In the Wilderness
Part 3 out of 15
which lies Olympia, heat ascended to meet them and to give them a
welcome--a soft and almost enticing heat like a breath from some green
fastness where strange marvels were secluded.
"Elis even smells remote," Rosamund said.
"Are you sorry to leave the hill-top?" he asked.
"I was, but already I'm beginning to feel drawn on. There's something
here--what is it?"
She looked at him.
"Something for you."
"Specially for me?"
"Specially for you."
"Hidden in the folds of the green. Where are we going first?"
"To the ruins."
He was carrying their lunch in a straw pannier slung over his
"We'll lunch in the house of Nero, and rest there."
"That sounds rather dreadful, Dion."
"Wait till you see it."
"I can't imagine that monster in Elis."
"He was a very artistic monster, you remember."
"Like some of the decadents in London. Why is it that those who hate
moral beauty so often worship all the other beauties?"
"D'you think in their hearts they actually hate moral beauty?"
"Well, despise it, laugh at it, try to tarnish it."
"Good heavens, no!"
And they both laughed as they went down the narrow path to the soft
green valley that awaited them, hushed in the breathless morning,
withdrawn among the hills, holding its memories of the athletic
triumphs of past ages. Near the Museum they stopped for a moment to
look down on the valley.
"Is the Hermes in there?" Rosamund asked, glancing at the closed and
"What a strange and delicious home for him."
"You shall visit him presently. There are jackals in this valley."
"I didn't hear any last night."
She looked again at the closed door of the Museum.
"When do they open it?"
"Probably the guardian's in there. That's where he lives."
He pointed to a small dwelling close to the museum. Just then a tiny
murmur of some far-away wind stirred the umbrella pines which stood
sentinel over the valley.
"Oh, Dion, what an exquisite sound!" she said.
She held up one hand like a listening child. There was awe in her
"This is a shrine," she said, when the murmur failed. "Dion, I know
you planned to go first to the ruins."
"Yes. They're just below us. Look--by the river!"
"Let me see the Hermes first, just for a moment."
Their eyes met. He thought she was reading his mind, though he tried
to keep it closed against her just then.
"Why are you in such a hurry?" he asked.
"I feel I must see it," she answered, with a sort of sweet obstinacy.
"Well, then--I'll see if I can find the guardian."
In a moment he came back with a smiling Greek who was holding a key.
As the man went to open the door, Dion said:
"Rose, will you follow my directions?"
"Now, when you go into the Museum."
"But aren't you coming too?"
"Not now. I will when we've seen the ruins. When you go into the
Museum go straight through the vestibule where the Roman Emperors are.
Don't turn to the right. In front of you you'll see a hall with a
wooden roof and red walls. The 'Victory' is there. But don't stay
there. Go into the small room beyond, the last room, and you mustn't
let the guardian go with you."
From behind came the sound of the big door being opened.
"Then that is the secret, and I knew about it all the time!"
"Knew about it--yes."
She looked down on the green cup surrounded by hills, with its little
river where now two half-naked men were dragging with a hand-net for
fish. Again the tiny breath from the far-away wind stirred in the pine
trees, evoking soft sounds of Eternity. She turned away and went into
Left alone, Dion lifted the lunch-pannier from his shoulder and laid
it down on the ground. Then he sat down under one of the pine trees. A
wild olive grew very near it. He thought of the crown of wild olive
which the victors received in days when the valley resounded with
voices and the trampling of the feet of horses. He took off his hat
and laid it beside him on the ground by the lunch-pannier. One of the
men in the river cried out to his companion. Sheep-bells sounded
softly down the valley. Some peasants went by with a small train of
donkeys on a path which wound away at the foot of the hill of Kronos.
Dion was being unselfish. In staying where he was, beyond the outer
door of the house of Hermes, he was taking the first firm step on a
path which might lead him on very far. He had slept in the dawn when
Rosamund slipped out of the tent, but till the stars waned he had been
awake, and in the white light of the moon he had seen the beginning of
the path. Men were said to be selfish. People, especially women, often
talked as if selfishness were bred in the very fiber of men, as if it
were ineradicable, and must be accepted by women. He meant to prove to
one woman that even a man could be unselfish, moved by something
greater than himself. Up there on Drouva he had definitely dedicated
himself to Rosamund. His acute pain when, coming back to the place
where he had left her by the tent before sunset, he had not found her,
his sense almost of smoldering anger, had startled him. In the night
he had thought things over, and then he had come to the beginning of
the path. A really great love, if it is to be worthy to carry the
torch, must tread in the way of unselfishness. He would conform to the
needs, doubtless imperious, of Rosamund's nature, even when they
conflicted with his.
So now he sat outside under the pine tree, and she was within alone. A
first step was taken on the path.
Would she presently come through the hall of the Victory to call him
He heard the guardian cough in the vestibule of the Emperors; the
cough was that of a man securely alone with his bodily manifestations.
The train of peasants had vanished. Still the sheep-bells sounded, but
the chime seemed to come to him now from a greater distance.
The morning was wearing on. When would she come back to him from the
secret of Olympia?
He heard again above his head the eternities whispering in the pine
branches. The calmness and heat of the valley mingled together, and
rose to him, and wanted to take him to themselves. But he was detached
from them, terribly detached by his virtue--his virtue, which involved
him in a struggle, pushed them off.
Surely an hour had passed, perhaps even more. He began to tingle with
impatience. The sound of the sheep-bells had died away beyond the
colonnade of the echoes. A living silence was now about him.
At last he put on his hat and got up. The Hermes was proving his power
too mercilessly, was stealing the hours like a thief at work in the
dark. The knowledge that Rosamund was his own for life did not help
Dion at all at this moment. He had planned out this day as if they
were never to have another. Their time in Greece was nearly over, and
they could not linger for very long anywhere. Anyhow, just this day,
once gone, could never be recaptured.
He looked towards the doorway of the Museum, hesitating. He was
devoured by impatience. Nevertheless he did not wish to step out of
that path, the beginning of which he had seen in the night. Determined
not to seek Rosamund, yet driven by restlessness, he did one of those
meaningless things which, bringing hurt to nature, are expected by man
to bring him at least a momentary solace. His eyes happened to rest on
the olive tree which stood not far from the Museum. One branch of it
was stretched out beyond the others. He walked up to the tree, pulled
at the branch, and finally snapped it off, stripped it of its leaves
and threw it on the ground.
As he finished this stupid and useless act, Rosamund came out of the
Museum, looking almost angry.
"Oh, Dion, was it you?" she asked. "What could make you do such a
"But--what do you mean?" he asked.
She looked down at the massacred branch at his feet.
"A branch of wild olive! If you only knew how it hurt me."
"Oh--that! But how could you know?"
She still looked at him with a sort of shining of anger in her eyes.
"I saw from the room of the Hermes. The doorway of the Museum is the
frame for such a picture of Elis! It's almost, in its way, as dream-
like and lovely as the distant country one sees through the temple
door in Raphael's 'Marriage of the Virgin' in Milan. And hanging
partly across it was that branch of wild olive. I was looking at it
and loving it in the room of the Hermes when a man's arm, your arm,
was thrust into the picture, and the poor branch was torn away."
She had spoken quite excitedly, still evidently under the impulse of
something like anger. Now she suddenly pulled herself up with a little
"Of course you didn't know; you couldn't. I suppose I was dreaming,
and it--it looked like a sort of murder. But still I don't see why you
should tear the branch off, and all the leaves too."
"I'm sorry, I'm very sorry, Rosamund. It was idiotic. Of course I
hadn't an idea what you were doing, I mean, that you were looking at
it. One does senseless little things sometimes."
"It looked so angry."
"Your hand, your arm. You can have no idea how----"
She broke off again.
"Let me come in with you. Let's go to the Hermes."
"Oh no, not now."
She spoke with almost brusk decision.
"Very well, then, I'll just pay the man something, and we'll be off to
Dion went to pay the guardian, whom he found standing up among the
Roman Emperors in a dignified and receptive attitude. When he came
back he picked up the lunch-basket, slung it over his shoulder, and
they walked down the small hill and towards the ruins in silence. He
felt involved in a tragedy, pained and discomforted. Yet it was all
rather absurd, too. He did not know what to say, how to take it, and
he looked straight ahead, seeking instinctively for some diversion.
When they were on the river bank he found it in the fishermen who were
wading in the shallows with their nets.
"I wonder what they catch here," he said. "There's not much water."
Rosamund took up the remark with her usual readiness and sympathetic
cordiality, and soon they were chattering again much as usual.
The great heat of the hour after noontide found them lunching among
the ruins of Nero's house. By this time the spell of the place had
fast hold of them both. Nature had long since taken the ruins to her
gentle breast; she took Rosamund and Dion with them. In her green lap
she sheltered them; with her green hills and her groves of pine trees
she wrapped them round; with her tall grasses, her bushes, her wild
flowers and her leaves she caught at and caressed them. A jackal
whined in its lair near the huge limestone blocks of the temple of
Zeus. Green lizards basked on the pavements which still showed the
little ruts constructed to save the feet of contending athletes from
slipping. All along the green valley the birds flew and sang;
blackberry bushes climbed over the broken walls of the mansion of
Nero, and red and white daisies and silvery grasses grew in every
cranny where the kindly earth found a foothold.
