The Secret Places of the Heart
H. G. Wells
Part 4 out of 5
even fuller exposition than the carved Bible history that
goes round the chapter house at Salisbury. It presented the
universe, said Sir Richmond, as a complete crystal globe. It
explained everything in life in a simple and natural manner,
hope, heaven, devil and despair. Generations had lived and
died mentally within that crystal globe, convinced that it
was all and complete.
"And now," said Miss Grammont, "we are in limitless space and
time. The crystal globe is broken."
"And?" said Belinda amazingly--for she had been silent for
some time, "the goldfish are on the floor, V.V. Free to flop
about. Are they any happier?"
It was one of those sudden rhetorical triumphs that are best
left alone. "I trow not," said Belinda, giving the last touch
After dinner Sir Richmond and Miss Grammont walked round the
cathedral and along by the moat of the bishop's palace, and
Miss Seyffert stayed in the hotel to send off postcards to
her friends, a duty she had neglected for some days. The
evening was warm and still and the moon was approaching its
full and very bright. Insensibly the soft afterglow passed
At first the two companions talked very little. Sir Richmond
was well content with this tacit friendliness and Miss
Grammont was preoccupied because she was very strongly moved
to tell him things about herself that hitherto she had told
to no one. It was not merely that she wanted to tell him
these things but also that for reasons she did not put as yet
very clearly to herself she thought they were things he ought
to know. She talked of herself at first in general terms.
"Life comes on anyone with a rush, childhood seems lasting
for ever and then suddenly one tears into life," she said. It
was even more so for women than it was for men. You are shown
life, a crowded vast spectacle full of what seems to be
intensely interesting activities and endless delightful and
frightful and tragic possibilities, and you have hardly had
time to look at it before you are called upon to make
decisions. And there is something in your blood that urges
you to decisive acts. Your mind, your reason resists. "Give
me time," it says. "They clamour at you with treats, crowds,
shows, theatres, all sorts of things; lovers buzz at you,
each trying to fix you part of his life when you are trying
to get clear to live a little of your own." Her father had
had one merit at any rate. He had been jealous of her lovers
and very ready to interfere.
"I wanted a lover to love," she said. "Every girl of course
wants that. I wanted to be tremendously excited. . . . And at
the same time I dreaded the enormous interference. . . .
"I wasn't temperamentally a cold girl. Men interested and
excited me, but there were a lot of men about and they
clashed with each other. Perhaps way down in some out of the
way place I should have fallen in love quite easily with the
one man who came along. But no man fixed his image. After a
year or so I think I began to lose the power which is natural
to a young girl of falling very easily into love. I became
critical of the youths and men who were attracted to me and I
became analytical about myself. . . .
"I suppose it is because you and I are going to part so soon
that I can speak so freely to you. . . . But there are things
about myself that I have never had out even with myself. I
can talk to myself in you--"
She paused baffled. "I know exactly," said Sir Richmond.
"In my composition I perceive there have always been two
ruling strains. I was a spoilt child at home, a rather
reserved girl at school, keen on my dignity. I liked respect.
I didn't give myself away. I suppose one would call that
personal pride. Anyhow it was that streak made me value the
position of being a rich married woman in New York. That was
why I became engaged to Lake. He seemed to be as good a man
as there was about. He said he adored me and wanted me to
crown his life. He wasn't ill-looking or ill-mannered. The
second main streak in my nature wouldn't however fit in with
She stopped short.
"The second streak, " said Sir Richmond.
"Oh!--Love of beauty, love of romance. I want to give things
their proper names; I don't want to pretend to you. . . . It
was more or less than that. . . . It was--imaginative
sensuousness. Why should I pretend it wasn't in me? I believe
that streak is in all women."
"I believe so too. In all properly constituted women."
"I tried to devote that streak to Lake," she said. "I did my
best for him. But Lake was much too much of a gentleman or an
idealist about women, or what you will, to know his business
as a lover. And that side of me fell in love, the rest of me
protesting, with a man named Caston. It was a notorious
affair. Everybody in New York couples my name with Caston.
Except when my father is about. His jealousy has blasted an
area of silence--in that matter--all round him. He will not
know of that story. And they dare not tell him. I should pity
anyone who tried to tell it him."
"What sort of man was this Caston?"
Miss Grammont seemed to consider. She did not look at Sir
Richmond; she kept her profile to him.
"He was," she said deliberately, "a very rotten sort of man."
She spoke like one resolved to be exact and judicial. "I
believe I always knew he wasn't right. But he was very
handsome. And ten years younger than Lake. And nobody else
seemed to be all right, so I swallowed that. He was an
artist, a painter. Perhaps you know his work." Sir Richmond
shook his head. "He could make American business men look
like characters out of the Three Musketeers, they said, and
he was beginning to be popular. He made love to me. In
exactly the way Lake didn't. If I shut my eyes to one or two
things, it was delightful. I liked it. But my father would
have stood a painter as my husband almost as cheerfully as he
would a man of colour. I made a fool of myself, as people
say, about Caston. Well--when the war came, he talked in a
way that irritated me. He talked like an East Side Annunzio,
about art and war. It made me furious to know it was all talk
and that he didn't mean business. . . . I made him go."
She paused for a moment. "He hated to go."
"Then I relented. Or I missed him and I wanted to be made
love to. Or I really wanted to go on my own account. I
forget. I forget my motives altogether now. That early war
time was a queer time for everyone. A kind of wildness got
into the blood. . . . I threw over Lake. All the time things
had been going on in New York I had still been engaged to
Lake. I went to France. I did good work. I did do good work.
And also things were possible that would have seemed
fantastic in America. You know something of the war-time
atmosphere. There was death everywhere and people snatched at
gratifications. Caston made 'To-morrow we die' his text. We
contrived three days in Paris together--not very cleverly.
All sorts of people know about it. . . . We went very far."
She stopped short. "Well?" said Sir Richmond.
"He did die. . . ."
Another long pause. "They told me Caston had been killed. But
someone hinted--or I guessed--that there was more in it than
an ordinary casualty.
"Nobody, I think, realizes that I know. This is the first
time I have ever confessed that I do know. He was--shot. He
was shot for cowardice."
"That might happen to any man," said Sir Richmond presently.
"No man is a hero all round the twenty-four hours. Perhaps he
was caught by circumstances, unprepared. He may have been
taken by surprise."
"It was the most calculated, cold-blooded cowardice
imaginable. He let three other men go on and get killed. . ."
"No. It is no good your inventing excuses for a man you know
nothing about. It was vile, contemptible cowardice and
meanness. It fitted in with a score of ugly little things I
remembered. It explained them all. I know the evidence and
the judgment against him were strictly just and true, because
they were exactly in character. . . . And that, you see, was
my man. That was the lover I had chosen. That was the man to
whom I had given myself with both hands."
Her soft unhurrying voice halted for a time, and then resumed
in the same even tones of careful statement. "I wasn't
disgusted, not even with myself. About him I was chiefly
sorry, intensely sorry, because I had made him come out of a
life that suited and protected him, to the war. About myself,
I was stunned and perplexed. I had the clearest realization
that what you and I have been calling the bright little
personal life had broken off short and was spoilt and over
and done with. I felt as though it was my body they had shot.
And there I was, with fifty years of life left in me and
nothing particular to do with them."
"That was just the prelude to life, said Sir Richmond.
"It didn't seem so at the time. I felt I had to got hold of
something or go to pieces. I couldn't turn to religion. I had
no religion. And Duty? What is Duty? I set myself to that. I
had a kind of revelation one night. 'Either I find out what
all this world is about, I said, or I perish.' I have lost
myself and I must forget myself by getting hold of something
bigger than myself. And becoming that. That's why I have been
making a sort of historical pilgrimage. . . . That's my
story, Sir Richmond. That's my education. . . . Somehow
though your troubles are different, it seems to me that my
little muddle makes me understand how it is with you. What
you've got, this idea of a scientific ordering of the world,
is what I, in my younger, less experienced way, have been
feeling my way towards. I want to join on. I want to got hold
of this idea of a great fuel control in the world and of a
still greater economic and educational control of which it is
a part. I want to make that idea a part of myself. Rather I
want to make myself a part of it. When you talk of it I
believe in it altogether."
"And I believe in it, when I talk of it to you."
Sir Richmond was stirred very deeply by Miss Grammont's
confidences. His dispute with Dr. Martineau was present in
his mind, so that he did not want to make love to her. But he
was extremely anxious to express his vivid sense of the value
of her friendship. And while he hesitated over this difficult
and unfamiliar task she began to talk again of herself, and
in such a way as to give a new turn to Sir Richmond's
"Perhaps I ought to tell you a little more about myself," she
said; "now that I have told you so much. I did a thing that
still puzzles me. I was filled with a sense of hopeless
disaster in France and I suppose I had some sort of desperate
idea of saving something out of the situation. . . . I
renewed my correspondence with Gunter Lake. He made the
suggestion I knew he would make, and I renewed our
"To go back to wealth and dignity in New York?"
"But you don't love him?"
