The Voyage Out, by Virginia Woolf
Part 2 out of 8
"That's the painful thing about pets," said Mr. Dalloway; "they die.
The first sorrow I can remember was for the death of a dormouse.
I regret to say that I sat upon it. Still, that didn't make one any
the less sorry. Here lies the duck that Samuel Johnson sat on, eh?
I was big for my age."
"Then we had canaries," he continued, "a pair of ring-doves, a lemur,
and at one time a martin."
"Did you live in the country?" Rachel asked him.
"We lived in the country for six months of the year. When I say
'we' I mean four sisters, a brother, and myself. There's nothing
like coming of a large family. Sisters particularly are delightful."
"Dick, you were horribly spoilt!" cried Clarissa across the table.
"No, no. Appreciated," said Richard.
Rachel had other questions on the tip of her tongue; or rather one
enormous question, which she did not in the least know how to put
into words. The talk appeared too airy to admit of it.
"Please tell me--everything." That was what she wanted to say.
He had drawn apart one little chink and showed astonishing treasures.
It seemed to her incredible that a man like that should be willing to
talk to her. He had sisters and pets, and once lived in the country.
She stirred her tea round and round; the bubbles which swam and
clustered in the cup seemed to her like the union of their minds.
The talk meanwhile raced past her, and when Richard suddenly stated
in a jocular tone of voice, "I'm sure Miss Vinrace, now, has secret
leanings towards Catholicism," she had no idea what to answer,
and Helen could not help laughing at the start she gave.
However, breakfast was over and Mrs. Dalloway was rising.
"I always think religion's like collecting beetles," she said,
summing up the discussion as she went up the stairs with Helen.
"One person has a passion for black beetles; another hasn't; it's no
good arguing about it. What's _your_ black beetle now?"
"I suppose it's my children," said Helen.
"Ah--that's different," Clarissa breathed. "Do tell me.
You have a boy, haven't you? Isn't it detestable, leaving them?"
It was as though a blue shadow had fallen across a pool.
Their eyes became deeper, and their voices more cordial.
Instead of joining them as they began to pace the deck, Rachel was
indignant with the prosperous matrons, who made her feel outside
their world and motherless, and turning back, she left them abruptly.
She slammed the door of her room, and pulled out her music.
It was all old music--Bach and Beethoven, Mozart and Purcell--
the pages yellow, the engraving rough to the finger. In three
minutes she was deep in a very difficult, very classical fugue in A,
and over her face came a queer remote impersonal expression of
complete absorption and anxious satisfaction. Now she stumbled;
now she faltered and had to play the same bar twice over; but an
invisible line seemed to string the notes together, from which
rose a shape, a building. She was so far absorbed in this work,
for it was really difficult to find how all these sounds should
stand together, and drew upon the whole of her faculties, that she
never heard a knock at the door. It was burst impulsively open,
and Mrs. Dalloway stood in the room leaving the door open, so that
a strip of the white deck and of the blue sea appeared through
the opening. The shape of the Bach fugue crashed to the ground.
"Don't let me interrupt," Clarissa implored. "I heard you playing,
and I couldn't resist. I adore Bach!"
Rachel flushed and fumbled her fingers in her lap. She stood
"It's too difficult," she said.
"But you were playing quite splendidly! I ought to have stayed outside."
"No," said Rachel.
She slid _Cowper's_ _Letters_ and _Wuthering_ _Heights_ out
of the arm-chair, so that Clarissa was invited to sit there.
"What a dear little room!" she said, looking round.
"Oh, _Cowper's_ _Letters>!" I've never read them. Are they nice?"
"Rather dull," said Rachel.
"He wrote awfully well, didn't he?" said Clarissa; "--if one
likes that kind of thing--finished his sentences and all that.
_Wuthering_ _Heights_! Ah--that's more in my line. I really couldn't
exist without the Brontes! Don't you love them? Still, on the whole,
I'd rather live without them than without Jane Austen."
Lightly and at random though she spoke, her manner conveyed
an extraordinary degree of sympathy and desire to befriend.
"Jane Austen? I don't like Jane Austen," said Rachel.
"You monster!" Clarissa exclaimed. "I can only just forgive you.
Tell me why?"
"She's so--so--well, so like a tight plait," Rachel floundered.
"Ah--I see what you mean. But I don't agree. And you won't when
you're older. At your age I only liked Shelley. I can remember
sobbing over him in the garden.
He has outsoared the shadow of our night,
Envy and calumny and hate and pain-- you remember?
Can touch him not and torture not again
From the contagion of the world's slow stain.
How divine!--and yet what nonsense!" She looked lightly round the room.
"I always think it's _living_, not dying, that counts. I really
respect some snuffy old stockbroker who's gone on adding up column
after column all his days, and trotting back to his villa at Brixton
with some old pug dog he worships, and a dreary little wife sitting
at the end of the table, and going off to Margate for a fortnight--
I assure you I know heaps like that--well, they seem to me _really_
nobler than poets whom every one worships, just because they're
geniuses and die young. But I don't expect _you_ to agree with me!"
She pressed Rachel's shoulder.
"Um-m-m--" she went on quoting--
Unrest which men miscall delight--
"when you're my age you'll see that the world is _crammed_ with
delightful things. I think young people make such a mistake about that--
not letting themselves be happy. I sometimes think that happiness
is the only thing that counts. I don't know you well enough to say,
but I should guess you might be a little inclined to--when one's young
and attractive--I'm going to say it!--_every_thing's at one's feet."
She glanced round as much as to say, "not only a few stuffy books
"I long to ask questions," she continued. "You interest me so much.
If I'm impertinent, you must just box my ears."
"And I--I want to ask questions," said Rachel with such earnestness
that Mrs. Dalloway had to check her smile.
"D'you mind if we walk?" she said. "The air's so delicious."
She snuffed it like a racehorse as they shut the door and stood
"Isn't it good to be alive?" she exclaimed, and drew Rachel's arm
"Look, look! How exquisite!"
The shores of Portugal were beginning to lose their substance;
but the land was still the land, though at a great distance.
They could distinguish the little towns that were sprinkled in
the folds of the hills, and the smoke rising faintly. The towns
appeared to be very small in comparison with the great purple
mountains behind them.
"Honestly, though," said Clarissa, having looked, "I don't like views.
They're too inhuman." They walked on.
"How odd it is!" she continued impulsively. "This time yesterday
we'd never met. I was packing in a stuffy little room in the hotel.
We know absolutely nothing about each other--and yet--I feel as if I
_did_ know you!"
"You have children--your husband was in Parliament?"
"You've never been to school, and you live--?"
"With my aunts at Richmond."
"You see, my aunts like the Park. They like the quiet."
"And you don't! I understand!" Clarissa laughed.
"I like walking in the Park alone; but not--with the dogs,"
"No; and some people _are_ dogs; aren't they?" said Clarissa,
as if she had guessed a secret. "But not every one--oh no,
not every one."
"Not every one," said Rachel, and stopped.
"I can quite imagine you walking alone," said Clarissa: "and thinking--
in a little world of your own. But how you will enjoy it--
"I shall enjoy walking with a man--is that what you mean?" said Rachel,
regarding Mrs. Dalloway with her large enquiring eyes.
"I wasn't thinking of a man particularly," said Clarissa.
"But you will."
"No. I shall never marry," Rachel determined.
"I shouldn't be so sure of that," said Clarissa. Her sidelong
glance told Rachel that she found her attractive although she
was inexplicably amused.
"Why do people marry?" Rachel asked.
"That's what you're going to find out," Clarissa laughed.
Rachel followed her eyes and found that they rested for a second,
on the robust figure of Richard Dalloway, who was engaged in striking
a match on the sole of his boot; while Willoughby expounded something,
which seemed to be of great interest to them both.
"There's nothing like it," she concluded. "Do tell me about
the Ambroses. Or am I asking too many questions?"
"I find you easy to talk to," said Rachel.
The short sketch of the Ambroses was, however, somewhat perfunctory,
and contained little but the fact that Mr. Ambrose was her uncle.
"Your mother's brother?"
When a name has dropped out of use, the lightest touch upon it tells.
Mrs. Dalloway went on:
"Are you like your mother?"
"No; she was different," said Rachel.
She was overcome by an intense desire to tell Mrs. Dalloway things
she had never told any one--things she had not realised herself
until this moment.
"I am lonely," she began. "I want--" She did not know what she wanted,
so that she could not finish the sentence; but her lip quivered.
But it seemed that Mrs. Dalloway was able to understand without words.
"I know," she said, actually putting one arm round Rachel's shoulder.
"When I was your age I wanted too. No one understood until I
met Richard. He gave me all I wanted. He's man and woman as well."
Her eyes rested upon Mr. Dalloway, leaning upon the rail,
still talking. "Don't think I say that because I'm his wife--
I see his faults more clearly than I see any one else's. What
one wants in the person one lives with is that they should keep
one at one's best. I often wonder what I've done to be so happy!"
she exclaimed, and a tear slid down her cheek. She wiped it away,
squeezed Rachel's hand, and exclaimed:
"How good life is!" At that moment, standing out in the fresh breeze,
with the sun upon the waves, and Mrs. Dalloway's hand upon her arm,
it seemed indeed as if life which had been unnamed before was
infinitely wonderful, and too good to be true.
Here Helen passed them, and seeing Rachel arm-in-arm with a
comparative stranger, looking excited, was amused, but at the same time
slightly irritated. But they were immediately joined by Richard, who had
enjoyed a very interesting talk with Willoughby and was in a sociable mood.
"Observe my Panama," he said, touching the brim of his hat.
"Are you aware, Miss Vinrace, how much can be done to induce fine
weather by appropriate headdress? I have determined that it is a hot
summer day; I warn you that nothing you can say will shake me.
Therefore I am going to sit down. I advise you to follow my example."
Three chairs in a row invited them to be seated.
Leaning back, Richard surveyed the waves.
