by Margaret L. Woods
Margaret L. Woods
New York and London
Harper &Brothers Publishers
Copyright, 1907, by HARPER &BROTHERS.
Published May, 1907.
* * * * *
AND THE DUMB COMPANIONS OF TAN-YR-ALLT THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED BY
THEIR GRATEFUL AND AFFECTIONATE FRIEND
* * * * *
Dinner was over and the ladies had just risen, when the Professor
had begged to introduce them to the new-comer on his walls. The
Invader, it might almost have been called, this full-length, life-size
portrait, which, in the illumination of a lamp turned full upon it,
seemed to take possession of the small room, to dominate at the end of
the polished-oak table, where the light of shaded candles fell on old
blue plates, old Venetian glass, a bit of old Italian brocade, and
chrysanthemums in a china bowl coveted by collectors. Every detail
spoke of the connoisseurship, the refined and personal taste
characteristic of Oxford in the eighties. The authority on art put up
his eye-glasses and fingered his tiny forked beard uneasily.
There's no doubt it's a good thing, Fletcher, he said,
presentlyreally quite good. But it's too like Romney to be Raeburn,
and too like Raeburn to be Romney. You ought to be able to find out the
painter, if, as you say, it's a portrait of your own
He did say so! broke in Sanderson, exultantly. He said it was an
ancestress. Fletcher, you're a vulgar fraud. You've got no ancestress.
You bought her. There's a sale-ticket still on the frame under the
projection at the right-hand lower corner. I saw it.
Sanderson was a small man and walked about perpetually, except when
taking food: sometimes then. He was a licensed insulter of his friends,
and now stood before the picture in a belligerent attitude. The
Professor stroked his amber beard and smiled down on Sanderson.
True, O Sanderson; and at the same time untrue. I did buy the
picture, and the lady was my great-grandmother once, but she did not
like the position and soon gave it up. This picture must have been done
after she had given it up.
Is this a conundrum or blather, invented to hide your ignominy in a
cloud of words? asked Sanderson.
It's a hors d'oeuvre before the story, interposed Ian
Stewart, throwing back his tall dark head and looking up at the picture
through his eye-glasses, his handsome face alive with interest. 'Tak'
awa' the kickshaws,' Fletcher, 'and bring us the cauf.'
The Professor gathered his full beard in one hand and smiled
I don't know how the ladies will like my ex-great-grandmother's
story. It was a bit of a scandal at the time.
Never mind, Mr. Fletcher, cried a young married woman, with a face
like a seraph, we're all educated now, and scandal about a lady with
her waist under her arms becomes simply classical.
Not so bad as that, Mrs. Shaw, I assure you, returned the
Professor; but I dare say you all know as much as I do about my
great-grandmother, for she was the well-known Lady Hammerton.
There were sounds of interest and surprise, for most of the party
knew her name, and were curious to learn how she came to be Professor
Fletcher's great-grandmother. Mr. Fletcher explained:
My great-grandfather was a distinguished professor in Edinburgh a
hundred years ago. When he was a widower of forty with a family, he was
silly enough to fall in love with a little miss of sixteen. He taught
her Latin and Greekwhich was all very welland married her, which
was distinctly unwise. She had one sonmy grandfatherand then ran
away with an actor from London. After that she made a certain sensation
on the stage, but I suspect she was clever enough to see that her real
successes were personal ones; at all events, she made a good marriage
as soon as ever she got the chance. The Hammerton family naturally
objected. You'll find all about it in those papers which have come out
lately. I believe, ladies, they were almost as much scandalized by her
learning as by her morals.
She told Sydney Smith years after, I think, observed Stewart,
that she had to be a wit lest people should find out she was a blue.
There's a good deal about her in the Englefield Memoirs. She
travelled extraordinarily for a woman in those days, and most of the
real treasures at Hammerton House come from her collections.
I thought they were nearly all burned in a great fire, and she was
burned trying to save them, said Mrs. Shaw.
A good many were saved, returned Fletcher; she had rushed back to
fetch a favorite bronze, was seen hurling it out of the windowand was
never seen again.
She must have been a very remarkable woman, commented Stewart,
meditatively, his eyes still fixed on the picture.
Know nothing about her myself, remarked Sanderson; Stewart knows
something about everybody. It's sickening the way he spends his time
reading gossip and calling it history.
Gossip's like many common things, interesting when fossilized,
squeaked a little, white-haired, pink-faced old gentleman, like an
elderly cherub in dress-clothes. He had remained at the other end of
the room because he did not care for pictures. Now he toddled a little
nearer and every one made way for him with a peculiar respect, for he
was the Master of Durham, whose name was great in Oxford and also in
the world outside it. He looked up first at the pictured face and then
at Milly Flaxman, a young cousin of Fletcher's and a scholar of Ascham
Hall, who had taken her First in Mods, and was hoping to get one in
Greats. The Master liked young girls, but they had to be clever as well
as pleasing in appearance to attract his attention.
It's very like Miss Flaxman, he squeaked.
Every one turned their eyes from the picture to Milly, whose pale
cheeks blushed a bright pink. The blush emphasized her resemblance to
her ancestress, whose brilliant complexion, however, hinted at rouge.
Milly's soft hair was amber-colored, like that of the lady in the
picture, but it was strained back from her face and twisted in a minute
knot on the nape of her neck. That was the way in which her aunt Lady
Thomson, whose example she desired to follow in all things, did her
hair. The long, clearly drawn eyebrows, dark in comparison with the
amber hair, the turquoise blue eyes, the mouth of the pictured lady
were curiously reproduced in Milly Flaxman. Possibly her figure may
have been designed by nature to be as slight and supple, yet rounded,
as that of the white-robed, gray-scarfed lady above there. But
something or some one had intervened, and Milly looked stiff and
shapeless in a green velveteen frock, scooped out vaguely around her
white young throat and gathered in clumsy folds under a liberty silk
Mrs. Shaw cried out enraptured at the interesting resemblance which
had escaped them all, to be instantly caught by the elderly cherub in
the background, who did not care about art, while the Professor
explained that both Milly's parents were, like himself,
great-grandchildren of Lady Hammerton. The seraph now fell upon Milly,
too shy to resist, had out her hair-pins in a trice and fingered the
fluffy hair till it made an aureole around her face. Then by some
conjuring trick producing a gauzy white scarf, Mrs. Shaw twisted it
about the girl's head, in imitation of the lady on the wall, who had
just such a scarf, but with a tiny embroidered border of scarlet,
twisted turban-wise and floating behind.
There! she cried, pushing the feebly protesting Milly into the
full light of the lamp the Professor was holding, allow me to present
to you the new Lady Hammerton!
There was a moment of wondering silence. Milly's pulses beat, for
she felt Ian Stewart's eyes upon her. Neither he nor any one else there
had ever quite realized before what capacities for beauty lay hid in
the subdued young face of Milly Flaxman. She had nothing indeed of the
charm, at once subtle and challenging, of the lady above there. She,
with one hand on the gold head of a tall cane, looking back, seemed to
dare unseen adorers to follow her into a magic, perhaps a fatal
fairyland of mountain and waterfall and cloud; a land whose dim mists
and silver gleams seemed to echo the gray and the white of her floating
garments, its autumn leaves to catch a faint reflection from her hair,
while far off its sky showed a thin line of sunset, red like the border
of her veil. Milly's soft cheeks and lips were flushed, her eyes bright
with a mixture of very innocent emotions, as she stood with every one's
eyes, including Ian Stewart's, upon her.
But in a minute the Master took up Mrs. Shaw's remark.
No, he said, emphatically; not a new Lady Hammerton; only a
rather new Miss Flaxman; and that, I assure you, is something very
I'm quite sure the Master knows something dreadful about your
great-grandmother, Mr. Fletcher, laughed Mrs. Shaw.
I think we'd better go before he tells it, interposed Mrs.
Fletcher, who saw that Milly was feeling shy.
When the ladies had left, the men reseated themselves at the table
and there was a pause. Everyone waited for the Master, who seemed
My mother, he saidand somehow they all felt startled to learn
the fact that the Master had had a mothermy mother knew Lady
Hammerton in the twenties. She was often at Bath.
The thin, staccato voice broke off abruptly, and three out of the
five other men present being the Master's pupils, remained silent,
knowing he had not finished. But Mr. Toovey, a young don overflowing
with mild intelligence, exclaimed, deferentially:
Really, Master! Really! How extremely interesting! Now do please
tell us a great deal about Lady Hammerton.
The Master took no notice whatever of Toovey. He sat about a minute
longer in his familiar posture, looking before him, his little round
hands on his little round knees. Then he said:
She was a raddled woman.
And his pupils knew he had finished speaking. What he had said was
disappointingly little, but uttered in that strange high voice of his,
it contained an infinite deal more than appeared on the face of it. A
whole discreditable past seemed to emerge from that one word raddled.
Ian Stewart, to whose imagination the woman in the picture made a
strange appeal, now broke a lance with the Master on her account.
She may have been raddled, Master, he said, but she must have
been very remarkable and charming too. Hammerton himself was no fool,
yet he adored her to the last.
The Master seemed to hope some one else would speak; but finding
that no one did, he uttered again:
Men often adore bad wives. That does not make them good ones.
Stewart tossed a rebel lock of raven black hair back from his
Pardon me, Master, it does make them good wives for those men.
Oh, surely not good for their higher natures! protested Toovey,
The Master took three deliberate sips of port wine.
I think, Stewart, we are discussing matters we know very little
about, he said, in a particularly high, dry voice; and every one felt
that the discussion was closed. Then he turned to Sanderson and made
some remark about a house which Sanderson's College, of which he was
junior bursar, was selling to Durham.
Fletcher, the only married man present, mourned inwardly over his
own masculine stupidity. He felt sure that if his wife had been there
she would have gently led Stewart's mind through these paradoxical
matrimonial fancies, to dwell on another picture; a picture of marriage
with a nice girl almost as pretty as Lady Hammerton, a good girl who
shared his tastes, and, above all, who adored him. David Fletcher felt
himself pitiably unequal to the task, although he was as anxious as his
wife was that Stewart should marry Milly. Did not all their friends
wish it? It seemed to them that there could not be a more suitable
couple. If Milly was working so terribly hard to get her First in
Greats, it was largely because Mr. Stewart was one of her tutors and
she knew he thought a good deal of success in the Schools.
There could be no doubt about Milly Flaxman's goodness; in fact,
some of the girls at Ascham complained that it slopped over. Her
clothes were made on hygienic principles which she treated as a branch
of morals, and she often refused to offer the small change of polite
society because it weighed somewhat light in the scales of truth. But
these were foibles that the young people's friends were sure Ian
Stewart would never notice. As to him, although only four and thirty,
he was already a distinguished man. A scholar, a philosopher, and an
archæologist, he had also imagination and a sense of style. He had
written a brilliant book on Greek life at a particular period, which
had brought him a reputation among the learned and also found readers
in the educated public. His disposition was sweet, his character
unusually high, judged even by the standard of the academic world,
which has a higher standard than most. Obviously he would make an
excellent husband; and equally obviously, as he had no near relations
and his health was delicate, it would be a capital thing for him to
have a home of his own and a devoted wife to look after him. Their
income would be small, but not smaller than that of most young couples
in Oxford, who contrived, nevertheless, to live refined and pleasant
lives and to be well-considered in a society where money positively did
But if Fletcher did not succeed in forwarding this matrimonial
scheme in the dining-room, his wife succeeded no better when the
gentlemen came into the drawing-room. She rose from a sofa in the
corner, leaving Milly seated there; but Mr. Toovey made his way
straight to Miss Flaxman, without a glance to right or left, and
bending over her before he seated himself at her side, fixed upon her a
patronizing, a possessive smile which would have made some girls long
for a barbarous freedom in the matter of face-slapping. But Milly
Flaxman was meek. She took Archibald Toovey's seriousness for depth,
and as his attentions had become unmistakable, had several times lain
awake at night tormenting herself as to whether her behavior towards
him was or was not right. Accordingly she submitted to being
monopolized by Mr. Toovey, while Ian Stewart turned away and made
himself pleasant to an unattractive lady-visitor of the Fletchers', who
looked shy and left-alone. When Mrs. Fletcher tried to effect a change
of partners, Ian explained that he found himself unexpectedly obliged
to attend a College meeting at ten o'clock. In a place where there are
no offices to close and business engagements are liable to crop up at
any time in the evening, there was no need for extravagance of apology
for this early departure.
He changed his shoes in the narrow hall and put on his seedy-looking
dark overcoat, quite unconscious that Mrs. Fletcher had had the collar
mended since he had taken it off. Then he went out into the damp
November night, unlit by moon or star. But to Stewart the darkness of
night, on whatever corner of earth he might chance to find it
descended, remained always a romantic, mysterious thing, setting his
imagination free among visionary possibilities, without form, but not
for that void. The road between the railing of the parks and the row of
old lopped elms, was ill-lighted by the meagre flame of a few gas-lamps
and hardly cheered by the smothered glow of the small prison-like
windows of Keble, glimmering through the bare trees. There was not a
sound near, except the occasional drip of slow-collecting dews from the
branches of the old elms. Afar, too, many would have said there was not
a sound; but there was, and Ian's ear was attuned to catch it. The
immense inarticulate whisper of night came to him. It came to him from
the deserted parks, from the distant Cherwell flowing through its
willow-roots and osier-islands, from the flat meadow-country beyond,
stretching away to the coppices of the low boundary hills. It was a
voice made up of many whispers, each imperceptible, or almost
imperceptible in itself; whisper of water and dry reeds, of broken
twigs and dry leaves fluttering to the ground, of heaped dead leaves or
coarse winter grass, stirring in some slight movement of the air. It
seemed to his imagination as though under the darkness, in the
loneliness of night, the man-mastered world must be secretly
transformed, returned to its primal freedom; and that could he go forth
into it alone, he would find it quite different from anything familiar
to him, and might meet with something, he knew not what, secret,
strange, and perhaps terrible.
Such fancies, though less crystallized than they must needs be by
words, floated in the penumbra of his mind, coming to him perhaps with
the blood of remote Highland ancestors, children of mountains and mist.
His reasonable self was perfectly aware that should he go, he would
find nothing in the open fields at that hour except a sleeping cow or
two, and would return wet as to the legs, and developing a severe cold
for the morning. But he heard these far-off whisperings of the night
playing, as it were, a mysterious ground to his thoughts of Milly
Flaxman. The least fatuous of men, he had yet been obliged to see that
his friends in general and the Fletchers in particular, wished him to
marry Milly, and that the girl herself hung upon his words with a
tremulous sensitivity even greater than the enthusiastic female student
usually exhibits towards those of her lecturer. In the abstract he
intended to marry; for he did not desire to be left an old bachelor in
college. He had been waiting for the great experience of falling in
love, and somehow it had never come to him. There were probably numbers
of people to whom it never did come. Should he now give up all hope of
it, and make a marriage of reason and of obligingness, such as his
marriage with Miss Flaxman would assuredly be? Thank Heaven! as her
tutor he could not possibly propose to her till she had got through the
Schools, so there were more than six months in which to consider the
And while he communed thus with himself, the mysterious whispers of
the night came nearer to him, in the blackness of garden trees, ancient
trees of College gardens brooding alone, whispering alone through the
dark hours, of that current of young life which is still flowing past
them; how for hundreds of years it has always been flowing, and always
passing, passing, passing so quickly to the great silent sea of death
and oblivion, to the dark night whose silence is only sometimes stirred
by vague whispers, anxious yet faint, dying upon the ear before the
sense can seize them.
Parties in Oxford always break up early, and Milly had a good excuse
for carrying her aching, disappointed heart back to Ascham at ten
o'clock, for every one knew she was working hard. Too hard, Mr.
Fletcher said, looking concernedly at her heavy eyes, mottled
complexion, and the little crumples which were beginning to come in her
low white forehead. Her cousins, however, had more than a suspicion
that these marks of care and woe were not altogether due to her work,
but that Ian Stewart was accountable for most of them.
The Professor escorted her to the gates of the Ladies' College; but
she walked down the dark drive alone, mindful of familiar puddles, and
hearing nothing of those mysterious whispers of night which in Ian
Stewart's ears had breathed a ground to his troubled thoughts of her.
She mounted the stairs to her room at the top of the house. It was
an extremely neat room, and by day, when the bed was disguised as a
sofa, and the washstand closed, there was nothing to reveal that it
served as a bedroom, although a tarnished old mirror hung in a dark
corner. The oak table and pair of brass candlesticks upon it were kept
in shining order by Milly's own zealous hands.
Milly found her books open at the right place and her writing
materials ready to hand. In a very few minutes her outer garments and
simple ornaments were put away, and clothed in a clean but shrunk and
faded blue dressing-gown, she sat down to work. The work was
Aristotle's Ethics, and she was going through it for the second
time, amplifying her notes. But this second time the Greek seemed more
difficult, the philosophic argument more intricate than ever. She had
had very little sleep for weeks, and her head ached in a queer way as
though something inside it were strained very tight. It was plain that
she had come to the end of her powers of work for the presentand she
had calculated that only by not wasting a day, except for a week's
holiday at Easter, could she get through all that had to be done before
She put Aristotle away and opened Mommsen, but even to that she
could not give her attention. Her thoughts returned to the bitter
disappointment which the evening had brought. Ian Stewart had been next
her at dinner, but even then he had talked to her rather less than to
Mrs. Shaw. Afterwardswell, perhaps it was only what she deserved for
not making it plain to poor Mr. Toovey that she could never return his
feelings. And now the First, which she had looked to as a thing that
would set her nearer the level of her idol, was dropping below the
horizon of the possible. Aunt Beatrice always saidand she was
rightthat tears were not, as people pretended, a help and solace in
trouble. They merely took the starch out of you and left you a poor
soaked, limp creature, unfit to face the hard facts of life. But
sometimes tears will lie heavy and scalding as molten lead in the
brain, until at length they force their way through to the light. And
Milly after blowing her nose a good deal, as she mechanically turned
the pages of Mommsen, at length laid her arms on the book and
transferred her handkerchief to her eyes. But she tried to look as
though she were reading when Flora Timson came in.
At it again, M.! You know you're simply working yourself stupid.
Thus speaking, Miss Timson, known to her intimates at Ascham as
Tims, wagged sagely her very peculiar head. A crimson silk
handkerchief was tied around it, turban-wise, and no vestige of hair
escaped from beneath. There was in fact none to escape. Tims's sallow,
comic little face had neither eyebrows nor eyelashes on it, and her
small figure was not of a quality to triumph over the obvious
disadvantages of a tight black cloth dress with bright buttons,
reminiscent of a page's suit.
Milly pushed the candles farther away and looked up.
I was wanting to see you, Tims. Do tell me whether you managed to
get out of Miss Walker what Mr. Stewart said about my chances of a
Tims pushed her silk turban still higher up on her forehead.
I can always humbug Miss Walker and make her say lots of indiscreet
things, Tims returned, with labored diplomacy. But I don't repeat
themat least, not invariably.
There was a further argument on the point, which ended by Milly
shedding tears and imploring to be told the worst.
Stewart said your scholarship was A 1, but he was afraid you
wouldn't get your First in Greats. He said you had a lot of difficulty
in expressing yourself and didn't seem to get the lead of their
philosophy and stuffandand generally wanted cleverness.
He said that? asked Milly, in a low, sombre voice, speaking as
though to herself. Well, I suppose it's better for me to knownot to
go on hoping, and hoping, and hoping. It means less misery in the end,
There was such a depth of despair in her face and voice that Tims
was appalled at the consequence of her own revelation. She paced the
room in agitation, alternately uttering incoherent abuse of her
friend's folly and suggesting that she should at once abandon the
ungrateful School of Literæ Humaniores and devote herself like
Tims, to the joys of experimental chemistry and the pleasures of
Meantime, Milly sat silent, one hand supporting her chin, the other
playing with a pencil.
At length Tims, taking hold of Milly under the arms, advised her to
go to bed and sleep it off.
Milly rose dully and sat on the edge of her bed, while Tims
awkwardly removed the hair-pins which Mrs. Shaw had so deftly put in.
But as she was laying them on the little dressing-table, Milly suddenly
flung herself down on the bed and lay there a twisted heap of blue
flannel, her face buried in the pillows, her whole body shaken by a
paroxysm of sobs. Tims supposed that this might be a good thing for
Milly; but for herself it created an awkward situation. Her soothing
remarks fell flat, while to go away and leave her friend in this
condition would seem brutal. She sat down to wait till the clouds
rolled by, as she phrased it. But twenty minutes passed and still the
clouds did not roll by.
Look here, M. she said, argumentatively, standing by the bed.
You're in hysterics. That's what's the matter with you.
I know I am, came in tones of muffled despair from the pillow.
Well! Tims was very stern and accented her words heavily,
thenpullyourselftogetherdear girl. Sit up!
Milly sat up, pressed her handkerchief over her face, and held her
breath. For a minute all was quiet; then another violent sob forced a
It's no use, Tims, she gasped. I cannotcannotstop. Oh, what
would! She was going to say, What would Aunt Beatrice think of me
if she knew how I was giving way! but a fresh flood of tears
suppressed her speech. My head's so bad! Such a splitting headache!
Tims tried scolding, slapping, a cold sponge, every remedy
inexperience could suggest, but the hysterical weeping could not be
Look here, old girl, she said at length, I know how I can stop
you, but I don't believe you'll let me do it.
No, not that, Tims! You know Miss Burt doesn't
Doesn't approve. Of course not. Perhaps you think old B. would
approve of the way you're going on now. Ha! Would she!
The sarcasm caused a new and alarming outburst. But finally, past
all respect for Miss Burt, and even for Lady Thomson herself, Milly
consented to submit to any remedy that Tims might choose to try.
She was assisted hurriedly to undress and put to bed. Tims knew the
whereabouts of the prize-medal which Milly had won at school, and
placing the bright silver disk in her hand, directed her to fix her
eyes upon it. Seated on her heels on the patient's bed, her crimson
turban low on her forehead, her face screwed into intent wrinkles, Tims
began passing her slight hands slowly before Milly's face.
The long slender fingers played about the girl's fair head,
sometimes pressed lightly upon her forehead, sometimes passed through
her fluffy hair, as it lay spread on the pillow about her like an amber
Don't cry, M., Tims began repeating in a soft, monotonous voice.
You've got nothing to cry about; your head doesn't ache now. Don't
At first it was only by a strong effort that Milly could keep her
tear-blinded eyes fixed on the bright medal before her; but soon they
became chained to it, as by some attractive force. The shining disk
seemed to grow smaller, brighter, to recede imperceptibly till it was a
point of light somewhere a long way off, and with it all the sorrows
and agitations of her mind seemed also to recede into a dim distance,
where she was still aware of them, yet as though they were some one
else's sorrows and agitations, hardly at all concerning her. The aching
tension of her brain was relaxed and she felt as though she were
drowning without pain or struggle, gently floating down, down through a
green abyss of water, always seeing that distant light, showing as the
sun might show, seen from the depths of the sea.
Before a quarter of an hour had passed, her sobs ceased in sighing
breaths, the breaths became regular and normal, the whole face
slackened and smoothed itself out. Tims changed the burden of her song.
Go to sleep, Milly. What you want is a good long sleep. Go to
Milly was sinking down upon the pillow, breathing the calm breath of
deep, refreshing slumber. Tims still crouched upon the bed, chanting
her monotonous song and contemplating her work. At length she slipped
off, conscious of pins-and-needles in her legs, and as she withdrew,
Milly with a sudden motion stretched her body out in the white bed, as
straight and still almost as that of the dead. The movement was
mechanical, but it gave a momentary check to Tims's triumph. She leaned
over her patient and began once more the crooning song.
Go to sleep, M.! What you want is a good long sleep. Go to sleep,
But presently she ceased her song, for it was evident that Milly
Flaxman had indeed gone very sound asleep.
Tims was proud of the combined style and economy of her dress. She
was constantly discovering and revealing to an unappreciative world the
existence of superb tailors who made amazingly cheap dresses. For two
years she had been vainly advising her friends to go to the man who had
made her the frock she still wore for morning; a skirt and coat of
tweed with a large green check in it, a green waistcoat with gilt
buttons, and green gaiters to match. In this costume and coiffed with a
man's wig, of the vague color peculiar to such articles, Tims came down
at her usual hour, prepared to ask Milly what she thought of hypnotism
now. But there was no Milly over whom to enjoy this petty triumph. She
climbed to the top story as soon as breakfast was over, and entering
Milly's room, found her patient still sleeping soundly, low and
straight in the bed, just as she had been the preceding night. She was
breathing regularly and her face looked peaceful, although her eyes
were still stained with tears. The servant came in as Tims was looking
I've tried to wake Miss Flaxman, miss, she said. She's always
very particular as I should wake her, but she was that sound asleep
this morning, I 'adn't the 'eart to go on talking. Poor young lady! I
expect she's pretty well wore out, working away at her books, early and
late, the way she does.
Better leave her alone, Emma, agreed Tims. I'll let Miss Burt
know about it.
Miss Burt was glad to hear Milly Flaxman was oversleeping herself.
She had not been satisfied with the girl's appearance of late, and
feared Milly worked too hard and had bad nights.
Tims had to go out at ten o'clock and did not return until
luncheon-time. She went up to Milly's room and knocked at the door. As
before, there was no answer. She went in and saw the girl still sound
asleep, straight and motionless in the bed. Her appearance was so
healthy and natural that it was absurd to feel uneasy at the length of
her slumber, yet remembering the triumph of hypnotism, Tims did feel a
little uneasy. She spoke to Miss Burt again about Milly's prolonged
sleep, but Miss Burt was not inclined to be anxious. She had strictly
forbidden Tims to hypnotizeor as she called it, mesmerizeany one in
the house, so that Tims said no more on the subject. She was working at
the Museum in the early part of the afternoon, only leaving it when the
light began to fail. But after work she went straight back to Ascham.
Milly was still asleep, but she had slightly shifted her position, and
altogether there was something about her aspect which suggested a
slumber less profound than before. Tims leaned over her and spoke
Wake up, M., wake up! You've been asleep quite long enough.
Milly's body twitched a little. A responsive flicker which was
almost a convulsion, passed over her face; but she did not awake. It
was evident, however, that her spirit was gradually floating up to the
surface from the depths of oblivion in which it had been submerged.
Tims took off her Tam-o'-Shanter and ulster, and revealed in the simple
elegance of the tweed frock with green waistcoat and gaiters, put the
kettle on the fire. Then she went down-stairs to fetch some bread and
butter and an egg, wherewith to feed the patient when she awoke.
She had not long left the room when the slumberer's eyes opened
gradually and stared with the fixity of semi-consciousness at a stem of
blossoming jessamine in the wall-paper. Then she slowly stretched her
arms above her head until some inches of wrist, slight and round and
white, emerged from the strictly plain night-gown sleeve. So she lay,
till suddenly, almost with a start, she pulled herself up and looked
about her. The gaze of her wide-open eyes travelled questioningly
around the quiet-toned room which two windows at right angles to each
other still kept light with the reflection of a yellow winter sunset.
She pushed the bedclothes down, dropped first one bare white foot, then
the other to the ground and looked doubtfully at a pair of worn felt
slippers which were placed beside the bed, before slipping her feet
into them. With the same air as of one assuming garments which do not
belong to her, she put on the faded blue flannel dressing-gown. Then
she walked to the southern window. None of the glories of Oxford were
visible from it; only the bare branches of trees through which appeared
a huddle of somewhat sordid looking roofs and the unimposing spire of
St. Aloysius. With the same air, questioning yet as in a dream, she
turned to the western window, which was open. Below, in its wintry
dulness, lay the garden of the College, bounded by an old gray wall
which divided it from the straggling street; beyond that, a mass of
slate roofs. But a certain glory was on the slate roofs and all the
garden that was not in shadow. For away over Wytham, where the blue
vapor floated in the folds of the hills, blending imperceptibly with
the deep brown of the leafless woods, sunset had lifted a wide curtain
of cloud and showed between the gloom of heaven and earth, a long
straight pool of yellow light.
She leaned out of the window. A mild fresh air which seemed to be
pouring over the earth through that rift in heaven which the sunset had
made, breathed freshly on her face and the yellow light shone on her
amber hair, which lay on her shoulders about the length of the hair of
an angel in some old Florentine picture.
Miss Burt in galoshes and with a wrap over her head was coming up
the garden. She caught sight of that vision of gold and pale blue in
the window and smiled and waved her hand to Milly Flaxman. The vision
withdrew, trembling slightly as though with cold, and closed the
Tims came in, carrying a boiled egg and a plate of bread and butter.
Tims put down the egg-cup and the plate on the table before she relaxed
the wrinkle of carefulness and grinned triumphantly at her patient.
Well, old girl, she asked; what do you say to hypnotism now? Put
you to sleep, right enough, anyhow. Know what time it is?
The awakened sleeper made a few steps forward, leaned her hands on
the table, on the other side of which Tims stood, and gazed upon her
with startling intentness. Then she began to speak in a rapid, urgent
voice. Her words were in themselves ordinary and distinct, yet what she
said was entirely incomprehensible, a nightmare of speech, as though
some talking-machine had gone wrong and was pouring out a miscellaneous
stock of verbs, nouns, adjectives and the rest without meaning or
cohesion. Certain words reappeared with frequency, but Tims had a
feeling that the speaker did not attach their usual meaning to them.
This travesty of language went on for what appeared to the transfixed
and terrified listener quite a long time. At length the serious, almost
tragic, babbler, meeting with no response save the staring horror of
Tims's too expressive countenance, ended with a supplicating smile and
a glance which contrived to be charged at once with pathos and
coquetry. This smile, this look, were so totally unlike any expression
which Tims had ever seen on Milly's countenance that they heightened
her feeling of nightmare. But she pulled herself together and
determined to show presence of mind. She had already placed a
basket-chair by the fire ready for her patient, and now gently but
firmly led Milly to it.
Sit down, Milly, she saidand the use of her friend's proper name
showed that she felt the occasion to be seriousand don't speak again
till you've had some tea. Your head will be clearer presently, it's a
bit confused now, you know.
The stranger Milly, still so unlike the Milly of Tims's intimacy,
far from exerting the unnatural strength of a maniac, passively
permitted herself to be placed in the chair and listened to what Tims
was saying with the puzzled intentness of a child or a foreigner,
trying to understand. She laid her head back in its little cloud of
amber hair, and looked up at Tims, who, frowning portentously, once
more with lifted finger enjoined silence. Tims then concealing her
agitation behind a cupboard-door, reached down the tea-things. By some
strange accident the methodical Milly's teapot was absent from its
place; a phenomenon for which Tims was thankful, as it imposed upon her
the necessity of leaving her patient for a few minutes. Shaking her
finger again at Milly still more emphatically, she went out, and locked
the door behind her. After a moment's thought, she reluctantly decided
to report the matter to Miss Burt. But Miss Burt was closeted with the
treasurer and an architect from London, and was on no account to be
disturbed. So Tims went up to her own room and rapidly revolved the
situation. She was certain that Milly was not physically ill; on the
contrary, she looked much better than she had looked on the previous
day. This curious affection of the speech-memory might be hysterical,
as her sobbing the night before had been, or it might be connected with
some little failure of circulation in the brain; an explanation,
perhaps, pointed to by the extraordinary length of her sleep. Anyhow,
Tims felt sceptical as to a doctor being of any use.
She went to her cupboard to take out her own teapot, and her eye
fell upon a small medicine bottle marked Brandy. Milly was a
convinced teetotaller; all the more reason, thought Tims, why a dose of
alcohol should give her nerves and circulation a fillip, only she must
not know of it, or she would certainly refuse the remedy.
Pocketing the bottle and flourishing the teapot, Tims mounted again
to Milly's room. Her patient, who had spent the time wandering about
the room and examining everything in it, as well as she could in the
fast-falling twilight, resumed her position in the chair as soon as she
heard a step in the passage, and greeted her returning keeper with an
attractive smile. Tims uttering words of commendation, slyly poured
some brandy into one of the large teacups before lighting the candles.
Now, my girl, she said, when she had made the tea, drink this,
and you'll feel better.
Milly leaned forward, her round chin on her hand, and looked
intently at the tea-service and at the proffered cup. Then she suddenly
raised her head, clapped her hands softly, and cried in a tone of
delighted discovery, Tea!
Excuse me, she added, taking the cup with a little bow; and in two
seconds had helped herself to three lumps of sugar. Tims was surprised,
for Milly never took sugar in her tea.
That's right, M., you're going along well! cried Tims, standing on
the hearth-rug, with one hand under her short coat-tails, while she
gulped her own tea, and ate two pieces of bread and butter put
together. Milly ate hers and drank her tea daintily, looking meanwhile
at her companion with wonder which gradually gave way to amusement. At
length leaning forward with a dimpling smile, she interrogated very
politely and quite lucidly.
Pardon me, sir, you are? Ah, the doctor, no doubt! My poor head,
you see! and she drew her fingers across her forehead.
Tims started, and grabbed her wig, as was her wont in moments of
agitation. She stood transfixed, the teacup at a dangerous angle in her
Good God! she ejaculated. You are mad and no mistake, my poor old
The old girl made a supreme effort to contain herself, and then
burst into a pretty, rippling laugh in which there was nothing familiar
to Tims's ear. She rose from her chair vivaciously and took the cup
from Tims's hand, to deposit it in safety on the chimney piece.
How silly I was! she cried, regarding Tims sparklingly. Do you
know I was not quite sure whether you were a man or a woman. Of course
I see now, and I'm so glad. I do like men, you know, so much better
Milly, retorted Tims, sternly, settling her wig. You are mad, you
need not be bad as well. But it's my own fault for giving you that
brandy. You know as well as I do that I hate mennasty, selfish,
guzzling, conceited, guffawing brutes! I never wanted to speak to a man
in my life, except in the way of business.
Milly waved her amber head gracefully for a moment as though at a
loss, then returned playfully, That must be because the women spoil
Tims smiled sardonically; but regaining her sense of the situation,
out of which she had been momentarily shocked, applied herself to the
problem of calling back poor Milly's wandering mind.
Sit down, my girl, she said, abruptly, putting her arm around
Milly's body, so soft and slender in the scanty folds of the blue
dressing-gown. Milly obeyed precipitately. Then drawing a small chair
close to her, Tims said in gentle tones which could hardly have been
recognized as hers:
M., darling, do you know where you are?
Milly turned on her a face from which the unnatural vivacity had
fallen like a mask; the appealing face of a poor lost child.
Am Iam Iin a maison de santé? she asked tremulously,
fixing her blue eyes on Tims, full of piteous anxiety.
A lunatic asylum? Certainly not, replied Tims. Now don't begin
crying again, old girl. That's how the trouble began.
Was it? asked Milly, dreamily. I thought it was she paused,
frowning before her in the air, as though trying to pursue with her
bodily vision some recollection which had flickered across her
consciousness only to disappear.
Well, never mind that now, said Tims, hastily; get your bearings
right first. You're in Ascham College.
A College! repeated Milly vaguely, but in a moment her face
brightened, I know. A place of learning where they have professors and
things. Are you a professor?
No, I'm a student. So are you.
Milly looked fixedly at Tims, then smiled a melancholy smile. I
see, she said, we're both studyingmedicinemedicine for the mind.
She stood up, locked her hands behind her head in her soft hair and
wailed miserably. Oh, why won't some kind person come and tell me
where I am, and what I was before I came here?
Tears of wounded feelings sprang to Tims's eyes. Milly, my beauty!
she cried despairingly, I'm trying to be kind to you and tell you
everything you want to know. Your name is Mildred Flaxman and you used
to live in Oxford here, but now all your people have gone to Australia
because your father's got a deanery there.
Have they left me here, mad and by myself? asked Milly; have I no
one to look after me, no one to give me a home?
I suppose Lady Thomson or the Fletchers would, returned Tims, but
you haven't wanted one. You've been quite happy at Ascham. Do try and
remember. Can't you remember getting your First in Mods. and how you've
been working to get one in Greats? Your brain's been right enough until
to-day, old girl, and it will be again. I expect it's a case of
collapse of memory from overwork. Things will come back to you soon and
I'll help you all I can. Do try and recollect meTims. There was an
unmistakable choke in Tims's voice. We have been such chums. The
others are all pretty nasty to me sometimesthey seem to think I'm a
grinning, wooden Aunt Sally, stuck up for them to shy jokes at. But
you've never once been nasty to me, M., and there's precious few things
I wouldn't do to help you. So don't go talking to me as though there
weren't any one in the world who cared a brass farthing about you.
I'm sure I'm most thankful to find I have got some one here who
cares about me, returned Milly, meekly, passing her hand across her
eyes for lack of a handkerchief. You see, it's dreadful for me to be
like this. I seem to know what things are, and yet I don't know. A
little while ago it seemed to me I was just going to remember
somethingsomething different from what you've told me. But now it's
all gone again. Oh, please give me a handkerchief!
Tims opened one of Milly's tidy drawers and sought for a
handkerchief. When she had found it, Milly was standing before the high
chimney-piece, over which hung a long, low mirror about a foot wide and
divided into three parts by miniature pilasters of tarnished gilt. The
mirror, too, was tarnished here and there, but it had been a good glass
and showed undistorted the blue Delft jars on the mantel-shelf,
glimpses of flickering firelight in the room, amber hair and the
tear-bedewed roses of a flushed young face. Suddenly Milly thrust the
jars aside, seized the candle from the table, and, holding it near her
face, looked intently, anxiously in the glass. The anxiety vanished in
a moment, but not the intentness. She went on looking. Tims had always
perceived Milly's beautywhich had an odd way of slipping through the
world unobservedbut had never seen her look so lovely as now, her
eyes wide and brilliant, and her upper lip curved rosily over a shining
glimpse of her white teeth.
Beauty had an extraordinary fascination for Tims, poor step-child of
nature! Now she stood looking at the reflection of Milly without
noticing how in the background her own strange, wizened face peered dim
and grotesque from the tarnished mirror, like the picture of a witch or
a goblin behind the fair semblance of some princess in a fairy tale.
I do remember myself partly, said Milly, doubtfully; and
yetsomehow not quite. I suppose I shall remember you and this queer
place soon, if they don't put me into a mad-house at once.
They sha'n't, said Tims, decisively. Trust to me, M., and I'll
see you through. But I'm afraid you'll have to give up all thought of
My what, asked Milly, turning round inquiringly.
Your First Class, your place, you know, in the Final Honors School,
Lit. Hum., the biggest examination of the lot.
Do I want it very much, my First?
Want it? I should just think you do want it!
Milly stared at the fire for a minute, warming one foot before she
spoke again. Then:
How funny of me! she observed, meditatively.
Tims's programme happened to be full on the following day, so that
it was half-past twelve before she knocked at Milly's door and was
admitted. Milly stood in the middle of the room in an attitude of
energy, with her small wardrobe lying about her on the floor in
Tell me, Tims, said Milly, after the first inquiries, are those
positively all the clothes I possess?
Of course they are, M. What do you want with more?
Are they in the fashion? asked Milly, anxiously.
Fashion! Good Lord, M.! What does it matter whether you look the
same as every fool in the street or not?
Oh, Tims! cried Milly, laughing that pretty rippling laugh so
strange in Tims's ears. I was quite right when I made a mistake,
you're just like a man. All the better. But you can't expect me not to
care a bit about my clothes like you, you really can't.
Tims drew herself up.
You're wrong, my girl, I'm a deal fonder of frocks than you are. I
always think, she added, looking before her dreamily, that I was
meant to be a very good dresser, only I was brought up too economical.
Generally speaking, when Tims had uttered one of her deepest and truest
feelings, she would glance around, suddenly alert and suspicious to
surprise the twinkle in her auditor's eye. But in the clear blue of
Milly Flaxman's quiet eyes, she had ceased to look for that tormenting
twinkle, that spark which seemed destined to dance about her from the
cradle to the grave.
Presently she found herself hanging up Milly's clothes while Milly
paid no attention; for she alternately stood before the glass in the
dark corner, and kneeled on the hearth-rug, curling-tongs in hand. And
the hair, the silky soft amber hair, which could be twisted into a tiny
ball or fluffed into a golden fleece at will, was being tossed up and
pulled down, combed here and brushed there, altogether handled with a
zeal and patience to which it had been a stranger since the days when
it had been the pride of the nursery. Tims the untidy, as one in a
dream, went on tidying the room she was accustomed to see so
There! cried Milly, turning, that's how I wear it, isn't it?
Good Lord, no! exclaimed Tims, contemplating the transformed
Milly. It suits you, M., in a way, but it looks queer too. The others
will all be hooting if you go down-stairs like that.
Milly plumped into a chair irritably.
How ever am I to know how I did my hair if I can't remember? Please
do it for me.
Tims smiled sardonically.
I'll lend you my hair, she said; the second best. But do
your hair! You really are as mad as a hatter.
Milly shrugged her shoulders.
You can't? Then I keep it like this, she said.
An argument ensued. Tims left the room to try and find a photograph
of Milly as she had been.
When she returned she found her friend standing in absorbed
contemplation of a book in her hand.
This is Greek, isn't it? she asked, holding it up. Her face wore a
little frown as of strained attention.
Right you are, shrieked Tims in accents of relief. Greek it is.
Can you read it?
Not yet, replied Milly, flushing with excitement, but I shall
soon, I know I shall. Last night I couldn't make head or tail of the
books. Now I understand right enough what they are, and I know some are
in Greek and some in English. I can't read either yet, but it's all
coming back gradually, like the daylight coming in at the window this
Hooray! Hooray! shouted Tims. You'll be reading as hard as ever
in a week if I don't look after you. But see here, my girl, you've
given me a nasty jar, and I'm not going to let you break your heart or
crack your brain in a wild-goose chase. You can't get that First, you
know; you're on a fairly good Second Class level, and you'd better make
up your mind to stay there.
A fairly good Second Class level! repeated Milly, still turning
the leaves of the book. That doesn't sound very exhilaratingand I
rather think I shall do as I like about staying there.
Tims began to heat.
Well, that's what Stewart said about you. I don't believe I told
you half plain enough what Stewart did say, for fear of hurting your
feelings. He said you are a good scholar, but barring that, you weren't
at all clever.
Milly looked up from her book; but she was not tearful. There was a
curl in her lip and the light of battle in her eye.
Stewart said that, did he? Now if I were a gentleman I should
say'damn his impudence'and 'who the devil is Stewart'; but then I'm
not. You can say it.
Tims stared. Oh, come, I say! she exclaimed. I don't swear, I
only quote. But my goodness, when you remember who Stewart is, you'll
bewell, pained to think of the language you're using about him.
Why? asked Milly, her head riding disdainfully on her slender
Because he's your tutor and lecturerand a regular tiptop man at
Greek and all thatand youyou respect him most awfully.
Do I? cried Millydid perhaps in my salad days. I've no respect
whatever for professors now, my good Tims. I know what they're like.
Here's Stewart for you.
She took up a pen and a scrap of paper and dashed off a clever
ludicrous sketch of a man with long hair, an immense brow, and
Nonsense! said Tims; that's not a bit like him.
She held the paper in her hand and looked fixedly at it. Milly had
been wont seriously to grieve over her hopeless lack of artistic talent
and she had never attempted to caricature. Tims was thinking of a young
fellow of a college who had lately died of brain disease. In the
earlier stages of his insanity, it had been remarked that he had an
originality which had not been his when in a normal state. What if her
friend were developing the same terrible disease? If it were so, it was
no use fussing, since there was no remedy. Still, she felt a desperate
need to take some sort of precaution.
If I were you, M., she said, I'd go to bed and keep very quiet
for a day or two. You're soso odd, and excited, they'd notice it if
you went down-stairs.
Would they? asked Milly, suddenly sobered. Would they say I was
mad? An expression of fear came into her face, and its strangely
luminous eyes travelled around the room with a look as of some trapped
creature seeking escape.
There was an awkward pause.
I'm not mad, affirmed Milly, swallowing with a dry throat. I'm
perfectly sensible, but any one would be odd and excited too who
waswas as I amwith a number of words and ideas floating in my mind
without my having the least idea where they spring from. Please, Tims
dear, tell me how I am to behave. I should so hate to be thought queer,
wanting in any way.
For one thing, you mustn't talk such a lot. You never have been one
for chattering; and lately, of course, with your overwork, you've been
particularly quiet. Don't talk, M., that's my advice.
Very well, replied Milly, gloomily.