"That's always been plain to me. But what I didn't realize,
until I had given my promise over again, was that I dislike
"You hadn't realized that before?"
"I hadn't thought about him sufficiently. But now I had to
think about him a lot. The other affair had given me an idea
perhaps of what it means to be married to a man. And here I
am drifting back to him. The horrible thing about him is the
steady ENVELOPING way in which he has always come at me.
Without fellowship. Without any community of ideas. Ready to
make the most extraordinary bargains. So long as he can in
any way fix me and get me. What does it mean? What is there
behind those watching, soliciting eyes of his? I don't in the
least love him, and this desire and service and all the rest
of it he offers me--it's not love. It's not even such love as
Caston gave me. It's a game he plays with his imagination."
She had released a flood of new ideas in Sir Richmond's mind.
"This is illuminating," he said. "You dislike Lake acutely.
You always have disliked him."
"I suppose I have. But it's only now I admit it to myself."
"Yes. And you might, for example, have married him in New
York before the war."
"It came very near to that."
"And then probably you wouldn't have discovered you disliked
him. You wouldn't have admitted it to yourself."
"I suppose I shouldn't. I suppose I should have tried to
believe I loved him."
"Women do this sort of thing. Odd! I never realized it
before. And there are endless wives suppressing an acute
dislike. My wife does. I see now quite clearly that she
detests me. Reasonably enough. From her angle I'm entirely
detestable. But she won't admit it, won't know of it. She
never will. To the end of my life, always, she will keep that
detestation unconfessed. She puts a face on the matter. We
both do. And this affair of yours. . . . Have you thought how
unjust it is to Lake?"
"Not nearly so much as I might have done."
"It is unfair to him. Atrociously unfair. He's not my sort of
man, perhaps, but it will hurt him cruelly according to the
peculiar laws of his being. He seems to me a crawling sort of
lover with an immense self-conceit at the back of his
"He has," she endorsed.
"He backs himself to crawl--until he crawls triumphantly
right over you . . . . I don't like to think of the dream he
has . . . . I take it he will lose. Is it fair to go into
this game with him?"
"In the interests of Lake," she said, smiling softly at Sir
Richmond in the moonlight. "But you are perfectly right."
"And suppose he doesn't lose!"
Sir Richmond found himself uttering sentiments.
"There is only one decent way in which a civilized man and a
civilized woman may approach one another. Passionate desire
is not enough. What is called love is not enough. Pledges,
rational considerations, all these things are worthless. All
these things are compatible with hate. The primary essential
is friendship, clear understanding, absolute confidence. Then
within that condition, in that elect relationship, love is
permissible, mating, marriage or no marriage, as you will--
all things are permissible. . . ."
Came a long pause between them.
"Dear old cathedral," said Miss Grammont, a little
irrelevantly. She had an air of having concluded something
that to Sir Richmond seemed scarcely to have begun. She stood
looking at the great dark facade edged with moonlight for
some moments, and then turned towards the hotel, which showed
a pink-lit window.
"I wonder," she said, "if Belinda is still up, And what she
will think when I tell her of the final extinction of Mr.
Lake. I think she rather looked forward to being the intimate
friend, secrets and everything, of Mrs. Gunter Lake."
Sir Richmond woke up at dawn and he woke out of an
extraordinary dream. He was saying to Miss Grammont:
"There is no other marriage than the marriage of true minds.
There is no other marriage than the marriage of true minds."
He saw her as he had seen her the evening before, light and
cool, coming towards him in the moonlight from the hotel. But
also in the inconsistent way of dreams he was very close to
her kind, faintly smiling face, and his eyes were wet with
tears and he was kissing her hand. "My dear wife and mate,"
he was saying, and suddenly he was kissing her cool lips.
He woke up and stared at his dream, which faded out only very
slowly before the fresh sun rise upon the red tiles and tree
boughs outside the open window, and before the first stir and
clamour of the birds.
He felt like a court in which some overwhelmingly
revolutionary piece of evidence had been tendered. All the
elaborate defence had broken down at one blow. He sat up on
the edge of his bed, facing the new fact.
"This is monstrous and ridiculous," he said, "and Martineau
judged me exactly. I am in love with her. . . . I am head
over heels in love with her. I have never been so much in
love or so truly in love with anyone before."
That was the dawn of a long day of tension for Sir Richmond
and Miss Grammont. Because each was now vividly aware of
being in love with the other and so neither was able to see
how things were with the other. They were afraid of each
other. A restraint had come upon them both, a restraint that
was greatly enhanced by their sense of Belinda, acutely
observant, ostentatiously tactful and self-effacing, and
prepared at the slightest encouragement to be overwhelmingly
romantic and sympathetic. Their talk waned, and was revived
to an artificial activity and waned again. The historical
interest had evaporated from the west of England and left
only an urgent and embarrassing present.
But the loveliness of the weather did not fail, and the whole
day was set in Severn landscapes. They first saw the great
river like a sea with the Welsh mountains hanging in the sky
behind as they came over the Mendip crest above Shipham. They
saw it again as they crossed the hill before Clifton Bridge,
and so they continued, climbing to hill crests for views at
Alveston and near Dursley, and so to Gloucester and the
lowest bridge and thence back down stream again through fat
meadow lands at first and much apple-blossom and then over
gentle hills through wide, pale Nownham and Lidney and
Alvington and Woolaston to old Chepstow and its brown castle,
always with the widening estuary to the left of them and its
foaming shoals and shining sand banks. From Chepstow they
turned back north along the steep Wye gorge to Tintern, and
there at the snug little Beaufort Arms with its prim lawn and
flower garden they ended the day's journey.
Tintern Abbey they thought a poor graceless mass of ruin down
beside the river, and it was fenced about jealously and
locked up from their invasion. After dinner Sir Richmond and
Miss Grammont went for a walk in the mingled twilight and
moonlight up the hill towards Chepstow. Both of them were
absurdly and nervously pressing to Belinda to come with them,
but she was far too wise to take this sudden desire for her
company seriously. Her dinner shoes, she said, were too thin.
Perhaps she would change and come out a little later. "Yes,
come later," said Miss Grammont and led the way to the door.
They passed through the garden. "I think we go up the hill? "
said Sir Richmond.
"Yes," she agreed, "up the hill."
Followed a silence.
Sir Richmond made an effort, but after some artificial and
disconnected talk about Tintern Abbey, concerning, which she
had no history ready, and then, still lamer, about whether
Monmouthshire is in England or Wales, silence fell again. The
silence lengthened, assumed a significance, a dignity that no
common words might break.
Then Sir Richmond spoke. "I love, you, he said, "with all my
Her soft voice came back after a stillness. "I love you," she
said, "with all myself."
"I had long ceased to hope, " said Sir -Richmond, that I
should ever find a friend . . . a lover . . . perfect
companionship . . . . "
They went on walking side by side, without touching each
other or turning to each other.
"All the things I wanted to think I believe have come alive
in me," she said. . . .
"Cool and sweet," said Sir Richmond. "Such happiness as I
could not have imagined."
The light of a silent bicycle appeared above them up the hill
and swept down upon them, lit their two still faces brightly
"My dear," she whispered in the darkness between the high
They stopped short and stood quite still, trembling. He saw
her face, dim and tender, looking up to his.
Then he took her in his arms and kissed her lips as he had
desired in his dream. . . .
When they returned to the inn Belinda Seyffert offered flat
explanations of why she had not followed them, and enlarged
upon the moonlight effect of the Abbey ruins from the inn
lawn. But the scared congratulations in her eyes betrayed her
recognition that momentous things had happened between the
CHAPTER THE EIGHTH
Sir Richmond had talked in the moonlight and shadows of
having found such happiness as he could not have imagined.
But when he awoke in the night that happiness had evaporated.
He awoke suddenly out of this love dream that had lasted now
for nearly four days and he awoke in a mood of astonishment
He had thought that when he parted from Dr. Martineau he had
parted also from that process of self-exploration that they
had started together, but now he awakened to find it
established and in full activity in his mind. Something or
someone, a sort of etherealized Martineau-Hardy, an
abstracted intellectual conscience, was demanding what he
thought he was doing with Miss Grammont and whither he
thought he was taking her, how he proposed to reconcile the
close relationship with her that he was now embarked upon
with, in the first place, his work upon and engagements with
the Fuel Commission, and, in the second place, Martin Leeds.
Curiously enough Lady Hardy didn't come into the case at all.
He had done his utmost to keep Martin Leeds out of his head
throughout the development of this affair. Now in an unruly
and determined way that was extremely characteristic of her
she seemed resolute to break in.
She appeared as an advocate, without affection for her client
but without any hostility, of the claims of Miss Grammont to
be let alone. The elaborate pretence that Sir Richmond had
maintained to himself that he had not made love to Miss
Grammont, that their mutual attraction had been irresistible
and had achieved its end in spite of their resolute and
complete detachment, collapsed and vanished from his mind. He
admitted to himself that driven by a kind of instinctive
necessity he had led their conversation step by step to a
realization and declaration of love, and that it did not
exonerate him in the least that Miss Grammont had been quite
ready and willing to help him and meet him half way. She
wanted love as a woman does, more than a man does, and he had
steadily presented himself as a man free to love, able to
love and loving.
