroom, but the matter is carried through with circumspection and dispatch. There shall not be a blush.
Now, it is our purpose in this advertisement so clearly to give you the manner of our novel that without further waste of time you may forego the task of reading so little as a single chapter if you consider that manner likely to distress you. Hence something must be said touching the style.
We cannot see (to make a start) that the listener or the reader of a story should alone have the right to fidget as he listens or reads; to come and go at his pleasure; to interrupt at his convenience. Something of these privileges should be shared by the narrator; and in this history we have taken them. You may swing your legs or divert your attention as you read; but we too must be permitted to swing our legs and slide off upon matters that interest us, and that indirectly are relevant to the history. Life is not compounded solely of action. One cannot rush breathless from hour to hour. And, since the novel aims to ape life, the reader, if the aim be true, cannot rush breathless from page to page. We can at least warrant him he will not here.
These are the limitations of our history; and we admit them to be considerable. Upon the other hand, the print is beautifully clear.
* * * * *
As touching the title we have chosen, this was not come by at the cost of any labour. Taken, as we have told, from that dashing sentiment, "Once aboard the lugger and the girl is mine!" it is a label that might be applied to all novels. It is a generic title for all modern novels, since there is not one of these but in this form or that sets out the pursuit of his mistress by a man or his treatment of her when he has clapped her beneath hatches. This is a notable matter. The novelist writes under the influences and within the limitations of his age, and the modern novelist correctly mirrors modern life when he presents woman as for man's pursuit till he has her, and for what treatment he may will when he captures her. The position is deplorable, is productive of a million wrongs, and, happily, is slowly changing; but that it exists is clear upon the face of our social existence, and is even advertised between the sexes in love: "You are mine" the man says, and means it. "I am yours" the woman declares, and, fruit of generations of dependence, freely, almost involuntarily, gives herself.
But of this problem (upon which we could bore you to distraction) we are nothing concerned in our novel. Truly we offer you the pursuit of a girl; but my Mary would neither comprehend this matter nor wish to be other than her George's. From page 57 she waves to us; let us hurry along.
.... Who so will stake his lot, Impelled thereto by nescience or whim, Cupidity or innocence or not, On Chance's colours, let men pray for him. RALPH HODGSON.
Excursions In A Garden.
Mr. Christopher Marrapit is dozing in a chair upon the lawn; his darling cat, the Rose of Sharon, is sleeping on his lap; stiffly beside him sits Mrs. Major, his companion—that masterly woman.
As we approach to be introduced, it is well we should know something of Mr. Marrapit. The nervous business of adventuring into an assembly of strangers is considerably modified by having some knowledge of the first we shall meet. We feel more at home; do not rush upon subjects which are distasteful to that person, or of which he is ignorant; absorb something of the atmosphere of the party during our exchange of pleasantries with him; and, warmed by this feeling, with our most attractive charm of manner are able to push among the remainder of our new friends.
Unhappily, the friendly chatter of the neighbourhood, which should supply us with something of the character of a resident, is quite lacking at Paltley Hill in regard to Mr. Marrapit. Mr. Marrapit rarely moves out beyond the fine wall that encircles Herons' Holt, his residence; with Paltley Hill society rarely mixes. The vicar, with something of a frown, might tell us that to his divers parochial subscription lists Mr. Marrapit has consistently, and churlishly, refused to give a shilling. Professor Wyvern's son, Mr. William Wyvern, has been heard to say that Mr. Marrapit always reminded him "of one of the minor prophets—shaved." Beyond this—and how little helpful it is!—Paltley Hill society can give us nothing.
In a lower social grade of the district, however, much might be learned. In the kitchens, the cottages, and the bar-parlours of Paltley Hill, Mr. Marrapit is considerably discussed. Nicely mannered as we are, servants' gossip concerning one in our own station of life is naturally distasteful to us. At the same time it is essential to our ease on being introduced that we should know something of this gentleman. Assuring ourselves, therefore, that we shall not be prejudiced by cheap chatter, let us hear what the kitchens, the cottages, and the bar-parlours have to say.
Let it, at least, be written down; we shall know how to value such stuff.
Material for this gossip, then, is brought into the kitchens, the cottages, and the bar-parlours by Mr. Marrapit's domestic staff.
Mrs. Armitage, his cook, has given tales of his "grimness" to the cottages where her comfortable presence is welcomed on Sunday and Thursday afternoons. She believes, however, that he must be a "religious gentleman," because (so she says) "he talks like out of the Bible."
This would seem to bear out Mr. William Wyvern's allusion to the minor prophet element of his character.
It is the habit of Clara and Ada, his maids, squeezing at the gate from positions dangerous to modesty into which their ardent young men have thrust them—it is their habit, thus placed, to excuse themselves from indelicate embraces by telling alarming tales of Mr. Marrapit's "carrying on" should they be late. He is a "fair old terror," they say.
The testimony of Mr. Fletcher, his gardener, gloomy over his beer in the bar-parlours, seems to support the "stinginess" that the vicar has determined in Mr. Marrapit's character. Mr. Fletcher, for example, has lugubriously shown what has to be put up with when in the service of a man who had every inch of the grounds searched because a threepenny bit had been dropped. "It's 'ard—damn 'ard," Mr Fletcher said on that occasion. "I'm a gardener, I am; not a treasure-'unter." Murmurs of sympathy chorused endorsement of this view.
Finally there are the words of Frederick, son of Mrs. Armitage, and assistant to Fletcher, whose pleasure it is to set on end the touzled hair of the youth of Paltley Hill by obviously exaggerated stories of Mr. Marrapit's grim rule.
"'E's a tryant," Frederick has said.
Such is an epitome of the kitchen gossip concerning Mr. Marrapit; it is wholesome to be away from such tattling, and personally to approach the lawn whereon its subject sits.
This lawn, a delectable sight on this fine July afternoon, is set about with wire netting to a height of some six feet. By the energies of Mr. Fletcher and Frederick the sward is exquisitely trimmed and rolled; and their labours join with the wire netting to make the lawn a safe and pleasant exercise ground for Mr. Marrapit's cats.
Back in the days of Mr. Marrapit's first occupancy of Herons' Holt, this man was a mighty amateur breeder of cats, and a rare army of cats possessed. Regal cats he had, queenly cats, imperial neuter cats; blue cats, grey cats, orange cats, and white cats—cats for which nothing was too good, upon which too much money could not be spent nor too much love be lavished. Latterly, with tremendous wrenchings of the heart, he had disbanded this galaxy of cats. Changes in his household were partly the cause of this step. The coming of his nephew, George, had seriously upset the peaceful routine of existence which it was his delight to lead; and a reason even more compelling was the gradual alteration in his attitude towards his hobby. This man perceived that the fancier's eye with which he regarded his darlings was becoming so powerful as to render his lover's eye in danger of being atrophied. The fancier's eye was lit by the brain—delighted only in "points," in perfection of specimen; the lover's eye was fed by the heart—glowed, not with pride over breed, but with affection for cats as cats. And Mr. Marrapit realised that for affection he was coming to substitute pride—that he was outraging the animals he loved by neglecting the less admirable specimens for those perfectly moulded; that even these perfect types he was abusing by his growing craze for breeding; polygamy in cats, he came to believe, desecrated and eventually destroyed their finer feelings.
Therefore—and the coming of his nephew George quickened his determination—Mr. Marrapit dispersed his stud (the word had become abhorrent to him), keeping only four exquisite favourites, of which the Rose of Sharon—that perfect orange cat, listed when shown at the prohibitive figure of 1000 pounds, envy and despair of every cat-lover in Great Britain and America—was apple of his eye, joy of his existence.
It was the resolve to keep but these four exquisite creatures that encompassed the arrival in Mr. Marrapit's household of Mrs. Major, now seated beside him upon the lawn—that masterly woman. The fine cat- house was pulled down, the attendant dismissed. A room upon the ground floor, having a southern aspect, was set apart as bed-chamber and exclusive apartment for the four favourites, and Mr. Marrapit sought about for some excellent person into whose care they might be entrusted. Their feeding, their grooming, constant attention to their wants and the sole care of their chamber, should be this person's duties, and it was not until a point some way distant in this history that Mr. Marrapit ceased daily to congratulate himself upon his selection.
Mrs. Major, that masterly woman, was a distressed gentlewoman. The death of her husband, a warehouse clerk, by acute alcoholic poisoning, seems to have given her her first chance of displaying those strong qualities which ultimately became her chief characteristic. And she was of those to whom plan of action comes instantly upon the arrival of opportunity. With lightning rapidity this woman welded chance and action; with unflagging energy and with dauntless perseverance used the powerful weapon thus contrived.
The case of her husband's death may be instanced. Her hysterical distress on the day of the funeral (a matter that would have considerably surprised the late Mr. Major) was exchanged on the following morning for acute physical distress resulting from the means by which, overnight, she had tried to assuage her grief. Noticing, as she dressed, the subdued and martyrlike air that her face wore, noticing also her landlady's evident sympathy with the gentle voice and manner which her racking head caused her to adopt, Mrs. Major saw at once the valuable aid to her future which the permanent wearing of these characteristics might be. From that moment she took up the role of distressed gentlewoman—advertised by tight-fitting black, by little sighs, and by precise, subdued voice,—and in this guise sought employment at an Agency. The agency sent her to be interviewed by Mr. Marrapit. Ushered into the study, she, in a moment of masterly inspiration, murmured "The sweet! Ah, the sweet!" when viciously scratched by the Rose of Sharon, and upon those words walked directly in to Mr. Marrapit's heart.
He required a lady—a lady (Mrs. Major smiled deprecatingly) who should devote herself to his cats. Did Mrs. Major like cats? Ah, sir, she adored cats; her late husband—Words, at the recollection, failed her. She faltered; touched an eye with her handkerchief; wanly smiled with the resigned martyrdom of a true gentlewoman.
