Infomotions, Inc.Dangerous Ages / Macaulay, Rose, 1881-1958



Author: Macaulay, Rose, 1881-1958
Title: Dangerous Ages
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): gerda; neville; hilary; grandmama; barry; rosalind; kay; rodney; pamela; barry briscoe; stephen lumley; frances carr
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Title: Dangerous Ages


Author: Rose Macaulay



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DANGEROUS AGES

by

ROSE MACAULAY

Author of "Potterism"

Boni and Liveright
Publishers New York

1921







TO MY MOTHER
DRIVING GAILY THROUGH THE
ADVENTUROUS MIDDLE YEARS




CONTENTS

CHAPTER

   I. NEVILLE'S BIRTHDAY
  II. MRS. HILARY'S BIRTHDAY
 III. FAMILY LIFE
  IV. ROOTS
   V. SEAWEED
  VI. JIM
 VII. GERDA
VIII. NAN
  IX. THE PACE
   X. PRINCIPLES
  XI. THAT WHICH REMAINS
 XII. THE MOTHER
XIII. THE DAUGHTER
 XIV. YOUTH TO YOUTH
  XV. THE DREAM
 XVI. TIME
XVII. THE KEY



'As to that,' said Mr. Cradock, 'we may say that all ages are dangerous
to all people, in this dangerous life we live.'

'Reflecting how, at the best, human life on this minute and perishing
planet is a mere episode, and as brief as a dream....'

_Trivia_: Logan Pearsall Smith.




CHAPTER I

NEVILLE'S BIRTHDAY


1

Neville, at five o'clock (Nature's time, not man's) on the morning of her
birthday, woke from the dream-broken sleep of summer dawns, hot with the
burden of two sheets and a blanket, roused by the multitudinous silver
calling of a world full of birds. They chattered and bickered about the
creepered house, shrill and sweet, like a hundred brooks running together
down steep rocky places after snow. And, not like brooks, and strangely
unlike birds, like, in fact, nothing in the world except a cuckoo clock,
a cuckoo shouted foolishly in the lowest boughs of the great elm across
the silver lawn.

Neville turned on her face, cupped her small, pale, tanned face in her
sunburnt hands, and looked out with sleepy violet eyes. The sharp joy of
the young day struck into her as she breathed it through the wide window.
She shivered ecstatically as it blew coldly onto her bare throat and
chest, and forgot the restless birthday bitterness of the night; forgot
how she had lain and thought "Another year gone, and nothing done yet.
Soon all the years will be gone, and nothing ever will be done." Done by
her, she, of course, meant, as all who are familiar with birthdays will
know. But what was something and what was nothing, neither she nor others
with birthdays could satisfactorily define. They have lived, they have
eaten, drunk, loved, bathed, suffered, talked, danced in the night and
rejoiced in the dawn, warmed, in fact, both hands before the fire of
life, but still they are not ready to depart. For they are behindhand
with time, obsessed with so many worlds, so much to do, the petty done,
the undone vast. It depressed Milton when he turned twenty-three; it
depresses all those with vain and ambitious temperaments at least once a
year. Some call it remorse for wasted days, and are proud of it; others
call it vanity, discontent or greed, and are ashamed of it. It makes no
difference either way.

Neville, flinging it off lightly with her bedclothes, sprang out of bed,
thrust her brown feet into sand shoes, her slight, straight, pyjama-clad
body into a big coat, quietly slipped into the passage, where, behind
three shut doors, slept Rodney, Gerda and Kay, and stole down the back
stairs to the kitchen, which was dim and blinded, blue with china and
pale with dawn, and had a gas stove. She made herself some tea. She also
got some bread and marmalade out of the larder, spread two thick chunks,
and munching one of them, slipped out of the sleeping house into the
dissipated and riotous garden.

Looking up at the honeysuckle-buried window of the bedroom of Gerda,
Neville nearly whistled the call to which Gerda was wont to reply.
Nearly, but not quite. On the whole it was a morning to be out alone in.
Besides, Neville wanted to forget, for the moment, about birthdays, and
Gerda would have reminded her.

Going round by the yard, she fetched Esau instead, who wouldn't remind
her, and whose hysterical joy she hushed with a warning hand.

Across the wet and silver lawn she sauntered, between the monstrous
shadows of the elms, her feet in the old sand shoes leaving dark prints
in the dew, her mouth full of bread and marmalade, her black plait
bobbing on her shoulders, and Esau tumbling round her. Across the lawn to
the wood, cool and dim still, but not quiet, for it rang with music and
rustled with life. Through the boughs of beeches and elms and firs the
young day flickered gold, so that the bluebell patches were half lit,
like blue water in the sun, half grey, like water at twilight. Between
two great waves of them a brown path ran steeply down to a deep little
stream. Neville and Esau, scrambling a little way upstream, stopped at
a broad swirling pool it made between rocks. Here Neville removed coat,
shoes and pyjamas and sat poised for a moment on the jutting rock, a
slight and naked body, long in the leg, finely and supplely knit, with
light, flexible muscles--a body built for swiftness, grace and a certain
wiry strength. She sat there while she twisted her black plait round her
head, then she slipped into the cold, clear, swirling pool, which in one
part was just over her depth, and called to Esau to come in too, and
Esau, as usual, didn't, but only barked.

One swim round is enough, if not too much, as everyone who knows sunrise
bathing will agree. Neville scrambled out, discovered that she had
forgotten the towel, dried herself on her coat, resumed her pyjamas, and
sat down to eat her second slice of bread and marmalade. When she had
finished it she climbed a beech tree, swarming neatly up the smooth trunk
in order to get into the sunshine, and sat on a broad branch astride,
whistling shrilly, trying to catch the tune now from one bird, now from
another.

These, of course, were the moments when being alive was enough. Swimming,
bread and marmalade, sitting high in a beech tree in the golden eye of
the morning sun--that was life. One flew then, like a gay ship with the
wind in its sails, over the cold black bottomless waters of misgiving.
Many such a June morning Neville remembered in the past.... She wondered
if Gerda and if Kay thus sailed over sorrow, too. Rodney, she knew, did.
But she knew Rodney better, in some ways, than she knew Gerda and Kay.

To think suddenly of Rodney, of Gerda and of Kay, sleeping in the still
house beyond the singing wood and silver garden, was to founder swiftly
in the cold, dark seas, to be hurt again with the stabbing envy of the
night. Not jealousy, for she loved them all too well for that. But envy
of their chances, of their contacts with life. Having her own contacts,
she wanted all kinds of others too. Not only Rodney's, Gerda's and Kay's,
but those of all her family and friends. Conscious, as one is on
birthdays, of intense life hurrying swiftly to annihilation, she strove
desperately to dam it. It went too fast. She looked at the wet strands of
black hair now spread over her shoulders to dry in the sun, at her
strong, supple, active limbs, and thought of the days to come, when the
black hair should be grey and the supple limbs refuse to carry her up
beech trees, and when, if she bathed in the sunrise, she would get
rheumatism. In those days, what did one do to keep from sinking in the
black seas of regret? One sat by the fire, or in the sunlit garden, old
and grey and full of sleep--yes, one went to sleep, when one could. When
one couldn't, one read. But one's eyes got tired soon--Neville thought of
her grandmother--and one had to be read aloud to, by someone who couldn't
read aloud. That wouldn't be enough to stifle vain regrets; only
rejoicing actively in the body did that. So, before that time came, one
must have slain regret, crushed that serpent's head for good and all.

But did anyone ever succeed in doing this? Rodney, who had his full,
successful, useful, interesting life; Rodney, who had made his mark and
was making it; Rodney, the envy of many others, and particularly the envy
of Neville, with the jagged ends of her long since broken career stabbing
her; Rodney from time to time burned inwardly with scorching ambitions,
with jealousies of other men, with all the heats, rancours and troubles
of the race that is set before us. He had done, was doing, something, but
it wasn't enough. He had got, was getting, far,--but it wasn't far
enough. He couldn't achieve what he wanted; there were obstacles
everywhere. Fools hindered his work; men less capable than he got jobs he
should have had. Immersed in politics, he would have liked more time for
writing; he would have liked a hundred other careers besides his own, and
could have but the one. (Gerda and Kay, still poised on the threshold of
life, still believed that they could indeed have a hundred.) No, Rodney
was not immune from sorrow, but at least he had more with which to keep
it at bay than Neville. Neville had no personal achievements; she had
only her love for Rodney, Gerda and Kay, her interest in the queer,
enchanting pageant of life, her physical vigours (she could beat any of
the rest of them at swimming, walking, tennis or squash) and her active
but wasted brain. A good brain, too; she had easily and with brilliance
passed her medical examinations long ago--those of them for which she had
had time before she had been interrupted. But now a wasted brain;
squandered, atrophied, gone soft with disuse. Could she begin to use
it now? Or was she forever held captive, in deep woods, between the two
twilights?

  "I am in deep woods,
  Between the two twilights.
  Over valley and hill
  I hear the woodland wave
  Like the voice of Time, as slow,
  The voice of Life, as grave,
  The voice of Death, as still...."


2

The voices, the young loud clear voices of Gerda and of Kay, shrilled
down from the garden, and Esau yapped in answer. They were calling her.
They had probably been to wake her and had found her gone.

Neville smiled (when she smiled a dimple came in one pale brown cheek)
and swung herself down from the beech. Kay and Gerda were of enormous
importance; the most important things in life, except Rodney; but not
everything, because nothing is ever everything in this so complex world.

When she came out of the wood into the garden, now all golden with
morning, they flung themselves upon her and called her a sneak for not
having wakened them to bathe.

"You'll be late for breakfast," they chanted. "Late on your forty-third
birthday."

They each had an arm round her; they propelled her towards the house.
They were lithe, supple creatures of twenty and twenty-one. Between them
walked Neville, with her small, pointed, elfish face, that was sensitive
to every breath of thought and emotion like smooth water wind-stirred.
With her great violet eyes brooding in it under thin black brows, and
her wet hair hanging in loose strands, she looked like an ageless
wood-dryad between two slim young saplings. Kay was a little like her in
the face, only his violet eyes were short-sighted and he wore glasses.
Gerda was smaller, fragile and straight as a wand, with a white little
face and wavy hair of pure gold, bobbed round her thin white neck. And
with far-set blue eyes and a delicate cleft chin and thin straight lips.
For all she looked so frail, she could dance all night and return in the
morning cool, composed and exquisite, like a lily bud. There was a look
of immaculate sexless purity about Gerda; she might have stood for the
angel Gabriel, wide-eyed and young and grave. With this wide innocent
look she would talk unabashed of things which Neville felt revolting. And
she, herself, was the product of a fastidious generation and class, and
as nearly sexless as may be in this besexed world, which however is not,
and can never be, saying much. Kay would do the same. They would read and
discuss Freud, whom Neville, unfairly prejudiced, found both an obscene
maniac and a liar. They might laugh with her at Freud when he expanded on
that complex, whichever it is, by which mothers and daughters hate each
other, and fathers and sons--but they both all the same took seriously
things which seemed to Neville merely loathsome imbecilities. Gerda and
Kay didn't, in point of fact, find so many things either funny or
disgusting as Neville did; throwing her mind back twenty years, Neville
tried to remember whether she had found the world as funny and as
frightful when she was a medical student as she did now; on the whole she
thought not. Boys and girls are, for all their high spirits, creatures of
infinite solemnities and pomposities. They laugh; but the twinkling
irony, mocking at itself and everything else, of the thirties and
forties, they have not yet learnt. They cannot be gentle cynics; they
are so full of faith and hope, and when these are hurt they turn savage.
About Kay and Gerda there was a certain splendid earnestness with regard
to life. Admirable creatures, thought Neville, watching them with
whimsical tenderness. They had nothing to do with the pre-war, dilettante
past, the sophisticated gaiety of the young century. Their childhood had
been lived during the great war, and they had emerged from it hot with
elemental things, discussing life, lust, love, politics and social
reform, with cool candour, intelligent thoroughness and Elizabethan
directness. They wouldn't mind having passions and giving them rein; they
wouldn't think it vulgar, or even tedious, to lead loose lives. Probably,
in fact, it wasn't; probably it was Neville, and the people who had grown
up with her, who were overcivilized, too far from the crude stuff of
life, the monotonies and emotionalisms of Nature. And now Nature was
taking her rather startling revenge on the next generation.


3

Neville ran upstairs, and came down to breakfast dressed in blue cotton,
with her damp hair smoothly taken back from her broad forehead that
jutted broodingly over her short pointed face. She had the look of
a dryad at odds with the world, a whimsical and elfish intellectual.

Rodney and Kay and Gerda had been putting parcels at her place, and a
pile of letters lay among them. There is, anyhow, that about birthdays,
however old they make you. Kay had given her a splendid great
pocket-knife and a book he wanted to read, Gerda an oak box she had
carved, and Rodney a new bicycle (by the front door) and a Brangwyn
drawing (on the table). If Neville envied Kay and Gerda their future
careers, she envied Rodney his present sphere. Her husband and the
father of Gerda and Kay was a clever and distinguished-looking man of
forty-five, and member, in the Labour interest, for a division of Surrey.
He looked, however, more like a literary man. How to be useful though
married: in Rodney's case the problem was so simple, in hers so
complicated. She had envied Rodney a little twenty years ago; then she
had stopped, because the bringing up of Kay and Gerda had been a work in
itself; now she had begun again. Rodney and she were more like each other
than they were like their children; they had some of the same vanities,
fastidiousnesses, humours and withdrawals, and in some respects the same
outlook on life. Only Rodney's had been solidified and developed by the
contacts and exigencies of his career, and Neville's disembodied,
devitalised and driven inwards by her more dilettante life. She "helped
Rodney with the constituency" of course, but it was Rodney's
constituency, not hers; she entertained his friends and hers when they
were in town, but she knew herself a light woman, not a dealer in
affairs. Yet her nature was stronger than Rodney's, larger and more
mature; it was only his experience she lacked.

Rodney was and had always been charming; there could be no doubt
about that, whatever else you might come to think about him. Able, too,
but living on his nerves, wincing like a high-strung horse from the
annoyances and disappointments of life, such as Quaker oats because the
grape-nuts had come to an end, and the industrial news of the morning,
which was as bad as usual and four times repeated in four quite different
tones by the four daily papers which lay on the table. They took four
papers not so much that there might be one for each of them as that they
might have the entertainment of seeing how different the same news can be
made to appear. One bond of union this family had which few families
possess; they were (roughly speaking) united politically, so believed the
same news to be good or bad. The chief difference in their political
attitude was that Kay and Gerda joined societies and leagues, being still
young enough to hold that causes were helped in this way.

"What about to-day?" Rodney asked Neville. "What are you going to do?"

She answered, "Tennis." (Neville had once been a county player.) "River.
Lying about in the sun." (It should be explained that it was one of those
nine days of the English summer of 1920 when this was a possible
occupation.) "Anything anyone likes.... I've already had a good deal of
day and a bathe.... Oh, Nan's coming down this afternoon."

She got that out of a letter. Nan was her youngest sister. They all
proceeded to get and impart other things out of letters, in the way of
families who are fairly united, as families go.

Gerda opened her lips to impart something, but remembered her father's
distastes and refrained. Rodney, civilised, sensitive and progressive,
had no patience with his children's unsophisticated leaning to a
primitive crudeness. He told them they were young savages. So Gerda kept
her news till later, when she and Neville and Kay were lying on rugs on
the lawn after Neville had beaten Kay in a set of singles.

They lay and smoked and cooled, and Gerda, a cigarette stuck in one side
of her mouth, a buttercup in the other, mumbled "Penelope's baby's come,
by the way. A girl. Another surplus woman."

Neville's brows lazily went up.

"Penelope Jessop? What's _she_ doing with a baby? I didn't know she'd got
married."

"Oh, she hasn't, of course.... Didn't I tell you about Penelope? She
lives with Martin Annesley now."

"Oh, I see. Marriage in the sight of heaven. That sort of thing."

Neville was of those who find marriages in the sight of heaven
uncivilised and socially reactionary, a reversion, in fact, to Nature,
which bored her. Gerda and Kay rightly believed such marriages to have
some advantages over those more visible to the human eye (as being more
readily dissoluble when fatiguing) and many advantages over no marriages
at all, which do not increase the population, so depleted by the Great
War. When they spoke in this admirably civic sense, Neville was apt to
say "It doesn't want increasing. I waited twenty minutes before I could
board my bus at Trafalgar Square the other day. It wants more depleting,
I should say--a Great Plague or something," a view which Kay and Gerda
thought truly egotistical.

"I do hope," said Neville, her thoughts having led her to the statement,
"I do very much hope that neither of you will ever perpetrate that sort
of marriage. It would be so dreadfully common of you."

"Impossible to say," Kay said, vaguely.

"Considering," said Gerda, "that there are a million more women than men
in this country, it stands to reason that some system of polygamy must
become the usual thing in the future."

"It's always been the usual thing, darling. Dreadfully usual. It's so
much more amusing to be unusual in these ways."

Neville's voice trailed drowsily away. Polygamy. Sex. Free Love. Love in
chains. The children seemed so often to be discussing these. Just as,
twenty years ago, she and her friends had seemed always to be discussing
the Limitations of Personality, the Ethics of Friendship, and the Nature,
if any, of God. This last was to Kay and Gerda too hypothetical to be a
stimulating theme. It would have sent them to sleep, as sex did Neville.

Neville, led by Free Love to a private vision, brooded cynically over
savages dancing round a wood-pile in primeval forests, engaged in what
missionaries, journalists, and writers of fiction about our coloured
brothers call "nameless orgies" (as if you would expect most orgies to
answer to their names, like the stars) and she saw the steep roads of the
round world running back and back and back--on or back, it made no
difference, since the world was round--to this. Saw, too, a thousand
stuffy homes wherein sat couples linked by a legal formula so rigid, so
lasting, so indelible, that not all their tears could wash out a word of
it, unless they took to themselves other mates, in which case their
second state might be worse than their first. Free love--love in chains.
How absurd it all was, and how tragic too. One might react back to the
remaining choice--no love at all--and that was absurder and more tragic
still, since man was made (among other ends) to love. Looking under her
heavy lashes at her pretty young children, incredibly youthful, absurdly
theoretical, fiercely clean of mind and frank of speech, their clearness
as yet unblurred by the expediencies, compromise and experimental
contacts of life, Neville was stabbed by a sharp pang of fear and hope
for them. Fear lest on some fleeting impulse they might founder into the
sentimental triviality of short-lived contacts, or into the tedium of
bonds which must out-live desire; hope that, by some fortunate chance,
they might each achieve, as she had achieved, some relation which should
be both durable and to be endured. As to the third path--no love at
all--she did not believe that either Kay or Gerda would tread that. They
were emotional, in their cool and youthful way, and also believed that
they ought to increase the population. What a wonderful, noble thing to
believe, at twenty, thought Neville, remembering the levity of her own
irresponsible youth, when her only interest in the population had been
a nightmare fear lest they should at last become so numerous that they
would be driven out of the towns into the country and would be scuttling
over the moors, downs and woods like black beetles in kitchens in the
night. They were better than she had been, these children; more
public-spirited and more in earnest about life.


4

Across the garden came Nan Hilary, having come down from town to see
Neville on her forty-third birthday. Nan herself was not so incredibly
old as Neville; (for forty-three _is_ incredibly old, from any reasonable
standpoint). Nan was thirty-three and a half. She represented the
thirties; she was, in Neville's mind, a bridge between the remote
twenties and the new, extraordinary forties in which one could hardly
believe. It seems normal to be in the thirties; the right, ordinary age,
that most people are. Nan, who wrote, and lived in rooms in Chelsea, was
rather like a wild animal--a leopard or something. Long and lissome, with
a small, round, sallow face and withdrawn, brooding yellow eyes under
sulky black brows that slanted up to the outer corners. Nan had a good
time socially and intellectually. She was clever and lazy; she would
fritter away days and weeks in idle explorations into the humanities,
or curled up in the sun in the country like a cat. Her worst fault
was a cynical unkindness, against which she did not strive because
investigating the less admirable traits of human beings amused her. She
was infinitely amused by her nephew and her niece, but often spiteful to
them, merely because they were young. To sum up, she was a cynic, a rake,
an excellent literary critic, a sardonic and brilliant novelist, and she
had a passionate, adoring and protecting affection for Neville, who was
the only person who had always been told what she called the darker
secrets of her life.

She sat down on the grass, her thin brown hands clasped round her ankles,
and said to Neville, "You're looking very sweet, aged one. Forty-three
seems to suit you."

"And you," Neville returned, "look as if you'd jazzed all night and
written unkind reviews from dawn till breakfast time."

"That's just about right," Nan owned, and flung herself full length on
her back, shutting her eyes against the sun. "That's why I've come down
here to cool my jaded nerves. And also because Rosalind wanted to lunch
with me."

"Have you read my poems yet?" enquired Gerda, who never showed the
customary abashed hesitation in dealing with these matters. She and Kay
sent their literary efforts to Nan to criticise, because they believed
(a) in her powers as a critic, (b) in her influence in the literary
world. Nan used in their behalf the former but seldom the latter,
because, in spite of queer spasms of generosity, she was jealous of Gerda
and Kay. Why should they want to write? Why shouldn't they do anything
else in the world but trespass on her preserves? Not that verse was what
she ever wrote or could write herself. And of course everyone wrote now,
and especially the very young; but in a niece and nephew it was a
tiresome trick. They didn't write well, because no one of their age ever
does, but they might some day. They already came out in weekly papers and
anthologies of contemporary verse. Very soon they would come out in
little volumes. They'd much better, thought Nan, marry and get out of the
way.

"Read them--yes," Nan returned laconically to Gerda's question.

"What," enquired Gerda, perseveringly, "did you think of them?"

"I said I'd _read_ them," Nan replied. "I didn't say I'd thought of
them."

Gerda looked at her with her wide, candid gaze, with the unrancorous
placidity of the young, who are still used to being snubbed. Nan, she
knew, would tease and baffle, withhold and gibe, but would always say
what she thought in the end, and what she thought was always worth
knowing, even though she was middle-aged.

Nan, turning her lithe body over on the grass, caught the patient child's
look, and laughed. Generous impulses alternated in her with malicious
moods where these absurd, solemn, egotistic, pretty children of Neville's
were concerned.

"All right, Blue Eyes. I'll write it all down for you and send it to you
with the MS., if you really want it. You won't like it, you know, but I
suppose you're used to that by now."

Neville listened to them. Regret turned in her, cold and tired and
envious. They all wrote except her. To write: it wasn't much of a thing
to do, unless one did it really well, and it had never attracted her
personally, but it was, nevertheless, something--a little piece of
individual output thrown into the flowing river. She had never written,
even when she was Gerda's age. Twenty years ago writing poetry hadn't
been as it is to-day, a necessary part of youth's accomplishment like
tennis, French or dancing. Besides, Neville could never have enjoyed
writing poetry, because for her the gulf between good verse and bad was
too wide to be bridged by her own achievements. Nor novels, because she
disliked nearly all novels, finding them tedious, vulgar, conventional,
and out of all relation both to life as lived and to the world of
imagination. What she had written in early youth had been queer
imaginative stuff, woven out of her childhood's explorations into
fairyland and of her youth's into those still stranger tropical lands
beyond seas where she had travelled with her father. But she hadn't
written or much wanted to write; scientific studies had always attracted
her more than literary achievements. Then she had married Rodney, and
that was the end of all studies and achievements for her, though not the
end of anything for Rodney, but the beginning.

Rodney came out of the house, his pipe in his mouth. He still had the
lounging walk, shoulders high and hands in pockets, of the undergraduate;
the walk also of Kay. He sat down among his family. Kay and Gerda looked
at him with approval; though they knew his weakness, he was just the
father they would have chosen, and of how few parents can this be said.
They were proud to take him about with them to political meetings and so
forth, and prouder still to sit under him while he addressed audiences.
Few men of his great age were (on the whole) so right in the head and
sound in the heart, and fewer still so delightful to the eye. When people
talked about the Wicked Old Men, who, being still unfortunately
unrestrained and unmurdered by the Young, make this wicked world what
it is, Kay and Gerda always contended that there were a few exceptions.

Nan gave Rodney her small, fleeting smile. She had a critical
friendliness for him, but had never believed him really good enough
for Neville.

Gerda and Kay began to play a single, and Nan said, "I'm in a hole."

"Broke, darling?" Neville asked her, for that was usually it, though
sometimes it was human entanglements.

Nan nodded. "If I could have ten pounds.... I'd let you have it in a
fortnight."

"That's easy," said Rodney, in his kind, offhand way.

"Of course," Neville said. "You old spendthrift."

"Thank you, dears. Now I can get a birthday present for mother."

For Mrs. Hilary's birthday was next week, and to celebrate it her
children habitually assembled at The Gulls, St. Mary's Bay, where she
lived. Nan always gave her a more expensive present than she could
afford, in a spasm of remorse for the irritation her mother roused in
her.

"Oh, poor mother," Neville exclaimed, suddenly remembering that Mrs.
Hilary would in a week be sixty-three, and that this must be worse by
twenty years than to be forty-three.

The hurrying stream of life was loud in her ears. How quickly it was
sweeping them all along--the young bodies of Gerda and of Kay leaping on
the tennis court, the clear, analysing minds of Nan and Rodney and
herself musing in the sun, the feverish heart of her mother, loving,
hating, feeding restlessly on itself by the seaside, the age-calmed soul
of her grandmother, who was eighty-four and drove out in a donkey
chair by the same sea.

The lazy talking of Rodney and Nan, the cryings and strikings of Gerda
and Kay, the noontide chirrupings of birds, the cluckings of distant hens
pretending that they had laid eggs, all merged into the rushing of the
inexorable river, along and along and along. Time, like an ever-rolling
stream, bearing all its sons away. Clatter, chatter, clatter, does it
matter, matter, matter? They fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the
opening day.... No, it probably didn't matter at all what one did, how
much one got into one's life, since there was to be, anyhow, so soon an
end.

The garden became strange and far and flat, like tapestry, or a dream....

The lunch gong boomed. Nan, who had fallen asleep with the suddenness of
a lower animal, her cheek pillowed on her hand, woke and stretched. Gerda
and Kay, not to be distracted from their purpose, finished the set.

"Thank God," said Nan, "that I am not lunching with Rosalind."




CHAPTER II

MRS. HILARY'S BIRTHDAY


1

They all turned up at The Gulls, St. Mary's Bay, in time for lunch on
Mrs. Hilary's birthday. It was her special wish that all those of her
children who could should do this each year. Jim, whom she preferred,
couldn't come this time; he was a surgeon; it is an uncertain profession.
The others all came; Neville and Pamela and Gilbert and Nan and with
Gilbert his wife Rosalind, who had no right there because she was only an
in-law, but if Rosalind thought it would amuse her to do anything you
could not prevent her. She and Mrs. Hilary disliked one another a good
deal, though Rosalind would say to the others, "Your darling mother!
She's priceless, and I adore her!" She would say that when she had
caught Mrs. Hilary in a mistake. She would draw her on to say she had
read a book she hadn't read (it was a point of honour with Mrs. Hilary
never to admit ignorance of any book mentioned by others) and then she
would say, "I do love you, mother! It's not out yet; I've only seen
Gilbert's review copy," and Mrs. Hilary would say, "In that case I
suppose I am thinking of another book," and Rosalind would say to Neville
or Pamela or Gilbert or Nan, "Your darling mother. I adore her!" and Nan,
contemptuous of her mother for thinking such trivial pretence worth
while, and with Rosalind for thinking malicious exposure worth while,
would shrug her shoulders and turn away.


2

All but Neville arrived by the same train from town, the one getting in
at 12.11. Neville had come from Surrey the day before and spent the
night, because Mrs. Hilary liked to have her all to herself for a little
time before the others came. After Jim, Neville was the child Mrs. Hilary
preferred. She had always been a mother with marked preferences. There
were various barriers between her and her various children; Gilbert, who
was thirty-eight, had annoyed her long ago by taking up literature as a
profession on leaving Cambridge, instead of doing what she described as
"a man's job," and later on by marrying Rosalind, who was fast, and, in
Mrs. Hilary's opinion, immoral. Pamela, who was thirty-nine and working
in a settlement in Hoxton, annoyed her by her devotion to Frances Carr,
the friend with whom she lived. Mrs. Hilary thought them very silly,
these close friendships between women. They prevented marriage, and led
to foolish fussing about one another's health and happiness. Nan annoyed
her by "getting talked about" with men, by writing books which Mrs.
Hilary found both dull and not very nice, in tone, and by her own
irritated reactions to her mother's personality. Nan, in fact, was often
rude and curt to her.

But Jim, who was a man and a doctor, a strong, good-humoured person and
her eldest son, annoyed her not at all. Nor did Neville, who was her
eldest daughter and had given her grandchildren and infinite sympathy.

Neville, knowing all these things and more, always arrived on the
evenings before her mother's birthdays, and they talked all the morning.
Mrs. Hilary was at her best with Neville. She was neither irritable nor
nervous nor showing off. She looked much less than sixty-three. She was
a tall, slight, trailing woman, with the remains of beauty, and her dark,
untidy hair was only streaked with grey. Since her husband had died, ten
years ago, she had lived at St. Mary's Bay with her mother. It had been
her old home; not The Gulls, but the vicarage, in the days when St.
Mary's Bay had been a little fishing village without an esplanade. To
old Mrs. Lennox it was the same fishing village still, and the people,
even the summer visitors, were to her the flock of her late husband, who
had died twenty years ago.

"A good many changes lately," she would say to them. "Some people think
the place is improving. But I can't say I like the esplanade."

But the visitors, unless they were very old, didn't know anything about
the changes. To them St. Mary's Bay was not a fishing village but a
seaside resort. To Mrs. Hilary it was her old home, and had healthy air
and plenty of people for her mother to gossip with and was as good a
place as any other for her to parch in like a withered flower now that
the work of her life was done. The work of her life had been making a
home for her husband and children; she had never had either the desire or
the faculties for any other work. Now that work was over, and she was
rather badly left, as she cared neither for cards, knitting, gardening,
nor intellectual pursuits. Once, seven years ago, at Neville's
instigation, she had tried London life for a time, but it had been no
use. The people she met there were too unlike her, too intelligent and up
to date; they went to meetings and concerts and picture exhibitions and
read books and talked about public affairs not emotionally but coolly and
drily; they were mildly surprised at Mrs. Hilary's vehemence of feeling
on all points, and she was strained beyond endurance by their knowledge
of facts and catholicity of interests. So she returned to St. Mary's Bay,
where she passed muster as an intelligent woman, gossiped with her
mother, the servants and their neighbours, read novels, brooded over the
happier past, walked for miles alone along the coast, and slipped every
now and then, as she had slipped even in youth, over the edge of
emotionalism into hysterical passion or grief. Her mother was no use at
such times; she only made her worse, sitting there in the calm of old
age, looking tranquilly at the end, for her so near that nothing
mattered. Only Jim or Neville were of any use then.

Neville on the eve of this her sixty-third birthday soothed one such
outburst. The tedium of life, with no more to do in it--why couldn't it
end? The lights were out, the flowers were dead--and yet the unhappy
actors had to stay and stay and stay, idling on the empty, darkened
stage. (That was how Mrs. Hilary, with her gift for picturesque language,
put it.) _Must_ it be empty, _must_ it be dark, Neville uselessly asked,
knowing quite well that for one of her mother's temperament it must. Mrs.
Hilary had lived in and by her emotions; nothing else had counted. Life
for her had burnt itself out, and its remnant was like the fag end of a
cigarette, stale and old.

"Shall I feel like that in twenty years?" Neville speculated aloud.

"I hope," said Mrs. Hilary, "that you won't have lost Rodney. So long as
you have him...."

"But if I haven't...."

Neville looked down the years; saw herself without Rodney, perhaps
looking after her mother, who would then have become (strange, incredible
thought, but who could say?) calm with the calm of age; Kay and Gerda
married or working or both.... What then? Only she was better equipped
than her mother for the fag end of life; she had a serviceable brain and
a sound education. She wouldn't pass empty days at a seaside resort. She
would work at something, and be interested. Interesting work and
interesting friends--her mother, by her very nature, could have neither,
but was just clever enough to feel the want of them. The thing was to
start some definite work _now_, before it was too late.

"Did Grandmama go through it?" Neville asked her mother.

"Oh, I expect so. I was selfish; I was wrapped up in home and all of you;
I didn't notice. But I think she had it badly, for a time, when first she
left the vicarage.... She's contented now."

They both looked at Grandmama, who was playing patience on the sofa and
could not hear their talking for the sound of the sea. Yes, Grandmama was
(apparently) contented now.

"There's work," mused Neville, thinking of the various links with life,
the rafts, rather, which should carry age over the cold seas of tedious
regret. "And there's natural gaiety. And intellectual interests. And
contacts with other people--permanent contacts and temporary ones. And
beauty. All those things. For some people, too, there's religion."

"And for all of us food and drink," said Mrs. Hilary, sharply. "Oh,
I suppose you think I've no right to complain, as I've got all those
things, except work."

But Neville shook her head, knowing that this was a delusion of her
mother's, and that she had, in point of fact, none of them, except the
contacts with people, which mostly either over-strained, irritated or
bored her, and that aspect of religion which made her cry. For she was
a Unitarian, and thought the Gospels infinitely sad and the souls of the
departed most probably so merged in God as to be deprived of all
individuality.

"It's better to be High Church or Roman Catholic and have services, or
an Evangelical and have the Voice of God," Neville decided. And, indeed,
it is probable that Mrs. Hilary would have been one or other of these
things if it had not been for her late husband, who had disapproved of
superstition and had instructed her in the Higher Thought and the Larger
Hope.


3

Though heaviness endured for the night, joy came in the morning, as is
apt to happen where there is sea air. Mrs. Hilary on her birthday had
a revulsion to gaiety, owing to a fine day, her unstable temperament,
letters, presents and being made a fuss of. Also Grandmama said, when
she went up to see her after breakfast, "This new dress suits you
particularly, my dear child. It brings out the colour in your eyes," and
everyone likes to hear that when they are sixty-three or any other age.

So, when the rest of her children arrived, Mrs. Hilary was ready for
them.

They embraced her in turn; Pamela, capable, humorous and intelligent,
the very type of the professional woman at her best, but all the time
preferring Frances Carr, anxious about her because she was overworking
and run down; Nan, her extravagant present in her hands, on fire to
protect her mother against old age, depression and Rosalind, yet knowing
too how soon she herself would be smouldering with irritation; Gilbert,
spare and cynical, writer of plays and literary editor of the Weekly
Critic, and with him his wife Rosalind, whom Mrs. Hilary had long since
judged as a voluptuous rake who led men on and made up unseemly stories
and her lovely face, but who insisted on coming to The Gulls with Gilbert
to see his adorable mother. Rosalind, who was always taking up
things--art, or religion, or spiritualism, or young men--and dropping
them when they bored her, had lately taken up psycho-analysis. She was
studying what she called her mother-in-law's "case," looking for and
finding complexes in her past which should account for her somewhat
unbalanced present.

"I've never had complexes," Mrs. Hilary would declare, indignantly, as if
they had been fleas or worse, and indeed when Rosalind handled them they
_were_ worse, much. From Rosalind Mrs. Hilary got the most unpleasant
impression possible (which is to say a good deal) of psycho-analysts.
"They have only one idea, and that is a disgusting one," she would
assert, for she could only rarely and with difficulty see more than one
idea in anything, particularly when it was a disgusting one. Her mind was
of that sort--tenacious, intolerant, and not many-sided. That was where
(partly where) she fell foul of her children, who saw sharply and clearly
all around things and gave to each side its value. They knew Mrs. Hilary
to be a muddled bigot, whose mind was stuffed with concrete instances and
insusceptible of abstract reason. If anyone had asked her what she knew
of psycho-analysis, she would have replied, in effect, that she knew
Rosalind, and that was enough, more than enough, of psycho-analysis for
her. She had also looked into Freud, and rightly had been disgusted.

"A man who spits deliberately onto his friends' stairs, on purpose to
annoy the servants ... that is enough, the rest follows. The man is
obviously a loathsome and indecent vulgarian. It comes from being a
German, no doubt." Which settled that; and if anyone murmured "An
Austrian," she would say, "It comes to the same thing, in questions of
breeding." Mrs. Hilary, like Grandmama, settled people and things very
quickly and satisfactorily.

They all sat in the front garden after lunch and looked out over the
wonderful shining sea. Grandmama sat in her wheeled chair, Tchekov's
Letters on her knees. She had made Mrs. Hilary get this book from Mudie's
because she had read favourable reviews of it by Gilbert and Nan.
Grandmama was a cleverish old lady, cleverer than her daughter.

"Jolly, isn't it," said Gilbert, seeing the book.

"Very entertaining," said Grandmama, and Mrs. Hilary echoed "Most," at
which Grandmama eyed her with a twinkle, knowing that it bored her, like
all the Russians. Mrs. Hilary cared nothing for style ("Literature!" said
Lady Adela. "Give _me_ something to _read_!"); she liked nice lifelike
books about people as she believed them to be, and though she was quite
prepared to believe that real Russians were like Russians in books, she
felt that she did not care to meet either of them. But Mrs. Hilary had
learnt that intelligent persons seldom liked the books which seemed to
her to be about real, natural people, any more than they admired the
pictures which struck her as being like things as they were. Though she
thought those who differed from her profoundly wrong, she never admitted
ignorance of the books they admired. For she was in a better position to
differ from them about a book if she had nominally read it--and really it
didn't matter if she had actually done so or not, for she knew beforehand
what she would think of it if she had. So well she knew this, indeed,
that the line between the books she had and hadn't read was, even in her
own mind, smudgy and vague, not hard and clear as with most people. Often
when she had seen reviews which quoted extracts she thought she had read
the book, just as some people, when they have seen publishers'
advertisements, think they have seen reviews, and declare roundly in
libraries that a book is out when it lacks a month of publication.

Mrs. Hilary, having thus asserted her acquaintance with Tchekov's
Letters, left Gilbert, Grandmama and Neville to talk about it together,
and herself began telling the others how disappointed Jim had been that
he could not come for her birthday.

"He was passionately anxious to come," she said, in her clear, vibrating
voice, that struck a different note when she mentioned each one of
her children, so that you always knew which she meant. "He never
misses to-day if he can possibly help it. But he simply couldn't get
away.... One of these tremendously difficult new operations, that hardly
anyone can do. His work must come first, of course. He wouldn't be Jim if
it didn't."

"Fancy knifing people in town a day like this," said Rosalind, stretching
her large, lazy limbs in the sun. Rosalind was big and fair, and
sensuously alive.

