New Grub Street
Part 8 out of 13
feeling between him and father. He knew what a hard life father
has had. Doesn't it seem heartless?'
'What does your father say?'
'I think he feels the unkindness more than he does the
disappointment; of course he must have expected something. He
came into the room where mother and I were, and sat down, and
began to tell us about the will just as if he were speaking to
strangers about something he had read in the newspaper--that's
the only way I can describe it. Then he got up and went away into
the study. I waited a little, and then went to him there; he was
sitting at work, as if he hadn't been away from home at all. I
tried to tell him how sorry I was, but I couldn't say anything. I
began to cry foolishly. He spoke kindly to me, far more kindly
than he has done for a long time; but he wouldn't talk about the
will, and I had to go away and leave him. Poor mother! for all
she was afraid that we were going to be rich, is broken-hearted
at his disappointment.'
'Your mother was afraid?' said Dora.
'Because she thought herself unfitted for life in a large house,
and feared we should think her in our way.' She smiled sadly.
'Poor mother! she is so humble and so good. I do hope that father
will be kinder to her. But there's no telling yet what the result
of this may be. I feel guilty when I stand before him.'
'But he must feel glad that you have five thousand pounds.'
Marian delayed her reply for a moment, her eyes down.
'Yes, perhaps he is glad of that.'
'He can't help thinking, Dora, what use he could have made of it.
It has always been his greatest wish to have a literary paper of
his own--like The Study, you know. He would have used the money
in that way, I am sure.'
'But, all the same, he ought to feel pleasure in your good
Marian turned to another subject.
'Think of the Reardons; what a change all at once! What will they
do, I wonder? Surely they won't continue to live apart?'
'We shall hear from Jasper.'
Whilst they were discussing the affairs of that branch of the
family, Maud returned. There was ill-humour on her handsome face,
and she greeted Marian but coldly. Throwing off her hat and
gloves and mantle she listened to the repeated story of John
'But why ever has Mrs Reardon so much more than anyone else?' she
'We can only suppose it is because she was the favourite child of
the brother he liked best. Yet at her wedding he gave her
nothing, and spoke contemptuously of her for marrying a literary
'Fortunate for her poor husband that her uncle was able to
forgive her. I wonder what's the date of the will? Who knows but
he may have rewarded her for quarrelling with Mr Reardon.'
This excited a laugh.
'I don't know when the will was made,' said Marian. 'And I don't
know whether uncle had even heard of the Reardons' misfortunes. I
suppose he must have done. My cousin John was at the funeral, but
not my aunt. I think it most likely father and John didn't speak
a word to each other. Fortunately the relatives were lost sight
of in the great crowd of Wattleborough people; there was an
enormous procession, of course.'
Maud kept glancing at her sister. The ill-humour had not
altogether passed from her face, but it was now blended with
A few moments more, and Marian had to hasten home. When she was
gone the sisters looked at each other.
'Five thousand pounds,' murmured the elder. 'I suppose that is
'I suppose so.--He was here when Marian came, but didn't stay.'
'Then you'll take him the news this evening?'
'Yes,' replied Dora. Then, after musing, 'He seemed annoyed that
you were at the Lanes' again.'
Maud made a movement of indifference.
'What has been putting you out?'
'Things were rather stupid. Some people who were to have come
didn't turn up. And--well, it doesn't matter.'
She rose and glanced at herself in the little oblong mirror over
'Did Jasper ever speak to you of a Miss Rupert?' asked Dora.
'Not that I remember.'
'What do you think? He told me in the calmest way that he didn't
see why Marian should think of him as anything but the most
ordinary friend--said he had never given her reason to think
'Indeed! And Miss Rupert is someone who has the honour of his
'He says she is about thirty, and rather masculine, but a great
heiress. Jasper is shameful!'
'What do you expect? I consider it is your duty to let Marian
know everything he says. Otherwise you help to deceive her. He
has no sense of honour in such things.'
Dora was so impatient to let her brother have the news that she
left the house as soon as she had had tea on the chance of
finding Jasper at home. She had not gone a dozen yards before she
encountered him in person.
'I was afraid Marian might still be with you,' he said, laughing.
'I should have asked the landlady. Well?'
'We can't stand talking here. You had better come in.'
He was in too much excitement to wait.
'Just tell me. What has she?'
Dora walked quickly towards the house, looking annoyed.
'Nothing at all? Then what has her father?'
'He has nothing,' replied his sister, 'and she has five thousand
Jasper walked on with bent head. He said nothing more until he
was upstairs in the sitting-room, where Maud greeted him
'Mrs Reardon anything?'
Dora informed him.
'What?' he cried incredulously. 'Ten thousand? You don't say so!'
He burst into uproarious laughter.
'So Reardon is rescued from the slum and the clerk's desk! Well,
I'm glad; by Jove, I am. I should have liked it better if Marian
had had the ten thousand and he the five, but it's an excellent
joke. Perhaps the next thing will be that he'll refuse to have
anything to do with his wife's money; that would be just like
him.' After amusing himself with this subject for a few minutes
more, he turned to the window and stood there in silence.
'Are you going to have tea with us?' Dora inquired.
He did not seem to hear her. On a repetition of the inquiry, he
'Yes, I may as well. Then I can go home and get to work.'
During the remainder of his stay he talked very little, and as
Maud also was in an abstracted mood, tea passed almost in
silence. On the point of departing he asked:
'When is Marian likely to come here again?'
'I haven't the least idea,' answered Dora.
He nodded, and went his way.
It was necessary for him to work at a magazine article which he
had begun this morning, and on reaching home he spread out his
papers in the usual businesslike fashion. The subject out of
which he was manufacturing 'copy' had its difficulties, and was
not altogether congenial to him; this morning he had laboured
with unwonted effort to produce about a page of manuscript, and
now that he tried to resume the task his thoughts would not
centre upon it. Jasper was too young to have thoroughly mastered
the art of somnambulistic composition; to write, he was still
obliged to give exclusive attention to the matter under
treatment. Dr Johnson's saying, that a man may write at any time
if he will set himself doggedly to it, was often upon his lips,
and had even been of help to him, as no doubt it has to many
another man obliged to compose amid distracting circumstances;
but the formula had no efficacy this evening. Twice or thrice he
rose from his chair, paced the room with a determined brow, and
sat down again with vigorous clutch of the pen; still he failed
to excogitate a single sentence that would serve his purpose.
'I must have it out with myself before I can do anything,' was
his thought as he finally abandoned the endeavour. 'I must make
up my mind.'
To this end he settled himself in an easy-chair and began to
smoke cigarettes. Some dozen of these aids to reflection only
made him so nervous that he could no longer remain alone. He put
on his hat and overcoat and went out--to find that it was raining
heavily. He returned for an umbrella, and before long was walking
aimlessly about the Strand, unable to make up his mind whether to
turn into a theatre or not. Instead of doing so, he sought a
certain upper room of a familiar restaurant, where the day's
papers were to be seen, and perchance an acquaintance might be
met. Only half-a-dozen men were there, reading and smoking, and
all were unknown to him. He drank a glass of lager beer, skimmed
the news of the evening, and again went out into the bad weather.
After all it was better to go home. Everything he encountered had
an unsettling effect upon him, so that he was further than ever
from the decision at which he wished to arrive. In Mornington
Road he came upon Whelpdale, who was walking slowly under an
'I've just called at your place.'
'All right; come back if you like.'
'But perhaps I shall waste your time?' said Whelpdale, with
Reassured, he gladly returned to the house. Milvain acquainted
him with the fact of John Yule's death, and with its result so
far as it concerned the Reardons. They talked of how the couple
would probably behave under this decisive change of
'Biffen professes to know nothing about Mrs Reardon,' said
Whelpdale. 'I suspect he keeps his knowledge to himself, out of
regard for Reardon. It wouldn't surprise me if they live apart
for a long time yet.'
'Not very likely. It was only want of money.'
'They're not at all suited to each other. Mrs Reardon, no doubt,
repents her marriage bitterly, and I doubt whether Reardon cares
much for his wife.'
'As there's no way of getting divorced they'll make the best of
it. Ten thousand pounds produce about four hundred a year; it's
enough to live on.'
'And be miserable on--if they no longer love each other.'
'You're such a sentimental fellow!' cried Jasper. 'I believe you
seriously think that love--the sort of frenzy you understand by
it--ought to endure throughout married life. How has a man come
to your age with such primitive ideas?'