"Look at those butterflies, Dion!" Rosamund said.
Two snow-white butterflies, wandering among the ruins, had found their
way to the house of Nero, and seemed inclined to make it their home.
Keeping close together, as if guided by some sweet and whimsical
purpose, they flew from stone to stone, from daisy to daisy, often
alighting, as if bent on a thorough investigation of this ancient
precinct, then fluttering forward again, with quivering wings, not
quite satisfied, in an airy search for the thing or place desired.
Several times they seemed about to abandon the ruins of Nero's house,
but, though they fluttered away, they always returned. And at last
they alighted side by side on a piece of uneven wall, and rested, as
if asleep in the sun, with folded wings.
"That's the finishing touch," said Rosamund. "White butterflies asleep
in the house of Nero."
She looked round over the ruins, poetic and beautiful in their
prostration, as if they had fallen to kiss the vale which, in return,
had folded them in an eternal embrace.
"Don't take me to Delphi this time, Dion; don't take me anywhere
else," she said.
"I was thinking only to-day that our time's very short now. We
lingered so long in Athens."
"We'll say our good-by to Greece from the Acropolis. That's--of
course! The grandeur and wonder are there. But the dream of Greece--
that's here. This is a shrine."
"Oh no, not for Pan, though I dare say he often comes here."
From the Kronos Hill, covered with little pines, came the mystical
voice of the breeze, speaking to them in long and remote murmurs.
"That's the most exquisite sound in the world," Rosamund continued.
"But it has nothing to do with Pan. You remember that day we went into
the Russian church in Athens, Dion?"
"There was the same sort of sound in those Russian voices when they
were singing very softly. It could never come from a Pagan world."
"You find belief behind it?"
He did not ask her to define exactly what she meant. It was not an
hour for definition, but for dreaming, and he was happy again; the
cloud of the morning had passed away; he had his love with untroubled
eyes among the ruins. Thinking of that, realizing that with a sudden
intensity, he took her warm hand from the warm stone on which it was
resting, and held it closely in his.
"Oh, Rosamund, shall I ever have another hour as happy as this?" he
A little way off, in that long meadow in the breast of which the
Stadium lay hidden, the sheep-bells sounded almost pathetically; a
flock was there happily at pasture.
"It's as if all the green doors were closing upon us to keep us in
Elis forever, isn't it?" she said. "But----"
She looked at him with a sort of smiling reproach:
"You wouldn't be allowed to stay."
"You committed a crime this morning. Nature's taken possession of
Olympia, and you struck at her."
"D'you know why I did that?"
But she did not again ask him why, and he never told her. When the
heat had lessened a little, they wandered once more through that
garden of ruins, where scarcely a column is standing, where
convulsions of nature have helped the hands of man to overthrow man's
work, and where nature has healed every wound, and made every scar
tender and beautiful. And presently Rosamund said:
"I want to know exactly where Hermes was found."
"Come, and I'll show you."
He led her on among the wild flowers and the grasses, till they came
to the clearly marked base of the Heraeon, the most ancient known
temple of Greece. Two of its columns were standing, tremendously
massive Doric columns of a warm golden-brown color.
"The Hermes was found in this temple. It stood between two of the
columns, but I believe it was lying down when it was found."
"It's difficult to imagine him between such columns as these."
"Yet you love Doric."
"Yes, but I don't know----"
She looked at the columns, even put her hands on them as if trying to
"It must have been right. The Greeks knew. Strength and grace, power
and delicacy, that's the bodily ideal. So the Hermes stood actually
She looked all round, she listened to the distant sheep-bells, she
drew into her nostrils the green scents of the valley.
"And left his influence here for ever," she added. "His quiet
"Let me come to see him with you on the way home."
And this time she said, "Yes."
At a little after four they left the sweet valley, and, passing over
the river ascended the hill to the Museum. The door was open, and the
guardian was sitting profoundly asleep in the vestibule of the
"You see, that's the picture-frame," Rosamund whispered, when they
were inside, pointing to the doorway. "The branch came just there in
She had lifted her hand. He took her by the wrist and gently pulled
her hand down.
"You mustn't show me that."
"Don't let us wake him."
A fly buzzed outside on the sunny threshold of the door, making a
sleepy sound like the winding of a rustic horn in the golden
stillness, as they went forward on tiptoe between the dull red walls
of the hall of the Victory, and came into the room beyond, where the
Hermes stood alone but for the little Dionysos on his arm.
There a greater silence seemed to reign--the silence of the harmony
which lies beyond music, as a blue background of the atmosphere lies
beyond the verges of the vastest stretch of land that man's eyes have
power to see; he sees the blue, but almost as if with his soul, and in
like manner hears the harmony. Both Rosamund and Dion felt the
difference in the silence directly they entered that sacred room.
There was no room beyond it. Not very large, it was lighted by three
windows set in a row under a handsome roof of wood. The walls were
dull red like the walls in the hall of the Victory. On the mosaic
pavement were placed two chairs. Rosamund went straight up to one of
them, and sat down in front of the statue, which was raised on a high
pedestal, and set facing the right-hand wall of the chamber. Dion
remained standing a little way behind her.
He remembered quite well his first visit to Olympia, his first sight
of the Hermes. He had realized then very clearly the tragedy of large
Museums in which statues stand together in throngs, enclosed within
roaring cities. From its situation, hidden in the green breast of this
valley in Elis, the Hermes seemed to receive a sort of consecration, a
blessing from its shrine; and the valley received surely from the
Hermes a gracious benediction, making it unlike any other valley,
however beautiful, in any land of the earth. Nowhere else could the
Hermes have been so serenely tender, so exquisitely benign in its
contemplation; and no other valley could have kept it safe with such
gentle watchfulness, such tranquilly unwearied patience. Surely each
loved the other, and so each gained something from the other.
Through all the months since his visit, Dion had remembered the unique
quality of the peace of Olympia, like no other peace, and the strange
and exquisite hush which greeted the pilgrim at the threshold of the
chamber in which the Hermes stood. He had remembered, but now he felt.
Again the silence seemed to come out of the marble to greet him, a
remembered pilgrim who had returned to his worship bringing another
pilgrim. He entered once more into the peace of the Hermes, and now
Rosamund shared that peace. As he looked at her for a moment, he knew
he had made a complete atonement; he had sent the shadow away.
How could any shadow stand in the presence of the Hermes? The divine
calm within this chamber had a power which was akin to the power of
nature in the twilight of a windless evening, or of a beautiful soul
at ease in its own simplicity. It purified. Dion could not imagine any
man being able to look at the Hermes and feel the attraction of sin.
Rosamund was right, he thought. Surely men have to go and fetch their
sins. Their goodness is given to them. The mother holds it, and is
aware of it, when her baby is put into her arms for the first time.
For a long while these two watched Hermes and the child in the silence
of Elis, bound together by an almost perfect sympathy. And they
understood as never before the beauty of calm--calm of the nerves,
calm of the body, calm of the mind, the heart and the soul; peace
physical, intellectual and moral. In looking at the Hermes they saw,
or seemed to themselves to see, the goal, what struggling humanity is
meant for--the perfect poise, all faculties under effortless control,
and so peace.
"We must be meant for that," Dion said to himself. "Shall we reach
that goal, and take a child with us?"
Then he looked down at Rosamund, saw her pale yellow hair, the back of
her neck, in which, somehow, purity was manifested, and thought:
"I might perhaps get there through her, but only through her."
She turned round, looked at him and smiled.
"Isn't he divine? And the child's attitude!"
Dion moved and sat down beside her.
"If this is Paganism," she continued, "it's the same thing as
Christianity. It's what God means. Men try to separate things that are
all one. I feel that when I look at Hermes. Oh, how beautiful he is!
And his beauty is as much moral as physical. You know the Antinous
"Look at his mouth. Could any one, comparing the two, honestly say
that purity doesn't shine like a light in darkness? Aren't those lips
stamped with the Divine seal?"
"Yes, they are."
"Dion, I'm so thankful I have a husband who's kept the power to see
that even physical beauty must have moral beauty behind it to be
perfect. Many men can't see that, I think."
"Is it their fault?"
After another long silence she said:
"Spirit really is everything. Hermes tells me that almost as plainly
as the New Testament. Lots of people we know in London would laugh at
me for saying so, the people who talk of 'being Greek' and who never
can be Greek. And he stood between Doric columns. I'm trying to learn
"How to bring /him/ up if he ever comes."
Dion felt for her hand.