Music blared out from the parade. Gilbert, adjusting his glasses,
observed its circumstances, with his air of detached, fastidious
interest.

"The Army," he remarked. "The Army calling for strayed sheep."

"Oh," exclaimed Rosalind, raising herself, "wouldn't I love to go out and
be saved! I _was_ saved once, when I was eleven. It was one of my first
thrills. I felt I was blacker in guilt than all creatures before me, and
I came forward and found the Lord. Afraid I had a relapse rather soon,
though."

"Horrible vulgarians," Mrs. Hilary commented, really meaning Rosalind at
the age of eleven. "They have meetings on the parade every morning now.
The police ought to stop it."

Grandmama was beating time with her hand on the arm of her chair to the
merry music-hall tune and the ogreish words.

        "Blood! Blood!
    Rivers of blood for you,
    Oceans of blood for me!
All that the sinner has got to do
    Is to plunge into that Red Sea.
        Clean! Clean!
    Wash and be clean!
Though filthy and black as a sweep you've been,
The waves of that sea shall make you clean...."

"That," Mrs. Hilary asserted, with disgust, "is a _most_ disagreeable way
of worshipping God." She was addicted to these undeniable statements,
taking nothing for granted.

"But a very racy tune, my dear," said Grandmama, "though the words are
foolish and unpleasing."

Gilbert said, "A stimulating performance. If we don't restrain her,
Rosalind will be getting saved again."

He was proud of Rosalind's vitality, whimsies and exuberances.

Rosalind, who had a fine rolling voice, began reciting "General Booth
enters into heaven," by Mr. Vachell Lindsay, which Mrs. Hilary found
disgusting.

"A wonderful man," said Grandmama, who had been reading the General's
life in two large volumes. "Though mistaken about many things. And his
Life would have been more interesting if it had been written by Mr.
Lytton Strachey instead of Mr. Begbie; he has a better touch on our great
religious leaders. Your grandfather," added Grandmama, "always got on
well with the Army people. He encouraged them. The present vicar does
not. He says their methods are deplorable and their goal a delusion."

Rosalind said "Their methods are entrancing and their goal the Lord. What
more does he want? Clergymen are so narrow. That's why I had to give up
being a churchwoman."

Rosalind had been a churchwoman (high) for nine months some six years
ago, just after planchette and just before flag days. She had decided,
after this brief trial, that incense and confessions, though immensely
stimulating, did not weigh down the balance against early mass, Lent, and
being thrown with other churchwomen.


4

"What about a bathe?" Neville suggested to all of them. "Mother?"

Mrs. Hilary, a keen bather, agreed. They all agreed except Grandmama, who
was going out in her donkey chair instead, as one does at eighty-four.

They all went down to the beach, where the Army still sang of the Red
Sea, and where the blue high tide clapped white hands on brown sand.

One by one they emerged from tents and sprang through the white leaping
edge into the rocking blue, as other bathers were doing all round the
bay. When Mrs. Hilary came out of her tent, Neville was waiting for her,
poised like a slim girl, knee-deep in tumbling waves, shaking the water
from her eyes.

"Come, mother. I'll race you out."

Mrs. Hilary waded in, a figure not without grace and dignity. Looking
back they saw Rosalind coming down the beach, large-limbed and splendid,
like Juno. Mrs. Hilary shrugged her shoulders.

"Disgusting," she remarked to Neville.

So much more, she meant, of Rosalind than of Rosalind's costume. Mrs.
Hilary preferred it to be the other way about, for, though she did not
really like either of them, she disliked the costume less than she
disliked Rosalind.

"It's quite in the fashion," Neville assured her, and Mrs. Hilary,
remarking that she was sure of that, splashed her head and face and
pushed off, mainly to escape from Rosalind, who always sat in the foam,
not being, like the Hilary family, an active swimmer.

Already Pamela and Gilbert were far out, swimming steadily against each
other, and Nan was tumbling and turning like an eel close behind them.

Neville and Mrs. Hilary swam out a little way.

"I shall now float on my back," said Mrs. Hilary. "You swim on and catch
up with the rest."

"You'll be all right?" Neville asked, lingering.

"Why shouldn't I be all right? I bathe nearly every day, you know, even
if I am sixty-three." This was not accurate; she only bathed as a rule
when it was warm, and this seldom occurs on our island coasts.

Neville, saying, "Don't stop in long, will you," left her and swam out
into the blue with her swift, over-hand stroke. Neville was the best
swimmer in a swimming family. She clove the water like a torpedo
destroyer, swift and untiring between the hot summer sun and the cool
summer sea. She shouted to the others, caught them up, raced them and
won, and then they began to duck each other. When the Hilary brothers
and sisters were swimming or playing together, they were even as they had
been twenty years ago.

Mrs. Hilary watched them, swimming slowly round, a few feet out of her
depth. They seemed to have forgotten her and her birthday. The only one
who was within speaking distance was Rosalind, wallowing with her big
white limbs in tumbling waves on the shore; Rosalind, whom she disliked;
Rosalind, who was more than her costume, which was not saying much;
Rosalind, before whom she had to keep up an appearance of immense
enjoyment because Rosalind was so malicious.

"You wonderful woman! I can't think how you _do_ it," Rosalind was crying
to her in her rich, ripe voice out of the splashing waves. "But fancy
their all swimming out and leaving you to yourself. Why, you might get
cramp and sink. _I'm_ no use, you know; I'm hopeless; can't keep up at
all."

"I shan't trouble you, thank you," Mrs. Hilary called back, and her voice
shook a little because she was getting chilled.

"Why, you're shivering," Rosalind cried. "Why don't you come out? You
_are_ wonderful, I do admire you.... It's no use waiting for the others,
they'll be ages.... I say, look at Neville; fancy her being forty-three.
I never knew such a family.... Come and sit in the waves with me, it's
lovely and warm."

"I prefer swimming," said Mrs. Hilary, and she was shivering more now.
She never stayed in so long as this; she usually only plunged in and came
out.

Grandmama, stopping on the esplanade in her donkey chair, was waving and
beckoning to her. Grandmama knew she had been in too long, and that her
rheumatism would be bad.

"_Come out, dear_," Grandmama called, in her old thin voice. "_Come out.
You've been in far too long._"

Mrs. Hilary only waved her hand to Grandmama. She was not going to come
out, like an old woman, before the others did, the others, who had swum
out and left her alone on her birthday bathe.

They were swimming back now, first all in a row, then one behind the
other; Neville leading, with her arrowy drive, Gilbert and Pamela behind,
so alike, with their pale, finely cut, intellectual faces, and their
sharp chins cutting through the sea, and their quick, short, vigorous
strokes, and Nan, still far out, swimming lazily on her back, the sun
in her eyes.

Mrs. Hilary's heart stirred to see her swimming brood, so graceful and
strong and swift and young. They possessed, surely, everything that was
in the heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water over the
earth. And she, who was sixty-three, possessed nothing. She could not
even swim with her children. They might have thought of that, and stayed
with her.... Neville, anyhow. Jim would have, said Mrs. Hilary to
herself, half knowing and half not knowing that she was lying.

"_Come out, dear!_" called Grandmama from the esplanade. "_You'll be
ill!_"

Back they came, Neville first. Neville, seeing from afar her mother's
blue face, called "Mother dear, how cold you are! You shouldn't have
stayed in so long!"

"I was waiting," Mrs. Hilary said, "for you."

"Oh why, dear?"

"Don't know. I thought I would.... It's pretty poor fun," Mrs. Hilary
added, having failed after trying not to, "bathing all alone on one's
birthday."

Neville gave a little sigh, and gently propelled her mother to the shore.
She hadn't felt like this on _her_ birthday, when Kay and Gerda had gone
off to some avocation of their own and left her in the garden. Many
things she had felt on her birthday, but not this. It is an undoubted
truth that people react quite differently to birthdays.

Rosalind rose out of the foam like Aphrodite, grandly beautiful, though
all the paint was washed off her face and lips.

"Wonderful people," she apostrophised the shore-coming family. "Anyone
would think you were all nineteen. _I_ was the only comfy one."

Rosalind was always talking about age, emphasizing it, as if it were very
important.

They hurried up to the tents, and last of all came Nan, riding in to
shore on a swelling wave and lying full length where it flung her, for
the joy of feeling the wet sand sucking away beneath her.


5

Grandmama, waiting for them on the esplanade, was angry with Mrs. Hilary.

"My dear child, didn't you hear me call? You're perfectly blue. You
_know_ you never stay in more than five minutes. Neville, you should have
seen that she didn't. Now you'll get your rheumatism back, child, and
only yourself to thank. It's too silly. People of sixty-three carrying
on as if they were fifty; I've no patience with it."

"They all swam out," said Mrs. Hilary, who, once having succumbed to the
impulse to adopt this attitude, could not check it. "I waited for them."

Grandmama, who was cross, said "Very silly of you and very selfish of the
children. Now you'd better go to bed with hot bottles and a posset."

But Mrs. Hilary, though she felt the red-hot stabbings of an attack of
rheumatism already beginning, stayed up. She was happier now, because the
children were making a fuss of her, suggesting remedies and so on. She
would stay up, and show them she could be plucky and cheerful even with
rheumatism. A definite thing, like illness or pain, always put her on her
mettle; it was so easy to be brave when people knew you had something to
be brave about, and so hard when they didn't.

They had an early tea, and then Gilbert and Rosalind, who were going out
to dinner, caught the 5.15 back to town. Rosalind's departure made Mrs.
Hilary more cheerful still. She soared into her gayest mood, and told
them amusing stories of the natives, and how much she and Grandmama
shocked some of them.

"All the same, dear," said Grandmama presently, "you know you often enjoy
a chat with your neighbours very much. You'd be bored to death with no
one to gossip with."

But Neville's hand, slipping into her mother's, meant "You shall adopt
what pose you like on your birthday, darling. If you like to be too
clever for anyone else in the Bay so that they bore you to tears and you
shock them to fits--well, you shall, and we'll believe you."

Nan, listening sulkily to what she called to herself "mother's swank,"
for a moment almost preferred Rosalind, who was as frank and unposturing
as an animal; Rosalind, with her malicious thrusts and her corrupt mind
and her frank feminine greediness. For Rosalind, anyhow, didn't pretend
to herself, though she did undoubtedly, when for any reason it suited
her, lie to other people. Mrs. Hilary's lying went all through, deep
down; it sprang out of the roots of her being, so that all the time she
was making up, not only for others but for herself, a sham person who did
not exist. That Nan found infinitely oppressive. So did Pamela, but
Pamela was more tolerant and sympathetic and less ill-tempered than Nan,
and observed the ways of others with quiet, ironic humour, saying nothing
unkind. Pamela, when she didn't like a way of talking--when Rosalind, for
instance, was being malicious or indecent or both--would skilfully carry
the talk somewhere else. She could be a rapid and good talker, and could
tell story after story, lightly and coolly, till danger points were past.
Pamela was beautifully bred; she had _savoir-faire_ as well as kindness,
and never lost control of herself. These family gatherings really bored
her a little, because her work and interests lay elsewhere, but she would
never admit or show it. She was kind even to Rosalind, though cool. She
had always been kind and cool to Rosalind, because Gilbert was her
special brother, and when he had married this fast, painted and
unHilaryish young woman, she had seen the necessity for taking firm hold
of an attitude in the matter and retaining it. No one, not even Neville,
not even Frances Carr, had ever seen behind Pamela's guard where Rosalind
was concerned. When Nan abused Rosalind, Pamela would say "Don't be a
spitfire, child. What's the use?" and change the subject. For Rosalind
was, in Pamela's view, one of the things which were a pity but didn't
really matter, so long as she didn't make Gilbert unhappy. And Gilbert,
so far, was absurdly pleased and proud about her, in spite of occasional
disapprovals of her excessive intimacies with others.

But, whatever they all felt about Rosalind, there was no doubt that the
family party was happier for her departure. The departure of in-laws,
even when they are quite nice in-laws, often has this effect on family
parties. Mrs. Hilary had her three daughters to herself--the girls, as
she still called them. She felt cosy and comforted, though in pain, lying
on the sofa by the bay window in the warm afternoon sunshine, while
Grandmama looked at the London Mercury, which had just come by the post,
and the girls talked.


6

Their voices rose and fell against the soft splashing of the sea;
Neville's, sweet and light, with pretty cadences, Pamela's, crisp, quick
and decided, Nan's, trailing a little, almost drawling sometimes. The
Hilary voices were all thin, not rich and full-bodied, like Rosalind's.
Mrs. Hilary's was thin, like Grandmama's.

"Nice voices," thought Mrs. Hilary, languidly listening. "Nice children.
But what nonsense they often talk."

They were talking now about the Minority Report of some committee, which
had been drafted by Rodney. Rodney and the Minority and Neville and
Pamela and Nan were all interested in what Mrs. Hilary called "This
Labour nonsense which is so fashionable now." Mrs. Hilary herself, being
unfashionable, was anti-Labour, since it was apparent to her that the
working classes had already more power, money and education than was good
for them, sons of Belial, flown with insolence and bonuses. Grandmama,
being so nearly out of it all, was used only to say, in reply to these
sentiments, "It will make no difference in the end. We shall all be the
same in the grave, and in the life beyond. All these movements are very
interesting, but the world goes round just the same." It was all very
well for Grandmama to be philosophical; _she_ wouldn't have to live for
years ruled and triumphed over by her own gardener, which was the way
Mrs. Hilary saw it.

Mrs. Hilary began to get angry, hearing the girls talking in this silly
way. Of course it was natural that Neville should agree with Rodney; but
Pamela had picked up foolish ideas from working among the poor and living
with Frances Carr, and Nan was, as usual, merely wrong-headed, childish
and perverse.

Suddenly she broke out, losing her temper, as she often did when she
disagreed with people's politics, for she did not take a calm and
tolerant view of these things.

"I never heard such stuff in my life. I disagree with every word you've
all said."

She always disagreed in bulk, like that. It seemed simpler than arguing
separate points, and took less time and knowledge. She saw Neville
wrinkling her broad forehead, doubtfully, as if wondering how the subject
could most easily be changed, and that annoyed her.

Nan said, "You mean you disagree with the Report. Which clauses of it?"
and there was that soft viciousness in her voice which showed that she
knew Mrs. Hilary had not even read the Minority Report, or the Majority
Report either. Nan was spiteful; always trying to prove that her mother
didn't know what she was talking about; always trying to pin her down on
points of detail. Like the people with whom Mrs. Hilary had failed to get
on during her brief sojourn in London; they too had always shunned
general disputes about opinion and sentiment, such as were carried on
with profit in St. Mary's Bay, and pinned the discussion down to hard
facts, about which the Bay's information was inaccurate and incomplete.
As if you didn't know when you disagreed with a thing's whole drift,
whether you had read it or not.... Mrs. Hilary had never had any head for
facts.

"It's the whole idea," she said, hotly. "And I detest all these Labour
people. Vile creatures.... Of course I don't mean people like Rodney--the
University men. They're merely amateurs. But these dreadful Trades Union
men, with their walrus moustaches.... Why can't they shave, like other
people, if they want to be taken for gentlemen?"

Neville told her, chaffingly, that she was a mass of prejudice.

Grandmama, who had fallen asleep and dropped the London Mercury onto the
floor, diverted the conversation by waking up and remarking that it
seemed a less interesting number than usual on the whole, though some of
the pieces of poetry were pretty, and that Mrs. Hilary ought not to lie
under the open window.

Mrs. Hilary, who was getting worse, admitted that she had better be in
bed.

"I hope," said Grandmama, "that it will be a lesson to you, dear, not to
stay in the water so long again, even if you do want to show off before
your daughter-in-law." Grandmama, who disliked Rosalind, usually called
her to Mrs. Hilary "your daughter-in-law," saddling her, so to speak,
with the responsibility for Gilbert's ill-advised marriage. To her
grandchildren she would refer to Rosalind as "your sister-in-law," or
"poor Gilbert's wife."

"The bathe was worth it," said Mrs. Hilary, swinging up to high spirits
again. "It was a glorious bathe. But I _have_ got rheumatics."

So Neville stayed on at The Gulls that night, to massage her mother's
joints, and Pamela and Nan went back to Hoxton and Chelsea by the evening
train. Pamela had supper, as usual, with Frances Carr, and Nan with Barry
Briscoe, and they both talked and talked, about all the things you don't
talk of in families but only to friends.


7

Neville meanwhile was saying to Grandmama in the drawing-room at The
Gulls, after Mrs. Hilary had gone to bed, "I wish mother could get some
regular interest or occupation. She would be much happier. Are there no
jobs for elderly ladies in the Bay?"

"As many in the Bay," said Grandmama, up in arms for the Bay, "as
anywhere else. Sick-visiting, care committees, boys' and girls' classes,
and so on. I still keep as busy as I am able, as you know."

Neville did know. "If mother could do the same...."

"Mother can't. She's never been a rector's wife, as I have, and she
doesn't care for such jobs. Mother never did care for any kind of work
really, even as a girl. She married when she was nineteen and found the
only work she was fitted for and interested in. That's over, and there's
no other she can turn to. It's common enough, child, with women. They
just have to make the best of it, and muddle through somehow till the
end."

"You were different, Grandmama, weren't you? I mean, you were never at a
loss for things to do."

Grandmama's thin, delicate face hardened for a moment into grim lines.

"At a loss--yes, I was what you call at a loss twenty years ago, when
your grandfather died. The meaning was gone out of life, you see. I was
sixty-four. For two years I was cut adrift from everything, and did
nothing but brood and find trivial occupations to pass the time somehow.
I lived on memories and emotions; I was hysterical and peevish and bored.
Then I realised it wouldn't do; that I might have twenty years and more
of life before me, and that I must do something with it. So I took up
again all of my old work that I could. It was the hardest thing I ever
did. I hated it at first. Then I got interested again, and it has kept me
going all these years, though I've had to drop most of it now of course.
But now I'm so near the end that it doesn't matter. You can drop work at
eighty and keep calm and interested in life. You can't at sixty; it's
too young.... Mother knows that too, but there seems no work she can do.
She doesn't care for parish work as I do; she never learnt any art or
craft or handiwork, and doesn't want to; she was never much good at
intellectual work of any kind, and what mind she had as a girl--and her
father and I did try to train her to use it--ran all to seed during her
married life, so it's pretty nearly useless now. She spent herself on
your father and all you children, and now she's bankrupt."

"Poor darling mother," Neville murmured.

Grandmama nodded. "Just so. She's left to read novels, gossip with stupid
neighbours, look after me, write to you children, go on walks, and brood
over the past. She would have been quite happy like that forty years ago.
The young have high spirits, and can amuse themselves without work. She
never wanted work when she was eighteen. It's the old who need work.
They've lost their spring and their zest for life, and need something to
hold on to. It's all wrong, the way we arrange it--making the young work
and the old sit idle. It should be the other way about. Girls and boys
don't get bored with perpetual holidays; they live each moment of them
hard; they would welcome the eternal Sabbath; and indeed I trust we shall
all do that, as our youth is to be renewed like eagles. But old age on
this earth is far too sad to do nothing in. Remember that, child, when
your time comes."

"Why, yes. But when one's married, you know, it's not so easy, keeping up
with a job. I only wish I could.... I don't _like_ being merely a married
woman. Rodney isn't merely a married man, after all.... But anyhow I'll
find something to amuse my old age, even if I can't work. I'll play
patience or croquet or the piano, or all three, and I'll go to theatres
and picture shows and concerts and meetings in the Albert Hall. Mother
doesn't do any of those things. And she _is_ so unhappy so often."

"Oh very. Very unhappy. Very often.... She should come to church
more. This Unitarianism is depressing. No substance in it. I'd rather
be a Papist and keep God in a box. Or belong to the Army and sing
about rivers of blood. I daresay both are satisfying. All this
sermon-on-the-mount-but-no-miracle business is most saddening. Because
it's about impossibilities. You can receive a sacrament, and you can find
salvation, but you can't live the sermon on the mount. So of course it
makes people discontented."

Grandmama, who often in the evenings became a fluent though drowsy
talker, might have wandered on like this till her bed-time, had not Mrs.
Hilary here appeared, in her dressing-gown. She sat down, and said,
trying to sound natural and not annoyed and failing. "I heard so much
talk, I thought I would come down and be in it. I thought you were coming
up to me again directly, Neville. I hadn't realised you meant to stay
down and talk to Grandmama instead."

She hated Neville or any of them, but especially Neville, to talk
intimately to Grandmama; it made her jealous. She tried and tried not to
feel this, but it was never any use her fighting against jealousy, it was
too strong for her.

Grandmama said placidly, "Neville and I were discussing different forms
of religion."

"Is Neville thinking of adopting one of them?" Mrs. Hilary enquired, her
jealousy making her sound sarcastic and scornful.

"No, mother. Not at present.... Come back to bed, and I'll sit with you,
and we'll talk. I don't believe you should be up."

"Oh, I see I've interrupted. It was the last thing I meant. No, Neville,
I'll go back to my room alone. You go on with your talk with Grandmama.
I hate interrupting like this. I hoped you would have let me join. I
don't get much of you in these days, after all. But stay and talk to
Grandmama."

That was the point at which Nan would have sworn to herself and gone down
to the beach. Neville did neither. She was gentle and soothing, and
Grandmama was infinitely untroubled, and Mrs. Hilary presently picked up
her spirits and went back to bed, and Neville spent the evening with her.
These little scenes had occurred so often that they left only a slight
impression on those concerned and slightest of all on Mrs. Hilary.


8

When Mrs. Hilary and Grandmama were both settled for the night (old and
elderly people settle for the night--other people go to bed) Neville went
down to the seashore and lay on the sand, watching the moon rise over the
sea.

Beauty was there, rather than in elderly people. But in elderly people
was such pathos, such tragedy, such pity, that they lay like a heavy
weight on one's soul. If one could do anything to help....

To be aimless: to live on emotions and be by them consumed: that was
pitiful. To have done one's work for life, and to be in return cast aside
by life like a broken tool: that was tragic.

The thing was to defy life; to fly in the face of the fool nature, break
her absurd rules, and wrest out of the breakage something for oneself by
which to live at the last.

Neville flung her challenge to the black sea that slowly brightened under
the moon's rising eye.




CHAPTER III

FAMILY LIFE


1

If you have broken off your medical studies at London University at the
age of twenty-one and resume them at forty-three, you will find them (one
is told) a considerably tougher job than you found them twenty-two
years before. Youth is the time to read for examinations; youth is used
to such foolishness, and takes it lightly in its stride. At thirty you
may be and probably are much cleverer than you were at twenty; you will
have more ideas and better ones, and infinitely more power of original
and creative thought; but you will not, probably, find it so easy to grip
and retain knowledge out of books and reproduce it to order. So the world
has ordained that youth shall spend laborious days in doing this, and
that middle age shall, in the main, put away these childish things, and
act and work on in spite of the information thus acquired.

Neville Bendish, who was not even in the thirties, but so near the brink
of senile decay as the forties, entered her name once more at the London
University School of Medicine, and plunged forthwith into her interrupted
studies. Her aim was to spend this summer in reacquiring such knowledge
as should prepare her for the October session. And it was difficult
beyond her imaginings. It had not been difficult twenty-two years ago;
she had worked then with pleasure and interest, and taken examinations
with easy triumph. As Kay did now at Cambridge, only more so, because she
had been cleverer than Kay. She was a vain creature, and had believed
that cleverness of hers to be unimpaired by life, until she came to try.
She supposed that if she had spent her married life in head work, her
head would never have lost the trick of it. But she hadn't. She had spent
it on Rodney and Gerda and Kay, and the interesting, amusing life led by
the wife of a man in Rodney's position, which had brought her always into
contact with people and ideas. Much more amusing than grinding at
intellectual work of her own, but it apparently caused the brain to
atrophy. And she was, anyhow, tired of doing nothing in particular. After
forty you must have your job, you must be independent of other people's
jobs, of human and social contacts, however amusing and instructive.

Rodney wasn't altogether pleased, though he understood. He wanted her
constant companionship and interest in his own work.

"You've had twenty-two years of it, darling," Neville said. "Now I must
Live my own Life, as the Victorians used to put it. I must be a doctor;
quite seriously I must. I want it. It's my job. The only one I could ever
really have been much good at. The sight of human bones or a rabbit's
brain thrills me, as the sight of a platform and a listening audience
thrills you, or as pen and paper (I suppose) thrill the children. You
ought to be glad I don't want to write. Our family seems to run to that
as a rule."

"But," Rodney said, "you don't mean ever to _practise_, surely? You won't
have time for it, with all the other things you do."

"It's the other things I shan't have time for, old man. Sorry, but there
it is.... It's all along of mother, you see. She's such an object lesson
in how not to grow old. If she'd been a doctor, now...."

"She couldn't have been a doctor, possibly. She hasn't the head. On the
other hand, you've got enough head to keep going without the slavery of
a job like this, even when you're old."

"I'm not so sure. My brain isn't what it was; it may soften altogether
unless I do something with it before it's too late. Then there I shall
be, a burden to myself and everyone else.... After all, Rodney, you've
your job. Can't I have mine? Aren't you a modern, an intellectual and a
feminist?"

Rodney, who believed with truth that he was all these things, gave in.

Kay and Gerda, with the large-minded tolerance of their years, thought
mother's scheme was all right and rather sporting, if she really liked
the sort of thing, which they, for their part, didn't.

So Neville recommenced medical study, finding it difficult beyond belief.
It made her head ache.


2

She envied Kay and Gerda, as they all three lay and worked in the garden,
with chocolates, cigarettes and Esau grouped comfortably round them. Kay
was reading economics for his Tripos, Gerda was drawing pictures for her
poems; neither, apparently, found any difficulty in concentrating on
their work when they happened to want to.

What, Neville speculated, her thoughts, as usual, wandering from her
book, would become of Gerda? She was a clever child at her own things,
though with great gaps in her equipment of knowledge, which came from
ignoring at school those of her studies which had not seemed to her of
importance. She had firmly declined a University education; she had
decided that it was not a fruitful start in life, and was also afraid of
getting an academic mind. But at economic and social subjects, at drawing
and at writing, she worked without indolence, taking them earnestly,
still young enough to believe it important that she should attain
proficiency.

Neville, on the other hand, was indolent. For twenty-two years she had
pleased herself, done what she wanted when she wanted to, played the
flirt with life. And now she had become soft-willed. Now, sitting in
the garden with her books, like Gerda and Kay, she would find that the
volumes had slipped from her knee and that she was listening to the
birds in the elms. Or she would fling them aside and get up and stretch
herself, and stroll into the little wood beyond the garden, or down to
the river, or she would propose tennis, or go up to town for some meeting
or concert or to see someone, though she didn't really want to, having
quite enough of London during that part of the year when they lived
there. She only went up now because otherwise she would be working. At
this rate she would never be ready to resume her medical course in the
autumn.

"I will attend. I will. I will," she whispered to herself, a hand pressed
to each temple to constrain her mind. And for five minutes she would
attend, and then she would drift away on a sea of pleasant indolence,
and time fluttered away from her like an escaping bird, and she knew
herself for a light woman who would never excel. And Kay's brown head
was bent over his book, and raised sometimes to chaff or talk, and bent
over his books again, the thread of his attention unbroken by his easy
interruptions. And Gerda's golden head lay pillowed in her two clasped
hands, and she stared up at the blue through the green and did nothing
at all, for that was often Gerda's unashamed way.

Often Rodney sat in the garden too and worked. And his work Neville felt
that she too could have done; it was work needing initiative and creative
thought, work suitable to his forty-five years, not cramming in knowledge
from books. Neville at times thought that she too would stand for
parliament one day. A foolish, childish game it was, and probably really
therefore more in her line than solid work.


3

Nan came down in July to stay with them. While she was there, Barry
Briscoe, who was helping with a W.E.A. summer school at Haslemere, would
come over on Sundays and spend the day with them. Not even the rains of
July 1920 made Barry weary or depressed. His eyes were bright behind his
glasses; his hands were usually full of papers, committee reports,
agenda, and the other foods he fed on, unsatiated and unabashed. Barry
was splendid. What ardour, what enthusiasm, burning like beacons in a
wrecked world! So wrecked a world that all but the very best and the very
worst had given it up as a bad job; the best because they hoped on, hoped
ever, the worst because of the pickings that fall to such as they out of
the collapsing ruins. But Barry, from the very heart of the ruin, would
cry "Here is what we must do," and his eyes would gleam with faith and
resolution, and he would form a committee and act. And when he saw how
the committee failed, as committees will, and how little good it all was,
he would laugh ruefully and try something else. Barry, as he would tell
you frankly--if you enquired, not otherwise,--believed in God. He was the
son of a famous Quaker philanthropist, and had been brought up to see
good works done and even garden cities built. I am aware that this must
prejudice many people against Barry; and indeed many people were annoyed
by certain aspects of him. But, as he was intellectually brilliant and
personally attractive, these people were as a rule ready to overlook what
they called the Quaker oats. Nan, who overlooked nothing, was frankly at
war with him on some points, and he with her. Nan, cynical, clear-eyed,
selfish and blase, cared nothing for the salvaging of what remained of
the world out of the wreck, nothing for the I.L.P., less than nothing for
garden cities, philanthropy, the W.E.A., and God. And committees she
detested. Take them all away, and there remained Barry Briscoe, and for
him she did not care nothing.

It was the oddest friendship, thought Neville, observing how, when Barry
was there, all Nan's perversities and moods fell away, leaving her as
agreeable as he. Her keen and ironic intelligence met his, and they so
understood each other that they finished each other's sentences, and
others present could only with difficulty keep up with them. Neville
believed them to be in love, but did not know whether they had ever
informed one another of the fact. They might still be pretending to
one another that their friendship was merely one of those affectionate
intellectual intimacies of which some of us have so many and which are
so often misunderstood. Or they might not. It was entirely their
business, either way.

Barry was a chatterbox. He lay on the lawn and rooted up daisies and
made them into ridiculous chains, and talked and talked and talked.
Rodney and Neville and Nan talked too, and Kay would lunge in with the
crude and charming dogmatics of his years. But Gerda, chewing a blade of
grass, lay idle and withdrawn, her fair brows unpuckered by the afternoon
sun (because it was July, 1920), her blue eyes on Barry, who was so
different; or else she would be withdrawn but not idle, for she would be
drawing houses tumbling down, or men on stilts, fantastic and proud, or
goblins, or geese running with outstretched necks round a green. Or she
would be writing something like this:

          "I
      Float on the tide,
          In the rain.
  I am the starfish vomited up by the retching cod.
          He thinks
          That I am he.
          But I know.
          That he is I.
For the creature is far greater than its god."


(Gerda was of those who think it is rather chic to have one rhyme in your
poem, just to show that you can do it.)

"That child over there makes one feel so cheap and ridiculous, jabbering
away."

That was Barry, breaking off to look at Gerda where she lay on her elbows
on a rug, idle and still. "And it's not," he went on, "that she doesn't
know about the subject, either. I've heard her on it."

He threw the daisy chain he had just made at her, so that it alighted on
her head, hanging askew over one eye.

"Just like a daisy bud herself, isn't she," he commented, and raced on,
forgetting her.

Neat in her person and ways, Gerda adjusted the daisy chain so that it
ringed her golden head in an orderly circle. Like a daisy bud herself,
Rodney agreed in his mind, his eyes smiling at her, his affection,
momentarily turned that way, groping for the wild, remote little soul in
her that he only vaguely and paternally knew. The little pretty. And
clever, too, in her own queer, uneven way. But what _was_ she, with it
all? He knew Kay, the long, sweet-tempered boy, better. For Kay
represented highly civilized, passably educated, keen-minded youth. Gerda
wasn't highly civilized, was hardly passably educated, and keen would be
an inapt word for that queer, remote, woodland mind of hers.... Rodney
returned to more soluble problems.


4

Mrs. Hilary and Grandmama came to Windover. Mrs. Hilary would rather have
come without Grandmama, but Grandmama enjoyed the jaunt, as she called
it. For eighty-four, Grandmama was wonderfully sporting. They arrived on
Saturday afternoon, and rested after the journey, as is usually done by
people of Grandmama's age, and often by people of Mrs. Hilary's. Sunday
was full of such delicate clashings as occur when new people have joined
a party. Grandmama was for morning church, and Neville drove her to it in
the pony carriage. So Mrs. Hilary, not being able to endure that they
should go off alone together, had to go too, though she did not like
church, morning or other.

She sighed over it at lunch.

"So stuffy. So long. And the _hymns_...."

But Grandmama said, "My dear, we had David and Goliath. What more do you
want?"

During David and Goliath Grandmama's head had nodded approvingly, and her
thin old lips had half smiled at the valiant child with his swaggering
lies about bears and lions, at the gallant child and the giant.

Mrs. Hilary, herself romantically sensible, as middle-aged ladies are, of
valour and high adventure, granted Grandmama David and Goliath, but still
repined at the hymns and the sermon.

"Good words, my dear, good words," Grandmama said to that. For Grandmama
had been brought up not to criticise sermons, but had failed to bring up
Mrs. Hilary to the same self-abnegation. The trouble with Mrs. Hilary
was, and had always been, that she expected (even now) too much of life.
Grandmama expected only what she got. And Neville, wisest of all, had not
listened, for she too _expected_ what she would get if she did. She was
really rather like Grandmama, in her cynically patient acquiescence, only
brought up in a different generation, and not to hear sermons. In the
gulf of years between these two, Mrs. Hilary's restless, questing passion
fretted like unquiet waves.


5

"This Barry Briscoe," said Mrs. Hilary to Neville after lunch, as she
watched Nan and he start off for a walk together. "I suppose he's in love
with her?"

"I suppose so. Something of the kind, anyhow."

Mrs. Hilary said, discontentedly, "Another of Nan's married men, no
doubt. She _collects_ them."

"No, Barry's not married."

Mrs. Hilary looked more interested. "Not? Oh, then it may come to
something.... I wish Nan _would_ marry. It's quite time."

"Nan isn't exactly keen to, you know. She's got so much else to do."

"Fiddlesticks. You don't encourage her in such nonsense, I hope,
Neville."

"I? It's not for me to encourage Nan in anything. She doesn't need it.
But as to marriage--yes, I think I wish she would do it, sometime,
whenever she's ready. It would give her something she hasn't got;
emotional steadiness, perhaps I mean. She squanders a bit, now. On the
other hand, her writing would rather go to the wall; if she went on with
it it would be against odds all the time."

"What's writing?" enquired Mrs. Hilary, with a snap of her finger and
thumb. "_Writing!_"

As this seemed too vague or too large a question for Neville to answer,
she did not try to do so, and Mrs. Hilary replied to it herself.

"Mere showing off," she explained it. "Throwing your paltry ideas at a
world which doesn't want them. Writing like Nan's I mean. It's not as if
she wrote really good books."

"Oh well. Who does that, after all? And what is a good book?" Here were
two questions which Mrs. Hilary, in her turn, could not answer. Because
most of the books which seemed good to her did not, as she well knew,
seem good to Neville, or to any of her children, and she wasn't going to
give herself away. She murmured something about Thackeray and Dickens,
which Neville let pass.

"Writing's just a thing to do, as I see it," Neville went on. "A job,
like another. One must _have_ a job, you know. Not for the money, but for
the job's sake. And Nan enjoys it. But I daresay she'd enjoy marriage
too."

"Does she love this man?"

"I don't know. I shouldn't be surprised. She hasn't told me so."

"Probably she doesn't, as he's single. Nan's so perverse. She will love
the wrong men, always."

"You shouldn't believe all Rosalind tells you, mother. Rosalind has a too
vivid fancy and a scandalous tongue."

Mrs. Hilary coloured a little. She did not like Neville to think that she
had been letting Rosalind gossip to her about Nan.

"You know perfectly well, Neville, that I never trust a word Rosalind
says. I suppose I needn't rely on my daughter-in-law for news about my
own daughter's affairs. I can see things for myself. You can't deny that
Nan _has_ had compromising affairs with married men."

"Compromising." Neville turned over the word, thoughtfully and
fastidiously. "Funny word, mother. I'm not sure I know what it means.
But I don't think anything ever compromises Nan; she's too free for
that.... Well, let's marry her off to Barry Briscoe. It will be a quaint
menage, but I daresay they'd pull it off. Barry's delightful. I should
think even Nan could live with him."

"He writes books about education, doesn't he? Education and democracy."

"Well, he does. But there's always something, after all, against all
of us. And it might be worse. It might be poetry or fiction or
psycho-analysis."

Neville said psycho-analysis in order to start another hare and take
her mother's attention off Nan's marriage before the marriage became
crystallised out of all being. But Mrs. Hilary for the first time (for
usually she was reliable) did not rise. She looked thoughtful, even a
shade embarrassed, and said vaguely, "Oh, people must write, of course.
If it isn't one thing it will be another." After a moment she added,
"This psycho-analysis, Neville," saying the word with distaste indeed,
but so much more calmly than usual that Neville looked at her in
surprise. "This psycho-analysis. I suppose it does make wonderful cures,
doesn't it, when all is said?"

"Cures--oh yes, wonderful cures. Shell-shock, insomnia, nervous
depression, lumbago, suicidal mania, family life--anything." Neville's
attention was straying to Grandmama, who was coming slowly towards
them down the path, leaning on her stick, so she did not see Mrs.
Hilary's curious, lit eagerness.

"But how _can_ they cure all those things just by talking indecently
about sex?"

"Oh mother, they don't. You're so crude, darling. You've got hold of
only one tiny part of it--the part practised by Austrian professors on
Viennese degenerates. Many of the doctors are really sane and brilliant.
I know of cases...."

"Well," said Mrs. Hilary, quickly and rather crossly, "I can't talk about
it before Grandmama."

Neville got up to meet Grandmama, put a hand under her arm, and conducted
her to her special chair beneath the cedar. You had to help and conduct
someone so old, so frail, so delightful as Grandmama, even if Mrs. Hilary
did wish it were being done by any hand than yours. Mrs. Hilary in fact
made a movement to get to Grandmama first, but sixty-three does not rise
from low deck chairs so swiftly as forty-three. So she had to watch her
daughter leading her mother, and to note once more with a familiar pang
the queer, unmistakable likeness between the smooth, clear oval face and
the old wrinkled one, the heavily lashed deep blue eyes and the old faded
ones, the elfish, close-lipped, dimpling smile and the old, elfish,
thin-lipped, sweet one. Neville, her Neville, flower of her flock, her
loveliest, first and best, her dearest but for Jim, her pride, and nearer
than Jim, because of sex, which set Jim on a platform to be worshipped,
but kept Neville on a level to be loved, to be stormed at when storms
rose, to be clung to when all God's waters went over one's head. Oh
Neville, that you should smile at Grandmama like that, that Grandmama
should, as she always had, steal your confidence that should have been
all your mother's! That you should perhaps even talk over your mother
with Grandmama (as if she were something further from each of you than
each from the other), pushing her out of the close circle of your
intimacy into the region of problems to be solved.... Oh God, how bitter
a thing to bear!

