Part 03 - Of Human Bondage Audiobook by W. Somerset Maugham (Chs 29-39)


Uploaded by CCProse on 06.02.2012

Transcript:
CHAPTER XXIX
Winter set in. Weeks went to Berlin to attend the lectures
of Paulssen, and Hayward began to think of going South.
The local theatre opened its doors.
Philip and Hayward went to it two or three times a week with the praiseworthy
intention of improving their German, and Philip found it a more diverting manner of
perfecting himself in the language than listening to sermons.
They found themselves in the midst of a revival of the drama.
Several of Ibsen's plays were on the repertory for the winter; Sudermann's Die
Ehre was then a new play, and on its production in the quiet university town
caused the greatest excitement; it was
extravagantly praised and bitterly attacked; other dramatists followed with
plays written under the modern influence, and Philip witnessed a series of works in
which the vileness of mankind was displayed before him.
He had never been to a play in his life till then (poor touring companies sometimes
came to the Assembly Rooms at Blackstable, but the Vicar, partly on account of his
profession, partly because he thought it
would be vulgar, never went to see them) and the passion of the stage seized him.
He felt a thrill the moment he got into the little, shabby, ill-lit theatre.
Soon he came to know the peculiarities of the small company, and by the casting could
tell at once what were the characteristics of the persons in the drama; but this made
no difference to him.
To him it was real life.
It was a strange life, dark and tortured, in which men and women showed to
remorseless eyes the evil that was in their hearts: a fair face concealed a depraved
mind; the virtuous used virtue as a mask to
hide their secret vice, the seeming-strong fainted within with their weakness; the
honest were corrupt, the chaste were lewd.
You seemed to dwell in a room where the night before an orgy had taken place: the
windows had not been opened in the morning; the air was foul with the dregs of beer,
and stale smoke, and flaring gas.
There was no laughter. At most you sniggered at the hypocrite or
the fool: the characters expressed themselves in cruel words that seemed wrung
out of their hearts by shame and anguish.
Philip was carried away by the sordid intensity of it.
He seemed to see the world again in another fashion, and this world too he was anxious
to know.
After the play was over he went to a tavern and sat in the bright warmth with Hayward
to eat a sandwich and drink a glass of beer.
All round were little groups of students, talking and laughing; and here and there
was a family, father and mother, a couple of sons and a girl; and sometimes the girl
said a sharp thing, and the father leaned
back in his chair and laughed, laughed heartily.
It was very friendly and innocent. There was a pleasant homeliness in the
scene, but for this Philip had no eyes.
His thoughts ran on the play he had just come from.
"You do feel it's life, don't you?" he said excitedly.
"You know, I don't think I can stay here much longer.
I want to get to London so that I can really begin.
I want to have experiences.
I'm so tired of preparing for life: I want to live it now."
Sometimes Hayward left Philip to go home by himself.
He would never exactly reply to Philip's eager questioning, but with a merry, rather
stupid laugh, hinted at a romantic amour; he quoted a few lines of Rossetti, and once
showed Philip a sonnet in which passion and
purple, pessimism and pathos, were packed together on the subject of a young lady
called Trude.
Hayward surrounded his sordid and vulgar little adventures with a glow of poetry,
and thought he touched hands with Pericles and Pheidias because to describe the object
of his attentions he used the word hetaira
instead of one of those, more blunt and apt, provided by the English language.
Philip in the daytime had been led by curiosity to pass through the little street
near the old bridge, with its neat white houses and green shutters, in which
according to Hayward the Fraulein Trude
lived; but the women, with brutal faces and painted cheeks, who came out of their doors
and cried out to him, filled him with fear; and he fled in horror from the rough hands
that sought to detain him.
He yearned above all things for experience and felt himself ridiculous because at his
age he had not enjoyed that which all fiction taught him was the most important
thing in life; but he had the unfortunate
gift of seeing things as they were, and the reality which was offered him differed too
terribly from the ideal of his dreams.
He did not know how wide a country, arid and precipitous, must be crossed before the
traveller through life comes to an acceptance of reality.
It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the
young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have
been instilled into them, and each time
they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded.
It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal
by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back
upon the past through a rosy haze of
forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life.
They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told
are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the
cross of life.
The strange thing is that each one who has gone through that bitter disillusionment
adds to it in his turn, unconsciously, by the power within him which is stronger than
himself.
The companionship of Hayward was the worst possible thing for Philip.
He was a man who saw nothing for himself, but only through a literary atmosphere, and
he was dangerous because he had deceived himself into sincerity.
He honestly mistook his sensuality for romantic emotion, his vacillation for the
artistic temperament, and his idleness for philosophic calm.
His mind, vulgar in its effort at refinement, saw everything a little larger
than life size, with the outlines blurred, in a golden mist of sentimentality.
He lied and never knew that he lied, and when it was pointed out to him said that
lies were beautiful. He was an idealist.
CHAPTER XXX
Philip was restless and dissatisfied. Hayward's poetic allusions troubled his
imagination, and his soul yearned for romance.
At least that was how he put it to himself.
And it happened that an incident was taking place in Frau Erlin's house which increased
Philip's preoccupation with the matter of sex.
Two or three times on his walks among the hills he had met Fraulein Cacilie wandering
by herself. He had passed her with a bow, and a few
yards further on had seen the Chinaman.
He thought nothing of it; but one evening on his way home, when night had already
fallen, he passed two people walking very close together.
Hearing his footstep, they separated quickly, and though he could not see well
in the darkness he was almost certain they were Cacilie and Herr Sung.
Their rapid movement apart suggested that they had been walking arm in arm.
Philip was puzzled and surprised. He had never paid much attention to
Fraulein Cacilie.
She was a plain girl, with a square face and blunt features.
She could not have been more than sixteen, since she still wore her long fair hair in
a plait.
That evening at supper he looked at her curiously; and, though of late she had
talked little at meals, she addressed him. "Where did you go for your walk today, Herr
Carey?" she asked.
"Oh, I walked up towards the Konigstuhl." "I didn't go out," she volunteered.
"I had a headache." The Chinaman, who sat next to her, turned
round.
"I'm so sorry," he said. "I hope it's better now."
Fraulein Cacilie was evidently uneasy, for she spoke again to Philip.
"Did you meet many people on the way?"
Philip could not help reddening when he told a downright lie.
"No. I don't think I saw a living soul." He fancied that a look of relief passed
across her eyes.
Soon, however, there could be no doubt that there was something between the pair, and
other people in the Frau Professor's house saw them lurking in dark places.
The elderly ladies who sat at the head of the table began to discuss what was now a
scandal. The Frau Professor was angry and harassed.
She had done her best to see nothing.
The winter was at hand, and it was not as easy a matter then as in the summer to keep
her house full.
Herr Sung was a good customer: he had two rooms on the ground floor, and he drank a
bottle of Moselle at each meal. The Frau Professor charged him three marks
a bottle and made a good profit.
None of her other guests drank wine, and some of them did not even drink beer.
Neither did she wish to lose Fraulein Cacilie, whose parents were in business in
South America and paid well for the Frau Professor's motherly care; and she knew
that if she wrote to the girl's uncle, who
lived in Berlin, he would immediately take her away.
The Frau Professor contented herself with giving them both severe looks at table and,
though she dared not be rude to the Chinaman, got a certain satisfaction out of
incivility to Cacilie.
But the three elderly ladies were not content.
Two were widows, and one, a Dutchwoman, was a spinster of masculine appearance; they
paid the smallest possible sum for their pension, and gave a good deal of trouble,
but they were permanent and therefore had to be put up with.