'Well, I don't know. Perhaps you err a little in the opposite
'I haven't much faith in marrying for love, as you know. What's
more, I believe it's the very rarest thing for people to be in
love with each other. Reardon and his wife perhaps were an
instance; perhaps--I'm not quite sure about her. As a rule,
marriage is the result of a mild preference, encouraged by
circumstances, and deliberately heightened into strong sexual
feeling. You, of all men, know well enough that the same kind of
feeling could be produced for almost any woman who wasn't
'The same kind of feeling; but there's vast difference of
'To be sure. I think it's only a matter of degree. When it rises
to the point of frenzy people may strictly be said to be in love;
and, as I tell you, I think that comes to pass very rarely
indeed. For my own part, I have no experience of it, and think I
never shall have.'
'I can't say the same.'
'I dare say you have imagined yourself in love--or really been so
for aught I know--a dozen times. How the deuce you can attach any
importance to such feeling where marriage is concerned I don't
'Well, now,' said Whelpdale, 'I have never upheld the theory--at
least not since I was sixteen--that a man can be in love only
once, or that there is one particular woman if he misses whom he
can never be happy. There may be thousands of women whom I could
love with equal sincerity.'
'I object to the word "love" altogether. It has been vulgarised.
Let us talk about compatibility. Now, I should say that, no
doubt, and speaking scientifically, there is one particular woman
supremely fitted to each man. I put aside consideration of
circumstances; we know that circumstances will disturb any degree
of abstract fitness. But in the nature of things there must be
one woman whose nature is specially well adapted to harmonise
with mine, or with yours. If there were any means of discovering
this woman in each case, then I have no doubt it would be worth a
man's utmost effort to do so, and any amount of erotic jubilation
would be reasonable when the discovery was made. But the thing is
impossible, and, what's more, we know what ridiculous fallibility
people display when they imagine they have found the best
substitute for that indiscoverable. This is what makes me
impatient with sentimental talk about marriage. An educated man
mustn't play so into the hands of ironic destiny. Let him think
he wants to marry a woman; but don't let him exaggerate his
feelings or idealise their nature.'
'There's a good deal in all that,' admitted Whelpdale, though
'There's more than a good deal; there's the last word on the
subject. The days of romantic love are gone by. The scientific
spirit has put an end to that kind of self-deception. Romantic
love was inextricably blended with all sorts of superstitions--
belief in personal immortality, in superior beings, in--all the
rest of it. What we think of now is moral and intellectual and
physical compatibility; I mean, if we are reasonable people.'
'And if we are not so unfortunate as to fall in love with an
incompatible,' added Whelpdale, laughing.
'Well, that is a form of unreason--a blind desire which science
could explain in each case. I rejoice that I am not subject to
that form of epilepsy.'
'You positively never were in love!'
'As you understand it, never. But I have felt a very distinct
'Based on what you think compatibility?'
'Yes. Not strong enough to make me lose sight of prudence and
advantage. No, not strong enough for that.'
He seemed to be reassuring himself.
'Then of course that can't be called love,' said Whelpdale.
'Perhaps not. But, as I told you, a preference of this kind can
be heightened into emotion, if one chooses. In the case of which
I am thinking it easily might be. And I think it very improbable
indeed that I should repent it if anything led me to indulge such
'This is very interesting. I hope it may lead to something.'
'I don't think it will. I am far more likely to marry some woman
for whom I have no preference, but who can serve me materially.'
'I confess that amazes me. I know the value of money as well as
you do, but I wouldn't marry a rich woman for whom I had no
preference. By Jove, no!'
'Yes, yes. You are a consistent sentimentalist.'
'Doomed to perpetual disappointment,' said the other, looking
disconsolately about the room.
'Courage, my boy! I have every hope that I shall see you marry
'I admit the danger of that. But shall I tell you something I
have observed? Each woman I fall in love with is of a higher type
than the one before.'
Jasper roared irreverently, and his companion looked hurt.
'But I am perfectly serious, I assure you. To go back only three
or four years. There was the daughter of my landlady in Barham
Street; well, a nice girl enough, but limited, decidedly limited.
Next came that girl at the stationer's--you remember? She was
distinctly an advance, both in mind and person. Then there was
Miss Embleton; yes, I think she made again an advance. She had
been at Bedford College, you know, and was really a girl of
considerable attainments; morally, admirable. Afterwards--'
'The maiden from Birmingham, wasn't it?' said Jasper, again
'Yes, it was. Well, I can't be quite sure. But in many respects
that girl was my ideal; she really was.'
'As you once or twice told me at the time.'
'I really believe she would rank above Miss Embleton--at all
events from my point of view. And that's everything, you know.
It's the effect a woman produces on one that has to be
'The next should be a paragon,' said Jasper.
Whelpdale again looked about the room, but added nothing, and
fell into a long silence.
When left to himself Jasper walked about a little, then sat down
at his writing-table, for he felt easier in mind, and fancied
that he might still do a couple of hours' work before going to
bed. He did in fact write half-a-dozen lines, but with the effort
came back his former mood. Very soon the pen dropped, and he was
once more in the throes of anxious mental debate.
He sat till after midnight, and when he went to his bedroom it
was with a lingering step, which proved him still a prey to
CHAPTER XXIII. A PROPOSED INVESTMENT
Alfred Yule's behaviour under his disappointment seemed to prove
that even for him the uses of adversity could be sweet. On the
day after his return home he displayed a most unwonted mildness
in such remarks as he addressed to his wife, and his bearing
towards Marian was gravely gentle. At meals he conversed, or
rather monologised, on literary topics, with occasionally one of
his grim jokes, pointed for Marian's appreciation. He became
aware that the girl had been overtaxing her strength of late, and
suggested a few weeks of recreation among new novels. The
coldness and gloom which had possessed him when he made a formal
announcement of the news appeared to have given way before the
sympathy manifested by his wife and daughter; he was now
sorrowful, but resigned.
He explained to Marian the exact nature of her legacy. It was to
be paid out of her uncle's share in a wholesale stationery
business, with which John Yule had been connected for the last
twenty years, but from which he had not long ago withdrawn a
large portion of his invested capital. This house was known as
'Turberville & Co.,' a name which Marian now heard for the first
'I knew nothing of his association with them,' said her father.
'They tell me that seven or eight thousand pounds will be
realised from that source; it seems a pity that the investment
was not left to you intact. Whether there will be any delay in
withdrawing the money I can't say.'
The executors were two old friends of the deceased, one of them a
former partner in his paper-making concern.
On the evening of the second day, about an hour after dinner was
over, Mr Hinks called at the house; as usual, he went into the
study. Before long came a second visitor, Mr Quarmby, who joined
Yule and Hinks. The three had all sat together for some time,
when Marian, who happened to be coming down stairs, saw her
father at the study door.
'Ask your mother to let us have some supper at a quarter to ten,'
he said urbanely. 'And come in, won't you? We are only
It had not often happened that Marian was invited to join parties
of this kind.
'Do you wish me to come?' she asked.
'Yes, I should like you to, if you have nothing particular to
Marian informed Mrs Yule that the visitors would have supper, and
then went to the study. Mr Quarmby was smoking a pipe; Mr Hinks,
who on grounds of economy had long since given up tobacco, sat
with his hands in his trouser pockets, and his long, thin legs
tucked beneath the chair; both rose and greeted Marian with more
than ordinary warmth.
'Will you allow me five or six more puffs?' asked Mr Quarmby,
laying one hand on his ample stomach and elevating his pipe as if
it were a glass of beaded liquor. 'I shall then have done.'
'As many more as you like,' Marian replied.
The easiest chair was placed for her, Mr Hinks hastening to
perform this courtesy, and her father apprised her of the topic
they were discussing.
'What's your view, Marian? Is there anything to be said for the
establishment of a literary academy in England?'
Mr Quarmby beamed benevolently upon her, and Mr Hinks, his
scraggy neck at full length, awaited her reply with a look of the
most respectful attention.
'I really think we have quite enough literary quarrelling as it
is,' the girl replied, casting down her eyes and smiling.
Mr Quarmby uttered a hollow chuckle, Mr Hinks laughed thinly and
exclaimed, 'Very good indeed! Very good!' Yule affected to
applaud with impartial smile.
'It wouldn't harmonise with the Anglo-Saxon spirit,' remarked Mr
Hinks, with an air of diffident profundity.