As so-often in this life, the unspoken word was more powerful than mightiest eloquence. Mr. Marrapit is not to be blamed for the inference he drew. He pictured the dead Mr. Major a gentleman sharing with his wife a passion for cats; by memory of which fond trait his widow's devotion to the species would be yet further enhanced, would be hallowed.
There is the further thought in this connection that once more, as so often in this life, the unspoken word had saved the lie direct. Once only, in point of fact, had Mrs. Major seen her late husband directly occupied with a cat, and the occasion had been the cause of their vacating their lodgings in Shepherd's Bush precisely thirty minutes later. Mr. Major, under influence of his unfortunate malady, with savage foot had sped the landlady's cat down a flight of stairs; and the landlady had taken the matter in peculiarly harsh spirit.
All this, however, lay deeply hidden beneath Mrs. Major's unspoken word. The vision of a gentle Mr. Major that Mr. Marrapit conjured sealed the liking he had immediately taken to Mrs. Major, and thus was she installed.
The masterly woman, upon this July afternoon, desisted from her crocheting; observed in the dozing figure beside her signs of movement; turned to it, ready for speech.
This she saw. From the reluctant rays of a passing sun a white silk handkerchief protected a nicely polished head—a little bumpy, fringed with soft white hair. Beneath the head a long face, sallow of hue; in either cheek a pit; between them a dominating nose carrying eyeglasses. A long, spare body in an alpaca coat; long thin legs; brown morocco slippers without heels—upon the lap the peerless Rose of Sharon.
"Time for the Rose to go in," Mrs. Major softly suggested.
"The Rose," said Mr. Marrapit, passing a hand gently over the creature's exquisite form, "is, I fear, still ailing. Her sleep is troubled; she shivers. Her appetite?"
"It is still poorly." The expression was that of a true distressed gentlewoman.
"She has need," Mr. Marrapit said, "of the most careful attention, of the most careful dieting. Tend her. Tempt her. Take her."
"I will, Mr. Marrapit." Mrs. Major gathered the Rose against her bosom. "You will not stay long? It is growing chilly."
"I shall take a brief stroll. I am perturbed concerning the Rose."
"Let me bring you a cap, Mr. Marrapit."
"Unnecessary. Devote yourself, I pray, to the Rose. I am anxious. Nothing could console me should any evil thing come upon her. I am apprehensive. I look to you. I will take a stroll."
Outside the wire fence Mr. Marrapit and Mrs. Major parted. The masterly woman glided swiftly towards the house; Mr. Marrapit, with bent head, passed thoughtfully along an opposite path.
And immediately the sleeping garden awoke to sudden activity.
First to break covert was Frederick, Mr. Fletcher's assistant. Abnormally steeped in vice for one so young (this wretched boy was but fourteen), with the coolness of a matured evil-doer Frederick extinguished his cigarette-end by pressing it against his boot-heel; dropped it amongst other ends, toilsomely collected, in a tin box; placed the box in its prepared hole; covered this with earth and leaves; hooked a basket of faded weeds upon his arm, and so appeared in Mr. Marrapit's path with bent back, diligently searching.
Mr. Marrapit inquired: "Your task?"
"Weedin'," said Frederick.
"Weeds," Frederick told him, a little surprised.
Mr. Marrapit rapped sharply: "Say 'sir'."
"Sir," said Frederick, making to move.
Mr. Marrapit peered at the basket. "You have remarkably few."
"There ain't never many," Frederick said with quiet pride—"there ain't never many if you keep 'em down by always doin' your job."
Mr. Marrapit pointed: "They grow thick at your feet, sir!"
In round-eyed astonishment Frederick peered low. "They spring up the minute your back's turned, them weeds. They want a weed destroyer what you pours out of a can."
"You are the weed-destroyer," Mr. Marrapit said sternly. "Be careful. It is very true that they spring up whenever my back is turned. Be careful." He passed on.
"Blarst yer back," murmured Frederick, bending his own to the task.
A few yards further Mr. Marrapit again paused. Against a laurel bush stood a pair of human legs, the seat of whose encasing trousers stared gloomily upwards at the sky. With a small twig he carried Mr. Marrapit tapped the seat. Three or four raps were necessary; slowly it straightened into line with the legs; from the abyss of the bush a back, shoulders, head, appeared.
Just as the ostrich with buried head believes itself hid from observation, so it was with Mr. Fletcher, needing peace, a habit to plunge head and shoulders into a bush and there remain—showing nothing against the sky-line. Long practice had freed the posture from irksomeness. As a young man Mr. Fletcher had been employed in a public tennis-court, and there had learned the little mannerism to which he now had constant resort. In those days the necessity of freeing himself from the constant annoyance of nets to be tightened, or of disputes between rival claims to courts to be settled, had driven him to devise some means of escape. It was essential to the safety of his post, upon the other hand, that he must never allow it to be said that he was constantly absent from his duties. Chance gave him the very means he sought. Bent double into a bush one day, searching a tennis ball, he heard his name bawled up and down the courts; he did not stir. Those who were calling him stumbled almost against his legs; did not observe him; passed on calling. Thereafter, when unduly pressed, it became Mr. Fletcher's habit to bury head and arms in a bush either until the hue and cry for him had lulled, or until exasperated searchers knocked against his stern; in the latter event he would explain that he was looking for tennis balls.
The habit had persisted. Whenever irritated or depressed (and this man's temperament caused such often to be his fate), he would creep to the most likely bush and there disappear as to his upper half. It is a fine thing in this turbulent life thus to have some quiet refuge against the snarlings of adversity.
Mr. Fletcher drew up now and faced Mr. Marrapit; in his hand a snail.
He said gloomily: "Another one"; held it towards his master's face.
Here is an example of how one deception leads to another. This was no fresh snail; often before Mr. Marrapit had seen it. To lend motive to his concealment Mr. Fletcher carried always with him this same snail; needing peace he would draw it from his pocket; plunge to consolation; upon discovery exhibit it as excuse.
"There is an abominable smell here," said Mr. Marrapit.
Mr. Fletcher inhaled laboriously. "It's not for me to say what it is."
"Adjust that impression. Yours is the duty. You are in charge here. What is it?"
"It's them damn cats."
"You are insolent, sir. Your insolence increases. It grows unendurable."
Mr. Fletcher addressed the snail. "He asts a question. I beg not to answer it. He insists. I tell him. I'm insolent." He sighed; the tyranny of the world pressed heavily upon this man.
Mr. Marrapit advertised annoyance by clicks of his tongue: "You are insolent when you swear in my presence. You are insolent when you impute to my cats a fault that is not theirs."
"I ain't blamin' the cats. It's natural to them. Whenever the wind sets this way I notice it. It's blamin' me I complain of. I don't draw the smell. I try to get away from it. It's 'ard—damn 'ard. I'm a gardener, I am; not a wind-shaft."
Whenever Mr. Marrapit had occasion to speak with Mr. Fletcher, after the first few exchanges he would swallow with distinct effort. It was wrath he swallowed; and bitter as the pill was, rarely did he fail to force it down. Mr. Fletcher spoke to him as no other member of his establishment dared speak. The formula of dismissal would leap to Mr. Marrapit's mouth: knowledge of the unusually small wage for which Mr. Fletcher worked caused it to be stifled ere it found tongue. Thousands of inferiors have daily to bow to humiliations from their employers; it is an encouraging thought for this army that masters there be who, restrained by parsimony, daily writhe beneath impertinences from valuable, ill-paid servants.
Mr. Marrapit swallowed. He said: "To the smell of which I complain my cats are no party. It is tobacco. The air reeks of tobacco. I will not have tobacco in my garden."
Twice, with a roaring sound, Mr. Fletcher inhaled. He pointed towards an elm against the wall: "It comes from over there."
The gardener plunged through the bushes; nosed laboriously; his inhalations rasped across the shrubs. "There's no smoking here," he called.
"Someone, in some place concealed, indubitably smokes. Yourself you have noticed it. Follow the scent."
Exertion beaded upon Mr. Fletcher's brow. He drew his hand across it; thrust a damp and gloomy face between the foliage towards his master.
"I'd like to know," he asked, "if this is to be one of my regular jobs for the future? Was I engaged to 'unt smells all day? It's 'ard-damn 'ard. I'm a gardener, I am; not a blood-'ound."
But Mr. Marrapit had passed on.
"Damn 'ard," Mr. Fletcher repeated; drew the snail from his pocket; plunged to consolation.
A short distance down the garden Mr. Marrapit himself discovered the source of the smell that had offended him. Bending to the left he came full upon it where it uprose from a secluded patch of turf: from the remains of a pipe there mounted steadily through the still air a thin wisp of smoke.
Outraged, Mr. Marrapit stared; fuming, turned upon the step that sounded on the path behind him.
The slim and tall young man who approached was that nephew George, whose coming into Mr. Marrapit's household had considerably disturbed Mr. Marrapit's peace. Orphaned by the death of his mother, George had gone into the guardianship of his uncle while in his middle teens. The responsibility had been thrust upon Mr. Marrapit by his sister. Vainly he had writhed and twisted in fretful protest; she shackled him to her desire by tearful and unceasing entreaty. Vainly he urged that his means were not what she thought; she assured him—and by her will bore out the assurance—that with her George should go her money.
And the will, when read, in some degree consoled Mr. Marrapit for the sniffling encumbrance he took back with him to Herons' Holt after the funeral. It was a simple and trustful will—commended George into the keeping of her brother Christopher Marrapit; desired that George should be entered in her late husband's—the medical—profession; and for that purpose bequeathed her all to the said brother.
George was eighteen when Mr. Marrapit entered him at St. Peter's Hospital in mild pursuit of the qualification of the Conjoint Board of Surgeons and Physicians. "I am entering you," Mr. Marrapit had said, consulting notes he had prepared against the interview—"I am entering you at enormous cost upon a noble career which involves, however, a prolonged and highly expensive professional training. Your mother wished it."
