The Helpmate


IT was nine o’clock on Sunday evening. Majendie was in Scarby, in the hotel on the little gray parade, where he and Anne had stayed on their honeymoon.

Lady Cayley was with him. She was with him in the sitting-room which had been his and Anne’s. They were by themselves. The Ransomes were dining with friends in another quarter of the town. He had accepted Sarah’s invitation to dine with her alone.

The Ransomes had tried to drag him away, and he had refused to go with them. He had very nearly quarreled with the Ransomes. They had been irritating him all day, till he had been atrociously rude to them. He had told Ransome to go to a place, where, as Ransome had remarked, he could hardly have taken Mrs. Ransome. Then he had explained gently that he had had enough knocking about for one day, that his head ached abominably, and he wished they would leave him alone. It was all he wanted. Then they had left him alone with Sarah. He was glad to be with her. She was the only person who seemed to understand that all he wanted was to be let alone.

She had been with him all day. She had sat beside him on the deck of the yacht as they cruised up and down the coast till sunset. Afterwards, when the Ransomes’ friends had trooped in, one after another, and filled the sitting-room with insufferable sounds, she had taken him into a quiet corner and kept him there. He had felt grateful to her for that.

She had been angelic to him during dinner. She had let him eat as little and drink as much as he pleased. And she had hardly spoken to him. She had wrapped him in a heavenly silence. Only from time to time, out of the divine silence, her woman’s voice had dropped between them, soothing and pleasantly indistinct. He had been drinking hard all day. He had been excited, intolerably excited; and she soothed him. He was aware of her chiefly as a large, benignant presence, maternal and protecting.

His brain felt brittle, but extraordinarily clear, luminous, transparent, the delicate centre of monstrous and destructive energies. It burned behind his eyeballs like a fire. His eyes were hot with it, the pupils strained, distended, gorged with light.

This monstrous brain of his originated nothing, but ideas presented to it became monstrous too. And their immensity roused no sense of the incredible.

The table had been cleared of everything but coffee-cups, glasses, and wine. They still sat facing each other. Sarah had her arms on the table, propping her chin up with her clenched hands. Her head was tilted back slightly, in a way that was familiar to him; so that she looked at him from under the worn and wrinkled white lids of her eyes. And as she looked at him she smiled slightly; and the smile was familiar, too.

And he sat opposite to her, with his chin sunk on his breast. His bright, dark, distended eyes seemed to strain upwards toward her, under the weight of his flushed forehead.

“Well, Wallie,” she said, “I didn’t get married, you see, after all.”

“Married — married? Why didn’t you ? ”

“I never meant to. I only wanted you to think it.”

“Why? Why did you want me to think it ?”

He was no longer disinclined to talk. Though his brain lacked spontaneity, it responded appropriately to suggestion.

“I didn’t want you to think something else.”

“What? What should I think?”

His voice was thick and rapid, his eyes burned.

“That you’d made a mess of my life, my dear.”

“When did I make a mess of your life?”

“Never mind when. I might have married, only I didn’t. That’s the difference between me and you.”

“And that’s how I made a mess of your life, is it? I haven’t made a furious success of my own, have I ? ”

“ I would n’t have brought it up against you, if you had. The awful thing was to stand by, and see you make a sinful muddle of it.”

“A sinful muddle?”

“Yes. That’s what it’s been. A sinful muddle.”

“Which is worse, d’ you think, a sinful muddle or a muddling sin?”

“Oh, don’t ask me, my dear; I can’t see any difference.”

“ My God — nor I! ”

“There’s no good talking. You ’re so obstinate, Wallie, that I believe, if you could live your life over again, you’d do just the same.”

“I would, probably. Just the same.”

“There’s nothing you’d alter?”

“Nothing. Except one thing.”

“What thing?”

“Never mind what.”

“I don’t mind, if the one thing was n’t me. Was it?”

He did not answer.

“Was it?” she insisted, turning the full blue blaze of her eyes on him.

He started. “Of course it was n’t. You don’t suppose I’d have said so if it had been, do you ? ”

“A-ah! So, if you could live your life over again, you would n’t turn me out of it ? I did n’t take up much room, did I ? Only two years,”

“Two years ?”

“That was all. And you’d let me stay in for my two poor little years. Well, that’s something. It’s a great deal. It ’s more than some women get.”

“Yes. More than some women get.”

“ Poor Wallie. I’m afraid you would n’t live your life again.”

“No. I would n’t.”

“I would. I’d live mine, horrors and all. Just for those two little years. I say, if we’d keep each other in for those two years, we need n’t turn each other out now, need we?”

“Oh, no; oh, no.”

His brain followed her lead, originating nothing.

“See here,” she said, “if I come in — ”

“Yes, yes,” he said vaguely.

He was bending forward now, with his hands clasped on the table. She stretched out her beautiful white arms and covered his hands with hers, and held them. Her eyes were full-orbed, luminous, and tender. They held him, too.

“I come in on my own terms, this time, not yours.”

“Oh, of course.”

“I mean, I can’t come in on the same terms as before. All that was over nine years ago, when you married. You and I are older. We have had experience. We’ve suffered horribly. We know.”

“What do we know?”

She let go his hands.

“At least we know the limits — the lines we must draw. Fifteen years ago we didn’t know anything, either of us. We were innocents. You were an innocent when you left me, when you married.”

“When I married?”

“Yes, when you married. You were a blessed innocent, or you could n’t have done it. You married a good woman.”

“I know.”

“So do I. Well, I’ve given one or two men a pretty bad time, but you may write it on my tombstone that I never hurt another woman.”

Of course you have n’t!”

“And I ’m not going to hurt your wife, remember.”

“I’m stupid. I don’t think I understand.”

“Can’t you understand that I’m not going to make trouble between you and her?”

“Me? And her?”

“You and her. You’ve come back to me as my friend. We ’ll be better friends if you understand that, whatever I let you do, dear, I’m not going to let you make love to me.”

She drew herself back and faced him with her resolution.