They stayed on for a week at Drouva. Each evening Rosamund shot with
the boy of the wilderness, and they ate any birds that fell, at their
evening meal. The nights were given to the stars till sleep came. And
all the days were dedicated to Hermes, the child, and the sweet green
valley which served as a casket for the perfect jewel which the earth
had given up after centuries of possession. Since Rosamund had told
the dear secret of her heart, what she was trying to learn, Dion was
able to see her go in alone to the inner chamber without any secret
jealousy or any impatience. The given confidence had done its blessed
work swiftly and surely; the spring behind the action, revealed so
simply, was respected, was almost loved by Dion. Often he sat among
the ruins alone, smoking his pipe; or he wandered away after the call
of the sheep-bells, passing between the ruined walls overgrown with
brambles and grasses and mosses, shaded here and there by a solitary
tree, and under the low arch of the Athletes' entrance into the great
green space where the contests had been held. Here he found the
wearers of music feeding peacefully, attended by a dreaming boy. With
the Two in the Garden of Eden there were happy animals. The sheep-
bells ringing tranquilly in his ears made Eden more real to him, and
also more like something in one of the happy dreams of a man.
A world that had risen to great heights of emotion in this valley was
dead, but that did not sadden him. He found it impossible to be sad in
Olympia, because his own life was so happy.
A delicious egoism, the birthright of his youth, had him safe in its
grasp. But sometimes, when Rosamund was alone in the room of the
Hermes, learning her lesson, and he was among the ruins, or walking
above the buried Stadium where the flocks were at pasture, he recalled
the great contests of the Athletes of ancient Greece; the foot-races
which were the original competitions at the games, the races in armor,
the long jumps, the wrestling matches, the discus and dart-throwing,
the boxing and the brutal /pankration/. And he remembered that at the
Olympic Games there were races for boys, for quite young boys. A boy
had won at Olympia who was only twelve years old. When Dion recalled
that fact one golden afternoon, it seemed to him that perhaps his
lesson was to be learnt among the feeding sheep in the valley, rather
even than on the hill where the Hermes dwelt. The father surely shapes
one part of the sacred clay of youth, while on the other part, with a
greater softness, a perhaps subtler care, the mother works.
He would try to make his boy sturdy and strong and courageous, swift
to the race of life; he would train his boy to be a victor, to be a
boy champion among other boys. Her son must not fail to win the crown
of wild olive. And when he was a man----! But at that point in his
dreams of the future Dion always pulled up. He could not see Rosamund
as the mother of a man, could not see Rosamund old. She would, of
course, be beautiful in old age, with a perhaps more spiritual beauty
than she had even now. He shut his eyes, tried to imagine her, to see
her before him with snow-white hair, a face perhaps etherealized by
knowledge of life and suffering; once he even called up the most
perfect picture of old age he knew of--the portrait of Whistler's
mother, calm, dignified, gentle, at peace, with folded hands; but his
efforts were in vain; he simply could not see his Rosamund old. And
so, because of that, he could only see their child as a very young
boy, wearing a boy's crown of wild olive, such as had once been won by
the boy of twelve in the games at Olympia.
The last day of their visit to the green wilds and the hilltops
dawned, still, cloudless and very hot. There was a light haze over
Zante, and the great plain held a look of sleep--not the sleep of
night but of the siesta, when the dreams come out of the sun, and
descend through the deep-blue corridors to visit those who are weary
in the gold. Rosamund, bareheaded, stood on the hill of Drouva and
gazed towards the sea; her arm was round her olive tree; she looked
marvelously well, lithe and strong, but her face was grave, held even
a hint of sadness.
"Our last day here!" she said to Dion. "One more night with the stars,
only one! Dion, when you brought me here, you did a dangerous thing."
"Gave you opportunities for regret? D'you mean that?"
She nodded, still gazing towards Zante.
"It couldn't be helped. I had to bring you."
"Of course. I know. If you had let me leave Greece without coming
here, and I had ever come to understand what I had missed, I don't
believe I could have forgiven even you."
"I always meant to bring you here."
"But you had a sudden impulse, didn't you?"
"Why exactly did it come?"
He hesitated. Suddenly he felt reserved; but he broke through his
reserve and answered:
"I saw I had made you feel sad."
"Did you? Why was that?"
"Don't you remember?"
She was catching the dream of the plain, perhaps, for she replied,
with an almost preoccupied air:
"I don't think so."
"I wanted to make you happy again, very happy, to give you a treat as
quickly as possible. The idea of this"--he flung out a brown hand--
"came to me suddenly. That's how it was. You--you don't know how I
wish to keep every breath of sorrow out of your life."
"I know you do; I feel it. But you've put a sorrow in."
She spoke with a half-whimsical smile.
"The sorrow of leaving all this, of leaving the Hermes. I didn't know
it was possible to grow to care for a lifeless thing as I care for
him. Sometimes I believe the marble has actually retained nothing of
Praxiteles as a man. I mean as apart from a sculptor. But he must have
been full of almost divine feelings and conceptions, or he could never
have made my Hermes. No man can make the divine without having
divinity in him. I've learnt more here in these few days than I have
learnt in all my years."
"From the statue of a Pagan. Isn't that strange?"
"No, I don't think so. For I was able to see the Christianity in it. I
know what Praxiteles was only able to feel mysteriously. Sometimes in
London I've heard people--you know the sort of people I mean--
regretting they didn't live in the old Greek world."
"I've regretted that."
"Have you? But not in their way. When I look at the Hermes I feel very
thankful I have lived since."
"Tell me just why."
"Because I live in a world which has received definitely and finally
the message the Hermes knew before it was sent down."
She took away her arm from the olive tree and sighed.
"Oh, Dion, I shall hate going away, leaving the tent and Drouva and
him. But I believe whenever I think of Olympia I shall feel the peace
that, thank God, doesn't pass all understanding."
They went down to the valley that day to pay their final visit to the
Hermes. Twilight had not yet come, but was not very far off when, for
the last time, they crossed the threshold of his chamber. More silent
than ever, more benignly silent, did the hush about him seem to Dion;
more profound were his peace and serenity. He and the child had surely
withdrawn a little farther from all that was not intended, but that,
for some inscrutable reason, had come to be. His winged sandals had
carried him still farther away. As Dion looked at him he seemed to be
"This evening I have a feeling about the Hermes I've never had
"What is it?"
"That he's taking the child away, quite away."
"But he's always been here, and not here. That's what I love so much."
"I don't mean quite that. It's as if he were taking the child farther
and farther away, partly because of us."
"I don't like that. I don't feel that at all."
"We belong to this world, you see, and are subject to all its
conditions. We are in it and of it."
"He belongs to such a different world."
"Yes, the released world, where no ugly passions can ever get in."
"The way he looks at Dionysos tells one that. He hasn't any fear for
the boy's future when he grows up and comes to know things. It just
strikes me that no human being who thinks could ever look at a human
child like that. There would always be the fear behind--'What is life
going to do to the child?'"
She looked at him, and her face was very grave.
"D'you think we should feel that?"
"Unless we got the serene courage of the Hermes."
"But he lived among gods, and we live among men."
"I don't understand."
"Perhaps some day you will," she answered.
Into her eyes there had come a strange look of withdrawal.
At that moment the atmosphere in the room of the Hermes seemed to Dion
more full of peace even than before, but the peace was like something
almost tangible. It troubled him a little because he felt that the
Hermes, the child and Rosamund were of it, while he was not. They were
surrounded by the atmosphere necessary to them, and to which they were
mysteriously accustomed, while he was for the first time in such an
atmosphere. He felt separated from Rosamund by a gulf, perhaps very
narrow, but probably very deep.
Over Elis the twilight was falling, a green twilight sylvan and very
ethereal, tremulous in its delicate beauty. It stole through the green
doors, and down through the murmuring pine trees; it crossed the
shallow river, and made its way to the garden of ruins where once the
Hermes had stood between Doric Columns in the Heraeon. Through the
colonnade of the echoes it passed, and under the arch of the Athletes.
Over the crude and almost terrible strength of the ruins of the temple
of Zeus it let its green garments trail down, as it felt its way
softly but surely to the buried Stadium where once a boy of twelve had
won the crown of wild olive. The sheep-bells were ringing softly; the
flocks were going homeward from pasture. They were making their way up
the valley now at the base of the Kronos Hill, and the chime of their
little bells mingled with the wide whispering of the eternities among
the summits of the pine trees. Music of earth mingled with the music
from a distance that knew what the twilight knew.
The tall oblong of the Museum doorway on the hill framed a tiny
picture of Elis, bathed in green and tremulous light; a small section
of hillside, a fragment of empty, poetic country--Pan's world rather
hinted at than revealed--a suggestion of evening sky, remote, with
infinity lost in its distance. But there was no branch of wild olive
flickering across the picture.
Rosamund missed it as she looked from the room of the Hermes out to
the whispering evening and the quiet vale of Olympia. But she did not
say so to Dion. He thought of it too, as he looked at her, and he
tried to forget it. The picture framed by the doorway strangely grew
dimmer and yet more full of greenish light; the country of Pan was
fading in light. Presently details were entirely lost. Only an oblong
of green, now almost emerald, light showed from the chamber of the
Hermes. And in that chamber the two marble figures were gradually
fading; the athletic, yet miraculously graceful, messenger of the gods
with the winged sandals, the tiny child clinging to his shoulder with
one little arm stretched out in an enchanting gesture of desire. Still
the child nestled against Hermes, and still Hermes contemplated the
child, with a celestial benignity, a half-smiling calmness of other
worlds than this.