They went to the Frau Professor and said that something must be done; it was
disgraceful, and the house was ceasing to be respectable.
The Frau Professor tried obstinacy, anger, tears, but the three old ladies routed her,
and with a sudden assumption of virtuous indignation she said that she would put a
stop to the whole thing.
After luncheon she took Cacilie into her bed-room and began to talk very seriously
to her; but to her amazement the girl adopted a brazen attitude; she proposed to
go about as she liked; and if she chose to
walk with the Chinaman she could not see it was anybody's business but her own.
The Frau Professor threatened to write to her uncle.
"Then Onkel Heinrich will put me in a family in Berlin for the winter, and that
will be much nicer for me. And Herr Sung will come to Berlin too."
The Frau Professor began to cry.
The tears rolled down her coarse, red, fat cheeks; and Cacilie laughed at her.
"That will mean three rooms empty all through the winter," she said.
Then the Frau Professor tried another plan.
She appealed to Fraulein Cacilie's better nature: she was kind, sensible, tolerant;
she treated her no longer as a child, but as a grown woman.
She said that it wouldn't be so dreadful, but a Chinaman, with his yellow skin and
flat nose, and his little pig's eyes! That's what made it so horrible.
It filled one with disgust to think of it.
"Bitte, bitte," said Cacilie, with a rapid intake of the breath.
"I won't listen to anything against him." "But it's not serious?" gasped Frau Erlin.
"I love him.
I love him. I love him."
"Gott im Himmel!"
The Frau Professor stared at her with horrified surprise; she had thought it was
no more than naughtiness on the child's part, and innocent, folly. but the passion
in her voice revealed everything.
Cacilie looked at her for a moment with flaming eyes, and then with a shrug of her
shoulders went out of the room.
Frau Erlin kept the details of the interview to herself, and a day or two
later altered the arrangement of the table.
She asked Herr Sung if he would not come and sit at her end, and he with his
unfailing politeness accepted with alacrity.
Cacilie took the change indifferently.
But as if the discovery that the relations between them were known to the whole
household made them more shameless, they made no secret now of their walks together,
and every afternoon quite openly set out to wander about the hills.
It was plain that they did not care what was said of them.
At last even the placidity of Professor Erlin was moved, and he insisted that his
wife should speak to the Chinaman.
She took him aside in his turn and expostulated; he was ruining the girl's
reputation, he was doing harm to the house, he must see how wrong and wicked his
conduct was; but she was met with smiling
denials; Herr Sung did not know what she was talking about, he was not paying any
attention to Fraulein Cacilie, he never walked with her; it was all untrue, every
word of it.
"Ach, Herr Sung, how can you say such things?
You've been seen again and again." "No, you're mistaken.
It's untrue."
He looked at her with an unceasing smile, which showed his even, little white teeth.
He was quite calm. He denied everything.
He denied with bland effrontery.
At last the Frau Professor lost her temper and said the girl had confessed she loved
him. He was not moved.
He continued to smile.
"Nonsense! Nonsense!
It's all untrue." She could get nothing out of him.
The weather grew very bad; there was snow and frost, and then a thaw with a long
succession of cheerless days, on which walking was a poor amusement.
One evening when Philip had just finished his German lesson with the Herr Professor
and was standing for a moment in the drawing-room, talking to Frau Erlin, Anna
came quickly in.
"Mamma, where is Cacilie?" she said. "I suppose she's in her room."
"There's no light in it." The Frau Professor gave an exclamation, and
she looked at her daughter in dismay.
The thought which was in Anna's head had flashed across hers.
"Ring for Emil," she said hoarsely. This was the stupid lout who waited at
table and did most of the housework.
He came in. "Emil, go down to Herr Sung's room and
enter without knocking. If anyone is there say you came in to see
about the stove."
No sign of astonishment appeared on Emil's phlegmatic face.
He went slowly downstairs. The Frau Professor and Anna left the door
open and listened.
Presently they heard Emil come up again, and they called him.
"Was anyone there?" asked the Frau Professor.
"Yes, Herr Sung was there."
"Was he alone?" The beginning of a cunning smile narrowed
his mouth. "No, Fraulein Cacilie was there."
"Oh, it's disgraceful," cried the Frau Professor.
Now he smiled broadly. "Fraulein Cacilie is there every evening.
She spends hours at a time there."
Frau Professor began to wring her hands. "Oh, how abominable!
But why didn't you tell me?" "It was no business of mine," he answered,
slowly shrugging his shoulders.
"I suppose they paid you well. Go away. Go."
He lurched clumsily to the door. "They must go away, mamma," said Anna.
"And who is going to pay the rent?
And the taxes are falling due. It's all very well for you to say they must
go away. If they go away I can't pay the bills."
She turned to Philip, with tears streaming down her face.
"Ach, Herr Carey, you will not say what you have heard.
If Fraulein Forster--" this was the Dutch spinster--"if Fraulein Forster knew she
would leave at once. And if they all go we must close the house.
I cannot afford to keep it."
"Of course I won't say anything." "If she stays, I will not speak to her,"
said Anna.
That evening at supper Fraulein Cacilie, redder than usual, with a look of obstinacy
on her face, took her place punctually; but Herr Sung did not appear, and for a while
Philip thought he was going to shirk the ordeal.
At last he came, very smiling, his little eyes dancing with the apologies he made for
his late arrival.
He insisted as usual on pouring out the Frau Professor a glass of his Moselle, and
he offered a glass to Fraulein Forster.
The room was very hot, for the stove had been alight all day and the windows were
seldom opened. Emil blundered about, but succeeded somehow
in serving everyone quickly and with order.
The three old ladies sat in silence, visibly disapproving: the Frau Professor
had scarcely recovered from her tears; her husband was silent and oppressed.
Conversation languished.
It seemed to Philip that there was something dreadful in that gathering which
he had sat with so often; they looked different under the light of the two
hanging lamps from what they had ever looked before; he was vaguely uneasy.
Once he caught Cacilie's eye, and he thought she looked at him with hatred and
contempt.
The room was stifling.
It was as though the beastly passion of that pair troubled them all; there was a
feeling of Oriental depravity; a faint savour of joss-sticks, a mystery of hidden
vices, seemed to make their breath heavy.
Philip could feel the beating of the arteries in his forehead.
He could not understand what strange emotion distracted him; he seemed to feel
something infinitely attractive, and yet he was repelled and horrified.
For several days things went on.
The air was sickly with the unnatural passion which all felt about them, and the
nerves of the little household seemed to grow exasperated.
Only Herr Sung remained unaffected; he was no less smiling, affable, and polite than
he had been before: one could not tell whether his manner was a triumph of
civilisation or an expression of contempt
on the part of the Oriental for the vanquished West.
Cacilie was flaunting and cynical. At last even the Frau Professor could bear
the position no longer.
Suddenly panic seized her; for Professor Erlin with brutal frankness had suggested
the possible consequences of an intrigue which was now manifest to everyone, and she
saw her good name in Heidelberg and the
repute of her house ruined by a scandal which could not possibly be hidden.
For some reason, blinded perhaps by her interests, this possibility had never
occurred to her; and now, her wits muddled by a terrible fear, she could hardly be
prevented from turning the girl out of the house at once.
It was due to Anna's good sense that a cautious letter was written to the uncle in
Berlin suggesting that Cacilie should be taken away.
But having made up her mind to lose the two lodgers, the Frau Professor could not
resist the satisfaction of giving rein to the ill-temper she had curbed so long.
She was free now to say anything she liked to Cacilie.
"I have written to your uncle, Cacilie, to take you away.