Tims hesitated and went on:
But I don't see how you're going to hide up this business about
your memory. I wish you'd let me tell old B., anyhow.
I won't have any one told, cried Milly. Not a creature. If only
you'll help me, dear, dear Timsyou will help me, won't you?I shall
soon be all right, and no one except you will ever know. No one will be
able to shrug their shoulders and say, whatever I do, 'Of course she's
crazy.' I should hate it so! I know I can get on if I try. I'm much
cleverer than you and that silly old Stewart think. Promise me, promise
me, darling Tims, you won't betray me!
Tims was not weak-minded, but she was very tender-hearted and
exceedingly susceptible to personal charms. She ought not, she knew she
ought not, to have yielded, but she did. She promised. Yet in her
friend's own interest, she contended that Milly must confess to a
certain failure of memory from over-fatigue, if only as a pretext for
dropping her work for a while. It was agreed that Milly should remain
in bed for several days, and she did so; less bored than might have
been expected, because she had the constant excitement of this or that
bit of knowledge filtering back into her mind. But this knowledge was
purely intellectual. With Tims's help she had recovered her reading
powers, and although she felt at first only a vague recognition of
something familiar in the sense of what she read, it was evident that
she was fast regaining the use of the treasures stored in her brain by
years of dogged and methodical work. But the facts and personalities
which had made her own life seemed to have vanished, leaving not a
Tims, having primed her well beforehand, brought in the more
important girls to see her, and by dint of a cautious reserve she
passed very well with them, as with Miss Burt and Miss Walker. Tims
seemed to feel much more nervous than Milly herself did when she joined
the other students as usual.
There were moments when Tims gasped with the certainty that the
revelation of her friend's blank ignorance of the place and people was
about to be made. Then Mildredfor so, despising the soft diminutive,
she now desired to be calledby some extraordinary exertion of tact
and ingenuity, would evade the inevitable and appear on the other side
of it, a little elated, but otherwise serene. It was generally marked
that Miss Flaxman was a different creature since she had given up
worrying about her Schools, and that no one would have believed how
much prettier she could make herself by doing her hair a different way.
Miss Burt, however, was somewhat puzzled and uneasy. Although Milly
was looking unusually well, it was evident that all was not quite right
with her, for she complained of a failure of memory, a mental fatigue
which made it impossible for her to go to lectures, and she seemed to
have lost all interest in the Schools, which had so lately been for her
the be-all as well as the end-all here. Miss Burt knew Milly's only
near relation in England, Lady Thomson, intimately; and for that reason
hesitated to write to her. She knew that Beatrice Thomson had no
patience with the talkoften silly enoughabout girls overworking
their brains. She herself had never been laid up in her life, except
when her leg was broken, and her views on the subject of ill-health
were marked. She regarded the catching of scarlet-fever or influenza as
an act of cowardice, consumption or any organic disease as scarcely, if
at all, less disgraceful than drunkenness or fraud, while the countless
little ailments to which feminine flesh seems more particularly heir
she condemned as the most deplorable of female failings, except the
love of dress.
Eventually Miss Burt did write to Lady Thomson, cautiously. Lady
Thomson replied that she was coming up to town on Thursday, and could
so arrange her journey as to have an hour and a half in Oxford. She
would be at Ascham at three-thirty. Mildred rushed to Tims with the
agitating news and both were greatly upset by it. However, Aunt
Beatrice had got to be faced sometime or other and Mildred's spirit
rose to the encounter.
She had by this time provided herself with another dress, encouraged
to do so by the money in hand left by the frugal Milly the First. She
had got a plain tailor-made coat and skirt, in a becoming shade of
brown; and with the unbecoming hard collar de rigueur in those
days, she wore a turquoise blue tie, which seemed to reflect the color
of her eyes. And in spite of Tims's dissuasions, she put on the new
dress on Thursday, and declined to screw her hair up in the old way, as
Accordingly on Thursday at twenty-five minutes to four, Mildred
appeared, in answer to a summons, in the quiet-colored, pleasant
drawing-room at Ascham, with its French windows giving on to the lawn,
where some of the girls were playing hockey, not without cries. Her
first view of Aunt Beatrice was a pleasant surprise. A tall, upstanding
figure, draped in a long, soft cloak trimmed with fur, a handsome face
with marked features, marked eyebrows, a fine complexion and bright
brown eyes under a wide-brimmed felt hat.
Having exchanged the customary peck, she waited in silence till
Mildred had seated herself. Then surveying her niece with satisfaction:
Come, Milly, said she, in a full, pleasant voice; I don't see
much signs of the nervous invalid about you. Really, Polly, turning to
Miss Burt, she has not looked so well for a long time.
She's been much better since she dropped her work, replied Miss
Taking plenty of fresh air and exercise, I supposeAunt Beatrice
smiled kindly on her nieceI'm afraid I've kept you from your hockey
this afternoon, Milly.
Oh no, Aunt Beatrice, certainly not, replied Milly, with the
extreme courtesy of nervousness. I never play hockey now.
Lady Thomson turned to the Head with a shade of triumph in her
There, Polly! What did I tell you? I was sure there was something
else at the bottom of it. Steady work, methodically done, never hurt
anybody. But of course if she's given up exercise, her liver or
something was bound to get out of order.
No, really, I take lots of exercise, interposed Milly; only I
don't care for hockey, it's such a horrid, rough, dirty game; don't you
think so? And Miss Walker got a front tooth broken last winter.
Lady Thomson looked at her in a surprised way.
Well, if you've not been playing hockey, what exercise have you
Walks, replied Milly, feebly, feeling herself on the wrong track;
I go walks with Tiwith Flora Timson when she has time.
Aunt Beatrice looked at the matter judicially.
Of course, games are best for the physique. Look at men. Still,
walking will do, if one takes proper walks. I hope Flora Timson takes
you good long walks.
Indeed she does! cried Milly. Immense! She walks a dreadful pace,
and we get over stiles and things.
Immense is a little vague. How far do you go on an average?
Mildred's notions of distance were vague. Quite two miles, I'm
sure, she responded, cheerfully.
Aunt Beatrice made no comment. She looked steadily and
scrutinizingly at her niece, and in a kind but deepened voice told her
to go up to her room, whither she, Lady Thomson, would follow in a few
minutes, just to see how the Mantegnas looked now they were framed.
As soon as the door had closed behind Mildred, she turned to Miss
Burt. You're right, in a way, Polly, after all. There is something odd
about Milly, but I think it's affectation. Did you hear her answer? Two
miles! When to my knowledge she can easily walk ten.
Meantime, Mildred mounted slowly to her room. She had tidied it
under Tims's instructions and had nothing to do but to sit down and
think until Lady Thomson's masculine step was heard outside her door.
Aunt Beatrice came in and laid aside her hat and cloak, showing a
dress of rough gray tweed, and shortso far a tribute to the
practicalbut otherwise made on some awkward artistic or hygienic
principle. Her glossy brown hair was brushed back and twisted tight, as
Milly's used to be, but with different effect, because of its heaviness
Why have you crammed up one of your windows with a dressing-glass?
asked Aunt Beatrice, putting a picture straight.
Because I can't see myself in that dark corner, returned Mildred,
demurely meek, but waiting her opportunity.
See yourself! My dear child, you hardly ever want to see yourself,
if you are habitually neat and dressed sensibly. I see you've adopted
the mannish style. That's a phase of vanity. You'll come back to the
beautiful and natural before long.
Mildred leaned back in her chair and clasped her hands behind her
I don't think so, Aunt Beatrice. I've settled the dress question
once and for all. I've found a clean, tidy, convenient style of dress
and I can't waste time thinking about altering it again.
You don't seem to mind wasting it on doing your hair, returned
Aunt Beatrice, smiling, but not grimly, for she enjoyed logical
fencing, even to her opponent's fair hits.
If I had beautiful hair like yours, I shouldn't need to, replied
Mildred. But you know how endy and untidy mine always was.
Aunt Beatrice, embarrassed by the compliment, looked at her watch.
It seems as if we women can't escape our fate, she said. Here we are
gabbling about dress when we've plenty of important things to talk
over. Miss Burt wrote to me that you were overworked, run down, nerves
out of order, and all the usual nonsense. I'm thankful to find you
looking remarkably well. I should like to know what this humbug about
not being able to work means.
It means thatwell, I simply can't, returned Mildred, earnestly
this time. I can't remember things.
You must be able to remember; unless your brain's diseased, which
is most improbable. But I ought to take you to a brain specialist, I
Milly changed color. Please, oh please, Aunt Beatrice, don't do
Lady Thomson, in fact, hardly meant it; for her niece's appearance
was unmistakably healthy. However, the threat told.
I shall if you don't improve. I can't understand you. Either you're
hysterical or you've got one of those abominable fits of frivolity
which come on women like drink on men, and destroy their careers. I
thought we had both set our hearts on your getting another First.
But, Aunt Beatrice, they say I can't. They say I'm not clever
Oh, that's what they say, is it? Lady Thomson smiled in calm but
deep contempt. How do they explain the idiots who have got Firsts?
Archibald Toovey, for instance? Her eyes met her niece's, and both
Ah, yes! Mr. Toovey, returned Milly, who had met Archibald Toovey
at the Fletchers', and converted his patronizing courtship into
But that quite explains your losing an interest in your work. Just
for once, I should like to take you away before the end of term. We
would go straight to Rome next Monday. We shall meet the Breretons
there, and go fully over the new excavations and discoveries, besides
the old things, which will be new, of course, to you. Then we will go
on to Naples, do the galleries and Pompeii, and come back by Florence
and Paris before Christmas. By that time you will be ready to settle
down to your work steadily again and forget all this nonsense.
Mildred's face had lighted up momentarily at the word Rome. Then
she sucked her under lip and looked at the fire. When Lady Thomson's
programme was ended, she made a pause before she said, slowly:
Thank you so much, dear Aunt Beatrice. I should love to go, butI
don't thinkno, I don't think I'd better. You see, there's the
Of course I don't expect you to pay for yourself. I take you.
How very kind and sweet of you! Butwell, do you know, you've
encouraged me so about that. First, I feel now as though I could sit
down and get it straight away. I will get it, Aunt Beatrice, if only to
make that old Professor look foolish.
Lady Thomson, though disappointed in a way, felt that Milly Flaxman
was doing credit to her principles, showing a spirit worthy of her
family. She did not urge the Roman plan; but content with a victory
over nerves and the usual nonsense, withdrew triumphant to the
Tims came in when she was gone and heard about the Roman offer.
You refused, when Aunt Beatrice was going to plank down the
dollars? M., you are a fool!
No, Tims, Mildred answered, deliberately; you see, I don't feel
sure yet whether I can manage Aunt Beatrice.
Oxford is beautiful at all times, beautiful even now, in spite of
the cruel disfigurement inflicted upon her by the march of modern
vulgarity, but she has three high festivals which clothe her with a
special glory and crown her with their several crowns. One is the
Festival of May, when her hoary walls and ancient enclosures overflow
with emerald and white, rose-color and purple and gold, a foam of
leafage and blossom, breaking spray-like over edges of stone, gray as
sea-worn rocks. And all about the city the green meadows and groves
burn with many tones of color, brilliant as enamels or as precious
stones, yet of a texture softer and richer, more full of delicate
shadows than any velvet mantle that ever was woven for a queen.
Another Festival comes with that strayed bacchanal October, who
hangs her scarlet and wine-colored garlands on cloister and pinnacle,
on wall and tower. And gradually the foliage of grove and garden, turns
through shade of bluish metallic green, to the mingled splendor of pale
gold and beaten bronze and deepest copper, half glowing and half
drowned in the low, mellow sunlight, and purple mist of autumn.
Last comes the Festival of Mid-winter, the Festival of the Frost.
The rime comes, or the snow, and the long lines of the buildings, the
fret-work of stone, the battlements, carved pinnacles and images of
saints or devils, stand up with clear glittering outlines, or clustered
about and overhung with fantasies of ice and snow. Behind, the
deep-blue sky itself seems to glitter too. The frozen floods glitter in
the meadows, and every little twig on the bare trees. There is no color
in the earth, but the atmosphere of the river valley clothes distant
hills and trees and hedges with ultramarine vapor. Towards evening the
mist climbs, faintly veiling the tall groves of elms and the piled
masses of the city itself. The sunset begins to burn red behind
Magdalen Tower, all the towers and aery pinnacles rise blue yet
distinct against it. And this festival is not only one of nature. The
glittering ice is spread over the meadows, and, everywhere from morning
till moonlight, the rhythmical ring of the skate and the sound of
voices sonorous with the joy of living, travel far on the frosty air.
Sometimes the very rivers are frozen, and the broad, bare highway of
the Thames and the tree-sheltered path of the Cherwell are alive with
black figures, heel-winged like Mercury, flying swiftly on no errand,
but for the mere delight of flying.
It was early on such a shining festival morning that Mildred, a
willowy, brown-clad figure, came down to a piece of ice in an outlying
meadow. Her shadow moved beside her in the sunshine, blue on the
whiteness of the snow, which crunched crisp and thin under her feet.
She carried a black bag in her handsign of the serious skater, and
her face was serious, even apprehensive. She saw with relief that
except the sweepers there was no one on the ice. A row of shivering
men, buttoned up to the chin in seedy coats, rose from the chairs where
they awaited their appointed prey, and all yelled to her at once. She
crowned the hopes of one by occupying his seat, but the important task
of putting on the bladed boots she could depute to none. Tims, whom no
appeal of friendship could induce to shiver on the ice, had told her
that Milly was an expert skater. She was, in fact, correct and
accomplished, but there was a stiffness and sense of effort about her
style, a want of that appearance of free and daring abandonment to the
stroke of the blade once launched, that makes the beauty of skating.
Mildred knew only that she had to live up to the reputation of a mighty
skater, and was not sure whether she could even stand on these
knifelike edges. She laced one boot, happy in the belief that at any
rate there would be no witness to her voyage of discovery. But a
renewed yelling among the men made her lift her head, and there,
striding swiftly over the crisp snow, came a tall, handsome young man,
with a pointed, silky black beard and fine, short-sighted black eyes,
aglow with the pleasure of the frosty sun.
It was Ian Stewart. The young lady whom he discovered to be Miss
Flaxman just as he reached the chairs, was much more annoyed than he at
the encounter. Here was an acquaintance, it seemed, and one provided
with the bag and orange which Tims had warned her was the mark of the
serious skater. They exchanged remarks on the weather and she went on
lacing her other boot in great trepidation. The moment was come. She
did not recoil from the insult of being seized under her elbows by two
men and carefully planted on her feet as though she were most likely to
tumble down. So far as she knew, she was likely to. But, lo! no sooner
was she up than muscles and nerves, recking nothing of the brain's
blind denial, asserted their own acquaintance with the art of balance
and motion. Wondering, and for a few minutes still apprehensive, but
presently lost in the pleasure of the thing, Mildred began to fly over
the ice. And the dark, handsome man who had taken off his cap to her
became supremely unimportant. Unluckily the piece of flood-ice was not
endless and she had to come back. He was circling around an orange, and
she, throwing herself instinctively on to the outside edge, came down
towards him in great, sweeping curves, absorbed in the delight of this
motion, so new yet so perfectly under her control. Ian Stewart,
perceiving that the girl was absolutely unconscious of his presence,
blushed in his soul to think that he had been induced to believe
himself to be of importance in her eyes.
Miss Flaxman, he said, skating up to her, I see you have no
orange. Can't we skate a figure together around mine?
I've forgotten all about figures, replied Mildred, with truth.
Try some simple turns, he urged. There are plenty here, and he
held up a book in his hand like the one she had found in her own black
bag. But it had Ian Stewart, Durham College, written clearly on the
So that's Stewart! thought Milly; and she could not help laughing
at her own thoughts, which had created him in a different image.
Stewart did not know why she laughed, but he found the sound and
sight of the laugh new and charming.
It's awfully kind of you to undertake my education in another
branch, Mr. Stewart, she answered, pouting, in spite of having found
out that I'm not at all clever.
She smiled at him mutinously, sweeping towards the orange with head
thrown back over her left shoulder. Momentarily the poise of her head
recalled the attitude of the portrait of Lady Hammerton, beckoning her
unseen companions to that far-off mysterious mountain country, where
the torrents shine so whitely through the mist and the red line of
sunset speaks of coming night.
Stewart colored, slightly confused. This brutal statement did not
seem to him to represent the just and candid account he had given Miss
Walker of Miss Flaxman's abilities.
Some one's been misreporting me, I see, he returned. But anyhow,
on the ice, Miss Flaxman, it's you who are the Professor; I who am the
pupil. So I offer you a fair revenge.
Accordingly, Mildred soon found herself placed at a due distance
from the orange, with Stewart equally distant from it on the other
side. After a few minutes of extreme uneasiness, she discovered that
although she had to halt at each fresh call, she had a kind of
mechanical familiarity with the simple figures which he gave her.
Stewart, though learned, was human; and to sweep now at the opposite
pole to his companion, now with a swing of clasping hands at the centre
of their delightful dance, his eyes always perforce on his charming
partner, and her eyes on him, undeniably raised the pleasure of skating
to a higher power than if he had circled the orange in company with
So they fleeted the too-short time in the sparkling blue and white
world, drinking the air like celestial wine.
The Festival of the Frost had fallen in the Christmas Vacation, and
Oxford society in vacation is essentially different from that of
Term-time, when it is overflowed by men who are but birds of passage,
coming no one inquires whence, and flitting few know whither. The party
that picnicked, played hockey, danced and figured on their skates
through the weeks of the frost, was in those days almost like a family
party. So it happened that Ian Stewart met the new Miss Flaxman in an
atmosphere of friendly ease that years of term-time society would not
have afforded him. How new she was he did not guess, but supposed the
change to be in his own eyes. Other people, however, saw it. Her very
skating was different. It had gained in grace and vigor, but she was
seldom seen wooing the serious and lonely orange around which Milly had
acquired the skill that Mildred now enjoyed. On the contrary, she
initiated an epidemic of frivolity on the ice in the shape of waltzing
and hand-in-hand figures in general.
Ian Stewart, too, neglected the orange and went in for hand-in-hand
figures that season. Other things, too, he neglected; work, which he
had never before allowed to suffer measurably from causes within his
control; and far from blushing for his idleness, he rejoiced in it, as
the surest sign of all that for him the Festival of Spring had come in
the time of nature's frost.
It was not only the crisp air, the frequent sun, the joyous flights
over the ringing ice that made his blood run faster through his veins
and laughter come more easily to his lips; that aroused him in the
morning with a strange sense of delight, as though some spirit had
awakened him with a glad reveille at the window of his soul. He, too,
was in Arcady. That in itself should be sufficient joy; he knew he must
restrain his impatience for more. Not till the summer, when the lady of
his heart had ceased to be also his pupil, must he make avowal of his
Mildred on her part found Stewart the most attractive of the men
with whom she was acquainted. As yet in this new existence of hers, she
had not moved outside the Oxford circlea circle exceptional in
England, because in it intellectual eminence, not always recognized,
when recognized receives as much honor as is accorded to a great
fortune or a great name in ordinary society. Stewart's abilities were
of a kind to be recognized by the Academic world. He was already known
in the Universities of the Continent and America. Oxford was proud of
him; and although Mildred had no desire to marry as yet, it gratified
her taste and her vanity to win him for a lover.
Mildred had had no desire to spend her vacations with Lady Thomson,
and on the ground of her reading for the Schools, had been allowed to
spend them in Oxford. Tims, who had no relations, remained with her.
She had for Mildred a sentiment almost like that of a parent, besides
an admiration for which she was slightly ashamed, feeling it to be
something of a slur on the memory of Milly, her first and kindest
Mildred had recovered her memory for most things, but the facts of
her former life were still a blank to her. She had begun to work for
her First in order to evade Aunt Beatrice; but the fever of it grew
upon her, either from the ambient air of the University or from a
native passion to excel in all she did. Her teachers were bewildered by
the mental change in Miss Flaxman. The qualities of intellectual
swiftness, vigor, pliancy, whose absence they had once noted in her,
became, on the contrary, conspicuously hers. Once initiated into the
tricks of the Great Essay style, she could use it with a dexterity
strangely in contrast with the flat and fumbling manner in which poor
Milly had been wont to express her ideas. But in the region of actual
knowledge, she now and again perpetrated some immense and childish
blunder, which made the teachers, who nursed and trained her like a
jockey or a race-horse, tremble for the results of the Greats
All too swiftly the date of the Schools loomed on the horizon; drew
near; was come. The June weather was glorious on the river, but in the
town, above all in the Examination Schools, it was very hot. The sun
glared pitilessly in through the great windows of the big T-shaped
room, till the temperature was that of a greenhouse. The young men in
their black coats and white ties looked enviously at the girl
candidate, the only one, in her white waist and light skirt. They
envied her, too, her apparent indifference to a crisis that paled the
masculine cheek. In fact, Mildred was nervous, but her nerves were
strung up to so high a pitch that she was sensitive neither to
temperature nor to fatigue, nor to want of sleep. And at the service of
her quick intelligence and ready pen lay all the stored knowledge of
Milly the First.
On the last day, when the last paper was over, Tims came and found
her in the big hall, planting the pins in her hat with an almost
feverish energy. Although it was five o'clock, she said she wanted air,
not tea. The last men had trooped listlessly down the steps of the
Schools and the two girls stood there while Mildred drew on her gloves.
The sun wearing to the northwest, shone down that curve of the High
Street which all Europe cannot match. The slanting gold illumined the
gray face of the University and the wide pavement, where the
black-gowned victims of the Schools threaded their sombre way through
groups of joyous youths in flannels and ladies in summer attire. On the
opposite side cool shadows were beginning to invade the sunshine, to
slant across the old houses, straight-roofed or gabled, the paladian
pile of Queen's, the mediæval front of All Souls, with its single and
perfect green tree, leading up to the consummation of the great spire
of St. Mary's.
Already, from the tall bulk of the nave, a shadow fell broad across
the pavement. But still the heat of the day reverberated from the
stones about them. They turned down to the Botanical Gardens and paced
that gray enclosure, full of the pride of branches and the glory of
flowers and overhung by the soaring vision of Magdalen Tower. Mildred
was walking fast and talking volubly about the Examination and
Look here, old girl, said Tims at last, when they reached for the
second time the seat under the willow trellis, I'm going to sit down
here, unless you'll come to tea at Boffin's.
I don't want to sit down, returned Mildred, seating herself; or
to have tea or anything. I want to be just going, going, going. I feel
as though if I stop for a minute something horrid will happen.
Tims wrinkled her whole face anxiously.
Don't do that, Tims, cried Mildred, sharply. You look hideous.
Tims colored, rose and walked away. She suddenly thought, with tears
in her eyes, of the old Milly who would never have spoken to her like
that. By the time she had reached the little basin in the middle of the
garden, where the irises grew, Mildred had caught her up.
Tims, dear old Tims! What a wretch I am! I couldn't help letting
off steam on somethingyou don't know what I feel like.
Tims allowed herself to be pacified, but in her heart there remained
a yearning for her earlier and gentler friendthat Milly Flaxman who
was certainly not dead, yet as certainly gone out of existence.
It was towards the end of the last week of Term, and the gayeties of
Commemoration had already begun. Mildred threw herself into them with
feverish enjoyment. She seemed to grudge even the hours that must be
lost in the unconsciousness of sleep. The Iretons, cousins from India,
who had never known the former Milly, took a house in Oxford for a
week. She went with them to three College balls and a Masonic, and
spent the days in a carnival of luncheon and boating-parties. She
attracted plenty of admiration, and enjoyed herself wildly, yet also
purposefully; because she was trying to get rid of that haunting
feeling that if she stopped a minute something horrid would happen.
Stewart meantime was finding love not so entirely beautiful and
delightful a thing as he had at first imagined it. In his dreamy way he
had overlooked the fact of Commemoration, and planned when Term was
over to find Mildred constantly at the Fletchers' and to be able to
arrange quiet days on the river. But if he found her there, she was
always in company, and though she made herself as charming to him as
usual, she showed no disposition to forsake all others and cleave only
to him. He was not a dancing man, and suffered cruelly on the evenings
when he knew her to be at balls, and fancied all her partners in love
But on the Thursday after Commemoration, the Fletchers gave a
strawberry tea at Wytham, as a farewell festivity to their cousins. And
Ian Stewart was there. With Mrs. Fletcher's connivance, he took Mildred
home alone in a canoe, by the deep and devious stream which runs under
Wytham woods. She went on talking with a vivacious gayety which was
almost foolish. He saw that it was unreal and that her nerves were at
high tension. His own were also. He did not intend to propose to her
that day; but he could no longer restrain himself, and he began to
speak to her of his love.
Hush! she cried, with a vehement gesture. Not to-day! oh, not
to-day! I can't bear it! She put her head on her knee and moaned
again, Not to-day, I'm too tired, I really am. I can't bear it.
This was all the answer he could get, and her manner left him in
complete uncertainty as to whether she meant to accept or to refuse
Tims had been at the strawberry tea too, and came into Mildred's
room in the evening, curious to know what had happened. She found
Mildred without a light, sitting, or rather lying in a wicker chair.
When the candle was lighted she saw that Mildred was very pale and
You're overtired, my girl, she said. That's what's the matter
Oh, Tims, moaned Mildred. I feel so ill and so frightened. I know
something horrid's going to happenI know it is.
Don't be a donkey, returned Tims. I'll help you undress and then
you turn in. You'll be as jolly as a sandboy to-morrow.
But Mildred was crying tremulously. Oh, Tims, how dreadful it would
be to die!
Idiot! cried Tims, and shook Mildred with all her might. Mildred's
tiny sobs turned into a shriek of laughter.
My goodness! ejaculated Tims; you're in hysterics!
I know I am, gasped Mildred. I was laughing to think of what Aunt
Beatrice would say. And she giggled amid her tears.
Tims insisted on her rising from the chair, undressing, and getting
into bed. Then she sat by her in the half-dark, waiting for the
miserable tears to leave off.
Don't cry, old girl, don't cry. Go to sleep and forget all about
it, she kept repeating, almost mechanically.
At length leaning over the bed she saw that Mildred was asleep,
lying straight on her bed with her feet crossed and her hands laid on
About noon on Friday Milly Flaxman awoke. She lay very quiet, sleepy
and comfortable, her eyes fixed idly on a curve in the
jessamine-pattern paper opposite her bed. The windows were wide open,
the blinds down and every now and again flapping softly, as a
capricious little breeze went by, whispering through the leafy trees
outside. There seemed nothing unusual in that; she always slept with
her windows open. But as her senses emerged from those mists which lie
on the surface of the river of sleep, she was conscious of a balmy
warmth in the room, of an impression of bright sunshine behind the dark
blinds, and of noises from the streets reaching her with a kind of
sharpness associated with sunshine. She sat up, looked at her watch,
and was shocked to find how late she had slept. She must have missed a
lecture. Then the recollection of the dinner-party at the Fletchers',
the verdict of Mr. Stewart on her chance of a First, and her own
hysterical outburst returned to her, overpowering all outward
impressions. She felt calm and well now, but unhappy and ashamed of
herself. She put her feet out of bed and looked round mechanically for
her dressing-gown and slippers. Their absence was unimportant, for no
sense of chill struck through her thin night-gown to her warm body, and
going to the window, she drew up the blind.
The high June sun struck full upon her, hot and dazzling, but not so
dazzling that she could not see the row of garden trees through whose
bare branches she had yesterday descried the squalid roofs of the town.
They were spreading now in a thick screen of fresh green leaves. She
leaned out, as though further investigation might explain the
phenomenon, and saw a red standard rose in full flower under her
window. The thing was exactly like a dream, and she tried to wake up
but could not. She was panic-stricken and trembling. Had she been very,
very ill? Was it possible to be unconscious for six months? She looked
at herself in a dressing-glass near the window, which she had never
placed there, and saw that she was pale and had dark marks under her
eyes, but not more so than had been the case in that yesterday so
strangely and mysteriously removed in time. Her slender white arms and
throat were as rounded as usual. And if she had been ill, why was she
left alone like this? She found a dressing-gown not her own, and went
on a voyage of discovery. But the other rooms on her floor were
dismantled and tenantless. The girls were gone and the servants were
cleaning in a distant part of the College. She felt incapable of
getting into bed again and waiting for some one to come, so she began
dressing herself with trembling hands. Every detail increased the sense
of strangeness. There were a number of strange clothes, ball-dresses
and others, hanging in her cupboard, strange odds and ends thrust
confusedly into her bureau. She found at length a blue cotton frock of
her own, which seemed just home from the wash. She had twisted up her
hair and was putting on the blue frock, when she heard a step on the
stairs, and paused with beating heart. Who was coming? How would the
mystery be resolved? The door opened and Tims came inthe old Tims,
wrinkled face, wig, and old straw hat on one side as usual.
Tims! cried Milly, flying towards her and speaking with pale lips.
Please, please tell mewhat has happened? Have I been very ill? And
she stared in Tims's face with a tragic mask of terror and anxiety.
Now take it easytake it easy, M., my girl! cried Tims, giving
her a great squeeze and a clap on the shoulder. I'm jolly glad to see
you back. But don't let's have any more of your hysterics. No, never no
Have I been away? asked Milly, her lips still trembling.
I should think you had! exclaimed Tims. But nobody knows it
except me. Don't forget that. Here's a note for you from old B. Read it
first or we shall both forget all about it. She had to go away early
Milly opened the note and read:
DEAR MILLY,I am sorry not to say good-bye, but glad you
are sleeping off your fatigue. I want to tell you, between
ourselves, not to go on worrying about the results of the
Schools, as I think you are doing, in spite of your
pretences to the contrary. I hear you have done at least one
brilliant paper, and although I, of course, know nothing
certain, I believe you and the College will have reason to
rejoice when the list comes out.
What does it mean?oh, what can it mean? faltered Milly, holding
out the missive to Tims.
It means you've been in for Greats, my girl, and done first-rate.
But the strain's been a bit too much for you, and you've had another
collapse of memory. You had one in the end of November. You've been
uncommonly well ever since, and worked like a Trojan, but you've not
been quite your usual self, and I'm glad you've come right again, old
girl. Let me tell you the whole business.
Tims did so. She wanted social tact, but she had the tact of the
heart which made her hide from Milly how very different, how much more
brilliant and attractive Milly the Second had been than her normal
self. She only made her friend feel that the curious episode had
entailed no disgrace, but that somehow in her abnormal condition she
had done well in the Schools, and probably touched the top of her
But I don't feel as though it had been quite straightforward to
hide it up so, said Milly. I shall write and tell Miss Burt and Aunt
Beatrice, and tell the Fletchers when I go to them.
You'll do nothing of the kind, you stupid, snapped Tims. You'll
be simply giving me away if you do. What is the good? It won't happen
again unless you're idiot enough to overwork yourself again. Very
likely not then; for, as an open-minded, scientific woman, I believe it
to have been a case of hypnotism, and in France and the United States
they'd have thought it a very interesting one. But in England people
are so prejudiced they'd say you'd simply been out of your mind;
although that wouldn't prevent them from blaming me for hypnotizing
While Tims spoke thus, there was a knocking without, and a maid
delivered a note for Miss Flaxman. Milly held it in her hands and
studied it musingly before opening the envelope. Her pale, troubled
face colored and grew more serious. Tims had not mentioned Ian Stewart,
but Milly had not forgotten him or his handwriting. Tims knew it too.
She restrained her excitement while Milly turned her back and stood by
the window reading the note. She must have read them several times
over, the two sides of the sheet inscribed with Stewart's small,
scholarly handwriting, before she turned her transfigured face towards
the anxiously expectant Tims.
Tims, dear, she said at length, smiling tremulously, and laying
tremulous hands on Tims's two thin shouldersdear old Tims, why
didn't you tell me?
Tell you what? asked Tims, grinning delightedly. Milly threw her
arms round her friend's neck and hid her happy tears and blushes
between Tims's ear and shoulder.
Mr. Stewartit seems too good to be truehe loves me, he really
does. He wants me to be his wife.
Most girls would have hugged and kissed Milly, and Tims did hug her,
but instead of kissing her, she banged and slapped her back and
shoulders hard all over, shaking the while with deep internal chuckles.
It hurt, but Milly did not mind, for it was sympathy. Presently she
drew herself away, and wiping her damp eyes, said, smiling shyly:
He's never guessed how much I care about him. I'm so glad. He says
he doesn't wonder at my hesitation and talks about others more worthy
to love me. But you know there isn't any one except Mr. Toovey. Poor
Mr. Toovey! I do hope I haven't behaved very badly to him.
Never mind Toovey, chuckled Tims. Anyhow, Milly, I've got a good
load off my mind. I didn't half like having put that other girl into
your boots. However, you've come back, and everything's going to be all
All right! breathed Milly. Why, Tims, darling, I never thought
any one in the world could be half so happy as I am.
And Tims left Milly to write the answer for which Ian Stewart was so
* * * * *
The engagement proceeded after the manner of engagements. No one was
surprised at it and every one was pleased. The little whirlpool of talk
that it created prevented Milly's ignorance of the events of the past
six or seven months from coming to the surface. She lay awake at night,
devising means of telling Ian about this strange blank in her life. But
she shrank from saying things that might make him suspect her of an
unsound mind. She had plainly been sane enough in her abnormal state,
and there was no doubt of her sanity now. She told him she had had
since the autumn, and still had, strange collapses of memory; and he
said that quite explained some peculiarities of her work. She tried to
talk to him about French experiments in hypnotism, and how it was said
sometimes to bring to light unsuspected sides of a personality. But he
laughed at hypnotism as a mixture of fraud and hysteria. So with many
searchings of heart, she dropped the subject.
She was staying at the Fletchers' and saw Ian every day. He was all
that she could wish as a lover, and it never occurred to her to ask
whether he felt all that he himself could have wished as such. He was
very fond of Milly and quite content with her, but not perfectly
content with himself. He supposed he must at bottom be one of those
ordinary and rather contemptible men who care more for the excitement
of the chase than for the object of it. But he felt sure he was really
a very lucky fellow, and determined not to give way to the
self-analysis which is always said to be the worst enemy of happiness.
Miss Flaxman had been the only woman in for Greats, and as a favor
she was taken first in viva voce. The questions were directed to
probing her actual knowledge in places where she had made one or two
amazing blunders. But she emerged triumphant, and went in good spirits
to Clewes, Aunt Beatrice's country home in the North, whither Ian
Stewart shortly followed her. Beyond the fact that she wore perforce
and with shame, not having money to buy others, frocks which Lady
Thomson disapproved, she was once more the adoring niece to whom her
aunt was accustomed. And Lady Thomson liked Ian. She never expected men
to share her fads.
In due time came the announcement of the First, bringing almost as
many congratulatory letters as the engagement. And on August 2d Milly
sailed for Australia, where she was to spend two or three months with
In October the newspapers announced that the marriage of Miss
Mildred Beatrice Flaxman, eldest daughter of the Dean of Stirling,
South Australia, with Mr. Ian Stewart, Fellow of Durham College,
Oxford, would take place at Oxford in the second week in December.
Madame dort toujours! The dark-eyed, cherry cheeked, white-capped
chamber-maid of the Hôtel du Chalet made the statement to the manager,
who occupied a glass case in the hall. She must have been very tired
yesterday, pauvre petite!
The manager answered phlegmatically in French with a German accent:
So much the better if she sleeps. She does not eat. When the
gentleman went out he wanted sanveeches to put in his pocket. One does
not want sanveeches when one sleeps.
All the same, I wish she would wake up. It's so odd to see her
sleeping like that, returned the cherry-cheeked one; and passed about
The déjeuner was over, and those guests who had not already
gone out for the day, were tramping about the bare, wooden passages and
staircase, putting on knitted gloves and shouting for their companions
and toboggans. But it was not till all had gone out and their voices
had died away on the clear, cold air, that the sleeper in No. 19 awoke.
For a while she lay with open eyes as still as though she were yet
sleeping. But suddenly she started up in bed and looked around her with
frowning, startled attention. She was in a rather large, bare bedroom
with varnished green wood-work and furniture and a green pottery stove.
There was an odd, thick paper on the wall, of no particular color, and
a painted geometrical pattern in the centre of the ceiling. It was a
neat room, on the whole, but on the bed beside her own a man's
waistcoat had been thrown, and in the middle of the floor a pair of
long, shabby slippers lay a yard apart from each other and upside down.
There were other little signs of masculine occupation. A startled
movement brought her sitting up on the bedside.
Married! she whispered to herself. How perfectly awful!
A fiery wave of anger that was almost hate swept through her veins,
anger against the unknown husband and against that other one who had
the power thus to dispose of her destiny, while she lay helpless in
some unfathomed deep between life and death. Swifter than light her
thoughts flew back to the last hours of consciousness which had
preceded that strange and terrible engulfment of her being. She
remembered that Mr. Stewart had tried to propose to her on the river
and that she had not allowed him to do so. Probably he had taken this
as a refusal. She knew nothing of any love of Milly's for him; only was
sure that he had not been in love with her, Mildred, when she first
knew him; therefore had not cared for her other personality. Who else
was possible? With an audible cry she sprang to her feet.
Toovey! Archibald Toovey!
The idea was monstrous, it was also grotesque; and even while she
plunged despairing fingers in her hair, she laughed so loud that she
might have been heard in the corridor.
Mrs. Archibald Toovey! Good Heavens! But that girl was perfectly
capable of it.
Then she became more than serious and buried her face in her hands,
If it is Mr. Toovey, she thought, I must go away at once,
wherever I am. I can't have been married long. I am sure to have some
money somewhere. I'll go to Tims. Oh, that brute! That idiot!she was
thinking of MillyHow I should like to strangle her!
She clinched her hands till the nails hurt her palms. Two
photographs, propped up on the top of a chest of drawers, caught her
eye. She snatched them. One was a wedding group, but there was no
bridegroom; only six bridesmaids. It was as bad as such things always
are, and it was evident that the dresses were ill-fitting, the hats
absurd. Tims was prominent among the bridesmaids, looking particularly
ugly. The other photograph might have seemed pretty to a less
prejudiced eye. It was that of a slight, innocent-looking girl in a
white satin gown, ungirt from throat to hem, and holding a sheaf of
lilies in her hand. Her hair was loose upon her shoulders, crowned with
a fragile garland and covered with a veil of fine lace.
What a Judy! commented Mildred, throwing the photograph fiercely
away from her. Fancy my being married in a dressing-gown and having
Tims for a bridesmaid! Sickening!
But her anxiety with regard to the bridegroom dominated even this
just indignation. Somehow, after seeing the photographs, she was
convinced he must be Archibald Toovey. She determined to fly at once.
The question was, where was she? Not in England, she fancied. The stove
had been thrice-heated by the benevolent cherry-cheeked one, and the
atmosphere of the room was stifling. This, together with the cold
outside, had combined to throw a gray veil across the window-panes. She
hastily put on a blue Pyrenean wool dressing-gown, flung open a
casement and leaned out into the wide sunshine, the iced-champagne air.
The window was only on the first floor, and she saw just beneath a
narrow, snowy strip of ground, on either side and below it
snow-sprinkled pinewoods falling, falling steeply, as it were, into
space. But far below the blue air deepened into a sapphire that must be
a lake, and beyond that gray cliffs, remote yet fairly clear in the
sunshine, rose streaked with the blue shadows of their own buttresses.
Above the cliffs, white and sharp and fantastic in their outline, snowy
mountain summits showed clear against the deep blue sky. Between them,
imperceptibly moving on its secular way, hung the glacier, a track of
vivid ultramarine and green, looking like a giant pathway to the stars.
Mildred guessed she was in Switzerland. She knew that it should be easy
to get back to England, yet for her with her peculiar inexperience of
life, it would not be easy. At any rate, she would dash herself down
some gray-precipice into that lake below rather than remain here as the
bride of Archibald Toovey. Just as she was registering a desperate vow
to that effect a man came climbing up the woodland way to the left, a
long-legged man in a knickerbocker suit and gaiters. He stepped briskly
out of the pinewood on to the snowy platform below, and seeing her at
the window, looked up, smiling, and waved his cap, with a cry of
Hullo, Milly! And it was not Archibald Toovey.
Mildred, relieved from the worst of fears, leaned from the window
towards him. A slanting ray caught the floating cloud of her amber
hair, her face glowed rosily, her eyes beamed on the new-comer, and she
broke into such an enchanting ripple of laughter as he had never heard
from those soft lips since it had been his privilege to kiss them. Then
something happened within him. Upon his lonely walk he had been
overcome by a depression against which he had every day been
struggling. He had been disappointed in his marriage, now some weeks
olddisappointed, that is, with himself, because of his own incapacity
for rapturous happiness. Yet a year ago on the ice at Oxford, six
months ago in the falling summer twilight on the river, under Wytham
Woods, he had thought himself as capable as any man of feeling the joys
and pains of love. In the sequel it had seemed that he was not; and
just as he had lost all hope of finding once again that buried treasure
of his heart, it had returned to him in one delightful moment, when he
stood as it were on the top of the world in the crisp, joyous Alpine
air, and his eyes met the eyes of his young wife, who leaned towards
him into the sunshine and laughed. He could not possibly have told how
long the golden vision endured; only that suddenly, precipitately, it
withdrew. A spirit in his feet sent him bounding up the bare, shallow
hotel stairs, two steps at a time, dropping on every step a cake of
snow from his boots, to melt and make pools on the polished wood. The
manager, who respected none of his guests except those who bullied him,
called out a reprimand, but received no apology.
Stewart strode with echoing tread down the corridor towards No. 19,
eager to hold that slender, girlish wife of his in his arms and to
press kisses on the lips that had laughed at him so sweetly from above.
The walls of the hotel were thin, and as he approached the door he
heard a quick, soft scurry across the room on the other side, and in
his swift thought saw Milly flying to meet him, just relieved from one
absurd anxiety about his safety and indulging another on the subject of
his wet feet. A smile of tender amusement visited his lips as he took
hold of the door-handle. Exactly as he touched it, the key on the other
side turned. The lock had been stiff, but it had shot out in the nick
of time, and he found himself brought up short in his impulsive career
and hurtling against a solid barrier. He knocked, but no one answered.
He could have fancied he heard panting breaths on the other side of the
Mayn't I come in, darling? he asked, gently, but with a shade of
reproach in his voice.
No, you can't, returned Milly's voice; hers, but with an accent of
coldness and decision in it which struck strangely on his ear. He
paused, bewildered. Then he remembered how often he had read that women
were capricious, unaccountable creatures. Milly had made him forget
that. Her attitude towards him had been one of unvarying gentleness and
devotion. Vaguely he felt that there was a kind of feminine charm in
this sudden burst of coldness, almost indifference.
Is anything the matter, dear? he asked. Aren't you well?
Quite well, thank you, came the curt voice through the door. Then
after a minute's hesitation: What do you want?
Ian smiled to himself as he answered:
My feet are wet. I want to change.
He was a delicate man, and if he had a foible which Milly could be
said to execrate, it was that of sitting in wet feet. He expected the
door to fly open; but it did nothing of the kind. There was not a trace
of anxiety in the grudging voice which replied, after a pause:
I suppose you want dry shoes and stockings. I'll give them to you
if you'll wait.
He stood bewildered, a little pained, not noticing the noisy opening
and shutting of several ill-fitting drawers in the room. Yet Milly
always put away his things for him and should have known where to find
them. The door opened a chink and the shoes and stockings came flying
through on to the passage floor. He had a natural impulse to use his
masculine strength, to push the door open before she could lock it
again, but fortunately he restrained it. He went down-stairs slowly,
shoes and stockings in hand; threw them down behind the big green stove
in the smoking-room and lighted a meditative pipe. It was evidently a
fact that women were difficult to understand; even Milly was. He had
been uniformly kind and tender to her, and so far she had seemed more
than content with him as a husband. But beneath this apparent happiness
of hers had some instinct, incomprehensible to him, been whispering to
her that he did not love her as many men, perhaps most, loved their
young wives? That he had felt for her no ardor, no worship? If so, then
the crisis had come at the right moment; at the moment when, by one of
those tricks of nature which make us half acquiesce in the belief that
our personality is an illusion, that we are but cosmic automata, the
power of love had been granted to him again. Yet for all thatvery
fortunately, seeing that the crisis was more acute than he was
awarehe did not fancy that his way lay plain before him. He began to
perceive that the cementing of a close union between a man and woman,
two beings with so abundant a capacity for misunderstanding each other,
is a complex and delicate affair. That to marry is to be a kind of
Odysseus advancing into the palace of a Circe, nobler and more humane
than the enchantress of old, yet capable also of working strange and
terrible transformations. That many go in there carrying in their hands
blossoms which they believe to be moly; but the true moly is not easy
to distinguish. And he hoped that he and Milly, in their different
ways, had found and were both wearing the milk-white flower. Yet he
knew that this was a matter which must be left to the arbitrament of
On their return to Oxford the young couple were fêted beyond the
common. People who had known Milly Flaxman in earlier days were
surprised to think how little they had noticed her beauty or guessed
what a fund of humor, what an extraordinary charm, had lurked beneath
the surface of her former quiet, grave manner. The Master of Durham
alone refused to be surprised. He merely affirmed in his short squeak
that he had always admired Mrs. Stewart very much. She was now
frequently to be found in the place of honor at those dinners of his,
where distinguished visitors from London brought the stir and color of
the great world into the austere groves, the rarefied atmosphere of
Wherever she appeared, the vivid personality of Mrs. Stewart made a
kind of effervescence which that indescribable entity, a vivid
personality, is sure to keep fizzing about it. She was devoutly
admired, fiercely criticised, and asked everywhere. It is true she had
quite given up her music, but she drew caricatures which were
irresistibly funny, and was a tremendous success in charades.