Mr. Marrapit did not add that George's mother had expressly paid for it. This man had the knowledge that Youth would lose such veneration for Authority as it may possess were Authority to disclose the motives that prompt its actions.
He continued: "For me this involves considerable self-denial and patience. I do not flinch. From you it demands unceasing devotion to your books, your studies, your researches. You are no longer a boy: you are a man. The idle sports of youth must be placed behind you. Stern life must be sternly faced."
"I do not flinch," George had replied.
"For your personal expenses I shall make you a small allowance. You will live in my house. Your wants should be insignificant."
In a faint voice George squeezed in: "I have heard that one can work far better by living near the hospital in digs."
"Digs—lodgings. I have heard that one can work far better by living near the hospital in lodgings."
"Adjust that impression," Mr. Marrapit had told him. "You are misinformed."
George struggled: "I should have the constant companionship of men absorbed in the same work as myself. We could exchange views and notes in the evenings."
"In your books seek that companionship. With them compare your views. Let your notes by them be checked. They are infallible."
George said no more. At that moment the freedom of hospital as against the restraint of school, was a gallant steed upon which he outrid all other desires. The prospect of new and strange books in exchange for those he so completely abhorred, was an alluring delight. It is not until the bargain is complete that we discover how much easier to polish, and more comfortable to handle, are old lamps than new.
Mr. Marrapit had referred to his notes: "In regard to the allowance I shall make you. I earnestly pray no spur may be necessary to urge you at your tasks. Yet, salutary it is that spur should exist. I arrange, therefore, that in the deplorable event of your failing to pass any examination your allowance shall be diminished."
"Will it be correspondingly increased when I pass first shot?"
The fearful possibilities of this suggestion Mr. Marrapit had hesitated to accept. Speculation was abhorrent to this man. Visions of success upon success demanding increase upon increase considerably agitated him. Upon the other hand, the sooner these successes were won, the sooner, he reflected, would he be rid of this incubus, and, in the long-run, the cheaper. He nerved himself to the decision. "I agree to that," he had said. "The compact is affirmed."
It was a wretched compact for George.
But the sum had not yet been fixed. George, standing opposite his uncle, twisted one leg about the other; twined his clammy hands; put the awful question: "By how much will the allowance be increased or cut down?"
"By two pounds a quarter."
George plunged: "So if I fail in my first exam. I shall get eleven pounds at the quarter? if I pass, fifteen?"
Horror widened Mr. Marrapit's eyes; shrilled his voice: "What is the colossal sum you anticipate?"
"I thought you said fifty-two pounds a year-a pound a week."
"A monstrous impression. Adjust it. Four pounds a quarter is the sum. You will have no needs. It errs upon the side of liberality—I desire to be liberal."
George twisted his legs into a yet firmer knot: "But two failures would wipe it bang out."
"Look you to that," Mr. Marrapit told him. "The matter is settled."
But it was further pursued by George when outside the door.
"Simply to spite that stingy brute," vowed he, "I'll pass all my exams, with such a rush that I'll be hooking sixteen quid a quarter out of him before he knows where he is. I swear I will."
It was a rash oath. When Youth selects as weapon against Authority some implement that requires sweat in the forging Authority may go unarmed. The task of contriving such weapons is early abandoned. In three months George's hot resolve was cooled; in six it was forgotten; at the end of three years, after considerable fluctuation, his allowance stood at minus two pounds for the ensuing quarter.
Mr. Marrapit, appealed to for advance, had raved about his study with waving arms.
"The continued strain of renewing examination fees consequent on your callous failures," he had said, "terrifies me. I am haunted by the spectre of ruin. The Bank of England could not stand it."
Still George argued.
With a whirlwind of words Mr. Marrapit drove him from the study: "Precious moments fly even as you stand here. To your books, sir. In them seek solace. By application to them refresh your shattered pocket."
Shamefully was the advice construed. George sought and found solace in his books by selling his Kirke, his Quain and his Stone to Mr. Schoole of the Charing Cross Road; his microscope he temporarily lodged with Mr. Maughan in the Strand; to the science of bridge he applied himself with a skill that served to supply his petty needs.
Notwithstanding, his career at St. Peter's was of average merit. George was now in the sixth year of his studies; and by the third part of his final examination, was alone delayed from the qualification which would bring him freedom from his uncle's irksome rule.
His attempt at this last examination had been concluded upon this July day that opens our history, and thus we return to Mr. Marrapit, to George, and to the line of smoke uprising from the tobacco.
Mr. Marrapit indicated the smouldering wedge.
George bent forward. "Tobacco," he announced.
"My nose informed me. My eyes affirm. Yours?"
"I am afraid so."
"My simple rule. In the vegetable garden you may smoke; here you may not. Is it so hard to observe?"
"I quite forgot myself."
Mr. Marrapit cried: "Adjust that impression. You forgot me. Consistently you forget me. My desires, my interests are nothing to you."
"It's a rotten thing to make a fuss about."
"That is why I make a fuss. It is a rotten thing. A disgusting and a noisome thing. Bury it."
Into a bed of soft mould George struck a sullen heel; kicked the tobacco towards the pit. Mr. Marrapit chanted over the obsequies: "I provide you with the enormous expanse of my vegetable garden in which to smoke. Yet upon my little acre you intrude. I am Naboth."
Ahab straightened his back; sighed heavily. Naboth started against the prick of a sudden recollection:
"I had forgotten. Your examination?"
George half turned away. The bitterest moment of a sad day was come. He growled:
Mr. Marrapit put his hands to his head: "I shall go mad. My brain reels beneath these conundrums. I implore English."
The confession of defeat is a thousandfold more bitter when made to unkind ears. George paled a little; spoke very clearly: "I failed. I was referred for three months."
"I am Job," groaned Mr. Marrapit. "I expected this. The strain is unendurable. It is unnatural. The next chance shall be your last. What is the fee for re-examination?"
"My God!" said Mr. Marrapit.
He tottered away up the path.
Excursions In Melancholy.
Gloom brooded over Herons' Holt that evening. Gloom hung thickly about the rooms: blanketed conversation; veiled eyes that might have sparkled; choked appetites.
Nevertheless this was an atmosphere in which one member of the household felt most comfortable.
Margaret, Mr. Marrapit's only child, was nineteen; of sallow complexion, petite, pretty; with large brown eyes in which sat always a constant quest—an entreaty, a wistful yearning.
Hers was a clinging nature, readily responsive to the attraction of any stouter mind. Enthusiasm was in this girl, but it lay well-like— not as a spring. To stir it the influence of another was wanted; of itself, spontaneous, it could not leap. Aroused, there was no rush and surge of emotion—it welled, rose deeply; thickly, without ripple; crestless, flinging no intoxicating spume. Waves rush triumphant, hurtling forward the stick they support: the pool swells, leaving the stick quiescent, floating.
Many persons have this order of enthusiasm; it is a clammy thing to attract. A curate with a glimpse at Shelley's mind once roused Margaret's enthusiasm for the poet. It welled so suffocatingly about him that he came near to damning Shelley and all his works; threw up his hat when opportunity put out a beckoning finger and drew him elsewhere.
Margaret walked in considerable fear of her father; but she clung to him despite his oppressive foibles, because this was her nature. She loved church; incense; soft music; a prayer-book tastefully bound. She "wrote poetry."
Warmed by the gloom that lay over Herons' Holt upon this evening, she sat brooding upon her cousin George's failure until a beautiful picture was hatched. He had gone to his room directly after dinner; during the meal had not spoken. She imagined him seated on his bed, hands deep in pockets, chin sunk, brow knitted, wrestling with that old devil despair. She knew that latterly he had worked tremendously hard. He had told her before the examination how confident of success he was, had revealed how much in the immediate prospect of freedom he gloried. She recalled his gay laugh as he had bade her good-bye on the first day, and the recollection stung her just as, she reflected, it must now be stinging him.... Only he must a thousand times more fiercely be feeling the burn of its venom....
Margaret moved impatiently with a desire to shake into herself a profounder sense of her cousin's misfortune. By ten she was plunged in a most pleasing melancholy.
She was of those who are by nature morbid; who deceive themselves if they imagine they have enjoyment from the recreations that provoke lightness of heart in the majority. Only the surface of their spirits ripples under such breezes; to stir the whole, to produce the counterpart of a hearty laugh in your vigorous animal, a feast on melancholy must be provided. This is a quality that is common among the lower classes who find their greatest happiness in funerals. The sombre trappings; white handkerchiefs against black dresses; tears; the mystery of gloom—these trickle with a warm glow through all their senses. They are as aroused by grief, unpleasant to the majority, as the drunkard is quickened by wine, to many abhorrent.
Thus it was with Margaret, and to her the shroud of melancholy in which she was now wrapped brought an added boon—arrayed in it she was best able to make her verses. Not of necessity sad little verses; many of her brightest were conceived in profoundest gloom. With a pang at the heart she could be most merry—tinkling out her laughing little lines just as martyrs could breathe a calm because, rather than spite of, they were devilishly racked.
But this was no hour for tinkling lines. A manuscript returned by the last post emphasised her gloom.
Kissing her father good-night, Margaret crept to her room, aching with desire to write.
She undressed, read a portion of the Imitation, then to her table by the open window.
Two hours brought relief. Margaret placed her poem in an envelope against its presentation to George in the morning, then from her window leaned.
From her thoughts at once George sped; they rushed across the sleeping fields to cling about the person of that Mr. William Wyvern who had spoken of Mr. Marrapit as reminding him of a minor prophet—shaved. This was Margaret's nightly practice, but to-night this girl was most exquisitely melancholy, and with melancholy her thoughts of her William were tinged. She had not seen him that day; and now she brooded upon the bitter happening that had forced all her meetings with her lover to be snatched—fugitive, secret.
