Infomotions, Inc.Superseded / Sinclair, May, 1863-1946



Author: Sinclair, May, 1863-1946
Title: Superseded
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): miss quincey; quincey; cautley; miss cursiter; rhoda; rhoda vivian; miss quincey's; miss; bastian cautley; mad hatter; miss vivian; miss juliana; classical mistress
Contributor(s): Borrow, George Henry, 1803-1881 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 30,449 words (really short) Grade range: 9-11 (high school) Readability score: 63 (easy)
Identifier: etext13522
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Title: Superseded

Author: May Sinclair

Release Date: September 24, 2004 [EBook #13522]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SUPERSEDED ***




Produced by Suzanne Shell, Mary Meehan and the PG Online Distributed
Proofreading Team





                               SUPERSEDED

                            BY MAY SINCLAIR

                     _Author of "The Divine Fire"_

                                  1906




PUBLISHERS' NOTE


Miss Sinclair has expressed a desire to have this book republished in
America, because she considers it the best of her work previous to "The
Divine Fire." It originally appeared with another work in a volume
entitled "Two Sides of a Question," a small imported edition of which is
now exhausted.




CONTENTS


CHAPTER

     I. PROLOGUE.--MISS QUINCEY STOPS THE WAY
    II. HOUSEHOLD GODS
   III. INAUGURAL ADDRESSES
    IV. BASTIAN CAUTLEY, M.D.
     V. HEALERS AND REGENERATORS
    VI. SPRING FASHIONS
   VII. UNDER A BLUE MOON
  VIII. A PAINFUL MISUNDERSTANDING
    IX. THROUGH THE STETHOSCOPE
     X. MISS QUINCEY STANDS BACK
    XI. DR. CAUTLEY SENDS IN HIS BILL
   XII. EPILOGUE.--THE MAN AND THE WOMAN




SUPERSEDED




CHAPTER I

Prologue.--Miss Quincey Stops the Way


"Stand back, Miss Quincey, if you please."

The school was filing out along the main corridor of St. Sidwell's. It
came with a tramp and a rustle and a hiss and a tramp, urged to a trot by
the excited teachers. The First Division first, half-woman, carrying
itself smoothly, with a swish of its long skirts, with a blush, a dreamy
intellectual smile, or a steadfast impenetrable air, as it happened to be
more or less conscious of the presence of the Head. Then the Second
Division, light-hearted, irrepressible, making a noise with its feet,
loose hair flapping, pig-tails flopping to the beat of its march. Then
the straggling, diminishing lines of the Third, a froth of white
pinafores, a confusion of legs, black or tan, staggering, shifting,
shuffling in a frantic effort to keep time.

On it came in a waving stream; a stream that flickered with innumerable
eyes, a stream that rippled with the wind of its own flowing, that
flushed and paled and brightened as some flower-face was tossed upwards,
or some crest, flame-coloured or golden, flung back the light. A stream
that was one in its rhythm and in the sex that was its soul, obscurely or
luminously feminine; it might have been a single living thing that
throbbed and undulated, as girl after girl gave out the radiance and
pulsation of her youth. The effect was overpowering; your senses judged
St. Sidwell's by these brilliant types that gave life and colour to the
stream. The rest were nowhere.

So at least it seemed to Miss Cursiter, the Head. That tall, lean,
iron-grey Dignity stood at the cross junction of two corridors, talking
to Miss Rhoda Vivian, the new Classical Mistress. And while she talked
she watched her girls as a general watches his columns wheeling into
action. A dangerous spot that meeting of the corridors. There the
procession doubles the corner at a swinging curve, and there, time it as
she would, the little arithmetic teacher was doomed to fall foul of the
procession. Daily Miss Quincey thought to dodge the line; daily it caught
her at the disastrous corner. Then Miss Quincey, desperate under the eye
of the Head, would try to rush the thing, with ridiculous results. And
Fate or the Order of the day contrived that Miss Cursiter should always
be there to witness her confusion. Nothing escaped Miss Cursiter; if her
face grew tender for the young girls and the eight-year-olds, at the
sight of Miss Quincey it stiffened into tolerance, cynically braced to
bear. Miss Cursiter had an eye for magnificence of effect, and the
unseemly impact of Miss Quincey was apt to throw the lines into disorder,
demoralising the younger units and ruining the spectacle as a whole.
To-day it made the new Classical Mistress smile, and somehow that smile
annoyed Miss Cursiter.

She, Miss Quincey, was a little dry, brown woman, with a soft pinched
mouth, and a dejected nose. So small and insignificant was she that she
might have crept along for ever unnoticed but for her punctuality in
obstruction. As St. Sidwell's prided itself on the brilliance and
efficiency of its staff, the wonder was how Miss Quincey came to be
there, but there she had been for five-and-twenty years. She seemed to
have stiffened into her place. Five-and-twenty years ago she had been
arithmetic teacher, vaguely attached to the Second Division, and she was
arithmetic teacher still. Miss Quincey was going on for fifty; she had
out-lived the old Head, and now she was the oldest teacher there, twice
as old as Miss Vivian, the new Classical Mistress, older, far older than
Miss Cursiter. She had found her way into St. Sidwell's, not because she
was brilliant or efficient, but because her younger sister Louisa already
held an important post there.

Louisa was brilliant and efficient enough for anybody, so brilliant and
so efficient that the glory of it rested on her family. And when she
married the Greek master and went away Juliana stayed on as a matter of
course, wearing a second-hand aureole of scholarship and supporting a
tradition.

She stayed on and taught arithmetic for one thing. And when she was not
teaching arithmetic, she was giving little dictations, setting little
themes, controlling some fifty young and very free translators of _Le
Philosophe sous les Toils_. Miss Quincey had a passion for figures and
for everything that could be expressed in figures. Not a pure passion,
nothing to do with the higher mathematics, which is the love of the soul,
but an affection sadly alloyed with baser matter, with rods and perches,
firkins and hogsheads, and articles out of the grocer's shop.

Among these objects Miss Quincey's imagination ran voluptuous riot. But
upon such things as history or poetry she had a somewhat blighting
influence. The flowers in the school Anthology withered under her
fingers, and the flesh and blood of heroes crumbled into the dust of
dates. As for the philosopher under the roofs, who he was, and what was
his philosophy, and how he ever came to be under the roofs at all, nobody
in St. Sidwell's ever knew or ever cared to know; Miss Quincey had made
him eternally uninteresting. Yet Miss Quincey's strength was in her
limitations. It was the strength of unreasoning but undying conviction.
Nothing could shake her belief in the supreme importance of arithmetic
and the majesty of its elementary rules. Pale and persistent and
intolerably meek, she hammered hard facts into the brain with a sort of
muffled stroke, hammered till the hardest stuck by reason of their
hardness, for she was a teacher of the old school. Thus in her own way
she made her mark. Among the other cyphers, the irrelevant and
insignificant figure of Miss Quincey was indelibly engraved on many an
immortal soul. There was a curious persistency about Miss Quincey.

Miss Quincey was not exactly popular. The younger teachers pronounced her
cut and dried; for dryness, conscientiously acquired, passed for her
natural condition. Nobody knew that it cost her much effort and industry
to be so stiff and starched; that the starch had to be put on fresh every
morning; that it was quite a business getting up her limp little
personality for the day. In five-and-twenty years, owing to an incurable
malady of shyness, she had never made friends with any of her pupils.

Her one exception proved her rule. Miss Quincey seemed to have gone out
of her way to attract that odious little Laura Lazarus, who was known at
St. Sidwell's as the Mad Hatter. At fourteen, being still incapable of
adding two and two together, the Mad Hatter had been told off into an
idiot's class by herself for arithmetic; and Miss Quincey, because she
was so meek and patient and persistent, was told off to teach her. The
child, a queer, ugly little pariah, half-Jew, half-Cockney, held all
other girls in abhorrence, and was avoided by them with an equal
loathing. She seemed to have attached herself to the unpopular teacher
out of sheer perversity and malignant contempt of public opinion.
Abandoned in their corner, with their heads bent together over the sums,
the two outsiders clung to each other in a common misery and isolation.

Miss Quincey was well aware that she was of no account at St. Sidwell's.
She supposed that it was because she had never taken her degree. To be
sure she had never tried to take it; but it was by no means certain that
she could have taken it if she had tried. She was not clever; Louisa had
carried off all the brains and the honours of the family. It had been
considered unnecessary for Juliana to develop an individuality of her
own; enough for her that she belonged to Louisa, and was known as
Louisa's sister. Louisa's sister was a part of Louisa; Louisa was a part
of St. Sidwell's College, Regent's Park; and St. Sidwell's College,
Regent's Park, was a part--no, St. Sidwell's was the whole; it was the
glorious world. Miss Quincey had never seen, or even desired to see any
other. That college was to her a place of exquisite order and light.
Light that was filtered through the high tilted windows, and reflected
from a prevailing background of green tiles and honey-white pine, from
countless rows of shining desks and from hundreds of young faces. Light,
the light of ideas, that streamed from the platform in the great hall
where three times in the year Miss Cursiter gave her address to the
students and teachers of St. Sidwell's.

Now Miss Cursiter was a pioneer at war with the past, a woman of vast
ambitions, a woman with a system and an end; and she chose her
instruments finely, toiling early and late to increase their brilliance
and efficiency. She was new to St. Sidwell's, and would have liked to
make a clean sweep of the old staff and to fill their places with women
like Rhoda Vivian, young and magnificent and strong. As it was, she had
been weeding them out gradually, as opportunity arose; and the new staff,
modern to its finger-tips, was all but complete and perfect now. Only
Miss Quincey remained. St. Sidwell's in the weeding time had not been a
bed of roses for Miss Cursiter, and Miss Quincey, blameless but
incompetent, was a thorn in her side, a thorn that stuck. Impossible to
remove Miss Quincey quickly, she was so very blameless and she worked so
hard.

She worked from nine till one in the morning, from two-thirty till
four-thirty in the afternoon, and from six-thirty in the evening till any
hour in the night. She worked with the desperate zeal of the superseded
who knows that she holds her post on sufferance, the terrified tenacity
of the middle-aged who feels behind her the swift-footed rivalry of
youth. And the more she worked the more she annoyed Miss Cursiter.

So now, above all the tramping and shuffling and hissing, you heard the
self-restrained and slightly metallic utterance of the Head.

"Stand back, Miss Quincey, if you please."

And Miss Quincey stood back, flattening herself against the wall, and the
procession passed her by, rosy, resonant, exulting, a triumph of life.




CHAPTER II

Household Gods


Punctually at four-thirty Miss Quincey vanished from the light of St.
Sidwell's, Regent's Park, into the obscurity of Camden Town. Camden Town
is full of little houses standing back in side streets, houses with
porticoed front doors monstrously disproportioned to their size. Nobody
ever knocks at those front doors; nobody ever passes down those side
streets if they can possibly help it. The houses are all exactly alike;
they melt and merge into each other in dingy perspective, each with its
slag-bordered six foot of garden uttering a faint suburban protest
against the advances of the pavement. Miss Quincey lived in half of one
of them (number ninety, Camden Street North) with her old aunt Mrs. Moon
and their old servant Martha. She had lived there five-and-twenty years,
ever since the death of her uncle.

Tollington Moon had been what his family called unfortunate; that is to
say, he had mislaid the greater portion of his wife's money and the whole
of Juliana's and Louisa's; he, poor fellow, had none of his own to lose.
Uncle Tollington, being the only male representative of the family, had
been appointed to drive the family coach. He was a genial good-natured
fellow and he cheerfully agreed, declaring that there was nothing in the
world he liked better than driving; though indeed he had had but little
practice in the art. So they started with a splendid flourishing of whips
and blowing of horns; Tollington driving at a furious break-neck pace in
a manner highly diverting and exhilarating to the ladies inside. The
girls (they were girls in those days) sat tight and felt no fear, while
Mrs. Moon, with her teeth shaking, explained to them the advantages of
having so expert a driver on the box seat. Of course there came the
inevitable smash at the corner. The three climbed out of that coach more
dead than alive; but they uttered no complaints; they had had their fun;
and in accidents of this kind the poor driver generally gets the worst of
it.

Mrs. Moon at any rate found consolation in disaster by steadily ignoring
its most humiliating features. Secure in the new majesty of her
widowhood, she faced her nieces with an unflinching air and demanded of
them eternal belief in the wisdom and rectitude of their uncle
Tollington. She hoped that they would never forget him, never forget what
he had to bear, never forget all he had done for them. Her attitude
reduced Juliana to tears; in Louisa it roused the instinct of revolt, and
Louisa was for separating from Mrs. Moon. It was then, in her first
difference from Louisa, that Miss Quincey's tender and foolish little
face acquired its strangely persistent air. Hitherto the elder had served
the younger; now she took her stand. She said, "Whatever we do, we must
keep together"; and she professed her willingness to believe in her uncle
Tollington and remember him for ever.

To this Louisa, who prided herself on speaking the truth or at any rate
her mind, replied that she wasn't likely to forget him in a hurry; that
her uncle Tollington had ruined her life, and she did not want to be
reminded of him any more than she could help. Moreover, she found her
aunt Moon's society depressing. She meant to get on and be independent;
and she advised Juliana to do the same.

Juliana did not press the point, for it was a delicate one, seeing that
Louisa was earning a hundred and twenty pounds a year and she but eighty.
So she added her eighty pounds to her aunt's eighty and went to live with
her in Camden Street North, while Louisa shrugged her shoulders and
carried herself and her salary elsewhere.

There was very little room for Mrs. Moon and Juliana at number ninety.
The poor souls had crowded themselves out with relics of their past, a
pathetic salvage, dragged hap-hazard from the wreck in the first frenzy
of preservation. Dreadful things in marble and gilt and in _papier-mache_
inlaid with mother-o'-pearl, rickety work tables with pouches underneath
them, banner-screens in silk and footstools in Berlin wool-work fought
with each other and with Juliana for standing-room. For Juliana, with her
genius for collision, was always knocking up against them, always getting
in their way. In return, Juliana's place at an oblique angle of the
fireside was disputed by a truculent cabinet with bandy legs. There was a
never-ending quarrel between Juliana and that piece of furniture, in
which Mrs. Moon took the part of the furniture. Her own world had shrunk
to a square yard between the window and the fire. There she sat and
dreamed among her household gods, smiling now and then under the spell of
the dream, or watched her companion with critical disapproval. She had
accepted Juliana's devotion as a proper sacrifice to the gods; but for
Juliana, or Louisa for the matter of that, she seemed to have but little
affection. If anything Louisa was her favourite. Louisa was better
company, to begin with; and Louisa, with her cleverness and her salary
and her general air of indifference and prosperity, raised no questions.
Besides, Louisa was married.

But Juliana, toiling from morning till night for her eighty pounds a
year; Juliana, painful and persistent, growing into middle-age without a
hope, Juliana was an incarnate reproach, a perpetual monument to the
folly of Tollington Moon. Juliana disturbed her dream.

But nobody else disturbed it, for nobody ever came to their half of the
house in Camden Street North. Louisa used to come and go in a brief
perfunctory manner; but Louisa had married the Greek professor and gone
away for good, and her friends at St. Sidwell's were not likely to waste
their time in cultivating Juliana and Mrs. Moon. The thing had been tried
by one or two of the younger teachers who went in for all-round
self-development and were getting up the minor virtues. But they had met
with no encouragement and they had ceased to come. Then nobody came; not
even the doctor or the clergyman. The two ladies were of one mind on that
point; it was convenient for them to ignore their trifling ailments,
spiritual or bodily. And as soon as they saw that the world renounced
them they adopted a lofty tone and said to each other that they had
renounced the world. For they were proud, Mrs. Moon especially so.
Tollington Moon had married slightly, ever so slightly beneath him, the
Moons again marking a faint descent from the standing of the Quinceys.
But the old lady had completely identified herself, not only with the
Moons, but with the higher branch, which she always spoke of as "_my_
family." In fact she had worn her connection with the Quinceys as a
feather in her cap so long that the feather had grown, as it were, into
an entire bird of paradise. And once a bird of paradise, always a bird of
paradise, though it had turned on the world a somewhat dilapidated tail.

So the two lived on together; so they had always lived. Mrs. Moon
was an old woman before she was five-and-fifty; and before she was
five-and-twenty Juliana's youth had withered away in the sour and
sordid atmosphere born of perishing gentility and acrid personal remark.
And their household gods looked down on them, miniatures and silhouettes
of Moons and Quinceys, calm and somewhat contemptuous presences. From the
post of honour above the mantelshelf, Tollington, attired as an Early
Victorian dandy, splendid in velvet waistcoat, scarf and chain-pin,
leaned on a broken column symbolical of his fortunes, and smiled genially
on the ruin he had made.

