Part 1 out of 7
Produced by Jonathan Ingram and PG Distributed Proofreaders
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
A Man from the North
Anna of the Five Towns
A Great Man
Sacred and Profane Love
Whom God hath Joined
The Old Wives' Tale
Helen with the High Hand
The Price of Love
The Lion's Share
The Pretty Lady
The Grand Babylon Hotel
The Gates of Wrath
Teresa of Watling Street
The Loot of Cities
The City of Pleasure
Tales of the Five Towns
The Grim Smile of the Five Towns
The Matador of the Five Towns
Journalism for Women
Fame and Fiction
How to become an Author
The Truth about an Author
How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day
The Human Machine
Those United States
Friendship and Happiness
The Author's Craft
Books and Persons
Self and Self-Management
Cupid and Common Sense
What the Public Wants
The Great Adventure
Milestones (in collaboration with EDWARD KNOBLOCK)
(In collaboration with EDEN PHILLPOTTS)
The Sinews of War: A Romance
The Statue: A Romance
_LONDON: HUTCHINSON & CO.
This novel was written before "The Pretty Lady", and is the first of the
I. THE NEW LODGING
III. THE CHARWOMAN
IV. THE LUNCHEON
V. THE TEA
VI. THE DINNER
VII. THE RUPTURE
I. THE TRIUMPH
II. THE ROLL-CALL
III. IN THE MACHINE
THE NEW LODGING
In the pupils' room of the offices of Lucas & Enwright, architects,
Russell Square, Bloomsbury, George Edwin Cannon, an articled pupil,
leaned over a large drawing-board and looked up at Mr. Enwright, the
head of the firm, who with cigarette and stick was on his way out after
what he called a good day's work. It was past six o'clock on an evening
in early July 1901. To George's right was an open door leading to the
principals' room, and to his left another open door leading to more
rooms and to the staircase. The lofty chambers were full of lassitude;
but round about George, who was working late, there floated the tonic
vapour of conscious virtue. Haim, the factotum, could be seen and heard
moving in his cubicle which guarded the offices from the stairs. In the
rooms shortly to be deserted and locked up, and in the decline of the
day, the three men were drawn together like survivors.
"I gather you're going to change your abode," said Mr. Enwright, having
"Did Mr. Orgreave tell you, then?" George asked.
"Well, he didn't exactly tell me...."
John Orgreave was Mr. Enwright's junior partner; and for nearly two
years, since his advent in London from the Five Towns, George had lived
with Mr. and Mrs. Orgreave at Bedford Park. The Orgreaves, too, sprang
from the Five Towns. John's people and George's people were closely
entwined in the local annals.
Pupil and principal glanced discreetly at one another, exchanging in
silence vague, malicious, unutterable critical verdicts upon both John
Orgreave and his wife.
"Well, I am!" said George at length.
"Where are you going to?"
"Haven't settled a bit," said George. "I wish I could live in Paris."
"Paris wouldn't be much good to you yet," Mr. Enwright laughed
"I suppose it wouldn't. Besides, of course----"
George spoke in a tone of candid deferential acceptance, which flattered
Mr. Enwright very much, for it was the final proof of the prestige which
the grizzled and wrinkled and peculiar Fellow and Member of the Council
of the Royal Institute of British Architects had acquired in the
estimation of that extremely independent, tossing sprig, George Edwin
Cannon. Mr. Enwright had recently been paying a visit to Paris, and
George had been sitting for the Intermediate Examination. "You can join
me here for a few days after the exam., if you care to," Mr. Enwright
had sent over. It was George's introduction to the Continent, and the
circumstances of it were almost ideal. For a week the deeply experienced
connoisseur of all the arts had had the fine, eager, responsive virgin
mind hi his power. Day after day he had watched and guided it amid
entirely new sensations. Never had Mr. Enwright enjoyed himself more
purely, and at the close he knew with satisfaction that he had put Paris
in a proper perspective for George, and perhaps saved the youth from
years of groping misapprehension. As for George, all his preconceived
notions about Paris had been destroyed or shaken. In the quadrangles of
the Louvre, for example, Mr. Enwright, pointing to the under part of the
stone bench that foots so much of the walls, had said: "Look at that
curve." Nothing else. No ecstasies about the sculptures of Jean Goujon
and Carpeaux, or about the marvellous harmony of the East facade! But a
flick of the cane towards the half-hidden moulding! And George had felt
with a thrill what an exquisite curve and what an original curve and
what a modest curve that curve was. Suddenly and magically his eyes had
been opened. Or it might have been that a deceitful mist had rolled away
and the real Louvre been revealed in its esoteric and sole authentic
"Why don't you try Chelsea?" said Mr. Enwright over his shoulder,
proceeding towards the stairs.
"I was thinking of Chelsea."
"You were!" Mr. Enwright halted again for an instant. "It's the only
place in London where the structure of society is anything like Paris.
Why, dash it, in the King's Road the grocers know each other's
business!" Mr. Enwright made the last strange remark to the outer door,
"Funny cove!" George commented tolerantly to Mr. Haim, who passed
through the room immediately afterwards to his nightly task of
collecting and inspecting the scattered instruments on the principal's
But Mr. Haim, though possibly he smiled ever so little, would not
compromise himself by an endorsement of the criticism of his employer.
George was a mere incident in the eternal career of Mr. Haim at Lucas &
When the factotum came back into the pupils' room, George stood up
straight and smoothed his trousers and gazed admiringly at his elegant
"Let me see," said George in a very friendly manner. "_You_ live
somewhere in Chelsea, don't you?"
"Yes," answered Mr. Haim.
"Whereabouts, if it isn't a rude question?"
"Well," said Mr. Haim, confidentially and benignantly, captivated by
George's youthful charm, "it's near the Redcliffe Arms." He mentioned
the Redcliffe Arms as he might have mentioned the Bank, Piccadilly
Circus, or Gibraltar. "Alexandra Grove. No. 8. To tell you the truth, I
own the house."
"The deuce you do!"
"Yes. The leasehold, that is, of course. No freeholds knocking about
loose in that district!"
George saw a new and unsuspected Mr. Haim. He was impressed. And he was
glad that he had never broken the office tradition of treating Mr. Haim
with a respect not usually accorded to factotums. He saw a,
property-owner, a tax-payer, and a human being behind the spectacles of
the shuffling, rather shabby, ceremonious familiar that pervaded those
rooms daily from before ten till after six. He grew curious about a
living phenomenon that hitherto had never awakened his curiosity.
"Were you really looking for accommodation?" demanded Mr. Haim suavely.
George hesitated. "Yes."
"Perhaps I have something that might suit you."
Events, disguised as mere words, seemed to George to be pushing him
"I should like to have a look at it," he said. He had to say it; there
was no alternative.
Mr. Haim raised a hand. "Any evening that happens to be convenient."
"What about to-night, then?"
"Certainly," Mr. Haim agreed. For a moment George apprehended that Mr.
Haim was going to invite him to dinner. But Mr. Haim was not going to
invite him to dinner. "About nine, shall we say?" he suggested, with a
courtliness softer even than usual.
Later, George said that he would lock up the office himself and leave
the key with the housekeeper.
"You can't miss the place," said Mr. Haim on leaving. "It's between the
Workhouse and the Redcliffe."
At the corner dominated by the Queen's Elm, which on the great route
from Piccadilly Circus to Putney was a public-house and halt second only
in importance to the Redcliffe Arms, night fell earlier than it ought to
have done, owing to a vast rain-cloud over Chelsea. A few drops
descended, but so warm and so gently that they were not like real rain,
and sentimentalists could not believe that they would wet. People,
arriving mysteriously out of darkness, gathered sparsely on the
pavements, lingered a few moments, and were swallowed by omnibuses that
bore them obscurely away. At intervals an individual got out of an
omnibus and adventured hurriedly forth and was lost in the gloom. The
omnibuses, all white, trotted on an inward curve to the pavement,
stopped while the conductor, with hand raised to the bell-string,
murmured apathetically the names of streets and of public-houses, and
then they jerked off again on an outward curve to the impatient double
ting of the bell. To the east was a high defile of hospitals, and to the
west the Workhouse tower faintly imprinted itself on the sombre sky.
The drops of rain grew very large and heavy, and the travellers, instead
of waiting on the kerb, withdrew to the shelter of the wall of the
Queen's Elm. George was now among the group, precipitated like the rest,
as it were, out of the solution of London. George was of the age which
does not admit rain or which believes that it is immune from the usual
consequences of exposure to rain. When advised, especially by women, to
defend himself against the treacheries of the weather, he always
protested confidently that he would 'be all right.' Thus with a stick
and a straw hat he would affront terrible dangers. It was a species of
valour which the event often justified. Indeed he generally was all
right. But to-night, afoot on the way from South Kensington Station in a
region quite unfamiliar to him, he was intimidated by the slapping
menace of the big drops. Reality faced him. His scared thought ran:
"Unless I do something at once I shall get wet through." Impossible to
appear drenched at old Haim's! So he had abandoned all his pretensions
to a magical invulnerability, and rushed under the eave of the Queen's
Elm to join the omnibus group.
He did not harmonize with the omnibus group, being both too elegant and
too high-spirited. His proper role in the circumstances would have been
to 'jump into a hansom'; but there were no empty hansoms, and moreover,
for certain reasons of finance, he had sworn off hansoms until a given
date. He regarded the situation as 'rather a lark,' and he somehow knew
that the group understood and appreciated and perhaps resented his
superior and tolerant attitude. An omnibus rolled palely into the
radiance of the Queen's Elm lamp, the horses' flanks and the lofty
driver's apron gleaming with rain. He sprang towards the vehicle; the
whole group sprang. "Full inside!" snapped the conductor inexorably.
Ting, ting! It was gone, glimmering with its enigmatic load into the
distance. George turned again to the wall, humiliated. It seemed wrong
that the conductor should have included him with the knot of common
omnibus-travellers and late workers. The conductor ought to have
differentiated.... He put out a hand. The rain had capriciously ceased!