In the vestibule of the Emperors the guardian waited patiently. He was
not accustomed to visitors who lingered on like these two English,
when the light was failing, and surely it must be difficult, if not
impossible, to see the statues properly. But Rosamund, with her usual
lack of all effort, had captivated him. He had grown accustomed to her
visits; he was even flattered by them. It pleased him subtly to have
in his care a treasure such as the Hermes, to see which beautiful
women, the Rosamunds of the world, traveled from far-off countries.
Rosamund's perpetual, and prolonged, visits had made him feel more
important than he had ever succeeded in feeling before. Let the night
come, she might stay on there, if she chose. He took very little
account of Dion. But Rosamund was beginning to assume a certain vital
importance in his quiet life.
The green light faded into a very dim primrose; the music of the
sheep-bells drew near and died away among the small houses of the
hamlet at the foot of the hill of Drouva; Elis withdrew itself into
the obscurity that would last till the late coming of the waning moon.
Of Hermes and Dionysos now only the attitudes could be seen faintly.
But even they told of a golden age, an age from which everything ugly,
everything violent, everything unseemly, everything insincere,
everything cruel was blotted out--an age of serenity of body and soul,
the age of the long peace.
"He's gone," said Dion at last.
Rosamund got up slowly.
"You think he's taken away the child because of us?"
There was an almost pathetic sound in her voice, but there was a smile
in it too.
"You remember my stupid remark?"
"Perhaps it wasn't stupid. I think those who dare to have a child
ought to keep very near to the world Hermes walks in. They mayn't wear
wings on their sandals, but the earth oughtn't to hold their feet too
fast. Hermes has taught me."
"No one could ever want to take a child away from you," he answered.
In the vestibule of the Emperors they bade good-by to the guardian of
the Museum, and made him understand that on the morrow they would be
As he looked at Dion's gift he felt for a moment almost depressed. He
was accustomed to his constant visitor. Surely he would miss her. She
smiled on him with her warm and very human cordiality for the last
time, and went away, with her companion, into the dimness towards the
hill of Drouva. Then the guardian pulled the great door. It closed
with a final sound. The key was turned. And Hermes was left untroubled
in that world where wings grow out of the sandals.
Robin, whose other name was Gabriel, arrived at the "little house," of
which Rosamund had spoken to Dion upon the hill of Drouva, early in
the following year, on the last night of February to be exact. For a
long time before his coming his future home had been subtly permeated
by an atmosphere of expectancy.
No. 5 Little Market Street was in Westminster, not far from the river
and the Houses of Parliament, yet in a street which looked almost
remote, and which was often very quiet although close to great
arteries of life. Dion sometimes thought it almost too dusky a setting
for his Rosamund, but it was she who had chosen it, and they had both
become quickly fond of it. It was a house with white paneling,
graceful ceilings and carved fireplaces, and a shallow staircase of
oak. There was a tiny but welcoming hall, and the landing on the first
floor suggested potpourri, chintz-covered settees, and little curtains
of chintz moved by a country wind coming through open windows. There
were, in fact, chintz-covered settees, and there was potpourri.
Rosamund had taken care about that; she had also taken care about many
other little things which most London housewives, perhaps, think
unworthy of their attention. Every day, for instance, she burnt
lavender about the house, and watched the sweet smoke in tiny wreaths
curling up from the small shovel, as she gently moved it to and fro,
with a half smile of what she called "rustic satisfaction." She laid
lavender in the cupboards and in the chests of drawers, and, when she
bought flowers, chose by preference cottage garden flowers, if she
could get them, sweet williams, pansies, pinks, wallflowers, white
violets, stocks, Canterbury bells. Sometimes she came home with wild
flowers, and had once given a little dinner with foxgloves for a table
decoration. An orchid, a gardenia, even a hyacinth, was never to be
seen in the little house. Rosamund confessed that hyacinths had a
lovely name, and that they suggested spring, but she added that they
smelt as if they had always lived in hothouses, and were quite ready
to be friends with gardenias.
She opened her windows. In this she was almost too rigorous for her
maid-servants, who nevertheless adored her. "Plenty of warmth but
plenty of air," was her prescription for a comfortable and healthy
house, "and not too much or too many of anything." Dust, of course,
was not to be known of in her dwelling, but "blacks" were accepted
with a certain resignation as a natural chastening and a message from
London. "They aren't our fault, Annie," she had been known to observe
to the housemaid. "And dust can't be anything else, however you look
at it, can it?" And Annie said, "Well, no, ma'am!" and, when she came
to think of it, felt she had not been a liar in the moment of
Rosamund never "splashed," or tried to make a show in her house, and
she was very careful never to exceed their sufficient, but not large,
income; but the ordinary things, those things which of necessity come
into the scheme of everyday life, were always of the very best when
she provided them. Dion declared, and really believed, perhaps with
reason, that no tea was so fragrant, no bread and butter so delicious,
no toast so crisp, as theirs; no other linen felt so cool and fresh to
the body as the linen on the beds of the little house; no other silver
glittered so brightly as the silver on their round breakfast-table; no
other little white window curtains in London managed to look so
perennially fresh, and almost blithe, as the curtains which hung at
their windows. Rosamund and Annie might have conversations together on
the subject of "blacks," but Dion never saw any of these distressing
visitants. The mere thought of Rosamund would surely keep them at a
more than respectful distance.
She proved to be a mistress of detail, and a housekeeper whose
enthusiasm was matched by her competence. At first Dion had been
rather surprised when he followed from afar, as is becoming in a man,
this development. Before they settled down in London he had seen in
Rosamund the enthusiastic artist, the joyous traveler, the good
comrade, the gay sportswoman touched with Amazonian glories; he had
known in her the deep lover of pure beauty; he had divined in her
something else, a little strange, a little remote, the girl to whom
the "Paradiso" was a door opening into dreamland, the girl who escaped
sometimes almost mysteriously into regions he knew nothing of; but he
had not seen in her one capable of absolutely reveling in the humdrum.
Evidently, then, he had not grasped the full meaning of a genuine
/joie de vivre/.
To everything she did Rosamund brought zest. She kept house as she
sang "The heart ever faithful," holding nothing back. Everything must
be right if she could get it right; and the husband got the benefit,
incidentally. Now and then Dion found himself mentally murmuring that
word. A great love will do such things unreasonably. For Rosamund's
/joie de vivre/, that gift of the gods, caused her to love and rejoice
in a thing for the thing's own sake, as it seemed, rather than for the
sake of some one, any one, who was eventually to gain by the thing.
Thus she cared for her little house with a sort of joyous devotion and
energy, but because it was "my little house" and deserved every care
she could give it. Rather as she had spoken of the small olive tree on
Drouva, of the Hermes of Olympia, even of Athens, she spoke of it,
with a sort of protective affection, as if she thought of it as a
living thing confided to her keeping. She possessed a faculty not very
common in women, a delight in doing a thing for its own sake, rather
than for the sake of some human being--perhaps a man. If she boiled an
egg--she went to the kitchen and did this sometimes--she seemed
personally interested in the egg, and keenly anxious to do the best by
it; the boiling must be a pleasure to her, but also to the egg, and it
must, if possible, be supremely well done. As the cook once said,
after a culinary effort by Rosamund, "I never seen a lady care for
cooking and all such-like as she done. If she as much as plucked a
fowl, you'd swear she loved every feather of it. And as to a roast,
she couldn't hardly seem to set more store by it if it was her own
Such a spirit naturally made for comfort in a house, and Dion had
never before been so comfortable. Nevertheless--and he knew it with a
keen savoring of appreciation--there was a Spartan touch to be felt in
the little house. Comfort walked hand in hand with Rosamund, but so
did simplicity; she was what the maids called "particular," but she
was not luxurious; she even disliked luxury, connecting it with
superfluity, for which she had a feeling amounting almost to
repulsion. "I detest the sensation of sinking down in /things/," was a
favorite saying of hers; and the way she lived proved that she spoke
the sheer truth.
All through the house, and all through the way of life in it, there
prevailed a "note" of simplicity, even of plainness. The odd thing,
perhaps, was that it pleased almost every one who visited the young
couple. A certain well-known man, noted as a Sybarite, clever,
decadent and sought after, once got into the house, he pretended by
stealth, and spent half an hour there in conversation with Rosamund.
He came way "acutely conscious of my profound vulgarity," as he
explained later to various friends. "Her house revealed to me the
hideous fact that all the best houses in London smack of cocotte-try;
the trail of cushions and liqueurs is over them all. Mrs. Leith's
house is a vestal, and its lamp is always trimmed." Daventry's comment
on this was: "Trimmed--yes, but trimmings--no!"
Even Esme Darlington highly approved of the "charming sobriety of No.