That was how Miss Quincey came to St. Sidwell's. And now she was
five-and-forty; she had always been five-and-forty; that is to say, she
had never been young, for to be young you must be happy. And this was so
far an advantage, that when middle-age came on her she felt no
difference.




CHAPTER III

Inaugural Addresses


It was evening, early in the winter term, and Miss Cursiter was giving
her usual inaugural address to the staff. Their number had increased so
considerably that the little class-room was packed to overflowing. Miss
Cursiter stood in the free space at the end, facing six rows of eager
faces arranged in the form of a horse-shoe. She looked upon them and
smiled; she joyed with the joy of the creator who sees his idea incarnate
before him.

A striking figure, Miss Cursiter. Tall, academic and austere; a keen
eagle head crowned with a mass of iron-grey hair; grey-black eyes burning
under a brow of ashen grey; an intelligence fervent with fire of the
enthusiast, cold with the renunciant's frost. Such was Miss Cursiter. She
was in splendid force to-day, grappling like an athlete with her enormous
theme--"The Educational Advantages of General Culture." She delivered her
address with an utterance rapid but distinct, keeping one eye on the
reporter and the other on Miss Rhoda Vivian, M.A.

She might well look to Rhoda Vivian. If she had needed a foil for her own
commanding personality, she had found it there. But the new Classical
Mistress was something more than Miss Cursiter's complement. Nature,
usually so economical, not to say parsimonious, seemed to have made her
for her own delight, in a fit of reckless extravagance. She had given her
a brilliant and efficient mind in a still more brilliant and efficient
body, clothed her in all the colours of life; made her a creature of
ardent and elemental beauty. Rhoda Vivian had brown hair with sparkles of
gold in it and flakes of red fire; her eyes were liquid grey, the grey of
water; her lips were full, and they pouted a little proudly; it was the
pride of life. And she had other gifts which did not yet appear at St.
Sidwell's. There was something about her still plastic and unformed; you
could not say whether it was the youth of genius, or only the genius of
youth. But at three-and-twenty she had chosen her path, and gone far on
it, and it had been honours all the way. She went up and down at St.
Sidwell's, adored and unadoring, kindling the fire of a secret worship.
In any other place, with any other woman at the head of it, such a vivid
individuality might have proved fatal to her progress. But Miss Cursiter
was too original herself not to perceive the fine uses of originality.
All her hopes for the future were centred in Rhoda Vivian. She looked
below that brilliant surface and saw in her the ideal leader of young
womanhood. Rhoda was a force that could strike fire from a stone; what
she wanted she was certain to get; she seemed to compel work from the
laziest and intelligence from the dullest by the mere word of her will.
What was more, her nature was too large for vanity; she held her
worshippers at arm's length and consecrated her power of personal
seduction to strictly intellectual ends. At the end of her first term her
position was second only to the Head. If Miss Cursiter was the will and
intelligence of St. Sidwell's, Rhoda Vivian was its subtle poetry and its
soul. And Miss Cursiter meant to keep her there; being a woman who made
all sacrifices and demanded them.

So now, while Miss Cursiter stood explaining, ostensibly to the entire
staff, the unique advantages of General Culture, it was to Rhoda Vivian
as to a supreme audience that she addressed her deeper thought and her
finer phrase. If Miss Cursiter had not had to consult her notes now and
again, she must have seen that Rhoda Vivian's mind was wandering, that
the Classical Mistress was if anything more interested in her companions
than in the noble utterances of the Head. As her grey eyes swept the
tiers of faces, they lingered on that corner where Miss Quincey seemed
perpetually striving to suppress, consume, and utterly obliterate
herself. And each time she smiled, as she had smiled earlier in the day
when first she saw Miss Quincey.

For Miss Quincey was there, far back in the ranks of the brilliant and
efficient. Note-book on desk, she followed the quick march of thought
with a fatigued and stumbling brain. She was painfully, ludicrously out
of step; yet to judge by the light that shone now and then in her eyes,
by the smile that played about the corners of her weak, tender mouth, she
too had caught the sympathetic rapture, the intellectual thrill. Ready to
drop was Miss Quincey, but she would not have missed that illuminating
hour, not if you had paid her--three times her salary. It was her one
glimpse of the larger life; her one point of contact with the ideal. Her
pencil staggered over her note-book as Miss Cursiter flamed and lightened
in her peroration.

"We have looked at our subject in the light of the ideals by which and
for which we live. Let us now turn to the practical side of the matter,
as it touches our business and our bosoms. Do not say we have no room for
poetry in our crowded days." A score of weary heads looked up; there was
a vague inquiry in all eyes. "You have your evenings--all of you. Much
can be done with evenings; if your training has done nothing else for you
it has taught you the economy of time. You are tired in the evenings,
yes. But the poets, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Browning, are the great
healers and regenerators of worn-out humanity. When you are faint and
weary with your day's work, the best thing you can do is to rise and
refresh yourselves at the living wells of literature."

Long before the closing sentence Miss Quincey's MS. had become a
sightless blur. But she had managed to jot down in her neat arithmetical
way: "Poets = healers and regenerators."

The address was printed and a copy was given to each member of the staff.
Miss Quincey treasured up hers as a priceless scripture.

Miss Quincey was aware of her shortcomings and had struggled hard to mend
them, toiling pantingly after those younger ones who had attained the
standard of brilliance and efficiency. She joined the Teachers' Debating
Society. Not that she debated. She had once put some elementary questions
in an inaudible voice, and had been requested to speak a little louder,
whereupon she sank into her seat and spoke no more. But she heard a great
deal. About the emancipation of women; about the women's labour market;
about the doors that were now thrown open to women. She was told that all
they wanted was a fair field and no favour. (The speaker, a rosy-cheeked
child of one-and-twenty, was quite violent in her repudiation of favour.)
And Miss Quincey believed it all, though she understood very little about
it.

But it was illumination, a new gospel to her, this doctrine of General
Culture; it was the large easy-fitting formula which she had seemed to
need. With touching simplicity she determined to follow the course
recommended by the Head. Though by the time she had corrected some
seventy manuscripts in marble-backed covers, and prepared her lesson for
the next day, she had nothing but the fag-end of her brain to give to the
healers and regenerators; as for rising, Miss Quincey felt much more like
going to bed, and it was as much as she could do to drag her poor little
body there. Still Miss Quincey was nothing if not heroic; night after
night twelve o'clock would find her painfully trying to draw water from
the wells of literature. She had begun upon Browning; set herself to read
through the whole of _Sordello_ from beginning to end. It is as easy as a
sum in arithmetic if you don't bother your head too much about the
Guelphs and Ghibellines and the metaphors and things, and if you take it
in short fits, say three pages every evening. Never any more, or you
might go to sleep and forget all about it; never any less, or you would
have bad arrears. As there are exactly two hundred and thirteen pages,
she calculated that she would finish it in ten weeks and a day. There was
no place for Miss Quincey and her pile of marble-backed exercise-books in
the dim and dingy first-floor drawing-room (Mrs. Moon and the
bandy-legged cabinet would have had something to say to that). All this
terrific intellectual travail went on in a dimmer and dingier dining-room
beneath it.

Then one night, old Martha, disturbed by sounds that came from Miss
Juliana's bedroom, groped her way fumblingly in and found Miss Juliana
sitting up in her sleep and posing the darkness with a problem.

"If," said Miss Juliana, "three men can finish one hundred and nineteen
hogsheads of Browning in eight weeks, how long will it take seven women
to finish a thousand and forty-five--forty-five--forty-five, if one woman
works twice as hard as eleven men?"

Martha shook her head and went fumbling back to bed again; and being a
conscientious servant she said nothing about it for fear of frightening
the old lady.

About a fortnight later, Rhoda Vivian, sailing down the corridor, came
upon the little arithmetic teacher all sick and tremulous, leaning up
against the hot-water pipes beside a pile of exercise-books. The sweat
streamed from her sallow forehead, and her face was white and drawn. She
could give no rational account of herself, but offered two hypotheses as
equally satisfactory; either she had taken a bad chill, or else the hot
air from the water-pipes had turned her faint. Rhoda picked up the pile
of exercise-books and led her into the dressing-room, and Miss Quincey
was docile and ridiculously grateful. She was glad that Miss Vivian was
going to take her home. She even smiled her little pinched smile and
pressed Rhoda's hand as she said, "A friend in need is a friend indeed."
Rhoda would have given anything to be able to return the pressure and the
sentiment, but Rhoda was too desperately sincere. She was sorry for Miss
Quincey; but all her youth, unfettered and unfeeling, revolted from the
bond of friendship. So she only stooped and laced up the shabby boots,
and fastened the thin cape by its solitary button. The touch of Miss
Quincey's clothes thrilled her with a pang of pity, and she could have
wept over the unutterable pathos of her hat. In form and substance it was
a rock, beaten by the weather; its limp ribbons clung to it like seaweed
washed up and abandoned by the tide. When Miss Quincey's head was inside
it the hat seemed to become one with Miss Quincey; you could not conceive
anything more melancholy and forlorn. Rhoda was beautifully attired in
pale grey cloth. Rhoda wore golden sables about her throat, and a big
black Gainsborough hat on the top of her head, a hat that Miss Quincey
would have thought a little daring and theatrical on anybody else; but
Rhoda wore it and looked like a Puritan princess. Rhoda's clothes were
enough to show that she was a woman for whom a profession is a
superfluity, a luxury.

Rhoda sent for a hansom, and having left Miss Quincey at her home went
off in search of a doctor. She had insisted on a doctor, in spite of Miss
Quincey's protestations. After exploring a dozen dingy streets and
conceiving a deep disgust for Camden Town, she walked back to find her
man in the neighbourhood of St. Sidwell's.




CHAPTER IV

Bastian Cautley, M.D.


It was half-past five and Dr. Bastian Cautley had put on his house
jacket, loosened his waistcoat, settled down by his library fire with a
pipe and a book, and was thanking Heaven that for once he had an hour to
himself between his afternoon round and his time for consultation. He had
been working hard ever since nine o'clock in the morning; but now nobody
could have looked more superlatively lazy than Bastian Cautley as he
stretched himself on two armchairs in an attitude of reckless ease. His
very intellect (the most unrestful part of him) was at rest; all his
weary being merged in a confused voluptuous sensation, a beatific state
in which smoking became a higher kind of thinking, and thought betrayed
an increasing tendency to end in smoke. The room was double-walled with
book-shelves, and but for the far away underground humming of a happy
maidservant the house was soundless. He rejoiced to think that there was
not a soul in it above stairs to disturb his deep tranquility. At six
o'clock he would have to take his legs off that chair, and get into a
frock-coat; once in the frock-coat he would become another man, all
patience and politeness. After six there would be no pipe and no peace
for him, but the knocking and ringing at his front door would go on
incessantly till seven-thirty. There was flattery in every knock, for it
meant that Dr. Cautley was growing eminent, and that at the ridiculously
early age of nine-and-twenty.

There was a sharp ring now. He turned wearily in his chairs.

"There's another damned patient," said Dr. Cautley.

He was really so eminent that he could afford to think blasphemously of
patients; and he had no love for those who came to consult him before
their time. He sat up with his irritable nerves on edge. The servant was
certainly letting somebody in, and from the soft rustling sounds in the
hall he gathered that somebody was a woman; much patience and much
politeness would then be required of him, and he was feeling anything but
patient and polite.

"Miss Rhoda Vivian" was the name on the card that was brought to him. He
did not know Miss Rhoda Vivian.

The gas-jets were turned low in the consulting-room; when he raised them
he saw a beautiful woman standing by the fire in an attitude of
impatience. He had kept her waiting; and it seemed that this adorable
person knew the value of time. She was not going to waste words either.
As it was impossible to associate her with the ordinary business of the
place, he was prepared for her terse and lucid statement of somebody
else's case. He said he would look round early in the morning (Miss
Vivian looked dissatisfied); or perhaps that evening (Miss Vivian was
dubious); or possibly at once (Miss Vivian smiled in hurried approval).
She was eager to be gone. And when she had gone he stood deliberating.
Miss Quincey was a pathological abstraction, Miss Vivian was a radiant
reality; it was clear that Miss Quincey was not urgent, and that once
safe in her bed she could very well wait till to-morrow; but when he
thought of Miss Vivian he became impressed with the gravity and interest
of Miss Quincey's case.

While the doctor was making up his mind, little Miss Quincey, in her
shabby back bedroom, lay waiting for him, trembling, fretting her nerves
into a fever, starting at imaginary footsteps, and entertaining all kinds
of dismal possibilities. She was convinced that she was going to die, or
worse still, to break down, to be a perpetual invalid. She thought of
several likely illnesses, beginning with general paralysis and ending
with anemia of the brain. It _might_ be anemia of the brain, but she
rather thought it would be general paralysis, because this would be so
much the more disagreeable of the two. Anyhow Rhoda Vivian must have
thought she was pretty bad or she would not have called in a doctor. To
call in a doctor seemed to Miss Quincey next door to invoking Providence
itself; it was the final desperate resort, implying catastrophe and the
end of all things. Oh, dear! Miss Quincey wished he would come up if he
was coming, and get it over.

After all he did not keep her waiting long, and it was over in five
minutes. And yet it was amazing the amount of observation, and insight,
and solid concentrated thought the young man contrived to pack into those
five minutes.

Well--it seemed that it was not general paralysis this time, nor yet
anemia of the brain; but he could tell her more about it in the morning.
Meanwhile she had nothing to do but to do what he told her and stay where
she was till he saw her again. And he was gone before she realized that
he had been there.

Again? So he was coming again, was he? Miss Quincey did not know whether
to be glad or sorry. His presence had given her a rare and curiously
agreeable sense of protection, but she had to think of the expense. She
had to think too of what Mrs. Moon would say to it--of what she would say
to him.

Mrs. Moon had a good deal to say to it. She took Juliana's illness as a
personal affront, as a deliberate back-handed blow struck at the memory
of Tollington Moon. With all the base implications of her daily acts,
Juliana had never attempted anything like this.

"Capers and nonsense," she said, "Juliana has never had an illness in her
life."

She said it to Rhoda Vivian, the bold young person who had taken upon
herself to bring the doctor into the house. Mrs. Moon spoke of the doctor
as if he was a disease.

Fortunately Miss Vivian was by when he endured the first terrifying
encounter. Her manner suggested that she took him under her protection,
stood between him and some unfathomable hostility.

He found the Old Lady disentangling herself with immense dignity from her
maze of furniture. Mrs. Moon was a small woman shrunk with her eighty
years, shrunk almost to extinction in her black woollen gown and black
woollen mittens. Her very face seemed to be vanishing under the immense
shadow of her black net cap. Spirals of thin grey hair stuck flat to her
forehead; she wore other and similar spirals enclosed behind glass in an
enormous brooch; it was the hair of her ancestors, that is to say of the
Quinceys. As the Old Lady looked at Cautley her little black eyes burned
like pinpoints pierced in a paste-board mask.

"I think you've been brought here on a wild goose chase, doctor," said
she, "there is nothing the matter with my niece."

He replied (battling sternly with his desire to laugh) that he would be
delighted if it were so; adding that a wild goose chase was the sport he
preferred to any other.

Here he looked at Miss Vivian to the imminent peril of his self-control.
Mrs. Moon's gaze had embraced them in a common condemnation, and the
subtle sympathy of their youth linked them closer and made them one in
their intimate appreciation of her.

"Then you must be a very singular young man. I thought you doctors were
never happy until you'd found some mare's nest in people's constitutions?
You'd much better let well alone."

"Miss Quincey is very far from well," said Cautley with recovered
gravity, "and I rather fancy she has been let alone too long."

Cautley thought that he had said quite enough to alarm any old lady. And
indeed Mrs. Moon was slowly taking in the idea of disaster, and it sent
her poor wits wandering in the past. Her voice sank suddenly from
grating; antagonism to pensive garrulity.

"I've no faith in medicine," she quavered, "nor in medical men either.
Though to be sure my husband had a brother-in-law once on his wife's
side, Dr. Quincey, Dr. Arnold Quincey, Juliana's father and Louisa's. He
was a medical man. He wrote a book, I daresay you've heard of it;
_Quincey on Diseases of the Heart_ it was. But he's dead now, of one of
'em, poor man. We haven't seen a doctor for five-and-twenty years."

"Then isn't it almost time that you should see one now?" said he,
cheerfully taking his leave. "I shall look round again in the morning."

He looked round again in the morning and sat half an hour with Miss
Quincey; so she had time to take a good look at him.