He departed gaily and triumphantly. He was re-endowed with the magical
The background of his mind was variegated. The incidents of the
tremendous motor-car race from Paris to Berlin, which had finished
nearly a week earlier, still glowed on it. And the fact that King Edward
VII had driven in a car from Pall Mall to Windsor Castle in sixty
minutes was beautifully present. Then, he was slightly worried
concerning the Mediterranean Fleet. He knew nothing about it, but as a
good citizen he suspected in idle moments, like a number of other good
citizens, that all was not quite well with the Mediterranean Fleet. As
for the war, he had only begun to be interested in the war within the
last six months, and already he was sick of it. He knew that the Boers
had just wrecked a British military train, and his attitude towards such
methods of fighting was rather severe and scornful; he did not regard
them as 'war.' However, the apparent permanence of the war was
splendidly compensated by the victory of the brothers Doherty over the
American lawn-tennis champions in the Gentlemen's Doubles at Wimbledon.
Who could have expected the brothers to win after the defeat of R.H. by
Mr. Gore in the Singles? George had most painfully feared that the
Americans would conquer, and their overthrowing by the twin brothers
indicated to George, who took himself for a serious student of affairs,
that Britain was continuing to exist, and that the new national
self-depreciative, yearning for efficiency might possibly be rather
absurd after all.
In the midst of these and similar thoughts, and of innumerable minor
thoughts about himself, in the very centre of his mind and occupying
nearly the whole of it, was the vast thought, the obsession, of his own
potential power and its fulfilment. George's egotism was terrific, and
as right as any other natural phenomenon. He had to get on. Much money
was included in his scheme, but simply as a by-product. He had to be a
great architect, and--equally important--he had to be publicly
recognized as a great architect, and recognition could not come without
money. For him, the entire created universe was the means to his end. He
would not use it unlawfully, but he would use it. He was using it, as
well as he yet knew how, and with an independence that was as complete
as it was unconscious. In regard to matters upon which his instinct had
not suggested a course of action, George was always ready enough to be
taught; indeed his respect for an expert was truly deferential. But when
his instinct had begun to operate he would consult nobody and consider
nobody, being deeply sure that infallible wisdom had been granted to
him. (Nor did experience seem to teach him.) Thus, in the affair of a
London lodging, though he was still two years from his majority and had
no resources save the purse of his stepfather, Edwin Clayhanger, he had
decided to leave the Orgreaves without asking or even informing his
parents. In his next letter home he would no doubt inform them,
casually, of what he meant to do or actually had done, and if objections
followed he would honestly resent them.
A characteristic example of his independence had happened when at the
unripe age of seventeen he left the Five Towns for London. Upon his
mother's marriage to Edwin Clayhanger his own name had been informally
changed for him to Clayhanger. But a few days before the day of
departure he had announced that, as Clayhanger was not his own name and
that he preferred his own name, he should henceforth be known as
'Cannon,' his father's name. He did not invite discussion. Mr.
Clayhanger had thereupon said to him privately and as one man of the
world to another: "But you aren't really entitled to the name Cannon,
sonny." "Why?" "Because your father was what's commonly known as a
bigamist, and his marriage with your mother was not legal. I thought I'd
take this opportunity of telling you. You needn't say anything to your
mother--unless of course you feel you must." To which George had
replied: "No, I won't. But if Cannon was my father's name I think I'll
have it all the same." And he did have it. The bigamy of his father did
not apparently affect him. Upon further inquiry he learnt that his
father might be alive or might be dead, but that if alive he was in
The few words from Mr. Enwright about Chelsea had sufficed to turn
Chelsea into Elysium, Paradise, almost into Paris. No other quarter of
London was inhabitable by a rising architect. As soon as Haim had gone
George had begun to look up Chelsea in the office library, and as Mr.
Enwright happened to be an active member of the Society for the Survey
of the Memorials of Greater London, the library served him well. In an
hour and a half he had absorbed something of the historical topography
of Chelsea. He knew that the Fulham Road upon which he was now walking
was a boundary of Chelsea. He knew that the Queen's Elm public-house had
its name from the tradition that Elizabeth had once sheltered from a
shower beneath an elm tree which stood at that very corner. He knew that
Chelsea had been a 'village of palaces,' and what was the function of
the Thames in the magnificent life of that village. The secret residence
of Turner in Chelsea, under the strange _alias_ of Admiral Booth,
excited George's admiration; he liked the idea of hidden retreats and
splendid, fanciful pseudonyms. But the master-figure of Chelsea for
George was Sir Thomas More. He could see Sir Thomas More walking in his
majestic garden by the river with the King's arm round his neck, and
Holbein close by, and respectful august prelates and a nagging wife in
the background. And he could see Sir Thomas More taking his barge for
the last journey to the Tower, and Sir Thomas More's daughter coming
back in the same barge with her father's head on board. Curious! He
envied Sir Thomas More.
"Darned bad tower for a village of palaces!" he thought, not of the
Tower of London, but of the tower of the Workhouse which he was now
approaching. He thought he could design an incomparably better tower
than that. And he saw himself in the future, the architect of vast
monuments, strolling in a grand garden of his own at evening with other
distinguished and witty persons.
But there were high-sounding names in the history of Chelsea besides
those of More and Turner. Not names of people! Cremorne and Ranelagh!
Cremorne to the west and Ranelagh to the east. The legend of these
vanished resorts of pleasure and vice stirred his longings and his
sense of romantic beauty--especially Ranelagh with its Rotunda. (He
wanted, when the time came, to be finely vicious, as he wanted to be
everything. An architect could not be great without being everything.)
He projected himself into the Rotunda, with its sixty windows, its
countless refreshment-boxes, its huge paintings, and the orchestra in
the middle, and the expensive and naughty crowd walking round and round
and round on the matting, and the muffled footsteps and the swish of
trains on the matting, and the specious smiles and whispers, and the
blare of the band and the smell of the lamps and candles.... Earl's
Court was a poor, tawdry, unsightly thing after that.
When he had passed under the Workhouse tower he came to a side street
which, according to Haim's description of the neighbourhood, ought to
have been Alexandra Grove. The large lamp on the corner, however, gave
no indication, nor in the darkness could any sign be seen on the blind
wall of either of the corner houses in Fulham Road. Doubtless in daytime
the street had a visible label, but the borough authorities evidently
believed that night endowed the stranger with powers of divination.
George turned hesitant down the mysterious gorge, which had two dim
lamps of its own, and which ended in a high wall, whereat could be
descried unattainable trees--possibly the grove of Alexandra. Silence
and a charmed stillness held the gorge, while in Fulham Road not a
hundred yards away omnibuses and an occasional hansom rattled along in
an ordinary world. George soon decided that he was not in Alexandra
Grove, on account of the size of the houses. He could not conceive Mr.
Haim owning one of them. They stood lofty in the gloom, in pairs,
secluded from the pavement by a stucco garden-wall and low bushes. They
were double-fronted, and their doors were at the summits of flights of
blanched steps that showed through the bars of iron gates. They had
three stories above a basement. Still, he looked for No. 8. But just as
the street had no name, so the houses had no numbers. No. 16 alone could
be distinguished; it had figures on its faintly illuminated fanlight. He
walked back, idly counting.
Then, amid the curtained and shuttered facades, he saw, across the road,
a bright beam from a basement. He crossed and peeped through a gate, and
an interior was suddenly revealed to him. Near the window of a room sat
a young woman bending over a table. A gas-jet on a bracket in the wall,
a few inches higher than her head and a foot distant from it, threw a
strong radiance on her face and hair. The luminous living picture,
framed by the window in blackness, instantly entranced him. All the
splendid images of the past faded and were confuted and invalidated and
destroyed by this intense reality so present and so near to him.
(Nevertheless, for a moment he thought of her as the daughter of Sir
Thomas More.) She was drawing. She was drawing with her whole mind and
heart. At intervals, scarcely moving her head, she would glance aside at
a paper to her left on the table.... She seemed to search it, to drag
some secret out of it, and then she would resume her drawing. She was
neither dark nor fair; she was comely, perhaps beautiful; she had
beautiful lips, and her nose, behind the nostrils, joined the cheek in a
lovely contour, like a tiny bulb. Yes, she was superb. But what mastered
him was less her fresh physical charm than the rapt and extreme vitality
of her existing.... He knew from her gestures and the tools on the table
that she could be no amateur. She was a professional. He thought:
Chelsea!... Marvellous place, Chelsea! He ought to have found that out
long ago. He imagined Chelsea full of such pictures--the only true home
of beauty and romance.
Then the impact of a single idea startled his blood. He went hot. He
flushed. He had tingling sensations all down his back, and in his legs
and in his arms. It was as though he had been caught in a dubious
situation. Though he was utterly innocent, he felt as though he had
something to be ashamed of. The idea was: she resembled old Haim,
facially! Ridiculous idea! But she did resemble old Haim, particularly
in the lobal termination of the nose. And in the lips too. And there was
a vague, general resemblance. Absurd! It was a fancy.... He would not
have cared for anybody to be watching him then, to surprise him watching
her. He heard unmistakable footsteps on the pavement. A policeman darkly
approached. Policemen at times can be very apposite. George moved his
gaze and looked with admirable casualness around.
"Officer, is this Alexandra Grove?" (His stepfather had taught him to
address all policemen as 'officer.')
"It is, sir."
"Oh! Well, which is No. 8? There're no numbers."
"You couldn't be much nearer to it, sir," said the policeman dryly, and
pointed to a large number, fairly visible, on the wide gate-post. George
had not inspected the gate-post.
He mounted the steps, and in the thick gloom of the portico fumbled for
the bell and rang it. He was tremendously excited and expectant and
apprehensive and puzzled. He heard rain flatly spitting in big drops on
the steps. He had not noticed till then that it had begun again. The
bell jangled below. The light in the basement went out. He flushed anew.
He thought, trembling: "She's coming to the door herself!"
"It had occurred to me some time ago," said Mr. Haim, "that if ever you
should be wanting rooms I might be able to suit you."
"Really!" George murmured. After having been shown into the room by the
young woman, who had at once disappeared, he was now recovering from the
nervousness of that agitating entry and resuming his normal demeanour of
an experienced and well-balanced man of the world. He felt relieved that
she had gone, and yet he regretted her departure extremely, and hoped
against fear that she would soon return.