Yule held forth on the subject for a few minutes in laboured
phrases. Presently the conversation turned to periodicals, and
the three men were unanimous in an opinion that no existing
monthly or quarterly could be considered as representing the best
'We want,' remarked Mr Quarmby, 'we want a monthly review which
shall deal exclusively with literature. The Fortnightly, the
Contemporary--they are very well in their way, but then they are
mere miscellanies. You will find one solid literary article amid
a confused mass of politics and economics and general clap-trap.'
'Articles on the currency and railway statistics and views of
evolution,' said Mr Hinks, with a look as if something were
grating between his teeth.
'The quarterlies?' put in Yule. 'Well, the original idea of the
quarterlies was that there are not enough important books
published to occupy solid reviewers more than four times a year.
That may be true, but then a literary monthly would include much
more than professed reviews. Hinks's essays on the historical
drama would have come out in it very well; or your "Spanish
'I threw out the idea to Jedwood the other day,' said Mr Quarmby,
'and he seemed to nibble at it.'
'Yes, yes,' came from Yule; 'but Jedwood has so many irons in the
fire. I doubt if he has the necessary capital at command just
now. No doubt he's the man, if some capitalist would join him.'
'No enormous capital needed,' opined Mr Quarmby. 'The thing would
pay its way almost from the first. It would take a place between
the literary weeklies and the quarterlies. The former are too
academic, the latter too massive, for multitudes of people who
yet have strong literary tastes. Foreign publications should be
liberally dealt with. But, as Hinks says, no meddling with the
books that are no books--biblia abiblia; nothing about essays on
bimetallism and treatises for or against vaccination.'
Even here, in the freedom of a friend's study, he laughed his
Reading-room laugh, folding both hands upon his expansive
'Fiction? I presume a serial of the better kind might be
admitted?' said Yule.
'That would be advisable, no doubt. But strictly of the better
'Oh, strictly of the better kind,' chimed in Mr Hinks.
They pursued the discussion as if they were an editorial
committee planning a review of which the first number was shortly
to appear. It occupied them until Mrs Yule announced at the door
that supper was ready.
During the meal Marian found herself the object of unusual
attention; her father troubled to inquire if the cut of cold beef
he sent her was to her taste, and kept an eye on her progress. Mr
Hinks talked to her in a tone of respectful sympathy, and Mr
Quarmby was paternally jovial when he addressed her. Mrs Yule
would have kept silence, in her ordinary way, but this evening
her husband made several remarks which he had adapted to her
intellect, and even showed that a reply would be graciously
Mother and daughter remained together when the men withdrew to
their tobacco and toddy. Neither made allusion to the wonderful
change, but they talked more light-heartedly than for a long
On the morrow Yule began by consulting Marian with regard to the
disposition of matter in an essay he was writing. What she said
he weighed carefully, and seemed to think that she had set his
doubts at rest.
'Poor old Hinks!' he said presently, with a sigh. 'Breaking up,
isn't he? He positively totters in his walk. I'm afraid he's the
kind of man to have a paralytic stroke; it wouldn't astonish me
to hear at any moment that he was lying helpless.'
'What ever would become of him in that case?'
'Goodness knows! One might ask the same of so many of us. What
would become of me, for instance, if I were incapable of work?'
Marian could make no reply.
'There's something I'll just mention to you,' he went on in a
lowered tone, 'though I don't wish you to take it too seriously.
I'm beginning to have a little trouble with my eyes.'
She looked at him, startled.
'With your eyes?'
'Nothing, I hope; but--well, I think I shall see an oculist. One
doesn't care to face a prospect of failing sight, perhaps of
cataract, or something of that kind; still, it's better to know
the facts, I should say.'
'By all means go to an oculist,' said Marian, earnestly.
'Don't disturb yourself about it. It may be nothing at all. But
in any case I must change my glasses.'
He rustled over some slips of manuscript, whilst Marian regarded
'Now, I appeal to you, Marian,' he continued: 'could I possibly
save money out of an income that has never exceeded two hundred
and fifty pounds, and often--I mean even in latter years--has
been much less?'
'I don't see how you could.'
'In one way, of course, I have managed it. My life is insured for
five hundred pounds. But that is no provision for possible
disablement. If I could no longer earn money with my pen, what
would become of me?'
Marian could have made an encouraging reply, but did not venture
to utter her thoughts.
'Sit down,' said her father. 'You are not to work for a few days,
and I myself shall be none the worse for a morning's rest. Poor
old Hinks! I suppose we shall help him among us, somehow.
Quarmby, of course, is comparatively flourishing. Well, we have
been companions for a quarter of a century, we three. When I
first met Quarmby I was a Grub Street gazetteer, and I think he
was even poorer than I. A life of toil! A life of toil!'
'That it has been, indeed.'
'By-the-bye'--he threw an arm over the back of his chair--'what
did you think of our imaginary review, the thing we were talking
about last night?'
'There are so many periodicals,' replied Marian, doubtfully.
'So many? My dear child, if we live another ten years we shall
see the number trebled.'
'Is it desirable?'
'That there should be such growth of periodicals? Well, from one
point of view, no. No doubt they take up the time which some
people would give to solid literature. But, on the other hand,
there's a far greater number of people who would probably not
read at all, but for the temptations of these short and new
articles; and they may be induced to pass on to substantial
works. Of course it all depends on the quality of the periodical
matter you offer. Now, magazines like'--he named two or three of
popular stamp--'might very well be dispensed with, unless one
regards them as an alternative to the talking of scandal or any
other vicious result of total idleness. But such a monthly as we
projected would be of distinct literary value. There can be no
doubt that someone or other will shortly establish it.'
'I am afraid,' said Marian, 'I haven't so much sympathy with
literary undertakings as you would like me to have.'
Money is a great fortifier of self-respect. Since she had become
really conscious of her position as the owner of five thousand
pounds, Marian spoke with a steadier voice, walked with firmer
step; mentally she felt herself altogether a less dependent
being. She might have confessed this lukewarmness towards
literary enterprise in the anger which her father excited eight
or nine days ago, but at that time she could not have uttered her
opinion calmly, deliberately, as now. The smile which accompanied
the words was also new; it signified deliverance from pupilage.
'I have felt that,' returned her father, after a slight pause to
command his voice, that it might be suave instead of scornful. 'I
greatly fear that I have made your life something of a martyrdom
'Don't think I meant that, father. I am speaking only of the
general question. I can't be quite so zealous as you are, that's
all. I love books, but I could wish people were content for a
while with those we already have.'
'My dear Marian, don't suppose that I am out of sympathy with you
here. Alas! how much of my work has been mere drudgery, mere
labouring for a livelihood! How gladly I would have spent much
more of my time among the great authors, with no thought of
making money of them! If I speak approvingly of a scheme for a
new periodical, it is greatly because of my necessities.'
He paused and looked at her. Marian returned the look.
'You would of course write for it,' she said.
'Marian, why shouldn't I edit it? Why shouldn't it be your
She checked a laugh. There came into her mind a more disagreeable
suspicion than she had ever entertained of her father. Was this
the meaning of his softened behaviour? Was he capable of
calculated hypocrisy? That did not seem consistent with his
character, as she knew it.
'Let us talk it over,' said Yule. He was in visible agitation and
his voice shook. 'The idea may well startle you at first. It will
seem to you that I propose to make away with your property before
you have even come into possession of it.' He laughed. 'But, in
fact, what I have in mind is merely an investment for your
capital, and that an admirable one. Five thousand pounds at three
per cent.--one doesn't care to reckon on more--represents a
hundred and fifty a year. Now, there can be very little doubt
that, if it were invested in literary property such as I have in
mind, it would bring you five times that interest, and before
long perhaps much more. Of course I am now speaking in the
roughest outline. I should have to get trustworthy advice;
complete and detailed estimates would be submitted to you. At
present I merely suggest to you this form of investment.'
He watched her face eagerly, greedily. When Marian's eyes rose to
his he looked away.
'Then, of course,' she said, 'you don't expect me to give any
'Of course not--of course not. I merely put before you the chief
advantages of such an investment. As I am a selfish old fellow,
I'll talk about the benefit to myself first of all. I should be
editor of the new review; I should draw a stipend sufficient to
all my needs--quite content, at first, to take far less than
another man would ask, and to progress with the advance of the
periodical. This position would enable me to have done with mere
drudgery; I should only write when I felt called to do so--when
the spirit moved me.' Again he laughed, as though desirous of
keeping his listener in good humour. 'My eyes would be greatly
He dwelt on that point, waiting its effect on Marian. As she said
nothing he proceeded:
'And suppose I really were doomed to lose my sight in the course
of a few years, am I wrong in thinking that the proprietor of
this periodical would willingly grant a small annuity to the man
who had firmly established it?'