He was very nice to look at, this young man. He was so clean-cut and tall
and muscular; he had such an intellectual forehead; his mouth was so
firm, you could trust it to tell no secrets; and his eyes (they were dark
and deep set) looked as if they saw nothing but Miss Quincey. Indeed, at
the moment he had forgotten all about Rhoda Vivian, and did see nothing
but the little figure in the bed looking more like a rather worn and
wizened child than a middle-aged woman. He was very gentle and
sympathetic; but for that his youth would have been terrible to her. As
it was, Miss Quincey felt a little bit in awe of this clever doctor, who
in spite of his cleverness looked so young, and not only so young but so
formidably fastidious and refined. She had not expected him to look like
that. All the clever young men she had met had displayed a noble contempt
for appearances. To be sure, Miss Quincey knew but little of the world of
men; for at St. Sidwell's the types were limited to three little
eccentric professors, and the plaster gods in the art studio. But for the
gods she might just as well have lived in a nunnery, for whenever Miss
Quincey thought of a man she thought of something like Louisa's husband,
Andrew Mackinnon, who spoke with a strong Scotch accent, and wore flannel
shirts with celluloid collars, and coats that hung about him all anyhow.
But Dr. Cautley was not in the least like Andrew Mackinnon. He had a
distinguished voice; his clothes fitted him to perfection; and his linen,
irreproachable itself, reproved her silently.

Her eyes left him suddenly and wandered about the room. She was full of
little tremors and agitations; she wished that the towels wouldn't look
so much like dish-cloths; she credited him with powers of microscopic
observation, and wondered if he had noticed the stain on the carpet and
the dust on the book-shelves, and if he would be likely to mistake the
quinine tabloids for vulgar liver pills, or her bottle of hair-wash for
hair-dye. Once released from its unnatural labours, her mind returned
instinctively to the trivial as to its home. She glanced at her hat,
perched conspicuously on the knob of the looking-glass, and a dim sense
of its imperfections came over her and vanished as it came. Then she
tried to compose herself for the verdict.

It did not come all at once. First of all he asked her a great many
questions about herself and her family, whereupon she gave him a complete
pathological story of the Moons and Quinceys. And all the time he looked
so hard at her that it was quite embarrassing. His eyes seemed to be
taking her in (no other eyes had ever performed that act of hospitality
for Miss Quincey). He pulled out a little book from his pocket and made
notes of everything she said; Miss Quincey's biography was written in
that little book (you may be sure nobody else had ever thought of writing
it). And when he had finished the biography he talked to her about her
work (nobody else had ever been the least interested in Miss Quincey's
work). Then Miss Quincey sat up in bed and became lyrical as she
described the delirious joy of decimals--recurring decimals--and the
rapture of cube-root. She herself had never got farther than cube-root;
but it was enough. Beyond that, she hinted, lay the infinite. And Dr.
Cautley laughed at her defence of the noble science. Oh yes, he could
understand its fascination, its irresistible appeal to the emotions; he
only wished to remind her that it was the most debilitating study in the
world. He refused to commit himself to any opinion as to the original
strength and magnitude of Miss Quincey's brain; he could only assure her
that the most powerful intellect in the world would break down if you
kept it perpetually doing sums in arithmetic. It was the monotony of the
thing, you see; year after year Miss Quincey had been ploughing up the
same little patch of brain. No, certainly _not_--she mustn't think of
going back to St. Sidwell's for another three months.

Three months! Impossible! It was a whole term.

Dr. Cautley scowled horribly and said that if she was ever to be fit for
cube-root and decimals again, she positively and absolutely _must_.
Whereupon Miss Quincey gave way to emotion.

To leave St. Sidwell's, abandon her post for three months, she who had
never been absent for a day! If she did that it would be all up with Miss
Quincey; a hundred eager applicants were ready to fill her empty place.
It was as if she heard the hungry, leaping pack behind her, the strong
young animals trained for the chase; they came tearing on the scent,
hunting her, treading her down.

When Rhoda Vivian looked in after morning school, she found a flushed and
embarrassed young man trying to soothe Miss Quincey, who paid not the
least attention to him; she seemed to have shrunk into her bed, and lay
there staring with dilated eyes like a hare crouched flat and trembling
in her form. From the other side of the bed Dr. Cautley's helpless and
desperate smile claimed Rhoda as his ally. It seemed to say, "For God's
sake take my part against this unreasonable woman."

Now no one (not even Miss Quincey) could realize the insecurity of Miss
Quincey's position better than Rhoda, who was fathoms deep in the
confidence of the Head. She happened to know that Miss Cursiter was only
waiting for an opportunity like this to rid herself for ever of the
little obstructive. She knew too that once they had ceased to fill their
particular notch in it, the world had no further use for people like Miss
Quincey; that she, Rhoda Vivian, belonged to the new race whose eternal
destiny was to precipitate their doom. It was the first time that Rhoda
had thought of it in that light; the first time indeed that she had
greatly concerned herself with any career beside her own. She sat for a
few minutes talking to Miss Quincey and thinking as she talked. Perhaps
she was wondering how she would like to be forty-five and incompetent; to
be overtaken on the terrible middle-way; to feel the hurrying generations
after her, their breath on her shoulders, their feet on her heels; to
have no hope; to see Mrs. Moon sitting before her, immovable and
symbolic, the image of what she must become. They were two very absurd
and diminutive figures, but they stood for a good deal.

To Cautley, Rhoda herself as she revolved these things looked significant
enough. Leaning forward, one elbow bent on her knee, her chin propped on
her hand, her lips pouting, her forehead knit, she might have been a
young and passionate Pallas, brooding tempestuously on the world.

"Miss Vivian is on my side, I see. I'll leave her to do the fighting."

And he left her.

Rhoda's first movement was to capture Miss Quincey's hand as it wildly
reconnoitred for a pocket handkerchief among the pillows.

"Don't worry about it," she said, "I'll speak to Miss Cursiter."

Dr. Cautley, enduring a perfunctory five minutes with Mrs. Moon, could
hear Miss Vivian running downstairs and the front door opening and
closing upon her. With a little haste and discretion he managed to
overtake her before she had gone very far. He stopped to give his verdict
on her friend.

She had expected him.

"Well," she asked, "it _is_ overwork, isn't it?"

"Very much overwork; and no wonder. I knew she was a St. Sidwell's woman
as soon as I saw her."

"That was clever of you. And do you always know a St. Sidwell's woman
when you see one?"

"I do; they all go like this, more or less. It seems to me that St.
Sidwell's sacrifices its women to its girls, and its girls to itself. I
don't imagine you've much to do with the place, so you won't mind my
saying so."

Rhoda smiled a little maliciously.

"You seem to take a great deal for granted. As it happens I am Classical
Mistress there."

Dr. Cautley looked at her and bit his lip. He was annoyed with himself
for his blunder and with her for being anything but Rhoda Vivian--pure
and simple.

Rhoda laughed frankly at his confusion.

"Never mind. Appearances are deceitful. I'm glad I don't look like it."

"You certainly do not. Still, Miss Quincey is a warning to anybody."

"She? She was never fit for the life."

"No. Your race is to the swift and your battle to the strong."

He was still looking at her as he spoke. She was looking straight before
her, her nostrils slightly distended, her grey eyes wide, as if she
sniffed the battle, saw the goal.

"We must make her strong," said he.

She had quickened her pace as if under a renewed impulse of energy and
will. Suddenly at the door of the College she stopped and held out her
hand.

"You will look after her well, will you not?" Her voice was resonant on
the note of appeal.

Now you could withstand Rhoda in her domineering mood if you were strong
enough and cool enough; but when she looked straight through your eyes in
that way she was irresistible. Cautley did not attempt to resist her.

He went on his way thinking how intolerable the question might have been
in some one else's mouth; how suggestive of impertinent coquetry, the
beautiful woman's assumption that he would do for her what he would not
do for insignificant Miss Quincey. She had taken it for granted that his
interest in Miss Quincey was supreme.




CHAPTER V

Healers and Regenerators


Rhoda had spoken to Miss Cursiter. Nobody ever knew what she said to
her, but the next day Miss Cursiter's secretary had the pleasure to
inform Miss Quincey that she would have leave of absence for three
months, and that her place would be kept for her.

Miss Quincey had become a person of importance. Old Martha fumbled about,
unnaturally attentive, even Mrs. Moon acknowledged Juliana's right to be
ill if her foolish mind were set on it. There was nothing active or
spontaneous in the Old Lady's dislike of her niece, it was simply a habit
she had got.

An agreeable sense of her dignity stole in on the little woman of no
account. She knew and everybody knew that hers was no vulgar illness.
It was brain exhaustion; altogether a noble and transcendental
affair; Miss Quincey was a victim of the intellectual life. In all the
five-and-twenty years she had worked there St. Sidwell's had never heard
so much about Miss Quincey's brain. And on her part Miss Quincey was
surprised to find that she had so many friends. Day after day the
teachers left their cards and sympathy; the girls sent flowers with love;
there were even messages of inquiry from Miss Cursiter. And not only
flowers and sympathy, but more solid testimonials poured in from St.
Sidwell's, parcels which by some curious coincidence contained everything
that Dr. Cautley had suggested and Miss Quincey refused on the grounds
that she "couldn't fancy it." For a long time Miss Quincey was supremely
happy in the belief that these delicacies were sent by the Head; and she
said to herself that one had only to be laid aside a little while for
one's worth to be appreciated. It was as if a veil of blessed illusion
had been spread between her and her world; and nobody knew whose fingers
had been busy in weaving it so close and fine.

Dr. Cautley came every day and always at the same time. At first he was
pretty sure to find Miss Vivian, sitting with Miss Quincey or drinking
tea in perilous intimacy with Mrs. Moon. Then came a long spell when,
time it as he would, he never saw her at all. Rhoda had taken it into her
head to choose six o'clock for her visits, and at six he was bound to be
at home for consultations. But Rhoda or no Rhoda, he kept his promise. He
was looking well after Miss Quincey. He would have done that as a matter
of course; for his worst enemies--and he had several--could not say that
Cautley ever neglected his poorer patients. Only he concentrated or
dissipated himself according to the nature of the case, giving five
minutes to one and twenty to another. When he could he gave half-hours to
Miss Quincey. He was absorbed, excited; he battled by her bedside; his
spirits went up and down with every fluctuation of her pulse; you would
have thought that Miss Quincey's case was one of exquisite interest,
rarity and charm, and that Cautley had staked his reputation on her
recovery. When he said to her in his emphatic way, "We _must_ get you
well, Miss Quincey," his manner implied that it would be a very serious
thing for the universe if Miss Quincey did not get well. When he looked
at her his eyes seemed to be taking her in, taking her in, seeing nothing
in all the world but her.

As it happened, sooner than anybody expected Miss Quincey did get well.
Mrs. Moon was the first to notice that. She hailed Juliana's recovery as
a sign of grace, of returning allegiance to the memory of Tollington
Moon.

"Now," said the Old Lady, "I hope we've seen the last of Dr. Cautley."

"Of course we have," said Miss Quincey. She said it irritably, but
everybody knows that a little temper is the surest symptom of returning
health. "What should he come for?"

"To run up his little bill, my dear. You don't imagine he comes for the
pleasure of seeing _you_?"

"I never imagine anything," said the little arithmetic teacher with some
truth.

But they had by no means seen the last of him. If the Old Lady's theory
was correct, Cautley must have been the most grossly avaricious of young
men. The length of his visits was infamous, their frequency appalling. He
kept on coming long after Miss Quincey was officially and obviously well;
and on the most trivial, the most ridiculous pretexts. It was "just to
see how she was getting on," or "because he happened to be passing," or
"to bring that book he told her about." He had prescribed a course of
light literature for Miss Quincey and seemed to think it necessary to
supply his own drugs. To be sure he brought a great many medicines that
you cannot get made up at the chemist's, insight, understanding,
sympathy, the tonic of his own virile youth; and Heaven only knows if
these things were not the most expensive.

All the time Miss Quincey was trying to keep up with the new standard
imposed on the staff. Hitherto she had laboured under obvious
disadvantages; now, in her leisurely convalescence, sated as she was with
time, she wallowed openly and wantonly in General Culture. And it seemed
that the doctor had gone in for General Culture too. He could talk to her
for ever about Shakespeare, Tennyson and Browning. Miss Quincey was
always dipping into those poets now, always drawing water from the wells
of literature. By the way, she was head over heels in debt to _Sordello_,
and was working double time to pay him off. She reported her progress
with glee. It was "only a hundred and thirty-eight more pages, Dr.
Cautley. In forty-six days I shall have finished _Sordello_."

"Then you will have done what I never did in my whole life."

It amused Cautley to talk to Miss Quincey. She wore such an air of
adventure; she was so fresh and innocent in her excursions into the
realms of gold; and when she sat handling her little bits of Tennyson
and Browning as if they had been rare nuggets recently dug up there, what
could he do but feign astonishment and interest? He had travelled
extensively in the realms of gold. He was acquainted with all the poets
and intimate with most; he knew some of them so well as to be able to
make jokes at their expense. He was at home in their society. Beside his
light-hearted intimacy Miss Cursiter's academic manner showed like the
punctilious advances of an outsider. But he was terribly modern this
young man. He served strange gods, healers and regenerators whose names
had never penetrated to St. Sidwell's. Some days he was really dreadful;
he shook his head over the _Idylls of the King_, made no secret of his
unbelief in _The Princess_, and shamelessly declared that a great deal of
_In Memoriam_ would go where Mendelssohn and the old crinolines have
gone.

Then something very much worse than that happened; Miss Quincey gave him
a copy of the "Address to the Students and Teachers of St. Sidwell's,"
and it made him laugh. She pointed out the bit about the healers and
regenerators, and refreshing yourself at the wells of literature. "That
is a beautiful passage," said Miss Quincey.

He laughed more than ever.

"Oh yes, beautiful, beautiful. They're to do it in their evenings, are
they? And when they're faint and weary with their day's work?" And he
laughed again quite loud, laughed till Mrs. Moon woke out of a doze and
started as if this world had come to an end and another one had begun. He
was very sorry, and he begged a thousand pardons; but, really, that
passage was unspeakably funny. He didn't know that Miss Cursiter had such
a rich vein of humour in her. For the life of her Miss Quincey could not
see what there was to laugh at, nor why she should be teased about
Tennyson and bantered on the subject of Browning; but she enjoyed it all
the same. He was so young; he was like a big schoolboy throwing stones
into the living wells of literature and watching for the splash; it did
her good to look at him. So she looked, smiling her starved smile and
snatching a fearful joy from his profane conversation.

There were moments when she asked herself how he came to be there at all;
he was so out-of-place somehow. The Moons and Quinceys denounced him as a
stranger and intruder; the very chairs and tables had memories,
associations that rejected him; everything in the room suggested the same
mystic antagonism; it was as if Mrs. Moon and all her household gods were
in league against him. Oddly enough this attitude of theirs heightened
her sense of intimacy with him, made him hers and no one else's for the
time. The pleasure she took in his society had some of the peculiar
private ecstasy of sin.

And Mrs. Moon wondered what the young man was going to charge for that
little visit; and what the total of his account would be. She said that
if Juliana didn't give him a hint, she would be obliged to speak to him
herself; and at that Juliana looked frightened and begged that Mrs. Moon
would do nothing of the kind. "There will be no charge for friendly
visits," said she; and she made a rapid calculation in the top of her
head. Nineteen visits at, say, seven-and-six a visit, would come to
exactly nine pounds nine and sixpence. And she smiled; possibly she
thought it was worth it.

And really those friendly visits had sometimes an ambiguous character; he
dragged his profession into them by the head and shoulders. He had left
off scribbling prescriptions, but he would tell her what to take in a
light and literary way, as if it was just part of their very interesting
conversation. Browning was bitter and bracing, he was like iron and
quinine, and by the way she had better take a little of both. Then when
he met her again he would ask, "Have you been taking any more Browning,
Miss Quincey?" and while Miss Quincey owned with a blush that she had, he
would look at her and say she wanted a change--a little Tennyson and a
lighter tonic; strychnine and arsenic was the thing.

And Mrs. Moon still wondered. "I never saw anything like the indelicacy
of that young man," said she. "You're running up a pretty long bill, I
can tell you."

Oh, yes, a long, long bill; for we pay heavily for our pleasures in this
sad world, Juliana!




CHAPTER VI

Spring Fashions


Winter had come and gone, and spring found Miss Quincey back again at St.
Sidwell's, the place of illumination; a place that knew rather less of
her than it had known before. After five-and-twenty years of constant
attendance she had only to be away three months to be forgotten. The new
staff was not greatly concerned with Miss Quincey; it was always busy. As
for the girls, they were wholly given over to the new worship of Rhoda
Vivian; impossible to rouse them to the faintest interest in Miss
Quincey.