I cannot have you in my house any longer."
Her little round eyes sparkled when she noticed the sudden whiteness of the girl's
face. "You're shameless.
Shameless," she went on.
She called her foul names. "What did you say to my uncle Heinrich,
Frau Professor?" the girl asked, suddenly falling from her attitude of flaunting
independence.
"Oh, he'll tell you himself. I expect to get a letter from him
tomorrow."
Next day, in order to make the humiliation more public, at supper she called down the
table to Cacilie. "I have had a letter from your uncle,
Cacilie.
You are to pack your things tonight, and we will put you in the train tomorrow morning.
He will meet you himself in Berlin at the Central Bahnhof."
"Very good, Frau Professor."
Herr Sung smiled in the Frau Professor's eyes, and notwithstanding her protests
insisted on pouring out a glass of wine for her.
The Frau Professor ate her supper with a good appetite.
But she had triumphed unwisely. Just before going to bed she called the
servant.
"Emil, if Fraulein Cacilie's box is ready you had better take it downstairs tonight.
The porter will fetch it before breakfast." The servant went away and in a moment came
back.
"Fraulein Cacilie is not in her room, and her bag has gone."
With a cry the Frau Professor hurried along: the box was on the floor, strapped
and locked; but there was no bag, and neither hat nor cloak.
The dressing-table was empty.
Breathing heavily, the Frau Professor ran downstairs to the Chinaman's rooms, she had
not moved so quickly for twenty years, and Emil called out after her to beware she did
not fall; she did not trouble to knock, but burst in.
The rooms were empty.
The luggage had gone, and the door into the garden, still open, showed how it had been
got away.
In an envelope on the table were notes for the money due on the month's board and an
approximate sum for extras.
Groaning, suddenly overcome by her haste, the Frau Professor sank obesely on to a
sofa. There could be no doubt.
The pair had gone off together.
Emil remained stolid and unmoved.
CHAPTER XXXI
Hayward, after saying for a month that he was going South next day and delaying from
week to week out of inability to make up his mind to the bother of packing and the
tedium of a journey, had at last been
driven off just before Christmas by the preparations for that festival.
He could not support the thought of a Teutonic merry-making.
It gave him goose-flesh to think of the season's aggressive cheerfulness, and in
his desire to avoid the obvious he determined to travel on Christmas Eve.
Philip was not sorry to see him off, for he was a downright person and it irritated him
that anybody should not know his own mind.
Though much under Hayward's influence, he would not grant that indecision pointed to
a charming sensitiveness; and he resented the shadow of a sneer with which Hayward
looked upon his straight ways.
They corresponded. Hayward was an admirable letter-writer, and
knowing his talent took pains with his letters.
His temperament was receptive to the beautiful influences with which he came in
contact, and he was able in his letters from Rome to put a subtle fragrance of
Italy.
He thought the city of the ancient Romans a little vulgar, finding distinction only in
the decadence of the Empire; but the Rome of the Popes appealed to his sympathy, and
in his chosen words, quite exquisitely, there appeared a rococo beauty.
He wrote of old church music and the Alban Hills, and of the languor of incense and
the charm of the streets by night, in the rain, when the pavements shone and the
light of the street lamps was mysterious.
Perhaps he repeated these admirable letters to various friends.
He did not know what a troubling effect they had upon Philip; they seemed to make
his life very humdrum.
With the spring Hayward grew dithyrambic. He proposed that Philip should come down to
Italy. He was wasting his time at Heidelberg.
The Germans were gross and life there was common; how could the soul come to her own
in that prim landscape?
In Tuscany the spring was scattering flowers through the land, and Philip was
nineteen; let him come and they could wander through the mountain towns of
Umbria.
Their names sang in Philip's heart. And Cacilie too, with her lover, had gone
to Italy.
When he thought of them Philip was seized with a restlessness he could not account
for.
He cursed his fate because he had no money to travel, and he knew his uncle would not
send him more than the fifteen pounds a month which had been agreed upon.
He had not managed his allowance very well.
His pension and the price of his lessons left him very little over, and he had found
going about with Hayward expensive.
Hayward had often suggested excursions, a visit to the play, or a bottle of wine,
when Philip had come to the end of his month's money; and with the folly of his
age he had been unwilling to confess he could not afford an extravagance.
Luckily Hayward's letters came seldom, and in the intervals Philip settled down again
to his industrious life.
He had matriculated at the university and attended one or two courses of lectures.
Kuno Fischer was then at the height of his fame and during the winter had been
lecturing brilliantly on Schopenhauer.
It was Philip's introduction to philosophy.
He had a practical mind and moved uneasily amid the abstract; but he found an
unexpected fascination in listening to metaphysical disquisitions; they made him
breathless; it was a little like watching a
tight-rope dancer doing perilous feats over an abyss; but it was very exciting.
The pessimism of the subject attracted his youth; and he believed that the world he
was about to enter was a place of pitiless woe and of darkness.
That made him none the less eager to enter it; and when, in due course, Mrs. Carey,
acting as the correspondent for his guardian's views, suggested that it was
time for him to come back to England, he agreed with enthusiasm.
He must make up his mind now what he meant to do.
If he left Heidelberg at the end of July they could talk things over during August,
and it would be a good time to make arrangements.
The date of his departure was settled, and Mrs. Carey wrote to him again.
She reminded him of Miss Wilkinson, through whose kindness he had gone to Frau Erlin's
house at Heidelberg, and told him that she had arranged to spend a few weeks with them
at Blackstable.
She would be crossing from Flushing on such and such a day, and if he travelled at the
same time he could look after her and come on to Blackstable in her company.
Philip's shyness immediately made him write to say that he could not leave till a day
or two afterwards.
He pictured himself looking out for Miss Wilkinson, the embarrassment of going up to
her and asking if it were she (and he might so easily address the wrong person and be
snubbed), and then the difficulty of
knowing whether in the train he ought to talk to her or whether he could ignore her
and read his book. At last he left Heidelberg.
For three months he had been thinking of nothing but the future; and he went without
regret. He never knew that he had been happy there.
Fraulein Anna gave him a copy of Der Trompeter von Sackingen and in return he
presented her with a volume of William Morris.
Very wisely neither of them ever read the other's present.
CHAPTER XXXII
Philip was surprised when he saw his uncle and aunt.
He had never noticed before that they were quite old people.
The Vicar received him with his usual, not unamiable indifference.
He was a little stouter, a little balder, a little grayer.
Philip saw how insignificant he was.
His face was weak and self-indulgent. Aunt Louisa took him in her arms and kissed
him; and tears of happiness flowed down her cheeks.
Philip was touched and embarrassed; he had not known with what a hungry love she cared
for him. "Oh, the time has seemed long since you've
been away, Philip," she cried.
She stroked his hands and looked into his face with glad eyes.
"You've grown. You're quite a man now."
There was a very small moustache on his upper lip.
He had bought a razor and now and then with infinite care shaved the down off his
smooth chin.
"We've been so lonely without you." And then shyly, with a little break in her
voice, she asked: "You are glad to come back to your home, aren't you?"
"Yes, rather."
She was so thin that she seemed almost transparent, the arms she put round his
neck were frail bones that reminded you of chicken bones, and her faded face was oh!
so wrinkled.
The gray curls which she still wore in the fashion of her youth gave her a queer,
pathetic look; and her little withered body was like an autumn leaf, you felt it might
be blown away by the first sharp wind.
Philip realised that they had done with life, these two quiet little people: they
belonged to a past generation, and they were waiting there patiently, rather
stupidly, for death; and he, in his vigour
and his youth, thirsting for excitement and adventure, was appalled at the waste.