"That's a very pretty blue," he said. "But there's a little too
much of it. Variety is essential to a view. Thus, if you have
hills you ought to have a river; if a river, hills. The best view
in the world in my opinion is that from Boars Hill on a fine day--
it must be a fine day, mark you--A rug?--Oh, thank you, my dear.
. . . in that case you have also the advantage of associations--
"D'you want to talk, Dick, or shall I read aloud?"
Clarissa had fetched a book with the rugs.
"_Persuasion_," announced Richard, examining the volume.
"That's for Miss Vinrace," said Clarissa. "She can't bear our
"That--if I may say so--is because you have not read her," said Richard.
"She is incomparably the greatest female writer we possess."
"She is the greatest," he continued, "and for this reason:
she does not attempt to write like a man. Every other woman does;
on that account, I don't read 'em."
"Produce your instances, Miss Vinrace," he went on, joining his
finger-tips. "I'm ready to be converted."
He waited, while Rachel vainly tried to vindicate her sex from
the slight he put upon it.
"I'm afraid he's right," said Clarissa. "He generally is--
"I brought _Persuasion_," she went on, "because I thought it was
a little less threadbare than the others--though, Dick, it's no
good _your_ pretending to know Jane by heart, considering that she
always sends you to sleep!"
"After the labours of legislation, I deserve sleep," said Richard.
"You're not to think about those guns," said Clarissa, seeing that
his eye, passing over the waves, still sought the land meditatively,
"or about navies, or empires, or anything." So saying she opened
the book and began to read:
"'Sir Walter Elliott, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who,
for his own amusement, never took up any book but the _Baronetage_'--
don't you know Sir Walter?--'There he found occupation for an idle hour,
and consolation in a distressed one.' She does write well,
doesn't she? 'There--'" She read on in a light humorous voice.
She was determined that Sir Walter should take her husband's
mind off the guns of Britain, and divert him in an exquisite,
quaint, sprightly, and slightly ridiculous world. After a time it
appeared that the sun was sinking in that world, and the points
becoming softer. Rachel looked up to see what caused the change.
Richard's eyelids were closing and opening; opening and closing.
A loud nasal breath announced that he no longer considered appearances,
that he was sound asleep.
"Triumph!" Clarissa whispered at the end of a sentence. Suddenly she
raised her hand in protest. A sailor hesitated; she gave the book
to Rachel, and stepped lightly to take the message--"Mr. Grice
wished to know if it was convenient," etc. She followed him.
Ridley, who had prowled unheeded, started forward, stopped, and,
with a gesture of disgust, strode off to his study. The sleeping
politician was left in Rachel's charge. She read a sentence,
and took a look at him. In sleep he looked like a coat hanging
at the end of a bed; there were all the wrinkles, and the sleeves
and trousers kept their shape though no longer filled out by legs
and arms. You can then best judge the age and state of the coat.
She looked him all over until it seemed to her that he must protest.
He was a man of forty perhaps; and here there were lines round
his eyes, and there curious clefts in his cheeks. Slightly battered
he appeared, but dogged and in the prime of life.
"Sisters and a dormouse and some canaries," Rachel murmured,
never taking her eyes off him. "I wonder, I wonder" she ceased,
her chin upon her hand, still looking at him. A bell chimed behind them,
and Richard raised his head. Then he opened his eyes which wore for
a second the queer look of a shortsighted person's whose spectacles
are lost. It took him a moment to recover from the impropriety
of having snored, and possibly grunted, before a young lady. To wake
and find oneself left alone with one was also slightly disconcerting.
"I suppose I've been dozing," he said. "What's happened
to everyone? Clarissa?"
"Mrs. Dalloway has gone to look at Mr. Grice's fish," Rachel replied.
"I might have guessed," said Richard. "It's a common occurrence.
And how have you improved the shining hour? Have you become
"I don't think I've read a line," said Rachel.
"That's what I always find. There are too many things to look at.
I find nature very stimulating myself. My best ideas have come to me
out of doors."
"When you were walking?"
"Walking--riding--yachting--I suppose the most momentous conversations
of my life took place while perambulating the great court at Trinity.
I was at both universities. It was a fad of my father's. He thought
it broadening to the mind. I think I agree with him. I can remember--
what an age ago it seems!--settling the basis of a future state with
the present Secretary for India. We thought ourselves very wise.
I'm not sure we weren't. We were happy, Miss Vinrace, and we were young--
gifts which make for wisdom."
"Have you done what you said you'd do?" she asked.
"A searching question! I answer--Yes and No. If on the one hand I
have not accomplished what I set out to accomplish--which of us does!--
on the other I can fairly say this: I have not lowered my ideal."
He looked resolutely at a sea-gull, as though his ideal flew
on the wings of the bird.
"But," said Rachel, "what _is_ your ideal?"
"There you ask too much, Miss Vinrace," said Richard playfully.
She could only say that she wanted to know, and Richard was
sufficiently amused to answer.
"Well, how shall I reply? In one word--Unity. Unity of aim,
of dominion, of progress. The dispersion of the best ideas over
the greatest area."
"I grant that the English seem, on the whole, whiter than most men,
their records cleaner. But, good Lord, don't run away with the idea
that I don't see the drawbacks--horrors--unmentionable things done
in our very midst! I'm under no illusions. Few people, I suppose,
have fewer illusions than I have. Have you ever been in a factory,
Miss Vinrace!--No, I suppose not--I may say I hope not.
As for Rachel, she had scarcely walked through a poor street,
and always under the escort of father, maid, or aunts.
"I was going to say that if you'd ever seen the kind of thing
that's going on round you, you'd understand what it is that makes
me and men like me politicians. You asked me a moment ago whether
I'd done what I set out to do. Well, when I consider my life,
there is one fact I admit that I'm proud of; owing to me some thousands
of girls in Lancashire--and many thousands to come after them--
can spend an hour every day in the open air which their mothers
had to spend over their looms. I'm prouder of that, I own,
than I should be of writing Keats and Shelley into the bargain!"
It became painful to Rachel to be one of those who write Keats
and Shelley. She liked Richard Dalloway, and warmed as he warmed.
He seemed to mean what he said.
"I know nothing!" she exclaimed.
"It's far better that you should know nothing," he said paternally,
"and you wrong yourself, I'm sure. You play very nicely, I'm told,
and I've no doubt you've read heaps of learned books."
Elderly banter would no longer check her.
"You talk of unity," she said. "You ought to make me understand."
"I never allow my wife to talk politics," he said seriously.
"For this reason. It is impossible for human beings, constituted as
they are, both to fight and to have ideals. If I have preserved mine,
as I am thankful to say that in great measure I have, it is due
to the fact that I have been able to come home to my wife in
the evening and to find that she has spent her day in calling,
music, play with the children, domestic duties--what you will;
her illusions have not been destroyed. She gives me courage to go on.
The strain of public life is very great," he added.
This made him appear a battered martyr, parting every day with some
of the finest gold, in the service of mankind.
"I can't think," Rachel exclaimed, "how any one does it!"
"Explain, Miss Vinrace," said Richard. "This is a matter I want
to clear up."
His kindness was genuine, and she determined to take the chance he
gave her, although to talk to a man of such worth and authority
made her heart beat.
"It seems to me like this," she began, doing her best first
to recollect and then to expose her shivering private visions.
"There's an old widow in her room, somewhere, let us suppose
in the suburbs of Leeds."
Richard bent his head to show that he accepted the widow.
"In London you're spending your life, talking, writing things,
getting bills through, missing what seems natural. The result of it
all is that she goes to her cupboard and finds a little more tea,
a few lumps of sugar, or a little less tea and a newspaper.
Widows all over the country I admit do this. Still, there's the mind
of the widow--the affections; those you leave untouched. But you
waste you own."
"If the widow goes to her cupboard and finds it bare," Richard answered,
"her spiritual outlook we may admit will be affected. If I may
pick holes in your philosophy, Miss Vinrace, which has its merits,
I would point out that a human being is not a set of compartments,
but an organism. Imagination, Miss Vinrace; use your imagination;
that's where you young Liberals fail. Conceive the world as a whole.
Now for your second point; when you assert that in trying to set
the house in order for the benefit of the young generation I am
wasting my higher capabilities, I totally disagree with you.
I can conceive no more exalted aim--to be the citizen of the Empire.
Look at it in this way, Miss Vinrace; conceive the state as a
complicated machine; we citizens are parts of that machine;
some fulfil more important duties; others (perhaps I am one of them)
serve only to connect some obscure parts of the mechanism, concealed
from the public eye. Yet if the meanest screw fails in its task,
the proper working of the whole is imperilled."
It was impossible to combine the image of a lean black widow, gazing out
of her window, and longing for some one to talk to, with the image
of a vast machine, such as one sees at South Kensington, thumping,
thumping, thumping. The attempt at communication had been a failure.
"We don't seem to understand each other," she said.
"Shall I say something that will make you very angry?" he replied.
"It won't," said Rachel.
"Well, then; no woman has what I may call the political instinct.
You have very great virtues; I am the first, I hope, to admit that;
but I have never met a woman who even saw what is meant
by statesmanship. I am going to make you still more angry.
I hope that I never shall meet such a woman. Now, Miss Vinrace,
are we enemies for life?"
Vanity, irritation, and a thrusting desire to be understood,
urged her to make another attempt.
"Under the streets, in the sewers, in the wires, in the telephones,
there is something alive; is that what you mean? In things like
dust-carts, and men mending roads? You feel that all the time when
you walk about London, and when you turn on a tap and the water comes?"
"Certainly," said Richard. "I understand you to mean that
the whole of modern society is based upon cooperative effort.
If only more people would realise that, Miss Vinrace, there would
be fewer of your old widows in solitary lodgings!"
"Are you a Liberal or are you a Conservative?" she asked.
"I call myself a Conservative for
convenience sake," said Richard, smiling. "But
there is more in common between the two parties than people generally allow."