"She wanted a man to love, she wanted perfected fellowship,
and you have made her that tremendous promise. That was
implicit in your embrace. And how can you keep that promise?"
It was as if Martin spoke; it was her voice; it was the very
quality of her thought.
"You belong to this work of yours, which must needs be
interrupted or abandoned if you take her. Whatever is not
mortgaged to your work is mortgaged to me. For the strange
thing in all this is that you and I love one another--and
have no power to do otherwise. In spite of all this.
"You have nothing to give her but stolen goods," said the
shadow of Martin. "You have nothing to give anyone personally
any more. . . .
"Think of the love that she desires and think of this love
that you can give. . . .
"Is there any new thing in you that you can give her that you
haven't given me? You and I know each other very well;
perhaps I know YOU too well. Haven't you loved me as much as
you can love anyone? Think of all that there has been between
us that you are ready now, eager now to set aside and forget
as though it had never been. For four days you have kept me
out of your mind in order to worship her. Yet you have known
I was there--for all you would not know. No one else will
ever be so intimate with you as I am. We have quarrelled
together, wept together, jested happily and jested bitterly.
You have spared me not at all. Pitiless and cruel you have
been to me. You have reckoned up all my faults against me as
though they were sins. You have treated me at times
unlovingly--never was lover treated so unlovingly as you have
sometimes treated me. And yet I have your love--as no other
woman can ever have it. Even now when you are wildly in love
with this girl's freshness and boldness and cleverness I come
into your mind by right and necessity."
"She is different," argued Sir Richmond.
"But you are the same," said the shadow of Martin with
Martin's unsparing return. "Your love has never been a
steadfast thing. It comes and goes like the wind. You are an
extravagantly imperfect lover. But I have learnt to accept
you, as people accept the English weather. . . . Never in all
your life have you loved, wholly, fully, steadfastly--as
people deserve to be loved--,not your mother nor your father,
not your wife nor your children, nor me, nor our child, nor
any living thing. Pleasant to all of us at times--at times
bitterly disappointing. You do not even love this work of
yours steadfastly, this work to which you sacrifice us all in
turn. You do not love enough. That is why you have these
moods and changes, that is why you have these lassitudes. So
it is you are made. . . .
"And that is why you must not take this brave young life, so
much simpler and braver than your own, and exalt it--as you
can do--and then fail it, as you will do. . . . "
Sir Richmond's mind and body lay very still for a time.
"Should I fail her? . . ."
For a time Martin Leeds passed from the foreground of his
He was astonished to think how planless, instinctive and
unforeseeing his treatment of Miss Grammont had been. It had
been just a blind drive to get hold of her and possess
her. . . .
Suddenly his passion for her became active in its defence
"But is there such a thing as a perfect love? Is YOURS a
perfect love, my dear Martin, with its insatiable jealousy,
its ruthless criticism? Has the world ever seen a perfect
lover yet? Isn't it our imperfection that brings us together
in a common need? Is Miss Grammont, after all, likely to get
a more perfect love in all her life than this poor love of
mine? And isn't it good for her that she should love?"
"Perfect love cherishes. Perfect love foregoes."
Sir Richmond found his mind wandering far away from the
immediate question. "Perfect love," the phrase was his point
of departure. Was it true that he could not love passionately
and completely? Was that fundamentally what was the matter
with him? Was that perhaps what was the matter with the whole
world of mankind? It had not yet come to that power of loving
which makes action full and simple and direct and
unhesitating. Man upon his planet has not grown up to love,
is still an eager, egotistical and fluctuating adolescent. He
lacks the courage to love and the wisdom to love. Love is
here. But it comes and goes, it is mixed with greeds and
jealousies and cowardice and cowardly reservations. One hears
it only in snatches and single notes. It is like something
tuning up before the Music begins. . . . The metaphor
altogether ran away with Sir Richmond's half dreaming mind.
Some day perhaps all life would go to music.
Love was music and power. If he had loved. enough he need
never have drifted away from his wife. Love would have
created love, would have tolerated and taught and inspired.
Where there is perfect love there is neither greed nor
impatience. He would have done his work calmly. He would have
won his way with his Committee instead of fighting and
quarrelling with it perpetually. . . .
"Flimsy creatures," he whispered. "Uncertain health.
Uncertain strength. A will that comes and goes. Moods of
baseness. Moods of utter beastliness. . . . Love like April
sunshine. April? . .."
He dozed and dreamt for a time of spring passing into a high
summer sunshine, into a continuing music, of love. He thought
of a world like some great playhouse in which players and
orchestra and audience all co-operate in a noble production
without dissent or conflict. He thought he was the savage of
thirty thousand years ago dreaming of the great world that is
still perhaps thirty thousand years ahead. His effort to see
more of that coming world than indistinct and cloudy
pinnacles and to hear more than a vague music, dissolved his
dream and left him awake again and wrestling with the problem
of Miss Grammont.
The shadow of Martin stood over him, inexorable. He had to
release Miss Grammont from the adventure into which he had
drawn her. This decision stood out stern-and inevitable in
his mind with no conceivable alternative.
As he looked at the task before him he began to realize its
difficulty. He was profoundly in love with her, he was still
only learning how deeply, and she was not going to play a
merely passive part in this affair. She was perhaps as deeply
in love with him. . . .
He could not bring himself to the idea of confessions and
disavowals. He could not bear to think of her
disillusionment. He felt that he owed it to her not to
disillusion her, to spoil things for her in that fashion. "To
turn into something mean and ugly after she has believed in
me. . . . It would be like playing a practical joke upon her.
It would be like taking her into my arms and suddenly making
a grimace at her. . . . It would scar her with a second
humiliation. . . ."
Should he take her on to Bath or Exeter to-morrow and
contrive by some sudden arrival of telegrams that he had to
go from her suddenly? But a mere sudden parting would not end
things between them now unless he went off abruptly without
explanations or any arrangements for further communications.
At the outset of this escapade there had been a tacit but
evident assumption that it was to end when she joined her
father at Falmouth. It was with an effect of discovery that
Sir Richmond realized that now it could not end in that
fashion, that with the whisper of love and the touching of
lips, something had been started that would go on, that would
develop. To break off now and go away without a word would
leave a raw and torn end, would leave her perplexed and
perhaps even more humiliated with an aching mystery to
distress her. "Why did he go? Was it something I said?--
something he found out or imagined? "
Parting had disappeared as a possible solution of this
problem. She and he had got into each other's lives to stay:
the real problem was the terms upon which they were to stay
in each other's lives. Close association had brought them to
the point of being, in the completest sense, lovers; that
could not be; and the real problem was the transmutation of
their relationship to some form compatible with his honour
and her happiness. A word, an idea, from some recent reading
floated into Sir Richmond's head. "Sublimate," he whispered.
"We have to sublimate this affair. We have to put this
relationship upon a Higher Plane.
His mind stopped short at that.
Presently his voice sounded out of the depths of his heart.
"God! How I loathe the Higher Plane! . . . .
"God has put me into this Higher Plane business like some
poor little kid who has to wear irons on its legs.
"I WANT her. . . . Do you hear, Martin? I want her. "
As if by a lightning flash he saw his car with himself and
Miss Grammont--Miss Seyffert had probably fallen out--
traversing Europe and Asia in headlong flight. To a sunlit
beach in the South Seas. . . .
His thoughts presently resumed as though these unmannerly and
fantastic interruptions had not occurred.
"We have to carry the whole affair on to a Higher Plane--and
keep it there. We two love one another--that has to be
admitted now. (I ought never to have touched her. I ought
never to have thought of touching her.) But we two are too
high, our aims and work and obligations are too high for any
ordinary love making. That sort of thing would embarrass us,
would spoil everything.
"Spoil everything," he repeated, rather like a small boy who
learns an unpalatable lesson.
For a time Sir Richmond, exhausted by moral effort, lay
staring at the darkness.
"It has to be done. I believe I can carry her through with it
if I can carry myself. She's a finer thing than I am. . . .
On the whole I am glad it's only one more day. Belinda will
be about. . . . Afterwards we can write to each other. . . .
If we can get over the next day it will be all right. Then we
can write about fuel and politics--and there won't be her
voice and her presence. We shall really SUBLIMATE. . . .
First class idea-- sublimate! . . . . And I will go back to
dear old Martin who's all alone there and miserable; I'll be
kind to her and play my part and tell her her Carbuncle scar
rather becomes her. . . . And in a little while I shall be
altogether in love with her again.
"Queer what a brute I've always been to Martin."
"Queer that Martin can come in a dream to me and take the
upper hand with me.
"Queer that NOW--I love Martin."
He thought still more profoundly. "By the time the Committee
meets again I shall have been tremendously refreshed."
He repeated:--"Put things on the Higher Plane and keep them
there. Then go back to Martin. And so to the work. That's
it. . . ."