5 Little Market Street," although he had had no hand in its
preparation, no voice in the deciding of its colors, its stuffs, its
rugs, or its stair-rods. He was even heard to declare that "our dear
Rosamund is almost the only woman I know who has the precious instinct
of reticence; an instinct denied, by the way, even to that delightful
and marvelous creature Elizabeth Browning--/requiescat/."
The "charming sobriety" was shown in various ways; in a lack of those
enormous cushions which most women either love, or think necessary, in
all sitting-rooms; in the comparative smallness of such sofas as were
to be seen; in the moderation of depth in arm-chairs, and in the
complete absence of footstools. Then the binding of the many books,
scattered about here and there, and ranged on shelves, was "quiet";
there was no scarlet and gold, or bright blue and gold; pictures were
good but few; not many rugs lay on the polished wooden floors, and
there was no litter of ornaments or bibelots on cabinets or tables. A
couple of small statuettes, copies of bronzes in the Naples Museum,
and some bits of blue-and-white china made their pleasant effect the
more easily because they had not to fight against an army of rivals.
There was some good early English glass in the small dining-room, and
a few fine specimens of luster ware made a quiet show in Dion's little
den. Apart from the white curtains, and outer curtains of heavier
material, which hung at all the windows, there were no "draperies."
Overmantels, "cosy-corners," flung Indian shawls, "pieces" snatched
from bazaars, and "carelessly" hung over pedestals and divans found no
favor in Rosamund's eyes. There was a good deal of homely chintz about
which lit up the rather old-fashioned rooms, and colors throughout the
house were rather soft than hard, were never emphatic or designed to
startle or impress.
Rosamund, indeed, was by far the most vivid thing in the house, and
some people--not males--said she had taken care to supply for herself
a background which would "throw her up." These people, if they
believed what they said, did not know her.
She had on the first floor a little sitting-room all to herself; in
this were now to be found the books which had been in her bedroom in
Great Cumberland Place; the charwoman's black tray with the cabbage
rose, the mug from Greenwich, the flesh-colored vase, the china cow,
the toy trombone, and other souvenirs of her girlhood to which
Rosamund "held." On the brass-railed shelf of the writing-table stood
a fine photogravure of the Hermes of Olympia with little Dionysos on
his arm. Very often, many times every day, Rosamund looked up at
Hermes and the Child from account books, letters or notes, and then
the green dream of Elis fell about her softly again; and sometimes she
gazed beyond the Hermes, but instead of the wall of the chamber she
saw, set in an oblong frame, and bathed in green twilight, a bit of
the world of Pan, with a branch of wild olive flickering across the
foreground; or, now and then, she saw a falling star, dropping from
its place in the sky down towards a green wilderness, and carrying a
wish from her with it, a wish that was surely soon to be granted. Her
life in the little house had been a happy life hitherto, but--she
looked again at the little Dionysos on the arm of Hermes, nestling
against his shoulder--how much happier it was going to be, how much
happier! She was not surprised, for deep in her heart she always
People had been delightful to her and to Dion. Indeed, they had
flocked to the small green door (the Elis door) of 5 Little Market
Street in almost embarrassing numbers. That was partly Mr.
Darlington's fault. Naturally Rosamund's and Bruce Evelin's friends
came; and of course Dion's relations and friends came. That would
really have been enough. Rosamund enjoyed, but was not at all "mad
about," society, and had no wish to give up the greater part of her
time to paying calls. But Mr. Darlington could not forbear from kind
efforts on behalf of his delightful young friends, that gifted and
beautiful creature Rosamund Leith, and her pleasant young husband. He,
who found time for everything, found time to give more than one
"little party, just a few friends, no more," specially for them; and
the end of it was that they found themselves acquainted with almost
too many interesting and delightful people.
At first, too, Rosamund continued to sing at concerts, but at the end
of July, after their return from Greece, when the London season
closed, she gave up doing so for the time, and accepted no engagements
for the autumn. Esme Darlington was rather distressed. He worked very
hard in the arts himself, and, having "launched" Rosamund, he expected
great things of her, and wished her to go forward from success to
success. Besides "the money would surely come in very handy" to two
young people as yet only moderately well off. He did not quite
understand the situation. Of course he realized that in time young
married people might have home interests, home claims upon them which
might necessitate certain changes of procedure. The day might come--he
sincerely hoped it would--when a new glory, possibly even more than
one, would be added to the delightful Rosamund's crown; but in the
meanwhile surely the autumn concerts need not be neglected. He had
heard no hint as yet of any--h'm, ha! He stroked his carefully
careless beard. But he had left town in August with his curiosity
unsatisfied, leaving Rosamund and Dion behind him. They had had their
holiday, and had stayed steadily on in Little Market Street through
the summer, taking Saturday to Monday runs into the country; more than
once to the seacoast of Kent, where Bruce Evelin and Beatrice were
staying, and once to Worcestershire to Dion's mother, who had taken a
cottage there close to the borders of Warwickshire. The autumn had
brought people back to town, and it was in the autumn that Rosamund
withdrew from all contact with the hurly-burly of London. She had no
fears at all for her body, none of those sick terrors which some women
have as their time draws near, no premonitions of disaster or presages
of death, but she desired to "get ready," and her way of getting ready
was to surround her life with a certain stillness, to build about it
white walls of peace. Often when Dion was away in the City she went
out alone and visited some church. Sometimes she spent an hour or two
in Westminster Abbey; and on many dark afternoons she made her way to
St. Paul's Cathedral where, sitting a long way from the choir, she
listened to evensong. The beautiful and tenderly cool singing of the
distant boys came to her like something she needed, something to which
her soul was delicately attuned. One afternoon they and the men, who
formed the deeply melodious background from which their crystalline
voices seemed to float forward and upward, sang "The Wilderness" of
Wesley. Rosamund listened to it, thankful that she was alone, and
remembering many things, among them the green wilderness beneath the
hill of Drouva.
Very seldom she spoke to Dion about these excursions of hers. There
was something in her feeling for religion which loved reserve rather
than expression; she who was so forthcoming in many moments of her
life, who was genial and gay, who enjoyed laughter and was always at
home with humanity, knew very well how to be silent. There was a
saying she cared for, "God speaks to man in the silence;" perhaps she
felt there was a suspicion of irreverence in talking to any one, even
to Dion, about her aspiration to God. If, on his return home, he asked
her how she had passed the day, she often said only, "I've been very
happy." Then he said to himself, "What more can I want? I'm able to
make her happy."
One windy evening in January, when an icy sleet was driving over the
town, as he came into the little hall, he found Rosamund at the foot
of the staircase, with a piece of mother's work in her hand, about to
go into the drawing-room which was on the ground floor of the house.
"Rose," he said, looking down at the little white something she was
holding, "do you think we shall both feel ever so much older in March?
It will be in March, won't it?"
"I think so," she answered, with a sort of deeply tranquil gravity.
"In March when we are parents?"
"Are you worrying about that?" she asked him, smiling now, but with,
in her voice, a hint of reproach.
"Worrying--no. But do you?"
"Let us go into the drawing-room," she said.
When they were there she answered him:
"Absolutely different, but not necessarily older. Feeling older must
be very like feeling old, I think--and I can't imagine feeling old."
"Because probably you never will."
"Have you had tea, Dion?"
"Yes, at the Greville. I promised I'd meet Guy there to-day. He spoke
"Do you think Beattie would marry him if he asked her?"
"I don't know."
She sat down in the firelight near the hearth, and bent a little over
her work on the tiny garment, which looked as if it were intended for
the use of a fairy. Dion looked at her head with its pale hair. As he
leaned forward he could see all the top of her head. The firelight
made some of her hair look quite golden, gave a sort of soft sparkle
to the curve of it about her broad, pure forehead.
"Guy's getting desperate," he said. "But he's afraid to put his
fortune to the test. He thinks even uncertainty is better than
knowledge of the worst."
"Of one thing I'm certain, Dion. Beattie doesn't love Guy Daventry."
"Oh well, then, it's all up."
Rosamund looked up from the little garment.
"I didn't say that."
"But if Beattie--but Beattie's the soul of sincerity."
"Yes, I know; but I think she might consent to marry Guy Daventry."
"I don't know exactly. She never told me. I just feel it."
"Oh, if you feel it, I'm sure it is so. But how awfully odd. Isn't
"Yes, it really is rather odd in Beattie. Do you want Beattie to marry
"Of course I do. Don't you?"
"Dear Beattie! I want her to be happy. But I think it's very
difficult, even when one knows some one very, very well, to know just
how she can get happiness, through just what."
"Rose, have I made you happy?"
"As happy as you could be?"
"I think, perhaps, you will have--soon."
"Oh, you mean----?"
She went on stitching quietly. Her hands looked very contented. Dion
drew up a little nearer to the fire with a movement that was rather
brusk. It just struck him that his walk home in the driving sleet had
decidedly chilled his body.
"I believe I know what you mean about Beattie," he said, after a
pause, looking into the fire. "But do you think that would be fair to
"I'm not quite sure myself what I mean, honestly, Dion."