She knew the man with whom she had to deal. His soul must be off its guard before she could have any power over his body. In presenting herself as unattainable, she would make herself desired. She would bring him back.

She knew what fires he had passed through on his way to her. She saw that she could not bring him back by playing poor, tender Maggie’s part. She could not move him by appearing as the woman she once was, by falling at his feet as she had once fallen. This time, it was he who must fall at hers.

Anne Majendie had held her empire, and had made herself forever desirable, by six years’ systematic torturings and deceptions and denials, by all the infidelities of the saint in love with her own sanctity. The woman who was to bring him back now would have to borrow for the moment a little of Anne Majendie’s spiritual splendor. She saw by his flaming face that she had suggested the thing she had forbidden.

“You think,” said she, “there is n’t any danger? I don’t say there is. But if there was, you’d never see it. You’d never think of it. You d be up to your neck in it before you knew where you were.”

He moved impatiently. “At any rate I know where I am now.”

“And I,” said she, in response to his movement, ’‘mean that you shall stay there.” She paused. “I know what you ’re thinking. You’d like to know what right I have to say these things to you ? ”

“Well — I’m awfully stupid — ”

“I earned the right fifteen years ago. When a woman gives a man all she has to give, and gets nothing, there are very few things she has n’t a right to say to him.”

“I’ve no doubt you earned your right.”

“I ’m not reproaching you, dear. I ’m simply justifying the plainness of my speech.”

He stared at her, but he did not answer.

“Don’t think me hard,” said she. “I’m saying these things because I care for you. Because ”— she rose, and flung her arms out with a passionate gesture towards him. “Oh, my dear — my heart aches for you so that I can’t bear it.”

She came over to where he sat staring at her, staring half stupefied, and half inflamed. She stood beside him, and passed her hand lightly over his hair.

“I only want to help you.”

“You can’t help me.”

“I know I can’t. I can only say hard things to you.”

She stooped, and her lips swept his hair. For a moment love gave her back her beauty and the enchantment of her youth; it illuminated the house of flesh it dwelt in and inspired.

And yet she could not reach him. His soul was on its guard.

“You ’ve come back,” she whispered. “You’ve come back. But you never came till you were driven. That’s how I thought you’d come. When you were driven. When there was nobody but me.”

He heard her speaking, but her words had no significance that pierced his thick and swift sensations.

“What have you done that you should have to pay so ?”

“What have I done?”

“Or I ?” she said.

He did not hear her. There was another sound in his ears.

Her voice ceased. Her eyes only called to him. He pushed back his chair and laid his arms on the table, and bowed his head upon them, hiding his face from her. She knelt down beside him. Her voice was like a warm wind in his ears. He groaned. She drew a short, sharp breath, and pressed her shoulder to his shoulder, and her face to his hidden face.

At her touch he rose to his feet, violently sobered, loathing himself and her. He felt his blood leap like a hot fountain to his brain. When she clung he raged, and pushed her from him, not knowing what he did, thrusting his hands out, cruelly, against her breasts, so that he wrung from her a cry of pain and anger.

But when he would have gone from her his feet were loaded; they were heavy weights binding him to the floor. He had a sensation of intolerable sickness; then a pain beat like a hammer on one side of his head. He staggered, and fell, headlong, at her feet.


Anne, left alone at her writing-table, had worked on far into Friday night. The trouble in her was appeased by the answering of letters, the sorting of papers, the bringing of order into confusion. She had always had great practical ability; she had proved herself a good organizer, expert in the business of societies and committees.

In her preoccupation she had not noticed that her husband had left the house, and that he did not return to it.

In the morning, as she left her room, the old nurse came to her with a grave face, and took her into Majendie’s room. Nanna pointed out to her that his bed had not been slept in. Anne’s heart sank. Later on, the telegram he sent explained his absence. She supposed that he had slept at the Ransomes’ or the Hannays’, and she thought no more of it. The business of the day again absorbed her.

In the afternoon Canon Wharton called on her. It was the recognized visit of condolence, delayed till her return. In his manner with Mrs. Majendie there was no sign of the adroit little man of the world who had drunk whiskey with Mrs. Majendie’s husband the night before. His manner was reticent, reverential, not obtrusively tender. He abstained from all the commonplaces of consolation. He did not speak of the dead child; but reminded her of the greater maternal work that God had called upon her to do, and told her that the children of many mothers would rise up and call her blessed. He bade her believe that her life, which seemed to her ended, had in reality only just begun. He said that, if great natures were reserved for great sorrows, great afflictions, they were also dedicated to great uses. Uses to which their sorrows were the unique and perfect training.

He left her strengthened, uplifted, and consoled.

On Sunday morning she attended the service at All Souls. In the afternoon she walked to the great flat cemetery of Scale, where Edith’s and Peggy’s graves lay side by side. In the evening she went again to All Souls.

The church services were now the only link left between her soul and God. She clung desperately to them, trying to recapture through those consecrated public methods the peace that should have been her most private personal possession.

For, all the time, now, she was depressed by a sense of separation from the Unseen. She struggled for communion; she prostrated herself in surrender, and was flung back upon herself, an outcast from the spiritual world. She was alone in that alien place of earth where everything had been taken from her. She almost rebelled against the cruelty of the heavenly hand that, having smitten her, withheld its healing. She had still faith, but she had no joy nor comfort in her faith. Therefore she occupied herself incessantly with works; appeasing, putting off the hours that waited for her as their prey.

It was at night that desolation found her helpless. For then she thought of her dead child and of the husband whom she regarded as worse than dead.

She had one terrible consolation. She had once doubted the justice of her attitude to him. Now she was sure. Her justification was complete.

She was sitting at work again early on Monday morning, in the drawing-room that overlooked the street.

About ten o’clock she heard a cab drive up to the door.

She thought it was Majendie come back again, and she was surprised when Kate came to her, and told her that it was Mr. Hannay, and that he wished to speak to her at once.

Hannay was downstairs, in the study, standing with his back to the fireplace. He did not come forward to meet her. His rosy, sensual face was curiously set. As she approached him, his loose lips moved and closed again in a firm fold.