"Yes!" said Mr. Haim, as it were triumphantly, like one who had
whispered to himself during long years: "The hour will come." The hour
Mr. Haim was surprising to George. The man seemed much older in his own
parlour than at the office--his hair thinner and greyer, and his face
more wrinkled. But the surprising part of him was that he had a home and
was master in it, and possessed interests other than those of the firm
of Lucas & Enwright. George had never until that day conceived the man
apart from Russell Square. And here he was smoking a cigarette in an
easy-chair and wearing red morocco slippers, and being called 'father'
by a really stunning creature in a thin white blouse and a blue skirt.
The young girl, opening the front door, had said: "Do you want to see
father?" And instantly the words were out George had realized that she
might have said: "_Did_ you want to see father?" ... in the idiom of the
shop-girl or clerk, and that if she had said 'did' he would have been
gravely disappointed and hurt. But she had not. Of course she had not!
Of course she was incapable of such a locution, and it was silly of him
to have thought otherwise, even momentarily. She was an artist. Entirely
different from the blonde and fluffy Mrs. John Orgreave--(and a good
thing too, for Mrs. John with her eternal womanishness had got on his
nerves)--Miss Haim was without doubt just as much a lady, and probably a
jolly sight more cultured, in the true sense. Yet Miss Haim had not in
the least revealed herself to him in the hall as she indicated the
depository for his hat and stick and opened the door of the
sitting-room. She had barely smiled. Indeed she had not smiled. She had
not mentioned the weather. On the other hand, she had not been prim or
repellent. She had revealed nothing of herself. Her one feat had been to
stimulate mightily his curiosity and his imagination concerning
her--rampant enough even before he entered the house!
The house--what he saw of it--suited her and set her off, and, as she
was different from Mrs. John, so was the house different from the
polished, conventional abode of Mrs. John at Bedford Park. To George's
taste it knocked Bedford Park to smithereens. In the parlour, for
instance, an oak chest, an oak settee, an oak gate-table, one tapestried
easy chair, several rush-bottomed chairs, a very small brass fender, a
self-coloured wall-paper of warm green, two or three old engravings in
maple-wood or tarnished gilt frames, several small portraits in
maple-wood frames, brass candlesticks on the mantelpiece and no clock,
self-coloured brown curtains across the windows (two windows opposite
each other at either end of the long room), sundry rugs on the
dark-stained floor, and so on! Not too much furniture, and not too much
symmetry either. An agreeable and original higgledy-piggledyness! The
room was lighted by a fairly large oil-lamp, with a paper shade
hand-painted in a design of cupids--delightful personal design, rough,
sketchy, adorable! She had certainly done it.
George sat on the oak settle, fronting the old man in the easy chair. It
was a hard, smooth oak settle; it had no upholstering nor cushion; but
George liked it.
"May I smoke?" asked George.
"Please do. Please do," said Mr. Haim, who was smoking a cigarette
himself, with courteous hospitality. However, it was a match and not a
cigarette that he offered to George, who opened his own dandiacal case.
"I stayed rather late at the office to-night," said George, as he blew
out those great clouds with which young men demonstrate to the world
that the cigarette is actually lighted. And as Mr. Haim, who was
accustomed to the boastings of articled pupils, made no comment, George
proceeded, lolling on the settle and showing his socks: "You know, I
like Chelsea. I've always had a fancy for it." He was just about to
continue cosmopolitanly: "It's the only part of London that's like
Paris. The people in the King's Road," etc., when fortunately he
remembered that Mr. Haim must have overheard these remarks of Mr.
Enwright, and ceased, rather awkwardly. Whereupon Mr. Haim suggested
that he should see the house, and George said eagerly that he should
like to see the house.
"We've got one bedroom more than we want," Mr. Haim remarked as he led
George to the hall.
"Oh yes!" said George politely.
The hall had a small bracket-lamp, which Mr. Haim unhooked, and then he
opened a door opposite to the door of the room which they had quitted.
"Now this is a bedroom," said he, holding the lamp high.
George was startled. A ground-floor bedroom would have been unthinkable
at Bedford Park. Still, in a flat.... Moreover, the idea had piquancy.
The bedroom was sparsely furnished. Instead of a wardrobe it had a
corner curtained off with cretonne.
"A good-sized room," said Mr. Haim.
"Very," said George. "Two windows, too, like the drawing-room." Then
they went upstairs to the first floor, and saw two more bedrooms, each
with two windows. One of them was Miss Haim's; there was a hat hung on
the looking-glass, and a table with a few books on it. They did not go
to the second floor. The staircase to the second floor was boarded up at
the point where it turned.
"That's all there is," said Mr. Haim on the landing. "The studio people
have the second floor, but they don't use my front door." He spoke the
last words rather defiantly.
"I see," said George untruthfully, for he was mystified. But the mystery
did not trouble him.
There was no bathroom, and this did not trouble him either, though at
Bedford Park he could never have seriously considered a house without a
"You could have your choice of ground floor or first floor," said Mr.
Haim confidentially, still on the landing. He moved the lamp about, and
the shadows moved accordingly on the stairs.
"Oh, I don't mind in the least," George answered. "Whichever would suit
"We could give you breakfast, and use of sitting-room," Mr. Haim
proceeded in a low tone. "But no other meals."
"That would be all right," said George cheerfully. "I often dine in
town. Like that I can get in a bit of extra work at the office, you
"Except on Sundays," Mr. Haim corrected himself. "You'd want your meals
on Sundays, of course. But I expect you're out a good deal, what with
one thing or another."
"Oh, I am!" George concurred.
The place was perfect, and he was determined to establish himself in it.
Nothing could baulk him. A hitch would have desolated him completely.
"I may as well show you the basement while I'm about it," said Mr. Haim.
"Do!" said George ardently.
They descended. The host was very dignified, as invariably at the
office, and his accent never lapsed from the absolute correctness of an
educated Londoner. His deportment gave distinction and safety even to
the precipitous and mean basement stairs, which were of stone worn as by
the knees of pilgrims in a crypt. All kinds of irregular pipes ran about
along the ceiling of the basement; some were covered by ancient layers
of wall-paper and some were not; some were painted yellow, and some were
painted grey, and some were not painted. Mr. Haim exhibited first the
kitchen. George saw a morsel of red amber behind black bars, a white
deal table and a black cat crouched on a corner of the table, a chair,
and a tea-cloth drying over the back thereof. He liked the scene; it
reminded him of the Five Towns, and showed reassuringly--if he needed
reassurance, which he did not--that all houses are the same at heart.
Then Mr. Haim, flashing a lamp-ray on the coal-hole and the area door as
he turned, crossed the stone passage into the other basement room.
"This is our second sitting-room," said Mr. Haim, entering.
There she was at work, rapt, exactly as George had seen her from the
outside. But now he saw the right side of her face instead of the left.
It was wonderful to him that within the space of a few minutes he should
have developed from an absolute stranger to her into an acquaintance of
the house, walking about in it, peering into its recesses, disturbing
its secrets, which were hers. But she remained as mysterious, as
withdrawn and intangible, as ever. And then she shifted round suddenly
on the chair, and her absorbed, intent face softened into a most
beautiful, simple smile--a smile of welcome. An astonishing and
celestial change!... She was not one of those queer girls, as perhaps
she might have been. She was a girl of natural impulses. He smiled back,
"My daughter designs bookbindings," said Mr. Haim. "Happens to be very
busy to-night on something urgent."
He advanced towards her, George following.
"Awfully good!" George murmured enthusiastically, and quite sincerely,
though he was not at all in a condition to judge the design. Strange,
that he should come to the basement of an ordinary stock-size house in
Alexandra Grove to see bookbindings in the making! This was a design for
a boy's book. He had possessed many such books. But it had never
occurred to him that the gay bindings of them were each the result of
individual human thought and labour. He pulled at his cigarette.
There was a sound of pushing and rattling outside.
"What's that?" exclaimed Mr. Haim.
"It's the area door. I bolted it. I dare say it's Mrs. Lobley," said the
Mr. Haim moved sharply.
"Why did you bolt it, Marguerite? No, I'll go myself."
He picked up the lamp, which he had put down, and shuffled quickly out
in his red morocco slippers, closing the door.
Marguerite? Yes, it suited her; and it was among the most romantic of
names. It completed the picture. She now seemed to be listening and
waiting, her attention on the unseen area door. He felt shy and yet
very happy alone with her. Voices were distinctly heard. Who was Mrs.
Lobley? Was Mr. Haim a little annoyed with his daughter, and was
Marguerite exquisitely defiant? Time hung. The situation was slightly
awkward, he thought. And it was obscure, alluring.... He stood there,
below the level of the street, shut in with those beings unknown,
provocative, and full of half-divined implications. And all Chelsea was
around him and all London around Chelsea.
"Father won't be a moment," said the girl. "It's only the charwoman."
"Oh! That's quite all right," he answered effusively, and turning to the
design: "The outlining of that lettering fairly beats me, you know."
"Not really!... I get that from father, of course."
Mr. Haim was famous in the office as a letterer.
She sat idly glancing at her own design, her plump, small hands lying in
the blue lap. George compared her, unspeakably to her advantage, with
the kind, coarse young woman at the chop-house, whom he had asked to
telephone to the Orgreaves for him, and for whom he had been conscious
of a faint penchant.
"I can't colour it by gaslight," said Marguerite Haim. "I shall have to
do that in the morning."
He imagined her at work again early in the morning. Within a week or so
he might be living in this house with this girl. He would be,--watching
her life! Seducing prospect, scarcely credible! He remembered having
heard when he first went to Lucas & Enwright's that old Haim was a
"Do excuse me," said Mr. Haim, urgently apologetic, reappearing.
A quarter of an hour later, George had left the house, having accepted
Mr. Haim's terms without the least argument. In five days he was to be
an inmate of No. 8 Alexandra Grove. The episode presented itself to him
as a vast, romantic adventure, staggering and enchanting. His luck
continued, for the rain-cloud was spent. He got into an Earl's Court
bus. The dimly perceived travellers in it seemed all of them in a new
sense to be romantic and mysterious.... "Yes," he thought, "I did say
good-night to her, but I didn't shake hands."