"Well, let's suppose it. If it were so, would it be fair?"
"I think Beattie's so really good that Mr. Daventry, as he loves her,
could scarcely be unhappy with her."
Dion thought for a moment, then he said:
"Perhaps with Guy it wouldn't be unfair, but, you know, Rose, that
sort of thing wouldn't do with some men. Some men could never stand
being married for anything but the one great reason."
He did not explain what that reason was, and Rosamund did not ask.
There was a sort of wide and sweet tranquillity about her that
evening. Dion noticed that it seemed to increase upon her, and about
her, as the days passed by. She showed no sign of nervousness, had
evidently no dread at all of bodily pain. Either she trusted in her
splendid health, or she was so wrapped up in the thought of the joy of
being a mother that the darkness to be passed through did not trouble
her; or perhaps--he wondered about this--she was all the time
schooling herself, looking up, in memory, to the columns of the
Parthenon. He was much more strung up, much more restless and
excitable than she was, but she did not seem to notice it. Always
singularly unconscious of herself she seemed at this period to be also
unobservant of those about her. He felt that she was being
deliberately egoistic for a great reason, that she was caring for
herself, soul and body, with a sort of deep and quiet intensity
because of the child.
"She is right," he said to himself, and he strove in all ways in his
power to aid her beautiful selfishness; nevertheless sometimes he felt
shut out; sometimes he felt as if already the unseen was playing
truant over the seen. He was conscious of the child's presence in the
little house through Rosamund's way of being before he saw the child.
He wondered what other women were like in such periods, whether
Rosamund was instinctively conforming to an ancient tradition of her
sex, or whether she was, as usual, strongly individualistic. In many
ways she was surely not like other women, but perhaps in these wholly
natural crises every woman resembled all her sisters who were
traveling towards the same sacred condition. He longed to satisfy
himself whether this was so or not, and one Saturday afternoon, when
Rosamund was resting in her little sitting-room with a book, and the
Hermes watching over her, he bicycled to Jenkins's gymnasium in the
Harrow Road, resolved to put in forty minutes' hard work, and then to
visit his mother. Mrs. Leith and Rosamund seemed to be excellent
friends, but Dion never discussed his wife with his mother. There was
no reason why he should do so. On this day, however, instinctively he
turned to his mother; he thought that she might help him towards a
clearer knowledge of Rosamund.
Rosamund had long ago been formally made known to Bob Jenkins, Jim's
boxing "coach," who enthusiastically approved of her, though he had
never ventured to put his opinion quite in that form to Dion. Even
Jenkins, perhaps, had his subtleties, those which a really good heart
cannot rid itself of. Rosamund, in return, had made Dion known to her
extraordinary friend, Mr. Thrush of Abingdon Buildings, John's Court,
near the Edgware Road, the old gentleman who went to fetch his sin
every evening, and, it is to be feared, at various other times also,
in a jug from the "Daniel Lambert." Dion had often laughed over
Rosamund's "cult" for Mr. Thrush, which he scarcely pretended to
understand, but Rosamund rejoiced in Dion's cult for the stalwart
"I like that man," she said. "Perhaps some day----" She stopped there,
but her face was eloquent.
In his peculiar way Jenkins was undoubtedly Doric, and therefore
deserving of Rosamund's respect. Of Mr. Thrush so much could hardly be
said with truth. In him there were to be found neither the stern
majesty and strength of the Doric, nor the lightness and grace of the
Ionic. As an art product he stood alone, always wearing the top hat, a
figure Degas might have immortalized but had unfortunately never seen.
Dion knew that Mr. Thrush had once rescued Rosamund in a fog and had
conveyed her home, and he put the rest of the Thrush matter down to
Rosamund's genial kindness towards downtrodden and unfortunate people.
He loved her for it, but could not help being amused by it.
When Dion arrived at the gymnasium, Jenkins was giving a lesson to a
small boy of perhaps twelve years old, whose mother was looking
eagerly on. The boy, clad in a white "sweater," was flushed with the
ardor of his endeavors to punch the ball, to raise himself up on the
bar till his chin was between his hands, to vault the horse neatly,
and to turn somersaults on the rings. The primrose-colored hair on his
small round head was all ruffled up, perspiration streamed over his
pink rosy cheeks, his eyes shone with determination, and his little
white teeth were gritted as, with all the solemn intensity of
childhood, he strove to obey on the instant Jenkins's loud words of
command. It was obvious that he looked to Jenkins as a savage looks to
his Tribal God. His anxious but admiring mother was forgotten; the
world was forgotten; Jenkins and the small boy were alone in a
universe of grip dumb-bells, heavy weights, "exercisers," boxing-
gloves, horizontal bars, swinging balls and wooden "horses." Dion
stood in the doorway and looked on till the lesson was finished. It
ended with a heavy clap on the small boy's shoulders from the mighty
paw of Jenkins, and a stentorian, "You're getting along and no
mistake, Master Tim!"
The face of Master Tim at this moment was a study. All the flags of
triumph and joy were hung out in it and floated on the breeze; a soul
appeared at the two windows shining with perfect happiness; and,
mysteriously, in all the little figure, from the ruffled primrose-
colored feathers of hair to the feet in the white shoes, the pride of
manhood looked forth through the glowing rapture of a child.
"What a jolly boy!" said Dion to Jenkins, when Master Tim and his
mother had departed. "It must be good to have a boy like that."
"I hope you'll have one some day, sir," said Jenkins, speaking
heartily in his powerful voice, but looking, for the moment, unusually
He and Bert, his wife, had had one child, a girl, which had died of
quinsy, and they had never had another.
"Now I'm ready for you, sir!" he added, with a sort of outburst of
recovery. "I should like a round with the gloves to-day, if it's all
the same to you."
It was all the same to Dion, and, when he reached Queen Anne's
Mansions in the darkness of evening, he was still glowing from the
exercise; the blood sang through his veins, and his heart was almost
as light as his step.
Marion, the parlor-maid, let him in, and told him his mother was at
home. Dion put his hand to his lips, stole across the hall
noiselessly, softly opened the drawing-room door, and caught his
Whenever he came into the well-known flat alone, he had a moment of
retrogression, went back to his unmarried time, and was again, as for
so many years, in the intimate life of his mother. But to-day, as he
opened the door, he was abruptly thrust out of his moment. His mother
was in her usual place on the high-backed sofa near the fire. She was
doing nothing, was just sitting with her hands, in their wrinkled
gloves, folded in her lap, and her large, round blue eyes looking.
Dion thought of them as looking because they were wide open, but they
were strangely emptied of expression. All of his mother seemed to him
for just the one instant which followed on his entrance to be emptied,
as if the woman he had always known--loving, satirical, clever, kind,
observant--had been poured away. The effect upon him was one of
indescribable, almost of horrible, dreariness. Omar Khayyam, his
mother's black pug, was not in the room as usual, stretched out before
Even as Dion realized this, his mother was poured back into the round
face and plump figure beside the fire, and greeted him with the usual
almost saccharine sweet smile, and:
"Dee-ar, I wasn't expecting you to-day. How is the beloved one?"
"The beloved one" was Mrs. Leith's rendering of Rosamund.
"How particularly spry you look," she added. "I'm certain it's the
Jenkins paragon. You've been standing up to him. Now, haven't you?"
Dion acknowledged that he had, and added:
"But you, mother? How are you?"
"Quite wickedly well. I ought to be down with influenza like all well-
bred people,--Esme Darlington has it badly,--but I cannot compass even
Mrs. Leith looked grave.
"Poor little chap, we must turn down an empty glass for him."
"What--you don't mean----?"
"Run over yesterday just outside the Mansions, and by a four-wheeler.
I'm sure he never expected that the angel of death would come for him
in a growler, poor little fellow."
"I say! Little Omar dead! What a beastly shame! Mother, I am sorry."
He sat down beside her; he was beset by a sensation of calamity. Oddly
enough the hammer of fate had never yet struck on him so definitely as
now with the death of a dog. But, without quite realizing it, he was
considering poor black Omar as an important element in his mother's
life, now abruptly withdrawn. Omar had been in truth a rather greedy,
self-seeking animal, but he had also been a companion, an adherent, a
"You must get another dog," Dion added quickly. "I'll find you one."
"Good of you, dee-ar boy! But I'm too old to begin on a new dog."
"It isn't. I feel I'm losing my nameless fascination for dogs. A
poodle barked at me this afternoon in Victoria Street. One can't
expect one's day to last for ever, though, really, some Englishwomen
seem to. But, tell me, how is the beloved one?"
"Oh--to be sure! I wanted to talk to you about Rose."
The smile became very sweet and welcoming on Mrs. Leith's handsome
"There's nothing wrong, I'm sure. Your Rosamund sheds confidence in
her dear self like a light all round her."
"Nothing wrong--no. I didn't mean that."