The garden, the summer border of bright flowers, swam in tears.... Mrs.
Hilary turned away her face, pretending to be pulling up daisies from the
grass. But, unlike the ostrich, she well knew that they always saw. To
the children, as to Grandmama, they were an old story, those hot, facile,
stinging tears of Mrs. Hilary's that made Neville weary with pity, and
Nan cold with scorn, and Rosalind happy with lazy malice, and Pamela
bright and cool and firm, like a woman doctor. Only Grandmama took them
unmoved, for she had always known them.


6

Grandmama, settled in her special chair, remarked on the unusual (for
July) fineness of the day, and requested Neville to read them the chief
items of news in the Observer, which she had brought out with her. So
Neville read about the unfortunate doings of the Supreme Council at Spa,
and Grandmama said "Poor creatures," tolerantly, as she had said when
they were at Paris, and again at San Remo; and about General Dyer and
the Amritsar debate, and Grandmama said "Poor man. But one mustn't treat
one's fellow creatures as he did, even the poor Indian, who, I quite
believe, is intolerably provoking. I see the Morning Post is getting up
a subscription for him, contributed to by Those Who Remember Cawnpore,
Haters of Trotzky, Montague and Lansbury, Furious English-woman, and many
other generous and emotional people. That is kind and right. We should
not let even our more impulsive generals starve."

Then Neville read about Ireland, which was just then in a disturbed
state, and Grandmama said it certainly seemed restless, and mentioned
with what looked like a gleam of hope that they would never return, that
her friends the Dormers were there. Mrs. Hilary shot out, with still
averted face, that the whole of Ireland ought to be sunk to the bottom
of the sea, it was more bother than it was worth. This was her usual and
only contribution towards a solution of the Irish question.

Then Mr. Churchill and Russia had their turn (it was the time of the
Golovin trouble) and Grandmama said people seemed always to get so
very sly, as well as so very much annoyed and excited, whenever Russia
was mentioned, and that seemed like a sign that God did not mean us,
in this country, to mention it much, perhaps not even to think of it.
She personally seldom did. Then Neville read a paragraph about the
Anglo-Catholic Congress, and about that Grandmama was for the first time
a little severe, for Grandpapa had not been an Anglo-Catholic, and indeed
in his day there were none of this faith. You were either High Church,
Broad Church or Evangelical. (Unless, of course, you had been led astray
by Huxley and Darwin and were nothing whatever.) Grandpapa had been
Broad, with a dash of Evangelical; or perhaps it was the other way round;
but anyhow Grandpapa had not been High Church, or, as they called it in
his time, Tractarian. So Grandmama enquired, snippily, "Who _are_ these
Anglo-Catholics, my dear? One seems to hear so much of them in these
days. I can't help thinking they are rather _noisy_...." as she might
have spoken of Bolshevists, or the Labour Party, or the National Party,
or Sinn Fein, or any other of the organisations of which Grandpapa had
been innocent. "There are so many of these new things," said Grandmama,
"I daresay modern young people like Gerda and Kay are quite in with it
all."

"I'm afraid," said Neville, "that Gerda and Kay are secularists at
present."

"Poor children," Grandmama said gently. Secularism made her think of
the violent and vulgar Mr. Bradlaugh. It was, in her view, a noisier
thing even than Anglo-Catholicism. "Well, they have plenty of time to
get over it and settle down to something quieter." Broad-Evangelical she
meant, or Evangelical-Broad; and Neville smiled at the idea of Gerda,
in particular, being either of these. She believed that if Gerda were to
turn from secularism it would either be to Anglo-Catholicism or to Rome.
Or Gerda might become a Quaker, or a lone mystic contemplating in woods,
but a Broad-Evangelical, no. There was a delicate, reckless extravagance
about Gerda which would prohibit that. If you came to that, what girl or
boy did, in these days, fall into any of the categories which Grandmama
and Grandpapa had known, whether religiously or politically? You might as
well suggest that Gerda and Kay should be Tories or Whigs.

And by this time they had given Mrs. Hilary so much time to recover her
poise that she could join in, and say that Anglo-Catholics were very
ostentatious people, and only gave all that money which they had,
undoubtedly, given at the recent Congress in order to make a splash
and show off.

"Tearing off their jewellery in public like that," said Mrs. Hilary, in
disgust, as she might have said tearing off their chemises, "and gold
watches lying in piles on the collection table, still ticking...." She
felt it was indecent that the watches should have still been ticking; it
made the thing an orgy, like a revival meeting, or some cannibal rite at
which victims were offered up still breathing....

So much for the Anglo-Catholic Congress. The Church Congress was better,
being more decent and in order, though Mrs. Hilary knew that the whole
established Church was wrong.

And so they came to literature, to a review of Mr. Conrad's new novel
and a paragraph about a famous annual literary prize. Grandmama thought
it very nice that young writers should be encouraged by cash prizes.
"Not," as she added, "that there seems any danger of any of them being
discouraged, even without that.... But Nan and Kay and Gerda ought to go
in for it. It would be a nice thing for them to work for."

Then Grandmama, settling down with her pleased old smile to something
which mattered more than the news in the papers, said "And now, dear,
I want to hear all about this friendship of Nan's and this nice young
Mr. Briscoe."

So Neville again had to answer questions about that.


7

Mrs. Hilary, abruptly leaving them, trailed away by herself to the house.
Since she mightn't have Neville to herself for the afternoon she wouldn't
stay and share her. But when she reached the house and looked out at them
through the drawing-room windows, their intimacy stabbed her with a pang
so sharp that she wished she had stayed.

Besides, what was there to do indoors? No novels lay about that looked
readable, only "The Rescue" (and she couldn't read Conrad, he was so
nautical) and a few others which looked deficient in plot and as if they
were trying to be clever. She turned them over restlessly, and put them
down again. She wasn't sleepy, and hated writing letters. She wanted
someone to talk to, and there was no one, unless she rang for the
housemaid. Oh, this dreadful ennui.... Did anyone in the world know it
but her? The others all seemed busy and bright. That was because they
were young. And Grandmama seemed serene and bright. That was because she
was old, close to the edge of life, and sat looking over the gulf into
space, not caring. But for Mrs. Hilary there was ennui, and the dim,
empty room in the cold grey July afternoon. The empty stage; no audience,
no actors. Only a lonely, disillusioned actress trailing about it, hungry
for the past.... A book Gerda had been reading lay on the table. "The
Breath of Life," it was called, which was surely just what Mrs. Hilary
wanted. She picked it up, opened it, turned the pages, then, tucking it
away out of sight under her arm, left the room and went upstairs.

"Many wonderful cures," Neville had said. And had mentioned depression
as one of the diseases cured. What, after all, if there was something in
this stuff which she had never tried to understand, had always dismissed,
according to her habit, with a single label? "Labels don't help. Labels
get you nowhere." How often the children had told her that, finding her
terse terminology that of a shallow mind, endowed with inadequate
machinery for acquiring and retaining knowledge, as indeed it was.


8

Gerda, going up to Mrs. Hilary's room to tell her about tea, found her
asleep on the sofa, with "The Breath of Life" fallen open from her hand.
A smile flickered on Gerda's delicate mouth, for she had heard her
grandmother on the subject of psycho-analysis, and here she was, having
taken to herself the book which Gerda was reading for her Freud circle.
Gerda read a paragraph on the open page.

"It will often be found that what we believe to be unhappiness is really,
in the secret and unconscious self, a joy, which the familiar process of
inversion sends up into our consciousness in the form of grief. If, for
instance, a mother bewails the illness of her child, it is because her
unconscious self is experiencing the pleasure of importance, of being
condoled and sympathised with, as also that of having her child (if it is
a male) entirely for the time dependent on her ministrations. If, on the
other hand, the sick child is her daughter, her grief is in reality a
hope that this, her young rival, may die, and leave her supreme in the
affections of her husband. If, in either of these cases, she can be
brought to face and understand this truth, her grief will invert itself
again and become a conscious joy...."

"I wonder if Grandmother believes all that," speculated Gerda, who did.

Then she said aloud, "Grandmother" (that was what Gerda and Kay called
her, distinguishing her thus from Great-Grandmama), "tea's ready."

Mrs. Hilary woke with a start. "The Breath of Life" fell on the floor
with a bang. Mrs. Hilary looked up and saw Gerda and blushed.

"I've been asleep.... I took up this ridiculous book of yours to look at.
The most absurd stuff.... How can you children muddle your minds with it?
Besides, it isn't at all a _nice_ book for you, my child. I came on
several very queer things...."

But the candid innocence of Gerda's wide blue eyes on hers transcended
"nice" and "not nice."... You might as well talk like that to a wood
anemone, or a wild rabbit.... If her grandmother had only known, Gerda at
twenty had discussed things which Mrs. Hilary, in all her sixty-three
years, had never heard mentioned. Gerda knew of things of which Mrs.
Hilary would have indignantly and sincerely denied the existence. Gerda's
young mind was a cess-pool, a clear little dew-pond, according to how you
looked at it. Gerda and Gerda's friends knew no inhibitions of speech or
thought. They believed that the truth would make them free, and the truth
about life is, from some points of view, a squalid and gross thing. But
better look it in the face, thought Gerda and her contemporaries, than
pretend it isn't there, as elderly people do.

"I don't want you to pretend anything isn't there, darling," Neville,
between the two generations, had said to Gerda once. "Only it seems to me
that some of you children have one particular kind of truth too heavily
on your minds. It seems to block the world for you."

"You mean sex," Gerda had told her, bluntly. "Well, it runs all through
life, mother. What's the use of hiding from it? The only way to get even
with it is to face it. And _use_ it."

"Face it and use it by all means. All I meant was, it's a question of
emphasis. There _are_ other things...."

Of course Gerda knew that. There was drawing, and poetry, and beauty, and
dancing, and swimming, and music, and politics, and economics. Of course
there were other things; no doubt about that. They were like songs, like
colour, like sunrise, like flowers, these other things. But the basis of
life was the desire of the male for the female and of the female for the
male. And this had been warped and smothered and talked down and made a
furtive, shameful thing, and it must be brought out into the day....

Neville smiled to hear all this tripping sweetly off Gerda's lips.

"All right, darling, don't mind me. Go ahead and bring it out into the
day, if you think the subject really needs more airing than it already
gets. I should have thought myself it got lots, and always had."

And there they were; they talked at cross purposes, these two, across the
gulf of twenty years, and with the best will in the world could not hope
to understand, either of them, what the other was really at. And now here
was Gerda, in Mrs. Hilary's bedroom, looking across a gulf of forty years
and saying nothing at all, for she knew it would be of no manner of use,
since words don't carry as far as that.

So all she said was "Tea's ready, Grandmother."

And Mrs. Hilary supposed that Gerda hadn't, probably, noticed or
understood those very queer things she had come upon while reading "The
Breath of Life."

They went down to tea.




CHAPTER IV

ROOTS


1

It was a Monday evening, late in July. Pamela Hilary, returning from a
Care Committee meeting, fitted her latch-key into the door of the rooms
in Cow Lane which she shared with Frances Carr, and let herself into the
hot dark passage hall.

A voice from a room on the right called "Come along, my dear. Your pap's
ready."

Pamela entered the room on the right. A pleasant, Oxfordish room,
with the brown paper and plain green curtains of the college days of
these women, and Duerer engravings, and sweet peas in a bowl, and Frances
Carr stirring bread and milk over a gas ring. Frances Carr was small
and thirty-eight, and had a nice brown face and a merry smile. Pamela
was a year older and tall and straight and pale, and her ash-brown hair
swept smoothly back from a broad white forehead. Her grey eyes regarded
the world shrewdly and pleasantly through pince-nez. Pamela was
distinguished-looking, and so well-bred that you never got through her
guard; she never hurt the feelings of others or betrayed her own.
Competent she was, too, and the best organizer in Hoxton, which is to say
a great deal, Hoxton needing and getting, one way and another, a good
deal of organisation. Some people complained that they couldn't get to
know Pamela, the guard was too complete. But Frances Carr knew her.

Frances Carr had piled cushions in a deep chair for her.

"Lie back and be comfy, old thing, and I'll give you your pap."

She handed Pamela the steaming bowl, and proceeded to take off her
friend's shoes and substitute moccasin slippers. It was thus that she and
Pamela had mothered one another at Somerville eighteen years ago, and
ever since. They had the maternal instinct, like so many women.

"Well, how went it? How was Mrs. Cox?"

Mrs. Cox was the chairwoman of the Committee. All committee members know
that the chairman or woman is a ticklish problem, if not a sore burden.

"Oh well...." Pamela dismissed Mrs. Cox with half a smile. "Might have
been worse.... Oh look here, Frank. About the library fund...."

The front door-bell tingled through the house.

Frances Carr said "Oh hang. All right, I'll see to it. If it's Care or
Continuation or Library, I shall send it away. You're not going to do any
more business to-night."

She went to the door, and there, her lithe, drooping slimness outlined
against the gas-lit street, stood Nan Hilary.

"Oh, Nan.... But what a late call. Yes, Pamela's just in from a
committee. Tired to death; she's had neuralgia all this week. She mustn't
sit up late, really. But come along in."


2

Nan came into the room, her dark eyes blinking against the gaslight, her
small round face pale and smutty. She bent to kiss Pamela, then curled
herself up in a wicker chair and yawned.

"The night is damp and dirty. No, no food, thanks. I've dined. After
dinner I was bored, so I came along to pass the time.... When are you
taking your holidays, both of you? It's time."

"Pamela's going for hers next week," said Frances Carr, handing Nan a
cigarette.

"On the contrary," said Pamela, "Frances is going for _hers_ next week.
Mine is to be September this year."

"Now, we've had all this out before, Pam, you know we have. You
faithfully promised to take August if your neuralgia came on again, and
it has. Tell her she is to, Nan."

"She wouldn't do it the more if I did," Nan said, lazily. These
competitions in unselfishness between Pamela and Frances Carr always
bored her. There was no end to them. Women are so terrifically
self-abnegatory; they must give, give, give, to someone all the
time. Women, that is, of the mothering type, such as these. They must
be forever cherishing something, sending someone to bed with bread and
milk, guarding someone from fatigue.

"It ought to be their children," thought Nan, swiftly. "But they pour it
out on one another instead."

Having put her hand on the clue, she ceased to be interested in the
exhibition. It was, in fact, no more and no less interesting than if it
_had_ been their children. Most sorts of love were rather dull, to the
spectator. Pamela and Frances were all right; decent people, not sloppy,
not gushing, but fine and direct and keen, though rather boring when they
began to talk to each other about some silly old thing that had happened
in their last year at Oxford, or their first year, or on some reading
party. Some people re-live their lives like this; others pass on their
way, leaving the past behind. They were all right, Pamela and Frances.
But all this mothering....

Yet how happy they were, these two, in their useful, competent work and
devoted friendship. They had achieved contacts with life, permanent
contacts. Pamela, in spite of her neuralgia, expressed calm and entirely
unbumptious attainment, Nan feverish seeking. For Nan's contacts with
life were not permanent, but suddenly vivid and passing; the links broke
and she flew off at a tangent. Nan had lately been taken with a desperate
fear of becoming like her mother, when she was old and couldn't write any
more, or love any more men. Horrible thought, to be like Mrs. Hilary,
roaming, questing, feverishly devoured by her own impatience of life....

In here it was cool and calm, soft and blurred with the smoke of their
cigarettes. Frances Carr left them to talk, telling them not to be late.
When she had gone, Pamela said "I thought you were still down at
Windover, Nan."

"Left it on Saturday.... Mother and Grandmama had been there a week.
I couldn't stick it any longer. Mother was outrageously jealous, of
course."

"Neville and Grandmama? Poor mother."

"Oh yes, poor mother. But it gets on my nerves. Neville's an angel. I
can't think how she sticks it. For that matter, I never know how she puts
up with Rodney's spoilt fractiousness.... And altogether life was a bit
of a strain ... no peace. And I wanted some peace and solitude, to make
up my mind in."

"Are you making it up now?" Pamela, mildly interested, presumed it was a
man.

"Trying to. It isn't made yet. That's why I roam about your horrible
slums in the dark. I'm considering; getting things into focus. Seeing
them all round."

"Well, that sounds all right."

"Pam." Nan leant forward abruptly, her cigarette between two brown
fingers. "Are you happy? Do you enjoy your life?"

Pamela withdrew, lightly, inevitably, behind guards.

"Within reason, yes. When committees aren't too tiresome, and the
accounts balance, and...."

"Oh, give me a straight answer, Pam. You dependable, practical people are
always frivolous about things that matter. Are you happy? Do you feel
right-side-up with life?"

"In the main--yes." Pamela was more serious this time. "One's doing one's
job, after all. And human beings are interesting."

"But I've got that too. My job, and human beings.... Why do I feel all
tossed about, like a boat on a choppy sea? Oh, I know life's furiously
amusing and exciting--of course it is. But I want something solid. You've
got it, somehow."

Nan broke off and thought "It's Frances Carr she's got. That's permanent.
That goes on. Pamela's anchored. All these people I have--these men and
women--they're not anchors, they're stimulants, and how different that
is!"

They looked at each other in silence. Pamela said then, "You don't look
well, child."

"Oh--" Nan threw her cigarette end impatiently into the grate. "I'm all
right. I'm tired, and I've been thinking too much. That never suits
me.... Thanks, Pam. You've helped me to make up my mind. I like you,
Pam," she added dispassionately, "because you're so gentlewomanly. You
don't ask questions, or pry. Most people do."

"Surely not. Not most decent people."

"Most people aren't decent. You think they are. You've not lived in my
set--nor in Rosalind's. You're still fresh from Oxford--stuck all over
with Oxford manners and Oxford codes. You don't know the raddled gossip
who fishes for your secrets and then throws them about for fun, like
tennis balls."

"I know Rosalind, thank you, Nan."

"Oh, Rosalind's not the only one, though she'll do. Anyhow I've trapped
you into saying an honest and unkind thing about her, for once; that's
something. Wish you weren't such a dear old fraud, Pammie."

Frances Carr came back, in her dressing gown, looking about twenty-three,
her brown hair in two plaits.

"Pamela, you _mustn't_ sit up any more. I'm awfully sorry, Nan, but her
head...."

"Right oh. I'm off. Sorry I've kept you up, Pammie. Good-night.
Good-night, Frances. Yes, I shall get the bus at the corner. Good-night."

The door closed after Nan, shutting in the friends and their friendship
and their anchored peace.


3

Off went Nan on the bus at the corner, whistling softly into the night.
Like a bird her heart rose up and sang, at the lit pageant of London
swinging by. Queer, fantastic, most lovely life! Sordid, squalid,
grotesque life, bitter as black tea, sour as stale wine! Gloriously
funny, brilliant as a flower-bed, bright as a Sitwell street in hell--

  "(Down in Hell's gilded street
  Snow dances fleet and sweet,
  Bright as a parakeet....)"

unsteady as a swing-boat, silly as a drunkard's dream, tragic as a poem
by Massfield.... To have one's corner in it, to run here and there about
the city, grinning like a dog--what more did one want? Human adventures,
intellectual adventures, success, even a little fame, men and women,
jokes, laughter and love, dancing and a little drink, and the fields and
mountains and seas beyond--what more did one want?

Roots. That was the metaphor that had eluded Nan. To be rooted and
grounded in life, like a tree. Someone had written something about that.

  "Let your manhood be
  Forgotten, your whole purpose seem
  The purpose of a simple tree
  Rooted in a quiet dream...."

Roots. That was what Neville had, what Pamela had; Pamela, with her
sensible wisdom that so often didn't apply because Pamela was so far
removed from Nan's conditions of life and Nan's complicated, unstable
temperament. Roots. Mrs. Hilary's had been torn up out of the ground....

"I'm like mother." That was Nan's nightmare thought. Not intellectually,
for Nan's brain was sharp and subtle and strong and fine, Mrs. Hilary's
was an amorphous, undeveloped muddle. But where, if not from Mrs. Hilary,
did Nan get her black fits of melancholy, her erratic irresponsible
gaieties, her passionate angers, her sharp jealousies and egoisms? The
clever young woman saw herself in the stupid elderly one; saw herself
slipping down the years to that. That was why, where Neville and Pamela
and their brothers pitied, Nan, understanding her mother's bad moods
better than they, was vicious with hate and scorn. For she knew these
things through and through. Not the sentimentality; she didn't know that,
being cynical and cool except when stirred to passion. And not the
posing, for Nan was direct and blunt. But the feverish angers and the
black boredom--they were hers.

Nevertheless Nan's heart sang into the night. For she had made up her
mind, and was at peace.

She had held life at arm's length, pushed it away, for many months,
hiding from it, running from it because she didn't with the whole of her,
want it. Again and again she had changed a dangerous subject, headed for
safety, raced for cover. The week-end before this last, down at Windover,
it had been like a game of hide and seek.... And then she had come away,
without warning, and he, going down there this last week-end, had not
found her, because she couldn't meet him again till she had decided. And
now she had decided.

How unsuited a pair they were, in many ways, and what fun they would
have! Unsuited ... what did it matter? His queer, soft, laughing voice
was in her ears, his lean, clever, merry face swam on the rushing tides
of night. His untidy, careless clothes, the pockets bulging with books,
papers and tobacco, his glasses, that left a red mark on either side of
the bridge of his nose, his easily ruffled brown hair--they all merged
for her into the infinitely absurd, infinitely delightful, infinitely
loved Barry, who was going to give her roots.

She was going away, down into Cornwall, in two days. She would stay in
rooms by herself at Marazion and finish her book and bathe and climb, and
lie in the sun (if only it came out) and sleep and eat and drink. There
was nothing in the world like your own company; you could be purely
animal then. And in a month Gerda and Kay were coming down, and they were
going to bicycle along the coast, and she would ask Barry to come too,
and when Barry came she would let him say what he liked, with no more
fencing, no more cover. Down by the green edge of the Cornish sea they
would have it out--"grip hard, become a root ..." become men as trees
walking, rooted in a quiet dream. Dream? No, reality. This was the dream,
this world of slipping shadows and hurrying gleams of heartbreaking
loveliness, through which one roamed, a child chasing butterflies which
ever escaped, or which, if captured, crumbled to dust in one's clutching
hands. Oh for something strong and firm to hold. Oh Barry, Barry, these
few more weeks of dream, of slipping golden shadows and wavering lights,
and then reality. Shall I write, thought Nan, "Dear Barry, you may ask me
to marry you now." Impossible. Besides, what hurry was there? Better to
have these few more gay and lovely weeks of dream. They would be the
last.

Has Barry squandered and spilt his love about as I mine? Likely enough.
Likely enough not. Who cares? Perhaps we shall tell one another all these
things sometime; perhaps, again, we shan't. What matter? One loves, and
passes on, and loves again. One's heart cracks and mends; one cracks the
hearts of others, and these mend too. That is--_inter alia_--what life is
for. If one day you want the tale of my life, Barry, you shall have it;
though that's not what life is for, to make a tale about. So thrilling in
the living, so flat and stale in the telling--oh let's get on and live
some more of it, lots and lots more, and let the dead past bury its dead.

Between a laugh and a sleepy yawn, Nan jumped from the bus at the corner
of Oakley Street.




CHAPTER V

SEAWEED


1

"Complexes," read Mrs. Hilary, "are of all sorts and sizes." And
there was a picture of four of them in a row, looking like netted cherry
trees whose nets have got entangled with each other. So that was what
they were like. Mrs. Hilary had previously thought of them as being more
of the nature of noxious insects, or fibrous growths with infinite
ramifications. Slim young trees. Not so bad, then, after all.

"A complex is characterised, and its elements are bound together by
a specific emotional tone, experienced as feeling when the complex
is aroused. Apart from the mental processes and corresponding actions
depending on purely rational mental systems, it is through complexes that
the typical mental process (the specific response) works, the particular
complex representing the particular set of mental elements involved in
the process which begins with perception and cognition and ends with the
corresponding conation."

Mrs. Hilary read it three times, and the third time she understood it,
if possible, less than the first. Complexes seemed very difficult
things, and she had never been clever. Any of her children, or even her
grandchildren, would understand it all in a moment. If you have such
things--and everyone has, she had learnt--you ought to be able to
understand them. Yet why? You didn't understand your bodily internal
growths; you left them to your doctor. There were doctors who explained
your complexes to you.... What a revolting idea! It would surely make
them worse, not better. (Mrs. Hilary still vaguely regarded these growths
as something of the nature of cancer.)

Sometimes she imagined herself a patient, interviewing one of these odd
doctors. A man doctor, not a woman; she didn't trust woman doctors of any
kind; she had always been thankful that Neville had given it up and
married instead.

"Insomnia," she would say, in these imaginary interviews, because that
was so easy to start off with.

"You have something on your mind," said the doctor. "You suffer from
depression."

"Yes, I know that. I was coming to that. That is what you must cure for
me."

"You must think back.... What is the earliest thing you can remember?
Perhaps your baptism? Possibly even your first bath? It has been
done...."

"You may be right. I remember some early baths. One of them may have been
the first of all, who knows? What of it, doctor?"

But the doctor, in her imaginings, would at this point only make notes in
a big book and keep silence, as if he had thought as much. Perhaps, no
more than she, he did not know what of it.

Mrs. Hilary could hear herself protesting.

"I am _not_ unhappy because of my baptism, which, so far as I know, went
off without a hitch. I am _not_ troubled by my first bath, nor by any
later bath. Indeed, indeed you must believe me, it is not that at all."

"The more they protest," the psycho-analyst would murmur, "the more it is
so." For that was what Dr. Freud and Dr. Jung always said, so that there
was no escape from their aspersions.

"Why do _you_ think you are so often unhappy?" he would ask her, to
draw her out and she would reply, "Because my life is over. Because I
am an old discarded woman, thrown away onto the dust-heap like a broken
egg-shell. Because my husband is gone and my children are gone, and they
do not love me as I love them. Because I have only my mother to live
with, and she is calm and cares for nothing but only waits for the end.
Because I have nothing to do from morning till night. Because I am
sixty-three, and that is too old and too young. Because life is empty
and disappointing, and I am tired, and drift like seaweed tossed to and
fro by the waves."

It sounded indeed enough, and tears would fill her eyes as she said it.
The psycho-analyst would listen, passive and sceptical but intelligent.

"Not one of your reasons is the correct one. But I will find the true
reason for you and expose it, and after that it will trouble you no more.
Now you shall relate to me the whole history of your life."

What a comfortable moment! Mrs. Hilary, when she came to it in her
imagined interview, would draw a deep breath and settle down and begin.
The story of her life! How absorbing a thing to relate to someone who
really wanted to hear it! How far better than the confessional--for
priests, besides requiring only those portions and parcels of the
dreadful past upon which you had least desire to dwell, had almost
certainly no interest at all in hearing even these, but only did it
because they had to, and you would be boring them. They might even say,
as one had said to Rosalind during the first confession which had
inaugurated her brief ecclesiastical career, and to which she had looked
forward with some interest as a luxurious re-living of a stimulating
past--"No details, please." Rosalind, who had had many details ready,
had come away disappointed, feeling that the Church was not all she
had hoped. But the psycho-analyst doctor would really want to hear
details. Of course he would prefer the kind of detail which Rosalind
would have been able to furnish out of her experience, for that was
what psycho-analysts recognised as true life. Mrs. Hilary's experiences
were pale in comparison; but psycho-analysts could and did make much out
of little, bricks without clay. She would tell him all about the
children--how sweet they were as babies, how Jim had nearly died of
croup, Neville of bronchitis and Nan of convulsions, whereas Pamela had
always been so well, and Gilbert had suffered only from infant debility.
She would relate how early and how unusually they had all given signs of
intelligence; how Jim had always loved her more than anything in the
world, until his marriage, and she him (this was a firm article in Mrs.
Hilary's creed); how Neville had always cherished and cared for her, and
how she loved Neville beyond anything in the world but Jim; how Gilbert
had disappointed her by taking to writing instead of to a man's job, and
then by marrying Rosalind; how Nan had always been tiresome and perverse.
And before the children came--all about Richard, and their courtship, and
their young married life, and how he had loved and cared for her beyond
anything, incredibly tenderly and well, so that all those who saw it had
wondered, and some had said he spoilt her. And back before Richard, to
girlhood and childhood, to parents and nursery, to her brother and
sister, now dead. How she had fought with her sister because they had
both always wanted the same things and got in one another's way! The
jealousies, the bitter, angry tears!

To pour it all out--what comfort! To feel that someone was interested,
even though it might be only as a case. The trouble about most people was
that they weren't interested. They didn't mostly, even pretend they were.


2

She tried Barry Briscoe, the week-end he came down and found Nan gone.
Barry Briscoe was by way of being interested in people and things in
general; he had that kind of alert mind and face.

He came up from the tennis lawn, where he had been playing a single with
Rodney, and sat down by her and Grandmama in the shade of the cedar, hot
and friendly and laughing and out of breath. Now Neville and Rodney were
playing Gerda and Kay. Grandmama's old eyes, pleased behind their
glasses, watched the balls fly and thought everyone clever who got one
over the net. She hadn't played tennis in her youth. Mrs. Hilary's more
eager, excited eyes watched Neville driving, smashing, volleying,
returning, and thought how slim and young a thing she looked, to have all
that power stored in her. She was fleeter than Gerda, she struck harder
than Kay, she was trickier than all of them, the beloved girl. That was
the way Mrs. Hilary watched tennis, thinking of the players, not of the
play. It is the way some people talk, thinking of the talkers, not of
what they are saying. It is the personal touch, and a way some women
have.

But Barry Briscoe, watching cleverly through his bright glasses, was
thinking of the strokes. He was an unconscious person. He lived in
moments.

"Well done, Gerda," Grandmama would call, when Gerda, cool and
nonchalant, dropped, a sitter at Rodney's feet, and when Rodney smashed
it back she said, "But father's too much for you."

"Gerda's a _scandal_," Barry said. "She doesn't care. She can hit all
right when she likes. She thinks about something else half the time."

His smile followed the small white figure with its bare golden head that
gleamed in the grey afternoon. An absurd, lovable, teasable child, he
found her.

Grandmama's maid came to wheel her down to the farm. Grandmama had
promised to go and see the farmer's wife and new baby. Grandmama always
saw wives and new babies. They never palled. You would think that by
eighty-four she had seen enough new babies, more than enough, that she
had seen through that strange business and could now take it for granted,
the stream of funny new life cascading into the already so full world.
But Grandmama would always go and see it, handle it, admire it, peer at
it with her smiling eyes that had seen so many lives come and go and that
must know by now that babies are born to trouble as naturally as the
sparks fly upward.

So off Grandmama rode in her wheeled chair, and Mrs. Hilary and Barry
Briscoe were left alone. Mrs. Hilary and this pleasant, brown, friendly
young man, who cared for Workers' Education and Continuation Schools, and
Penal Reform, and Garden Cities, and Getting Things Done by Acts of
Parliament, about all which things Mrs. Hilary knew and cared nothing.
But vaguely she felt that they sprang out of and must include a care for
human beings as such, and that therefore Barry Briscoe would listen if
she told him things.

So (it came out of lying on grass, which Barry was doing) she told him
about the pneumonia of Neville as a child, how they had been staying in
Cornwall, miles from a doctor, and without Mr. Hilary, and Mrs. Hilary
had been in despair; how Jim, a little chap of twelve, had ridden off on
his pony in the night to fetch the doctor, across the moors. A long
story; stories about illnesses always are. Mrs. Hilary got worked up and
excited as she told it; it came back to her so vividly, the dreadful
night.

"He was a Dr. Chalmers, and so kind. When he saw Neville he was
horrified; by that time she was delirious. He said if Jim hadn't gone
straight to him but had waited till the morning, it might have been too
late...."

"Too late: quite. ..." Barry Briscoe had an understanding, sympathetic
grip of one's last few words. So much of the conversation of others
eludes one, but one should hold fast the last few words.

"Oh played, Gerda: did you that time, Bendish...."

Gerda had put on, probably by accident, a sudden, absurd twist that had
made a fool of Rodney.

That was what Barry Briscoe was really attending to, the silly game. This
alert, seemingly interested, attentive young man had a nice manner, that
led you on, but he didn't really care. He lived in the moment: he cared
for prisoners and workers, and probably for people who were ill _now_,
but not that someone had been ill all those years ago. He only pretended
to care; he was polite. He turned his keen, pleasant face up to her when
he had done shouting about the game, and said "How splendid that he got
to you in time!" but he didn't really care. Mrs. Hilary found that women
were better listeners than men. Women are perhaps better trained; they
think it more ill-mannered not to show interest. They will listen to
stories about servants, or reports of the inane sayings of infants,
they will hear you through, without the flicker of a yawn, but with
ejaculations and noddings, while you tell them about your children's
diseases. They are well-bred; they drive themselves on a tight rein,
and endure. They are the world's martyrs.

But men, less restrained, will fidget and wander and sigh and yawn, and
change the subject.

To trap and hold the sympathy of a man--how wonderful! Who wanted a pack
of women? What you really wanted was some man whose trade it was to
listen and to give heed. Some man to whom your daughter's pneumonia, of
however long ago, was not irrelevant, but had its own significance, as
having helped to build you up as you were, you, the problem, with your
wonderful, puzzling temperament, so full of complexes, inconsistencies
and needs. Some man who didn't lose interest in you just because you were
grey-haired and sixty-three.

"I'm afraid I've been taking your attention from the game," said Mrs.
Hilary to Barry Briscoe.

Compunction stabbed him. Had he been rude to this elderly lady, who had
been telling him a long tale without a point while he watched the tennis
and made polite, attentive sounds?

"Not a bit, Mrs. Hilary." He sat up, and looked friendlier than ever.
"I've been thrilled." A charming, easy liar Barry was, when he deemed it
necessary. His Quaker parents would have been shocked. But there was
truth in it, after all. For people were so interested in themselves, that
one was, in a sense, interested in the stories they told one, even
stories about illness. Besides, this was the mother of Nan; Nan, who was
so abruptly and inexplicably not here to-day, whose absence was hurting
him, when he stopped to think, like an aching tooth; for he was not sure,
yet feared, what she meant by it.

"Tell me," he said, half to please Nan's mother and half on his own
account, "some stories of Nan when she was small. I should think she was
a fearful child...."

He was interested, thought Mrs. Hilary, in Nan, but not in her. That was
natural, of course. No man would ever again want to hear stories of _her_
childhood. The familiar bitterness rose and beat in her like a wave. Nan
was thirty-four and she was sixty-three. She could talk only of far-off
things, and theories about conduct and life which sounded all right at
first but were exposed after two minutes as not having behind them the
background of any knowledge or any brain. That hadn't mattered when she
was a girl; men would often rather they hadn't. But at sixty-three you
have nothing.... The bitter emptiness of sixty-three turned her sick with
frustration. Life was over, over, over, for her and she was to tell
stories of Nan, who had everything.

Then the mother in her rose up, to claim and grasp for her child, even
for the child she loved least.

"Nan? Nan was always a most dreadfully sensitive child, and
temperamental. She took after me, I'm afraid; the others were more like
their father. I remember when she was quite a little thing...."

Barry had asked for it. But he hadn't known that, out of the brilliant,
uncertain Nan, exciting as a Punch and Judy show, anything so tedious
could be spun....


3

Mrs. Hilary was up in town by herself for a day's shopping. The sales
were on at Barker's and Derry and Tom's. Mrs. Hilary wandered about these
shops, and even Ponting's and bought little bags, and presents for
everyone, remnants, oddments, underwear, some green silk for a frock for
Gerda, a shady hat for herself, a wonderful cushion for Grandmama with a
picture of the sea on it, a silk knitted jumper for Neville, of the same
purplish blue as her eyes. She was happy, going about like a bee from
flower to flower, gathering this honey for them all. She had come up
alone; she hadn't let Neville come with her. She had said she was going
to be an independent old woman. But what she really meant was that she
had proposed herself for tea with Rosalind in Campden Hill Square, and
wanted to be alone for that.

Rosalind had been surprised, for Mrs. Hilary seldom favoured her with a
visit. She had found the letter on the hall table when she and Gilbert
had come in from a dinner party two evenings ago.

"Your mother's coming to tea on Thursday, Gilbert. Tea with me. She says
she wants a talk. I feel flattered. She says nothing about wanting to see
you, so you'd better leave us alone, anyhow for a bit."

Rosalind's beautiful bistre-brown eyes smiled. She enjoyed her talks with
her mother-in-law; they furnished her with excellent material, to be
worked up later by the raconteuse's art into something too delicious
and absurd. She enjoyed, too, telling Mrs. Hilary the latest scandals;
she was so shocked and disgusted; and it was fun dropping little
accidental hints about Nan, and even about Gilbert. Anyhow, what a
treasure of a relic of the Victorian age! And how comic in her jealousy,
her ingenuous, futile boasting, her so readily exposed deceits! And how
she hated Rosalind herself, the painted, corrupt woman who was dragging
Gilbert down!

"Whatever does she want a talk about?" Rosalind wondered. "It must be
something pretty urgent, to make her put up with an hour of my company."


4

At four o'clock on Thursday afternoon Rosalind went upstairs and put on
an extra coating of powder and rouge. She also blackened her eyelashes
and put on her lips salve the colour of strawberries rather than of the
human mouth. She wore an afternoon dress with transparent black sleeves
through which her big arms gleamed, pale and smooth. She looked a superb
and altogether improper creature, like Lucrezia Borgia or a Titian
madonna. She came down and lay among great black and gold satin cushions,
and lit a scented cigarette and opened a new French novel. Black and gold
was her new scheme for her drawing-room; she had had it done this spring.
It had a sort of opulent and rakish violence which suited her ripe
magnificence, her splendid flesh tints, her brown eyes and corn-gold
hair. Against it she looked like Messalina, and Gilbert like rather a
decadent and cynical pope. The note of the room was really too pronounced
for Gilbert's fastidious and scholarly eloquence; he lost vitality in it,
and dwindled to the pale thin casket of a brain.

And Mrs. Hilary, when she entered it, trailing in, tall and thin, in her
sagging grey coat and skirt, her wispy grey hair escaping from under her
floppy black hat, and with the air of having till a moment ago been hung
about with parcels (she had left them in the hall), looked altogether
unsuited to her environment, like a dowdy lady from the provinces, as she
was.