Everything was still very new to her, everything interesting and
amusing. She was enchanted with her house, although Milly and Lady
Thomson had chosen it, preferring to a villa in the Parks an old gray
house of the kind that are every day recklessly destroyed by the march
of modern vulgarity. She approved of the few and good pieces of old
furniture with which they had provided it; although Lady Thomson could
not entirely approve of the frivolity and extravagance of the chintzes
with which she helped the sunshine to brighten the low, panelled rooms.
But Aunt Beatrice, girt with principles major and minor, armed with so
Procrustean a measure for most of her acquaintance, accepted Mildred's
deviations with an astonishing ease. The secret of personal magnetism
is not yet discovered. It may be that the aura surrounding each
of us is no mystic vision of the Neo-Buddhists, but a physical fact;
that Mildred's personality acted by a power not moral but physical on
the nerves of those who approached her, exciting those of some, of the
majority, pleasurably, filling others with a nameless uneasiness, to
account for which they must accuse her manners or her character.
To Ian Stewart the old panelled house with the walled garden behind,
where snowdrops and crocuses pushed up under budding orchard boughs,
was a paradise beyond any he had imagined. He found Mildred the most
adorable of wives, the most interesting of companions. Her defects as a
housekeeper, which Aunt Beatrice noted in silence but with surprise,
were nothing to him. He could not help pausing sometimes even in the
midst of his work, to wonder at his own good fortune and to reflect
that whatever the future might have in store, he would have no right to
complain, since it had been given to him to know the taste of perfect
Since his marriage he had been obliged to take more routine work,
and the Long Vacation had become more valuable to him than ever. As
soon as he had finished an Examination he had undertaken, he meant to
devote the time to the preparation of a new book which he had in his
mind. Mildred, seemingly as eager as himself that the book should be
done, had at first agreed. Then some of her numerous friends had
described the pleasures of Dieppe, and she was seized with the idea
that they too might go there. Ian, she said, could work as well at
Dieppe as at Oxford or in the country. Ian knew better; besides, his
funds were low and Dieppe would cost too much. For the first time he
opposed Mildred's wishes, and to her surprise she found him perfectly
firm. There was no quarrel, but although she was silent he felt that
she did not yield her opinion and was displeased with him.
Late at night as he sat over Examination papers, his sensitive
imagination framed the accusations of selfishness, pedantry,
scrupulosity, which his wife might be bringing against him in the
sessions of silent thought; although it was clearly to her advantage
as much as to his own that he should keep out of money difficulties and
do work which counted. She had no fixed habits, and he flung down pipe
and pen, hoping to find her still awake. But she was already sound
asleep. The room was dark, but he saw her by the illumination of
distant lightning, playing on the edge of a dark and sultry world. His
appointed task was not yet done and he returned to the study, a long,
low, dark-panelled room, looking on the garden. The windows were wide
open on the hushed, warm, almost sulphurous darkness, from which frail
white-winged moths came floating in towards the shaded lamp on his
writing-table. He sat down to his papers and by an effort of will
concentrated his mind upon them. Habit had made such concentration easy
to him as a rule, but to-night, after half an hour of steady work, he
was mastered by an invading restlessness of mind and body. The cause
was not far to seek; he could hear all the time he worked the dull,
almost continuous, roar of distant thunder. All else was very still, it
was long past midnight and the town was asleep.
He got up and paced the room once or twice, grasping his
extinguished pipe absently in his hand. Suddenly a blast seemed to
spring out of nowhere and rush madly round the enclosed garden, tossing
the gnarled and leafy branches of the old orchard trees and dragging at
the long trails of creepers on wall and trellis. It blew in at the
windows, hot as from the heart of the thunder-cloud, and waved the
curtains before it. It rushed into the very midst of the old house with
its cavernous chimneys, deep cellars, and enormous unexplored walls,
filling it with strange, whispering sounds, as of half articulate
voices, here menacing, there struggling to reveal some sinister and
vital secret. The blast died away, but it seemed to have left those
voices still muttering and sighing through the walls that had sheltered
so many generations, such various lives of men. Ian was used to the
creaking and groaning of the wood-work; he knew how on the staircase
the rising of the boards, which had been pressed down in the day,
simulated ghostly footsteps in the night. He was in his mental self the
most rational of mortals, but at times the Highland strain in his
blood, call it sensitive or superstitious, spoke faintly to his
nervesnever before so strongly, so over-masteringly as to-night. A
blue blaze of crooked lightning zigzagged down the outer darkness and
seemed to strike the earth but a little beyond the garden wall.
Following on its heels a tremendous clap of thunder burst, as it were,
on the very chimneys. The solid house shook to its foundations. But the
tide of horrible, irrational fear which swept over Ian's whole being
was not caused by this mere exaggerated commonplace of nature. He could
give no guess what it was that caused it; he only knew that it was
agony. He knew what it meant to feel the hair lift on his head; he knew
what the Psalmist meant when he said, My bones are turned to water.
And as he stood unable to move, afraid to turn his head, abject and
ashamed of his abjectness, he was listening, listening for he knew not
At length it came. He heard the stairs creak and a soft padding
footstep coming slowly down them; with it the brush of a light garment
and intermittently a faint human sound between a sigh and a sob. He did
not reflect that he could not really have heard such slight sounds
through a thick stone wall and a closed door. He heard them. The steps
stopped at the door; a hand seemed feeling to open it, and again there
was a painful sigh. The physical terror had not passed from him, but
the sudden though that it was his wife and that she was frightened or
ill, made him able to master it. He seized the lamp, because he knew
the light in the hall was extinguished, rushed to the door, opened it
and looked out. There was no one there. He made a hasty but sufficient
search and returned to the study.
The extremity of his fear was now passed, but an unpleasantly eery
feeling still lingered about him and he had a very definite desire to
find himself in some warm, human neighborhood. He had left the door
open and was arranging the papers on his writing-table, when once again
he heard those soft padding feet on the stairs; but this time they were
much heavier, more hurried, and stumbled a little. He stood bent over
the table, a bundle of papers in his hand, no longer overcome by mortal
terror, yet somehow reluctant once more to look out and to see once
morenothing. There was a sound outside the door, louder, hoarser than
the faint sob or sigh which he had heard before, and he seized the lamp
and turned towards it. Before he had made a step forward, the door was
pushed violently back and his wife came in, leaning upon it as though
she needed support. She was barefooted and dressed only in a long
night-gown, white, yet hardly whiter than her face. Her eyes did not
turn towards him, they stared in front of her, not with the fixed gaze
of an ordinary sleep-walker, but with purpose and intensity. She seemed
to see something, to pursue something, with starting eyes and
out-stretched arms; something she hated even more than she feared it,
for her lips were blanched and tightened over her teeth as though with
fury, and her smooth white forehead gathered in a frown. Again she
uttered that low, fierce sound, like that he had heard outside the
door. Then, loosing the handle on which she had leaned, she half
sprung, half staggered, with uplifted hand, towards an open window,
beyond which the rush of the thunder shower was just visible, sloping
pallidly across the darkness. She leaned out into it and uttered to the
night a hoarse, confused voice, words inchoate, incomprehensible, yet
with a terrible accent of rage, of malediction. This transformation of
his wife, so refined, so self-contained, into a creature possessed by
an almost animal fury, struck Ian with horror, although he accepted it
as a phenomenon of somnambulism. He approached but did not touch her,
for he had heard that it was dangerous to awaken a somnambulist. Her
voice sank rapidly to a loud whisper and he heard her articulateMy
husband! Mine! Mine!but in no tone of tenderness, rather pronouncing
the words as a passionate claim to his possession. Then suddenly she
drooped, half kneeling on the deep window-seat, half fallen across the
sill. He sprang to catch her, but not before her forehead had come down
sharply on the stone edge of the outer window. He kneeled upon the
window-seat and gathered her gently in his arms, where she lay quiet,
but moaning and shuddering.
My husband! she wailed, no longer furious now but despairing.
Ian! My love! Ian! My life!my life! My own husband!
Even in this moment it thrilled him to hear such words from her
lips. He had not thought she loved him so passionately. He lifted her
on to a deep old sofa at the end of the room, wrapped her in a warm
Oriental coverlet which hung there, and held her to his heart,
murmuring love and comfort in her cold little ear. It seemed gradually
to soothe her, although he did not think she really awoke. Then he put
her down, lighted the lamp outside, and, not without difficulty,
carried her up to bed. Her eyes were half closed when he laid her down
and drew the bedclothes over her; and a minute or two later, when he
looked in from his dressing-room, she was evidently asleep.
When he got into bed she did not stir, and while he lay awake for
another hour, she remained motionless and breathing regularly. He
assured himself that the whole curious occurrence could be explained by
the electrical state of the atmosphere, which had affected his own
nerves in a way he would never humiliate himself by confessing to any
one. Those mysterious footsteps on the stairs which he had heard,
footsteps like his wife's yet not hers; that hand upon the door, that
voice of sighs, were the creation of his own excited brain. In time he
would doubtless come to believe his own assurances on the point, but
that night at the bottom of his heart he did not believe them.
Next morning, if Ian himself slept late, Milly slept later still.
The strained and troubled look which he had seen upon her face even in
sleep the night before, had passed away in the morning, but she lay
almost alarmingly still and white. He was reassured by remembering that
once when they were in Switzerland she had slept about sixteen hours
and awakened in perfect health. He remained in the house watching over
her, and about four o'clock she woke up. But she was very pale and very
quiet; exhausted, he thought, by her strange mental and physical
exertions of the night before.
She came down to tea with her pretty hair unbecomingly twisted up,
and dressed in a brownish-yellow tea-gown, which he fancied he
remembered hearing her denounce as only fit to be turned into a
table-cloth. He did not precisely criticise these details, but they
helped in the impression of lifelessness and gloom that hung about her.
It was a faint, gleamy afternoon, and such sun as there was did not
shine into the study. The dark panelling looked darker than usual, and
as she sat silent and listless in a corner of the old sofa, her hair
and face stood out against it almost startling in their blondness and
whiteness. She was strangely unlike herself, but Stewart comforted
himself by remembering that she had been odd in her manner and
behavior, though in a different way, after her long sleep in
Switzerland. After he had given her tea, he suggested that they should
walk in the garden, as the rain was over.
Not yet, Ian, she said. I want to try and tell you something. I
can do it better here.
Her mouth quivered. He sat down by her on the sofa.
Must you tell me now? he asked, smiling. Do you really think it
Yesit does matter, she answered, tremulously, pressing her
folded hands against her breast. It's something I ought to have told
you before you married mebut indeed, indeed I didn't know how
dreadful it wasI didn't think it would happen again.
He was puzzled a moment, then spoke, still smiling:
I suppose you mean the sleep-walking. Well, darling, it is a bit
creepy, I admit, but I shall get used to it, if you won't do it too
Did I really walk? she askedand a look of horror was growing on
her face. Ah! I wasn't sure. Noit's not thatit isoh, don't think
me mad, Ian!
Tell me, dearest. I promise I won't.
I've not been here at all since you've been living in this house.
I've not seen you, my own precious husband, since I went to sleep in
Switzerland, at the Hôtel du Chaletdon't you rememberwhen we had
been that long walk up to the glacier and I was so tired?
Stewart was exceedingly startled. He paused, and then said, very
gently but very firmly:
That's nonsense, dearest. You have been here, you've been with me
all the time.
Ah! You think so, but it was not Ino, don't interrupt
meI mean to tell you, I must, but I can't if you interrupt me. It was
awfully wrong of me not to tell you before; but I tried to, and then I
saw you wouldn't believe me. Do you remember a dinner-party at the
Fletchers', the autumn before we were engagedwhen Cousin David had
just bought that picture?
That portrait of Lady Hammerton, which is so like you? Yes, I
remember it perfectly.
You know I wanted my First so much and I had been working too hard,
and then I was told that evening that you had said I couldn't get it
And I felt certain you didn't love me
Don't interrupt me, please. And I wasn't well, and I cried and
cried and I couldn't leave off, and then I allowed Tims to hypnotize
me. We both knew she had no business to do it, it was wrong of us, of
course, but we couldn't possibly guess what would happen. I went to
sleep, and so far as I knew I never woke again for more than six
months, not till the Schools were over.
But, my darling, I skated with you constantly in the Christmas
Vacation, and took your work through the Term. I assure you that you
were quite awake then.
I remember nothing about it. All I know is that some one got my
First for me.
Why do you call me Mildred? That's what they called me when I woke
up last time; but my own name's Milly.
Stewart rose and paced the room, then came back.
It's simply a case of collapse of memory, dear. It's very trying,
but don't let's be fanciful about it.
I thought it was only thatI told you, didn't I, something of that
sort? But I didn't know then, nobody told me, that I wasn't like myself
at all those months I couldn't remember. Last night in my sleep I
knewI knew that some one else, something elseI can't describe it,
it's impossiblewas struggling hard with me in my own brain, my own
body, trying to hold me down, to push me back again into the place,
whatever it was, I came out of. But I got stronger and stronger till I
was quite myself and the thing couldn't really stop me. I dare say it
only lasted a few seconds, then I felt quite freefree from the
struggle, the pressure; and I saw myself standing in the room, with
some kind of white floating stuff over my head and about me, and I saw
myself open the door and go out of the room. I wasn't a bit surprised,
but I just lay there quiet and peaceful. Then suddenly it came to me
that I couldn't have seen myself, that the person, the figure I had
seen go out of the door was the other one, the creature I had been
struggling with, who had stolen my shape; and it came to me that she
was gone to steal youto steal your heart from me and take you away;
and you wouldn't know, you would think it was I, and you would follow
her and love her and never know it was not your own wife you were
loving. And I was mad with anger; I never knew before what it meant,
Ian, to be as angry as that. I struggled hard to get up, and at last I
managed it, and I came down-stairs after her, but I couldn't find her,
and I was sure that she had gone and had taken you away with her. And
you say I really did come down-stairs.
Yes, darling, and if you had been awake instead of asleep, as you
obviously were, you would have seen that this nightmare of yours was
nothing but a nightmare. You would have seen that I was alone here,
quietly arranging my papers before going to bed. You gave me a fright
coming down as you did, for there was a tremendous thunderstorm going
on, and I am ashamed to say how queer my own nerves were. The
electrical state of the atmosphere and a very loud clap of thunder just
overhead, account for the whole business, which probably lasted only a
few seconds from beginning to end. Be reasonable, little woman, you are
generally the most reasonable person I knowexcept when you talk about
going to Dieppe.
Milly gave him a strange look.
Why am I not reasonable when I talk about going to Dieppe?
He drew her to him and kissed her hair.
Never mind why. We aren't going to excite ourselves to-day or do
anything but make love and forget nightmares and everything
She drew herself away a little and looked with frightened eyes in
But I can't forget, Ian, that I don't remember anything that has
happened since we were on our honeymoon in Switzerland. And now we are
in Oxford, and I can see it's quite late in the summer. How can I
forget that somehow I am being robbed of myselfrobbed of my life with
Wait till to-morrow and you'll remember everything right enough.
But Milly was not to be convinced. She was willing to submit on the
question of last night's experiences, but she assured him that Tims
would bear her out in the assertion that she had never recovered her
recollection of the months preceding her engagement. Ian ceased trying
to convince her that she was mistaken on this point; but he argued that
the memory was of all functions of the brain the most uncertain, that
there was no limit to its vagaries, which were mere matters of nerves
and circulation, and that Dr. Norton-Smith, the nerve and brain
specialist to whom he would take her, would probably turn out to have a
dozen patients subject to the same affliction as herself. One never
hears of half the ills that flesh is heir to until the inheritance
falls to one's own lot.
Milly was a common-sense young woman, and his explanation,
especially as it was his, pacified her for the time. The clouds had
been rolling away while they talked, the space of deep blue sky
overhead growing larger, the sunshine fuller. There was a busy
twittering and shaking of little wings in the tall pear-tree near the
house, where the tomtits in their varied liveries loved to congregate.
July was not far advanced and the sun had still some hours in which to
shine. Ian and Milly went out and walked in the Parks. The tennis-club
lawns were almost deserted, but they met a few acquaintances taking
their constitutional, like themselves, and an exchange of ordinary
remarks with people who took her normality for granted, helped Milly to
believe in it herself. So long as the blank in her memory continued,
she could not be free from care; but she went to sleep that night in
Ian's arms, feeling herself protected by them not only from bodily
harm, but from all those dreadful fears and evil fantasies that do
assault and hurt the soul.
Ian had been so busy persuading Milly to view her own case as a
simple one, and so busy comforting her with an almost feminine
intuition of what would really afford her comfort, that it was only in
the watches of the night that certain disquieting recollections forced
their way into his mind. It was of course now part of his creed that he
had loved Milly Flaxman from the firstonly he had never known her
well till that Christmas Vacation when they had skated so much
together. Later on, such disturbing events as engagement and marriage
had seemed to him enough to explain any changes he had observed in her.
Later still, he had been too much in love to think about her at all, in
the true sense of the word. She had been to him all a wonder and a
Now, taking the dates of her collapses of memory, he made, despite
himself, certain notes on those changes. It is to be feared he did not
often want to see Miss Timson; but on the day after Milly's return to
the world, he cycled out to visit her friend. Tims was spending the
summer on the wild and beautiful ridge which has since become a suburb
of Oxford. It was doubtful whether he would find her in, as she was
herself a mighty cyclist, making most of her journeys on the wheel,
happy in the belief that she was saving money at the expense of the
The time of flowers, the freshness of trees, and the glory of gorse
and broom was over. It was the season of full summer when the midlands,
clothed with their rich but sheenless mantle of green, wear a
self-satisfied air, as of dull people conscious of deserved prosperity.
But just as the sea or a mountain or an adventurous soul will always
lend an element of the surprising and romantic to the commonest corner
of earth, so the sky will perpetually transfigure large spaces of level
country, valley or plain, laid open to its capricious influences. Boars
Hill looks over the wide valley of the narrow Og to the downs, and up
to where that merges into the valley of the Upper Thames. By the sandy
track which Ian followed, the tree still stood, though no longer alone,
whence the poet of Thyrsis looking northward, saw the fair city
with her dreaming spires; less fair indeed to-day than when he looked
upon it, but still lovely all times, in all its fleeting shades,
whether blond and sharp-cut in the sunshine or dimly gray among its
veiling trees. The blue waving line of the downs, crowned here and
there by clumps of trees, ran far along the southwestern horizon,
melting vaporously in the distance above the Vale, the three lone
weirs, the youthful Thames. Over the downs and over the wide valley of
ripening cornfields, of indigo hedgerow-elms and greener willow and
woodland, of red-roofed homesteads and towered churches, moved slowly
the broad shadows of rolling clouds that journeyed through the intense
blue above. Some shadows were like veils of pale gray gauze, through
which the world showed a delicately softened face; others were dark,
with a rich, indefinable hue of their own, and as they moved, the earth
seemed to burst into a deeper glow of color behind them. Close by, the
broken hill-side was set here and there with oak and thorn, was
everywhere deep in bracken, on whose large fronds lay the bluish bloom
of their maturity. It all gained a definiteness of form, an air of
meaning by its detachment from the wide background floating behind.
Following steep and circuitous lanes, Ian arrived at the
lodging-house and found Tims on the porch preparing to start on her
bicycle. But flattered and surprised by his visit, she ordered tea in
the bright little sitting-room she was inhabiting. He was shy of
approaching the real object of his visit. They marked time awhile till
the thunderstorm became their theme. Then he told something of Milly's
sleep-walking, her collapse of memory; and watched Tims meantime,
hoping to see in her face merely surprise and concern. But there was no
surprise, hardly concern in the queer little face. There was
excitement, and at last a flash of positive pleasure.
Good old M.! she observed. I'm glad she has got back; though I'm
a bit proud of the other one too. I expect you feel much the same, old
boy, don't you?
The speech was the reverse of soothing, even to its detail of old
boy. He looked at his teacup and drew his black brows together.
I'm afraid I don't understand, Miss Timson. I suppose you think it
a joke, but to me it seems rather a serious matter.
Of course it is; uncommon serious, returned Tims, too much
interested in her subject to consider the husband's feelings. Bless
you! I don't want to be responsible for it. At first I thought
it was a simple case of a personality evolved by hypnotism; but if so
it would have depended on the hypnotist, and you see it didn't after
I don't think we need bother about hypnotismthere was a note of
impatience in Ian's voiceit's just a case of collapse of memory. But
as you were with her the first time it happened, I want to know exactly
how far the collapse went. There were signs of it every now and then in
her work, but on the whole it improved.
You never can tell what will happen in these cases, said Tims.
She remembered her book-learning pretty well, but she forgot her own
name, and as to people and things that had happened, she was like a
new-born babe. If I hadn't nursed her through she'd have been sent to a
lunatic asylum. But it wasn't that, after all, that made it so
exciting. It was the difference between Milly's two personalities. You
don't mean to say, old chap, you've lived with her for seven months and
can't see the difference?
Tims looked at him. She held strong theoretical views as to the
stupidity of the male, but circumstances had seldom before allowed her
to put them to the test. Behold them more than justified; for Ian was
far above the average in intelligence. He, for a fraction of a minute,
paused, deliberately closing the shutter of his mind against an
unpleasant search-light that shot back on the experiences of his
courtship and marriage.
Well, I suppose I'm not imaginative, he returned, with a dry
laugh. I only see certain facts about her memory and want more of
them, to tell Norton-Smith when I take her up to see him.
Norton-Smith! exclaimed Tims. What is the good? Englishmen are
all right when it's a question of filling up the map of Africa, but
they're no good on the dark continent of ourselves. They're cowards.
That's what's the matter with them. Don't go to Norton-Smith.
Stewart made an effectual effort to overcome his irritation. He
ought to have known better than to turn to an oddity like Tims for
advice and sympathy.
Whom ought I to go to, then? he asked, good-humoredly, and looking
particularly long as he rose from the depths of the low wicker chair.
A medicine-man with horns and a rattle?
Well, returned Tims with deliberation, pulling on a pair of thread
gloves, I dare say he could teach Norton-Smith a thing or two. Mind
you, I'm not talking spiritualistic rot; I'm talking scientific facts,
which every one knows except the English scientific men, who keep on
clapping their glass to the blind eye like a lot of clock-work Nelsons.
The effects of hypnotism are as much facts as the effects of a bottle
of whiskey. But Milly's case is different. In my opinion she's
developed an independent double personality. It's an inconvenient state
of things, but I don't suppose it'll last forever. One or the other
will get stronger and 'hold the fort.' But it's rather a bad business
anyhow. Tims paused and sighed, drawing on the other glove. I'mI'm
fond of them both myself, and I expect you'll feel the same, when you
see the difference.
Ian laughed awkwardly, his brown eyes fixed scrutinizingly upon her.
So long as the fort holds somebody, I sha'n't worry, he said,
They went out, and as he led his own bicycle towards the upper
track, Tims spun down the steep drive, and, turning into the lane,
kissed her hand to him in farewell from under the brim of her
perennially crooked hat.
That Timson girl's more than queer, he mused to himself, going on.
There's a streak of real insanity in her. I'm afraid it's not been
good for a highly strung creature like Mildred to see so much of her;
and why on earth did she?
He tried to clear his mind of Tims's fantastic suggestions; of
everything, indeed, except the freshness of the air rushing past him,
the beauty of the wide view, steeped in the romance of distance. But
memory, that strange, recalcitrant, mechanical slave of ours, kept
diving, without connivance of his, into the recesses of the past twenty
months of his life, and presenting to him unsolicited, circumstances,
experiences, which he had thrust away unclassifiedhis own surprise,
almost perplexity, when Mildred had brought him work for the first time
after her illness that autumn Term before last; his disappointment and
even boredom in his engagement and the first three weeks of his
marriage; then the change in his own feelings after her long sleep at
the Hôtel du Chalet; besides a score of disquieting trifles which meant
nothing till they were strung on a thread. He felt himself beginning to
be infected with Flora Timson's mania against his will, against his
sober judgment; and he spun down Bagley Hill at a runaway speed, only
saved by a miracle from collision with a cart which emerged from
Hincksey Lane at the jolting pace with which the rustic pursues his
Milly, too, had not been without a sharp reminder that the leaves in
her life so blank to her, had been fully inscribed by another. She
hardly yet felt mistress of the house, but it was pleasant to rest and
read in the low, white-panelled drawing-room, which lowered awnings
kept cool, although the afternoon sun struck a golden shaft across the
flowering window-boxes of its large and deeply recessed bow-window. The
whole room was lighter and more feminine than Milly would have made it,
but at bottom the taste that reigned there was more severe than her
own. The only pictures on the panels were a few eighteenth century
colored prints, already charming, soon to be valuable, and one or two
framed pieces of needlework which harmonized with them.
Presently the door-bell rang and a Mr. Fitzroy was announced by the
parlor-maid, in a tone which implied that she was accustomed to his
name. He looked about the age of an undergraduate and was
extraordinarily well-groomed, in spite of, or perhaps because of, being
in a riding-dress. His sleek dark hair was neatly parted in the middle
and he was clean shaven, when to be so smacked of the stage; but his
manners and expression smacked of nothing of the kind.
I'm awfully glad to find you at home, Mrs. Stewart, he said. I've
been lunching at the Morrisons', and, you know, I'm afraid there's
going to be a row.
The Morrisons? They lived outside Oxford, and Milly knew them by
sight, that was all.
What about? she asked, kindly, thinking the young man had come for
help, or at least sympathy, in some embarrassment of his own.
Why, about your acting Galatea. Jim Morrison's been a regular fool
about it. He'd no business to take it for granted that that was the
part I wanted Mrs. Shaw for. Now it appears she's telling every one
that she's been asked to play the lead at the Besselsfield theatricals;
and, by Jove, he says she is to, too!
Milly went rather pale and then quite pink.
Then of course I couldn't think of taking the part, she said,
gasping with relief at this providential escape.
Mr. Fitzroy in his turn flushed. He had an obstinate chin and the
cares of stage-management had already traced a line right across his
smooth forehead. It deepened to a furrow as he leaned forward out of
his low wicker chair, clutching the pair of dogskin gloves which he
held in his hand.
Oh, come, I say now, Mrs. Stewart! and his voice and eye were
surprisingly stern for one so young. That's not playing fair. You
promised me you'd see me through this show, and you know as well as I
do, Mrs. Shaw can no more act than those fire-irons.
But I Milly was about to say I've never acted in my lifewhen
she remembered that she knew less than any one in her acquaintance what
she had or had not done in that recent life which was not hers. I
shouldn't act Galatea at all well, she substituted lamely; and I
shouldn't look the part nearly as well as Mrs. Shaw will.
Excuse me, Mrs. Stewart, but I'm certain you're simply cut out for
it all round, and you told me the other day you were particularly
anxious to play it. You promised you'd stick to me through thick and
thin and not care a twopennyI mean a strawwhat Jim Morrison and
In the stress of conversation they had neither of them noticed the
tinkle of the front-door bell. Now the door of the room, narrow and in
the thickness of an enormous wall, was thrown open and Mrs. Shaw was
Fitzroy, forgetful of manners in his excitement, stooped forward and
gripping Milly's arm almost hissed:
Remember! You've promised me.
The words filled Milly with misery. That any one should be able to
accuse her of breaking a promise, however unreal her responsibility for
it, was horrible to her.
Mrs. Shaw entered, no longer the seraph of twenty months ago. She
had latterly put off the æsthetic raiment she had worn with such
peculiar grace, and her dress and coiffure were quite in the fashion of
the hour. The transformation somewhat shocked Milly, who could never
help feeling a slight austere prejudice against fashionably dressed
woman. Then, considering how little she knew Mrs. Shaw, it was
embarrassing to be kissed by her.
It's odd I should find you here, Mr. Fitzroy, said Mrs. Shaw,
settling her rustling skirts on a chintzy chair. I've just come to
talk to Mrs. Stewart about the acting. I'm so sorry there's been a
misunderstanding about it.
Her tone was civil but determined, and there was a fighting look in
So am I, Mrs. Shaw, most uncommonly sorry, returned Fitzroy,
patting his sleek hair and feeling that his will was adamant, however
pretty Mrs. Shaw might be.
Of course, I shouldn't have thought of taking the part away from
Mrs. Stewart, she resumed, glancing at Milly, not without meaning,
but Mr. Morrison asked me to take it quite a fortnight ago. I've
learned most of it and rehearsed two scenes already with him. He says
they go capitally, and we both think it seems rather a pity to waste
all that labor and change the part now.
Fitzroy cast a look at Mrs. Stewart which was meant to call up
reinforcements from that quarter; but as she sat there quite silent, he
cleared his throat and begun:
It's an awful bore, of course, but I fancy it's about three weeks
or a month since I first asked Mrs. Stewart to play the leadisn't it,
Milly muttered assent, horribly suspecting a lie. A flash of
indignant scorn from Mrs. Shaw confirmed the suspicion.
Mrs. Stewart said something quite different when I spoke to her
about it at tennis on Friday. Didn't you, Mildred? she asked.
Did I? she stammered. I'm afraid I've got a dreadfully bad
memoryforfor dates of that kind.
Mrs. Shaw smiled coldly. Mr. Fitzroy felt himself deceived in Mrs.
Stewart as an ally. He had counted on her promised support, on her wit
and spirit to carry him through, and her conduct was simply cowardly.
The fact is, Mrs. Shaw, he said, Jim Morrison's not bossing this
show at all. That's where the mistake has come in. My aunt, Lady
Wolvercote, is a bit of an autocrat, don't you know, and she doesn't
like us fellows to arrange things on our own account. If she knew you
I'm sure she'd see what a splendid Galatea you'd make, but as it is
she's set her heart on getting Mrs. Stewart from the very first.
Had he stopped here his position would have been good, but an
indignant instinct, urging him to push the reluctant Mrs. Stewart into
the proper place of womanthat natural shield of man against all the
social disagreeables he brings on himselfmade Fitzroy rush into the
My aunt told you so at the Masonic; didn't she, Mrs. Stewart?
Milly, under the young man's imperious eye, assented feebly, but
Mrs. Shaw laughed. She perfectly remembered Mildred having mentioned on
that very occasion that she did not know Lady Wolvercote by sight.
I'm afraid I've come just a few minutes too soon, she said, dryly.
You and Mr. Fitzroy don't seem to have talked things over quite
The saying was dark and yet too clear. Milly, the meticulously
truthful, saw herself convicted of some horrible falsehood. She blushed
violently, gasped, and rolled her handkerchief into a tight ball. Mr.
Fitzroy ignoring the insinuation, changed his line.
The part we really wanted you to take, Mrs. Shaw, was that of a
nymph in an Elizabethan masque which Lumley has written, with music by
Stephen Bampton. It's to be played in the rose garden and there's a
chorus of nymphs who sing and dance. We want them to look perfectly
lovely, don't you know, and as there can't be any make-up to speak of,
it's awfully difficult to find the right people.
Mrs. Shaw disdained the lure and mentally condemned his anxiously
civil manner as soapy.
I shall ask Mr. Morrison to go to Lady Wolvercote at once, she
said, and see whether she really wishes me to give up the part. Time's
getting on, and he says he won't be able to have many more rehearsals.
There was a sound as of a carriage stopping in the street below, the
jingling of bits, and a high female voice giving an order. Fitzroy,
inwardly exasperated by Mrs. Shaw's resistance and the abject conduct
of his ally, sprang to his feet.
I believe that's my aunt! he exclaimed. She wants me to call at
Blenheim on the way home, and I suppose the Morrisons told her where I
He managed to slip his head out between the edge of an awning and
the mignonette and geraniums of a window-box.
It's my aunt, right enough. May I fetch her up, Mrs. Stewart? He
was down the stairs in a moment and voluble in low-voiced colloquy with
the lady in the barouche.
Lady Wolvercote was organizing the great fancy fair for the benefit
of the County Cottage Hospitals, and had left the dramatic part of the
programme to her nephew to arrange. She was a tall, slight woman, of
the usual age for aunts, and pleasant to every one; but she took it for
granted that every one would do as she wishednaturally, since they
always did in her neighborhood. As she stumbled up the stairs after
Charlie Fitzroyit was a dark staircase and narrow in proportion to
its massive oak balustersshe felt faintly annoyed with him for
dragging her into the quarrels of his middle-class friends, but
confident that she could manage them without the least trouble.
Milly was relieved at the return of Mr. Fitzroy with his aunt. She
had had an unhappy five minutes with Mrs. Shaw, who had been saying
cryptic but unpleasant things and calling her Mildred; whereas she
did not so much as know Mrs. Shaw's Christian name.
Seeing Mrs. Shaw, beautiful, animated, well-dressed, and Milly
neatly clothed, since her clothes were not of her own choosing, but
with her hair unbecomingly knotted, the brightness of her eyes,
complexion, and expression in eclipse, Lady Wolvercote wondered at her
nephew's choice. But that was his affair. She began to talk in a rather
high-pitched voice and continuously, like one whose business it is to
talk; so that it was difficult to interrupt without rudeness.
So you're going to be kind enough to act Galatea for us at our
fancy fair, Mrs. Stewart? We want it to be a great success, and Lord
Wolvercote and I have heard so much about your acting. My nephew said
the part of Galatea would suit you exactly; didn't you, Charlie?
Down to the ground, interpolated, or rather accompanied, Fitzroy.
We shall have the placards out on Wednesday, and people are looking
forward already to seeing Mrs. Stewart. There'll be a splendid
Every one has promised to fill their houses for the fair, Lady
Wolvercote was continuing, and the Duke thinks he may be able to get
down , she mentioned a royalty. You're going to help us too,
aren't you, Mrs. Shaw? It's so very kind of you. We've got such a
pretty part for you in a musical affair which Lenny Lumley wrote with
somebody or other for the Duchess of Ulster's Elizabethan bazaar.
There's a chorus of fairiesnymphs, Charlie? Yes, nymphs, and we want
them all to be very pretty and able to sing, and there's a charming
dance for them. I'm afraid that silly boy, Jim Morrison, made some
mistake about it, and told you we wanted you to act Galatea. But of
course we couldn't possibly do without you in the other thing, and Mrs.
Stewart seems quite pointed out for that Galatea part. Jim's such a
dear, isn't he? And such a splendid actor, every one says he really
ought to go on the stage. But we none of us pay the least attention to
anything the dear boy says, for he always does manage to get things
Mrs. Shaw had been making little movements preparatory to going. She
had no gift for the stage except beauty, but that produces an illusion
of success, and she took her acting with the seriousness of a Duse.
I'm sorry I didn't know Mr. Morrison's habits better, she replied.
I've been studying the part of Galatea a good deal and rehearsing it
with him as well. Of course, I don't for a moment wish to prevent Mrs.
Stewart from taking it, but I've spent a good deal of time upon it and
I'm afraid I can't undertake anything else. Of course, it's very
inconvenient stopping in Oxford in August, and I shouldn't care to do
it except for the sake of a part which I felt gave me a real
But it's a very pretty part we've got for you, resumed Lady
Wolvercote, perplexed. And we were hoping to see you over at
Besselsfield a good deal for rehearsals
It seemed to her a part of nature's holy plan that the prospect of
Besselsfield should prove irresistibly attractive to the wives of
Thanks, so much, but I'm sure you and Mr. Fitzroy must know plenty
of girls who would do for that sort of part, returned Mrs. Shaw.
Milly here broke in eagerly:
Please, Lady Wolvercote, do persuade Mrs. Shaw to take Galatea; I'm
sure I sha'n't be able to do it a bit; and I would try and take the
nymph. I should love the music, and I know I could do the singing,
She rose because Mrs. Shaw had risen and was looking for her parasol
and shaking out her plumes. But why did Mr. Fitzroy and Mrs. Shaw both
stare at her in an unvarnished surprise, touched with ridicule on the
No, no, Mrs. Stewart, that won't do! cried he, in obvious dismay.
At the same moment Mrs. Shaw ejaculated, ironically:
That's very brave of you Mildred! I thought you hated music and
were never going to try to sing again.
She and Fitzroy had both been present on an occasion when Mildred,
urged on by Milly's musical reputation, had committed herself to an
experiment in song which had not been successful.
Thank you very much, Mrs. Shaw went on, for offering to change,
but of course Lady Wolvercote must arrange things as she likes; and, to
speak frankly, I'm not particularly sorry to give the acting up, as my
husband was rather upset at my not being able to go to Switzerland with
him on the 28th. No, please don't trouble; I can let myself out.
Good-bye, Lady Wolvercote; I hope the fair and the theatricals will be
a great success. Good-bye, Mr. Fitzroy, good-bye.
Lady Wolvercote's faint remonstrances were drowned in the adieus,
and Mrs. Shaw sailed out with flying colors, while Milly sank back
abjectly into the seat from which she had risen. Every minute she was
realizing with a more awful clearness that she, whose one appearance on
the stage had been short and disastrous, was cast to play the leading
part in a public play before a large and brilliant audience. She hardly
heard Fitzroy's bitter remarks on Mrs. Shawnot forgetting Jim
Morrisonor Lady Wolvercote exclaiming in a voice almost dreamy with
Really it's too extraordinary!
I'm very sorry Mrs. Shaw won't take the part, said Milly, clasping
and unclasping her slender fingers, for I know I can't do it myself.
Fitzroy was protesting, but she forced herself to continue: You
don't know what I'm like when I'm nervous. When we had tableaux
vivants at Ascham I was supposed to be Charlotte putting a wreath
on Werther's urn, and I trembled so much that I knocked the urn down.
It was only card-board, so it didn't break, but every one laughed and
the tableau was spoiled.
Fitzroy and his aunt cried out that that was nothing, a first
appearance; any one could see she had got over that now. Pale, with
terrified eyes, she looked from one to the other of her tormentors, who
continued to sing the praises of her past prowess on the boards and to
foretell the unprecedented harvest of laurels she would reap at
Besselsfield. The higher their enthusiasm rose, the more profound
became her dejection. There seemed no loop-hole for escape, unless the
earth would open and swallow her, which however much to be desired was
hardly to be expected.
The ting of a bicycle-bell below did not seem to promise assistance,
for cyclists affected the quiet street. But it happened that this
bicycle bore Ian to the door. He did not notice the coronet on the
carriage which stood before it, and assumed it to belong to one of the
three or four ladies in Oxford who kept such equipages. Yet in the
blank state of Milly's memory, he was sorry she had not denied herself
to visitors, which Mildred had already learned to do with a freedom
only possible to women who are assured social success. Commonly the
sight of a carriage would have sent him tiptoeing past the
drawing-room, but now, vaguely uneasy, he came straight in. He looked
particularly tall in the frame of the doorway, so low that his black
hair almost touched the lintel; particularly handsome in the shaded,
white-panelled room, into which the dark glow of his sunburned skin and
brown eyes, bright with exercise, seemed to bring the light and warmth
of the summer earth and sky.
Milly sprang to meet him. Lady Wolvercote was surprised to learn
that this was Mrs. Stewart's husband. She had no idea a Don could be so
young and good-looking. Judging of Dons solely by the slight and
slighting references of her undergraduate relatives, she had imagined
them to be weird-looking men, within various measurable distances of
Lady Wolvercote and Mr. Fitzroy want me to act Galatea at the
Besselsfield theatricals, said Milly, clinging to his sleeve and
looking up at him with appealing eyes. Please tell them I can't
possibly do it. I'mI'm not well enougham I?
We're within three weeks of the performance, sir, put in Fitzroy.
Mrs. Stewart promised she'd do it, and we shall be in a regular fix
now if she gives it up. Mrs. Shaw's chucked us already.
Yes, and every one says how splendidly Mrs. Stewart acts, pleaded
Stewart had half forgotten the matter; but now he remembered that
Mildred had been keen to have the part only a week ago, and a little
pettish because he had advised her to leave it alone, on account of
Mrs. Shaw. Now she was hanging on him with desperate eyes and that
worried brow which he had not seen once since he had married her.
I'm extremely sorry, Lady Wolvercote, he said, but my wife's had
a nervous break-down lately and I can't allow her to act. She's not fit
Ah, I seeI quite understand! returned Lady Wolvercote. But we'd
take great care of her, Mr. Stewart. She could come and stay at
Fitzroy's gloom lifted. His aunt was a trump. Surely an invitation
to Besselsfield must do the job. But Stewart, though apologetic, was
inflexible. He had forbidden his wife to act and there was an end of
it. The perception of the differences between the two personalities of
Milly which had been thrust to-day on his unwilling mind, made him
grasp the meaning of her frantic appeals for protection. He relieved
her of all responsibility for her refusal to act.
Lady Wolvercote observed, as she and her nephew went sadly on their
way, that Mr. Stewart seemed a very, very odd man in spite of his
presentable manners and appearance; and Fitzroy replied gloomily that
of course he was a beast. Dons always were beasts.
The diplomatic incident of the theatricals was not the only minor
trouble which Milly found awaiting her. The cook's nerves were upset by
a development of rigid economy on the part of her mistress, and she
gave notice; the house parlor-maid followed suit. No one seemed to have
kept Ian's desk tidy, his papers in order, or his clothes properly
mended. It was a joy to her to put everything belonging to him right.
When all was arranged to her satisfaction: Ian, she said, sitting
on his knee with her head on his shoulder, I can't bear to think how
wretched you must have been all the time I was away.
Ian was silent a minute.
But you haven't been away, and I don't like you to talk as though
Wretched? It would have been absurd to think of himself as wretched
now; yet compared with the wonderful happiness that had been his for
more than half a year, what was this house swept and garnished? An
empty thing. Words of Tims's which he had thought irritating and absurd
at the time, haunted him now. You don't mean to say you haven't
seen the difference? He might not have seen it, but he had felt
it. He felt it now.
There was at any rate no longer any question of Dieppe. They took
lodgings at Sheringham and he made good progress with his book. Yet not
quite so good as he had hoped. Milly was indefatigable in looking up
points and references, in preventing him from slipping into the small
inaccuracies to which he was prone; but he missed the stimulus of
Mildred's alert mind, so quick to hit a blot in logic or in taste, so
vivid in appreciation.
Milly meantime guessed nothing of his dissatisfaction. She adored
her husband more every day, and her happiness would have been perfect
had it not been for the haunting horror of the possible change which
might be lurking for her round the corner of any nightthat change,
which other people might call what they liked, but which meant for her
the robbery of her life, her young happy life with Ian. He had taken
her twice to Norton-Smith before the great man went for his holiday.
Norton-Smith had pronounced it a peculiar but not unprecedented case of
collapse of memory, caused by overwork; and had spent most of the
consultation time in condemning the higher education of women. Time,
rest, and the fulfilment of woman's proper function of maternity would,
he affirmed, bring all right, since there was no sign of disease in
Mrs. Stewart, who appeared to him, on the contrary, a perfectly healthy
young woman. When Ian, alone with him, began tentatively to bring to
the doctor's notice the changes in character and intelligence that had
accompanied the losses of memory, he found his remarks set aside like
the chatter of a foolish child.
