The Helpmate


THE bell of St. Saviour’s had ceased. Over the market-place the air throbbed with a thousand pulses from the dying heart of sound. The great gray body of the church was still; tower and couchant nave watched in their monstrous, motionless dominion, till the music stirred in them like a triumphant soul.

As they hurried over the open marketplace, Anne realized with some annoyance that she was late again for the Wednesday evening service. She dearly loved punctuality and order, and disliked to be either checked or hastened in her superb movements. She disliked to be late for anything. Above all she disliked standing on a mat outside the closed church-door, in the middle of the General Confession, trying to Surrender her spirit to the spirit of prayer, white Walter lingered, murmuring profane urbanities that claimed her as his own.

He had perceived what he called her innocent design, her transparent effort to lead him to her heavenly heights. He had lent himself to it, tenderly, gravely, as he would have lent himself to a child’s heart-rending play. He could not profess to follow the workings of his wife’s mind, but he did understand her point of view. She had been “let in” for something she had not expected, and he was bound to make it up to her.

There had been a week of concessions, culminating in church.

But that was on a Sunday. This was Wednesday, and he drew the line at Wednesdays.

Oh yes, he saw her drift. He knew that what she expected of him was incessant penitence. But, after all, it was difficult to feel much abasement for a fault committed quite a number of years ago and sufficiently repented of at the time. He had settled his account, and it was hard that he should be made to pay twice over. To-night his mood was strangely out of harmony with Lent.

Anne slackened her pace to intimate as much to him. Whereupon he lapsed into strange and disturbing legends of his childhood. He told her he had early weaned himself from the love of Lenten services, observing their effect upon the unfortunate lady, his aunt, who had brought him up. Punctually at twelve o’clock on Palm Sunday, he said, the poor soul, exhausted with her endeavors after the Christian life, would fly into a passion, and punctually would rise from it at the same hour on Easter Day. For quite a long time he had believed that that was why they called it Passion Week.

She moaned “Oh, Walter — don’t!” as if he had hurt her, while she laid the ghost of a little creeping, curling, mundane smile.

If he would only leave her! But, as they crossed to the curbstone, he changed over, preserving his proper place. He leaned to her with the indestructible attention of a lover. His whole manner was inimitably chivalrous, protective, and polite.

Anne hardened her heart against him. At the church-gate she turned and faced him coldly.

“If you’re not going in,” said she, “you need n’t come any further.”

He glanced at the belated group of worshipers gathered before the churchdoor, and became more than ever polite and chivalrous and protective.

“I must see you safely in,” he said, and took up his stand beside her on the mat.

Her eyes rested on him for a second in reproach, then dropped behind the veil of their lids. In another moment he would have to go. He had already surrendered her prayer-book, tucking it gently under her arm.

“You’ll be all right when you get in, won’t you?” he said encouragingly.

“Please go,” she whispered.

“Do I jar, dear?” he asked sweetly.

“You do, very much.”

“I’m so sorry. I won’t do it again.”

But his whispered vows and promises belied him, battling with her consecrated mood. She felt that his innermost spirit remained unillumined by her rebuke.

Once more she set her face, and hardened her heart against him, and removed herself in the silence and isolation of her prayer.

Through the closed door there came the rich, confused murmur of the Confession. He saw her lips curl, flower-like, with emotion, as her breath rose and fell in unison with the heaving chant. He watched her with a certain reverence, incomprehensibly chastened, till the door opened, and she went from him, moving down the lighted aisle with her remote, renunciating air.

The door was shut in Majendie’s face, and he turned away, intending to kill, to murder the next hour at his club.

Anne was self-trained in the habit of detachment. She had only to kneel, to close her eyes and cover her face, and her soul slid of its own accord into the place of peace. Her very breathing and the beating of her heart were stayed. Her mind, emptied in a moment, was in a moment filled, brimming over with the thought of God. To her veiled vision that thought was like a sheet of blank light let down behind her dropped eyelids, and centring in a luminous whorl. It fascinated her. Her prayer shot straight to the heart of it, a communion too automatically swift to trouble or divide the blessed light.

In that instant, her husband, the image and the thought of him, were cast out into the secular darkness.

She remembered how difficult it had once been thus to renounce him. Her trouble, in the days of her engagement, had been that, thrust him from her as she would, the idea of his goodness — the goodness that justified her through its own appeal — would call up his presence, emerging radiant from the outermost abyss. Inferior emotions had mingled indistinguishably with her holiest ardors. Spiritually ambitious, she had had her young eye on a hard-won crown of glory, and she had found that happiness made the spiritual life almost contemptibly easy. It was no effort in those days to realize divine mysteries, when the miracle of the Incarnation was, as it were, worked for her in her own soul when she heard in her own heart the beating of the heart of God; when his hand touched her with a tenderness that warmed her in her place of peace. She had hardly known this flamed and lyric creature for herself. It was as if her soul, resting after long flight, had contemplated for the first time the silver and fine gold of her wings.

It was the facility of the revelation that had first caused her to suspect it. And she had thrown ashes on the flame, and set a watch upon her soul, lest she should mistake an earthly for a heavenly content. She could not bear to think that she was cheated, that her pulses counted in her sense of exaltation and beatitude. She desired the utmost purity in that divine communion, so as to be sure that it was divine.

Now, having suffered, she was completely sure. It was easy enough now for her to achieve detachment, oblivion of Walter Majendie, to pour out her whole soul in the prayer for light: —

“Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and by Thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night.”

Her hands, as she prayed, wore folded close over her eyes. Having completely forgotten Walter, she was astonished to find that he was there, that he had been there for some time, in the pew beside her.

He was seated in what he took to be an attitude of extreme reverence, his head bowed and resting on his left arm, which was supported by the back of the pew in front of him. His right arm embraced, unconsciously, Anne’s muff. Anne was vividly, painfully aware of him. Over the crook of his elbow one eye looked up at her, bright, smiling with inextinguishable affection. His lips gave out a sound that was not a prayer, but something between a murmur and a moan, distinctly audible.

The sermon gave him boundless opportunity. He turned in his seat; his eyes watched her under half-closed lids, two slits shining through the thick dark curtain of their lashes. He kept on pulling at his mustache, as if to hide the dumb but expressive adorations of his mouth. Anne, justly offended, removed herself by a pew’s length, till the hymn brought them together, linked by the book she could not withhold.

“ Christian, dost thou see them,
On the holy ground,
How the troops of Midian
Prowl and prowl around ? ”

sang Anne, in a dulcet pianissimo, obedient to the choir.

Profound abstraction veiled him, a treacherous, unspiritual calm. Majendie was a man with a baritone voice, which at times possessed him like a furious devil. It was sleeping in him now, biding its time, ready, she knew, to be roused by the first touch of a crescendo. The crescendo came.

“ Christian ! Up and fight them ! ”

The voice waked; it leaped from him; and to Anne’s terrified nerves it seemed to scatter the voices of the choir before it. It dropped on the Amen and died; but in dying it remained triumphant, like the trump of an archangel retreating to the uttermost ends of heaven.