Rosalind came forward and took her by the hands.

"Well, mother dear, this is an unusual honour.... _How_ long is it since
we last had you here?"

Rosalind, enveloping her mother-in-law in extravagant fragrance, kissed
her on each cheek. The kiss of Messalina! Mrs. Hilary glanced at the
great mirror over the fireplace to see whether it had come off on her
cheeks, as it might well have done.

Rosalind placed her on a swelling, billowy, black and gold chair, piled
cushions behind her shoulders, made her lie back at an obtuse angle, a
grey, lank, elderly figure, strange in that opulent setting, her long
dusty black feet stretched out before her on the golden carpet.

Desperately uncomfortable and angular Rosalind made you feel, petting
you and purring over you and calling you "mother dear," with that glint
always behind her golden-brown eyes which showed that she was up to no
good, that she knew you hated her and was only leading you on that she
might strike her claws into you the deeper. The great beautiful cat: that
was what Rosalind was. You didn't trust her for a moment.

She was pouring out tea.

"Lemon? But how dreadfully stupid of me! I'd forgotten you take
milk ... oh yes, and sugar...."

She rang, and ordered sugar. Mothers take it; not the mothers of
Rosalind's world, but mothers' meetings, and school treats, and
mothers-in-law up from the seaside.

"Are you up for shopping? How thrilling! Where have you been?... Oh, High
Street. Did you _find_ anything there?"

Mrs. Hilary knew that Rosalind would see her off, hung over with dozens
of parcels, and despise them, knowing that if they were so many they must
also be cheap.

"Oh, there's not much to be got there, of course," she said. "I got a
few little things--chiefly for my mother to give away in the parish. She
likes to have things...."

"But how noble of you both! I'm afraid I never rise to that. It's all I
can manage to give presents to myself and nearest rellies. And you came
up to town just to get presents for the parish! You're wonderful,
mother!"

"Oh, I take a day in town now and then. Why not? Everyone does."

Extraordinary how defiant Rosalind made one feel, prying and questioning
and trying to make one look absurd.

"Why, of course! It freshens you up, I expect; makes a change.... But
you've come up from Windover, haven't you, not the seaside?"

Rosalind always called St. Mary's Bay the seaside. To her our island
coasts were all one; the seaside was where you went to bathe, and she
hardly distinguished between north, south, east and west.

"How are they down at Windover? I heard that Nan was there, with that
young man of hers who performs good works. So unlike Nan herself! I hope
she isn't going to be so silly as to let it come to anything; they'd
both be miserable. But I should think Nan knows better than to marry a
square-toes. I daresay _he_ knows better too, really.... And how's poor
old Neville? I think this doctoring game of hers is simply a scream, the
poor old dear."

To hear Rosalind discussing Neville.... Messalina coarsely patronising a
wood-nymph ... the cat striking her claws into a singing bird.... And
poor--and old! Neville was, indeed, six years ahead of Rosalind, but she
looked the younger of the two, in her slim activity, and didn't need to
paint her face either. Mrs. Hilary all but said so.

"It is a great interest to Neville, taking up her medical studies again,"
was all she could really say. (What a hampering thing it is to be a
lady!) "She thoroughly enjoys it, and looks younger than ever. She is
playing a lot of tennis, and beats them all."

How absurdly her voice rang when she spoke of Neville or Jim! It always
made Rosalind's lip curl mockingly.

"Wonderful creature! I do admire her. When I'm her age I shall be too fat
to take any exercise at all. I think it's splendid of women who keep it
up through the forties.... _She_ won't be bored, even when she's sixty,
will she?"

That was a direct hit, which Mrs. Hilary could bear better than hits at
Neville.

"I see no reason," said Mrs. Hilary, "why Neville should ever be bored.
She has a husband and children. Long before she is sixty she will have
Kay's and Gerda's children to be interested in."

"No, I suppose one can't well be bored if one has grandchildren, can
one," Rosalind said, reflectively.

There was a silence, during which Mrs. Hilary's eyes, coldly meeting
Rosalind's with their satirical comment, said "I know you are too selfish
a woman ever to bear children, and I thank God for it. Little Hilarys who
should be half yours would be more than I could endure."

Rosalind, quite understanding, smiled her slow, full-mouthed, curling
smile, and held out to her mother-in-law the gold case with scented
cigarettes.

"Oh no, you don't, do you. I never can remember that. It's so unusual."

Her eyes travelled over Mrs. Hilary, from her dusty black shoes to her
pale, lined face. They put her, with deliberation, into the class with
companions, house-keepers, poor relations. Having successfully done that
(she knew it was successful, by Mrs. Hilary's faint flush) she said "You
don't look up to much, mother dear. Not as if Neville had been looking
after you very well."

Mrs. Hilary, seeing her chance, swallowed her natural feelings and took
it.

"The fact is, I sleep very badly. Not particularly just now, but
always.... I thought.... That is, someone told me ... that there have
been wonderful cures for insomnia lately ... through that new thing...."

"Which new thing? Sedobrol? Paraldehyd? Gilbert keeps getting absurd
powders and tablets of all sorts. Thank God, I always sleep like a top."

"No, not those. The thing _you_ practice. Psycho-analysis, I mean."

"Oh, psycho. But you wouldn't touch that, surely? I thought it was
anathema."

"But if it really does cure people...."

Rosalind's eyes glittered and gleamed. Her strawberry-red mouth curled
joyfully.

"Of course it has.... Not that insomnia is always a case for psycho, you
know. It's sometimes incipient mania."

"Not in my case." Mrs. Hilary spoke sharply.

"Why no, of course not.... Well, I think you'd be awfully wise to get
analysed. Whom do you want to go to?"

"I thought you could tell me. I know no names.... A _man_," Mrs. Hilary
added quickly.

"Oh, it must be a man? I was going to say, I've a vacancy myself for a
patient. But women usually want men doctors. They nearly all do. It's
supposed to be part of the complaint.... Well, I could fix you up a
preliminary interview with Dr. Claude Evans. He's very good. He turns you
right inside out and shows you everything about yourself, from your first
infant passion to the thoughts you think you're keeping dark from him as
you sit in the consulting room. He's great."

Mrs. Hilary was flushed. Hope and shame tingled in her together.

"I shan't want to keep anything dark. I've no reason."

Rosalind's mocking eyes said "That's what they all say." Her lips said
"The foreconscious self always has its reasons for hiding up the things
the unconscious self knows and feels."

"Oh, all that stuff...." Mrs. Hilary was sick of it, having read too much
about it in "The Breath of Life." "I hope this Dr. Evans will talk to me
in plain English, not in that affected jargon."

"He'll use language suited to you, I suppose," said Rosalind, "as far as
he can. But these things can't always be put so that just anyone can
grasp them. They're too complicated. You should read it up beforehand,
and try if you can understand it a little."

Rosalind, who had no brains herself, insulting Mrs. Hilary's, was rather
more than Mrs. Hilary could bear. Rosalind she knew for a fool, so far as
intellectual matters went, for Nan had said so. Clever enough at clothes,
and talking scandal, and winning money at games, and skating over thin
ice without going through--but when it came to a book, or an idea, or a
political question, Rosalind was no whit more intelligent than she was,
in fact much less. She was a rotten psycho-analyst, all her in-laws were
sure.

Mrs. Hilary said, "I've been reading a good deal about it lately. It
doesn't seem to me very difficult, though exceedingly foolish in parts."

Rosalind was touchy about psycho-analysis; she always got angry if people
said it was foolish in any way. She was like that; she could see no weak
points in anything she took up; it came from being vain, and not having a
brain. She said one of the things angry people say, instead of discussing
the subject rationally.

"I don't suppose the amount of it you've been able to read _would_ seem
difficult. If you came to anything difficult you'd probably stop, you
see. Anyhow, if it seems to you so foolish why do you want to be
analysed?"

"Oh, one may as well try things. I've no doubt there's something in it
besides the nonsense."

Mrs. Hilary spoke jauntily, with hungry, unquiet, seeking eyes that would
not meet Rosalind's. She was afraid that Rosalind would find out that she
wanted to be cured of being miserable, of being jealous, of having
inordinate passions about so little. Rosalind, in some ways a great
stupid cow, was uncannily clever when it came to being spiteful and
knowing about you the things you didn't want known. It must be horrible
to be psycho-analysed by Rosalind, who had no pity and no reticence. The
things about you would not only be known but spread abroad among all
those whom Rosalind met. A vile, dreadful tongue.

"You wouldn't, I expect, like _me_ to analyse you," said Rosalind. "Not a
course, I mean, but just once, to advise you better whom to go to. It'd
have the advantage, anyhow, that I'd do it free. Anyone else will charge
you three guineas at the least."

"I don't think," said Mrs. Hilary, "that relations--or connections--ought
to do one another. No, I'd better go to someone I don't know, if you'll
give me the name and address."

"I thought you'd probably rather," Rosalind said in her slow, soft, cruel
voice, like a cat's purr. "Well, I'll write down the address for you.
It's Dr. Evans: he'll probably pass you on to someone down at the
seaside, if he considers you a suitable case for treatment."

He would; of course he would. Mrs. Hilary felt no doubt as to that.

Gilbert came in from the British Museum. He looked thin and nervous and
sallow amid all the splendour. He kissed his mother, thinking how queer
and untidy she looked, a stranger and pilgrim in Rosalind's drawing-room.
He too might look there at times a stranger and pilgrim, but at least, if
not voluptuous, he was neat. He glanced proudly and yet ironically from
his mother to his magnificent wife, taking in and understanding the
supra-normal redundancies of her make-up.

"Rosalind," said Mrs. Hilary, knowing that it would be less than
useless to ask Rosalind to keep her secret, "has been recommending me a
psycho-analyst doctor. I think it is worth while trying if I can get my
insomnia cured that way."

"My dear mother! After all your fulminations against the tribe! Well, I
think you're quite right to give it a trial. Why don't you get Rosalind
to take you on?"

The fond pride in his voice! Yet there was in his eyes, as they rested
for a moment on Rosalind, something other than fond pride; something more
like mockery.

Mrs. Hilary got up to go, and fired across the rich room the one shot in
her armoury.

"I believe," she said, "that Rosalind prefers chiefly to take men
patients. She wouldn't want to be bored with an old woman."

The shot drove straight into Gilbert's light-strung sensitiveness.
Shell-shocked officers; any other officers; anything male, presentable
and passably young; these were Rosalind's patients; he knew it, and
everyone else knew it. For a moment his smile was fixed into the
deliberate grin of pain. Mrs. Hilary saw it, saw Gilbert far back down
the years, a small boy standing up to punishment with just that brave,
nervous grin. Sensitive, defiant, vulnerable, fastidiously proud--so
Gilbert had always been and always would be.

Remorsefully she clung to him.

"Come and see me out, dearest boy" (so she called him, though Jim was
really that)--and she ignored Rosalind's slow, unconcerned protest
against her last remark. "Why, mother, you know I _asked_ to do
you" ... but she couldn't prevent Rosalind from seeing her out too,
hanging her about with all the ridiculous parcels, kissing her on both
cheeks.

Gilbert was cool and dry, pretending she hadn't hurt him. He would
always take hurts like that, with that deadly, steely lightness. By its
deadliness, its steeliness, she knew that it was all true (and much more
besides) that she had heard about Rosalind and her patients.


5

She walked down to the bus with hot eyes. Rosalind had yawned softly and
largely behind her as she went down the front steps. Wicked, monstrous
creature! Lying about Gilbert's clever, nervous, eager life in great soft
folds, and throttling it. If Gilbert had been a man, a real male man,
instead of a writer and therefore effeminate, decadent, he would have
beaten her into decent behaviour. As it was she would ruin him, and he
would go under, not able to bear it, but cynically grinning still.
Perhaps the sooner the better. Anything was better than the way Rosalind
went on now, disgracing him and getting talked about, and making him hate
his mother for disliking her. He hadn't even come with her to the bus, to
carry her parcels for her.... That wasn't like Gilbert. As a rule he had
excellent manners, though he was not affectionate like Jim.

Jim, Jim, Jim. Should she go to Harley Street? What was the use? She
would find only Margery there; Jim would be out. Margery had no serious
faults except the one, that she had taken the first place in Jim's
affections. Before Margery, Neville had had this place, but Mrs. Hilary
had been able, with Neville's never failing and skilful help, to disguise
this from herself. You can't disguise a wife's place in her husband's
heart. And Jim's splendid children too, whom she adored--they looked at
her with Margery's brown eyes instead of Jim's grey-blue ones. And they
preferred really (she knew it) their maternal grandmother, the jolly lady
who took them to the theatres.

Mrs. Hilary passed a church. Religion. Some people found help there. But
it required so much of you, was so exhausting in its demands. Besides, it
seemed infinitely far away--an improbable, sad, remote thing, that gave
you no human comfort. Psycho-analysis was better; that opened gates into
a new life. "Know thyself," Mrs. Hilary murmured, kindling at the
prospect. Most knowledge was dull, but never that.

"I will ring up from Waterloo and make an appointment," she thought.




CHAPTER VI

JIM


1

The psycho-analyst doctor was little and dark and while he was talking he
looked not at Mrs. Hilary but down at a paper whereon he drew or wrote
something she tried to see and couldn't. She came to the conclusion after
a time that he was merely scribbling for effect.

"Insomnia," he said. "Yes. You know what _that_ means?"

She said, foolishly, "That I can't sleep," and he gave her a glance of
contempt and returned to his scribbling.

"It means," he told her, "that you are afraid of dreaming. Your
unconscious self won't _let_ you sleep.... Do you often recall your
dreams when you wake?"

"Sometimes."

"Tell me some of them, please."

"Oh, the usual things, I suppose. Packing; missing trains; meeting
people; and just nonsense that means nothing. All the usual things, that
everyone dreams about."

At each thing she said he nodded, and scribbled with his pencil. "Quite,"
he said, "quite. They're bad enough in meaning, the dreams you've
mentioned. I don't suppose you'd care at present to hear what they
symbolise.... The dreams you haven't mentioned are doubtless worse. And
those you don't even recall are worst of all. Your unconscious is, very
naturally and properly, frightened of them.... Well, we must end all
that, or you'll never sleep as you should. Psycho-analysis will cure
these dreams; first it will make you remember them, then you'll talk
them out and get rid of them."

"Dreams," said Mrs. Hilary. "Well, they may be important. But it's my
whole life...."

"Precisely. I was coming to that. Of course you can't cure sleeplessness
until you have cured the fundamental things that are wrong with your
life. Now, if you please, tell me all you can about yourself."

Here was the wonderful moment. Mrs. Hilary drew a long breath, and told
him. A horrid (she felt that somehow he was rather horrid) little man
with furtive eyes that wouldn't meet hers--(and he wasn't quite a
gentleman, either, but still, he wanted to hear all about her) he was
listening attentively, drinking it in. Not watching tennis while she
talked, like Barry Briscoe in the garden. Ah, she could go on and on,
never tired; it was like swimming in warm water.

He would interrupt her with questions. Which had she preferred, her
father or her mother? Well, perhaps on the whole her father. He nodded;
that was the right answer; the other he would have quietly put aside as
one of the deliberate inaccuracies so frequently practised by his
patients. "You can leave out the perhaps. There's no manner of doubt
about it, you know." Lest he should say (instead of only looking it)
that she had been in love with her good father and he with her, Mrs.
Hilary hurried on. She had a chaste mind, and knew what these Freudians
were. It would, she thought (not knowing her doctor and how it would
have come to the same thing, only he would have thought her a more
pronounced case, because of the deception), have been wiser to have said
that she had preferred her mother, but less truthful, and what she was
enjoying now was an orgy of truth-telling. She got on to her marriage,
and how intensely Richard had loved her. He tried for a moment to be
indecent about love and marriage, but in her deep excitement she hardly
noticed him, but swept on to the births of the children, and Jim's croup.

"I see," he said presently, "that you prefer to avoid discussing certain
aspects of life. You obviously have a sex complex."

"Of course, of course. Don't you find that in all your patients? Surely
we may take that for granted...." She allowed him his sex complex,
knowing that Freudians without it would be like children deprived of a
precious toy; for her part she was impatient to get back to Jim, her
life's chief passion. The Oedipus complex, of course he would say it
was; what matter, if he would let her talk about it? And Neville. It was
strange to have a jealous passion for one's daughter. But that would, he
said, be an extension of the ego complex--quite simple really.

She came to the present.

"I feel that life has used me up and flung me aside like a broken tool.
I have no further relation to life, nor it to me. I have spent myself and
been spent, and now I am bankrupt. Can you make me solvent again?"

She liked that as she said it.

He scribbled away, like a mouse scrabbling.

"Yes. Oh yes. There is no manner of doubt about it. None whatever. If you
are perfectly frank, you can be cured. You can be adjusted to life. Every
age in human life has its own adjustment to make, its own relation to its
environment to establish. All that repressed libido must be released and
diverted.... You have some bad complexes, which must be sublimated...."

It sounded awful, the firm way he said it, like teeth or appendixes which
must be extracted. But Mrs. Hilary knew it wouldn't be like that really,
but delightful and luxurious, more like a Turkish bath.

"You must have a course," he told her. "You are an obvious case for a
course of treatment. St. Mary's Bay? Excellent. There is a practising
psycho-analyst there now. You should have an hour's treatment twice
a week, to be really effective.... You would prefer a man, I take it?"

He shot his eyes at her for a moment, in statement, not in enquiry. Well
he knew how much she would prefer a man. She murmured assent. He rose.
The hour was over.

"How much will the course be?" she asked.

"A guinea an hour, Dr. Cradock charges. He is very cheap."

"Yes, I see. I must think it over. And you?"

He told her his fee, and she blenched, but paid it. She was not rich, but
it had been worth while. It was a beginning. It had opened the door into
a new and richer life. St. Mary's Bay was illumined in her thoughts,
instead of being drab and empty as before. Sublimated complexes twinkled
over it like stars. Freed libido poured electrically about it. And Dr.
Cradock, she felt, would be more satisfactory as a doctor than this man,
who affected her with a faint nausea when he looked at her, though he
seldom did so.


2

Windover too was illumined. She could watch almost calmly Neville talking
to Grandmama, wheeling her round the garden to look at the borders, for
Grandmama was a great gardener.

Then Jim came down for a week-end, and it was as if the sun had risen on
Surrey. He sat with Mrs. Hilary in the arbour. She told him about Dr.
Evans and the other psycho-analyst doctor at St. Mary's Bay. He frowned
over Dr. Evans, who lived in the same street as he did.

"Rosalind sent you to him; of course; she would. Why didn't you ask me,
mother? He's a desperate Freudian, you know, and they're not nearly so
good as the others. Besides, this particular man is a shoddy scoundrel,
I believe.... Was he offensive?"

"I wouldn't let him be, Jim. I was prepared for that. I ... I changed the
conversation."

Jim laughed, and did his favourite trick with her hand, straightening the
thin fingers one by one as they lay across his sensitive palm. How happy
it always made her!

"Well," he said, "I daresay this man down at the Bay is all right. I'll
find out if he's any good or not.... They talk a lot of tosh, you know,
mother; you'll have to sift the grain from the chaff."

But he saw that her eyes were interested, her face more alert than usual,
her very poise more alive. She had found a new interest in life, like
keeping a parrot, or learning bridge, or getting religion. It was what
they had always tried to find for her in vain.

"So long," he said, "as you don't believe more than half what they tell
you.... Let me know how it goes on, won't you, and what this man is like.
If I don't approve I shall come and stop it."

She loved that from Jim.

"Of course, dearest. Of course I shall tell you about it. And I know one
must be careful."

It was something to have become an object for care; it put one more in
the foreground. She would have gone on willingly with the subject, but
Jim changed her abruptly for Neville.

"Neville's looking done up."

She felt the little sharp pang which Neville's name on Jim's lips had
always given her. His very pronunciation of it hurt her--"Nivvle," he
said it, as if he had been an Irishman. It brought all the past back;
those two dear ones talking together, studying together, going off
together, bound by a hundred common interests, telling each other things
they never told her.

"Yes. It's this ridiculous work of hers. It's so absurd: a married woman
of her age making her head ache working for examinations."

In old days Jim and Neville had worked together. Jim had been proud of
Neville's success; she had been quicker than he. Mrs. Hilary, who had
welcomed Neville's marriage as ending all that, foresaw a renewal of the
hurtful business.

But Jim looked grave and disapproving over it.

"It is absurd," he agreed, and her heart rose. "And of course she can't
do it, can't make up all that leeway. Besides, her brain has lost its
grip. She's not kept it sharpened; she's spent her life on people. You
can't have it both ways--a woman can't, I mean. Her work's been
different. She doesn't seem to realise that what she's trying to learn up
again now, in the spare moments of an already full life, demands a whole
lifetime of hard work. She can't get back those twenty years; no one
could. And she can't get back the clear, gripping brain she had before
she had children. She's given some of it to them. That's nature's way,
unfortunately. Hard luck, no doubt, but there it is; you can't get round
it. Nature's a hybrid of fool and devil."

He was talking really to himself, but was recalled to his mother by the
tears which, he suddenly perceived, were distorting her face.

"And so," she whispered, her voice choked, "we women get left...."

He looked away from her, a little exasperated. She cried so easily and so
superfluously, and he knew that these tears were more for herself than
for Neville. And she didn't really come into what he had been saying at
all; he had been talking about brains.

"It's all right as far as most women are concerned," he said. "Most women
have no brains to be spoilt. Neville had. Most women could do nothing at
all with life if they didn't produce children; it's their only possible
job. _They've_ no call to feel ill-used."

"Of course," she said, unsteadily, struggling to clear her voice of
tears, "I know you children all think I'm a fool. But there was a time
when I read difficult books with your father ... he, a man with a
first-class mind, cared to read with me and discuss with me...."

"Oh yes, yes, mother, I know."

Jim and all of them knew all about those long-ago difficult books. They
knew too about the clever friends who used to drop in and talk.... If
only Mrs. Hilary could have been one of the nice, jolly, refreshing
people who own that they never read and never want to. All this fuss
about reading, and cleverness--how tedious it was! As if being stupid
mattered, as if it was worth bothering about.

"Of course we don't think you a fool, mother dear; how could we?"

Jim was kind and affectionate, never ironic, like Gilbert, or impatient,
like Nan. But he felt now the need for fresh air; the arbour was too
small for him and Mrs. Hilary, who was as tiring to others as to herself.

"I think I shall go and interrupt Neville over her studies," said Jim,
and left the arbour.

Mrs. Hilary looked after him, painfully loving his square, straight back,
his fine dark head, just flecked with grey, the clean line of his
profile, with the firm jaw clenched over the pipe. To have produced
Jim--wasn't that enough to have lived for? Mrs. Hilary was one of those
mothers who apply the Magnificat to their own cases. She always felt a
bond of human sympathy between herself and that lady called the Virgin
Mary, whom she thought over-estimated.


3

Neville raised heavy violet eyes, faintly ringed with shadows, to Jim as
he came into the library. She looked at him for a moment absently, then
smiled. He came over to her and looked at the book before her.

"Working? Where've you got to? Let's see how much you know."

He took the book from her and glanced at it to see what she had been
reading.

"Now we'll have an examination; it'll be good practice for you."

He put a question, and she answered it, frowning a little.

"H'm. That's not very good, my dear."

He tried again; this time she could not answer at all. At the third
question she shook her head.

"It's no use, Jimmy. My head's hopeless this afternoon. Another time."

He shut the book.

"Yes. So it seems.... You're overdoing it, Neville. You can't go on like
this."

She lay back and spread out her hands hopelessly.

"But I must go on like this if I'm ever going to get through my exams."

"You're not going to, old thing. You're quite obviously unfitted to. It's
not your job any more. It's absurd to try; really it is."

Neville shut her eyes.

"Doctors ... doctors. They have it on the brain,--the limitations of the
feminine organism."

"Because they know something about it. But I'm not speaking of the
feminine organism just now. I should say the same to Rodney if _he_
thought of turning doctor now, after twenty years of politics."

"Rodney never could have been a doctor. He hates messing about with
bodies."

"Well, you know what I think. I can't stop you, of course. It's only a
question of time, in any case. You'll soon find out for yourself that
it's no use."

"I think," she answered, in her small, unemotional voice, "that it's
exceedingly probable that I shall."

She lay inertly in the deep chair, her eyes shut, her hands opened, palms
downwards, as if they had failed to hold something.

"What then, Jim? If I can't be a doctor what can I be? Besides Rodney's
wife, I mean? I don't say besides the children's mother, because that's
stopped being a job. They're charming to me, the darlings, but they don't
need me any more; they go their own way."

Jim had noticed that.

"Well, after all, you do a certain amount of political work--public
speaking, meetings, and so on. Isn't that enough?"

"That's all second-hand. I shouldn't do it but for Rodney. I'm not
public-spirited enough. If Rodney dies before I do, I shan't go on with
that.... Shall I just be a silly, self-engrossed, moping old woman, no
use to anyone and a plague to myself?"

The eyes of both of them strayed out to the garden.

"Who's the silly moping old woman?" asked Mrs. Hilary's voice in the
doorway. And there she stood, leaning a little forward, a strained smile
on her face.

"Me, mother, when I shall be old," Neville quickly answered her, smiling
in return. "Come in, dear. Jim's telling me how I shall never be a
doctor. He gave me a _viva voce_ exam., and I came a mucker over it."

Her voice had an edge of bitterness; she hadn't liked coming a mucker,
nor yet being told she couldn't get through exams. She had plenty of
vanity; so far everyone and everything had combined to spoil her. She
was determined, in the face of growing doubt, to prove Jim wrong yet.

"Well," Mrs. Hilary said, sitting down on the edge of a chair, not
settling herself, but looking poised to go, so as not to seem to intrude
on their conversation, "well, I don't see why you want to be a doctor,
dear. Everyone knows women doctors aren't much good. _I_ wouldn't trust
one."

"Very stupid of you, mother," Jim said, trying to pretend he wasn't
irritated by being interrupted. "They're every bit as good as men."

"Fancy being operated on by a woman surgeon. I certainly shouldn't risk
it."

"_You_ wouldn't risk it ... _you_ wouldn't trust them. You're so
desperately personal, mother. You think that contributes to a discussion.
All it does contribute to is your hearers' knowledge of your limitations.
It's uneducated, the way you discuss."

He smiled at her pleasantly, taking the sting out of his words, turning
them into a joke, and she smiled too, to show Neville she didn't mind,
didn't take it seriously. Jim might hurt her, but if he did no one should
know but Jim himself. She knew that at times she irritated even his good
temper by being uneducated and so on, so that he scolded her, but he
scolded her kindly, not venomously, as Nan did.

"Well, I've certainly no right to be uneducated," she said, "and I can't
say I'm ever called so, except by my children.... Do you remember the
discussions father and I used to have, half through the night?"

Jim and Neville did remember and thought "Poor father," and were silent.

"I should think," said Mrs. Hilary, "there was very little we didn't
discuss. Politics, books, trades unions, class divisions, moral
questions, votes for women, divorce ... we thrashed everything out.
We both thoroughly enjoyed it."

Neville said "I remember." Familiar echoes came back to her out of the
agitated past.

"Those lazy men, all they want is to get a lot of money for doing no
work."

"I like the poor well enough in their places, but I cannot abide them
when they try to step into ours."

"Let women mind their proper business and leave men's alone."

"I'm certainly not going to be on calling terms with my grocer's wife."

"I hate these affected, posing, would-be clever books. Why can't people
write in good plain English?"...

Richard Hilary, a scholar and a patient man, blinded by conjugal love,
had met futilities with arguments, expressions of emotional distaste with
facts, trying to lift each absurd wrangle to the level of a discussion;
and at last he died, leaving his wife with the conviction that she had
been the equal mate of an able man. Her children had to face and conquer,
with varying degrees of success, the temptation to undeceive her.

"But I'm interrupting," said Mrs. Hilary. "I know you two are having a
private talk. I'll leave you alone...."

"No, no, mother." That was Neville, of course. "Stay and defend me from
Jim's scorn."

How artificial one had to be in family life! What an absurd thing these
emotions made of it!

Mrs. Hilary looked happier, and more settled in her chair.

"Where are Kay and Gerda?" Jim asked.

Neville told him "In Guildford, helping Barry Briscoe with W.E.A.
meetings. They're spending a lot of time over that just now; they're both
as keen as mustard. Nearly as keen as he is. He sets people on fire. It's
very good for the children. They're bringing him up here to spend Sunday.
I think he hopes every time to find Nan back again from Cornwall, poor
Barry. He was very down in the mouth when she suddenly took herself off."

"If Nan doesn't mean to have him, she shouldn't have encouraged him,"
said Mrs. Hilary. "He was quite obviously in love with her."

"Nan's always a dark horse," Neville said. "She alone knows what she
means."

Jim said "She's a flibberty-gibbet. She'd much better get married. She's
not much use in the world at present. Now if _she_ was a doctor ... or
doing something useful, like Pamela...."

"Don't be prejudiced, Jimmy. Because you don't read modern novels
yourself you think it's no use their being written."

"I read some modern novels. I read Conrad, in spite of the rather absurd
attitude some people take up about him; and I read good detective
stories, only they're so seldom good. I don't read Nan's kind. People
tell me they're tremendously clever and modern and delightfully written
and get very well reviewed, I daresay. I very seldom agree with
reviewers, in any case. Even about Conrad they seem to me (when I read
them--I don't often) to pick out the wrong points to admire and to miss
the points I should criticise."

Mrs. Hilary said "Well, I must say I can't read Nan's books myself.
Simply, I don't think them good. I dislike all her people so much, and
her style."

"You're a pair of old Victorians," Neville told them, pleasing Mrs.
Hilary by coupling them together and leaving Jim, who knew why she did
it, undisturbed. Neville was full of graces and tact, a possession Jim
had always appreciated in her.

"And there," said Neville, who was standing at the window, "are Barry
Briscoe and the children coming in."

Jim looked over her shoulder and saw the three wheeling their bicycles up
the drive.

"Gerda," he remarked, "is a prettier thing every time I see her."




CHAPTER VII

GERDA


1

It rained so hard, so much harder even than usual, that Sunday, that only
Barry and Gerda went to walk. Barry walked in every kind of weather, even
in the July of 1920.

To-day after lunch Barry said "I'm going to walk over the downs. Anyone
coming?" and Gerda got up silently, as was her habit. Kay stretched
himself and yawned and said "Me for the fireside. I shall have to walk
every day for three weeks after to-day," for he was going to-morrow on a
reading-party. Rodney and Jim were playing a game of chess that had
lasted since breakfast and showed every sign of lasting till bed-time;
Neville and Mrs. Hilary were talking, and Grandmama was upstairs, having
her afternoon nap.


2

They tramped along, waterproofed and bare-headed, down the sandy road.
The rain swished in Gerda's golden locks, till they clung dank and limp
about her cheeks and neck; it beat on Barry's glasses, so that he took
them off and blinked instead. The trees stormed and whistled in the
southerly wind that blew from across Merrow Downs. Barry tried to whistle
down it, but it caught the sound from his puckered lips and whirled it
away.

Through Merrow they strode, and up onto the road that led across the
downs, and there the wind caught them full, and it was as if buckets of
water were being flung into their faces. The downs sang and roared; the
purple-grey sky shut down on the hill's shoulder like a tent.

"Lord, what fun," said Barry, as they gasped for breath.

Gerda was upright and slim as a wand against the buffeting; her white
little face was stung into shell-pink; her wet hair blew back like yellow
seaweed.

Barry thought suddenly of Nan, who revelled in storms, and quickly shut
his mind on the thought. He was schooling himself to think away from Nan,
with her wild animal grace and her flashing mind and her cruel, careless
indifference.

Gerda would have walked like this forever. Her wide blue eyes blinked
away the rain; her face felt stung and lashed, yet happy and cold; her
mouth was stiff and tight. She was part of the storm; as free, as fierce,
as singing; though outwardly she was all held together and silent, only
smiling a little with her shut mouth.

As they climbed the downs, the wind blew more wildly in their faces.
Gerda swayed against it, and Barry took her by the arm and half pushed
her.

So they reached Newlands Corner, and all southern Surrey stormed below
them, and beyond Surrey stormed Sussex, and beyond Sussex the angry,
unseen sea.

They stood looking, and Barry's arm still steadied Gerda against the
gale.

Gerda thought "It will end. It will be over, and we shall be sitting at
tea. Then Sunday will be over, and on Monday he will go back to town."
The pain of that end of the world turned her cold beneath the glow of the
storm. Then life settled itself, very simply. She must go too, and work
with him. She would tell him so on the way home, when the wind would let
them talk.

They turned their backs on the storm and ran down the hill towards
Merrow. Gerda, light as a leaf on the wind, could have run all the way
back; Barry, fit and light too, but fifteen years ahead of her, fell
after five minutes into a walk.

Then they could talk a little.

"And to-morrow I shall be plugging in town," sighed Barry.

Gerda always went straight to her point.

"May I come into your office, please, and learn the work?"

He smiled down at her. Splendid child!

"Why, rather. Do you mean it? When do you want to come?"

"To-morrow?"

He laughed. "Good. I thought you meant in the autumn. ... To-morrow
by all means, if you will. As a matter of fact we're frightfully
short-handed in the office just now. Our typist has crocked, and we
haven't another yet, so people have to type their own letters."

"I can do the typing," said Gerda, composedly. "I can type quite well."

"Oh, but that'll be dull for you. That's not what you want, is it?
Though, if you want to learn about the work, it's not a bad way ... you
get it all passing through your hands.... Would you really take on that
job for a bit?"

Gerda nodded.

They were rapid and decided people; they did not beat about the bush. If
they wanted to do a thing and there seemed no reason why not, they did
it.

"That's first-class," said Barry. "Give it a trial, anyhow.... Of course
you'll be on trial too; we may find it doesn't work. If so, there are
plenty of other jobs to be done in the office. But that's what we most
want at the moment."

Barry had a way of assuming that people would want, naturally, to do the
thing that most needed doing.

Gerda's soul sang and whistled down the whistling wind. It wasn't over,
then: it was only beginning. The W.E.A. was splendid; work was splendid;
Barry Briscoe was splendid; life was splendid. She was sorry for Kay at
Cambridge, Kay who was just off on a reading party, not helping in the
world's work but merely getting education. Education was inspiring in
connection with Democracy, but when applied to oneself it was dull.

The rain was lessening. It fell on their heads more lightly; the wind was
like soft wet kisses on their backs, as they tramped through Merrow, and
up the lane to Windover.


3

They all sat round the tea-table, and most of them were warm and sleepy
from Sunday afternoon by the fire, but Barry and Gerda were warm and
tingling from walking in the storm. Some people prefer one sensation,
some the other.

Neville thought "How pretty Gerda looks, pink like that." She was glad
to know that she too looked pretty, in her blue afternoon dress. It
was good, in that charming room, that they should all look agreeable
to the eye. Even Mrs. Hilary, with her nervous, faded grace, marred by
self-consciousness and emotion. And Grandmama, smiling and shrewd, with
her old in-drawn lips; and Rodney, long and lounging and clever; Jim,
square-set, sensible, clean-cut, beautiful to his mother and to his women
patients, good for everyone to look at; Barry, brown and charming, with
his quick smile; the boy Kay, with his pale, rounded, oval face, his
violet eyes like his mother's, only short-sighted, so that he had a trick
of screwing them up and peering, and a mouth that widened into a happy
sweetness when he smiled.

They were all right: they all fitted in with the room and with each
other.

Barry said "I've not been idle while walking. I've secured a secretary.
Gerda says she's coming to work at the office for us for a bit. Now, at
once."

He had not Gerda's knack of silence. Gerda would shut up tight over her
plans and thoughts, like a little oyster. She was no babbler; she did
things and never talked. But Barry's plans brimmed up and over.

Neville said "You sudden child! And in July and August, too.... But
you'll have only a month before you join Nan in Cornwall, won't you?"

Gerda nodded, munching a buttered scone.

Grandmama, like an old war-horse scenting the fray, thought "Is it going
to be an affair? Will they fall in love? And what of Nan?" Then rebuked
herself for forgetting what she really knew quite well, having been
told it often, that men and girls in these days worked together and
did everything together, with no thought of affairs or of falling in
love.... Only these two were very attractive, the young Briscoe and the
pretty child, Gerda.

Neville, who knew Gerda, and that she was certainly in love again (it
happened so often with Gerda), thought "Shall I stop it? Or shall I let
things take their course? Oh, I'll let them alone. It's only one of
Gerda's childish hero-worships, and he'll be kind without flirting. It'll
do Gerda good to go on with this new work she's so keen on. And she knows
he cares for Nan. I shall let her go."

Neville very nearly always let Gerda and Kay go their own way now
that they were grown-up. To interfere would have been the part of the
middle-aged old-fashioned mother, and for that part Neville had no
liking. To be her children's friend and good comrade, that was her role
in life.

"It's good of you to have her," she said to Barry. "I hope you won't be
sorry.... She's very stupid sometimes--regular Johnny Head-in-air."

"I should be a jolly sight more use," Kay remarked. "But I can't come,
unfortunately. She can't spell, you know. And her punctuation is weird."

"She'll learn," said Barry, cheerfully, and Gerda smiled serenely at them
over her tea-cup.


4

Barry in the office was quick, alert, cheerful, and business-like, and
very decided, sometimes impatient. Efficient: that was the word. He would
skim the correspondence and dictate answers out of his head, walking
about the room, interrupted all the time by the telephone and by people
coming in to see him. Gerda's hero-worship grew and grew; her soul
swelled with it; she shut it down tight and remained calm and cool. When
he joked, when he smiled his charming smile, her heart turned over within
her. When he had signed the typed letters, she would sometimes put her
hand for a moment where his had rested on the paper. He was stern with
her sometimes, spoke sharply and impatiently, and that, in a queer way,
she liked. She had felt the same pleasure at school, when the head of the
school, whom she had greatly and secretly venerated, had had her up to
the sixth form room and rowed her. Why? That was for psycho-analysts to
discover; Gerda only knew the fact. And Barry, after he had spoken
sharply to her, when he had got over his anger, would smile and be even
kinder than usual, and that was the best of all.

There were other people in the office, of course; men and women, busy,
efficient, coming in and out, talking, working, organising. They were
kind, pleasant people. Gerda liked them, but they were shadowy.