'I see the force of all that,' said Marian; 'but it takes for
granted that the periodical will be successful.'
'It does. In the hands of a publisher like Jedwood--a vigorous
man of the new school--its success could scarcely be doubtful.'
'Do you think five thousand pounds would be enough to start such
'Well, I can say nothing definite on that point. For one thing,
the coat must be made according to the cloth; expenditure can be
largely controlled without endangering success. Then again, I
think Jedwood would take a share in the venture. These are
details. At present I only want to familiarise you with the
thought that an investment of this sort will very probably offer
itself to you.'
'It would be better if we called it a speculation,' said Marian,
Her one object at present was to oblige her father to understand
that the suggestion by no means lured her. She could not tell him
that what he proposed was out of the question, though as yet that
was the light in which she saw it. His subtlety of approach had
made her feel justified in dealing with him in a matter-of-fact
way. He must see that she was not to be cajoled. Obviously, and
in the nature of the case, he was urging a proposal in which he
himself had all faith; but Marian knew his judgment was far from
infallible. It mitigated her sense of behaving unkindly to
reflect that in all likelihood this disposal of her money would
be the worst possible for her own interests, and therefore for
his. If, indeed, his dark forebodings were warranted, then upon
her would fall the care of him, and the steadiness with which she
faced that responsibility came from a hope of which she could not
'Name it as you will,' returned her father, hardly suppressing a
note of irritation. 'True, every commercial enterprise is a
speculation. But let me ask you one question, and beg you to
reply frankly. Do you distrust my ability to conduct this
She did. She knew that he was not in touch with the interests of
the day, and that all manner of considerations akin to the prime
end of selling his review would make him an untrustworthy editor.
But how could she tell him this?
'My opinion would be worthless,' she replied.
'If Jedwood were disposed to put confidence in me, you also
'There's no need to talk of that now, father. Indeed, I can't say
anything that would sound like a promise.'
He flashed a glance at her. Then she was more than doubtful?
'But you have no objection, Marian, to talk in a friendly way of
a project that would mean so much to me?'
'But I am afraid to encourage you,' she replied, frankly. 'It is
impossible for me to say whether I can do as you wish, or not.'
'Yes, yes; I perfectly understand that. Heaven forbid that I
should regard you as a child to be led independently of your own
views and wishes! With so large a sum of money at stake, it would
be monstrous if I acted rashly, and tried to persuade you to do
the same. The matter will have to be most gravely considered.'
'Yes.' She spoke mechanically.
'But if only it should come to something! You don't know what it
would mean to me, Marian.'
'Yes, father; I know very well how you think and feel about it.'
'Do you?' He leaned forward, his features working under stress of
emotion. 'If I could see myself the editor of an influential
review, all my bygone toils and sufferings would be as nothing; I
should rejoice in them as the steps to this triumph. Meminisse
juvabit! My dear, I am not a man fitted for subordinate places.
My nature is framed for authority. The failure of all my
undertakings rankles so in my heart that sometimes I feel capable
of every brutality, every meanness, every hateful cruelty. To you
I have behaved shamefully. Don't interrupt me, Marian. I have
treated you abominably, my child, my dear daughter--and all the
time with a full sense of what I was doing. That's the punishment
of faults such as mine. I hate myself for every harsh word and
angry look I have given you; at the time, I hated myself!'
'No, no; let me speak, Marian. You have forgiven me; I know it.
You were always ready to forgive, dear. Can I ever forget that
evening when I spoke like a brute, and you came afterwards and
addressed me as if the wrong had been on your side? It burns in
my memory. It wasn't I who spoke; it was the demon of failure, of
humiliation. My enemies sit in triumph, and scorn at me; the
thought of it is infuriating. Have I deserved this? Am I the
inferior of--of those men who have succeeded and now try to
trample on me? No! I am not! I have a better brain and a better
Listening to this strange outpouring, Marian more than forgave
the hypocrisy of the last day or two. Nay, could it be called
hypocrisy? It was only his better self declared at the impulse of
a passionate hope.
'Why should you think so much of these troubles, father? Is it
such a great matter that narrow-minded people triumph over you?'
'Narrow-minded?' He clutched at the word. 'You admit they are
'I feel very sure that Mr Fadge is.'
'Then you are not on his side against me?'
'How could you suppose such a thing?'
'Well, well; we won't talk of that. Perhaps it isn't a great
matter. No--from a philosophical point of view, such things are
unspeakably petty. But I am not much of a philosopher.' He
laughed, with a break in his voice. 'Defeat in life is defeat,
after all; and unmerited failure is a bitter curse. You see, I am
not too old to do something yet. My sight is failing, but I can
take care of it. If I had my own review, I would write every now
and then a critical paper in my very best style. You remember
poor old Hinks's note about me in his book? We laughed at it, but
he wasn't so far wrong. I have many of those qualities. A man is
conscious of his own merits as well as of his defects. I have
done a few admirable things. You remember my paper on Lord
Herbert of Cherbury? No one ever wrote a more subtle piece of
criticism; but it was swept aside among the rubbish of the
magazines. And it's just because of my pungent phrases that I
have excited so much enmity. Wait! Wait! Let me have my own
review, and leisure, and satisfaction of mind--heavens! what I
will write! How I will scarify!'
'That is unworthy of you. How much better to ignore your enemies!
In such a position, I should carefully avoid every word that
betrayed personal feeling.'
'Well, well; you are of course right, my good girl. And I believe
I should do injustice to myself if I made you think that those
ignoble motives are the strongest in me. No; it isn't so. From my
boyhood I have had a passionate desire of literary fame, deep
down below all the surface faults of my character. The best of my
life has gone by, and it drives me to despair when I feel that I
have not gained the position due to me. There is only one way of
doing this now, and that is by becoming the editor of an
important periodical. Only in that way shall I succeed in forcing
people to pay attention to my claims. Many a man goes to his
grave unrecognised, just because he has never had a fair
judgment. Nowadays it is the unscrupulous men of business who
hold the attention of the public; they blow their trumpets so
loudly that the voices of honest men have no chance of being
Marian was pained by the humility of his pleading with her--for
what was all this but an endeavour to move her sympathies?--and
by the necessity she was under of seeming to turn a deaf ear. She
believed that there was some truth in his estimate of his own
powers; though as an editor he would almost certainly fail, as a
man of letters he had probably done far better work than some who
had passed him by on their way to popularity. Circumstances might
enable her to assist him, though not in the way he proposed. The
worst of it was that she could not let him see what was in her
mind. He must think that she was simply balancing her own
satisfaction against his, when in truth she suffered from the
conviction that to yield would be as unwise in regard to her
father's future as it would be perilous to her own prospect of
'Shall we leave this to be talked of when the money has been paid
over to me?' she said, after a silence.
'Yes. Don't suppose I wish to influence you by dwelling on my own
hardships. That would be contemptible. I have only taken this
opportunity of making myself better known to you. I don't readily
talk of myself and in general my real feelings are hidden by the
faults of my temper. In suggesting how you could do me a great
service, and at the same time reap advantage for yourself I
couldn't but remember how little reason you have to think kindly
of me. But we will postpone further talk. You will think over
what I have said?'
Marian promised that she would, and was glad to bring the
conversation to an end.
When Sunday came, Yule inquired of his daughter if she had any
engagement for the afternoon.
'Yes, I have,' she replied, with an effort to disguise her
'I'm sorry. I thought of asking you to come with me to Quarmby's.
Shall you be away through the evening?'
'Till about nine o'clock, I think.'
'Ah! Never mind, never mind.'
He tried to dismiss the matter as if it were of no moment, but
Marian saw the shadow that passed over his countenance. This was
just after breakfast. For the remainder of the morning she did
not meet him, and at the mid-day dinner he was silent, though he
brought no book to the table with him, as he was wont to do when
in his dark moods. Marian talked with her mother, doing her best
to preserve the appearance of cheerfulness which was natural
since the change in Yule's demeanour.
She chanced to meet her father in the passage just as she was
going out. He smiled (it was more like a grin of pain) and
nodded, but said nothing.
When the front door closed, he went into the parlour. Mrs Yule
was reading, or, at all events, turning over a volume of an
'Where do you suppose she has gone?' he asked, in a voice which
was only distant, not offensive.
'To the Miss Milvains, I believe,' Mrs Yule answered, looking
'Did she tell you so?'
'No. We don't talk about it.'