He pressed her hand without speaking. His heaviness and immobility alarmed her.

“What is it?” she asked.

Her heart was like a wild whirlpool that sucked back her voice and suffocated it.

I ’ve come with very bad news, Mrs. Majendie.”

“Tell me,” she whispered.

“Walter is ill — very dangerously.”

“He is dead.”

The words seemed to come from her without grief, without any feeling. She felt nothing but a dull, dragging pain under her left breast, as if the doors of her heart were closed and its chambers full to bursting.

“No. He is not dead.”

Her heart beat again.

“He’s dying, then.”

“They don’t know.”

“Where is he?”

“At Scarby.”

“ Scarby. How much time have I ? ”

“There’s a train at ten-twenty. Can you be ready in five—seven minutes?”


She rang the bell,

“Tell Kate where to send my things,” she said as she left the room. Her mind took possession of her, so that she did not waste a word of her lips, or a single motion of her feet. She came back in five minutes, ready to start.

“What is it ?” she said as they drove to the station.

“Hemorrhage of the brain.”

“The brain?”


“Is he unconscious?”


She closed her eyes.

“He will not know me,” she said.

Hannay was silent. She lay back and kept her eyes closed.

A van blocked the narrow street that led to the East Station. The driver reined in his horse. She opened her eyes in terror.

“We shall miss the train — if we stop.”

“No, no, we ’ve plenty of time.”

They waited.

“Oh, tell him to drive round the other way.”

“We shall miss the train if we do that.”

“Well, make that man in front move on. Make him turn — up there.”

The van turned into a side street, and they drove on.

The Scarby train was drawn up along the platform. They had five minutes before it started; but she hurried into the nearest compartment. They had it to themselves.

The train moved on. It was a two hours’ journey to Scarby.

A strong wind blew through the open window and she shivered. She had brought no warm wrap with her. Hannay laid his overcoat over her knees and about her body. His large hands moved gently, wrapping it close. She thanked him and tried to smile. And when he saw her smile Hannay was sorry for the things he had thought and said of her. His voice when he spoke to her vibrated tenderly. She resigned herself to his hands. Grief made her passive now.

Hannay sank back in the far corner and left her to her grief. He covered his eyes with his hands that he might not see her. Poor Hannay hoped that, if he removed his painful presence, she would allow herself the relief of tears.

But no tears fell from under her closed eyelids. Her soul was withdrawn behind them into the darkness where the body’s pang ceased, and there was help.

She started when the train stopped at Scarby station.

As they stopped at the hotel there came upon her that reminiscence which is foreknowledge and the sense of destiny.

A woman was coming down the staircase as they entered. She did not see her at first. She would not have seen her at all if Hannay had not taken her arm and drawn her aside into the shelter of a doorway. Then, as the woman passed, she saw that it was Lady Cayley.

She looked helplessly at Hannay. Her eyes said, “Where is he ?” She wondered where, in what room, she should find her husband.

She found him upstairs in the room that had been their bridal chamber. He lay on their bridal bed, motionless and senseless. There was a deep flush on one side of his face, one corner of his mouth was slightly drawn, and one eyelid drooped. He was paralyzed down his left side.

His lips moved mechanically as he breathed, and his breath came with a deep grating sound. His left arm was stretched outside, upon the blanket. A nurse stood at the head of the bed. She moved as Anne entered and gave place to her. Anne put out her hand and touched his arm, caressing it.

The nurse said, “There has been no change.” She lifted his arm by the wrist and laid it in his wife’s hand that she might see that he was paralyzed.

And Anne sat still by the bedside, staring at her husband’s face, and holding his heavy arm in her hand, as if she could thus help him to bear the weight of it.

Hannay gave one look at her as she sat there. He said something to the nurse and went out of the room. The woman followed him.

After they went Anne bowed her head and laid it on the pillow beside her husband’s, with her cheek against his cheek. She stayed so for a moment. Then she lifted her head and looked about her. Her eyes took note of trifles. She saw that the blankets were drawn straight over his body, as if over the body of a dead man. The pillow cases and the end of the sheet whieh was turned down over the blankets were clean and creaseless.

He could not move. He was paralyzed. They had not told her that.

She saw that he wore a clean white nightshirt of coarse cotton. It must have been lent by one of the people of the hotel. His illness must have come upon him last night, when he was still up and dressed. They must have carried him in here, and laid him in the clean bed. Everything about him was very white and clean. She was glad.

She sat there till the nurse came back again. She had to move away from him then. It hurt her to see the woman bending over his bed, looking at him; to see her hands touching him.

A bell rang somewhere in the hotel. Hannay came in and told her that there was luncheon in the sitting-room. She shook her head. He put his hand on her shoulder and spoke to her as if she had been a child. She must eat, he said; she would be no good if she did not eat. She got up and followed him. She ate and drank whatever he gave her. Then she went back to her husband, and watched beside him while the nurse went to her meal. The terrible thing was that she could do nothing for him. She could only wait and watch. The nurse came back in half an hour, and they sat there together, all the afternoon, one on each side of the bed, waiting and watching.

Towards evening the doctor, who had come at midnight and in the morning, came again. He looked at Anne keenly and kindly, and his manner seemed to her to say that there was no hope. He made experiments. He brought a lighted candle and held it to the patient’s eyes, and said that the pupils were still contracted. The nurse said nothing. She looked at Anne and she looked at the doctor, and, when he went away, she made a sign to Anne to keep back while she followed him. Anne heard them talking together in low voices outside the door, and her heart ached with fear of what he would say to her presently.

He sent for her, and she came to him in the sitting-room. He said, “There is no change.” Her brain reeled and righted itself. She had thought he was going to say, “There is no hope.”

“Will he get better?” she said.

“I cannot tell you.”

The doctor seated himself and prepared to deal long and leisurely with the case.

“It’s impossible to say. He may get better. He may even get well. But I should do wrong if I let you hope too much for that.”