For Mr. William Wyvern was not allowed at Herons' Holt. When love first sent its herald curiosity into William's heart, the young man had sought to relieve its restlessness by a visit ostensibly on George, really upon Margaret, and extremely ill-advised in that at his heels gambolled his three bull-terriers.
Korah, Dathan, and Abiram these were named, and they were abrupt dogs to a point reaching brusqueness.
At the door, as William had approached, beamed Mr. Marrapit; upon the drive the queenly Rose of Sharon sat; and immediately tragedy swooped.
The dogs sighted the Rose. Red-mouthed the shining pack flew at her. Dignity fell before terror: wildly, with streaming tail, she fled.
Orange was the cat, white the dogs: like some orange and snow-white ribbon magically inspired, thrice at enormous speed they set a belt about the house. With tremendous bounds the Rose kept before her pursuers—heavily labouring, horrid with thirsty glee. Impotent in the doorway moaned Mr. Marrapit, his dirge rushing up to a wail of grief each time the parti-coloured ribbon flashed before his eyes.
With Mr. Fletcher the end had come. Working indoors, aroused by the din, the gardener burst out past his master just as the ribbon fluttered into sight upon the completion of its fourth circuit. Like a great avalanche it poured against his legs; as falls the oak, so pressed he fell.
Each eager jaw snapped once. Korah bit air, Dathan the cat's right ear. She wrenched; freed; sprang high upon the porch to safety, blood on her coat.
Abiram put a steely nip upon Mr. Fletcher's right buttock.
William called off his dogs; stood aghast. Mr. Marrapit stretched entreating arms to his adored. Mr. Fletcher writhed prone.
The torn Rose slipped to Mr. Marrapit's bosom. Clasping her he turned upon William—"You shall pay for this blood!"
William stammered: "I'm very sorry, sir. If—"
"Never again enter my gates. I'll have your curs shot!"
Curs was unfortunate; the evil three were whelped of a mighty strain.
"If your fool of a man hadn't got in the way, the cat would have escaped," William hotly cried. Indignant he turned. Banishment was nothing then; in time it came to be a bitter thing.
Mr. Marrapit had raged on to Mr. Fletcher, yet writhing.
"You hear that?" he had cried. "Dolt! You are responsible for this!" He touched the blood-flecked side, the abrased ear; clasped close the Rose; called for warm water.
Mr. Fletcher clapped a hand to his wound as shakily he rose.
"I go to rescue his cat!" he said; "I'm near worried to death by 'ounds. I'm a dolt. I'm responsible. It's 'ard,—damn 'ard. I'm a gardener, I am; not a dog muzzle."
A dimness clouded Margaret's beautiful eyes as this bitter picture— she had watched it—was again reviewed. She murmured "Oh, Bill!"; stretched her soft arms to the night; moved her pretty lips in a message to her lover; snuggled between the sheets and made melancholy her bedfellow.
By seven she was up and in the fresh garden. George was before her.
She cried brightly: "Why, how early you are!" and ran to him—very pretty in her white dress: at her breast a rose, the poem fluttering in her hand.
"Yes; for once before you."
George's tone did not give back her mood, purposely keyed high. She played on it again: "Turning a new leaf?"
He drummed at the turf with his heel: "Yes—for to-day." He threw out a hand towards her: "But in the same old book. I've had eight—nine years of it, and now there are three more months."
"Poor George! But only three months, think how they will fly!"
He was desperately gloomy: "I haven't your imagination. Each single day of them will mean a morning—here; a night—here."
"Oh, is it so hard?"
"Yes, now. It's pretty deadly now. You know, when I wasn't precisely killing myself with overwork, I didn't mind so much. When it was three or four years, anyway, before I could possibly be free, a few extra months or so through failing an exam, didn't trouble me. But this is different. I was right up against getting clear of all this"—he comprehended garden and house in a sweep of the hand—"counted it a dead certainty—and here I am pitched back again."
"But, George, you did work so hard this time. It isn't as though you had to blame yourself." She put a clinging hand into his arm. "You can suffer no—remorse. That is what makes failure so dreadful—the knowledge that things might have been otherwise if one had liked."
George laughed quite gaily. Gloom never lay long upon this young man.
"You're a sweet little person," he said. "You ought to be right, but you are wrong. When I didn't work I didn't mind failing. It's when I've tried that I get sick."
Margaret's eyes brightened. There was melancholy here.
"Oh, I know what you mean. I know so well. I have felt that. You mean the—the haunting fear that you may never be able to succeed; that you have not the—the talent, the capacity." She continued pleadingly: "Oh, you mustn't think that. You can—you will succeed next time, you know."
"Rather!" responded George brightly.
Margaret was quite pained. She would have had him express doubt, despondently sigh; would have heartened him with her poem. The confident "rather!" jarred. She hurried from its vigour.
She asked: "What had you intended to do?"
"I was to have got a locum tenens. I think it would have developed into a permanency. A big, rough district up in Yorkshire with a man who keeps six horses going. His second assistant—a pal of mine—wants to chuck it."
"Why? Oh, partly because he's fed up with it, partly because he wants a practice of his own."
"Ah! ... But, George, don't you want a practice of your own? You don't want to be another man's assistant, do you?"
George laughed. "I can't choose, Margi. You know, if you imagine there are solid groups of people all over England anxiously praying for the arrival of a doctor, you must adjust that impression, as your father would say. These things have to be bought. I've got about three pounds, so I'm not bidding. They seldom go so cheap."
Margaret never bantered. She had no battledore light enough to return an airy shuttlecock. Now, as always, when this plaything came buoyantly towards her she swiped it with heavy force clean out of the conversational field.
She said gravely: "Ah, I know what you mean. You mean that father ought to buy you a practice—ought to set you up when you are qualified. I can't discuss that, can I? It wouldn't be loyal."
"Of course not. I don't ask you."
They moved towards the sound of the breakfast bell.
"You think," Margaret continued, "that father ought to buy you a practice because your mother left him money for the purpose?"
"I know she left him nearly five thousand pounds for my education and all that. I think I may have cost him three thousand, possibly four— so I think I am entitled to something, but I shan't get it, therefore I don't worry. My hump is gone; in three months I shall be gone. Forward: I smell bacon!"
Margaret smiled the wan smile of an invalid watching vigorous youth at sport. Firmly she banged the shuttlecock out of sight.
"How bright you are!" she told him. "Look, here is a little poem I wrote for you last night. It's about failure and success. Don't read it now."
George was very fond of his cousin. "Oh, but I must!" he cried. "I think this was awfully nice of you. He's not down yet. Let's sit on this seat and read it together."
"Oh, not aloud. It's a silly little thing—really."
He smoothed the paper. She pressed against him; thrilled as she regarded the written lines. George begged her read. She would not— well, she would. She paused. Modesty and pride gathered on her cheeks, tuned her voice low. She read:
"So you have tried—So you have known The burning effort for success, The quick belief in your own prowess and your skill, The bitterness of failure, and the joy Of sweet success."
"'Burning effort,'" George said. "That's fine!"
"I'm glad you like that. And 'quick belief'—you know what I mean?"
The poet warmed again over her words.
"So you have tried— So you have known The blind-eyed groping towards the goal That flickers on the far horizon of Attempt, Gleaming to sudden vividness, anon Fading from sight."
"Sort of blank verse, isn't it?" George asked.
"Well, sort of," the poet allowed. "Not exactly, of course."
"Of course not," George agreed firmly.
Margaret breathed the next fine lines.
"So you have tried— So you have known The bitter-sweetness of Attempt, The quick determination and the dread despair That grapple and possess you as you strive For imagery."
George questioned: "Imagery...?"
"That verse is more for me than you," the poet explained. "'For imagery'—to get the right word, you know."
"Rather!" said George. "It does for me too—in exams, when one is floored, you know."
"Yes," Margaret admitted doubtfully. "Ye-es. Don't interrupt between the verses, dear."
Now emotion swelled her voice.
"Success be yours! May you achieve To heights you do not dream you'll ever touch; The power's to your hand, the road before you lies— Forward! The gods not always frown; anon They'll kindly smile."
"Why, that's splendid!" George cried. He put a cousinly arm about the poet; squeezed her to him. "Fancy you writing that for me! What a sympathetic little soul you are—and how clever!"
Breathless she disengaged herself: "I'm so glad you like it. It's a silly little thing—but it's real, isn't it? Come, there's father."
She paused against denial of the poem's silliness, affirmation of its truth; but George, moody beneath Mr. Marrapit's eye, glinting behind the window, had moved forward.
Margaret thrust the paper in her bosom, tucked in where heart might warm against heart's child. Constantly during breakfast her mind reverted to it, drummed its rare lines.
Upon Modesty In Art: And Should Be Skipped.
Yet Margaret had called her poem silly. Here, then, was mock-modesty by diffidence seeking praise. But this mock-modesty, which horribly abounds to-day, is only natural product of that furious modesty which has come to be expected in all the arts.
Modesty should have no place in true art. The author or the painter, the poet or the composer should be impersonal to his work. That which he creates is not his; it is a piece of the art to which he is servant, and as such (and such alone) he should regard it. His in the making and the moulding, thereafter it becomes the possession of the great whole to which it belongs. If it adorns that whole he may freely admire it; for he is impersonal to it.
Unquestionably (or unconsciously) we accept this principle in regard to human life. The child belongs not to the mother who conceived it but to the race of which it is an atom. It hinders or it betters the race. The race judges it. By the race it is honoured or condemned; and to it the mother becomes impersonal. As it bears itself among its fellows, so she judges it—as the artist's work bears itself in the great art it joins, so should he judge it. And if the mother joins in his fellows' praise of her child, and if she proclaims her pride in it, is she called wanting in modesty?—and if the artist joins in praise of his work, and if he freely names it good, must he then be vain, boastful? The race grants that the mother who gave it this specimen of its kind has a first right to show her pride—to the artist who gives a fair specimen to his art we should allow a like voice.