There was a pause, which did not come on Rachel's side from any lack
of things to say; as usual she could not say them, and was further
confused by the fact that the time for talking probably ran short.
She was haunted by absurd jumbled ideas--how, if one went back
far enough, everything perhaps was intelligible; everything was
in common; for the mammoths who pastured in the fields of Richmond
High Street had turned into paving stones and boxes full of ribbon,
and her aunts.
"Did you say you lived in the country when you were a child?"
Crude as her manners seemed to him, Richard was flattered.
There could be no doubt that her interest was genuine.
"I did," he smiled.
"And what happened?" she asked. "Or do I ask too many questions?"
"I'm flattered, I assure you. But--let me see--what happened?
Well, riding, lessons, sisters. There was an enchanted rubbish heap,
I remember, where all kinds of queer things happened. Odd, what things
impress children! I can remember the look of the place to this day.
It's a fallacy to think that children are happy. They're not;
they're unhappy. I've never suffered so much as I did when I was
"Why?" she asked.
"I didn't get on well with my father," said Richard shortly.
"He was a very able man, but hard. Well--it makes one determined
not to sin in that way oneself. Children never forget injustice.
They forgive heaps of things grown-up people mind; but that sin is
the unpardonable sin. Mind you--I daresay I was a difficult child
to manage; but when I think what I was ready to give! No, I was
more sinned against than sinning. And then I went to school,
where I did very fairly well; and and then, as I say, my father
sent me to both universities. . . . D'you know, Miss Vinrace,
you've made me think? How little, after all, one can tell anybody
about one's life! Here I sit; there you sit; both, I doubt not,
chock-full of the most interesting experiences, ideas, emotions;
yet how communicate? I've told you what every second person you meet
might tell you."
"I don't think so," she said. "It's the way of saying things,
isn't it, not the things?"
"True," said Richard. "Perfectly true." He paused. "When I
look back over my life--I'm forty-two--what are the great facts
that stand out? What were the revelations, if I may call them so?
The misery of the poor and--" (he hesitated and pitched over) "love!"
Upon that word he lowered his voice; it was a word that seemed
to unveil the skies for Rachel.
"It's an odd thing to say to a young lady," he continued.
"But have you any idea what--what I mean by that? No, of course not.
I don't use the word in a conventional sense. I use it as
young men use it. Girls are kept very ignorant, aren't they?
Perhaps it's wise--perhaps--You _don't_ know?"
He spoke as if he had lost consciousness of what he was saying.
"No; I don't," she said, scarcely speaking above her breath.
"Warships, Dick! Over there! Look!" Clarissa, released from Mr. Grice,
appreciative of all his seaweeds, skimmed towards them, gesticulating.
She had sighted two sinister grey vessels, low in the water,
and bald as bone, one closely following the other with the look
of eyeless beasts seeking their prey. Consciousness returned
to Richard instantly.
"By George!" he exclaimed, and stood shielding his eyes.
"Ours, Dick?" said Clarissa.
"The Mediterranean Fleet," he answered.
"The _Euphrosyne_ was slowly dipping her flag. Richard raised his hat.
Convulsively Clarissa squeezed Rachel's hand.
"Aren't you glad to be English!" she said.
The warships drew past, casting a curious effect of discipline
and sadness upon the waters, and it was not until they were again
invisible that people spoke to each other naturally. At lunch
the talk was all of valour and death, and the magnificent qualities of
British admirals. Clarissa quoted one poet, Willoughby quoted another.
Life on board a man-of-war was splendid, so they agreed, and sailors,
whenever one met them, were quite especially nice and simple.
This being so, no one liked it when Helen remarked that it seemed
to her as wrong to keep sailors as to keep a Zoo, and that as for
dying on a battle-field, surely it was time we ceased to praise
courage--"or to write bad poetry about it," snarled Pepper.
But Helen was really wondering why Rachel, sitting silent,
looked so queer and flushed.
She was not able to follow up her observations, however, or to come
to any conclusion, for by one of those accidents which are liable
to happen at sea, the whole course of their lives was now put
out of order.
Even at tea the floor rose beneath their feet and pitched too
low again, and at dinner the ship seemed to groan and strain
as though a lash were descending. She who had been a broad-backed
dray-horse, upon whose hind-quarters pierrots might waltz,
became a colt in a field. The plates slanted away from the knives,
and Mrs. Dalloway's face blanched for a second as she helped herself
and saw the potatoes roll this way and that. Willoughby, of course,
extolled the virtues of his ship, and quoted what had been said
of her by experts and distinguished passengers, for he loved his
own possessions. Still, dinner was uneasy, and directly the ladies
were alone Clarissa owned that she would be better off in bed,
and went, smiling bravely.
Next morning the storm was on them, and no politeness could ignore it.
Mrs. Dalloway stayed in her room. Richard faced three meals,
eating valiantly at each; but at the third, certain glazed asparagus
swimming in oil finally conquered him.
"That beats me," he said, and withdrew.
"Now we are alone once more," remarked William Pepper, looking round
the table; but no one was ready to engage him in talk, and the meal
ended in silence.
On the following day they met--but as flying leaves meet in the air.
Sick they were not; but the wind propelled them hastily into rooms,
violently downstairs. They passed each other gasping on deck; they shouted
across tables. They wore fur coats; and Helen was never seen without
a bandanna on her head. For comfort they retreated to their cabins,
where with tightly wedged feet they let the ship bounce and tumble.
Their sensations were the sensations of potatoes in a sack on a
galloping horse. The world outside was merely a violent grey tumult.
For two days they had a perfect rest from their old emotions.
Rachel had just enough consciousness to suppose herself a donkey on
the summit of a moor in a hail-storm, with its coat blown into furrows;
then she became a wizened tree, perpetually driven back by the salt
Helen, on the other hand, staggered to Mrs. Dalloway's door, knocked,
could not be heard for the slamming of doors and the battering
of wind, and entered.
There were basins, of course. Mrs. Dalloway lay half-raised on
a pillow, and did not open her eyes. Then she murmured, "Oh, Dick,
is that you?"
Helen shouted--for she was thrown against the washstand--"How
Clarissa opened one eye. It gave her an incredibly dissipated appearance.
"Awful!" she gasped. Her lips were white inside.
Planting her feet wide, Helen contrived to pour champagne into
a tumbler with a tooth-brush in it.
"Champagne," she said.
"There's a tooth-brush in it," murmured Clarissa, and smiled;
it might have been the contortion of one weeping. She drank.
"Disgusting," she whispered, indicating the basins. Relics of
humour still played over her face like moonshine.
"Want more?" Helen shouted. Speech was again beyond Clarissa's reach.
The wind laid the ship shivering on her side. Pale agonies crossed
Mrs. Dalloway in waves. When the curtains flapped, grey lights
puffed across her. Between the spasms of the storm, Helen made
the curtain fast, shook the pillows, stretched the bed-clothes,
and smoothed the hot nostrils and forehead with cold scent.
"You _are_ good!" Clarissa gasped. "Horrid mess!"
She was trying to apologise for white underclothes fallen and
scattered on the floor. For one second she opened a single eye,
and saw that the room was tidy.
"That's nice," she gasped.
Helen left her; far, far away she knew that she felt a kind of liking
for Mrs. Dalloway. She could not help respecting her spirit and
her desire, even in the throes of sickness, for a tidy bedroom.
Her petticoats, however, rose above her knees.
Quite suddenly the storm relaxed its grasp. It happened at tea;
the expected paroxysm of the blast gave out just as it reached
its climax and dwindled away, and the ship instead of taking
the usual plunge went steadily. The monotonous order of plunging
and rising, roaring and relaxing, was interfered with, and every
one at table looked up and felt something loosen within them.
The strain was slackened and human feelings began to peep again,
as they do when daylight shows at the end of a tunnel.
"Try a turn with me," Ridley called across to Rachel."
"Foolish!" cried Helen, but they went stumbling up the ladder.
Choked by the wind their spirits rose with a rush, for on the skirts
of all the grey tumult was a misty spot of gold. Instantly the world
dropped into shape; they were no longer atoms flying in the void,
but people riding a triumphant ship on the back of the sea.
Wind and space were banished; the world floated like an apple in a tub,
and the mind of man, which had been unmoored also, once more attached
itself to the old beliefs.
Having scrambled twice round the ship and received many sound cuffs
from the wind, they saw a sailor's face positively shine golden.
They looked, and beheld a complete yellow circle of sun; next minute it
was traversed by sailing stands of cloud, and then completely hidden.
By breakfast the next morning, however, the sky was swept clean,
the waves, although steep, were blue, and after their view of the
strange under-world, inhabited by phantoms, people began to live
among tea-pots and loaves of bread with greater zest than ever.
Richard and Clarissa, however, still remained on the borderland.
She did not attempt to sit up; her husband stood on his feet,
contemplated his waistcoat and trousers, shook his head, and then lay
down again. The inside of his brain was still rising and falling
like the sea on the stage. At four o'clock he woke from sleep and
saw the sunlight make a vivid angle across the red plush curtains
and the grey tweed trousers. The ordinary world outside slid
into his mind, and by the time he was dressed he was an English
He stood beside his wife. She pulled him down to her by the lapel
of his coat, kissed him, and held him fast for a minute.
"Go and get a breath of air, Dick," she said. "You look quite washed out.
. . . How nice you smell! . . . And be polite to that woman.
She was so kind to me."
Thereupon Mrs. Dalloway turned to the cool side of her pillow,
terribly flattened but still invincible.
Richard found Helen talking to her brother-in-law, over two dishes
of yellow cake and smooth bread and butter.
"You look very ill!" she exclaimed on seeing him. "Come and have
He remarked that the hands that moved about the cups were beautiful.
"I hear you've been very good to my wife," he said. "She's had
an awful time of it. You came in and fed her with champagne.
Were you among the saved yourself?"
"I? Oh, I haven't been sick for twenty years--sea-sick, I mean."