He seated himself on the corner of a chair and bent forward, his
chin in his hand.
'Has she said anything to you about the review?'
'Not a word.'
She glanced at him timidly, and turned a few pages of her book.
'I wanted her to come to Quarmby's, because there'll be a man
there who is anxious that Jedwood should start a magazine, and it
would be useful for her to hear practical opinions. There'd be no
harm if you just spoke to her about it now and then. Of course if
she has made up her mind to refuse me it's no use troubling
myself any more. I should think you might find out what's really
Only dire stress of circumstances could have brought Alfred Yule
to make distinct appeal for his wife's help. There was no
underhand plotting between them to influence their daughter; Mrs
Yule had as much desire for the happiness of her husband as for
that of Marian, but she felt powerless to effect anything on
'If ever she says anything, I'll let you know.'
'But it seems to me that you have a right to question her.'
'I can't do that, Alfred.'
'Unfortunately, there are a good many things you can't do.' With
that remark, familiar to his wife in substance, though the tone
of it was less caustic than usual, he rose and sauntered from the
room. He spent a gloomy hour in the study, then went off to join
the literary circle at Mr Quarmby's.
CHAPTER XXIV. JASPER'S MAGNANIMITY
Occasionally Milvain met his sisters as they came out of church
on Sunday morning, and walked home to have dinner with them. He
did so to-day, though the sky was cheerless and a strong
north-west wind made it anything but agreeable to wait about in
'Are you going to Mrs Wright's this afternoon?' he asked, as they
went on together.
'I thought of going,' replied Maud. 'Marian will be with Dora.'
'You ought both to go. You mustn't neglect that woman.'
He said nothing more just then, but when presently he was alone
with Dora in the sitting-room for a few minutes, he turned with a
peculiar smile and remarked quietly:
'I think you had better go with Maud this afternoon.'
'But I can't. I expect Marian at three.'
'That's just why I want you to go.'
She looked her surprise.
'I want to have a talk with Marian. We'll manage it in this way.
At a quarter to three you two shall start, and as you go out you
can tell the landlady that if Miss Yule comes she is to wait for
you, as you won't be long. She'll come upstairs, and I shall be
there. You see?'
Dora turned half away, disturbed a little, but not displeased.
'And what about Miss Rupert?' she asked.
'Oh, Miss Rupert may go to Jericho for all I care. I'm in a
'Very, I've no doubt.'
'Well, you'll do this? One of the results of poverty, you see;
one can't even have a private conversation with a friend without
plotting to get the use of a room. But there shall be an end of
this state of things.'
He nodded significantly. Thereupon Dora left the room to speak
with her sister.
The device was put into execution, and Jasper saw his sisters
depart knowing that they were not likely to return for some three
hours. He seated himself comfortably by the fire and mused. Five
minutes had hardly gone by when he looked at his watch, thinking
Marian must be unpunctual. He was nervous, though he had believed
himself secure against such weakness. His presence here with the
purpose he had in his mind seemed to him distinctly a concession
to impulses he ought to have controlled; but to this resolve he
had come, and it was now too late to recommence the arguments
with himself. Too late? Well, not strictly so; he had committed
himself to nothing; up to the last moment of freedom he could
That was doubtless Marian's knock at the front door. He jumped
up, walked the length of the room, sat down on another chair,
returned to his former seat. Then the door opened and Marian came
She was not surprised; the landlady had mentioned to her that Mr
Milvain was upstairs, waiting the return of his sisters.
'I am to make 'Dora's excuses,' Jasper said. 'She begged you
would forgive her--that you would wait.'
'And you were to be sure to take off your hat,' he added in a
laughing tone; 'and to let me put your umbrella in the corner--
He had always admired the shape of Marian's head, and the beauty
of her short, soft, curly hair. As he watched her uncovering it,
he was pleased with the grace of her arms and the pliancy of her
'Which is usually your chair?'
'I'm sure I don't know.'
'When one goes to see a friend frequently, one gets into regular
habits in these matters. In Biffen's garret I used to have the
most uncomfortable chair it was ever my lot to sit upon; still, I
came to feel an affection for it. At Reardon's I always had what
was supposed to be the most luxurious seat, but it was too small
for me, and I eyed it resentfully on sitting down and rising.'
'Have you any news about the Reardons?'
'Yes. I am told that Reardon has had the offer of a secretaryship
to a boys' home, or something of the kind, at Croydon. But I
suppose there'll be no need for him to think of that now.'
'Oh there's no saying.'
'Why should he do work of that kind now?'
'Perhaps his wife will tell him that she wants her money all for
Marian laughed. It was very rarely that Jasper had heard her
laugh at all, and never so spontaneously as this. He liked the
'You haven't a very good opinion of Mrs Reardon,' she said.
'She is a difficult person to judge. I never disliked her, by any
means; but she was decidedly out of place as the wife of a
struggling author. Perhaps I have been a little prejudiced
against her since Reardon quarrelled with me on her account.'
Marian was astonished at this unlooked-for explanation of the
rupture between Milvain and his friend. That they had not seen
each other for some months she knew from Jasper himself but no
definite cause had been assigned.
'I may as well let you know all about it,' Milvain continued,
seeing that he had disconcerted the girl, as he meant to. 'I met
Reardon not long after they had parted, and he charged me with
being in great part the cause of his troubles.'
The listener did not raise her eyes.
'You would never imagine what my fault was. Reardon declared that
the tone of my conversation had been morally injurious to his
wife. He said I was always glorifying worldly success, and that
this had made her discontented with her lot. Sounds rather
ludicrous, don't you think?'
'It was very strange.'
'Reardon was in desperate earnest, poor fellow. And, to tell you
the truth, I fear there may have been something in his complaint.
I told him at once that I should henceforth keep away from Mrs
Edmund Yule's; and so I have done, with the result, of course,
that they suppose I condemn Mrs Reardon's behaviour. The affair
was a nuisance, but I had no choice, I think.'
'You say that perhaps your talk really was harmful to her.'
'It may have been, though such a danger never occurred to me.'
'Then Amy must be very weak-minded.'
'To be influenced by such a paltry fellow?'
'To be influenced by anyone in such a way.'
'You think the worse of me for this story?' Jasper asked.
'I don't quite understand it. How did you talk to her?'
'As I talk to everyone. You have heard me say the same things
many a time. I simply declare my opinion that the end of literary
work-- unless one is a man of genius--is to secure comfort and
repute. This doesn't seem to me very scandalous. But Mrs Reardon
was perhaps too urgent in repeating such views to her husband.
She saw that in my case they were likely to have solid results,
and it was a misery to her that Reardon couldn't or wouldn't work
in the same practical way.
'It was very unfortunate.'
'And you are inclined to blame me?'
'No; because I am so sure that you only spoke in the way natural
to you, without a thought of such consequences.'
'That's precisely the truth. Nearly all men who have their way to
make think as I do, but most feel obliged to adopt a false tone,
to talk about literary conscientiousness, and so on. I simply say
what I think, with no pretences. I should like to be
conscientious, but it's a luxury I can't afford. I've told you
all this often enough, you know.'
'But it hasn't been morally injurious to you,' he said with a
'Not at all. Still I don't like it.'
Jasper was startled. He gazed at her. Ought he, then, to have
dealt with her less frankly? Had he been mistaken in thinking
that the unusual openness of his talk was attractive to her? She
spoke with quite unaccustomed decision; indeed, he had noticed
from her entrance that there was something unfamiliar in her way
of conversing. She was so much more self-possessed than of wont,
and did not seem to treat him with the same deference, the same
subdual of her own personality.
'You don't like it?' he repeated calmly. 'It has become rather
tiresome to you?'
'I feel sorry that you should always represent yourself in an
He was an acute man, but the self-confidence with which he had
entered upon this dialogue, his conviction that he had but to
speak when he wished to receive assurance of Marian's devotion,
prevented him from understanding the tone of independence she had
suddenly adopted. With more modesty he would have felt more
subtly at this juncture, would have divined that the girl had an
exquisite pleasure in drawing back now that she saw him
approaching her with unmistakable purpose, that she wished to be
wooed in less off-hand fashion before confessing what was in her
heart. For the moment he was disconcerted. Those last words of
hers had a slight tone of superiority, the last thing he would
have expected upon her lips.
'Yet I surely haven't always appeared so--to you?' he said.
'No, not always.'
'But you are in doubt concerning the real man?'
'I'm not sure that I understand you. You say that you do really
think as you speak.'