For in demanding modesty—in naming impersonality conceit—we have produced also mock-modesty; and because, as a people, we have little appreciation of the arts, hence little knowledge, hence no standard by which to judge, we continually mistake the one form of modesty for the other. Modesty we suspect to be mock-modesty, and mock-modesty we take to be pleasing humility.
Coming to literature alone, the author should be impersonal to his work and must not cry that the writer is no judge of his own labour. Letters is his trade; and just as the mason well knows whether the brick he has laid helps or hinders, beautifies or insults the house, so the writer should be full cognisant whether his work helps make or does mar the edifice called literature. Nor must the term literature be denied to the ruck of modern writing. All that is written to interest or to instruct goes to make the literature of our day. We have introduced new expressions just as we have contrived new expressions in architecture; and as in the latter case so in the former the bulk of these is ephemeral. Nevertheless they are a part of literature, and all efforts in them better or sully the pages which in our day we are adding to the book of literature. From this book the winds of cycles to come will blow all that is unworthy—only the stout leaves will endure; but, no less because you write for the supplement than if you have virtue sufficient for the bound volume, remember that in every form of writing there are standards of good, and that every line printed helps raise or does tarnish the letters of our day.
Excursions In A Hospital.
By the half-past nine train George went to town; an hour later was at St. Peter's.
From the bar of the Students' Club a throng of young men of his year loudly hailed him. He joined them; took with a laugh the commiserations on his failure; wrung the hands of those who had been successful.
The successful young gentlemen were standing drinks-each man his round. There was much smoke and much laughter. Amusing experiences were narrated. You gathered that all who had passed their examination had done so by sheer luck, by astonishing flukes. Not one had ever worked. Each had been "ragged" on a subject of which he knew absolutely nothing. To the brilliancy with which he had gulled or bluffed his examiner, to the diplomacy with which he had headed him off the matters of which he knew absolutely less than nothing-to these alone were his success due.
Such is ever Youth's account of battle with Age. Youth is a devil of a smart fellow, behind whom Age blunders along in the most ridiculous fashion. Later this young blood takes his place in the blundering ranks and then does learn that indeed he was right—Age knows nothing. For with years we begin to realise our ignorance, and the lesson is not complete when the grave slams the book. A few plumb the depths of their ignorance before death: these are able to speak—and these are the teachers of men. We get here one reason why giants are fewer in our day: with the growth of man's imaginings and his inventions there is more vanity to be forced through; the truths of life lie deeper hid; more phantasms arise to lure us from the quest of realities; the task of striking truth accumulates.
Soon after midday the party broke up. Its members lunched early; visiting surgeons and physicians went their rounds at half-past one.
George strolled to the Dean's office.
A woebegone-looking youth in spectacles stood before the table; opposite sat the Dean. He looked up as George entered, and nodded: he was fond of George.
"Come along in," he said; "I shan't be a minute."
He turned to the sad youth. "Now your case, Mr. Carter," he said, "is quite unique. In the whole records of the Medical School"—he waved at a shelf of fat volumes—"in the whole records of the Medical School we have nothing in the remotest degree resembling it. You have actually failed twice in—in—"
The Dean searched wildly among a litter of papers; baffled, threw out an emphasising hand, and repeated, "Twice! Other hospitals, Mr. Carter, may have room for slackers—we have not. We have a record and a reputation of which we are proud. You are in your second year. How old are you?"
A faint whisper said, "Nineteen."
The Dean started. "Nineteen! Oh, dear me, dear me! this is worse than I thought—far worse. I am afraid, Mr. Carter, I shall have to write to your father."
Guttural with emotion, Mr. Carter gasped: "I mean to work—indeed I do."
Again the Dean frantically searched on his desk to discover the subject in which Mr. Carter had failed; again was unsuccessful. Deep thought ravelled his brow. His fingers drummed indecision on the table. It was a telling picture of one struggling between duty and kindliness—masterly as the result of long practice.
"Mr. Carter," the Dean summed up, "I will consider your case more fully to-night. Against my better judgment I may perhaps decide not on this occasion to communicate with your father. But remember this. At the very outset of your career you have strained to breaking-point the confidence of your teachers. Only by stupendous efforts on your part can that confidence be restored. These failures, believe me, will dog you from now until you are qualified—nay, will dog your whole professional career. That will do."
In a convulsion of relief and of agitation beneath this appalling prospect the dogged man quavered thanks; stumbled from the room.
George laughed. "Same old dressing-down," he said. "Don't you ever alter the formula?"
"It's very effective," the Dean replied. "That's the sixth this morning. Unfortunately I couldn't remember in what subject that boy had failed; so he didn't get the best part—the part about that being the one subject of all others which, if failed in, predicted ruin."
"It was biology in my case," George told him. "I trembled with funk."
"I think most of you do. It's fortunate that all you men when you first come up are afraid of your fathers. It gives us a certain amount of hold over you. If the thing were done properly, both at the 'Varsities and the hospitals, there would be a system of marks and reports just as at schools. You are only boys when you first come up, and you should be treated as boys; instead, you are left free and irresponsible. It ruins dozens of men every year."
"Perhaps that's why I'm here now," George responded. "You know I got ploughed?"
The Dean told George how sorry he had been to hear it. He questioned: "Bad luck, I suppose? I thought it was a sitter for you this time."
"Yes, rotten luck."
"It's unfortunate, you know. You would have got a house appointment. I'm afraid you will miss that mow. There will be a crowd of very hot men up with you in October, junior to you, who will get the vacancies. What will you do?"
George shrugged and laughed.
The Dean frowned; interpreted the shrug. "Well, you should care," he said. "You ought to be looking around you. Won't your uncle help you to buy a partnership?"
"We are on worse terms than ever after this failure. Not he."
"And you're not trying to be on good terms, I suppose?"
"You are a remarkably silly young man. You want balance, Leicester, you want balance. It would be the making of you to have some serious purpose in life. You will run against something of the kind soon— you'll get engaged, perhaps, and then you'll regret your happy-go- lucky ways." He fumbled amongst a pile of correspondence and drew out a letter. "Now, look here, I was thinking of you only a few moments ago. Here's a letter from a man who—who—where is it?—Ah, yes—If you could raise 400 pounds by the time you are qualified I could put you on to a splendid thing."
"Not the remotest chance," said George. "The serious purpose must wait. I—"
The Dean waved a hand that asked silence; consulted the letter. "This is from a man in practice at a place called Runnygate—one of these rising seaside resorts—Hampshire—great friend of mine. He's got money, and he's going to chuck it—doesn't suit his wife. I told him I'd find a purchaser if he would leave it with me. Merely nominal— only 400 pounds. He says that in a year or so there'll be a small fortune in the practice, because a company is taking the place over to develop it. You shall have first refusal. Come now, pull yourself together, Leicester."
George laughed. He stood up. "Thanks, I refuse now. What on earth's the good?"
"Rubbish," said the Dean. "Think over that serious interest in life. You never know your luck."
George moved to the door. "I know my luck all right," he laughed. "Never mind, I'm not grumbling with it."
Upon Life: And May Be Missed.
In the ante-room, as it were, of a very short chapter, we must make ready to receive our heroine. She is about to spring dazzling upon our pages; will be our close companion through some moving scenes. We must collect ourselves, brush our hair, arrange our dress, prepare our nicest manner.
And as in ante-rooms there are commonly papers laid about to beguile the tedium, and as the faint rustle of our heroine's petticoats is warning that George's assertion that he knew his luck is immediately to be disproved, let us make a tiny little paper on the folly of such a statement.
For of his luck man has no glimmer of prescience. Day by day we rattle the box, throw the dice; but of how these will fall we have no knowledge. We only hope with the gambler's feverishness; and it is this very hazard that keeps us crowding and pushing to hold our place at the tables where fortune spins. Grow we sick of the game, sour with our luck, weary of the hazard, and relinquish we our place at the table, we are pushed back and out—elbowed, thrown, trampled.
We are all treasure-seekers set on a treasure-island in a boundless sea. Cruelly marooned we are—flung ashore without appeal, and here deserted until the ship that disembarked us suddenly swoops and the press-gang snatches us again aboard—again without heed to our desire. Whence the ship brought us we do not know, and whither it will carry us we do not know; there is none to prick a return voyage disclosing the ultimate haven, though pilots there be who pretend to the knowledge—we cannot test them.
But the marooners, when they land us, give us wherewith to occupy our thoughts. This is a treasure-island. Each man of us they land with a pick; the inhabitants tell us of the treasure, and, being acclimatised, we set to work to dig and delve. Some work in shafts already sunk, some seek to break new ground, but what the pick will next turn up no one knows.
And it is this uncertainty, this hazard, that keeps us hammer, hammer, hammering; that keeps us, some from brooding against the marooners, their wanton desertion of us, our ultimate fate at their hands; others from making ready against the return voyage as entreated by the pilots.
Certainly, when the pick strikes a pocket, we turn to carousing; cease cocking a timid eye at the horizon.
And now our heroine is beckoning.
Magnificent Arrival Of A Heroine.
Until three o'clock George sat in an operating theatre. An unimportant case was in process: occasionally, through the group of dressers, surgeons and nurses who filled the floor, George caught a glimpse of the subject. He watched moodily, too occupied with his thoughts—three more months of dependency—to take greater interest.
One other student was present. Peacefully he slumbered by George's side until the ring of a dropped forceps awakened him. Noting the cause, "Clumsy beast," said this Mr. Franklyn; and to George: "Come on, Leicester; my slumber is broken. Let's go for a stroll up West."
In Oxford Street a pretty waitress in a tea-shop drew Mr. Franklyn's eye; a drop of rain whacked his nose. He winked the eye; wiped the nose. "Tea," said he; "it is going to rain."