Her place had been kept for her by Rhoda. Rhoda had put out the strong
young arm that she was so proud of, and held back for a little while Miss
Quincey's fate; and now at all costs she was determined to stand between
her and the truth. So Miss Quincey never knew that it was Rhoda who was
responsible for the delicate attentions she had received during her
illness; Rhoda who had bought and sent off the presents from St.
Sidwell's; Rhoda who had conceived that pretty little idea of flowers
"with love"; and Rhoda who had inspired the affectionate messages of the
staff. (The Classical Mistress had to draw most extravagantly on her
popularity in order to work that fraud.) Rhoda had taken her place, and
it was not in Rhoda's power to give it back to her. But Miss Quincey
never saw it; for a subtler web than that of Rhoda's spinning was woven
about her eyes.

Possibly in some impressive and inapparent way her unhappy little
favourite Laura Lazarus may have been glad to see her back again, though
the two queer creatures exchanged no greeting more intimate than an
embarrassed smile. In this rapidly-advancing world the Mad Hatter alone
remained where Miss Quincey had left her. She explained at some length
how the figures twisted themselves round in her head and would never stay
the same for a minute together. Miss Quincey listened patiently to this
explanation; she was more indulgent, less persistent than before.

Under that veil of illusion she herself had become communicative. She
went up and down between the classes and poured out her soul as to an
audience all interest, all sympathy. There was a certain monotony about
her conversation since the epoch of her illness. It was, "Oh yes, I am
quite well now, thank you. Dr. Cautley is so very clever. Dr. Cautley has
taken splendid care of me. Dr. Cautley has been so very kind and
attentive, I think it would be ungrateful of me if I had not got well.
Dr. Cautley--" Perhaps it was just as well for Miss Quincey that the
staff were too busy to attend to her. The most they noticed was that in
the matter of obstruction Miss Quincey was not quite so precipitate as
she had been. She offended less by violent contact and rebound than by
drifting absently into the processions and getting mixed up with them.

Rhoda saw a change in her; Rhoda was never too busy to spare a thought
for Miss Quincey. "Yes," she said, "you _are_ better. Your eyes are
brighter."

"That," said Miss Quincey, with simple pride "is the arsenic. Dr. Cautley
is giving me arsenic."

Now arsenic (like happiness) has some curious properties. It looks most
innocently like sugar, which it is not. A little of it goes a long way
and undoubtedly acts as a tonic; a little more may undermine the stoutest
constitution, and a little too much of it is a deadly poison and kills
you. As yet Miss Quincey had only taken it in microscopic doses.
Something had changed her; it may have been happiness, it may have been
illusion; whatever it was Miss Quincey thought it was the arsenic--if it
was not the weather, the very remarkable weather. For that year Spring
came with a burst.

Indeed there is seldom anything shy and tentative, anything obscure and
gradual about the approaches of the London Spring. Spring is always in a
hurry there, for she knows that she has but a short time before her; she
has to make an impression and make it at once; so she works careless of
delicacies and shades, relying on broad telling strokes, on strong
outlines and stinging contrasts. She is like a clever artist handicapped
with her materials. Only a patch of grass, a few trees and the sky; but
you wake one morning and the boughs are drawn black and bold against the
blue; and leaves are sharp as emeralds against the black; and the grass
in the squares and the shrubs in the gardens repeat the same brilliant
extravaganza; and it is all very eccentric and beautiful and daring. That
is the way of a Cockney Spring, and when you are used to it the charm is
undeniable.

One day Miss Quincey walked in Camden Town and noted the singular
caprices of the Spring. Strange longings, freaks of the blood and brain,
stirred within her at this bursting of the leaf. They led her into Camden
Road, into the High Street, to the great shops where the virginal young
fashions and the artificial flowers are. At this season Hunter's window
blooms out in blouses of every imaginable colour and texture and form.
There was one, a silk one, of so discreet and modest a mauve that you
could have called it lavender. To say that it caught Miss Quincey's eye
would be to wrong that maidenly garment. There was nothing blatant,
nothing importunate in its behaviour. Gently, imperceptibly, it stole
into the field of vision and stood there, delicately alluring. It could
afford to wait. It had not even any pattern to speak of, only an
indefinable white something, a dice, a diaper, a sprig. It was the sprig
that touched her, tempted her.

Amongst the poorer ranks of Miss Quincey's profession the sumptuary laws
are exceptionally severe. It is a crime, a treachery, to spend money on
mere personal adornment. You are clothed, not for beauty's sake, but
because the rigour of the climate and of custom equally require it. Miss
Quincey's conscience pricked her all the time that she stood looking in
at Hunter's window. Never before had she suffered so terrible a
solicitation of the senses. It was as if all those dim and germinal
desires had burst and blossomed in this sinful passion for a blouse. She
resisted, faltered, resisted; turned away and turned back again. The
blouse sat immovable on its wooden bust, absolute in its policy of
reticence. Miss Quincey had just decided that it had a thought too much
mauve in it, and was most successfully routing desire by depreciation of
its object when a shopman stepped on to the stage, treading airily among
the gauzes and the flowers. There was no artifice about the young man; it
was in the dreamiest abstraction that he clasped that fair form round the
collar and turned it to the light. It shuddered like a living thing; its
violent mauve vanished in silver grey. The effect was irresistible. Miss
Quincey was tempted beyond all endurance; and she fell. Once in
possession of the blouse, its price, a guinea, paid over the counter,
Miss Quincey was all discretion. She carried her treasure home in a
pasteboard box concealed under her cape; lest its shameless arrival in
Hunter's van should excite scandal and remark.

That night, behind a locked door, Miss Quincey sat up wrestling and
battling with her blouse. To Miss Quincey in the watches of the night it
seemed that a spirit of obstinate malevolence lurked in that deceitful
garment. Like all the things in Hunter's shop, it was designed for
conventional well-rounded womanhood. It repudiated the very idea of Miss
Quincey; in every fold it expressed its contempt for her person; its
collar was stiff with an invincible repugnance. Miss Quincey had to take
it in where it went out, and let it out where it went in, to pinch, pull,
humour and propitiate it before it would consent to cling to her
diminished figure. When all was done she wrapped it in tissue paper and
hid it away in a drawer out of sight, for the very thought of it
frightened her. But when next she went to look at it she hardly knew it
again. The malignity seemed all smoothed out of it; it lay there with its
meek sleeves folded, the very picture of injured innocence and reproach.
Miss Quincey thought she might get reconciled to it in time. A day might
even come when she would be brave enough to wear it.

Not many days after, Miss Quincey might have been seen coming out of St.
Sidwell's with a reserved and secret smile playing about her face; so
secret and so reserved, that nobody, not even Miss Quincey, could tell
what it was playing at.

Miss Quincey was meditating an audacity.

That night she took pen and paper up to her bedroom and sat down to write
a little note. Sat down to write it and got up again; wrote it and tore
it up, and sat down to write another. This she left open for such
emendations and improvements as should occur to her in the night. Perhaps
none did occur; perhaps she realized that a literary work loses its force
and spontaneity in conscious elaboration; anyhow the note was put up just
as it was and posted first thing in the morning at the pillar-box on her
way to St. Sidwell's.

Old Martha was cleaning the steps as Miss Quincey went out; but Miss
Quincey carefully avoided looking Martha's way. Like the ostrich she
supposed that if she did not see Martha, Martha could not see her. But
Martha had seen her. She saw everything. She had seen the note open on
Miss Juliana's table by the window in the bedroom when she was drawing up
the blind; she had seen the silk blouse lying in its tissue paper when
she was tidying Miss Juliana's drawer; and that very afternoon she
discovered a certain cake deposited by Miss Juliana in the dining-room
cupboard with every circumstance of secrecy and disguise.

And Martha shook her old head and put that and that together, the blouse,
the cake and the letter; though what connection there could possibly be
between the three was more than Miss Juliana could have told her. Even to
Martha the association was so singular that it pointed to some painful
aberration of intellect on Miss Juliana's part.

As in duty bound, Martha brought up her latest discovery and laid it
before Mrs. Moon. Beyond that she said nothing, indeed there was nothing
to be said. The cake (it was of the expensive pound variety, crowned with
a sugar turret and surrounded with almond fortifications) spoke for
itself, though in an unknown language.

"What does that mean, Martha?"

"Miss Juliana, m'm, I suppose."

Martha pursed up her lips, suppressing the impertinence of her own
private opinion and awaiting her mistress's with respect.

No doubt she would have heard it but that Miss Juliana happened to come
in at that moment, and Mrs. Moon's attention was distracted by the really
amazing spectacle presented by her niece. And Miss Juliana, who for
five-and-twenty years had never appeared in anything but frowsy drab or
dingy grey, Miss Juliana flaunting in silk at four o'clock in the
afternoon, Miss Juliana, all shining and shimmering like a silver and
mauve chameleon, was a sight to take anybody's breath away. Martha dearly
loved a scene, for to be admitted to a scene was to be admitted to her
mistress's confidence; but the excellent woman knew her place, and before
that flagrant apparition she withdrew as she would have withdrawn from a
family scandal.

Miss Quincey advanced timidly, for of course she knew that she had to
cross that room under fire of criticism; but on the whole she was less
abject than she might have been, for at the moment she was thinking of
Dr. Cautley. He had actually accepted her kind invitation, and that fact
explained and justified her; besides, she carried her Browning in her
hand, and it made her feel decidedly more natural.

Mrs. Moon restrained her feelings until her niece had moved about a bit,
and sat down by her enemy the cabinet, and presented herself in every
possible aspect. The Old Lady's eyes lost no movement of the curious
figure; when she had taken it in, grasped it in all its details, she
began.

"Well, I declare, Juliana"--(five-and-twenty years ago she used to call
her "Jooley," keeping the full name to mark disapproval or displeasure.
Now it was always Juliana, so that Mrs. Moon seemed to be permanently
displeased)--"whatever possessed you to make such an exhibition of
yourself? (And will you draw your chair back--you're incommoding the
cabinet.) I never saw anything so unsuitable and unbecoming in _my_
life--at this hour of the day too. Why, you're just like a whirligig out
of a pantomime. If you think you can carry off that kind of thing you're
very much mistaken."

That did seem to be Miss Quincey's idea--to carry it off; to brazen it
out; to sit down and read Browning as if there was nothing at all
remarkable in her personal appearance.

"And to choose lilac of all things in the world! You never could stand
that shade at the best of times. Lilac! Why, I declare if it isn't
mauve-pink."

"Mauve-pink!" She had given voice to the fear that lay hidden in Miss
Quincey's heart. A sensitive culprit caught in humiliating guilt could
not look more cowed with self-consciousness than Miss Quincey at that
word. Criminal and crime, Miss Quincey and her blouse, seemed linked in
an awful bond of mutual abhorrence. The blouse shivered as Miss Quincey
trembled in nervous agitation; as she went red and yellow by turns it
paled and flushed its painful pink. They were blushing for each other.
For it _was_ mauve-pink; she could see that well enough now.

"Turn round!"

Miss Quincey turned round.

"Much too young for you! Why, bless me, if it doesn't throw up every bit
of yellow in your face! If you don't believe me, look in the glass."

Miss Quincey looked in the glass.

It _did_ throw up the yellow tints. It threw everything up to her. If she
had owned to a little fear of it before, it affected her now with
positive terror. The thing was young, much too young; and it was brutal
and violent in its youth. It was possessed by a perfect demon of
juvenility; it clashed and fought with every object in the room; it made
them all look old, ever so old, and shabby. And as Miss Quincey stood
with it before the looking glass, it flared up and told her to her face
that she was forty-five--forty-five, and looked fifty.

"Louisa," murmured the Old Lady, "was the only one of our family who
could stand pink."

"I will give it to Louisa," cried Miss Quincey with a touch of passion.

"Tchee--tchee!" At that idea the Old Lady chuckled in supreme derision.
"Capers and nonsense! Louisa indeed! Much good it'll do Louisa when
you've been and nipped all the shape out of it to suit yourself. However
you came to be so skimpy and flat-chested is a mystery to me. All the
Quinceys were tall, your uncle Tollington was tall, your father, he was
tall; and your sister, well; I will say this for Louisa, she's as tall as
any of 'em, and she has a _bust_."

"Yes, I daresay it would have been very becoming to Louisa," said Miss
Quincey humbly. "I--I thought it was lavender."

"Lavender or no lavender, I'm surprised at you--throwing money away on a
thing like that."

"I can afford it," said Miss Quincey with the pathetic dignity of the
turning worm.

Now it was not worm-like subtlety that suggested that reply. It was
positive inspiration. By those simple words Juliana had done something to
remove the slur she was always casting on a certain character. Tollington
Moon had not managed his nieces' affairs so badly after all if one of
them could afford herself extravagances of that sort. The blouse
therefore might be taken as a sign and symbol of his innermost integrity.
So Mrs. Moon was content with but one more parting shot.

"I don't say you can't afford the money, I say you can't afford the
colour--not at your time of life."

Two tears that had gathered in Miss Quincey's eyes now fell on the silk,
deepening the mauve-pink to a hideous magenta.

"I was deceived in the colour," she said as she turned from her
tormentor.

She toiled upstairs to the back bedroom and took it off. She could never
wear it. It was waste--sheer waste; for no other woman could wear it
either; certainly not Louisa; she had made it useless for Louisa by
paring it down to her own ridiculous dimensions. Louisa was and always
had been a head and shoulders taller than she was; and she had a bust.

So Miss Quincey came down meek and meagre in the old dress that she
served her for so many seasons, and she looked for peace. But that
terrible old lady had not done with her yet, and the worst was still to
come.

No longer having any grievance against the blouse, Mrs. Moon was
concentrating her attention on that more mysterious witness to Juliana's
foolishness--the Cake.

"And now," said she, pointing as she might have pointed to a monument,
"will you kindly tell me the meaning of this?"

"I expect--perhaps--it is very likely--that Dr. Cautley will come in to
tea this afternoon."

The Old Lady peered at Miss Quincey and her eyes were sharp as needles,
needles that carried the thread of her thought pretty plainly too, but it
was too fine a thread for Miss Quincey to see. Besides she was looking
at the cake and almost regretting that she had bought it, lest he should
think that it was eating too many of such things that had made her ill.

"And what put that notion into your head, I should like to know?"

"He has written to say so."

"Juliana--you don't mean to tell me that he invited himself?"

"Well, no. That is--it was an answer to my invitation."

"_Your_ invitation? You were not content to have that man poking his nose
in here at all hours of the day and night, but you must go out of your
way to send him invitations?"

"Dr. Cautley has been most kind and attentive, and--I thought--it was
time we paid him some little attention."

"Attention indeed! I should be very sorry to let any young man suppose
that I paid any attention to him. I should have thought you'd have had a
little more maidenly reserve. Besides, you know perfectly well that I
don't enjoy my tea unless we have it by ourselves."

Oh yes, she knew; they had been having it that way for five-and-twenty
years.

"As for that cake," continued the Old Lady, "it's ridiculous. Look at it.
Why, you might just as well have ordered wedding cake at once. I tell you
what it is, Juliana, you're getting quite flighty."

Flighty? No mind but a feminine one, grown up and trained under the
shadow of St. Sidwell's, could conceive the nature of Miss Quincey's
feelings on being told that she was flighty. She herself made no attempt
to express them. She sat down and gasped, clutching her Browning to give
herself a sense of moral support. All the rest was intelligible, she had
understood and accepted it; but to be told that she, a teacher in St.
Sidwell's, was flighty--the charge was simply confusing to the intellect,
and it left her dumb.

Flighty? When Martha came in with the tea-tray and she had to order a
knife for the cake and an extra cup for Dr. Cautley, she saw Mrs. Moon
looking at Martha, and Martha looking at Mrs. Moon, and they seemed to be
saying to each other, "How flighty Miss Juliana is getting."

Flighty? The idea afflicted her to such a degree that when Dr. Cautley
came she had not a word to say to him.

For a whole week she had looked forward to this tea-drinking with tremors
of joyous expectancy and palpitations of alarm. It was to have been one
of those rare and solitary occasions that can only come once in a blue
moon. The lump sum of pleasure that other people get spread for them more
or less thickly over the surface of the years, she meant to take once for
all, packed and pressed into one rapturous hour, one Saturday afternoon
from four-thirty to five-thirty, the memory of it to be stored up and
economised so as to last her life-time, thus justifying the original
expense. She knew that success was doubtful, because of the uncertainty
of things in general and of the Old Lady's temper in particular. And then
she had to stake everything on his coming; and the chances, allowing for
the inevitable claims on a doctor's time, were a thousand to one against
it. She had nothing to go upon but the delicate incalculable balance of
events. And now, when the blue moon had risen, the impossible thing
happened, and the man had come, he might just as well, in fact a great
deal better, have stayed away. The whole thing was a waste and failure
from beginning to end. The tea was a waste and a failure, for Martha
would bring it in a quarter of an hour too soon; the cake was a waste
and a failure, for nobody ate any of it; and she was a waste and a
failure--she hardly knew why. She cut her cake with trembling fingers and
offered it, blushing as the gash in its side revealed the thoroughly
unwholesome nature of its interior. She felt ashamed of its sugary
artifice, its treacherously festive air, and its embarrassing affinity to
bride's-cake. No wonder that he had no appetite for cake, and that Miss
Quincey had no appetite for conversation. He tried to tempt her with bits
of Browning, but she refused them all. She had lost her interest in
Browning.