And behind them all, and behind Barry, there was the work. The work was
enormously interesting. Gerda, child of her generation and of her
parents, was really a democrat, really public-spirited, outside the
little private cell of her withdrawn reserves. Beauty wasn't enough;
making poetry and pictures wasn't enough; one had to give everyone his
and her chance to have beauty and poetry and pictures too. In spite
of having been brought up in this creed, Gerda and Kay held to it, had
not reacted from it to a selfish aristocracy, as you might think likely.
Their democracy went much further than that of their parents. They
had been used ardently to call themselves Bolshevists until such time as
it was forced upon them that Bolshevism was not, in point of fact, a
democratic system. They and some of their friends still occasionally used
that label, in moments rather of after-dinner enthusiasm than of the
precise thinking that is done in morning light. For, after all, even Mr.
Bertrand Russell, even Mrs. Philip Snowden, might be wrong in their
hurried jottings down of the results of a cursory survey of so intricate
a system. And, anyhow, Bolshevism had the advantage that it had not yet
been tried in this country, and no one, not even the most imaginative and
clear-sighted political theorist, could forecast the precise form into
which the curious British climate might mould it if it should ever adopt
it. So that to believe in it was, anyhow, easier than believing in
anything which _had_ been tried (and, like all things which are tried,
found wanting) such as Liberalism, Toryism, Socialism, and so forth.

But the W.E.A. was a practical body, which went in for practical
adventure. Dowdy, schoolmarmish, extension-lectureish, it might be
and doubtless was. But a real thing, with guts in it, really doing
something; and after all, you can't be incendiarising the political
and economic constitution all your time. In your times off you can
do something useful, something which shows results, and for which such
an enormous amount of faith and hope is not required. Work for the
Revolution--yes, of course, one did that; one studied the literature of
the Internationals; one talked.... But did one help the Revolution on
much, when all was said? Whereas in the W.E.A. office one really got
things done; one typed a letter and something happened because of it;
more adult classes occurred, more workers got educated. Gerda, too young
and too serious to be cynical, believed that this must be right and good.


5

A clever, strange, charming child Barry found her, old and young beyond
her twenty years. Her wide-set blue eyes seemed to see horizons, and too
often to be blind to foregrounds. She had a slow, deliberating habit of
work, and of some things was astonishingly ignorant, with the ignorance
of those who, when at school, have worked at what they preferred and
quietly disregarded the rest. If he let her compose a letter, its wording
would be quaint. Her prose was, in fact, worse than her verse, and that
was saying a good deal. But she was thorough, never slipshod. Her brain
ground slowly, but it ground exceeding small; there were no blurred edges
to her apprehension of facts; either she didn't know a thing or she did,
and that sharp and clear distinction is none too common. She would file
and index papers with precision, and find them again, slow and sure, when
they were required. Added to these secretarial gifts, such as they were,
she had vision; she saw always the dream through or in spite of the
business; she was like Barry himself in that. She was a good companion,
too, though she had no wit and not very much humour, and none of Nan's
gifts of keen verbal brilliance, frequent ribaldry and quick response;
she would digest an idea slowly, and did not make jokes; her clear mind
had the quality of a crystal rather than of a flashing diamond. The
rising generation; the woman citizen of to-morrow: what did not rest on
her, and what might she not do and be? Nan, on the other hand, was the
woman citizen of to-day. And Nan did not bother to use her vote because
she found all the parties and all the candidates about equally absurd.
Barry had argued with Nan about that, but made no impression on her
cynical indifference; she had met him with levity. To Gerda there was a
wrong and a right in politics, instead of only a lot of wrongs; touching
young faith, Nan called it, but Barry, who shared it, found it cheering.

This pretty little white pixyish person, with her yellow hair cut
straight across her forehead and waving round her neck like the curled,
shining petals of a celandine, with her straight-thinking mind and her
queer, secret, mystic thoughts--she was the woman of the future, a
citizen and a mother of citizens. She and the other girls and boys were
out to build the new heaven and the new earth, and their children would
carry it on. This responsibility of Gerda's invested her with a special
interest in the eyes of Barry, who lived and worked for the future, and
who, when he saw an infant mewling and puking in a pram, was apt to think
"The hope for the world," and smile at it encouragingly, overlooking its
present foolishness of aspect and habit. If ever he had children ... if
Nan would marry him ... but Nan would always lightly slide away when he
got near her.... He could see her now, with the cool, amused smile
tilting her lips, always sliding away, eluding him.... Nan, like a wild
animal for grace, brilliant like blown fire, cool like the wind, stabbing
herself and him with her keen wit....

Gerda, looking up from her typewriter to say "How do you spell
comparatively?" saw his face in its momentary bitterness as he frowned,
pen in hand, out of the window. He was waiting to sign the letters
before he went out to a committee meeting, and she thought she was
annoying him by her slowness. She spelt comparatively anyhow, and with
the wholehearted wrongness to which she and the typewriter, both bad
spellers, often attained in conjunction, hastily finished and laid
the letters before him. Called back to work and actuality, Barry was
again cheerful and kind, and he smilingly corrected comparatively.

"You might ask me," he suggested, "instead of experimenting, when I do
happen to be at hand. Otherwise a dictionary, or Miss Pinner in the next
room...?"

Gerda was happy, now that the shadow was off his face. Raillery and
rebuke she did not mind; only the shadow, which fell coldly on her heart
too.

He left the office then for the day, as he often did, but it was warm and
alive with his presence, and she was doing his work, and she would see
him again in the morning.


6

Gerda went home only for week-ends now; it was too slow a journey to make
every morning and evening. She stayed during the week at a hotel called
the Red House, in Magpie Alley, off Bouverie Street. It was a hotel kept
by revolutionary souls exclusively for revolutionary souls. Gerda, who
had every right there, had gained admittance through friends of hers who
lodged there. Every evening at six o'clock she went back through the
rain, as she did this evening, and changed her wet clothes and sat down
to dinner, a meal which all the revolutionary souls ate together so that
it was sacramental, a breaking of common bread in token of a common
faith.

They were a friendly party. At one end of the table Aunt Phyllis
presided. Aunt Phyllis, who was really the aunt of only one young man,
kept this Red House. She was a fiery little revolutionary in the late
forties, small, and thin and darting, full of faith and fire. She was on
the staff of the British Bolshevist, and for the rest, wrote leaflets,
which showered from her as from trees in autumn gales. So did the Rev.
Anselm Digby. Mr. Digby had also the platform habit, he would go round
the country denouncing and inciting to revolution in the name of Christ
and of the Third International. Though grizzled, he belonged to the
League of Youth, as well as to many other eager fraternities. He was
unbeneficed, having no time for parish work. This ardent clergyman sat
at the other end of Aunt Phyllis's table, as befitted his years.

The space between the two ends was filled by younger creatures. It was
spring with them; their leaflets were yet green and unfallen; all that
fell from them was poetry, pathetic in its sadness, bitter in its irony,
free of metrical or indeed of any other restraints, and mainly either
about how unpleasant had been the trenches in which they had spent the
years of the great war and those persons over military age who had not
been called upon to enter them, or about freedom; free love, free thought
and a free world. Yes, both these subjects sound a little old-fashioned,
but the Red House was concerned with these elemental changeless things.
And some of them also wrote fiction, quiet, grey, a little tired, about
unhappy persons to whom nothing was very glad or very sad, and certainly
neither right nor wrong, but only rough or smooth of surface, bright or
dark of hue, sweet or bitter of taste or smell. Most of those in the room
belonged to a Freudian circle at their club, and all were anti-Christian,
except an Irish Roman Catholic, who had taken an active part in the
Easter uprising of 1916, since when he had been living in exile; Aunt
Phyllis, who believed in no churches but in the Love of God; and of
course, Mr. Digby. All these people, though they did not always get on
very well together, were linked by a common aim in life, and by common
hatreds.

But, in spite of hate, the Red House lodgers were a happy set of
revolutionaries. Real revolutionaries; having their leaflets printed by
secret presses; members of societies which exchanged confidential letters
with the more eminent Russians, such as Litvinoff and Trotzky, collected
for future publication secret circulars, private strike-breaking orders,
and other _obiter dicta_ of a rash government, and believed themselves to
be working to establish the Soviet government over Europe. They had been
angry all this summer because the Glasgow conference of the I.L.P. had
broken with the Third International. They spoke with acerbity of Mr.
Ramsay Macdonald and Mr. and Mrs. Philip Snowden. But now, in August,
they had little acerbity to spare for anything but the government's
conduct of Irish affairs.


7

But, though these were Gerda's own people, the circle in which she felt
at home, she looked forward every night to the morning, when there would
be the office again, and Barry.

Sometimes Barry took her out to dinner and a theatre. They went to the
"Beggar's Opera," "The Grain of Mustard Seed," "Mary Rose" (which they
found sentimental), and to the "Beggar's Opera" again Gerda had her own
ideas, very definite and critical, about dramatic merit. Barry enjoyed
discussing the plays with her, listening to her clear little silver voice
pronouncing judgment. Gerda might be forever mediocre in any form of
artistic expression, but she was an artist, with the artist's love of
merit and scorn of the second-rate.

They went to "Mary Rose" with some girl cousins of Barry's, two jolly
girls from Girton. Against their undiscriminating enthusiasm, Gerda and
her fastidious distaste stood out sharp and clear, like some delicate
etching among flamboyant pictures. That fastidiousness she had from both
her parents, with something of her own added.

Barry went home with her. He wondered how her fastidiousness stood the
grimy house in Magpie Alley and its ramshackle habit of life, after the
distinctions and beauty of Windover, but he thought it was probably very
good for her, part of the experience which should mould the citizen.
Gerda shrank from no experience. At the corner of Bouverie Street they
met a painted girl out for hire, strayed for some reason into this
unpropitious locality. For the moment Gerda had fallen behind and Barry
seemed alone. The girl stopped in his path, looked up in his face
enquiringly, and he pushed his way, not urgently, past her. The next
moment Gerda's hand caught his arm.

"Stop, Barry, stop."

"Stop? What for?"

"The woman. Didn't you see?"

"My dear child, I can't do anything for her."

Like the others of her generation, Gerda was interested in persons of
that profession; he knew that already; only they saw them through a
distorting mist.

"We can find out where she works, what wages she gets, why she's on the
streets. She's probably working for sweated wages somewhere. We _ought_
to find out."

"We can't find out about every woman of that kind we meet. The thing is
to attack the general principle behind the thing, not each individual
case.... Besides, it would be so frightfully impertinent of us. How
would you like it if someone stopped you in the street and asked you
where you worked and whether you were sweated or not, and why you were
out so late?"

"I shouldn't mind, if they wanted to know for a good reason. One _ought_
to find out how things are, what people's conditions are."

It was what Barry too believed and practised, but he could only say
"It's the wrong way round. You've got to work from the centre to the
circumference.... And don't fall into the sentimental mistake of thinking
that all prostitution comes from sweated labour. A great deal does, of
course, but a great deal because it seems to some women an easy and
attractive way of earning a living.... Oh, hammer away at sweated
labour for all you're worth, of course, for that reason and every other;
but you won't stop prostitution till you stop the demand for it. That's
the poisonous root of the thing. So long as the demand goes on, you'll
get the supply, whatever economic conditions may be."

Gerda fell silent, pondering on the strange tastes of those who desired
for some reason the temporary company of these unfortunate females, so
unpleasing to the eye, to the ear, to the mind, to the smell; desired it
so much that they would pay money for it. _Why?_ Against that riddle the
non-comprehension of her sex beat itself, baffled. She might put it the
other way round, try to imagine herself desiring, paying for, the
temporary attentions of some dirty, common, vapid, and patchouli-scented
man--and still she got no nearer. For she never could desire it.... Well,
anyhow, there the thing was. Stop the demand? Stop that desire of men for
women? Stop the ready response of women to it? If that was the only way,
then there was indeed nothing for it but education--and was even
education any use for that?

"Is it love," she asked of Barry, "that the men feel who want these
women?"

Barry laughed shortly. "Love? Good Lord, no."

"What then, Barry?"

"I don't know that it can be explained, exactly.... It's a passing
taste, I suppose, a desire for the company of another sex from one's
own, just because it _is_ another sex, though it may have no other
attractions.... It's no use trying to analyse it, one doesn't get
anywhere. But it's not love."

"What's love, then? What's the difference?"

"Have I to define love, walking down Magpie Alley? You could do it as
well as I could. Love has the imagination in it, and the mind. I suppose
that's the difference. And, too, love wants to give. This is all
platitude. No one can ever say anything new about love, it's all been
said. Got your latch-key?"

Gerda let herself into the Red House and went up to bed and lay wakeful.
Very certainly she loved Barry, with all her imagination and all her
mind, and she would have given him more than all that was hers. Very
surely and truly she loved him, even if after all he was to be her uncle
by marriage, which would make their family life like that in one of Louis
Couperus's books. But why unhappy like that? Was love unhappy? If she
might see him sometimes, talk to him, if Nan wouldn't want all of him all
the time--and it would be unlike Nan to do that--she could be happy. One
could share, after all. Women must share, for there were a million more
women in England than men.

But probably Nan didn't mean to marry him at all. Nan never married
people....


8

Next morning at the office Barry said he had heard from Nan. She had
asked him to come too and bicycle in Cornwall, with her and Gerda and
Kay.

"You will, won't you," said Gerda.

"Rather, of course."

A vaguely puzzled note sounded in his voice. But he would come.

Cornwall was illuminated to Gerda. The sharing process would begin there.
But for a week more she had him to herself, and that was better.




CHAPTER VIII

NAN


1

Nan at Marazion bathed, sailed, climbed, walked and finished her book.
She had a room at St. Michael's Cafe, at the edge of the little town,
just above the beach. Across a space of sea at high tide, and of wet
sand and a paved causeway slimy with seaweed at the ebb, St. Michael's
Mount loomed, dark against a sunset sky, pale and unearthly in the dawn,
an embattled ship riding anchored on full waters, or stranded on drowned
sands.

Nan stayed at the empty little town to be alone. But she was not alone
all the time, for at Newlyn, five miles away, there was the artist
colony, and some of these artists were her friends. (In point of fact, it
is impossible to be alone in Cornwall; the place to go to for that would
be Hackney, or some other district of outer London, where inner Londoners
do not go for holidays.) Had she liked she could have had friends to play
with all day, and talk and laughter and music all night, as in London.
She did not like. She went out by herself, worked by herself; and all the
time, in company, or alone, talking or working, she knew herself
withdrawn really into a secret cove of her own which was warm and golden
as no actual coves in this chill summer were warm and golden; a cove on
whose good brown sand she lay and made castles and played, while at her
feet the great happy sea danced and beat, the great tumbling sea on which
she would soon put out her boat.

She would count the days before Barry would be with her.

"Three weeks now. Twenty days; nineteen, eighteen..." desiring neither to
hurry nor to retard them, but watching them slip behind her in a deep
content. When he came, he and Gerda and Kay, they would spend one night
and one day in this fishing-town, lounging about its beach, and in
Newlyn, with its steep crooked streets between old grey walls hung with
shrubs, and beyond Newlyn, in the tiny fishing hamlets that hung above
the little coves from Penzance to Land's End. They were going to bicycle
all along the south coast. But before that they would have had it out,
she and Barry; probably here, in the little pale climbing fishing-town.
No matter where, and no matter how; Nan cared nothing for scenic
arrangements. All she had to do was to convey to Barry that she would
say yes now to the question she had put off and off, let him ask it,
give her answer, and the thing would be done.


2

Meanwhile she wrote the last chapters of her book, sitting on the beach
among drying nets and boats, in some fishing cove up the coast. The
Newlyn shore she did not like, because the artist-spoilt children crowded
round her, interrupting.

"Lady, lady! Will you paint us?"

"No. I don't paint."

"Then what _are_ you doing?"

"Writing. Go away."

"May we come with you to where you're staying?"

"No. Go away."

"Last year a lady took us to her studio and gave us pennies. And when
she'd gone back to London she sent us each a doll."

Silence.

"Lady, if we come with you to your studio, will you give us pennies?"

"No. Why should I?"

"You might because you wanted to paint us. You might because you liked
us."

"I don't do either. Go away now."

They withdrew a little and turned somersaults, supposing her to be
watching. The artistic colony had a lot to answer for, Nan thought; they
were making parasites and prostitutes of the infant populace. Children
could at their worst be detestable in their vanity, their posing, their
affectation, their unashamed greed.

"Barry's and mine," she thought (I suppose we'll have some), "shall at
least not pose. They may break all the commandments, but if they turn
somersaults to be looked at I shall drop them into a public creche and
abandon them."

The prettiest little girl looked sidelong at the unkind lady, and
believed her half-smile to denote admiration. Pretty little girls often
make this error.

Stephen Lumley came along the beach. It was lunch time, and after lunch
they were going out sailing. Stephen Lumley was the most important artist
just now in Newlyn. He had been in love with Nan for some months, and did
not get on with his wife. Nan liked him; he painted brilliantly, and was
an attractive, clever, sardonic person. Sailing with him was fun. They
understood each other; they had rather the same cynical twist to them.
They understood each other really better than Nan and Barry did. Neither
of them needed to make any effort to comprehend each other's point of
view. And each left the other where he was. Whereas Barry filled Nan,
beneath her cynicism, beneath her levity, with something quite new--a
queer desire, to put it simply, for goodness, for straight living and
generous thinking, even, within reason, for usefulness. More and more he
flooded her inmost being, drowning the old landmarks, like the sea at
high tide. Nan was not a Christian, did not believe in God, but she came
near at this time to believing in Christianity as possibly a fine and
adventurous thing to live.


3

Echoes of the great little world so far off came to the Cornish coasts,
through the Western Mercury and the stray, belated London papers. Rumours
of a projected coal strike, of fighting in Mesopotamia, of political
prisoners on hunger strike, of massacres in Ireland, and typists murdered
at watering-places; echoes of Fleet Street quarrels, of Bolshevik gold
("Not a bond! Not a franc! Not a rouble!") and, from the religious
world, of fallen man and New Faiths for Old. And on Sundays one bought a
paper which had for its special star comic turn the reminiscences of the
expansive wife of one of our more patient politicians. The world went on
just the same, quarrelling, chattering, lying; sentimental, busy and
richly absurd; its denizens tilting against each other's politics,
murdering each other, trying and always failing to swim across the
channel, and always talking, talking, talking. Marazion and Newlyn, and
every other place were the world in little, doing all the same things in
their own miniature way. Each human soul was the world in little, with
all the same conflicts, hopes, emotions, excitements and intrigues. But
Nan, swimming, sailing, eating, writing, walking and lounging, browning
in salt winds and waters, was happy and remote, like a savage on an
island who meditates exclusively on his own affairs.


4

Nan met them at Penzance station. The happy three; they would be good to
make holiday with. Already they had holiday faces, though not yet browned
like Nan's.

Barry's hand gripped Nan's. He was here then, and it had come. Her head
swam; she felt light, like thistledown on the wind.

They came up from the station into quiet, gay, warm Penzance, and had tea
at a shop. They were going to stay at Marazion that night and the next,
and spend the day bicycling to Land's End and back. They were all four
full of vigour, brimming with life and energy that needed to be spent.
But Gerda looked pale.

"She's been overworking in a stuffy office," Barry said. "And not, except
when she dined with me, getting proper meals. What do you think she
weighs, Nan?"

"About as much as that infant there," Nan said, indicating a stout person
of five at the next table.

"Just about, I daresay. She's only six stone. What are we to do about
it?"

His eyes caressed Gerda, as they might have caressed a child. He would be
a delightful uncle by marriage, Nan thought.

They took the road to Marazion. The tide was going out. In front of them
the Mount rose in a shallowing violet sea.

"My word!" said Barry, and Kay, screwing up his eyes, murmured, "Good old
Mount." Gerda's lips parted in a deep breath; beauty always struck her
dumb.

Into the pale-washed, straggling old village they rode, stabled their
bicycles, and went down to the shining evening sands, where now the paved
causeway to the Mount was all exposed, running slimy and seaweedy between
rippled wet sands and dark, slippery rocks. Bare-footed they trod it,
Gerda and Kay in front, Barry and Nan behind, and the gulls talking and
wheeling round them.

Nan stopped, the west in her eyes. "Look."

Point beyond point they saw stretching westward to Land's End, dim and
dark beyond a rose-flushed sea.

"Isn't it clear," said Nan. "You can see the cliff villages ever so far
along ... Newlyn, Mousehole, Clement's Island off it--and the point of
Lamorna."

Barry said "We'll go to Land's End by the coast road to-morrow, shan't
we, not the high road?"

"Oh, the coast road, yes. It's about twice the distance, with the ups and
downs, and you can't ride all the way. But we'll go by it."

For a moment they stood side by side, looking westward over the bay.

Nan said, "Aren't you glad you came?"

"I should say so!"

His answer came, quick and emphatic. There was a pause after it. Nan
suddenly turned on him the edge of a smile.

Barry did not see it. He was not looking at her, nor over the bay, but
in front of him, to where Gerda, a thin little upright form, moved
bare-legged along the shining causeway to the moat.

Nan's smile flickered out. The sunset tides of rose flamed swiftly over
her cheeks, her neck, her body, and receded as sharply, as if someone had
hit her in the face. Her pause, her smile, had been equivalent, as she
saw them, to a permission, even to an invitation. He had turned away
unnoticing, a queer, absent tenderness in his eyes, as they followed
Gerda ... Gerda ... walking light-footed up the wet causeway.... Well, if
he had got out of the habit of wanting to make love to her, she would not
offer him chances again. When he got the habit back, he must make his own
chances as best he could.

"Come on," said Nan. "We must hurry."

She left no more pauses, but talked all the time, about Newlyn, about the
artists, about the horrid children, the fishing, the gulls, the weather.

"And how's the book?" he asked.

"Nearly done. I'm waiting for the end to make itself."

He smiled and looking round at him she saw that he was not smiling at
her or her book, but at Gerda, who had stepped off the causeway and was
wading in a rock pool.

He must be obsessed with Gerda; he thought of her, apparently, all the
time he was talking about other things. It was irritating for an aunt to
bear.

They joined Kay and Gerda on the island. Kay was prowling about, looking
for a way by which to enter the forbidden castle. Kay always trespassed
when he could, and was so courteous and gentle when he was caught at it
that he disarmed comment. But this time he could not manage to evade the
polite but firm eye of the fisherman on guard. They crossed over to
Marazion again all together and went to the cafe for supper.


5

It was a merry, rowdy meal they had; ham and eggs and coffee in an upper
room, with the soft sea air blowing in on them through open windows. Nan
and Barry chattered, and Kay took his cheerful part; only Gerda sparse of
word, was quiet and dreamy, with her blue eyes opened wide against sleep,
for she had not slept until late last night.

"High time she had a holiday," Barry said of her. "Four weeks' grind in
August--it's beginning to tell now."

Fussy Barry was about the child. As bad as Frances Carr with Pamela.
Gerda was as strong as a little pony really, though she looked such a
small, white, brittle thing.

They got out maps and schemed out roads and routes over their cigarettes.
Then they strolled about the little town, exploring its alleys and narrow
byways that gave on the sea. The moon had risen now, and Marazion was cut
steeply in shadow and silver light, and all the bay lay in shadow and
silver too, to where the lights of Penzance twinkled like a great lit
church.

Barry thought once, as he had often thought in the past, "How brilliant
Nan is, and how gay. No wonder she never needed me. She needs no one,"
and this time it did not hurt him to think it. He loved to listen to her,
to talk and laugh with her, to look at her, but he was free at last; he
demanded nothing of her. Those restless, urging, disappointed hopes and
longings lay dead in him, dead and at peace. He could not have put his
finger on the moment of their death; there had been no moment; like good
soldiers they had never died, but faded away, and till to-night he had
not known that they had gone. He would show Nan now that she need fear
no more pestering from him; she need not keep on talking without pause
whenever they were alone together, which had been her old way of defence,
and which she was beginning again now. They could drop now into
undisturbed friendship. Nan was the most stimulating of friends. It was
refreshing to talk things out with her again, to watch her quick mind
flashing and turning and cutting its way, brilliant, clear, sharp, like
a diamond.

They went to bed; Barry and Kay to the room they had got above a public
house, Nan and Gerda to Nan's room at the cafe, where they squeezed into
one bed.

Gerda slept, lying very straight and still, as was her habit in sleep.
Nan lay wakeful and restless, watching the moonlight steal across the
floor and lie palely on the bed and on Gerda's waxen face and yellow
hair. The pretty, pale child, strange in sleep, like a little mermaiden
lost on earth. Nan, sitting up in bed, one dark plait hanging over each
shoulder, watched her with brooding amber eyes. How young she was, how
very, very young. It was touching to be so young. Yet why, when youth
was, people said, the best time? It wasn't really touching to be young;
it was touching not to be young, because you had less of life left.
Touching to be thirty; more touching to be forty; tragic to be fifty and
heartbreaking to be sixty. As to seventy, as to eighty, one would feel as
one did during the last dance of a ball, tired but fey in the paling
dawn, desperately making the most of each bar of music before one went
home to bed. That was touching; Mrs. Hilary and Grandmama were touching.
Not Gerda and Kay, with their dance just beginning.

A bore, this sharing one bed. You couldn't sleep, however small and quiet
your companion lay. They must get a bed each, when they could, during
this tour. One must sleep. If one didn't one began to think. Every time
Nan forced herself to the edge of sleep, a picture sprang sharply before
her eyes--the flaming sky and sea, herself and Barry standing together on
the causeway.

"Aren't you glad you came?" Her own voice, soft, encouraging.

"I should say so!" The quick, matter-of-fact answer.

Then a pause and she turning on him the beginnings of a smile. An
allowing, inviting ... seductive ... smile.

And he, smiling too, but not at her, looking away to where Gerda and Kay
walked bare-legged to the Mount.

Flame scorched her again. The pause each time she saw it now became
longer, more deliberate, more inviting, more emptily unfilled. Her smile
became more luring, his more rejecting. As she saw it now, in the cruel,
distorting night, he had seen her permission and refused it. By day she
had known that simple Barry had seen nothing; by day she would know it
again. Between days are set nights of white, searing flame, two in a bed
so that one cannot sleep. Damn Gerda, lying there so calm and cool. It
had been a mistake to ask Gerda to come; if it hadn't been for Gerda they
wouldn't have been two in a bed.

"Barry's a good deal taken up with her just now," said Nan to herself,
putting it into plain, deliberate words, as was her habit with life's
situations. "He does get taken up with pretty girls, I suppose, when he's
thrown with them. All men do, if you come to that. For the moment he's
thinking about her, not about me. That's a bore. It will bore me to death
if it goes on.... I wonder how long it will go on? I wonder how soon
he'll want to make love to me again?"

Having thus expressed the position in clear words, Nan turned her mind
elsewhere. What do people think of when they are seeking sleep? It is
worse than no use to think of what one is writing; that wakes one up,
goads every brain-cell into unwholesome activity. No use thinking of
people; they are too interesting. Nor of sheep going through gates; they
tumble over one another and make one's head ache. Nor of the coming day;
that is too difficult: nor of the day which is past; that is too near.
Wood paths, quiet seas, running streams--these are better.

  "Any lazy man can swim
  Down the current of a stream."

Or the wind in trees, or owls crying, or waves beating on warm shores.
The waves beat now; ran up whisperingly with the incoming tide, broke,
and sidled back, dragging at the wet sand.... Nan, hearing them, drifted
at last into sleep.




CHAPTER IX

THE PACE


1

The coast road to Land's End is like a switchback. You climb a mountain
and are flung down to sea level like a shooting star, and climb a
mountain again. Sometimes the road becomes a sandy cliff path and you
have to walk.

But at last, climbing up and being shot down and walking, Nan and Barry
and Gerda and Kay reached Land's End. They went down to Sennan Cove to
bathe, and the high sea was churning breakers on the beach. Nan dived
through them with the arrowy straightness of a fish or a submarine, came
up behind them, and struck out to sea. The others behind her, less
skilful, floundered and were dashed about by the waves. Barry and Kay
struggled through them somehow, bruised and choked; Gerda, giving it
up--she was no great swimmer--tranquilly rolled and paddled in the surf
by herself.

Kay called to her, mocking.

"Coward. Sensualist. Come over the top like a man."

Nan, turning to look at her from the high crest of a wave, thought
"Gerda's afraid in a high sea. She is afraid of things: I remember."

Nan herself was afraid of very little. She had that kind of buoyant
physical gallantry which would take her into the jaws of danger with
a laugh. When in London during the air raids she had walked about the
streets to see what could be seen; in France with the Fannys she had
driven cars over shelled roads with a cool composure which distinguished
her even among that remarkably cool and composed set of young women; as
a child she had ridden unbroken horses and teased and dodged savage bulls
for the fun of it; she would go sailing in seas that fishermen refused to
go out in; part angry dogs which no other onlooker would touch; sleep out
alone in dark and lonely woods, and even on occasion brave pigs. The kind
of gay courage she had was a physical heritage which can never be
acquired. What can be acquired, with blood and tears, is the courage of
the will, stubborn and unyielding, but always nerve-racked, proudly and
tensely strung up. Nan's form of fearlessness, combined as it was with
the agility of a supple body excellently trained, would carry her lightly
through all physical adventures, much as her arrowy strength and skill
carried her through the breakers without blundering or mishap and let her
now ride buoyantly on each green mountain as it towered.

Barry, emerging spluttering from one of these, said "All very jolly for
you, Nan. You're a practised hand. We're being drowned. I'm going out of
it," and he dived through another wave for the shore. Kay, a clumsier
swimmer, followed him, and Nan rode her tossing horses, laughing at them,
till she was shot onto the beach and dug her fingers deep into the
sucking sand.

"A very pretty landing," said Barry, generously, rubbing his bruised
limbs and coughing up water.

Gerda rose from the foam where she had been playing serenely impervious
to the tauntings of Kay.

Barry said "Happy child. She's not filled up with salt water and battered
black and blue."

Nan remarked that neither was she, and they went to their rock
crannies to dress. They dressed and undressed in a publicity, a mixed
shamelessness that was almost appalling.

They rode back to Marazion after tea along the high road, more soberly
than they had come.

"Tired, Gerda?" Barry said, at the tenth mile, as they pulled up a hill.
"Hold on to me."

Gerda refused to do so mean a thing. She had her own sense of honour, and
believed that everyone should carry his or her own burden. But when they
had to get off and walk up the hill she let him help to push her bicycle.

"Give us a few days, Nan," said Barry, "and we'll all be as fit as you.
At present we're fat and scant of breath from our sedentary and useful
life."

"Our life"--as if they had only the one between them.

At Newlyn Nan stopped. She said she was going to supper with someone
there and would come on later. She was, in fact, tired of them. She
dropped into Stephen Lumley's studio, which was, as usual after painting
hours, full of his friends, talking and smoking. That was the only way to
spend the evening, thought Nan, talking and smoking and laughing, never
pausing. Anyhow that was the way she spent it.

She got back to Marazion at ten o'clock and went to her room at the
little cafe. Looking from its window, she saw the three on the shore by
the moonlit sea. Kay was standing on the paved causeway, and Barry and
Gerda, some way off, were wading among the rocks, bending over the pools,
as if they were looking for crabs.

Nan went to bed. When Gerda came in presently, she lay very still and
pretended to be asleep.

It was dreadful, another night of sharing a bed. Dreadful to lie so
close one to the other; dreadful to touch accidentally; touching people
reminded you how alive they are, with their separate, conscious throbbing
life so close against yours.


2

Next morning they took the road eastward. They were going to ride along
the coast to Talland Bay, where they were going to spend a week. They
were giving themselves a week to get there, which would allow plenty of
time for bathing by the way. It is no use hurrying in Cornwall, the hills
are too steep and the sea too attractive, and lunch and tea, when ordered
in shops, so long in coming. The first day they only got round the Lizard
to Cadgwith, where they dived from steep rocks into deep blue water. Nan
dived from a high rock with a swoop like a sea bird's, a pretty thing to
watch. Barry was nearly as good; he too was physically proficient. The
Bendishes were less competent; they were so much younger, as Barry said.
But they too reached the water head first, which is, after all, the main
thing in diving. And as often as Nan dived, with her arrowy swoop, Gerda
tumbled in too, from the same rock, and when Nan climbed a yet higher
rock and dived again, Gerda climbed too, and fell in sprawling after her.
Gerda to-day was not to be outdone, anyhow in will to attempt, whatever
her achievement might lack. Nan looked up from the sea with a kind of
mocking admiration at the little figure poised on the high shelf of rock,
slightly unsteady about the knees, slightly blue about the lips, thin
white arms pointing forward for the plunge.

The child had pluck.... It must have hurt, too, that slap on the nearly
flat body as she struck the sea. She hadn't done it well. She came up
with a dazed look, shaking the water out of her eyes, coughing.

"You're too ambitious," Barry told her. "That was much too high for you.
You're also blue with cold. Come out."

Gerda looked up at Nan, who was scrambling nimbly onto the highest ledge
of all, crying "I must have one more."

Barry said to Gerda "No, you're not going after her. You're coming out.
It's no use thinking you can do all Nan does. None of us can."

Gerda gave up. The pace was too hard for her. She couldn't face that
highest rock; the one below had made her feel cold and queer and shaky as
she stood on it. Besides, why was she trying, for the first time in her
life, to go Nan's pace, which had always been, and was now more than ever
before, too hot and mettlesome for her? She didn't know why; only that
Nan had been, somehow, all day setting the pace, daring her, as it were,
to make it. It was becoming, oddly, a point of honour between them, and
neither knew how or why.


3

On the road it was the same. Nan, with only the faintest, if any
application of brakes, would commit herself to lanes which leaped
precipitously downwards like mountain streams, zig-zagging like a
dog's-tooth pattern, shingled with loose stones, whose unseen end might
be a village round some sharp turn, or a cove by the sea, or a field path
running to a farm, or merely the foot of one hill and the beginning of
the steep pull up the next. Coast roads in Cornwall are like that--often
uncertain in their ultimate goal (for map-makers, like bicyclists, are
apt to get tired of them, and, tiring, break them off, so to speak, in
mid-air, leaving them suspended, like snapped ends of string). But
however uncertain their goal may be, their form is not uncertain at
all; it can be relied on to be that of a snake in agony leaping down a
hill or up; or, if one prefers it, that of a corkscrew plunging downwards
into a cork.

Nan leaped and plunged with them. She was at the bottom while the others
were still jolting, painfully brake-held, albeit rapidly, half-way down.
And sometimes, when the slope was more than usually like the steep roof
of a house, the zig-zags more than usually acute, the end even less than
usually known, the whole situation, in short, more dreadful and perilous,
if possible, than usual, the others surrendered, got off and walked. They
couldn't really rely on their brakes to hold them, supposing something
should swing round on them from behind one of the corners; they couldn't
be sure of turning with the road when it turned at its acutest, and such
failure of harmony with one's road is apt to meet with a dreadful
retribution. Barry was adventurous, and Kay and Gerda were calm, but to
all of them life was sweet and limbs and bicycles precious; none of them
desired an untimely end.

But Nan laughed at their prognostications of such an end. "It will be
found impossible to ride down these hills," said their road book, and Nan
laughed at that too. You can, as she observed, ride down anything; it is
riding up that is the difficulty. Anyhow, she, who had ridden bucking
horses and mountainous seas, could ride down anything that wore the
semblance of a road. Only fools, Nan believed, met with disasters while
bicycling. And jamming on the brakes was bad for the wheels and tiring to
the hands. So brakeless, she zig-zagged like greased lightning to the
bottom.

It was on the second day, on the long hill that runs from Manaccan down
to Helford Ferry, that Gerda suddenly took her brakes off and shot after
her. That hill is not a badly spiralling one, but it is long and steep
and usually ridden with brakes. And just above Helford village it has one
very sharp turn to the left.

Nan, standing waiting for the others on the bridge, looked round and saw
Gerda shooting with unrestrained wheels and composed face round the last
bend. She had nearly swerved over at the turn, but not quite. She got off
at the bridge.

"Hullo," said Nan. "Quicker than usual, weren't you?" She had a
half-grudging, half-ironic grin of appreciation for a fellow sportsman,
the same grin with which she had looked up at her from the sea at
Cadgwith. Nan liked daring. Though it was in her, and she knew that it
was in her, to hate Gerda with a cold and deadly anger, the sportsman
in her gave its tribute. For what was nothing and a matter of ordinary
routine to her, might be, she suspected, rather alarming to the quiet,
white-faced child.

Then the demon of mischief leapt in her. If Gerda meant to keep the pace,
she should have a pace worth keeping. They would prove to one another
which was the better woman, as knights in single combat of old proved it,
or fighters in the ring to-day. As to Barry, he should look on at it,
whether he liked it or not.

Barry and Kay rushed up to them, and they went through the little
thatched rose-sweet hamlet to the edge of the broad blue estuary and
shouted for the ferry.


4

After that the game began in earnest. Nan, from being casually and
unconsciously reckless, became deliberately dare-devil and always with a
backward, ironic look for Gerda, as if she said "How about it? Will this
beat you?"

"A bicycling tour with Nan isn't nearly so safe as the front trenches of
my youth used to be," Barry commented. "Those quiet, comfortable old
days!"

There, indeed, one was likely to be shot, or blown to pieces, or buried,
or gassed, and that was about all. But life now was like the Apostle
Paul's; they were in journeyings often, in weariness often, in perils of
waters, in perils by their own countrymen, in perils on the road, in the
wilderness, in the sea, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness. In
perils too, so Gerda believed, of cattle; for these would stray in
bellowing herds about narrow lanes, and they would all charge straight
through them, missing the lowered horns by some incredible fluke of
fortune. If this seems to make Gerda a coward, it should be remembered
that she showed none of these inward blenchings, but went on her way with
the rest, composed as a little wax figure at Madame Tussaud's. She was,
in fact, of the stuff of which martyrs are made, and would probably have
gone to the stake for a conviction. But stampeding cattle, and high seas,
and brakeless lightning descents, she did not like, however brave a face
she was sustained by grace to meet them with. After all she was only
twenty, an age when some people still look beneath their beds before
retiring.

Bulls, even, Gerda was called upon to face, in the wake of two unafraid
males and a reckless aunt. What young female of twenty, always excepting
those who have worked on the land, and whose chief reward is familiarity
with its beasts, can with complete equanimity face bulls? One day a path
they were taking down to the sea ran for a while along the top of a
stone hedge, about five feet high and three feet wide. Most people
would have walked along this, leading their bicycles. Nan, naturally,
bicycled, and Barry and Kay, finding it an amusing experiment, bicycled
after her. Gerda, in honour bound, bicycled too. She accepted stoically
the probability that she would very soon bicycle off the hedge into the
field and be hurt. In the fields on either side of them, cows stared at
them in mild surprise and some disdain, coming up close to look. So, if
one bicycled off, it would be into the very jaws, onto the very horns, of
cattle. Female cattle, indeed, but cattle none the less.