"There are three stages of convalescence, I always say,"
broke in the hearty voice of Willoughby. "The milk stage,
the bread-and-butter stage, and the roast-beef stage. I should
say you were at the bread-and-butter stage." He handed him the plate.
"Now, I should advise a hearty tea, then a brisk walk on deck;
and by dinner-time you'll be clamouring for beef, eh?" He went
off laughing, excusing himself on the score of business.
"What a splendid fellow he is!" said Richard. "Always keen
"Yes," said Helen, "he's always been like that."
"This is a great undertaking of his," Richard continued.
"It's a business that won't stop with ships, I should say.
We shall see him in Parliament, or I'm much mistaken. He's the kind
of man we want in Parliament--the man who has done things."
But Helen was not much interested in her brother-in-law.
"I expect your head's aching, isn't it?" she asked, pouring a fresh cup.
"Well, it is," said Richard. "It's humiliating to find what a slave
one is to one's body in this world. D'you know, I can never work
without a kettle on the hob. As often as not I don't drink tea,
but I must feel that I can if I want to."
"That's very bad for you," said Helen.
"It shortens one's life; but I'm afraid, Mrs. Ambrose, we politicians
must make up our minds to that at the outset. We've got to burn
the candle at both ends, or--"
"You've cooked your goose!" said Helen brightly.
"We can't make you take us seriously, Mrs. Ambrose," he protested.
"May I ask how you've spent your time? Reading--philosophy?" (He saw
the black book.) "Metaphysics and fishing!" he exclaimed. "If I had
to live again I believe I should devote myself to one or the other."
He began turning the pages.
"'Good, then, is indefinable,'" he read out. "How jolly to think that's
going on still! 'So far as I know there is only one ethical writer,
Professor Henry Sidgwick, who has clearly recognised and stated
this fact.' That's just the kind of thing we used to talk about
when we were boys. I can remember arguing until five in the morning
with Duffy--now Secretary for India--pacing round and round those
cloisters until we decided it was too late to go to bed, and we
went for a ride instead. Whether we ever came to any conclusion--
that's another matter. Still, it's the arguing that counts.
It's things like that that stand out in life. Nothing's been
quite so vivid since. It's the philosophers, it's the scholars,"
he continued, "they're the people who pass the torch, who keep
the light burning by which we live. Being a politician doesn't
necessarily blind one to that, Mrs. Ambrose."
"No. Why should it?" said Helen. "But can you remember if your
wife takes sugar?"
She lifted the tray and went off with it to Mrs. Dalloway.
Richard twisted a muffler twice round his throat and struggled up
on deck. His body, which had grown white and tender in a dark room,
tingled all over in the fresh air. He felt himself a man undoubtedly
in the prime of life. Pride glowed in his eye as he let the wind
buffet him and stood firm. With his head slightly lowered he
sheered round corners, strode uphill, and met the blast. There was
a collision. For a second he could not see what the body was he
had run into. "Sorry." "Sorry." It was Rachel who apologised.
They both laughed, too much blown about to speak. She drove open
the door of her room and stepped into its calm. In order to speak
to her, it was necessary that Richard should follow. They stood
in a whirlpool of wind; papers began flying round in circles,
the door crashed to, and they tumbled, laughing, into chairs.
Richard sat upon Bach.
"My word! What a tempest!" he exclaimed.
"Fine, isn't it?" said Rachel. Certainly the struggle and wind
had given her a decision she lacked; red was in her cheeks,
and her hair was down.
"Oh, what fun!" he cried. "What am I sitting on? Is this your room?
How jolly!" "There--sit there," she commanded. Cowper slid
"How jolly to meet again," said Richard. "It seems an age.
_Cowper's_ _Letters>? . . . Bach? . . . _Wuthering_ _Heights_?
. . . Is this where you meditate on the world, and then come
out and pose poor politicians with questions? In the intervals
of sea-sickness I've thought a lot of our talk. I assure you,
you made me think."
"I made you think! But why?"
"What solitary icebergs we are, Miss Vinrace! How little we
can communicate! There are lots of things I should like to tell
you about--to hear your opinion of. Have you ever read Burke?"
"Burke?" she repeated. "Who was Burke?"
"No? Well, then I shall make a point of sending you a copy.
_The_ _Speech_ _on_ _the_ _French_ _Revolution_--_The_
_American_ _Rebellion_? Which shall it be, I wonder?" He noted
something in his pocket-book. "And then you must write and tell me
what you think of it. This reticence--this isolation--that's what's
the matter with modern life! Now, tell me about yourself.
What are your interests and occupations? I should imagine that you
were a person with very strong interests. Of course you are!
Good God! When I think of the age we live in, with its opportunities
and possibilities, the mass of things to be done and enjoyed--
why haven't we ten lives instead of one? But about yourself?"
"You see, I'm a woman," said Rachel.
"I know--I know," said Richard, throwing his head back, and drawing
his fingers across his eyes.
"How strange to be a woman! A young and beautiful woman,"
he continued sententiously, "has the whole world at her feet.
That's true, Miss Vinrace. You have an inestimable power--for good
or for evil. What couldn't you do--" he broke off.
"What?" asked Rachel.
"You have beauty," he said. The ship lurched. Rachel fell
slightly forward. Richard took her in his arms and kissed her.
Holding her tight, he kissed her passionately, so that she felt
the hardness of his body and the roughness of his cheek printed
upon hers. She fell back in her chair, with tremendous beats
of the heart, each of which sent black waves across her eyes.
He clasped his forehead in his hands.
"You tempt me," he said. The tone of his voice was terrifying.
He seemed choked in fright. They were both trembling.
Rachel stood up and went. Her head was cold, her knees shaking,
and the physical pain of the emotion was so great that she could
only keep herself moving above the great leaps of her heart.
She leant upon the rail of the ship, and gradually ceased to feel,
for a chill of body and mind crept over her. Far out between the waves
little black and white sea-birds were riding. Rising and falling
with smooth and graceful movements in the hollows of the waves they
seemed singularly detached and unconcerned.
"You're peaceful," she said. She became peaceful too, at the same time
possessed with a strange exultation. Life seemed to hold infinite
possibilities she had never guessed at. She leant upon the rail
and looked over the troubled grey waters, where the sunlight was
fitfully scattered upon the crests of the waves, until she was cold
and absolutely calm again. Nevertheless something wonderful had happened.
At dinner, however, she did not feel exalted, but merely uncomfortable,
as if she and Richard had seen something together which is hidden
in ordinary life, so that they did not like to look at each other.
Richard slid his eyes over her uneasily once, and never looked
at her again. Formal platitudes were manufactured with effort,
but Willoughby was kindled.
"Beef for Mr. Dalloway!" he shouted. "Come now--after that walk
you're at the beef stage, Dalloway!"
Wonderful masculine stories followed about Bright and Disraeli
and coalition governments, wonderful stories which made the people
at the dinner-table seem featureless and small. After dinner,
sitting alone with Rachel under the great swinging lamp, Helen was
struck by her pallor. It once more occurred to her that there
was something strange in the girl's behaviour.
"You look tired. Are you tired?" she asked.
"Not tired," said Rachel. "Oh, yes, I suppose I am tired."
Helen advised bed, and she went, not seeing Richard again.
She must have been very tired for she fell asleep at once,
but after an hour or two of dreamless sleep, she dreamt. She dreamt
that she was walking down a long tunnel, which grew so narrow
by degrees that she could touch the damp bricks on either side.
At length the tunnel opened and became a vault; she found
herself trapped in it, bricks meeting her wherever she turned,
alone with a little deformed man who squatted on the floor gibbering,
with long nails. His face was pitted and like the face of an animal.
The wall behind him oozed with damp, which collected into drops
and slid down. Still and cold as death she lay, not daring to move,
until she broke the agony by tossing herself across the bed,
and woke crying "Oh!"
Light showed her the familiar things: her clothes, fallen off
the chair; the water jug gleaming white; but the horror did not go
at once. She felt herself pursued, so that she got up and actually
locked her door. A voice moaned for her; eyes desired her.
All night long barbarian men harassed the ship; they came scuffling
down the passages, and stopped to snuffle at her door. She could
not sleep again.
"That's the tragedy of life--as I always say!" said Mrs. Dalloway.
"Beginning things and having to end them. Still, I'm not going
to let _this_ end, if you're willing." It was the morning,
the sea was calm, and the ship once again was anchored not far from
She was dressed in her long fur cloak, with the veils wound around
her head, and once more the rich boxes stood on top of each other
so that the scene of a few days back seemed to be repeated.
"D'you suppose we shall ever meet in London?" said Ridley ironically.
"You'll have forgotten all about me by the time you step out there."
He pointed to the shore of the little bay, where they could now see
the separate trees with moving branches.
"How horrid you are!" she laughed. "Rachel's coming to see me anyhow--
the instant you get back," she said, pressing Rachel's arm.
"Now--you've no excuse!"
With a silver pencil she wrote her name and address on the flyleaf
of _Persuasion_, and gave the book to Rachel. Sailors were
shouldering the luggage, and people were beginning to congregate.
There were Captain Cobbold, Mr. Grice, Willoughby, Helen, and an
obscure grateful man in a blue jersey.
"Oh, it's time," said Clarissa. "Well, good-bye. I _do_ like you,"
she murmured as she kissed Rachel. People in the way made it
unnecessary for Richard to shake Rachel by the hand; he managed
to look at her very stiffly for a second before he followed his wife
down the ship's side.
The boat separating from the vessel made off towards the land,
and for some minutes Helen, Ridley, and Rachel leant over
the rail, watching. Once Mrs. Dalloway turned and waved;
but the boat steadily grew smaller and smaller until it ceased
to rise and fall, and nothing could be seen save two resolute backs.
"Well, that's over," said Ridley after a long silence. "We shall
never see _them_ again," he added, turning to go to his books.
