Spella Ho

The Atlantic Novel

BY H. E. BATES

CHAPTERS 11-19

The meaning of SPELLA HO

SPELLA HO is the name of a great stone country house built in the eighteenth century and standing out like a clipper ship above the rolling English Midlands. The house is empty and deserted when this novel begins, yet the wealth and power which it represents are a living tradition even in the minds of such a poor and miserable family as the Shadbolts, who live within sight of its chimneys.

At twenty, Bruno Shadbolt is no credit to himself. His father is a drunken carter who does odd jobs in the village of Castor, and as his assistant Bruno once goes to the great house to deliver a load of coal. When his mother dies and his father abandons the family, Bruno has to support them. He pilfers coal from Spella Ho and peddles it through the village. Living from hand to mouth, he gains his first glimmering recognition of the value of money. Not until a young widow in the village takes pity on his uncouth ignorance, helps to clean him up and in so doing succumbs to his strength, has Bruno even the first vestige of self-respect.

He is a swart, powerful figure, very broad, coarse-haired, blunt-featured. So he sees himself one evening in a pier glass at Spella Ho as he prowls through the empty rooms. But through his being there runs a vein of iron determination — determination which has been roused by the widow and which from now on is to give him power over men and an irresistible magnetism for women.

So the boundaries of Bruno’s world expand. From Coutts, a loan shark, he hears of ‘business,’ ‘discount,’ ‘speculation,’ and from the trickery practised upon him Bruno begins to learn the use of money.

When Spella Ho is reopened in the summer of 1874, Bruno contrives to meet the new owner, fiery, shrewd old Mrs. Lanchester, with her wealth and her shady past. He beats her down in a deal — and does n’t miss the grudging admiration in her eyes. From this angry beginning comes a larger opportunity. For, when Finch the bailiff takes to drink, it is Bruno who is called in to replace him. Bruno can neither read nor write, a defect which he does not confide to Mrs. Lanchester. Instead he seeks out Louise, the secretary and companion to the old lady, and wins first her help and then her love.

Louise explains to him the dishonesty of his agreement with the loan shark, and when Coutts next comes to collect his interest Bruno kicks him off the estate. In his rage Coutts returns to Castor and rouses the townsfolk, who are jealous of Bruno’s advance and bitter against his methods of collecting Mrs. Lanchester’s rents. Led by smart, flashy Rufus Chamberlain, a mob of fifty men and women storm Spella Ho, breaking windows, pelting rotten vegetables at the façade. Bruno is at his home, undressing for bed, when the news reaches him. Back he races across the fields, meets the crowd head on, and beats down Rufus Chamberlain in a slugging match which is to be the talk of the county for decades to come.

With each twelve months of the Atlantic

THREE GREAT BOOKS OF THE YEAR

SPELLA HO

BY H. E. BATES

XI

IT was also a beginning. That day was responsible for two things: a sudden hardening of Bruno’s determination to go away, and the establishment, in Castor and in the towns for fifteen miles round, of his reputation as a man of terrific fighting qualities.

At the time he had no conception of how tremendous the effect of that fight was. He still had, at the end of the fight as at the beginning, only one concern: Louise. That evening he heard how she and Mrs. Lanchester, alone upstairs, had heard the smashing of every window in the south aspect, the old lady stalking up and down the room in fury, stabbing her silver-headed walking stick into the carpet, spitting, swearing, and calling at intervals for a gun; then how they had from the windows of another room seen the fight, the old lady again beside herself, this time with a kind of bloodthirsty joy; how finally Louise, unable to stand such excitement in a period of tight lacing, had fainted on the bed and had come round again before the old lady was conscious of what had happened.

So that evening, Louise pale and ill, he himself sick and thick-eyed and thick-lipped, they sat in her small sitting room and discussed how and when, if possible, they could get away. He wanted to go to London. Louise had told him much about it and he had a natural desire to see it for himself. Where he had once been driven by a single ambition, he was now pulled by three. He wanted Louise; wanted money; wanted to see London. He was going to strike out for himself. What he was going to do in London, how he was going to make money, was not clear. He felt he relied on the obscure revolutions of fate. It was this that dissatisfied Louise. She also had struggled. She knew London. She felt that she knew just what chances he stood there.

She had another reason. For some time it had been clear that the old lady would leave her money. ‘It might be a lot of money. It might not be very much. I don’t know,’ she said. ‘But it would be foolish to lose the chance of it.’

‘You mean she’d cut you out of the will if you went now?’

‘You know she would.’

That impressed him.

‘Supposing it’s only a hundred pounds,’ Louise said. ‘We could do a lot with that.’

That also impressed him. A little patience — and how much he might possibly do.

In the end, rather to the surprise of Louise, he gave in to patience. They would wait. When he had said so, she gave him a new and better reason for having said it: the old lady. She also had been impressed by the fight; she felt he had done a magnificent thing.

‘You can’t tell,’ she said, ‘what she might do for you some day.’

She had hardly said this when a message came in from Mrs. Lanchester. It was time to play chess, and would Shadbolt go in too? So Louise went and he followed after an interval of five minutes. Mrs. Lanchester was in the great drawing-room, looking more than ever like some small irate mummified caricature of the reigning queen. She was sitting at the chess table, and for some reason four candles had been lighted, and as a further act of generosity the butler brought in a decanter of Madeira and another of port and some thin biscuits. For more than two hours Bruno sat watching Louise and Mrs. Lanchester move the Chinese chessmen, making small manœuvres of cherry-color and ivory in the smoky-gold candlelight. They went into the Bell. They sat there for more than two hours, drinking — always at Chamberlain’s expense and in spite of Bruno’s protests — first porter and then whiskey. And gradually, as they sat there, in the pub, softened by porter and then fired by whiskey, they began to be slightly fascinated by each other. They had already great respect for each other, and now, Bruno so squat and ugly, Chamberlain so flashily dressed and good-looking, it was as though they began to see in each other a counterpart. It was an attraction of opposites, and time and liquor increased it.

When the game was over, just before ten o’clock, the old lady stood up and, hands clasped about each other like gray crabs, ejected the nearest thing to a speech Bruno ever heard her make. She said: ‘Shadbolt, you did a magnificent thing this afternoon. If it had n’t been for you we might have been seriously hurt or smoked out or something. I don’t know. Anyway, I don’t feel safe any more. I want you to come and live here completely. Sleep here and everything. Well?’ It was all shot out at him with generous and yet emotionless rapidity.

He saw no reason to refuse and, in fact, many reasons to accept.

‘Good,’ she said. ‘Can you sleep tonight?’

‘There’s my sister,’ he said. ‘She’ll wonder about me. She’s upset enough as it is.’

‘Go home,’ she said, ‘and tell her and come back again. I’ll have a room got ready for you while you ’re gone.’

Louise and he walked across the park and the fields, in the sultry October darkness, to tell Maria and fetch his things. Coming back, wandering off the paths, they walked as it were in a sea of dew. He walked with his arms round her.

‘Which room do you sleep in?’ he said.

She told him: a small white-paneled room, high up, with a mirror on the wall.

‘Shall I be near it?’

‘You can find your way,’ she said.

Two days later he went down into Castor to buy himself some shirts. There were two drapers in Castor, Faulkner’s in High Street, Beamer’s in the square. He looked into Faulkner’s and then went on to Beamer’s, and it was like looking into a mirror. He saw in Beamer’s window the reflected arrangement of Faulkner’s: the same rolls of winter flannel, the same flyblown dickies, the same cat, as it were, asleep on the same rolls of dust-fledged calico. Hardly anyone in Castor bought shirts ready-made, and there were no shirts in the windows. He did not know what to do.

Turning away from Beamer’s, he ran straight into Chamberlain. The two men knocked against each other and there was a moment of silence. Chamberlain’s left hand was bandaged and he held it resting between the front buttons of his jacket, and his eyes were a smoky plum-color. The slash across Bruno’s eye had not healed, and his hands were swollen. The two men stared at each other as though not believing the things they had inflicted on each other. They were men who had been through something together and suddenly it was as though the experience had taken them very close together.

Suddenly, showing very handsome white teeth under his bruise-thickened lips, Chamberlain grinned. He put out his hand and Bruno took it.

Bruno grinned too, but could not speak, and Chamberlain said, ‘Have a drink?’

That morning, also, each was much impressed by one thing about the other: Bruno by the fact that Chamberlain had money, Chamberlain by the fact that Bruno could drink. ‘That’s what I like,’ Chamberlain said. ‘Head like a rock, by God.’ He grew excited, painted a picture for Bruno of life in London, of gin palaces and music halls, of women in skintights and even of women in nothing at all. ‘By God, Shadbolt,’ he said, ‘we must go to London.’ He put into the picture the touches of a man who knew his subject. He clasped Bruno’s shoulders as they came out of the pub, swaggering, thick-talking, spitting in emphasis of fabulous truths. ‘Even in Bedford I know a tart who for next to nothing —’

Bruno was fired also by a spirit of devilry. By God, they would go to Bedford. ‘Next Saturday,’ Chamberlain said. ‘First the shirts. Then—’ He looked at Bruno. ‘And a new hat.’ He took off Bruno’s hat and looked at it as though it were a lump of horse dung. ‘How the hell d’ ye expect a woman to look at you in a hat like that?’

XII

Whenever he came up to the house, in the mornings, he would find Louise on the edge of the park, feeding the chickens that had been let out from the disused pheasant pens under the sycamore trees. It was a job that, as a sort of recreation, she had taken out of the hands of the garden boy. That Saturday morning he could not see her there.

He went into the house. She had not been in the park, and for some reason no one could remember seeing her. He went to her sitting room, but it was empty, and at last he went along to the small room with the candlesticks, the room which Mrs. Lanchester then called her office.

There Louise sat at the table, motionless, as though she had given up whatever it was she had been trying to do. She was very white, and in a moment he knew that she was in pain.

‘What is it?’ he said. ‘What’s up?’

‘I had a pain down my side in the night and I could n’t sleep, and now it’s come again.’

‘Whereabouts is it? What sort of pain?’

She tried to tell him. It was no use. ‘I sat on the edge of the bed, trembling all over,’ she said.

‘Go and lie down,’ he said.

He got her to lie down in her room. He went down into the kitchen, bringing back hot milk in a glass. ‘The cook says if it’s no better soon she’ll put poultices on. They’ll draw it out.’ He gave her the milk. She burnt her hand on the glass as she took it. ‘It’s too hot; I can’t hold it.’

‘I’ll get a basin,’ he said. I’ll get a basin and spoon. You’ll drink it better.’

He went to the door. She protested a little and he, thinking of something, stopped. ‘Have you taken your stays off?’

‘Not yet. It’s—’

‘Take them off. Perhaps it’s them that’s doing it.’

‘I’ll try while you’re gone.’

When he came back again she had taken off her high, impossible stays. Released, she breathed easily. Momentarily it was as though she had removed the cause of the pain. ‘I feel better, much better. You go now and do your work. You’re going out. You’re going to Bedford.’

He watched her drink the milk. ‘Not if you’re no better.’

‘I want you to. I want you to buy some things. I want you to.’ ‘What things? You made that up.’ Bruno drove back with the doctor to Castor. When they drove up to the large beautiful cream-plastered house on the square, the doctor disappeared into the house and did not come out again. After twenty minutes an old woman emerged, to give Bruno a medicine bottle. The medicine, still unsettled, looked like milk. ‘You’re sure?’ ‘No. Yes.’