Nothing so pacifies the mind as a clear-cut purpose. Sir
Richmond fell asleep during the fourth recapitulation of this
When Miss Grammont appeared at breakfast Sir Richmond saw at
once that she too had had a restless night. When she came
into the little long breakfast room of the inn with its brown
screens and its neat white tables it seemed to him that the
Miss Grammont of his nocturnal speculations, the beautiful
young lady who had to be protected and managed and loved
unselfishly, vanished like some exorcised intruder. Instead
was this real dear young woman, who had been completely
forgotten during the reign of her simulacrum and who now
returned completely remembered, familiar, friendly, intimate.
She touched his hand for a moment, she met his eyes with the
shadow of a smile in her own.
"Oranges!" said Belinda from the table by the window.
She had been preparing them, poor Trans-atlantic exile, after
the fashion in which grape fruits are prepared upon liners
and in the civilized world of the west. "He's getting us tea
spoons," said Belinda, as they sat down.
"This is realler England than ever," she said. "I've been up
an hour. I found a little path down to the river bank. It's
the greenest morning world and full of wild flowers. Look at
"That's lady's smock," said Sir Richmond. "It's not really a
flower; it's a quotation from Shakespeare."
"And there are cowslips!"
"CUCKOO BUDS OF YELLOW HUE. DO PAINT THE MEADOWS WITH
DELIGHT. All the English flowers come out of Shakespeare. I
don't know what we did before his time."
The waiter arrived with the tea spoons for the oranges.
Belinda, having distributed these, resumed her discourse of
enthusiasm for England. She asked a score of questions about
Gloucester and Chepstow, the Severn and the Romans and the
Welsh, and did not wait for the answers. She did not want
answers; she talked to keep things going. Her talk masked a
certain constraint that came upon her companions after the
first morning's greetings were over.
Sir Richmond as he had planned upstairs produced two Michelin
maps. "To-day," he said," we will run back to Bath--from
which it will be easy for you to train to Falmouth. We will
go by Monmouth and then turn back through the Forest of Dean,
where you will get glimpses of primitive coal mines still
worked by two men and a boy with a windlass and a pail.
Perhaps we will go through Cirencester. I don't know. Perhaps
it is better to go straight to Bath. In the very heart of
Bath you will find yourselves in just the same world you
visited at Pompeii. Bath is Pompeii overlaid by Jane Austen's
He paused for a moment. "We can wire to your agents from here
before we start and we can pick up their reply at Gloucester
or Nailsworth or even Bath itself. So that if your father is
nearer than we suppose--But I think to-morrow afternoon will
be soon enough for Falmouth, anyhow."
He stopped interrogatively.
Miss Grammont's face was white. "That will do very well," she
They started, but presently they came to high banks that
showed such masses of bluebells, ragged Robin, great
stitchwort and the like that Belinda was not to be
restrained. She clamoured to stop the car and go up the bank
and pick her hands full, and so they drew up by the roadside
and Sir Richmond and Miss Grammont sat down near the car
while Belinda carried her enthusiastic onslaught on the
flowers up the steep bank and presently out of earshot.
The two lovers said unheeded things about the flowers to each
other and then fell silent. Then Miss Grammont turned her
head and seemed deliberately to measure her companion's
distance. Evidently she judged her out of earshot.
"Well, said Miss Grammont in her soft even voice. "We love
one another. Is that so still?"
"I could not love you more."
"It wasn't a dream?"
"And to-morrow we part?"
He looked her in the eyes. "I have been thinking of that all
night," he said at last.
"And you think--?"
"That we must part. Just as we arranged it when was it? Three
days or three ages ago? There is nothing else in the world to
do except for us to go our ways. . . . I love you. That means
for a woman--It means that I want to be with you. But that is
impossible. . . . Don't doubt whether I love you because I
say--impossible. . . . "
Sir Richmond, faced with his own nocturnal decision, was now
moved to oppose it flatly. "Nothing that one can do is
She glanced again at Belinda and bent down towards him."
Suppose," she said, "you got back into that car with me;
suppose that instead of going on as we have planned, you took
me away. How much of us would go?"
"You would go," said Sir Richmond, "and my heart."
"And this work of yours? And your honour? For the honour of a
man in this New Age of yours will be first of all in the work
he does for the world. And you will leave your work to be
just a lover. And the work that I might do because of my
father's wealth; all that would vanish too. We should leave
all of that, all of our usefulness, all that much of
ourselves. But what has made me love you? Just your breadth
of vision, just the sense that you mattered. What has made
you love me? Just that I have understood the dream of your
work. All that we should have to leave behind. We should
specialize, in our own scandal. We should run away just for
one thing. To think, by sharing the oldest, simplest, dearest
indulgences in the world, that we had got each other. When
really we had lost each other, lost all that mattered. . . ."
Her face was flushed with the earnestness of her conviction.
Her eyes were bright with tears. "Don't think I don't love
you. It's so hard to say all this. Somehow it seems like
going back on something--something supreme. Our instincts
have got us. . . . Don't think I'd hold myself from you,
dear. I'd give myself to you with both hands. I love you--
When a woman loves--I at any rate--she loves altogether. But
this thing--I am convinced--cannot be. I must go my own way,
the way I have to go. My father is the man, obstinate, more
than half a savage. For me--I know it--he has the jealousy of
ten husbands. If you take me--If our secret becomes
manifest--If you are to take me and keep me, then his life
and your life will become wholly this Feud, nothing but this
Feud. You have to fight him anyhow--that is why I of all
people must keep out of the quarrel. For him, it would be an
immense excitement, full of the possibility of fierce
satisfactions; for you, whether you won me or lost me, it
would be utter waste and ruin."
She paused and then went on:--"And for me too, waste and
ruin. I shall be a woman fought over. I shall be fought over
as dogs fight over a bone. I shall sink back to the level of
Helen of Troy. I shall cease to be a free citizen, a
responsible free person. Whether you win me or lose me it
will be waste and ruin for us both. Your Fuel Commission will
go to pieces, all the wide, enduring work you have set me
dreaming about will go the same way. We shall just be another
romantic story. . . . No!"
Sir Richmond sat still, a little like a sullen child, she
thought. "I hate all this," he said slowly. "I didn't think
of your father before, and now I think of him it sets me
bristling for a fight. It makes all this harder to give up.
And yet, do you know, in the night I was thinking, I was
coming to conclusions, very like yours. For quite other
reasons. I thought we ought not to--We have to keep friends
anyhow and hear of each other?"
"That goes without saying."
"I thought we ought not to go on to be lovers in any way that
Would affect you, touch you too closely. . . . I was sorry--I
had kissed you."
"Not I. No. Don't be sorry for that. I am glad we have fallen
in love, more glad than I have been of anything else in my
life, and glad we have spoken plainly. . . . Though we have
to part. And--"
Her whisper came close to him. "For a whole day yet, all
round the clock twice, you and I have one another."
Miss Seyffert began speaking as soon as she was well within
"I don't know the name of a single one of these flowers" she
cried, "except the bluebells. Look at this great handful I've
gotten! Springtime in Italy doesn't compare with it, not for
Because Belinda Seyffert was in the dicky behind them with
her alert interest in their emotions all too thinly and
obviously veiled, it seemed more convenient to Sir Richmond
and Miss Grammont to talk not of themselves but of Man and
Woman and of that New Age according to the prophet Martineau,
which Sir Richmond had partly described and mainly invented
and ascribed to his departed friend. They talked
anthropologically, philosophically, speculatively, with an
absurd pretence of detachment, they sat side by side in the
little car, scarcely glancing at one another, but side by
side and touching each other, and all the while they were
filled with tenderness and love and hunger for one another.
In the course of a day or so they had touched on nearly every
phase in the growth of Man and Woman from that remote and
brutish past which has left its traces in human bones mingled
with the bones of hyaenas and cave bears beneath the
stalagmites of Wookey Hole near Wells. In those nearly
forgotten days the mind of man and woman had been no more
than an evanescent succession of monstrous and infantile
imaginations. That brief journey in the west country had lit
up phase after phase in the long teaching and discipline of
man as he had developed depth of memory and fixity of purpose
out of these raw beginnings, through the dreaming childhood
of Avebury and Stonehenge and the crude boyhood of ancient
wars and massacres. Sir Richmond recalled those phases now,
and how, as they had followed one another, man's idea of
woman and woman's idea of man had changed with them, until
nowadays in the minds of civilized men brute desire and
possession and a limitless jealousy had become almost
completely overlaid by the desire for fellowship and a free
mutual loyalty. "Overlaid," he said. "The older passions are
still there like the fires in an engine." He invented a
saying for Dr. Martineau that the Man in us to-day was still
the old man of Palaeolithic times, with his will, his wrath
against the universe increased rather than diminished. If to-
day he ceases to crack his brother's bones and rape and bully
his womenkind, it is because he has grown up to a greater
game and means to crack this world and feed upon its marrow
and wrench their secrets from the stars.
And furthermore it would seem that the prophet Martineau had
declared that in this New Age that was presently to dawn for
mankind, jealousy was to be disciplined even as we had
disciplined lust and anger; instead of ruling our law it was
to be ruled by law and custom. No longer were the jealousy of
strange peoples, the jealousy of ownership and the jealousy
of sex to determine the framework of human life. There was to
be one peace and law throughout the world, one economic
scheme and a universal freedom for men and women to possess
and give themselves.