A feeling of emptiness and melancholy came over them; they knew
in their hearts that it was over, and that they had parted for ever,
and the knowledge filled them with far greater depression than
the length of their acquaintance seemed to justify. Even as the boat
pulled away they could feel other sights and sounds beginning to
take the place of the Dalloways, and the feeling was so unpleasant
that they tried to resist it. For so, too, would they be forgotten.
In much the same way as Mrs. Chailey downstairs was sweeping
the withered rose-leaves off the dressing-table, so Helen was
anxious to make things straight again after the visitors had gone.
Rachel's obvious languor and listlessness made her an easy prey,
and indeed Helen had devised a kind of trap. That something had
happened she now felt pretty certain; moreover, she had come to
think that they had been strangers long enough; she wished to know
what the girl was like, partly of course because Rachel showed
no disposition to be known. So, as they turned from the rail,
"Come and talk to me instead of practising," and led the way to
the sheltered side where the deck-chairs were stretched in the sun.
Rachel followed her indifferently. Her mind was absorbed by Richard;
by the extreme strangeness of what had happened, and by a
thousand feelings of which she had not been conscious before.
She made scarcely any attempt to listen to what Helen was saying,
as Helen indulged in commonplaces to begin with. While Mrs. Ambrose
arranged her embroidery, sucked her silk, and threaded her needle,
she lay back gazing at the horizon.
"Did you like those people?" Helen asked her casually.
"Yes," she replied blankly.
"You talked to him, didn't you?"
She said nothing for a minute.
"He kissed me," she said without any change of tone.
Helen started, looked at her, but could not make out what she felt.
"M-m-m'yes," she said, after a pause. "I thought he was that kind
"What kind of man?" said Rachel.
"Pompous and sentimental."
"I like him," said Rachel.
"So you really didn't mind?"
For the first time since Helen had known her Rachel's eyes lit
"I did mind," she said vehemently. "I dreamt. I couldn't sleep."
"Tell me what happened," said Helen. She had to keep her lips
from twitching as she listened to Rachel's story. It was poured
out abruptly with great seriousness and no sense of humour.
"We talked about politics. He told me what he had done for the
poor somewhere. I asked him all sorts of questions. He told me
about his own life. The day before yesterday, after the storm,
he came in to see me. It happened then, quite suddenly.
He kissed me. I don't know why." As she spoke she grew flushed.
"I was a good deal excited," she continued. "But I didn't mind
till afterwards; when--" she paused, and saw the figure of the bloated
little man again--"I became terrified."
From the look in her eyes it was evident she was again terrified.
Helen was really at a loss what to say. From the little she knew
of Rachel's upbringing she supposed that she had been kept entirely
ignorant as to the relations of men with women. With a shyness
which she felt with women and not with men she did not like to
explain simply what these are. Therefore she took the other course
and belittled the whole affair.
"Oh, well," she said, "He was a silly creature, and if I were you,
I'd think no more about it."
"No," said Rachel, sitting bolt upright, "I shan't do that.
I shall think about it all day and all night until I find out exactly
what it does mean."
"Don't you ever read?" Helen asked tentatively.
"_Cowper's_ _Letters_--that kind of thing. Father gets them for me
or my Aunts."
Helen could hardly restrain herself from saying out loud what she
thought of a man who brought up his daughter so that at the age
of twenty-four she scarcely knew that men desired women and was
terrified by a kiss. She had good reason to fear that Rachel
had made herself incredibly ridiculous.
"You don't know many men?" she asked.
"Mr. Pepper," said Rachel ironically.
"So no one's ever wanted to marry you?"
"No," she answered ingenuously.
Helen reflected that as, from what she had said, Rachel certainly
would think these things out, it might be as well to help her.
"You oughtn't to be frightened," she said. "It's the most natural
thing in the world. Men will want to kiss you, just as they'll
want to marry you. The pity is to get things out of proportion.
It's like noticing the noises people make when they eat, or men
spitting; or, in short, any small thing that gets on one's nerves."
Rachel seemed to be inattentive to these remarks.
"Tell me," she said suddenly, "what are those women in Piccadilly?"
"In Picadilly? They are prostituted," said Helen.
"It _is_ terrifying--it _is_ disgusting," Rachel asserted, as if she
included Helen in the hatred.
"It is," said Helen. "But--"
"I did like him," Rachel mused, as if speaking to herself.
"I wanted to talk to him; I wanted to know what he'd done.
The women in Lancashire--"
It seemed to her as she recalled their talk that there was something
lovable about Richard, good in their attempted friendship,
and strangely piteous in the way they had parted.
The softening of her mood was apparent to Helen.
"You see," she said, "you must take things as they are; and if you want
friendship with men you must run risks. Personally," she continued,
breaking into a smile, "I think it's worth it; I don't mind
being kissed; I'm rather jealous, I believe, that Mr. Dalloway kissed
you and didn't kiss me. Though," she added, "he bored me considerably."
But Rachel did not return the smile or dismiss the whole affair,
as Helen meant her to. Her mind was working very quickly,
inconsistently and painfully. Helen's words hewed down great blocks
which had stood there always, and the light which came in was cold.
After sitting for a time with fixed eyes, she burst out:
"So that's why I can't walk alone!"
By this new light she saw her life for the first time a creeping
hedged-in thing, driven cautiously between high walls,
here turned aside, there plunged in darkness, made dull and
crippled for ever--her life that was the only chance she had--
a thousand words and actions became plain to her.
"Because men are brutes! I hate men!" she exclaimed.
"I thought you said you liked him?" said Helen.
"I liked him, and I liked being kissed," she answered, as if that
only added more difficulties to her problem.
Helen was surprised to see how genuine both shock and problem were,
but she could think of no way of easing the difficulty except by going
on talking. She wanted to make her niece talk, and so to understand
why this rather dull, kindly, plausible politician had made so deep
an impression on her, for surely at the age of twenty-four this
was not natural.
"And did you like Mrs. Dalloway too?" she asked.
As she spoke she saw Rachel redden; for she remembered silly things
she had said, and also, it occurred to her that she treated this
exquisite woman rather badly, for Mrs. Dalloway had said that she
loved her husband.
"She was quite nice, but a thimble-pated creature," Helen continued.
"I never heard such nonsense! Chitter-chatter-chitter-chatter--
fish and the Greek alphabet--never listened to a word any one said--
chock-full of idiotic theories about the way to bring up children--
I'd far rather talk to him any day. He was pompous, but he did at
least understand what was said to him."
The glamour insensibly faded a little both from Richard and Clarissa.
They had not been so wonderful after all, then, in the eyes of a
"It's very difficult to know what people are like," Rachel remarked,
and Helen saw with pleasure that she spoke more naturally.
"I suppose I was taken in."
There was little doubt about that according to Helen, but she
restrained herself and said aloud:
"One has to make experiments."
"And they _were_ nice," said Rachel. "They were extraordinarily
interesting." She tried to recall the image of the world as a
live thing that Richard had given her, with drains like nerves,
and bad houses like patches of diseased skin. She recalled
his watch-words--Unity--Imagination, and saw again the bubbles
meeting in her tea-cup as he spoke of sisters and canaries,
boyhood and his father, her small world becoming wonderfully enlarged.
"But all people don't seem to you equally interesting, do they?"
asked Mrs. Ambrose.
Rachel explained that most people had hitherto been symbols;
but that when they talked to one they ceased to be symbols,
and became--"I could listen to them for ever!" she exclaimed.
She then jumped up, disappeared downstairs for a minute, and came back
with a fat red book.
"_Who's_ _Who_," she said, laying it upon Helen's knee and turning
the pages. "It gives short lives of people--for instance:
'Sir Roland Beal; born 1852; parents from Moffatt; educated at Rugby;
passed first into R.E.; married 1878 the daughter of T. Fishwick;
served in the Bechuanaland Expedition 1884-85 (honourably mentioned). Clubs:
United Service, Naval and Military. Recreations: an enthusiastic curler.'"
Sitting on the deck at Helen's feet she went on turning the
pages and reading biographies of bankers, writers, clergymen,
sailors, surgeons, judges, professors, statesmen, editors,
philanthropists, merchants, and actresses; what clubs they belonged
to, where they lived, what games they played, and how many acres they owned.
She became absorbed in the book.
Helen meanwhile stitched at her embroidery and thought over the things
they had said. Her conclusion was that she would very much like to
show her niece, if it were possible, how to live, or as she put it,
how to be a reasonable person. She thought that there must be something
wrong in this confusion between politics and kissing politicians,
and that an elder person ought to be able to help.
"I quite agree," she said, "that people are very interesting;
only--" Rachel, putting her finger between the pages, looked up enquiringly.
"Only I think you ought to discriminate," she ended. "It's a pity
to be intimate with people who are--well, rather second-rate,
like the Dalloways, and to find it out later."
"But how does one know?" Rachel asked.
"I really can't tell you," replied Helen candidly, after a
moment's thought. "You'll have to find out for yourself. But try and--
Why don't you call me Helen?" she added. "'Aunt's' a horrid name.
I never liked my Aunts."
"I should like to call you Helen," Rachel answered.
"D'you think me very unsympathetic?"
Rachel reviewed the points which Helen had certainly failed
to understand; they arose chiefly from the difference of nearly
twenty years in age between them, which made Mrs. Ambrose appear
too humorous and cool in a matter of such moment.
"No," she said. "Some things you don't understand, of course."
"Of course," Helen agreed. "So now you can go ahead and be a person
on your own account," she added.
The vision of her own personality, of herself as a real everlasting
thing, different from anything else, unmergeable, like the sea
or the wind, flashed into Rachel's mind, and she became profoundly
excited at the thought of living.
"I can by m-m-myself," she stammered, "in spite of you, in spite
of the Dalloways, and Mr. Pepper, and Father, and my Aunts, in spite
of these?" She swept her hand across a whole page of statesmen
"In spite of them all," said Helen gravely. She then put down her needle,
and explained a plan which had come into her head as they talked.