“You can give me no hope,” she said, thinking that she uttered his real thought.

“I don’t say that. I only say that the chances are not — exclusively — in favor of recovery.”

“The chances ? ”

The doctor looked at her, considering whether she were a woman who could bear truth. Her eyes assured him that she could.

“Yes. The chances. I don’t say he won’t recover. It’s this way,” said he. “There’s a clot somewhere on the brain. If it absorbs completely he may get well

— perfectly well.”

“And if it does not absorb?”

“He may remain as he is, paralyzed down the left side. The paralysis may be only partial. He may recover the use of one limb and not the other. But he will be paralyzed, partially or completely.”

She pictured it.

“Ah — but,” she said, laying hold on hope again, “he will not die?”

“Well — there may be further lesions

— in which case —”

“He will die.”

“He may die. He may die at any moment.”

She accepted it, abandoning hope.

“Will there be any return of consciousness ? Will he know me ? ”

“I ’m afraid not. If consciousness returns we may begin to hope. As it is, I don’t want you to make up your mind to the worst. There are two things in his favor. He has evidently a sound constitution. And he has lived — up to now — Mr. Hannay tells me, a rather unusually temperate life. That is so ? ”

“Yes. He was most abstemious. Always— always. Why?”

The doctor recalled his eyes from their examination of Mrs. Majendie’s face. It was evident that there were some truths which she could not bear.

“My dear Mrs. Majendie, there is no why, of course. That is in his favor. There seems to have been nothing in his previous history which would predispose to the attack.”

“Would a shock — predispose him?”

“A shock?”

“Any very strong emotion—”

“It might. Certainly. If it was recent. Mr. Hannay told me that he — that you — had had a sudden bereavement. How long ago was that ? ”

“A month — nearly five weeks.”

“Ah —so long ago as that? No, I think it would hardly be likely. If there had been any recent violent emotion —”

“It would account for it?”

“Yes, yes, it might account for it.”

“Thank you.”

He was touched by her look of agony. “If there is anything else I can —”

“No. Thank you very much. That is all I wanted to know.”

She went back into the sickroom. She stayed there all the evening, and they brought her food to her there. She stayed, watching for the sign of consciousness that would give hope. But there was no sign.

The nurse went to bed at nine o’clock. Anne had insisted on sitting up that night. Hannay slept in the next room, on a sofa, within call.

When they had left her alone with her husband, she knelt down by his bedside and prayed. And as she knelt, with her bowed head near to that body sleeping its strange and terrible sleep, she remembered nothing but that she had once loved him; she was certain of nothing but that she loved him still. His body was once more dear and sacred to her as in her bridal hour. She did not ask herself whether it were paying the penalty of its sin; her compassion had purged him of his sin. She had no memory for the past. It seemed to her that all her life and all her sufferings were crowded into this one hour, while she prayed that his soul might come back and speak to her, and that his body might not die. The hour trampled under it that other hour when she had knelt by the loathed bridal bed, wrestling for her own spiritual life. She had no life of her own to pray for now. She prayed only that he might live.

And though she knew not whether her prayer was answered, she knew that it was heard.


It was the evening of the third day. There was no change in Majendie.

Dr. Gardner had been sent for. He had come and gone. He had confirmed the Scarby doctor’s opinion, with a private leaning to the side of hope. Hannay, who had waited to hear his verdict, was going back to Scale early the next morning. Mrs. Majendie had been in her husband’s room all day, and he had seen little of her.

He was sitting alone by the fire after dinner, trying to read a paper, when she came in. Her approach was so gentle that he was unaware of it till she stood beside him. He started to his feet, mumbling an apology for his bewilderment. He pulled up an armchair to the fire for her, wandered uneasily about the room for a minute or two, and would have left it had she not called him back to her.

“Don’t go, Mr. Hannay. I want to speak to you.”

He turned, with an air of frustrated evasion, and remained, a supremely uncomfortable presence.

“Have you time?” she asked.

“Plenty. All my time is at your disposal.”

“You have been very kind—”

“My dear Mrs. Majendie—”

“I want you to be kinder still. I want you to tell me the truth.”

“The truth —” Hannay tried to tighten his loose face into an expression of judicial reserve.

“Yes, the truth. There’s no kindness in keeping things from me.”

“My dear Mrs. Majendie, I ’m keeping nothing from you, I assure you. The doctors have told me no more than they have told you.”

“I know. It ’s not that.”

“What is it that’s troubling you ?”

“Did you see Walter before he came here ?”


“Did you see him on Friday night?” “Yes.”

“Was he perfectly well then?”

“ Er — yes — he was well. Quite


Anne turned her sorrowful eyes upon him.

“No. There was something wrong. What was it?”

“If there was he did n’t tell me.”

“No. He would n’t. Why did you hesitate just now?”

“Did I hesitate?”

“When I asked you if he was well.”

“I thought you meant did I notice any signs of his illness coming on. I did n’t. But of course, as you know, he was very much shaken by — by your little girl’s death.”

“You noticed that while I was away ? ”

“ Y-es. But I certainly noticed it more on the night you were speaking of.”

“You would have said then that he must have received a severe shock?”

“Certainly — certainly I would.”

Hannay responded quite cheerfully, to his immense relief.

It was what they were all trying for, to make poor Mrs. Majendie believe that her husband’s illness was to be attributed solely to the shock of the child’s death.

“Do you think that shock could have had anything to do with his illness?”

“Of course I do. At least, I should say it was indirectly responsible for it.”

She put her hand up to hide her face. He saw that in some way incomprehensible to him, so far from shielding her, he had struck a blow.

“Dr. Gardner told you that much,” said he. He felt easier somehow, in halying the responsibility with Gardner.

“Yes. He told me that. But he had not seen him since October. You saw him on Friday, the day I came home.”

Hannay was confirmed in his suspicion that on Friday there had been a scene. He now saw that Mrs. Majendie was tortured by the remembrance of her part in it.

“Oh, well,” he said consolingly. “He had n’t been himself for a long time before that.”

“I know. I know. That only makes it worse.”