‘No. I mean it.’

‘What things, then?’

She hesitated. ‘For you. For you, if you must know.’

‘For me?’

‘For your birthday. You’re twentyone. I did n’t want you to know. Now I’ve told you.’

He felt curiously touched. ‘How did you know?’

‘Oh, I found out.’

He bent down and, for a moment or two, put his arms about her. Without the stays, she was lovely to hold, soft and delicate, her body all tenderness. Holding her, he could not bear to think of anything happening to her.

He went out, leaving her to rest.

He could not work. In his phlegmatic mind, concern would not resolve itself into fear. His emotion was not centralized. Now and then he felt within himself an indication of something larger than fear.

But it was not conscious. It did not resolve itself, and it was some curious grumbling of premonition that took him suddenly into the house about eleven o’clock.

Louise, in her room, was kneeling down by the chair, pressing herself against it, in agony. He lifted her up. She stiffened out in pain, muttering a little, not speaking. He ran upstairs with her, calling as he went for Mrs. Lanchester.

He laid Louise on her bed upstairs. Mrs. Lanchester came up after him, stumping her stick on the carpets, grousing. She took one look at Louise. ‘Is there a doctor in Castor?’

‘Yes. Dr. Black.’

‘Get him. Get the phaeton out and drive yourself down. Fast.’

‘Yes.’

‘Make him come.’ He saw Louise roll in the bed and stiffen out her legs in agony. He went quickly.

He got out the old dark green and still high-polished phaeton, harnessed up, and drove into Castor. He caught the doctor in the street. ‘Doctor! A girl at Spella Ho. She’s in great pain.’

’I’ll come after dinner,’

‘No. Now.’

‘I’m off to another patient. What name is it?’

‘Miss Williamson. Mine’s Shadbolt.’

Suddenly the doctor looked at him. It was as though he had suddenly remembered something. Bruno stared back at him with immobility, his face hammered out by concern and determination into a passivity which was itself threatening. Suddenly the doctor got up into the phaeton. The significance of this incident did not, at the time, strike Bruno.

Later, much later, he remembered it. Then, as he drove back to Spella Ho, only one thing had any significance at all. Thinking of it, he did not speak to the doctor. The doctor, who also did not speak, was a young man, but, with a large brown beard already resting like a foxtail on his collar, he looked somewhere between forty and fifty. He had an indeterminate manner, keeping his eyes on the distance, and it was clear that his reason for not speaking was a social one.

Up in the room, from which Bruno was excluded, the doctor pressed his hands on Louise’s right side. ‘You feel it here?’ She flinched. ‘Not much?’ He pressed his hands higher up, and then lower. ‘Here?’ She shot out her legs and drew them up again and lay still, paralyzed with pain. The doctor went to the window and looked out.

‘Can’t you give her something?’ Mrs. Lanchester said. He seemed frightened by the alert spit of her voice.

‘Oh yes, I can give her something. If Mr. Shadbolt will come down he can bring it back.’ He seemed glad of the chance to get away.

On the way back the medicine settled, throwing its white deposit, leaving the liquid clear and not quite colorless. Curious, Bruno pulled the cork and smelled it. He smelled peppermint. Then he put his tongue on the bottle and let a little of the medicine run on to it. It seemed to him that underneath the peppermint he could taste Epsom salts.

Something about the whole thing, the doctor’s indecision, the medicine, seemed to him unsatisfactory. He had no faith in what was being done. He took the medicine upstairs. He knocked on the door and the cook came out. ‘You can’t come in. We’re putting poultices on her.’ He gave her the medicine. ‘I’ll give you the wink when you can come up.’ She hesitated. ‘I tell you what I’ll do. I’ll pull the curtains back across the window.’

He went downstairs again, trying to measure his fear. It eluded him. He stood on the terrace, looking up at Louise’s window. Suddenly the curtains were drawn back.

He went upstairs. She was alone. To his relief she looked much better. ‘I’m all right. I want you to go,’ she said.

‘No.’ He could not rid himself of his lack of faith, ‘I got work to do here.’

‘I want you to go. I want the things.’

‘I don’t want the things.’

His meaning was not clear. He meant to convey that, since it was a question of remaining with her or having the things, he would prefer to remain with her. She did not understand this. She started to cry. He stood helpless, with a feeling of compassion and stupidity. He tried to explain himself. Her tears started to fall on the bed.

‘I’ll go. I’ll go,’ he said.

‘Don’t go just for my sake.’

‘No. I’ll go. I want to go. He can drive me straight back.’

She dabbed her eyes on the sheet. Crying had given her face color, so that he felt for a moment reassured about her.

‘I wanted you to get yourself a watch and chain.’

He was staggered. A watch and chain had always been beyond his scheme of material things. It was too much. ‘You can’t afford it,’ he said.

‘I can. I want to.’ She told him where she kept her money: in the top small drawer of the chest, in a glove box. ‘Take two sovereigns.’

‘No, I—’

‘Please.’

Impressed, in a conflict of misery and doubt, he at last got out the glove box. Then, as he held it in his hands, it seemed a very personal thing and he could not open it. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Aon do it.’

She took it and opened it. ‘Look,’ she said. ‘That’s all my money. Fourteen pounds. And then you say I can’t afford a watch and chain! ’

‘You can’t, either.’

In answer she gave him the two sovereigns. She pressed them into his palm softly and firmly, with her thumb, in a way that recalled for him some game with buttons he had played with Maria as a child. ‘Get the watch and chain and then get your shirts and your hat and come straight back.’

‘All right.’

‘You’ll look so smart,’ she said.

He hated leaving her, so small and, with her hair down, more than ever like some frightened little dog on the great pillows of the bed. ‘I’ll be back by five.’ He suddenly leaned across the bed and kissed her, more out of fear than tenderness. ‘Smart Bruno, with his watch and chain,’ she said. ‘I shall think about you. Now go and get ready.’

‘You don’t feel that pain now?’

‘No. Not now.’

‘You don’t want anything?’

‘No.’

That small confusion and the smile which followed it reassured him. He went out at last. The two sovereigns seemed to stick to his hands like warm lozenges.

XIII

At one-thirty Chamberlain picked him up at the gates of Spella Ho. He drove a dandy little trap of bottle green with chrome-yellow wheels, with a black high-stepping mare. They spanked out at a fast pace into Bedford.

‘What about a drink first?’

‘I got to get a watch and chain.’

‘A watch and chain? What the hell for?’

‘It’s a present from somebody. It’s my birthday.’

‘Birthday? You never said. Well, that calls for a drink.’

They stabled at a smart hotel by the river. ‘The hottest shop,’ Chamberlain said,‘in town. It does n’t look it. But you wait. Wait till to-night.’

‘I got to get that watch and chain first.’

‘All right.’

At the jeweler’s Chamberlain revealed himself as a man of luxurious taste. ‘Have this hunter. It strikes. Listen. What’s the price of this hunter?’

‘Twelve pounds.’

Bruno picked up a small Swiss-made watch. It was smooth as a mirror, without engraving. ‘Thirty shillings,’ the jeweler said. ‘See your face in it.’

‘I’ll take it.’

The jeweler wound it up. ‘I’ll set it right for you,’ he said. ‘Twenty minutes to four.’

Suddenly Bruno felt anxious. ‘Show me a chain,’ he said. ‘Quick.’ He envied Chamberlain’s snake chain, and in the end he bought one like it, in supposed silver, for fifteen shillings. He felt suddenly very proud as he walked out of the shop, and, opening his jacket, he walked with his thumbs in his armholes.

Chamberlain was slightly disappointed. ‘You should have had that hunter. You could have knocked ’em flat with that. Get ’em listening to a hunter striking and you can do anything.’

At one outfitter’s which from time to time Chamberlain patronized — ‘when I can’t get up to London’ — they bought shirts and a high-crowned squarish gray hat. It made Bruno look slightly taller. He had to buy collars and a necktie for the new shirts, and the whole purchase landed him for a sovereign more than he could afford. ‘Hell, what’s a quid?’ Chamberlain said. ‘Pay me when you like.’ He put down a sovereign. ‘You just put a new shirt and collar on while I hop round the corner. I got to get some cigars.’

Cigar in mouth, Chamberlain met him five minutes later. ‘Have one?’

‘It’s late. I got to get back.’

‘That don’t prevent you having a cigar, does it?’

Bruno took a cigar, chewed the end off, and stuffed it into his mouth. Chamberlain lit it and Bruno blew large clouds of smoke. ‘Suits you,’ Chamberlain said. ‘Makes you look somebody. But take the band off.’

They went back to the hotel. Bruno was uneasy. Looking out at the river, he thought of Louise.

‘It’s no use. I got to get back.’

‘Just one drink. It’s your birthday.’

They had large gins, twice. Chamberlain was stimulated to great ideas, to a great scheme whereby they should go back to Spella and then return about eleven that night. ‘That’s the time here. Enough to burn your whiskers off.’

A woman came and stood in the doorway as they talked. She looked first at Chamberlain, then, more slowly, at Bruno. She was dressed to kill, with a curiously saucy white hat that perched on the front of her head like a scallop shell, and large white ruffs to her flouncy black dress. After about a minute, she went out.

By her arrival and still more by her departure, Chamberlain was put into a state of eager excitement. He passed his tongue once or twice over his lips, like a man confronted with a large portion of steak. Suddenly, and before Bruno could protest, he got up and went out too. He held the watch against her ear and she heard it ticking, her eyes far away. ‘And is that your new hat?’ He drove so slowly, in the mild soft darkness hardly pricked by lights, that it was almost eleven o’clock before he drove up to the infirmary. He carried Louise into the waiting room and set her down on a wooden bench and left her there while he went to look for someone. He walked up and down several stone corridors. It was all shadowy, ill-lit by oil lamps, and there were stale diffused odors of carbolic acid. There were many doors, and he did not know what to do. Not properly awake and afraid of falling asleep again, he went out into the rain. He let it fall on his face and wiped it off with his sleeve, feeling a little fresher. Then he got into the phaeton and once more stared at the rain.

Bruno drank his gin and waited. After ten minutes Chamberlain had not come back. Bruno took out his watch: it was almost half-past four. He finished his drink, his cigar going out in his hand. Then suddenly he had a premonition that Chamberlain was not coming back. He pushed the dead cigar into his mouth and went out into the hotel yard. An ostler cleaning the wheels of a carriage was the only person there. ‘See a gentleman go out just now? Wearing a check suit?’

‘No.’ Then, suddenly seeing the cigar, ‘No, sir. No, sir. I ain’t, sir. No, sir.’

‘Or a lady?’

‘No, sir. No, sir. I ain’t, sir. No, sir, I ain’t, sir.’

Bruno went back into the hotel; into the smoke room, and from there into the dining room; then out into the yard again. Nobody had seen Chamberlain. It was almost five o’clock.

Suddenly he had an immense and very powerful premonition about Louise. He had to go, he had to get home. Something was happening. He seemed to see her, in the bed at Spella Ho, shooting out her legs in pain.

He went straight out of the hotel and, not stopping, began to walk out of the town. It was ten miles; walking steadily, he could do it in something over two hours.

It was then getting dark. Suddenly he heard behind him the sound of wheels and, turning, saw Chamberlain coming, driving hard.