Instead of wandering on down the Amazons until she reached some
sulphurous tropical port, where one had to lie within doors all day
beating off insects with a fan, the sensible thing to do surely
was to spend the season with them in their villa by the seaside,
where among other advantages Mrs. Ambrose herself would be at hand to--
"After all, Rachel," she broke off, "it's silly to pretend that
because there's twenty years' difference between us we therefore
can't talk to each other like human beings."
"No; because we like each other," said Rachel.
"Yes," Mrs. Ambrose agreed.
That fact, together with other facts, had been made clear by their
twenty minutes' talk, although how they had come to these conclusions
they could not have said.
However they were come by, they were sufficiently serious to send
Mrs. Ambrose a day or two later in search of her brother-in-law. She
found him sitting in his room working, applying a stout blue pencil
authoritatively to bundles of filmy paper. Papers lay to left and
to right of him, there were great envelopes so gorged with papers
that they spilt papers on to the table. Above him hung a photograph
of a woman's head. The need of sitting absolutely still before
a Cockney photographer had given her lips a queer little pucker,
and her eyes for the same reason looked as though she thought
the whole situation ridiculous. Nevertheless it was the head
of an individual and interesting woman, who would no doubt have
turned and laughed at Willoughby if she could have caught his eye;
but when he looked up at her he sighed profoundly. In his mind
this work of his, the great factories at Hull which showed like
mountains at night, the ships that crossed the ocean punctually,
the schemes for combining this and that and building up a solid
mass of industry, was all an offering to her; he laid his success
at her feet; and was always thinking how to educate his daughter
so that Theresa might be glad. He was a very ambitious man;
and although he had not been particularly kind to her while she lived,
as Helen thought, he now believed that she watched him from Heaven,
and inspired what was good in him.
Mrs. Ambrose apologised for the interruption, and asked whether
she might speak to him about a plan of hers. Would he consent
to leave his daughter with them when they landed, instead of taking
her on up the Amazons?
"We would take great care of her," she added, "and we should really
Willoughby looked very grave and carefully laid aside his papers.
"She's a good girl," he said at length. "There is a likeness?"--
he nodded his head at the photograph of Theresa and sighed. Helen looked
at Theresa pursing up her lips before the Cockney photographer.
It suggested her in an absurd human way, and she felt an intense
desire to share some joke.
"She's the only thing that's left to me," sighed Willoughby.
"We go on year after year without talking about these things--"
He broke off. "But it's better so. Only life's very hard."
Helen was sorry for him, and patted him on the shoulder, but she
felt uncomfortable when her brother-in-law expressed his feelings,
and took refuge in praising Rachel, and explaining why she thought
her plan might be a good one.
"True," said Willoughby when she had done. "The social conditions
are bound to be primitive. I should be out a good deal. I agreed
because she wished it. And of course I have complete confidence
in you. . . . You see, Helen," he continued, becoming confidential,
"I want to bring her up as her mother would have wished. I don't
hold with these modern views--any more than you do, eh? She's a nice
quiet girl, devoted to her music--a little less of _that_ would
do no harm. Still, it's kept her happy, and we lead a very quiet
life at Richmond. I should like her to begin to see more people.
I want to take her about with me when I get home. I've half a mind
to rent a house in London, leaving my sisters at Richmond, and take
her to see one or two people who'd be kind to her for my sake.
I'm beginning to realise," he continued, stretching himself out,
"that all this is tending to Parliament, Helen. It's the only way
to get things done as one wants them done. I talked to Dalloway
about it. In that case, of course, I should want Rachel to be able
to take more part in things. A certain amount of entertaining would
be necessary--dinners, an occasional evening party. One's constituents
like to be fed, I believe. In all these ways Rachel could be
of great help to me. So," he wound up, "I should be very glad,
if we arrange this visit (which must be upon a business footing,
mind), if you could see your way to helping my girl, bringing her out--
she's a little shy now,--making a woman of her, the kind of woman
her mother would have liked her to be," he ended, jerking his head at
Willoughby's selfishness, though consistent as Helen saw with real
affection for his daughter, made her determined to have the girl
to stay with her, even if she had to promise a complete course
of instruction in the feminine graces. She could not help laughing
at the notion of it--Rachel a Tory hostess!--and marvelling as she
left him at the astonishing ignorance of a father.
Rachel, when consulted, showed less enthusiasm than Helen could
have wished. One moment she was eager, the next doubtful. Visions of
a great river, now blue, now yellow in the tropical sun and crossed
by bright birds, now white in the moon, now deep in shade with moving
trees and canoes sliding out from the tangled banks, beset her.
Helen promised a river. Then she did not want to leave her father.
That feeling seemed genuine too, but in the end Helen prevailed,
although when she had won her case she was beset by doubts,
and more than once regretted the impulse which had entangled her
with the fortunes of another human being.
From a distance the _Euphrosyne_ looked very small. Glasses were
turned upon her from the decks of great liners, and she was pronounced
a tramp, a cargo-boat, or one of those wretched little passenger
steamers where people rolled about among the cattle on deck.
The insect-like figures of Dalloways, Ambroses, and Vinraces were
also derided, both from the extreme smallness of their persons
and the doubt which only strong glasses could dispel as to whether
they were really live creatures or only lumps on the rigging.
Mr. Pepper with all his learning had been mistaken for a cormorant,
and then, as unjustly, transformed into a cow. At night,
indeed, when the waltzes were swinging in the saloon, and gifted
passengers reciting, the little ship--shrunk to a few beads of light
out among the dark waves, and one high in air upon the mast-head--
seemed something mysterious and impressive to heated partners
resting from the dance. She became a ship passing in the night--
an emblem of the loneliness of human life, an occasion for queer
confidences and sudden appeals for sympathy.
On and on she went, by day and by night, following her path, until one
morning broke and showed the land. Losing its shadow-like appearance
it became first cleft and mountainous, next coloured grey and purple,
next scattered with white blocks which gradually separated themselves,
and then, as the progress of the ship acted upon the view like a
field-glass of increasing power, became streets of houses. By nine
o'clock the _Euphrosyne_ had taken up her position in the middle
of a great bay; she dropped her anchor; immediately, as if she were
a recumbent giant requiring examination, small boats came swarming
about her. She rang with cries; men jumped on to her; her deck
was thumped by feet. The lonely little island was invaded from all
quarters at once, and after four weeks of silence it was bewildering
to hear human speech. Mrs. Ambrose alone heeded none of this stir.
She was pale with suspense while the boat with mail bags was making
towards them. Absorbed in her letters she did not notice that she
had left the _Euphrosyne_, and felt no sadness when the ship lifted
up her voice and bellowed thrice like a cow separated from its calf.
"The children are well!" she exclaimed. Mr. Pepper, who sat opposite with
a great mound of bag and rug upon his knees, said, "Gratifying." Rachel,
to whom the end of the voyage meant a complete change of perspective,
was too much bewildered by the approach of the shore to realise
what children were well or why it was gratifying. Helen went on reading.
Moving very slowly, and rearing absurdly high over each wave,
the little boat was now approaching a white crescent of sand.
Behind this was a deep green valley, with distinct hills on either side.
On the slope of the right-hand hill white houses with brown roofs
were settled, like nesting sea-birds, and at intervals cypresses
striped the hill with black bars. Mountains whose sides were
flushed with red, but whose crowns were bald, rose as a pinnacle,
half-concealing another pinnacle behind it. The hour being
still early, the whole view was exquisitely light and airy;
the blues and greens of sky and tree were intense but not sultry.
As they drew nearer and could distinguish details, the effect of
the earth with its minute objects and colours and different forms
of life was overwhelming after four weeks of the sea, and kept
"Three hundred years odd," said Mr. Pepper meditatively at length.
As nobody said, "What?" he merely extracted a bottle and swallowed
a pill. The piece of information that died within him was to the effect
that three hundred years ago five Elizabethan barques had anchored
where the _Euphrosyne_ now floated. Half-drawn up upon the beach
lay an equal number of Spanish galleons, unmanned, for the country
was still a virgin land behind a veil. Slipping across the water,
the English sailors bore away bars of silver, bales of linen,
timbers of cedar wood, golden crucifixes knobbed with emeralds.
When the Spaniards came down from their drinking, a fight ensued,
the two parties churning up the sand, and driving each other into
the surf. The Spaniards, bloated with fine living upon the fruits
of the miraculous land, fell in heaps; but the hardy Englishmen,
tawny with sea-voyaging, hairy for lack of razors, with muscles
like wire, fangs greedy for flesh, and fingers itching for gold,
despatched the wounded, drove the dying into the sea, and soon
reduced the natives to a state of superstitious wonderment.
Here a settlement was made; women were imported; children grew.
All seemed to favour the expansion of the British Empire, and had
there been men like Richard Dalloway in the time of Charles the First,
the map would undoubtedly be red where it is now an odious green.
But it must be supposed that the political mind of that age lacked
imagination, and, merely for want of a few thousand pounds and a few
thousand men, the spark died that should have been a conflagration.
From the interior came Indians with subtle poisons, naked bodies,
and painted idols; from the sea came vengeful Spaniards and rapacious
Portuguese; exposed to all these enemies (though the climate proved
wonderfully kind and the earth abundant) the English dwindled away
and all but disappeared. Somewhere about the middle of the seventeenth
century a single sloop watched its season and slipped out by night,
bearing within it all that was left of the great British colony,
a few men, a few women, and perhaps a dozen dusky children.
English history then denies all knowledge of the place. Owing to
one cause and another civilisation shifted its centre to a spot
some four or five hundred miles to the south, and to-day Santa
Marina is not much larger than it was three hundred years ago.
In population it is a happy compromise, for Portuguese fathers wed
Indian mothers, and their children intermarry with the Spanish.
Although they get their ploughs from Manchester, they make their
coats from their own sheep, their silk from their own worms,
and their furniture from their own cedar trees, so that in arts
and industries the place is still much where it was in Elizabethan
The reasons which had drawn the English across the sea to found
a small colony within the last ten years are not so easily described,
and will never perhaps be recorded in history books. Granted facility
of travel, peace, good trade, and so on, there was besides a kind
of dissatisfaction among the English with the older countries
and the enormous accumulations of carved stone, stained glass,
and rich brown painting which they offered to the tourist.