If maternity would indeed exorcise the Invader, Milly had lost no
time in beginning the exorcism. And she did believe that somehow it
would; not because the doctor said so, but because she could not
believe God would let a child's mother be changed in that way, at any
rate while she was bearing it. To do so would be to make it more
motherless than any little living thing on earth. Milly had always been
quietly but deeply religious, and she struggled hard against the
feeling of peculiar injustice in this strange affliction that had been
sent to her. She prayed earnestly to God every night to help and
protect her and her child, and the period of six or seven months, at
which the change had come before, passed without a sign of it. In
April a little boy was born. They called him Antonio, after a learned
Italian, a friend and teacher of Ian's.
The advent of the child did something to explain the comparative
seclusion into which Mrs. Stewart had retired, and the curious dulling
of that brilliant personality of hers. The Master of Durham was among
the few of Mrs. Stewart's admirers who declined to recognize the change
in her. He had been attracted by the girl Milly Flaxman, by her gentle,
shy manners and pretty face, combined with her reputation for
scholarship; the brilliant Invader had continued to attract him in
another way. The difference between the two, if faced, would have been
disagreeably mysterious. He preferred to say and think that there was
none; Mrs. Stewart was probably not very well.
Milly's shyness made it peculiarly awkward for her to find herself
in possession of a number of friends whom she would not have chosen
herself, and of whose doings and belongings she was in complete
ignorance. However, if she gave offence she was unconscious of it, and
it came very naturally to her to shrink back into the shadow of her
household gods. Ian and the baby were almost sufficient in themselves
to fill her life. There was just room on the outskirts of it for a few
relations and old friends, and Aunt Beatrice still held her honored
place. But it was through Aunt Beatrice that she was first to learn the
feel of a certain dull heartache which was destined to grow upon her
like some fell disease, a thing of ceaseless pain.
She was especially anxious to get Aunt Beatrice, who had been in
America all the Summer Vacation, to stay with them in the Autumn Term
as Lady Thomson had been with them in May, and Milly did not like to
think of the number of things, all wrong, which she was sure to have
noticed in the house. Besides, what with theatricals and other
engagements, it was evident that a good many people had been in and
out in the Summer Terma condition of life which Lady Thomson always
denounced. Milly was anxious for her to see that that phase was past
and that her favorite niece had settled down into the quiet,
well-ordered existence of which she approved.
Aunt Beatrice came; but oh, disappointment! If it had been possible
to say of Lady Thomson, whose moods were under almost perfect control,
that she was out of temper, Milly would have said it. She volunteered
no opinion, but when asked, she compared Milly's new cook unfavorably
with her former one. When her praise was anxiously sought, she observed
that it was undesirable to be careless in one's housekeeping, but less
disagreeable than to be fussy and house-proud. She added that
Millywhom she called Mildredmust be on her guard against relaxing
into domestic dulness, when she could be so extremely clever and
charming if she liked. Milly was bewildered and distressed. She felt
sure that she had passed through a phase of which Aunt Beatrice ought
to have disapproved. She had evidently been frivolous and neglectful of
her duties; yet it seemed as though her aunt had been better pleased
with her when she was like that. What could have made Aunt Beatrice, of
all women, unkind and unjust?
In this way more than a year went by. The baby grew and was
short-coated; the October Term came round once more, and still Milly
remained the same Milly. To have wished it otherwise would have seemed
like wishing for her death.
But at times a great longing for another, quite another, came over
Ian. It was like a longing for the beloved dead. Of course it was
madmad! He struggled against the feeling, and generally succeeded in
getting back to the point of view that the change had been more in
himself, in his own emotional moods, than in Milly.
October, the golden month, passed by and November came in, soft and
dim; a merry month for the hunting men beside the coverts, where the
red-brown leaves still hung on the oak-trees and brushwood, and among
the grassy lanes, the wide fresh fields and open hill-sides. No ill
month either for those who love to light the lamp early and open their
books beside a cheerful fire. But then the rain came, a persistent,
soaking rain. Milly always went to her district on Tuesdays, no matter
what the weather, and this time she caught a cold. Ian urged her to
stop in bed next morning. He himself had to be in College early, and
could not come home till the afternoon.
It was still raining and the early falling twilight was murky and
brown. The dull yellow glare of the street-lamps was faintly reflected
in the muddy wetness of pavements and streets. He was carrying a great
armful of books and papers under his dripping mackintosh and umbrella.
As he walked homeward as fast as his inconvenient load allowed, he
became acutely conscious of a depression of spirits which had been
growing upon him all day. It was the weather, he argued, affecting his
nerves or digestion. The vision of a warm, cosey house, a devoted wife
awaiting him, ought to have cheered him, but it did not. He hoped he
would not feel irritable when Milly rushed into the hall as soon as his
key was heard in the front door, to feel him all over and take every
damp thread tragically. Poor dear Milly! What a discontented brute of a
husband she had got! The fault was no doubt with himself, and he would
not really be happy even if some miracle did set him down on a sunny
Mediterranean shore, with enough money to live upon and nothing to
think of but his book. Mildred used to say that she always went to a
big dinner at Durham in the unquenchable hope of meeting and
fascinating some millionaire who had sense enough to see how much
better it would be to endow writers of good books than readers of silly
With the recollection there rang in the ears of his mind the sound
of a laugh which he had not heard for seventeen months. Something
seemed to tighten about his heart. Yes, he could be quite happy without
the millionaire, without the sunny skies, without even the pretty,
comfortable home at whose door he stood, if somewhere, anywhere, he
could hope to hear that laugh again, to hold again in his arms the
strange bright bride who had melted from them like snow in
spring-timebut that way madness lay. He thrust the involuntary
longing from him almost with horror, and turned the latch-key in his
The hall lamp was burning low and the house seemed very chilly and
quiet. He put his books down on the oak table, threw his streaming
mackintosh upon the large chest, and went up to his dressing-room, to
change whatever was still damp about him before seeking Milly, who
presumably was nursing her cold before the study fire. When he had
thrown off his shoes, he noticed that the door leading to his wife's
room was ajar and a faint red glow of firelight showed invitingly
through the chink. A fire! It was irresistible. He went in quickly and
stirred the coals to a roaring blaze. The dancing flames lit up the
long, low room with its few pieces of furniture, its high white
wainscoting, and paper patterned with birds and trellised leaves. They
lit up the low white bed and the white figure of his sleeping wife.
Till then he had thought the room was empty. She lay there so deathly
still and straight that he was smitten with a sudden fear; but leaning
over her he heard her quiet, regular breathing and saw that if somewhat
pale, she was normal in color. He touched her hand. It was withdrawn by
a mechanical movement, but not before he had felt that it was warm.
A wild excitement thrilled him; it would have been truer to say a
wild joy, only that it held a pang of remorse for itself. So she had
lain at the Hôtel du Chalet when he had left her for that long walk
over the crisp mountain snow. And when he had returned, shewhat She?
No, his brain did not reel on the verge of madness; it merely accepted
under the compulsion of knowledge a truth of those truths that are too
profound to admit of mere external proof. For our reason plays at the
edge of the universe as a little child plays at the edge of the sea,
gathering from its fringes the flotsam and jetsam of its mighty life.
But miles and miles beyond the ken of the eager eye, beyond the reach
of the alert hand, lies the whole great secret life of the sea. And if
it were all laid bare and spread at the child's feet, how could the
little hand suffice to gather its vast treasures, the inexperienced eye
to perceive and classify them?
Alone in the firelit, silent room, with this tranced form before
him, Ian Stewart knew that the woman who would arise from that bed
would be a different woman from the one who had lain down upon it. By
what mysterious alchemy of nature transmuted he could not understand,
any more than he could understand the greater part of the workings of
that cosmic energy which he was compelled to recognize, although he
might be cheated with words into believing that he understood them.
Another woman would arise and she his Love. She had been gone so long;
his heart had hungered for her so long, in silence even to himself. She
had been dead and now she was about to be raised from the dead. He
lighted the candles, locked the doors, and paced softly up and down,
stopping to look at the figure on the bed from time to time. Far around
him, close about him, life was moving at its usual jog-trot pace.
People were going back to their College rooms or domestic hearths,
grumbling about the weather or their digestions or their colds,
thinking of their work for the evening or of their dinner
engagementsand suddenly a door had shut between him and all that
outside world. He was no longer moving in the driven herd. He was
alone, above them in an upper chamber, awaiting the miracle of
In the visions that passed before his mind's eye the face of Milly,
pale, with pleading eyes, was not absent; but with a strange hardness
which he had never felt before, he thrust the sighing phantom from him.
She had had her turn of happiness, a long one; it was only fair that
now they two, he and that Other, should have their chance, should put
their lips to the full cup of life. The figure on the bed stirred,
turned on one side, and slipped a hand under the pure curve of the
young cheek. He was by the bed in a moment; but it still slept, though
less profoundly, without that tranced look, as though the flame of life
itself burned low within.
How would she first greet him? Last time she had leaned into the
clear sunshine and laughed to him from the cloud of her amber hair; and
a spirit in his blood had leaped to the music of her laugh, even while
the rational self knew not it was the lady of his love. But however she
came back it would be she, the Beloved. He felt exultantly how little,
after all, the frame mattered. Last time he had found her, his love had
been set in the sunshine and the splendor of the Alpine snows, with
nothing to jar, nothing to distract it from itself. And that was good.
To-day, it was opening, a sudden and wonderful bloom, in the midst of
the murky discomfort of an English November, the droning hum of the
machinery of his daily work. And this, too, was good.
Yes, it was better because of the contrast between the wonder and
its environment, better because he himself was more conscious of his
joy. He sat on the bed a while watching her impatiently. In his eyes
she was already filled with a new loveliness, but he wanted her hair,
her amber hair. It was brushed back and imprisoned tightly in a little
plait tied with a white ribbonMilly's way. With fingers clumsy, yet
gentle, he took off the ribbon and cautiously undid the plait. Then he
took a comb and spread out the silk-soft hair more as he liked to see
it, pleased with his own skill in the unaccustomed task. She stirred
again, but still she did not wake. He was pacing up and down the room
when she raised herself a little on her pillow and looked fixedly at
the opposite wall. Ian held his breath. He stood perfectly still and
watched her. Presently she sat up and looked about her, looked at him
with a faint, vague smile, like that of a baby. He sat down at the foot
of the bed and took her hand. She smiled at him again, this time with
more definite meaning.
Do you know who it is, sweetheart? he said in a low voice. She
nodded slightly and went on smiling, as though quietly happy.
Ian, she breathed, at length.
I've been away a long, long time. How long?
He told her.
She uttered a little Ah! and frowned; lay quiet awhile, then drew
her hand from Ian's and sat up still more.
I sha'n't lie here any longer, she said, in a stronger voice.
It's just waste of time. She pushed back the clothes and swung her
feet out of bed. Oh, how glad I am to be back again! Are you glad I'm
back, Ian? Say you are, do say you are!
And Ian on his knees before her, said that he was.
Ian was leaning against the high mantel-piece of his study. Above
it, let into the panelling, was an eighteenth-century painting of the
Bridge and Castle of St. Angelo, browned by time. He was wondering how
to tell Mildred about the child, and whether she would resent its
presence. She, too, was meditating, chin on hand. At length she looked
up with a sudden smile.
What about the baby, Ian? Don't you take any notice of it yet?
He was surprised.
How do you know about him?
She frowned thoughtfully.
I seem to know things that have happened in a kind of wayrather
as though I had seen them in a dream. But they haven't happened to me,
Was it the same last time?
No; but the first time I came, and especially just at first, I
seemed to remember all kinds of things She paused as though trying
in vain to revive her impressionsOdd things, not a bit like anything
in Oxford. I can't recall them now, but sometimes in London I fancy
I've seen places before.
Of course you have, dear.
And the first time I saw that old picture there I knew it was Rome,
and I had a notion that I'd been there and seen just that view.
You've been seeing pictures and reading books and hearing talk all
your life, and in the peculiar state of your memory, I suppose you
can't distinguish between the impressions made on it by facts and by
Mildred was silent; but it was not the silence of conviction. Then
she jumped up.
I'm going to see Baby. You needn't come if you don't want.
I'm afraid it's too late. Milly doesn't like He broke off with a
wild laugh. What am I talking about!
I suppose you were going to say, Milly doesn't like people taking a
candle into the room when Baby is shut up for the night. I don't care
what Milly likes. He's my baby now, and he's sure to look a duck when
he's asleep. Come along!
She put her arm through his and together they climbed the steep
staircase to the nursery.
Mildred had returned to the world in such excellent spirits at
merely being there, that she took those awkward situations which Milly
had inevitably bequeathed to her, as capital jokes. The partial and
external acquaintance with Milly's doings and points of view which she
had brought back with her, made everything easier than before; but her
derisive dislike of her absent rival was intensified. It pained Ian if
she dropped a hint of it. Tims was the only person to whom she could
have the comfort of expressing herself; and even Tims made faces and
groaned faintly, as though she did not enjoy Mildred's wit when Milly
was the subject of it. She gave Milly's cook notice at once, but most
things she found in a satisfactory stateparticularly the family
finances. More negatively satisfactory was the state of her wardrobe,
since so little had been bought. Mildred still shuddered at the
recollection of the trousseau frocks.
Once more Mrs. Stewart, whose social career had been like that of
the proverbial rocket shot up into the zenith. But a life of mere
amusement was not the fashion in the circle in which she lived, and her
active brain and easily aroused sympathies made her quick to take up
more serious interests.
It seemed wiser, too, to make no sudden break with Milly's habits.
Still, Emma, the nurse, opined that Baby got on all the better since
Mrs. Stewart had become more used to him likewasn't always changing
his food, taking his temperature, wanting him to have bandages and
medicine, forbidding him to be talked to or sung to, and pulling his
little, curling-up limbs straight when he was going to sleep. He was a
healthy little fellow and already pretty, with his soft dark
hairsofter than anything in the world except a baby's hairhis
delicate eyebrows and bright dark eyes. Mildred loved playing with him.
Sometimes when Ian heard the tiny shrieks of baby laughter, he used to
think with a smile and yet with a pang of pity, how shocked poor Milly
would have been at this titillation of the infant brain. But he did not
want thoughts of Millyso far as he could he shut the door of his mind
against them. She would come back, no doubt, sooner or later; and her
coming back would mean that Mildred would be robbed of her life, his
own life robbed of its joy.
At the end of Term the Master of Durham sent a note to bid the
Stewarts to dine with him and meet Sir Henry Milwood, the rich
Australian, and Maxwell Davison, the traveller and Orientalist. Ian
remarked that Davison was a cousin, although they had not met since he
was a boy. Maxwell Davison had gone to the East originally as agent for
some big firm, and had spent there nearly twenty years. He was an
accomplished Persian and Arabic scholar, and gossip related that he had
run off with a fair Persian from a Constantinople harem and lived with
her in Persia until her death. But that was years ago.
When the Stewarts entered the Master's bare bachelor drawing-room,
they found besides the Milwoods, only familiar faces. Maxwell Davison
was still awaited, and with interest. He came, and that interest did
not appear to be mutual, judging from the Oriental impassivity of his
long, brown face, with its narrow, inscrutable eyes. He was tall,
slight, sinewy as a Bedouin, his age uncertain, since his dry leanness
and the dash of silver at his temples might be the effect of burning
Mildred was delighted at first at being sent into dinner with him,
but she found him disappointingly taciturn. In truth, he had acquired
Oriental habits and views with regard to women. If a foolish Occidental
custom demanded that they should sit at meat with the lords of
creation, he, Maxwell Davison, would not pretend to acquiesce in it.
Mildred, to whom it was unthinkable that any man should not wish to
talk to her, merely pitied his shyness and determined to break it down;
but Davison's attitude was unbending.
After dinner the Master, his mortar-board cap on his head, opened
the drawing-room door and invited them to come across to the College
Library to see some bronzes and a few other things that Mr. Davison had
temporarily deposited there. He had divined that Maxwell Davison would
be willing to sell, and in his guileful soul the little Master may have
had schemes of persuading his wealthy friend Milwood to purchase any
bronzes that might be of value to the College or the University. Of the
ladies, only Mildred and Miss Moore, the archæologist, braved the chill
of the mediæval Library to inspect the collection. Davison professed to
no artistic or antiquarian knowledge of the bronzes. They had come to
him in the way of trade and had all been dug up in Asia Minorno, not
all, for one he had picked up in England. Nevertheless he had succeeded
in getting a pretty clear notion of the relative value of his
bronzesthe Oriental curios with them it was his business to
understand. He could not help observing the sure instinct with which
Mrs. Stewart selected what was best among all these different objects.
She had the flair of the born collector. The learned
archæologists present leaned over the collection discussing and
disputing, and took no notice of her remarks as she rapidly handled
each article. But Davison did, and when at length she took up a small
figure of Augustusthe bronze that had not come from Asia Minorand
looked at it with a peculiar doubtful intentness, he began to feel
Anything wrong with that? he asked, in spite of himself.
She laughed nervously.
Oh, Mr. Davison, please ask some one who knows! I don't. Only II
seem to have seen something like it before, that's all.
Sanderson, roaming around the professed archæologists, took the
bronze from her hands.
I'll tell you where you've seen it, Mrs. Stewart. It's engraved in
Egerton's Private Collections of Great Britain. I picked that up
the other dayfirst edition, 1818. I dare say the book's here. We'll
Sanderson took a candle and went glimmering away down the long, dark
What can this be? asked Mildred, taking up what looked like a
Please stand over here and look into it for five minutes, returned
Davison, evasively. Perhaps you'll see what it is then.
He somehow wanted to get rid of Mildred's appraisal of his goods.
Mr. Davison, your glass ball has gone quite cloudy! she exclaimed,
in a minute or two.
That's all right. Go on looking and you'll see something more, he
Presently she said:
It's so curious. I see the whole room reflected in the glass now,
but it's much lighter than it really is, and the windows seem larger.
It all looks so different. There is some one down there in white.
Sanderson came up the room carrying a large quarto, open.
Here's your bronze, right enough, he said, putting the book down
on the table. It's under the heading, Hammerton Collection.
He pointed to a small engraving inscribed, Bronze statuette of
Augustus. Very rare.
But some fellow's been scribbling something here, continued
Sanderson, turning the book around to read a note written along the
margin. He read out: 'A forgery. Sold by Lady Hammerton to Mr.
Solomons, 1819. See case Solomons versus Hammerton, 1820.'
The turning of the book showed Mildred a full-page engraving
entitled, The Gallery, Hammerton House. It represented a long room
somewhat like the one in which they stood, but still more like the room
she had seen in the crystal; and in the middle distance there was a
slightly sketched figure of a woman in a light dress. Half incredulous,
half frightened, she pored over the engraving which reproduced so
strangely the image she had seen in Maxwell Davison's mysterious ball.
How funny! she almost whispered.
You may call it funny, of course, that Lady Hammerton succeeded in
cheating a Jew, which is what it looks like, rejoined Sanderson, bent
on hunting down his quarry; but it was pretty discreditable to her
Not at all, Maxwell Davison's harsh voice broke in. That was
Solomons's look out. I sha'n't bring a lawsuit against the fellow who
sold me that Augustus, if it is a forgery. A man's a fool to deal in
things he doesn't understand.
What is this glass ball, Mr. Davison? asked Miss Moore, in her
turn taking up the uncanny thing Mildred had laid down.
It's a divining-crystal. In the East certain people, mostly boys,
look in these crystals and see all sorts of things, present, past, and
Miss Moore laughed.
Or pretend they do!
Who knows? It isn't of any interest, really. The things that have
happened have happened, and the things that are to happen will happen
just as surely, whether we foresee them or not.
Miss Moore turned to the Master.
Look, Masterthis is a divining-crystal, and Mr. Davison's trying
to persuade me that in the East people really see visions in it.
The Master smiled.
Mr. Davison has a poor opinion of ladies' intelligence, I'm afraid.
He thinks they are children, who will believe any fairy tale.
Davison had drawn near to Mildred as the Master spoke; his eyes met
hers and the impassive face wore a faint, ironical smile.
The Wisdom of the West speaks! he exclaimed, in a low voice. I'd
almost forgotten the sound of it.
Then scrutinizing her pale face: I'm afraid you've had a scare.
What did you see?
I sawwell, I fancy I saw the Gallery at Hammerton House and my
ancestress, Lady Hammerton. It was burned, you know, and she was burned
with it, trying to save her collections. I expect she condescended to
give me a glimpse of them because I've inherited her mania. I'd be a
collector, too, if I had the money.
She laughed nervously.
You should take Ian to the East, returned Davison. You could make
money there and learn thingsthe Wisdom of the East, for instance.
Mildred, recovering her equanimity, smiled at him.
No, never! The Wisdom of the West engrosses us; but you'll come and
tell us about the other, won't you?
Maxwell Davison settled in Oxford for six months, in order to see
his great book on Persian Literature through the press. His advent had
been looked forward to as promising a welcome variety, bringing a
splash of vivid color into a somewhat quiet-hued, monotonous world. But
there was doomed to be some disappointment. Mr. Davison went rather
freely to College dinners but seldom into general society. It came to
be understood that he disliked meeting women; Mrs. Stewart, however, he
appeared to except from his condemnation or rule. Ian was his cousin,
which made a pretext at first for going to the Stewarts' house; but he
went because he found the couple interesting in their respective ways.
Some Dons, unable to believe that a man without a University education
could teach them anything, would lecture him out of their little
pocketful of knowledge about Oriental life and literature. Ian, on the
contrary, was an admirable producer of all that was interesting in
others; and in Davison that all was much. At first he had tried to keep
Mrs. Stewart in what he conceived to be her proper place; but as time
went on he found himself dropping in at the old house with surprising
frequency, and often when he knew Ian to be in College or too busy to
attend to him.
He had brought horses with him and offered to give Mildred a mount
whenever she liked. Milly had learned the rudiments of the art, but she
was too timid to care for riding. Mildred, on the other hand, delighted
in the swift motion through the air, the sensation of the strong
bounding life almost incorporated with her own, and if she had moments
of terror she had more of ecstatic daring. She and Davison ended by
riding together once or twice a week.
Interesting as Mildred found Maxwell Davison's companionship, it did
not altogether conduce to her happiness. She who had been so content to
be merely alive, began now to chafe at the narrow limits of her
existence. He opened the wide horizons of the world before her, and her
soul seemed native to them. One April afternoon they rode to Wytham
together. The woods of Wytham clothe a long ridge of hill around which
the young Thames sweeps in a strong curve and through them a grass ride
runs unbroken for a mile and a half. Now side by side, now passing and
repassing each other, they had kept the great pace along the track,
the horses slackening their speed somewhat as they went down the dip,
only to spring forward with fresh impetus, lifting their hind-quarters
gallantly to the rise; then given their heads for the last burst along
the straight bit to the drop of the hill, away they went in passionate
competition, foam-flecked and sending the clods flying from their
A mile and a half of galloping only serves to whet the appetite of a
well-girt horse, and the foaming rivals hardly allowed themselves to be
pulled up at the edge of a steep grassy slope, where already here and
there a yellow cowslip bud was beginning to break its pale silken
sheath. At length their impatient dancing was over, and they stood
quiet, resigned to the will of the incomprehensible beings who
controlled them. But Mildred's blood was dancing still and she
abandoned herself to the pleasure of it, undistracted by speech. Beyond
the shining Thames, wide-curving through its broad green meadows, and
the gray bridge and tower of Eynsham, that great landscape, undulating,
clothed in the mystery of moving cloud-shadows, gave her an agreeable
impression of being a view into a strange country, hundreds of miles
away from Oxford and the beaten track. But Maxwell's eyes were fixed
The wood about them was just breaking into the various beauty of
spring foliage, emerald and gold and red; a few trees still holding up
naked gray branches among it; here and there a white cloud of cherry
blossom, shining in a clearing or floating mistily amid bursting
tree-tops below them. They turned to the right, down a narrow ride,
mossy and winding, where perforce they trod on flowers as they went;
for the path and the wood about it were carpeted with blue dog-violets
and the pale soft blossoms of primroses, opening in clusters amid their
thick fresh foliage and the brown of last year's fallen leaves. The sky
above wore the intense blue in which dark clouds are seen floating, and
as the gleams of travelling sunshine passed over the wooded hill, its
colors also glowed with a peculiar intensity. The horses, no longer
excited by a vista of turf, were walking side by side. But the beauty
of earth and sky were nothing to Maxwell, whose whole being was intent
on the beauty of the woman in the saddle beside him; the rose and the
gold of cheek and hair, the lithe grace of the body, lightly moving to
the motion of her horse.
She turned to him with a sudden bright smile.
How perfectly delightful riding is! I owe all the pleasure of it to
Do you? he asked, smiling too, but slightly and gravely, narrowing
on her his inscrutable eyes. Well, then, will you do what I want?
I thought you were a fatalist and never wanted anything. But if you
condescend to want me to do something, your slave obeys. You see I'm
learning the proper way for a woman to talk.
I want you to remove the preposterous black pot with which you've
covered up your hair. I'll carry it for you.
Oh, Max! What would people think if they met me riding without my
hat? Fancy Miss Cayley! What she'd say! And the Warden of Canterbury!
What he'd feel!
She laughed delightedly.
They never ride this way. It's the 'primrose path,' you see, and
they're afraid of the 'everlasting bonfire.' I'm not; you're not.
You're not afraid of anything.
I am. I'm afraid of old maids andmost butlers.
Maxwell laughed, but his laugh was a harsh one.
Humbug! If you really wanted to do anything you'd do it. I know you
better than you know yourself. If you won't take your hat off it's
because you don't really want to do what I want; and when you say
pretty things to me about your gratitude for the pleasure I'm giving
you, you're only telling the same old lies women tell all the world
There! Catch my reins! cried Mildred, leaning over and holding
them out to him. How do you suppose I can take my hat off if you
He obeyed and drew up to her, stooping near, a hand on the mane of
her horse. The horses nosed together and fidgeted, while she balanced
herself in the saddle with lifted arms, busy with hat-pins. The task
accomplished, she handed the hat to him and they cantered on. Presently
she turned towards him, brightening.
You were quite right about the hat, Max. It's ever so much nicer
without it; one feels freer, and what I love about riding is the free
feeling. It's as though one had got out of a cage; as though one could
jump over all the barriers of life; as though there were nobody and
nothing to hinder one from galloping right out into the sky if one
chose. But I can't explain what I mean.
Of course you don't mean the sky, he answered. What you really
mean is the desert. There's space, there's color, glorious, infinite,
with an air purer than earthly. Such a life, Mildred! The utter freedom
of it! None of this weary, dreary slavery you call civilization. That
would be the life for you.
It was true that Mildred's was an essentially nomadic and
adventurous soul. Whether the desert was precisely the most suitable
sphere for her wanderings was open to doubt, but for the moment as
typifying freedom, travel, and motionall that really was as the
breath of life to herit fascinated her imagination. Maxwell, closely
watching that sunshine-gilded head, saw her eyes widen, her whole
expression at once excited and meditative, as though she beheld a
vision. But in a moment she had turned to him with a challenging smile.
I thought slavery was the only proper thing for women.
So it isfor ordinary women. It makes them happier and less
mischievous. But I don't fall into the mistakewhich causes such a
deal of unnecessary misery and waste in the worldthe mistake of
supposing that you can ever make a rule which it's good for every one
to obey. You've got to make your rule for the average person. Therefore
it's bound not to fit the man or woman who is not average, and it's
folly to wish them to distort themselves to fit it.
And I'm not average? I needn't be a slave? Oh, thank you, Max! I am
Confound it, Mildred, I'm not joking. You are a born queen and you
oughtn't to be a slave; but you are one, all the same. You're a slave
to the 'daily round, the common task,' which were never meant for such
as you; you're a slave to the conventional idiocy of your neighbors.
You daren't even take your hat off till I make you; and now you see how
nice it is to ride with your hat off.
They had been slowly descending the steep, stony road which leads to
Wytham Village, but as he spoke they were turning off into a large
field to the right, across which a turfy track led gradually up to the
woods from which they had come. The track lay smooth before them, and
the horses began to sidle and dance directly their hoofs touched it.
Mildred did not answer his remarks, except by a reference to the hat.
Don't lose it, that's all! she shouted, looking back and laughing,
as she shot up the track ahead of him. He fancied she was trying to
show him that she could run away from him if she chose; and with a
quiet smile on his lips and a firm hand on his tugging horse, he kept
behind her until she was a good way up the field. Then he gave his
horse its head and it sprang forward. She heard the eager thud of the
heavy hoofs drawing up behind, and in a few seconds he was level with
her. For a minute they galloped neck and neck, though at a little
distance from each other. Then she saw him ahead, riding with a seat
looser than most Englishmen's, yet with an assurance, a grace of its
own, the hind-quarters of his big horse lifting powerfully under him,
as it sped with great bounds over the flying turf. Her own mare saw it,
too, and vented her annoyance in a series of kicks, which, it must be
confessed, seriously disturbed Mildred's equilibrium. Then settling to
business, she sprang after her companion. Maxwell heard her following
him up the long grass slope towards the gate which opens into the main
ride by which they had started. He fancied he had the improvised race
well in hand, but suddenly the hoofs behind him hurried their beat;
Mildred flew past him at top speed and flung her mare back on its
haunches at the gate.
I've won! Hurrah! I've won! she shouted, breathlessly, and waved
her whip at him.
Maxwell was swearing beneath his breath, in a spasm of anger and
Don't play the fool! he cried, savagely, as he drew rein close to
her. You might have thrown the mare down or mixed her in with the
gate, pulling her up short like that. It's a wonder you didn't come off
yourself, for though you're a devil to go, you know as well as I do
you're a poor horse-woman.
He was violently angry, partly at Mildred's ignorant rashness,
partly because, after all, she had beaten him. She, taking her hat from
his hand and fastening it on again, uttered apologies, but from the
lips only; for she had never seen a man furious before, and she was
keenly interested in the spectacle. Maxwell's eyes were not inscrutable
now; they glittered with manifest rage. His harsh voice was still
harsher, his hard jaw clinched, the muscles of his lean face, which was
as pale as its brownness allowed it to be, stood out like cords, and
the hand that grasped her reins shook. Mildred felt somewhat as she
imagined a lion-tamer might feel; just the least bit alarmed, but
mistress of the brute, on the whole, and enjoying the contact with
anything so natural and fierce and primitive. The feeling had not had
time to pall on her, when going through the gate, they were joined by
two other members of the little clan of Wytham riders, and all rode
back to Oxford together, through flying scuds of rain.
There is a proverbial rule against playing with fire, but it is one
which, as Davison would have said, was evidently made by average
people, who would in fact rather play with something else. There are
others to whom fire is the only really amusing plaything; and though
the by-stander may hold his breath, nine times out of ten they will
come out of the game as unscathed as the professional fire-eater. This
was not precisely true of Mildred, who had still a wide taste in
playthings; but in the absence of anything new and exciting in her
environment, she found an immense fascination in playing with the fiery
elements in Maxwell Davison's nature, in amusing her imagination with
visions of a free wandering life, led under a burning Oriental sky,
which he constantly suggested to her. Yet dangerously alluring as these
visions might appear, appealing to all the hidden nomad heart of her,
her good sense was never really silenced. It told her that freedom from
the shackles of civilization might become wearisome in time, besides
involving heavier, more intolerable forms of bondage; although she did
not perceive that Maxwell Davison's dislike to her being a slave was
only a dislike to her being somebody else's slave. He was a despot at
heart and had accustomed himself to a frank despotism over women.
Mildred's power over him, the uncertainty of his power over her,
maddened him. But Mildred did not know what love meant. At one time she
had fancied her affection for Ian might be love; now she wondered
whether her strange interest in the society of a man for whom she had
no affection, could be that. She did not feel towards Ian as an
ordinary wife might have done, yet his feelings and interests weighed
much with her. Milly, too, she must necessarily consider, but she did
that in a different, an almost vengeful spirit.
One evening Ian, looking up from his work, asked her what she was
smiling at so quietly to herself. And she could not tell him, because
it was at a horrible practical joke suggested to her by an impish
spirit within. What if she should prepare a little surprise for the
returning Milly? Let her find herself planted in Araby the Blest with
Maxwell Davison? Mildred chuckled, wondering to herself which would be
in the biggest rage, Milly or Max; for however Tims might affirm the
contrary, Mildred had a fixed impression that Milly could be in a rage.
The fire-game was hastening to its close; but before Mildred could
prove herself a real mistress of the dangerous element, the sleep fell
Except a sensation of fatigue, for which it was easy to find a
reason, there was no warning of the coming change. But Ian had dreams
in the night and opened his eyes in the morning with a feeling of
uneasiness and depression. Mildred could never sleep late without
causing him anxiety, and on this morning his first glance at her filled
him with a dread certainty. She was sleeping what was to her in a
measure the sleep of death. He had a violent impulse to awaken her
forcibly; but he feared it would be dangerous. With his arm around her
and his head close to hers on the pillow, he whispered her name over
and over again. The calmness of her face gradually gave way to an
expression of struggle approaching convulsion, and he dared not
continue. He could only await the inevitable in a misery which from its
very nature could find no expression and no comforter.
Milly, unlike Mildred, did not return to the world in a rapture of
satisfaction with it. The realization of the terrible robbery of life
of which she had again been the victim, was in itself enough to account
for a certain sadness even in her love for Ian and for her child. The
hygiene of the nursery had been neglected according to her ideas, yet
Baby was bonny enough to delight any mother's heart, however heavy it
might be. Ian, she said, wanted feeding up and taking care of; and he
submitted to the process with a gentle, melancholy smile. Just one
request he made; that she would not spoil her pretty hair by screwing
it up in her usual unbecoming manner. She understood, studying a
certain photograph in a drawerwhat drawer was safe from Milly's
tidyings?and dressed her hair as like it as she knew how, with a
secret bitterness of heart.
Mildred had found a diary, methodically kept by Milly, of great use
to her, and although incapable herself of keeping one regularly, she
had continued it in a desultory manner, noting down whatever she
thought might be useful for Milly's guidance. For whatever the feelings
of the two personalities towards each other, there was a terrible
closeness of union between them. Their indivisibility in the eyes of
the world made their external interests inevitably one. New friends and
acquaintances Mildred had noted down, with useful remarks upon them.
She was not confidential on the subject of Maxwell Davison, but she
gave the bare necessary information.
It was now late in the Summer Term and her bedroom chimney-piece was
richly decorated with invitation cards. Among others there was an
invitation to a garden-party at Lady Margaret Hall. Milly put on a
fresh flowered muslin dress, apparently unworn, that she found hanging
in one of the deep wall-cupboards of the old house, and a coarse
burnt-straw hat, trimmed with roses and black ribbon, which became her
marvellously well. All the scruples of an apostle of hygienic dress,
all the uneasiness of an economist at the prospect of unpaid bills,
disappeared before the pleasure of a young woman face to face with an
extremely pretty reflection in a pier-glass. That glass, an oval in a
light mahogany frame, of the Regency period, if not earlier, was one of
Mildred's finds in the slums of St. Ebbes.
She walked across the Parks, where the Cricket Match of the season
was drawing a crowd, meaning to come out by a gate below Lady Margaret
Hall, the gardens and buildings of which did not then extend to the
Cherwell. In their place were a few tennis-grounds and a path leading
to a boat-house, shared by a score or more of persons. While she was
still coming across the grass of the Parks, a man in flannels, very
white in the sun, came towards her from the gate for which she was
making. He must have recognized her from a long way off. He was a
striking-looking man of middle age, walking with a free yet indolent
stride that carried him along much faster than it appeared to do.
Milly had no idea who the stranger was, but he greeted her with:
Here you are at last, Mildred! Do you know how much behind time you
are?he took out his watchExactly thirty-five minutes. I should
have given you up if I hadn't known that breaking your promise is not
among your numerous vices, and unpunctuality is.
Who on earth was he? And why did he call her by her Christian name?
Milly went a beautiful pink with embarrassment.
I'm so sorry. I thought the party would have just begun, she
You don't mean to say you want to keep me kicking my heels while
you go to a confounded party? I thought you knew I was off to Paris
to-night, after that Firdusi manuscript, and I think of taking the
Continental Express to Constantinople next week. I don't know when I
shall be back. Surely, Mildred, it's not a great deal to ask you to
spare half an hour from a wretched party to come on the river with me
before I go? It struck Maxwell as he ended that he was falling into
the whining of the Occidental lover. He was determined that he would
clear the situation this afternoon; the more determined because he was
conscious of a feeling odiously resembling fear which had before now
held him back from plain dealing with Mildred. Afraid of a woman? It
was too ridiculous.
Milly, meanwhile, felt herself on firmer ground. This must be Ian's
cousin, Maxwell Davison, the Orientalist. But there was nothing nomadic
in her heart to thrill to the idea of being on the Cherwell this
afternoon, in London this evening, in Paris next morning, in
Constantinople next week.
Of course I'll come on the river with you, she said. I'm sorry
I'm late. I'm afraid II'd forgotten.
Forgotten! How simply she said it! Yet it was surely the veriest
impudence of coquetry. He looked at her slowly from the hat downward,
as he lounged leisurely at her side.
War-paint, I see! he remarked. Armed from head to heel with all
the true and tried female weapons. They're just the same all the world
over'plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose,'though no doubt you
fancy they're different. Who's the frock put on for, Mildred? For the
party, orfor me?
Milly was conscious of such an extreme absence of intention so far
as Maxwell was concerned, that it would have been rude to express it.
She went very pink again, and lifting forget-me-not blue eyes to his
inscrutable ones, articulated slowly:
I'm sure I don't know.
Her eyes were like a child's and a shy smile curved her pink lips
adorably as she spoke. Such mere simplicity would not in itself have
cast a spell over Maxwell, but it came to him as a new, surprising
phase of the eternal feminine in her; and it had the additional charm
that it caused that subjugated feeling resembling fear, with which
Mildred could inspire him, to disappear entirely. He was once more in
the proper dominant attitude of Man. He felt the courage now to make
her do what he believed she wished to do in her heart; the courage,
too, to punish her for the humiliation she had inflicted upon him. Six
months ago he would have had nothing but a hearty contempt for the man
who could beat thirty yards of gravel-path for half an hour, watch in
hand, in a misery of impatience, waiting on the good pleasure of a
Meantime he laughed good-humoredly at Milly's answer and began to
talk of neutral matters. If her tongue did not move as nimbly as usual,
he flattered himself it was because she knew that the hour of her
surrender was at hand.
Milly knew the boat-house well, the pleasant dimness of it on hot
summer days; how the varnished boats lay side by side all down its
length, and how the light canoes rested against the walls as it were on
shelves. How, when the big doors were opened on to the raft and the
slowly moving river without, bright circles of sunlight, reflected from
the running water, would fly in and dance on wall and roof. She stood
there in the dimness, while Maxwell lifted down a large canoe and,
opening one of the barred doors, took it out to the water. Mildred
would have felt a half-conscious æsthetic pleasure in watching his
movements, superficially indolent but instinct with strength. Milly had
not the same æsthetic sensibilities, and she was still disagreeably
embarrassed at finding herself on such a familiar footing with a man
whom she had never seen before. Then, although she followed Aunt
Beatrice's golden rule of never allowing a question of feminine dress
to interfere with masculine plans, she could not but feel anxious as to
the fate of her fresh muslin and ribbons packed into a canoe. Maxwell,
however, had learned canoeing years ago on the Canadian lakes, and did
not splash. His lean, muscular brown arms and supple wrists took the
canoe rapidly through the water, with little apparent effort.
It was the prime of June and the winding willow-shaded Cherwell was
in its beauty. White water-lilies were only just beginning to open
silver buds, floating serenely on their broad green and red pads; but
prodigal masses of wild roses, delicately rich in scent and various in
color, overhung the river in brave arching bowers or starred bushes and
hedgerows so closely that the green briers were hardly visible. Beds of
the large blue water forget-me-not floated beside the banks, and above
them creamy meadow-sweet lifted its tall plumes among the reeds and
grasses. Small water-rats swam busily from bank to bank or played on
the roots of the willows, and bright wings of birds and insects
fluttered and skimmed over the shining stream.
The Cherwell, though not then the crowded waterway it has since
become, was usually popular with boaters on such an afternoon. But
there must have been strong counter-attractions elsewhere, for Milly
and Davison passed only one, a party of children working very
independent oars, on their way to the little gray house above the
ferry, where an old Frenchman dispensed tea in arbors.
There was a kind of hypnotic charm in the gliding motion of the
canoe and the water running by. Milly was further dazed by Maxwell's
talk. It was full of mysterious references and couched in the masterful
tone of a person who had rights over hera tone which before he had
been more willing than able to adopt; but now the bit was between his
teeth. Perhaps absorbed in his own intent, he hardly noticed how little
she answered; but he did notice every point of her beauty as she leaned
back on the cushions in the light shade of her parasol, from the soft
brightness of her hair to the glimpse of delicate white skin which
showed through the open-work stocking on her slender foot.
When they were in the straight watery avenue between green willow
walls, which leads up to the ferry, he slackened the pace.
And what are you going to do next week? he asked, as one of a
series of ironical questions.
A great deal; much more than I care to do. I'm going up to town to
see the new Savoy opera, and I'm going to a dance, and to several
garden-parties, and to dine with the Master of Durham.
Quite enough for some people; but not for you, Mildred. Think of
ityear after year, always the same old run. October Term, Lent Term,
Summer Term! A little change in Vacations, say a month abroad, when you
can afford it. You aren't meant for it, you know you're not, any more
than a swallow's meant for the little hopping, pecketing life of a
Indeed, I don't see the likeness either way. I'm quite happy as I
He smiled mockingly.
Quite happy! As it's very proper you should be, of course. Come,
Mildred, no humbug! Think how you'd feel if you knew that instead of
going to all those idiotic parties next week you were going to
Isn't it dreadfully hot at this time of year?
I like it hot. But at any rate one can always find some cool place
in the hottest weather. How would you like to go in a caravan from
Cairo to Damascus next autumn?
I dare say it would be delightful, if the country one passed
through were not too wild and dangerous. But Ian would never be able to
leave his work for an expedition like that.
Maxwell smiled grimly.
I'd no idea you'd want him. I shouldn't. Do be serious. If you
fancy I'm the sort of man you can go on playing with forever, you're
most confoundedly mistaken.
Milly was both offended and alarmed. Was this strange man mad? And
she alone with him on the river!
I don't know what you mean, she said, coldly.
Don't you? he returned, and he still wore his ironic smileWell,
I know what you mean all the time. You say I only know Oriental women,
but, by Allah, there's not a pin to choose between the lot of you,
except that there's less humbug about them, and over here you're a set
of trained, accomplished hypocrites!
Indignation overcame fear in Milly's bosom.
We are nothing of the kind, she said. How can you talk such
Nonsense? I suppose being a woman you can't really be logical,
although you generally pretend to be so. Why have you pranked yourself
out, spent an hour I dare say in making yourself pretty to-day? For
what possible reason except to attract the eyes of a crowd of men,
young fools or doddering old ones
Milly uttered an expression of vehement denial, but he continued:
Or else to whet my appetite for forbidden fruit. But there's no
'or' about it, is there? Most likely you had both of those desirable
objects in view.
Milly was not a coward when her indignation was aroused. She took
hold of the sides of the canoe and began raising herself.
I don't know whether you mean to be insulting, she said; but I
don't wish to hear any more of this sort of thing. I'd rather you put
me out, please.
Sit down, he said, with authoritythe canoe was rocking
violentlyunless you're anxious to be drowned. I warn you I'm a very
poor swimmer, and if we upset there's not a ghost of a chance of my
being able to save you.
Milly was a poor swimmer, too, and felt by no means competent to
save herself; neither was she anxious to be drowned. So she sat down
Put me out at the ferry, please, she repeated, haughtily.
They were reaching the end of the willow avenue, just where the wire
rope crosses the river. On the right was a small wooden landing-stage,
and high above it the green, steep river-bank, with the gray house and
the arbors on the top. The old Frenchman stood before the house in his
shirt-sleeves, watching sadly for his accustomed prey, which for some
inexplicable reason did not come. He took off his cap expectantly to
Maxwell Davison, whom he knew; but the canoe glided swiftly under the
rope and on.
No, I sha'n't put you out, Mildred, Maxwell answered with
decision, after a pause. I'm sorry if I've offended you. I've
forgotten my manners, no doubt, and must seem a bit of a brute to you.
I didn't bring you here just to quarrel, or to play a practical joke
upon you, and send you on a field-walk in that smart frock and shoes
he smiled at her, and this time she was obliged to feel a certain
fascination in his smilenor yet to go on with the game you've been
playing with me all these months. You forget; I've been used to Nature
for so many years that I find it hard to realize how natural the most
artificial conditions of life appear to you. I'll try to remember; but
you must remember, too, that the most civilized beings on earth have
got to come right up against the hard facts of Nature sometimes.