Up in the seat, he told Chamberlain to drive fast.

‘What for? What’s up? Why did you run off like that?’

Bruno told him about Louise, how he felt that something was wrong.

‘Hell, why did n’t you say?’

‘I felt it was all right. Then all of a sudden I knew something was up.’

They drove in silence, fast. After a time Chamberlain said: ‘That pain, is it down the right side? If it is, it sounds like an aunt of mine. They called that a stoppage.’

Bruno did not know what to say. He had a continual impression, increasing as they drove, that lie was watching the course of something inevitable, and that nothing he could do would stop it. Chamberlain drove him through the gates and up the avenue, through great drifts of fallen lime leaves that were brushed by the horse’s feet with a sound of sea waves in the darkness. It was a sound he was to hear again, but never with the same sea-like ghostliness. He was driven by that sound into his first phase of actual fear.

Chamberlain drove him to the door. ‘Shall I wait? Do you want me to get the doctor?’

‘No. It’s all right. I’ll get in.’

He went into the house. In the kitchen the cook met him, her face white. ‘She’s worse. It’s no use denying it, either. She’s bad. She got worse after that medicine.’ She looked hard at him. ‘Your cigar’s out.’

‘Can I go up?’ At last he threw the cigar away, into the kitchen grate.

In the bedroom Louise lay stupefied by a long recurrence of pain. Her face was like the peel of an unripe lemon in the candlelight. He put his hands on hers; they were hot, and yet her arms were rough with goose-skin. ‘Are you all right?’ he said.

‘Did you get your watch?’

‘Yes. How you feeling?’

‘I feel as if something’s going to burst inside me. Have you got your watch on?’

‘Yes.’

‘Show it to me.’ He showed it to her. She rubbed it against her hand, quietly.

‘And the chain. That’s nice. Like a snake.’

He had put his hat on the bed. ‘Yes.’

‘It’s nice. You will look a swank in it.’ She was smiling.

Suddenly she clutched him, fearfully, very hard, like someone sinking into an abyss. Pain destroyed her smile like a puff of evil air putting out a candle. She stared up at him out of a darkness of agony.

While she lay there in pain he thought of something. ‘Stay with her,’ he said to the cook. ‘Stay here with her while I go down to Mrs. Lanchester. Where is she?’

‘In the big drawing-room.’

He went downstairs. In the drawingroom Mrs. Lanchester was reading, by the aid of a large pair of silver lorgnettes, some cumbersome treatise on medicine and anatomy. She was concentrated, when he entered, on a large anatomical diagram of the female form. She was in a state of semi-outrage, brought on by what was, to Bruno, an astonishing display of affection for Louise and by contempt for Dr. Black. ‘That medicine was nothing more than Epsom salts flavored with peppermint. The poor creature was fifty times worse less than an hour after she took it. It’s my belief she may have an internal abscess. That being so, a physic could only aggravate it.’

She spoke with impressive vigor and sanity. What she said confirmed, in detail for which he could not help feeling a great respect, his own fears. He told her what was on his mind.

‘Let me take her to the infirmary.’

‘How? How far is it?’

‘About fifteen miles. I could drive her in the phaeton. We could shut it up.’

She sat considering it. Suddenly as he stood there, immobile against the mahogany table, his coat undone, she saw his watch and chain.

‘Where’d you get that watch?’ she said.

‘She bought it for me. Louise.’

As soon as complete understanding of the situation came to her she did not hesitate. ‘Get the phaeton out,’ she said. ‘Tell them to get blankets ready. And see that you ’ve got good candles in the lamps.’

Half an hour later, when he carried Louise downstairs wrapped like some small dark Eskimo in blankets, Mrs. Lanchester met him in the large hall. ‘You’ll want money. They’ll do anything for money.’ His hands being full, she put into his pocket what he later discovered to be ten pounds, in sovereigns. ‘Go on, now. Good-bye.’ He carried Louise out into the darkness and packed her into the back of the phaeton, and in a few minutes drove away.

He drove slowly, at very little above walking pace, the reins tight. The night was very dark, but not cold, with a promise of rain. He could hear things from a great distance. The sound of lime leaves rustling up again in the avenue seemed to pursue him for a long time.

He spoke to Louise in the back of the phaeton. ‘Are you all right? Am I driving too fast?’ She did not protest. He drove for long intervals without speaking.

Then she began to speak. ‘What will they do to me?’

‘Do to you? ’ He tried to make light of that too. ‘Give you a new set of works.’ But he knew that it was a poor attempt. He knew that whatever fear she had was not dispelled so easily. Again, at odd intervals, he knew that he was afraid himself. What would they do to her?

Me was coming back to Louise when a woman accosted him. ‘What are you tramping up and down here for.? How do you suppose patients can sleep?

He told her. ‘She’s in great pain. I must see someone.’

‘You ought to make proper application at the proper time.’

‘It’s an emergency.’

‘See the night sister on duty at the women’s ward. Ward No. 7.’

He turned to go. A man in a dingy black top hat went past, carrying a patent-leather bag. Bruno clutched him. ‘Are you a doctor?’

‘What do you want?’

‘Are you a doctor?’

‘Yes. I am a doctor.’

‘There’s a woman — a girl.’ He told the doctor about it too. The doctor listened with the air of a man who was thinking of something quite different. Like Black, he had a large beard, which he kept stroking. It seemed like a gesture of both vanity and indifference.

‘See the night sister on duly at the women’s ward. At this hour—’

He walked away, down the corridor. Suddenly, watching him go, Bruno remembered something. He strode after him. He gripped the lapels of his coat and stopped him. ‘Does it make any difference if I have the money?’

The doctor seemed affronted. He opened his mouth, then paused, as though framing an angry reply. Then, before he had time to speak, Bruno put into his hands Mrs. Lanchester’s money. ‘For God’s sake do something. I brought her all this way in a phaeton. Fifteen miles!’

‘In a phaeton?’ The doctor stared at Bruno, at the money, and it seemed as though the aspect of things were at once altered. ‘Where is this lady?’

Back in the waiting room, the doctor put his hand on Louise’s forehead. He stood with watch in hand and took her pulse. ‘The sister will take you and find you a bed.’

‘Can I go with her?’

‘No. She may not he out. for some time. It would he better if you went now and came back later.’

He did not know what to do or say. Then he saw the doctor putting his watch back into his pocket, and it reminded him of his own. He suddenly took it out and gave it, with the chain, to Louise.

‘You’ll be able to look at the time in the night. It won’t seem so long.’

She did not want to take it.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It’ll help you. It won’t seem so lonely. You have it.’

Suddenly she took it, nursing it in her hands. ‘If I don’t come out of here again,’ she said, ‘you’re to have my things.’

He could not bear to speak, and suddenly the nurse lifted Louise in her arms and carried her out of the room.

He went out of the hospital and walked up and down in the dark street. His mind felt like a piece of worn elastic. Spiritless, it could not stretch out to either hope or despondency. He was kept by it in a state of implacable loneliness. He walked up and down for half an hour outside the hospital and then finally went back and sat in the phaeton. It was beginning to rain slightly and it was much colder. He saw before him the constant image of Louise with the watch in her hands, until it was lost at last in the dark swim of his own weariness.

He went to sleep. When he woke up, about seven o’clock, the carriage lamps were out and it was raining fast. The horse stood with lowered head, in misery. He climbed out of the phaeton and went into the hospital. It seemed an extraordinarily empty place, without life. He sat down in the waiting room. He could not think, and he sat watching the rain slide down the high hospital windows.

Almost an hour later he heard someone calling him. He got out of the phaeton and went across to the door of the waiting room, and it was the night sister. She was holding something in her hands.

‘Is this your watch?’

He held out his hand without speaking. The watch was cold and the chain fell on his hand like a small cold snake. He stood looking at the watch. He stood for quite a minute, looking at it, in complete silence. Then it occurred to him, suddenly, that it had come back from the dead.

XIV

He came out of his ignorance slowly, stupefied by the death of Louise, and it was the year 1879 before anything of importance happened to him.

That winter the Chamberlains invited him to supper. They owned the thirdlargest house in Castor, a once sixroomed house to which, year by year, Charles Walker Chamberlain had added bays, cupolas, and turrets in the manner of French châteaux. Mr. Chamberlain was a muscular Christian: a small man with powerfully short thick arms and a face like ruckled bark. With the doctrines of the church he managed also to mix the doctrines of the Spartans. Winter and summer, indoors and out, he wore a straw hat. Bought in 1865 and worn continually over since, this hat had ceased to be a hat and had become an emblem. Tilted slightly back on a pad of gingerish hair, it stood for something more than Sparta in the modern world. It combined Sparta and Christ, stood as a denunciation of the sin of pride.

‘Accuse me,’ Mr. Chamberlain would say, ‘of what you like — the sin of unbelief, the sin of covetousness, almost any sin you like to name. But not the sin of pride.

‘And you, Mr. Shadbolt.’ He looked at Bruno, who had just finished sucking gravy off his knife and mopping lumps of bread over his plate and had now turned the bread-cleaned plate upside down, ready for the pudding. ‘You, Mr. Shadbolt. I see you’re not too proud. Good. I like that. Turning your plate over for the pudding. I like that. An action like that would have stood for something in Sparta.’

After supper Bruno went with Rufus and Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain into a room built into one of the new turrets. It was a round room, completely windowless. It was filled with books.

‘You read ’em all?' Bruno said.

‘The books? Every one. Every one. Every one bought by me and read by me.’ He jumped up. ‘You read much? Ever read this?’ He pounced at the bookshelves, clasping a large book in his hands like an eager red squirrel. He thrust it into Bruno’s hands and snatched it; away and was up at the shelves again. He began to call down titles. Like to borrow it? You read, don’t you?’ He began to pile books on a side table. ‘Rufus, fetch string. Mr. Shadbolt, I’ll give you a copy of my pamphlet on the meaning, justification, and necessity for Spartanism to-day, one penny. Yes, I charge you for it. If I did n’t charge you it would be too easy for you. That’s not Spartan.’

Bruno felt in his pockets.

‘I got no money with me.’

‘No money? Good. That’s the wisest thing you could ever say, think, or do. If you never carry any money you never spend it. I never carry a cent myself. Never. You’ll give me the penny some other time.’

He pounced off to the bookshelves, pausing to make a note in his pocket diary. ‘Of a thousand pamphlets I have now sold two hundred and sixty-three. I calculate that in two or three years I shall show a slight profit. In ten years, fifty-four per cent.’

Bruno watched him mount the book ladder, red hair fiery against the mousedull books. ‘Sometime,’ he said, ‘I’d like to get hold of some book on money-making.’ ‘Please? You might have something another week?’ ‘Might do. Must it be in German? Can’t you read in English?’ She loved that, and very shortly they stood laughing together. He saw her despondency replaced by elation, her eyes lit up, her white teeth shining in her broad mouth. He wanted to go on talking to her, to prolong the pure pleasure of hearing her laugh. He put the books back into the bag and they stood together and looked into the ham-andbeef shop: fresh sausages, cured ham, warm fagots, snow-rippled basins of lard, spiced beef.