She wept slowly, silently, then stopped suddenly and held herself in a restraint that was ten times more pitiful to see. Hannay was unspeakably distressed.

“Perhaps,” said he, “if you could tell me what’s on your mind, I might be able to relieve you.”

She shook her head.

“Come,” he said kindly, “what is it, really ? What do you imagine makes it worse ? ’ ’

“I said something to him that I did n’t mean.”

“Of course you did,” said Hannay, smiling cheerfully. “We all say things to each other that we don’t mean. That would n’t hurt him.”

“But it did. I told him he was responsible for Peggy’s death. I did n’t know what I was saying. I let him think he killed her.”

“He would n’t think it.”

“He did. There was nothing else he could think. If he dies I shall have killed him.”

“You will have done nothing of the sort. He would n’t think twice about what a woman said in her anger or her grief. He would n’t believe it. He’s got too much sense. You can put that idea out of your head forever.”

“I cannot put it out. I had to tell you — lest you should think —” “Lest I should think — what?”

“That it was something else that caused his illness.”

“But, my dear lady — it was something else. I have n’t a doubt about it.”

“I know what you mean,” she said quickly. “He had been drinking—poor dear.”

“ How do you know that ? ”

“The doctor asked me. He asked me if he had been in the habit of taking too much.”

Hannay heaved a deep sigh of discomfort and disappointment.

“It’s no good,” said she, “trying to keep things from me. And there’s another thing that I must know.”

“You ’re distressing yourself most needlessly. There is nothing more to know.”

“I know that woman was here. I do not know whether he came here to meet her.”

“Ah, well — that I can assure you he did not.”

“Still — he must have met her. She was here.”

“How do you know that she was here ? ”

“You saw her yourself, coming out of the hotel. You were horrified, and you pulled me back so that I should n’t see her.”

“There’s nothing in that, nothing whatever.”

“If you ’d seen your own face, Mr. Hannay, you would have said there was everything in it.”

“My face, dear Mrs. Majendie, does not prove that they met. Or that there was any reason why they should n’t meet. It only proves my fear lest Lady Cayley should stop and speak to you. A thing she would n’t be very likely to do if they had met — as you suppose.”

“There is nothing that woman would n’t do.”

“ She would n’t do that. She would n’t do that.”

“I don’t know.”

“No. You don’t know. So you ’re bound to give her the benefit of the doubt. I advise you to do it, for your own peace of mind’s sake. And for your husband’s sake.”

“It was for his sake that I asked you for the truth. Because—”

“You wanted me to clear him ?”

“Yes. Or to tell me if there is anything I should forgive.”

“I can assure you he did n’t come here to see Sarah Cayley. As to forgiveness — you have n’t got to forgive him that; and if you only understood, you’d find that there was precious little you ever had to forgive.”

“If I only understood. You think I don’t understand, even yet?”

“I’m sure you don’t. You never did.”

“I would give everything if I could understand now.”

“Yes, if you could. But can you ? ”

“I’ve tried very hard. I’ve prayed to God to make me understand.”

Poor Hannay was embarrassed at the name of God. He fell to contemplating his waistcoat buttons in profound abstraction for a while. Then he spoke.

“Look here, Mrs. Majendie. Poor Walter always said you were much too good for him. If you ’ll pardon my saying so, I never believed that until now. Now, upon my soul, I do believe it. And I believe that’s where the trouble’s been all along. There are things about a man that a woman like you cannot understand. She does n’t try to understand them. She does n’t want to. She’d rather die than know. So — well — the whole thing’s wrapped up in mystery, and she thinks it’s something awful and iniquitous, something incomprehensible.”

“Yes. If she thinks about it at all.”

“My dear lady, very often she thinks about it a vast deal more than is good for her. And she thinks wrong. She’s bound to, being what she is. Now, when an ordinary man marries that sort of woman there’s certain to be trouble.”

He paused, pondering. “My wife’s a dear, good little woman,” he said presently; “she’s the best little woman in the world for me; but I daresay to outsiders she’s a very ordinary little woman. Well, you know, I don’t call myself a remarkably good man, even now, and I was n’t a good man at all before she married me. D’you mind my talking about myself like this?”

“No.” She tried to keep herself sincere. “No. I don’t think I do.”

“You do, I’m afraid. I don’t much like it myself. But, you see, I’m trying to help you. You said you wanted to understand, didn’t you?”

“Yes. I want to understand.”

“Well then, I ’m not a good man, and your husband is. And yet, I’d no more think of leaving my dear little wife for another woman than I would of committing a murder. But, if she’d been ‘too good ’ for me, there’s no knowing what I might n’t have done. D’you see?”

“I see. You ’re trying to tell me that it was my fault that my husband left me.”

“Your fault ? No. It was hardly your fault, Mrs. Majendie.”

He meditated. “There’s another thing. You good women are apt to run away with the idea that 舒 that this sort of thing is so tremendously important to us. It is n’t. It is n’t.”

“Then why behave as if it were ? ”

“We don’t. That’s your mistake; ten to one, when a man’s once married and happy he does n’t think about it at all. Of course, if he is n’t happy—but, even then, he does n’t go thinking about it all day long. The ordinary man does n’t. He’s got other things to attend to — his business, his profession, his religion, anything you like. Those are the important things, the things he thinks about, the things that take up his time.”

“I see. I see. The woman does n’t count.”

“Of course she counts. But she counts in another way. Bless you, the woman may be his religion, his superstition. In your husband’s case it certainly was so.”

Her face quivered.

“Of course,” he said, “what beats you is — how a man can love his wife with his whole heart and soul, and yet be unfaithful to her.”

“Yes. If I could understand that, I should understand every thing. Once, long ago, Walter said the same thing to me, and I could n’t understand.”

“Well — well, it depends on what one calls unfaithfulness. Some men are brutes, but we ’re not talking about them. We ’re talking about Walter.”

“Yes. We ’re talking about Walter.”

“And Walter is my dearest friend, so dear that I hardly know how to talk to you about him.”