The movement in search of something new was of course infinitely small,
affecting only a handful of well-to-do people. It began by a few
schoolmasters serving their passage out to South America as the pursers
of tramp steamers. They returned in time for the summer term,
when their stories of the splendours and hardships of life at sea,
the humours of sea-captains, the wonders of night and dawn, and the
marvels of the place delighted outsiders, and sometimes found their way
into print. The country itself taxed all their powers of description,
for they said it was much bigger than Italy, and really nobler
than Greece. Again, they declared that the natives were strangely
beautiful, very big in stature, dark, passionate, and quick to seize
the knife. The place seemed new and full of new forms of beauty,
in proof of which they showed handkerchiefs which the women had worn
round their heads, and primitive carvings coloured bright greens
and blues. Somehow or other, as fashions do, the fashion spread;
an old monastery was quickly turned into a hotel, while a famous
line of steamships altered its route for the convenience of passengers.
Oddly enough it happened that the least satisfactory of Helen
Ambrose's brothers had been sent out years before to make his fortune,
at any rate to keep clear of race-horses, in the very spot
which had now become so popular. Often, leaning upon the column
in the verandah, he had watched the English ships with English
schoolmasters for pursers steaming into the bay. Having at length
earned enough to take a holiday, and being sick of the place,
he proposed to put his villa, on the slope of the mountain,
at his sister's disposal. She, too, had been a little stirred by
the talk of a new world, where there was always sun and never a fog,
which went on around her, and the chance, when they were planning
where to spend the winter out of England, seemed too good to be missed.
For these reasons she determined to accept Willoughby's offer
of free passages on his ship, to place the children with their
grand-parents, and to do the thing thoroughly while she was about it.
Taking seats in a carriage drawn by long-tailed horses with pheasants'
feathers erect between their ears, the Ambroses, Mr. Pepper,
and Rachel rattled out of the harbour. The day increased in heat
as they drove up the hill. The road passed through the town,
where men seemed to be beating brass and crying "Water," where
the passage was blocked by mules and cleared by whips and curses,
where the women walked barefoot, their heads balancing baskets,
and cripples hastily displayed mutilated members; it issued among
steep green fields, not so green but that the earth showed through.
Great trees now shaded all but the centre of the road, and a
mountain stream, so shallow and so swift that it plaited itself
into strands as it ran, raced along the edge. Higher they went,
until Ridley and Rachel walked behind; next they turned along
a lane scattered with stones, where Mr. Pepper raised his stick and
silently indicated a shrub, bearing among sparse leaves a voluminous
purple blossom; and at a rickety canter the last stage of the way
The villa was a roomy white house, which, as is the case with most
continental houses, looked to an English eye frail, ramshackle,
and absurdly frivolous, more like a pagoda in a tea-garden than a
place where one slept. The garden called urgently for the services
of gardener. Bushes waved their branches across the paths,
and the blades of grass, with spaces of earth between them,
could be counted. In the circular piece of ground in front of
the verandah were two cracked vases, from which red flowers drooped,
with a stone fountain between them, now parched in the sun.
The circular garden led to a long garden, where the gardener's
shears had scarcely been, unless now and then, when he cut a bough
of blossom for his beloved. A few tall trees shaded it, and round
bushes with wax-like flowers mobbed their heads together in a row.
A garden smoothly laid with turf, divided by thick hedges, with raised
beds of bright flowers, such as we keep within walls in England,
would have been out of place upon the side of this bare hill.
There was no ugliness to shut out, and the villa looked straight
across the shoulder of a slope, ribbed with olive trees, to the sea.
The indecency of the whole place struck Mrs. Chailey forcibly.
There were no blinds to shut out the sun, nor was there any furniture
to speak of for the sun to spoil. Standing in the bare stone hall,
and surveying a staircase of superb breadth, but cracked and carpetless,
she further ventured the opinion that there were rats, as large
as terriers at home, and that if one put one's foot down with any
force one would come through the floor. As for hot water--at this
point her investigations left her speechless.
"Poor creature!" she murmured to the sallow Spanish servant-girl
who came out with the pigs and hens to receive them, "no wonder you
hardly look like a human being!" Maria accepted the compliment
with an exquisite Spanish grace. In Chailey's opinion they would
have done better to stay on board an English ship, but none knew
better than she that her duty commanded her to stay.
When they were settled in, and in train to find daily occupation,
there was some speculation as to the reasons which induced
Mr. Pepper to stay, taking up his lodging in the Ambroses' house.
Efforts had been made for some days before landing to impress
upon him the advantages of the Amazons.
"That great stream!" Helen would begin, gazing as if she saw
a visionary cascade, "I've a good mind to go with you myself,
Willoughby--only I can't. Think of the sunsets and the moonrises--
I believe the colours are unimaginable."
"There are wild peacocks," Rachel hazarded.
"And marvellous creatures in the water," Helen asserted.
"One might discover a new reptile," Rachel continued.
"There's certain to be a revolution, I'm told," Helen urged.
The effect of these subterfuges was a little dashed by Ridley, who,
after regarding Pepper for some moments, sighed aloud, "Poor fellow!"
and inwardly speculated upon the unkindness of women.
He stayed, however, in apparent contentment for six days,
playing with a microscope and a notebook in one of the many sparsely
furnished sitting-rooms, but on the evening of the seventh day,
as they sat at dinner, he appeared more restless than usual.
The dinner-table was set between two long windows which were left
uncurtained by Helen's orders. Darkness fell as sharply as a knife
in this climate, and the town then sprang out in circles and lines
of bright dots beneath them. Buildings which never showed by day
showed by night, and the sea flowed right over the land judging
by the moving lights of the steamers. The sight fulfilled the same
purpose as an orchestra in a London restaurant, and silence
had its setting. William Pepper observed it for some time;
he put on his spectacles to contemplate the scene.
"I've identified the big block to the left," he observed, and pointed
with his fork at a square formed by several rows of lights.
"One should infer that they can cook vegetables," he added.
"An hotel?" said Helen.
"Once a monastery," said Mr. Pepper.
Nothing more was said then, but, the day after, Mr. Pepper returned
from a midday walk, and stood silently before Helen who was reading
in the verandah.
"I've taken a room over there," he said.
"You're not going?" she exclaimed.
"On the whole--yes," he remarked. "No private cook _can_ cook vegetables."
Knowing his dislike of questions, which she to some extent shared,
Helen asked no more. Still, an uneasy suspicion lurked in her mind
that William was hiding a wound. She flushed to think that her words,
or her husband's, or Rachel's had penetrated and stung. She was
half-moved to cry, "Stop, William; explain!" and would have returned
to the subject at luncheon if William had not shown himself inscrutable
and chill, lifting fragments of salad on the point of his fork,
with the gesture of a man pronging seaweed, detecting gravel,
"If you all die of typhoid I won't be responsible!" he snapped.
"If you die of dulness, neither will I," Helen echoed in her heart.
She reflected that she had never yet asked him whether he had been
in love. They had got further and further from that subject instead
of drawing nearer to it, and she could not help feeling it a relief
when William Pepper, with all his knowledge, his microscope,
his note-books, his genuine kindliness and good sense, but a certain
dryness of soul, took his departure. Also she could not help
feeling it sad that friendships should end thus, although in this
case to have the room empty was something of a comfort, and she
tried to console herself with the reflection that one never knows
how far other people feel the things they might be supposed to feel.
The next few months passed away, as many years can pass away,
without definite events, and yet, if suddenly disturbed, it would
be seen that such months or years had a character unlike others.
The three months which had passed had brought them to the beginning
of March. The climate had kept its promise, and the change
of season from winter to spring had made very little difference,
so that Helen, who was sitting in the drawing-room with a pen in
her hand, could keep the windows open though a great fire of logs
burnt on one side of her. Below, the sea was still blue and the
roofs still brown and white, though the day was fading rapidly.
It was dusk in the room, which, large and empty at all times,
now appeared larger and emptier than usual. Her own figure, as she
sat writing with a pad on her knee, shared the general effect of size
and lack of detail, for the flames which ran along the branches,
suddenly devouring little green tufts, burnt intermittently and sent
irregular illuminations across her face and the plaster walls.
There were no pictures on the walls but here and there boughs
laden with heavy-petalled flowers spread widely against them.
Of the books fallen on the bare floor and heaped upon the large table,
it was only possible in this light to trace the outline.
Mrs. Ambrose was writing a very long letter. Beginning "Dear Bernard,"
it went on to describe what had been happening in the Villa San
Gervasio during the past three months, as, for instance, that they
had had the British Consul to dinner, and had been taken over a Spanish
man-of-war, and had seen a great many processions and religious festivals,
which were so beautiful that Mrs. Ambrose couldn't conceive why,
if people must have a religion, they didn't all become Roman Catholics.
They had made several expeditions though none of any length. It was
worth coming if only for the sake of the flowering trees which grew
wild quite near the house, and the amazing colours of sea and earth.
The earth, instead of being brown, was red, purple, green. "You won't
believe me," she added, "there is no colour like it in England."
She adopted, indeed, a condescending tone towards that poor island,
which was now advancing chilly crocuses and nipped violets in nooks,
in copses, in cosy corners, tended by rosy old gardeners in mufflers,
who were always touching their hats and bobbing obsequiously.
She went on to deride the islanders themselves. Rumours of London all
in a ferment over a General Election had reached them even out here.
"It seems incredible," she went on, "that people should care whether
Asquith is in or Austen Chamberlin out, and while you scream yourselves
hoarse about politics you let the only people who are trying for
something good starve or simply laugh at them. When have you ever
encouraged a living artist? Or bought his best work? Why are you
all so ugly and so servile? Here the servants are human beings.
They talk to one as if they were equals. As far as I can tell there
are no aristocrats."