Then Kay chanted "Fat bulls of Basan came round about me on either side,"
and it was just like that. One fat bull at least trotted up to the hedge,
waving his tail and snorting, pawing and glaring, evincing, in short,
all the symptoms common to his kind.

So now if one bicycled off it would be into the very maw of an angry
bull.

"You look out you don't fall, Gerda," Kay flung back at her over his
shoulder. "It will be to a dreadful death, as you see. Nobody'll save
you; nobody'll dare."

"Feeling unsteady?" Barry's gentler voice asked her from behind. "Get off
and walk it. I will too."

But Gerda rode on, her eyes on Nan's swift, sure progress ahead. Barry
should not see her mettle fail; Barry, who had been through the war and
would despise cowards.

They reached the end of the hedge, and the path ran off it into a field.
And between this field and the last one there was an open gap, through
which the bull of Basan lumbered with fierce eyes and stood waiting for
them to descend.

"I don't like that creature," Kay said. "I'm afraid of him. Aren't you,
Barry?"

"Desperately," Barry admitted. "Anyone would be, except Nan, of course."

Nan was bicycling straight along the field path, and the bull stood
staring at her, his head well down, in readiness, as Gerda saw, to
charge. But he did not charge Nan. Bulls and other ferocious beasts think
it waste of time to charge the fearless; they get no fun out of an
unfrightened victim. He waited instead for Gerda, as she knew he would
do.

Kay followed Nan, still chanting his psalm. Gerda followed Kay. As she
dropped from the hedge onto the path she turned round once and met
Barry's eyes, her own wide and grave, and she was thinking "I can
bear anything if he is behind me and sees it happen. I couldn't bear
it if I were the last and no one saw." To be gored all alone, none to
care ... who could bear that?

The next moment Barry was no longer behind her, but close at her side,
bicycling on the grass by the path, between her and the bull. Did he know
she was frightened? She hadn't shown it, surely.

"The wind," said Gerda, in her clear, small crystalline voice, "has gone
round more to the south. Don't you think so?" And reminded Barry of a
French aristocrat demoiselle going with calm and polite conversation to
the scaffold.

"I believe it has," he said, and smiled.

And after all the bull, perhaps not liking the look of the bicycles,
didn't charge at all, but only ran by their sides with snorting noises
until they left him behind at the next gate.

"Did you," enquired Gerda, casually, "notice that bull? He was an awfully
fine one, wasn't he?"

"A remarkably noble face, I thought," Kay returned.

They scrambled down cliffs to the cove and bathed.


5

Nan, experienced in such things, as one is at the age of thirty-three if
one has led a well-spent life, knew now beyond peradventure what had
happened to Barry and what would never happen again between him and her.
So that was that, as she put it, definite and matter-of-fact to herself
about it. He had stopped wanting her. Well then, she must stop wanting
him, as speedily as might be. It took a little time. You could not shoot
down the hills of the emotions with the lightning rapidity with which you
shot down the roads. Also, the process was excruciatingly painful. You
had to unmake so many plans, unthink so many thoughts.... Oh, but that
was nothing. You had to hear his voice softened to someone else, see the
smile in his eyes caressing someone else, feel his whole mind, his whole
soul, reaching out in protecting, adoring care to someone else's charm
and loveliness ... as once, as so lately, they had reached out to
yours.... That was torture for the bravest, far worse than any bulls or
seas or precipices could be to Gerda. Yet it had to be gone through, as
Gerda had to leap from towering cliffs into wild seas and ride calmly
among fierce cattle.... When Nan woke in the night it was like toothache,
a sharp, gnawing, searing hell of pain. Memory choked her, bitter
self-anger for joy once rejected and then forever lost took her by the
throat, present desolation drowned her soul in hard, slow tears, jealousy
scorched and seared.

But, now every morning, pride rose, mettlesome and gallant, making her
laugh and talk, so that no one guessed. And with pride, a more reckless
physical daring than usual; a kind of scornful adventurousness, that
courted danger for its own sake, and wordlessly taunted the weaker spirit
with "Follow if you like and can. If you don't like, if you can't, I am
the better woman in that way, though you may be the beloved." And the
more the mettle of the little beloved rose to meet the challenge, the
hotter the pace grew. Perhaps they both felt, without knowing they felt
it, that there was something in Barry which leaped instinctively out to
applaud reckless courage, some element in himself which responded to it
even while he called it foolhardy. You could tell that Barry was of that
type, by the quick glow of his eyes and smile. But the rivalry in daring
was not really for Barry; Barry's choice was made. It was at bottom the
last test of mettle, the ultimate challenge from the loser to the winner,
in the lists chosen by the loser as her own. It was also--for Nan was
something of a bully--the heckling of Gerda. She might have won one game,
and that the most important, but she should be forced to own herself
beaten in another, after being dragged painfully along rough and
dangerous ways. And over and above and beyond all this, beyond rivalry
and beyond Gerda, was the eternal impatience for adventure as such, for
quick, vehement living, which was the essence of Nan. She found things
more fun that way: that summed it.


6

The long strange days slid by like many-coloured dreams. The steep
tumbling roads tilted behind them, with their pale, old, white and slate
hamlets huddled between fields above a rock-bound sea. Sometimes they
would stop early in the day at some fishing village, find rooms there for
the night, and bathe and sail till evening. When they bathed, Nan would
swim far out to sea, striking through cold, green, heaving waters,
slipping cleverly between currents, numbing thought with bodily action,
drowning emotion in the sea.

Once they were all caught in a current and a high sea and swept out, and
had to battle for the shore. Even Nan, even Barry, could not get to the
cove from which they had bathed; all they could try for was the jut of
rocks to westward toward which the seas were sweeping, and to reach this
meant a tough fight.

"Barry!"

Nan, looking over her shoulder, saw Gerda's bluing face and wide staring
eyes and quickening, flurried strokes. Saw, too, Barry at once at her
side, heard his "All right, I'm here. Catch hold of my shoulder."

In a dozen strokes Nan reached them, and was at Gerda's other side.

"Put one hand on each of us and strike for all you're worth with your
legs. That's the way...."

Numbly Gerda's two hands gripped Barry's right shoulder and Nan's left.
Between them they pulled her, her slight weight dragging at them heavily,
helping the running sea against them. They were being swept westward
towards the rocks, but swept also outwards, beyond them; they struck
northward and northward and were carried always south. It was a close
thing between their swimming and the current, and it looked as though the
current was winning.

"It'll have to be all we know now," said Nan, as they struggled ten yards
from the point.

She and Barry both rather thought that probably it would be all they knew
and just the little more they didn't know--they would be swept round the
point well to the south of the outermost rock--and then, hey for open
sea!

But their swimming proved, in this last fierce minute of the struggle,
stronger than the sea. They were swept towards the jutting point, almost
round it, when Nan, flinging forward to the right, caught a slippery
ledge of rock with her two hands and held on. Barry didn't think she
could hold on for more than a second against the swinging seas, or, if
she did, could consolidate her position. But he did not know the full
power of Nan's trained, acrobatic body. Slipping her shoulder from
Gerda's clutch, she grasped instead Gerda's right hand in her left, and
with her other arm and with all her sinuous, wiry strength, heaved
herself onto the rock and there flung her body flat, reaching out her
free hand to Barry. Barry caught it just in time, as he was being swung
on a wave outwards, and pulled himself within grip of the rock, and in
another moment he lay beside her, and between them they hauled up Gerda.

Gerda gasped "Kay," and they saw him struggling twenty yards behind.

"Can you do it?" Barry shouted to him, and Kay grinned back.

"Let you know presently.... Oh yes, I'm all right. Getting on fine."

Nan stood up on the rock, watching him, measuring with expert eye the
ratio between distance and pace, the race between Kay's swimming and the
sea. It seemed to her to be anyone's race.

Barry didn't stand up. The strain of the swim had been rather too much
for him, and in his violent lurch onto the rock he had strained his side.
He lay flat, feeling battered and sick.

The sea, Nan judged after another minute of watching, was going to beat
Kay in this race. For Kay's face had turned a curious colour, and he was
blue round the lips. Kay's heart was not strong.

Nan's dive into the tossing waves was as pretty a thing as one would wish
to see. The swoop of it carried her nearly to Kay's side. Coming up she
caught one of his now rather limp hands and put it on her left shoulder,
saying "Hold tight. A few strokes will do it."

Kay, who was no fool and who had known that he was beaten, held tight,
throwing all his exhausted strength into striking out with his other
three limbs.

They were carried round the point, beyond reach of it had not Barry's
outstretched hand been ready. Nan touched it, barely grasped it, just and
no more, as they were swung seawards. It was enough. It pulled them to
the rock's side. Again Nan wriggled and scrambled up, and then they
dragged Kay heavily after them as he fainted.

"Neat," said Barry to Nan, his appreciation of a well-handled job, his
love of spirit and skill, rising as it were to cheer, in spite of his
exhaustion and his concern for Gerda and Kay. "My word, Nan, you're a
sportsman."

"He does faint sometimes," said Gerda of Kay. "He'll be all right in a
minute."

Kay came to.

"Oh Lord," he said, "that was a bit of a grind." And then, becoming
garrulous with the weak and fatuous garrulity of those who have recently
swooned, "Couldn't have done it without you, Nan. I'd given myself up for
lost. All my past life went by me in a flash.... I really did think it
was U.P. with me, you know. And it jolly nearly was, for all of us,
wasn't it?... Whose idea was it bathing just here? Yours, Nan. Of course.
It would be. No wonder you felt our lives on your conscience and had to
rescue us all. Oh Lord, the water I've drunk! I do feel rotten."

"We all look pretty rotten, I must say," Nan commented, looking from
Kay's limp greenness to Gerda's shivering blueness, from Gerda to Barry,
prostrate, bruised and coughing, from Barry to her own cut and battered
knees and elbows, bleeding with the unaccountable profuseness of limbs
cut by rocks in the sea. "I may die from loss of blood, and the rest of
you from prostration, and all of us from cold. Are we well enough to
scale the rocks now and get to our clothes?"

"We're not well enough for anything," Barry returned. "But we'd better do
it. We don't want to die here, with the sea washing over us in this damp
way."

They climbed weakly up to the top of the rock promontory, and along it
till they dropped down into the little cove. They all felt beaten and
limp, as if they had been playing a violent but not heating game of
football. Even Nan's energy was drained.

Gerda said with chattering teeth, as she and Nan dressed in their rocky
corner, "I suppose, Nan, if it hadn't been for you and Barry, I'd have
drowned."

"Well, I suppose perhaps you would. If you come to think of it, we'd most
of us be dying suddenly half the time if it weren't for something--some
chance or other."

Gerda said "Thanks awfully, Nan," in her direct, childlike way, and Nan
turned it off with "You might have thanked me if you _had_ drowned,
seeing it was my fault we bathed there at all. I ought to have known
it wasn't safe for you or Kay."

Looking at the little fragile figure shivering in its vest, Nan felt in
that moment no malice, no triumph, no rivalry, no jealous anger; nothing
but the protecting care for the smaller and weaker, for Neville's little
pretty, precious child that she had felt when Gerda's hand clutched her
shoulder in the sea.

"Life-saving seems to soften the heart," she reflected, grimly, conscious
as always of her own reactions.

"Well," said Kay weakly, as they climbed up the cliff path to the little
village, "I do call that a rotten bathe. Now let's make for the pub and
drink whiskey."


7

It was three days later. They had spent an afternoon and a night at
Polperro, and the sun shone in the morning on that incredible place as
they rode out of it after breakfast. Polperro shakes the soul and the
aesthetic nerves like a glass of old wine; no one can survey it unmoved,
or leave it as he entered it, any more than you can come out of a fairy
ring as you went in. In the afternoon they had bathed in the rock pools
along the coast. In the evening the moon had magically gleamed on the
little town, and Barry and Gerda had sat together on the beach watching
it, and then in the dawn they had risen (Barry and Gerda again) and rowed
out in a boat to watch the pilchard haul, returning at breakfast time
sleepy, fishy and bright-eyed.

As they climbed the steep hill path that leads to Talland, the sun danced
on the little harbour with its fishing-boats and its sad, crowding,
crying gulls, and on the huddled white town with its narrow crooked
streets and overhanging houses: Polperro had the eerie beauty of a dream
or of a little foreign port. Such beauty and charm are on the edge of
pain; you cannot disentangle them from it. They intoxicate, and pierce to
tears. The warm morning sun sparkled on a still blue sea, and burned the
gorse and bracken by the steep path's edge to fragrance. So steep the
path was that they had to push their bicycles up it with bent backs and
labouring steps, so narrow that they had to go in single file. It was
never meant for cyclists, only for walkers; the bicycling road ran far
inland.

They reached the cliff's highest point, and looked down on Talland Bay.
By the side of the path, on a grass plateau, a stone war-cross reared
grey against a blue sky, with its roll of names, and its comment--"True
love by life, true love by death is tried...."

The path, become narrower, rougher and more winding, plunged sharply,
steeply downwards, running perilously along the cliff's edge. Nan got on
her bicycle.

Barry called from the rear, "Nan! It can't be done! It's not
rideable.... Don't be absurd."

Nan, remarking casually "It'll be rideable if I ride it," began to do so.

"Madwoman," Barry said, and Kay assured him, "Nan'll be all right. No one
else would, but she's got nine lives, you know."

Gerda came next behind Nan. For a moment she paused, dubiously, watching
Nan's flying, brakeless progress down the wild ribbon of a footpath,
between the hill and the sea. A false swerve, a failure to turn with the
path, and one would fly off the cliff's edge into space, fall down
perhaps to the blue rock pools far below.

To refuse Nan's lead now would be to fail again in pluck and skill before
Barry. "My word, Nan, you're a sportsman!" Barry had said, coughing
weakly on the rock onto which Nan had dragged them all out of the sea.
That phrase, and the ring in his hoarse voice as he said it, had stayed
with Gerda.

She got onto her bicycle, and shot off down the precipitous path.

"My God!" It was Barry's voice again, from the rear. "Stop, Gerda ... oh,
you little fool.... _Stop_...."

But it was too late for Gerda to stop then if she had tried. She was in
full career, rushing, leaping, jolting over the gorse roots under the
path, past thought and past hope and oddly past fear, past anything but
the knowledge that what Nan did she too must do.

Strangely, inaptly, the line of verse she had just read sung itself in
her mind as she rushed.

"True love by life, true love by death is tried...."

She took the first sharp turn, and the second. The third, a right angle
bending inward from the cliff's very edge, she did not take. She dashed
on instead, straight into space, like a young Phoebus riding a horse of
the morning through the blue air.


8

Nan, far ahead, nearly on the level, heard the crash and heard voices
crying out. Jamming on her brakes she jumped off; looked back up the
precipitous path; saw nothing but its windings. She left her bicycle at
the path's side and turned and ran up. Rounding a sharp bend, she saw
them at last above her; Barry and Kay scrambling furiously down the side
of the cliff, and below them, on a ledge half-way down to the sea, a
tangled heap that was Gerda and her bicycle.

The next turn of the path hid them from sight again. But in two minutes
she had reached the place where their two bicycles lay flung across the
path, and was scrambling after them down the cliff.

When she reached them they had disentangled Gerda and the bicycle, and
Barry held Gerda in his arms. She was unconscious, and a cut in her head
was bleeding, darkening her yellow hair, trickling over her colourless
face. Her right leg and her left arm lay stiff and oddly twisted.

Barry, his face drawn and tense, said "We must get her up to the path
before she comes to, if possible. It'll hurt like hell if she's
conscious."

They had all learnt how to help their fellow creatures in distress, and
how you must bind broken limbs to splints before you move their owner so
much as a yard. The only splint available for Gerda's right leg was her
left, and they bound it tightly to this with three handkerchiefs, then
tied her left arm to her side with Nan's stockings, and used the fourth
handkerchief (which was Gerda's, and the cleanest) for her head. She came
to before the arm was finished, roused to pained consciousness by the
splinting process, and lay with clenched teeth and wet forehead,
breathing sharply but making no other sound.

Then Barry lifted her in his arms and the others supported her on either
side, and they climbed slowly and gently up to the path, not by the sheer
way of their descent but by a diagonal track that joined the path further
down.

"I'm sorry, darling," Barry said through his teeth when he jolted her.
"I'm frightfully sorry.... Only a little more now."

They reached the path and Barry laid her down on the grass by its side,
her head supported on Nan's knee.

"Very bad, isn't it?" said Barry gently, bending over her.

She smiled up at him, with twisted lips.

"Not so bad, really."

"You little sportsman," said Barry, softly and stooping, he kissed her
pale cheek.

Then he stood up and spoke to Nan.

"I'm going to fetch a doctor if there's one in Talland. Kay must ride
back and fetch the Polperro doctor, in case there isn't. In any case I
shall bring up help and a stretcher from Talland and have her taken
down."

He picked up his bicycle and stood for a moment looking down at the face
on Nan's knee.

"You'll look after her," he said, quickly, and got on the bicycle and
dashed down the path, showing that he too could do that fool's trick if
it served any good purpose.

Gerda, watching him, caught her breath and forgot pain in fear until,
swerving round the next bend, he was out of sight.


9

Nan sat very still by the path, staring over the sea, shading Gerda's
head from the sun. There was nothing more to be done than that; there was
no water, even, to bathe the cut with.

"Nan."

"Yes?"

"Am I much hurt? How much hurt, do you think?"

"I don't know how much. I think the arm is broken. The leg may be only
sprained. Then there's the cut--I daresay that isn't very much--but one
can't tell that."

"I must have come an awful mucker," Gerda murmured, after a pause. "It
must have looked silly, charging over the edge like that.... You didn't."

"No. I didn't."

"It was stupid," Gerda breathed, and shut her eyes.

"No, not stupid. Anyone might have. It was a risky game to try."

"You tried it."

"Oh, I ... I do try things. That's no reason why you should.... You'd
better not talk. Lie quite quiet. It won't be very long now before they
come.... The pain's bad, I know."

Gerda's head was hot and felt giddy. She moved it restlessly. Urgent
thoughts pestered her; her normal reticences lay like broken fences about
her.

"Nan."

"Yes. Shall I raise your head a little?"

"No, it's all right.... About Barry, Nan."

Nan grew rigid, strung up to endure.

"And what about Barry?"

"Just that I love him. I love him very much; beyond anything in the
world."

"Yes. You'd better not talk, all the same."

"Nan, do you love him too?"

Nan laughed, a queer little curt laugh in her throat.

"Rather a personal question, don't you think? Suppose, by any chance that
I did? But of course I don't."

"But doesn't he love you, Nan? He did, didn't he?"

"My dear, I think you're rather delirious. This isn't the way one
talks.... You'd better ask Barry the state of his affections, since
you're interested in them. I'm not, particularly."

Gerda drew a long breath, of pain or fatigue or relief.

"I'm rather glad you don't care for him. I thought we might have shared
him if you had, and if he'd cared for us both. But it might have been
difficult."

"It might; you never know.... Well, you're welcome to my share, if you
want it."

Then Gerda lay quiet, with closed eyes and wet forehead, and concentrated
wholly on her right leg, which was hurting badly.

Nan too sat quiet, and she too was concentrating.

Irrevocably it was over now; done, finished with. Barry's eyes, Barry's
kiss, had told her that. Gerda, the lovely, the selfish child, had taken
Barry from her, to keep for always. Walked into Barry's office, into
Barry's life, and deliberately stolen him. Thinking, she said, that they
might share him.... The little fool. The little thief. (She waved the
flies away from Gerda's head.)

And even this other game, this contest of physical prowess, had ended in
a hollow, mocking victory for the winner, since defeat had laid the loser
more utterly in her lover's arms, more unshakably in his heart. Gerda,
defeated and broken, had won everything. Won even that tribute which had
been Nan's own. "You little sportsman," Barry had called her, with a
break of tenderness in his voice. Even that, even the palm for valour, he
had placed in her hands. The little victor. The greedy little grabber of
other people's things....

Gerda moaned at last.

"Only a little longer," said Nan, and laid her hand lightly and coolly on
the hot wet forehead.

The little winner... damn her....

The edge of a smile, half-ironic, wholly bitter, twisted at Nan's lips.


10

Voices and steps. Barry and a doctor, Barry and a stretcher, Barry and
all kinds of help. Barry's anxious eyes and smile. "Well? How's she
been?"

He was on his knees beside her.

"Here's the doctor, darling.... I'm sorry I've been so long."




CHAPTER X

PRINCIPLES


1

Through the late September and October days Gerda would lie on a wicker
couch in the conservatory at Windover, her sprained leg up, her broken
wrist on a splint, her mending head on a soft pillow, and eat pears.
Grapes too, apples, figs, chocolates of course--but particularly pears.
She also wrote verse, and letters to Barry, and drew in pen and ink, and
read Sir Leo Chiozza Money's "Triumph of Nationalisation" and Mrs.
Snowden on Bolshevik Russia, and "Lady Adela," and "Coterie," and
listened while Neville read Mr. W.H. Mallock's "Memoirs" and Disraeli's
"Life." Her grandmother (Rodney's mother) sent her "The Diary of Opal
Whiteley," but so terrible did she find it that it caused a relapse, and
Neville had to remove it. She occasionally struggled in vain with a
modern novel, which she usually renounced in perplexity after three
chapters or so. Her taste did not lie in this direction.

"I can't understand what they're all about," she said to Neville.
"Poetry _means_ something. It's about something real, something that
really is so. So are books like this--" she indicated "The Triumph of
Nationalisation." "But most novels are so queer. They're about people,
but not people as they are. They're not _interesting_."

"Not as a rule, certainly. Occasionally one gets an idea out of one
of them, or a laugh, or a thrill. Now and then they express life, or
reality, or beauty, in some terms or other--but not as a rule."

Gerda was different from Kay, who devoured thrillers, shockers, and
ingenious crime and mystery stories with avidity. She did not believe
that life was really much like that, and Kay's assertion that if it
weren't it ought to be, she rightly regarded as pragmatical. Neither did
she share Kay's more fundamental taste for the Elizabethans, Carolines
and Augustans. She and Kay met (as regards literature) only on economics,
politics, and modern verse. Gerda's mind was artistic rather than
literary, and she felt no wide or acute interest in human beings, their
actions, passions, foibles, and desires.

So, surrounded by books from the Times library, and by nearly all the
weekly and monthly reviews (the Bendishes, like many others, felt, with
whatever regret, that they had to see all of these), Gerda for the most
part, when alone, lay and dreamed dreams and ate pears.


2

Barry came down for week-ends. He and Gerda had declared their affections
towards one another even at the Looe infirmary, where Gerda had been
conveyed from the scene of accident. It had been no moment then for
anything more definite than statements of reciprocal emotion, which are
always cheering in sickness. But when Gerda was better, well enough, in
fact, to lie in the Windover conservatory, Barry came down from town and
said, "When shall we get married?"

Then Gerda, who had had as yet no time or mind-energy to reflect on the
probable, or rather certain, width of the gulf between the sociological
theories of herself and Barry, opened her blue eyes wide and said
"Married?"

"Well, isn't that the idea? You can't jilt me now, you know; matters have
gone too far."

"But, Barry, I thought you knew. I don't hold with marriage."

Barry threw back his head and laughed, because she looked so innocent and
so serious and young as she lay there among the pears and bandages.

"All right, darling. You've not needed to hold with it up till now. But
now you'd better catch on to it as quickly as you can, and hold it tight,
because it's what's going to happen."

Gerda moved her bandaged head in denial.

"Oh, no, Barry. I can't.... I thought you knew. Haven't we ever talked
about marriage before?"

"Oh, probably. Yes, I think I've heard you and Kay both on the subject.
You don't hold with legal ties in what should be purely a matter of
emotional impulse, I know. But crowds of people talk like that and then
get married. I've no doubt Kay will too, when his time comes."

"Kay won't. He thinks marriage quite wrong. And so do I."

Barry, who had stopped laughing, settled himself to talk it out.

"Why wrong, Gerda? Superfluous, if you like; irrelevant, if you like; but
why wrong?"

"Because it's a fetter on what shouldn't be fettered. Love might stop.
Then it would be ugly."

"Oh very. One has to take that risk, like other risks. And love is
really more likely to stop, as I see it, if there's no contract in the
eyes of the world, if the two people know each can walk away from the
other, and is expected to, directly they quarrel or feel a little bored.
The contract, the legalisation--absurd and irrelevant as all legal
things are to anything that matters--the contract, because we're such
tradition-bound creatures, does give a sort of illusion of inevitability,
which is settling, so that it doesn't occur to the people to fly apart at
the first strain. They go through with it instead, and in nine cases out
of ten come out on the other side. In the tenth case they just have
either to make the best of it or to make a break.... Of course people
always _can_ throw up the sponge, even married people, if things are
insupportable. The door isn't locked. But there's no point, I think, in
having it swinging wide open."

"I think it _should_ be open," Gerda said. "I think people should be
absolutely free.... Take you and me. Suppose you got tired of me, or
liked someone else better, I think you ought to be able to leave me
without any fuss."

That was characteristic of both of them, that they could take their
own case theoretically without becoming personal, without lovers'
protestations to confuse the general issue.

"Well," Barry said, "I don't think I ought. I think it should be made as
difficult for me as possible. Because of the children. There are usually
children, of course. If I left you, I should have to leave them too. Then
they'd have no father. Or, if it were you that went, they'd have no
mother. Either way it's a pity, normally. Also, even if we stayed
together always and weren't married, they'd have no legal name. Children
often miss that, later on. Children of the school age are the most
conventional, hide-bound creatures. They'd feel ashamed before their
schoolfellows."

"I suppose they'd have my name legally, wouldn't they?"

"I suppose so. But they might prefer mine. The other boys and girls would
have their fathers', you see."

"Not all of them. I know several people who don't hold with marriage
either; there'd be all their children. And anyhow it's not a question of
what the children would prefer while they were at school. It's what's
best for them. And anything would be better than to see their parents
hating each other and still having to live together."

"Yes. Anything would be better than that. Except that it would be a
useful and awful warning to them. But the point is, most married people
don't hate each other. They develop a kind of tolerating, companionable
affection, after the first excitement called being in love is past--so
far as it does pass. That's mostly good enough to live on; that and
common interests and so forth. It's the stuff of ordinary life; the
emotional excitement is the hors _d'oeuvre_. It would be greedy to want
to keep passing on from one _hors d'oeuvre_ to another--leaving the
meal directly the joint comes in."

"I like dessert best," Gerda said, irrelevantly, biting into an apple.

"Well, you'd never get any at that rate. Nor much of the rest of the meal
either."

"But people do, Barry. Free unions often last for years and
years--sometimes forever. Only you wouldn't feel tied. You'd be sure
you were only living together because you both liked to, not because
you had to."

"I should feel I had to, however free it was. So you wouldn't have that
consolation about me. I might be sick of you, and pining for someone
else, but still I should stay."

"Why, Barry?"

"Because I believe in permanent unions, as a general principle. They're
more civilised. It's unusual, uncivic, dotting about from one mate to
another, leaving your young and forgetting all about them and having
new ones. Irresponsible, I call it. Living only for a good time. It's
not the way to be good citizens, as I see it, nor to bring up good
citizens.... Oh, I know that the whole question of sex relationships is
horribly complicated, and can't be settled with a phrase or a dogma. It's
been for centuries so wrapped in cant and humbug and expediencies and
camouflage; I don't profess to be able to pierce through all that, or to
so much as begin to think it out clearly. The only thing I can fall back
on as a certainty is the children question. A confused and impermanent
family life _must_ be a bad background for the young. They want all they
can get of both their parents, in the way of education and training and
love."

"Family life is such a hopeless muddle, anyhow."

"A muddle, yes. Hopeless, no. Look at your own. Your father and mother
have always been friends with each other and with you. They brought you
up with definite ideas about what they wanted you to become--fairly well
thought-out and consistent ideas, I suppose. I don't say they could do
much--parents never can--but something soaks in."

"Usually something silly and bad."

"Often, yes. Anyhow a queer kind of mixed brew. But at least the parents
have their chance. It's what they're there for; they've got to do all
they know, while the children are young, to influence them towards what
they personally believe, however mistakenly, to be the finest points of
view. Of course lots of it is, as you say, silly and bad, because people
_are_ largely silly and bad. But no parent can be absolved from doing his
or her best."

Barry was walking round the conservatory, eager and full of faith and
hope and fire, talking rapidly, the educational enthusiast, the ardent
citizen, the social being, the institutionalist, all over. He was all
these things; he was rooted and grounded in citizenship, in social
ethics. He stopped by the couch and stood looking down at Gerda among
her fruit, his hands in his pockets, his eyes bright and lit.

"All the same, darling, I shall never want to fetter you. If you ever
want to leave me, I shan't come after you. The legal tie shan't stand in
your way. And to me it would make no difference; I shouldn't leave you in
any case, married or not. So I don't see how or why you score in doing
without the contract."

"It's the idea of the thing, partly. I don't want to wear a wedding ring
and be Mrs. Briscoe. I want to be Gerda Bendish, living with Barry
Briscoe because we like to.... I expect, Barry, in my case it _would_
be for always, because, at present, I can't imagine stopping caring more
for you than for anything else. But that doesn't affect the principle of
the thing. It would be _wrong_ for me to marry you. One oughtn't to give
up one's principles just because it seems all right in a particular case.
It would be cheap and shoddy and cowardly."

"Exactly," said Barry, "what I feel. I can't give up my principle either,
you know. I've had mine longer than you've had yours."

"I've had mine since I was about fifteen."

"Five years. Well, I've had mine for twenty. Ever since I first began to
think anything out, that is."

"People of your age," said Gerda, "people over thirty, I mean, often
think like that about marriage. I've noticed it. So has Kay."

"Observant infants. Well, there we stand, then. One of us has got either
to change his principles--her principles, I mean--or to be false to them.
Or else, apparently, there can be nothing doing between you and me.
That's the position, isn't it?"

Gerda nodded, her mouth full of apple.

"It's very awkward," Barry continued, "my having fallen in love with you.
I had not taken your probable views on sociology into account. I knew
that, though we differed in spelling and punctuation, we were agreed
(approximately) on politics, economics, and taste in amusements, and I
thought that was enough. I forgot that divergent views on matrimony were
of practical importance. It would have mattered less if I had discovered
that you were a militarist and imperialist and quoted Marx at me."

"I did tell you, Barry. I really did. I never hid it. And I never
supposed that you'd want to _marry_ me."

"That was rather stupid of you. I'm so obviously a marrying man.... Now,
darling, will you think the whole thing out from the beginning, after
I've gone? Be first-hand; don't take over theories from other people, and
don't be sentimental about it. Thrash the whole subject out with yourself
and with other people--with your own friends, and with your family too.
They're a modern, broad-minded set, your people, after all; they won't
look at the thing conventionally; they'll talk sense; they won't fob you
off with stock phrases, or talk about the sanctity of the home. They're
not institutionalists. Only be fair about it; weigh all the pros and
cons, and judge honestly, and for heaven's sake don't look at the thing
romantically, or go off on theories because they sound large and
subversive. Think of practical points, as well as of ultimate principles.
Both, to my mind, are on the same side. I'm not asking you to sacrifice
right for expediency, or expediency for right. I don't say 'Be sensible,'
or 'Be idealistic.' We've got to be both."

"Barry, I've thought and talked about it so often and so long. You don't
know how much we do talk about that sort of thing, at the club and
everywhere and Kay and I. I could never change my mind."

"What a hopeless admission! We ought to be ready to change our minds at
any moment; they should be as changeable as pound notes."

"What about yours, then, darling?"

"I'm always ready to change mine. I shall think the subject out too, and
if I do change I shall tell you at once."

"Barry." Gerda's face was grave; her forehead was corrugated. "Suppose we
neither of us ever change? Suppose we both go on thinking as we do now
for always? What then?"

He smoothed the knitted forehead with his fingers.

"Then one of us will have to be a traitor to his or her principles. A
pity, but sometimes necessary in this complicated world. Or, if we can
neither of us bring ourselves down to that, I suppose eventually we shall
each perpetrate with someone else the kind of union we personally
prefer."

They parted on that. The thing had not grown serious yet; they could
still joke about it.


3

Though Gerda said "What's the use of my talking about it to people when
I've made up my mind?" and though she had not the habit of talking for
conversation's sake, she did obediently open the subject with her
parents, in order to assure herself beyond a doubt what they felt about
it. But she knew already that their opinions were what you might expect
of parents, even of broad-minded, advanced parents, who rightly believed
themselves not addicted to an undiscriminating acceptance of the
standards and decisions of a usually mistaken world. But Barry was wrong
in saying they weren't institutionalists; they were. Parents are.

Rodney was more opinionated than Neville, on this subject as on most
others. He said, crossly, "It's a beastly habit, unlegitimatised union.
When I say beastly, I mean beastly; nothing derogatory, but merely like
the beasts--the other beasts, that is."

Gerda said "Well, that's not really an argument against it. In that sense
it's beastly when we sleep out instead of in bed, or do lots of other
quite nice things. The way men and women do things isn't necessarily the
best way," and there Rodney had to agree with her. He fell back on "It's
unbusinesslike. Suppose you have children?" and Gerda, who had supposed
all that with Barry, sighed. Rodney said a lot more, but it made little
impression on her, beyond corroborating her views on the matrimonial
theories of middle-aged people.

Neville made rather more. To Neville Gerda said "How can I go back on
everything I've always said and thought about it, and go and get married?
It would be so _reactionary_."

Neville, who had a headache and was irritable, said "It's the other thing
that's reactionary. It existed long before the marriage tie did. That's
what I don't understand about all you children who pride yourselves on
being advanced. If you frankly take your stand on going back to nature,
on _being_ reactionary--well, it is, anyhow, a point of view, and has its
own merits. But your minds seem to me to be in a hopeless muddle. You
think you're going forward while you're really going back."

"Marriage," said Gerda, "is so Victorian. It's like antimacassars."

"Now, my dear, do you mean _anything_ by either of those statements?
Marriage wasn't invented in Victoria's reign. Nor did it occur more
frequently in that reign than it had before or does now. Why Victorian,
then? And why antimacassars? Think it out. How _can_ a legal contract be
like a doyley on the back of a chair? Where is the resemblance? It sounds
like a riddle, only there's no answer. No, you know you've got no answer.
That kind of remark is sheer sentimentality and muddle-headedness. Why
are people in their twenties so often sentimental? That's another
riddle."

"That's what Nan says. She told me once that she used to be sentimental
when she was twenty. Was she?"

"More than she is now, anyhow."

Neville's voice was a little curt. She was not happy about Nan, who had
just gone to Rome for the winter.

"Well," Gerda said, "anyhow I'm not sentimental about not meaning to
marry. I've thought about it for years, and I know."

"Thought about it! Much you know about it." Neville, tired and cross
from over-work, was, unlike herself, playing the traditional conventional
mother. "Have you thought how it will affect your children, for
instance?"

Those perpetual, tiresome children. Gerda was sick of them.

"Oh yes, I've thought a lot about that. And I can't see it will hurt
them. Barry and I talked for ever so long about the children. So did
father."

So did Neville.

"Of course I know," she said, "that you and Kay would be only too pleased
if father and I had never been married, but you've no right to judge by
yourself the ones you and Barry may have. They may not be nearly so
odd.... And then there's your own personal position. The world's full of
people who think they can insult a man's mistress."

"I don't meet people like that. The people I know don't insult other
people for not being married. They think it's quite natural, and only the
people's own business."

"You've moved in a small and rarefied clique so far, my dear. You'll meet
the other kind of people presently; one can't avoid them, the world's so
full of them."

"Do they matter?"

"Of course they matter. As mosquitoes matter, and wasps, and cars that
splash mud at you in the road. You'd be constantly annoyed. Your own
scullery maid would turn up her nose at you. The man that brought the
milk will sneer."

"I don't think," Gerda said, after reflection, "that I'm very easily
annoyed. I don't notice things, very often. I think about other things
rather a lot, you see. That's why I'm slow at answering."

"Well, Barry would be annoyed, anyhow."

"Barry does lots of unpopular things. He doesn't mind what people say."

"He'd mind for you.... But Barry isn't going to do it. Barry won't have
you on your terms. If you won't have him on his, he'll leave you and go
and find some nicer girl."

"I can't help it, mother. I can't do what I don't approve of for that.
How could I?"

"No, darling, of course you couldn't; I apologise. But do try and see if
you can't get to approve of it, or anyhow to be indifferent about it.
Such a little thing! It isn't as if Barry wanted you to become a Mormon
or something.... And after all you can't accuse him of being retrograde,
or Victorian, if you like to use that silly word, or lacking in ideals
for social progress--can you? He belongs to nearly all your illegal
political societies, doesn't he? Why, his house gets raided for leaflets
from time to time. I don't think they ever find any, but they look, and
that's something. You can't call Barry hide-bound or conventionally
orthodox."

"No. Oh no. Not that. Or I shouldn't be caring for him. But he doesn't
understand about this. And you don't, mother, nor father, nor anyone of
your ages. I don't know how it is, but it is so."

"You might try your Aunt Rosalind," Neville suggested, with malice.

Gerda shuddered. "Aunt Rosalind ... she wouldn't understand at all...."

But the dreadful thought was, as Neville had intended, implanted in
her that, of all her elder relatives, it was only Aunt Rosalind who,
though she mightn't understand, might nevertheless agree. Aunt Rosalind
on free unions... that would be terrible to have to hear. For Aunt
Rosalind would hold with them not because she thought them right but
because she enjoyed them--the worst of reasons. Gerda somehow felt
degraded by the introduction into the discussion of Aunt Rosalind, whom
she hated, whom she knew, without having been told so, that her mother
and all of them hated. It dragged it down, made it vulgar.

Gerda lay back in silence, the springs of argument and talk dried in her.
She wanted Kay.

It was no use; they couldn't meet. Neville could not get away from her
traditions, nor Gerda from hers.

Neville, to change the subject (though scarcely for the better), read her
"The Autobiography of Mrs. Asquith" till tea-time.


4

They all talked about it again, and said the same things, and different
things, and more things, and got no nearer one another with it all. Soon
Barry and Gerda, each comprehending the full measure of the serious
intent of the other, stood helpless before it, the one in half-amused
exasperation, the other in obstinate determination.

"She means business, then," thought Barry. "He won't come round," thought
Gerda and their love pierced and stabbed them, making Barry hasty of
speech and Gerda sullen.