They had done nothing, and when they went it would be just as if they had never been.
He felt a great pity for Aunt Louisa, and he loved her suddenly because she loved
him.
Then Miss Wilkinson, who had kept discreetly out of the way till the Careys
had had a chance of welcoming their nephew, came into the room.
"This is Miss Wilkinson, Philip," said Mrs. Carey.
"The prodigal has returned," she said, holding out her hand.
"I have brought a rose for the prodigal's buttonhole."
With a gay smile she pinned to Philip's coat the flower she had just picked in the
garden.
He blushed and felt foolish. He knew that Miss Wilkinson was the
daughter of his Uncle William's last rector, and he had a wide acquaintance with
the daughters of clergymen.
They wore ill-cut clothes and stout boots.
They were generally dressed in black, for in Philip's early years at Blackstable
homespuns had not reached East Anglia, and the ladies of the clergy did not favour
colours.
Their hair was done very untidily, and they smelt aggressively of starched linen.
They considered the feminine graces unbecoming and looked the same whether they
were old or young.
They bore their religion arrogantly. The closeness of their connection with the
church made them adopt a slightly dictatorial attitude to the rest of
mankind.
Miss Wilkinson was very different. She wore a white muslin gown stamped with
gay little bunches of flowers, and pointed, high-heeled shoes, with open-work
stockings.
To Philip's inexperience it seemed that she was wonderfully dressed; he did not see
that her frock was cheap and showy.
Her hair was elaborately dressed, with a neat curl in the middle of the forehead: it
was very black, shiny and hard, and it looked as though it could never be in the
least disarranged.
She had large black eyes and her nose was slightly aquiline; in profile she had
somewhat the look of a bird of prey, but full face she was prepossessing.
She smiled a great deal, but her mouth was large and when she smiled she tried to hide
her teeth, which were big and rather yellow.
But what embarrassed Philip most was that she was heavily powdered: he had very
strict views on feminine behaviour and did not think a lady ever powdered; but of
course Miss Wilkinson was a lady because
she was a clergyman's daughter, and a clergyman was a gentleman.
Philip made up his mind to dislike her thoroughly.
She spoke with a slight French accent; and he did not know why she should, since she
had been born and bred in the heart of England.
He thought her smile affected, and the coy sprightliness of her manner irritated him.
For two or three days he remained silent and hostile, but Miss Wilkinson apparently
did not notice it.
She was very affable. She addressed her conversation almost
exclusively to him, and there was something flattering in the way she appealed
constantly to his sane judgment.
She made him laugh too, and Philip could never resist people who amused him: he had
a gift now and then of saying neat things; and it was pleasant to have an appreciative
listener.
Neither the Vicar nor Mrs. Carey had a sense of humour, and they never laughed at
anything he said.
As he grew used to Miss Wilkinson, and his shyness left him, he began to like her
better; he found the French accent picturesque; and at a garden party which
the doctor gave she was very much better dressed than anyone else.
She wore a blue foulard with large white spots, and Philip was tickled at the
sensation it caused.
"I'm certain they think you're no better than you should be," he told her, laughing.
"It's the dream of my life to be taken for an abandoned hussy," she answered.
One day when Miss Wilkinson was in her room he asked Aunt Louisa how old she was.
"Oh, my dear, you should never ask a lady's age; but she's certainly too old for you to
marry."
The Vicar gave his slow, obese smile. "She's no chicken, Louisa," he said.
"She was nearly grown up when we were in Lincolnshire, and that was twenty years
ago.
She wore a pigtail hanging down her back." "She may not have been more than ten," said
Philip. "She was older than that," said Aunt
Louisa.
"I think she was near twenty," said the Vicar.
"Oh no, William. Sixteen or seventeen at the outside."
"That would make her well over thirty," said Philip.
At that moment Miss Wilkinson tripped downstairs, singing a song by Benjamin
Goddard.
She had put her hat on, for she and Philip were going for a walk, and she held out her
hand for him to button her glove. He did it awkwardly.
He felt embarrassed but gallant.
Conversation went easily between them now, and as they strolled along they talked of
all manner of things. She told Philip about Berlin, and he told
her of his year in Heidelberg.
As he spoke, things which had appeared of no importance gained a new interest: he
described the people at Frau Erlin's house; and to the conversations between Hayward
and Weeks, which at the time seemed so
significant, he gave a little twist, so that they looked absurd.
He was flattered at Miss Wilkinson's laughter.
"I'm quite frightened of you," she said.
"You're so sarcastic." Then she asked him playfully whether he had
not had any love affairs at Heidelberg. Without thinking, he frankly answered that
he had not; but she refused to believe him.
"How secretive you are!" she said. "At your age is it likely?"
He blushed and laughed. "You want to know too much," he said.
"Ah, I thought so," she laughed triumphantly.
"Look at him blushing."
He was pleased that she should think he had been a sad dog, and he changed the
conversation so as to make her believe he had all sorts of romantic things to
conceal.
He was angry with himself that he had not. There had been no opportunity.
Miss Wilkinson was dissatisfied with her lot.
She resented having to earn her living and told Philip a long story of an uncle of her
mother's, who had been expected to leave her a fortune but had married his cook and
changed his will.
She hinted at the luxury of her home and compared her life in Lincolnshire, with
horses to ride and carriages to drive in, with the mean dependence of her present
state.
Philip was a little puzzled when he mentioned this afterwards to Aunt Louisa,
and she told him that when she knew the Wilkinsons they had never had anything more
than a pony and a dog-cart; Aunt Louisa had
heard of the rich uncle, but as he was married and had children before Emily was
born she could never have had much hope of inheriting his fortune.
Miss Wilkinson had little good to say of Berlin, where she was now in a situation.
She complained of the vulgarity of German life, and compared it bitterly with the
brilliance of Paris, where she had spent a number of years.
She did not say how many.
She had been governess in the family of a fashionable portrait-painter, who had
married a Jewish wife of means, and in their house she had met many distinguished
people.
She dazzled Philip with their names.
Actors from the Comedie Francaise had come to the house frequently, and Coquelin,
sitting next her at dinner, had told her he had never met a foreigner who spoke such
perfect French.
Alphonse Daudet had come also, and he had given her a copy of Sappho: he had promised
to write her name in it, but she had forgotten to remind him.
She treasured the volume none the less and she would lend it to Philip.
Then there was Maupassant. Miss Wilkinson with a rippling laugh looked
at Philip knowingly.
What a man, but what a writer! Hayward had talked of Maupassant, and his
reputation was not unknown to Philip. "Did he make love to you?" he asked.
The words seemed to stick funnily in his throat, but he asked them nevertheless.
He liked Miss Wilkinson very much now, and was thrilled by her conversation, but he
could not imagine anyone making love to her.
"What a question!" she cried.
"Poor Guy, he made love to every woman he met.
It was a habit that he could not break himself of."
She sighed a little, and seemed to look back tenderly on the past.
"He was a charming man," she murmured.
A greater experience than Philip's would have guessed from these words the
probabilities of the encounter: the distinguished writer invited to luncheon en
famille, the governess coming in sedately
with the two tall girls she was teaching; the introduction:
"Notre Miss Anglaise." "Mademoiselle."
And the luncheon during which the Miss Anglaise sat silent while the distinguished
writer talked to his host and hostess. But to Philip her words called up much more
romantic fancies.
"Do tell me all about him," he said excitedly.
"There's nothing to tell," she said truthfully, but in such a manner as to
convey that three volumes would scarcely have contained the lurid facts.