Dion paused. Now he was with his mother he did not know how to explain
himself; his reason for coming began to seem, even to himself, a
"It's a little difficult," he began at last, "but I've been wondering
rather about women who are as Rosamund is just now. D'you think all
women become a good deal alike at such times?"
"In spirit, do you mean?"
"Well--yes, of course."
"I scarcely know."
"I mean do they concentrate on the child a long while before it
"Many smart women certainly don't."
"Oh, smart women! I mean women."
"A good definition, dee-ar. Well, lots of poor women don't concentrate
on the child either. They have far too much to do and worry about.
They are 'seeing to' things up till the very last moment."
"Then we must rule them out. Let's say the good women who have the
"I expect a great many of them do, if the husband lets them."
"Ah!" said Dion rather sharply.
"There are a few husbands, you see, who get fidgety directly the
pedestal on which number one thinks himself firmly established begins
"Eminently human stupid fools."
"Don't you think so?"
"Perhaps. But then humanity's contemptible."
"Extra-humanity, or the attempt at it, can be dangerous."
"What do you mean exactly by that, mater?"
"Only that we have to be as we are, and can never really be, can only
seem to be, as we aren't."
"What a whipping I'm giving to myself just now!" was her thought, as
she finished speaking.
"Oh--yes, of course. That's true. I think--I think Rosamund's
concentrating on the child, in a sort of quiet, big way."
"There's something fine in that. But her doings are often touched with
"Yes, aren't they? She doesn't seem at all afraid."
"I don't think she need be. She has such splendid health."
"But she may suffer very much."
"Yes, but something will carry her gloriously through all that, I
"And you think it's very natural, very usual, her--her sort of living
alone with the child before it is born?"
Mrs. Leith saw in her son's eyes an unmistakably wistful look at this
moment. It was very hard for her not to take him in her arms just
then, not to say, "My son, d'you suppose I don't understand it all--
/all/?" But she never moved, her hands lay still in her lap, and she
"Very natural, quite natural, Dion. Your Rosamund is just being
"You think she's able to live with the child already?"
Mrs. Leith hesitated for a moment. In that moment certainly she felt a
strong, even an almost terrible inclination to tell a lie to her son.
But she answered:
"Yes, I do."
"That must be very strange," was all that Dion said just then; but a
little later on--he stayed with his mother longer than usual that day
because poor little Omar was dead--he remarked:
"D'you know, mater, I believe it's the right thing to be what's called
a thorough-paced egoist at certain moments, in certain situations."
"Perhaps it is," said his mother incuriously.
"I fancy there's a good deal of rot talked about egoism and that sort
"There's a good deal of rot talked about most things."
"Yes, isn't there? And besides, how is one to know? Very often what
seems like egoism may not be egoism at all. As I grow older I often
feel how important it is to search out the real reasons for things."
"Sometimes they're difficult to find," returned his mother, with an
unusual simplicity of manner.
"Yes, but still---- Well, I must be off."
He stood up and looked at the Indian rug in front of the hearth.
"When are you coming to see us?" he asked.
"Almost directly, dee-ar."
"That's right. Rosamund likes seeing you. Naturally she depends upon
you at such----" He broke off. "I mean, do come as often as you can."
He bent down and kissed his mother.
"By the way," he added, almost awkwardly, "about that dog?"
"What dog, dee-ar?"
"The dog I want to give you."
"We must think about it. Give me time. After a black pug one doesn't
know all in a moment what type would be the proper successor. You
remember your poor Aunt Binn?"
"Aunt Binn! Why, what did she do?"
"Gave Uncle Binn a hairless thing like a note of interrogation, that
had to sleep in a coating of vaseline, when his enormous sheep-dog
died who couldn't see for hair. She believed in the value of contrast,
but Uncle Binn didn't. It would have led to a separation but for the
hectic efforts of your aunt's friend, Miss Vine. When I've decided
what type of dog, I'll tell you."
Dion understood the negative and, in spite of his feeling of fitness,
went away rather uncomfortably. He couldn't forget the strange
appearance of that emptied woman whom he had taken unawares by the
fireside. If only his mother would let him give her another dog!
When he got home he found Beatrice sitting with Rosamund.
Dion had grown very fond of Beatrice. He had always been rather
touched and attracted by her plaintive charm, but since she had become
his sister-in-law he had learnt to appreciate also her rare sincerity
and delicacy of mind. She could not grip life, perhaps, could not mold
it to her purpose and desire, but she could do a very sweet and very
feminine thing, she could live, without ever being intrusive, in the
life of another. It was impossible not to see how "wrapped up" she was
in Rosamund. Dion had come to feel sure that it was natural to
Beatrice to lead her life in another's, and he believed that Rosamund
realized this and often let Beatrice do little things for her which,
full of vigor and "go" as she was, she would have preferred to do for
"I've been boxing and then to see mother," he said, as he took
Beatrice's long narrow hand in his. "She sent her best love to you,
"The dear mother!" said Rosamund gently.
Dion sat down by Beatrice.
"I'm quite upset by something that's happened," he continued. "You
know poor little Omar, Beattie?"
"Yes. Is he ill?"
"Dead. He was run over yesterday by a four-wheeler."
"Oh!" said Beatrice.
"Poor little dog," Rosamund said, again gently.
"When they picked him up--are you going, Rose?"
"Only for a few minutes. I am sorry. I'll write to the dear mother."
She went quietly out of the room. Dion sprang up to open the door for
her, but she had been sitting nearer to the door than he, and he was
too late; he shut it, however, and came slowly back to Beatrice.
"I wonder----" He looked at Beatrice's pale face and earnest dark
eyes. "D'you think Rosamund disliked my mentioning poor Omar's being
"But didn't she leave us rather abruptly?"
"I think perhaps she didn't want to hear any details. You were just
"How stupid of me!"
"You see, Rosamund has the child to live for now."
"Yes--yes. What blunderers we men are, however much we try--"
"That's not a blame you ought to take," Beatrice interrupted, with
earnest gentleness. "You are the most thoughtful man I know--for a
woman, I mean."
"Am I? I try to be. If I am it's because--well, Beattie, you know what
Rose is to me."
"Yes, I know."
"Dearer and dearer every day. But nobody---- Mother thinks a lot of
"Who doesn't? There aren't many Roses like ours."
"None. Poor mother! Beattie, d'you think she feels very lonely? You
know she's got heaps of friends--heaps."
"It isn't as if she knew very few people, or lived alone in the
"No but I'm very sorry her little dog's dead."
"I want to give her another."
"It would be no use."
"But why not?"
"You see, little Omar was always there when you were living there."
"He was part of her life with you."
Dion looked rather hard at Beatrice. In that moment he began to
realize how much of the intelligence of the heart she possessed, and
how widely she applied it. His application of his intelligence of the
heart was, he feared, much less widespread than hers.
"Go to see mother when you can, will you?" he said. "She's very fond
of you, I think."
"I'll go. I like going to her."
"And, Beattie, may I say something rather intimate? I'm your brother
She was sitting opposite to him near the fire on a low chair. There
was a large shaded lamp in the room, but it was on a rather distant
table. He saw Beatrice's face by the firelight and her narrow
thoroughbred figure in a dark dress. And the firelight, he thought,
gave to both face and figure a sort of strange beauty that was sad,
and that had something of the strangeness and the beauty of those gold
and red castles children see in the fire. They glow--and that evening
there was a sort of glow in Beatrice; they crumble--and then there was
a pathetic something in Beatrice, too, which suggested wistful
desires, perhaps faint hopes and an ending of ashes.
"Would you marry old Guy if he asked you? Don't be angry with me."
"Of course, we've all known for ages how much he cares for you. He
spoke to me about it to-day. He's desperately afraid of your refusing
him. He daren't put his fate to the test. Beattie--would you?"
A slow red crept over Beatrice's face. She put up one hand to guard
herself from the glow of the fire. For a moment she looked at Dion,
and he thought, "What a strange expression firelight can give to a
face!" Then she said:
"I can't tell you."
Her voice was husky.
"Beattie, you've got a cold!"
She got up.
"I must go, Dion. I'll just see Rosamund for a minute."
As she left the room, she said:
"I'll go and see your mother to-morrow."
The door shut. Dion stood with one elbow resting on the mantelpiece
and looked down into the fire. He saw his mother sitting alone, a
strange, emptied figure; he saw Beatrice. And fire, which beautifies,
or makes romantic and sad everything gave to Beatrice the look of his
mother. For a moment his soul was full of questions about the two
"I've joined the Artists' Rifles," Dion said to Rosamund one day.
He spoke almost bruskly. Of late he had begun to develop a manner
which had just a hint of roughness in it sometimes. This manner was
the expression of a strong inward effort he was making. If, as his
mother believed, already Rosamund was able to live with the child,
Dion's solitary possession of the woman he loved was definitely over,
probably forever. Something within him which, perhaps, foolishly,
rebelled against this fact had driven him to seek a diversion; he had
found it in beginning to try to live for the child in the man's way.