"The _waste_ of it," said Barry, on Sunday evening, "when I've only
got one day in the week, to spend it quarrelling about marriage. I've
hundreds of things to talk about and tell you--interesting things, funny
things--but I never get to them, with all this arguing we have to have
first."

"I don't want to argue, Barry. Let's not. We've said everything now, lots
of times. There can't be any more. Tell me your things instead!"

He told her, and they were happy talking, and forgot how they thought
differently on marriage. But always the difference lay there in the
background, coiled up like a snake, ready to uncoil and seize them and
make them quarrel and hurt one another. Always one was expecting the
other at any moment to throw up the sponge and cry "Oh, have it your own
way, since you won't have it mine and I love you." But neither did. Their
wills stood as stiff as two rocks over against one another.

Gerda grew thinner under the strain, and healed more slowly than before.
Her fragile, injured body was a battle-ground between her will and her
love, and suffered in the conflict. Barry saw that it could not go on.
They would, he said, stop talking about it; they would put it in the
background and go on as if it were not there, until such time as they
could agree. So they became friends again, lovers who lived in the
present and looked to no future, and, since better might not be, that had
to do for the time.




CHAPTER XI

THAT WHICH REMAINS


1

Through September Neville had nursed Gerda by day and worked by night.
The middle of October, just when they usually moved into town for the
winter, she collapsed, had what the doctor called a nervous breakdown.

"You've been overworking," he told her. "You're not strong enough in
these days to stand hard brain-work. You must give it up."

For a fortnight she lay tired and passive, surrendered and inert, caring
for nothing but to give up and lie still and drink hot milk. Then she
struggled up and mooned about the house and garden, and cried weakly from
time to time, and felt depressed and bored, and as if life were over and
she were at the bottom of the sea.

"This must be what mother feels," she thought. "Poor mother.... I'm
like her; I've had my life, and I'm too stupid to work, and I can only
cry.... Men must work and women must weep.... I never knew before that
that was true.... I mustn't see mother just now, it would be the last
straw ... like the skeletons people used to look at to warn themselves
what they would come to.... Poor mother ... and poor me.... But mother's
getting better now she's being analysed. That wouldn't help me at all. I
analyse myself too much already.... And I was so happy a few months ago.
What a dreadful end to a good ambition. I shall never work again, I
suppose, in any way that counts. So that's that.... Why do I want to work
and to do something? Other wives and mothers don't.... Or do they, only
they don't know it, because they don't analyse? I believe they do, lots
of them. Or is it only my horrible egotism and vanity, that can't take a
back seat quietly? I was always like that, I know. Nan and I and Gilbert.
Not Jim so much, and not Pamela at all. But Rodney's worse than I am; he
wouldn't want to be counted out, put on the shelf, in the forties; he'd
be frightfully sick if he had to stand by and see other people working
and getting on and in the thick of things when he wasn't. He couldn't
bear it; he'd take to drink, I think.... I hope Rodney won't ever have
a nervous breakdown and feel like this, poor darling, he'd be dreadfully
tiresome.... Not to work after all. Not to be a doctor.... What then?
Just go about among people, grinning like a dog. Winter in town, talking,
dining, being the political wife. Summer in the country, walking, riding,
reading, playing tennis. Fun, of course. But what's it all for? When I've
got Gerda off my hands I shall have done being a mother, in any sense
that matters. Is being a wife enough to live for? Rodney's wife? Oh, I
want to be some use, want to do things, to count.... And Rodney will die
some time--I know he'll die first--and then I shan't even be a wife. And
in twenty years I shan't be able to do things with my body much more, and
what then? What will be left? ... I think I'm getting hysterical, like
poor mother.... How ugly I look, these days."

She stopped before the looking-glass. Her face looked back at her, white
and thin, almost haggard, traced in the last few weeks for the first time
with definite lines round brow and mouth. Her dark hair was newly
streaked with grey.

"Middle age," said Neville, and a cold hand was laid round her heart. "It
had to come some time, and this illness has opened the door to it. Or
shall I look young again when I'm quite well? No, never young again."

She shivered.

"I look like mother to-day.... I _am_ like mother...."

So youth and beauty were to leave her, too. She would recover from this
illness and this extinguishing of charm, but not completely, and not for
long. Middle age had begun. She would have off days in future, when she
would look old and worn instead of always, as hitherto, looking charming.
She wouldn't, in future, be sure of herself; people wouldn't be sure to
think "A lovely woman, Mrs. Rodney Bendish." Soon they would be saying
"How old Mrs. Bendish is getting to look," and then "She was a pretty
woman once."

Well, looks didn't matter much really, after all....

"They do, they do," cried Neville to the glass, passionately truthful.
"If you're vain they do--and I am vain. Vain of my mind and of my
body.... Vanity, vanity, all is vanity ... and now the silver cord is
going to be loosed and the golden bowl is going to be broken, and I shall
be hurt."

Looks did matter. It was no use canting, and minimising them. They
affected the thing that mattered most--one's relations with people. Men,
for instance, cared more to talk to a woman whose looks pleased them.
They liked pretty girls, and pretty women. Interesting men cared to talk
to them: they told them things they would never tell a plain woman.
Rodney did. He liked attractive women. Sometimes he made love to them,
prettily and harmlessly.

The thought of Rodney stabbed her. If Rodney were to get to care
less ... to stop making love to her ... worse, to stop needing
her.... For he did need her; through all their relationship,
disappointing in some of its aspects, his need had persisted, a simple,
demanding thing.

Humour suddenly came back.

"This, I suppose, is what Gerda is anticipating, and why she won't have
Barry tied to her. If Rodney wasn't tied to me he could flee from my
wrinkles...."

"Oh, what an absurd fuss one makes. What does any of it matter? It's all
in the course of nature, and the sooner 'tis over the sooner to sleep.
Middle age will be very nice and comfortable and entertaining, once one's
fairly in it.... I go babbling about my wasted brain and fading looks as
if I'd been a mixture of Sappho and Helen of Troy.... That's the worst of
being a vain creature.... What will Rosalind do when _her_ time comes?
Oh, paint, of course, and dye--more thickly than she does now, I mean.
She'll be a ghastly sight. A raddled harridan. At least I shall always
look respectable, I hope. I shall go down to Gerda. I want to look at
something young. The young have their troubles, poor darlings, but they
don't know how lucky they are."


2

In November Neville and Gerda, now both convalescent, joined Rodney in
their town flat. Rodney thought London would buck Neville up. London does
buck you up, even if it is November and there is no gulf stream and not
much coal. For there is always music and always people. Neville had a
critical appreciation of both. Then, for comic relief, there are
politics. You cannot be really bored with a world which contains the
mother of Parliaments, particularly if her news is communicated to you
at first hand by one of her members. Disgusted you may be and are, if
you are a right-minded person, but at least not bored.

What variety, what excitement, what a moving picture show, is this tragic
and comic planet! Why want to be useful, why indulge such tedious
inanities as ambitions, why dream wistfully of doing one's bit, making
one's work, in a world already as full of bits, bright, coloured, absurd
bits, like a kaleidoscope, as full of marks (mostly black marks) as a
novel from a free library? A dark and bad and bitter world, of course,
full of folly, wickedness and misery, sick with poverty and pain, so that
at times the only thing Neville could bear to do in it was to sit on some
dreadful committee thinking of ameliorations for the lot of the very
poor, or to go and visit Pamela in Hoxton and help her with some job or
other--that kind of direct, immediate, human thing, which was a sop to
uneasiness and pity such as the political work she dabbled in, however
similar its ultimate aim, could never be.


3

To Pamela Neville said, "Are you afraid of getting old, Pamela?"

Pamela replied, "Not a bit. Are you?" And she confessed it.

"Often it's like a cold douche of water down my spine, the thought of it.
I reason and mock at myself, but I _don't_ like it.... You're different;
finer, more real, more unselfish. Besides, you'll have done something
worth doing when you have to give up. I shan't."

Pamela's brows went up.

"Kay? Gerda? The pretty dears: I've done nothing so nice as them. You've
done what's called a woman's work in the world--isn't that the phrase?"

"Done it--just so, but so long ago. What now? I still feel young, Pamela,
even now that I know I'm not. ... Oh Lord, it's a queer thing, being a
woman. A well-off woman of forty-three with everything made comfortable
for her and her brain gone to pot and her work in the world done. I want
something to bite my teeth into--some solid, permanent job--and I get
nothing but sweetmeats, and people point at Kay and Gerda and say 'That's
your work, and it's over. Now you can rest, seeing that it's good, like
God on the seventh day.'"

"_I_ don't say 'Now you can rest. Except just now, while you're run
down.'"

"Run down, yes; run down like a disordered clock because I tried to
tackle an honest job of work again. Isn't it sickening, Pamela? Isn't it
ludicrous?"

"Ludicrous--no. Everyone comes up against his own limitations. You've got
to work within them that's all. After all, there are plenty of jobs you
can do that want doing--simply shouting to be done."

"Pammie dear, it's worse than I've said. I'm a low creature. I don't only
want to do jobs that want doing: I want to count, to make a name. I'm
damnably ambitious. You'll despise that, of course--and you're quite
right, it is despicable. But there it is. Most men and many women are
tormented by it--they itch for recognition."

"Of course. One is."

"You too, Pammie?"

"I have been. Less now. Life gets to look short, when you're
thirty-nine."

"Ah, but you have it--recognition, even fame, in the world you work in.
You count for something. If you value it, there it is. I wouldn't grumble
if I'd played your part in the piece. It's a good part--a useful part
and a speaking part."

"I suppose we all feel we should rather like to play someone else's part
for a change. There's nothing exciting about mine. Most people would far
prefer yours."

They would, of course; Neville knew it. The happy political wife rather
than the unmarried woman worker; Rodney, Gerda and Kay for company rather
than Frances Carr. There was no question which was the happier lot, the
fuller, the richer, the easier, the more entertaining.

"Ah well.... You see, Rosalind spent the afternoon with me yesterday, and
I felt suddenly that it wasn't for me to be stuck up about her--what am I
too but the pampered female idler, taking good things without earning
them? It made me shudder. Hence this fit of blues. The pampered, lazy,
brainless animal--it is such a terrific sight when in human form.
Rosalind talked about Nan, Pamela. In her horrible way--you know. Hinting
that she isn't alone in Rome, but with Stephen Lumley."

Pamela took off her glasses and polished them.

"Rosalind would, of course. What did you say?"

"I lost my temper. I let out at her. It's not a thing I often do with
Rosalind--it doesn't seem worth while. But this time I saw red. I told
her what I thought of her eternal gossip and scandal. I said, what if Nan
and Stephen Lumley, or Nan and anyone else, did arrange to be in Rome at
the same time and to see a lot of each other; where was the harm? No use.
You can't pin Rosalind down. She just shrugged her shoulders and smiled,
and said 'My dear, we all know our Nan. We all know too that Stephen
Lumley has been in love with her for a year, and doesn't live with his
wife. Then they go off to Rome at the same moment, and one hears that
they are seen everywhere together. Why shut one's eyes to obvious
deductions? You're so like an ostrich, Neville.' I said I'd rather be
an ostrich than a ferret, eternally digging into other people's
concerns,--and by the time we had got to that I thought it was far
enough, so I had an engagement with my dressmaker."

"It's no use tackling Rosalind," Pamela agreed. "She'll never change her
spots.... Do you suppose it's true about Nan?"

"I daresay it is. Yes, I'm afraid I do think it's quite likely
true.... Nan was so queer the few times I saw her after Gerda's accident.
I was unhappy about her. She was so hard, and so more than usually
cynical and unget-at-able. She told me it had been all her fault,
leading Gerda into mischief, doing circus tricks that the child tried to
emulate and couldn't. I couldn't read her, quite. Her tone about Gerda
had a queer edge to it. And she rather elaborately arranged, I thought,
so that she shouldn't meet Barry. Pamela, do you think she had finally
and absolutely turned Barry down before he took up so suddenly with
Gerda, or...."

Pamela said, "I know nothing. She told me nothing. But I rather thought,
when she came to see me just before she went down to Cornwall, that she
had made up her mind to have him. I may have been wrong."

Neville leant her forehead on her hands and sighed.

"Or you may have been right. And if you were right, it's the ghastliest
tragedy--for her.... Oh, I shouldn't have let Gerda go and work with him;
I should have known better.... Nan had rebuffed him, and he flew off at a
tangent, and there was Gerda sitting in his office, as pretty as flowers
and with her funny little silent charm.... And if Nan was all the time
waiting for him, meaning to say yes when he asked her.... Poor darling
Nan, robbed by my horrid little girl, who doesn't even want to
marry.... If that's the truth, it would account for the Stephen Lumley
business. Nan wouldn't stay on in London, to see them together. If Lumley
caught her at that psychological moment, she'd very likely go off with
him, out of mere desperation and bravado. That would be so terribly like
Nan.... What a desperate, wry, cursed business life is.... On the other
hand, she may just be going about with Lumley on her own terms not his.
It's her own affair whichever way it is; what we've got to do is to
contradict the stories Rosalind is spreading whenever we get the chance.
Not that one can scotch scandal once it starts--particularly Rosalind's
scandal."

"Ignore it. Nan can ignore it when she comes back. It won't hurt her.
Nan's had plenty of things said about her before, true and untrue, and
never cared."

"You're splendid at the ignoring touch, Pam. I believe there's nothing
you can't and don't ignore."

"Well, why not? Ignoring's easy."

"Not for most of us. I believe it is, for you. In a sense you ignore life
itself; anyhow you don't let it hold and bully you. When your time comes
you'll ignore age, and later death."

"They don't matter much, do they? Does anything? I suppose it's my stolid
temperament, but I can't feel that it does."

Neville thought, as she had often thought before, that Pamela, like Nan,
only more calmly, less recklessly and disdainfully, had the aristocratic
touch. Pamela, with her delicate detachments and her light, even touch on
things great and small, made her feel fussy and petty and excitable.

"I suppose you're right, my dear.... 'All is laughter, all is dust,
all is nothingness, for the things that are arise out of the
unreasonable....' I must get back. Give my love to Frances... and when
next you see Gerda do try to persuade her that marriage is one of the
things that don't matter and that she might just as well put up with to
please us all. The child is a little nuisance--as obstinate as a mule."


4

Neville, walking away from Pamela's grimy street in the November fog,
felt that London was terrible. An ugly clamour of strident noises and
hard, shrill voices, jabbering of vulgar, trivial things. A wry,
desperate, cursed world, as she had called it, a pot seething with
bitterness and all dreadfulness, with its Rosalinds floating on the top
like scum.

And Nan, her Nan, her little vehement sister, whom she had mothered
of old, had pulled out of countless scrapes--Nan had now taken her
life into her reckless hands and done what with it? Given it, perhaps,
to a man she didn't love, throwing cynical defiance thereby at love,
which had hurt her; escaping from the intolerable to the shoddy. Even
if not, even supposing the best, Nan was hurt and in trouble; Neville
was somehow sure of that. Men were blind fools; men were fickle children.
Neville almost wished now that Barry would give up Gerda and go out to
Rome and fetch Nan back. But, to do that, Barry would have to fall
out of love with Gerda and into love again with Nan; and even Barry,
Neville imagined, was not such a weathercock as that. And Barry would
really be happier with Gerda. With all their differences, they were
both earnest citizens, both keen on social progress. Nan was a cynical
flibberty-gibbet; it might not have been a happy union. Perhaps happy
unions were not for such as Nan. But at the thought of Nan playing that
desperate game with Stephen Lumley in Rome, Neville's face twitched....

She would go to Rome. She would see Nan; find out how things were. Nan
always liked to see her, would put up with her even when she wanted no
one else.

That was, at least, a job one could do. These family jobs--they still go
on, they never cease, even when one is getting middle-aged and one's
brain has gone to pot. They remain, always, the jobs of the affections.

She would write to Nan to-night, and tell her she was starting for Rome
in a few days, to have a respite from the London fogs.


5

But she did not start for Rome, or even write to Nan, for when she got
home she went to bed with influenza.




CHAPTER XII

THE MOTHER


1

The happiness Mrs. Hilary now enjoyed was of the religious type--a deep,
warm glow, which did not lack excitement. She felt as those may be
presumed to feel who have just been converted to some church--newly
alive, and sunk in spiritual peace, and in profound harmony with life.
Where were the old rubs, frets, jars and ennuis? Vanished, melted like
yesterday's snows in the sun of this new peace. It was as if she had cast
her burden upon the Lord. That, said her psycho-analyst doctor, was quite
in order; that was what it ought to be like. That was, in effect, what
she had in point of fact done; only the place of the Lord was filled by
himself. To put the matter briefly, transference of burden had been
effected; Mrs. Hilary had laid all her cares, all her perplexities, all
her grief, upon this quiet, acute-looking man, who sat with her twice a
week for an hour, drawing her out, arranging her symptoms for her,
penetrating the hidden places of her soul, looking like a cross between
Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Henry Ainley. Her confidence in him was, he told
her, the expression of the father-image, which surprised Mrs. Hilary a
little, because he was twenty years her junior.

Mrs. Hilary felt that she was getting to know herself very well indeed.
Seeing herself through Mr. Cradock's mind, she felt that she was indeed a
curious jumble of complexes, of strange, mysterious impulses, desires and
fears. Alarming, even horrible in some ways; so that often she thought
"Can he be right about me? Am I really like that? Do I really hope that
Marjorie (Jim's wife) will die, so that Jim and I may be all in all to
each other again? Am I really so wicked?" But Mr. Cradock said that it
was not at all wicked, perfectly natural and normal--the Unconscious
_was_ like that. And worse than that; how much worse he had to break to
Mrs. Hilary, who was refined and easily shocked, by gentle hints and slow
degrees, lest she should be shocked to death. Her dreams, which she had
to recount to him at every sitting, bore such terrible significance--they
grew worse and worse in proportion, as Mrs. Hilary could stand more.

"Ah well," Mrs. Hilary sighed uneasily, after an interpretation into
strange terms of a dream she had about bathing, "it's very odd, when I've
never even thought about things like that."

"Your Unconscious," said Mr. Cradock, firmly, "has thought the more. The
more your Unconscious is obsessed by a thing, the less your conscious
self thinks of it. It is shy of the subject, for that very reason."

Mrs. Hilary was certainly shy of the subject, for that reason or others.
When she felt too shy of it, Mr. Cradock let her change it. "It may be
true," she would say, "but it's very terrible, and I would rather not
dwell on it."

So he would let her dwell instead on the early days of her married life,
or on the children's childhood, or on her love for Neville and Jim, or on
her impatience with her mother.


2

They were happy little times, stimulating, cosy little times. They spoke
straight to the heart, easing it of its weight of tragedy. A splendid
man, Mr. Cradock, with his shrewd, penetrating sympathy, his kind
firmness. He would listen with interest to everything; the sharp words
she had had with Grandmama, troubles with the maids, the little rubs
of daily life (and what a rubbing business life is, to be sure!) as
well as to profounder, more tragic accounts of desolation, jealousy,
weariness and despair. He would say "Your case is a very usual one,"
so that she did not feel ashamed of being like that. He reduced it all,
dispassionately and yet not unsympathetically, and with clear scientific
precision, to terms of psychical and physical laws. He trained his
patient to use her mind and her will, as well as to remember her dreams
and to be shocked at nothing that they signified.

Mrs. Hilary would wake each morning, or during the night, and clutch at
the dream which was flying from her, clutch and secure it, and make it
stand and deliver its outlines to her. She was content with outlines; it
was for Mr. Cradock to supply the interpretation. Sometimes, if Mrs.
Hilary couldn't remember any dreams, he would supply, according to a
classic precedent, the dream as well as the interpretation. But on the
whole, deeply as she revered and admired him, Mrs. Hilary preferred to
remember her own dreams; what they meant was bad enough, but the meaning
of the dreams that Mr. Cradock told her she had dreamt was beyond all
words.... That terrible Unconscious! Mrs. Hilary disliked it excessively;
she felt rather as if it were a sewer, sunk beneath an inadequate
grating.

But from Mr. Cradock she put up with hearing about it. She would have put
up with anything. He was so steadying and so wonderful. He enabled her to
face life with a new poise, a fresh lease of strength and vitality. She
told Grandmama so. Grandmama said "Yes, my dear, I've observed it in you.
It sounds to me an unpleasing business, but it is obviously doing you
good, so far. I only wish it may last. The danger may be reaction, after
you have finished the course and lost touch with this young man." (Mr.
Cradock was forty-five, but Grandmama, it must be remembered, was
eighty-four.) "You will have to guard against that. In a way it was a
pity you didn't take up church-going instead; religion lasts."

"And these quackeries do not," Grandmama finished her sentence to
herself, not wishing to be discouraging.

"Not always," Mrs. Hilary truly replied, meaning that religion did not
always last.

"No," Grandmama agreed. "Unfortunately not always. Particularly when it
is High Church. There was your uncle Bruce, of course...."

Mrs. Hilary's uncle Bruce, who had been High Church for a season, and had
even taken Orders in the year 1860, but whose faith had wilted in the
heat and toil of the day, so that by 1870 he was an agnostic barrister,
took Grandmama back through the last century, and she became reminiscent
over the Tractarian movement, and, later, the Ritualists.

"The Queen never could abide them," said Grandmama. "Nor could Lord
Beaconsfield, nor your father, though he was always kind and tolerant.
I remember when Dr. Jowett came to stay with us, how they talked about
it.... Ah well, they've become very prominent since then, and done a
great deal of good work, and there are many very able, excellent men and
women among them.... But they're not High Church any longer, they tell
me. They're Catholics in these days. I don't know enough of them to judge
them, but I don't think they can have the dignity of the old High Church
party, for if they had I can't imagine that Gilbert's wife, for instance,
would have joined them, even for so short a time as she did.... Well, it
suits some people, and psycho-analysis obviously suits others. Only I do
hope you will try to keep moderate and balanced, my child, and not
believe all this young man tells you. Parts of it do sound so very
strange."

(But Mrs. Hilary would not have dreamt of repeating to Grandmama the
strangest parts of all.)

"I feel a new woman," she said, fervently, and Grandmama smiled, well
pleased, thinking that it certainly did seem rather like the old
evangelical conversions of her youth. (Which, of course, did not always
last, any more than the High Church equivalents did.)

All Grandmama committed herself to, in her elderly caution, which came
however less from age than from having known Mrs. Hilary for sixty-three
years, was "Well, well, we must see."


3

And then Rosalind's letter came. It came by the afternoon post--the big,
mauve, scented, sprawled sheets, dashingly monographed across one corner.

"Gilbert's wife," pronounced Grandmama, non-committally from her easy
chair, and, said in that tone, it was quite sufficient comment. "Another
cup of tea, please, Emily."

Mrs. Hilary gave it to her, then began to read aloud the letter from
Gilbert's wife. Gilbert's wife was one of the topics upon which she and
Grandmama were in perfect accord, only that Mrs. Hilary was irritated
when Grandmama pushed the responsibility for the relationship onto her by
calling Rosalind "your daughter-in-law."

Mrs. Hilary began to read the letter in the tone used by well-bred women
when they would, if in a slightly lower social stratum, say "Fancy that
now! Did you ever, the brazen hussy!" Grandmama listened, cynically
disapproving, prepared to be disgusted yet entertained. On the whole she
thoroughly enjoyed letters from Gilbert's wife. She settled down
comfortably in her chair with her second cup of tea, while Mrs. Hilary
read two pages of what Grandmama called "foolish chit-chat." Rosalind's
letters were really like the gossipping imbecilities written by Eve of
the Tatler, or the other ladies who enliven our shinier-paper weeklies
with their bright personal babble. She did not often waste one of them on
her mother-in-law; only when she had something to say which might annoy
her.

"Do you hear from Nan?" the third page of the letter began. "I hear from
the Bramertons, who are wintering in Rome--the Charlie Bramertons, you
know, great friends of mine and Gilbert's (he won a pot of money on the
Derby this year and they've a dinky flat in some palace out there--), and
they meet Nan about, and she's always with Stephen Lumley, the painter
(rotten painter, if you ask me, but he's somehow diddled London into
admiring him, don't expect you've heard of him down at the seaside).
Well, they're quite simply _always_ together, and the Brams say that
everyone out there says it isn't in the least an ambiguous case--no two
ways about it. He doesn't live with his wife, you know. You'll excuse me
passing this on to you, but it does seem you ought to know. I mentioned
it to Neville the other day, just before the poor old dear went down with
the plague, but you know what Neville is, she always sticks up for Nan
and doesn't care _what_ she does, or what people say. People are talking;
beasts, aren't they! But that's the way of this wicked old world, we all
do it. Gilbert's quite upset about it, says Nan ought to manage her
affairs more quietly. But after all and between you and me it's not the
first time Nan's been a Town Topic, is it.

"How's the psycho going? Isn't Cradock rather a priceless pearl? You're
over head and ears with him by now, of course, we all are. Psycho
wouldn't do you any good if you weren't, that's the truth. Cradock told
me himself once that transference can't be effected without the patient
being a little bit smitten. Personally I should give up a man patient at
once if he didn't rather like me. But isn't it soothing and comforting,
and doesn't it make you feel good all over, like a hot bath when you're
fagged out...."

But Mrs. Hilary didn't get as far as this. She stopped at "not the first
time Nan's been a Town Topic...." and dropped the thin mauve sheets onto
her lap, and looked at Grandmama, her face queerly tight and flushed, as
if she were about to cry.

Grandmama had finished her tea, and had been listening quietly.

Mrs. Hilary said "Oh, my God," and jerked her head back, quivering like
a nervous horse who has had a shock and does not care to conceal it.

"Your daughter-in-law," said Grandmama, without excitement, "is an
exceedingly vulgar young woman."

"Vulgar? Rosalind? But of course.... Only that doesn't affect Nan...."

"Your daughter-in-law," Grandmama added, "is also a very notorious liar."

"A liar ... oh yes, yes, yes.... But this time it's true. Oh I feel,
I know, it's true. Nan _would_. That Stephen Lumley--he's been hanging
about her for ages. ... Oh yes, it's true what they say. The very
worst...."

Grandmama glanced at her curiously. The very worst in that direction
had become strangely easier of credence by Mrs. Hilary lately. Grandmama
had observed that. Mr. Cradock's teaching had not been without its
effect. According to Mr. Cradock, people were usually engaged either in
practising the very worst, or in desiring to practise it, or in wishing
and dreaming that they had practised it. It was the nature of mankind,
and not in the least reprehensible, though curable. Thus Mr. Cradock.
Mrs. Hilary had, against her own taste, absorbed part of his teaching,
but nothing could ever persuade her that it was not reprehensible: it
quite obviously was. Also disgusting. Mr. Cradock might say what he
liked. It _was_ disgusting. And when the man had a wife....

"It is awful," said Mrs. Hilary. "Awful.... It must be stopped. I shall
go to Rome. At once."

"That won't stop it, dear, if it is going on. It will only irritate the
young people."

"Irritate! You can use a word like that! Mother, you don't realise this
ghastly thing."

"I quite see, my dear, that Nan may be carrying on with this artist. And
very wrong it is, if so. All I say is that your going to Rome won't stop
it. You know that you and Nan don't always get on very smoothly. You rub
each other up.... It would be far better if someone else went. Neville,
say."

"Neville is ill." Mrs. Hilary shut her lips tightly on that. She was
glad Neville was ill; she had always hated (she could not help it) the
devotion between Neville and Nan. Nan, in her tempestuous childhood,
flaring with rage against her mother, or sullen, spiteful and perverse,
long before she could have put into words the qualities in Mrs. Hilary
which made her like that, had always gone to Neville, nine years older,
to be soothed and restored to good temper. Neville had reprimanded the
little naughty sister, had told her she must be "decent to mother--feel
decent if you can, behave decent in any case," was the way she had put
it. It was Neville who had heard Nan's confidences and helped her out of
scrapes in childhood, schoolgirlhood and ever since. This was very bitter
to Mrs. Hilary. She was jealous of both of them; jealous that so much of
Neville's love should go elsewhere than to her, jealous that Nan, who
gave her nothing except generous and extravagant gifts and occasional,
spasmodic, remorseful efforts at affection and gentleness, should to
Neville give all.

"Neville is ill," she said. "She certainly won't be fit to travel out
of England this winter. Influenza coming on the top of that miserable
breakdown is a thing to be treated with the greatest care. Even when she
is recovered, post-influenza will keep her weak till the summer. I am
really anxious about her. No; Neville is quite out of the question."

"Well, what about Pamela?"

"Pamela is up to her eyes in her work.... Besides, why should Pamela go,
or Neville, rather than I? A girl's mother is obviously the right person.
I may not be of much use to my children in these days, but at least I
hope I can save them from themselves."

"It takes a clever parent to do that, Emily," said Grandmama, who
doubtless knew.

"But, mother, what would you _have_ me do? Sit with my hands before me
while my daughter lives in sin? What's _your_ plan?"

"I'm too old to make plans, dear. I can only look on at the world. I've
looked at the world now for many, many years, and I've learnt that only
great wisdom and great love can change people's decisions as to their way
of life, or turn them from evil courses. Frankly, my child, I doubt if
you have, where Nan is concerned, enough wisdom or enough love. Enough
sympathy, I should rather say, for you have love. But do you feel you
understand the child enough to interfere wisely and successfully?"

"Oh, you think I'm a fool, mother; of course I know you've always thought
me a fool. Good God, if a mother can't interfere with her own daughter to
save her from wickedness and disaster, who can, I should like to know?"

"One would indeed like to know that," Grandmama said, sadly.

"Perhaps you'd like to go yourself," Mrs. Hilary shot at her, quivering
now with anger and feeling.

"No, my dear. Even if I were able to get to Rome I should know that I was
too old to interfere with the lives of the young. I don't understand them
enough. You believe that you do. Well, I suppose you must go and try. I
can't stop you."

"You certainly can't. Nothing can stop me.... You're singularly
unsympathetic, mother, about this awful business."

"I don't feel so, dear. I am very, very sorry for you, and very, very
sorry for Nan (whom, you must remember, we may be slandering). I have
always looked on unlawful love as a very great sin, though there may be
great provocation to it."

"It is an awful sin." Mr. Cradock could say what he liked on that
subject; he might tell Mrs. Hilary that it was not awful except in so
far as any other yielding to nature's promptings in defiance of the law
of man was awful, but he could not persuade her. Like many other people,
she set that particular sin apart, in a special place by itself; she
would talk of "a bad woman," "an immoral man," a girl who had "lost
her character," and mean merely the one kind of badness, the one
manifestation of immorality, the one element in character. Dishonesty
and cruelty she could forgive, but never that.

"I shall start in three days," said Mrs. Hilary, becoming tragically
resolute. "I must tell Mr. Cradock to-morrow."

"That young man? Must he know about Nan's affairs, my dear?"

"I have to tell him everything, mother. It's part of the course. He is as
secret as the grave."

Grandmama knew that Emily, less secret than the grave, would have to ease
herself of the sad tale to someone or other in the course of the next
day, and supposed that it had better be to Mr. Cradock, who seemed to be
a kind of hybrid of doctor and clergyman, and so presumably was more
discreet than an ordinary human being. Emily must tell. Emily always
would. That was why she enjoyed this foolish psycho-analysis business so
much.

At the very thought of it a gleam had brightened Mrs. Hilary's eyes,
and her rigid, tense pose had relaxed. Oh the comfort of telling Mr.
Cradock! Even if he did tell her how it was all in the course of nature,
at least he would sympathise with her trouble about it, and her annoyance
with Grandmama. And he would tell her how best to deal with Nan when
she got to her. Nan's was the sort of case that Mr. Cradock really
did understand. Any situation between the sexes--he was all over it.
Psycho-analysts adored sex; they made an idol of it. They communed with
it, as devotees with their God. They couldn't really enjoy, with their
whole minds, anything else, Mrs. Hilary sometimes vaguely felt. But as,
like the gods of the other devotees, it was to them immanent, everywhere
and in everything; they could be always happy. If they went up into
heaven it was there; if they fled down into hell it was there also. Once,
when Mrs. Hilary had tentatively suggested that Freud, for instance,
over-stated its importance, Mr. Cradock had said firmly "It is impossible
to do that," which settled it once and for all.

Mrs. Hilary stood up. Her exalted, tragic mood clothed her like a flowing
garment.

"I shall write to Cook," she said. "Also to Nan, to tell her I am
coming."

Grandmama, after a moment's silence, seemed to gather herself together
for a final effort.

"Emily, my child. Is your mind set to do this?"

"Absolutely, mother. Absolutely and entirely."

"Shall I tell you what I think? No, you don't want to hear it, but you
drive me to it.... If you go to that foolish, reckless child and attempt
to interfere with her, or even to question her, you will run the risk, if
she is innocent, of driving her into what you are trying to prevent. If
she is already committed to it, you run the risk of shutting the door
against her return. In either case you will alienate her from yourself:
that is the least of the risks you run, though the most certain.... That
is all. I can say no more. But I ask you, my dear.... I beg you, for the
child's sake and your own ... to write neither to Cook nor to Nan."

Grandmama's breath came rather fast and heavily; her heart was troubling
her; emotion and effort were not good for it.

Mrs. Hilary stood looking down at the old shrunk figure, shaking a little
as she stood, knowing that she must be patient and calm.

"You will please allow me to judge. You will please let me take the steps
I think necessary to help my child. I know that you have no confidence in
my judgment or my tact; you've always shown that plainly enough, and done
your best to teach my children the same view of me...."

Grandmama put up her hand, meaning that she could not stand, neither she
nor her heart could stand, a scene. Mrs. Hilary broke off. For once she
did not want a scene either. In these days she found what vent was
necessary for her emotional system in her interviews with Mr. Cradock.

"I daresay you mean well, mother. But in this matter I must be the judge.
I am a mother first and foremost. It is the only thing that life has left
for me to be." (Scarcely a daughter, she meant: that was made too
difficult for her; you would almost imagine that the office was not
wanted.)

She turned to the writing table.

"First of all I shall write to Rosalind, and tell her what I think of her
and her abominable gossip."

She began to write.

Grandmama sat shrunk and old and tired in her chair.

Mrs. Hilary's pen scratched over the paper, telling Rosalind what she
thought.

"Dear Rosalind," she wrote, "I was very much surprised at your
letter. I do not know why you should trouble to repeat to me these
ridiculous stories about Nan. You cannot suppose that I am likely to
care either what you or any of your friends are saying about one of my
children...." And so on. One knows the style. It eases the mind of the
writer and does not deceive the reader. When the reader is Rosalind
Hilary it amuses her vastly.


4

Next day, at three p.m., Mrs. Hilary told Mr. Cradock all about it. Mr.
Cradock was not in the least surprised. Nor had he the slightest, not the
remotest doubt that Nan and Stephen Lumley were doing what Mrs. Hilary
called living in sin, what he preferred to call obeying the natural ego.
(After all, as any theologian would point out, the terms are synonymous
in a fallen world.)

"I must have your advice," Mrs. Hilary said. "You must tell me what line
to take with her."

"Shall you," Mr. Cradock enquired, thoughtful and intelligent, "find your
daughter in a state of conflict?"

Mrs. Hilary spread her hands helplessly before her.

"I know nothing; nothing."

"A very great deal," said Mr. Cradock, "depends on that. If she is torn
between the cravings of the primitive ego and the inhibitions put upon
these cravings by the conventions of society--if, in fact, her censor,
her endopsychic censor, is still functioning...."

"Oh, I doubt if Nan's got an endopsychic censor. She is so lawless
always."

"Every psyche has a censor." Mr. Cradock was firm. "Regarded, of course,
by the psyche with very varying degrees of respect. Well, what I mean to
say is, if your daughter is in a state of conflict, with forces pulling
her both ways, her case will be very much easier to deal with than if she
has let her primitive ego so take possession of the situation that she
feels in a state of harmony. In the former case, you will only have to
strengthen the forces which are opposing her sexual craving...."

Mrs. Hilary fidgeted uneasily. "Oh, I don't think Nan feels _that_
exactly. None of my children...."

Mr. Cradock gave her an amused glance. It seemed sometimes that he would
never get this foolish lady properly educated.

"Your children, I presume, are human, Mrs. Hilary. Sexual craving means
a craving for intimacy with a member of another sex."

"Oh well, I suppose it does. I don't care for the _name_, somehow. But
please go on."

"I was going to say, if you find, on the other hand, that your daughter's
nature has attained harmony in connection with this course she is
pursuing, your task will be far more difficult. You will then have to
_create_ a discord, instead of merely strengthening it.... May I ask your
daughter's age?"

"Nan is thirty-three."

"A dangerous age."

"All Nan's ages," said Mrs. Hilary, "have been dangerous. Nan is like
that."

"As to that," said Mr. Cradock, "we may say that all ages are dangerous
to all people, in this dangerous life we live. But the thirties are a
specially dangerous time for women. They have outlived the shynesses
and restraints of girlhood, and not attained to the caution and
discretion of middle age. They are reckless, and consciously or
unconsciously on the lookout for adventure. They see ahead of them
the end of youth, and that quickens their pace.... Has passion always
been a strong element in your daughter's life?"

"Oh, passion...." (Another word not liked by Mrs. Hilary.) "Not quite
that, I should say. Nan has been reckless; she has got into scrapes, got
herself talked about. She has played about with men a good deal always.
But as to passion...."

"A common thing enough," Mr. Cradock told her, as it were reassuringly.
"Nothing to fight shy of, or be afraid of. But something to be regulated
of course.... Now, the thing is to oppose to this irregular desire of
your daughter's for this man a new and a stronger set of desires. Fight
one group of complexes with another. You can't, I suppose, persuade her
to be analysed? There are good analysts in Rome."

"Oh no. Nan laughs at it. She laughs at everything of that sort."

"A great mistake. A mistake often made by shallow and foolish people.
They might as well laugh at surgery.... Well now, to go into this
question of the battle between the complex-groups...."

He went into it, patiently and exhaustively. His phrases drifted over
Mrs. Hilary's head.

"... a deterrent force residing in the ego and preventing us from
stepping outside the bounds of propriety.... Rebellious messages sent
up from the Unconscious, which wishes to live, love and act in archaic
modes ... conflict with the progress of human society ... inhibitory and
repressive power of the censor...." (How wonderful, thought Mrs. Hilary,
to be able to talk so like a book for so long together!) ... "give the
censor all the help we can ... keep the Unconscious in order by turning
its energies into some other channel ... give it a substitute.... The
energy involved in the intense desire for someone of another sex can be
diverted ... employed on some useful work. Libido ... it should all be
used. Find another channel for your daughter's libido.... Her life is
perhaps a rather vacant one?"