"And how many generations yet must there be before we reach
that Utopia?" Miss Grammont asked.
"I wouldn't put it at a very great distance."
"But think of all the confusions of the world!"
"Confusions merely. The world is just a muddle of states and
religions and theories and stupidities. There are great lumps
of disorderly strength in it, but as a whole it is a weak
world. It goes on by habit. There's no great idea in
possession and the only possible great idea is this one. The
New Age may be nearer than we dare to suppose."
"If I could believe that!"
"There are many more people think as we do than you suppose.
Are you and I such very strange and wonderful and exceptional
"No. I don't think so."
"And yet the New World is already completely established in
our hearts. What has been done in our minds can be done in
most minds. In a little while the muddled angry mind of Man
upon his Planet will grow clear and it will be this idea that
will have made it clear. And then life will be very different
for everyone. That tyranny of disorder which oppresses every
life on earth now will be lifted. There will be less and less
insecurity, less and less irrational injustice. It will be a
better instructed and a better behaved world. We shall live
at our ease, not perpetually anxious, not resentful and
angry. And that will alter all the rules of love. Then we
shall think more of the loveliness of other people because it
will no longer be necessary to think so much of the dangers
and weaknesses and pitifulliesses of other people. We shall
not have to think of those who depend upon us for happiness
and selfrespect. We shall not have to choose between a
wasteful fight for a personal end or the surrender of our
"Heart's desire," she whispered. "Am I indeed your heart's
Sir Richmond sank his head and voice in response.
"You are the best of all things. And I have to let you go."
Sir Richmond suddenly remembered Miss Seyffert and half
turned his face towards her. Her forehead was just visible
over the hood of the open coupe. She appeared to be
intelligently intent upon the scenery. Then he broke out
suddenly into a tirade against the world. "But I am bored by
this jostling unreasonable world. At the bottom of my heart I
am bitterly resentful to-day. This is a world of fools and
brutes in which we live, a world of idiotic traditions,
imbecile limitations, cowardice, habit, greed and mean
cruelty. It is a slum of a world, a congested district, an
insanitary jumble of souls and bodies. Every good thing,
every sweet desire is thwarted--every one. I have to lead the
life of a slum missionary, a sanitary inspector, an underpaid
teacher. I am bored. Oh God! how I am bored! I am bored by
our laws and customs. I am bored by our rotten empire and its
empty monarchy. I am bored by its parades and its flags and
its sham enthusiasms. I am bored by London and its life, by
its smart life and by its servile life alike. I am bored by
theatres and by books and by every sort of thing that people
call pleasure. I am bored by the brag of people and the
claims of people and the feelings of people. Damn people! I
am bored by profiteers and by the snatching they call
business enterprise. Damn every business man! I am bored by
politics and the universal mismanagement of everything. I am
bored by France, by AngloSaxondom, by German self-pity, by
Bolshevik fanaticism. I am bored by these fools' squabbles
that devastate the world. I am bored by Ireland, Orange and
Green. Curse the Irish--north and south together! Lord! how I
HATE the Irish from Carson to the last Sinn Feiner! And I am
bored by India and by Egypt. I am bored by Poland and by
Islam. I am bored by anyone who professes to have rights.
Damn their rights! Curse their rights! I am bored to death by
this year and by last year and by the prospect of next year.
I am bored--I am horribly bored--by my work. I am bored by
every sort of renunciation. I want to live with the woman I
love and I want to work within the limits of my capacity.
Curse all Hullo! Damn his eyes!--Steady, ah! The spark! . . .
Good! No skid."
He had come round a corner at five and twenty miles an hour
and had stopped his spark and pulled up neatly within a yard
of the fore-wheel of a waggon that was turning in the road so
as to block the way completely.
"That almost had me. . . .
"And now you feel better?" said Miss Grammont.
"Ever so much," said Sir Richmond and chuckled.
The waggoner cleared the road and the car started up again.
For a minute or so neither spoke.
"You ought to be smacked hard for that outbreak,--my dear,"
said Miss Grammont.
"I ought--MY dear. I have no right to be ill-tempered. We two
are among the supremely fortunate ones of our time. We have
no excuse for misbehaviour. Got nothing to grumble at. Always
I am lucky. THAT--with the waggon--was a very near thing. God
"We two," he went on, after a pause, "are among the most
fortunate people alive. We are both rich and easily rich.
That gives us freedoms few people have. We have a vision of
the whole world in which we live. It's in a mess--but that is
by the way. The mass of mankind never gets enough education
to have even a glimpse of the world as a whole. They never
get a chance to get the hang of it. It is really possible for
us to do things that will matter in the world. All our time
is our own; all our abilities we are free to use. Most
people, most intelligent and educated people, are caught in
cages of pecuniary necessity; they are tied to tasks they
can't leave, they are driven and compelled and limited by
circumstances they can never master. But we, if we have
tasks, have tasks of our own choosing. We may not like the
world, but anyhow we are free to do our best to alter it. If
I were a clerk in Hoxton and you were a city typist, then we
MIGHT swear. "
"It was you who swore," smiled Miss Grammont.
"It's the thought of that clerk in Hoxton and that city
typist who really keep me at my work. Any smacking ought to
come from them. I couldn't do less than I do in the face of
their helplessness. Nevertheless a day will come--through
what we do and what we refrain from doing when there will be
no bound and limited clerks in Hoxton and no captive typists
in the city. And nobody at all to consider."
"According to the prophet Martineau," said Miss Grammont.
"And then you and I must contrive to be born again. "
"Heighho!" cried Miss Grammont. "A thousand years ahead! When
fathers are civilized. When all these phanton people who
intervene on your side--no! I don't want to know anything
about them, but I know of them by instinct--when they also
"Then you and I can have things out with each other--
THOROUGHLY," said Sir Richmond, with a surprising ferocity in
his voice, charging the little hill before him as though he
charged at Time.
They had to wait at Nailsworth for a telegram from Mr.
Grammont's agents; they lunched there and drove on to Bath in
the afternoon. They came into the town through unattractive
and unworthy outskirts, and only realized the charm of the
place after they had garaged their car at the Pulteney Hotel
and walked back over the Pulteney Bridge to see the Avon with
the Pump Room and the Roman Baths. The Pulteney they found
hung with pictures and adorned with sculpture to an
astonishing extent; some former proprietor must have had a
mania for replicas and the place is eventful with white
marble fauns and sylphs and lions and Caesars and Queen
Victorias and packed like an exhibition with memories of
Rome, Florence, Milan, Paris, the National Gallery and the
Royal Academy, amidst which splendours a competent staff
administers modern comforts with an old-fashioned civility.
But round and about the Pulteney one has still the scenery of
Georgian England, the white, faintly classical terraces and
houses of the days of Fielding, Smollett, Fanny Burney and
Jane Austen, the graceful bridge with the bright little shops
full of "presents from Bath"; the Pump Room with its water
drinkers and a fine array of the original Bath chairs.
Down below the Pump Room our travellers explored the memories
of the days when the world was Latin from York to the Tigris,
and the Corinthian capital flourished like a weed from Bath
to Baalbek. And they considered a little doubtfully the
seventeenth century statue of Bladud, who is said to have
been healed by the Bath waters and to have founded the city
in the days when Stonehenge still flourished, eight hundred
years before the Romans came.
In the afternoon Miss Seyffert came with Sir Richmond and
Miss Grammont and was very enthusiastic about everything, but
in the evening after dinner it was clear that her role was to
remain in the hotel. Sir Richmond and Miss Grammont went out
into the moonlit gloaming; they crossed the bridge again and
followed the road beside the river towards the old Abbey
Church, that Lantern of the West. Away in some sunken gardens
ahead of them a band was playing, and a cluster of little
lights about the bandstand showed a crowd of people down
below dancing on the grass. These little lights, these
bobbing black heads and the lilting music, this little
inflamed Centre of throbbing sounds and ruddy illumination,
made the dome of the moonlit world about it seem very vast
and cool and silent. Our visitors began to realize that Bath
could be very beautiful. They went to the parapet above the
river and stood there, leaning over it elbow to elbow and
smoking cigarettes. Miss Grammont was moved to declare the
Pulteney Bridge, with its noble arch, its effect of height
over the swirling river, and the cluster of houses above,
more beautiful than the Ponte Vecchio at Florence. Down below
was a man in waders with a fishing-rod going to and fro along
the foaming weir, and a couple of boys paddled a boat against
the rush of the water lower down the stream.
"Dear England!" said Miss Grammont, surveying this gracious
spectacle. "How full it is of homely and lovely and kindly
"It is the home we come from."
"You belong to it still."
"No more than you do. I belong to a big overworking modern
place called London which stretches its tentacles all over
the world. I am as much a home-coming tourist as you are.
Most of this western country I am seeing for the first time."