More than two months later George came into the office in Russell Square
an hour or so after his usual time. He had been to South Kensington
Museum to look up, for professional purposes, some scale drawings of
architectural detail which were required for a restaurant then rising in
Piccadilly under the direction of Lucas & Enwright. In his room Mr.
Everard Lucas was already seated. Mr. Lucas was another articled pupil
of the firm; being a remote cousin of the late senior partner, he had
entered on special terms. Although a year older than George he was less
advanced, for whereas George had passed the Intermediate, Mr. Lucas had
not. But in manly beauty, in stylishness, in mature tact, and especially
in persuasive charm, he could beat George.
"Hallo!" Lucas greeted. "How do you feel? Fit?"
"Fit?" said George enthusiastically "I feel so fit I could push in the
side of a house."
"What did I tell you?" said Lucas.
George rubbed his hand all over Lucas's hair, and Lucas thereupon seized
George's other hand and twisted his arm, and a struggle followed. In
this way they would often lovingly salute each other of a morning. Lucas
had infected George with the craze for physical exercises as a remedy
for all ills and indiscretions, including even late nights and excessive
smoking. The competition between them to excel in the quality of fitness
was acute, and sometimes led to strange challenges. After a little
discussion about springing from the toes, Lucas now accused George's
toes of a lack of muscularity, and upon George denying the charge, he
asserted that George could not hang from the mantelpiece by his toes.
They were both men of the world, capable of great heights of dignity,
figures in an important business, aspirants to a supreme
art and profession. They were at that moment in a beautiful
late-eighteenth-century house of a stately and renowned square, and in a
room whose proportions and ornament admittedly might serve as an
exemplar to the student; and not the least lovely feature of the room
was the high carved mantelpiece. The morning itself was historic, for it
was the very morning upon which, President McKinley having expired,
Theodore Roosevelt ascended the throne and inaugurated a new era.
Nevertheless, such was their peculiar time of life that George, a minute
later, was as a fact hanging by his toes from the mantelpiece, while
Lucas urged him to keep the blood out of his head. George had stood on
his hands on a box and lodged his toes on the mantelpiece, and then
raised his hands--and Lucas had softly pushed the box away. George's
watch was dangling against his flushed cheek.
"Put that box back, you cuckoo!" George exploded chokingly.
Then the door opened and Mr. Enwright appeared. Simultaneously some
shillings slipped out of George's pocket and rolled about the floor. The
hour was Mr. Enwright's customary hour of arrival, but he had no fair
excuse for passing through that room instead of proceeding along the
corridor direct to the principals' room. His aspect, as he gazed at
George's hair and at the revealed sateen back of George's waistcoat, was
unusual. Mr. Enwright commonly entered the office full of an intense and
aggrieved consciousness of his own existence--of his insomnia, of the
reaction upon himself of some client's stupidity, of the necessity of
going out again in order to have his chin lacerated by his favourite and
hated Albanian barber. But now he had actually forgotten himself.
"What _is_ this?" he demanded.
Lucas having quickly restored the box, George subsided dangerously
thereon, and arose in a condition much disarrayed and confused, and
beheld Mr. Enwright with shame.
"I--I was just looking to see if the trap of the chimney was shut," said
George. It was foolish in the extreme, but it was the best he could do,
and after all it was a rather marvellous invention. Lucas sat down and
made no remark.
"You might respect the mantelpiece," said Mr. Enwright bitterly, and
went into the principals' room, where John Orgreave could be heard
dictating letters. George straightened his clothes and picked up his
money, and the two men of the world giggled nervously at each other.
Mr. Haim next disturbed them. The shabby, respectable old man smiled
vaguely, with averted glance.
"I think he's heard the result," said he.
Both men knew that 'he' was Mr. Enwright, and that the 'result' was the
result of the open competition for the L150,000 Law Courts which a proud
provincial city proposed to erect for itself. The whole office had
worked very hard on the drawings for that competition throughout the
summer, while cursing the corporation which had chosen so unusual a date
for sending-in day. Even Lucas had worked. George's ideas for certain
details, upon which he had been engaged on the evening of his
introduction to Mr. Haim's household, had been accepted by Mr. Enwright.
As for Mr. Enwright, though the exigencies of his beard, and his regular
morning habit of inveighing against the profession at great length, and
his inability to decide where he should lunch, generally prevented him
from beginning the day until three o'clock in the afternoon, Mr.
Enwright had given many highly concentrated hours of creative energy to
the design. And Mr. Haim had adorned the sheets with the finest
lettering. The design was held to be very good. The principals knew the
identity of all the other chief competitors and their powers, and they
knew also the idiosyncrasies of the Assessor; and their expert and
impartial opinion was that the Lucas & Enwright design ought to win and
would win. This view, indeed, was widespread in the arcana of the
architectural world. George had gradually grown certain of victory. And
yet, at Mr. Haim's words, his hopes sank horribly away.
"Have we won?" he asked sharply.
"That I can't say, Mr. Cannon," answered Haim.
"Well, then, how do you know he's heard? Has he told you?"
"No," said the factotum mysteriously. "But I think he's heard." And upon
this Mr. Haim slouched off quite calmly. Often he had assisted at the
advent of such vital news in the office--news obtained in advance by the
principals through secret channels--and often the news had been bad. But
the firm's calamities seemed never to affect the smoothness of Mr.
Haim's earthly passage.
The door into the principals' room opened, and Mr. Enwright's head
showed. The gloomy, resenting eyes fixed George for an instant.
"Well, you've lost that competition," said Mr. Enwright, and he stepped
into full view. His unseen partner had ceased to dictate, and the
shorthand-clerk could be heard going out by the other door.
"No!" said George, in a long, outraged murmur. The news seemed
incredible and quite disastrous; and yet at the same time had he not, in
one unvisited corner of his mind, always foreknown it? Suddenly he was
distressed, discouraged, disillusioned about the whole of life. He
thought that Everard Lucas, screwing up a compass, was strangely
unmoved. But Mr. Enwright ignored Lucas.
"Who's got it?" George asked.
"That chap!... Where are _we_?"
"Not in it. Skelting's second. And Grant third. I shouldn't have minded
so much if Grant had got it. There was something to be said for his
scheme. I knew _we_ shouldn't get it. I knew that perfectly well--not
with Corver assessing."
George wondered that his admired principal should thus state the exact
opposite of what he had so often affirmed during the last few weeks.
People were certainly very queer, even the best of them. The perception
of this fact added to his puzzled woe.
"But Whinburn's design is grotesque!" he protested borrowing one of Mr.
"Of course it is."
"Then why does Sir Hugh Corver go and give him the award? Surely he must
"Know!" Mr. Enwright growled, destroying Sir Hugh and his reputation and
his pretensions with one single monosyllable.
"Then why did they make him Assessor--that's what I can't understand."
"It's quite simple," rasped Mr. Enwright. "They made him assessor
because he's got so much work to do it takes him all his time to trot
about from one job to another on his blooming pony. They made him
assessor because his pony's a piebald pony. Couldn't you think of that
for yourself? Or have you been stone deaf in this office for two years?
It stands to reason that a man who's responsible for all the largest
new eyesores in London would impress any corporation. Clever chap,
Corver! Instead of wasting his time in travel and study, he made a
speciality of learning how to talk to committees. And he was always full
of ideas like the piebald pony, ever since I knew him."
"It's that facade that did for us," broke in another voice. John
Orgreave stood behind Mr. Enwright. He spoke easily; he was not ruffled
by the immense disappointment, though the mournful greatness of the
topic had drawn him irresistibly into the discussion. John Orgreave had
grown rather fat and coarse. At one period, in the Five Towns, he had
been George's hero. He was so no longer. George was still fond of him,
but he had torn him down from the pedestal and established Mr. Enwright
in his place. George in his heart now somewhat patronized the placid
Orgreave, regarding him as an excellent person who comprehended naught
that was worth comprehending, and as a husband who was the dupe of his
"You couldn't have any other facade," Mr. Enwright turned on him,
"unless you're absolutely going to ignore the market on the other side
of the Square. Whinburn's facade is an outrage--an outrage. Give me a
cigarette. I must run out and get shaved."
While Mr. Enwright was lighting the cigarette, George reflected in
desolation upon the slow evolving of the firm's design for the Law
Courts. Again and again in the course of the work had he been struck
into a worshipping enthusiasm by the brilliance of Mr. Enwright's
invention and the happy beauty of his ideas. For George there was only
one architect in the world; he was convinced that nobody could possibly
rival Mr. Enwright, and that no Law Courts ever had been conceived equal
to those Law Courts. And he himself had contributed something to the
creation. He had dreamed of the building erected and of being able to
stand in front of some detail of it and say to himself: "That was my
notion, that was." And now the building was destroyed before its birth.
It would never come into existence. It was wasted. And the prospect for
the firm of several years' remunerative and satisfying labour had
vanished. But the ridiculous, canny Whinburn would be profitably
occupied, and his grotesque building would actually arise, and people
would praise it, and it would survive for centuries--at any rate for a
Mr. Enwright did not move.
"It's no use regretting the facade, Orgreave," he said suddenly.
"There's such a thing as self-respect."
"I don't see that self-respect's got much to do with it," Orgreave
("Of course you don't," George thought. "You're a decent sort, but you
don't see, and you never will see. Even Lucas doesn't see. I alone see."
And he felt savage and defiant.)
"Better shove my self-respect away into this cupboard, I suppose!" said
Mr. Enwright, with the most acrid cynicism, and he pulled open one door
of a long, low cupboard whose top formed a table for portfolios, dusty
illustrated books, and other accumulations.