Anne’s heart pained her with a profane tenderness, and a poignant repudiation. Her soul being adjusted to the divine, it was intolerable to think that this preposterous human voice should have power to shake it so.

She sank to her knees and bowed her head to the benediction.

“Did you like it?” he asked, as they emerged together into the open air.

He spoke as if to the child she seemed to him now to be. They had been playing together, pretending they were two pilgrims bound for the Heavenly City, and he wanted to know if she had had a nice game. He nursed the exquisite illusion that this time he had pleased her by playing too.

“Of course I liked it.”

“So did I,” he answered joyously. “I quite enjoyed it. We’ll do it again some other night.”

“What made you come, like that?” said she.

“I could n’t help it. You looked so pretty, dear, and so forlorn. It seemed brutal, somehow, to abandon you on the weary road to heaven.”

She sighed. That was his chivalry again. He would escort her politely to the very door of heaven, but would he ever enter in ?

Still, it was something that he should have gone with her so far. It gave her confidence, and an idea of what her power might come to be. Not that she relied upon herself alone. Her plan for Majendie’s salvation was liberal and large; it admitted of other methods, other influences. There was no narrowness, any more than there was jealousy, in Anne.

“Walter,” said she, “I want you to know Mrs. Eliott.”

“But I do know her, don’t I ?”

He called up a vision of the lady whose house had been Anne’s home in Scale. He was grateful to Mrs. Eliott. But for her slender acquaintance with his sister, he would never have known Anne. This made him feel that he knew Mrs. Eliott.

“But I want you to know her as I know her.”

He laughed. “Is that possible? Does a man ever know a woman as another woman knows her ? ”

Anne felt that she was not only being diverted from her purpose, but led by a side track to an unexplored profundity. On the further side of it she discerned, dimly, the undesirable. It was a murky region, haunted by still murkier presences, by Lady Cayley and her kind. She persisted with a magnificent irrelevance.

“You must know her. You would like her.”

He did n’t in the least want to know Mrs. Eliott; he did n’t think that he would like her. But he was soothed, flattered, insanely pleased with Anne’s assumption that he would. It was as if in her thoughts she were drawing him towards her. He felt that she was softening, yielding. His approaches were a delicious wooing of an unfamiliar, unwedded Anne.

“I would like her, because you like her, is that it ? ”

“It would n’t follow.”

“Oh, how you spoil it!”

“Spoil what?”

“My inference. It pleased me. But, as you say, the logic was n’t sound.”

Silence being the only dignified course under mystification, Anne was silent. Some men had that irritating way with women; Walter’s smile suggested that he might have it. She was not going to minister to his male delight. Unfortunately her silence seemed to please him too.

“Never mind, dear, I do like her; because she likes you.”

“You will like her for herself when you know her.”

“ Will she like me for myself when she knows me? It’s extremely doubtful. You see, hitherto she has made no ardent sign.”

“My dear, she says you’ve never been near her. You never come to one of her Thursdays.”

“ Oh, her Thursdays —no,I haven’t.”

“Well, how can you expect — but you will go sometimes, now, to please me?”

“Won’t Wednesdays do?”

“ Wednesdays ? ”

“Yes. It was n’t half bad to-night. I’ll go to every blessed Wednesday, as long as they last, if you’ll only let me off Thursdays.”

“Please don’t talk about being ‘let off.’ I thought you might like to know my friends, that’s all.”

“So I would. I’d like it awfully. By the way that reminds me. I met Hannay at the club to-night, and he asked if his wife might call on you. Would you mind very much?”

“Why should I mind, if she’s a friend of yours and Edith’s.”

“Oh well, you see, she is n’t exactly - ”

“Is n’t exactly what?”

“A friend of Edith’s.”


There is a polite and ancient rivalry between Prior Street and Thurston Square, a rivalry that dates from the middle of the eighteenth century, when Prior Street and Thurston Square were young. Each claims to be the aristocratic centre of the town. Each acknowledges the other as its solitary peer. If Prior Street were not Prior Street, it would be Thurston Square. There are a few old families left in Scale. They inhabit either Thurston Square or Prior Street. There is nowhere else that they could live with any dignity or comfort. In either place they are secure from the contamination of low persons engaged in business, and from the wide invading foot of the newly rich. These build themselves mansions after their kind in the Park, or in the broad flat highways leading into the suburbs. They have no sense for the dim undecorated charm of Prior Street and Thurston Square.

Nothing could be more distinguished than Prior Street, with its sombre symmetry, its air of delicate, early Georgian reticence. But its atmosphere is a shade too professional; it opens too precipitately on the unlovely and unsacred street.

Thurston Square is approached only by unfrequented ancient ways paved with cobblestones. It is a place of garden greenness, of seclusion, and of leisure. It breathes a provincial quietness, a measured hallowed breath, as of a cathedral close. Its inhabitants pride themselves on this immemorial calm. The older families rely on it for the sustenance of their patrician state. They sit by their firesides in dignified attitudes, impressively, luxuriously inert. Their whole being is a religious protest against the spirit of business.

But the restlessness of the times has seized upon the other families, the Pooleys, the Gardners, the Eliotts, younger by a century at least. They utilize the perfect peace for the cultivation of their intellects.

Every Thursday, towards half-past three, a wave of agreeable expectation, punctual, periodic, mounts on the stillness and stirs it. Thursday is Mrs. Eliott’s day.

The Eliotts belong to the old high merchant families, the aristocracy of trade, whose wealth is mellowed and beautified by time. Three centuries met in Mrs. Eliott’s drawing-room, harmonized by the gentle spirit of the place. Her frail modern figure moved (with elegance a little disheveled by abstraction) on an early Georgian background, among midVictorian furniture, surrounded by a multitude of decorative objects. There were great jars and idols from China and Japan ; inlaid tables; screens and cabinets and chairs in Bombay black wood, curiously carved ; a splendid profusion of painted and embroidered cloths ; the spoils of seventy years of Eastern trade. And on the top of it all, twenty years or so of recent culture. The culture was represented by a well-filled bookcase, a few diminished copies of antique sculpture, some modern sketches made in Rome and Venice (for the Eliotts had traveled), and an illuminated triptych with its saints in glory.

Mrs. Eliott herself, with her restless irregular distinction, her crude and tortured draperies, lent the last touch to these incongruous glories.

It was five o’clock on one of her Thursdays, and Mrs. Eliott had been conversing with great sweetness and power ever since half-past three. That was the way she and Mrs. Pooley kept it up, and they could have kept it up much longer but for the arrival of Miss Proctor.

That lady was no sooner announced than Mrs. Pooley collapsed in her corner with the air of an indiscreet conspirator, and Mrs. Eliott ceased suddenly from fluency. They were afraid of Miss Proctor’s unsympathetic eye, an eye hostile to enthusiasms, to ardors, and to flights. There was nothing, Miss Proctor said (if dear Fanny Eliott only knew it), so unmistakably provincial. As for aspirations (and Mrs. Pooley was full of them), what could be more contemptible than these efforts to be what you were not? There was something positively morbid in Fanny Eliott’s preoccupation with her intellect, a thing, said Miss Proctor, nobody should be conscious of. She herself was of so rich a social presence that she could afford to be unconscious of everything except her entire superiority to the superior persons of Scale. Miss Proctor hated Scale; but, as Fate compelled her to live there, she was determined to triumph over Fate. “My nature,” said Miss Proctor, “is metropolitan. I refuse to adopt provincial standards, to become provincial myself.” And, since Miss Proctor refused to conform to Scale, Scale was obliged to conform to Miss Proctor. If Mrs. Eliott had not been there before her, Miss Proctor would have become the leader of society in Scale.