He intended to put the old life behind him, and to march vigorously on
to the new. He called up Master Tim before him in the little white
"sweater," with the primrose-colored ruffled feathers of hair, the
gritted white teeth, small almost as the teeth of a mouse, the moist,
ardent cheeks, and the glowing eyes looking steadfastly to the Tribal
God. He must be the Tribal God to his little son, if the child were a
Rosamund did not seem surprised by Dion's abrupt statement, though he
had never spoken of an intention to join any Volunteer Corps. She knew
he was fond of shooting, and had been in camp sometimes when he was at
a public school.
"What's that?" she asked. "I've heard of it, but I thought it was a
corps for men who are painters, sculptors, writers and musicians."
"It was founded, nearly forty years ago, I believe, for fellows
working in the Arts, but all sorts of business men are let in now."
"Will it take up much time?"
"No; I shall have to drill a certain amount, and in summer I shall go
into camp for a bit, and of course, if a big war ever came, I could be
of some use."
"I'm glad you've joined."
"I thought you would be. I shall see a little less of you, I suppose,
but, after all, a husband can't be perpetually hanging about the
house, can he?"
Rosamund looked at him and smiled, then laughed gently.
"Dion, how absurd you are! In some ways you are only a boy still."
"Why, what to you mean?"
"A man who sticks to business as you do, hanging about the house!"
"You wouldn't like it if I did."
"No, because I should know it was doing you harm."
"And besides--do you realize how independent you are?"
"For a woman I think you are extraordinarily independent."
She sat still for a minute, looking straight before her in an almost
"I believe I know why perhaps I seem so," she said at length.
And then she quietly, and very naturally, turned the conversation into
another channel; she was a quieter Rosamund in those days of waiting
than the Rosamund unaffected by motherhood. That Rosamund had been
vigorous and joyous; this Rosamund was strongly serene. In all she was
and did at this time Dion felt strength; but it was shown chiefly in
stillness. She worked sometimes; she read a great deal sitting
upstairs in her own little room. One day Dion found her with a volume
of Tennyson; another day she was reading Shakespeare's "Henry the
Fifth"; she had the "Paradiso" in hand, too, and the Greek Testament
with the English text in parallel columns. In the room there was a
cottage piano, and one evening, when Dion had been drilling and came
back late, he heard her singing. He stood still in the hall, after
shutting softly the door of the lobby, and listened to the warm and
powerful voice of the woman he loved. He could hear the words of the
song, which was a setting of "Lead, kindly Light." Rosamund had only
just begun singing it when he came into the hall; the first words he
caught were, "The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead thou me
on." He thrust his hands into the pockets of the black jacket he was
wearing and did not move. He had never before heard Rosamund sing any
piece of music through without seeing her while she was doing it; her
voice seemed to him now different from the voice he knew so well;
perhaps because he was uninfluenced by her appearance. That counted
for much in the effect Rosamund created when she sang to people. The
thought went through Dion's mind, "Am I really the husband of this
voice?" It was beautiful, it was fervent, but it was strange, or
seemed strange to him as it came down through the quiet house on this
winter evening. For the first time, listening thus, he was able
imaginatively to realize something of what it must be like to be a
mystic, or rather, perhaps, to have within one a definite tendency
towards mysticism, a definite and ceaseless and governing aspiration
towards harmony with the transcendental order. When this voice which
he heard above him sang "The night is dark, and I am far from home,"
he felt a sort of sharp comprehension of the real meaning of homeless
wandering such as he had certainly never experienced before. He felt,
too, that the spirit from which this voice proceeded could never be at
home in the ordinary way of ordinary people, could not be at home even
as he himself could be at home. The spirit behind this voice needed
something of which, till now, he had not consciously felt the need;
something peculiar, out of the way and remote--something very
different from human love and human comfort. Although he was musical,
and could be critical about a composition according to its lights,
Dion did not think about the music of this song /qua/ music--could not
have said how good he considered it to be. He knew only that this was
not poor or insincere music. But music sung in this peculiar way was
only a means by which the under part of a human being, that which has
its existence deep down under layers and layers of the things which
commonly appear and are known of, rose to the surface and announced
The Artists' Rifles--and this!
When the voice was silent, Dion went slowly upstairs. The door of
Rosamund's little room was shut. He paused outside it, and stood
looking at it, the movable barrier of dark shining wood which divided
him from the voice. When he was ascending the stairs he had meant to
go in to Rosamund. But now he hesitated, and presently he turned away.
He felt that a greater barrier than the door was between them. He
might open the door easily enough, but the other barrier would remain.
The life of the body seemed to him just then an antagonist to the life
of the soul.
"I'm on the lower plane," said Dion to himself that evening. "If it's
a boy, I shall have to look after his body; she'll take care of the
rest. Perhaps mothers always do, but not as she could and will."
From this moment he devoted himself as much as possible to his body,
almost, indeed, with the ardor of one possessed by a sort of mania.
The Artists' Corps took up part of his time; Jenkins another part; he
practised rifle shooting as diligently almost as if he expected to
have to take his place almost immediately in the field; he began to
learn fencing. Rosamund saw very little of him, but she made no
comment. He explained to her what he was doing.
"You see, Rose," he said to her once, "if it's a boy it will be my job
eventually to train him up to be first-class in the distinctively
man's part of life. No woman can ever do that. I mustn't let myself
"You never would, I'm sure."
"I hope not. Still, lots of business men do. And I'm sitting about
three-quarters of my time. One does get soft, and the softer a chap
gets the less inclined he is to make the effort required of him, if he
wants to get hard. If I ever am to be the father of a growing-up son--
when they get to about sixteen, you know, they get awfully critical
about games and athletics, sport, everything of that kind--I should
like to be able to keep my end up thoroughly well with him. He'd
respect me far more then. I know exactly the type of fellow real boys
look up to. It isn't the intelligent softy, however brainy he may be;
it's the man who can do all the ordinary things superlatively well."
She smiled at him with her now curiously tranquil yellow-brown eyes,
and he thought he saw in them approval.
"I think few men would prepare as you do," she said.
"And how many women would prepare as you do?" he returned.
"I couldn't do anything else. But now I feel as if we were working
together, in a way."
He squeezed her hand. She let it lie motionless in his.
"But if it weren't a boy?" he said, struck by a sudden reaction of
And the thought went, like an arrow, through him:
"What chance should I have then?"
"I know it will be a boy," she answered.
"Why? Not because you sleep north and south!" he exclaimed, with a
laughing allusion to the assertion of Herrick.
"I always thought the bed----"
"No, it's east and west."
"Fishermen say the dead sleep east and west."
"Are you superstitious?"
"I don't know. Perhaps, where you are concerned."
"Don't be. Superstition seems to me the opposite of belief. Just wait,
and remember, I /know/ it will be a boy."
One evening Dion went to Great Cumberland Place to dine with Bruce
Evelin and Beatrice, leaving Rosamund apparently in her usual health.
She was going to have "something on a tray" in her sitting-room, and
he went in there to say good-by to her just before he started. He
found her sitting by the fire, and looking at Hermes and the Child
with steady eyes. They were lit up rather faintly by a couple of wax
candles placed on the writing-table. The light from these candles and
from the fire made a delicate and soothing radiance in the room, which
was plainly furnished, and almost somber in color. A very dim and
cloudy purple-blue pervaded it, a very beautiful hue, but austere, and
somehow suggestive of things ecclesiastical. On a small, black oak
table at Rosamund's elbow two or three books were lying beside a bowl
of dim blue glass which had opalescent lights in it. This bowl was
nearly full of water upon which a water-lily floated. The fire on the
hearth was small, but glowing with red and gold. Dark curtains were
drawn across the one window which looked out at the back of the house.
It was a frosty night and windless.
Dion stood still for a moment on the threshold of the room after he
had opened the door.
"How quiet you are in here!" he said.
"This little room is always quiet."
"Yes, but to-night it's like a room to which some one has just said
He came in and shut the door quietly behind him.
"I've just a minute."
He came up to the fire.
"And so you were looking at him, our Messenger with winged sandals.
Oh, Rosamund, how wonderful it was at Olympia! I wonder whether you
and I shall ever see the Hermes together again. I suppose all the
chances are against it."
"I hope we shall."
"Do you? And yet--I don't know. It would be terrible to see him
together again--if things were much altered; if, for instance, one was
less happy and remembered----"
He broke off, came to the settee at right angles to the fire on which
she was sitting, and sat down beside her. At this moment--he did not
know why--the great and always growing love he had for her seemed to
surge forward abruptly like a tidal wave, and he was conscious of
sadness and almost of fear. He looked at Rosamund as if he were just
going to part from her, anxiously, and with a sort of greed of detail.
"Alone I would never go back to Elis," he said. "Never. What a power
things have if they are connected in our hearts with people. It's--
A clock chimed faintly.
"I must go."
He got up and stood for a moment looking down at the dear head loved
so much, at her brow.
"I don't know why it is," he said, "but this evening I hate leaving
"But it's only for a little while."
There was a tap at the door.
"Ah! here's my tray."
The maid came in carrying a woman's meal, and Dion's strange moment
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