She said nothing for a space. "I've not a word to say to-
night," she said. "I'm just full of a sort of animal
satisfaction in being close to you. . . . And in being with
you among lovely things. . . . Somewhere--Before we part to-
night--. . . . "
"Yes?" he said to her pause, and his face came very near to
I want you to kiss me. "
"Yes," he said awkwardly, glancing over his shoulder, acutely
aware of the promenaders passing close to them.
"It's a promise?"
Very timidly and guiltily his hand sought hers beside it and
gripped it and pressed it. "My dear!" he whispered, tritest
and most unavoidable of expressions. It was not very like Man
and Woman loving upon their Planet; it was much more like the
shy endearments of the shop boys and work girls who made the
darkling populous about them with their silent interchanges.
"There are a thousand things I want to talk about to you,"
she said. "After we have parted to-morrow I shall begin to
think of them. But now--every rational thing seems dissolved
in this moonlight. . . ."
Presently she made an effort to restore the intellectual
dignity of their relationship.
"I suppose I ought to be more concerned tonight about the
work I have to do in the world and anxious for you to tell me
this and that, but indeed I am not concerned at all about it.
I seem to have it in outline all perfectly clear. I mean to
play a man's part in the world just as my father wants me to
do. I mean to win his confidence and work with him--like a
partner. Then some day I shall be a power in the world of
fuel. And at the same time I must watch and read and think
and learn how to be the servant of the world. . . . We two
have to live like trusted servants who have been made
guardians of a helpless minor. We have to put things in order
and keep them in order against the time when Man--Man whom we
call in America the Common Man--can take hold of his world--"
"And release his servants," said Sir Richmond.
"All that is perfectly clear in my mind. That is what I am
going to live for; that is what I have to do."
She stopped abruptly. "All that is about as interesting to-
night--in comparison with the touch of your dear fingers--as
next month's railway time-table."
But later she found a topic that could hold their attention
for a time.
"We have never said a word about religion," she said.
Sir Richmond paused for a moment. "I am a godless man," he
said. "The stars and space and time overwhelm my imagination.
I cannot imagine anything above or beyond them."
She thought that over. "But there are divine things," she
"YOU are divine. . . . I'm not talking lovers' nonsense," he
hastened to add. "I mean that there is something about human
beings--not just the everyday stuff of them, but something
that appears intermittently--as though a light shone through
something translucent. If I believe in any divinity at all it
is a divinity revealed to me by other people-- And even by
myself in my own heart.
"I'm never surprised at the badness of human beings," said
Sir Richmond; "seeing how they have come about and what they
are; but I have been surprised time after time by fine
things . . . . Often in people I disliked or thought little
of . . . . I can understand that I find you full of divine
quality, because I am in love with you and all alive to you.
Necessarily I keep on discovering loveliness in you. But I
have seen divine things in dear old Martineau, for example. A
vain man, fussy, timid--and yet filled with a passion for
truth, ready to make great sacrifices and to toil
tremendously for that. And in those men I am always cursing,
my Committee, it is astonishing at times to discover what
streaks of goodness even the really bad men can show. . . .
But one can't make use of just anyone's divinity. I can see
the divinity in Martineau but it leaves me cold. He tired me
and bored me. . . . But I live on you. It's only through love
that the God can reach over from one human being to another.
All real love is a divine thing, a reassurance, a release of
courage. It is wonderful enough that we should take food and
drink and turn them into imagination, invention and creative
energy; it is still more wonderful that we should take an
animal urging and turn it into a light to discover beauty and
an impulse towards the utmost achievements of which we are
capable. All love is a sacrament and all lovers are priests
to each other. You and I--"
Sir Richmond broke off abruptly. "I spent three days trying
to tell this to Dr. Martineau. But he wasn't the priest I had
to confess to and the words wouldn't come. I can confess it
to you readily enough . . . ."
"I cannot tell," said Miss Grammont, "whether this is the
last wisdom in life or moonshine. I cannot tell whether I am
thinking or feeling; but the noise of the water going over
the weir below is like the stir in my heart. And I am
swimming in love and happiness. Am I awake or am I dreaming
you, and are we dreaming one another? Hold my hand--hold it
hard and tight. I'm trembling with love for you and all the
world. . . . If I say more I shall be weeping."
For a long time they stood side by side saying not a word to
Presently the band down below and the dancing ceased and the
little lights were extinguished. The silent moon seemed to
grow brighter and larger and the whisper of the waters
louder. A crowd of young people flowed out of the gardens and
passed by on their way home. Sir Richmond and Miss Grammont
strolled through the dispersing crowd and over the Toll
Bridge and went exploring down a little staircase that went
down from the end of the bridge to the dark river, and then
came back to their old position at the parapet looking upon
the weir and the Pulteney Bridge. The gardens that had been
so gay were already dark and silent as they returned, and the
streets echoed emptily to the few people who were still
"It's the most beautiful bridge in the world," said Miss
Grammont, and gave him her hand again.
Some deep-toned clock close by proclaimed the hour eleven.
The silence healed again.
"Well?" said Sir Richmond.
"Well?" said Miss Grammont smiling very faintly.
"I suppose we must go out of all this beauty now, back to the
lights of the hotel and the watchful eyes of your dragon. "
"She has not been a very exacting dragon so far, has she?"
"She is a miracle of tact."
"She does not really watch. But she is curious--and very
"She is wonderful." . . . .
"That man is still fishing," said Miss Grammont.
For a time she peered down at the dark figure wading in the
foam below as though it was the only thing of interest in the
world. Then she turned to Sir Richmond.
"I would trust Belinda with my life, she said. "And anyhow-
now--we need not worry about Belinda."
At the breakfast table it was Belinda who was the most
nervous of the three, the most moved, the most disposed to
throw a sacramental air over their last meal together. Her
companions had passed beyond the idea of separation; it was
as if they now cherished a secret satisfaction at the high
dignity of their parting. Belinda in some way perceived they
had become different. They were no longer tremulous lovers;
they seemed sure of one another and with a new pride in their
bearing. It would have pleased Belinda better, seeing how
soon they were to be torn apart, if they had not made quite
such excellent breakfasts. She even suspected them of having
slept well. Yet yesterday they had been deeply stirred. They
had stayed out late last night, so late that she had not
heard them come in. Perhaps then they had passed the climax
of their emotions. Sir Richmond, she learnt, was to take the
party to Exeter, where there would be a train for Falmouth a
little after two. If they started from Bath about nine that
would give them an ample margin of time in which to deal with
a puncture or any such misadventure.
They crested the Mendips above Shepton Mallet, ran through
Tilchester and Ilminster into the lovely hill country about
Up-Ottery and so to Honiton and the broad level road to
Exeter. Sir Richmond and Miss Grammont were in a state of
happy gravity; they sat contentedly side by side, talking
very little. They had already made their arrangements for
writing to one another. There was to be no stream of love-
letters or protestations. That might prove a mutual torment.
Their love was to be implicit. They were to write at
intervals about political matters and their common interests,
and to keep each other informed of their movements about the
"We shall be working together," she said, speaking suddenly
out of a train of thought she had been following, "we shall
be closer together than many a couple who have never spent a
day apart for twenty years."
Then presently she said: "In the New Age all lovers will have
to be accustomed to meeting and parting. We women will not be
tied very much by domestic needs. Unless we see fit to have
children. We shall be going about our business like men; we
shall have world-wide businesses--many of us--just as men
will. . . .
"It will be a world full of lovers' meetings."
Some day--somewhere--we two will certainly meet again."
"Even you have to force circumstances a little," said Sir
"We shall meet, she said, "without doing that."
"But where?" he asked unanswered. . . .
"Meetings and partings," she said. "Women will be used to
seeing their lovers go away. Even to seeing them go away to
other women who have borne them children and who have a
closer claim on them."
"No one-" began Sir Richmond, startled.
"But I don't mind very much. It's how things are. If I were a
perfectly civilized woman I shouldn't mind at all. If men and
women are not to be tied to each other there must needs be
such things as this."
"But you," said Sir Richmond. I at any rate am not like that.
I cannot bear the thought that YOU--"
"You need not bear it, my dear. I was just trying to imagine
this world that is to be. Women I think are different from
men in their jealousy. Men are jealous of the other man;
women are jealous for their man--and careless about the other
woman. What I love in you I am sure about. My mind was empty
when it came to you and now it is full to overflowing. I
shall feel you moving about in the same world with me. I'm
not likely to think of anyone else for a very long
time. . . . Later on, who knows? I may marry. I make no vows.
But I think until I know certainly that you do not want me
any more it will be impossible for me to marry or to have a
lover. I don't know, but that is how I believe it will be
with me. And my mind feels beautifully clear now and settled.
I've got your idea and made it my own, your idea that we
matter scarcely at all, but that the work we do matters
supremely. I'll find my rope and tug it, never fear. Half way
round the world perhaps some day you will feel me tugging."
"I shall feel you're there," he said, "whether you tug or
not. . . ."
"Three miles left to Exeter," he reported presently.
She glanced back at Belinda.
"It is good that we have loved, my dear," she whispered. "Say
it is good."