Miss Proctor stood large and lavish in the doorway, and announced that she was going to take Fanny down from her heights and humanize her by a little gossip. She ignored Mrs. Pooley, since Mrs. Pooley apparently wished to be ignored.

“I want,” said she, “the latest news of Anne.”

“If you wait, you may get it from herself.”

“My dear, do you suppose she’d give it me?”

“It depends,” said Mrs. Eliott, “on what you want to know.”

“I want to know whether she ’s happy. I want to know whether, by this time, she knows.”

“You can’t ask her.”

“Of course I can’t. That’s why I am asking you.”

“I know nothing. I’ve hardly seen her.”

Miss Proctor looked as if she were seeing her that moment without Fanny Eliott’s help.

“Poor dear Anne.”

Anne Fletcher had been simply dear Anne, Mrs. Walter Majendie was poor dear Anne.

Her friends were all sorry for her. They were inclined to be indignant with Edith Majendie, who, they declared, had been at the bottom of her marriage all along. She was the cause of Anne’s original callings in Prior Street. If it had not been for Edith, Anne could never have penetrated that secret bachelor abode. The engagement had been an awkward, unsatisfactory, sinister affair. It was a pity that Mr. Majendie’s domestic circumstances were such that poor dear Anne appeared as having made all the necessary approaches and advances. If Mr. Majendie had had a family, that family would have had to call on Anne. But Mr. Majendie had n’t a family; he had only Edith, which was worse than having nobody at all. And then, besides, there was his history.

Mrs. Eliott looked distressed. Mr. Majendie’s history could not be explained away as too ancient to be interesting. In Scale a seven-year-old event is still startlingly, unforgettably modern. Anne’s marriage had saddled her friends with a difficult responsibility,—the justification of Anne for that astounding step.

Acquaintances had been made to understand that Mrs. Eliott had had nothing to do with it. They went away baffled, but confirmed in their impression that she knew; which was, after all, what they wanted to know.

It was not so easy to satisfy the licensed curiosity of Anne’s friends. They came to-day in quantities, attracted by the news of the Majendies’ premature return from their honeymoon. Mrs. Eliott felt that Miss Proctor and the Gardners were sitting on in the hope of meeting them.

Mrs. Eliott had been obliged to accept Anne’s husband, that she might retain Anne’s affection. In this she did violence to her feelings, which were sore on the subject of the marriage. It was not only on account of the inglorious clouds he trailed. In any case she would have felt it as a slight that her friend should have married without her assistance, and so far outside the charmed circle of Thurston Square. She herself was for the moment disappointed with Anne. Anne had once taken them all so seriously. It was her solemn joy in Mrs. Eliott and her circle that had enabled her young superiority to put up so long with the provincial hospitalities of Scaleon-Humber. They, the slender aristocracy of Thurston Square, were the best that Scale had to offer her, and they had given her of their best. Socially, the step from Thurston Square to Prior Street could not be defined as a going down; but, intellectually, it was a decline; and morally (to those who knew Fanny Eliott and to Fanny Eliott who knew) it was, by comparison, a plunge into the abyss. Fanny Eliott was the fine flower of Thurston Square. She had satisfied even the fastidiousness of Anne.

She owned that Mr. Majendie had satisfied it too. It was not that quality in Anne that made her choice so — well, so incomprehensible.

It was Dr. Gardner’s word. Dr. Gardner was the president of the Scale Literary and Philosophic Society, and in any discussion of the incomprehensible his word had weight. Vagueness was his foible, the relaxation of an intellect uncomfortably keen. The spirit that looked at you through his short-sighted eyes (magnified by enormous glasses) seemed to have just returned from a solitary excursion in a dream. In that mood the incomprehensible had for him a certain charm.

Mrs. Eliott had too much good taste to criticise Anne Majendie’s. They had simply got to recognize that Prior Street had more to offer her than Thurston Square. That was the way she preferred to put it, effacing herself a little ostentatiously.

Miss Proctor maintained that Prior Street had nothing to offer a creature of Anne Fletcher’s kind. It had everything to take, and it seemed bent on taking everything. It was bad enough in the beginning, when she had given herself up, body and soul, to the spinal lady; but to go and marry the brother, without first disposing of the spinal lady in a comfortable home for spines, — why, what must the man be like who could let her do it ?

“My dear,” said Mrs. Eliott, “he’s a saint, if you ’re to believe Anne.”

Even Dr. Gardner smiled. “I can’t say that’s exactly what I should call him.”

“Need we,” said Mr. Eliott, “call him anything ? So long as she thinks him a saint —”

Mr. Eliott — Mr. Johnson Eliott — hovered on the border land of culture, with a spirit purified from commerce by a Platonic passion for the exact sciences. He was, therefore, received in Thurston Square on his own as well as his wife’s merits. He, too, had his little weaknesses. Almost savagely determined in matters of business, at home he loved to sit in a chair and fondle the illusion of indifference. There was no part of Mr. Eliott’s mental furniture that was not a fixture, yet he scorned the imputation of conviction. A hunted thing in his wife’s drawing-room, Mr. Eliott had developed in a quite remarkable degree the protective coloring of stupidity. For Miss Proctor Mr. Eliott was simply the soul of the chair he sat in.

“How can she?” said Miss Proctor. “She’s a saint herself, and she ought to know the difference.”

“Perhaps,” said Dr. Gardner, “that’s why she does n’t.”

“I’m sure,” said Mrs. Eliott, “it was the original attraction. There could be no other for Anne.”

“The attraction was the opportunity for self-sacrifice. Whatever she makes of Mr. Majendie, she’s bent on making a martyr of herself.” Miss Proctor met the vague eyes of the circle with a glance that was defiance to all mystery. “It’s quite simple. This marriage is a short cut to canonization, that’s all.”

Then it was that little Mrs. Gardner spoke. She had been married for a year, and her face still wore its bridal look of possession that was peace, the look that it would wear when Mrs. Gardner was seventy. Her voice had a certain lucid and profound precision.

“Anne was always certain of herself. And since she cares for Mr. Majendie enough to accept him and to accept his sister, and the rather triste life which is all he has to offer her, does n’t it look as if, probably, she knew her own business best ? ”

“I think,” said Mr. Eliott, “we may take it that she does.”

Miss Proctor was startled into attention. She could not be sure whether she had heard the articulate soul of the armchair, or the authentic voice of Mr. Eliott. She was only sure that it was time for her to go. As she rose she seemed to unfold and shake out her sumptuous personality; to atone for removing it, by the prodigality, the magnificence of her manner in departure.