"You mustn't be curious."
She began to talk of Paris. She loved the boulevards and the Bois.
There was grace in every street, and the trees in the Champs Elysees had a
distinction which trees had not elsewhere.
They were sitting on a stile now by the high-road, and Miss Wilkinson looked with
disdain upon the stately elms in front of them.
And the theatres: the plays were brilliant, and the acting was incomparable.
She often went with Madame Foyot, the mother of the girls she was educating, when
she was trying on clothes.
"Oh, what a misery to be poor!" she cried. "These beautiful things, it's only in Paris
they know how to dress, and not to be able to afford them!
Poor Madame Foyot, she had no figure.
Sometimes the dressmaker used to whisper to me: 'Ah, Mademoiselle, if she only had your
figure.'" Philip noticed then that Miss Wilkinson had
a robust form and was proud of it.
"Men are so stupid in England. They only think of the face.
The French, who are a nation of lovers, know how much more important the figure
is."
Philip had never thought of such things before, but he observed now that Miss
Wilkinson's ankles were thick and ungainly. He withdrew his eyes quickly.
"You should go to France.
Why don't you go to Paris for a year? You would learn French, and it would--
deniaiser you." "What is that?" asked Philip.
She laughed slyly.
"You must look it out in the dictionary. Englishmen do not know how to treat women.
They are so shy. Shyness is ridiculous in a man.
They don't know how to make love.
They can't even tell a woman she is charming without looking foolish."
Philip felt himself absurd.
Miss Wilkinson evidently expected him to behave very differently; and he would have
been delighted to say gallant and witty things, but they never occurred to him; and
when they did he was too much afraid of making a fool of himself to say them.
"Oh, I love Paris," sighed Miss Wilkinson. "But I had to go to Berlin.
I was with the Foyots till the girls married, and then I could get nothing to
do, and I had the chance of this post in Berlin.
They're relations of Madame Foyot, and I accepted.
I had a tiny apartment in the Rue Breda, on the cinquieme: it wasn't at all
respectable.
You know about the Rue Breda--ces dames, you know."
Philip nodded, not knowing at all what she meant, but vaguely suspecting, and anxious
she should not think him too ignorant.
"But I didn't care. Je suis libre, n'est-ce pas?"
She was very fond of speaking French, which indeed she spoke well.
"Once I had such a curious adventure there."
She paused a little and Philip pressed her to tell it.
"You wouldn't tell me yours in Heidelberg," she said.
"They were so unadventurous," he retorted.
"I don't know what Mrs. Carey would say if she knew the sort of things we talk about
together." "You don't imagine I shall tell her."
"Will you promise?"
When he had done this, she told him how an art-student who had a room on the floor
above her--but she interrupted herself. "Why don't you go in for art?
You paint so prettily."
"Not well enough for that." "That is for others to judge.
Je m'y connais, and I believe you have the making of a great artist."
"Can't you see Uncle William's face if I suddenly told him I wanted to go to Paris
and study art?" "You're your own master, aren't you?"
"You're trying to put me off.
Please go on with the story." Miss Wilkinson, with a little laugh, went
on.
The art-student had passed her several times on the stairs, and she had paid no
particular attention. She saw that he had fine eyes, and he took
off his hat very politely.
And one day she found a letter slipped under her door.
It was from him.
He told her that he had adored her for months, and that he waited about the stairs
for her to pass. Oh, it was a charming letter!
Of course she did not reply, but what woman could help being flattered?
And next day there was another letter! It was wonderful, passionate, and touching.
When next she met him on the stairs she did not know which way to look.
And every day the letters came, and now he begged her to see him.
He said he would come in the evening, vers neuf heures, and she did not know what to
do.
Of course it was impossible, and he might ring and ring, but she would never open the
door; and then while she was waiting for the tinkling of the bell, all nerves,
suddenly he stood before her.
She had forgotten to shut the door when she came in.
"C'etait une fatalite." "And what happened then?" asked Philip.
"That is the end of the story," she replied, with a ripple of laughter.
Philip was silent for a moment.
His heart beat quickly, and strange emotions seemed to be hustling one another
in his heart.
He saw the dark staircase and the chance meetings, and he admired the boldness of
the letters--oh, he would never have dared to do that--and then the silent, almost
mysterious entrance.
It seemed to him the very soul of romance. "What was he like?"
"Oh, he was handsome. Charmant garcon."
"Do you know him still?"
Philip felt a slight feeling of irritation as he asked this.
"He treated me abominably. Men are always the same.
You're heartless, all of you."
"I don't know about that," said Philip, not without embarrassment.
"Let us go home," said Miss Wilkinson.
>
CHAPTER XXXIII
Philip could not get Miss Wilkinson's story out of his head.
It was clear enough what she meant even though she cut it short, and he was a
little shocked.
That sort of thing was all very well for married women, he had read enough French
novels to know that in France it was indeed the rule, but Miss Wilkinson was English
and unmarried; her father was a clergyman.
Then it struck him that the art-student probably was neither the first nor the last
of her lovers, and he gasped: he had never looked upon Miss Wilkinson like that; it
seemed incredible that anyone should make love to her.
In his ingenuousness he doubted her story as little as he doubted what he read in
books, and he was angry that such wonderful things never happened to him.
It was humiliating that if Miss Wilkinson insisted upon his telling her of his
adventures in Heidelberg he would have nothing to tell.
It was true that he had some power of invention, but he was not sure whether he
could persuade her that he was steeped in vice; women were full of intuition, he had
read that, and she might easily discover that he was fibbing.
He blushed scarlet as he thought of her laughing up her sleeve.
Miss Wilkinson played the piano and sang in a rather tired voice; but her songs,
Massenet, Benjamin Goddard, and Augusta Holmes, were new to Philip; and together
they spent many hours at the piano.
One day she wondered if he had a voice and insisted on trying it.
She told him he had a pleasant baritone and offered to give him lessons.
At first with his usual bashfulness he refused, but she insisted, and then every
morning at a convenient time after breakfast she gave him an hour's lesson.
She had a natural gift for teaching, and it was clear that she was an excellent
governess. She had method and firmness.
Though her French accent was so much part of her that it remained, all the
mellifluousness of her manner left her when she was engaged in teaching.
She put up with no nonsense.
Her voice became a little peremptory, and instinctively she suppressed inattention
and corrected slovenliness. She knew what she was about and put Philip
to scales and exercises.
When the lesson was over she resumed without effort her seductive smiles, her
voice became again soft and winning, but Philip could not so easily put away the
pupil as she the pedagogue; and this
impression convicted with the feelings her stories had aroused in him.
He looked at her more narrowly. He liked her much better in the evening
than in the morning.
In the morning she was rather lined and the skin of her neck was just a little rough.
He wished she would hide it, but the weather was very warm just then and she
wore blouses which were cut low.
She was very fond of white; in the morning it did not suit her.
At night she often looked very attractive, she put on a gown which was almost a dinner
dress, and she wore a chain of garnets round her neck; the lace about her bosom
and at her elbows gave her a pleasant
softness, and the scent she wore (at Blackstable no one used anything but Eau de
Cologne, and that only on Sundays or when suffering from a sick headache) was
troubling and exotic.
She really looked very young then. Philip was much exercised over her age.
He added twenty and seventeen together, and could not bring them to a satisfactory
total.
He asked Aunt Louisa more than once why she thought Miss Wilkinson was thirty-seven:
she didn't look more than thirty, and everyone knew that foreigners aged more
rapidly than English women; Miss Wilkinson
had lived so long abroad that she might almost be called a foreigner.