The gesture was dramatic, and none knew it better than Mr. Enwright. The
cupboard was the cupboard which contained the skeleton. It was full of
designs rejected in public competitions. There they lay, piles and piles
of them, the earliest dating from the late seventies. The cupboard was
crammed with the futility of Enwright's genius. It held monuments enough
to make illustrious a score of cities. Lucas & Enwright was a successful
firm. But, confining itself chiefly to large public works, it could not
escape from the competition system; and it had lost in far more
competitions than it had won. It was always, and always would be, at the
mercy of an Assessor. The chances had always been, and always would be,
against the acceptance of its designs, because they had the fatal
quality of originality combined with modest adherence to the classical
tradition. When they conquered, it was by sheer force. George glanced at
the skeleton, and he was afraid. Something was very wrong with
architecture. He agreed with Mr. Enwright's tiresomely reiterated axiom
that it was the Cinderella of professions and the chosen field of
ghastly injustice. He had embraced architecture; he had determined to
follow exactly in the footsteps of Mr. Enwright; he had sworn to
succeed. But could he succeed? Suppose he failed! Yes, his faith
faltered. He was intensely, miserably afraid. He was the most serious
man in Russell Square. Astounding that only a few minutes ago he had
hung triumphantly by his feet from the mantelpiece!
Mr. Enwright kicked-to the door of the cupboard.
"Look here," he said to his partner, "I shan't be back just yet. I have
to go and see Bentley. I'd forgotten it."
Nobody was surprised at this remark. Whenever Mr. Enwright was
inconveniently set back he always went off to visit Bentley, the
architect of the new Roman Catholic Cathedral at Westminster, on the
plea of an urgent appointment.
"_You_ had a look at the cathedral lately?" he demanded of George as he
"No, I haven't," said George, who, by reason of a series of
unaccountable omissions, and of the fullness of his life as an architect
and a man of the world, had never seen the celebrated cathedral at all.
"Well," said Mr. Enwright sarcastically, "better take just a glance at
it--some time--before they've spoilt the thing with decorations. There's
a whole lot of 'em only waiting till Bentley's out of the way to begin
and ruin it."
Before the regular closing hour of the office the two articled pupils
had left and were walking side by side through Bloomsbury. They skirted
the oval garden of Bedford Square, which, lying off the main track to
the northern termini, and with nothing baser in it than a consulate or
so, took precedence in austerity and selectness over Russell Square,
which had consented to receive a grand hotel or 'modern caravanserai'
and a shorthand school. Indeed the aspect of Bedford Square, where the
great institution of the basement and area still flourished in
perfection, and wealthy menials with traditional manners lived sensually
in caves beneath the spacious, calm salons of their employers and
dupes,--the aspect of Bedford Square gave the illusion that evolution
was not, and that Bloomsbury and the whole impressive structure of
British society could never change. Still, from a more dubious
Bloomsbury, demure creatures with inviting, indiscreet eyes were already
traversing the prim flags of Bedford Square on their way to the
evening's hard diplomacy. Mr. Lucas made quiet remarks about their
qualities, but George did not respond.
"Look here, old man," said Lucas, "there's no use in all this gloom. You
might think Lucas & Enwright had never put up a building in their lives.
Just as well to dwell now and then on what they have done instead of on
what they haven't done. We're fairly busy, you know. Besides----"
He spoke seriously, tactfully, with charm, and he had a beautiful voice.
"Quite right! Quite right!" George willingly agreed, swinging his stick
and gazing straight ahead. And he thought: "This chap has got his head
screwed on. He's miles wiser than I am, and he's really nice. I could
never be nice like that."
In a moment they were at the turbulent junction of Tottenham Court Road
and Oxford Street, where crowds of Londoners, deeply unconscious of
their own vulgarity, and of the marvellous distinction of Bedford
Square, and of the moral obligation to harmonize socks with neckties,
were preoccupying themselves with omnibuses and routes, and constituting
the spectacle of London. The high-heeled, demure creatures were lost in
this crowd, and Lucas and George were lost in it.
"Well," said Lucas, halting on the pavement. "You're going down to the
"It'll please the old cock," answered George, anxious to disavow any
higher motive. "You aren't coming?"
Lucas shook his head. "I shall just go and snatch a hasty".... 'Cup of
tea' was the unuttered end of the sentence.
Lucas nodded. Puffin's was a cosy house of sustenance in a half-new
street on the site of the razed slums of St. Giles's. He would not
frequent the orthodox tea-houses, which were all alike and which had
other serious disadvantages. He adventured into the unusual, and could
always demonstrate that what he found was subtly superior to anything
"That affair still on?" George questioned.
"It's not off."
"She's a nice little thing--that I will say."
"It all depends," Lucas replied sternly. "I don't mind telling you she
wasn't so jolly nice on Tuesday."
"Wasn't she?" George raised his eyebrows.
Lucas silently scowled, and his handsomeness vanished for an instant.
"However----" he said.
As George walked alone down Charing Cross Road, he thought: "That girl
will have to look out,"--meaning that in his opinion Lucas was not a man
to be trifled with. Lucas was a wise and an experienced man, and knew
the world. And what he did could not be other than right. This notion
comforted George, who had a small affair of his own, which he had not
yet even mentioned to Lucas. Delicacy as well as diffidence had
prevented him from doing so. It was a very different affair from any of
Lucas's, and he did not want Lucas to misesteem it; neither did he want
Lucas to be under the temptation to regard him as a ninny.
Not the cathedral alone had induced George to leave the office early.
The dissembler had reflected that if he called in a certain conventional
tea-shop near Cambridge Circus at a certain hour he would probably meet
Marguerite Haim. He knew that she had an appointment with one of her
customers, a firm of bookbinders, that afternoon, and that on similar
occasions she had been to the tea-shop. In fact he had already once
deliciously taken tea with her therein. To-day he was disappointed, to
the extent of the tea, for he met her as she was coming out of the shop.
Their greetings were rather punctilious, but beneath superficial
formalities shone the proofs of intimacy. They had had large
opportunities to become intimate, and they had become intimate. The
immediate origin of and excuse for the intimacy was a lampshade. George
had needed a lampshade for his room, and she had offered to paint one.
She submitted sketches. But George also could paint a bit. Hence
discussions, conferences, rival designs, and, lastly, an agreement upon
a composite design. Before long, the lampshade craze increasing in
virulence, they had between them re-lampshaded the entire house. Then
the charming mania expired; but it had done its work. During the summer
holiday George had written twice to Marguerite, and he had thought
pleasurably about her the whole time. He had hoped that she would open
the door for him upon his return, and that when he saw her again he
would at length penetrate the baffling secret of her individuality. She
had opened the door for him, exquisitely, but the secret had not yielded
itself. It was astonishing to George, how that girl could combine the
candours of honest intimacy with a profound reserve.
"Were you going in there for tea?" she asked, looking up at him gravely.
"No," he said. "I don't want any tea. I have to wend my way to the Roman
Catholic Cathedral--you know, the new one, near Victoria. I suppose you
wouldn't care to see it?"
"I should love to," she answered, with ingenuous eagerness. "I think it
might do me good."
A strange phrase, he thought! What did she mean?
"Would you mind walking?" she suggested.
"Let me take that portfolio, then."
So they walked. She had her usual serious expression, as it were full of
the consciousness of duty. It made him think how reliable she would
always be. She held herself straight and independently, and her
appearance was very simple and very trim. He considered it wrong that a
girl with such beautiful lips should have to consult callous
bookbinders and accept whatever they chose to say. To him she was like a
lovely and valiant martyr. The spectacle of her was touching. However,
he could not have dared to hint at these sentiments. He had to pretend
that her exposure to the stresses of the labour-market was quite natural
and right. Always he was careful in his speech with her. When he got to
know people he was apt to be impatient and ruthless; for example, to
John Orgreave and his wife, and to his mother and stepfather, and
sometimes even to Everard Lucas. He would bear them down. But he was
restrained from such freedoms with Enwright, and equally with Marguerite
Haim. She did not intimidate him, but she put him under a spell.
Crossing Piccadilly Circus he had a glimpse of the rising walls and the
scaffolding of the new restaurant. He pointed to the building without a
word. She nodded and smiled.
In the Mall, where the red campanile of the cathedral was first
descried, George began to get excited. And he perceived that Marguerite
sympathetically responded to his excitement. She had never even noticed
the campanile before, and the reason was that the cathedral happened not
to be on the route between Alexandra Grove and her principal customers.
Suddenly, out of Victoria Street, they came up against the vast form of
the Byzantine cathedral. It was hemmed in by puny six-story blocks of
flats, as ancient cathedrals also are hemmed in by the dwellings of
townsfolk. But here, instead of the houses having gathered about the
cathedral, the cathedral had excavated a place for itself amid the
houses. Tier above tier the expensively curtained windows of dark
drawing-rooms and bedrooms inhabited by thousands of the well-to-do
blinked up at the colossal symbol that dwarfed them all. George knew
that he was late. If the watchman's gate was shut for the night he would
look a fool. But his confidence in his magic power successfully to run
risks sustained him in a gallant and assured demeanour. The gate in the
hoarding that screened the west front was open. With a large gesture he
tipped the watchman a shilling, and they passed in like princes. The
transition to the calm and dusty interior was instantaneous and almost
overwhelming. Immense without, the cathedral seemed still more immense
within. On one side of the nave was a steam-engine; on the other some
sort of a mill; and everywhere lay in heaps the wild litter of
construction, among which moved here and there little parties of aproned
pygmies engaged silently and industriously on sub-contracts; the main
army of labourers had gone. The walls rose massively clear out of the
white-powdered confusion into arches and high domes; and the floor of
the choir, and a loftier floor beyond that, also rose clear.
Perspectives ended in shadow and were illimitable, while the afternoon
light through the stone grille of the western windows made luminous
spaces in the gloom.
The sensation of having the mysterious girl at his elbow in that
wonder-striking interior was magnificent.
He murmured, with pride:
"Do you know this place has the widest nave of any cathedral in the
world? It's a much bigger cathedral than St. Paul's. In fact I'm not
sure if it isn't the biggest in England."
"You know," he said again, "in the whole of the nineteenth century only
one cathedral was built in England."
"Which was that?"
"Truro.... And you could put Truro inside this and leave a margin all
round. Mr. Enwright says this is the last cathedral that ever will be
built, outside America."
They gazed, more and more aware of a solemn miracle.