Mrs. Pooley sat up in her corner and revived the conversation interrupted by Miss Proctor. She implored dear Mrs. Eliott to tell her whether she really approved of realism in art. Mrs. Pooley was a small woman with a brown face and sparkling nervous eyes. She had felt that to talk about Mrs. Majendie was to waste Mrs. Eliott. Mrs. Majendie apart, Mrs. Pooley had much in common with her friend ; but, whereas Mrs. Eliott preferred to spend superbly on one idea at a time, Mrs. Pooley’s intellect entertained promiscuously and beyond its means. It was apt to be hospitable to ideas that had not even a bowing acquaintance outside it. Their habit of quarreling for precedence, too, was fatal to further intimacy, by detaining them on the genial staircase.

“ Of course,” said Mrs. Pooley, “there’s nature; we must have truth to nature. ”

Dr. Gardner thought it rather depended on the nature of the truth. Mrs. Eliott wondered whether there could be truth to nature if nature was n’t true. And Mrs. Pooley, distracted by the mounting throng of her ideas, appealed to the remote spirit of the chair.

“Dear Mr. Eliott, will you not decide this question for us ? ”

“No, no, no, I’m a stupid fellow. Don’t ask me to decide anything.”

“I know he’s got an opinion. Has n’t he, Fanny ? Only he keeps it to himself.”

The more Mr. Eliott willfully obscured himself, the more Mrs. Pooley radiated certainty. Her eyes proclaimed their conviction that if Mr. Eliott could once be induced to let his opinion go, a new joy would be born into the world.

“No, I have n’t any opinions of my own. They ’re too expensive. I borrow other people’s when I want them. But it is very seldom,” said Mr. Eliott, “that I do want an opinion. If you have any facts to give me — well and good.”

Whereupon Mrs. Pooley’s adventurous intelligence retreated behind a cloud. Mrs. Eliott pursued it there.

“I suppose,” said she, “there’s such a thing as realizing your ideals.”

Her eyes gleamed and wandered and rested upon Mrs. Gardner. Mrs. Gardner had a singularly beautiful intellect which she was known to be shy of displaying. People said that Dr. Gardner had fallen in love with it years ago, and had only waited for it to mature before he married it. Mrs. Gardner had a habit of sitting remote from the argument and untroubled by it, tolerant in her own excess of bliss. There were times when Mrs. Gardner’s silence lent distinction to Mrs. Eliott’s Thursdays, times when it was destructive to the spirit of them, times, like the present, when Mrs. Eliott felt it as a call and rose to it. She rose now.

“I wonder” (Mrs. Eliott was always wondering) “what becomes of our ideals when we’ve realized them.”

The doctor answered. “ My dear lady, they cease to be ideals, and we have to get some more.”

Mrs. Eliott, in her turn, was received into the cloud.

“Of course,” said Mrs. Pooley, emerging from it joyously, “we must have them.”

“Of course,” said Mrs. Eliott vaguely, as her spirit struggled with the cloud.

“Of course,” said Dr. Gardner. He was careful to array himself for teaparties in all his innocent metaphysical vanities, to scatter profundities like epigrams, to flatter the pure intellects of ladies, while the solemn vagueness of his manner concealed from them the innermost frivolity of his thought. He did n’t care whether they understood him or not. He knew his wife did. Her wedded spirit moved in secret and unsuspected harmony with his.

He had a certain liking for Mrs. Eliott. She seemed to him an apparition mainly pathetic. With her attenuated distinction, her hectic ardor, her brilliant and pursuing eye, she had the air of some doomed and dedicated votress of the pure intellect, haggard, disturbing, and disturbed. His social self was amused with her enthusiasms, but the real Dr. Gardner accounted for them compassionately. It was no wonder, he considered, that poor Mrs. Eliott wondered. She had so little else to do. Her nursery upstairs was empty, it always had been, always would be, empty. Did she wonder at that too, at the transcendental carelessness that had left her thus frustrated, thus incomplete ? Mrs. Eliott would have been scandalized if she had known the real Dr. Gardner’s opinion of her.

“I wonder,” said she, “what will become of Anne’s ideal?”

“It ’s safe,” said the doctor. “She has n’t realized it.”

“I wonder, then, what will become of Anne.”

Mrs. Pooley retreated altogether before this gross application of transcendent truth. She had not come to Mrs. Eliott’s to talk about Mrs. Majendie.

Dr. Gardner smiled. “Oh, come,” he said, “you are personal.”

“I’m not,” said Mrs. Eliott, conscious of her lapse and ashamed of it. “But, after all, Anne’s my friend. I know people blamed me because I never told her. How could I tell her?”

“No,” said Mrs. Gardner soothingly, “how could you?”

“Anne,” continued Mrs. Eliott, “was so reticent. The thing was all settled before anybody could say a word.”

“Well,” said Dr. Gardner, “there’s no good worrying about it now.”

“Is n’t it possible,” said the little year-old bride, “that Mr. Majendie may have told her himself?”

For Dr. Gardner had told her everything the day before he married her, confessing to the light loves of his youth, the young lady in the Free Library and all. She looked round with eyes widened by their angelic candor. Even more beautiful than Mrs. Gardner’s intellect were Mrs. Gardner’s eyes, and the love of them that brought the doctor’s home from their wanderings in philosophic dreams. Nobody but Dr. Gardner knew that Mrs. Gardner’s intellect had cause to be jealous of her eyes.

“There’s one thing,” said Mrs. Eliott, suddenly enlightened. “Our not having said anything at the time makes it easier for us to receive him now.”

“Are n’t we all talking,” said Mrs. Gardner, “ rather as if Anne had married a monster ? After all, have we ever heard anything against him — except Lady Cayley ? ”

“Oh no, never a word, have we, Johnson dear ?”

“Never. He’s not half a bad fellow Majendie.”

Dr. Gardner rose to go.

“Oh please,—don’t go before they come.”

Mrs. Gardner hesitated, but the doctor, vague in his approaches, displayed a certain energy in departure.

They passed Mrs. Walter Majendie on the stairs.

She had come alone. That, Mrs. Eliott felt, was a bad beginning. She could see that it struck even Johnson’s obtuseness as unfavorable, for he presently effaced himself.

“Fanny,” said Anne, holding her friend’s evasive eye with the determination of her query, “tell me, who are the Ransomes ?”

“The Ransomes ? Have they called ? ”

“Yes, but I was out. I did n’t see them.”

“Oh, my dear,” said Mrs. Eliott, in a tone which implied that when Anne did see them —

“Are they very dreadful?”

“Well — they ’re not your sort.”

Anne meditated. “Not my sort. And the Lawson Hannays, what sort are they?”

“ Well, we don’t know them. But there are a great many people in Scale one does n’t know.”

“Are they socially impossible, or what?”

“Oh — socially, they would be considered — in Scale — all right. But he is, or was, mixed up with some very queer people.”

Anne’s cold face intimated that the adjective suggested nothing to her. Mrs. Eliott was compelled to be explicit. The word queer was applied in Scale to persons of dubious honesty in business; whereas it was not so much in business as in pleasure that Mr. Lawson Hannay had been queer.

“Mr. Hannay may be very steady now, but I believe he belonged to a very fast set before he married her.”