“Try,” she said.

“Well, I suppose I know more about him than anybody else. And I never knew a man freer from any weakness for women. He was always so awfully sorry for them, don’t you know. Sarah Cayley could never have fastened herself on him if he had n’t been sorry for her. No more could that girl — Maggie Forrest.”

“How did he come to know her?”

“Oh, some fellow he knew had behaved pretty badly to her, and Walter had been paying for her keep, years before there was anything between them. She got dependent on him, and he on her. We are pathetically dependent creatures, Mrs. Majendie.”

“What was she like?”

“She? Oh, a soft, simple, clinging little thing. And instead of shaking her off, he let her cling. That’s how it all began. Then, of course, the rest followed. I’m not excusing him, mind you. Only—” Poor Hannay became shy and unhappy. He hid his face in his hands and lifted it from them, red, as if with shame. “The fact is,” he said, “I’m a clumsy fellow, Mrs. Majendie. I want to help you, but I’m afraid of hurting you.”

“Nothing can hurt me,” she said, “now.”

“Well—” He pondered again. “If you want to get down to the root of it, it’s as simple as hunger and thirst.”

“Hunger and thirst,” she murmured.

“It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.

When you ’re not thirsty you don’t think about drinking. When you are thirsty, you do. When you ’re driven mad with thirst, you think of nothing else. And sometimes 舒 not always — when you can’t get clean water, you ’ll drink water that’s — not so clean. Though you may be very particular. Walter was — morally — the most particular man I ever knew.”

“I know, I know.”

“Mind you, the more particular a man is, the thirstier he ’ll be. And, supposing he can never get a drop of water at home, and, every time he goes out, some kind person offers him a drink, — can you blame him very much if, some day, he takes it ? ”

“No,” she said. She said it very low, and turned her face from him.

“Look here, Mrs. Majendie,” he said, “you know why I’m saying all this ? ”

“To help me,” she said humbly.

“And to help him too. Neither you nor I know whether he’s going to live or die. And I ’ve told you all this so that, if he does die, you may n’t have to judge him harshly, and if he does n’t die, you may feel that he’s — he’s given back to you. D’you see?”

“Yes, I see,” she said softly.

She saw that there were depths in this man that she had not suspected. She had despised Lawson Hannay. She had detested him. She had thought him coarse in grain, gross, insufferably unspiritual. She had denied him any existence in the world of desirable persons. She had refused to see any good in him. She had wondered how Edith could tolerate him for an instant. Now she knew.

She remembered that Edith was a proud woman, and that she had said that her pride had had to go down in the dust before Lawson Hannay. And now she, too, was humbled before him. He had beaten down all her pride. He had been kind; but he had not spared her. He had not spared her; but the gentlest woman could not have been more kind.

She rose and looked at him with a strange reverence and admiration. “Whether he lives or dies,” she said, “you will have given him back to me.”

She took up her third night’s watch.

The nurse rose as she entered, gave her some directions, and went to her own punctual sleep. There was no change in the motionless body, in the drawn face, and in the sightless eyes.

Anne sat by her husband’s side and kept her hand upon his arm to feel the life in it. She was consoled by contact, even while she told herself that she had no right to touch him.

She knew what she had done to him. She had ruined him as surely as if she had been a bad woman. He had loved her, and she had cast him from her, and sent him to his sin. There was no humiliation and no pain that she had spared him. Even the bad women sometimes spare. They have their pity for the men they ruin; they have their poor disastrous love. She had been merciless where she owed most mercy.

Three people had tried to make her see it. Edith, who was a saint, and that woman, who was a sinner, and Lawson Hannay. They had all taken the same view of her. They had all told her the same thing.

She was a good woman, and her goodness had been her husband’s ruin.

Of the three, Edith alone understood the true nature of the wrong she had done him. The others had only seen one side of it, the material, tangible side that weighed with them. Throug her very goodness, she saw that that was the least part of it; she knew that it had been the least part of it with him.

Where she had wronged him most had been in the pitiless refusals of her soul. And even there she had wronged him less by the things she had refused to give than by the things that she had refused to take. There were sanctities and charities, unspeakable tendernesses, holy and half spiritual things in him, that she had shut her eyes to. She had shut her eyes that she might justify herself.

Her fault was there, in that perpetual justification and salvation of herself, in her indestructible, implacable spiritual pride.

And she had shut her ears as she had shut her eyes. She had not listened to her sister’s voice, nor to her husband’s voice, nor to her little child’s voice, nor to the voice of God in her own heart. Then, that she might be humbled, she had had to take God’s message from the persons whom she had most detested and despised.

She had not loved well. And she saw now that men and women only counted by their power of loving. She had despised and detested poor little Mrs. Hannay; yet it might be that Mrs. Hannay was nearer to God than she had been, by her share of that one godlike thing.

She, through her horror of one sin, had come to look upon flesh and blood, upon the dear human heart, and the sacred, mysterious human body, as things repellent to her spirituality, fine only in their sacrifice to the hungry, solitary flame. She had known nothing of their larger and diviner uses, of their secret and profound subservience to the flame. She had come near to knowing through her motherhood, and yet she had not known.

And as she looked with anguish on the helpless body, shamed, and humiliated, and destroyed by her, she realized that now she knew.

Edith’s words came back to her: “Love is a provision for the soul’s redemption of the body. Or, maybe, for the body’s redemption of the soul.” She understood them now. She saw that Edith had spoken to her of the miracle of miracles. She saw that the path of all spirits going upward is by acceptance of that miracle. She, who had sinned the spiritual sin, could find salvation only by that way.

It was there that she had been led, all the while, if she had but known it. But she had turned aside, and had been sent back, over and over again, to find the way. Now she had found it; and there could be no more turning back.

She saw it all. She saw a purity greater than her own, a strong and tender virtue, walking in the ways of earth and cleansing them. She saw love as a divine spirit, going down into the courses of the blood and into the chambers of the heart, moving mortal things to immortality. She saw that there is no spirituality worthy of the name that has not been proved in the house of flesh.