'So I do. I think that there is no choice for a man who can't
bear poverty. I have never said, though, that I had pleasure in
mean necessities; I accept them because I can't help it.'
It was a delight to Marian to observe the anxiety with which he
turned to self-defence. Never in her life had she felt this joy
of holding a position of command. It was nothing to her that
Jasper valued her more because of her money; impossible for it to
be otherwise. Satisfied that he did value her, to begin with, for
her own sake, she was very willing to accept money as her ally in
the winning of his love. He scarcely loved her yet, as she
understood the feeling, but she perceived her power over him, and
passion taught her how to exert it.
'But you resign yourself very cheerfully to the necessity,' she
said, looking at him with merely intellectual eyes.
'You had rather I lamented my fate in not being able to devote
myself to nobly unremunerative work?'
There was a note of irony here. It caused her a tremor, but she
held her position.
'That you never do so would make one think--but I won't speak
'That I neither care for good work nor am capable of it,' Jasper
finished her sentence. 'I shouldn't have thought it would make
you think so.'
Instead of replying she turned her look towards the door. There
was a footstep on the stairs, but it passed.
'I thought it might be Dora,' she said.
'She won't be here for another couple of hours at least,' replied
Jasper with a slight smile.
'But you said--?'
'I sent her to Mrs Boston Wright's that I might have an
opportunity of talking to you. Will you forgive the stratagem?'
Marian resumed her former attitude, the faintest smile hovering
about her lips.
'I'm glad there's plenty of time,' he continued. 'I begin to
suspect that you have been misunderstanding me of late. I must
set that right.'
'I don't think I have misunderstood you.'
'That may mean something very disagreeable. I know that some
people whom I esteem have a very poor opinion of me, but I can't
allow you to be one of them. What do I seem to you? What is the
result on your mind of all our conversations?'
'I have already told you.'
'Not seriously. Do you believe I am capable of generous feeling?'
'To say no, would be to put you in the lowest class of men, and
that a very small one.''Good! Then I am not among the basest. But
that doesn't give me very distinguished claims upon your
consideration. Whatever I am, I am high in some of my ambitions.'
'Which of them?'
'For instance, I have been daring enough to hope that you might
Marian delayed for a moment, then said quietly:
'Why do you call that daring?'
'Because I have enough of old-fashioned thought to believe that a
woman who is worthy of a man's love is higher than he, and
condescends in giving herself to him.'
His voice was not convincing; the phrase did not sound natural on
his lips. It was not thus that she had hoped to hear him speak.
Whilst he expressed himself thus conventionally he did not love
her as she desired to be loved.
'I don't hold that view,' she said.
'It doesn't surprise me. You are very reserved on all subjects,
and we have never spoken of this, but of course I know that your
thought is never commonplace. Hold what view you like of woman's
position, that doesn't affect mine.'
'Is yours commonplace, then?'
'Desperately. Love is a very old and common thing, and I believe
I love you in the old and common way. I think you beautiful, you
seem to me womanly in the best sense, full of charm and
sweetness. I know myself a coarse being in comparison. All this
has been felt and said in the same way by men infinite in
variety. Must I find some new expression before you can believe
Marian kept silence.
'I know what you are thinking,' he said. 'The thought is as
inevitable as my consciousness of it.'
For an instant she looked at him.
'Yes, you look the thought. Why have I not spoken to you in this
way before? Why have I waited until you are obliged to suspect my
'My thought is not so easily read, then,' said Marian.
'To be sure it hasn't a gross form, but I know you wish--whatever
your real feeling towards me--that I had spoken a fortnight ago.
You would wish that of any man in my position, merely because it
is painful to you to see a possible insincerity. Well, I am not
insincere. I have thought of you as of no other woman for some
time. But--yes, you shall have the plain, coarse truth, which is
good in its way, no doubt. I was afraid to say that I loved you.
You don't flinch; so far, so good. Now what harm is there in this
confession? In the common course of things I shouldn't be in a
position to marry for perhaps three or four years, and even then
marriage would mean difficulties, restraints, obstacles. I have
always dreaded the thought of marriage with a poor income. You
Love in a hut, with water and a crust, Is--Love forgive us!--
cinders, ashes, dust.
You know that is true.'
'Not always, I dare say.'
'But for the vast majority of mortals. There's the instance of
the Reardons. They were in love with each other, if ever two
people were; but poverty ruined everything. I am not in the
confidence of either of them, but I feel sure each has wished the
other dead. What else was to be expected? Should I have dared to
take a wife in my present circumstances--a wife as poor as
'You will be in a much better position before long,' said Marian.
'If you loved me, why should you have been afraid to ask me to
have confidence in your future?'
'It's all so uncertain. It may be another ten years before I can
count on an income of five or six hundred pounds--if I have to
struggle on in the common way.'
'But tell me, what is your aim in life? What do you understand by
'Yes, I will tell you. My aim is to have easy command of all the
pleasures desired by a cultivated man. I want to live among
beautiful things, and never to be troubled by a thought of vulgar
difficulties. I want to travel and enrich my mind in foreign
countries. I want to associate on equal terms with refined and
interesting people. I want to be known, to be familiarly referred
to, to feel when I enter a room that people regard me with some
He looked steadily at her with bright eyes.
'And that's all?' asked Marian.
'That is very much. Perhaps you don't know how I suffer in
feeling myself at a disadvantage. My instincts are strongly
social, yet I can't be at my ease in society, simply because I
can't do justice to myself. Want of money makes me the inferior
of the people I talk with, though I might be superior to them in
most things. I am ignorant in many ways, and merely because I am
poor. Imagine my never having been out of England! It shames me
when people talk familiarly of the Continent. So with regard to
all manner of amusements and pursuits at home. Impossible for me
to appear among my acquaintances at the theatre, at concerts. I
am perpetually at a disadvantage; I haven't fair play. Suppose me
possessed of money enough to live a full and active life for the
next five years; why, at the end of that time my position would
be secure. To him that hath shall be given--you know how
universally true that is.'
'And yet,' came in a low voice from Marian, 'you say that you
'You mean that I speak as if no such thing as love existed. But
you asked me what I understood by success. I am speaking of
worldly things. Now suppose I had said to you:
My one aim and desire in life is to win your love. Could you have
believed me? Such phrases are always untrue; I don't know how it
can give anyone pleasure to hear them. But if I say to you: All
the satisfactions I have described would be immensely heightened
if they were shared with a woman who loved me--there is the
Marian's heart sank. She did not want truth such as this; she
would have preferred that he should utter the poor, common
falsehoods. Hungry for passionate love, she heard with a sense of
desolation all this calm reasoning. That Jasper was of cold
temperament she had often feared; yet there was always the
consoling thought that she did not see with perfect clearness
into his nature. Now and then had come a flash, a hint of
possibilities. She had looked forward with trembling eagerness to
some sudden revelation; but it seemed as if he knew no word of
the language which would have called such joyous response from
her expectant soul.
'We have talked for a long time,' she said, turning her head as
if his last words were of no significance. 'As Dora is not
coming, I think I will go now.'
She rose, and went towards the chair on which lay her out-of-door
things. At once Jasper stepped to her side.
'You will go without giving me any answer?'
'Answer? To what?'
'Will you be my wife?'
'It is too soon to ask me that.'
'Too soon? Haven't you known for months that I thought of you
with far more than friendliness?'
'How was it possible I should know that? You have explained to me
why you would not let your real feelings be understood.'
The reproach was merited, and not easy to be outfaced. He turned
away for an instant, then with a sudden movement caught both her
'Whatever I have done or said or thought in the past, that is of
no account now. I love you, Marian. I want you to be my wife. I
have never seen any other girl who impressed me as you did from
the first. If I had been weak enough to try to win anyone but
you, I should have known that I had turned aside from the path of
my true happiness. Let us forget for a moment all our
circumstances. I hold your hands, and look into your face, and
say that I love you. Whatever answer you give, I love you!'
Till now her heart had only fluttered a little; it was a great
part of her distress that the love she had so long nurtured
seemed shrinking together into some far corner of her being
whilst she listened to the discourses which prefaced Jasper's
declaration. She was nervous, painfully self-conscious, touched
with maidenly shame, but could not abandon herself to that
delicious emotion which ought to have been the fulfilment of all
her secret imaginings. Now at length there began a throbbing in
her bosom. Keeping her face averted, her eyes cast down, she
waited for a repetition of the note that was in that last 'I love
you.' She felt a change in the hands that held hers--a warmth, a
moist softness; it caused a shock through her veins.