‘Eh?’ Chamberlain appeared ready to pounce. ‘What’s that? Making money? No such book, no such book. Mr. Shadbolt, that’s the one book I never read. Any such book would be pure theory, Mr. Shadbolt, pure, theory. I’m not interested in theory. Practice, practice, practice — that’s what I’m interested in.’ He half turned on the ladder. ‘I started my business on a capital of three pounds, Mr. Shadbolt. Leather dressing. Try to imagine what that means. Three pounds. And I lost it all in the first year. A terrible affair, Mr. Shadbolt, terrible. It struck me down. And why? Pride, the old story. The sin of pride. Pride shows no profit, Mr. Shadbolt, that’s the only rule I got. Pride shows no profit. Did n’t you ever hear the story of the man who made a fortune out of shoveling up the dog-dirts in the street?’

Bruno said nothing and in a moment Mr. Chamberlain came down the ladder. At the foot, turning sharply, he almost knocked off his straw hat. He caught it with wild hands and turned to Bruno the face of a man suddenly taut with fear and avarice. ‘Nearly, nearly, nearly. Never have another if I lost that. Never afford another.’

This incident of the hat seemed to subdue him a little. In half an hour Bruno left, taking with him a parcel of fifteen books tied up with scraps of bootlace and string.

At Spella Ho, during the winter of 1880, bitterly oppressed by loneliness, he made slow, painful attempts to read these and other books. They forced him more and more into himself. On the flyleaves of the books Mr. Chamberlain had written his name, the dates of purchase, the prices: ‘This book belongs to Charles Walker Chamberlain. Purchased October 4, 1874. Price paid, 2d. Present value, 4d.’ Bruno chanced to say something about this, to ask where books could he bought. Mr. Chamberlain said that books could be bought at Orlingford market. Saturday nights, where he had himself bought books for twenty-live years. He was proud of his Spartan courage in having walked to this market, wet or fine, rain or snow, always in his straw hat, in order to satisfy twenty-five years’ passionate interest in literature.

‘And I shall walk there for another twenty-five. I shall walk. Even if the railway comes and picks me up and sets me down at my front door, I shall still walk. And the railway will come. I know it will come. One of the days I am waiting for, Mr. Shadbolt, is the day when the railway will link up Castor with the outside world.’

On a March Saturday night Bruno walked down to Orlingford market. He stood in a wild wind and looked with inexhaustible patience at many books. A man with the tired sunken face of a starved dog stood behind the paraffin flare and blew constantly into his thin red hands and stamped his feet on the cold cobbles.

‘What sort o’ books you lookin’ for, mate?’

‘Eh? Just books.’

As he stood there a woman also came to look at the books. She stood and looked at book after book with the same tireless patience as himself. She had very fair hair coiled into a magnificent too-large bunch that rested heavily on her neck. She had large soft blonde hands. He stood and stared at her hands.

He heard her ask for German books. The bookseller said yes, he had the poems of Goethe. He got the book out for her and blew on it, and she took it and looked at it. ‘No,’ she said, ‘no. In German. Please, in German.’

‘In German? No, you got me beat.’

‘Please!’

‘I say you got me beat. Ain’t had a German book for donkeys’ years.’

‘I am German,’ she said.

She went away and Bruno stayed to buy Brock’s Treatise on Agriculture for threepence, not wanting it.

A week later he was there again, and after a time she came too, asking again for books in German. She did not buy anything that week and Bruno did not buy anything. The next week she was there again, and as before he stood fascinated by her large and in some way beautifully comforting hands. They turned over the books together for almost an hour, not buying anything, until at last the bookseller was tired of it.

‘Ain’t you two licked the steam off for long enough?’

‘Please?’

‘He says if we don’t want no books we better go.’

She turned away almost before he had spoken, and automatically he went with her. In the street they stopped and he looked at her.

‘I could get you German books,’ he said.

‘Please, but where?’

He told her about Spella Ho, how he felt that there were German books in the library there.

‘But they don’t belong to you.’

‘Yeh, but that don’t matter. I could borrow ’em for you and take ’em back and she’d never know.’

‘She?’

‘The old lady. Mrs. Lanchester. Have n’t you ever heard of her? Where do you live?’

‘In Castor.’

He could not believe it. He stood in astonished silence.

‘Yes, in Castor,’ she said. ‘I’m the wife of Dr. Black. I came back from Germany with him at Christmas last.’

Thinking of Louise, he could not speak. He felt crushed back into stupidity and apathy. He felt that there was nothing he could do, that there was nothing now that was worth doing.

Suddenly she was telling him how much she wanted books, above all books in her own language. ‘It means so much to read in your own language. It means so much.’ And he knew without her saying any more that she was homesick and lonely.

He said suddenly that he would try to bring her books the following week. He asked her to write down for him the names of the books she would like if he could get them. ‘I’ll write just the authors’ names,’she said, and in her level German hand she penciled on a piece of paper the names of Goethe, Heine, Schiller.

‘Anything by them. Anything,’ she said. ‘I’ve nothing to do with myself all day.’ He asked her what he should do if it rained, not thinking she would come. ‘I shall come in any case,’ she said.

He struggled down to Orlingford on the following Saturday with a dozen books tied up in a sack. He was excited, a little perturbed lest they were not the right books. He had put on his best suit and was wearing the watch Louise had given him. When she saw him she threw up her hands in a sudden gesture of surprise and delight, laughing because he had brought the books in a sack. They went out of the market and into a back street and stood outside the window of a ham-and-beef shop and he opened the sack so that she could see the books by the light. She took the first book in her hands and looked at it but said nothing; then she took the others. She looked at all of them in the same way: at first excitedly, then without excitement, suddenly depressed. He saw her face flattened by despondency.

‘Haven’t I done right?’ he said. ‘They’re the names you put down for me.’

Yes,’ she said, ‘but they’re in French, not German. They are translations from the German.’

‘Eh?’ he said. ‘I thought French and German were the same.’

‘Makes you feel hungry, don’t it?’ he said.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I am hungry.’

He got the odor of fagots. ‘What about a fagot?’ he said. ‘I could cat a bullock.’

‘Please?’

‘A fagot.’ He pointed into the window. ‘See ’em? Those brown things. Hot.’

‘Yes.’

‘You want one?’

‘Yes, please yes.’

He went into the shop and came out with the fagots in a basin. ’She let me have a spoon and a basin. Only I got to take ’em back,’ he said. ‘You git yours down you while it’s hot.’

‘No,’ she said. ‘Now. With me. That’s better.’

They began to eat. She would take a spoonful and then he. Sharing the spoon with her, he felt a sharpening sense of intimacy. He felt the friendliness between them solidify into something concrete and yet warm and secret.

‘Good?’ he said.

‘Yes, good. Very good.’

‘You can’t get ’em in Castor. Deadalive hole.’ He gave her the spoon. ‘You like living there?’

‘No.’

He was startled. It came out so suddenly. He did not know what to make of her and could not speak.

‘I like Germany,’ she said. ‘Only Germany.’

She had finished the last of the fagots and stood holding the empty basin.

‘That was good,’ she said. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘The last mite’s the best.’ He looked at the empty shining basin, and suddenly he saw the funny side of it all himself. ‘Well, that’s one dish she won’t have to wipe up.’

He took the basin into the shop and then looked up to see the woman in the shop still watching them from behind the lamp in the window.

‘She’s looking at us,’ he said. ‘She thought we were going to nick the basin.’

‘Please?’

‘Steal it.’

They began to walk down the street, out of the shop light into darkness.

‘When’ll you come to Spella for the books?’

‘What is to-day?’ she said.

‘Saturday.’

‘It could n’t be to-morrow. Not Sunday. It could be Monday.’

‘I collect the rents Monday. It’ll have to be after dark. I don’t get back till six.’

‘Then it must be after dark.’

They arranged that he should meet her at the gates. She said good-night and walked across the street.

Suddenly she was back again.

‘No. That would not be right. I could n’t come. Not to the house.’

‘No?’

‘No. You could come down to Castor? If you come to the corner of the street I will send out a maid for the books.’

She seemed suddenly frightened.

‘All right,’ he said. ‘I’ll come down.’

After darkness on Monday he went down to Castor with two volumes of Goethe, in marble boards, wrapped up into a brown paper parcel. It was raining. He walked up and down for almost three hours. Nobody came.

XV

He did not see the doctor’s wife again for six weeks. During these six weeks something happened: he received an offer of business. It came through Rufus Chamberlain. A man named Stokes had set up in business as a dealer in leather. Stokes had fifteen years’ experience of leather and a small workshop in a back yard in Castor; the business needed money. Bruno could be a sleeping partner, putting in capital of ten pounds. He hesitated. This suddenly infuriated him. He slammed down his glass on the bar and cracked it. In the bar nobody said a word except himself. ‘Where’s he hang out?’ he said to Chamberlain. ‘Stokes.’ ‘You’ll find him in the Swan.’ Towards evening she pulled frantically at the bell rope, and he went up, the bell clanging all over the house as he mounted the stairs. He found her caught up in an orgy of self-chastisement, beating her hands on the coverlet, and her head on the pillows. ‘I’m a wicked woman, Shadbolt, I’m a wicked woman! I’ve been a wicked woman.’ He quieted her impassively. ‘I’m going back to Germany.’ ‘When?’

While he hesitated, Chamberlain pointed out something which had only vaguely occurred to him before. ‘When the old lady pegs out,’ he said, ‘where are you?’ He talked of the business as an insurance against the uncertainty of the future. ‘There’s no risk, no work. Stokes is a good man. There’s money in it.’ Impressed by Chamberlain’s enthusiasm and by the thought that he was the son of a man who had also risen from nothing, Bruno decided to accept. To the surprise of both Chamberlain and Stokes he insisted on a deed of partnership.

Stokes was indignant. ‘Ain’t my word good enough?’

‘No.’

Bruno was not impressed by Stokes. He was a small pale-faced man with a high squeaky pig-voice of protest and shifty hands. His workshop was a disused loft above a stable in the back yard of an empty house. Half a dozen sacks of scrap leather were piled up in one corner. ‘What do you do with it?’ Bruno said. Stokes then showed him how the leather was sorted and graded. ‘Where do you send it?’

‘Where Chamberlain used to send his.

I never worked five year for ( hambertain for nothing.’

‘1 never knew you worked for Chamberlain. Where does he send it?’

‘Two firms in London. One in Manchester. And there’s others.’

‘All right. Book everything down.’

‘What?’

‘ Book everything down. Every ha’penny, every bit and scrap that goes out and in. I’ll come in every Friday and look at ihe week’s accounts.’

He felt momentarily elated: business, partnership, profits, money. He felt himself swinging out to a new circle of experience. He was a big man, things were great, times were moving. In this mood of cocksureness he went down to the Bell to find Chamberlain.

There, as they ordered gin, drinking to a business of already mythical proportions, Bruno remembered something.

’You never mentioned that Stokes worked for your old man for five years.’

’Hell, not so loud. You want everybody to hear?’

‘Why did n’t you tell me?’

Chamberlain did not speak.

‘Come on, what’s at the bottom of it? Why did he leave? What was it?’

‘The old man sacked him.’

‘What for?’

Chamberlain was quiet again.

‘Come on, what for?’

‘Boozing. You know he’s dead against it.’

‘That all?’

‘Yes.’

‘Where do I come in?’

Chamberlain ordered another gin. For a moment he did not touch it. ‘I got mixed up with his daughter. He found it out just, after he got the sack. Said he’d tell the old man if I did n’t do something for him.’

‘And all you could think of was for me to cough up ten pounds.’

