After To-Marrow by Robert Smythe Hichens
In his gilded cage, above the window-boxes that were full of white
daisies, the canary chirped with a desultory vivacity. That was the
only near sound that broke the silence in the drawing-room of No. 100
Mill Street, Knightsbridge, in which a man and a woman stood facing one
another. Away, beyond his twittering voice, sang in the London streets
the muffled voice of the season. The time was late afternoon, and rays
of mellow light slanted into the pretty room, and touched its crowd of
inanimate occupants with a radiance in which the motes danced merrily.
The china faces of two goblins on the mantelpiece glowed with a
grotesque meaning, and their yellow smiles seemed to call aloud on
mirth; but the faces of the man and woman were pale, and their lips
trembled, and did not smile.
She was tall, dark, and passionate-looking, perhaps twenty-eight or
thirty. He was a few years older, a man so steadfast in expression that
silly people, who spring at exaggeration as saints spring at heaven,
called him stern, and even said he looked forbiddingat balls.
At last the song of the canary was broken upon by a voice. Sir Hugh
Maine spoke, very quietly. Why not? he said.
I don't think I can tell you, Mrs. Glinn answered, with an obvious
You prefer to refuse me without giving a reason?
I have a right to, she said.
I don't question it. You cannot expect me to say more than that.
He took up his hat, which lay on a chair, and smoothed it
mechanically with his coat-sleeve.
The action seemed to pierce her like a knife, for she started, and
half-extended her hand. Don't! she exclaimed. At least, wait one
moment. So you belong to the second class of men.
What do you mean?
Men are divided into two classesthose who refuse to be refused,
and those who accept. But don't be tootoo swift in your acceptance.
After all, a refusal is not exactly a bank-note.
She tried to smile.
But I am exactly a beggar, he answered, still keeping the hat in
his hand. And if you have nothing to give me, I may as well go.
And spend the rest of your life in sweeping the old crossing?
And spend the rest of my life as I can, he said. That need not
A woman must be all to a man, or nothing?
You must be all to me, or nothing.
She sat down in an arm-chair in that part of the room that was in
shadow. She always sat instinctively in shadow when she wanted to
Well? Sir Hugh said. What are you thinking?
She glanced up at him. That you don't look much like a beggar, she
It is possible to feel tattered in a frock-coat and patent-leather
boots, he answered. Good-bye. I am going back to my crossing. And he
moved towards the door.
No, stop! she exclaimed. Before you go, tell me one thing.
What is it?
Will you ever ask me to marry you again?
He looked hard into her eyes. I shall always want to, but I shall
never do it, he said slowly.
I am glad you have told me that. We women depend so much on a
repetition of the offence, when we blame a man for saying he loves us,
and ask him not to do it again. If you really mean only to propose
once, I must reconsider my position.
She was laughing, but the tears stood in her eyes.
Why do you want to make this moment a farcical one? he asked
Oh, Hugh! she answered, don't you see? Because it is
reallyreally so tragic. I only try to do for this moment what we all
try to do for life.
Then you love me? he said, moving a step forward.
I never denied that, she replied. I might as well deny that I am
He held out his arms. Evethen I shall never go back to the
But she drew back. Gogo there till to-morrow! To-morrow afternoon
I will see you; and if you love me after that
She turned away and pressed the bell. Good-bye, she said. Her
voice sounded strange to him.
He came nearer, and touched her hand; but she drew it away.
You may kiss me, she said.
The footman came in answer to the bell. Mrs Glinn did not turn
round. I only rang for you to open the door for Sir Hugh, she said.
Good-bye then, Sir Hugh. Come at five.
I will, he answered, wondering.
When he had gone, Mrs Glinn sat down in a chair and took up a French
novel. It was by Gyp. She tried to read it, with tears running over her
cheeks. But at last she laid it down.
After to-morrow, she murmured. Ah, whywhy does a woman ever
love twice? And then she sobbed.
But the canary sang, and the motes danced merrily in the sunbeams.
And on the table where she had put it down lay Le Mariage de
That evening, when Sir Hugh Maine came back to his rooms in Jermyn
Street after dining out, he found a large man sprawling in one of his
saddle-back chairs, puffing vigorously at a pipe that looked worn with
long and faithful service. The man took the pipe out of his mouth and
Hullo, Maine! he cried. D'you recognise the tobacco and me?