"It's marvellous--marvellous!" he breathed.
After a few moments, glancing at her, a strong impulse to be
confidential mastered him. He was obliged to tell that girl.
"I say, we've lost that competition--for the Law Courts."
He smiled, but the smile had no effect.
"Oh!" She positively started.
He saw that her eyes had moistened, and he looked quickly away, as
though he had seen something that he ought not to have seen. She cared!
She cared a great deal! She was shocked by the misfortune to the firm,
by the injustice to transcendent merit! She knew nothing whatever about
any design in the competition. But it was her religion that the Lucas &
Enwright design was the best, and by far the best. He had implanted the
dogma, and he felt that she was ready to die for it. Mystery dropped
away from her. Her soul stood bare to him. He was so happy and so proud
that the intensity of his feeling dismayed him. But he was enheartened
too, and courage to surmount a thousand failures welled up in him as
from an unimagined spring.
"I wonder who that is?" she said quietly and ordinarily, as if a
terrific event had not happened.
On the highest floor, at the other extremity of the cathedral, in front
of the apse, a figure had appeared in a frock-coat and a silk hat. The
figure stood solitary, gazing around in the dying light.
"By Jove! It's Bentley! It's the architect!"
George literally trembled. He literally gave a sob. The vision of
Bentley within his masterpiece, of Bentley whom Enwright himself
worshipped, was too much for him. Renewed ambition rushed through him in
electric currents. All was not wrong with the world of architecture.
Bentley had succeeded. Bentley, beginning life as an artisan, had
succeeded supremely. And here he stood on the throne of his triumph.
Genius would not be denied. Beauty would conquer despite everything.
What completed the unbearable grandeur of the scene was that Bentley had
cancer of the tongue, and was sentenced to death. Bentley's friends knew
it; the world of architecture knew it; Bentley knew it.... "Shall I tell
her?" George thought. He looked at her; he looked at the vessel which he
had filled with emotion. He could not speak. A highly sensitive decency,
an abhorrence of crudity, restrained him. "No," he decided, "I can't
tell her now. I'll tell her some other time."
With no clear plan as to his dinner he took her back to Alexandra Grove.
The dusk was far advanced. Mounting the steps quickly Marguerite rang
the bell. There was no answer. She pushed up the flap of the
letter-aperture and looked within.
"Have you got your latchkey?" she asked, turning round on George.
"Father's not come home--his hat's not hanging up. He promised me
certain that he would be here at six-thirty at the latest. Otherwise I
should have taken the big key."
She did not show resentment against her father; nor was there impatience
in her voice. But she seemed to be firmly and impassively judging her
father, as his equal, possibly even as somewhat his superior. And George
admired the force of her individuality. It flattered him that a being so
independent and so strong should have been so meltingly responsive to
him in the cathedral.
An adventurous idea occurred to him in a flash and he impulsively
adopted it. His latchkey was in his pocket, but if the house door was
once opened he would lose her--he would have to go forth and seek his
dinner and she would remain in the house; whereas, barred out of the
house, she would be bound to him--they would be thrust together into
exquisite contingencies, into all the deep potentialities of dark
"Dash it!" he said, first fumbling in one waistcoat pocket, and then
ledging the portfolio against a step and fumbling in both waistcoat
pockets simultaneously. "I must have left it in my other clothes."
It is doubtful whether his conscience troubled him. But he had a very
exciting sense of risk and of romance and of rapture, as though he had
done something wonderful and irremediable.
"Ah! Well!" she murmured, instantly acquiescent, and without the least
hesitation descended the steps.
How many girls (he demanded) would or could have made up their minds and
faced the situation like that? Her faculty of decision was simply
masculine! He looked at her in the twilight and she was inimitable,
unparalleled. And yet by virtue of the wet glistening of her eyes in the
cathedral she had somehow become mystically his! He. permitted himself
the suspicion: "Perhaps she guesses that I'm only pretending about the
latchkey." The suspicion which made her an accessory to his crime did
not lower her in his eyes. On the contrary, the enchanting naughtiness
with which it invested her only made her variety more intoxicant and
perfection more perfect. His regret was that the suspicion was not a
Before a word could be said as to the next move, a figure in a grey suit
and silk hat, and both arms filled with packages, passed in front of the
gate and then halted.
"Oh! It's Mr. Buckingham Smith!" exclaimed Marguerite. "Mr. Buckingham
Smith, we're locked out till father comes." She completed the tale of
the mishap, to George's equal surprise and mortification.
Mr. Buckingham Smith, with Mr. Alfred Prince, was tenant of the studio
at the back of No. 8. He raised his hat as well as an occupied arm would
"Come and wait in the studio, then," he suggested bluntly.
"You know Mr. Cannon, don't you?" said Marguerite, embarrassed.
George and Mr. Buckingham Smith had in fact been introduced to one
another weeks earlier in the Grove by Mr. Haim. Thereafter Mr.
Buckingham Smith had, as George imagined, saluted George with a kind of
jealous defiance and mistrust, and the acquaintance had not progressed.
Nor, by the way, had George's dreams been realized of entering deeply
into the artistic life of Chelsea. Chelsea had been no more welcoming
than Mr. Buckingham Smith. But now Mr. Buckingham Smith grew affable and
neighbourly. Behind the man's inevitable insistence that George should
accompany Miss Haim into the studio was a genuine, eager hospitality.
The studio was lofty and large, occupying most of the garden space of
No. 8. Crimson rep curtains, hung on a thick, blackened brass rod,
divided it into two unequal parts. By the wall nearest the house a
staircase ran up to a door high in the gable, which door communicated by
a covered bridge with the second floor of No. 8, where the artists had
bedrooms. The arrangement was a characteristic example of the manner in
which building was added to building in London contrary to the intention
of the original laying-out, and George in his expert capacity wondered
how the plans had been kept within the by-laws of the borough, and by
what chicane the consent of the ground-landlord had been obtained.
Mr. Alfred Prince, whom also George knew slightly, was trimming a huge
oil-lamp which depended by a wire from the scarcely visible apex of the
roof. When at length the natural perversity of the lamp had been
mastered and the metal shade replaced, George got a general view of the
immense and complex disorder of the studio. It was obviously very
dirty--even in the lamplight the dust could be seen in drifts on the
moveless folds of the curtains--it was a pigsty; but it was romantic
with shadowed spaces, and gleams of copper and of the pale arms of the
etching-press, and glimpses of pictures; and the fellow desired a studio
of his own! He was glad, now, that Mr. Buckingham Smith had invited them
in. He had wanted to keep Marguerite Haim to himself; but it was worth
while to visit the studio, and it was especially worth while to watch
her under the illumination of the lamp.
"Lucky we have a clean tablecloth," said Mr. Buckingham Smith, opening
his packages and setting a table. "Brawn, Miss Haim! And beer, Miss
Haim! That is to say, Pilsener. From the only place in Chelsea where you
can get it."
And his packages really did contain brawn and beer (four bottles of the
Pilsener); also bread and a slice of butter. The visitors learnt that
they had happened on a feast, a feast which Mr. Buckingham Smith had
conceived and ordained, a feast to celebrate the triumph of Mr. Alfred
Prince. An etching by Mr. Prince had been bought by Vienna. Mr.
Buckingham Smith did not say that the etching had been bought by any
particular gallery in Vienna. He said 'by Vienna,' giving the idea that
all Vienna, every man, woman, and child in that distant and enlightened
city where etchings were truly understood, had combined for the
possession of a work by Mr. Prince. Mr. Buckingham Smith opined that
soon every gallery in Europe would be purchasing examples of Alfred
Prince. He snatched from a side-table and showed the identical authentic
letter from Vienna to Mr. Alfred Prince, with its official heading,
foreign calligraphy, and stilted English. The letter was very
In George's estimation Mr. Prince did not look the part of an etcher of
continental renown. He was a small, pale man, with a small brown beard,
very shabby, and he was full of small nervous gestures. He had the
innocently-red nose which pertains to indigestion. His trousers bagged
horribly at the knees, and he wore indescribable slippers. He said
little, in an extremely quiet, weak voice. His eyes, however, were
lively and attractive. He was old, probably at least thirty-five. Mr.
Buckingham Smith made a marked contrast to him. Tall, with newish
clothes, a powerful voice and decisive gestures, Mr. Buckingham Smith
dominated, though he was younger than his friend. He tried to please,
and he mingled the grand seigneurial style with the abrupt. It was he
who played both the parlourmaid and the host. He forced Marguerite to
have some brawn, serving her with a vast portion; but he could not force
her to take Pilsener.
"Now, Mr. Cannon," he said, pouring beer into a glass with an up-and-down
motion of the bottle so as to put a sparkling head on the beer.
"No, thank you," said George decidedly. "I won't have beer."
Mr. Buckingham Smith gazed at him challengingly out of his black eyes.
"Oh! But you've got to," he said. It was as if he had said: "I am
generous. I love to be hospitable, but I am not going to have my
hospitality thwarted, and you needn't think it."
George accepted the beer and joined in the toasting of Mr. Alfred
"Old chap!" Mr. Buckingham Smith greeted his chum, and then to George
and Marguerite, informingly and seriously: "One of the best."
It was during the snack that Mr. Buckingham Smith began to display the
etchings of Mr. Alfred Prince, massed in a portfolio. He extolled them
with his mouth half-full of brawn, or between two gulps of Pilsener.
They impressed George deeply--they were so rich and dark and austere.
"Old Princey boy's one of the finest etchers in Europe to-day, if you
ask me," said Mr. Buckingham Smith off-handedly, and with the air of
stating the obvious. And George thought that Mr. Prince was. The
etchings were not signed 'Alfred Prince,' but just 'Prince,' which was
quietly imposing. Everybody agreed that Vienna had chosen the best one.
"It's a dry-point, isn't it?" Marguerite asked, peering into it. George
started. This single remark convinced him that she knew all about
etching, whereas he himself knew nothing. He did not even know exactly
what a dry-point was.
"Mostly," said Mr. Prince. "You can only get that peculiar quality of
line in dry-point."