They've got to be stripped of their top layer and see it stripped off
other people, and to recognize the fact that every one has got a core
of Primitive Man or of Primitive Woman in them; a perfectly
unalterable, indestructible core. And the people who refuse to
recognize that aren't elevated and refined, but simply stupid and
obstinate and no good.
Milly, if she would have no compromise with principles, was always
quick to accept an apology. She did not follow the line of Maxwell's
argument, but she remembered it was noted in a certain deplorably
irregular Diary, that he had lived for many years in the East and was
quite Orientalized in many of his ways and ideas. With gentle dignity
she signified that in her opinion civilized European manners and views
were to be commended in opposition to barbarous and Oriental ones.
Maxwell, his face bent towards the turning paddle, hardly heard what
she was saying. He was paddling fast and considering many things.
They came to where the river ran under a narrow grass field, rising
in a steep bank and shut off from the world by a tall hedge and a row
of elms, that threw long shadows down the grass and were reflected in
the water. A path led through it, but it was little frequented. On the
other side was a wide, green meadow, where the long grass was ripening
under rose-blossoming hedges, and far beyond was the blueness of
distant hills and woods. Maxwell ran the bow of the canoe into a thick
bed of forget-me-nots, growing not far from the bank. He laid the
dripping paddle aside, and, resting his elbows on his knees, held his
head in his hands for a minute or more. When he turned his face towards
her it was charged with passion, but most of all with a grave
masterfulness. He had been sitting on a low seat, but now he kneeled so
as to come nearer to her, and, stretching out his long arms, laid a
hand, brown, long-fingered, smooth, on her two slight, gray-gloved
Mildred, he said, and his voice seemed to have lost its harshness,
I've brought you here to make you decide what you are going to do with
me and with yourself. I want youyou know I want you, but I don't come
begging for you as an alms. I say, just compare the life, the free,
glorious life I can give you, and the wretched, petty round of
existence here. Come with me, won't you? Don't be afraid I shall treat
you like a slave; I follow Nature, and Nature made you a queen. Come
with me to-night, come to Paris, to Constantinople, to all the East!
Never mind about love yet, we won't talk about that, for I don't really
flatter myself you love me; I'm only sure you don't love Ian
Milly had listened to him so far, drawing herself back to the
farthest end of the canoe, half petrified with amazement, half
dominated by his powerful personality. At these words her pallor gave
way to a scarlet flush.
How dare you! she cried, in a voice tremulous with indignation.
How dare you talk to me like this? How dare you name my husband? You
brought me out here on purpose to say such things to me? Oh, it's
abominable, it's disgraceful!
There was no room for doubt as to the sincerity of her indignation.
Maxwell drew back and his face changed. There were patches of dull red
on his cheeks, almost as though he had been struck, and his narrow eyes
glittered. Looking at him, Milly felt physical fear; she thought once
more of insanity. There was a silence; then she spoke again.
Put me on to the bank here, please. I'll walk back.
I shall let you go when I choose, returned he, in a grating voice.
I have something to say to you first.
He paused and his frown darkened upon her. You asked me how I
'dared.' Dare! Do you take me for a dog, to be chained up and
tantalized with nice bits, and hardly allowed to whine for them? I say,
how dare you entice me with your beautyit's decked out now for
meentice me with all your beguiling ways, your pretence of longing to
go away and to live the free life in the East as I live it? Now, when
you've made me want youwhat else have you been aiming at? You pretend
to be surprised, you pretend even to yourself, to be dreadfully
shocked. What damned humbug! With us only the dancing-girls venture to
play such tricks as you do, and they daren't go too far, because the
men are men and wear knives. But here you proper women, with your
weakness unnaturally protected, you go about pretending you don't know
there's such a thing in the world as desireoh, of course not!and
all the while you're deliberately exciting it and playing upon it.
Mildred had been right in saying that the gentle Milly could be in a
rage; though it was a thing that had happened to her only once or twice
before since her childhood. It happened now. Anger, burning anger,
extinguished the fear that had held her silent while he was speaking.
It's false! she cried, with burning face and blazing eyes. It's
disgraceful of you to say such thingsit's degrading for me to have to
hear them. I will get away from you, if I have to jump into the river.
She started forward, but Maxwell, with his tall, lithe body and long
arms, had a great reach. He leaned forward and his iron hands were upon
her shoulders, forcing her back.
Don't be a fool, he said, still fierce in eye and voice.
Her lips trembled with fury so that she could hardly speak.
Do you consider yourself a gentleman?
He laughed scornfully.
I don't consider the question at all. I am a man; you are a woman,
and you have presumed to make a plaything of me. You thought you could
do it with impunity because we are civilized, because you are a lady;
for bar-maids and servant-girls do get their throats cut sometimes
still. Don't be frightened, I'm not going to kill you, but I mean to
make you understand for once that these privileges of weakness are
humbug, that they're not in nature. I mean to teach you that a man is a
He suddenly withdrew his hands from her with a sharp exclamation.
Milly's teeth were pearly white and rather small, but they were
pointed, and they had met in the flesh of the right hand which rested
so firmly on her shoulder. He fell back and put his hand to his mouth.
A boat-hook lay within her reach, and her end of the canoe had drifted
near enough to the river-bank for her to be able to catch hold with the
hook and to pull it farther in. Braced to the uttermost by rage and
fear, she bounded to her feet without upsetting the canoe. It lurched
violently, but righted itself, swinging out once more into the stream.
Maxwell looked up and saw her standing on the river-bank above him. She
did not stay to parley, but with lifted skirt hurried up the steep
meadow, through the sun-flecked shadows of the elm-trees, towards the
path. When she was half-way up a harsh, sardonic laugh sounded behind
her, and instinctively she looked back. Maxwell held up his wounded
Primitive woman at last, Mildred! he shouted. Don't apologize, I
Ian only came home just in time to scramble into his evening
dress-suit for a dinner at the Fletchers'. He needed not to fear delay
either from that shirt-button at the back, refractory or on the last
thread, or from any other and more insidious trap for the hurrying
male. Milly looked after him in a way which, if the makers of
traditions concerning wives were not up to their necks in falsehood,
must have inspired devotion in the heart of any husband alive. She had
already observed that he had been allowed to lose most of the
pocket-handkerchiefs she had marked for him in linen thread. That
trifles such as this should cause bitterness will seem as absurd to
sensible persons as it would to be told that our lives are made up of
mere to-morrowsif Shakespeare had not happened to put that in his own
memorable way. For it takes a vast deal of imagination to embrace the
ordinary facts of life and human nature. But even the most sensible
will understand that it was annoying for Milly regularly to find her
own and the family purse reduced to a state that demanded rigid
economy. The Invader, stirring in that limbo where she lay, might have
answered that rigid economy was Milly's forte and real delight, and
that it was well she should have nothing to spend in ridiculously
disguising the fair body they were condemned to share. Mildred
certainly left behind her social advantages which both Ian and Milly
enjoyed without exactly realizing their source, while her bric-à-brac
purchases, from an eighteenth-century print to a Chinese ivory, were
always sure to be rising investments. But all such minor miseries as
her invasion might multiply for Milly, were forgotten in the horror of
the abyss that had now opened under her feet. For long after that
second return of hers, on the night of the thunderstorm, a shadow, a
dreadful haunting thought, had hovered in the back of her mind.
Gradually it had faded with the fading of a memory; but to-night the
colors of that memory revived, the thought startled into a more vivid
In the press and hurry of life, not less in Oxford than in other
modern towns, the Stewarts and Fletchers did not meet so often and
intimately as to make inevitable the discovery of Mildred Stewart's
dual personality by her cousins. They said she had developed moods; but
with the conservatism of relations, saw nothing in her that they had
not seen in her nursery days.
Ian and Milly walked home from dinner, according to Oxford custom,
but a Durham man walked with them, talking over a College question with
Ian, and they did not find themselves alone until they were within the
wainscoted walls of the old house. Milly had looked so pale all the
evening that Ian expected her to go to bed at once; but she followed
him into the study, where the lamp was shedding its circle of light on
the heaped books and papers of his writing-table. Making some
perfunctory remarks which she barely answered, he sat down to work at
an address which he was to deliver at the meeting of a learned society
Milly threw off her white shawl and seated herself on the old,
high-backed sofa. Her dress was of some gauzy material of indeterminate
tone, interwoven with gold tinsel, and a scarf of gauze embroidered
with gold disguised what had seemed to her an over-liberal display of
dazzling shoulders. Ian, absorbed in his work, hardly noticed his wife
sitting in the penumbra, chin on hand, staring before her into
nothingness, like some Cassandra of the hearth, who listens to the
inevitable approaching footsteps of a tragic destiny. At last she said:
I've got something awful to tell you.
Ian startled, dropped his pen and swung himself around in his pivot
What about? Tony?for it was to this diminutive that Mildred had
reduced the flowing syllables of Antonio.
No, your cousin, Maxwell Davison.
Now, Ian liked his cousin well enough, but by no means as well as he
About Max! he exclaimed, relieved. What's happened to him?
Nothingbut oh, Ian! Ihate even to speak of such a thing
Never mind. Just tell me what it is.
I was on the river with him this afternoon, and hehe made love to
The lines of Ian's face suddenly hardened.
Did he? he returned, significantly, playing with a paper-knife.
Then, after a pause: I'm awfully sorry, Milly. I'd no idea he was such
Hehe wanted me to run away with him.
Ian's face became of an almost inhuman severity.
I shall let Maxwell Davison know my opinion of him, he said.
But it's worseit's even more horrible than that. He was expecting
me. II of course knew nothing about it; I only knew about the
garden-party at Lady Margaret. But he said I'd promised to come; he
said all kinds of shocking, horrid things about my having dressed
myself up for him
Please don't tell me what he said, Milly, Ian interrupted, still
coldly, but with a slight expression of disgust. I'd rather you
didn't. I suppose I ought to have taken better care of you, my poor
little girl, but really here in Oxford one never thinks of anything so
I must tell you one thing, she resumed, almost obstinately. He
said he knew I didn't love youthat I didn't love you,
my own darling husband. Some one, some onemust be responsible for his
thinking that. How do I know what happens whenwhen I'm away. My poor
Ian! Left with a creature who doesn't love you!
Ian rose. His face was cold and hard still, but there was a faint
flush on his cheek, the mark of a frown between his black brows. He
walked to a window and looked out into the moonlit garden, where the
gnarled apple-trees threw weird black shadows on grass and wall, like
shapes of grotesque animals, or half-hidden spectres, lurking,
We're getting on to a dangerous subject, he answered, at length.
Don't give me pain by imagining evil aboutabout yourself. You could
never, under any aspect, be anything but innocent and loyal and all
that a man could wish his wife to be.
He smoothed his brow with an effort, went up to her, and taking her
soft face between his hands kissed her forehead.
There! he exclaimed, with a forced smile. Don't let's talk about
it any more, darling. Go to bed and forget all about it. It won't seem
so bad to-morrow morning.
But Milly did not respond. When he released her head she threw it
back against her own clasped hands, closing her eyes. She was ghastly
No, she moaned, I can't bear it by myself. It's too, too awful.
It's not Me; it's something that takes my place. I saw it once. It's an
evil spirit. O God, what have I done that such a thing should happen to
me! I've always tried to be good.
There was a clash of pity and anger in Ian's breast. Pity for
Milly's case, anger on account of her whom his inmost being recognized
as another, whatever his rational self might say to the matter. He sat
down beside his wife and uttered soothing nothings. But she turned upon
him eyes of wild despair, the more tragic because it broke through a
nature fitted only for the quietest commonplaces of life. She flung
herself upon him, clutching him tight, hiding her face upon him.
What have I done? she moaned again. You know I always believed in
God, in God's love. I wouldn't have disbelieved even if He'd taken you
away from me. But now I can't believe in anything. There must be wicked
spirits, but there can't be a good God if He allows them to take
possession of a poor girl like me, who's never done any one any harm. O
Ian, I've tried to pray, and I can't. I don't believe in anything now.
Ian was deeply perplexed. He himself believed neither in a God nor
in evil spirits, and he knew not how to approach Milly's mind. At
length he said, quietly:
I should have expected you, dear, to have reasoned about this a
little more. What's the use of being educated if we give way to
superstition, like savages, directly something happens that we don't
quite understand? Some day an eclipse of conscious personality, like
yours, will come to be understood as well as an eclipse of the moon.
Don't let's make it worse by conjuring up superstitious terrors.
At first I thought it was like thatan eclipse of memory. But now
I feel more and more it's a different person that's here, it's not I.
To-night Cousin David said that sometimes when he met me he expected to
find when he got home that his Lady Hammerton had walked away out of
the frame. And, Ian, I looked up at that portrait, and suddenly I was
reminded ofthat fearful night when I came back and sawsomething. I
am descended from that woman, and you know how wicked she was.
Again the strange irritation stirred in the midst of Ian's pity.
Wicked, darling! That's an absurd word to use.
She left her husband. And it's awful that I, who can't understand
how any woman could be so wicked as to do that, should be so terribly
like her. I feel as though it had something to do with this appalling
thing happening to me. Perhaps her sins are being visited on me. She
held the lapels of his coat and looked tenderly, yearningly, in his
face. And I could bear it better ifBut oh, my Ian! I can't bear to
think of you left with something wicked, with some one who doesn't love
you, who deceives you, and
Milly, he broke in, I won't have you say things like that. They
are absolutely untrue, and I won't have them said.
There was a note of sternness in his voice that Milly had never
heard before, and she saw a hard look come into his averted face which
was new to her. When she spoke it was in a gasp.
You love her? You love that wicked, bad woman so much you won't let
me tell you what she is?
He drew himself away from her with a gesture, and in a minute
answered with cold deliberation:
I cannot cease to love my own wife becausebecause she's not
always exactly the same.
They sat silent beside each other. At length Milly rose from the
sofa. The tinselled scarf, that other woman's delicate finery, had
slipped from the white beauty of her shoulders. She drew it around her
again slowly, and slowly with bowed head left the room.
Between noon and one o'clock on a bright June morning there is no
place in the world quite so full of sunshine and summer as the
quadrangle of an Oxford College. Not Age but Youth of centuries smiles
from gray walls and aery pinnacles upon the joyous children of To-day.
Youth, in a bright-haired, black-winged-butterfly swarm, streams out of
every dark doorway, from the austere shade of study, to disport itself,
two by two, or in larger eddying groups, upon the worn gravel, even
venturously flits across the sacred green of the turf. There is an
effervescence of life in the clear air, and the sun-steeped walls of
stone are resonant with the cheerful noise of young voices. Here and
there men already in flannels pass towards the gate; Dons draped in the
black folds of the stately gown, stand chatting with their books under
their arms; and since the season of festivity has begun, scouts hurry
cautiously to and fro from buttery and kitchen, bearing brimming silver
cups crowned with blue borage and floating straws, or trays of
decorated viands. The scouts are grave and careworn, but from every one
else a kind of physical joy and contentment seems to breathe as perfume
breathes from blossoms and even leaves, in the good season of the year.
Ian Stewart did not quite resist this atmosphere of physical
contentment. He stood in the sunshine exchanging a few words with
passing pupils; yet at the back of his mind there was a deep distress.
He had been brought up in the moral refinement, the honorable
strictness of principle with regard to moral law, common to his
academic class, and, besides, he had an innate delicacy and sensibility
of feeling. If his intelligence perceived that there are qualities,
individualities which claim exemption from ordinary rules, he had no
desire to claim any such exemption for himself. Yet he found himself
occupying the position of a man torn on the rack between a jealous wife
for whom he has affection and esteem, and a mistress who compels his
love. Only here was not alone a struggle but a mystery, and the knot
admitted of no severance.
He looked around upon his pupils, upon the distant figures of his
fellow Dons, robed in the same garb, seemingly living the same life as
himself. Where was fact, where was reality? In yonder phantasmagoric
procession of Oxford life, forever repeating itself, or in this strange
tragi-comedy of souls, one in two and two in one, passing behind the
thick walls of that old house in the street nearby? There he stood
among the rest, part and parcel apparently of an existence as ordinary,
as peaceful, as monotonous as the Victorian era could produce. Yet if
he were to tell any one within sight the plain truth concerning his
life, it would be regarded as a fairy tale, the fantastic invention of
an overwrought brain.
There is something in college life which fosters a reticence that is
almost secretiveness; and this becomes a code, a religion; yet Stewart
found himself seized with an intense longing to confide in someone. And
at that moment, from under the wide archway leading into the
quadrangle, appeared the Master of Durham. The Master was in cap and
gown, and carried some large papers under his arm; he walked slowly, as
he had taken to walking of late, his odd, trotting gait transformed
almost to a hobble. Meditative, he looked straight before him with
unseeing eyes. No artist was ever able to seize the inner and the outer
verity of that round, pink baby face, filled with the power of a
weighty personality and a penetrating mind. Stewart marked him in that
minute, sagacity and benevolence, as it were, silently radiating from
him; and the younger man in his need turned to the wise Master, the
paternal friend whose counsels had done so much to set his young feet
in the way of success.
When Stewart found himself in the Master's study, the study so
familiar to his youth, with its windows looking out on the garden
quadrangle, and saw the great little man himself seated before him at
the writing-table, he marvelled at the temerity that had brought him
there to speak on such a theme. But the cup was poured and had to be
drunk. The Master left him to begin. He sat with a plump hand on each
plump knee, and regarded his old pupil with silent benevolence.
I've come to see you, Master, said Stewart, because I feel very
bewildered, very helpless, in a matter which touches my wife even more
than myself. You were so kind about my marriage, and you have always
been good to her as well as to me.
Miss Flaxman was a nice young lady, squeaked the Master. I knew
you married wisely.
Something happened shortly before we were engaged which shewe
didn't quite graspits importance, I mean, Stewart began. He then
spoke of those periodical lapses of memory in his wife which he had
come to see involved real and extraordinary variations in her
charactera change, in fact, of personality. He mentioned their futile
visits to Norton-Smith, the brain and nerve specialist. The Master
heard him without either moving or interrupting. When he had done there
was a silence. At length the Master said:
I suspect we don't understand women.
Perhaps not. But, Master, haven't you yourself noticed a great
difference in my wife at various times?
Not more than I feel in myselfnot of another character, that is.
We live among men; we live among men who, generally speaking, know
nothing about women. That's why women appear to us strange and
unnatural. Your wife's quite normal, really.
But the memory alone, surely
That's made you nervous; but I've known cases not far different.
You remember meeting Sir Henry Milwood here? When I knew him he was a
young clergyman. He had an illness; forgot all about his clerical life,
and went sheep-farming in Australia, where he made his fortune.
But his personality? asked Stewart, with anxiety. Was that
Certainly. A colonial sheep-farmer is a different person from a
young Don just in orders.
I don't mean that, Master. I mean did he rise from his bed with
ideas, with feelings quite opposite to those which had possessed him
when he lay down upon it? Did he ever have a return of the clerical
phase, during which he forgot how he became a sheep-farmer and wished
to take up his old work again?
There was a pause. The Master played with his gold spectacles and
sucked his under lip. Then:
Take a good holiday, Stewart, he said.
Stewart's clear-cut face hardened and flushed momentarily. These
are not fancies of my own, Master. Cases occur in which two, sometimes
more than two, entirely different personalities alternate in the same
individual. The spontaneous cases are rare, of course, but hypnotism
seems to develop them pretty freely. The facts are there, but English
scientists prefer to say nothing about them.
The Master rose and trotted restlessly about.
They're quite right, he returned, at length. Such ideas can lead
to nothing but mischief.
Surely that is the orthodox theologian's usual objection to
The Master lifted his head and looked at his rebel disciple. For
although he was an officiating clergyman, he and the orthodox
theologians were at daggers drawn.
Views, statements of this kind are not knowledge, he said, after a
while, and continued moving uneasily about without looking at Stewart.
Stewart did not reply; it seemed useless to go on talking. He
recognized that the Master's attitude was what his own had been before
the iron of fact had entered into his flesh and spirit. Yet somehow he
had hoped that his Master's large and keen perception of human things,
his judicial mind, would have lifted him above the prejudices of
Reason. He sat there cheerless, his college cap between his knees; and
was seeking the moment to say good-bye when the Master suddenly sat
down beside him. To any one looking in at the window, the two seated
side by side on the hard sofa would have seemed an oddly assorted pair.
Stewart's length of frame, the raven black of his hair and beard, the
marble pallor of his delicate features, made the little Master look
smaller, pinker, plumper than usual; but his face, radiating wisdom and
affection, was more than beautiful in the eyes of his old disciple.
I took a great interest in your marriage, Stewart, he said. I
always think of you and your wife as two very dear young friends. You
must let me speak to you now as a father mightand probably wouldn't.
Stewart assented with affectionate reverence.
You are young, but your wife is much younger. A man marries a girl
many years younger than himself and has not the same feeling of
responsibility towards her as he would have towards a young man of the
same age. He seldom considers her youth. Yet his responsibility is much
greater towards her than towards a pupil of the same age; she needs
more help, she will accept more in forming her mind and character. Now
you have married a young lady who is very intelligent, very pleasing;
but she has a delicate nervous system, and it has been overstrained.
She lets this peculiar weakness of her memory get on her nerves. You
have nerves yourself, you have imagination, and you let your mind give
way to hers. That's not wise; it's not right. Let her feel that these
moods do not affect you; be sure that they do not. What matters mainly
is that your mutual love should remain unchanged. When your wife finds
that her happiness, her real happiness, is quite untouched by these
changes of mood, she will leave off attributing an exaggerated
importance to them. So will you, Stewart. You will see them in their
right proportion; you will see the great evil and danger of giving way
to imagination, of accepting perverse psychological hypotheses as
guides in life. Reason and Religion are the only true guides.
The Master did not utter these sayings continuously. There were
pauses which Stewart might have filled, but he did not offer to do so.
The spell of his old teacher's mind and aspect was upon him. His spirit
was, as it were, bowed before his Master in a kind of humility.
He walked home with a lightened heart, feeling somewhat as a devout
sinner might feel to whom his confessor had given absolution. For about
twenty-four hours this mood lasted. Then he confronted the fact that
the beloved Master's advice had been largely, though not altogether,
futile, because it had not dealt with actuality. And Ian Stewart saw
himself to be moving in the plain, ordinary world of men as solitary as
a ghost which vainly endeavors to make its presence and its needs
Tims had ceased to be an inhabitant of Oxford. She was studying
physiology in London and luxuriating in the extraordinary cheapness of
life in Cranham Chambers. Not that she had any special need of
cheapness; but the spinster aunt who brought her up had, together with
a comfortable competence, left her the habit of parsimony. If, however,
she did not know how to enjoy her own income, she allowed many women
poorer than herself to benefit by it.
She was no correspondent; and an examination, followed by the
serious illness of her next-door neighborMr. Fitzalan, a solitary man
with a small post in the British Museumhad prevented her from
visiting Oxford during Mildred's last invasion. She had imagined Milly
Stewart to have been leading for two undisturbed years the busily
tranquil life proper to her; adoring Ian and the baby, managing her
house, and going sometimes to church and sometimes to committees,
without wholly neglecting the cultivation of the mind. A letter from
Milly, in which she scented trouble, made her call herself sternly to
account for her long neglect of her friend.
It was now the Long Vacation, but Miss Burt was still at Ascham and
Lady Thomson was spending a week with her. She had stayed with the
Stewarts in the spring, and resolutely keeping a blind eye turned
towards whatever she ought to have disapproved in Mildred, had lauded
her return to bodily vigor, and also to good sense, in ceasing to fuss
about the health of Ian and the baby. Aunt Beatrice would have blushed
to own a husband and child whose health required care. This time when
she dined with the Stewarts she had found Milly reprehensibly pale and
dispirited. One day shortly afterwards she came in to tea. The nurse
happened to be out, and Tony, now a beautiful child of fifteen months,
was sitting on the drawing-room floor.
The two women were discussing plans for raising money to build a
gymnasium at Ascham, but Tony was not interested in the subject. He
kept working his way along the floor to his mother, partly on an elbow
and a knee, but mostly on his stomach. Arrived at his goal he would
pull her skirt, indicate as well as he could a little box lying by his
neglected picture-book, and grunt with much expression. A monkey lived
inside the box, and Tony, whose memory was retentive, persevered in
expecting to hear that monkey summoned by wild tattoos and subterranean
growls until it jumped up with a banga splendidly terrible thing of
white bristles, and scarlet snoutto dance the fandango to a lively if
unmusical tune. Then Tony, be sure, would laugh until he rolled from
side to side. Mummy never responded to his wishes now, but Daddy had
pleaded for the Jack-in-the-box to be spared, and sometimes when quite
alone with Tony, would play the monkey-game in his inferior paternal
style, pleased with such modified appreciation as the young critic
might bestow upon him.
I'm sorry Baby's so troublesome, apologized the distressed Milly,
for the third time lifting Tony up and replacing him in a sitting
posture, with his picture-book. I'm trying to teach him to sit quiet,
but I'm afraid he's been played with a great deal more than he should
To tell the truth, I thought so the last time I was here, replied
Aunt Beatrice. But he's still young enough to be properly trained.
It's such waste of a reasonable person's time to spend it making
idiotic noises at a small baby. And it's a thousand times better for
the child's brain and nerves for it to be left entirely to itself.
Tony said nothing, but his face began to work in a threatening
I perfectly agree with you, Aunt Beatrice, responded Milly,
Lady Thomson continued:
Children should be spoken to as little as possible until they are
from two to two and a half years old; then they should be taught to
Milly chimed in: Yes, that's always been my own view. I do feel it
so important that their very first impressions should be the right
ones, that the first pictures they see should be good, that they should
never be sung to out of tune and in general
Apparently this programme for babies did not commend itself to Tony;
certainly the first item, enjoining silent development, did not. His
face had by this time worked the right number of minutes to produce a
roar, and it came. Milly picked him up, but the wounds of his spirit
were not to be immediately healed, and the roar continued. Finally he
had to be handed over to the parlor-maid, and so came to great
happiness in the kitchen, where there were no rules against infantile
conversation. Milly was flushed and disturbed.
Baby has not been properly brought up, she said. He's been
allowed his own way too much.
Since you say so, Milly, I must confess I noticed in the spring
that you seemed to be bringing the child up in an easy-going,
old-fashioned way I should hardly have expected of you. I hope you will
begin now to study the theory of education. A mother should take her
vocation seriously. I own I don't altogether understand the taste for
frivolities which you have developed since you married. It's harmless,
no doubt, but it doesn't seem quite natural in a young woman who has
taken a First in Greats.
Milly's hands grasped the arms of her chair convulsively. She looked
at her aunt with desolation in her dark-ringed eyes. The last thing she
had ever intended was to mention the mysterious and disastrous fate
that had befallen her; yet she did it.
The person you saw here last spring wasn't I. Oh, Aunt Beatrice!
Can't you see the difference?
Lady Thomson looked at her in surprise:
What do you mean? I was speaking of my visit to you in March.
And don't you see the difference? Oh, how hateful you must have
Really, Mildred, I saw nothing hateful about you. On the contrary,
if you want the plain truth, I greatly prefer you in a cheerful,
common-sense mood, as you were then, even if your high spirits do lead
you into a little too much frivolity. I think it a more wholesome, and
therefore ultimately a more useful, frame of mind than this causeless
depression, which leads you to take such a morbid, exaggerated view of
Every word pierced Milly's heart with a double pang.
You liked her better than me? she asked, piteously. Yet I've
always tried to be just what you wanted me to be, Aunt Beatrice, to do
everything you thought right, and sheOh, it's too awful!
What do you mean, Mildred?
I mean that the person you prefer to me as I am now, the person who
was here in March, wasn't I at all.
The fine healthy carnation of Lady Thomson's cheek paled. In her
calm, rapid way she at once found the explanation of Milly's unhealthy,
depressed appearance and manner. Poor Mildred Stewart was insane.
Beyond the paling of her cheek, however, Lady Thomson allowed no sign
of shock to be visible in her.
That's an exaggerated way of talking, she replied. I suppose you
mean your mood was different.
Milly was looking straight in front of her with haggard eyes.
No; it simply wasn't I at all. You believe in the Bible, don't
Not in verbal inspiration, of course, but in a general way, yes,
returned Lady Thomson, puzzled but guarded.
Do you believe in the demoniacs? In possession by evil spirits?
Milly was not looking at vacancy now. Her desperate hands clutched
the arms of her chair, as she leaned forward and fixed her aunt with
hollow eyes, awaiting her reply.
Certainly not! Most certainly not! They were obviously cases of
epilepsy and insanity, misinterpreted by an ignorant age.
Noit's all true, quite literally true. Three times, and for six
months or more each time, I have been possessed by a spirit that cannot
be good. I know it's not. It takes my body, it takes the love of people
I care for, away from me Milly's voice broke and she pressed her
handkerchief over her face. You all think herBut she's bad, and some
day she'll do something wickedsomething that will break my heart, and
you'll all insist it was I who did it, and you'll believe I'm a wicked
Lady Thomson looked very grave.
Mildred, dear, she said, try and collect yourself. It is really
wicked of you to give way to such terrible fancies. Would God permit
such a thing to happen to one of His children? We feel sure He would
Milly shook her head, but the struggle with her hysterical sobs kept
her silent. Lady Thomson walked to the window, feeling more upset
than she had ever felt in her life. The window was open, but an awning
shut out the view of the street. From the window-boxes, filled with
pink geraniums and white stocks, a sweet, warm scent floated into the
room, and the rattle of the milkman's cart, the chink of his cans, fell
upon Lady Thomson's unheeding ears. So did voices in colloquy, but she
did not particularly note a female one of a thin, chirpy quality,
addressing the parlor-maid with a familiarity probably little
appreciated by that elegantly decorous damsel.
Milly had scarcely mastered her tears and Lady Thomson had just
begun to address her in quiet, firm tones, when Tims burst unannounced
into the room. Her hat was incredibly on one side, and her sallow face
almost crimson with heat, but bright with pleasure at finding herself
once more in Oxford.
Hullo, old girl! she cried, blind to the serious scene into which
she was precipitated. How are you? Now don't kiss methrowing
herself into an attitude of violent defence against an embrace not yet
offeredI'm too hot. Carried my bag myself all the way from the
station and saved the omnibus.
Lady Thomson fixed Tims with a look of more than usually cold
disapproval. Milly proffered a constrained greeting.
Anything gone wrong? asked Tims, after a minute, peering at
Milly's tear-stained eyes with her own short-sighted ones.
Milly answered with a forced self-restraint which appeared like cold
Aunt Beatrice thinks I'm mad because I say I'm not the same person
she found in my place last March. I want you to tell her that it's not
just my fancy, but that you know that sometimes a quite different
person takes my place, and I'm not responsible for anything she says or
Yes, that's a solemn Gospel fact, right enough, affirmed Tims.
Lady Thomson could hardly control her indignation, but she did,
although she spoke sternly to Tims.
Do I understand you to say, Miss Timson, that it's a 'solemn Gospel
fact'Gospel! Good Heavensthat Milly is possessed by a devil?
Tims plumped down on the sofa and stared at Lady Thomson.
Possessed by a devil? Good Lord, no! What do you mean?
Mildred believes herself to be possessed by an evil spirit.
Tims turned to Milly in consternation.
Milly, old girl! Come! Poor old Milly! I never thought you were so
superstitious as all that. Besides, I know more about it than you do,
and I tell you straight, you mayn't be quite such a good sort when
you're in your other phase, but as to there being a devil in itwell,
devil's all nonsense, but if that were so, I should like to have a
devil myself, and the more the merrier.
Milly turned on her a face pale with horror and indignation. Her
eyes flashed and she raised a remonstrating hand.
Hush! she cried. Hush! You don't know what dreadful things you're
saying. I don't know exactly what this spirit is that robs me of my
life; I'm only sure it's not Me and it's not good.
Whatever may be the matter with you, Mildred, said Lady Thomson,
it can't possibly be that. I suppose you have suffered from loss of
memory again and it's upset your nerves. Why will people have nerves? I
should advise you to go to Norton-Smith at once.
Milly's tears were flowing again but she managed to reply:
I've been to Dr. Norton-Smith, Aunt Beatrice. He doesn't seem to
He doesn't want to, interjected Tims, scornfully. You don't
suppose a respectable English nerve-doctor wants to know anything about
psychology? They'd be interested in the case in France, or in the
United States, but they wouldn't be able to keep down Milly Number
Then what use would they be to me? asked Milly, despairingly. I
can only trust in God; and He seems to have forsaken me.
No, no, my dear child! cried Lady Thomson. Don't talk in this
painful way. I can't imagine what you mean, Miss Timson. It all sounds
I can explain the whole case to you perfectly, stated Tims, with
I'd better go away, gasped Milly between her convulsive sobs. I
can't bear any more. But Aunt Beatrice must know now. Tell her what you
like, onlyonly it isn't true.
Milly fled to her bedroom; the long, low room, so perfect in its
simplicity, its windows looking away into the sunshine over the
pleasant boughs of orchards and garden-plots and the gray shingled
roofs of old housesthe room from which on that November evening
Milly's spirit had been absent while Ian, the lover whom she had never
known, had watched his Beloved, the Desire of his soul and sense,
returning to him from the unimagined limbo to which she had again
When Ian came back from the Bodleian Library, where he was working,
he heard voices talking in raised tones before he entered the
drawing-room. He found no Milly there, but Lady Thomson and Miss Timson
seated at the extreme ends of the same sofa and engaged in a heated
It can't be true, Lady Thomson was stating firmly. If it were,
what becomes of Personal Immortality?
Miss Timson had just time to convey the fact that Personal
Immortality was not the affair of a woman of science, before she rose
to greet Ian, which she did effusively.
Hullo! he remarked, cheerfully, when her effusion was over. No
Milly and no tea!
We don't want either just yet, returned Lady Thomson. I'm
terribly anxious about Mildred, Ian, and Miss Timson has not said
anything to make me less so. I want a sound, sensible opinion on the
state of herher nerves.
Ian's brow clouded.
Tell me frankly, do you notice so great a difference in her from
time to time, as to account for the positively insane delusion she has
got into her head?
What do you mean, Aunt Beatrice? asked Ian, shortly, sternly eying
Tims, whom he imagined to have let out the secret.
Mildred has made an extraordinary statement to me about not being
the same person now as she was in March. Of course I see shewell, she
is not so full of life as she was then. Yes, I do admit she is in a
very different mood. But do you know the poor unfortunate child has got
it into her head that she is possessed by an evil spirit? I can't think
how you could have allowed her to come to that state ofof mental
aberration, without doing anything.
Ian was silent. He looked gaunt and sombrely dark in the low,
awning-shaded room, with its heavy beams and floor of wavelike
You'll have to put her under care next, if you don't take some
steps. Send her for a sea-voyage.
I'd take her myself if I thought it would do her any good, said
Tims. But I'll lay my bottom dollar it wouldn't.
I'm afraid I think Miss Timson's view of the matter as insane as
Milly's, returned Lady Thomson, tartly.
Ian lifted his bowed head and addressed Tims:
I should like to know exactly what your view of the matter is, Miss
Timson. We need not discuss poor Milly's; it's too absurd and also too
It's no doubt a case of disintegration of personality, replied
Tims, after a pause. Somewhere inside our brains must be a
nerve-centre which co-ordinates most of our mental, our sensory and
motor processes, in such a manner as to produce consciousness,
volition, what we call personality. But after all there are always
plenty of activities within us going on independent of it. Your heart
beats, your stomach digestseven your memory works apart from your
consciousness sometimes. Now suppose some shock or strain enfeebles
your centre of consciousness, so that it ceases to be able to
co-ordinate all the mental processes it has been accustomed to
superintend. What you call your personality is the outcome of your
memory and all your other faculties and tendencies working together,
checking and balancing each other. Suppose your centre of consciousness
so enfeebled; suppose at the same time an enfeeblement of memory,
causing you to completely forget external facts: certain of your
faculties and tendencies are left working and they are co-ordinated
without an important part of the memory, without many other faculties
and tendencies which checked and balanced them. Naturally you appear to
yourself and to every one else a totally different person; but it's not
a new personality really, it's only a bit of the old one which goes on
its own hook, while the rest is quiescent.
This is the most abominably materialistic theory of the human mind
I ever heard, exclaimed Lady Thomson, indignantly. The most degrading
to our spiritual natures.
Ian leaned against the high, carved mantel-piece and pushed back the
black hair from his forehead.
I'm not concerned with that, he replied, deliberately, discussing
this case so vitally near to him with an almost terrible calmness. But
I can't feel that this disintegration theory altogether covers the
ground. There is no development of characteristics previously to be
found in Milly; on the contrary, the qualities of mind and character
which she exhibits whenwhen the change comes over her, are precisely
the opposite of those she exhibits in what I presume we ought to call
her normal state.
There must be some reason for it, old chap, you know, returned
Tims; and it seems to me that's the line you've got to move along,
unless you're an idiot and go in for devils or spiritualistic
I believe I've followed what you've been saying, Miss Timson, said
Lady Thomson, in her fullest tones; and I can assure you I feel under
no necessity to become either a materialist or an idiot in
Ian spoke again.
I don't profess to be scientific, but I do seem to see another
possible line, running parallel with yours, but not quite the same.
It's evident we can inherit faculties, characteristics, from our
ancestors which never become active in us; but we know they must have
been present in us in a quiescent state, because we can transmit them
to children in whom they become active. Mildred's father and mother,
for example, are not scholars, although her grandfather and
great-grandfather were; yet in one of her parents at least there must
be a germ of the scholar's faculty which has never been developed,
because Mildred has inherited it. Now why can't we develop all the
faculties, the germs of which lie within our borders? Perhaps because
we have each only a certain amount of what I'll call vital current. If
the Nile could overflow the whole desert it would all be fertilized,
and perhaps if we had sufficient vital force we could develop all the
faculties whose germs we inherit. Suppose by some accident, owing to a
shock or strain, as you say, the flow of this vital current of ours is
stopped in the direction in which it usually flows most strongly; its
course is diverted and it fertilizes tracts of our brain and nervous
system which before have been lying quiescent, sterile. If we lose the
memory of our former lives, and if at the same time hereditary
faculties and tendencies, of the existence of which we were unaware,
suddenly become active in us, we are practically new personalities.
Then say the vital current resumes its old course; we regain our
memories, our old faculties, while the newly developed ones sink again
into quiescence. We are once more our old selves. No doubt this is all
very unscientific, but so far Science seems to have nothing to say on
It certainly has not, commented Lady Thomson, decisively. I ought
to know what Science is, considering how often I've met Mr. Darwin and
Professor Huxley. Hypnotism and this kind of unpleasant talk is not
Science. It's only a new variety of the hocus-pocus that's been
imposing on human weakness ever since the world began. I'd sooner
believe with poor Milly that she's possessed by a devil. It's less
silly to accept inherited superstitions than to invent brand-new ones.
But we've got to account somehow for the extraordinary changes
which take place in Milly, sighed Ian, wearily.
The light lines across his forehead were showing as furrows, and
Tims's whole face was corrugated.
No hocus-pocus about them, anyway, she said.
There's a great deal of fancy about them, retorted Lady Thomson.
A nervous, imaginative man like you, Ian, ought to be on your guard
against allowing such notions to get hold of you. It's so easy to fancy
things are as you're afraid they may be, and then you influence Milly
and she goes from bad to worse. I think I may claim to understand her
if any one does, and all I see is that she gives way to moods. At first
I thought it was a steady development of character; but I admit that
when she is unwell and out of spirits, she becomes just her old timid,
over-conscientious self again. She's always been very easily
influenced, very dependent, and nowI hardly like to say such a thing
of my own niecebut I fear there's a touch of hysteria about her. I've
always heard that hysterical people, even when they've been perfectly
frank and truthful before, become deceitful and act parts till it's
impossible to tell fact from falsehood with regard to them. I would
suggest your letting Mildred come to me for a month or two, Ian. I feel
sure I should send her back to you quite cured of all this nonsense.
At this point Milly came in. Ian stretched out his hand towards her
with protective tenderness; but even at the moment when his whole soul
was moved by an impulse of compassion so strong that it seemed almost
love, a spirit within him arose and mocked at all hypotheses, telling
him that this poor stricken wife of his, seemingly one with the lady of
his heart, was not she, but another.
Aunt Beatrice was just saying you ought to get away from domestic
cares for a month or two, Milly, he said, as cheerfully as he could.
Lady Thomson explained.
What you want is a complete change; though I don't know what people
mean when they talk about 'domestic cares.' I should like to have you
up at Clewes for the rest of the Long. Ian can look after the baby.
Milly smiled at her sweetly, but rather as though she were talking
It's very kind of you, Aunt Beatrice, but Ian and I have never been
parted for a day since we were married; I mean not whenand I don't
feel as though I could spare a minute of his company. And poor Baby,
too! Oh no! But of course it's very good of you to think of it.
Then you must all come to Clewes, decided Aunt Beatrice, after
some remonstrance. That'll settle it.
But my work! ejaculated Ian in dismay. How am I to get on at
Clewes, away from the libraries?
There are some things in life more important than books, Ian,
returned Lady Thomson.
But it won't do a penn'orth of good, broke in Tims,
argumentatively. I don't pretend to have more than a working
hypothesis, but whoever else may prove to be right, Lady Thomson's on
the wrong line.
Lady Thomson surveyed her in silence; Ian took no notice of her
remark. He was looking before him with a sadness incomprehensible to
the uncreative manto the man who has never dreamed dreams and seen
visions; with the sadness of one who just as the cloudy emanations of
his mind are beginning to take form and substance sees them scattered,
perhaps never again to reunite, by some cold breath from the relentless
outside world of circumstance. He made his renunciation in silence;
then, with a quiet smile, he turned to Lady Thomson and answered her.
You're very kind, Aunt Beatrice, and quite right. There are things
in life much more important than books.
So the summer went by; a hot summer, passed brightly enough to all
appearance in the spacious rooms and gardens of Clewes and in
expeditions among the neighboring fells. But to Ian it seemed rather an
anxious pause in life. His work was at a stand-still, yet whatever the
optimistic Aunt Beatrice might affirm, he could not feel that the
shadow was lifting from his wife's mind. To others she appeared
cheerful in the quiet, serious way that had always been hers, but he
saw that her whole attitude towards life, especially in her wistful,
yearning tenderness towards himself and Tony, was that of a woman who
feels the stamp of death to be set upon her. At night, lying upon his
breast, she would sometimes cling to him in an agony of desperate love,
adjuring him to tell her the truth as to that Other: whether he did not
see that she was different from his own Milly, whether it were possible
that he could love that mysterious being as he loved her, his true,
loving wife. Ian, who had been wont to hold stern doctrines as to the
paramount obligation of truthfulness, perjured himself again and again,
and hoped the Recording Angel dropped the customary tear. But, however
deep the perjury, before long he was sure to find himself obliged to
To a man of his sensitive and punctilious nature the situation was
almost intolerable. The pity of this tender, innocent life, his care,
which seemed like some little inland bird, torn by the tempest from its
native fields and tossed out to be the plaything of an immense and
terrible ocean whose deeps no man has sounded! The pity of that other
life, so winged for shining flight, so armed for triumphant battle, yet
held down helpless in those cold ocean depths, and for pity's sake not
to be helped by so much as a thought! Yet from the thorns of his hidden
life he plucked one flower of comfort which to him, the philosopher,
the man of Abstract Thought, was as refreshing as a pious reflection
would be to a man of Religion. He had once been somewhat shaken by the
dicta of the modern philosophers who relegate human love to the plane
of an illness or an appetite. But where was the physical difference
between the woman he so passionately loved and the one for whom he had
never felt more than affection and pity? If from the strange adventure
of his marriage he had lost some certainties concerning the human soul,
he had gained the certainty that Love at least appertains to it.
One hot afternoon Milly was writing her Australian letter under a
spreading ilex-tree on the lawn. Lady Thomson and Ian were sitting
there also; he reading the latest French novel, she making notes for a
speech she had to deliver shortly at the opening of a Girls' High
It is sometimes difficult to find the right news for people who have
been for some years out of England, and Milly, in the languor of her
melancholy, had relaxed the excellent habit formed under Aunt Beatrice
of always keeping her mind to the subject in hand. She sat at the table
with one hand propping her chin, gazing dreamily at the bright
flower-beds on the lawn and the big, square, homely house, brightened
by its striped awnings. At length Aunt Beatrice looked up from her
Mooning, Milly! she exclaimed, in her full, agreeable voice. Now
I suppose you'll be telling your father you havn't time to write him a
Milly's not mooning; she's making notes, like you, Ian replied,
for his wife.