He thought, "She is too tired to talk," and left half an hour sooner than
he had intended.

She thought, "He is offended. Or else--he thinks me flighty."

And that was all.




CHAPTER VII

Under a Blue Moon


It was early on another Saturday evening, a fortnight after that
disastrous one, and Miss Quincey was taking the air in Primrose Hill
Park. She was walking to keep herself warm, for the breeze was brisk and
cool. There was a little stir and flutter in the trees and a little stir
and flutter in her heart, for she had caught sight of Dr. Cautley in the
distance. He was coming round the corner of one of the intersecting
walks, coming at a frantic pace, with the tails of his frock-coat waving
in the wind.

He pulled himself up as he neared her and held out a friendly hand.

"That's right, Miss Quincey. I'm delighted to see you out. You really are
getting strong again, aren't you?"

"Yes, thank you--very well, very strong."

Was it her fancy, or did his manner imply that he wanted to sink that
humiliating episode of the tea-party and begin again where they had left
off? It might be so; his courtesy was so infinitely subtle. He had
actually turned and was walking her way now.

"And how is _Sordello?_" he asked, the tone of his inquiry suggesting
that there was something seriously the matter with _Sordello_.

"Getting on. Only fifty-six pages more."

"You _are_ advancing, Miss Quincey--gaining on him by leaps and bounds.
You're not overdoing it, I hope?"

"Oh no, I read a little in the evenings--I have to keep up to the
standard of the staff. Indeed," she added, turning with a sudden suicidal
panic, "I ought to be at home and working now."

"What? On a half-holiday? It _is_ a half-holiday?"

"For some people--not for me."

His eyes--she could not be mistaken--were taking her in as they had done
before.

"And why not for you? Do you know, you're looking horribly tired. Suppose
we sit down a bit."

Miss Quincey admitted that it would be very nice.

"Hadn't you better put your cape on--the wind's changing."

She obeyed him.

"That's hardly a thick enough wrap for this weather, is it?"

She assured him it was very warm, very comfortable.

"Do you know what I would like to do with you, Miss Quincey?"

"No."

"I should like to pack you off somewhere--anywhere--for another three
months' holiday."

"Another three months! What would my pupils do, and what would Miss
Cursiter say?"

It was part of the illusion that she conceived herself to be
indispensable to Miss Cursiter.

"Confound Miss Cursiter!"

Evidently he felt strongly on the subject of Miss Cursiter. He confounded
her with such energy that the seat provided for them by the London County
Council vibrated under it. He stared sulkily out over the park a moment;
he gave his cuffs a hitch as if he were going to fight somebody, and
then--he let himself go.

At a blind headlong pace, lashing himself up as he went, falling
furiously on civilization, the social order, women's education and
women's labour, the system that threw open all doors to them, and let
them be squeezed and trampled down together in the crush. He was ready to
take the nineteenth century by the throat and strangle it; he squared
himself against the universe.

"What," said Miss Quincey, "do you not believe in equal chances for men
and women?" She was eager to redeem herself from the charge of
flightiness.

"Equal chances? I daresay. But not unequal work. The work must be unequal
if the conditions are unequal. It's not the same machine. To turn a woman
on to a man's work is like trying to run an express train by clock-work,
with a pendulum for a piston, and a hairspring for steam."

Miss Quincey timidly hinted that the question was a large one, that there
was another side to it.

"Of course there is; there are fifty sides to it; but there are too many
people looking at the other forty-nine for my taste. I loathe a crowd."

Stirred by a faint _esprit de corps_ Miss Quincey asked him if he did not
believe in the open door for women?

He said, "It would be kinder to shut it in their faces."

She threw in a word about the women's labour market--the enormous demand.

He said that only meant that women's labour could be bought cheap and
sold dear.

She sighed.

"But women must do something--surely you see the necessity?"

He groaned.

"Oh yes. It's just the necessity that I do see--the damnable necessity. I
only protest against the preventable evil. If you must turn women into so
many machines, for Heaven's sake treat them like machines. You don't work
an engine when it's undergoing structural alterations--because, you know,
you can't. Your precious system recognises no differences. It sets up the
same absurd standard for every woman, the brilliant genius and the
average imbecile. Which is not only morally odious but physiologically
fatuous. There must be one of two results--either the average imbeciles
are sacrificed by thousands to a dozen or so of brilliant geniuses, or
it's the other way about."

"Whichever way it is," said Miss Quincey, with her back, so to speak, to
the wall, "it's all part of civilization, of our intellectual progress."

"They're not the same thing. And it isn't civilization, it's intellectual
savagery. It isn't progress either, it's a blind rush, an inhuman
scrimmage--the very worst form of the struggle for existence. It doesn't
even mean survival of the intellectually fittest. It develops
monstrosities. It defeats its own ends by brutalising the intellect
itself. And the worst enemies of women are women. I swear, if I were a
woman, I'd rather do without an education than get it at that price. Or
I'd educate myself. After all, that's the way of the fittest--the one in
a thousand."

"Do you not approve of educated women then?" Miss Quincey was quite
shaken by this cataclysmal outbreak, this overturning and shattering of
the old beacons and landmarks.

He stared into the distance.

"Oh yes, I approve of them when they are really educated--not when
they are like that. You won't get the flower of womanhood out of a
forcing-house like St. Sidwell's; though I daresay it produces pumpkins
to perfection."

What did he say to Miss Vivian then? Miss Quincey could not think badly
of a system that could produce women like Miss Vivian.

A cloud came over his angry eyes as they stared into the distance.

"That's it. It hasn't produced them. They have produced it."

Miss Quincey smiled. Evidently consistency was not to be expected of this
young man. He was so young, and so irresponsible and passionate. She
admired him for it; and not only for that; she admired him--she could not
say exactly why, but she thought it was because he had such a beautiful,
bumpy, intellectual forehead. And as she sat beside him and shook to that
vibrating passion of his, she felt as if the blue moon had risen again
and was shining through the trees of the park; and she was happy,
absolutely, indubitably happy and safe; for she felt that he was her
friend and her protector and the defender of her cause. It was for her
that he raged and maddened and behaved himself altogether so
unreasonably.

Now as it happened, Cautley did champion certain theories which Miss
Cursiter, when she met them, denounced as physiologist's fads. But it was
not they, nor yet Miss Quincey, that accounted for his display of
feeling. He was angry because he wanted to come to a certain
understanding with the Classical Mistress; to come to it at once; and the
system kept him waiting. It was robbing him of Rhoda, and Rhoda of her
youth. Meanwhile Rhoda was superbly happy at St. Sidwell's, playing at
being Pallas Athene; as for checking her midway in her brilliant career,
that was not to be thought of for an instant.

The flower of womanhood--it was the flower of life. He had never seen a
woman so invincibly and superlatively alive. Cautley deified life; and in
his creed, which was simplicity itself, life and health were one; health
the sole source of strength, intelligence and beauty, of all divine and
perfect possibilities. At least that was how he began. But three years'
practice in London had somewhat strained the faith of the young devotee.
He soon found himself in the painful position of a priest who no longer
believes in his deity; overheard himself asking whether health was not an
unattainable ideal; then declaring that life itself was all a matter of
compromise; finally coming to the conclusion that the soul of things was
Neurosis.

Beyond that he refused to commit himself to any theory of the universe.
He even made himself unpleasant. A clerical patient would approach him
with conciliatory breadth, and say: "I envy you, Cautley; I envy your
marvellous experience. Your opportunities are greater than mine. And
sometimes, do you know, I think you see deeper into the work of the
Maker." And Cautley would shrug his shoulders and smile in the good man's
face, and say, "The Maker! I can only tell you I'm tired of mending the
work of the Maker." Yet the more he doubted the harder he worked; though
his world spun round and round, shrieking like a clock running down, and
he had persuaded himself that all he could do was to wind up the crazy
wheels for another year or so. Which all meant that Cautley was working a
little too hard and running down himself. He had begun to specialize in
gynecology and it increased his scepticism.

Then suddenly, one evening, when he least looked for it, least wanted it,
he saw his divinity incarnate. Rhoda had appealed to him as the supreme
expression of Nature's will to live. That was the instantaneous and
visible effect of her. Rhoda was the red flower on the tree of life.

At St. Sidwell's, that great forcing-house, they might grow some
vegetables to perfection; whether it was orchids or pumpkins he neither
knew nor cared; but he defied them to produce anything like that. He was
sorry for the vegetables, the orchids and the pumpkins; and he was sorry
for Miss Quincey, who was neither a pumpkin nor an orchid, but only a
harmless little withered leaf. Not a pleasant leaf, the sort that goes
dancing along, all crisp and curly, in the arms of the rollicking wind;
but the sort that the same wind kicks into a corner, to lie there till it
rots and comes in handy as leaf mould for the forcing-house. Rhoda's
friend was not like Rhoda; yet because the leaf may distantly suggest the
rose, he liked to sit and talk to her and think about the most beautiful
woman in the world. To any other man conversation with Miss Quincey would
have been impossible; for Miss Quincey in normal health was uninteresting
when she was not absurd. But to Cautley at all times she was simply
heart-rending.

For this young man with the irritable nerves and blasphemous temper had
after all a divine patience at the service of women, even the foolish and
hysterical; because like their Maker he knew whereof they were made. This
very minute the queer meta-physical thought had come to him that somehow,
in the infinite entanglement of things, such women as Miss Quincey were
perpetually being sacrificed to such women as Rhoda Vivian. It struck him
that Nature had made up for any little extra outlay in one direction by
cruel pinching in another. It was part of her rigid economy. She was not
going to have any bills running up against her at the other end of the
universe. Nature had indulged in Rhoda Vivian and she was making Miss
Quincey pay.

He wondered if that notion had struck Rhoda Vivian too, and if she were
trying to make up for it. He had noticed that Miss Quincey had the power
(if you could predicate power of such a person), a power denied to him,
of drawing out the woman-hood of the most beautiful woman in the world;
some infinite tenderness in Rhoda answered to the infinite absurdity in
her. He was not sure that her attitude to Miss Quincey was not the most
beautiful thing about her. He had begun by thinking about the colour of
Rhoda's eyes. He could not for the life of him remember whether they were
blue or green, till something (Miss Quincey's eyes perhaps) reminded him
that they were grey, pure grey, without a taint of green or a shadow of
blue in them. That was what his mind was running on as he looked into the
distance and Miss Quincey imagined that his bumpy intellectual forehead
was bulging with great thoughts. And now Miss Quincey supplied a
convenient pivot for the wild gyrations of his wrath. He got up and with
his hands behind his back he seemed to be lashing himself into a fury
with his coat-tail.

"The whole thing is one-sided and artificial and absurd. Bad enough for
men, but fatal for women. Any system that unfits them for their proper
functions--"

"And do we know--have we decided--yet--what they are?" Miss Quincey was
anxious to sustain her part in the dialogue with credit.

He stared, not at the distance but at her.

"Why, surely," he said more gently, "to be women first--to be wives and
mothers."

She drew her cape a little closer round her and turned from him with
half-shut eyes. She seemed at once to be protecting herself against
his theory and blinding her sight to her own perishing and thwarted
woman-hood.

"All Nature is against it," he said.

"Nature?" she repeated feebly.

"Yes, Nature; and she'll go her own way in spite of all the systems that
ever were. Don't you know---you are a teacher, so you ought to know--that
overstrain of the higher faculties is sometimes followed by astonishing
demonstrations on the part of Nature?"

Miss Quincey replied that no cases of the kind had come under _her_
notice.

"Well--your profession ought to go hand-in-hand with mine. If you only
saw the half of what we see--But you only see the process; we get the
results. By the way I must go and look at some of them."

His words echoed madly in a feverish little brain, "Ought to
go--hand-in-hand--hand-in-hand with mine."

"Nature can be very cruel," said she.

Something in her tone recalled him from his flight. He stood looking down
at her, thoughtful and pitiful. "And Nature can be very kind; kinder than
we are. You are a case in point. Nature is trying to make you well
against your will. A little more rest--a little more exercise--a little
more air--"

She smiled. Yes, a little more of all the things she wanted and had never
had. That was what her smile said in its soft and deprecating bitterness.

He held out his hand, and she too rose, shivering a little in her thin
dress.

She was the first to hurry away.

He looked after her small figure, noted her nervous gait and the agitated
movement of her hand as the streamers on her poor cape flapped and
fluttered, the sport of the unfeeling wind.




CHAPTER VIII

A Painful Misunderstanding


And now, on early evenings and Saturday afternoons when the weather was
fine, Miss Quincey was to be found in Primrose Hill Park. Not that
anybody ever came to look for Miss Quincey. Nevertheless, whether she was
walking up and down the paths or sitting on a bench, Miss Quincey had a
certain expectant air, as if at any moment Dr. Cautley might come tearing
round the corner with his coat-tails flying, or as if she might look up
and find him sitting beside her and talking to her. But he did not come.
There are some histories that never repeat themselves.

And he had never called since that day--Miss Quincey remembered it well;
it was Saturday the thirteenth of March. April and May went by; she had
not seen him now for more than two months; and she began to think there
must be a reason for it.

At last she saw him; she saw him twice running. Once in the park where
they had sat together, and once in the forked road that leads past that
part of St. Sidwell's where Miss Cursiter and Miss Vivian lived in state.
Each time he was walking very fast as usual, and he looked at her, but he
never raised his hat; she spoke, but he passed her without a word. And
yet he had recognised her; there could be no possible doubt of it.

Depend upon it there was a reason for _that_. Miss Quincey was one of
those innocent people who believe that every variety of human behaviour
must have a reason (as if only two months ago she had not been favoured
with the spectacle of an absolutely unreasonable young man). To be sure
it was not easy to find one for conduct so strange and unprecedented, and
in any case Miss Quincey's knowledge of masculine motives was but small.
Taken by itself it might have passed without any reason, as an oversight,
a momentary lapse; but coupled with his complete abandonment of Camden
Street North it looked ominous indeed. Not that her faith in Bastian
Cautley wavered for an instant. Because Bastian Cautley was what he was,
he could never be guilty of spontaneous discourtesy; on the other hand,
she had seen that he could be fierce enough on provocation; therefore,
she argued, he had some obscure ground of offence against her.

Miss Quincey passed a sleepless night reasoning about the reason, a
palpitating never-ending night, without a doze or a dream in it or so
much as the winking of an eyelid. She reasoned about it for a week
between the classes, and in her spare time (when she had any) in the
evening (thus running into debt to _Sordello_ again). At the end of the
week Miss Quincey's mind seemed to have become remarkably lucid; every
thought in it ground to excessive subtlety in the mill of her logic. She
saw it all clearly. There had been some misunderstanding, some terrible
mistake. She had forfeited his friendship through a blunder nameless but
irrevocable. Once or twice she wondered if Mrs. Moon could be at the
bottom of it--or Martha. Had her aunt carried out her dreadful threat of
giving him a hint to send in his account? And had the hint implied that
for the future all accounts with him were closed? Had he called on Mrs.
Moon and been received with crushing hostility? Or had Martha permitted
herself to say that she, Miss Quincey, was out when perhaps he knew for a
positive fact that she was in? But she soon dismissed these conjectures
as inadequate and fell back on her original hypothesis.

And all the time the Old Lady's eyes, and her voice too, were sharper
than ever; from the corner where she dreamed she watched Miss Quincey
incessantly between the dreams. At times the Old Lady was shaken with
terrible and mysterious mirth. Bastian Cautley began to figure
fantastically in her conversation. Her ideas travelled by slow trains of
association that started from nowhere but always arrived at Bastian
Cautley as a terminus. If Juliana had a headache Mrs. Moon supposed that
she wanted that young man to be dancing attendance on her again; if
Juliana sighed she declared that Dr. Cautley was a faithless swain who
had forsaken Juliana; if Martha brought in the tea-tray she wondered when
Dr. Cautley was coming back for another slice of Juliana's wedding-cake.
Mrs. Moon referred to a certain abominable piece of confectionery now
crumbling away on a shelf in the sideboard, where, with a breach in its
side and its sugar turret in ruins, it seemed to nod at Miss Quincey with
all sorts of satirical suggestions. And when Louisa sent her accounts of
Teenie who lisped in German, Alexander who wrote Latin letters to his
father, and Mildred who refused to read the New Testament in anything but
Greek, and Miss Quincey remarked that if she had children she wouldn't
bring them up so, the Old Lady laughed--"Tchee--Tchee! We all know about
old maids' children." Miss Quincey said nothing to that; but she hardened
her heart against Louisa's children, and against Louisa's husband and
Louisa. She couldn't think how Louisa could have married such a dreadful
little man as Andrew Mackinnon, with his unmistakable accent and
problematical linen. The gentle creature who had never said a harsh word
to anybody in her life became mysteriously cross and captious. She
hardened her heart even to little Laura Lazarus.