She had failed in spirituality. She had fixed the spiritual life away from earth, beyond the ramparts. She saw that the spiritual life is here.

And more than this, she saw that in her husband’s nature, hidden deep down under the perversities that bewildered and estranged her, there was a sense of these things, of the sanctity of their life. She saw what they might have made of it together, what she had actually made of it, and of herself and him. She thought of his patience, his chivalry and forbearance, and of his deep and tender love for her and for their child.

God had given him to her to love; and she had not loved him. God had given her to him for his help and his protection; and she had not helped, she had not protected him.

God had dealt justly with her. She had loved God; but God had rejected a love that was owing to her husband. Looking back, she saw that she had been nearest to God in the days when she had been nearest to her husband. The days of her separation had been the days of her separation from God. And she had not seen it.

All the love that was in her she had given to her child. Her child had been born that she might see that the love which was given to her was holy; and she had not seen it. So God had taken her child from her that she might see.

And seeing that, she saw herself aright. That passion of motherhood was not all the love that was in her. The love that was in her had sprung up, full-grown, in a single night. It had grown to the stature of the diviner love she saw. And as she felt that great springing-up of love, with all its strong endurances and charities, she saw herself redeemed by her husband’s sin.

There she paused, trembling. It was a great and terrible mystery, that the sin of his body should be the saving of her soul. And as she thought of the price paid for her, she humbled herself once more in her shame.

She was no longer afraid that he would die. Something told her that he would live, that he would be given back to her. She dared not think how. He might be given back paralyzed, helpless, and with a ruined mind. Her punishment might be the continual reproach of his presence, her only consolation the tending of the body she had tortured, humiliated, and destroyed.

She prayed God to be merciful and spare her that.

And on the morning of the fifth day Majendie woke from his terrible sleep. He could see light. Towards evening his breathing softened and grew soundless. And on the dawn of the sixth day he called her name, “Nancy.”

Then she knew that for a little time he would be given back to her. And, as she nursed him, love in her moved with a new ardor and a new surrender. For more than seven years her pulses had been proof against his passion and his strength. Now, at the touch of his helpless body, they stirred with a strange, adoring tenderness.

But as yet she went humbly, in her fear of the punishment that might be measured to her. She told herself it was enough that he was aware of her, of her touch, of her voice, of her face as it bent over him. She hushed the new-born hope in her heart, lest its cry should wake the angel of the divine retribution.

Then, week by week, slowly, a little joy came to her, as she saw the gradual return of power to the paralyzed body and clearness to the flooded brain. She wondered when he would begin to remember, whether her face would recall to him their last interview, her cruelty, her repudiation.

At last she knew that he remembered. She dared not ask herself, “How much ?” It was borne in on her that it was this way that her punishment would come.

For, as he gradually recovered, his manner to her became more constrained, notwithstanding his helpless dependence on her. He was shy and humble; grateful for the things she did for him; grateful with a heart-rending, pitiful surprise. It was as if he had looked to come back to the heartless woman he had known, and was puzzled at finding another woman in her place.

As the weeks wore on, and her hands had less to do for him, she felt that his awakened spirit guarded itself from her, fenced itself more and more with that inviolable constraint. And she bowed her head to the punishment.

When he was well enough to be moved, she took him to the south coast. There he recovered power rapidly. By the end of February he showed no trace of his terrible illness.

They were to return to Scale in the beginning of March.

Then, at their home-coming, she would know whether he remembered. There would be things that they would have to say to each other.

Sometimes she thought that she could never say them; that her life was secure only within some pure, charmed circle of inviolate silence; that her wisdom lay in simply trusting him to understand her. She could trust him. After all, she had been most marvelously “ let off;"she had been allowed, oh, divinely allowed, to prove her love for him. He could not doubt it now; it possessed her, body and soul; it was manifest to him in her eyes, and in her voice, and in the service of her hands.

And if he said nothing, surely it would mean that he, too, trusted her to understand ?


They had come back. They had spent their first evening together in the house in Prior Street. Anne had dreaded the return; for the house remembered its sad secrets. She had dreaded it more on her husband’s account than on her own.

She had passed before him through the doorway of the study; and her heart had ached as she thought that it was in that room that she had struck at him and put him from her. As he entered, she had turned, and closed the door behind them, and lifted her face to his and kissed him. He had looked at her with his kind, sad smile, but he had said nothing. All that evening they had sat by their hearth, silent as watchers by the dead.

From time to time she had been aware of his eyes resting on her in their profound and tragic scrutiny. She had been reminded then of the things that yet remained unsaid.

At night he had risen at her signal; and she had waited while he put the light out; and he had followed her upstairs. At her door she had stopped, and kissed him, and said good-night, and she had turned her head to look after him as he went. Surely, she had thought, he will come back and speak to me.

And now she was still waiting after her undressing. She said to herself, “ We have come home. But he will not come to me. He has nothing to say to me. There is nothing that can be said. If I could only speak to him!”

She longed to go to him, to kneel at his feet and beg him to forgive her and take her back again, as if it had been she who had sinned. But she could not.

She stood for a moment before the couch at the foot of the bed, ready to slip off her long white dressing-gown. She paused. Her eyes rested on the silver crucifix, the beloved symbol of redemption. She remembered how he had given it to her. She had not understood him even then; but she understood him now.

She longed to tell him that she understood. But she could not.

She turned suddenly as she heard his low knock at her door. She had been afraid to hear it once; now it made her heart beat hard with longing and another fear. He came in. He stood by the closed door, gazing at her with the dumb look that she knew.

She went to meet him, with her hands outstretched to him, her face glowing.

“Oh my dear,” she said, “you ’ve come back to me. You’ve come back.”

He looked down on her with miserable eyes. She put her arms about him. His face darkened and was stern to her. He held her by her arms and put her from him, and she trembled in all her body, humiliated and rebuked.

“No. Not that,” he said. “Not now. I can’t ask you to take me back now.”

“ Need you ask me — now ? ”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “You don’t know. Darling, you don’t know.”