‘No. No.’

‘What then?'

‘I was going to cough up. Then I could n’t raise it. Every now and then the old man hears I ’ve been on the loose and stops every ha’penny.'

Bruno stood with his hands tight together, the glass between. The thought of business suddenly meant nothing. Elation was ironed out, the flat plane of things dead. He felt he had said goodbye to his ten pounds, that the whole affair was a swindle.

Bruno walked out of the bar without another word and across the square and down into High Street, head slightly down and forward, long arms loose, body rolling like that of an angry baboon. He reached the Swan in about five minutes. He went straight into the bar. Stokes was sitting on a wall bench, three-parts drunk, his eyes smoke-hazy. Bruno went to him, dragged him up and out of the bar, and, on the causeway outside, hit him in the face. Stokes rose to his feet like a man coming to the surface of water, arms paddling. Bruno hit him again. Stokes fell back against the wall of the pub and lay staring, and Bruno got ready to hit him again. Stokes did not move. Bruno lifted his arm. ‘Get up off that street and back to the shop.’

Stokes walked dully up the street and Bruno followed him to the workshop. There Stokes sat on the pile of leather scrap and nursed his face.

‘You’re in business with me,’ Bruno said, ‘and don’t forget it.’

‘What’s the bloody game?’

‘You’re in business with me,’ Bruno said. ‘That’s the bloody game.’

After that he called every evening at the workshop. He lumbered heavily up the outside wooden stairs and into the upstairs room where Stokes would still be working by the light of a tin oil lamp hung on the whitewashed wall. He would take off his jacket, revealing the immensely thick ugly arms bare almost to elbows, and would work on for two, three, and sometimes four hours, poring chiefly over the small accounts, adding up simple columns of figures with agonized concentration, straightening out the muddle of Stokes’s arrangements, slowly and painfully but at last triumphantly evolving for himself some crude system of bookkeeping.

He worked every evening. He knew, somehow, that he was getting nowhere. There was no trust between himself and Stokes. He tried to evolve new schemes. He felt the lack of some kind of inspiring force. He thought of Louise, seeing her now as the lost mainspring of his ambition. Without her, ambition was a stopped watch.

Every evening, after locking up cash box and office and finally workshop, he walked out of the back streets into High Street and so up into the square. He would stand outside the doctor’s house and watch the split of light in the dark curtains. He would stand and think of the German Mrs. Black, and the soft blonde hands as they had lain on the dark books. He wondered why she had not come or sent for the books. Then, for three weeks, he walked down to Orlingford on Saturday night and Stood by the bookstall and hoped he would see her there. She never came.

He did not see her for six weeks. Just before this happened Mrs. Lanchester fell ill. She sent for him on the Saturday before Whitsuntide — a close day of oppressive sunlight, Spella Ho itself white in the sun above the surrounding may-colored park. She lay in the toowarm south bedroom. She had not been up since morning. ‘Shadbolt,’ she said,

‘ I’ve a feeling I shall never see Whitsuntide.’

He said he would get a doctor.

‘Get me the Bible,’she said.

He went downstairs to the library, and after a long search found a Bible. He had never before heard her speak of God, religion, Bible, or church. She had remained aloof from ihese matters, like a hermit, as she had remained aloof from the rest of the world.

She took the Bible eagerly. ‘Oh, Shadbolt, I need the comfort of the Word of God.’

He did not say anything.

‘I’m a wicked sinner, Shadbolt.’

‘Yes, mum,’ he said.

‘Have some tea, mum,’he said. ‘Some camomile.’

He went, out and downstairs, to the kitchen. She screamed and clanged the bell for him to come back. He came; back at his own pace and in his own time, bringing the cup of steeped camomile. She was furious and exhausted.

‘Here,’ he said, ‘you drink this. It’ll cool your blood and open you out.’ He moved the plush-covered mahogany commode nearer the bed. ‘Ring the bell if you want me.’

She drank the camomile, muttering about religion, God, wickedness, the Bible. ‘I’m a wicked sinner. I’ve been wicked. I’ve forgotten God, Shadbolt.’

He sat with her for the rest of the night. She breathed as though trying to break a hard crust of something in her throat —great labored frustrated breaths of crackling pain. In the morning, as soon as it was light, he called one of the maids and got out the one horse from the decaying stables and rode down to Castor for Dr. Black. Before he went, Mrs. Lanchester revived enough to hurl at him threats of damnation if he ever brought Black into the house again. ‘Black’s gone away,’ he said. ‘There’s a new man named Mackenzie now.’

In the stable yard of Black’s house he could smell coffee. It was not quite five o’clock, dead still, a little misty, the sun not really up. He knocked at the kitchen door and Mrs. Black opened it.

He stood dead still. She did not say anything. Fair, startled, with her broad un-English face, she looked remote and at the same time intimate. He felt a momentary breaking up of self-confidence, a split inside himself, a sudden baring of the idea that he wanted her. Then he spoke. He told her about Mrs. Lanchester, asked if the doctor would come. She asked him into the kitchen and he went in and stood there, smelling the hot strong coffee heating on the stove, while she went upstairs to call her husband. Before she went he told her how on no account must the doctor call himself Black, how he must introduce himself as Mackenzie. She went upstairs and came back again in about five minutes, saying the doctor was going. She reached down two cups from the dresser and he followed the line of her upstretched body: fair arms, bodice pursed outward by the full German breasts, the rather heavy blonde neck. ‘You have some coffee?’ she said. He could not answer, but only nodded, and she poured it out, black and strong, with just a dash of milk.’ I was just going to have mine as you knocked. I wondered who it was. And it’s you, of all people,’

As they stood there drinking the coffee he heard the doctor drive off from the yard outside. Mrs. Black stood with head up, listening. There was an expression of restrained relief on her face, ‘He’s in a bad temper. Did n’t come in to say good-bye.’

‘Why did n’t you send for the books?’ he said.

She looked out of the window. The sun was coming up, and he saw the golden shininess of her very fair eyebrows quiver slightly, and he knew quite well why she had not sent.

‘They’re still there,’ he said.

She looked at him, straight, inescapably direct. He looked back, the point of intimacy explosive. Lie felt as if they had gone slap into each other. As though to escape it she said, ‘What a nice day it’s going to be! All the trees out, so warm. Very nice. But you should see spring in Germany.’

She drank her coffee. ‘Cherry trees. Birches. Oh, so much cherry blossom!’

He was taking no notice, only fascinated by her voice and the reverberation, inside himself, of the moment of explosive contact between them. Then suddenly she said: —

‘I don’t know. Some day.’

‘This year?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t know when.’

‘You want to go back?' he said.

For a moment she did not answer. He drained his coffee. Then: ‘You go,’ she said, ‘now. It’s better.’ They were back at the point of intimacy and he said he would go.

‘You’ll come for the books?’ he said.

‘Sometime?’

‘Yes,’ she said.

XVI

As he rode back to Spella Ho he felt himself permeated by the idea of her, like sun beginning to soak into his flesh. The sun was already a little warm, and he could smell the odors of haw and chestnut bloom coming faintly off the half-misty park. At the entrance to the avenue he met the doctor.

‘She seems to want to die,’ he said. He spoke as though his task began and ended with the reluctance of Mrs. Lanchester to live. ‘I’ve bolstered her up with a draft.’

‘You’re coming back?'

‘I’ll come this afternoon.'

Mrs. Lanchester slept till midday. At twelve-fifteen she sent for Iiruno and he went up to her. She seemed fresher and she began to tell him about, her life. ‘I was born in the last year of last century,’ she said. ‘I had a rough time. A bad time. That’s why I took to you. That’s why I took to Louise.’ She rambled on, talking of her life with alternate clarity and incoherence. ‘Come from nothing, nobody. Now I own property in London. Handsome property, Shadbolt, nice property.’ She would seem momentarily happy in the thought of achievement; then religion shook her again. She suffered torments at the thought of soul-damnation. Then sanity made her say: ‘Shadbolt, it has been my wish to leave you something. Which would you rather — money or property?’ ‘I leave it to you,’ he said.

‘Property is money,’ she said.

That was all. She made no promise. She rambled on until the middle of the sultry, may-drowsy afternoon. She was convincing him of the necessity of dying with her soul washed to the cleanness of the soul of a child, rambling wildly, when a maid came up to say that the doctor had come. ‘Dr. Mackenzie has come back,’ he said, and he went out of the room, passing Black on the stairs. Black, who was in white flannel trousers, did not speak, and Bruno went downstairs and opened the big front doors, to let in some air. He opened the doors and then went out, on to the terrace. At the end of the terrace, on the drive, he could see the doctor’s dogcart. Mrs. Black was sitting in it.

He went slowly along the terrace in the warm sunshine. He went to speak to her and he felt that she had come so that he could speak to her. She was wearing a white summer dress. She carried the correct white sunshade, silk-tasseled, and was wearing white kid boots. He stood by the dogcart and looked up at her. She did not speak. He did no! know what to say either, and before they could think of anything to say Black himself came out of the house and in thirty seconds the dogcart was being driven away. He stood looking after it, in a state of furious inertia, angry at having done nothing and at the same time knowing nothing could be done.

Back in the house, he went up to Mrs. Lanchester. ‘Sit with me, Shadbolt. Sit and talk to me.'

He decided to tell her about Stokes. ‘I was a fool, but now I’m in it and perhaps we can make something of it.’

‘Don’t sound very lively to me.’

‘No,’ he said, ‘it don’t sound very lively.’

‘You’d make a good bailiff,’ she said, ‘to somebody. I’ll see you get references.’

‘No,’ he said, ‘I’m done with bailiffing.’ ‘Want to make money? That it?’ As he stood there Black came out of the house. ‘Shadbolt?’ For about a minute she did not say anything. She put out her free hand and he took it and held it. ‘How do you know it’s not just beginning?’

‘Yes. That’s it.’

‘Go in for property, Shadbolt,’ she said. ‘When you save a little money buy a little property. Draw your rents, save a bit more, buy a bit more property. No reason why you should n’t own Castor some day.’

‘Go on,’ he said, ‘tell me I’ll own London.’

He talked with her for an hour. She seemed stronger, much livelier. W hen he left her to lock up the gates of Spella IIo for the evening she spent an hour and a half writing letters. About seven o’clock he walked down to Castor to post these letters and to pick up pills and medicine for her from Black’s surgery. Instead of going to the surgery he went round to the kitchen. The door was opened, not by Mrs. Black, but by a servant girl.

‘Mrs. Lanchester’s worse. We want the doctor to come up as soon as he can.’

‘Who’s worse?’ the girl said, and he said, ‘Mrs. Lanchester. Up at Spella

She opened her mouth. ‘Up at Spella Ho? Why n’t you say so?'

lie turned away, taking grim revenge. ‘I did,’ he said, ‘but some folk never seem to wash their ears out.’

In this mood of grim obsession, his mind permeated only by one idea, he went back to Spella Ho. Mrs. Lanchester was sleeping. He walked about in the park, in the dusk, thinking solely of Mrs. Black. In the still-warm, chestnut-scented air he listened for the approach of wheels in the avenue. When they came, towards nine o’clock, he went back to the terrace. The dogcart was standing there as it had stood there in the afternoon, but it was empty. He walked along the terrace, stood under the first trees of the avenue, and listened. Someone was moving on the grass, under the trees. He knew instinctively who it was, and he waited for her to come nearer. She must have known he was there too. She came on and finally they stood together, each waiting for the other to say something. And once again, as in the afternoon, they could manage to think of nothing to say.