And one morning when she came upon the Mad Hatter in her corner of the
class-room, and found her adding two familiar columns of figures together
and adding them all wrong, Miss Quincey was very cross and very captious
indeed. The Mad Hatter explained at more length than ever that the
figures twisted themselves about; they wouldn't stay still a minute so
that she could hold them; they were always going on and on, turning over
and over, and growing, growing, till there were millions, billions,
trillions of them; oh, they were wonderful things those figures; you
could go on watching them for ever if you were sharp enough; you could
even--here Laura lowered her voice in awe of her own conception, for
Laura was a mystic, a seer, a metaphysician, what you will--you could
even think with them, if you knew how; in short you could do anything
with them but turn them into sums. And as all this was very confusing to
the intellect Miss Quincey became crosser than ever. And while Miss
Quincey quivered all over with irritability, the Mad Hatter paid no heed
whatever to her instructions, but thrust forward a small yellow face that
was all nose and eyes, and gazed at Miss Quincey like one possessed by a
spirit of divination.

"Have you got a headache, Miss Quincey?" she inquired on hearing herself
addressed for the third time as "Stupid child!"

Miss Quincey relied tartly that no, she had not got a headache. The Mad
Hatter appeared to be absorbed in tracing rude verses on her rough
notebook with a paralytic pencil.

"I'm sorry; because then you must be unhappy. When people are cross," she
continued, "it means one of two things. Either their heads ache or they
are unhappy. You must be very unhappy. I know all about it." The
paralytic pencil wavered and came to a full stop. "You like somebody, and
so somebody has made you unhappy."

But for the shame of it, Miss Quincey could have put her head down on the
desk and cried as she had seen the Mad Hatter cry over her sums, and for
the same reason; because she could not put two and two together.

And what Mrs. Moon saw, what Martha saw, what the Mad Hatter divined with
her feverish, precocious brain, Rhoda Vivian could not fail to see. It
was Dr. Cautley's business to look after Miss Quincey in her illness, and
it was Rhoda's to keep an eye on her in her recovery, and instantly
report the slightest threatening of a break-down. Miss Quincey's somewhat
eccentric behaviour filled her with misgivings; and in order to
investigate her case at leisure, she chose the first afternoon when Miss
Cursiter was not at home to ask the little arithmetic teacher to lunch.

After Rhoda's lunch, soothed with her sympathy and hidden, not to say
extinguished, in an enormous chair, Miss Quincey was easily worked into
the right mood for confidences; indeed she was in that state of mind when
they rush out of their own accord in the utter exhaustion of the will.

"Are you sure you are perfectly well?" so Rhoda began her inquiry.

"Perfectly, perfectly--in myself," said Miss Quincey, "I think,
perhaps--that is, sometimes I'm a little afraid that taking so much
arsenic may have disagreed with me. You know it is a deadly poison. But
I've left it off lately, so I ought to be better--unless perhaps I'm
feeling the want of it."

"You are not worrying about St. Sidwell's--about your work?"

"It's not that--not that. But to tell you the truth, I _am_ worried,
Rhoda. For some reason or other, my own fault, no doubt, I have lost a
friend. It's a hard thing," said Miss Quincey, "to lose a friend."

"Oh, I am sure--Do you mean Miss Cursiter?"

"No, I do not mean Miss Cursiter."

"Do you mean--me then? Not me?"

"You, dear child? Never. To be plain--this is in confidence, Rhoda--I am
speaking of Dr. Cautley."

"Dr. Cautley?"

"Yes. I do not know what I have done, or how I have offended him, but he
has not been near me for over two months."

"Perhaps he has been busy--in fact, I know he has."

"He has always been busy. It is not that. It is something--well, I hardly
care to speak of it, it has been so very painful. My dear"--Miss
Quincey's voice sank to an awful whisper--"he has cut me in the street."

"Oh, I know--he _will_ do it; he has done it to all his patients. He is
so dreadfully absent-minded."

If Miss Quincey had not been as guileless as the little old maid she was,
she would have recognised these indications of intimacy; as it was, she
said with superior conviction, "My dear, I _know_ Dr. Cautley. He has
never cut me before, and he would not do it now without a reason. There
has been some awful mistake. If I only knew what I had done!"

"You've done nothing. I wouldn't worry if I were you."

"I can't help worrying. You don't know, Rhoda. The bitter and terrible
part of this friendship is, and always has been, that I am under
obligations to Dr. Cautley. I owe everything to him; I cannot tell you
what he has done for me, and here I am, not allowed, and I never shall be
allowed, to do anything for him." A sob struggled in Miss Quincey's
throat.

Rhoda was silent. Did she know? Very dimly, with a mere intellectual
perception, but still a great deal better than the little arithmetic
teacher could have told her, she understood the desire of that innocent
person, not for love, not for happiness, but just for leave to lay down
her life for this friend, this deity of hers, to be consumed in
sacrifice. And the bitter and terrible thing was that she was not allowed
to do it. The friend had no use for the life, the deity no appetite for
the sacrifice.

"Don't think about it," she said; it seemed the best thing to say in the
singular circumstances.  "It will all come right."

By this time Miss Quincey had got the better of the sob in her throat.
"It may," she replied with dignity; "but I shall not be the first to make
advances."

"Advances? Rather not. But if I thought he was thinking things--he isn't,
you know, he's not that sort; still, if I thought it I should have it out
with him."

"How could you have it--'out with him'?"

"Oh I should just ask him what he thought of me; or better still, tell
him what I thought of him."

Miss Quincey shrank visibly from the bold suggestion.

"Would you? Oh, that would never do. You won't mind my saying so, but I
think it would look a little indelicate. Of course it would be very
different if it were a woman; if it were you for instance."

"I should do it any way. It's the straightest thing."

"I daresay, dear, in your friendships it is. But I think you can hardly
judge of this. You do not know Dr. Cautley as I do."

"No," said Rhoda meekly, "perhaps I don't." Not for worlds would she have
destroyed that beautiful illusion.

"It has been," continued Miss Quincey, "a very peculiar, a very
interesting relationship. Strange too--considering. If you had asked me
six months ago I should have told you that the thing was impossible, or
rather, that in nine cases out of ten--I mean I should have said it was
highly improbable that Dr. Cautley would take the faintest interest in
me, let alone like me."

"He does like you, dear Miss Quincey, I know he does."

"How do you know?"

"He told me so." (Miss Quincey quivered and a faint flush worked up
through the sallow of her cheek.) "And I'm sure he would be most
distressed to think you were unhappy."

"It is not unhappiness; certainly not unhappiness. On the contrary I have
been happy, quite happy lately. And I think it has been bad for me. I
wasn't used to it. Perhaps, if it had happened five-and-twenty years
ago--Do not misunderstand me, I am merely speaking of friendship, dear;
but it might--I mean I might--"

Far back in the chair and favoured by Rhoda's silence, Miss Quincey
dropped into a dream. Presently she woke up as it were with a start.

"What am I thinking of? Let us be reasonable; let us reduce it to
figures. Forty-five--thirty--he is thirty. Take twenty-five from thirty
and five remain. Why, Rhoda, he would have been--"

They looked at each other, but neither said: "He would have been five
years old."

Miss Quincey seemed quite prostrated by the result of her calculations.
To everything that Rhoda could urge to soothe her she answered steadily:

"You do not know him as I do."

The voice was not Miss Quincey's voice; it was the monotonous, melancholy
voice of the Fixed Idea.

Her knowledge of him. After all, nothing could take from her the
exquisite privacy of that possession.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Eros anikate machan_," said Rhoda.

Miss Quincey was gone and the Classical Mistress was in school again,
coaching a backward student through the "Antigone."

"Oh Love, unconquered in fight. Love who--Love who fliest, who fliest
about among things," said the student. And the teacher laughed.

Laughed, for the entertaining blunder called up a vivid image of the god
in Miss Quincey's drawing-room, fluttering about among the furniture and
doing terrific damage with his wings.

"What's wrong?" asked the student.

"Oh nothing; only a slight confusion between flying about and falling
upon. 'Oh Love who fallest on the prey'; please go on."

"'Oh Love who fallest on the prey'--" The chorus mumbled and stumbled,
and the student sighed heavily, for the Greek was hard. "He who has--he
who has--Oh dear, I can't see any sense in these old choruses; I do hate
them."

"Still," said Rhoda sweetly, "you mustn't murder them. 'He who has love
has madness.'"

The chorus limped to its end and the student left the coach to some
curious reflections.

"_Eros anikate machan_!"

"Oh Love, unconquered in fight!" It sang in her ears persistently,
joyously, ironically--a wedding-song, a battle-song, a song of victory.

Bastian Cautley was right when he said that the race was to the swift and
the battle to the strong. How eager she had been for the fight, how mad
for the crowded course! She had rushed on, heat after heat, outstripping
all competitors and carrying off all the crowns and the judges'
compliments at the end of the day. She loved the race for its own sake,
this young athlete; and though she took the crowns and the compliments
very much as a matter of course, she had come to look on life as nothing
but an endless round of Olympic games. And just as she forgot each
successive event in the excitement of the next, she also had forgotten
the losers and those who were tumbled in the dust. Until she had seen
Miss Quincey.

Miss Quincey--so they had let her come to this among them all? They had
left her so bare of happiness that the first man (it happened to be her
doctor) who spoke two kind words to her became necessary to her
existence. No, that was hardly the way to put it; it was underrating
Bastian Cautley. He was the sort of man that any woman--But who would
have thought it of Miss Quincey? And the really sad thing was that she
did not think it of herself; it showed how empty of humanity her life had
been. It was odd how these things happened. Miss Quincey was neither
brilliant nor efficient, but she had made the most of herself; at least
she had lived a life of grinding intellectual toil; the whole woman had
seemed absorbed in her miserable arithmetical function. And yet at fifty
(she looked fifty) she had contrived to develop that particular form of
foolishness which it was Miss Cursiter's business to exterminate. There
were some of them who talked as if the thing was done; as if competitive
examinations had superseded the primitive rivalry of sex.

Bastian Cautley was right. You may go on building as high as you please,
but you will never alter the original ground-plan of human nature. And
how she had scoffed at his "man's view"; how indignantly she had repulsed
his suggestion that there was a side to the subject that her friends the
idealists were much too ideal to see.

Were they really, as Bastian Cautley put it, so engrossed in producing a
new type that they had lost sight of the individual? Was the system so
far in accordance with Nature that it was careless of the single life?
Which was the only life open to most of them, poor things.

And she had blundered more grossly than the system itself. What, after
all, had she done for that innocent whom she had made her friend? She had
taken everything from her. She had promised to keep her place for her at
St. Sidwell's and was monopolising it herself. Worse than that, she had
given her a friend with one hand and snatched him from her with the
other. (If you came to think of it, it was hard that she who had so much
already could have Bastian Cautley too, any day, to play with, or to
keep--for her very own. There was not a bit of him that could by any
possibility belong to Miss Quincey.) She had tried to stand between her
and her Fate, and she had become her Fate. Worse than all, she had kept
from her the knowledge of the truth--the truth that might have cured her.
Of course she had done that out of consideration for Bastian Cautley.

There it seemed that Rhoda's regard for his feelings ended. Though she
admitted ten times over that he was right, she was by no means more
disposed to come to an understanding with him on that account. On the
contrary, when she saw him the very next evening (poor Bastian had chosen
his moment indiscreetly) she endeavoured to repair her blunders by
visiting them on his irreproachable head, dealing to him a certain
painful, but not wholly unexpected back-hander in the face.

She had done all she could for Miss Quincey. At any rate, she said to
herself, she had spared her the final blow.




CHAPTER IX

Through the Stethoscope


One morning the Mad Hatter was madder than ever. It was impossible to
hold her attention. The black eyes blazed as they wandered, the paralytic
pencil was hot in her burning fingers. When she laid it down towards the
end of the morning and rested her head on her hands, Miss Quincey had not
the heart to urge her to the loathsome toil. She let her talk.

"Miss Quincey," said the Mad Hatter in a solemn whisper, "I'm going to
tell you a secret. Do you see _her_?" She indicated Miss Rhoda Vivian
with the point of her pencil.

It was evident that Laura Lazarus did not adore the Classical Mistress,
and Rhoda, sick of her worshippers, had found this attitude refreshing.
Even now she bestowed a smile and a nod on the Mad Hatter that would have
kept any other St. Sidwellite in a fortnight's ecstasy.

"Laura, that is not the way to speak of your teachers."

The child raised the Semitic arch of her eye-brows. Her face belonged to
the type formed from all eternity for the expression of contempt.

"She's not my teacher, thank goodness. Do you know what I'm going to be
some day, when she's married and gone away? I'm going to be what she
is--Classical Mistress. I shan't have to do any sums for that, you know.
I shall only have to know Greek, and isn't it a shame, Miss Quincey,
they won't let me learn it till I'm in the Fourth, and I never shall be.
But--don't tell any one--they've stuck me here, behind her now, and when
she's coaching that young idiot Susie Parker--"

"Laura, that is not the way to speak of your school-fellows."

"I know it isn't, but she _is_, you know. I've bought the books, and I
get behind them and I listen hard, and I can read now. What's more, I've
done a bit of a chorus. Look--" The pariah took a dirty bit of paper from
the breast of her gown. "It goes, 'Oh Love unconquered in battle,' and
it's simply splend_if_erous. Miss Quincey--when you like anything very
much--or any_body_--it doesn't matter which--do you turn red all over? Do
you have creeps all down your back? And do you feel it just here?" The
child clapped her yellow claw to Miss Quincey's heart. "You _do_, you do,
Miss Quincey; I can see it go thump, I can feel it go thud!"

She gazed into the teacher's face, and again the power of divination was
upon her.

"Laura!" Miss Quincey gasped; for the Head had been looming in their
neighbourhood, a deadly peril, and now she was sweeping down on them,
smiling a dangerous smile.

"Miss Quincey, I hope you've been making that child work," said she and
passed on.

"I _say_! She didn't see my verses, did she? You _won't_ let on that I
wrote them?"

"You'll never write verses," said Miss Quincey, deftly improving a bad
occasion, "if you don't understand arithmetic. Why, it's the science of
numbers. Come now, if ninety hogsheads--"

"Oh-h! I'm so tired of hogsheads; mayn't it be firkins this time?"

And, for fancy's sake, firkins Miss Quincey permitted it to be.

Now Rhoda was responsible for much, but for what followed the Mad Hatter
must, strictly speaking, be held accountable.

Miss Quincey had never been greatly interested in the movements of her
heart; but now that her attention had been drawn to them she admitted
that it was beating in a very extraordinary way; there was a decided
palpitation, a flutter.

That night she lay awake and listened to it.

It was going diddledy, diddledy, like the triplets in a Beethoven sonata
(only that it had no idea of time); then it suddenly left off till she
put her hand over it, when it gave a terrifying succession of runaway
knocks. Then it pretended that it was going to stop altogether, and Miss
Quincey implicitly believed it and prepared to die. Then its tactics
changed; it seemed to have shifted its habitation; to be rising and
rising, to be entangled with her collar-bone and struggling in her
throat. Then it sank suddenly and lay like a lump of lead, dragging her
down through the mattress, and through the bedstead, and through the
floor, down to the bottom of all things. Miss Quincey did not mind much;
she had been so unhappy. And then it gave an alarming double-knock at her
ribs, and Miss Quincey came to life again as unhappy as ever.

And of what it all meant Miss Quincey had no more idea than the man in
the moon, though even the Mad Hatter could have told her. Her heart went
through the same performance a second and a third night, and Miss Quincey
said to herself that if it happened again she would have to send for Dr.
Cautley. Nothing would have induced her to see him for a mere trifle, but
pride was one thing and prudence was another.

It did happen again, and she sent.

She may have hoped that he would discover something wrong, being dimly
conscious that her chance lay there, that suffering constituted the
incontestable claim on his sympathy; most distinctly she felt the desire
(monstrous of course in a woman of no account) to wear the aureole of
pain for its own sake; to walk for a little while in the glory and
glamour of death. She did not want or mean to give any trouble, to be a
source of expense; she had saved a little money for the supreme luxury.
But she had hardly entertained the idea for a moment when she dismissed
it as selfish. It was her duty to live, for the sake of St. Sidwell's and
of Mrs. Moon; and she was only calling Dr. Cautley in to help her to do
it. But through it all the feeling uppermost was joy in the certainty
that she would see him on an honourable pretext, and would be able to set
right that terrible misunderstanding.