Hugh grasped his hand warmly. Rather, he said. Neither is
changed. At leasth'mI think you both seem a bit stronger even than
usual. Who would have thought of seeing you, Manning? I did not know
you were in Europe.
I came from Asia. I thought I should like to hear Melba before the
end of the season. And it was getting sultry out there. So here I am.
And were those your only reasons?
Give me a brandy-and-soda, said the other.
Maine did as he was bid, lit a cigar, and sat down, stretching out
his long legs. The other man took a pull at his glass, and spoke again.
I am very fond of music, he said; and Melba sings very well.
Look here, Maine, Manning broke out suddenly, you are rightI
had another reason. Kipling says that those who have heard the East
a-calling never heed any other voice. He's wrong though. The West has
been calling me, or, at least, a voice in the West, and I have resisted
it for a deuce of a time. But at last it became imperative.
A woman's voice, I suppose?
Tell me what is its timbre, if you care to.
I will. You're an old friend, and I can talk to you. But you tell
me one thing first: Is a man really a fool to marry a woman with a
You are going to?
I have tried not to. I have been trying not to for three years.
Listen! When I was travelling in Japan I met her. She was with an
American called Glinn.
You knew him?
No! It's all right. I was surprised, because at the moment I was
thinking of that very name.
Oh! Well, she passed as Mrs Glinn; but, somehow, it got out that
she was something else. The usual story, you know. People fought shy of
her; but I don't think she cared much. Glinn was devoted to her, and
she loved him, and was as true to him as any wife could have been. Then
the tragedy came.
What was it?
Glinn died suddenly in Tokio, of typhoid. She nursed him to the
end. And when the end came her situation was awful, so lonely and
deserted. There wasn't a woman in the hotel who would be her friend; so
I tried to come to the rescue, arranged her affairs, saw about the
funeral, and did what I could. She was well off; Glinn left her nearly
all his money. He would have married her, only he had a wife alive
And you fell in love with her, of course?
That was the sort of thing. If you knew her you would not wonder at
it. She was not a bad woman. Glinn had been the only one. She loved him
too much; that was all. She came to Europe, and lived in Paris for a
time, keeping the name of Mrs Glinn. I used to see her sometimes, but I
never said anything. You see, there was her past. In fact, I have been
fighting against her for three years. I went to India to get cured; but
it was no good. And now, here I am.
And she is in Paris?
No, in London at present; but I didn't know her address till
to-day. I think she had her doubts of me, and meant to give me the
How did you find it out?
Quite by chance. I was walking in Mill Street, Knightsbridge, and
saw her pass in a victoria.
Maine got up suddenly, and went over to the spirit-stand. In Mill
Street? he said.
Yes. The carriage stopped at No. 100. She went in. A footman came
out and carried in her rug. Ergo, she lives there.
How hot it is! said Maine in a hard voice. He threw up one of the
windows and leaned out. He felt as if he were choking. A little way
down the street a half-tipsy guardsman was reeling along, singing his
own private version of Tommy Atkins. He narrowly avoided a lamp-post
by an abrupt lurch which took him into the gutter. Maine heard some one
laugh. It was himself.
Well, old chap, said Manning, who had come up behind him, what
would you advise me to do? I'm in a fix. I'm in love with Evethat's
her name; I can't live without her happily, and yet I hate to marry a
woman with awell, you know how it is.
Maine drew himself back into the room and faced round. Does she
love you? he asked; and there was a curious change in his manner
towards his friend.
I don't know that she does, Manning said, rather uncomfortably.
But that would come right. She would marry me, naturally.
Well, I mean the position. Lady Herbert Manning could go where Mrs
Glinn could not, and all that sort of thing.
The only question is whether you can bring yourself to ask her?
My dear chap, you don't put it too pleasantly.
It's the fact, though.
Lord Herbert hesitated. Then he said dubiously, I suppose so.
Maine lit another cigar and sat down again. His face was very white.
You're rather conventional, Manning, he said presently.
You think herthis Mrs Glinna good woman. Isn't that enough for
But, besides Eve and myself, there is a third person in the
How on earth did you find out that? exclaimed Maine.
The other looked surprised. How did I find out? I don't understand
Maine recollected himself. He had made the common mistake of
fancying another might know a thing because he knew it.