Milly looked around at him in surprise, and then at her right hand.
It held a stylograph and had been resting on some scattered sheets of
foolscap that Ian had left there in the morning. She had certainly been
scrawling on it a little, but she was not aware of having written
anything. Yet the scrawl, partly on one sheet and partly on another,
was writing, very bad and broken, but still with a resemblance to her
own handwriting. She pored over it; then looked Ian in the eyes, her
own eyes large with a bewilderment touched with fear.
II don't know what it means, she said, in a low, anxious tone.
What's that? queried Aunt Beatrice. Can't read what you've
written? You remind me of our old writing-master at school, who used to
say tragically that he couldn't understand how it was that when that
happened to a man he didn't just take a gun and shoot himself. I
recommend you the pond, Mildred. It's more feminine.
Please don't talk to Milly like that, retorted Ian, not quite
lightly. She always follows your advice, you know. Itit's only
He had left his chair and was leaning over the table, completely
puzzled, first by Milly's terrified expression, then by what she had
written, illegibly enough, across the two sheets of foolscap. He made
out: You are only miserab ...the words were interspersed with
really illegible scrawls... Go ... go ... Let me ... I want to live,
I want to ... Mild ...
Milly now wrote in her usual clear hand: Who wrote that?
He scribbled with his pencil: You.
She replied in writing: No. I know nothing about it.
Lady Thomson had taken up the newspaper, a thing she never did
except at odd minutes, although she contrived to read everything in it
that was really worth reading. Folding it up and looking at her watch,
A quarter of an hour before the carriage is round! Now don't go
dawdling there, young people, and keep it standing in the sun.
Milly stood up and gathered her writing-materials together. Aunt
Beatrice's tall figure, its stalwart handsomeness disguised in uncouth
garments, passed with its usual vigorous gait across the burning
sunlight on the lawn and broad gravel walk, to disappear under the
awning of a French window. Milly, very pale, had closed her eyes and
her hands were clasped. She trembled, but her voice and expression were
calm and even resolute.
The evil spirit is trying to get possession of me in another way
now, she said. But with God's help I shall be able to resist it.
Ian too was pale and disturbed. It was to him as though he had
suddenly heard a beloved voice calling faintly for help.
It's only automatic writing, dear, he replied. You may not have
been aware you were writing, but it probably reflects something in your
It does not, returned she, firmly. However miserable I may
sometimes be, I could never wish to give up a moment of my life with
you, my own husband, or to leave you and our child to the influence of
She stretched out her arms to him.
Please hold me, Ian, and will as I do, that I may resist this
horrible invasion. I have a feeling that you can help me.
He hesitated. I, darling? But I don't believe
She approached him, and took hold of him urgently, looking him in
Won't you do it, husband dear? Please, for my sake, even if you
don't believe, promise you'll will to keep me here. Will it, with all
What madness it was, this fantastic scene upon the well-kept lawn,
under the square windows of the sober, opulent North Country house! And
the maddest part of it all was the horrible reluctance he felt to
comply with his wife's wish. He seemed to himself to pause noticeably
before answering her with a meaningless half-laugh:
Of course I'll promise anything you like, dear.
He put his arms around her and rested his face upon her golden head.
Will! she whispered, and the voice was one of command rather than
of appeal. Will! You have promised.
He willed as she commanded him.
The triple madness of it! He did not believeand yet it seemed to
him that the being he loved best in all the world was struggling up
from below, calling to him for help from her tomb; and he was helping
her enemy to hold down the sepulchral stone above her. He put his hand
to his brow, and the sweat stood upon it.
Aunt Beatrice's masculine foot crunched the gravel. She stood there
dressed and ready for the drive, beckoning them with her parasol. They
came across the lawn holding each other by the hand, and Milly's face
was calm, even happy. Aunt Beatrice smiled at them broadly with her
large, handsome mouth and bright brown eyes.
What, not had enough of spooning yet, you foolish young people! The
carriage will be round in one minute, and Milly won't be ready.
There is a joy in the return of every season, though the return of
spring is felt and celebrated beyond the rest. The gay flame dancing on
the hearth where lately all was blackness, the sense of immunity from
the wrongs and arrows of the skies and their confederate earth, the
concentration of the sense upon the intimate charms which four walls
can contain, bring to civilized man consolation for the loss of
summer's lavish warmth and beauty. Children are always sensible of
these opening festivals of the seasons, but many mature people enjoy
without realizing them.
To Mildred the world was again new, and she looked upon its most
familiar objects with the delighted eyes of a traveller returning to a
favorite foreign country. So she did not complain because when she had
left the earth it had been hurrying towards the height of June, and she
had returned to find the golden boughs of October already stripped by
devastating winds. The flames leaped merrily under the great carved
mantel-piece in her white-panelled drawing-room, showing the date 1661,
and the initials of the man who had put it there, and on its narrow
shelf a row of Chelsea figures which she had picked up in various
corners of Oxford. The chintz curtains were drawn around the bay-window
and a bright brass scaldino stood in it, filled with the yellows
and red-browns, the silvery pinks and mauves of chrysanthemums. The
ancient charm, the delicate harmony of the room, in which every piece
of furniture, every picture, every ornament, had been chosen with an
exactness of taste seldom found in the young, made it more pleasurable
to a cultivated eye than the gilded show drawing-rooms into which
wealth too commonly crowds a medley of incongruous treasures and costly
It was a free evening for Ian, and as it was but the second since
the Desire of his Eyes had returned to him, his gaze followed her
movements in a contented silence, as she wandered about the room in her
slight grace, the whiteness of her skin showing through the
transparency of a black dress, which, although it was old, Milly would
have thought unsuitable for a domestic evening. When everything was
just where it should be, she returned to the fire and sank into a chair
How I should like some rides, she said; but I suppose I can't
have them, not unless Maxwell Davison's still in Oxford.
Ian's face clouded.
He's not, he returned, shortly; and knocked the ashes out of his
pipe, hesitating as to how he should put what he had to say about
Mildred put her hand over her eyes and leaned back in her chair.
Suddenly the silence was broken by a burst of rippling laughter. Ian
started; his own thoughts had not been so diverting.
What's the joke, Mildred?
Oh, Ian, don't you know? Max made love to Milly and sheshe bit
him! Wasn't it frightfully funny? She laughed again, with a more
I didn't know you bit him, although he richly deserved it; but of
course I knew he made love to you. How do you know?
It came to me just now in a sort of flash. I seemed to see himto
see her, floundering out of the canoe; and both of them in such a
towering rage. It really was too funny.
Ian's face hardened.
I am afraid I can't see the joke of a man making love to my wife.
You old stupid! He'd never have dared to behave like that to me;
but Milly's such an ass.
Milly was frightened, shocked, as any decent woman would be to whom
such a thing happened. She certainly didn't encourage Maxwell; but she
found an appointment already made for her to go on the river with him.
No doubt she took an exaggerated view of herof yourgood God,
Mildred, what am I to say?well, of your relations with him.
Mildred had closed her eyes. A strange knowledge of things that had
passed during her suppression was coming to her in glimpses.
I know, she returned, in a kind of wonder at her own knowledge.
Absurd! But Max did behave abominably. I couldn't have believed it of
him, even with that silly little baa-lamb. Of course she couldn't
manage him. She won't be able to manage Tony long.
Please don't speak ofof your other self in that way, Mildred.
You're very innocent of the world in both your selves, and you must
have been indiscreet or it would never have occurred to Maxwell to make
love to you.
Ian was actually frowning, his lips were tight and hard, the clear
pallor of his cheek faintly streaked with red. Mildred, leaning
forward, looked at him, interested, her round chin on her hands.
Are you angry, Ian? I really believe you are. Is it with me?
No, not with you. But of course I'm angry when I think of a fellow
like that, my own cousin, a man who has been a guest in my house over
and over again, being cad enough to make love to my wife.
Mildred was smiling quietly to herself.
How primitive you are, Ian! she said. I suppose men are primitive
when they're angry. I don't mind, but it does seem funny you
He looked at her, surprised.
Primitive? What do you mean?
What difference does it make, Max being your cousin, you silly old
boy? You'd hardly ever seen him till last winter. Clans aren't any use
to us now, are they? And when a man's got a house of his own, as Max
had, or even a hotel, why should he be so grateful as all that for a
few decent meals? He's not in the desert, depending on you for food and
protection. Anyhow, it seems curious to expect him to weigh little
things like that in the balance against what is always said to be such
a very strong feeling as a man's love for a woman.
Men often deplore that they have failed in their attempts
fundamentally to civilize Woman. They would use stronger language if
Woman often made attempts fundamentally to civilize them.
Please don't look at me like that, Mildred said, tremulously,
after a pause. And the tears rushed to her eyes.
Ian's face softened, as leaning against the tall white mantel-piece
he looked down and met the tear-bright gaze of his beloved.
Poor sweetheart! he exclaimed. You're just a child for all your
cleverness, and you don't half understand what you're talking about.
But listen to me He kneeled before her, bringing their heads almost
on a level. I won't have any more affairs like this of Maxwell's. I
dare say it was as much my fault as yours, but it mustn't happen
She dabbed away two tears that hung on her eyelashes, and looked at
him with such a bright alluring yet elusive smile as might have flitted
across the face of Ariel.
How can I help it if Milly flirts? I don't believe I can help it if
I do myself. But I can tell you this, Ianyes, really Her soft
white arms went about his neck. I've never seen a man yet who was a
patch upon you for cleverness and handsomeness and goodness and
altogetherness. No! You really are the very nicest man I ever saw!
In spite of the deepening dislike between the two egos which
struggled for the possession of Mildred Stewart's bodily personality,
they had a common interest in disguising the fact of their dual
existence. Yet the transformation never occurred without producing its
little harvest of inconveniences, and the difficulty of disguising the
difference between the two was the greater because of the number of old
acquaintances and friends of Milly Flaxman living in Oxford.
This was one reason why, when Ian was offered the headship of the
Merchants' Guild College in London, Mildred encouraged him to take it.
The income, too, seemed large in comparison to their Oxford one; and
the great capital, with its ever-roaring surge of life, drew her with a
natural magnetism. The old Foundation was being reconstructed, and was
ambitious of adorning itself with a name so distinguished as Ian
Stewart's, while at the same time obtaining the services of a man with
so many of his best years still before him. Stewart, although he could
do fairly well in practical administration, if he gave his mind to it,
had won distinction as a student and man of letters, and feared that,
difficult as it was to combine the real work of his life with
bread-and-butter-making in Oxford, it would be still more difficult to
combine it with steering the ship of the Merchants' Guild College. But
he had the sensitive man's defect of too often deferring to the
judgment of others, less informed or less judicious than himself. He
found it impossible to believe that the opinion of the Master of Durham
was not better than his own; and his old friend and tutor was strongly
in favor of his accepting the headship. His most really happy and
successful years had been those later ones in which he had shone as the
Head of the most brilliant College in Oxford, a man of affairs and, in
his individual way, a social centre. Accordingly he found it impossible
to believe that it might be otherwise with Ian Stewart. The majority of
Ian's most trusted advisers were of the same opinion as the Master,
since the number of persons who can understand the conditions necessary
to the productiveness of exceptional and creative minds is always few.
Besides, most people at bottom are in Martha's attitude of scepticism
towards the immaterial service of the world.
Lady Thomson voiced the general opinion in declaring that a man
could always find time to do good work if he really wanted to do it.
She rejoiced when Ian put aside the serious doubts which beset him and
accepted the London offer. Mildred also rejoiced, although she
regretted much that she must leave behind her, and in particular the
old panelled house.
This was, however, the one part of Oxford that Milly did not grieve
to have lost, when she awoke once more from long months of sleep, to
find herself in a new home. For she had grown to be silently afraid of
the old house, with the great chimney-stacks like hollowed towers
within it, made, it seemed, for the wind to moan in; its deep
embrasures and panelling, that harbored inexplicable sounds; its
ancient boards that creaked all night as if with the tread of
mysterious feet. Awake in the dark hours, she fancied there were really
footsteps, really knockings, movements, faint sighs passing outside her
door, and that some old wicked life which should long since have passed
away through the portals of the grave, clung to those ancient walls
with a horrible tenacity, still refusing the great renunciation of
It was true that in the larger, more hurried world of London it was
easier to dissimulate her transformations than it had been in Oxford.
The comparative retirement in which Milly lived was easily explained by
her delicate health. It seemed as though in her sojournswhich more
and more encroached upon those of the original personalitythe strong,
intrusive ego consumed in an unfair degree the vitality of their common
body, leaving Milly with a certain nervous exhaustion, a languor
against which she struggled with a pathetic courage. She learned also
to cover with a seldom broken silence the deep wound which was ever
draining her young heart of its happiness; and for that very reason it
grew deeper and more envenomed.
That Ian should love her evil and mysterious rival as though they
two were really one was horrible to her. Even her child was not
unreservedly her own, to bring up according to her own ideas, to love
without fear of that rival. Tony was like his father in the sweetness
of his disposition, as well as in his dark beauty, and he accented with
surprising resignation the innumerable rules and regulations which
Milly set about his path and about his bed. But although he was
healthy, his nerves were highly strung, and it seemed as though her
feverish anxiety for his physical, moral, and intellectual welfare
reacted upon him and made him, after a few weeks of her influence, less
vigorous in appearance, less gay and boylike than he was during her
absence. Ian dared not hint a preference for the animal spirits that
Mildred encouraged, with their attendant noise and nonsense, considered
by Milly so undesirable. But one day Tims observed, cryptically, that
A watched boy never boils; and Emma, the nurse, told Mrs. Stewart
bluntly that she thought Master Tony wasn't near so well and bright
when he was always being looked after, as he was when he was let go his
own way a bit, like other children. Then a miserable fear beset Milly
lest the boy, too, should notice the change in his mother; lest he
should look forward to the disappearance of the woman who loved him so
passionately, watched over him with such complete devotion, and in his
silent heart regret, invoke, that other. It was at once soothing and
bitter to her to be assured by Ian and by Tims that they had never been
able to discover the least sign that Tony was aware when the change
occurred between the two personalities of his mother.
Two years passed in London, two years out of which the original
owner enjoyed a total share of only nine months; and this, indeed, she
could not truly have been said to have enjoyed, since happiness was far
from her. Death would have been a sad but simple catastrophe, to be met
with resignation to the will of God. What resignation could be felt
before this gradual strangulation of her being at the hands of a
nameless yet surely Evil Thing? Her love for Ian was so great that his
sufferings were more to her than her own, and in the space of those two
years she saw that on him, too, sorrow had set its mark. The glow of
his good looks and the brilliancy of his mind were alike dulled. It was
not only that his shoulders were bent, his hair thinned and touched
with gray, but his whole appearance, once so individual, was growing
merely typical; that of the middle-aged Academic, absorbed in the cares
of his profession. His real work was not merely at a stand-still, but a
few more such years and his capacity for it would be destroyed. She
felt this vaguely, with the intuition of love. If the partnership had
been only between him and her, he surely would have yielded to her
prayer to give up the headship of the Merchants' Guild College after a
set term; but he put the question by. Evidently that Other, who cared
for nothing but her own selfish interests and amusements, who spent
upon them the money that he ought to be saving, would never allow him
to give up his appointment unless something better offered. It was not
only her own life, it was the higher and happier part of his that she
was struggling to save in those desperate hours when she sought around
her for some weapon wherewith to fight that mortal foe. She turned to
priests, Anglican, Roman Catholic; but they failed her. Both believed
her to be suffering under an insane delusion, but the Roman Catholic
priest would have attempted to exorcise the evil spirit if she would
have joined his Communion. She was too honest to pretend to a belief
that was not hers.
When she returned from her last vain pilgrimage to the Church of the
Sacred Heart and stood before the glass, removing a thick black veil
from the pale despair of her face, she was suddenly aware of a strange,
unfamiliar smile lifting the drooped lines of her lipsan elfish smile
which transformed her face to something different from her own. And
immediately those smiling lips uttered words that fell as unexpectedly
on her ears as though they had proceeded from the mouth of another
Never mind, they said, briskly. It wouldn't have been of the
For a minute a wild terror made her brain swim and she fled to the
door, instinctively seeking protection; but she stayed herself,
remembering that Ian, who was sleeping badly at night, was now asleep
in his study. Weak and timid though she was, she would lay no fresh
burden on him, but fight her battle, if battle there was to be, alone.
She walked back deliberately to the glass and looked steadily at her
own reflection. Her brows were frowning, her eyes stern as she had
never before seen them, but they were assuredly hers, answering to the
mood of her own mind. Her lips were cold, and trembled so that although
she had meant solemnly to defy the Power of Evil within her she was
unable to articulate. As she looked in the glass and saw herselfher
real selfso evidently there, the strange smile, the speech divorced
from all volition of hers which had crossed her lips, began to lose
reality. Still her lips trembled, and at length a convulsion shook them
as irresistible as that of a sob. Words broke stammeringly out which
were not hers:
Struggle for lifethe stronger wins. I'm stronger. It's no use
strugglingno useno useno use!
Milly pressed her lips hard against her teeth with her hands,
stopping this utterance by main force. Her heart hammered so loud it
seemed as though some one must hear it and come to ask what was the
matter. But no one came. She was left alone with the Thing within her.
It may have been a long while, it may have been only a few seconds
that she remained standing at her dressing-table, her hands pressed
hard against her convulsed mouth. She had closed her eyes, afraid to
look longer in the glass, lest something uncanny should peer out of it.
She did not prayshe had prayed so often beforebut she fought with
her whole strength against the encroaching power of the Other. At
length she gradually released her lips. They were bruised, but they had
ceased to move. It was she herself who spoke, low but clearly and with
I shall struggle. I shall never give in. You think you're the
stronger. I won't let you be. I'm fighting for my husband's
happinessdo you hear?as well as my own. You're strong, but we shall
be stronger, he and I, in the end.
There was no answer, the sense of struggle was gone from her; and
suddenly she felt how mad it was to be talking to herself like that in
an empty room. She took off the little black toque which sat on her
bright head with an alien smartness to which she was now accustomed,
and forced herself to look in the glass while she pinned up a stray
lock of hair. Beyond an increased pallor and darker marks under her
eyes, she saw nothing unusual in her appearance.
It was five o'clock, and Ian would probably be awake and wanting his
tea. She went softly into the study and leaned over him. Sleep had
almost smoothed away the lines of effort and worry which had marred the
beauty of his face; in the eyes of her love he was always the same
handsome Ian Stewart as in the old Oxford days, when he had seemed as a
young god, so high above her reach.
She went to an oak table behind the sofa, on which the maid had set
the tea-things without awakening him, and sat there quietly watching
the kettle. The early London twilight began to veil the room. Ian
stirred on the sofa and sat up, with his back to her, unconscious of
her presence. She rose, vaguely supposing herself about to address some
gentle word to him. Then suddenly she had thrown one soft hand under
his chin and one across his eyes, and with a brusquerie quite
unnatural to her pulled him backwards, while a ripple of laughter so
strange as to be shocking in her own ears burst from her lips, which
cried aloud with a defiant gayety:
Who, Ian? Guess!
Ian, with a sudden force as strange to her as her own laughter, her
own gay cry, pulled her hands away, held them an instant fast; then,
kneeling on the sofa, he caught her in his long arms across the back of
it, and after the pressure of a kiss upon her lips such as she had
never felt before, breathed with a voice of unutterable gladness:
Mildred! Darling! Dearest love!
A hoarse cry, almost a shriek, broke from the lips of Milly. The
woman he held struggled from his arms and stared at him wildly in the
veiling twilight. A strange horror fell upon him, and for several
seconds he remained motionless, leaning over the back of the sofa.
Then, groping towards the wall, he switched on the electric light. He
saw it plainly, the white mask of a woman smitten with a mortal blow.
Milly, he uttered, stammeringly. What's the matter? You are ill.
She turned on him her heart-broken look, then pressing her hand to
her throat, spoke as though with difficulty.
I love you very muchyou don't know how much I love you. I've
tried so hard to be a good wife to you.
Ian perceived catastrophe, yet dimly; sought with desperate haste to
remember why for a moment he had believed that that Other was come
back; what irreparable thing he had said or done.
Meantime he must say something. Milly, dear! What's gone wrong?
What have I done, child?
You've let her take you She spoke more freely now, but with a
startling fiercenessYou've let her take you from me.
Ah, the old trouble! My poor Milly! I know it's terrible for you. I
can only say that no one else really exists; that you are always you
That's not true. You don't believe it yourself. That wicked
creature has made you love herher own wicked way. You want to have
her instead of me; you want to destroy your own wife and to get her
The cruel, ultimate truth that Milly's words laid barethe truth
which he constantly refused to look upon, in mercy to himself and
herparalyzed the husband's tongue. He tried to approach her with
vague words and gestures of affection and remonstrance, but she
motioned him from her.
No. Don't say you love me; I can't believe it, and I hate to hear
you say what's not true.
For a moment the fierce heart of Primitive Woman had blazed up
within herthat fire which all the waters of baptism fail to quench.
But the flame died down as suddenly as it had arisen, and appealing
with outspread hands, as to some invisible judge, she wailed,
Oh, what am I to dowhat am I to do? I love you so much, and it's
all no use.
Ian was as white as herself.
Milly, my poor girl, don't break our hearts.
He stretched his arms towards her, but she turned away from him
towards the door, made a few steps, then stopped and clutched her
throat. He thought her struggling with sobs; but when once more, as
though in fear, she turned her face towards him, he saw it strangely
convulsed. He moved towards her in an alarmed silence, but before he
could reach her and catch her in his arms, her head drooped, she swayed
once upon her feet, and fell heavily to the ground.
Now be reasonable Tims. You can be if you choose.
Mildred was perched on a high stool in Tims's Chambers, breathing
spring from a bunch of fresh Neapolitan violets, grown by an elderly
admirer of hers, and wearing her black, winter toque and dress with
that invincible air of smartness which she contrived to impart to the
oldest clothes, provided they were of her own choosing. Tims, who from
her face and attitude might have been taken for a victim of some
extreme and secret torture, crouched, balancing herself on the top rail
of her fender. She replied only by a horrible groan.
Who do you suppose is the happier when Milly comes back? continued
Tony? He doesn't even know when she's there; but by the time she's
done with him he's unnaturally good. He can't like that, can he?
Then there's Ian, good old boy!
That's humbug. You know it is.
But it's Milly herself I really care about, cried Tims. You've
been a pig to her, Mil. She says you're a devil, and if I weren't a
scientific woman I swear I should begin to believe there was something
No, Tims, dear, returned Mildred with earnestness. I'm neither a
pig nor a devil. She paused. Sometimes I think I've lived before,
some quite different life from this. But I suppose you'll say that's
Of course it isrot, commented Tims, sternly. You're a
physiological freak, that's what you are. You're nothing but Milly all
the time, and you ought to be decent to her.
I don't want to hurt her anyhow, apologized Mildred; but you see
when I'm only half therewell, I am only half there. I'm awfully
rudimentary and I can't grasp anything except that I'm being choked,
squeezed out of existence, and that I must make a fight for my life.
Any woman becomes rudimentary who is fighting for her life against
another woman; only I've more excuse for it, because as a scientist you
must see that I can only be in very partial possession of my brain.
Tims had pulled her wig down over her eyes and glared at space.
That's all very well for you, she said; but why should I help you to
kill poor old M.?
Do try and understand! Every time she comes back she's more and
more miserable; and that's not cheerful for Ian either, is it? Now,
through that underhand trick of rudimentary Meyou see I don't try to
hide my horrid waysshe knows Ian adores me and, comparatively
speaking, doesn't care two straws about her. That will make her more
miserable than she has ever been before. She'll only want to live so
that I mayn't.
I don't see how Ian's going to get on without her. You don't
do much for him, my girl, except spend his money.
Of course, that's quite true. I'm not in the least suited to Ian or
his life or his income; but that's not my fault. How perverse men are!
Always in love with the wrong women, aren't they?
Tims's countenance relaxed and she replied with a slight air of
My opinion of men has been screwed up a peg lately. Every now and
then you do find one who's got too much sense for any rot of that
Ian's perfectly wretched at what happened; can't understand it, of
course. He doesn't say much, but I can see he dreads explanations with
Milly. He's good at reserve, but no good at lies, poor old dear, and
just think of all the straight questions she'll ask him! It'll be
torture to both of them. Poor Milly! I've no patience with her. Why
should she want to live? Life's no pleasure to her. She's known a long
time that Tony's really jollier and better with me, and now she knows
Ian doesn't want her. How can you pretend to think Milly happy, Tims?
Hasn't she said things to you?
Yes, groaned Tims. Poor old M.! She's pretty well down on her
luck, you bet.
And I enjoy every minute of my life, although I could find plenty
to grumble at if I liked. Listen to me, Tims. How would it be to strike
a bargain? Let me go on without any upsets from Milly until I'm forty.
I'm sure I sha'n't care what happens to me at forty. Then Milly may
have everything her own way. What would it matter to her? She likes to
take time by the forelock and behaves already as though she were forty.
I feel sure you could help me to keep her quiet if only you chose.
If I chose to meddle at all, I should be much more likely to help
her to come back, returned Tims, getting snappish.
Alas! I fear you would, Tims, dear, in spite of knowing it would
only make her miserable. That shows, doesn't it, how unreasonable even
a distinguished scientific woman can be?
This aspersion on Tims's reasoning powers had to be resented and the
resentment to be soothed. And the soothing was so effectually done that
Tims owned to herself afterwards there was some excuse for Ian's
But Tims had no desire to meddle, and the months passed by without
any symptoms of the change appearing. It seemed as if Mildred's hold
upon life had never been so firm, the power of her personality never so
fully developed. She belonged to a large family which in all its
branches had a trick of throwing up successful men and brilliant women.
But in reaction against Scottish clannishness, it held little together,
and in the two houses whence Mildred was launched on her London career,
she had no nursery reputation of Milly's with which to contend.
One of these houses was that of her cousin, Sir Cyril Meres, a
fashionable painter with a considerable gift for art, and more for
successsuccess social and financial. His beautiful house, stored with
wonderful collections, had a reputation, and was frequented by every
one of distinction in the artistic or intellectual worldby those of
the world of wealth and rank who were interested in such matters, and
the yet larger number who affected to be interested in them. For those
Anglo-Saxon deities, Mammon and Snobbery, who have since conquered the
whole civilized globe, had temporarily fallen back for a fresh spring,
and in the eighties and early nineties Culture was reckoned very nearly
as chic as motoring in the first years of the new century.
Several painters of various degrees of talent attempted to fix on
canvas the extraordinary charm of Mrs. Stewart's appearance. Not one of
them succeeded; but the peculiar shade of her hair, the low forehead
and delicate line of the dark eyebrows, the outline of the mask,
sometimes admired, sometimes criticised, made her portrait always
recognized, whether simpering as a chocolate-box classicality, smiling
sadly from the flowery circle of the Purgatorio, or breaking out of
some rough mass of paint with the provocative leer of a cocotte
of the Quartier Latin.
The magnetism of her personality defied analysis, as her essential
beauty defied the painter's art. It was a magnetism which surrounded
her with an atmosphere of adorations, admirations, enmitiesall
equally violent and irrational. Her wit had little to do with the
making of her enemies, because it was never used in offence against
friends or even harmless acquaintances; only against her foes she
employed it with the efficiency and mercilessness of a red Indian
wielding the tomahawk.
The other family where she found her niche awaiting her was of a
different order. It was that of the retired Indian judge, Sir John
Ireton, whose wife had chaperoned her through a Commemoration the
summer she had taken her First in Greats. Ireton was not only in
Parliament, but his house was a meeting-place where politicians
cemented personal ties and plotted party moves. Milly in her brief
appearances, had been of use to Lady Ireton, but Mildred proved
socially invaluable. There were serious persons who suspected Mrs.
Stewart of approaching politics in a flippant spirit; but on certain
days she had revealed a grave and ardent belief in the dogmas of the
party and a piety of attitude towards the person of its great apostle,
which had convinced them that she was not really cynical or frivolous.
Lady Augusta Goring was the most important conquest of the kind
Milly had made. She was the only child of the Marquis of Ipswich, and
one of those rather stupid people whose energy of mind and character is
often mistaken by themselves and others for cleverness. Lady Augusta
was handsome in a dull, massive way, and so conscientious that she had
seldom time to smile. Her friends said she would smile oftener if her
husband caused her less anxiety; but considering who George Goring was
and how he had been brought up, he might have been much worse. Where
women were concerned, scandal had never accused him of anything more
flagrant than dubious flirtations. It was his political intrigues,
constantly threatening unholy liaisons in the most unthinkable
directions; his sudden fits of obstinate idleness, often occurring at
the very moment when some clever and promising political scheme of his
own was ripe for execution, which so unendurably harassed the staid
Marquis and the earnest Lady Augusta. They were highly irritating, too,
to Sir John Ireton, who had believed himself at one time able to tame
and tutor the tricksy young politician.
The late Lord Ipswich had been a sport in the Barthop family; a
black sheep, but clever, and a well known collector. Accidental
circumstances had greatly enriched him, and as he detested his brother
and successor, he had left his pictures to the nation and all of his
fortune which he could dispose ofwhich happened to be the bulkto
his natural son, George Goring. But his will had not been found for
some weeks after his death, and while the present Marquis had believed
himself the inheritor of the whole property, he had treated the
nameless and penniless child of his brother with perfect delicacy and
generosity. When George Goring found himself made rich at the expense
of his uncle, he proposed to his cousin Lady Augusta and was accepted.
Mildred was partly amused and partly bored to discover herself on so
friendly a footing with Lady Augusta. Putting herself into that passive
frame of mind in which revelations of Milly's past actions were most
often vouchsafed to her, she saw herself type-writing in a small,
high-ceilinged room looking out on a foggy London park, and Lady
Augusta seated at a neighboring table, surrounded by papers.
Type-writing was not then so common as it is now, and Milly had learned
the art in order to give assistance to Ian. Mildred was annoyed to find
herself in danger of having to waste her time in a mechanical
occupation which she detested, or else of offending a woman whom her
uncle valued as a friend and political ally.
It was a slight compensation to receive an invitation to accompany
the Iretons to a great ball at Ipswich House. There was no question of
Ian accompanying her. He was usually too tired to care for going out in
the evening and went only to official dinners and to the houses of old
friends, or of people with whom he had educational connections. It did
not occur to him that it might be wise to put a strain upon himself
sometimes, to lay by his spectacles, straighten his back, have his
beard trimmed and appear at Mildred's side in the drawing-rooms where
she shone, looking what he wasa husband of whom she had reason to be
proud. More and more engrossed by his own work and responsibilities, he
let her drift into a life quite apart from his, content to see her
world from his own fireside, in the sparkling mirror of her talk.
Ipswich House was a great house, if of little architectural merit,
and the ball had all the traditional spectacular splendor common to
such festivities. The pillared hall and double staircase, the suites of
spacious rooms, were filled with a glittering kaleidoscopic crowd of
fair and magnificently bejewelled women and presumably brave, certainly
well-groomed and handsome men. The excellence of the music, the masses
of flowers, the number of great names and well-advertised society
beauties present, would subsequently provide material for long and
eulogistic paragraphs in the half-penny press and the Ladies' Weeklies.
Mildred enjoyed it as a spectacle rather than as a ball, for she
knew few people there, and the young political men whom she had met at
her uncle's parties were too much engaged with ladies of more
importance, to whom they were related or to whom they owed social
attention, to write their names more than once on her programme. One of
these, however, asked her if she had noticed how harassed both Lord
Ipswich and Lady Augusta looked. Goring's speech, he said, at the
Fothering by-election was reported and commented upon in all the
papers, and had given tremendous offence to the leaders of his party;
while the fact that he had not turned up in time for the ball must be
an additional cross to his wife, who made such a firm stand against the
social separation of married couples.
When Mildred returned to her uncle she found him the centre of a
group of eminent politicians, all denouncing in more or less subdued
tones the outrageous utterances and conduct of Goring, and most
declaring that only consideration for Lord Ipswich and Lady Augusta
prevented them from publicly excommunicating the hardened offender.
Others, however, while admitting the outrage, urged that he was too
brilliant a young man to be lightly thrown away, and advised patience,
combined with the disciplinary rod. Sir John was of the excommunicatory
party. Later in the evening he disappeared into some remote smoking or
card-room, not so much forgetting his niece as taking it for granted
that she was, as usual, surrounded by friends and admirers of both
sexes. But a detached personality, however brilliant, is apt to be
submerged in such a crowd of social eminences, bound together by ties
of blood, of interests, and of habit, as filled the salons of Ipswich
House. Mildred walked around the show contentedly enough for a time,
receiving a smile here and a pleasant word there from such of her
acquaintances as she chanced upon, but practically alone. And being
alone, she found herself yielding to a vulgar envy of richer women's
clothes and jewels. Her dress, with which she had been pleased, looked
ordinary beside the creations of great Parisian ateliers, and
the few old paste ornaments which were the only jewels she possessed,
charming as they were, seemed dim and scant among the crowns and
constellations of diamonds that surrounded her. Her pride rebelled
against this envy, but could not conquer it.
More gnawing pangs, however, assailed her presently, the pangs of
hunger; and no one offered to take her in to supper. The idea of taking
herself in was revolting; she preferred starvation. But where could
Uncle John have hidden himself? She sought the elderly truant with all
the suppressed annoyance of a chaperon seeking an inconsiderate flirt
of a girl. And it happened that a spirit in her feet led her to the
door of a small room in which Milly and Lady Augusta had been wont to
transact their business. A curious feeling of familiarity, of physical
habit, caused her to open the big mahogany door. There was no air of
public festivity about the room, which was furnished with a
substantial, almost shabby masculine comfort. But oh, tantalizing
spectacle! Under the illumination of a tall, crimson-shaded, standard
lamp, stood a little, white-covered table, reminding her irresistibly
of a little table in a fairy story, which the due incantation causes to
rise out of the ground. A small silver-gilt tureen of soup smoked upon
it and a little pile of delicate rolls lay beside the plate set for
one. But alas! she might not, like the favored girl in the fairy story,
proceed without ceremony to satisfy her hunger at the mysterious little
A door immediately opposite that of the small sitting-room opened
noiselessly, and a young man entered with a light, quick step. He saw
Mildred, but for a second or so she did not see him. He was at her side
when she looked around and their eyes met. They had never seen each
other before, but at that meeting of the eyes a curious feeling, such
as two Europeans might experience, meeting in the heart of some dark
continent, affected them both.
There was something picturesque about the young man's appearance, in
spite of the impeccable cut and finish of his dress-suit and the waxed
ends of his small blond mustache. His hair was of a ruddy nut-brown
color, and had a wave in it; his bright hazel eyes seemed exactly to
match it. His face had a fine warm pallor, and his under lip, which
with his chin was somewhat thrust forward, was redder than the lip of a
child. It was perhaps this noticeable coloring and something in his
port which made him, in spite of the correct modernity of his dress,
suggest some seventeenth-century portrait.
Forgive my passing you, he said, at length; but I'm starving.
So am I, she returned, hardly aware of what she was saying. Some
strange, almost hypnotic attraction seemed to rivet her whole attention
on the mere phenomenon of this man.
By Jove! Aren't they feeding the multitude down there? he asked,
nodding in the direction of the supper-room.
Of course, she answered, with the simple gravity of a child, her
blue eyes still fixed upon him. But I can't ask for supper for myself,
Her need was distinctly material; yet the young man confronting her
white grace, the strange look in her blue eyes, had a dreamlike
feeling, almost as though he had met a dryad or an Undine between two
of the prosaic, substantial doors of Ipswich House. And as in a dream
the most extraordinary things seem familiar and expected, so the
apparition of the Undine and her confidence in him seemed familiar, in
fact just what he had been expecting during those hours of fog off the
Goodwins, when the sirens, wild voices gathering up from all the seas
of the world, had been screaming to each other across the hidden
waters. That same inner concentration upon the mere phenomenon of a
presence, an existence, which had given the childlike note to Mildred's
speech, froze a compliment upon his lips; and they stood silent, eying
each other gravely. A junior footman appeared, carrying a bottle of
champagne in a bucket, and the young man addressed him in a vague,
distracted tone, very unlike his usual manner.
Look here, Arthur, here's a lady who can't get any supper.
The footman went quite pink at this personal reproach. He happened
to have heard some one surmise, on seeing Mildred roaming about alone,
that she was a newspaper woman.
Please sir, he replied, I don't know how it's happened, for her
Ladyship told Mr. Mackintosh to be sure and see as the newspaper ladies
and gentlemen were well looked after, and he thought as they'd all had
It seemed incredible that Mildred should not have heard this reply,
uttered so close to her; but though it fell upon her ears it did not
penetrate to her mind.
Bring up supper for two, Arthur, said Goring, in his usual
decisive tone. That'll do, won't it? he added, and turned to Mildred,
ushering her into the room. You'll have supper with me, I hope? My
name's Goring; I'm Lord Ipswich's son-in-law and I live in his house;
so you see it's all right.
The corollary was not evident; but the mention of the name brought
Mildred back to the ordinary world. So this was George Goring, the
plague of his political party, the fly in the ointment of a respectable
Marquis and his distinguished daughter. She had not fancied him like
this. For one thing, she did not know him to be younger than his wife,
and between the careworn solidity of Lady Augusta and this vivid
restless personality, the five actual years of difference seemed
stretched to ten.
I'm convinced it's all right, Mr. Goring, she replied, throwing
herself into a chair and smiling at him sparklingly. It must be all
right. I want my supper so much I should have to accept your invitation
even if you were a burglar.
Goring, whose habit it was to keep moving, laughed as he walked
about, one hand in his trousers pocket.
Why shouldn't I be a burglar? A burglar, with an assistant
disguised as a footman, sacking the bedrooms of Lord Ipswich's house
while the ball proceeds? There's copy for you! Shall I do it? 'Mr.
George Goring's Celebrated Black Pearls Stolen,' would make a capital
head-line. Perhaps you've heard I'd do anything to keep my name in the
It certainly gets there pretty often, returned Mildred, politely;
and whenever it's mentioned it has an enlivening effect.
The footman had reappeared and they were unfolding their
dinner-napkins, sitting opposite each other at the little table.
As how, enlivening?
Like a bit of bread dropped into a glass of flat champagne.
You think my party's like champagne? Why, it couldn't exist for a
moment if it sparkled.
I was talking of newspapers, not of your party; though there's no
doubt you do enliven that.
Do I? Like what? No odiously inoffensive comparisons, if you
Well, I have heard people say likelike a blister on the back of
Goring laughed. Thanks. That's better.
The patient's using language, but he won't really tear it off,
because he knows that would hurt him more, and the blister will do him
good in the end, if he bears with it.
But there's the blister's side to it, too. It's infernally tiring
for a blister to be sticking on to such a fellow everlastingly. It'll
fly off of itself before long, if he doesn't look out. Hullo! What am I
saying? I suppose you'll have all this out in some confounded
paper'The Rebel Member Returns. A Chat with Mr. Goring'Don't do
that; but I'll give you some other copy if you like.
You're very kind in giving me all this copy. What shall I do with
it? Shall I keep it as a memento?
No, no. You can sell it; honor bright you can.
Can I? Shall I get much for it? Enough money to buy me a tiara, do
Do you really want to wear the usual fender? Now, why? I suppose
because you aren't sufficiently aware how he paused on the edge of a
compliment which seemed suddenly too full-flavored and ordinary to be
addressed to this strangely lovely being, with her smile at once so
sparkling and so mysterious. He substituted: How much more
distinguished it is to look like an Undine than like a peeress.
Mildred seemed slightly taken aback.
Why do you say 'Undine?' she asked, almost sharply. Do Ido I
look as if I came out of a Trafalgar Square fountain with fell designs
on Lord Ipswich?
Of course not. ButI can't exactly define even to myself what I
mean, only you do suggest an Undine to me. To some one else you might
be simply MissForgive me, I don't know your name.
He had not even troubled to glance at her left hand, and when the
Mrs. was uttered it affected him oddly. It was one of the peculiar
differences between her two personalities that, casually encountered,
Mildred was as seldom taken for a married woman as Milly for an
Do I look as if I'd got no soul? she persisted, leaning a little
towards him, an intensity that might almost have been called anxiety in
He could even have fancied she had grown paler. He, too, became
serious. His eyes brightened, meeting hers, and a slight color came
into his cheeks.
Quite the contrary, he answered. I should say you had a great
dealin fact, I shall begin to believe in detachable souls again.
Fancy most people as just souls, without trimmings. It makes one laugh.
But your body looks like an emanation from the spirit; as though it
might flow away in a white waterfall or go up in a white fire; and as
though, if it did, your soul could certainly precipitate another body,
which must certainly be like this one, because it would be as this is,
the material expression of a spirit.
She listened as he spoke, seriously, her eyes on his. But when he
had done, she dropped her chin on her hand and laughed delightedly.
You think I should be able to grow a fresh body, like a lobster
growing a fresh claw? What fun!
There was a sound without, not of the footman struggling with dishes
and plates and the door-handle, but of middle-aged voices.
Instinctively Goring and Mildred straightened themselves and looked
polite. Lord Ipswich and Sir John Ireton, deep in political converse,
came slowly in and then stopped short in surprise. Mildred lost not a
moment in carrying the war into their country. She turned about and
addressed her uncle in a playful tone, which yet smacked of reproof.
Here you are at last, Uncle John! I thought you'd forgotten all
about me. I've been walking miles in mad pursuit of you, till I was so
tired and hungry I think I should have dropped if Mr. Goring hadn't
taken pity upon me and made me eat his supper.
Sir John defended himself, and Lord Ipswich was shocked to think
that a lady had been in such distress in his house; although the
apparition of Goring prevented him from feeling it as acutely as he
would otherwise have done. His pleasant pink face took on an expression
of severity as he responded to his son-in-law's somewhat too cheerful
Sorry to be so late, but we were held up by a fog at the mouth of
It must have been very important business to take you all the way
to Brussels so suddenly.
It certainly wouldn't wait. I heard there was a whole set of
Beauvais tapestries to be had for a mere song. I couldn't buy them
without seeing them you know, and the big London and Paris dealers were
bound to chip in if I didn't settle the matter pretty quick. I'm
precious glad I did, for they're the finest pieces I ever saw and would
have fetched five times what I gave for them at Christie's.
Ahreally! was all Lord Ipswich's response, coldly uttered and
accompanied by a smile more sarcastic than often visited his neat and
kindly lips. Sir John Ireton and Mildred, aware of the delicate
situation, partly domestic and partly political, upon which they were
intruding, took themselves away and were presently rolling through the
empty streets in the gray light of early morning.
Not long afterwards Mildred received a letter the very address of
which had an original appearance, looking as if it were written with a
stick in a fist rather than with a pen between fingers. It caught her
attention at once from half a dozen others.
DEAR MRS. STEWART,Yesterday I was at Cochrane's studio
and he told me Meres was the greatest authority in England
on tapestry, and also a cousin of yours. Please remember (or
forgive) the supper on Tuesday, and of your kindness, ask
him to let me see his lot and give me his opinion on mine.
Cochrane had a folly he called a portrait of you in his
studio. I turned its face to the wall; and in the end he
admitted I was right.
Accordingly, on a very hot day early in July, Goring met Mildred
again, at Sir Cyril Meres's house on Campden Hill. The long room at one
end of which stood the small dining-table looked on the greenness of a
lawny, lilac-sheltered garden, so that such light as filtered through
the green jalousies was green also. There was a great block of ice
somewhere in the room, and so cool it was, so greenly dim there, that
it seemed almost like a cavern of the sea. Mildred wore a white dress,
and, as was the fashion of the moment, a large black hat shadowed with
ostrich-feathers. Once more on seeing her he had a startled impression
of looking upon an ethereal creature, a being somehow totally distinct
from other beings; and for lack of some more appropriate name, he
called her again in his mind Undine. As the talk, which Cyril Meres
had a genius for making general, became more animated, he half lost
that impression in one of a very clever, charming woman, with a bright
wit sailing lightly over depths of knowledge to which he was
unaccustomed in her sex.