“And she? Is she nice?”

“ She may be very nice for all I know.”

“I think,” said Anne, “she would n’t call if she was n’t nice, you know.”

She meant that if Mrs. Lawson Hannay had not been nice, Walter would never have sanctioned her calling.

“Oh, as for that,” said her friend, “you know what Scale is. The less nice they are the more they keep on calling. But I should think” — She had suddenly perceived where Anne’s argument was tending — “she is probably all right.”

“Do you know anything of Mr. Charlie Gorst?”

“No, but Johnson does. At least I’m sure he’s met him.”

Mrs. Eliott saw it all. Poor Anne was being besieged, bombarded by her husband’s set.

“Then he isn’t impossible?”

“Oh no, the Gorsts are a very old Lincolnshire family. Quite grand. What a number of people you’re going to know, my dear. But your husband is n’t to take you away from all your old friends.”

“He is n’t taking me anywhere. I shall stay,” said Anne proudly, “exactly where I was before.”

She was determined that her old friends should never know to what a sorrowful place she had been taken.

“You dear,” said Mrs. Eliott, holding out a suddenly caressing hand.

Anne trembled a little under the caress. “Fanny,” said she, “I want you to know him.”

“I mean to,” said Mrs. Eliott hurriedly.

“And I want him, even more, to know you.”

“Then,” Mrs. Eliott argued to herself, “she knows nothing; or she never could suppose we would be kindred spirits.”

But she carried it off triumphantly. “Well,” said she, “I hope you’re free for the fifteenth ? ”

“The fifteenth?”

“Yes, or any other evening. We want to give a little dinner, dear, to you and to your husband,—for him to meet all your friends.”

Anne tried not to look too grateful.

The upward way, then, was being prepared for him. Beneficent intelligences were at work, influences were in the air, helping her to raise him.

In her gladness she had failed to see that, considering the very obvious nature of the civility, Fanny Eliott was making the least shade too much of it.


Anne presented herself that evening in her husband’s study with a sheaf of visiting-cards in her hand. She thought it possible that she might obtain further illumination by confronting him with them.

“Walter,” said she, “all these people have called on us. What do you think I’d better do ? ”

“I think you’ll have to call on them some day.”

“All of them ?”

He took the cards from her and glanced at them.

“Let me see. Charlie Gorst, — we must be nice to him.”

“Is he nice ?”

“I think so. Edie’s very fond of him.”

“And Mrs. Lawson Hannay?”

“Oh, you must call on her.”

“Shall I like her?”

“Possibly. You need n’t see much of her if you don’t.”

“Is it easy to drop people?”


“And what about Mrs. Ransome?”

He frowned. “Has she called ?”

“ Yes.”

“I’ll find out when she’s not at home and let you know. You can call then.”

A fourth card he tore up and threw into the fire.

“Some people have confounded impudence.”

Anne went away confirmed in her impression that Walter had a large acquaintance to whom he was by no means anxious to introduce his wife. He might, she reflected, have incurred the connection through the misfortune of his business. The life of a ship-owner in Scale was fruitful in these embarrassments.

But if these disagreeable people indeed belonged to the period she mentally referred to as his “past,” she was not going to tolerate them for an instant. He must give them up.

She judged that he was prepared for so much renunciation. She hoped that he would, in time, adopt her friends in place of them. He was inclined, after all, to respond amicably to Mrs. Eliott’s overtures.

Anne wondered how he would comport himself at the dinner on the fifteenth. She owned to a little uneasiness at the prospect. Would he, indeed, yield to the sobering influence of Thurston Square ? Or would he try to impose his alien, his startling personality on it ? She had begun to realize how alien he was, how startling he could be. Would he sit silent, uninspiring and uninspired ? Or would unholy and untimely inspirations seize him ? Would he scatter to the winds all conventional conventions, and riot in his own unintelligible frivolity ? What would he say to Mrs. Eliott, that priestess of the pure intellect ? Was there anything in him that could be touched by her uncolored, immaterial charm ? Would he see that Mr. Eliott’s density was only a mask ? Would the Gardners bore him ? And would he like Miss Proctor ? And if he did n’t, would he show it, and how ? His mere manners, would, she knew, be irreproachable, but she had no security for his spiritual behavior. He impressed her as a creature uncaught, undriven; graceful, but immeasurably capricious.

The event surprised her.

For the first five minutes or so, it seemed that Mrs. Eliott and her dinner were doomed to failure, so terrible a cloud had fallen on her, and on her husband, and on every guest. Never had the poor priestess appeared so abstract an essence, so dream-driven and so forlorn. Never had Mr. Eliott worn his mask to so extinguishing a purpose. Never had Miss Proctor been so obtrusively superior, Mrs. Gardner so silent, Dr. Gardner so vague. They were all, she could see, possessed, crushed down by their consciousness of Majendie and his monstrous past.

Into this circle, thus stupefied by his presence, Majendie himself burst with the courage of unconsciousness.

Mr. Eliott had started a topic, the conduct of Sir Rigley Barker, the ex-member for Scale. A heavy ball of conversation began to roll slowly up and down the table, between Mr. Eliott and Dr. Gardner. Majendie snatched at it deftly as it passed him, caught it, turned it in his hands till it grew golden under his touch. He breathed on the ex-member like a god, and played with him like a juggler ; he tossed him into the air and kept him there, a radiant, insubstantial thing. The ex-member disported himself before Mrs. Eliott’s dinner-party as he had never disported himself in parliament. Majendie had given him a career, endowed him with glorious attributes. The ex-member, as a topic, developed capacities unsuspected in him before. The others followed his flight, breathless, afraid to touch him lest he should break and disappear under their hands.

By the time Majendie had done with him, the ex-member had entered on a joyous immortality in Scale.

And in the middle of it all Anne laughed.

Miss Proctor was the first to recover from the surprise of it. She leaned across the table with her liberal and vivid smile, opulent in appreciation.

“ Well, Mr. Majendie, Sir Rigley ought to be grateful to you. If ever there was a dull subject, dead and buried, it was he, poor man. And now the difficulty will be to forget him.”

“ I don’t think,” said Majendie gravely, “I shall forget him myself in a hurry.”

Oh, no, he never would forget Sir Rigley. He did n’t want to forget him. He would be grateful to him as long as he lived. He had made Anne laugh, — a girl’s laugh, young and deliciously uncontrollable, springing from the immortal heart of joy.

It was the first time he had heard her laugh so. He did n’t know she could do it. The hope of hearing her do it again would give him something to live for. He would win her yet if he could make her laugh.

Anne was more surprised than anybody, at him and at herself. It was a revelation to her, his cleverness, his brilliant social gift. She was only intimate with one kind of cleverness, the kind that feeds itself on lectures and on books. She had not thought of Walter as clever. She had only thought of him as good. That one quality of goodness had swallowed up the rest.

Miss Proctor took possession of her where she sat in the drawing-room, as it were amid the scattered fragments of the ex-member. (He still, among the ladies, emitted a feeble radiance.) Miss Proctor had always approved of Anne. If Anne had no metropolitan distinction to speak of, she was not in the least provincial. She was something by herself, superior and rare. A little inclined to take herself too seriously, perhaps; but her husband’s admirable levity would, no doubt, improve her.