Who is this third person? he asked.
Ah! I said you were conventional.
Every sensible man and woman is.
I don't know that I agree. But the third person does certainly
complicate the situation. What are you going to do then?
Lord Herbert put down his pipe. It was not smoked out. That's what
I want to know, he answered.
Of course, there's the one wayof being unconventional. Then,
there's the way of being conventional but unhappy. Is there any
Lord Herbert hesitated obviously, but at length he said: There is,
of course; but Mrs Glinn is a curious sort of woman. I don't quite
He paused, looking at his friend. Maine's face was drawn and fierce.
What's the row? Lord Herbert asked.
Nothing; only I shouldn't advise you to try the alternative. That's
Maine, what do you mean?
Just this, replied the other. That I know Mrs Glinn, that I agree
with you about her character
You know her? That's odd!
I have known her for a year.
They looked each other in the eyes while a minute passed. Then Lord
Herbert said slowly, I understand.
That I have come to the wrong man for advice.
There was a silence, broken only by the ticking of a clock and the
uneasy movements of Maine's fox-terrier, which was lying before the
empty grate and dreaming of departed fires.
At last Maine said: To-day I asked Mrs Glinn to marry me.
The other started perceptibly. Knowing what I have told you? he
Not knowing it.
Whatwhat did she say?
Nothing. I am to see her to-morrow.
Lord Herbert glanced at him furtively. I suppose you will not
gonow? he said.
Yes, Manning, I shall, Maine answered.
Well, the other man continued, looking at his watch and yawning,
I must be going. It's late. Glad to have seen you, Maine. I am to be
found at 80 St James's Place. Thanks; yes I will have my coat on. My
pipeoh! here it is. Good-night.
The door closed, and Maine was left alone.
Will she tell me to-morrow, or will she be silent? he said to
himself. That depends on one thing: Has love of truth the largest half
of her heart, or love of me?
He sighedat the conventionality of the world, perhaps.
I am not at home to any one except Sir Hugh Maine, Mrs Glinn said
to the footman. You understand?
He went out softly and closed the door.
The English summer had gone back upon its steps that afternoon, and
remembered the duty it owed to its old-time reputation. The canary, a
puffed-out ball of ragged-looking feathers in its cage, seemed
listening with a depressed attention to the beat of the cold rain
against the window. The daisies, in their boxes, dripped and nodded in
the wind. There was a darkness in the pretty room, and the smile of the
china goblins was no longer yellow. Like many people who are not made
of china, they depended upon adventitious circumstances for much of
their outward show. When they were not gilded there was a good deal of
the pill apparent in their nature.
Mrs Glinn was trying not to be restless. She was very pale, and her
dark eyes gleamed with an almost tragic fire; but she sat down firmly
on the white sofa, and read Gyp, as Carmen may have read her doom in
the cards. One by one the pages were turned. One by one the epigrams
were made the property of another mind. But through all the lightness
and humour of the story there crept like a little snake a sentence that
Gyp had not written:
Can I tell him?
And no answer ever came to that question. When the door-bell at last
rang, Mrs Glinn laid down her novel carefully, and mechanically stood
up. A change of attitude was necessary to her.
Sir Hugh came in, and was followed by tea. They sat down by the tiny
table, and discussed French literature. Flaubert and Daudet go as well
with tea as Fielding and Smollett go with supper.
But, when the cups were put down, Maine drove the French authors in
a pack out of the conversation.
I did not come here to say what I can say to every woman I meet who
understands French, he remarked.
And then Mrs Glinn was fully face to face with her particular
No? she said.
She did not try to postpone the moment she dreaded. For she had a
strong man to deal with, and, being a strong woman at heart, she
generally held out her hand to the inevitable.
You have been thinking? Maine went on.
Yes. What a sad occupation that is sometimeslike knitting, or
listening to church-bells at night!
Eve, let us be serious.
God knows I am, she answered. But modern gravity is dressed in
flippancy. No feeling must go quite naked.
Don't talk like that, he said. As there is a nudity in art that
may be beautiful, so there is a nudity in expression, in words, that
may be beautiful. Eve, I have come to hear you tell me something. You
know that. He glanced into her face with an anxiety that she did not
fully understand. Then he said: Tell it me.
There isis so much to tell, she said.
He does not understand, she thought.