He was trying to draw her nearer, but she kept at full arm's
length and looked irresponsive.
She wished to answer, but a spirit of perversity held her tongue.
'Marian, don't you love me? Or have I offended you by my way of
Persisting, she at length withdrew her hands. Jasper's face
expressed something like dismay.
'You have not offended me,' she said. 'But I am not sure that you
don't deceive yourself in thinking, for the moment, that I am
necessary to your happiness.'
The emotional current which had passed from her flesh to his
whilst their hands were linked, made him incapable of standing
aloof from her. He saw that her face and neck were warmer hued,
and her beauty became more desirable to him than ever yet.
'You are more to me than anything else in the compass of life!'
he exclaimed, again pressing forward. 'I think of nothing but
you--you yourself--my beautiful, gentle, thoughtful Marian!'
His arm captured her, and she did not resist. A sob, then a
strange little laugh, betrayed the passion that was at length
unfolded in her.
'You do love me, Marian?'
'I love you.'
And there followed the antiphony of ardour that finds its first
utterance--a subdued music, often interrupted, ever returning
upon the same rich note.
Marian closed her eyes and abandoned herself to the luxury of the
dream. It was her first complete escape from the world of
intellectual routine, her first taste of life. All the pedantry
of her daily toil slipped away like a cumbrous garment; she was
clad only in her womanhood. Once or twice a shudder of strange
self-consciousness went through her, and she felt guilty,
immodest; but upon that sensation followed a surge of passionate
joy, obliterating memory and forethought.
'How shall I see you?' Jasper asked at length. 'Where can we
It was a difficulty. The season no longer allowed lingerings
under the open sky, but Marian could not go to his lodgings, and
it seemed impossible for him to visit her at her home.
'Will your father persist in unfriendliness to me?'
She was only just beginning to reflect on all that was involved
in this new relation.
'I have no hope that he will change,' she said sadly.
'He will refuse to countenance your marriage?'
'I shall disappoint him and grieve him bitterly. He has asked me
to use my money in starting a new review.'
'Which he is to edit?'
'Yes. Do you think there would be any hope of its success?'
Jasper shook his head.
'Your father is not the man for that, Marian. I don't say it
disrespectfully; I mean that he doesn't seem to me to have that
kind of aptitude. It would be a disastrous speculation.'
'I felt that. Of course I can't think of it now.'
She smiled, raising her face to his.
'Don't trouble,' said Jasper. 'Wait a little, till I have made
myself independent of Fadge and a few other men, and your father
shall see how heartily I wish to be of use to him. He will miss
your help, I'm afraid?'
'Yes. I shall feel it a cruelty when I have to leave him. He has
only just told me that his sight is beginning to fail. Oh, why
didn't his brother leave him a little money? It was such
unkindness! Surely he had a much better right than Amy, or than
myself either. But literature has been a curse to father all his
life. My uncle hated it, and I suppose that was why he left
'But how am I to see you often? That's the first question. I know
what I shall do. I must take new lodgings, for the girls and
myself, all in the same house. We must have two sitting-rooms;
then you will come to my room without any difficulty. These
astonishing proprieties are so easily satisfied after all.'
'You will really do that?'
'Yes. I shall go and look for rooms to-morrow. Then when you come
you can always ask for Maud or Dora, you know. They will be very
glad of a change to more respectable quarters.'
'I won't stay to see them now, Jasper,' said Marian, her thoughts
turning to the girls.
'Very well. You are safe for another hour, but to make certain
you shall go at a quarter to five. Your mother won't be against
'Poor mother--no. But she won't dare to justify me before
'I feel as if I should play a mean part in leaving it to you to
tell your father. Marian, I will brave it out and go and see
'Oh, it would be better not to.'
'Then I will write to him--such a letter as he can't possibly
take in ill part.'
Marian pondered this proposal.
'You shall do that, Jasper, if you are willing. But not yet;
'You don't wish him to know at once?'
'We had better wait a little. You know,' she added laughing,
'that my legacy is only in name mine as yet. The will hasn't been
proved. And then the money will have to be realised.'
She informed him of the details; Jasper listened with his eyes on
They were now sitting on chairs drawn close to each other. It was
with a sense of relief that Jasper had passed from dithyrambs to
conversation on practical points; Marian's excited sensitiveness
could not but observe this, and she kept watching the motions of
his countenance. At length he even let go her hand.
'You would prefer,' he said reflectively, 'that nothing should be
said to your father until that business is finished?'
'If you consent to it.'
'Oh, I have no doubt it's as well.'
Her little phrase of self-subjection, and its tremulous tone,
called for another answer than this. Jasper fell again into
thought, and clearly it was thought of practical things.
'I think I must go now, Jasper,' she said.
'Must you? Well, if you had rather.'
He rose, though she was still seated. Marian moved a few steps
away, but turned and approached him again.
'Do you really love me?' she asked, taking one of his hands and
folding it between her own.
'I do indeed love you, Marian. Are you still doubtful?'
'You're not sorry that I must go?'
'But I am, dearest. I wish we could sit here undisturbed all
through the evening.'
Her touch had the same effect as before. His blood warmed again,
and he pressed her to his side, stroking her hair and kissing her
'Are you sorry I wear my hair short?' she asked, longing for more
praise than he had bestowed on her.
'Sorry? It is perfect. Everything else seems vulgar compared with
this way of yours. How strange you would look with plaits and
that kind of thing!'
'I am so glad it pleases you.'
'There is nothing in you that doesn't please me, my thoughtful
'You called me that before. Do I seem so very thoughtful?'
'So grave, and sweetly reserved, and with eyes so full of
She quivered with delight, her face hidden against his breast.
'I seem to be new-born, Jasper. Everything in the world is new to
me, and I am strange to myself. I have never known an hour of
happiness till now, and I can't believe yet that it has come to
She at length attired herself, and they left the house together,
of course not unobserved by the landlady. Jasper walked about
half the way to St Paul's Crescent. It was arranged that he
should address a letter for her to the care of his sisters; but
in a day or two the change of lodgings would be effected.
When they had parted, Marian looked back. But Jasper was walking
quickly away, his head bent, in profound meditation.
CHAPTER XXV. A FRUITLESS MEETING
Refuge from despair is often found in the passion of self-pity
and that spirit of obstinate resistance which it engenders. In
certain natures the extreme of self-pity is intolerable, and
leads to self-destruction; but there are less fortunate beings
whom the vehemence of their revolt against fate strengthens to
endure in suffering. These latter are rather imaginative than
passionate; the stages of their woe impress them as the acts of a
drama, which they cannot bring themselves to cut short, so
various are the possibilities of its dark motive. The
intellectual man who kills himself is most often brought to that
decision by conviction of his insignificance; self-pity merges in
self-scorn, and the humiliated soul is intolerant of existence.
He who survives under like conditions does so because misery
magnifies him in his own estimate.
It was by force of commiserating his own lot that Edwin Reardon
continued to live through the first month after his parting from
Amy. Once or twice a week, sometimes early in the evening,
sometimes at midnight or later, he haunted the street at
Westbourne Park where his wife was dwelling, and on each occasion
he returned to his garret with a fortified sense of the injustice
to which he was submitted, of revolt against the circumstances
which had driven him into outer darkness, of bitterness against
his wife for saving her own comfort rather than share his
downfall. At times he was not far from that state of sheer
distraction which Mrs Edmund Yule preferred to suppose that he
had reached. An extraordinary arrogance now and then possessed
him; he stood amid his poor surroundings with the sensations of
an outraged exile, and laughed aloud in furious contempt of all
who censured or pitied him.
On hearing from Jasper Milvain that Amy had fallen ill, or at all
events was suffering in health from what she had gone through, he
felt a momentary pang which all but determined him to hasten to
her side. The reaction was a feeling of distinct pleasure that
she had her share of pain, and even a hope that her illness might
become grave; he pictured himself summoned to her sick chamber,
imagined her begging his forgiveness. But it was not merely, nor
in great part, a malicious satisfaction; he succeeded in
believing that Amy suffered because she still had a remnant of
love for him. As the days went by and he heard nothing,
disappointment and resentment occupied him. At length he ceased
to haunt the neighbourhood. His desires grew sullen; he became
fixed in the resolve to hold entirely apart and doggedly await
At the end of each month he sent half the money he had received
from Carter, simply enclosing postal orders in an envelope
addressed to his wife. The first two remittances were in no way
acknowledged; the third brought a short note from Amy:
'As you continue to send these sums of money, I had perhaps
better let you know that I cannot use them for any purposes of my
own. Perhaps a sense of duty leads you to make this sacrifice,
but I am afraid it is more likely that you wish to remind me
every month that you are undergoing privations, and to pain me in
this way. What you have sent I have deposited in the Post Office
Savings' Bank in Willie's name, and I shall continue to do so.--
For a day or two Reardon persevered in an intention of not
replying, but the desire to utter his turbid feelings became in
the end too strong. He wrote:
'I regard it as quite natural that you should put the worst
interpretation on whatever I do. As for my privations, I think
very little of them; they are a trifle in comparison with the
thought that I am forsaken just because my pocket is empty. And I
am far indeed from thinking that you can be pained by whatever I
may undergo; that would suppose some generosity in your nature.'