He personally wouldn't have thought her more than twenty-six.
"She's more than that," said Aunt Louisa.
Philip did not believe in the accuracy of the Careys' statements.
All they distinctly remembered was that Miss Wilkinson had not got her hair up the
last time they saw her in Lincolnshire.
Well, she might have been twelve then: it was so long ago and the Vicar was always so
unreliable.
They said it was twenty years ago, but people used round figures, and it was just
as likely to be eighteen years, or seventeen.
Seventeen and twelve were only twenty-nine, and hang it all, that wasn't old, was it?
Cleopatra was forty-eight when Antony threw away the world for her sake.
It was a fine summer.
Day after day was hot and cloudless; but the heat was tempered by the neighbourhood
of the sea, and there was a pleasant exhilaration in the air, so that one was
excited and not oppressed by the August sunshine.
There was a pond in the garden in which a fountain played; water lilies grew in it
and gold fish sunned themselves on the surface.
Philip and Miss Wilkinson used to take rugs and cushions there after dinner and lie on
the lawn in the shade of a tall hedge of roses.
They talked and read all the afternoon.
They smoked cigarettes, which the Vicar did not allow in the house; he thought smoking
a disgusting habit, and used frequently to say that it was disgraceful for anyone to
grow a slave to a habit.
He forgot that he was himself a slave to afternoon tea.
One day Miss Wilkinson gave Philip La Vie de Boheme.
She had found it by accident when she was rummaging among the books in the Vicar's
study.
It had been bought in a lot with something Mr. Carey wanted and had remained
undiscovered for ten years.
Philip began to read Murger's fascinating, ill-written, absurd masterpiece, and fell
at once under its spell.
His soul danced with joy at that picture of starvation which is so good-humoured, of
squalor which is so picturesque, of sordid love which is so romantic, of bathos which
is so moving.
Rodolphe and Mimi, Musette and Schaunard!
They wander through the gray streets of the Latin Quarter, finding refuge now in one
attic, now in another, in their quaint costumes of Louis Philippe, with their
tears and their smiles, happy-go-lucky and reckless.
Who can resist them?
It is only when you return to the book with a sounder judgment that you find how gross
their pleasures were, how vulgar their minds; and you feel the utter
worthlessness, as artists and as human beings, of that gay procession.
Philip was enraptured.
"Don't you wish you were going to Paris instead of London?" asked Miss Wilkinson,
smiling at his enthusiasm. "It's too late now even if I did," he
answered.
During the fortnight he had been back from Germany there had been much discussion
between himself and his uncle about his future.
He had refused definitely to go to Oxford, and now that there was no chance of his
getting scholarships even Mr. Carey came to the conclusion that he could not afford it.
His entire fortune had consisted of only two thousand pounds, and though it had been
invested in mortgages at five per cent, he had not been able to live on the interest.
It was now a little reduced.
It would be absurd to spend two hundred a year, the least he could live on at a
university, for three years at Oxford which would lead him no nearer to earning his
living.
He was anxious to go straight to London. Mrs. Carey thought there were only four
professions for a gentleman, the Army, the Navy, the Law, and the Church.
She had added medicine because her brother- in-law practised it, but did not forget
that in her young days no one ever considered the doctor a gentleman.
The first two were out of the question, and Philip was firm in his refusal to be
ordained. Only the law remained.
The local doctor had suggested that many gentlemen now went in for engineering, but
Mrs. Carey opposed the idea at once. "I shouldn't like Philip to go into trade,"
she said.
"No, he must have a profession," answered the Vicar.
"Why not make him a doctor like his father?"
"I should hate it," said Philip.
Mrs. Carey was not sorry.
The Bar seemed out of the question, since he was not going to Oxford, for the Careys
were under the impression that a degree was still necessary for success in that
calling; and finally it was suggested that he should become articled to a solicitor.
They wrote to the family lawyer, Albert Nixon, who was co-executor with the Vicar
of Blackstable for the late Henry Carey's estate, and asked him whether he would take
Philip.
In a day or two the answer came back that he had not a vacancy, and was very much
opposed to the whole scheme; the profession was greatly overcrowded, and without
capital or connections a man had small
chance of becoming more than a managing clerk; he suggested, however, that Philip
should become a chartered accountant.
Neither the Vicar nor his wife knew in the least what this was, and Philip had never
heard of anyone being a chartered accountant; but another letter from the
solicitor explained that the growth of
modern businesses and the increase of companies had led to the formation of many
firms of accountants to examine the books and put into the financial affairs of their
clients an order which old-fashioned methods had lacked.
Some years before a Royal Charter had been obtained, and the profession was becoming
every year more respectable, lucrative, and important.
The chartered accountants whom Albert Nixon had employed for thirty years happened to
have a vacancy for an articled pupil, and would take Philip for a fee of three
hundred pounds.
Half of this would be returned during the five years the articles lasted in the form
of salary.
The prospect was not exciting, but Philip felt that he must decide on something, and
the thought of living in London over- balanced the slight shrinking he felt.
The Vicar of Blackstable wrote to ask Mr. Nixon whether it was a profession suited to
a gentleman; and Mr. Nixon replied that, since the Charter, men were going into it
who had been to public schools and a
university; moreover, if Philip disliked the work and after a year wished to leave,
Herbert Carter, for that was the accountant's name, would return half the
money paid for the articles.
This settled it, and it was arranged that Philip should start work on the fifteenth
of September. "I have a full month before me," said
Philip.
"And then you go to freedom and I to bondage," returned Miss Wilkinson.
Her holidays were to last six weeks, and she would be leaving Blackstable only a day
or two before Philip.
"I wonder if we shall ever meet again," she said.
"I don't know why not." "Oh, don't speak in that practical way.
I never knew anyone so unsentimental."
Philip reddened.
He was afraid that Miss Wilkinson would think him a milksop: after all she was a
young woman, sometimes quite pretty, and he was getting on for twenty; it was absurd
that they should talk of nothing but art and literature.
He ought to make love to her. They had talked a good deal of love.
There was the art-student in the Rue Breda, and then there was the painter in whose
family she had lived so long in Paris: he had asked her to sit for him, and had
started to make love to her so violently
that she was forced to invent excuses not to sit to him again.
It was clear enough that Miss Wilkinson was used to attentions of that sort.
She looked very nice now in a large straw hat: it was hot that afternoon, the hottest
day they had had, and beads of sweat stood in a line on her upper lip.
He called to mind Fraulein Cacilie and Herr Sung.
He had never thought of Cacilie in an amorous way, she was exceedingly plain; but
now, looking back, the affair seemed very romantic.
He had a chance of romance too.
Miss Wilkinson was practically French, and that added zest to a possible adventure.
When he thought of it at night in bed, or when he sat by himself in the garden
reading a book, he was thrilled by it; but when he saw Miss Wilkinson it seemed less
picturesque.
At all events, after what she had told him, she would not be surprised if he made love
to her.
He had a feeling that she must think it odd of him to make no sign: perhaps it was only
his fancy, but once or twice in the last day or two he had imagined that there was a
suspicion of contempt in her eyes.
"A penny for your thoughts," said Miss Wilkinson, looking at him with a smile.
"I'm not going to tell you," he answered. He was thinking that he ought to kiss her
there and then.
He wondered if she expected him to do it; but after all he didn't see how he could
without any preliminary business at all.
She would just think him mad, or she might slap his face; and perhaps she would
complain to his uncle. He wondered how Herr Sung had started with
Fraulein Cacilie.
It would be beastly if she told his uncle: he knew what his uncle was, he would tell
the doctor and Josiah Graves; and he would look a perfect fool.