She hardly expected him till late in the day; so she was a little
startled, when she came in after morning school, to find Mrs. Moon
waiting for her at the stairs, quivering with indignation that could have
but one cause.

He had lost no time in answering her summons.

The drawing-room door was ajar; the Old Lady closed it mysteriously, and
pushed her niece into the bedroom behind.

"Will you tell me the meaning of this? _That man_ has been cooling his
heels in there for the last ten minutes, and he says you sent for him. Is
that the case?"

Miss Quincey meekly admitted that it was, and entered upon a vague
description of her trouble.

"It's all capers and nonsense," said the Old Lady, "there's nothing the
matter with your heart. You're just hysterical, and you just want--?"

"I want to _know_, and Dr. Cautley will tell me."

"Oh ho! I daresay he'll find some mare's nest fast enough, if you tell
him where to look."

Miss Quincey took off her hat and cape and laid them down with a sigh.
She gave a terrified glance at the looking-glass and smoothed her thin
hair with her hand.

"Auntie--I must go. I can't keep him waiting any longer."

"Go then--I won't stop you."

She went trembling, followed so closely by Mrs. Moon that she looked like
a prisoner conducted to the dock.

"How will he receive me?" she wondered.

He received her coldly and curtly. There was a hurry and abstraction in
his manner utterly unlike his former leisurely sympathy. Many causes
contributed to this effect; he was still all bruised and bleeding from
the blow dealt to him by Rhoda's strong young arm; an epidemic had kept
him on his legs all day and a great part of the night; his time had never
been so valuable, and he had been obliged to waste ten minutes of it
contemplating the furniture in that detestable drawing-room. He was
worried and overworked, and Miss Quincey thought he was still offended;
his very appearance made her argue the worst. No hope to-day of clearing
up that terrible misunderstanding.

She tremulously obeyed his first brief order, one by one undoing the
buttons of her dress, laying bare her poor chest, all flat and formless
as a child's. A momentary gentleness came over him as he adjusted the
tubes of his stethoscope and began the sounding, backwards and forwards
from heart to lungs, and from lungs to heart again; while the Old Lady
looked on as merry as Destiny, and nodded her head and smiled, as much to
say, "Tchee-tchee, what a farce it is!"

He put up the stethoscope with a click.

"There is nothing the matter with you."

Mrs. Moon gave out a subdued ironical chuckle.

Miss Quincey looked anxiously into his face. "Do you not think the
heart--the heart is a little--?"

He smiled and at the same time he sighed. "Heart's all right. But you've
left off your tonic."

She had, she was afraid that so much poison--

"Poison?" (He was not in the least offended.) "Do you mean the arsenic?
There are some poisons you can't live without; but you must take them in
moderation."

"Will you--will you want to see me again?"

"It will not be necessary."

At that Mrs. Moon's chuckle broke all bounds and burst into a triumphant
"Tchee-tchee-chee!" He went away under cover of it. It was her way of
putting a pleasant face on the matter.

She hardly waited till his back was turned before she delivered herself
of that which was working within her.

"I tell you what it is, Juliana; you're a silly woman."

Miss Quincey looked up with a faint premonitory fear. Her fingers began
nervously buttoning and unbuttoning her dress bodice; while half-dressed
and shivering she waited the attack.

"And a pretty exhibition you've made of yourself this day. Anybody might
have thought you _wanted_ to let that young man see what was the matter
with you."

"So I did. He says there is nothing the matter with me."

"Nothing the matter with you, indeed! _He_ knows well enough what's the
matter with you."

The victim was staring now, with terror in her tired eyes. Her mouth
dropped open with the question her tongue refused to utter.

"If you," continued Mrs. Moon, "had wanted to tell him plainly that you
were in love with him, you couldn't have set about it better. I should
have thought you'd have been ashamed to look him in the face--at your
age. You're a disgrace to my family!"

The poor fingers ceased their labour of buttoning and unbuttoning; Miss
Quincey sat with her shoulders naked as it were to the lash.

"There!" said Mrs. Moon with an air of drawing back the whip and putting
it by for the present. "If I were you I'd cover myself up, and not sit
there catching cold with my dress-body off."




CHAPTER X

Miss Quincey Stands Back


As it happened on a Saturday morning she had plenty of time to think
about it. All the afternoon and the evening and the night lay before her;
she was powerless to cope with Sunday and the night beyond that.

The remarkable revelation made to her by Mrs. Moon was so great a shock
that her mind refused to realize it all at once. It was an outrage to all
the meek reticences and chastities of her spirit. But she owned its
truth; she saw it now, the thing they all had seen, that she only could
not see.

She had sinned the sin of sins, the sin of youth in middle-age.

Now it was not imagination in Miss Quincey, so much as the tradition of
St. Sidwell's, that gave her innocent affection the proportions of a
crime. Miss Quincey had lived all her life in ignorance of her own
nature, having spent the best part of five-and-forty years in acquiring
other knowledge. She had nothing to go upon, for she had never been
young; or rather she had treated her youth unkindly, she had fed it on
saw-dust and given it nothing but arithmetic books to play with, so that
its experiences were of no earthly use to her.

And now, if they had only let her alone, she might have been none the
wiser; her folly might have put on many quaint disguises, friendship,
literary sympathy, intellectual esteem--there were a thousand delicate
subterfuges and innocent hypocrisies, and under any one of them it might
have crept about unchallenged in the shadows and blind alleys of thought.
As love pure and simple, if it came to that, there was no harm in it.
Many an old maid, older than she, has just such a secret folded up and
put away all sweet and pure; the poor lady does not call it love, but
remembrance, which is so to speak love laid in lavender; and she--who
knows? She might have contrived a little shrine for it somewhere; she had
always understood that love was a holy thing.

Unfortunately, when a holy thing has been pulled about and dragged in the
mud, it may be as holy as ever but it will never look the same. In Miss
Quincey's case mortal passion had been shaken out of its sleep and forced
to look at itself before it had time to put on a shred of immortality. In
the sudden glare it stood out monstrous, naked and ashamed; she herself
had helped to deprive it of all the delicacies and amenities that made it
tolerable to thought. With her own hands she had delivered it up to the
stethoscope.

He knew, he knew. In the mad rush of her ideas one sentence detached
itself from the torrent. "_He_ knows well enough what's the matter with
you."

The nature of the crime was such that there was no possibility or
explanation or defence against the accuser whose condemnation weighed
heaviest on her soul. He loomed before her, hovered over her, with the
tubes of the heart-probing stethoscope in his ears (as a matter of fact
they gave him a somewhat grotesque appearance, remotely suggestive of a
Hindoo idol; but Miss Quincey had not noticed that); his bumpy forehead
was terrible with intelligence; his eyes were cold and comprehensive; the
smile of a foregone conclusion flickered on his lips.

He must have known it all the time. There never had been any
misunderstanding. That was the clue to his conduct; that was the reason
why he had left off coming to the house; for he was the soul of delicacy
and honour. And yet she had never said a word that might be
interpreted--He must have seen it in her face, then,--that day--when
she allowed herself to sit with him in the park. She remembered--things
that he had said to her--did they mean that he had seen? She saw it all
as he had seen it. "Delicacy" and "honour" indeed! Disgust and contempt
would be more likely feelings.

She lay awake all Saturday night and all Sunday night, until four o'clock
on Monday morning; always reviewing the situation, always going over the
same patch of ground in the desperate hope of finding some place where
her self-respect could rest, and discovering nothing but the traces of
her guilty feet. A subtler woman would have flourished lightly over the
territory, till she had whisked away every vestige of her trail; another
would have seen the humour of the situation and blown the whole thing
into the inane with a burst of healthy laughter; but subtlety and humour
were not Miss Quincey's strong points. She could do nothing but creep
shivering to bed and lie there, face to face with her own enormity.

On Monday morning and on many mornings after she crept out into the
street stealthily, like a criminal seeking some shelter where she could
hide her head. She acquired a habit--odd enough to the casual
onlooker--of slinking cautiously round every turning and rushing every
crossing in her abject terror of meeting Bastian Cautley.

There was nobody to tell her that it would not matter if she did meet
him; no cheerful woman of the world to smile in her frightened face and
say: "My dear Miss Quincey, there is nothing remarkable in this. We all
do it, sooner or later. Too late? Not a bit of it; better too late than
never, and if it's that Cautley man I'm sure I don't wonder. I'm in love
with him myself. Lost your self-respect, have you? Self-respect, indeed,
why bless your soul, you are all the nicer for it. As for hiding your
head I never heard such rubbish in my life. Nobody is looking at
you--certainly not the Cautley man. In fact, to tell you the truth,
at this moment he is particularly engaged in looking the other way."

But Miss Quincey did not know that lady. She knew no one but Rhoda and
Mrs. Moon; and if Mrs. Moon was too old, Rhoda was too young to take that
view; besides, Mrs. Moon was not a woman of the world and no ridiculous
delicacy prompted her to look the other way. In any case Juliana's state
of mind, advertised as it was by her complexion and many eccentricities
of behaviour, could not have escaped her notice.

The Old Lady had reverted to her former humorous attitude, and was trying
whether Juliana's state of mind would not yield to skilfully directed
banter. In these tactics she was not left unsupported. Louisa had written
a long letter about her husband and her children, with a postscript.

"P.S.--I don't half like what you tell me about Juliana and Dr. C--. For
goodness' sake don't encourage her in any of that nonsense. Sit on it.
Laugh her out of it. I agree with you that it would be better if she
cultivated her mind a little more.

"P.P.S.--Andrew has just come in. He says we oughtn't to call her
Juliana, but Fooliana."

So laughed Louisa, the married woman.

And Fooliana she was called. The joke was quite unworthy of the Greek
Professor's reputation, but for Mrs. Moon's purposes he could hardly have
made a better one.

Louisa had put a terrible weapon into the Old Lady's hands. It was
many weapons in one. It could be turned on in all its broad robust
humour--"Fooliana!" Or refined away into a playful or delicate
suggestion, pointed with an uplifted finger--"Fooli!" Or cut down and
compressed into its essential meaning--"Fool!"

But whichever missile came handy, the effect was much the same. Juliana's
complexion grew redder or grayer, but her state of mind remained
unchanged. Sometimes the Old Lady tried a graver method.

"If you would cultivate your mind a little in the evenings you would have
no time for all this nonsense."

But Juliana had abandoned the cultivation of her mind. She made no
attempt to pay off that small outstanding debt to _Sordello._ There was
an end of the intellectual life; for the living wells of literature were
tainted; Browning had become a bitter memory and Tennyson a shame.

But if Miss Quincey had no heart for General Culture, she was busier than
ever in the discharge of her regular duties. At the end of the midsummer
term the pressure on the staff was heavy. Her work had grown with the
growth of St. Sidwell's, and the pile of marble and granite copy-books
rose higher than ever; it was monumental, and Miss Quincey was glad
enough to bury her grief under it for a time. Indeed it looked as if in
St. Sidwell's she had found the shelter where she could hide her head;
and a very desirable shelter too, as long as Mrs. Moon continued in that
lively temper. Gradually she began to realize that of all those five
hundred pairs of eyes there was none that had discovered her secret; that
not one of those busy brains was occupied with her affairs. It was a
relief to lose herself among them all and be of no account again.
In the corner behind Rhoda Vivian she and the Mad Hatter seemed to be
clinging together more than ever in an ecstasy of isolation.

After all, above the turmoil of emotion a little tremulous, attenuated
ideal was trying to raise its head. Her duty. She dimly discerned a
possibility of deliverance, of purification from her sin. Therefore she
clung more desperately than ever to her post. Seeing that she had served
the system for five-and-twenty years, it was hard if she could not get
from it a little protection against her own weakness, if she could not
claim the intellectual support it professed to give. It was the first
time she had ever put it to the test. If she could only stay on another
year or two--

And now at the very end of the midsummer term it really looked as if St.
Sidwell's was anxious to keep her. Everybody was curiously kind; the
staff cast friendly glances on her as she sat in her corner; Rhoda was
almost passionate in her tenderness. Even Miss Cursiter seemed softened.
She had left off saying "Stand back, Miss Quincey, if you please"; and
Miss Quincey began to wonder what it all meant.

She was soon to know.

One night, the last of the term, the Classical Mistress was closeted with
the Head. Rhoda, elbow-deep in examination papers, had been critically
considering seventy variously ingenious renderings of a certain chorus,
when the sudden rapping of a pen on the table roused her from her
labours.

"You must see for yourself, Rhoda, how we are placed. We must keep up to
a certain standard of efficiency in the staff. Miss Quincey is getting
past her work."

(Rhoda became instantly absorbed in sharpening a pencil.)

"For the last two terms she has been constantly breaking down; and now
I'm very much afraid she is breaking-up."

The Head remained solemnly unconscious of her own epigram.

"No wonder," said Rhoda to herself, "first love at fifty is new wine in
old bottles; everybody knows what happens to the bottles."

The flush and the frown on the Classical Mistress's face might have been
accounted for by the sudden snapping of the pencil.

"You see," continued Miss Cursiter, as if defending herself from some
accusation conveyed by the frown, "as it is we have kept her on a long
while for her sister's sake."

(A murmur from the Classical Mistress.)

"Of course we must put it to her prettily, wrap it up--in tissue paper."

(The Classical Mistress is still inarticulate.)

"You are not giving me your opinion."

"It seems to me I've said a great deal more than I've any right to say."

"Oh you. We know all about that. I asked for your opinion."

"And when I gave it you told me I was under an influence."

"What if I did? And what if it were so?"

"What indeed? You would get the benefit of two opinions instead of one."

Now if Miss Cursiter were thinking of Dr. Cautley there was some point in
what Rhoda said; for in the back of her mind the Head had a curious
respect for masculine judgment.

"There can be no two opinions about Miss Quincey."

"I don't know. Miss Quincey," said Rhoda thoughtfully to her pencil, "is
a large subject."

"Yes, if you mean that Miss Quincey is a terrible legacy from the past.
The question for me is--how long am I to let her hamper our future?"

"The future? It strikes me that we're not within shouting distance of the
future. We talk as if we could see the end, and we're nowhere near it,
we're in all the muddle of the middle--that's why we're hampered with
Miss Quincey and other interesting relics of the past."

"We are slowly getting rid of them."

At that Rhoda blazed up. She was young, and she was reckless, and she had
too many careers open to her to care much about consequences. Miss
Cursiter had asked for her opinion and she should have it with a
vengeance.

"It's not enough to get rid of them. We ought to provide for them. Who or
what do we provide for, if it comes to that? We're always talking about
specialisation, and the fact is we haven't specialised enough. Don't we
give the same test papers to everybody?"

"I shall be happy to set separate papers for each girl if you'll
undertake to correct them."

The more Rhoda fired the more Miss Cursiter remained cold.

"That's just it--we couldn't if we tried. We know nothing about each
girl. That's where we shall have to specialise in the future if we're to
do any good. We've specialised enough with our teachers and our subjects;
chipped and chopped till we can't divide them any more; and we've taken
our girls in the lump. We know less about them than they do themselves.
As for the teachers--"

"Which by the way brings us back to Miss Quincey."

"Everything brings us back to Miss Quincey. Miss Quincey will be always
with us."

"We must put younger women in her place."

Rhoda winced as though Miss Cursiter had struck her.

"They will soon grow old. Our profession is a cruel one. It uses up the
finest and most perishable parts of a woman's nature. It takes the best
years of her life--and throws the rest away."

"Yet thousands of women are willing to take it up, and leave comfortable
homes to do it too."

"Yes," sighed Rhoda, "it's the rush for the open door."

"My dear Rhoda, the women's labour market is the same as every other. The
best policy is the policy of the open door. Don't you see that the remedy
is to open it wider--wider!"

"And when we've opened all the doors as wide as ever they'll go, what
then? Where are we going to?"

"I can't tell you." Miss Cursiter looked keenly at her. "Do you mean that
you'll go no further unless you know?"

Rhoda was silent.

"There are faults in the system. I can see that as well as you, perhaps
better. I am growing old too, Rhoda. But you are youth itself. It is
women like you we want--to save us. Are you going to turn your back on
us?"

Miss Cursiter bore down on her with her steady gaze, a gaze that was a
menace and an appeal, and Rhoda gave a little gasp as if for breath.

"I can't go any farther."

"Do you realize what this means? You are not a deserter from the ranks.
It is the second in command going over to the enemy."

The words were cold, but there was a fiery court-martial in Miss
Cursiter's eyes that accused and condemned her. If Rhoda had been dashing
her head against the barrack walls her deliverance was at hand. It seemed
that she could never strike a blow for Miss Quincey without winning the
battle for herself.

"I can't help it," said she. "I hate it--I hate the system."