“My dear,” said Miss Proctor, “I congratulate you. He’s brilliant, he’s charming, he’s unique. Why did n’t we know of him before ? Where has he been hiding his talents all this time?”

(A talent that had not bloomed in Thurston Square was a talent pitiably wasted.)

Anne smiled a blanched, perfunctory smile. Ah, where had he been hiding himself, indeed ?

Miss Proctor stood central, radiating the rich after-glow of her appreciation. Her gaze was a little critical of her friends’ faces, as if she were measuring the effect, on a provincial audience, of Majendie’s conversational technique. She swept down to a seat beside her hostess.

“My dear Fanny,” she said, “why did n’t you tell me?”

“Tell you—”?

“That he was that sort. I did n’t know that there was such a delightful man in Scale. What have you all been dreaming of ? ”

Mrs. Eliott tried to look both amiable and intelligent. In the presence of Mr. Majendie’s robust reality it was indeed as if they had all been dreaming. Her instinct told her that the spirit of pure comedy was destruction to the dreams she dreamed. She tried to be genial to her guest’s accomplishment; but she felt that if Mr. Majendie’s talents were let loose in her drawing-room, it would cease to be the place of intellectual culture. On the other hand, she perceived that Miss Proctor’s idea was to empty that drawing-room by securing Mr. Majendie for her own. Mrs. Eliott, remained uncomfortably seated on her dilemma.

Sounds of laughter reached her from below. The men were unusually late in returning to the drawing-room. They appeared a little flushed by the hilarious festival, as if Majendie had had on them an effect of mild intoxication. She could see that even Dr. Gardner was demoralized. He wore, under his vagueness, the unmistakable air of surrender to an unfamiliar excess. Mr. Eliott too had the happy look of a man who has fed loftily after a long fast.

“Anne, dear,” said Majendie, as they walked back the few yards between Thurston Square and Prior Street, “we shan’t have to do that very often, shall we ? ”

“Why not? You can’t say we did n’t have a delightful evening.”

“Yes, but it was very exhausting, dear, for me.”

“You? You did n’t show much signs of exhaustion. I never heard you talk so well.”

“Did I talk well?”

“Yes. Almost too well.”

“Too much, you mean. Well, I had to talk, when nobody else did. Besides, I did it for a purpose.”

But what his purpose was he did not say.

Anne had been human enough to enjoy a performance so far beyond the range of her anticipations. She was glad, above all, that Walter had made himself acceptable in Thurston Square. But when she came to think of what was, what must be known of him in Scale, she was appalled by his incomprehensible ease of attitude. She reflected that this must have been the first time he had dined at Thurston Square since the scandal. Was it possible that he did not realize the insufferable nature of that incident, the efforts it must have cost to tolerate him, the points that had been stretched to take him in ? She felt that it was impossible to exaggerate the essential solemnity of that evening. They had met together, as it were, to celebrate Walter’s return to the sanctities and proprieties he had offended. He had been formally forgiven and received by the society which (however Fanny Eliott might explain away its action) had most unmistakably cast him out. She had not expected him to part with his indomitable self-possession under the ordeal, but she could have wished that he had borne himself with a little more modesty. He had failed to perceive the redemptive character of the feast; he had turned it into an occasion for profane personal display.

Mrs. Eliott’s dinner-party had not saved him; on the contrary, he had saved the dinner-party.


Anne was right. Though Majendie was, as he expressed it, “up to her designs upon his unhappy soul,” he remained unconscious of the part to be played by Mrs. Eliott and her circle in the scheme of his salvation. From his observation of the aristocracy of Thurston Square, it would never have occurred to him that they were people who could count, whatever way you might look at them.

Meanwhile he was a little disturbed by his own appearance as a heavenward pilgrim. He was not sure that he had not gone a little too far that way, and he felt that it was a shame to allow Anne to take him seriously.

He confided his scruples to Edith.

“Poor dear,” he said, “it’s quite pathetic. You know, she thinks she’s saving me.”

“And do you mind being saved?”

“Well, no, I don’t mind a little of it. But the question is, how long I can keep it up.”

“You mean, how long she’ll keep it up ?”

He laughed. “Oh, she’ll keep it up forever. No possible doubt about that. She ’ll never tire. I wonder if I ought to tell her.”

“Tell her what ?”

“That it won’t work. That she can’t do it that way. She’s wasting my time and her own.”

“Oh, what’s a little time, dear, when you’ve all eternity in view.”

“But I have n’t. I’ve nothing in view. My view, at present, is entirely obscured by Anne.”

“Poor Anne! To think she actually stands between you and your Maker.”

“Yes, you know — in her very anxiety to introduce us.”

They looked at each other. Her sainthood was so accomplished, her union with heaven so complete, that she could afford herself these profaner sympathies. She was secretly indignant with Anne’s view of Walter as unpresentable in the circles of the spiritual élite.

“It never struck her that you might n’t need an introduction after all; that you were in it as much as she. That’s the sort of mistake one might expect from — from a spiritual parvenu, but not from Anne.”

“Oh, come, I don’t consider myself her equal by a long chalk.”

“ Well, say she does belong to the peerage, you ’re a gentleman, and what more can she require ? ”

“She can’t see that I am. (If I am. You say so.) She considers me a spiritual bounder of the worst sort.”

“That’s her mistake. Though, I must say, you sometimes lend yourself to it, with your horrible profanity.”

“I can’t help it, Edie. She’s so funny with it. She makes me profane.”

“Dear boy, if you can think Anne funny ” —

“I do. I think she’s furiously funny, and horribly pathetic. All the time, you know, she thinks she’s leading me upward. Profanity’s my only refuge from hypocrisy.”

“Oh no, not your only refuge. You say she thinks she’s leading you. Don’t let her think it. Make her think you ’re leading her.”

“Do you think,” said Majendie, “she’d enjoy that quite so much?”

“She’d enjoy it more. If you took her the right way, — the way I mean.”

“What’s that?”

“You must find out,” said she. “I’m not going to tell you everything.”

Majendie became thoughtful. “My only fear was that I could n’t keep it up. But you really don’t think, then, that I should score much if I did?”

“No, my dear, I don’t. And as for keeping it up, you never could. And if you did she’d never understand what you were doing it for. That’s not the way to show her you’re in love with her.”

“But that’s just what I don’t want her to see. That’s what she hates so much in me. I’ve always understood that in these matters it’s discreeter not to show your hand too plainly. You see, it’s just as if we’d never been married, for all she cares. That’s the trouble.”

“There’s something in that. If she’s not in love with you ” —

“Look here, Edie, you’re a woman, and you know all about them. Do you really, honestly think Anne ever was in love with me ? ”

“Oh, don’t ask me. How should I know, when I’ve never been in love myself.”

“Does that matter? Have you got to be, in order to tell ? Is that how women know ? ”

“I don’t know how other women know. And yet, I ought to be able to tell, too. I suppose I’ve always been in love with you.”

“Well, then,” said Majendie, accepting the monstrous admission, less on its own account than because of its bearing on his problem, “what should you say? What do you think?”