"The best thing in all my life," he said, and lowered his
head and voice to say: "My dearest dear."
"Heart's delight. . . . Priestess of life. . . . Divinity."
She smiled and nodded and suddenly Belinda, up above their
lowered heads, accidentally and irrelevantly, no doubt,
At Exeter Station there was not very much time to spare after
all. Hardly had Sir Richmond secured a luncheon basket for
the two travellers before the train came into the station. He
parted from Miss Grammont with a hand clasp. Belinda was
flushed and distressed at the last but her friend was quiet
and still. "Au revoir," said Belinda without conviction when
Sir Richmond shook her hand.
Sir Richmond stood quite still on the platform as the train
ran out of the station. He did not move until it had
disappeared round the bend. Then he turned, lost in a brown
study, and walked very slowly towards the station exit.
"The most wonderful thing in my life," he thought. "And
already--it is unreal.
"She will go on to her father whom she knows ten thousand
times more thoroughly than she knows me; she will go on to
Paris, she will pick up all the threads of her old story, be
reminded of endless things in her life, but never except in
the most casual way of these days: they will be cut off from
everything else that will serve to keep them real; and as for
me--this connects with nothing else in my life at all. . . .
It is as disconnected as a dream. . . . Already it is hardly
more substantial than a dream. . . .
"We shall write letters. Do letters breathe faster or slower
as you read them?
"We may meet.
"Where are we likely to meet again? ... I never realized
before how improbable it is that we shall meet again. And if
we meet? . . .
"Never in all our lives shall we be really TOGETHER again.
It's over--With a completeness. . . .
He came opposite the bookstalls and stopped short and stared
with unseeing eyes at the display of popular literature. He
was wondering now whether after all he ought to have let her
go. He experienced something of the blank amazement of a
child who has burst its toy balloon. His golden globe of
satisfaction in an instant had gone. An irrational sense of
loss was flooding every other feeling about V.V. If she had
loved him truly and altogether could she have left him like
this? Neither of them surely had intended so complete a
separation. He wanted to go back and recall that train.
A few seconds more, he realized, and he would give way to
anger. Whatever happened that must not happen. He pulled
himself together. What was it he had to do now? He had not to
be angry, he had not even to be sorry. They had done the
right thing. Outside the station his car was waiting.
He went outside the station and stared at his car. He had to
go somewhere. Of course! down into Cornwall to Martin's
cottage. He had to go down to her and be kind and comforting
about that carbuncle. To be kind? . . . If this thwarted
feeling broke out into anger he might be tempted to take it
out of Martin. That at any rate he must not do. He had always
for some inexplicable cause treated Martin badly. Nagged her
and blamed her and threatened her. That must stop now. No
shadow of this affair must lie on Martin. . . . And Martin
must never have a suspicion of any of this. . . .
The image of Martin became very vivid in his mind. He thought
of her as he had seen her many times, with the tears close,
fighting with her back to the wall, with all her wit and
vigour gone, because she loved him more steadfastly than he
did her. Whatever happened he must not take it out of Martin.
It was astonishing how real she had become now--as V.V.
became a dream. Yes, Martin was astonishingly real. And if
only he could go now and talk to Martin--and face all the
facts of life with her, even as he had done with that phantom
Martin in his dream. . . .
But things were not like that.
He looked to see if his car was short of water or petrol;
both needed replenishing, and so he would have to go up the
hill into Exeter town again. He got into his car and sat with
his fingers on the electric starter.
Martin! Old Friend! Eight days were still left before the
Committee met again, eight days for golden kindness. He would
distress Martin by no clumsy confession. He would just make
her happy as she loved to be made happy. . . . Nevertheless.
Nevertheless. . . .
Was it Martin who failed him or he who failed Martin?
Incessant and insoluble dispute. Well, the thing now was to
go to Martin. . . . And then the work!
He laughed suddenly.
"I'll take it out of the damned Commission. I'll make old
Rumford Brown sit up."
He was astonished to find himself thinking of the affairs of
the Commission with a lively interest and no trace of
fatigue. He had had his change; he had taken his rest; he was
equal to his task again already. He started his engine and
steered his way past a van and a waiting cab.
"Fuel," he said.
CHAPTER THE NINTH
THE LAST DAYS OF SIR RICHMOND HARDY
The Majority and Minority Reports of the Fuel Commission were
received on their first publication with much heat and
disputation, but there is already a fairly general agreement
that they are great and significant documents, broadly
conceived and historically important. They do lift the
questions of fuel supply and distribution high above the
level of parochial jealousies and above the petty and
destructive profiteering of private owners and traders, to a
view of a general human welfare. They form an important link
in a series of private and public documents that are slowly
opening out a prospect of new economic methods, methods
conceived in the generous spirit of scientific work, that may
yet arrest the drift of our western civilization towards
financial and commercial squalor and the social collapse that
must ensue inevitably on that. In view of the composition of
the Committee, the Majority Report is in itself an amazing
triumph of Sir Richmond's views; it is astonishing that he
was able to drive his opponents so far and then leave them
there securely advanced while he carried on the adherents he
had altogether won, including, of course, the labour
representatives, to the further altitudes of the Minority
After the Summer recess the Majority Report was discussed and
adopted. Sir Richmond had shown signs of flagging energy in
June, but he had come back in September in a state of
exceptional vigour; for a time he completely dominated the
Committee by the passionate force of his convictions and the
illuminating scorn he brought to bear on the various
subterfuges and weakening amendments by which the meaner
interests sought to save themselves in whole or in part from
the common duty of sacrifice. But toward the end he fell ill.
He had worked to the pitch of exhaustion. He neglected a cold
that settled on his chest. He began to cough persistently and
betray an increasingly irritable temper. In the last fights
in the Committee his face was bright with fever and he spoke
in a voiceless whisper, often a vast angry whisper. His place
at table was marked with scattered lozenges and scraps of
paper torn to the minutest shreds. Such good manners as had
hitherto mitigated his behaviour on the Committee departed
from him, He carried his last points, gesticulating and
coughing and wheezing rather than speaking. But he had so
hammered his ideas into the Committee that they took the
effect of what he was trying to say.
He died of pneumonia at his own house three days after the
passing of the Majority Report. The Minority Report, his own
especial creation, he never signed. It was completed by Wast
and Carmichael. . . .
After their parting at Salisbury station Dr. Martineau heard
very little of Sir Richmond for a time except through the
newspapers, which contained frequent allusions to the
Committee. Someone told him that Sir Richmond had been
staying at Ruan in Cornwall where Martin Leeds had a cottage,
and someone else had met him at Bath on his way, he said, in
his car from Cornwall to a conference with Sir Peter Davies
But in the interim Dr. Martineau had the pleasure of meeting
Lady Hardy at a luncheon party. He was seated next to her and
he found her a very pleasing and sympathetic person indeed.
She talked to him freely and simply of her husband and of the
journey the two men had taken together. Either she knew
nothing of the circumstances of their parting or if she did
she did not betray her knowledge. "That holiday did him a
world of good," she said. "He came back to his work like a
giant. I feel very grateful to you."
Dr. Martineau said it was a pleasure to have helped Sir
Richmond's work in any way. He believed in him thoroughly.
Sir Richmond was inspired by great modern creative ideas.
"Forgive me if I keep you talking about him," said Lady
Hardy. "I wish I could feel as sure that I had been of use to
Dr. Martineau insisted. "I know very well that you are."
"I do what I can to help him carry his enormous burthen of
toil" she said. "I try to smooth his path. But he is a
strange silent creature at times. "
Her eyes scrutinized the doctor's face.
It was not the doctor's business to supplement Sir Richmond's
silences. Yet he wished to meet the requirements of this lady
if he could. "He is one of those men," he said, "who are
driven by forces they do not fully understand. A man of
"Yes," she said in an undertone of intimacy. Genius. . . . A
great irresponsible genius. . . . Difficult to help. . . . I
wish I could do more for him."
A very sweet and charming lady. It was with great regret that
the doctor found the time had come to turn to his left-hand
It was with some surprise that Dr. Martineau received a fresh
appeal for aid from Sir Richmond. It was late in October and
Sir Richmond was already seriously ill. But he was still
going about his business as though he was perfectly well. He
had not mistaken his man. Dr. Martineau received him as
though there had never been a shadow of offence between them.
He came straight to the point. "Martineau," he said, "I must
have those drugs I asked you for when first I came to you
now. I must be bolstered up. I can't last out unless I am.
I'm at the end of my energy. I come to you because you will
understand. The Commission can't go on now for more than
another three weeks. Whatever happens afterwards I must keep
going until then."
The doctor did understand. He made no vain objections. He did
what he could to patch up his friend for his last struggles
with the opposition in the Committee. "Pro forma," he said,
stethoscope in hand, "I must order you to bed. You won't go.
But I order you. You must know that what you are doing is
risking your life. Your lungs are congested, the bronchial
tubes already. That may spread at any time. If this open
weather lasts you may go about and still pull through. But at
any time this may pass into pneumonia. And there's not much
in you just now to stand up against pneumonia. . . ."