It was still very warm; she was in her white dress and she had long white gloves on her hands. He noticed these things vaguely, but he must have stared at the gloves, for suddenly she said: ‘I must wear them. It’s correct. I have to wear them.’ ‘Take them off,’he said, and she began to take them off. He saw the whiteness of gloves replaced by the living color of her hands. ‘Feel,’ she said. She put out the gloves and he touched them.

He knew why she had come up. Now he wanted to know only when she was coming again. He asked her.

‘One day soon. I’ll tell you when.’

They stood in silence again. A few moments later Black came out of the house. Bruno walked along and stood under the tree and saw the trap drive down the avenue.

On Sunday Mrs. Lanchester was the same, agitated by eternal fits of religious misgiving, bouts of semi-hysteria, talk of God and damnation, with small periods of sanity. He lifted her in and out of bed, attended her bodily needs, made her comfortable.

He could not rest. He felt completely permeated by the idea of Mrs. Black: saw her over and over again in the white dress, with the sweat-soaked white gloves; saw the soft blonde hands which fascinated him so much. He expected her that morning, with Black, about eleven. When he heard Black’s trap arrive he went downstairs. He met Black in the hall. Black said, ‘You’re the bailiff, are n’t you? I want a word with you before you go,’ and he went upstairs.

Bruno went out on to the terrace. The trap was empty. He walked round the house, came back. She was not there and he could not believe it.

‘Yes.’

‘My wife is interested in English architeeture. She would very much appreciate it if you would show her over Spella Ho.’

‘Yes, Dootor.’

‘She suggests Tuesday afternoon. That suit you;’

‘Yes, Doctor.'

Black pulled on his Sunday gloves, got up into the trap, and drove off. Bruno went into the house. He thought dismally, with a kind of fateful determination and obsession, of Mrs. Black, knew now that he could not see her till Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning a Mr. Carmichael, solicitor, arrived from London with his clerk. They spent the two hours from eleven to one o’clock with Mrs. Lanchester. Shortly after one o’clock the bell clanged and Bruno went up to Mrs. Lanchester’s bedroom. She was in a state of exceptional coherence, quite calm, not the old shrewd, downright, calmly rapacious self, but ineffably calm as though she had put herself through the lire of self-chastisement. ‘We need witnesses to some documents,’ the solicitor said. ‘Not you. Bring the cook and a maid. Ask if they can write their names.’ Five minutes later Bruno stood at the bedside while the two servants witnessed with laborious scratchings various sheets of what he knew must be the will. At the conclusion of it all the old lady made a grand gesture. ‘Now I can die in peace.'

He left her and went downstairs, and in the hall found Mrs. Black waiting. ‘I walked up,’ she said. ‘Across the fields.’ In her hands she had a bunch of cowslips. As he led her across the passages, into rooms, up stairs, he could smell the golden scent, the warm wininess of the flowers. In a voice that did not mean anything he told her about the rooms, bits of history, showed her dates carved in the stone above doors and fireplaces. They moved quietly. She did not speak much. He knew by now that the house meant nothing to her: only the silence, the secure seclusion of it. ‘Nobody can come?’ He shook his head. Then he asked her the thing that was troubling him: ‘Your other name. I don’t know it.’

‘Gerda,’ she said.

‘Gerda.’ He repeated it. ‘How do you spell it?’

She spelt it. He thought about it for a moment.

‘You don’t like it?’ she said.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I like it.’

Mrs. Lanchester lived over the weekend. He did not see Gerda on Sunday, a day of grim sacredness at the Black household, with Scottish prayers and bleak Scottish self-denial, nor on Monday, when from eight to six he collected the rents. Then as he drove back to the house on Monday evening he knew that something was happening. As he drove into the stable yard the cook came out to tell him how the doctor had called that afternoon. Mrs. Lanchester was dying.

He left the horse in harness and went up to Mrs. Lanchester. She put out a resigned, age-skinny hand on the counterpane. ‘Shadbolt.’ He sat with her. She shut her eyes. ‘Shadbolt,’ she said again. For half an hour she lay silent, only moving her lips as though trying to frame some difficult sentence that she wanted to say to him. Finally she succeeded. She roused herself to say, ‘Shadbolt, you’re ugly, but you’re all right,’ and died, very quietly, her mouth still open, just after seven.

He drove down to Castor to inform the doctor. Black was out. ‘Is Mrs. Black in?’ he said. He waited, and in a moment she came out and they stood together in the big stone porch. She shut the door and kept her hand on the knob. He told her that Mrs. Lanchester was dead.

‘I feel somehow as if everything is finished,’ he said.

XVII

Six weeks later he ran away with Mrs. Black, using a horse and trap he had bought at the four-day sale at Spella Ho. They drove away after darkness on the night of July 12, making east, towards the coast. That night they drove about thirty miles. From three to five o’clock in the morning they had a sort of halfsleep under a haystack, giving the horse a feed of hay, and at live o’clock they got up and had a meal of coffee and bread and meat and then drove on. They did not stop to wash, and Gerda combed her hair as they went along, an immense thick mass of polished yellow which she plaited into two ropes, holding one plait in her mouth while she finished the other.

They drove on all morning into strange flat country, potato fields, green-yellow fields of corn, lines of willow with shining leaves rippling over gray and gray-green in a perpendicular sun. At midday they stopped and spent their first money. He fetched beer and bread and cheese from a pub. They drank the beer outside the pub, giving the horse ten minutes’ rest, and then drove on again, to rest again all afternoon by a brook, under willows, where they ate the bread and cheese and had a short sleep. About four o’clock Bruno woke up to find Gerda washing her feet. She dried them in the sun. Strong, flat, beautifully solid, they had the same look of utter dependability as her sun-brown arms and face. They were the sort of feet that might have gone on, in the same way, doing the same things, forever. And gradually he began to feel that this was exactly what Gerda and he were doing: going on, from village to village, in a succession of rests and journeys that must gradually pile up into infinite distance. They were then about fifty miles from home.

The horse was already tired and they decided to put up for the night. They stopped about six o’clock at a small pub that was also a farm: a small low house of terra-cotta wash, with tarred outbuildings, a pond, a coop for hens.

‘Beds for the night?’ The woman clumped up the wooden stairs in front of them, a big panting asthmatical woman. ‘Been a warm day, ain’t it? Well, this is it. Ain’t been used jes’ lately and I’m ashamed on it. But I’ll put clean sheets on and it’ll be all right. One room or two?’

‘One room,’ Gerda said.

‘Like to take it?’

‘Yes,’ Gerda said, ‘we would like to take it.’

They went to bed early and lay together between the almost cold clean sheets in the wooden bed.

‘You think she knows we’re not married ? ’

‘I don’t know,’ he said, ‘and I don’t care.’

‘She seems nice, like a real fat German woman.’

‘Asthmatical.’ He was almost asleep.

They lay in silence. He was on the verge of sleep when she said, ‘How far is it now to Harwich?’

He did not answer the question, but when he woke next morning, about five o’clock, it was as though she had only just asked it. He sat up in bed. Harwich, the sea, boats, Germany. He knew,

then, why she had asked, why in fact they had come. He got up and put on his trousers and went downstairs, without waking her. In the yard, under a hovel, the man, Mitchell, was milking his one cow, and Bruno asked him for a pair of pincers. ‘In the nail-box in the stable,’ Mitchell said. ‘Anything wrong?’ ‘I got a tracing buckle as is bent a bit,’ Bruno said. ‘I thought I’d straighten it.’

He went into the stable and found the pincers. What he was going to do had an almost unconscious spontaneity about it, as though the idea had been evolved in his sleep. He got the pincers and took out three nails from the left fore shoe, loosening it, so that it clipped. The words, saturated with contentment, began to impress themselves, unnoticeably, on his own life and Gerda’s. The anxiety to go on diminished; almost died completely. July moved on towards its end, and all through the month there was a strange sea-washed loftiness over the flat land, a pure candescence of white cloud above white roads and whitening patches of barley. On the last day of the month Mitchell’s oats were ready, and the four of them, the Mitchells, Gerda, and Bruno, were up at daybreak, Mitchell mowing, the women making bonds, Bruno bonding and setting the shocks. Wheat followed oats, and they worked on, in the same way, until the middle of August, going from wheat to barley.

At seven o’clock he and Gerda had breakfast in the pub parlor. Sun was turning the slight summer mist to orange, dispersing it. She did not speak about Harwich, but she seemed happy. After breakfast he went out and fetched the horse, leading it into the yard, halfharnessed, as she herself came out of the house. The yard was cobbled with brown egg-pebbles and the clip of the loose shoe was sharp, the horse slightly lamed by it. He stood and regarded horse and shoe with a great show of annoyance, surprise, and disappointment. ’Just our luck.’

He fetched Mitchell. ‘Blacksmiths’ Mitchell said. ‘About four miles on down the road. Lovell, name is. If you went now you’d get back in time to make a start afore dinner. Where you going?’

‘Harwich,’ Gerda said. ‘Have n’t you a horse you could lend us?’

’I got one,’ Mitchell said, ‘but things are all on top on me here and I got to get down to Stortford market, to-morrow. I could n’t. do it.’

‘I’ll get straight, down to the blacksmith’s,’ Bruno said.

It was noon when he got back to Mitchell’s. Gerda was not in the yard. He tied the horse to a hovel post and went into the front parlor, to look for her. ‘Here!’ It came from the kitchen. He went down the passage and into the back kitchen. Gerda was standing at a small bread trough, sleeves rolled above her elbows, kneading dough. Fascinated, he watched her fine strong hands attacking the dough. She began to cut up the dough, batching it. He sensed a change in her; she said nothing about the horse, about going.

‘When are we going?’ he said.

‘Us?’ She stood flour-faced, happy. ‘Oh! Don’t ask me at least until the bread is done.’

He did not say anything. Mrs. Mitchell squeaked asthmatically. ‘Look at the time. Past twelve a’ready and we reckon t’ eat at ha’past.’

‘She knows about us,’ Gerda said. ‘I told her.’

‘Some folks’d look down their noses,’ he said.

‘I ain’t got lime to look down my nose at folks,’ Mrs. Mitchell said. ‘We slave enough now for the little we git, let alone looking gift horses in the mouth.’

‘I’ll set the dinner table,’ Gerda said.

He went out to the potato field that afternoon, with Mitchell, as though it were something he had always done. The heat of the day had reached its height ; the dark earth rose in small gray clouds from the fork. Potatoes lay like rows of sun-yellow eggs and the afternoon unrolled with slow somnolence, hot, apparently infinite, the division of time not marked off, time itself something which had ceased to matter.

He felt an enormous contentment arise out of the use of strength. He fell excitement solidify into a permanence that was a new experience. When he looked into the future he saw it not in terms of Harwich, the sea, Germany, doubts, a complication of fears, but in terms of Mitchell’s potatoes. ’How far is it to Stortford?’ he said, as though his going there, with Mitchell and the potatoes, were already an accepted thing. Mitchell told him it was ten miles. ‘Like to git a start about six or .just after,’ he said.