That Mrs. Hilary was able to reply to.

"Nan's? Vacant? Oh no. She is quite full of energy. Too full. Always
doing a thousand things. And she writes, you know."

"Ah. That should be an outlet. A great deal of libido is used up by that.
Well, her present strong desire for this man should be sublimated into a
desire for something else. I gather that her root trouble is lawlessness.
That can be cured. You must make her remember her first lawless action."
(Man's first disobedience and the fruit thereof, thought Mrs. Hilary.)

"O dear me," she said, "I'm afraid that would be impossible. When she was
a month old she used to attempt to dash her bottle onto the floor."

"People have even remembered their baptisms, when driven back to them by
analysis."

"Our children were not baptised. My husband was something of a Unitarian.
He said he would not tie them up with a rite against which they might
react in later life. So they were merely registered."

"Ah. In a way that is a pity. Baptism is an impressive moment in the
sensitive consciousness of the infant. It has sometimes been found
to be a sort of lamp shining through the haze of the early memory.
Registration, owing to the non-participation of the infant, is useless
in that way."

"Nan might remember how she kicked me when I short-coated her," Mrs.
Hilary mused, hopefully.

Mr. Cradock flowed on. Mrs. Hilary, listened, assented, was impressed. It
all sounded so simple, so wonderful, even so beautiful. But she thought
once or twice, "He doesn't know Nan."

"Thank you," she said, rising to go when her hour was over. "You have
made me feel so much stronger, as usual. I can't thank you enough for all
you do for me. I could face none of my troubles and problems but for your
help."

"That merely means," said Mr. Cradock, who always got the last word,
"that your ego is at present in what is called the state of infantile
dependence or tutelage. A necessary but an impermanent stage in its
struggle towards the adult level of the reality-principle."

"I suppose so," Mrs. Hilary said. "Good-bye."

"He is too clever for me," she thought, as she went home. "He is often
above my head." But she was used to that in the people she met.




CHAPTER XIII

THE DAUGHTER


1

Mrs. Hilary hated travelling, which is indeed detestable. The Channel was
choppy and she a bad sailor; the train from Calais to Paris continued the
motion, and she remained a bad sailor (bad sailors often do this). She
lay back and smelled salts, and they were of no avail. At Paris she tried
and failed to dine. She passed a wretched night, being of those who
detest nights in trains without _wagons-lits_, but save money by not
having _wagons-lits_, and wonder dismally all night if it is worth it.
Modane in the chilly morning annoyed her as it annoys us all. The customs
people were rude and the other travellers in the way. Mrs. Hilary, who
was not good in crowds, pushed them, getting excited and red in the face.
Psycho-analysis had made her more patient and calm than she had been
before, but even so, neither patient nor calm when it came to jostling
crowds.

"I am not strong enough for all this," she thought, in the Mont Cenis
tunnel.

Rushing out of it into Italy, she thought, "Last time I was here was in
'99, with Richard. If Richard were here now he would help me." He would
face the customs at Modane, find and get the tickets, deal with uncivil
Germans--(Germans were often uncivil to Mrs. Hilary and she to them, and
though she had not met any yet on this journey, owing doubtless to their
state of collapse and depression consequent on the Great Peace, one might
get in at any moment, Germans being naturally buoyant). Richard would
have got hold of pillows, seen that she was comfortable at night, told
her when there was time to get out for coffee and when there wasn't (Mrs.
Hilary was no hand at this; she would try no runs and get run out, or all
but run out). And Richard would have helped to save Nan. Nan and her
father had got on pretty well, for a naughty girl and an elderly parent.
They had appreciated one another's brains, which is not a bad basis. They
had not accepted or even liked one another's ideas on life, but this is
not necessary or indeed usual in families. Mrs. Hilary certainly did not
go so far as to suppose that Nan would have obeyed her father had he
appeared before her in Rome and bidden her change her way of life, but
she might have thought it over. And to make Nan think over anything
which _she_ bade her do would be a phenomenal task. What had Mr. Cradock
said--make her remember her first disobedience, find the cause of it,
talk it out with her, get it into the open--and then she would be cured
of her present lawlessness. Why? That was the connection that always
puzzled Mrs. Hilary a little. Why should remembering that you had done,
and why you had done, the same kind of thing thirty years ago cure you
of doing it now? Similarly, why should remembering that a nurse had
scared you as an infant cure you of your present fear of burglars? In
point of fact, it didn't. Mr. Cradock had tried this particular cure on
Mrs. Hilary. It must be her own fault, of course, but somehow she had not
felt much less nervous about noises in the house at night since Mr.
Cradock had brought up into the light, as he called it, that old fright
in the nursery. After all, why should one? However, hers not to reason
why; and perhaps the workings of Nan's mind might be more orthodox.

At Turin Germans got in. Of course. They were all over Italy. Italy was
welcoming them with both hands, establishing again the economic entente.
These were a mother and a _backfisch_, and they looked shyly and sullenly
at Mrs. Hilary and the other English-woman in the compartment. They were
thin, and Mrs. Hilary noted it with satisfaction. She didn't believe for
one moment in starving Germans, but these certainly did not look so
prosperous and buxom as a pre-war German mother and _backfisch_ would
have looked. They were equally uncivil, though. They pulled both windows
up to the top. The two English ladies promptly pulled them down half-way.
English ladies are the only beings in the world who like open windows in
winter. English lower-class women do not, nor do English gentlemen. If
you want to keep warm while travelling (to frowst, as the open air school
calls it) do not get in with well-bred Englishwomen.

The German mother broke out in angry remonstrance, indicating that she
had neuralgia and the _backfisch_ a cold in the head. There followed one
of those quarrels which occur on this topic in trains, and are so bitter
and devastating. It had now more than the pre-war bitterness; between the
combatants flowed rivers of blood; behind them ranked male relatives
killed or maimed by the male relatives of their foes on the opposite
seat. The English ladies won. Germany was a conquered race, and knew it.
In revenge, the _backfisch_ coughed and sneezed "all over the carriage,"
as Mrs. Hilary put it, "in the disgusting German way," and her mother
made noises as if she could be sick if she tried hard enough.

So it was a detestable journey. And the second night in the train was
worse than the first. For the Germans, would you believe it, shut both
windows while the English were asleep, and the English, true to their
caste and race, woke with bad headaches.


2

When they got to Rome in the morning Mrs. Hilary felt thoroughly ill. She
had to strive hard for self-control; it would not do to meet Nan in an
unnerved, collapsed state. All her psychical strength was necessary
to deal with Nan. So when she stood on the platform with her luggage she
looked and felt not only like one who has slept (but not much) in a train
for two nights and fought with Germans about windows but also like an
elderly virgin martyr (spiritually tense and strung-up, and distraught,
and on the line between exultation and hysteria).

Nan was there. Nan, pale and pinched, and looking plain in the nipping
morning air, though wrapped in a fur coat. (One of the points about Nan
was that, though she sometimes looked plain, she never looked dowdy;
there was always a distinction, a chic, about her.)

Nan kissed her mother and helped with the luggage and got a cab. Nan was
good at railway stations and such places. Mrs. Hilary was not.

They drove out into the hideous new streets. Mrs. Hilary shivered.

"Oh, how ugly!"

"Rome is ugly, this part."

"It's worse since '99."

But she did not really remember clearly how it had looked in '99. The old
desire to pose, to show that she knew something, took her. Yet she felt
that Nan, who knew that she knew next to nothing, would not be deceived.

"Oh ... the Forum!"

"The Forum of Trajan," Nan said. "We don't pass the Roman Forum on the
way to our street."

"The Forum of Trajan, of course, I meant that."

But she knew that Nan knew she had meant the Forum Romanum.

"Rome is always Rome," she said, which was safer than identifying
particular buildings, or even Forums, in it. "Nothing like it anywhere."

"How long can you stay, mother? I've got you a room in the house I'm
lodging in. It's in a little street the other side of the Corso. Rather
a mediaeval street, I'm afraid. That is, it smells. But the rooms are
clean."

"Oh, I'm not staying long.... We'll talk later; talk it all out. A
thorough talk. When we get in. After a cup of tea...."

Mrs. Hilary remembered that Nan did not yet know why she had come. After
a cup of strong tea.... A cup of tea first.... Coffee wasn't the same.
One needed tea, after those awful Germans. She told Nan about these. Nan
knew that she would have had tiresome travelling companions; she always
did; if it weren't Germans it would be inconsiderate English. She was
unlucky.

"Go straight to bed and rest when we get in," Nan advised; but she shook
her head. "We must talk first."

Nan, she thought, looked pinched about the lips, and thin, and her black
brows were at times nervous and sullen. Nan did not look happy. Was it
guilt, or merely the chill morning air?

They stopped at a shabby old house in a narrow mediaeval street in the
Borgo, which had been a palace and was now let in apartments. Here Nan
had two bare, gilded, faded rooms. Mrs. Hilary sat by a charcoal stove in
one of them, and Nan made her some tea. After the tea Mrs. Hilary felt
revived. She wouldn't go to bed; she felt that the time for the talk had
come. She looked round the room for signs of Stephen Lumley, but all the
signs she saw were of Nan; Nan's books, Nan's proofs strewing the table.
Of course that bad man wouldn't come while she was there. He was no doubt
waiting eagerly for her to be gone. Probably they both were....


3

"Nan--" They were still sitting by the stove, and Nan was lighting a
cigarette. "Nan--do you guess why I've come?"

Nan threw away the match.

"No, mother. How should I?... One does come to Rome, I suppose, if one
gets a chance."

"Oh, I've not come to see Rome. I know Rome. Long before you were
born.... I've come to see you. And to take you back with me."

Nan glanced at her quickly, a sidelong glance of suspicion and
comprehension. Her lower lip projected stubbornly.

"Ah, I see you know what I mean. Yes, I've heard. Rumours reached us--it
was through Rosalind, of course. And I'm afraid ... I'm afraid that for
once she spoke the truth."

"Oh no, she didn't. I don't know what Rosalind's been saying this time,
but it would be odd if it was the truth."

"Nan, it's no use denying things. I _know_."

It was true; she did know. A few months ago she would have doubted and
questioned; but Mr. Cradock had taught her better. She had learnt from
him the simple truth about life; that is, that nearly everyone is nearly
always involved up to the eyes in the closest relationship with someone
of another sex. It is nature's way with mankind. Another thing she had
learnt from him was that the more they denied it the more it was so;
protests of innocence and admissions of guilt were alike proofs of the
latter. So she was accurate when she said that it was no use for Nan to
deny anything. It was no use whatever.

Nan had become cool and sarcastic--her nastiest, most dangerous manner.

"Do you think you would care to be a little more explicit, mother? I'm
afraid I don't quite follow. What is it no use my denying? _What_ do you
know?"

Mrs. Hilary gathered herself together. Her head trembled and jerked with
emotion; wisps of her hair, tousled by the night, escaped over her
collar. She spoke tremulously, tensely, her hands wrung together.

"That you are going on with a married man. That you are his mistress,"
she said, putting it at its crudest, since Nan wanted plain speaking.

Nan sat quite still, smoking. The silence thrilled with Mrs. Hilary's
passion.

"I see," Nan said at last. "And it's no use my denying it. In that case
I won't." Her voice was smooth and clear and still, like cold water. "You
know the man's name too, I presume?"

"Of course. Everyone knows it. I tell you, Nan, everyone's talking of you
and him. A town topic, Rosalind calls it."

"Rosalind would. Town must be very dull just now, if that's all they have
to talk of."

"But it's not the scandal I'm thinking of," Mrs. Hilary went on, "though,
God knows, that's bad enough--I'm thankful Father died when he did and
was spared it--but the thing itself. The awful, awful thing itself. Have
you no shame, Nan?"

"Not much."

"For all our sakes. Not for mine--I know you don't care a rap for
that--but for Neville, whom you do profess to love...."

"I should think we might leave Neville out of it. She's shown no signs of
believing any story about me."

"Well, she does believe it, you may depend upon it. No one could help it.
People write from here saying it's an open fact."

"People here can't have much to put in their letters."

"Oh, they'll make room for gossip. People always will. Always. But I'm
not going to dwell on that side of things, because I know you don't care
what anyone says. It's the _wrongness_ of it.... A married man.... Even
if his wife divorces him! It would be in the papers.... And if she
doesn't you can't ever marry him.... Do you care for the man?"

"What man?"

"Don't quibble. Stephen Lumley, of course."

"Stephen Lumley is a friend of mine. I'm fond of him."

"I don't believe you do love him. I believe it's all recklessness and
perversity. Lawlessness. That's what Mr. Cradock said."

"Mr. Cradock?" Nan's eyebrows went up.

Mrs. Hilary flushed a brighter scarlet. The colour kept running over her
face and going back again, all the time she was talking.

"Your psycho-analyst doctor," said Nan, and her voice was a little harder
and cooler than before. "I suppose you had an interesting conversation
with him about me."

"I have to tell him everything," Mrs. Hilary stammered. "It's part
of the course. I did consult him about you. I'm not ashamed of it. He
understands about these things. He's not an ordinary man."

"This is very interesting." Nan lit another cigarette. "It seems that
I've been a boon all round as a town topic--to London, to Rome and to St.
Mary's Bay.... Well, what did he advise about me?"

Mrs. Hilary remembered vaguely and in part, but did not think it would be
profitable just now to tell Nan.

"We have to be very wise about this," she said, collecting herself. "Very
wise and firm. Lawlessness.... I wonder if you remember, Nan, throwing
your shoes at my head when you were three?"

"No. But I can quite believe I did. It was the sort of thing I used to
do."

"Think back, Nan. What is the first act of naughtiness and disobedience
you remember, and what moved you to it?"

Nan, who knew a good deal more about psycho-analysis than Mrs. Hilary
did, laughed curtly.

"No good, mother. That won't work on me. I'm not susceptible to the
treatment. Too hard-headed. What was Mr. Cradock's next brain-wave?"

"Oh well, if you take it like this, what's the use...."

"None at all. I advise you not to bother yourself. It will only make your
headache worse.... Now I think after all this excitement you had better
go and lie down, don't you? I'm going out, anyhow."

Then Stephen Lumley knocked at the door and came in. A tall, slouching
hollow-chested man of forty, who looked unhappy and yet cynically
amused at the world. He had a cough, and unusually bright eyes under
overhanging brows.

Nan said, "This is Stephen Lumley, mother. My mother, Stephen," and left
them to do the rest, watching, critical and aloof, to see how they would
manage the situation.

Mrs. Hilary managed it by rising from her chair and standing rigidly in
the middle of the room, breathing hard and staring. Stephen Lumley looked
enquiringly at Nan.

"How do you do, Mrs. Hilary," he said. "I expect you're pretty well
played out by that beastly journey, aren't you."

Mrs. Hilary's voice came stifled, choked, between pants. She was working
up; or rather worked up: Nan knew the symptoms.

"You dare to come into my presence.... I must ask you to leave my
daughter's sitting-room _immediately_. I have come to take her back to
England with me at once. Please go. There is nothing that can possibly be
said between you and me--nothing."

Stephen Lumley, a cool and quiet person, raised his brows, looked enquiry
once more at Nan, found no answer, said, "Well, then, I'll say good-bye,"
and departed.

Mrs. Hilary wrung her hands together.

"How dare he! How dare he! Into my very presence! He has no shame...."

Nan watched her coolly. But a red spot had begun to burn in each cheek at
her mother's opening words to Lumley, and still burned. Mrs. Hilary knew
of old that still-burning, deadly anger of Nan's.

"Thank you, mother. You've helped me to make up my mind. I'm going to
Capri with Stephen next week. I've refused up till now. He was going
without me. You've made up my mind for me. You can tell Mr. Cradock that
if he asks."

Nan was fiercely, savagely desirous to hurt. In the same spirit she had
doubtless thrown her shoes at Mrs. Hilary thirty years ago. Rage and
disgust, hot rebellion and sick distaste--what she had felt then she
felt now. During her mother's breathless outbreak at Stephen Lumley,
standing courteous and surprised before her, she had crossed her Rubicon.
And now with flaming words she burned her boats.

Mrs. Hilary burst into tears. But her tears had never yet quenched Nan's
flames. Nan made her lie down and gave her sal volatile. Sal volatile
eases the head and nervous system and composes the manners, but no more
than tears does it quench flames.


4

The day that followed was strange, and does not sound likely, but life
often does not. Nan took Mrs. Hilary out to lunch at a trattoria near
the Forum, as it were to change the subject, and they spent the usual
first afternoon of visitors in Rome, who hasten to view the Forum with
a guide to the most recent excavations in their hands. Mrs. Hilary felt
completely uninterested to-day in recent or any other excavations. But,
obsessed even now with the old instinctive desire (the fond hope, rather)
not to seem unintelligent before her children, more especially when she
was not on good terms with them, she accompanied Nan, who firmly and
deftly closed or changed the subjects of unlawful love, Stephen Lumley,
Capri, returning to England, and her infant acts of wilfulness, whenever
her mother opened them, which was frequently, as Mrs. Hilary found these
things easier conversational topics than the buildings in the Forum. Nan
was determined to keep the emotional pressure low for the rest of the
day, and she was fairly competent at this when she tried. As Mrs. Hilary
had equal gifts at keeping it high, it was a well-matched contest. When
she left the Forum for a tea shop, both were tired out. The Forum is
tiring; emotion is tiring; tears are tiring; quarrelling is tiring;
travelling through to Rome is tiring; all five together are annihilating.

However, they had tea.

Mrs. Hilary was cold and bitter now, not hysterical. Nan, who was
living a bad life, and was also tiresomely exactly informed about the
differences between the Forum in '99 and the Forum to-day (a subject on
which Mrs. Hilary was hazy) was not fit, until she came to a better mind,
to be spoken to. Mrs. Hilary shut her lips tight and averted her reddened
eyes. She hated Nan just now. She could have loved her had she been
won to repentance, but now--"Nan was never like the rest," she thought.

Nan persisted in making light, equable conversation, which Mrs. Hilary
thought in bad taste. She talked of England and the family, asked after
Grandmama, Neville and the rest.

"Neville is extremely ill," Mrs. Hilary said, quite untruly, but
that was, to do her justice, the way in which she always saw illness,
particularly Neville's. "And worried to death about Gerda, who seems to
have gone off her head since that accident in Cornwall. She is still
sticking to that insane, wicked notion about not getting married."

Nan had heard before of this.

"She'll give that up," she said, coolly, "when she finds she really can't
have Barry if she doesn't. Gerda gets what she wants."

"Oh, you all do that, the whole lot of you.... And a nice example
_you're_ setting the child."

"She'll give it up," Nan repeated, keeping the conversation on Gerda.
"Gerda hasn't the martyr touch. She won't perish for a principle. She
wants Barry and she'll have him, though she may hold out for a time.
Gerda doesn't lose things, in the end."

"She's a very silly child, and I suppose she's been mixing with dreadful
friends and picked up these ideas. At twenty there's some excuse for
ignorant foolishness." But none at thirty-three, Mrs. Hilary meant.

"Barry Briscoe," she added, "is being quite firm about it. Though he is
desperately in love with her, Neville tells me; desperately."

He's soon got over you, even if he did care for you once, and even if you
did send him away, her emphasis implied.

In Nan, casually flicking the ash off her cigarette, a queer impulse came
and went. For a moment she wanted to cry; to drop hardness and lightness
and pretence, and cry like a child and say "Mother, comfort me. Don't go
on hurting me. I love Barry. Be kind to me, oh be kind to me!"

If she had done it, Mrs. Hilary would have taken her in her arms and been
all mother, and the wound in their affection would have been temporarily
healed.

Nan said nonchalantly "I suppose he is. They're sure to be all
right.... Now what next, mother? It's getting dark for seeing things."

"I am tired to death," said Mrs. Hilary. "I shall go back to those
dreadful rooms and try to rest.... It has been an awful day.... I hate
Rome. In '99 it was so different. Father and I went about together; he
showed me everything. He _knew_ about it all. Besides...."

Besides, how could I enjoy sight-seeing after that scene this morning,
and with this awful calamity that has happened?

They went back. Mrs. Hilary was desperately missing her afternoon hour
with Mr. Cradock. She had come to rely on it on a Wednesday.


5

Nan sat up late, correcting proofs, after Mrs. Hilary had gone to bed.
Galleys lay all round her on the floor by the stove. She let them slip
from her knee and lie there. She hated them....

She pressed her hands over her eyes, shutting them out, shutting out
life. She was going off with Stephen Lumley. She had told him so this
morning. Both their lives were broken; hers by Barry, whom she loved, his
by his wife, whom he disliked. He loved her; he wanted her. She could
with him find relief, find life a tolerable thing. They could have a good
time together. They were good companions; their need, though dissimilar,
was mutual. They saw the same beauty, spoke the same tongue, laughed at
the same things. In the very thought of Stephen, with his cynical humour,
his clear, keen mind, his lazy power of brain, Nan had found relief all
that day, reacting desperately from a mind fuddled with sentiment and
emotion as with drink, a soft, ignorant brain, which knew and cared about
nothing except people, a hysterical passion of anger and malice. They had
pushed her sharply and abruptly over the edge of decision, that mind and
brain and passion. Stephen, against whom their fierce anger was
concentrated, was so different....

To get away, to get right away from everything and everyone, with
Stephen. Not to have to go back to London alone, to see what she could
not, surely, bear to see--Barry and Gerda, Gerda and Barry, always,
everywhere, radiant and in love. And Neville, Gerda's mother, who saw so
much. And Rosalind, who saw everything, everything, and said so. And Mrs.
Hilary....

To saunter round the queer, lovely corners of the earth with Stephen,
light oneself by Stephen's clear, flashing mind, look after Stephen's
weak, neglected body as he never could himself ... that was the only
anodyne. Life would then some time become an adventure again, a gay
stroll through the fair, instead of a desperate sickness and nightmare.

Barry, oh Barry.... Nan, who had thought she was getting better, found
that she was not. Tears stormed and shook her at last. She crumpled up on
the floor among the galley-slips, her head upon the chair.

Those damned proofs--who wanted them? What were books? What was anything?


6

Mrs. Hilary came in, in her dressing-gown, red-eyed. She had heard
strangled sounds, and knew that her child was crying.

"My darling!"

Her arms were round Nan's shoulders; she was kneeling among the proofs.

"My little girl--Nan!"

"Mother...."

They held each other close. It was a queer moment, though not an
unprecedented one in the stormy history of their relations together.
A queer, strange, comforting, healing moment, the fleeting shadow of a
great rock in a barren land; a strayed fragment of something which should
have been between them always but was not. Certainly an odd moment.

"My own baby.... You're unhappy...."

"Unhappy--yes.... Darling mother, it can't be helped. Nothing can be
helped.... Don't let's talk ... darling."

Strange words from Nan. Strange for Mrs. Hilary to feel her hand held
against Nan's wet cheek and kissed.

Strange moment: and it could not last. The crying child wants its mother;
the mother wants to comfort the crying child. A good bridge, but one
inadequate for the strain of daily traffic. The child, having dried
its tears, watches the bridge break again, and thinks it a pity but
inevitable. The mother, less philosophic, may cry in her turn, thinking
perhaps that the bridge may be built this time in that way; but, the
child having the colder heart, it seldom is.

There remain the moments, impotent but indestructible.




CHAPTER XIV

YOUTH TO YOUTH


1

Kay was home for the Christmas vacation. He was full, not so much of
Cambridge, as of schemes for establishing a co-operative press next year.
He was learning printing and binding, and wanted Gerda to learn too.

"Because, if you're really not going to marry Barry, and if Barry sticks
to not having you without, you'll be rather at a loose end, won't you,
and you may as well come and help us with the press.... But of course,
you know," Kay added absently, his thoughts still on the press, "I should
advise you to give up on that point."

"Give up, Kay? Marry, do you mean?"

"Yes.... It doesn't seem to me to be a point worth making a fuss about.
Of course I agree with you in theory--I always have. But I've come to
think lately that it's not a point of much importance. And perfectly
sensible people are doing it all the time. You know Jimmy Kenrick and
Susan Mallow have done it? They used to say they wouldn't, but they have.
The fact is, people _do_ do it, whatever they say about it beforehand.
And though in theory it's absurd, it seems often to work out pretty well
in actual life. Personally I should make no bones about it, if I wanted
a girl and she wanted marriage. Of course a girl can always go on being
called by her own name if she likes. That has points."

"Of course one could do that," Gerda pondered.

"It's a sound plan in some ways. It saves trouble and explanation
to go on with the name you've published your things under before
marriage.... By the way, what about your poems, Gerda? They'll be about
ready by the time we get our press going, won't they? We can afford to
have some slight stuff of that sort if we get hold of a few really good
things to start with, to make our name."

Gerda's thoughts were not on her poems, nor on Kay's press, but on his
advice about matrimony. For the first time she wavered. If Kay thought
that.... It set the business in a new light. And of course other people
_were_ doing it; sound people, the people who talked the same language
and belonged to the same set as one's self.

Kay had spoken. It was the careless, authentic voice of youth speaking to
youth. It was a trumpet blast making a breach in the walls against which
the batteries of middle age had thundered in vain. Gerda told herself
that she must look further into this, think it over again, talk it over
with other people of the age to know what was right. If it could be
managed with honour, she would find it a great relief to give up on this
point. For Barry was so firm; he would never give up; and, after all, one
of them must, if it could be done with a clear conscience.


2

Ten days later Gerda said to Barry, "I've been thinking it over again,
Barry, and I've decided that perhaps it will be all right for us to get
married after all."

Barry took both her hands and kissed each in turn, to show that he was
not triumphing but adoring.

"You mean it? You feel you can really do it without violating your
conscience? Sure, darling?"

"Yes, I think I'm sure. Lots of quite sensible, good people have done it
lately."

"Oh any number, of course--if _that's_ any reason."

"Not, not those people. My sort of people, I mean. People who believe
what I do, and wouldn't tie themselves up and lose their liberty for
anything."

"I agree with Lenin. He says liberty is a bourgeois dream."

"Barry, I may keep my name, mayn't I? I may still be called Gerda
Bendish, by people in general?"

"Of course, if you like. Rather silly, isn't it? Because it won't _be_
your name. But that's your concern."

"It's the name I've always written and drawn under, you see."

"Yes. I see your point. Of course you shall be Gerda Bendish anywhere you
like, only not on cheques, if you don't mind."

"And I don't much want to wear a wedding ring, Barry."

"That's as you like, too, of course. You might keep it in your purse when
travelling, to produce if censorious hotel keepers look askance at us.
Even the most abandoned ladies do that sometimes, I believe. Or your
marriage lines will do as well.... Gerda, you blessed darling, it's most
frightfully decent and sporting of you to have changed your mind and
owned up. Next time we differ I'll try and be the one to do it, I
honestly will.... I say, let's come out by ourselves and dine and do a
theatre, to celebrate the occasion."

So they celebrated the triumph of institutionalism.


3

Their life together, thought Barry, would be a keen, jolly, adventuring
business, an ardent thing, full of gallant dreams and endeavours. It
should never grow tame or stale or placid, never lose its fine edge.
There would be mountain peak beyond mountain peak to scale together. They
would be co-workers, playmates, friends and lovers all at once, and they
would walk in liberty as in a bourgeois dream.

So planned Barry Briscoe, the romantic, about whose head the vision
splendid always hovered, a realisable, capturable thing.

Gerda thought, "I'm happy. Poetry and drawing and Barry. I've everything
I want, except a St. Bernard pup, and Kay's giving me that for Christmas.
_I'm happy._"

It was a tingling, intense, sensuous feeling, like stretching warm before
a good fire, or lying in fragrant thymy woods in June, in the old Junes
when suns were hot. Life was a song and a dream and a summer morning.

"You're happy, Gerda," Neville said to her once, gladly but half
wistfully, and she nodded, with her small gleaming smile.

"Go on being happy," Neville told her, and Gerda did not know that she
had nearly added "for it's cost rather a lot, your happiness." Gerda
seldom cared how much things had cost; she did not waste thought on such
matters. She was happy.




CHAPTER XV

THE DREAM


1

Barry and Gerda were married in January in a registry office, and, as all
concerned disliked wedding parties, there was no wedding party.

After they had gone, Neville, recovered now from the lilies and languors
of illness, plunged into the roses and raptures of social life. One
mightn't, she said to herself, be able to accomplish much in this world,
or imprint one's personality on one's environment by deeds and
achievements, but one could at least enjoy life, be a pleased
participator in its spoils and pleasures, an enchanted spectator of its
never-ending flux and pageant, its richly glowing moving pictures. One
could watch the play out, even if one hadn't much of a part oneself.
Music, art, drama, the company of eminent, pleasant and entertaining
persons, all the various forms of beauty, the carefully cultivated
richness, graces and elegances which go to build up the world of the
fortunate, the cultivated, the prosperous and the well-bred--Neville
walked among these like the soul in the lordly pleasure house built for
her by the poet Tennyson, or like Robert Browning glutting his sense upon
the world--"Miser, there waits the gold for thee!"--or Francis Thompson
swinging the earth a trinket at his wrist. In truth, she was at times
self-consciously afraid that she resembled all these three, whom (in the
moods they thus expressed) she disliked beyond reason, finding them
morbid and hard to please.

She too knew herself morbid and hard to please. If she had not been
so, to be Rodney's wife would surely have been enough; it would have
satisfied all her nature. Why didn't it? Was it perhaps really because,
though she loved him, it was not with the uncritical devotion of the
early days? She had for so many years now seen clearly, through and
behind his charm, his weakness, his vanities, his scorching ambitions
and jealousies, his petulant angers, his dependence on praise and
admiration. She had no jealousy now of his frequent confidential
intimacies with other attractive women; they were harmless enough, and
he never lost the need of and dependence on her; but they may have helped
to clarify her vision of him.

Rodney had no failings beyond what are the common need of human nature;
he was certainly good enough for her. Their marriage was all right. It
was only the foolish devil of egotism in her which goaded to unwholesome
activity the other side of her nature, that need for self-expression
which marriage didn't satisfy.


2

In February she suddenly tired of London and the British climate, and was
moved by a desire to travel. So she went to Italy, and stayed in Capri
with Nan and Stephen Lumley, who were leading on that island lives by
turns gaily indolent and fiercely industrious, finding the company
stimulating and the climate agreeable and soothing to Stephen's defective
lungs.

From Italy Neville went to Greece. Corinth, Athens, the islands, Tempe,
Delphi, Crete--how good to have money and be able to see all these! Italy
and Greece are Europe's pleasure grounds; there the cultivated and the
prosperous traveller may satisfy his soul and forget carking cares and
stabbing ambitions, and drug himself with loveliness.

If Neville abruptly tired of it, and set her face homewards in early
April, it was partly because she felt the need of Rodney, and partly
because she saw, fleetingly but day by day more lucidly, that one could
not take one's stand, for satisfaction of desire, on the money which one
happened to have but which the majority bitterly and emptily lacked. Some
common way there had to be, some freedom all might grasp, a liberty not
for the bourgeois only, but for the proletariat--the poor, the sad, the
gay proletariat, who also grew old and lost their dreams, and had not the
wherewithal to drug their souls, unless indeed they drank much liquor,
and that is but a poor artificial way to peace.

Voyaging homewards through the spring seas, Neville saw life as an
entangling thicket, the Woods of Westermain she had loved in her
childhood, in which the scaly dragon squatted, the craving monster self
that had to be subjugated before one could walk free in the enchanted
woods.

  "Him shall change, transforming late,
  Wonderously renovate...."

Dimly discerning through the thicket the steep path that climbed to
such liberty as she sought, seeing far off the place towards which her
stumbling feet were set, where life should be lived with alert readiness
and response, oblivious of its personal achievements, its personal claims
and spoils, Neville the spoilt, vain, ambitious, disappointed egoist,
strained her eyes into the distance and half smiled. It might be a dream,
that liberty, but it was a dream worth a fight....




CHAPTER XVI

TIME


1

February at St. Mary's Bay. The small fire flickered and fluttered in
the grate with a sound like the windy beating of wings. The steady rain
sloped against the closed windows of The Gulls, and dropped patteringly
on the asphalt pavements of Marine Crescent outside, and the cold grey
sea tumbled moaning.

Grandmama sat in her arm-chair by the hearth, reading the Autobiography
of a Cabinet Minister's Wife and listening to the fire, the sea and the
rain, and sleeping a little now and again.

Mrs. Hilary sat in another arm-chair, surrounded by bad novels, as if she
had been a reviewer. She was regarding them, too, with something of the
reviewer's pained and inimical distaste, dipping now into one, shutting
it with a sharp sigh, trying another; flinging it on the floor with an
ejaculation of anger and fatigue.

Grandmama woke with a start, and said "What fell? Did something fall?"
and adjusted her glasses and opened the Autobiography again.

"A sadly vulgar, untruthful and ill-written book. The sort of
autobiography Gilbert's wife will write when she has time. It reminds me
very much of her letters, and is, I am sure, still more like the diary
which she no doubt keeps. Poor Gilbert...." Grandmama seemed to be
confusing Gilbert momentarily with the Cabinet Minister. "I remember,"
she went on, "meeting this young woman at Oxford, in the year of the
first Jubilee.... A very bright talker. They can so seldom
write...." She dozed again.

"Will this intolerable day," Mrs. Hilary enquired of the housemaid
who came in to make up the fire, "never be over? I suppose it will be
bed-time _some time_...."

"It's just gone a quarter past six, ma'am," said the housemaid, offering
little hope, and withdrew.

Mrs. Hilary went to the window and drew back the curtains and looked out
at Marine Crescent in the gloomy, rainy twilight. The long evening
stretched in front of her--the long evening which she had never learnt to
use. Psycho-analysis, which had made her so much better while the course
lasted, now that it was over (and it was too expensive to go on with
forever) had left her worse than before. She was like a drunkard deprived
suddenly of stimulants; she had nothing to turn to, no one now who took
an interest in her soul. She missed Mr. Cradock and that bi-weekly hour;
she was like a creeper wrenched loose from its support and flung flat on
the ground. He had given her mental exercises and told her to continue
them; but she had always hated mental exercises; you might as well go in
for the Pelman course and have done. What one needed was a _person_. She
was left once more face to face with time, the enemy; time, which gave
itself to her lavishly with both hands when she had no use for it. There
was nothing she wanted to do with time, except kill it.

"What, dear?" murmured Grandmama, as she rattled the blind tassel against
the sill. "How about a game of piquet?"

But Mrs. Hilary hated piquet, and all card games, and halma, and
dominoes, and everything. Grandmama used to have friends in to play with
her, or the little maid. This evening she rang for the little maid, May,
who would rather have been writing to her young man, but liked to oblige
the nice old lady, of whom the kitchen was fond.

It was all very well for Grandmama, Mrs. Hilary thought, stormily
revolting against that placidity by the hearth. All very well for
Grandmama to sit by the fire contented with books and papers and games
and sleep, unbitten by the murderous hatred of time that consumed
herself. Everyone always thought that about Grandmama, that things were
all very well for her, and perhaps they were. For time could do little
more hurt to Grandmama. She need not worry about killing time; time would
kill her soon enough, if she left it alone. Time, so long to Mrs. Hilary,
was short now to Grandmama, and would soon be gone. As to May, the little
maid, to her time was fleeting, and flew before her face, like a bird she
could never catch....

Grandmama and May were playing casino. A bitter game, for you build and
others take, and your labour is but lost that builded; you sow and others
reap. But Grandmama and May were both good-tempered and ladylike. They
played prettily together, age and youth.

Why did life play one these tricks, Mrs. Hilary cried within herself.
What had she done to life, that it should have deserted her and left her
stranded on the shores of a watering-place, empty-handed and pitiful,
alone with time the enemy, and with Grandmama, for whom it was all very
well?


2

In the Crescent music blared out--once more the Army, calling for strayed
sheep in the rain.

"Glory for you, glory for me!" it shouted. And then, presently:

  "Count--your--blessings! Count them one by one!
  And it will _surprise_ you what the Lord has done!"

Grandmama, as usual, was beating time with her hand on the arm of her
chair.

"Detestable creatures," said Mrs. Hilary, with acrimony, as usual.

"But a very racy tune, my dear," said Grandmama, placidly, as usual.

"Blood! Blood!" sang the Army, exultantly, as usual.

May looked happy, and her attention strayed from the game. The Army was
one of the joys, one of the comic turns, of this watering-place.

"Six and two are eight," said Grandmama, and picked them up, recalling
May's attention. But she herself still beat time to the merry music-hall
tune and the ogreish words.

Grandmama could afford to be tolerant, as she sat there, looking over the
edge into eternity, with Time, his fangs drawn, stretched sleepily behind
her back. Time, who flew, bird-like, before May's pursuing feet; time,
who stared balefully into Mrs. Hilary's face, returning hate for hate,
rested behind Grandmama's back like a faithful steed who had carried her
thus far and whose service was nearly over.

The Army moved on; its music blared away into the distance. The rain
beat steadily on wet asphalt roads; the edge of the cold sea tumbled and
moaned; the noise of the fire flickering was like unsteady breathing, or
the soft fluttering of wings.

"Time is so long," thought Mrs. Hilary. "I can't bear it."

"Time gets on that quick," thought May. "I can't keep up with it."

"Time is dead," thought Grandmama. "What next?"




CHAPTER XVII

THE KEY


1

Not Grandmama's and not Neville's should be, after all, the last word,
but Pamela's. Pamela, who seemed lightly, and as it were casually, to
swing a key to the door against which Neville, among many others, beat;
Pamela, going about her work, keen, debonair and detached, ironic,
cool and quiet, responsive to life and yet a thought disdainful of it,
lightly holding and easily renouncing; the world's lover, yet not its
servant, her foot at times carelessly on its neck to prove her power over
it--Pamela said blandly to Grandmama, when the old lady commented one day
on her admirable composure, "Life's so short, you see. Can anything which
lasts such a little while be worth making a fuss about?"

"Ah," said Grandmama, "that's been my philosophy for ten years ... only
ten years. You've no business with it at your age, child."

"Age," returned Pamela, negligent and cool, "has extremely little to do
with anything that matters. The difference between one age and another
is, as a rule, enormously exaggerated. How many years we've lived on this
ridiculous planet--how many more we're going to live on it--what a
trifle! Age is a matter of exceedingly little importance."

"And so, you would imply, is everything else on the ridiculous planet,"
said Grandmama, shrewdly. Pamela smiled, neither affirming nor denying.
Lightly the key seemed to swing from her open hand.

"I certainly don't see quite what all the fuss is about," said Pamela.



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