George perceived that etching was an entrancing subject, and he
determined to learn something about it--everything about it.
Then came the turn of Mr. Buckingham Smith's paintings. These were not
signed 'Smith' as the etchings were signed 'Prince.' By no means! They
were signed 'Buckingham Smith.' George much admired them, though less
than he admired the etchings. They were very striking and ingenious, in
particular the portraits and the still-life subjects. He had to admit
that these fellows to whom he had scarcely given a thought, these
fellows who existed darkly behind the house, were prodigiously
"Of course," said Mr. Buckingham Smith negligently, "you can't get any
idea of them by this light--though," he added warningly, "it's the
finest artificial light going. Better than all your electricity."
There was a pause, and Mr. Prince sighed and said:
"I was thinking of going up to the Promenades to-night, but Buck won't
George took fire at once. "The Glazounov ballet music?"
"Glazounov?" repeated Mr. Prince uncertainly. "No. I rather wanted to
hear the new Elgar."
George was disappointed, for he had derived from Mr. Enwright positive
opinions about the relative importance of Elgar and Glazounov.
"Go often?" he asked.
"No," said Mr. Prince. "I haven't been this season yet, but I'm always
meaning to." He smiled apologetically. "And I thought to-night----"
Despite appearances, he was not indifferent after all to his great
Viennese triumph; he had had some mild notion of his own of celebrating
"I suppose this is what etchings are printed with," said George to Mr.
Buckingham Smith, for the sake of conversation, and he moved towards the
press. The reception given to the wonderful name of Glazounov in that
studio was more than a disappointment for George; he felt obscurely that
it amounted to a snub.
Mr. Buckingham Smith instantly became the urbane and alert showman. He
explained how the pressure was regulated. He pulled the capstan-like
arms of the motive wheel and the blanketed steel bed slid smoothly under
the glittering cylinder. Although George had often been in his
stepfather's printing works he now felt for the first time the
fascination of manual work, of artisanship, in art, and he regretted
that the architect had no such labour. He could indistinctly hear Mr.
Prince talking to Marguerite.
"This is a monotype," said Mr. Buckingham Smith, picking up a dusty
print off the window-sill. "I do one occasionally."
"Did you do this?" asked George, who had no idea what a monotype was and
dared not inquire.
"Yes. They're rather amusing to do. You just use a match or your finger
"It's jolly good," said George. "D'you know, it reminds me a bit of
Of course it was in Paris that he had heard of the great original, the
martyr and saviour of modern painting. Equally of course it was Mr.
Enwright who had inducted him into the esoteric cult of Cezanne, and
magically made him see marvels in what at the first view had struck him
as a wilful and clumsy absurdity.
"Oh!" murmured Buck, stiffening.
"What do you think of Cezanne?"
"Rule it out!" said Buck, with a warning cantankerous inflection, firmly
and almost brutally reproving this conversational delinquency of
George's. "Rule it out, young man! We don't want any of that sort of
mountebanking in England. We know what it's worth."
George was cowed. More, his faith in Cezanne was shaken. He smiled
sheepishly and was angry with himself. Then he heard Mr. Prince saying
calmly and easily to Miss Haim--the little old man could not in fact be
so nervous as he seemed:
"I suppose _you_ wouldn't come with me to the Prom?"
George was staggered and indignant. It was inconceivable, monstrous,
that those two should be on such terms as would warrant Mr. Prince's
astounding proposal. He felt that he simply could not endure them
marching off together for the evening. Her acceptance of the proposal
would be an outrage. He trembled. However, she declined, and he was
lifted from the rack.
"I must really go," she said. "Father's sure to be home by now."
"May I?" demanded Mr. Buckingham Smith, stooping over Marguerite's
portfolio of designs, and glancing round at her for permission to open
it. Already his hand was on the tape.
"On no account!" she cried. "No! No!... Mr. Cannon, please take it from
him!" She was serious.
"Oh! All right! All right!" Mr. Buckingham Smith rose to the erect
After a decent interval George took the portfolio under his arm.
Marguerite was giving thanks for hospitality. They left. George was
singularly uplifted by the fact that she never concealed from him those
designs upon which Mr. Buckingham Smith had not been allowed to gaze.
And, certain contretemps and disappointments notwithstanding, he was
impressed by the entity of the studio. It had made a desirable picture
in his mind: the romantic paraphernalia, the etchings, the canvases, the
lights and shadows, the informality, the warm odours of the lamp and of
the Pilsener, the dazzling white of the tablecloth, the quick, positive
tones of Buckingham Smith, who had always to be convincing not only
others but himself that he was a strong man whose views were
unassailable, the eyes of Buckingham Smith like black holes in his
handsome face, the stylish gestures and coarse petulance of Buckingham
Smith, the shy assurance of little old Prince. He envied the pair. Their
existence had a cloistral quality which appealed to something in him.
They were continually in the studio, morning, afternoon, evening. They
were independent. They had not to go forth to catch omnibuses and
trains, to sit in offices, to utilize the services of clerks, to take
orders, to 'Consider the idiosyncrasies of superiors. They were
self-contained, they were consecrated, and they were free. No open
competitions for them! No struggles with committees and with
contractors! And no waiting for the realization of an idea! They sat
down and worked, and the idea came at once to life, complete, without
the necessity of other human co-operation! They did not sit in front of
a painting or etching and say, as architects had too often to say in
front of their designs: "That is wasted! That will never come into
being." Architecture might be the art of arts, and indeed it was, but
there were terrible drawbacks to it....
And next he was outside in the dark with Marguerite Haim, and new,
intensified sensations thrilled him. She was very marvellous in the
Mr. Haim had not returned.
"Well!" she muttered; and then dreamily: "What a funny little man Mr.
Prince is, isn't he?" She spoke condescendingly.
"Anyhow," said George, who had been respecting Mr. Alfred Prince,
"anyhow, I'm glad you didn't go to the concert with him."
"Why?" she asked, with apparent simplicity. "I adore the Proms. Don't
"Let's go, then," he suggested. "We shan't be very late, and what else
is there for you to do?"
His audacity frightened him. There she stood with him in the porch,
silent, reflective. She would never go. For sundry practical and other
reasons she would refuse. She must refuse.
"I'll go," she said, as if announcing a well-meditated decision. He
could scarcely believe it. This could not be London that he was in.
They deposited the portfolio under the mat in the porch.
When they got into the hall the band was sending forth a tremendous
volume of brilliant exhilarating sound. A vast melody seemed to ride on
waves of brass. The conductor was very excited, and his dark locks shook
with the violence of his gestures as he urged onward the fingers and
arms of the executants flying madly through the maze of the music to a
climax. There were flags; there was a bank of flowers; there was a
fountain; there were the huge crimson-domed lamps that poured down their
radiance; and there was the packed crowd of straw-hatted and
floral-hatted erect figures gazing with upturned, intent faces at the
immense orchestral machine. Then came a final crash, and for an instant
the thin, silvery tinkle of the fountain supervened in an enchanted
hush; and then terrific applause, with yells and thuds above and below
the hand-clapping, filled and inflamed the whole interior. The
conductor, recovering from a collapse, turned round and bowed low with
his hand on his shirt-front; his hair fell over his forehead; he
straightened himself and threw the hair back again, and so he kept on,
time after time casting those plumes to and fro. At last, sated with
homage, he thought of justice, and pointed to the band and smiled with
an unconvincing air of humility, as if saying: "I am naught. Here are
the true heroes." And on the end of his stick he lifted to their feet
eighty men, whose rising drew invigorated shouts. Enthusiasm reigned;
triumph was accomplished. Even when the applause had expired, enthusiasm
still reigned; and every person present had the illusion of a share in
the triumph. It was a great night at the Promenades.
George and Marguerite looked at each other happily. They both were
inspired by the feeling that life was a grand thing, and that they had
reached suddenly one of the summits of existence. George, observing the
excitement in her eyes, thought how wonderful it was that she too should
"What was that piece?" she asked.
"I don't quite know," he said. "There don't appear to be any programmes
about." He wished he had been able to identify the piece, but he was too
content to be ashamed of his ignorance. Moreover, his ignorance was hers
also, and he liked that.
The music resumed. He listened, ready to put himself into the mood of
admiration if it was the Glazounov item. Was it Glazounov? He could not
be certain. It sounded fine. Surely it sounded Russian. Then he had a
glimpse of a programme held by a man standing near, and he peered at it.
"No. 4. Elgar--Sea-Pictures." No. 5 was the Glazounov.
"It's only the Elgar," he said, with careless condescension, perceiving
at once, by the mere virtue of a label, that the music was not fine and
not Russian. He really loved music, but he happened to be at that age,
from which some people never emerge, at which the judgment depends
almost completely on extraneous suggestion.
"Oh!" murmured Marguerite indifferently, responding to his tone.
"Glazounov's next," he said.
"I suppose we couldn't sit down," she suggested.
Yet it was she who had preferred the Promenade to the Grand Circle or
"We'll find something," he said, with his usual assurance. And in the
corridor that surrounded the hemicycle they climbed up on to a narrow
ledge in the wall and sat side by side in perfect luxury, not dreaming
that they were doing anything unusual or undignified. As a fact, they
were not. Other couples were perched on other ledges, and still others
on the cold steam-pipes. A girl with a big face and heavy red lips sat
alone, lounging, her head aslant. She had an open copy of _Home Notes_
in one hand. Elgar had sent the simple creature into an ecstasy, and she
never stirred; probably she did not know anyone named Enwright.
Promenaders promenaded in and out of the corridor, and up and down the
corridor, and nobody troubled to glance twice either at the
heavy-lipped, solitary girl or at the ledged couples.
Through an arched doorway could be seen the orchestra and half the
"This is the best seat in the hall," George observed proudly. Marguerite
smiled at him.
When the "Sea-Pictures" were finished she gave a sigh of appreciation,
having forgotten, it seemed, that persons who had come to admire
Glazounov ought not to relish Elgar. And George, too, reflecting upon
the sensations produced within him by Elgar, was ready to admit that,
though Elgar could of course not be classed with the foreigner, there
might be something to be said for him after all.
"This is just what I needed," she murmured.