“I think she was in love.”

“But not with me, though?”

“No, no, not with you.”

“With whom, then?”

“Darling idiot, there was n’t any who. If there was, do you think I’d give her away like that ? If you’d asked me what she was in love with ” —

“ Well, what then ? ”

“Your goodness. She was head over ears in love with that.”

“ I see. With something that I was n’t.”

“No, with something that you were, that you are, only she does n’t know it.”

“Then,” said Majendie, “you can’t get out of it, she’s in love with me.”

“Oh no, no, you dear goose, not with you. To be in love with you, she’d have to be in love with everything you ’re not, as well as everything you are; with everything you have been, with everything you never were, with everything you will be, everything you might be, could be, should be.”

“That’s a large order, Edie.”

“There might be a larger one than that. She might sweep all that away, see it go by whole pieces (the best pieces) at a time, and still be in love with the dear, incomprehensible, indescribable, indestructible you. That,” said Edie, triumphant in her wisdom, “is what being in love is.”

“And you think she is n’t in it ?”

“No. Not anywhere near it. But — it’s a big but —”

“I don’t care how big it is. Don’t torment me with it.”

“Torment you ? Why, it’s a beautiful but. As I said, she is n’t in love with you; but she may be any minute. It’s just touch and go with her. It depends on yourself.”

“ Heavens, what am I to do ? I’ve done everything.”

“Yes, you have, but she has n’t. She’s done nothing. She does n’t know how to. You’ve got to show her.”

He shook his head hopelessly. “You’re beyond me. I don’t understand. There is n’t anything for me to do. How am I to show her ?”

“I mean, show her what there is in it. What it means. What it’s going to be for her as well as you. Just go at it hard, harder than you did before you married her.”

“I see, I’ve got to make love to her all over again.”

“Exactly. All over again from the very beginning.”

“I say!” He took it in, her idea, in all the width and splendor of its simplicity. “And do it differently?”

“Oh, very differently.”

“I don’t quite see where the difference is to come in. What did I do before, that was so wrong?”

“Nothing. That’s just the worst of it. It was all too right; ever so much too right. Don’t you see? It’s what we’ve been talking about. You made her in love with your goodness. And she was in love with it, not because it was your goodness, but because it was like her own. That’s why she wanted to marry it. She could n’t be in love with it for any other reason, because she’s an egoist.”

“ No, there you ’re quite wrong, That’s what she is n’t.”

“Oh, you are in love with her. Of course she’s an egoist. All the nicest women are. I’m an egoist myself. Do you love me less for it ? ”

“I don’t love you less for anything.”

“Well — unless you can make Anne jealous of me — and you can’t — you’ve got to love me less, now, dear boy. That’s where I come in—to be kept out of it.”

She had led him breathless on the giddy round; she plunged him back into bewilderment. He had no notion where she was taking him, where they would come out; but there was a desperate delight in the impetuous journey, the wind of his sudden flight lifted him and carried him on. He had always trusted the marvelous inspirations of her heart. She had failed him once; but now he could not deny that she had given him lights, and he looked for a stupendous illumination at the end of the way.

“You to be kept out of it!” he exclaimed. “Why, where should I have been without you ? You were the beginning of it.”

“I was indeed. You’ve got to take care I’m not the end of it, that’s all.”

“What on earth do you mean?”

“I mean what I say. You don’t want Anne to be in love with you for my sake, do you ? ”

“N-no. I don’t know that I do, exactly. At least I should prefer that she was in love with me for my own.”

“Well, you must make her, then. That’s why you’ve got to leave me out of it. I’ve been too much in it all along. It was through me she conceived that unfortunate idea of your goodness. I’m its father and its mother and its nurse; I ministered to it every hour. I fed it, I brought it up, I brought it out, I provided all the opportunity for its display. Nothing else had a show beside your goodness, Wallie dear. It was something monstrous. It took Anne’s love from you and concentrated it all on itself. She worshiped it, she clung to it, she saw nothing else but it, and when it went everything went. You went first of all. Well, you must just see that that does n’t happen again.”

“You mean that I must lead a life of iniquity? ”

“You must n’t lead a life of anything.”

“Do you mean I must n’t be good any more ? ”

Majendie’s imagination played hilariously with this fantastic, this preposterous notion of his goodness.

“Oh yes, be good,” said Edith, “but not too good. Above all, not too good to me. Concentrate on her, stupid.”

“I have concentrated,” he moaned, mystified beyond endurance. “Besides, you said I could n’t make her jealous.”

“No. I wish you could. I mean, don’t let her fall in love with your devotion to me again. It was your devotion, dear, that did it. Don’t hold her by that one rope. Hold her by all your ropes; then, if one goes it does n’t so much matter.”

“I see. You don’t trust my goodness.”

“Oh, I trust it; so will she again. But don’t you trust it. That precious goodness of yours is your rival. A bad, dangerous rival. You’ve got to beat it out of the field. A little judicious jealousy won’t hurt. I don’t believe you’ve ever yet made love to Anne properly. That’s what it all comes to.”

Edith’s eyes were still and profound with wisdom.

“Oh, I say,” said he, “what do you know about it ? ”

“You said I knew, better than you did.”

“Yes, about her. Not about me. How do you know how I make love ? ”

“I’m only judging,” said Edith, “by the results.”

“Oh, that is n’t fair.”

“Perhaps it is n’t,” she owned, her wisdom growing by what it fed on.

“You see, she would n’t let me do it properly.”

Edith pondered. “ Yes, but how long ago is it ? And you ’ve been married since.”

“What difference does that make?”

“I should say it would make all the difference. Anne was a girl, then. She did n’t understand. She’s a woman now. She does understand. She can be appealed to.”

He hid his face in his hands.

“I never thought of that,” he murmured thickly.

“Of course you did n’t.”

“Edie,” he said, and his face was still hidden, “however did you think of it?”

“ Oh, I don’t know. I see some things, and then other things come round to me. But you must n’t forget that you have got to begin all over again from the very beginning. You ’ll have to be very careful with her, every bit as careful as if she were a strange lady you’ve just met at a dance. Don’t forget that she is strange, that she’s another woman, in fact.”

“I see. If there are to be many of these remarkable transformations of Anne, I shall have all the excitement of polygamy without its drawbacks.”

“You will. And it’s the same for her. remember. You’re a strange man. You’ve just been introduced, you know, — by me, — and you ’re begging for the pleasure of the first waltz, and Anne pretends that her programme is full, and you look over her shoulder and see that it is n’t, and that she puts you down for all the nice ones. And you sit out all the rest, and you flirt on the stairs, and take her in to supper, and, finally, you know, you pull yourself together and you do it — in the conservatory. Oh, it ’ll be so amusing, and so funny to watch. You ’ll begin by being most awfully polite to each other.”

“I suppose I may yet be permitted to call this strange young lady Anne?”

“Yes. That’s because you remember that you have known her once before, a very long time ago, when you were children. You are children, both of you. Oh, Walter, I believe you’re looking forward to it. I believe you ’re glad you ’ve got to do it all over again.”

“Yes, Edie, I positively believe I am.”