"I'll take all reasonable care."
"Is your wife at home!"
"She is in Wales with her people. But the household is well
trained. I can manage."
"Go in a closed car from door to door. Wrap up like a mummy.
I wish the Committee room wasn't down those abominable House
of Commons corridors. . . ."
They parted with an affectionate handshake.
Death approved of Sir Richmond's determination to see the
Committee through. Our universal creditor gave this
particular debtor grace to the very last meeting. Then he
brushed a gust of chilly rain across the face of Sir Richmond
as he stood waiting for his car outside the strangers'
entrance to the House. For a couple of days Sir Richmond felt
almost intolerably tired, but scarcely noted the changed
timbre of the wheezy notes in his throat. He rose later each
day and with ebbing vigour, jotted down notes and corrections
upon the proofs of the Minority Report. He found it
increasingly difficult to make decisions; he would correct
and alter back and then repeat the correction, perhaps half a
dozen times. On the evening of the second day his lungs
became painful and his breathing difficult. His head ached
and a sense of some great impending evil came upon him. His
skin was suddenly a detestable garment to wear. He took his
temperature with a little clinical thermometer he kept by him
and found it was a hundred and one. He telephoned hastily for
Dr. Martineau and without waiting for his arrival took a hot
bath and got into bed. He was already thoroughly ill when the
"Forgive my sending for you," he said. "Not your line. I
know. . . . My wife's G.P.--an exasperating sort of ass.
Can't stand him. No one else."
He was lying on a narrow little bed with a hard pillow that
the doctor replaced by one from Lady Hardy's room. He had
twisted the bed-clothes into a hopeless muddle, the sheet was
on the floor.
Sir Richmond's bedroom was a large apartment in which sleep
seemed to have been an admitted necessity rather than a
principal purpose. On one hand it opened into a business-like
dressing and bath room, on the other into the day study. It
bore witness to the nocturnal habits of a man who had long
lived a life of irregular impulses to activity and dislocated
hours and habits. There was a desk and reading lamp for night
work near the fireplace, an electric kettle for making tea at
night, a silver biscuit tin; all the apparatus for the lonely
intent industry of the small hours. There was a bookcase of
bluebooks, books of reference and suchlike material, and some
files. Over the mantelpiece was an enlarged photograph of
Lady Hardy and a plain office calendar. The desk was littered
with the galley proofs of the Minority Report upon which Sir
Richmond had been working up to the moment of his hasty
retreat to bed. And lying among the proofs, as though it had
been taken out and looked at quite recently was the
photograph of a girl. For a moment Dr. Martineau's mind hung
in doubt and then he knew it for the young American of
Stonehenge. How that affair had ended he did not know. And
now it was not his business to know.
These various observations printed themselves on Dr.
Martineau's mind after his first cursory examination of his
patient and while he cast about for anything that would give
this large industrious apartment a little more of the
restfulness and comfort of a sick room. "I must get in a
night nurse at once," he said. "We must find a small table
somewhere to put near the bed.
"I am afraid you are very ill," he said, returning to the
bedside. "This is not, as you say, my sort of work. Will you
let me call in another man, a man we can trust thoroughly, to
"I'm in your hands, said Sir Richmond. I want to pull
"He will know better where to get the right sort of nurse for
the case--and everything."
The second doctor presently came, with the right sort of
nurse hard on his heels. Sir Richmond submitted almost
silently to his expert handling and was sounded and looked to
and listened at.
"H'm," said the second doctor, and then encouragingly to Sir
Richmond: "We've got to take care of you.
"There's a lot about this I don't like," said the second
doctor and drew Dr. Martineau by the arm towards the study.
For a moment or so Sir Richmond listened to the low murmur of
their voices, but he did not feel very deeply interested in
what they were saying. He began to think what a decent chap
Dr. Martineau was, how helpful and fine and forgiving his
professional training had made him, how completely he had
ignored the smothered incivilities of their parting at
Salisbury. All men ought to have some such training, Not a
bad idea to put every boy and girl through a year or so of
hospital service. . . . Sir Richmond must have dozed, for his
next perception was of Dr. Martineau standing over him and
saying "I am afraid, my dear Hardy, that you are very ill
indeed. Much more so than I thought you were at first."
Sir Richmond's raised eyebrows conveyed that he accepted this
"I think Lady Hardy ought to be sent for."
Sir Richmond shook his head with unexpected vigour.
"Don't want her about," he said, and after a pause, "Don't
want anybody about."
"But if anything happens-?"
An expression of obstinate calm overspread Sir Richmond's
face. He seemed to regard the matter as settled. He closed
For a time Dr. Martineau desisted. He went to the window and
turned to look again at the impassive figure on the bed. Did
Sir Richmond fully understand? He made a step towards his
patient and hesitated. Then he brought a chair and sat down
at the bedside.
Sir Richmond opened his eyes and regarded him with a slight
"A case of pneumonia," said the doctor, "after great exertion
and fatigue, may take very rapid and unexpected turns."
Sir Richmond, cheek on pillow, seemed to assent.
"I think if you want to be sure that Lady Hardy sees you
again-- . . . If you don't want to take risks about
that--. . . One never knows in these cases. Probably there is
a night train."
Sir Richmond manifested no surprise at the warning. But he
stuck to his point. His voice was faint but firm. "Couldn't
make up anything to say to her. Anything she'd like."
Dr. Martineau rested on that for a little while. Then he
said: "If there is anyone else?"
"Not possible," said Sir Richmond, with his eyes on the
"But to see?"
Sir Richmond turned his head to Dr. Martineau. His face
puckered like a peevish child's. "They'd want things said to
them...Things to remember...I CAN'T. I'm tired out."
"Don't trouble," whispered Dr. Martineau, suddenly
But Sir Richmond was also remorseful. "Give them my love," he
said. "Best love...Old Martin. Love."
Dr. Martineau was turning away when Sir Richmond spoke again
in a whisper. "Best love...Poor at the best. . . ."
He dozed for a time. Then he made a great effort. "I can't
see them, Martineau, until I've something to say. It's like
that. Perhaps I shall think of some kind things to say--after
a sleep. But if they came now...I'd say something wrong. Be
cross perhaps. Hurt someone. I've hurt so many. People
exaggerate...People exaggerate--importance these occasions."
"Yes, yes," whispered Dr. Martineau. "I quite understand."
For a time Sir Richmond dozed. Then he stirred and muttered.
"Second rate. . . Poor at the best. . . Love. . . Work.
All. . ."
"It had been splendid work," said Dr. Martineau, and was not
sure that Sir Richmond heard.
"Those last few days. . . lost my grip. . . Always lose my
"Ragged them. . . . Put their backs up . . . .Silly....
"Never.... Never done anything--WELL ....
"It's done. Done. Well or ill....
His voice sank to the faintest whisper. "Done for ever and
ever ... and ever . . . and ever."
Again he seemed to doze.
Dr. Martineau stood up softly. Something beyond reason told
him that this was certainly a dying man. He was reluctant to
go and he had an absurd desire that someone, someone for whom
Sir Richmond cared, should come and say good-bye to him, and
for Sir Richmond to say good-bye to someone. He hated this
lonely launching from the shores of life of one who had
sought intimacy so persistently and vainly. It was
extraordinary--he saw it now for the first time--he loved
this man. If it had been in his power, he would at that
moment have anointed him with kindness.
The doctor found himself standing in front of the untidy
writing desk, littered like a recent battlefield. The
photograph of the American girl drew his eyes. What had
happened? Was there not perhaps some word for her? He turned
about as if to enquire of the dying man and found Sir
Richmond's eyes open and regarding him. In them he saw an
expression he had seen there once or twice before, a faint
but excessively irritating gleam of amusement.
"Oh!--WELL!" said Dr. Martineau and turned away. He went to
the window and stared out as his habit was.
Sir Richmond continued to smile dimly at the doctor's back
until his eyes closed again.
It was their last exchange. Sir Richmond died that night in
the small hours, so quietly that for some time the night
nurse did not observe what had happened. She was indeed
roused to that realization by the ringing of the telephone
bell in the adjacent study.
For a long time that night Dr. Martineau had lain awake
unable to sleep. He was haunted by the figure of Sir Richmond
lying on his uncomfortable little bed in his big bedroom and
by the curious effect of loneliness produced by the nocturnal
desk and by the evident dread felt by Sir Richmond of any
death-bed partings. He realized how much this man, who had
once sought so feverishly for intimacies, had shrunken back
upon himself, how solitary his motives had become, how rarely
he had taken counsel with anyone in his later years. His mind
now dwelt apart. Even if people came about him he would still
be facing death alone.
And so it seemed he meant to slip out of life, as a man might
slip out of a crowded assembly, unobserved. Even now he might
be going. The doctor recalled how he and Sir Richmond had
talked of the rage of life in a young baby, how we drove into
life in a sort of fury, how that rage impelled us to do this
and that, how we fought and struggled until the rage spent
itself and was gone. That eddy of rage that was Sir Richmond
was now perhaps very near its end. Presently it would fade
and cease, and the stream that had made it and borne it would
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