The party was not intended to number more than eight persons, of
whom Lady Thomson was one, and they sat down seven. When Sir Cyril
observed: We won't wait any longer for Davison, Mildred was too much
interested in Goring's presence to inquire who this Davison might be.
She sparkled on half through luncheon to the delight of every one
but Miss Ormond the actress, who would have preferred to play the lead
herself. Then came a pause. A door was opened at the far end of the dim
room, and the missing guest appeared. Sir Cyril rose hastily to greet
him. He advanced without any apologetic hurry in his gait; the same
impassive Maxwell Davison as before, but leaner, browner, more
silver-headed from three more years of wandering under Oriental suns.
Mildred could hardly have supposed it possible that the advent of any
human being could have given her so disagreeable a sensation.
Sir Cyril was unaware that she knew Maxwell Davison; surprised to
hear that he was a cousin of Stewart's, between whom and himself there
existed a mutual antipathy, expressing itself in terms of avoidance.
His own acquaintance with Davison was recent and in the way of
business. He had had the fancy to build for the accommodation of his
Hellenic treasures a room in imitation of the court of a Græco-Roman
house which he had helped to excavate in Asia Minor. He had
commissioned Davison to buy him hangings for it to harmonize with an
old Persian carpet in cream color and blue of which he was already
possessed. Davison had brought these with him and a little collection
of other things which he thought Meres might care to look at. He did
not know the Stewarts had moved to London, and it was an unpleasant
surprise to find himself seated at the same table with Mildred; he had
not forgotten, still less forgiven, the lure of her coquetry, the
insult of her rebuff.
Lady Thomson was next him and questioned him exhaustively about his
book on Persian Literature and the travels of his lifetime. Miss Ormond
took advantage of Mrs. Stewart's sudden silence to talk to the table
rather cleverly around the central theme of herself. Goring conversed
apart with Mrs. Stewart.
Coffee was served in the shrine which Sir Cyril had reared for his
Greek collection, of which the gem was a famous head of Aphroditean
early Aphrodite, divine, removed from all possible pains and agitations
of human passion. The room was an absurdity on Campden Hill, said some,
but undeniably beautiful in itself. The columns, of singular lightness
and grace, were of a fine marble which hovered between creamy white and
faint yellow, and the walls and floor were of the same tone, except for
a frieze on a Greek model, very faintly colored, and the old Persian
carpet. In fine summer weather the large skylight covering the central
space was withdrawn, and such sky as London can show looked down upon
it. The new hangings which Maxwell Davison had brought with him were
already displayed on a tall screen, and his miscellaneous collection of
antiquities, partly sent from Durham College, partly lately acquired,
were arranged on a marble bench.
I shouldn't have brought these things, Sir Cyril, he said; if I'd
known Mrs. Stewart was here. She's got a way of hinting that my most
cherished antiquities are forgeries; and the worst of it is, she makes
every one believe her, including myself.
I don't pretend to know anything about antiquities, Mr. Davison.
I'm sure I never suspected you of a forgery, and if I had, I hope I
shouldn't have been rude enough to tell you so.
Maxwell Davison laughed his harsh laugh.
Do you want me to believe you can't be rude, Mrs. Stewart?
I'm almost afraid she can't be, interposed Lady Thomson's full
voice. People who make a superstition of politeness infallibly lose
the higher courtesy of truth.
Here Sir Cyril Meres called Davison away to worship at the shrine of
the Aphrodite, while Goring invited Mrs. Stewart into a neighboring
corridor where some tapestries were hanging.
The divining crystal was among the objects returned from Oxford, and
had been included in the collection which Davison had brought with him,
on the chance that the painter might fancy such curiosities. When
Goring and Mildred returned from their leisurely inspection of the
tapestries, Miss Ormond had it in her hand, and Lady Thomson was
commenting on some remark of hers.
I've no doubt, as you say, it has played a wicked part before now
in Oriental intrigues. But of course the poor crystal is perfectly
innocent of the things read into it by rascals, practising on the
ignorant and superstitious.
Sometimes, perhaps, Lady Thomson, returned Miss Ormond; but
sometimes people do see extraordinary visions in a crystal.
Lady Thomson sniffed.
Excitable, imaginative people do, I dare say.
On the contrary, prosaic people are far more likely to see things
than highly strung imaginative creatures like myself. I've tried
several times and have never seen anything. I believe having a great
deal of brain-power and emotion and all that tells against it. I
shouldn't be at all surprised now if Mrs. Stewart, who iswell, I
should fancy, just a little cold, very bright and all that on the
surface, you knowI shouldn't wonder if she could crystal-gaze very
successfully. I should like to know whether she's ever tried.
I'm sure she's not, replied Lady Thomson, firmly. My niece, Mrs.
Stewart, is a great deal too sensible and well-educated.
Mrs. Stewart can't honestly say the same for herself, interposed
Davison; she gazed in this very crystal some years ago and certainly
saw something in it.
Miss Ormond exclaimed in triumph. Mildred froze. She did not desire
the rôle of Society Seer.
What did I see, Mr. Davison? she asked.
He shrugged his shoulders.
Nothing of importance. You saw a woman in a light dress. Perhaps it
was Lady Hammerton the collector, originally guilty, you remember, in
the matter of the forged Augustus.
Mildred had only to peep in any glass to see Lady Hammerton, or
some one sufficiently like her, observed Meres.
That idea was started when David Fletcher picked up the fancy
picture which he chose to call a portrait of Lady Hammerton, cried
Lady Thomson, who was just taking her leave. Such nonsense! I protest
against my own niece and a scholar of Ascham being likened to that
Cyril Meres smiled and stroked his soft, silvery beard.
Quite right of you to protest, Beatrice. Still, I'm glad Lady
Hammerton didn't stick heroically to her Professoras Mildred here
does. We should never have been proud of her as an ancestress if she
Heroically? repeated Maxwell Davison under his breath, and
laughed. But the meaning of his laugh was lost on every one except
Mildred. She flushed hotly at the thought of having to bear the
responsibility of that ridiculous scene on the Cherwell; it was
humiliating, indeed. She took up the crystal to conceal her chagrin.
Do please see something, Mrs. Stewart! exclaimed Miss Ormond.
What sort of thing?
Anything! Whatever you see, it will be quite thrilling.
Please see me, Mrs. Stewart, petitioned Goring, wandering towards
the crystal-gazer. I should so like to thrill Miss Ormond.
It's no good your trying that way, smiled the lady, playing fine
eyes. It's only shadows that are thrilling in the crystal; shadows of
something happening a long way off; or sometimes a coming event casts a
shadow beforeand that's the most thrilling of all.
A coming event! That's exactly what I am, a tremendous coming
Political Event. You ask them in the House, cried Goring, thrusting
out his chin and aiming a provocative side-smile at a middle-aged
Under-Secretary of State who discreetly admired Miss Ormond.
Modest creature! ejaculated the Under-Secretary playfully with his
lips; and in his heart vindictively, Conceited devil!
Please see me, Mrs. Stewart! pleaded Goring, half kneeling on a
chair and leaning over the crystal.
I do, she returned. I'd rather not. You look so distorted and
odd; and so do I, don't I? Dreadful! But the crystal's getting cloudy.
Then you're going really to see something! exclaimed Miss Ormond.
How delightful! Come away directly, Mr. Goring, or you'll spoil
Sir Cyril and Davison looked up from some treasure of Greek art. The
conversation was perfunctory, every one's curiosity waiting on Mildred
and the crystal.
Don't you see anything yet, Mrs. Stewart? asked Miss Ormond at
No, replied Mildred, hesitatingly. At least, not exactly. I see
something like rushing water and foam.
The reflection of clouds overhead, pronounced the Under-Secretary,
dogmatically, glancing upward.
I'm sure it's nothing of the kind, asserted Miss Ormond. Please
go on looking, Mrs. Stewart, and perhaps you'll see a water-spirit.
Why do you want her to see a water-spirit? asked Davison,
ironically. In all countries of the world they are reckoned spiteful,
treacherous creatures. I was once bitten by one severely, and I have
never wanted to see one since.
Oh, Mr. Davison! Are you serious? What do you mean? questioned
Mrs. Stewart hastily put down the crystal. I don't want to see
one, she said; I'm afraid it might bring me bad luck, and, besides, I
can't wait for it, I've got several calls to make before I go home, and
I think there's a storm coming. She shivered. I'm quite cold.
Miss Ormond said that must be the effect of the crystal, as the
afternoon was still oppressively hot.
Goring caught up with Mrs. Stewart in the gravel drive outside the
house and walked through Kensington Gardens with her. It seemed to them
both quite natural that they should be walking together, and their talk
was in the vein of old friends who have met after a long separation
rather than in that of new acquaintances. When he left her and turned
to walk across Hyde Park towards Westminster, he examined his
impressions and perceived that he was in a state of mind foreign to his
nature, and therefore the butt of his ridicule; a state in which, if he
and Mrs. Stewart had been unmarried persons, he would have said to
himself, That is the woman I shall marry. It would not have been a
passion or an emotion that would have made him say that; it would have
been a conviction. As it was, the thing was absurd. Cochrane had told
him, half in jest, that Mrs. Stewart was a breaker of hearts, but had
not hinted that her own was on the market. Her appearance made it
surely an interesting question whether she had a heart at all.
And for himself? He hated to think of his marriage, because he
recognized in it the fatal little spot in the yet ungarnered fruit of
his life. He was only thirty, but he had been married seven years and
had two children, both of them the image of all the Barthops that had
ever been, except his own father. In moments of depression he saw
himself through all the coming years being gradually broken, crushed
under a weight of Barthopsfather-in-law, wife and childrenmoulded
into a thin semblance of a Marquis of Ipswich, a bastard Marquis. No
one but himself knew the weakness of his characterexplosive,
audacious in alarums or excursions, but without the something, call it
strength or hardness or stupidity, which enables the man or woman
possessing it to resist constant domestic pressurethe unconscious
pressure of radically opposed character. The crowd applauds the
marriage of such opposites because their side almost always wins;
partly by its own weight and partly by their weight behind. But the
truth is that two beings opposed in emotional temperament and mental
processes are only a few degrees more able to help and understand each
other in the close union of marriage than the two personalities of
Milly Stewart in the closer union of her body.
From one point of view it was Goring's fatal weakness to have a real
affection for his father-in-law, who was a pattern of goodness and
good-breeding. Consequently, that very morning he had promised Lord
Ipswich to walk in the straightest way of the party, for one year at
least; and if he must slap faces, to select them on the other side of
the House. Nevertheless, if he really wished to give sincere
gratification to Lord Ipswich and to dear Augusta, he must needs give
up his capricious and offensive tactics altogether. These things might
give him a temporary notoriety in the House and country, but they were
not in the traditions of the Ipswich family, which had held a high
place in politics for two hundred years. The Marquis said that he had
always tried to make George feel that he was received as a true son of
the family and heir of its best traditions, if not of its name. There
had been a great deal of good faith on both sides. Yet now a solitary
young man, looking well in the frock-coat and tall hat of convention,
might have been observed stopping and striking the gravel viciously as
he reflected on the political future which his father-in-law was
mapping out for him.
Sir James Carus, the well-known scientist, had for some time been
employing Miss Timson in the capacity of assistant, and spoke highly of
her talents. She began to have a reputation in scientific circles, and
owing to her duties with Carus she could not come to the Stewarts' as
often as she had formerly done. But she preserved her habit of
dismissing the parlor-maid at the door and creeping up to the
drawing-room like a thief in the night.
On the day following Sir Cyril Meres's luncheon-party she arrived in
her usual fashion. The windows were shaded against the afternoon sun,
but the sky was now overcast, and such a twilight reigned within that
at first she could distinguish little, and the drawing-room seemed to
her to be empty. But in a minute she discerned a white figure supine in
a large arm-chairMildred, and asleep.
She had a writing-board on her knee, and a hand resting on it still
held a stylograph. She must have dozed over her writing; yet she did
not stir when her name was uttered. Tims noticed a peculiar stillness
in her, a something almost inanimate in her attitude and countenance,
which suggested that this was no ordinary siesta. The idea that Milly
might even now be resurgent fluttered Tims's pulses with a mixed
Good old Milly! Poor old girl! she breathed to the white figure in
the arm-chair. Don't be in a hurry! You won't find it all beer and
skittles when you're here.
It seemed to her that a slight convulsion passed over the sleeper's
Tims seated herself on a low chair, in the attitude of certain
gargoyles that crouch under the eaves of old churches, elbows on knees,
chin on hands, and fixed her eyes in silence on her silent companion.
In spite of her work along the acknowledged lines of science, she had
pursued her hypnotic studies furtively, half in scorn and half in fear
of her scientific brethren. What would she not have given to be enabled
to watch, to comprehend the changes passing within that human form so
close to her that she could see its every external detail, could touch
it by the out-stretching of a hand! But its inner shrine, its secret
place, remained barred against those feeble implements of sense with
which nature has provided the explorative human intelligence. Its
content was more mysterious, more inaccessible than that of the
remotest star which yields the secret of its substance to the
spectroscope of the astronomer.
Tims's thoughts had forsaken the personal side of the question, when
she was recalled to it by seeing the right hand in which the stylograph
had been lying begin to twitch, the fingers to contract. There was no
answering movement in the faceeven when the sleeper at length firmly
grasped the pen and suddenly sat up. Tims rose quickly, and then
perceived, lying on the writing-board, a directed envelope and a
half-finished note to herself. She slipped the note-paper nearer to the
twitching hand, and after a few meaningless flourishes, it wrote slowly
TimsMillycannot get back. Help me ... Save Ian. Wicked
Here the power of the hand began to fail, and the writing was
terminated by mere scrawls. The sleeper's eyes were now open, but not
wide. They had a strange, glassy look in them, nor did she show any
consciousness of Tims's presence. She dropped the pen, folded the paper
in the same slow and tentative manner in which she had written upon it,
and placed it in the directed envelope lying there. Then her face
contracted, her fingers slackened, and she fell back again to the
depths of the chair.
Milly! cried Tims, almost involuntarily bending over her. Milly!
Again there was a slight contraction of the face and of the whole
At the moment that Tims uttered Milly's name, Ian was entering the
room. His long legs brought him up to the chair in an instant, and he
asked, without the usual salutation:
What's the matter? Hashas the change happened?
His voice unconsciously spoke dismay. Tims looked at him.
No, not exactly, she articulated, slowly; and, after a pause:
Poor old Milly's trying to come back, that's all.
She paused again; then:
You look a bit worried, old man.
He tossed back his head with a gesture he had kept from the days
when the crest of raven-black hair had been wont to grow too long and
encroach on his forehead. It was grizzled now, and much less intrusive.
I'm about tired out, he said, shortly.
Look here, she continued, if you really want Milly back, just say
so. She's kind of knocking at the door, and I believe I could let her
in if I tried.
He dropped wearily into a chair.
For Heaven's sake, Miss Timson, don't put the responsibility on
I can't help it, returned Tims. She's managed to get this through
to me She handed Milly's scrawled message to Ian.
He read it, then read it again and handed it back.
Does it mean anything in particular?
He shrugged his shoulders almost impatiently and sighed.
Oh no! It's the poor child's usual cry when she's here. She's got
it into her head that the self she doesn't know is frightfully wicked,
and makes me miserable. I've tried over and over again to convince her,
but it's all nonsense.
He thought to himself: She is coming back still full of this
mortal, heart-rending jealousy, and we shall have more painful scenes.
Well, it's your business to say what I'm to do, insisted Tims. I
don't think she'd have troubled to write if she'd found she could get
back altogether without my help; but the other one's grown a bit too
strong for her. Do you want Milly back?
The remorseless Tims forced on Ian a plain question which in his own
mind he habitually sought to evade. He leaned back and shaded his eyes
with his hand. After a silence he spoke, low, as if with effort:
I can't honestly say I want the change to happen just now, Miss
Timson. It means a great deal of agitation, a thorough upheaval of
everything. We have an extremely troublesome business on at the
Merchants' GuildI've just come away from a four hours' meeting; and
upon my word I don't think I can stand adomestic revolution at the
same time. It would utterly unfit me for my work.
He did not add that he had been looking forward to receiving helpful
counsel from Mildred, with her clear common-sense, seasoned with wit.
Tims wagged her head and stared in his face.
Poor old M.! she ejaculated, slowly.
Miss Timson still possessed the rare power of irritating Ian
Stewart. He grew restive.
I suppose I am a selfish brute. Men always are, aren't they? But,
after all, my wife enjoys life in her present state at least as much as
she does in the other.
Not for the same reason, dear boy, returned Tims. Old M., bless
her, just lives for you. You don't imagine, do you, that Mildred cares
about you like that?
Ian flushed slightly, and his face hardened.
One can't very well discuss one's wife's feeling for one's self,
he said. I believe I have every reason to be happy, however things
are. And I very much doubt, Miss Timson, whether you can really effect
the change in her in any way. At any rate, I'd rather you didn't try,
please. I'll have her moved to her room, where she'll most likely sleep
Tims bent over the sleeper. Then:
I don't believe she will, somehow. You'd better leave her with me
for the present, and I'll let you know if anything happens.
He obeyed, and in a minute she heard the front door close after him.
Tims sat down in the chair which he had vacated.
Poor old M.! she ejaculated again, presently, and added: What
idiots men are! All except old Carus and Mr. Fitzallan. He's sensible
Her thoughts wandered away, until they were recalled by the door
opening a mere chink to let a child slip into the rooma slim, tall
child, in a blue smockTony. His thick, dark hair was cropped boywise
now, and the likeness of the beautiful, sensitive child face to Ian's
was more marked. It was evident that in him there was to be no blending
of strains, but an exact reproduction of the paternal type.
Tims was in his eyes purely a comic character, but the ready grin
with which he usually greeted her was replaced to-day by a little,
inattentive smile. He went past her and stood by the sofa, looking
fixedly at his mother with a grave mouth and a slight frown on his
forehead. At length he turned away, and was about to leave the room as
quietly as he had come, when Tims brought him to a stand-still at her
knee. He held up an admonishing finger.
Sh! Don't you wake my Mummy, or Daddy 'll be angry with you.
We sha'n't wake her; she's too fast asleep. Tell me why you looked
so solemnly at her just now, Tony?
Tony, his hands held fast, wriggled, rubbed his shoulder against his
ear, and for all answer laughed in a childish, silly way. Such is the
depth and secretiveness of children, whom we call transparent.
Did you think Mummy was dead?
What's 'dead'? asked Tony, with interest, putting off his mask of
People are dead when they've gone to sleep and will never wake
again, returned Tims.
Tony thought a minute; then his dark eyes grew very large. He
whispered slowly, as though with difficulty formulating his ideas:
Doesn't they never wake? Doesn't they wake up after ever so
long, when peoples can't remember everythingand it makes them want to
cry, only grown-up people aren't 'lowed?
Tims was puzzled. But even in her bewilderment it occurred to her
that if poor Milly should return, she would be distressed to find in
what a slovenly manner Tony was allowed to express himself.
I don't know what you mean, Tony. Say it again and put it more
Tims had around her neck a necklace composed of casts of coins in
the British Museum. She did not usually wear ornaments, because she
possessed none, except a hair-bracelet, two brooches, and a large gold
cross which had belonged to her late aunt. Tony's soft, slender fingers
went to the necklace, and ignoring her question, he asked: Why have
you got these funny things round your neck, Auntie Tims?
They're not funny. They're beautifulcopies of money which the old
Greeks used to use. A gentleman gave it to me. Tims spoke with a grand
carelessness. I dare say if you're a good boy he'll tell you stories
about them himself some day. But I want you to explain what it was you
meant to say about dead people. Dead people don't come back, you know.
Tony touched her hand, which lay open on her knee, and played with
the fingers a minute. Then raising his eyes he said, plaintively:
I do so want my tea.
Once more he had wiped the conversational slate, and the baffled
Tims dismissed him. He opened the door a little and slipped out; put
his dark head in again with an engaging smile, said politely, I
sha'n't be away very long, and closed the door softly behind
him. For that soft closing of the door was one of the things poor Milly
had taught him which the little 'peoples' did contrive to remember.
The sleeper now began to stir slightly in her sleep, and before
Tony's somewhat prolonged tea was over, she sat up and looked about
Is that Tims? she asked, in a colorless voice.
Yesis it you, Milly?
No. What makes you think so?
Milly's been trying to come back. I suppose she couldn't manage
Ah!there was a deep satisfaction in Mildred's tone now; I
thought she couldn't!
George Goring and Mildred Stewart did not move in the same social
set, but their sets had points of contact, and it was at these that
Goring was now most likely to be found; especially at the pleasant
bachelor house on Campden Hill. Mrs. Stewart walked in the Park every
morning at an unfashionable hour, and sometimes, yet not too often for
discretion, Goring happened to be walking there too. All told, their
meetings were not very numerous, nor very private. But every half-hour
they spent in each other's company seemed to do the work of a month of
July hastened to an end, but an autumn Session brought Goring up to
town in November, and three months of absence found him and Mildred
still at the same point. Sir Cyril Meres was already beginning to plan
his wonderful tableaux-vivants, which, however, did not come off
until February. The extraordinary imitative talent which his artistic
career had been one long struggle to disguise, was for once to be
allowed full play. The tableaux were to represent paintings by
certain fellow-artists and friends; not actual pictures by them, but
pictures which they might have painted, and the supposed authors were
allowed a right of veto or criticism.
A stage of Renaissance design, which did not jar with the
surrounding architecture, was erected in the depth of the portico at
the end of the Hellenic room.
The human material at Meres's command was physically admirable. He
had long been the chosen portrait-painter of wealth and fashion, and
there was not a beauty in Society, with the biggest S, who was not
delighted to lend her charms for his purpose. The young men might
grumble for form's sake, but at the bottom of their hearts they were
equally sensible to the compliment of being asked to appear. It was
when it came to the moulding of the material for artistic purposes,
that the trouble began. The English have produced great actors, but in
the bulk they have little natural aptitude for the stage; and what they
have is discouraged by a social training which strains after the ideal
composure, the few movements, the glassy eye of a waxwork. Only a small
and chosen number, it is true, fully attain that ideal; but when we see
them we recognize with a start, almost with a shudder, that it is
there, the perfection of our deportment.
Cyril Meres was, however, an admirable stage-manager, exquisite in
tact, in temper, and urbane patience. The results of his prolonged
training were wonderful; yet again and again he found it impossible to
carry out his idea without placing his cousin Mrs. Stewart at the vital
point of his picture. She was certainly not the most physically
beautiful woman there, but she was unrivalled by any other in the
grace, the variety, the meaning of her gestures, the dramatic
transformations of her countenance. She was Pandora, she was Hope, she
was Lady Hammerton, she was the Vampire, and she was the Queen of
There is jealousy on the amateur stage as well as on the
professional, and ladies of social position, accustomed to see their
beauty lauded in the newspapers, saw no reason why Mrs. Stewart should
be thrust to the front of half of the pictures. Lady Langham, the
smart Socialist, with whom George Goring had flirted last season, to
Lady Augusta's real dismay, was the leading rival candidate for
Mildred's rôles. But Lady Langham never guessed that Mrs. Stewart was
the cause of George Goring's disappearance from the list of her
admirers, and she still had hopes of his return.
The tableaux were a brilliant success. Ian was there on the
first evening, so was Lady Augusta Goring. Lady Langham, peeping
through the curtains, saw her, and swept the horizonthat is, the
circle of black coats around the wallsin vain for George Goring. Then
Lady Augusta became audible, saying that in the present state of
affairs in the House it was quite impossible for Mr. Goring to leave
it, even for dinner, on that evening or the next. Nevertheless, on the
next evening, Lady Langham espied George Goring in the act of taking a
vacant chair near the front, next to a social protégée of her
own. She turned and mentioned the fact to a friend, who smiled
meaningly and remarked, In spite of Lady Augusta's whip!
Mildred, passing, caught the information, the comment, the smile.
During the rehearsals for the tableaux, she had heard people
coupling the names of Goring and Lady Langham, not seriously, yet
seriously enough for her. A winged shaft of jealousy pierced at once
her heart and her pride. Was she allowing her whole inner life to be
shaken, dissolved by the passing admiration of a flirt? Her intimate
self had assurance that it was not so; but sometimes a colder wind,
blowing she knew not whence, or the lash of a chance word, threw her
into the attitude of a chance observer, one who sees, guesses, does not
Meantime George Goring had flung himself down in the only vacant
chair he could see, and careless of the brilliant company about him,
careless even of the face of Aphrodite herself, smiling divinely,
unconcerned with human affairs, from a far corner he waited for the
curtain to go up. His neighbor spoke. She had met him at the Langhams
last season. What a pity he had just missed Lady Langham's great
tableau, Helen before the Elders of Troy! There was no one to be
compared to Maud Langham, so beautiful, so clever! She would have made
her fortune if she had gone on the stage. Goring gave the necessary
The curtain went up, exhibiting a picture called The Vampire. It
was smaller than most and shown by a curious pale light. A fair young
girl was lying in a deep sleep on a curtained bed, and hovering,
crawling over her with a deadly, serpentine grace, was a white figure
wrapped in a veiling garment that might have been a shroud. Out of
white cerements showed a trail of yellow hair and a face alabaster
white, save for the lips that were blood redan intent face with a
kind of terrible beauty, yet instinct with cruelty. One slender,
bloodless hand was in the girl's hair, and, even without the title, it
would have been plain that there was a deadly purpose in that creeping
Isn't it horrid? whispered Goring's neighbor. Fancy that Mrs.
Stewart letting herself be made to look so dreadful!
Who? asked Goring, horrified. He had not recognized Mildred.
Why, the girl on the bed's Gertrude Waters, and the Vampire's a
cousin of Sir Cyril Meres. A horrid little woman some people admire,
but I shouldn't think any one would after this. I call it disgusting,
It's horrible! gasped George; it oughtn't to be allowed. What
does that fellow Meres mean by inventing such deviltries? By Jove, I
should like to thrash him!
The neighbor stared. It was all very well to be horrified at Mrs.
Stewart, but why this particular form of horror?
Please call me when it's over, said Goring, putting his head down
between his hands.
What an eccentric young man he was! But clever people often were
In due course the tableau was over, and to the relief of one
spectator at least, it was not encored. The next was some harmless
domestic scene with people in short waists. George Goring looked in
vain for Mildred among them, longing to see her, the real lovely her,
and forget the horrible thing she had portrayed. Lady Langham was
there, and his neighbor commended her tediously, convinced of pleasing.
There followed a large and very beautiful picture in the manner of a
great English Pre-Raphaelite. This was called Thomas the Rhymer,
meeting with the Faerie Queen, but it did not follow the description
of the ballad. The Faerie Queen, a figure of a Botticellian grace, was
coming, with all her fellowship, out of a wonderful pinewood, while
Thomas the Rhymer, handsome and young and lean and brown, his harp
across his back, had just crossed a mountain-stream by a rough bridge.
He appeared suddenly to have beheld her, pausing above him before
descending the heathery bank that edged the wood; and looking in her
face, to have entered at once into the land of Faerie. The pose, the
figure, the face of the Faerie Queen were of the most exquisite charm
and beauty, touched with a something of romance and mystery that no
other woman there except Mildred could have lent it. The youth who
personated Thomas the Rhymer was temporarily in love with Mrs. Stewart
and acted his part with intense expression. Goring, shading his eyes
with his hand, fixed them upon her as long as he dared; then glanced at
the Rhymer and was angry. He turned to his chattering neighbor and
Who's the chap doing Thomas? Looks as if he wanted a wash.
I don't know. Nobody particular, I should think. Wasn't it a pity
they didn't have Lady Langham for the Faerie Queen? I do call it absurd
the way Sir Cyril Meres has put that pert, insignificant cousin of his
forward in quite half the picturesand when he might have had Maud
Goring threw himself back in his chair and laughed his quite loud
'A mad world, my masters,' he quoted.
His neighbor took this for Mr. Goring's eccentric way of approving
her sentiments. But what he really meant was: What a strange masquerade
is the world! This neighbor of his, so ordinary, so desirous to please,
would have shuddered at the notion of hinting to him the patent fact
that Lady Augusta Goring was a tiring woman; while she pressed upon him
laudations of a person to whom he was perfectly indifferent, mingled
with insulting comments on the only woman in the world for himthe
woman who was his world, without whom nothing was; on her whose very
name, even on these silly, hostile lips, gave him a strong sensation,
whether of pain or pleasure he could hardly tell.
After the performance he constrained himself to go the round of the
ladies of his acquaintance who had been acting and compliment them
cleverly and with good taste. Lady Langham of course seized the lion's
share of his company and his compliments. He seemed to address only a
few remarks of the same nature to Mrs. Stewart, but he had watched his
opportunity and was able to say to her:
I must leave in a quarter of an hour at latest. Please let me drive
you back. You won't say no?
There was a pleading note in the last phrase and his eyes met hers
gravely, anxiously. It was evident that she must answer immediately,
while their neighbors' attention was distracted from them. She was pale
before under her stage make-up, and now she grew still paler.
Thanks. I told Cousin Cyril I was tired and shouldn't stay long.
I'll go and change at once.
Then Thomas the Rhymer was at her elbow again, bringing her
something for which she had sent him.
The green-room, in which she resumed the old white lace
evening-dress that she had worn to dine with her cousin, was strewn
with the delicate underclothing, the sumptuous wraps and costly
knick-knacks of wealthy women. She had felt ashamed, as she had
undressed there, of her own poor little belongings among these; and
ashamed to be so ashamed. As she had seen her garments overswept by the
folds of the fair Socialist's white velvet mantle, lined with Arctic
fox and clasped with diamonds, she had smiled ironically at the
juxtaposition. Since circumstances and her own gifts had drawn her into
the stream of the world, she had been more and more conscious, however
unwillingly, of a longing for luxuries, for rich settings to her
beauty, for some stage upon which her brilliant personality might shine
uplifted, secure. For she seemed to herself sometimes like a tumbler at
a fair, struggling in the crowd for a space in which to spread his
carpet. NowGeorge Goring loved her. Let the others keep their furs
and laces and gewgaws, their great fortunes or great names. Yet if it
had been possible for her to take George Goring's love, he could have
given her most of these things as well.
Wrapped in a gauzy white scarf, she seemed to float rather than walk
down the stairs into the hall, where Thomas the Rhymer was lingering,
in the hope of finding an excuse to escort her home. She was pale, with
a clear, beautiful pallor, a strange smile was on her lips and her eyes
shone like stars. The Queen of Faerie had looked less lovely, meeting
him on the edge of the wood. She nodded him good-night and passed
quickly on into the porch. With a boyish pang he saw her vanish, not
into the darkness of night, but into the blond interior of a smart
brougham. A young man, also smarther husband, for aught he
knewpaused on the step to give orders to the coachman, and followed
her in. A moment he saw her dimly, in the glare of carriage-lamps, a
white vision, half eclipsed by the black silhouette of the man at her
side; then they glided away over the crunching gravel of the drive,
into the fiery night of London.
Do you really think it went off well? she asked, as they passed
through the gates into the street. George was taking off his hat and
putting it down on the little shelf opposite. He leaned back and was
silent a few seconds; then starting forward, laid his hand upon her
Don't let's waste time like that, Mildred, he saidand although
he had never called her so before, it seemed natural that he
shouldwe haven't got much. You know, don't you, why I asked you to
drive with me?
She in her turn was silent a moment, then meeting his eyes:
Yes, she said, quite simply and courageously.
I thought you could hardly help seeing I loved you, however blind
other people might be.
Her head was turned away again and she looked out of the window, as
she answered in a voice that tried to be light:
But it isn't of any consequence, is it? I suppose you're always in
love with somebody or other.
Is that what people told you about me?and it was new and
wonderful to her to hear George Goring speak with this calmness and
gravityYou've not been long in the world, little girl, or you'd know
how much to believe of what's said there.
No, she answered, in turn becoming calm and deliberate. When I
come to think of it, people only say that women generally like you and
that you flirt with them. II invented the rest.
But, good Heavens! Why? There was a note of pain and wonder in his
She paused, and his hand moved under her cloak to be laid on the two
slender hands clasped on her lap.
I suppose I was jealous, she said.
Absurd child! But I'm a bit of an ass that way myself. I was
jealous of Thomas the Rhymer this evening.
She laughed low, the sweet laugh that was like no one else's. It was
past midnight and the streets were comparatively quiet and dark, but at
that moment they were whirled into a glare of strong light. They looked
in each other's eyes in silence, his hand tightening its hold upon
hers. Then again they plunged into wavering dimness, and he resumed,
gravely and calmly as before, but bending nearer her.
If I weren't anxious to tell you the exact truth, to avoid
exaggeration, I should say I fell in love with you the first time I met
you. It seems to me now as though it had been so. And the second
timeyou remember it was one very hot day last July, when we both
lunched with MeresI hadn't the least doubt that if I had been free
and you also, I should have left no stone unturned to get you for my
Every word was sweet to her, yet she answered sombrely:
But we are not free.
He, disregarding the answer, went on:
You love me, as I love you?
As you love me, dearest; and from the first.
A minute's silence, while the hands held each other fast. Then low,
triumphantly, he exclaimed: Well?
Her slim hands began to flutter a little in his as she answered all
that that Well implied.
It's impossible, dear. It's no use arguing about it. It's just
waste of timeand we've only got this little time.
To do what? To make love in? Dear, we've got all our lives if we
please. We've both made a tremendous mistake, we've both got a chance
now of going back on it, of setting our lives right again, making them
better indeed than we ever dreamed of their being. We inflict some loss
on other peopleno loss comparable to our gainwe hurt them chiefly
because of their bloated ideas of their claims on us. I know you've
weighed things, have no prejudices. Rules, systems, are made for types
and classes, not for us. You belong to no type, Mildred. I belong to no
She answered low, painfully:
It's true I am unlike other people; that's the very reason,
whyII'm not good to love. There was a low utterance that was music
in her ears, yet she continued: Then, dear friend, think of your
career, ruined for me, by me. You might be happy for a while, then
you'd regret it.
That's where you're wrong. My career? A rotten little game, these
House of Commons party politics, when you get into it! The big things
go on outside them; there's all the world outside them. Anyhow, my
career, as I planned it, is ruined already. The Ipswich gang have
collared me; I can't call my tongue my own, Mildred. Think of that!
She smiled faintly.
Temporary, George! You'll soon have your head upand your tongue
Oh, from time to time, I presume, I shall always be the Horrid
Vulgar Boy of those poor Barthops; I shall kick like a galvanized frog
long after I'm dead. ButI wouldn't confess it to any one but you,
dearI'm not strong enough to stand against the everlasting pressure
that's brought to bear upon me. You know what I mean, don't you?
Yes. You'll be no good if you let the originality be squeezed out
of you. Don't allow it.
Nothing can prevent itunless the Faerie Queen will stretch out
her dearest, sweetest hands to me and lead me, poor mortal, right away
into the wide world, into some delightful country where there's plenty
of love and no politics. I want love so much, Mildred; I've never had
it, and no one has ever guessed how much I wanted it except you,
Yes, she had guessed. The queer childhood, so noisy yet so lonely,
had been spoken of; the married life spoke for itself.
His arm was around her now, their faces drawn close together, and in
the pale, faint light they looked each other deep in the eyes. Then
their lips met in a long kiss.
You see how it is, he whispered; you can't help it. It's got to
be. No one has power to prevent it.
But he spoke without knowledge, for there was one who had power to
prevent it, one conquered, helpless, less than a ghost, who yet could
lay an icy hand on the warm, high-beating heart of her subduer, and
say: Love and desire, the pride of life and the freedom of the world,
are not for you. I forbid them to youIby a power stronger than the
laws of God or man. True, you have no husband, you have no child, for
those who seem to be yours are mine. You have taken them from me, and
now you must keep them, whether you will or no. You have taken my life
from me, and my life you must have, that and none other.
It was against this unknown and inflexible power that George Goring
struggled with all the might of his love, and absolutely in vain.
Between him and Mildred there could be no lies, no subterfuges; only
that one silence which to him, of all others, she dared not break.
She seemed to have been engaged in this struggle, at once so sweet
and so bitter, for an eternity before she stood on her own doorstep,
latch-key in hand.
Good-night, Mr. Goring. So much obliged for the lift.
Delighted, I'm sure. All right now? Good-night. Drop me at the
He lifted his hat, stepped in and closed the carriage-door sharply
behind him; and in a minute the brougham with its lights rolling almost
noiselessly behind the big fast-trotting bay horse, had disappeared
around a neighboring corner.
* * * * *
The house was cold and dark, except for a candle which burned on an
oak dresser in the narrow hall. As Mildred dragged herself up the
stairs, she had a sensation of physical fatigue, almost bruisedness, as
though she had come out of some actual bodily combat. Her room,
fireless and cold, was solitary, for Ian's sleep had to be protected
from disturbance. Nevertheless, having loosened her wraps, she threw
herself on the bed and lay there long, her bare arms under her head.
The sensation of chill, her own cold soft flesh against her face,
seemed to brace her mind and body, to restore her powers of clear, calm
judgment, so unlike the usual short-sighted, emotionalized judgments of
youth. She had nothing of the ordinary woman's feeling of guilt towards
her husband. The intimate bond between herself and George Goring did
not seem in any relation the accidental one between her and Ian
Stewart. She had never before faced the question, the possibility of a
choice between the two. Now she weighed it with characteristic
swiftness and decision. She reasoned that Ian had enjoyed a period of
great happiness in his marriage with her, in spite of the singularity
of its conditions; but that now, while Milly could never satisfy his
fastidious nature, she herself had grown to be a hinderance, a
dissonance in his life. Could she strike a blow which would sever him
from her, he would suffer cruelly, no doubt; but it would send him back
again to the student's life, the only life that could bring him honor,
and in the long run satisfaction. And that life would not be lonely,
because Tony, so completely his father's child, would be with him. As
for herself and George Goring, she had no fear of the future. They two
were strong enough to hew and build alone their own Palace of Delight.
Her intuitive knowledge of the world informed her that, in the long
run, society, if firmly disregarded, admits the claim of certain
persons to go their own wayeven rapidly admits it, though they be the
merest bleating strays from the common fold, should they haply be
possessed of rank or fortune. The way lay plain enough before Mildred,
were it not for that Other. But she, the shadowy one, deep down in her
limbo, laid a finger on the gate of that Earthly Paradise and held it,
as inflexibly as any armed archangel, against the master key of her
enemy's intelligence, the passionate assaults of her heart.
Mildred, however, was one who found it hard, if not impossible, to
acquiesce in defeat. Two o'clock boomed from the watching towers of
Westminster over the great city. She rose from her bed, cold as a
marble figure on a monument, and went to the dressing-table to take off
her few and simple ornaments. The mirror on it was the same from which
that alien smile had peered twelve months ago, filling the sad soul of
Milly with trembling fear and sinister foreboding. The white face that
stole into its shadowy depths to-night, and looked Mildred in the eyes,
was in a manner new to her also. It had a new seriousness, a new
intensity, as of a woman whose vital energies, once spending themselves
in mere corruscations, in mere action for action's sake, were now
concentrated on one definite thought, one purpose, one emotion, which
with an intense yet benign fire blended in perfect harmony the life of
the soul and of the body.
For a moment the face in its gravity recalled to her the latest
photograph of Milly, a tragic photograph she did not care to look at
because it touched her with a pity, a remorse, which were after all
quite useless. But the impression was false and momentary.
No, she said, speaking to the glass, it's not really like. Poor
weak woman! I understand better now what you have suffered. Then
almost repeating the words of her own cruel subconscious selfBut
there's all the difference between the weak and the strong. I am the
stronger, and the stronger must win; that's written, and it's no use
struggling against the law of nature.
George Goring was never so confident in himself as when he was
fighting an apparently losing game; and the refusal of Mildred to come
to him, a refusal based, as he supposed, on nothing but an
insurmountable prejudice against doing what was not respectable, struck
him as a stage in their relations rather than as the end of them. He
did not attempt to see her until the close of the Easter Vacation.
People began to couple their names, but lightly, without serious
meaning, for Goring being popular with women, had a somewhat
exaggerated reputation as a flirt. When a faithful cousin hinted things
about him and Mrs. Stewart to Lady Augusta, she who believed herself to
have seen a number of similar temporary enslavers, put the matter by,
really glad that a harmless nobody should have succeeded to Maud
Langham with her dangerous opinions.
Ian Stewart on his side was barely acquainted with Goring. Sir John
Ireton and the newspapers informed him that George Goring was a flashy,
untrustworthy politician; and the former added that he was a terrible
nuisance to poor Lord Ipswich and Lady Augusta. That such a man could
attract Mildred would never have occurred to him.
The fear of Milly's return, which she could not altogether banish,
still at times checked and restrained Mildred. Could she but have
secured Tims's assistance in keeping Milly away, she would have felt
more confident of success. It was hopeless to appeal directly to the
hypnotist, but her daring imagination began to conceive a situation in
which mere good sense and humanity must compel Tims to forbid the
return of Milly to a life made impossible for her. She had not seen
Tims for many weeks, not since the Easter Vacation, which had already
receded into a remote distance; so far had she journeyed since then
along the path of her fate. Nor had she so much as wondered at not
seeing Tims. But now her mind was turned to consider the latent power
which that strange creature held over her life, her dearest interests;
since how might not Milly comport herself with George?
Then it was that she realized how long it had been since Tims had
crept up the stairs to her drawing-room; pausing probably in the middle
of them to wipe away with hasty pocket-handkerchief some real or
fancied trace of her foot on a carpet which she condemned as expensive.
Mildred had written her a note, but it was hardly posted when the
door was flung open and Miss Timson was formally announced by the
parlor-maid. Tony, who was looking at pictures with his mother, rose
from her side, prepared to take a hop, skip, and jump and land with his
arms around Tims's waist. But he stopped short and contemplated her
with round-eyed solemnity. The ginger-colored man's wig had developed
into a frizzy fringe and the rest of the coiffure of the hour. A large
picture hat surmounted it, and her little person was clothed in a vivid
heliotrope dress of the latest mode. It was a handsome dress, a
handsome hat, a handsome wig, yet somehow the effect was jarring. Tony
felt vaguely shocked. Bless thee! Thou art translated! he might have
cried with Quince; but being a polite child, he said nothing, only put
out a small hand sadly. Tims, however, unconscious of the slight chill
cast by her appearance, kissed him in a perfunctory, patronizing way,
as ladies do who are afraid of disarranging their veils. She greeted
Mildred also with a parade of mundane elegance, and sat down
deliberately on the sofa, spreading out her heliotrope skirts.
You can run away just now, little man, she said to Tony. I want
to talk to your mother.
How smart you are! observed Mildred, seeing that comment of some
kind would be welcome. Been to Sir James Carus's big party at the
Museum, I suppose. You're getting a personage, Tims.
I dare say I shall look in later, but I shouldn't trouble to dress
up for that, my girl. Clothes would be quite wasted there. But I think
one should always try to look decent, don't you? One's men like it.
I suppose Ian would notice it if I positively wasn't decent. But,
Tims, dear, does old Carus really criticise your frocks?
For indeed the distinguished scientist, Miss Timson's chief, was the
only man she could think of to whom Tims could possibly apply the
possessive adjective. Tims bridled.
Of course not; I was thinking of Mr. Fitzalan.
That she had for years been very kind to a lonely little man of that
name who lived in the same block of chambers, Mildred knew,
butHeavens! Even Mildred's presence of mind failed her, and she
stared. Meeting her amazed eye, Tims's borrowed smile suddenly broke
its bounds and became her own familiar grin, only more so:
We're engaged, she said.
My dear Tims! exclaimed Mildred, suppressing an inclination to
burst out laughing. What a surprise!
I quite thought you'd have been prepared for it, returned Tims. A
bit stupid of you not to guess it, don't you know, old girl. We've been
courting long enough.
Mildred hastened to congratulate the strange bride and wish her
happiness, with all that unusual grace which she knew how to employ in
adorning the usual.
I thought I should like you to be the first to know, said Tims,
sentimentally, after a while; because I was your bridesmaid, you see.
It was the prettiest wedding I ever saw, and I should love to have a
wedding like yoursall of us carrying lilies, you know.
I remember there were green stains on my wedding-dress, returned
Mildred, with forced gayety.
Tims, temporarily oblivious of all awkward circumstances, continued,
still more sentimentally:
Then I was there, as I've told you, when Ian's pop came to poor old
M. Poor old girl! She was awfully spifligatingly happy, and I feel just
the same now myself.