He thought, She does not understand.
And I am not good at telling stories.
Then tell me the truth.
She tried to smile, but she was trembling. Of course. Why should I
not? She hesitated, and then added, with a forced attempt at
petulance, But there is nothing so awkward as giving people more than
they expect. Is there?
He understood her question, despite its apparent inconsequence, and
his heart quickened its beating: Give me everything.
I suppose I should be doing that if I gave you myself, she said
You know best, he answered; and for a moment she was puzzled by
not catching the affirmative for which she had angled.
Do you want me very, very much? she asked.
So much that, as I told you yesterday, I could not ask for you
twice. Don't you understand?
Yes. I could not marry a man who had bothered me to be his wife.
One might as well be scolded into virtue. You want me, then, Hugh, and
I want you. But
Again she stopped, with sentences fluttering, as it seemed, on the
very edges of her lips. Her heart was at such fearful odds with her
conscience, that she felt as if he must hear the clashing of the
swords. And he did hear it. He would fain have cheered on both the
combatants. Which did he wish should be the conqueror? He hardly knew.
Yes? he said.
It is always so difficult to finish a sentence that begins with
'but,' she began; and for the first time her voice sounded tremulous.
When two people want each other very much, there is always something
that ought to keep them apartat least, I think so. God must love
solitude; it is His gift to so many. There were tears in her eyes.
Why should we keep apart, Eve?
Because we should be too happy together, I suppose.
He leaned suddenly forward and took both her hands in his. How cold
you are! he said, startled.
The words seemed to brace her like a sea-breeze.
Hugh, she said, I wish to tell you something. There is a 'but' in
the sentence of my life.
He drew her closer to him, with a strange impulse to be nearer the
soul that was about to prove itself as noble as he desired. But that
very act prevented the fulfilment of his wish. The touch of his hands,
the eagerness of his eyes, gave the victory to her heart. She shut the
lips that were speaking, and he kissed them. Kisses act as an opiate on
a woman's conscience. Only when Eve felt his lips on hers did she know
her own weakness. Sir Hugh having kissed her, waited for the telling of
the secret. At that moment he might as well have sat down and waited
for the millennium.
What is it? he said at last.
Nothing, she answered, nothing. She spoke the word with a hard
Hugh held her close in his arms, with a sort of strange idea that to
do so would crush his disappointment. She was proving her love by her
silence. Why, then, did he wish that she should speak? At last she
said, in a low voice:
There is one thing you ought to know. If I marry you, I marry you a
beggar. I shall lose my fortune. I am not obliged to lose it, but I
mean to give it up. Don't ask me why.
He had no need to. He waited, but she was silent. So that was all.
He kissed her again, loosened his arms from about her and stood up.
I have enough for both, he said.
He did not look at her, and she could not look at him.
Are you going? she said.
Yes; but I will call this evening.
He was at the door, and had half-opened it when he turned back,
moved by a passionate impulse.
Eve! he cried, and his eyes seemed asking her for something.
Yes? she said, looking away.
There was a silence. Then he said Good-bye! The door closed upon
Mrs Glinn stood for a moment where he had left her. In her mind she
was counting the seconds that must elapse before he could reach the
street. If she could be untrue to herself till then, she could be
untrue to herself for ever. Would he walk down the stairs slowly or
fast? She wanted to be a false woman so much, so very much, that she
clenched her hands together. The action seemed as if it might help her
to keep on doing wrong. But suddenly she unclasped her hands, darted
across the room to the door, and opened it. She listened, and heard
Hugh's footsteps in the hall. He picked up his umbrella, and unfolded
it to be ready for the rain. The frou-frou of the silk seemed to
stir her to action.
Hugh! she cried in a broken voice.
He turned in the hall, and looked up.
Come back, she said.
He came up the stairs three steps at a time.
Hugh, she said, leaning heavily on the balustrade, and looking
away, I have a secret to tell you. I have tried to be wicked to-day,
but somehow I can't. Listen to the truth.
I need not, he answered. I know it already.
Then she looked at him, and drew in her breath: You know it?
How you must love me!
* * * * *
There was a ring at the hall door. The footman opened it, held a
short parley with some one who was invisible, shut the door, and came
upstairs with a card.
Mrs Glinn took it, and read, Lord Herbert Manning.
He had decided to be unconventional too late.