In the morning Bruno drove down in Mitchell’s cart, with Mitchell, to take the potatoes to market. The day moved slowly. They arrived back in midafternoon. When they came back he had heard the beginning and end of Mitchell’s life and philosophy. ‘We git through,’ Mitchell said, ‘and as long as we git through I don’t bother.’

The pause after harvest brought a change. Gerda grew restless. The days were less full; there were empty spaces in which the mind was made aware of itself. Bruno spoke to Mitchell: ‘Mitchell, what I should like is a place round here, a place like yours. Field or two. Just mullock along. Cow, bit o’ wheat or barley.’

‘Well, that ain’t much t’ask for.’

‘Know of a place?’

‘I got a brother,’ Mitchell said, ‘down at Ongar. Got a place down there, little house, about seven acres. Alla time talks about giving up.’

‘You think he’d sell?’

‘I ain’t sure. No harm in going down to see.’

He spoke to Gerda, telling her about the house: hox they could perhaps rent it, make it pay, save money. ’What you say?’ he said, ‘Let’s go and see it.’

She did not speak. He was filled with an immediate sense of foreboding. He had an impression that something between them was about to break. ‘What is it?’ he said.

He saw her turn away her face. She was crying. He did not do anything. He saw that it was not something between them that was breaking, but something within herself. It was not only the first time he had seen her cry, but the first time he had seen in her a sign of weakness. In the anxiety of the moment he put his hands on her breasts, feeling love for her thicken within himself like a thundery curdling of the blood, realizing for a moment the agony of being without her. ‘Where do you want to go? Back to Castor? Where? Gerda.’

‘I want to go back to Germany,’ she said.

XVIII

Three days later they packed what few things they had, harnessed horse and trap, and set off to do, by easy stages, the rest of the journey to Harwich. It was raining in a half-gale as they came into Harwich, the sea ugly, the sun setting behind wild bars of crimson and ironpurple cloud. They got lodgings near the harbor: a gray bay-windowed house, the word ‘Lodgings’ written on a card hanging in the window, a woman with a face like a pale potato to take them up to a second-floor room overlooking the sea, a candle flagging in the draft as they went upstairs.

‘You married? ’Cause I hope so.’ Gerda, tired, sat on the edge of the bed. ‘Yes, we’re married.’ The woman banged the candle on the marble washstand. ‘Very like you sit on beds where you come from. But I don’t.’ Gerda stood up. ’That’ll be ten shillings the two of you if you like it.’

In this atmosphere of suspicion they went to bed early and lay listening to the gale rising beyond the harbor. The gale came in long minor shrieks down the chimney, flapping the painted cardboard grate screen. Long after midnight they were still awake, and Gerda began talking. He listened vaguely; she was talking about Germany. She had an aunt in a village near Coblenz, a long way from Dresden, her home; and she began to tell him about this aunt: bow they could go to her, stay for a little while on the pretense of having come for a holiday, then tell her the truth. He said stupidly, ‘You mean we should both go?’ And she said, ‘Yes, of course. Why not?’

‘Stop here,’ he begged. He searched his mind for some convincing idea, a reason for her to stay. ‘We’ll start an eating place. Dining rooms. You could cook. I’d serve. Think of the foreign sailors that come in here — they’d go for a place like that.’ ‘Don’t you see? She had no business searching the valise,’ he said. ‘She dare n’t do anything. It’s all right.’ ‘Yes. But it would be better if I went to-night.’

‘No,’ she said, ‘ I shan’t be happy until I can hear people speaking German again.’

They lay awake half the night, listening to the gale, trying to thrash things out. In the morning the gale had half blown itself out, there was a hard wild sun, and things seemed better. They went out and down to the sea.

Gerda stood looking at it with distant, slightly troubled eyes. ‘Perhaps it will be better when we go over.’

‘We? I’m not coming,’ he said.

‘Bruno.’

‘No,’ he said.

‘Please? Not for me?’

‘No,’ he said.

They walked dully back into the town. She was curious to go to the shipping office, just to find out how often there were sailings. He stood outside in the street while she went into the little office. Something inside himself had massed into a block of bitterness, impregnably hard. He was losing her and, victim of his own stubbornness, was doing nothing about it. He was bitter against himself and the colossal intuitive stupidity that forced him to act as he did.

Gerda came out. ‘There’s a boat to-night. Then another on Friday.'

“What’s to-day?’ he said. ‘I’ve lost count.'

‘Tuesday.’

‘That’s three days if you stop till Friday.’

She knew what he meant. “I’ll stop,’ she said.

Towards midday they walked back to their lodgings, arm in arm, feeling very much like lovers, happy but anxious, looking ahead to the moment of security in the bedroom. They climbed upstairs and Gerda opened the bedroom door, and there, in the bedroom, the woman of the house had Gerda’s valise open on the bed. ‘What are you doing?’ Gerda said. ‘Please, what are you doing?’

‘Jes’ finding out things.’ ‘What things? You have no right to touch this room.’

‘What things? You ain’t married. That’s what things.’

‘What the hell’s it to do with you?’ Bruno shouted. Gerda stood speechless.

‘You mind your manners when you speak to a lady, mister!’

‘What lady?’ His mouth spewed out the old derisive speech before he knew what had happened. ‘Shut your chops afore I shut ’em for you!’

‘Bruno!’

‘Let ’s get out o’ here, quick.’

‘Yes, and you better!’ the woman shouted. ‘First you ain’t married and now bad language on top on it. I’ll git the police.’

‘You call the police and I’ll strangle you,’he said.

Gerda was frightened. He pushed the woman outside the door, slamming it. ‘Come on, let’s hop it.'

She hastily packed the valise, really frightened, her face sick. He had no notion of fear and stormed downstairs, livid, hardly knowing what he did. At the foot of the stairs the woman came out of the glass-doored peephole sitting room, shouting again, ‘My husband’s aboard ship, and lucky for you he is! He’d knock y’ into next week.’

He lifted his free arm. She dived back into the sitting room, holding the door. ‘Ain’t fit to be wi’ decent folks! Dirtyminded way o’ carrying on!’

Gerda and Bruno went out into the street. The door slammed and he walked away quickly, in a frenzy, not caring where he went or what happened. She followed, frightened, not speaking. They walked back to the town, found a dining room, and ordered a meal of boiled mutton and onions. The gale was dying a little, the white clouds kinder and slower. Gerda sat quiet, not eating much.

‘Don’t worry about it,’ he said.

‘I am worried,’ she said.

He knew then that her mind, like his own, was in reality already made up. That afternoon she went back to the shipping office and paid her passage in a boat leaving that evening at six o’clock.

Just before the boat left he went on board with her and down to her small cabin. The boat was going, not to Germany, but to Rotterdam, and Gerda was sharing the cabin with a Dutchwoman, who lay on her bunk, ready to be seasick. They said good-bye in the presence of the Dutchwoman, kissing each other again in the passage outside, and then went back on deck.

Soon after six o’clock he stood on the quay and lifted his hand. On deck Gerda’s head stood out magnificently, a heavy mass of gold against a sky of blue storminess lying out to east. She lifted her hand too, waved it. She was not crying. She stood statuesque, except: for the moving arm, as though unutterably calm.

Just before the boat made the open sea he saw her name scrolled on the stern: The Northern Belle. He read it, fixing it in his mind, and a moment later Gerda held her hand still in the air, not waving it, for the last time.

That same evening, two hours after the boat had sailed, he set out for London.

XIX

‘Ash Wilmer, Brakes and Wagonettes, Landaus for Hire, Funeral Arrangements,’was where he stopped on the following afternoon, a mile out of Stratford. He had been looking for some kind of place all day, hoping to sell the horse and trap.

‘Whad’ye think we are?’ Wilmer said. ‘Knackers?’

‘It’s a good horse.’

‘When was it? I don’t see no good horse about it. Another thing, we ain’t got no use for nothing only blacks. Owing to the funerals, like.’ ‘Dye it.’

‘Eh?’ The joke filtered slowly down through the fat layers of the man’s mind. He was a bony man with perpetually open mouth, as though suffering from some aggravated form of adenoids. He took the joke seriously. ‘Would n’t do in the London trade. No, sorry, could n’t make you no offer.’

‘All right. I’ll get on.’

‘Tell you what,’ Wilmer said. ‘You like to leave it here, I’ll do what I can for you. If we don’t sell it we’ll use it for wagonette work. Make it earn its keep if nothing else.’

‘All right.’

‘Goin’ be in London long?’

‘I don’t know,’Bruno said; ‘that I don’t know.’

He left the horse and trap and walked on through Stratford, Bow, and Whitechapel in the darkening afternoon. He had a little over eight pounds in his pocket. He walked slowly, stolidly, as though going with deliberation to a given point. His mind had the dead lumpishness of cheese. About eight o’clock he had wandered as far as Clerkenwell. He had begun then to look into shops, stopping often, resting his feet. He had hardly begun to think about sleeping. Slightly hungry again, he looked into the windows of eating places, pubs, dining rooms, reading bills of fare: steak, trotters, hot peas, cuts from the joint, tripe, fried fish. He stood looking at a plate-glass window steamed from within by the frying of fish dipped in pans of batter.

He walked slowly on. And when, a little later, he saw a barber’s shop he went in and sat in the chair and shut his eyes, letting himself be shaved in a world of relief and darkness. As he sat there he began to think about sleeping. He had money; it was all right. He came out of the barber’s feeling better, but still vacant. Then a little later he stood and looked into a small bookshop, reading the titles under the sizzling gaslights, fascinated a little, coming slowly out of the stupor produced by sickness, strange surroundings, and the shock of Gerda’s departure. He walked to Bermondsey, losing his way, asking it again, feeling himself in an iron prison of streets, the sky slit into gray rectangles above endless gray roofs, the mist lifting reluctantly off the river, the air sulphur-sour, tiring his eyes. Towards noon he found the warehouse of I. Kahn and Co., entrance like a tunnel, a crane suspended over two upstairs street doors, bales of belly leather lying outside on the pavement. ‘Progress or Poverty? Capital or Labor? Socialism or Starvation?’ — walking through thin sooty November rain until he could feel it seeping down to his chest, the bills masses of pink blotting pulp in his hands, the fiery message extinguished. Standing in queues, turning away at their breaking up, eating in back-alley eating houses, he heard about him the growl of discontent, a rumor to cut wages of everything from an eighth to a half, anger, discontent, the mumble of empty bellies. He had come to London to feel the sting of the flipped tail of a trade depression and did not know it. After he had eaten he got up off the bed and groped about for a place in which to keep the bread and cheese. He could find nothing, no cupboard, and finally he put it in its newspaper under the bed.

He looked into the bookshop for a quarter of an hour and then decided to go in. ‘What sort a books you want? You want books on philosophy, religion? Summink like that?’ The bookseller, a tall gray-haired Jew with thick glasses, peered him up and down. Bruno did not know what to say. He looked round, stared at the bookshelves as though they were piles of bricks, and felt briefly helpless. He thought suddenly of Gerda, the small bookstall in the market, the German books. ‘If she were with me,’ he thought, ‘it would be all right.’

He stayed looking at the books for half an hour. ‘You decided on anything? Because if you ain’t I wanta shut up shop,’

Suddenly he decided to tell the bookseller how he was fixed: his first time in London, not knowing where to sleep, everything.

‘You want a room? That it? You don’t mind what sorta room?’

‘No.’

‘Ah, I dunno, I’m sure—I dunno, I’m sure. Can I trust you?’