He addressed the pretty waitress: "I have no wish to seem inquisitive, but which table do you attend?"
The girl jerked her chin: "What's that to you?"
"So much," Mr. Franklyn earnestly told her, "that, until I know, here, beautiful but inconvenient, in the doorway I stand."
"Well, all of 'em." She whisked away.
"You're badly snubbed, Franklyn," George said. "This rain is nothing."
A summer shower crashed down as he spoke; a mob of shoppers, breathless for shelter, drove them inwards.
"George," said Mr. Franklyn, seating himself, "your base mind thinks I have designs on this girl. I grieve at so distorted a fancy. The child says prettily that she attends 'all of 'em.' It is a gross case of overwork into which I feel it my duty more closely to inquire."
George laughed. "Do you always spend your afternoons like this?"
"As a rule, yes. I have been fifteen years at St. Peter's awaiting that day when through pure ennui the examiners will pass me. It will be a sad wrench to leave the dear old home." He continued, a tinge of melancholy in his voice: "You know, I am the last of the old brigade. The medical student no longer riots. His name is no longer a byword; he is a rabbit. Alone, undismayed, I uphold the old traditions. I am, so to speak, one of the old aristocracy. Beneath the snug characteristics of the latter-day student—his sweet abhorrence of a rag, his nasty delight in plays which he calls 'hot-stuff,' his cigarettes and his chess-playing—beneath these my head, like Henley's, is bloody but unbowed. Forgive a tear."
The shower ceased; the tea was finished; the pretty waitress was coyly singeing her modesty in the attractive candle of Mr. Franklyn's suggestions. George left them at the game; strolled aimlessly towards the Marble Arch; beyond it; to the right, and so into a quiet square.
Here comes my heroine.
The hansom, as George walked, was coming towards him—smartly, with a jingle of bells; skimming the kerb. As it reached him (recall that shower) the horse slipped, stumbled, came on its knees.
Down came the shafts; out shot the girl.
The doors were wide; the impetus took her in her stride. One tiny foot dabbed at the platform's edge; the other twinkled—patent leather and silver buckle—at the step, missed it, plunged with a giant stride for the pavement.
"Mercy!" she cried, and came like a shower of roses swirling into George's arms.
Completely he caught her. About his legs whipped her skirts; against him pressed her panting bosom; his arms—the action was instinctive— locked around her; the adorable perfume of her came on him like breeze from a violet bed; her very cheek brushed his lips—since the first kiss it was the nearest thing possible to a kiss.
She twisted backwards. Modesty chased alarm across her face—caught, battled, overcame it; flamed triumphant.
Fright at her accident drove her pale; shame at the manner of her descent—leg to the knee and an indelicacy of petticoats—agitated she had glimpsed it as she leapt—flushed her crimson from the line of her dress about her throat to the wave of her hair upon her brow.
She twisted back. "Oh, what must you think of me?" she gasped.
He simply could not say.
Moving Passages With A Heroine.
George could not say.
His senses were washed aswim by this torrent of beauty poured unexpected through eyes to brain. It surged the centres to violent commotion, one jostling another in a whirlpool of conflict. Out of the tumult alarm flashed down the wires to his heart—set it banging; flashed in wild message to his tongue—locked it.
The driver in our brains is an intolerable fellow in sudden crisis. He loses his head; distracted he pulls the levers, and, behold, in a moment the thing is irrevocably done; we are a coward legging it down the street, a murderer with bloody hand, a liar with false words suddenly pumped.
A moment later the driver is calm and aghast at the ruin he has contrived. Why, before God, did he pull the leg lever?—the arm lever?—the tongue lever? In an instant's action he has accomplished calamity; where sunshine laughed now darkness heaps; where the prospect smiled disaster now comes rolling up in thunder.
These are your crises. Again, as now with George, the driver becomes temporarily idiot—stands us oafishly silent, or perhaps jerks out some stupid words; remembers when too late the quip that would have fetched the laugh, the thrust that would have sped the wound. He is an intolerable fellow.
"Oh, what must you think of me?"
That pause followed while the driver in George's brain stood gapingly inactive; and then came laughter to him like a draught of champagne. For the girl put up her firm, round chin and laughed with a clear pipe of glee—a laugh to call a laugh as surely as a lark's note will set a hedge in song; and it called the laugh in George.
He said: "I am thinking the nicest things of you. But have you dropped from the skies?"
"From a cab," she protested.
She turned to the road; back to George in dismay, for the catapult, its bullet shot, had bolted up the street—was gone from view.
"Oh!—I was in a cab?" she implored.
George said: "It looked like a cab. But a fairy-car, I think."
A pucker of her brows darkened the quick mirth that came to her eyes. She cried: "Oh, don't joke. She will be killed."
"You were not alone?"
"No—oh, no! What has happened to her?"
"We had better follow."
She corrected his number. "Yes, I had better. Thank you so much for your help." She took a step; faltered upon it with a little exclamation of pain; put a white tooth on her lip.
"You have hurt your foot?" George said.
"My ankle, I think. Oh dear!" and then again she laughed.
It came even then to George that certainly she would have made her fortune were she to set up a gloom-exorcising bureau—waiting at the end of a telephone wire ready to rush with that laugh to banish the imps of melancholy. Never had he heard so infectious a note of mirth.
"Oh, what must you think of me?" she ended. "I simply cannot help laughing, you know—and yet, oh dear!"
She put the tips of the fingers of a hand against her lower lip, gazed very anxiously up the road, and then again she gave that clear pipe of laughter.
"I can't help it," she told him imploringly. "I simply cannot help laughing. It is funny, you know. She was scolding me—"
"Scolding!" George exclaimed.
That beauty should be scolded!
"Scolding—yes. Oh, I'm only a—well, scolding me, and I was wishing, wishing I could escape. And then suddenly out I shot. And then I look around and she's—" A wave of her hand expressed a disappearance that was by magic agency.
"But, scolding?" George said. "Need you trouble? She will be all right."
"Oh, I must. I live with her."
"Will she trouble about you?"
"I think she will return for me. Please, please go—would you mind?— to the corner, and see if there has been an accident."
From that direction a bicyclist approached. George hailed. "Is there a cab accident round the corner?"
The youth stared; called "Rats!"; passed.
George interpreted: "It means No. Do you think if you were to take my arm you could walk to the turning?"
Quite naturally she slipped a white glove around his elbow. The contact thrilled him. "No nice girl, you know, would do this," she said, "with a perfect stranger."
George bent his arm a little, the better to feel the pressure of those white fingers. "I am not really perfect," he told her.
She took his mood. "Nor I really nice," she joined. "In fact, I'm horrible—they tell me. But I think it is wise to follow, don't you?"
"Profoundly wise. Who says you are horrible?"
She gave no answer. Glancing, he saw trouble shade her eyes, tremble her lips.
That beauty should know distress!
Very slightly he raised his forearm so that the lock of his elbow felt her hand. He had no fine words. This George was no hero with exquisite ways. He was a most average young man, and nothing could he find but most painfully average words.
"I say, what's up?" he asked.
She spoke defiantly; but some stupid something that she hated yet could not repress trembled her lips, robbed her tone of its banter. "What's up?" she said. "Why, you would say something was up if you'd just been shot plump out of a cab, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, but you were laughing a minute ago." He looked down at her, but she turned her face. "Now, now, I believe—" He did not name his thought.
She looked up. Her pretty face was red. He saw little flutters of eyelids, flutters round the eyes, flutters at the mouth. "Oh," she said, "oh, yes, and I don't know why. I'm—I believe—" She tried to laugh, but the little flutterings clouded the smile like soft, dark wings flickering upon a sunbeam.
"I believe—it's ridiculous to a perfect—imperfect—stranger—I believe I'm nearly—crying."
And this inept George could only return: "I say—oh, I say, can I help you?"
She stopped; from his arm withdrew her hand. "Please—I think you had better go. Please go. Oh, I shall hate myself for behaving like this."
So unhappy she was that George immediately planned her a backdoor of excuse. "But you have no occasion to blame yourself," he told her. "You've had an adventure—naturally you're shaken a bit."
She was relieved to think he had misunderstood her agitation. "Yes, an adventure," she said, "that's it. And I haven't had an adventure for years, so naturally—But, please, I think you had better go. If my— my friend saw me with you like this she would be angry—oh, very angry."
"But why? She saw you fall. She saw me save you."
"You don't understand. She is not exactly my friend; she is my—my employer. I'm a mother's-help."
The mirth that never lay deep beneath those blue eyes of hers was sparkling up now; the soft, dark wings were fluttering no longer.
She continued: "A mother's-help. Doesn't that sound wretched? I'm terribly slow at learning the mother's-help rules, but I'm positive of this rule—mothers' helps may not shoot out of cabs and leave the mother; it's such little help—you must see that?"
"But you will be less help still if you stay here for ever with your hurt ankle—you must see that? I must stay with you or see you to your home."
When she answered, it was upon another change of mood. The soft, dark wings were fluttering again; and it was the banter of George's tone that had recalled them. For this was an adventure—and she had not known adventure for years; for these were flippant exchanges arising out of gay young hearts, and they recalled memories of days when such harmless bantering was of her normal life; for there had been sympathy in George's stammering inquiries, and it recalled the time when she lived amidst sympathy and amidst love.
The soft, dark wings fluttered again: "I am very grateful to you for helping me," she told him. "You must not think me ungrateful; only, I think you had better go. In my position I am not free to—to do as I like, talk where I will. You understand?" Her voice trembled a little, and she repeated: "You understand?"
George said, "I understand."
And that was all that passed upon this meeting. A cab swung round the opposite corner; pulled up with a rattle; turned towards them; was alongside. Within, a brow of thunder sat.