He rose, laughing, prepared to begin that minute his new wooing of Anne.

“Good-by,”said Edith, — “it is goodby, you know, — and good luck to you.”

This time she knew that she had been wise for him.

Anne would have been horrified if she had known that the situation, so terrible for her, was developing for her husband certain possibilities of charm. His irrepressible boyishness refused to accept it in all its moral gloom. There were, he perceived, advantages in these strained relations. They had removed Anne into the mysterious realm her maidenhood had inhabited, before marriage had had time to touch her magic. She had become once more the unapproachable and unattained. Their first courtship, pursued under intolerable restrictions of time and place, had been a rather uninspired affair, and its end a foregone conclusion. He had been afraid of himself, afraid sometimes of her. For he had not brought her the spontaneous, unalarmed, unspoiled spirit of his youth. He had come to her with a stain on his imagination and a wound in his memory. And she was holy to him. He had held himself in, lest a touch, a word, a gesture should recall some insufferable association.

Marriage had delivered him from the tyranny of reminiscence. No reminiscence could stand before the force of passion in possession. It purified; it destroyed; it built up in three days its own inviolable memory.

And Anne, with the best will in the world, had had no power to undo its work in him.

In herself, too, below her kindling spiritual consciousness, in the unexplored depths and darkness of her, its work remained.

Majendie was unaware how far he had become another man and she another woman. He was merely alive to the unusual and agreeable excitement of wooing his own wife. There was a piquancy in the experiment that appealed to him. Her new coldness called to him like a challenge. Her new remoteness waked the adventurous youth in him. His imagination was touched as it had not been touched before. He could see that Anne had not yet got over her discovery. The shock of it was in her nerves. He felt that she shrank from him, and his chivalry still spared her.

He ceased to be her husband and became her very courteous, very distant lover. He made no claims and took nothing for granted. He simply began all over again from the very beginning. His conscience was vaguely appeased by the illusion of the new leaf, the rejuvenated innocence of the blank page. They had never been married (so the illusion suggested). There had been no revelations. They met as strangers in their own house, at their own table. In support of this pleasing fiction he set about his courtship with infinite precautions. He found himself exaggerating Anne’s distance and the lapse of intimacy. He made his way slowly, through all the recognized degrees, from mere acquaintance, through friendship, to permissible fervor.

And from time to time, with incomparable discretion, he would withhold himself that he might make himself more precious. He was hardly aware of his own restraint, his refinements of instinct and of mood. It was as if he drew, in his desperate necessity, upon unrealized, untried resources. There was something in Anne that checked the primitive impulse of swift chase, and called forth the curious, half-feminine cunning of the sophisticated pursuer. She froze at his ardor, but his coldness almost kindled her; so that he approached by withdrawals and advanced by flights.

He displayed, first of all, a heavenly ignorance, an inspired curiosity regarding her. He consulted her tastes, as if he had never known them; he started the time-honored lover’s topics; he talked about books — which she preferred and the reasons for her preference.

He did not advance very far that way. Anne was simply annoyed at the lapses in his memory.

He then began to buy books on the chance of her liking them, which answered better.

He promoted himself by degrees to personalities. He talked to her about himself, handling her with religious reticence as a thing of holy and incomprehensible mystery.

“I suppose,” he said one day, “ if I were good enough, I should understand you. Why do you sigh like that? Is it because I’m not good enough? Or because I don’t understand?”

“I think,” said she, “it is because I don’t understand you.”

“My dear” (be allowed himself at this point the more formal endearment), “I thought I was disgracefully transparent — I’m limpidity, simplicity itself. I’ve only one idea and one subject of conversation. Ask Edith. She understands me.”

“Ah, Edith” — said Anne, as if Edith were a very different affair.

The intonation was hopeful, it suggested some slender and refined jealousy. (If only he could make her jealous!)

On the strength of it he advanced to the punctual daily offering of flowers,— flowers for her drawing-room, flowers for her bedroom, flowers for her to wear. After that he took to writing her letters from the office with increasing frequency and fervor. Anne, too, was courteous and distant. She accepted all he had to offer as a becoming tribute to her feminine superiority, and evaded dexterously the deeper issue.

Now and then he reported his progress to Edith.

“I rather think,” he said, “she’s coming round. I’m regarded as a distinctly eligible person.”

They laughed at his complete adoption of the part and his innocent joy in it.

That had always been his way. When he had begun a game there was no stopping him. He played it through to the end.

Edith would look up smiling, and say, “Well, how goes the affair?” (They always called it the affair.) Or, “How did you get on to-day?”

And it would be “Pretty well,” “Better to-day than yesterday,” “No luck to-day.”

One Sunday he came to her radiant.

“She really does,” said he, “seem interested in what I say.”

“What did you talk about?”

“The influence of Christianity on woman. Was that good?”

“Very good.”

“I didn’t know very much about it, but I got her to tell me things.”

“That,” said Edith, “is still better.”

“But she still sticks to it that she does n’t understand me. That’s bad.”

“No,” said Edith, “that’s best of all. It shows she’s thinking of you. She wants to understand. Believe me, the affair marches.”

He pondered over that.

That night he withdrew to his study. It was not long before Anne came to him of her own accord. She asked if she might read aloud to him.

“I should be honored,” he replied stiffly.

She chose Emerson, “ On Compensation.” And Majendie did not care for Emerson.

But Anne had a charming voice; a voice with tones that penetrated like pain, that thrilled like a touch, that clung delicately like a shy caress; tones that were as a funeral bell for sadness; tones that rose to passion without ever touching it; clear, cool tones that were like water to passion’s flame. Majendie closed his eyes and let her voice play over him.

“Did you like it ?” she asked gravely.

“Like it ? I love it.”

“So do I. I hoped you would.”

“My dear, I did n’t understand one word of it.”

“You can’t make me believe you loved it then.”

He looked at her.

“I loved the sound of your voice, dear.”

“Oh,” said she, coldly, “is that all?”

“Yes,” he said. “Is n’t it enough?”

“I’d rather — ” she began and hesitated.

“You’d rather I understood Emerson ? ”

Her blood flushed in the honey-whiteness of her face. She rose, put the book in its place, and left the room.

“Edith,” he said, relating the incident afterwards, “I thought she was coming round when she wanted to read to me. Why did she get up and go like that ? ”

“She went, dear goose, because she was afraid to stay.”

“Why afraid ?”

“Because she’s fighting you, Wallie. It’s all right if she’s got to fight.”

“Yes, but suppose she wins?”

“She can’t win fighting—she’s a woman. Her only chance is to run away.”

That night Anne knelt by her bedside and hid her face and prayed for Walter; that he might be purified, so that she might love him without sin; that he and she might travel together on the divine way, and together be received into the heavenly places.

She had felt that night the stirring of natural affection. It had come back to her, a feeble, bruised, humiliated thing. She could not harbor it without spiritual justification.

She kept herself awake by saying: “I can’t love him, I can’t love him — unless God makes him fit for me to love.”

Sleeping, she dreamed that she was in his arms.

(To be continued.)

  1. Copyright, 1906, by MAY SINCLAIR.