‘Yes.’

‘I gotta room just offa Rosebery Avenue. Ain’t much. No bed, just a couch. I just keep my surplus stock there.’

‘I don’t mind what it is.’

‘All right. You can walk with me that way. I show you what it’s like.’

He walked through the streets with the bookseller, who took him up three flights of stairs in a house off Rosebery Avenue. The room was about twelve feet square and lined on all sides with books, with an old leather couch in one corner. ‘You think you can manage?’

‘Yes, I’ll manage. Thanks. It’s all right.’

He listened to the bookseller go clumping down the bare wooden stairs, hearing the clang of the street door at the bottom. He lay down on the couch without undressing. After a time he dozed a little and then woke. He could hear the sound of rain spilling and hissing off roofs and gutters, and for a long time he lay listening to it: London rain, strange rain falling on what was for him a strange place — the rain perhaps, he thought, of a new life.

In the morning he went round the corner from the bookshop to the eating house recommended by the bookseller: a dark little place, bare wooden tables, mustard spilled and dried on the cruet. He had lumpy porridge and a mug of tea, a tin spoon to eat and stir with. Eating, he looked out on the opposite wall of the alley: sun on gray windows, gray Nottingham curtains, finger writing on the dust-bloom of the glass. So this was it: London. The porridge was semicold, thickening like glue. London. What was he going to do? He had eight pounds; he reasoned that it might last him six weeks. He could live rough, poor, used to it. In six weeks he could walk all over London.

In this mood of confidence he went back to the bookshop. ‘Work? I dunno, I’m sure. What kinda work?’

‘I been in business.’

‘Where? What kinda business?’

‘Leather.’

The bookseller thought a minute. ‘Well, there’s a man in Bermondsey, a factor. What he don’t sell ain’t worth selling. Israel Kahn. Sells everything.’

‘Where’s Bermondsey?’

‘I forgot you don’ know.’ He gave directions. ‘You jus’ keep asking your way. Where you goin’ to sleep to-night? You want the room?’

‘Can I have it?’

‘You be here at nine.’

In the warehouse he saw a small spectacled Jew with pencil and paper, checking more bales of bellies. ‘Mr. Kahn? ’

‘No. In the office. Upstairs. Knock and wait.’

He went upstairs to the first-floor warehouse, walls stacked with boxes, bales of lining, bundles of hessian, and knocked at the door of the partitioned office, very like the office he had put up for himself in Castor. After three or four minutes a voice made a sort of bubbling bellow beyond the glass. He went in. ‘Mr. Kahn? I come from Mr. Paul Oppenheim.’ A big egg-bald Jew sat on a high round stool, squabbing over.

‘Vad Mr. Paul Oppenheim? Dere must be a million Paul Oppenheims.’

Bruno told him, explained why he had come.

‘Ah, de bookseller? Vy n’t you say so?’ He looked half through, half over thick bulbous spectacles. ‘Vell, I don’ know vad you can do, but can you do it?’

‘I been in this business. In leather.’

‘Vere?’

Bruno told him.

‘I never heard of it.’ He looked suspicious. ‘Still it ain’t vere you been, it’s vad you know. Come here. Come outside.’ Kahn waddled out into the warehouse, padding on rubber slippers. ‘Vad you know about leather?’ He pulled the pink tapes of rolls of upper leather, brown and black. ‘Show us.’ He fingered with large soapy hands a skin of russet calf. ‘Vad is ’is?’

‘Willow.’

‘An’ vad is ’is?’ Small skins of goat.

‘Glacé.’

‘An’ vad is ’is?’ Rolls of kip, greasy.

‘Army.’

Kahn suddenly exploded. ‘Army! Willow! Glacé! Git out! Git out afore I don’t do something!’ Kahn raised balled white hands, dithering, his eyes jellied with anger. ‘For my mother’s sake get out afore I don’t do something I am sorry for! Go on! Get out!’ He flopped his hands in a last effect of despaired protestation. ‘Git out!’

Bruno went down and into the street without a word. Defeated, he walked out into Bermondsey, riverwards, pointlessly, his chance gone. He walked slowly, hardly thinking. He went as far as the river, and from the end of London Bridge stood and looked downstream, towards the sea. The sea, Gerda, Germany. He groped about for confidence. Why had certain things happened, why was he here? Much more, where was he going? He walked across the river. Thin autumn sun lay like silver oil film on the water. The river moved thickly, with sleepy-muscled current. His mind reacted to the sight of it, felt just so heavy, moving without direction, laboriously impelled by sombre forces. Over the river he found a place to eat. Hot sausage, bread, potatoes, gravy into which he mopped the bread. Food again aroused a feeling of confidence, not strong, but living. What now?

He went on like this for another three or four days, then for another three or four weeks: up and down, courage ebbing and flowing according to the food he ate or according to the prospects of the moment. Each day he pared off a thin shaving of his money, as a man pares off the rind of cheese. He began to know London, yet he remained lost, trying to find himself. He tried to get work, burrowing in the back ways of city alleys, warehouse cellars, shops, factories, anywhere.

He had odd jobs, lasting a day, half a day. Once sandwich-boarding: ‘Rescue the Heathen! God’s Mission to Darkest Africa! Meeting To-night.’ Once handbills, tramping all day through Walworth, down to Camberwell, pushing bills under doors and in letter boxes:

It was now November, and his money dropped below the five-pound mark by the end of the month. He saw the bookseller getting restless. He had so far paid nothing for the room, had done nothing. Kindness had gone as far as it could, farther than he had reason to expect. On the last day of November the bookseller explained how things were, how he would need the room for more books, but there was no need for this evasive, kindly method of eviction. Bruno understood, and on the first of the next month was out in the street. He spent all that day on the south side of the river, looking for rooms, up and down squalid stairs to the attics and basements of Walworth.

By evening he was on the verge of defeat, rooms dearer than he had expected. He had set himself a price, five shillings, less if he could get it. He tried bargaining. Landladies squawked at him until one said: ‘You ain’t thought about sharing a room? I got a room you could share for three-and-six. Ain’t got no gas, that’s all.’

‘Gas don’t matter,’ he said, and followed her up dark feet-splintered stairs to see, on the top floor, the room about which she spoke. The door was open. ‘The catch ain’t very good,’ she said. ‘It shuts if you bang it proper.’ He walked in, holding the candle she had brought. What struck him first was that the room had no window, only a small thick-glassed skylight. He saw a low iron bed, a chair, a chamber on the bare boards, caught the dust-fetid odor of a room into which even the street air had never penetrated. ‘Where’s the other bed?' he said. ‘Well,’ the landlady said, ‘I gotta get that up from downstairs. My daughter’s been sleeping on it. It’s all right, it’s a good bed, only I ain’t got nobody to help me up with it until Bandy comes in.’ ‘Who’s Bandy?’ he said, and she said, ‘Bandy? He’s the bloke what’ll share the room with you if you take it.’

‘I’ll take it.,’ he said.

He went out again. He bought a loaf and a quarter of cheese and then, after about half an hour, went back to the room. He wanted to eat, think if he could, sleep. As the street door clanged and he began to climb the stairs, feet hollow-thumping the rotten boards, the landlady shot out her head from a downstairs door. ‘Oh, it’s you! Thought it was Bandy.’ He stopped on the stairs. ‘I can help you up with the bed if you like,’ he said. She lifted her hands in surprise, thanks. ‘You’re a Christian,’ she said. ‘Which,’ she said, as they carried up the bed in sections, iron slats flapping and rattling together and on the bare stairs, ‘is more than Bandy is. He’s a atheist.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Don’t believe in God.’

They slotted and screwed the bed together, she spreading the one bed-stained, iron-moulded blanket. Going, she put her head back round the door: ‘And keep your mince pies open.’

‘Eh?’

‘Your mince pies. Your eye pies. Peepers. Keep ’em skinned. Your optics.’

‘It’s like that, is it?’ he said.

‘It’s like that,’ she said.

Taking off his boots, he lay on the bed. The room was cold. He lay and ate about a quarter of the loaf and the cheese. It was quite dark. He had forgotten to buy a candle. ‘Must remember it,’ he thought.

He woke a long time later, to know that someone was in the room. A candle had been lighted. He saw a man taking off his waistcoat. The man turned, full into the candlelight. He saw a narrow, spectacled face, hair thinning at the temples, a studless shirt revealing a neck that seemed to have undergone some persistent pressure of iron. In his hand the man was holding collar, tie, and dicky bit. ‘Ullo,’ he said, ‘you’re awake.’

‘How do?’ Bruno said. ‘My name’s Shadbolt.’

‘Bandy,’the other said. ‘Mine. Clerk to Portslade and Wimbush, city. Ever hear of ’em?’

‘No.’

‘God help you if you do.’

‘I thought,’ Bruno said, ‘you didn’t believe in God.’

‘Who said so?’

‘Her downstairs. She let it slip.’

‘As a figure of speech, yes. As an entity, no. That’s all.’

Bruno lay silent, trying to figure it out. ‘What time is it?’ he said at last.

‘Two. Just after.’

‘Where you been?’

‘Stocktaking,’ the clerk said. ‘Past twelve last night. Past one to-night. What do you do?’

‘Nothing.’

‘A capitalist.’

They laughed, the clerk tired, bitter.

Bruno lay silent.

The clerk went on talking, undressing, haranguing Bruno as though glad of a long-delayed chance of oratory: prolonged and involved talk of theoretical socialism, trade-unions, coöperative movements, the desire, the necessity for socializing the state by violence, talk of a man named Marx, another named Hyndman. He lay down on the bed, eyes on the ceiling, tired face rejuvenated by passion and the possession of an audience. He talked of plans and, getting up, pulled from under his bed a large tin trunk, which he opened. He set the candle on the lid and from a mass of books and papers began to take out rolled sheets tied with office tape. He opened them briefly, letting them snap back like roller blinds. ‘Plans. Diagrams. Plans of every important vantage point, every important building in London.’ He spoke with a slight, fanaticism, with the inspired incoherence of a man who has taken an excessive stimulant. ‘They are the plans to smash the existing system of chaos. Chaos, yes — capitalistic chaos, chaos, chaos.’

‘What are you?’ said Bruno.

‘I’m an anarchist,’ he said.

He folded up his papers, put out the candle, and lay talking for a long time, not tired now, telling Bruno of meetings, secrecy, drumming out the theory of anarchy against chaos like a man playing the same hysterical tune over and over again on the keys of a piano slightly out of tune. In occasional bars of coherence, he spoke of a meeting that week. ‘The night after next. You must come. In a church off the Waterloo Road. It’ll be held like a church meeting, so that there can’t be trouble. We have to guard against that. Suppression of meeting and so forth. You’ll hear all the best speakers.’

He had gone when, about eight o’clock next morning, Bruno woke; but he had left the candle end. Bruno lit it and, stupefied from sleeping brokenly in the small airless room, groped under the bed for the bread and cheese. He could not find it. He went down on his hands and knees to look for it, bringing the candle closer. Then he saw a piece of bread, then another, and picked them up; and then saw how, in the night, rats had torn his loaf to pieces, carrying away the cheese altogether, gnawing the paper to shreds.

He put on his boots and coat and went downstairs, out into the street. It was raining. The tops of tenements had the dull shininess of lead sepulchres. He felt courage sink and curdle into a mass of sour dejection; thought became nullified.

(To be continued)