The cabman called, "I knowed you was all right, miss," raised the trap, and cheerfully repeated the information to his fare: "I knowed she was all right, mum."
The mum addressed gave no congratulation to his prescience. He shut the lid; winked at George; behind his hand communicated, "Not 'arf angry, she ain't."
The girl ran forward; agitation bound up her hurt ankle. "Oh!" she cried, "I am so glad you are safe!"
The thunder-figure addressed said: "Please get in. I have had a severe shock."
"This gentleman—" The girl half turned to George.
"Please get in—instantly."
Scarlet the girl went. "Thank you very much," she said to George; climbed in beside the cloud of wrath.
Her companion slammed the door; dabbed at George a bow that was like a sharp poke with a stick; called, "Drive on."
George stepped into the road, held half a crown to the driver: "The address?"
The man stooped. With a tremendous wink answered, "Fourteen Palace Gardens, St. John's Wood."
Away with a jingle.
Astonishing After-Effects Of A Heroine.
George did not return to St. Peter's that afternoon; watched the cab from view; walked back to Waterloo; thence took train to Paltley Hill with mind awhirl.
Recovering from stunning shock the mind first sees a blur of events— formless, seething, inextricably tangled. Deep in this boiling chaos is one fact struggling more powerfully than the rest to cool and so to shape itself. It kicks a leg free here, there an arm, then another leg. Its exertions cause the whole more furiously to agitate—the brain is afire. Very suddenly this struggling fact jumps free. Laid hold of it is a cold spoon which, plunged back into the seething cauldron, arrests the turmoil of its contents.
Or again, recovering from sudden shock the mind first sees a great whirling, blinding cloud of dust which hides and wreathes about the sudden topple of masonry that has provoked it. Here the slowly emerging fact may be likened to a clear gangway through the ruin up which the fevered owner may walk to investigate the catastrophe's cause and extent.
So now with George. If not dazed by stunning shock, he was at least awhirl by set back of the swift sequence of events which suddenly had buffeted him; and it was not until strolling up from Paltley Hill railway station to Herons' Holt that one cooling fact emerged from which he might make an ordered examination of what had passed.
The address that the cabman had given him was this fact—14 Palace Gardens, St. John's Wood. Here was the gangway through the pile of disorder, and here George resolutely made a start of examining events in place of wildly beating about through the dust of aimless conjectures.
He visualised this Palace Gardens residence. A gloomy house, he suspected,—prison-like; its inhabitants warders, the girl their captive. A beautiful picture was thus presented to this ridiculous young man. For if the girl were indeed captive, warder-surrounded, how gratefully her heart must press towards him who was no turnkey! The more irksomely her captors held her, the more warmly would she remember him. Subconsciously he hoped for a rattle of chains, a scourging with whips. Every bond, every stroke would speed her spirit to the recollection of their meeting.
But this delectable picture soon faded. Love—and this ridiculous George vowed he was in love—love is a mental see-saw. The nicely- balanced mind is set suddenly oscillating: now up, commandingly above the world, intoxicated with the rush and the elevation; now down to depths made horribly deep by contrast, wretchedly jarred by the bump.
A new thought impelled a downward jolt of this kind. Failing a gloomy 14 Palace Gardens, supposing the girl to be happily situated, it was horribly improbable that she would give him a moment's thought. This was a most chilling idea. Shivering beneath the douche, George's mind ran back along the episode of their meeting to discover arguments that would build up the chains and the whips.
Memories banked high on either side. In search of his desire George gathered them haphazard, closely examined each.
It was an unsatisfactory business. Here was a memory. She had said so-and-so. Yes; but, damn it, that might mean anything. He flung it down; took another. She had said so-and-so. Yes; but, damn it, that might have meant nothing.
This was very disturbing. He must systematically go through the whole pile of memories—upon an ordered plan reconstruct each step of the episode.
At first attempt it was a wretched business. Never was builder set to work with bricks so impossible as the bricks of conversation with which this reconstruction must be done. Each that the girl had supplied might dovetail in as he would have it go; upon the other hand it fitted equally well when twisted into the form in which, for all he knew, she might have constructed it. The bricks George had himself supplied he found even more disconcerting—they were stupid, ugly, laughable. He shoved them in, and they grinned at him—mocked him. None the less he persevered—he must get his answer; he must see both what she had thought of him and if she were likely still to be thinking of him. And at last the whole passage was reconstructed. He examined it, and once more down came the see-saw with a most shattering bump: he had made himself an idiot, and stood champion idiot if he believed she were likely to remember him.
With a crash George sent the whole pile flying. Let him wander blindly in the dust of imaginings rather than be tortured by the grim austerity of ordered facts. More than this, there was one most comfortable memory to which he desperately clung—that falter in her voice when she had said "You understand?" Whenever, during that evening, doubt stirred and bade him recognise himself for a fool, George flattened the ugly spectre with the arm he contrived out of this memory.
It was a lusty weapon.
But a fresh vexation that lies in wait for all new lovers tore him when he got to bed. In the darkness he set his mind solely to recalling the girl's face. The picture tantalisingly eluded him. Generalities he could recall. She was fair, very, very fair; her hair was shining golden; but how was it arranged? In desperation he squirmed off to her eyes—blue; no, grey; no, blue. Damn it, he would forget whether she were black or white in a minute. Her chin? Ah, he had that!—white and firm and round. And her nose?—small, and a trifle tip-tilted. And her mouth?—her mouth, oh, heaven, he could not fix her mouth! The distracted young man tossed upon his pillow and went elsewhere. Distinctly he could remember her little feet with those silver buckles, quite different from any other feet. And she held herself slim and supple. Held herself? Why, good heavens! she was tall, and he had been thinking of her as short! This was appalling! He might meet her and pass her by. He might ... he rushed into troubled slumber.
The night gave him little rest. Whilst his body lay heavy, his brain, feverishly active, chased through the hours glimpses of the queen of his adventure. By early morning he was prodded into consciousness, and awaked to find himself instantly confronted with a terrible affair. Into his life, so he assured himself, had come a serious interest such as that which the Dean had hoped for him.
Here, lying abed with fresh morning smiling in through the open window, for the first time he looked forward, following the face he had pursued through his dreams, into the future. Its chambers he found ghastly barren. He visualised it as a vast unfurnished house. To the merry eye with which two days ago he had looked upon the world, the picture, had he then conjured it, would have given him no gloom. He would have thought it a fine thing, this empty house that was his own- -empty, but representing freedom.
The matter was different now. Into this empty house had danced the girl. Her gay presence discovered its barrenness. There was not a chair on which she could sit, not a dish in the larder.
George recalled that tight little practice at Runnygate that might be had for 400 pounds; went down to breakfast rehearsing a scene with his uncle; was moody through the meal.
The breakfast dragged past its close. Mr. Marrapit spoke. "The moments fly," he observed.
Margaret said earnestly: "Oh, yes, father."
"I was addressing George."
"Ur!" said George, suddenly aroused.
Mr. Marrapit looked at his watch; repeated his observation.
George read his meaning. "I thought of going up by the later train to- day," he explained.
"A dangerous thought. Crush it." Mr. Marrapit continued: "Margaret, Mrs. Major, I observe you have concluded"; and when the two had withdrawn addressed himself again to George: "A dangerous thought. You recall our conversation of the day before yesterday?"
"Yet by later trains, by idleness, you deliberately imperil your future?"
George did not answer the question. This was the very opportunity for which he had wished. "I would like to talk about my future," he said.
"I dare not dwell upon it," replied Mr. Marrapit.
"I have to. I shall pass all right this time. I want to know—the fact is, sir, I know I have slacked in the past; I am a man now, and I—I regret it. I fully realise my responsibilities. You may rely that I shall make a certainty of the October examination."
"Commendable," Mr. Marrapit criticised.
"I want to know what help I may expect when I qualify."
"I cannot tell you." Mr. Marrapit threw martyrdom into his tone. "I am so little," he said, "in your confidence. Your expectations when qualified may be enormous. I am not favoured with them." He sighed.
George said: "I mean what help I may expect from you."
The piece of toast rising to Mr. Marrapit's mouth slowly returned towards his plate: "Reiterate that. From me?"
"From you," said George.
The toast dropped from trembling fingers. "I?" Mr. Marrapit dragged the word to tremendous length. "I? Is it conceivable that you expect money from me?"
"I only ask."
"I only shudder. Might I inquire the amount?"
"The Dean told me of a practice I could have for 400 pounds."
"Tea!" exclaimed Mr. Marrapit on a gasp. "I must steady myself! Tea!" He paused; gulped a cup; with alarmed eyes stared at George.
The affair was going no better than George had expected. He remembered the face that was dear to him; nerved himself to continue. "I would pay it back," he said. "Will you lend me the 400 pounds?"
"I must have air!" Mr. Marrapit staggered to the window. "I reel before this sudden assault. For nine years at ruinous cost I have supported you. Must I sell my house? Am I never to be free? Must I totter always through life with you upon my bowed back? I am Sinbad."
"There's no need to exaggerate or make a scene."
"Did I impel the scene?"
"I only asked you a question," George reminded.
"You have aroused a spectre," Mr. Marrapit answered.
"Well, I may understand that I need expect nothing?"
"I dare not answer you. I am shaken. I tremble."
George rose. Though what hope he had possessed was driven by his uncle's attitude, he was as yet only upon the threshold of his love. Hence the refusal of what he suddenly desired for that love's sake was not so bitter an affair as afterwards it came to be. "This is ridiculous," he said; moved to the door.
"To me a tragedy," Mr. Marrapit declaimed from the window, "old as mankind; not therefore less bitter—the tragedy of ingratitude. At stupendous cost I have supported, educated, clothed you. You turn upon me for more. How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child! I am Lear."
George tried a thrust: "I always understood my mother left you ample for me."