Well, it wasn't I, anyhow, who felt 'awfully spifligatingly happy'
on that occasion, replied Mildred, with a touch of asperity in her
Tims, legitimately absorbed in her own feelings, did not notice it.
I dare say the world will say Mr. Fitzalan had an eye on my money;
and it's true I've done pretty well with my investments. But, bless
you! he hadn't a notion of that. You see, I was brought up to be
stingy, and I enjoy it. He thought of course I was a pauper, and
proposed we should pauper along together. He was quite upset when he
found I was an heiress. Wasn't it sweet of him?
Mildred said it was.
Flora Fitzalan! breathed Tims, clasping her hands and smiling into
space. Isn't it a pretty name? It's always been my dream to have a
pretty name. Then suddenly, as though in a flash seeing all those
personal disadvantages which she usually contrived to ignore:
Life's a queer lottery, Mil, my girl. We know what we are, we know
not what we shall be, as old Billy says. Who'd ever have thought that a
nice, quiet girl like Milly, marrying the lad of her heart and all
that, would come to such awful grief; while look at mea queer kind of
girl you'd have laid your bottom dollar wouldn't have much luck,
prospering like anything, well up in the Science business, and now,
what's ever so much better, scrumptiously happy with a good sort of her
own. Upon my word, Mil, I've half a mind to fetch old M. back to
sympathize with me, for although you've said a peck of nice things, I
don't believe you understand what I'm feeling the way the old girl
Mildred went a little pale and spoke quickly.
You won't do that really, Tims? You won't be so cruel toto every
I don't know. I don't see why you're always to be jolly and have
everything your own way. Oh, Lord! When I think how happy old M. was
when she was engaged, the same as I am, and then on her
wedding-dayjust the same as I shall be on mine.
Mildred straightened out the frill of a muslin cushion cover, her
Just so. She had everything her own way that time. I gave
her that happiness, it was all my doing. She's had it and she ought to
be content. Don't be a fool, Tims she lifted her face and Tims was
startled by its expressionCan't you see how hard it is on me never
to be allowed the happiness you've got and Milly's had? Don't you think
I might care to know what love is like for myself? Don't you think I
might happen to wantI tell you I'm a million times more alive than
Millyand I wantI want everything a million times more than she
Tims was astonished.
But it's always struck me, don't you know, that Ian was a deal more
in love with you than he ever was with poor old M.
And you pretend to be in love and think that's enough! It's not
enough; you must know it's not. It's like sitting at a Barmecide feast,
very hungry, only the Barmecide's sitting opposite you eating all the
time and talking about his food. I tell you it's maddening, perfectly
maddening There was a fierce vehemence in her face, her voice, the
clinch of her slender hands on the muslin frill. That strong vitality
which before had seemed to carry her lightly as on wings, over all the
rough places of life, had now not failed, but turned itself inwards,
burning in an intense flame at once of pain and of rebellion against
its own pain.
Tims in the midst of her happiness, felt vaguely scared. Mildred
seeing it, recovered herself and plunged into the usual engagement
talk. In a few minutes she was her old beguiling selfthe self to
whose charm Tims was as susceptible in her way as Thomas the Rhymer had
been in his.
When she had left, and from time to time thereafter, Tims felt
vaguely uncomfortable, remembering Mildred's outburst of vehement
bitterness on the subject of love. It was so unlike her usual careless
tone, which implied that it was men's business, or weakness, to be in
love with women, and that only second-rate women fell in love
Mildred seemed altogether more serious than she used to be, and
Milly herself could not have been more sympathetic over the engagement.
Even Mr. Fitzalan, when Tims brought him to call on the Stewarts was
not afraid of her, and found it possible to say a few words in reply to
her remarks. Tims's ceremonious way of speaking of her betrothed, whom
she never mentioned except as Mr. Fitzalan, made Ian reflect with sad
humor on the number of offensively familiar forms of address which he
himself had endured from her, and on the melancholy certainty that she
had never spoken of him in his absence by any name more respectful than
the plain unprefixed Stewart. But he hoped that the excitement of her
engagement had wiped out of her remembrance that afternoon when poor
Milly had tried to return. For he did not like to think of that moment
of weakness in which he had allowed Tims to divine so much of a state
of mind which he could not unveil even to himself without a certain
The summer was reaching its height. The weather was perfect. Night
after night hot London drawing-rooms were crowded to suffocation,
awnings sprang mushroom-like from every West End pavement; the sound of
music and the rolling of carriages made night, if not hideous, at least
discordant to the unconsidered minority who went to bed as usual.
Outside in the country, even in the suburbs, June came in glory, with
woods in freshest livery of green, with fragrance of hawthorn and broom
and gorse, buttercup meadows and gardens brimmed with roses. It seemed
to George Goring and Mildred as though somehow this warmth, this gayety
and richness of life in the earth had never been there before, but that
Fate and Nature, of which their love was part, were leading them on in
a great festal train to the inevitable consummation. The flame of life
had never burned clearer or more steadily in Mildred, and every day she
felt a growing confidence in having won so complete a possession of her
whole bodily machinery that it would hardly be in the power of Milly to
dethrone her. The sight of George Goring, the touch of his hand, the
very touch of his garment, gave her a feeling of unconquerable life. It
was impossible that she and George should part. All her sanguine and
daring nature cried out to her that were she once his, Milly should
not, could not, return. Tims, too, was there in reserve. Not that Tims
would feel anything but horror at Mildred's conduct in leaving Ian and
Tony; but the thing done, she would recognize the impossibility of
allowing Milly to return to such a situation.
Ian, whose holidays were usually at the inevitable periods, was by
some extraordinary collapse of that bloated thing, the Academic
conscience, going away for a fortnight in June. He had been deputed to
attend a centenary celebration at some German University, and a
conference of savants to be held immediately after it, presented
One Sunday Tims and Mr. Fitzalan went to Hampton Court with the
usual crowd of German, Italian, and French hair-dressers, waiters,
cooks, and restaurant-keepers, besides native cockneys of all classes
except the upper.
The noble old Palace welcomed this mass of very common humanity with
such a pageant of beauty as never greeted the eyes of its royal
builders. Centuries of sunshine seem to have melted into the rich reds
and grays and cream-color of its walls, under which runs a quarter of a
mile of flower-border, a glowing mass of color, yet as full of delicate
and varied detail as the border of an illuminated missal. Everywhere
this modern wealth and splendor of flowers is arranged, as jewels in a
setting, within the architectural plan of the old garden. There the
dark yews retain their intended proportion, the silver fountain rises
where it was meant to rise, although it sprinkles new, unthought-of
lilies. Behind it, on either side the stately vista of water, and
beside it, in the straight alley, the trees in the freshness and
fulness of their leafage, stand tall and green, less trim and solid it
may be, but essentially as they were meant to stand when the garden
grew long ago in the brain of a man. And out there beyond the terrace
the Thames flows quietly, silverly on, seeming to shine with the memory
of all the loveliness those gliding waters have reflected, since their
ripples played with the long, tremulous image of Lechlade spire.
Seen from the cool, deep-windowed rooms of the Palace, where now the
pictures hang and hundreds of plebeian feet tramp daily, the gardens
gave forth a burning yet pleasant glow of heat and color in the full
sunshine. Tims and Mr. Fitzalan, having eaten their frugal lunch early
under the blossoming chestnut-trees in Bushey Park, went into the
Picture Gallery in the Palace at an hour when it happened to be almost
empty. The queer-looking woman not quite young, and the little, bald,
narrow-chested, short-sighted man, would not have struck the passers-by
as being a pair of lovers. A few sympathetic smiles, however, had been
bestowed upon another couple seated in the deep window of one of the
smaller rooms; a pretty young woman and an attractive man. The young
man had disposed his hat and a newspaper in such a way as not to make
it indecently obvious that he was holding her hand. It was she who
called attention to the fact by hasty attempts to snatch it away when
people came in.
What do you do that for? asked the young man. There's not the
slightest chance of any one we know coming along.
Do try and adapt yourself to your milieu. These people are
probably blaming me for not putting my arm around your waist.
George! What an idiot you are! She laughed a nervous laugh.
By this time the last party of fat, dark young women in rainbow
hats, and narrow-shouldered, anæmic young men, had trooped away towards
food. Goring waited till the sound of their footsteps had ceased. He
was holding Mildred's hand, but he had drawn it out from under the
newspaper now, and the gay audacity of his look had changed to
something at once more serious and more masterful.
I don't like your seeming afraid, Mildred, he said. It spoils my
idea of you. I like to think of you as a high-spirited creature,
conscious enough of your own worth to go your own way and despise the
foolish comments of the crowd.
To hear herself so praised by him made the clear pink rise to
Mildred's cheeks. How could she bear to fall below the level of his
expectation, although the thing he expected of her had dangers of which
he was ignorant?
I'm glad you believe that of me, she said; although it's not
quite true. I cared a good deal about the opinion of the world
beforebefore I knew you; only I was vain enough to think it would
never treat me very badly.
It won't, he replied, his audacious smile flashing out for a
moment. It'll come sneaking back to you before long; it can't keep
away. Besides, I'm cynic enough to know my own advantages, Mildred.
Society doesn't sulk forever with wealthy people, whatever they choose
She answered low: But I shouldn't care if it did, George. I want
youjust to go right away with you.
A wonderful look of joy and tenderness came over his face. Mildred!
Can it really be you saying that? he breathed. Really you, Mildred?
They looked each other in the eyes and were silent a minute; but
while the hand next the window held hers, the other one stole out
farther to clasp her. He was too much absorbed in that gaze to notice
anything beyond it; but Mildred was suddenly aware of steps and a voice
in the adjoining room. Tims and Mr. Fitzalan, in the course of a
conscientious survey of all the pictures on the walls, had reached this
point in their progress. The window-seat on which Goring and Mildred
were sitting was visible through a doorway, and Tims had on her
Since her engagement, Tims's old-maidish bringing up seemed to be
bearing fruit for the first time.
I think we'd better cough or do something, she said. There's a
couple in there going on disgracefully. I do think spooning in public
such bad form.
I dare say they think they're alone, returned the charitable Mr.
Fitzalan, unable to see the delinquents because he was trying to put a
loose lens back into his eye-glasses. Tims came to his assistance,
talking loudly; and her voice was of a piercing quality. Mildred,
leaning forward, saw Mr. Fitzalan and Tims, both struggling with
eye-glasses. She slipped from George's encircling arm and stood in the
doorway of the farther room, beckoning to him with a scared face. He
got up and followed her.
What's the matter? he asked, more curious than anxious; for an
encounter with Lady Augusta in person could only precipitate a crisis
he was ready to welcome. Why should one simple, definite step from an
old life to a new one, which his reason as much as his passion
dictated, be so incredibly difficult to take?
Mildred hurried him away, explaining that she had seen some one she
knew very well. He pointed out that it was of no real consequence. She
could not tell him that if Tims suspected anything before the decisive
step was taken, one of the safeguards under which she took it might
They found no exit at the end of the suite of rooms, still less any
place of concealment. Tims and Mr. Fitzalan came upon them discussing
the genuineness of a picture in the last room but one. When Tims saw
that it was Mildred, she made some of the most dreadful grimaces she
had ever made in her life. Making them, she approached Mildred, who
seeing there was no escape, turned around and greeted her with a
Were youwere you sitting on that window-seat? asked Tims, fixing
her with eyes that seemed bent on piercing to her very marrow.
Mildred smiled again, with a broader smile.
I don't know about 'that window-seat.' I've sat on a good many
window-seats, naturally, since I set forth on this pilgrimage. Is there
anything particular about that one? I've never seen Hampton Court
before, Mr. Fitzalan, so as some people I knew were coming to-day, I
thought I'd come too. May I introduce Mr. Goring?
So perfectly natural and easy was Mildred's manner, that Tims
already half disbelieved her own eyes. They must have played her some
trick; yet how could that be? She recalled the figures in the
window-seat, as seen with all the peculiar, artificial distinctness
conferred by strong glasses. The young man called Goring had smiled
into the hidden face of his companion in a manner that Tims could not
approve. She made up her mind that as soon as she had leisure she would
call on Mildred and question her once more, and more straitly,
concerning the mystery of that window-seat.
On Monday and Tuesday an interesting experiment which she was
conducting under Carus claimed Tims's whole attention, except for the
evening hours, which were dedicated to Mr. Fitzalan. But she wrote to
say that Mildred might expect her to tea on Wednesday. On Wednesday the
post brought her a note from Mildred, dated Tuesday, midnight.
DEAR TIMS,I am afraid you will not find me to-morrow
afternoon, as I am going out of town. But do go to tea with
Tony, who is just back from the sea and looking bonny. He is
such a darling! I always mind leaving him, although of
course I am not his mother. Oh, dear, I am so sleepy, I
hardly know what I am saying. Good-bye, Tims, dear. I am
very glad you are so happy with that nice Mr. Fitzalan of
M. B. S.
So far the note, although bearing signs of haste, was in Mildred's
usual clear handwriting; but there was a postscript scrawled crookedly
across the inner sides of the sheet and prefixed by several flourishes:
Meet me at Paddington 4.30 train to-morrow. Meet me.
Another flourish followed.
The note found Tims at the laboratory, which she had not intended
leaving till half-past four. But the perplexing nature of the
postscript, conflicting as it did with the body of the letter, made her
the more inclined to obey its direction.
She arrived at Paddington in good time and soon caught sight of
Mildred, although for the tenth part of a second she hesitated in
identifying her; for Mildred seldom wore black, although she looked
well in it. To-day she was dressed in a long, black silk wrapwhich,
gathered about her slender figure by a ribbon, concealed her whole
dressand wore a long, black lace veil which might have baffled the
eyes of a mere acquaintance. Tims could not fail to recognize that
willowy figure, with its rare grace of motion, that amber hair, those
turquoise-blue eyes that gleamed through the swathing veil with a
restless brilliancy unusual even in them. With disordered dress and hat
on one side, Tims hastened after Mildred.
So here you are! she exclaimed; that's all right! I managed to
come, you see, though it's been a bit of a rush.
Mildred looked around at her, astonished, possibly dismayed; but the
veil acted as a mask.
Well, this is a surprise, Tims! What on earth brought you here? Is
anything the matter?
Just what I wanted to know. Why are you in black? Going to a
Good Heavens, no! The only funeral I mean to go to will be my own.
But, Tims, I thought you were going to tea with Tony. Why have you come
Didn't you tell me to come in the postscript of your letter?
Mildred was evidently puzzled.
I don't remember anything about it, she said. I was frightfully
tired when I wrote to youin fact, I went to sleep over the letter;
but I can't imagine how I came to say that.
Tims was not altogether surprised. She had had an idea that Mildred
was not answerable for that postscript, but Mildred herself had no clew
to the mystery, never having been told of Milly's written communication
of a year ago. She sickened at the possibility that in some moment of
aberration she might have written words meant for another on the note
Tims felt sure that Milly wished her to do somethingbut what?
Where are you going? she asked. What are you going to do?
I'm going to stay with some friends who have a house on the river,
and I'm going to dowhat people always do on the river. Any other
questions to ask, Tims?
Yes. I should like to know who your friends are.
Mildred laughed nervously.
You won't be any the wiser if I tell you. And in the instant she
reflected that what she said was true. I am going to the Gorings'.
The difference between that and the exact truth was only the
difference between the plural and the singular.
Don't go, old girl, said Tims, earnestly. Come back to Tony with
me and wait till Ian comes home.
Mildred was very pale behind the heavy black lace of her veil and
her heart beat hard; but she spoke with self-possession.
Don't be absurd, Tims. Tony is perfectly well, and there's Mr.
Goring who is to travel down with me. How can I possibly go back?
You're worrying about Milly, I suppose. Well, I'm rather nervous about
her myself. I always am when I go away alone. You don't mind my telling
them to wire for you if I sleep too long, do you? And you'd come as
quick as ever you could? Think how awkward it would be for Milly and
forfor the Gorings.
I'd come right enough, returned Tims, sombrely. But if you feel
like that, don't go.
I don't feel like that, replied Mildred; I never felt less like
it, or I shouldn't go. Still, one should be prepared for anything that
may happen. All the same, I very much doubt that you will ever see your
poor friend Milly again, Tims. You must try to forgive me. Now do make
haste and go to darling Tonyhe's simply longing to have you. I see
Mr. Goring has taken our places in the train, and I shall be left
behind if I don't go. Good-bye, old Tims.
Mildred kissed Tims's heated, care-distorted face, and turned away
to where Goring stood at the book-stall buying superfluous literature.
Tims saw him lift his hat gravely to Mildred. It relieved her vaguely
to notice that there seemed no warmth or familiarity about their
greeting. She turned away towards the Metropolitan Railway, not feeling
quite sure whether she had failed in an important mission or merely
made a fool of herself.
She found Tony certainly looking bonny, and no more inclined to
break his heart about his mother's departure than any other healthy,
happy child under like circumstances. Indeed, it may be doubted whether
a healthy, happy child, unknowing whence its beatitudes spring, does
not in its deepest, most vital moment regard all grown-up people as
necessary nuisances. No one came so delightfully near being another
child as Mildred; but Tims was a capital playfellow too, a broad
comedian of the kind appreciated on the nursery boards.
A rousing game with him and an evening at the theatre with Mr.
Fitzalan, distracted Tims's thoughts from her anxieties. But at night
she dreamed repeatedly and uneasily of Milly and Mildred as of two
separate persons, and of Mr. Goring, whose vivid face seen in the full
light of the window at Hampton Court, returned to her in sleep with a
distinctness unobtainable in her waking memory.
On the following day her work with Sir James Carus was of absorbing
interest, and she came home tired and preoccupied with it. Yet her
dreams of the night before recurred in forms at once more confused and
more poignant. At two o'clock in the morning she awoke, crying aloud:
I must get Milly back; and her pillow was wet with tears. For the two
following hours she must have been awake, because she heard all the
quarters strike from a neighboring church-tower, yet they appeared like
a prolonged nightmare. The emotional impression of some forgotten dream
remained, and she passed them in an agony of grief for she knew not
what, of remorse for having on a certain summer afternoon denied
Milly's petition for her assistance, and of intense volition,
resembling prayer, for Milly's return.
The intense heat of early afternoon quivered on the steep woods
which fell to the river opposite the house. The sunlit stream curved
under them, moving clear and quiet over depths of brown, tangled
water-growths, and along its fringe of gray and green reeds and grasses
and creamy plumes of meadow-sweet. The house was not very large. It was
square and white; an old wistaria, an old Gloire-de-Dijon, and a newer
carmine cluster-rose contended for possession of its surface. Striped
awnings were down over all the lower windows and some of the upper. A
large lawn, close-shorn and velvety green, as only Thames-side lawns
can be, stretched from the house to the river. It had no flower-beds on
it, but a cedar here, an ilex there, dark and substantial on their own
dark shadows, and trellises and pillars overrun by a flood of roses of
every shade, from deep crimson to snow white. The lawn was surrounded
by shrubberies and plantations, and beyond it there was nothing to be
seen except the opposite woods and the river, and sometimes boats
passing by with a measured sound of oars in the rowlocks, or the
temporary commotion of a little steam-launch. It looked a respectable
early Victorian house, but it had never been quite that, for it had
been built by George Goring's father fifty years earlier, and he
himself had spent much of his boyhood there.
Everything and every one seemed asleep, except a young man in
flannels with a flapping hat hanging over his eyes, who stood at the
end of a punt and pretended to fish. There was no one to look at him or
at the house behind him, and if there had been observers, they would
not have guessed that they were looking at the Garden of Eden and that
he was Adam. Only last evening he and that fair Eve of his had stood by
the river in the moonlight, where the shattering hawthorn-bloom made
the air heavy with sweetness, and had spoken to each other of this
their exquisite, undreamed-of happiness. There had been a Before, there
would be an After, when they must stand on their defence against the
world, must resist a thousand importunities, heart-breaking prayers, to
return to the old, false, fruitless existence.
But just for these days they could be utterly alone in their
paradise, undisturbed even by the thoughts of others, since no one knew
they were there and together. Alas! they had been so only forty-eight
hours, and already a cold little serpent of anxiety had crept in among
Before entrusting herself to him, Mildred had told him that, in
spite of her apparent good health, she was occasionally subject to long
trance-like fits, resembling sleep; should this happen, it would be
useless to call an ordinary doctor, but that a Miss Timson, a
well-known scientific woman and a friend of hers, must be summoned at
once. He had taken Miss Timson's address and promised to do so; but
Mildred had not seemed to look upon the fit as more than a remote
contingency. Perhaps the excitement, the unconscious strain of the last
few days had upset her nerves; for this morning she had lain in what he
had taken for a natural sleep, until, finding her still sleeping
profoundly at noon, he had remembered her words and telegraphed to Miss
Timson. An answer to his telegram, saying that Miss Timson would come
as soon as possible, lay crumpled up at the bottom of the punt.
The serpent was there, but Goring did not allow its peeping coils
thoroughly to chill his roses. His temperament was too sanguine, he
felt too completely steeped in happiness, the weather was too
beautiful. Most likely Mildred would be all right to-morrow.
Meantime, up there in the shaded room, she who had been Mildred
began to stir in her sleep. She opened her eyes and gazed through the
square window, at the sunlit awning that overhung it, and at the green
leaves and pale buds of the Gloire-de-Dijon rose. There was a hum of
bees close by that seemed like the voice of the hot sunshine. It should
have been a pleasant awakening, but Milly awoke from that long sleep of
hers with a brooding sense of misfortune. The remembrance of the
afternoon when she had so suddenly been snatched away returned to her,
but it was not the revelation of Ian's passionate love for her
supplanter that came back to her as the thing of most importance.
Surely she must have known that long before, for now the pain seemed
old and dulled from habit. It was the terrible strength with which the
Evil Spirit had possessed her, seizing her channels of speech even
while she was still there, hurling her from her seat without waiting
for the passivity of sleep. No, her sense of misfortune was not
altogether, or even mainly, connected with that last day of hers.
Unlike Mildred, she had up till now been without any consciousness of
things that had occurred during her quiescence, and she had now no
vision; only a strong impression that something terrible had befallen
She looked around the bedroom, and it seemed to her very strange;
something like an hotel room, yet at once too sumptuous and too shabby.
There was a faded pink flock wall-paper with a gilt pattern upon it,
the chairs were gilded and padded and covered with worn pink damask,
the bed was gilded and hung with faded pink silk curtains. Everywhere
there was pink and gilding, and everywhere it was old and faded and
rubbed. A few early Victorian lithographs hung on the walls, portraits
of ballet-dancers and noblemen with waists and whiskers. No one had
tidied the room since the night before, and fine underclothing was
flung carelessly about on chairs, a fussy petticoat here, the bodice of
an evening dress there; everywhere just that touch of mingled
daintiness and disorder which by this time Milly recognized only too
The bed was large, and some one else had evidently slept there
besides herself, for the sheet and pillow were rumpled and there was a
half-burnt candle and a man's watch-chain on the small table beside it.
Wherever she was then, Ian was there too, so that she was at a loss to
understand her own sinister foreboding.
She pulled at the bell-rope twice.
There were only three servants in the house; a housekeeper and two
maids, who all dated from the days of Mrs. Maria Idle, ex-mistress of
the late Lord Ipswich, dead herself now some six months. The
housekeeper was asleep, the maids out of hearing. She opened the door
and found a bathroom opposite her bedroom. It had a window which showed
her a strip of lawn with flower-beds upon it, beyond that shrubberies
and tall trees which shut out any farther view. A hoarse cuckoo was
crying in the distance, and from the greenery came a twittering of
birds and sometimes a few liquid pipings; but there was no sound of
human life. The place seemed as empty as an enchanted palace in a fairy
Milly's toilet never took her very long. She put on a fresh, simple
cotton dress, which seemed to have been worn the day before, and was
just hesitating as to whether she should go down or wait for Ian to
come, when Clarkson, the housekeeper, knocked at her door.
I thought if you was awake, madam, you might like a bit of lunch,
Milly refused, for this horrible feeling of depression and anxiety
made her insensible to hunger. She looked at the housekeeper with a
certain surprise, for Clarkson was as decorated and as much the worse
for wear as the furniture of the bedroom. She was a large, fat woman,
laced into a brown cashmere dress, with a cameo brooch on her ample
bosom; her hair was unnaturally black, curled and dressed high on the
top of her head, she had big gold earrings, and a wealth of powder on
her large, red face.
Can you tell me where I am likely to find Mr. Stewart? asked
The woman stared, and when she answered there was more than a shade
of insolence in her coarse voice and smile.
I'm sure I can't tell, madam. Mr. Stewart's not our gentleman
Milly, understanding the reply as little as the housekeeper had
understood the question, yet felt that some impertinence was intended
and turned away.
There was nothing for it but to explore on her own account. A
staircase of the dull Victorian kind led down to a dark, cool hall. The
front door was open. She walked to it and stood under a stumpy portico,
looking out. The view was much the same as that seen from the bathroom,
only that instead of grass and flower-beds there was a gravel sweep,
and, just opposite the front door, a circle of grass with a tall
monkey-puzzle tree in the centre. Except for the faded gorgeousness of
the bedroom, the house looked like an ordinary country house, belonging
to old people who did not care to move with the times. Why should she
feel at every step a growing dread of what might meet her there?
She turned from the portico and opened, hesitatingly, the door of a
room on the opposite side of the hall. It was a drawing-room, with
traces of the same shabby gorgeousness that prevailed in the bedroom,
but mitigated by a good deal of clean, faded chintz; and at one end was
a brilliant full-length Millais portrait of Mrs. Maria Idle in blue
silk and a crinoline. It was a long room, pleasant in the dim light;
for although it had three windows, the farthest a French one and open,
all were covered with awnings, coming low down and showing nothing of
the outer world but a hand's breadth of turf and wandering bits of
creeper. It was sweet with flowers, and on a consol table before a
mirror stood a high vase from which waved and twined tall sprays and
long streamers of cluster-roses, carmine and white. It was beautiful,
yet Milly turned away from it almost with a shudder. She recognized the
touch of the hand that must have set the roses there. And the nameless
horror grew upon her.
Except for the flowers, there was little sign of occupation in the
room. A large round rosewood table was set with blue glass vases on
mats and some dozen photographalbums and gift-books, dating from the
sixties. But on a stool in a corner lay a newspaper; and the date on it
gave her a shock. She had supposed herself to have been away about four
months; she found she had been gone sixteen. There had been plenty of
time for a misfortune to happen, and she felt convinced that it had
happened. But what? If Ian or Tony were dead she would surely still be
in mourning. Then on a little rosewood escritoire, such as ladies were
wont to use when they had nothing to write, she spied an old leather
writing-case with the initials M. B. F. upon it. It was one Aunt
Beatrice had given her when she first went to Ascham, and it seemed to
look on her pleasantly, like the face of an old friend. She found a few
letters in the pockets, among them one from Ian written from Berlin a
few days before, speaking of his speedy return and of Tony's amusing
letter from the sea-side. She began to hope her feeling of anxiety and
depression might be only the shadow of the fear and anguish which she
had suffered on that horrible afternoon sixteen months ago. She must
try not to think about it, must try to be bright for Ian's sake. Some
one surely was with her at this queer place, since she was sharing a
room with another personprobably a female friend of that Other's, who
had such a crowd of them.
She drew the awning half-way up and stood on the step outside the
French window. The lawn, the trees, the opposite hills were unknown to
her, but the spirit of the river spoke to her familiarly, and she knew
it for the Thames. A gardener in shirt-sleeves was filling a
water-barrel by the river, under a hawthorn-tree, and the young man in
the punt was putting up his fishing-tackle. As she looked, the
strangeness of the scene passed away. She could not say where it was,
but in some dream or vision she had certainly seen this lawn, that
view, before; when the young man turned and came nearer she would know
his face. And the dim, horrible thing that was waiting for her
somewhere about the quiet house, the quiet garden, seemed to draw a
step nearer, to lift its veil a little. Who was it that had stood not
far from where the gardener was standing now, and seen the moon hanging
large and golden over the mystery of the opposite woods? Whoever it
was, some one's arm had been fast around her and there had been
It took but a few seconds for these half-revelations to drop into
her mind, and before she had had time to reflect upon them, the young
man in the punt looked up and saw her standing there on the step. He
took off his floppy hat and waved it to her; then he put down his
tackle, ran to the near end of the punt and jumped lightly ashore. He
came up the green lawn, and her anxiety sent her down to meet him
almost as eagerly as love would have done. The hat shaded all the upper
part of his face, and at a distance, in the strong sunshine, the
audacious chin, the red lower lip, caught her eye first and seemed to
extinguish the rest of the face. And suddenly she disliked them. Who
was the man, and how did she come to know him? But former experiences
of strange awakenings had made her cautious, self-controlling, almost
capable of hypocrisy.
So you're awake! shouted George, still a long way down the lawn.
Good! How are you? All right?
She nodded Yes, with a constrained smile.
In a minute they had met, he had turned her around, and with his arm
under hers was leading her towards the house again.
All right? Really all right? he asked very softly, pressing her
arm with his hand and stooping his head to bring his mouth on a level
with her ear.
Very nearly, at any rate, she answered, coldly, trying to draw
away from him.
What are you doing that for? he asked. Afraid of shocking the
gardener, eh? What queer little dear little ways you've got! I suppose
Undines are like that.
He drew her closer to him as he threw back his head and laughed a
noisy laugh that jarred upon her nerves.
Milly began to feel indignant. It was just possible that a younger
sister in Australia might have married and brought this extraordinary
young man home to England, but his looks, his tone, were not fraternal;
and she had never forgotten the Maxwell Davison episode. She walked on
Every one seems to be out, she observed, as calmly as she could.
You mean those devils of servants haven't been looking after you?
he asked. Yet I gave Clarkson her orders. Of course they're baggages,
but I haven't had the heart to send them away from the old place, for
who on earth would take them? I expect we aren't improving their
chances, you and I, at this very moment; in spite of respecting the
He chuckled, as at some occult joke of his own.
They stooped together under the half-raised awning of the French
window, and entered the dim, flower-scented drawing-room side by side.
The young man threw off his hat, and she saw the silky ripple of his
nut-brown hair, his smooth forehead, his bright-glancing hazel eyes,
all the happy pleasantness of his countenance. Before she had had time
to reconsider her dislike of him, he had caught her in his arms and
kissed her hair and face, whispering little words of love between the
kisses. For one paralyzed moment Milly suffered these dreadful words,
these horrible caresses. Then exerting the strength of frenzy, she
pushed him from her and bounded to the other side of the room,
entrenching herself behind the big rosewood table with its smug mats
and vases and albums.
You brute! you brute! you hateful cad! she stammered with
trembling lips; how dare you touch me?
George Goring stared at her with startled eyes.
Mildred! Dearest! Good God! What's gone wrong?
Where's my husband? she asked, in a voice sharp with anger and
terror. I want to goI must leave this horrid place at once.
It was Goring's turn to feel himself plunged into the midst of a
nightmare, and he grew almost as pale as Milly. How in Heaven's name
was he going to manage her? She looked very ill and must of course be
delirious. That would have been alarming in any case, and this
particular form of delirium was excruciatingly painful.
Yes, my husbandwhere is he? I shall tell him how you've dared to
insult me. I must go. This is your houseI must leave it at once.
Goring did not attempt to come near her. He spoke very quietly.
Try and remember, Mildred; Stewart is not here. He will not even be
in England till to-morrow. You are alone with me. Hadn't you better go
to bed again and he was about to say, wait until Miss Timson
comes, but as it was possible that the advent of the person she had
wished him to summon might now irritate her, he substitutedand keep
quiet? I promise not to come near you if you don't wish to see me.
I am alone here with you? Milly repeated, slowly, and pressed her
hand to her forehead. Good God, she moaned to herself, what can have
Yes. For Heaven's sake, go and lie down. I expect the doctor can
give you something to soothe your nerves and then perhaps you'll
She made a gesture of fierce impatience.
You think I'm mad, but I'm not. I have been mad and I am myself
again; only I can't remember anything that's happened since I went out
of my mind. I insist upon your telling me. Who are you? I never saw you
before to my knowledge.
Her voice, her attitude were almost truculent as she faced him, her
right hand dragging at the loose clasp of a big photograph album. Every
word, every look, was agony to Goring, but he controlled himself by an
I am George Goring, he said, slowly, and paused with anxious eyes
fixed upon her, hoping that the name might yet stir some answering
string of tenderness in the broken lyre of her mind.
She too paused, as though tracking some far-off association with the
Ah! poor Lady Augusta's husband, she repeated, yet sterner than
before in her anger. My friend Lady Augusta's husband! And why am I
here alone with you, Mr. Goring?
Because I am your lover, Mildred. Because I love you better than
any one or any thing in the world; and yesterday you thought you loved
me, you thought you could trust all your life to me.
She had known the answer already in her heart, but the fact stated
plainly by another, became even more dreadful, more intolerable, than
before. She uttered a low cry and covered her eyes with her hand.
Mildreddearest! he breathed imploringly.
Then she raised her head and looked straight at him with flaming
eyes, this fair, fragile creature transformed into a pitiless Fury. She
forgot that indeed an Evil Spirit had dwelt within her; George Goring
might be victim rather than culprit. In this hour of her anguish the
identity of that body of hers, which through him was defiled, that
honor of hers, yes and of Ian Stewart's, which through him was dragged
in the dust, made her no longer able to keep clearly in mind the
separateness of the Mildred Stewart of yesterday from herself.
I tell you I was mad, she gasped; and youyou vile, wicked
man!you took advantage of it to ruin my lifeto ruin my husband's
life! You must know Ian Stewart, a man whose shoes you are not fit to
tie. Do you think any woman in her senses would leave him for you?
Ah! she breathed a long, shuddering breath and her hand was clinched
so hard upon the loose album clasp that it ran into her palm.
Mildred! cried George, staggered, stricken as though by some fiery
I ought to be sorry for your wife, she went on. She is a splendid
woman, she has done nothing to deserve that you should treat her so
scandalously. But I can'tI can'ta dry sob caught her voicebe
sorry for any one except myself and Ian. I always knew I wasn't good
enough to be his wife, but I was so proud of itso proudand nowOh,
it's too horrible! I'm not fit to live.
George had sunk upon a chair and hidden his face in his hands.
Don't say that, he muttered hoarsely, almost inaudibly. It was my
She broke out again.
Of course it was. It's nothing to you, I suppose. You've broken my
husband's heart and mine too; you've hopelessly disgraced us both and
spoiled our lives; and all for the sake of a little amusement, a little
low pleasure. We can't do anything, we can't punish you; but if curses
were any use, oh, how I could curse you, Mr. Goring!
The sobs rising in a storm choked her voice. She rushed from the
room, closing the door behind her and leaving George Goring there, his
head on his hands. He sat motionless, hearing nothing but the humming
silence of the hot afternoon.
Milly, pressing back her tears, flew across the hall and up the
stairs. The vague nightmare thing that had lurked for her in the
shadows of the house, when she had descended them so quietly, had taken
shape at last. She knew now the unspeakable secret of the pink and gold
bedroom, the shabbily gorgeous bed, the posturing dancers, the
simpering, tailored noblemen. The atmosphere of it, scented and close,
despite the open window, seemed to take her by the throat. She dared
not stop to think, lest this sick despair, this loathing of herself,
should master her. To get home at once was her impulse, and she must do
it before any one could interfere.
It was a matter of a few seconds to find a hat, gloves, a parasol.
She noticed a purse in the pocket of her dress and counted the money in
it. There was not much, but enough to take her home, since she felt
sure the river shimmering over there was the Thames. She did not stay
to change her thin shoes, but flitted down the stairs and out under the
portico, as silent as a ghost. The drive curved through a shrubbery,
and in a minute she was out of sight of the house. She hurried past the
lodge, hesitating in which direction to turn, when a tradesman's cart
drove past. She asked the young man who was driving it her way to the
station, and he told her it was not very far, but that she could not
catch the next train to town if she meant to walk. He was going in that
direction himself and would give her a lift if she liked. She accepted
the young man's offer; but if he made it in order to beguile the tedium
of his way, he was disappointed.
The road was dusty and sunny, and this gave her a reason for opening
her large parasol. She cowered under it, hiding herself from the women
who rolled by in shiny carriages with high-stepping horses; not so much
because she feared she might meet acquaintances, as from an instinctive
desire to hide herself, a thing so shamed and everlastingly wretched,
from every human eye. And so it happened that, when she was close to
the station, she missed seeing and being seen by Tims, who was driving
to Mr. Goring's house in a hired trap which he had sent to meet her.
Milly took a ticket for Paddington and hurried to the train, which
was waiting at the platform, choosing an empty compartment. Action had
temporarily dulled the passion of her misery, her rage, her shuddering
horror at herself. But alone in the train, it all returned upon her,
only with a complete realization of circumstance which made it worse.
It had been her impulse to rush to her home, to her husband, as for
refuge. Now she perceived that there was no refuge for her, no comfort
in her despair, but rather another ordeal to be faced. She would have
to tell her husband the truth, so far as she knew it. Good God! Why
could she not shake off from her soul the degradation, the burning
shame of this fair flesh of hers, and return to him with some other
body, however homely, which should be hers and hers alone? She
remembered that the man she loathed had said that Ian would not be back
in England until to-morrow. She supposed the Evil Thing had counted on
stealing home in time to meet him, and would have met him with an
innocently smiling face.
A moment Milly triumphed in the thought that it was she herself who
would meet Ian and reveal to him the treachery of the creature who had
supplanted her in his heart. Then with a shudder she hid her face,
remembering that it was, after all, her own dishonor and his which she
must reveal. He would of course take her back, and if that could be the
end, they might live down the thing together. But it would not be the
end. I am the stronger, that Evil Thing had said, and it was the
stronger. At first step by step, now with swift advancing strides, it
was robbing her of the months, the years, till soon, very soon, while
in the world's eyes she seemed to live and thrive, she would be dead;
dead, without a monument, without a tear, her very soul not free and in
God's hands, but held somewhere in abeyance. And Ian? Through what
degradation, to what public shame would he, the most refined and
sensitive of men, be dragged! His childher child and Ian'swould
grow up like that poor wretched George Goring, breathing corruption,
lies, dishonor, from his earliest years. And she, the wife, the mother,
would seem to be guilty of all that, while she was really bound,
The passion of her anger and despair stormed through her veins again
with yet greater violence, but this time George Goring was forgotten
and all its waves broke impotently against that adversary whose
diabolical power she was so impotent to resist, who might return
to-morrow, to-day for aught she knew.
She had been moving restlessly about the compartment, making
vehement gestures in her desperation, but now a sudden, terrible, yet
calming idea struck her to absolute quietness. There was a way, just
one, to thwart this adversary; she could destroy the body into which it
thought to return. At the same moment there arose in her soul two
opposing waves of emotionone of passionate self-pity to think that
she, so weak and timid, should be driven to destroy herself; the other
of triumph over her mortal foe delivered into her hands. She felt a
kind of triumph too in the instantaneousness with which she was able to
make up her mind that this was the only thing to be doneshe, usually
so full of mental and moral hesitation. Let it be done quicklynow,
while the spur of excitement pricked her on. The Thing seemed to have a
knowledge of her experiences which was not reciprocal. How it would
laugh if it recollected in its uncanny way, that she had wanted to kill
herself and it with her, that she had had it at her mercy and then had
been too weak and cowardly to strike! Should she buy some poison when
she reached Paddington? She knew nothing about poisons and their
effects, except that carbolic caused terrible agony, and laudanum was
not to be trusted unless you knew the dose. The train was slowing up
and the lonely river gleamed silverly below. It beckoned to her, the
river, upon whose stream she had spent so many young, happy days.
She got out at the little station and walked away from it with a
quick, light step, as though hastening to keep some pleasurable
appointment. After all the years of weak, bewildered subjection, of
defeat and humiliation, her turn had come; she had found the answer to
the Sphinx's riddle, the way to victory.
She knew the place where she found herself, for she had several
times made one of a party rowing down from Oxford to London. But it was
not one of the frequented parts of the river, being a quiet reach among
solitary meadows. She remembered that there was a shabby little house
standing by itself on the bank where boats could be hired, for they had
put in there once to replace an oar, having lost one down a weir in the
neighborhood. The weir had not been on the main stream, but they had
come upon it in exploring a backwater. It could not be far off.
She walked quickly along the bank, turning over and over in her mind
the same thoughts; the cruel wrong which now for so many years she had
suffered, the final disgrace brought upon her and her husband, and she
braced her courage to strike the blow that should revenge all. The act
to which this fair-haired, once gentle woman was hurrying along the
lonely river-bank, was not in its essence suicide; it was revenge, it
When she came to the shabby little house where the boats lay under
an unlovely zinc-roofed shed, she wondered whether she might ask for
ink and paper and write to some one. She longed to send one little word
to Ian; but then what could she say? She could not have seen him and
concealed the truth from him, but it was one of the advantages of her
disappearance that he need never know the dishonor done him. And she
knew he considered suicide a cowardly act. He was quite wrong there. It
was an act of heroic courage to go out like this to meet death. It was
so lonely; even lonelier than death must always be. She had the
conviction that she was not doing wrong, but right. Hers was no common
case. And for the first time she saw that there might be a reason for
this doom which had befallen her. Men regard one sort of weakness as a
sin to be struggled against, another as something harmless, even
amiable, to be acquiesced in. But perhaps all weakness acquiesced in
was a sin in the eyes of Eternal Wisdom, was at any rate to be left to
the mercy of its own consequences. She looked back upon her life and
saw herself never exerting her own judgment, always following in some
one else's tracks, never fighting against her physical, mental, moral
timidity. It was no doubt this weakness of hers that had laid her open
to the mysterious curse which she was now, by a supreme effort of
independent judgment and physical courage, resolved to throw off.
A stupid-looking man in a dirty cotton shirt got out the small boat
she chose; stared a minute in surprise to see the style in which she,
an Oxford girl born and bred, handled the sculls, and then went in
again to continue sleeping off a pint of beer.
She pulled on mechanically, with a long, regular stroke, and one by
one scenes, happy river-scenes out of past years, came back to her with
wonderful vividness. Looking about her she saw an osier-bed dividing
the stream, and beside it the opening into the willow-shaded backwater
which she remembered. She turned the boat's head into it. Heavy clouds
had rolled up and covered the sky, and there was a kind of twilight
between the dark water and the netted boughs overhead. Very soon she
heard the noise of a weir. Once such a sound had been pleasant in her
ears; but now it turned her cold with fear. On one side the backwater
flowed sluggishly on around the osier-bed; on the other it hurried
smoothly, silently away, to broaden suddenly before it swept in white
foam over an open weir into a deep pool below. She trembled violently
and the oars moved feebly in her hands, chill for all the warmth of the
afternoon. Her boat was in the stream which led to the weir, but not
yet fully caught by the current. A few more strokes and the thing would
be done, she would be carried quickly on and over that dancing,
sparkling edge into the deep pool below. Her courage failed, could not
be screwed to the sticking-point; she hung on the oars, and the boat,
as if answering to her thought, stopped, swung half around. As she held
the boat with the oars and closed her eyes in an anguish of hesitation
and terror, a strange convulsion shook her, such as she had felt once
before, and a low cry, not her own, broke from her lips.
Nono! they uttered, hoarsely.
The Thing was there then, awake to its danger, and in another moment
might snatch her from herself, return laughing at her cowardice, to
that house by the river. She pressed her lips hard together, and
silently, with all the strength of her hate and of her love, bent to
the oars. The little boat shot forward into mid-stream, the current
seized it and swept it rapidly on towards the dancing edge of water.
She dropped the sculls and a hoarse shriek broke from her lips; but it
was not she who shrieked, for in her heart was no fear, but
triumphtriumph as of one who is at length avenged of her mortal
* * * * *
In the darkened drawing-room, the room so full of traces of all that
had been exquisite in Mildred Stewart, Ian mourned alone. Presently the
door opened a little, and a tall, slender, childish figure in a white
smock, slipped in and closed it gently behind him. Tony stole up to his
father and stood between his knees. He looked at Ian, silent, pale,
large-eyed. That a grown-up person and a man should shed tears was
strange, even portentous, to him.
Won't Mummy come back, not ever? asked the child at last,
piteously, in a half whisper.
No, never, Tony; Mummy won't ever come back. She's gonegone for
The child looked in his father's eyes strangely, penetratingly.
Which Mummy? he asked.
* * * * *