Aunt Louisa kept on saying that Miss Wilkinson was thirty-seven if she was a
day; he shuddered at the thought of the ridicule he would be exposed to; they would
say she was old enough to be his mother.
"Twopence for your thoughts," smiled Miss Wilkinson.
"I was thinking about you," he answered boldly.
That at all events committed him to nothing.
"What were you thinking?" "Ah, now you want to know too much."
"Naughty boy!" said Miss Wilkinson.
There it was again! Whenever he had succeeded in working
himself up she said something which reminded him of the governess.
She called him playfully a naughty boy when he did not sing his exercises to her
satisfaction. This time he grew quite sulky.
"I wish you wouldn't treat me as if I were a child."
"Are you cross?" "Very."
"I didn't mean to."
She put out her hand and he took it. Once or twice lately when they shook hands
at night he had fancied she slightly pressed his hand, but this time there was
no doubt about it.
He did not quite know what he ought to say next.
Here at last was his chance of an adventure, and he would be a fool not to
take it; but it was a little ordinary, and he had expected more glamour.
He had read many descriptions of love, and he felt in himself none of that uprush of
emotion which novelists described; he was not carried off his feet in wave upon wave
of passion; nor was Miss Wilkinson the
ideal: he had often pictured to himself the great violet eyes and the alabaster skin of
some lovely girl, and he had thought of himself burying his face in the rippling
masses of her auburn hair.
He could not imagine himself burying his face in Miss Wilkinson's hair, it always
struck him as a little sticky.
All the same it would be very satisfactory to have an intrigue, and he thrilled with
the legitimate pride he would enjoy in his conquest.
He owed it to himself to seduce her.
He made up his mind to kiss Miss Wilkinson; not then, but in the evening; it would be
easier in the dark, and after he had kissed her the rest would follow.
He would kiss her that very evening.
He swore an oath to that effect. He laid his plans.
After supper he suggested that they should take a stroll in the garden.
Miss Wilkinson accepted, and they sauntered side by side.
Philip was very nervous.
He did not know why, but the conversation would not lead in the right direction; he
had decided that the first thing to do was to put his arm round her waist; but he
could not suddenly put his arm round her
waist when she was talking of the regatta which was to be held next week.
He led her artfully into the darkest parts of the garden, but having arrived there his
courage failed him.
They sat on a bench, and he had really made up his mind that here was his opportunity
when Miss Wilkinson said she was sure there were earwigs and insisted on moving.
They walked round the garden once more, and Philip promised himself he would take the
plunge before they arrived at that bench again; but as they passed the house, they
saw Mrs. Carey standing at the door.
"Hadn't you young people better come in? I'm sure the night air isn't good for you."
"Perhaps we had better go in," said Philip. "I don't want you to catch cold."
He said it with a sigh of relief.
He could attempt nothing more that night. But afterwards, when he was alone in his
room, he was furious with himself. He had been a perfect fool.
He was certain that Miss Wilkinson expected him to kiss her, otherwise she wouldn't
have come into the garden. She was always saying that only Frenchmen
knew how to treat women.
Philip had read French novels. If he had been a Frenchman he would have
seized her in his arms and told her passionately that he adored her; he would
have pressed his lips on her nuque.
He did not know why Frenchmen always kissed ladies on the nuque.
He did not himself see anything so very attractive in the nape of the neck.
Of course it was much easier for Frenchmen to do these things; the language was such
an aid; Philip could never help feeling that to say passionate things in English
sounded a little absurd.
He wished now that he had never undertaken the siege of Miss Wilkinson's virtue; the
first fortnight had been so jolly, and now he was wretched; but he was determined not
to give in, he would never respect himself
again if he did, and he made up his mind irrevocably that the next night he would
kiss her without fail.
Next day when he got up he saw it was raining, and his first thought was that
they would not be able to go into the garden that evening.
He was in high spirits at breakfast.
Miss Wilkinson sent Mary Ann in to say that she had a headache and would remain in bed.
She did not come down till tea-time, when she appeared in a becoming wrapper and a
pale face; but she was quite recovered by supper, and the meal was very cheerful.
After prayers she said she would go straight to bed, and she kissed Mrs. Carey.
Then she turned to Philip. "Good gracious!" she cried.
"I was just going to kiss you too."
"Why don't you?" he said. She laughed and held out her hand.
She distinctly pressed his.
The following day there was not a cloud in the sky, and the garden was sweet and fresh
after the rain. Philip went down to the beach to bathe and
when he came home ate a magnificent dinner.
They were having a tennis party at the vicarage in the afternoon and Miss
Wilkinson put on her best dress.
She certainly knew how to wear her clothes, and Philip could not help noticing how
elegant she looked beside the curate's wife and the doctor's married daughter.
There were two roses in her waistband.
She sat in a garden chair by the side of the lawn, holding a red parasol over
herself, and the light on her face was very becoming.
Philip was fond of tennis.
He served well and as he ran clumsily played close to the net: notwithstanding
his club-foot he was quick, and it was difficult to get a ball past him.
He was pleased because he won all his sets.
At tea he lay down at Miss Wilkinson's feet, hot and panting.
"Flannels suit you," she said. "You look very nice this afternoon."
He blushed with delight.
"I can honestly return the compliment. You look perfectly ravishing."
She smiled and gave him a long look with her black eyes.
After supper he insisted that she should come out.
"Haven't you had enough exercise for one day?"
"It'll be lovely in the garden tonight.
The stars are all out." He was in high spirits.
"D'you know, Mrs. Carey has been scolding me on your account?" said Miss Wilkinson,
when they were sauntering through the kitchen garden.
"She says I mustn't flirt with you."
"Have you been flirting with me? I hadn't noticed it."
"She was only joking." "It was very unkind of you to refuse to
kiss me last night."
"If you saw the look your uncle gave me when I said what I did!"
"Was that all that prevented you?" "I prefer to kiss people without
witnesses."
"There are no witnesses now." Philip put his arm round her waist and
kissed her lips. She only laughed a little and made no
attempt to withdraw.
It had come quite naturally. Philip was very proud of himself.
He said he would, and he had. It was the easiest thing in the world.
He wished he had done it before.
He did it again. "Oh, you mustn't," she said.
"Why not?" "Because I like it," she laughed.
CHAPTER XXXIV
Next day after dinner they took their rugs and cushions to the fountain, and their
books; but they did not read. Miss Wilkinson made herself comfortable and
she opened the red sun-shade.
Philip was not at all shy now, but at first she would not let him kiss her.
"It was very wrong of me last night," she said.
"I couldn't sleep, I felt I'd done so wrong."
"What nonsense!" he cried. "I'm sure you slept like a top."
"What do you think your uncle would say if he knew?"
"There's no reason why he should know." He leaned over her, and his heart went pit-
a-pat.
"Why d'you want to kiss me?" He knew he ought to reply: "Because I love
you." But he could not bring himself to say it.
"Why do you think?" he asked instead.
She looked at him with smiling eyes and touched his face with the tips of her
fingers. "How smooth your face is," she murmured.
"I want shaving awfully," he said.
It was astonishing how difficult he found it to make romantic speeches.
He found that silence helped him much more than words.
He could look inexpressible things.
Miss Wilkinson sighed. "Do you like me at all?"
"Yes, awfully." When he tried to kiss her again she did not
resist.
He pretended to be much more passionate than he really was, and he succeeded in
playing a part which looked very well in his own eyes.
"I'm beginning to be rather frightened of you," said Miss Wilkinson.
"You'll come out after supper, won't you?" he begged.