At the word of love she turned to him, beseeching him with her tender eyes.

“Sit down,” he said. “I want to talk to you.”

She sat down on the couch, and made room for him beside her.

“I don’t want,” she said, “to know more than I do.”

“I’m afraid you must know. When you do know you won’t talk about taking me back.”

“I have taken you back.”

“Not yet. I’d no business to come back at all, without telling you.”

“Tell me, then,” she said.

“I can’t. I don’t know how.”

She put her hand on his.

“Don’t,” he said, “don’t. I’d rather you did n’t touch me.”

She looked at him and smiled, and her smile cut him to the heart.

“Walter,” she said, “are you afraid of me ? ”


“You need n’t be.”

“I am. I’m afraid of your goodness.”

She smiled again.

“Do you think I’m good?”

“I know you are.”

“You don’t know how you ’re hurting me.”

“I’ve always hurt you. And I’m going to hurt you more.”

“You only hurt me when you talk about my goodness. I’m not good. I never was. And I never can be, dear, if you ’re afraid of me. What is it that I must know ?

His voice sank.

“I’ve been unfaithful to you. Again.”

“With whom ?” she whispered.

“I can’t tell you — only— it was n’t Maggie.”

“When was it ?”

“I think it was that Sunday — at Scarby.”

“Why do you say you think?” she said gently. “Don’t you know ?”

“No. I don’t know much about it. I did n’t know what I was doing.”

“You can’t remember?”

“No. I can’t remember.”

“Then — are you sure you were— ?”

“Yes. I think so. I don’t know. That’s the horrible part of it. I don’t know. I can’t remember anything about it. I must have been drinking.”

She took his hand in hers again. “Walter, dear, don’t think about it. Don’t think it was possible. Just put it all out of your head and forget about it.”

“ How can I when I don’t know ? ” He rose. “ See here — I ought n’t to look at you 舒 I ought n’t to touch you — I ought n’t to live with you, as long as I don’t know. You don’t know either.”

“ No,” she said quietly. “I don’t know. Does that matter so very much when I understand ? ”

“Ah, if you could understand — But you never could.”

“ I do. Supposing I had known, do you think I should not have forgiven you?”

“I’m certain you would n’t. You could n’t. Not that.”

“But,” she said, “I did know.”

His mouth twitched. His eyelids dropped before her gaze.

“At least,” she said, “I thought —” “You thought that ?”


“What made you think it?”

“I saw her there,”

“You saw her ? You thought that, and yet — you would have let me come back to you ? ”

“Yes. I thought that.”

As he stood before her, shamed, and uncertain, and unhappy, the new soul that had been born in her pleaded for him and assured her of his innocence.

“ But,” she said again, “I do not think it now.”

“You —you don’t believe it?”

“No. I believe in you.”

“You believe in me? After everything?”

“After everything.”

“And you would have forgiven me that ?”

“I did forgive you. I forgave you all the time I thought it. There’s nothing that I would n’t forgive you now. You know it.”

“I thought you might forgive me. But I never thought you’d let me come back — after that.”

“You have n’t. You have n’t. You never left me. It’s I who have come back to you.”

“Nancy,” he whispered.

“It’s I who need forgiveness. Forgive me. Forgive me.”

“Forgive you? You?”

“Yes, me.”

Her voice died and rose again, throbbing, to her confession.

“I was unfaithful to you.”

“You don’t know what you ’re saying, dear. You could n’t have been unfaithful to me.”

“If I had been, would you have forgiven me?”

He looked at her a long time.

“Yes,” he said simply.

“You could have forgiven me that?” “I could have forgiven you anything.”

She knew it. There was no limit to his chivalry, his charity.

“Well,” she said. “You have worse things to forgive me.”

“ What have I to forgive ? ”

“Everything. If I had forgiven you in the beginning, you would not have had to ask for forgiveness now.”

“Perhaps not, Nancy. But that was n’t your fault.”

“It was my fault. It was all my fault, from the beginning to the end.”

“No, no.”

“Yes, yes. Mr. Hannay knew that. He told me so.”


“At Scarby.”

Majendie scowled as he cursed Hannay in his heart.

“He was a brute,” he said, “to tell you that.”

“He was n’t. He was kind. He knew.”

“What did he know?”

“That I would rather think that I was bad than that you were.”

“And would you ?”

“Yes I would — now. Mr. Hannay spared me all he could. He did n’t tell me that if you had died at Scarby it would have been my fault. But it would have been.”

He groaned.

“Darling — you could n’t say that if you knew anything about it.”

“I know all about it.”

He shook his head.

“Listen, Walter. You’ve been unfaithful to me — once, years after I gave you cause. I’ve been unfaithful to you ever since I married you. And your unfaithfulness was nothing to mine. A woman once told me that. She said you’d only broken one of your marriage vows, and I had broken all of them, except one. It. was true.”

“Who said that to you?”

“Never mind who. It needed saying. It was true. I sinned against the light. I knew what you were. You were good and you loved me. You were unhappy through loving me, and I shut my eyes to it. I’ve done more harm to you than that poor girl — Maggie. You would never have gone to her if I had n’t driven you. You loved me.”

“Yes. I loved you.”

She turned to him again; and her eves searched his for absolution. “I did n’t know what I was doing. I did n’t understand.”

“No. A woman does n’t, dear. Not when she’s as good as you.”

At that a sob shook her. In the passion of her abasement she had cast off all her beautiful spiritual apparel. Now she would have laid down her crown, her purity, at his feet.

“I thought I was so good. And I sinned against my husband more than he ever sinned against me!”

He took her hands and tried to draw her to him, but she broke away, and slid to the floor and knelt there, bowing her head upon his knee. Her hair fell, loosened, upon her shoulders, veiling her.

He stooped and raised her. His hand smoothed back the hair that hid her face. Her eyes were closed.

Her drenched eyelids felt his lips upon them. They opened; and in her eyes he saw love risen to immortality through mortal tears. She looked at him, and knew him as she knew her own soul.

(The End.)