This was no sooner posted than he would gladly have recalled it.
He knew that it was undignified, that it contained as many
falsehoods as lines, and he was ashamed of himself for having
written so. But he could not pen a letter of retractation, and
there remained with him a new cause of exasperated wretchedness.
Excepting the people with whom he came in contact at the
hospital, he had no society but that of Biffen. The realist
visited him once a week, and this friendship grew closer than it
had been in the time of Reardon's prosperity. Biffen was a man of
so much natural delicacy, that there was a pleasure in imparting
to him the details of private sorrow; though profoundly
sympathetic, he did his best to oppose Reardon's harsher
judgments of Amy, and herein he gave his friend a satisfaction
which might not be avowed.
'I really do not see,' he exclaimed, as they sat in the garret
one night of midsummer, 'how your wife could have acted
otherwise. Of course I am quite unable to judge the attitude of
her mind, but I think, I can't help thinking, from what I knew of
her, that there has been strictly a misunderstanding between you.
It was a hard and miserable thing that she should have to leave
you for a time, and you couldn't face the necessity in a just
spirit. Don't you think there's some truth in this way of looking
'As a woman, it was her part to soften the hateful necessity; she
made it worse.'
'I'm not sure that you don't demand too much of her. Unhappily, I
know little or nothing of delicately-bred women, but I have a
suspicion that one oughtn't to expect heroism in them, any more
than in the women of the lower classes. I think of women as
creatures to be protected. Is a man justified in asking them to
be stronger than himself?'
'Of course,' replied Reardon, 'there's no use in demanding more
than a character is capable of. But I believed her of finer
stuff. My bitterness comes of the disappointment.'
'I suppose there were faults of temper on both sides, and you saw
at last only each other's weaknesses.'
'I saw the truth, which had always been disguised from me.'
Biffen persisted in looking doubtful, and in secret Reardon
thanked him for it.
As the realist progressed with his novel, 'Mr Bailey, Grocer,' he
read the chapters to Reardon, not only for his own satisfaction,
but in great part because he hoped that this example of
productivity might in the end encourage the listener to resume
his own literary tasks. Reardon found much to criticise in his
friend's work; it was noteworthy that he objected and condemned
with much less hesitation than in his better days, for sensitive
reticence is one of the virtues wont to be assailed by suffering,
at all events in the weaker natures. Biffen purposely urged these
discussions as far as possible, and doubtless they benefited
Reardon for the time; but the defeated novelist could not be
induced to undertake another practical illustration of his own
views. Occasionally he had an impulse to plan a story, but an
hour's turning it over in his mind sufficed to disgust him. His
ideas seemed barren, vapid; it would have been impossible for him
to write half a dozen pages, and the mere thought of a whole book
overcame him with the dread of insurmountable difficulties,
In time, however, he was able to read. He had a pleasure in
contemplating the little collection of sterling books that alone
remained to him from his library; the sight of many volumes would
have been a weariness, but these few--when he was again able to
think of books at all--were as friendly countenances. He could
not read continuously, but sometimes he opened his Shakespeare,
for instance, and dreamed over a page or two. From such glimpses
there remained in his head a line or a short passage, which he
kept repeating to himself wherever he went; generally some
example of sweet or sonorous metre which had a soothing effect
With odd result on one occasion. He was walking in one of the
back streets of Islington, and stopped idly to gaze into the
window of some small shop. Standing thus, he forgot himself and
presently recited aloud:
'Caesar, 'tis his schoolmaster: An argument that he is pluck'd,
when hither He sends so poor a pinion of his wing, Which had
superfluous kings for messengers Not many moons gone by.'
The last two lines he uttered a second time, enjoying their
magnificent sound, and then was brought back to consciousness by
the loud mocking laugh of two men standing close by, who
evidently looked upon him as a strayed lunatic.
He kept one suit of clothes for his hours of attendance at the
hospital; it was still decent, and with much care would remain so
for a long time. That which he wore at home and in his street
wanderings declared poverty at every point; it had been discarded
before he left the old abode. In his present state of mind he
cared nothing how disreputable he looked to passers-by. These
seedy habiliments were the token of his degradation, and at times
he regarded them (happening to see himself in a shop mirror) with
pleasurable contempt. The same spirit often led him for a meal to
the poorest of eating-houses, places where he rubbed elbows with
ragged creatures who had somehow obtained the price of a cup of
coffee and a slice of bread and butter. He liked to contrast
himself with these comrades in misfortune. 'This is the rate at
which the world esteems me; I am worth no better provision than
this.' Or else, instead of emphasising the contrast, he defiantly
took a place among the miserables of the nether world, and nursed
hatred of all who were well-to-do.
One of these he desired to regard with gratitude, but found it
difficult to support that feeling. Carter, the vivacious, though
at first perfectly unembarrassed in his relations with the City
Road clerk, gradually exhibited a change of demeanour. Reardon
occasionally found the young man's eye fixed upon him with a
singular expression, and the secretary's talk, though still as a
rule genial, was wont to suffer curious interruptions, during
which he seemed to be musing on something Reardon had said, or on
some point of his behaviour. The explanation of this was that
Carter had begun to think there might be a foundation for Mrs
Yule's hypothesis--that the novelist was not altogether in his
sound senses. At first he scouted the idea, but as time went on
it seemed to him that Reardon's countenance certainly had a gaunt
wildness which suggested disagreeable things. Especially did he
remark this after his return from an August holiday in Norway. On
coming for the first time to the City Road branch he sat down and
began to favour Reardon with a lively description of how he had
enjoyed himself abroad; it never occurred to him that such talk
was not likely to inspirit the man who had passed his August
between the garret and the hospital, but he observed before long
that his listener was glancing hither and thither in rather a
'You haven't been ill since I saw you?' he inquired.
'But you look as if you might have been. I say, we must manage
for you to have a fortnight off, you know, this month.'
'I have no wish for it,' said Reardon. 'I'll imagine I have been
to Norway. It has done me good to hear of your holiday.'
'I'm glad of that; but it isn't quite the same thing, you know,
as having a run somewhere yourself.'
'Oh, much better! To enjoy myself may be mere selfishness, but to
enjoy another's enjoyment is the purest satisfaction, good for
body and soul. I am cultivating altruism.'
'A highly rarefied form of happiness. The curious thing about it
is that it won't grow unless you have just twice as much faith in
it as is required for assent to the Athanasian Creed.'
Carter went away more than puzzled. He told his wife that evening
that Reardon had been talking to him in the most extraordinary
fashion--no understanding a word he said.
All this time he was on the look-out for employment that would be
more suitable to his unfortunate clerk. Whether slightly demented
or not, Reardon gave no sign of inability to discharge his
duties; he was conscientious as ever, and might, unless he
changed greatly, be relied upon in positions of more
responsibility than his present one. And at length, early in
October, there came to the secretary's knowledge an opportunity
with which he lost no time in acquainting Reardon. The latter
repaired that evening to Clipstone Street, and climbed to
Biffen's chamber. He entered with a cheerful look, and exclaimed:
'I have just invented a riddle; see if you can guess it. Why is a
London lodging-house like the human body?'
Biffen looked with some concern at his friend, so unwonted was a
sally of this kind.
'Why is a London lodging-house--? Haven't the least idea.'
'Because the brains are always at the top. Not bad, I think, eh?'
'Well, no; it'll pass. Distinctly professional though. The
general public would fail to see the point, I'm afraid. But what
has come to you?'
'Good tidings. Carter has offered me a place which will be a
decided improvement. A house found--or rooms, at all events--and
salary a hundred and fifty a year.
'By Plutus! That's good hearing. Some duties attached, I
'I'm afraid that was inevitable, as things go. It's the
secretaryship of a home for destitute boys at Croydon. The post
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