"Adjust that impression. She left me less than a sufficiency—nothing approaching amplitude. To the best of my ability I have fulfilled my task. It has been hard. I do not complain. I do not ask you for repayment of any excess that may have been incurred. But I am embittered by yet further demands. I have been too liberal. Had I meted out strict justice as I have striven to mete out kindness, my grey hairs would not be speeding in poverty to the grave. I am Wolsey."
Upon Wolsey George slammed the door; started for the station.
Palace Gardens, St. John's Wood, was his aim. There could be no work, nor even thought of work, until again he had met his lady. Yet how to meet her cost him another of the wrestles with conjecture that had been his lot since the cab carried her away.
At first it was easy work. He would call, he decided, with polite inquiries; and as he pictured the scene his spirits rose. The thunder- figure that had poked a bow at him from the cab would come dragonish into the drawing-room where he waited. Her he would charm with the suavity of his manners; she would doff the dragon's skin; would say (he had read the scene in novels), "You would like to see Miss So-and- so?"
The girl would come in ....
With her appearance in his thoughts George's mind swung from coherent reasoning into a delectable phantasy ....
A sudden thought swept the filmy clouds-landed him with a bump upon hard rock. He was not supposed to know their address. How, to the dragon, could he explain the venal trick by which he had acquired it? Now he beheld a new picture. Himself in the drawing-room; to him the dragon; her first words, "How did you know where we lived?"; his miserable answer.
This was very unpleasant. As a red omnibus took him on towards St. John's Wood he decided that the meeting must be otherwise effected. The girl must sometimes go out. She had called herself a mother's- help; it suggested children; and, if children, doubtless her task to take them walking. Well, he would take up a post near to the house, and wait—just wait.
And then there came a final thought that struck him cold and staring. What if she did not live at the house?—was merely about to visit there when the accident befell the cab?
It was a sorely agitated young man that stepped off the 'bus and struck up Palace Gardens.
Of his Mary.
Excursions In The Memory Of A Heroine.
AS that cab swung round the corner bearing away the nameless haunter of George's dreams, she to the red wrath beside her turned, and, "Oh, Mrs. Chater," she said, "I hope you are not hurt!"
By a mercy Mrs. Chater was not hurt. By a special intervention of Providence she had escaped a fearful death. Whether she would ever recover from the shock was another matter. Whether the shock would prove to be that sudden strain on her heart which she had been warned would end fatally, might at any moment be proved. Much anybody, except her darling children, would care if she were brought home dead in this very cab. Never had she known a heart to act as hers was acting now— thumping as if it would burst, first quickly then slowly. Perhaps Miss Humfray would feel it, and give her opinion.
Where the girl now laid her small hand five infant Chaters had been nourished; the massive bosom was advertisement that they had done well. Beneath the mingled gusts of hysteria and of wrath it violently contracted and dilated; but the heart, terrificly though Mrs. Chater said it throbbed, lay too deep to be discerned.
The agitated woman panted, "Can it go on like that?"
"I'm afraid I hardly—" Miss Humfray shifted her hand.
"Stupid! Take off your glove!"
The white kid clung to the warm flesh. Nervous and clumsy the girl struggled with it.
"Miss Humfray! How slow you are! Pull it!"
Mrs. Chater grabbed the turned-back wrist. A crack answered the jerk, and the glove split away in her hand. "There! Not my fault. Next time, perhaps, you will buy gloves sufficiently large. Oh, my poor heart! Now, feel. Press!"
The girl bit her lip. Humiliation lumped in her throat. She pressed, as bid, into that heaving blouse; said she could feel it. It was not very violent, she. thought. Perhaps if Mrs. Chater lay back and closed her eyes—
"I was not able to jump out, you see," said Mrs. Chater, sinking.
"Oh, you don't think I jumped out—and left you? I wouldn't. Besides, it is the most dangerous thing to do. That would have prevented me in any case. I was thrown. I thought I was going to be killed."
"You were with a young man."
"He caught me."
The words came faintly. Nearly the girl was crying. That lump in her throat seemed to be squeezing tears from her eyes—silly tears. She did not want Mrs. Chater's sympathy, yet could not but reflect what disregard for her the utter absence of inquiry showed. Bitter thoughts yet more dangerously squeezed the tears. She was a paid thing, that was all—not even a servant. Mrs. Chater was on kindly terms with her servants—had experienced the servant problem and craftily evaded it by the familiarity that was too useful to produce contempt—knew her maids' young men, entered into their quarrels with their young men, read their young men's letters.
Gazing through the cab window, pressed into her corner, the girl felt herself friendless, outcast, alone. Again she told herself that she did not want Mrs. Chater's sympathy; yet it was the studied withholding of it—studied or callous because so natural, the merest conventionalism, to have asked, "Were you hurt?"—that made her acutely feel her position.
A paradox, she thought, not to want a thing and yet to be wounded because it was not hers. A ridiculous paradox—and brightly she tried to smile at the silliness of it; blinking the tears that were swelling now, her face turned against the window towards the pavement.
A tall, slim girl was passing, holding the arm of a nice-looking little old man with a grey moustache and military air. The tall, slim girl was laughing down at him, and he looked to be chuckling merrily, just as—Her mind swung off, and the tears must be blinked again.
They reminded her, those two, of herself and her father. Such familiar friends as they looked so she had been with Dad who idolised her and whom she had idolised. Just like that—arm in arm, joking, "ragging"— she used to walk with him round about the home in Ireland—the world to one another and none else in the world, except the mother who was so intimately and inseparably of them that years past her death they still spoke of her as if she were alive.
Thus, long after her death, it would be: "Dad, we can't go home by the hill; mother never lets Grizzle do that climb after a long day." And: "Mary, your mother won't like you being so late; we must turn back." And: "Mary, there's the pig by mother's almond tree; run and shoo him."
Partly this refusal to recognise that, though dead, Mother was actually gone from them, no longer was sharing their little jokes and duties, was because death came with such steady, appreciable, unfrightening steps. First the riding stopped, and then the walks made shorter and shorter; then the strolls in the garden stopped, and then carrying the couch out under the trees—and none of them very fearful, because prepared: it was to be—almost the very day could have been named. Thus, when it came, though the blow swooped heavy, terrific, she never seemed actually to have left them.
"Well, now, dear dears," she had said with a little smile and a little sigh, "we have been happy ... only a little way away...."
But with Dad it was different. Somehow, looking back on it, one had supposed that nothing would ever touch the cheery little man; that she and he would go on and on and on—well, till they grew very old together.
Nothing could ever touch him....
"What a wicked beauty, eh, Mary?" he had said when the man brought round the half-broken filly that its owner "funked."
And she had laughed and said: "Yes, an angel in a temper—what a run you will have, Dad!" and had waved from the gate as the angel in a temper curveted away around the corner.
Nothing could ever touch him....
And then the man on a bicycle—with a dent in his hat, she noticed.
"If you can come quickly, missy. Top of the Three Finger field he lays."
Bare-backed she had galloped Grizzle there, and as she sped could not for the life of her think of aught else than the dent in the man's hat; rode up Three Finger Lane wondering how it came there; approached the little group wondering why he did not push it out.
Just as she galloped up they took off their hats. Someone who had been on his knees stood upright—she saw the stain of wet earth where he had been kneeling; forgot the dented hat; wondered if he knew of the Marvel Cleaning Pad that had done so wonderfully with Dad's breeches when he took a toss last Friday.
Dad...! Of course...! It was to see Dad that she was here.
Somebody tried to dissuade her ... better wait till they brought him home ... could do no good—now.
"Why? Why not see him? Let me pass, Mr. Saunders."
Well, the filly lay across him ... he had begged them not to move her because of the pain.... Better come away.
She pushed through them.... Yes, better perhaps not to have seen ... all crumpled up....
Recollecting, she could feel distinctly in her knees the creepy damp as the moisture of the marshy ground penetrated her skirts, bending over the twisted face.
Thereafter a blank of days in which events must have occurred but to which memory brought no lamp until the faint crunch as the coffin touched the earth seven feet down....
Multitudinous papers after that. Wearying, sickening masses of documents; interminable writing of signature; interminable making of lists. And then the word LOT. "Lot I," "Lot 2," "Lot 50," "Lot 200"—a hammerlike word to thump the brain at night, frightening sleep, producing grotesque nightmares, as "Lot 12, a polished oak coffin, finished plain, brass Handles."
No! No! That was not to be sold!—leaden hands holding her down; stifling hands at her mouth to stay her shouting "Stop!"
Then sudden consciousness—only a dream! Bolt upright in bed staring into the darkness. A dream? How much of it a dream? Was it all a dream? The fevered brain would fetch her from her bed, groping to Dad's room, striking a match—no familiar form upon the bed; a big white ticket—"Lot 56."
Back to the hot, crumpled couch, there, tossing, to lie attempting a grasp, a realisation of what it all meant....
A dark little office in Dublin.... So much the "Lots" had fetched, so much the balance at the bank; no investments, it was to be feared; no insurance, my dear Miss Humfray; so much the bills and other claims on the estate.... "Don't wish to be bothered with figures? Of course not, my dear.... And then we come to the balance—I'm afraid a few pounds, practically nothing...."
On the steamer bound for Holyhead.... During the crossing the stifling weight that had benumbed her intellect ever since the man with the dent in his hat came riding up the drive seemed suddenly to lift. Whipped away perhaps by the edged wind that rushed past her from England to Ireland sinking in the sea—a wind to cut you to the bone; discovering sensation in every marrow; stinging her to clear thought.... That idyllic life with Mother and Dad—the world to one another and none else in the world beside—had been rather the creation of circumstance than of design. Dad's people were furious when he married Mother; in defiance of hers, Mother married Dad. Relations on either side had shrieked their disapproval of the match, then left the couple to their own adventures. A thing to laugh at in those days, but bringing now to the child that was left the realisation of not a support in the world.