"I was very depressed this afternoon," she said.
"Were you?" He had not noticed it.
"Yes. They've cut down my price from a pound to seventeen and six."
'They' were the employing bookbinders, and the price was the fixed price
for a design--side and back.
He was shocked, and he felt guilty. How was it that he had noticed
nothing in her demeanour? He had been full of the misfortune of the
firm, and she had made the misfortune her own, keeping silence about the
grinding harshness of bookbinders. He was an insensible egotist, and
girls were wondrous. At any rate this girl was wondrous. He had an
intense desire to atone for his insensibility and his egotism by
protecting her, spoiling her, soothing her into forgetfulness of her
trouble.... Ah! He understood now what she meant when she had replied to
his suggestion as to visiting the cathedral: "It might do me good."
"How rotten!" he exclaimed, expressing his sympathy by means of disgust.
"Couldn't you tell them to go to the dickens?"
"You have to take what they'll give," she answered. "Especially when
they begin to talk about bad trade and that sort of thing."
"Well, it's absolutely rotten!"
It was not the arbitrary reduction of her earnings that he resented, but
the fact of her victimhood. Scandalous, infamous, that this rare and
delicate creature should be defenceless against commercial brutes!
The Glazounov ballet music, "The Seasons," started. Knowing himself
justified, he surrendered himself to it, to its exoticism, to its
Russianism, to its wilful and disconcerting beauty. And there was no
composer like Glazounov. Beneath the sensory spell of the music, his
memory wandered about through the whole of his life. He recalled days in
his mother's boarding-house at Brighton; musical evenings, at which John
Orgreave was present, at his stepfather's house in the Five Towns; and
in all kinds of scenes at the later home at Ladderedge Hall--scenes in
which his mother again predominated, becoming young again and learning
sports and horsewomanship as a girl might have learnt them.... And they
were all beautiful beneath the music. The music softened; the fountain
was heard; the striking of matches was heard.... Still, all was
beautiful. Then he touched Marguerite's hand as it rested a little
behind her on the ledge. The effect of contact was surprising. With all
his other thoughts he had not ceased to think of the idea of shielding
and enveloping her. But now this idea utterly possessed him. The music
grew louder, and as it were under cover of the music he put his hand
round her hand. It was a venturesome act with such a girl; he was
afraid.... The hand lay acquiescent within his! He tightened the
pressure. The hand lay acquiescent; it accepted. The flashing
realization of her compliance overwhelmed him. He was holding the very
symbol of wild purity, and there was no effort to be free. None
guessed. None could see. They two had the astonishing, the incredible
secret between them. He looked at her profile, taking precautions. No
sign of alarm or disturbance. Her rapt glance was fixed steadily on the
orchestra framed in the arched doorway.... Incredible, the soft, warm
delicacy of the cotton glove!
The applause at the end of the number awoke them. He released her hand.
She slipped neatly down from the ledge.
"I think I ought to be going back home.... Father ..." she murmured. She
met his eyes; but his embarrassed eyes would not meet hers.
"Certainly!" he agreed quickly, though they had been in the hall little
more than half an hour. He would have agreed to any suggestion from her.
It seemed to him that the least he could do at that moment was to fulfil
unquestioningly her slightest wish. Then she looked away, and he saw
that a deep blush gradually spread over her lovely face. This was the
supreme impressive phenomenon. Before the blush he was devotional.
They walked down Regent Street almost in silence, enjoying
simultaneously the silence and solitude of the curving thoroughfare and
the memory of the bright, crowded, triumphant scene which they had left.
At Piccadilly Circus George inquired for the new open motor-buses which
had just begun to run between the Circus and Putney, passing the
Redcliffe Arms. Already, within a year, the time was historically
distant when a policeman had refused to allow the automobile of a Member
of Parliament to enter Palace Yard, on the ground that there was no
precedent for such a desecration. The new motor-buses, however, did not
run at night. Human daring had limits, and it was reported that at least
one motor-driver, succumbing to the awful nervous strain of guiding
these fast expresses through the traffic of the West End, had been taken
to the lunatic asylum. George called a hansom, of which there were
dozens idling about. Marguerite seemed tacitly to object to this act as
the germ of extravagance; but it was the only classic thing to do, and
he did it.
The hansom rolled rapidly and smoothly along upon that well-established
novelty, india-rubber tyres. Bits of the jingling harness oscillated
regularly from side to side. At intervals the whip-thong dragged gently
across the horse's back, and the horse lifted and shook its head. The
shallow and narrow interior of the hansom was constructed with
exactitude to hold two. Neither occupant could move in any direction,
and neither desired to move. The splendidly lighted avenues, of which
every detail could be discerned as by day, flowed evenly past the
"I've never been in a hansom before," said Marguerite timidly--because
the situation was so dismaying in its enchantment.
He, from the height of two years of hansom-using, was touched,
delighted, even impressed. The staggering fact increased her virginal
charm and its protectiveness. He thought upon the simplicity of her
existence. Of course she had never been in a hansom! Hansoms were
obviously outside her scheme. He said nothing, but he sought for and
found her hand beneath the apron. She did not resist. He reflected "Can
she resist? She cannot." Her hand was in a living swoon. Her hand was
his; it was admittedly his. She could never deny it, now. He touched the
button of the glove, and undid it. Then, moving her passive hand, he
brought both his to it, and with infinitely delicate and considerate
gestures he slowly drew off the glove, and he held her hand ungloved.
She did not stir nor speak. Nothing so marvellous as her exquisite and
confiding stillness had ever happened.... The hansom turned into
Alexandra Grove, and when it stopped he pushed the glove into her hand,
which closed on it. As they descended the cabman, accustomed to peer
down on loves pure and impure, gave them a beneficent look.
"He's not come in," said Marguerite, glancing through the flap of the
front door. She was exceedingly self-conscious, but beneath her
self-consciousness could be noticed an indignant accusation against old
Haim. She had rung the bell and knocked.
"Are you sure? Can you see the hat-stand?"
"I can see it enough for that."
"Look here," George suggested, with false lightness, "I expect I could
get in through my window." His room was on the ground floor, and not
much agility was needed to clamber up to its ledge from the level of the
area. He might have searched his pockets again and discovered his
latchkey, but he would not. Sooner than admit a deception he would have
remained at the door with her all night.
"Think you could?"
"Yes. I could slide the window-catch."
He jumped down the steps and showed her how he could climb. In two
minutes he was opening the front door to her from the inside. She moved
towards him in the gloom.
"Oh! My portfolio!" She stopped, and bent down to the mat.
Then she busily lighted the little hall-lamp with his matches, and
hurried down, taking the matches, to the kitchen. After a few moments
George followed her; he was obliged to follow her. She had removed her
coat; it lay on the sole chair. The hat and blouse which she wore seemed
very vivid in the kitchen--vestiges of past glorious episodes in
concert-halls and hansoms. She had lighted the kitchen-lamp and was
standing apparently idle. The alarum-clock on the black mantelpiece
ticked noisily. The cat sat indifferently on the corner of the clean,
bare table. George hesitated in the doorway. He was extremely excited,
because the tremendous fact of what he had done and what she had
permitted, with all the implications, had to be explicitly acknowledged
between them. Of course it had to be acknowledged! They were both fully
aware of the thing, she as well as he, but spoken words must
authenticate its existence as only spoken words could.
She said, beginning sternly and finishing with a peculiar smile:
"I do think this business of father and Mrs. Lobley is going rather
And George had a sudden new sense of the purely feminine adroitness of
women. In those words she had clearly conceded that their relations were
utterly changed. Never before had she made even the slightest, most
distant reference to the monstrous household actuality, unadmitted and
yet patent, of the wooing of Mrs. Lobley the charwoman by her father,
the widower of her mother. If Mr. Haim stayed away from home of an
evening, Mrs. Lobley was the siren who deflected him from the straight
domestic path. She knew it; George surmised it; the whole street had its
suspicions. But hitherto Marguerite had given no sign. She now created
George the confidant of her resentment. And her smile was not an
earnest of some indulgence for her father--her smile was for George
He went boldly up to her, put his arms round her, and kissed her. She
did not kiss. But she allowed herself to be kissed, and she let her body
loose in his embrace. She looked at him with her eyes nearly upon his,
and her eyes glittered with a mysterious burning; he knew that she was
content. That she should be content, that it should please her to let
him have the unimaginable experience of holding that thrilled and
thrilling body close to his, seemed to him to be a marvellous piece of
sheer luck and overwhelming good fortune. She was so sensuous and yet so
serious. Her gaze stimulated not only love but conscience. In him
ambition was superlatively vigorous. Nevertheless he felt then as though
he had never really known ambition till that moment. He thought of the
new century and of a new life. He perceived the childishness and folly
of his favourite idea that an artist ought to pass through a phase of
Don Juanism. He knew that the task of satisfying the lofty and exacting
and unique girl would be immense, and that he could fulfil it, but on
the one condition that it monopolized his powers. Thus he was both
modest and proud, anxious and divinely elated. His mind was the scene of
innumerable impulses and sensations over which floated the banner of the
male who has won an impassioned allegiance.
"Don't let's tell anyone yet," she murmured.
"I mean for a long time," she insisted.
"No, we won't," he agreed, and added scornfully: "They'd only say we're
The notion of secrecy was an enchanting notion.
She cut magic cake and poured out magic milk. And they ate and drank
together, for they were hungry. And at this point the cat began to show
an interest in their doings.
And after they were both in their beds, but not after they were asleep,
Mr. Haim, by the clicking of a latchkey in a lock, reminded them of
something which they had practically forgotten--his disordered
George entered Alexandra Grove very early the next evening, having dined
inadequately and swiftly so that he might reach the neighbourhood of
Marguerite at the first moment justifiable. He would have omitted dinner
and trusted to Marguerite's kitchen, only that, in view of the secrecy
resolved upon, appearances had to be preserved. The secrecy in itself
was delicious, but even the short experiences of the morning had shown
both of them how extremely difficult it would be for two people who were
everything to each other to behave as though they were nothing to each
other. George hoped, however, that Mr. Haim would again be absent, and
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