"The system? Suppose you do away with it--do away with every woman's
college in the kingdom--have you anything to put in its place?"

"No. I have nothing to put in its place."

"Ah," said Miss Cursiter, "you are older than I thought."

Rhoda smiled. By this time, wrong or right, she was perfectly reckless.
If everybody was right in rejecting Miss Quincey, there was rapture in
being wildly and wilfully in the wrong. She had flung up the game.

Miss Cursiter saw it. "I was right," said she. "You are under an
influence, and a dangerous one."

"Perhaps--but, influence for influence" (here Rhoda returned Miss
Cursiter's gaze intrepidly), "I'm not far wrong. I honestly think that if
we persist in turning out these intellectual monstrosities we shall hand
over worse incompetents than Miss Quincey to the next generation."

Rhoda was intrepid; all the same she reddened as she realized what a
mouthpiece she had become for Bastian Cautley's theories and temper.

"My dear Rhoda, you're an intellectual monstrosity yourself."

"I know. And in another twenty years' time they'll want to get rid of
_me_."

"Of me too," thought the Head. Miss Cursiter felt curiously old and worn.
She had invoked Rhoda's youth and it had risen up against her. Influence
for influence, her power was dead.

Rhoda had talked at length in the hope of postponing judgment in Miss
Quincey's case; now she was anxious to get back to Miss Quincey, to
escape judgment in her own.

"And how about Miss Quincey?" she asked.

Miss Cursiter had nothing to say about Miss Quincey. She had done with
that section of her subject. She understood that Rhoda had said in
effect, "If Miss Quincey goes, I go too." Nevertheless her mind was made
up; in tissue paper, all ready for Miss Quincey.

Unfortunately tissue paper is more or less transparent, and Miss Quincey
had no difficulty in perceiving the grounds of her dismissal when
presented to her in this neat way. Not even when Miss Cursiter said to
her, at the close of the interview they had early the next morning,
"For your own sake, dear Miss Quincey, I feel we must forego your
valuable--most valuable services."

Miss Cursiter hesitated, warned by something in the aspect of the tiny
woman who had been a thorn in her side so long. Somehow, for this
occasion, the most incompetent, most insignificant member of her staff
had contrived to clothe herself with a certain nobility. She was
undeniably the more dignified of the two.

The Head, usually so eloquent at great moments, found actual difficulty
in getting to the end of her next sentence.

"What I was thinking of--really again entirely for your own sake--was
whether it would not be better for you to take a little longer holiday. I
do feel in your case the imperative necessity for rest. Indeed if you
found that you _wished_ to retire at the end of the holidays--of course
receiving your salary for the term--"

Try as she would to speak as though she were conferring a benefit, the
Head had the unmistakable air of asking a favour from her subordinate, of
imploring her help in a delicate situation, of putting it to her honour.

Miss Quincey's honour was more than equal to the demand made on it. She
had sunk so low in her own eyes lately that she was glad to gain some
little foothold for her poor pride. She faced Miss Cursiter bravely with
her innocent dim eyes as she answered: "I am ready to go, Miss Cursiter,
whenever it is most convenient to you; but I cannot think of taking
payment for work I have not done."

"My dear Miss Quincey, the rule is always a term's notice--or if--if any
other arrangement is agreed upon, a term's salary. There can be no
question--you must really allow me--"

There Miss Cursiter's address failed her and her voice faltered. She had
extracted the thorn; but it had worked its way deeper than she knew, and
the operation was a painful one. A few compliments on the part of the
Head, and the hope that St. Sidwell's would not lose sight of Miss
Quincey altogether, and the interview was closed.

It was understood by the end of the morning that Miss Quincey had sent in
her resignation. The news spread from class to class--"Miss Quincey is
going"--and was received by pupils and teachers with cries of
incredulity. After all, Miss Quincey belonged to St. Sidwell's; she was
part and parcel of the place; her blood and bones had been built into its
very walls, and her removal was not to be contemplated without dismay.
Why, what would a procession be like without Miss Quincey to enliven it?

And so, as she went her last round, a score of hands that had never
clasped hers in friendship were stretched out over the desks in a wild
leave-taking; three girls had tears in their eyes; one, more emotional
than the rest, sobbed audibly without shame. The staff were unanimous in
their sympathy and regret. Rhoda withdrew hastily from the painful scene.
Only the Mad Hatter in her corner made no sign. She seemed to take the
news of Miss Quincey's departure with a resigned philosophy.

"Well, little Classical Mistress," said Miss Quincey, "we must say
good-bye. You know I'm going."

The child nodded her small head. "Of course you're going. I might have
known it. I did know it all along. You were booked to go."

"Why, Laura?" Miss Quincey was mystified and a little hurt.

"Because"--a sinister convulsion passed over the ugly little
pariah face--"because"--the Mad Hatter had learnt the force of
under-statement--"because I _like_ you."

At that Miss Quincey broke down. "My dear little girl--I am going because
I am too old to stay."

"Write to me, dear," she said at the last moment; "let me know how you
are getting on."

But she never knew. The Mad Hatter did not write. In fact she never wrote
anything again, not even verses. She was handed over next term to Miss
Quincey's brilliant and efficient successor, who made her work hard, with
the result that the Mad Hatter got ill of a brain fever just before the
Christmas holidays and was never fit for any more work; and never became
Classical Mistress or anything else in the least distinguished. But this
is by the way.

As the College clock struck one, Miss Quincey walked home as usual and
went up into her bedroom without a word. She opened a drawer and took
from it her Post Office Savings Bank book and looked over her account.
There stood to her credit the considerable sum of twenty-seven pounds
four shillings and eight pence. No, not quite that, for the blouse, the
abominable blouse, had been paid for out of her savings and it had cost a
guinea. Twenty-six pounds three shillings and eight pence was all that
she had saved in five-and-twenty years. This, with the term's salary
which Miss Cursiter had insisted on, was enough to keep her going for a
year. And a year is a long time. She came slowly downstairs to the
drawing-room where her aunt was dozing and dreaming in her chair. There
still hung about her figure the indefinable dignity that had awed Miss
Cursiter. If she was afraid of Mrs. Moon she was too proud to show her
fear.

"This morning," she said simply, "I received my dismissal."

The old lady looked up dazed, not with the news but with her dream. Miss
Quincey repeated her statement.

"Do you mean you are not going back to that place there?" she asked
mildly.

"I am never going back."

Still with dignity she waited for the burst of feeling she felt to be
justifiable in the circumstances. None came; neither anger, nor
indignation, nor contempt, not even surprise. In fact the Old Lady was
smiling placidly, as she was wont to smile under the spell of the dream.

Slowly, very slowly, it was dawning upon her that the reproach had been
taken away from the memory of Tollington Moon. Henceforth his niece Miss
Quincey would be a gentlewoman at large. At the same time it struck her
that after all poor Juliana did not look so very old.

"Very well then," said she, "if I were you I should put on that nice silk
blouse in the evenings."




CHAPTER XI

Dr. Cautley Sends in his Bill


"I wonder," Mrs. Moon observed suddenly one morning, "if that man is
going to let his bill run on to the day of judgment?"

The Old Lady had not even distantly alluded to Dr. Cautley for as
many as ten months. After the great day of what she called Juliana's
"resignation" she seemed to have tacitly agreed that since Juliana had
spared her dream she would spare Juliana's. Did she not know, she too,
that the dream is the reality? As Miss Quincey, gentlewoman at large,
Juliana had a perfect right to set up a dream of her own; as to whether
she was able to afford the luxury, Juliana was the best judge. Her
present wonder, then, had no malignant reference; it was simply wrung
from her by inexorable economy. Juliana's supplies were calculated to
last a year; as it was the winter season that they had lately weathered,
she was rather more than three-quarters of the way through her slender
resources, and it behoved them to look out for bills ahead. And Mrs.
Moon had always suspected that young man, not only of a passion for
mare's-nesting, but of deliberately and systematically keeping back
his accounts that he might revel in a larger haul.

The remark, falling with a shock all the greater for a silence of ten
months, had the effect of driving Juliana out of the room. Out of the
room and out of the house, down High Street, where Hunter's shop was
already blossoming in another spring; up Park Street and past the long
wall of St. Sidwell's, till she found herself alone in Primrose Hill
Park.

The young day was so glorious that Miss Quincey had some thoughts of
climbing Primrose Hill and sitting on the top; but after twenty yards or
so of it she abandoned the attempt. For the last few months her heart had
been the seat of certain curious sensations, so remarkably like those she
had experienced in the summer that she took them for the same, and
sternly resolved to suppress their existence by ignoring it. That, she
understood, was the right treatment for hysteria.

But this morning Miss Quincey's heart protested so violently against her
notion of ascending Primrose Hill, threatening indeed to strangle her if
she persisted in it, that Miss Quincey unwillingly gave in and contented
herself with a seat in one of the lower walks of the park. There she
leaned back and looked about her, but with no permanent interest in one
thing more than another.

Presently, as she settled down to quieter breathing, there came to her a
strange sensation, that grew till it became an unusually vivid perception
of the outer world; a perception mingled with a still stranger double
vision, a sense that seemed to be born in the dark of the brain and to
be moving there to a foregone conclusion. And all the time her eyes
were busy, now with a bush of May in crimson blossom, now with the
many-pointed leaves of a sycamore pricked against the blue; now with the
straight rectangular paths that made the park an immense mathematical
diagram. From where she sat her eyes swept the length of the wide walk
that cuts the green from east to west. Far down at the west end was a
seat, and she could see two people, a man and a woman, sitting on it;
they must have been there a quarter of an hour or more; she had noticed
them ever since she came into the park.

They had risen, and her gaze left everything else to follow them; or
rather, it went to meet them, for they had turned and were coming slowly
eastward now. They had stopped; they were facing each other, and her gaze
rested with them, fascinated yet uncertain. And now she could see nothing
else; the park, with the regions beyond it and the sky above it, had
become merely a setting for one man and one woman; the avenue, fresh
strewn with red golden gravel, led up to them and ended there at their
feet; a young poplar trembled in the wind and shook its silver green fans
above them in delicate confusion. The next minute a light went up in that
obscure and prophetic background of her brain; and she saw Rhoda Vivian
and Bastian Cautley coming towards her, greeting her, with their kind
faces shining.

She rose, turned from them, and went slowly home.

It was the last rent in the veil of illusion that Rhoda had spun so well.
Up till then Miss Quincey had seen only half the truth. Now she had seen
the whole, with all that Rhoda had disguised and kept hidden from her;
the truth that kills or cures.

Miss Quincey did not go out again that day, but sat all afternoon silent
in her chair. Towards evening she became talkative and stayed up later
than had been her wont since she recovered her freedom. She seemed to be
trying to make up to her aunt for a want of sociability in the past.

At eleven she got up and stood before the Old Lady in the attitude of a
penitent. Apparently she had been seized with a mysterious impulse of
confession.

"Aunt," she said, "there's something I want to say to you."

She paused, casting about in her mind for the sins she had committed.
They were three in all.

"I am afraid I have been very extravagant"--she was thinking of the
blouse--"and--and very foolish"--she was thinking of Bastian
Cautley--"and very selfish"--she was thinking of her momentary desire to
die.

"Juliana, if you're worrying about that money"--the Old Lady was thinking
of nothing else--"don't. I've plenty for us both. As long as we can keep
together I don't care what I eat, nor what I drink, nor what I put on my
poor back. And if the worst comes to the worst I'll sell the furniture."

It seemed to Miss Quincey that she had never known her aunt in all those
five-and-twenty years; never known her until this minute. For perhaps,
after all, being angry with Juliana was only Mrs. Moon's way of being
sorry for her. But how was Juliana to know that?

"Only," continued the Old Lady, "I won't part with your uncle's picture.
Don't ask me to part with your uncle's picture."

"You won't have to part with anything. I'll--I'll get something to do.
I'm not worrying. There's nothing to worry about."

She stooped down and tenderly kissed the wrinkled forehead.

A vague fear clutched at the Old Lady's heart.

"Then, Juliana, you are not well. Hadn't you better see"--she
hesitated--pausing with unwonted delicacy for her words--"a doctor?"

"I don't want to see a doctor. There is nothing the matter with me." And
still insisting that there was nothing the matter with her, she went to
bed.

And old Martha had come with her early morning croak to call Miss
Juliana; she had dumped down the hot-water can in the basin with a clash,
pulled up the blind with a jerk, and drawn back the curtains with a
clatter, before she noticed that Miss Juliana was up all the time. Up and
dressed, and sitting in her chair by the hearth, warming her feet at
an imaginary fire.

She had been sitting up all night, for her bed was as Martha had left it
the night before. Martha approached cautiously, still feeling her way,
though there was no need for it, the room being full of light.

She groped like a blind woman for Miss Juliana's forehead, laying her
hand there before she looked into her face.

After some fumbling futile experiments with brandy, a looking-glass and a
feather, old Martha hid these things carefully out of sight; she
disarranged the bed, turning back the clothes as they might have been
left by one newly wakened and risen out of it; drew a shawl over the head
and shoulders of the figure in the chair; pulled down the blind and
closed the curtains till the room was dark again. Then she groped her way
out and down the stairs to her mistress's door. There she stayed a
moment, gathering her feeble wits together for the part she meant to
play. She had made up her mind what she would do.

So she called the Old Lady as usual; said she was afraid there was
something the matter with Miss Juliana; thought she might have got up a
bit too early and turned faint like.

The Old Lady answered that she would come and see; and the two crept up
the stairs, and went groping their way in the dark of the curtained room.
Old Martha fumbled a long time with the blind; she drew back the curtains
little by little, with infinite precaution letting in the light upon the
fearful thing.

But the Old Lady approached it boldly.

"Don't you know me, Jooley dear?" she said, peering into the strange
eyes. There was no recognition in them for all their staring.

"Don't know _me_, m'm," said Martha soothingly; "seems all of a white
swoon, don't she?"

Martha was warming to her part. She made herself busy; she brought hot
water bottles and eau de cologne; she spent twenty minutes chafing the
hands and forehead and laying warmth to the feet, that the Old Lady might
have the comfort of knowing that everything had been done that could be
done. She shuffled off to find brandy, as if she had only thought of it
that instant; and she played out the play with the looking-glass and the
feather.

The feather fluttered to the floor, and Martha ceased bending and
peering, and looked at her mistress.

"She's gone, m'm, I do believe."

The Old Lady sank by the chair, her arms clinging to those rigid knees.

"Jooley--Jooley--don't you _know_ me?" she cried, as if in a passion of
affront.




CHAPTER XII

Epilogue.--The Man and the Woman


By daylight there is neither glamour nor beauty in the great
burying-ground of North London; you must go to it at evening, in the
first fall of the summer dusk, to feel the fascination of that labyrinth
of low graves, crosses and headstones, urns and sarcophagi, crowded in
the black-green of the grass; of marble columns, granite pyramids and
obelisks, massed and reared and piled in the grey of the air. It is
nothing if not fantastic. Even by day that same mad grouping and jostling
of monumental devices, gathered together from the ends of the world,
gives to the place a cheerful half-pagan character; now, in its confusion
and immensity, it might be some city of dreams, tossed up in cloud and
foam and frozen into marble; some aerial half-way limbo where life slips
a little from the living and death from the dead.

For these have their own way here. No priest interferes with them, and
whatever secular power ordains these matters is indulgent to its
children. If one of them would have his horse or his dog carved on his
tomb instead of an angel, or a pair of compasses instead of a cross,
there is no one to thwart his fancy. He may even be humorous if he will.
It is as if he implored us to laugh with him a little while though the
jest be feeble, and not to chill him with so many tears.

At twilight a man and a woman were threading their way through this
cemetery, and as they went they smiled faintly at the memorial caprices
of the living and the still quainter originalities of the dead. But on
the whole they seemed to be trying not to look too happy. They said
nothing to each other till they came to a mound raised somewhere in the
borderland that divides the graves of the rich from the paupers' ground.
There was just room for them to stand together on the boards that roofed
in the narrow pit dug ready for the next comer.

"If I believed in a Creator" (it was the man who spoke), "I should want
to know what pleasure he found in creating that poor little woman."

The woman did not answer as she looked at him.

"Yet," he went on, "I'm selfish enough to be glad that she lived. If I
had not known Miss Quincey, I should not have known you."

"And I," said the woman, and her face was rosy under the touch of grief,
"if I had not loved Miss Quincey, I could not have loved you."

They seemed to think Miss Quincey had justified her existence. Perhaps
she had.

And the woman took the roses that she wore in her belt and laid them on
the breast of the grave. She stood for a minute studying the effect with
a shamefaced look, as if she had mocked the dead woman with flowers flung
from her wedding-wreath of youth and joy.

Then she turned to the man; the closing bell tolled, and they passed
through the iron gates into the ways of the living.

THE END





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