Perhaps it was the mention of aristocrats that reminded her of
Richard Dalloway and Rachel, for she ran on with the same penful
to describe her niece.
"It's an odd fate that has put me in charge of a girl," she wrote,
"considering that I have never got on well with women, or had much
to do with them. However, I must retract some of the things that I
have said against them. If they were properly educated I don't see
why they shouldn't be much the same as men--as satisfactory I mean;
though, of course, very different. The question is, how should
one educate them. The present method seems to me abominable.
This girl, though twenty-four, had never heard that men desired women,
and, until I explained it, did not know how children were born.
Her ignorance upon other matters as important" (here Mrs. Ambrose's
letter may not be quoted) . . ."was complete. It seems to me not
merely foolish but criminal to bring people up like that. Let alone
the suffering to them, it explains why women are what they are--
the wonder is they're no worse. I have taken it upon myself
to enlighten her, and now, though still a good deal prejudiced and
liable to exaggerate, she is more or less a reasonable human being.
Keeping them ignorant, of course, defeats its own object, and when
they begin to understand they take it all much too seriously.
My brother-in-law really deserved a catastrophe--which he won't get.
I now pray for a young man to come to my help; some one, I mean,
who would talk to her openly, and prove how absurd most of her ideas
about life are. Unluckily such men seem almost as rare as the women.
The English colony certainly doesn't provide one; artists, merchants,
cultivated people--they are stupid, conventional, and flirtatious.
. . ." She ceased, and with her pen in her hand sat looking into
the fire, making the logs into caves and mountains, for it had grown
too dark to go on writing. Moreover, the house began to stir as
the hour of dinner approached; she could hear the plates being chinked
in the dining-room next door, and Chailey instructing the Spanish
girl where to put things down in vigorous English. The bell rang;
she rose, met Ridley and Rachel outside, and they all went in
Three months had made but little difference in the appearance either
of Ridley or Rachel; yet a keen observer might have thought that the girl
was more definite and self-confident in her manner than before.
Her skin was brown, her eyes certainly brighter, and she attended
to what was said as though she might be going to contradict it.
The meal began with the comfortable silence of people who are quite
at their ease together. Then Ridley, leaning on his elbow and looking
out of the window, observed that it was a lovely night.
"Yes," said Helen. She added, "The season's begun," looking at
the lights beneath them. She asked Maria in Spanish whether the hotel
was not filling up with visitors. Maria informed her with pride
that there would come a time when it was positively difficult
to buy eggs--the shopkeepers would not mind what prices they asked;
they would get them, at any rate, from the English.
"That's an English steamer in the bay," said Rachel, looking at
a triangle of lights below. "She came in early this morning."
"Then we may hope for some letters and send ours back," said Helen.
For some reason the mention of letters always made Ridley groan,
and the rest of the meal passed in a brisk argument between husband
and wife as to whether he was or was not wholly ignored by the entire
"Considering the last batch," said Helen, "you deserve beating.
You were asked to lecture, you were offered a degree, and some silly
woman praised not only your books but your beauty--she said he was what
Shelley would have been if Shelley had lived to fifty-five and grown
a beard. Really, Ridley, I think you're the vainest man I know,"
she ended, rising from the table, "which I may tell you is saying
a good deal."
Finding her letter lying before the fire she added a few lines to it,
and then announced that she was going to take the letters now--
Ridley must bring his--and Rachel?
"I hope you've written to your Aunts? It's high time."
The women put on cloaks and hats, and after inviting Ridley to come
with them, which he emphatically refused to do, exclaiming that
Rachel he expected to be a fool, but Helen surely knew better,
they turned to go. He stood over the fire gazing into the depths
of the looking-glass, and compressing his face into the likeness
of a commander surveying a field of battle, or a martyr watching
the flames lick his toes, rather than that of a secluded Professor.
Helen laid hold of his beard.
"Am I a fool?" she said.
"Let me go, Helen."
"Am I a fool?" she repeated.
"Vile woman!" he exclaimed, and kissed her.
"We'll leave you to your vanities," she called back as they went
out of the door.
It was a beautiful evening, still light enough to see a long way
down the road, though the stars were coming out. The pillar-box
was let into a high yellow wall where the lane met the road,
and having dropped the letters into it, Helen was for turning back.
"No, no," said Rachel, taking her by the wrist. "We're going
to see life. You promised."
"Seeing life" was the phrase they used for their habit of strolling
through the town after dark. The social life of Santa Marina
was carried on almost entirely by lamp-light, which the warmth of
the nights and the scents culled from flowers made pleasant enough.
The young women, with their hair magnificently swept in coils,
a red flower behind the ear, sat on the doorsteps, or issued out
on to balconies, while the young men ranged up and down beneath,
shouting up a greeting from time to time and stopping here and there
to enter into amorous talk. At the open windows merchants could
be seen making up the day's account, and older women lifting jars
from shelf to shelf. The streets were full of people, men for the
most part, who interchanged their views of the world as they walked,
or gathered round the wine-tables at the street corner, where an old
cripple was twanging his guitar strings, while a poor girl cried
her passionate song in the gutter. The two Englishwomen excited
some friendly curiosity, but no one molested them.
Helen sauntered on, observing the different people in their shabby
clothes, who seemed so careless and so natural, with satisfaction.
"Just think of the Mall to-night!" she exclaimed at length.
"It's the fifteenth of March. Perhaps there's a Court."
She thought of the crowd waiting in the cold spring air to see
the grand carriages go by. "It's very cold, if it's not raining,"
she said. "First there are men selling picture postcards; then there
are wretched little shop-girls with round bandboxes; then there
are bank clerks in tail coats; and then--any number of dressmakers.
People from South Kensington drive up in a hired fly; officials have
a pair of bays; earls, on the other hand, are allowed one footman
to stand up behind; dukes have two, royal dukes--so I was told--
have three; the king, I suppose, can have as many as he likes.
And the people believe in it!"
Out here it seemed as though the people of England must be
shaped in the body like the kings and queens, knights and pawns
of the chessboard, so strange were their differences, so marked
and so implicitly believed in.
They had to part in order to circumvent a crowd.
"They believe in God," said Rachel as they regained each other.
She meant that the people in the crowd believed in Him; for she
remembered the crosses with bleeding plaster figures that stood
where foot-paths joined, and the inexplicable mystery of a service
in a Roman Catholic church.
"We shall never understand!" she sighed.
They had walked some way and it was now night, but they could see
a large iron gate a little way farther down the road on their left.
"Do you mean to go right up to the hotel?" Helen asked.
Rachel gave the gate a push; it swung open, and, seeing no one
about and judging that nothing was private in this country,
they walked straight on. An avenue of trees ran along the road,
which was completely straight. The trees suddenly came to an end;
the road turned a corner, and they found themselves confronted by
a large square building. They had come out upon the broad terrace
which ran round the hotel and were only a few feet distant from
the windows. A row of long windows opened almost to the ground.
They were all of them uncurtained, and all brilliantly lighted,
so that they could see everything inside. Each window revealed
a different section of the life of the hotel. They drew into one
of the broad columns of shadow which separated the windows and
gazed in. They found themselves just outside the dining-room. It
was being swept; a waiter was eating a bunch of grapes with his leg
across the corner of a table. Next door was the kitchen, where they
were washing up; white cooks were dipping their arms into cauldrons,
while the waiters made their meal voraciously off broken meats,
sopping up the gravy with bits of crumb. Moving on, they became lost
in a plantation of bushes, and then suddenly found themselves outside
the drawing-room, where the ladies and gentlemen, having dined well,
lay back in deep arm-chairs, occasionally speaking or turning over
the pages of magazines. A thin woman was flourishing up and down
"What is a dahabeeyah, Charles?" the distinct voice of a widow,
seated in an arm-chair by the window, asked her son.
It was the end of the piece, and his answer was lost in the general
clearing of throats and tapping of knees.
"They're all old in this room," Rachel whispered.
Creeping on, they found that the next window revealed two men
in shirt-sleeves playing billiards with two young ladies.
"He pinched my arm!" the plump young woman cried, as she missed
"Now you two--no ragging," the young man with the red face
reproved them, who was marking.
"Take care or we shall be seen," whispered Helen, plucking Rachel
by the arm. Incautiously her head had risen to the middle of the window.
Turning the corner they came to the largest room in the hotel,
which was supplied with four windows, and was called the Lounge,
although it was really a hall. Hung with armour and native embroideries,
furnished with divans and screens, which shut off convenient corners,
the room was less formal than the others, and was evidently the haunt
of youth. Signor Rodriguez, whom they knew to be the manager
of the hotel, stood quite near them in the doorway surveying
the scene--the gentlemen lounging in chairs, the couples leaning
over coffee-cups, the game of cards in the centre under profuse
clusters of electric light. He was congratulating himself upon
the enterprise which had turned the refectory, a cold stone room
with pots on trestles, into the most comfortable room in the house.
The hotel was very full, and proved his wisdom in decreeing
that no hotel can flourish without a lounge.
The people were scattered about in couples or parties of four,
and either they were actually better acquainted, or the informal
room made their manners easier. Through the open window came
an uneven humming sound like that which rises from a flock of sheep
pent within hurdles at dusk. The card-party occupied the centre
of the foreground.
Helen and Rachel watched them play for some minutes without being able
to distinguish a word. Helen was observing one of the men intently.
He was a lean, somewhat cadaverous man of about her own age,
whose profile was turned to them, and he was the partner
of a highly-coloured girl, obviously English by birth.
Suddenly, in the strange way in which some words detach themselves
from the rest, they heard him say quite distinctly:--
"All you want is practice, Miss Warrington; courage and practice--
one's no good without the other."
"Hughling Elliot! Of course!" Helen exclaimed. She ducked
her head immediately, for at the sound of his name he looked up.
The game went on for a few minutes, and was then broken up by
the approach of a wheeled chair, containing a voluminous old lady
who paused by the table and said:--
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