"Not unless you promise to behave yourself."
"I'll promise anything."
He was catching fire from the flame he was partly simulating, and at tea-time he was
obstreperously merry. Miss Wilkinson looked at him nervously.
"You mustn't have those shining eyes," she said to him afterwards.
"What will your Aunt Louisa think?" "I don't care what she thinks."
Miss Wilkinson gave a little laugh of pleasure.
They had no sooner finished supper than he said to her:
"Are you going to keep me company while I smoke a cigarette?"
"Why don't you let Miss Wilkinson rest?" said Mrs. Carey.
"You must remember she's not as young as you."
"Oh, I'd like to go out, Mrs. Carey," she said, rather acidly.
"After dinner walk a mile, after supper rest a while," said the Vicar.
"Your aunt is very nice, but she gets on my nerves sometimes," said Miss Wilkinson, as
soon as they closed the side-door behind them.
Philip threw away the cigarette he had just lighted, and flung his arms round her.
She tried to push him away. "You promised you'd be good, Philip."
"You didn't think I was going to keep a promise like that?"
"Not so near the house, Philip," she said. "Supposing someone should come out
suddenly?"
He led her to the kitchen garden where no one was likely to come, and this time Miss
Wilkinson did not think of earwigs. He kissed her passionately.
It was one of the things that puzzled him that he did not like her at all in the
morning, and only moderately in the afternoon, but at night the touch of her
hand thrilled him.
He said things that he would never have thought himself capable of saying; he could
certainly never have said them in the broad light of day; and he listened to himself
with wonder and satisfaction.
"How beautifully you make love," she said. That was what he thought himself.
"Oh, if I could only say all the things that burn my heart!" he murmured
passionately.
It was splendid. It was the most thrilling game he had ever
played; and the wonderful thing was that he felt almost all he said.
It was only that he exaggerated a little.
He was tremendously interested and excited in the effect he could see it had on her.
It was obviously with an effort that at last she suggested going in.
"Oh, don't go yet," he cried.
"I must," she muttered. "I'm frightened."
He had a sudden intuition what was the right thing to do then.
"I can't go in yet.
I shall stay here and think. My cheeks are burning.
I want the night-air. Good-night."
He held out his hand seriously, and she took it in silence.
He thought she stifled a sob. Oh, it was magnificent!
When, after a decent interval during which he had been rather bored in the dark garden
by himself, he went in he found that Miss Wilkinson had already gone to bed.
After that things were different between them.
The next day and the day after Philip showed himself an eager lover.
He was deliciously flattered to discover that Miss Wilkinson was in love with him:
she told him so in English, and she told him so in French.
She paid him compliments.
No one had ever informed him before that his eyes were charming and that he had a
sensual mouth.
He had never bothered much about his personal appearance, but now, when occasion
presented, he looked at himself in the glass with satisfaction.
When he kissed her it was wonderful to feel the passion that seemed to thrill her soul.
He kissed her a good deal, for he found it easier to do that than to say the things he
instinctively felt she expected of him.
It still made him feel a fool to say he worshipped her.
He wished there were someone to whom he could boast a little, and he would
willingly have discussed minute points of his conduct.
Sometimes she said things that were enigmatic, and he was puzzled.
He wished Hayward had been there so that he could ask him what he thought she meant,
and what he had better do next.
He could not make up his mind whether he ought to rush things or let them take their
time. There were only three weeks more.
"I can't bear to think of that," she said.
"It breaks my heart. And then perhaps we shall never see one
another again." "If you cared for me at all, you wouldn't
be so unkind to me," he whispered.
"Oh, why can't you be content to let it go on as it is?
Men are always the same. They're never satisfied."
And when he pressed her, she said:
"But don't you see it's impossible. How can we here?"
He proposed all sorts of schemes, but she would not have anything to do with them.
"I daren't take the risk.
It would be too dreadful if your aunt found out."
A day or two later he had an idea which seemed brilliant.
"Look here, if you had a headache on Sunday evening and offered to stay at home and
look after the house, Aunt Louisa would go to church."
Generally Mrs. Carey remained in on Sunday evening in order to allow Mary Ann to go to
church, but she would welcome the opportunity of attending evensong.
Philip had not found it necessary to impart to his relations the change in his views on
Christianity which had occurred in Germany; they could not be expected to understand;
and it seemed less trouble to go to church quietly.
But he only went in the morning.
He regarded this as a graceful concession to the prejudices of society and his
refusal to go a second time as an adequate assertion of free thought.
When he made the suggestion, Miss Wilkinson did not speak for a moment, then shook her
head. "No, I won't," she said.
But on Sunday at tea-time she surprised Philip.
"I don't think I'll come to church this evening," she said suddenly.
"I've really got a dreadful headache."
Mrs. Carey, much concerned, insisted on giving her some 'drops' which she was
herself in the habit of using.
Miss Wilkinson thanked her, and immediately after tea announced that she would go to
her room and lie down. "Are you sure there's nothing you'll want?"
asked Mrs. Carey anxiously.
"Quite sure, thank you." "Because, if there isn't, I think I'll go
to church. I don't often have the chance of going in
the evening."
"Oh yes, do go." "I shall be in," said Philip.
"If Miss Wilkinson wants anything, she can always call me."
"You'd better leave the drawing-room door open, Philip, so that if Miss Wilkinson
rings, you'll hear." "Certainly," said Philip.
So after six o'clock Philip was left alone in the house with Miss Wilkinson.
He felt sick with apprehension.
He wished with all his heart that he had not suggested the plan; but it was too late
now; he must take the opportunity which he had made.
What would Miss Wilkinson think of him if he did not!
He went into the hall and listened. There was not a sound.
He wondered if Miss Wilkinson really had a headache.
Perhaps she had forgotten his suggestion. His heart beat painfully.
He crept up the stairs as softly as he could, and he stopped with a start when
they creaked.
He stood outside Miss Wilkinson's room and listened; he put his hand on the knob of
the door-handle. He waited.
It seemed to him that he waited for at least five minutes, trying to make up his
mind; and his hand trembled.
He would willingly have bolted, but he was afraid of the remorse which he knew would
seize him.
It was like getting on the highest diving- board in a swimming-bath; it looked nothing
from below, but when you got up there and stared down at the water your heart sank;
and the only thing that forced you to dive
was the shame of coming down meekly by the steps you had climbed up.
Philip screwed up his courage. He turned the handle softly and walked in.
He seemed to himself to be trembling like a leaf.
Miss Wilkinson was standing at the dressing-table with her back to the door,
and she turned round quickly when she heard it open.
"Oh, it's you.
What d'you want?" She had taken off her skirt and blouse, and
was standing in her petticoat.
It was short and only came down to the top of her boots; the upper part of it was
black, of some shiny material, and there was a red flounce.
She wore a camisole of white calico with short arms.
She looked grotesque.
Philip's heart sank as he stared at her; she had never seemed so unattractive; but
it was too late now. He closed the door behind him and locked
it.
CHAPTER XXXV
Philip woke early next morning.
His sleep had been restless; but when he stretched his legs and looked at the
sunshine that slid through the Venetian blinds, making patterns on the floor, he
sighed with satisfaction.
He was delighted with himself. He began to think of Miss Wilkinson.
She had asked him to call her Emily, but, he knew not why, he could not; he always
thought of her as Miss Wilkinson.
Since she chid him for so addressing her, he avoided using her name at all.
During his childhood he had often heard a sister of Aunt Louisa, the widow of a naval
officer, spoken of as Aunt Emily.
It made him uncomfortable to call Miss Wilkinson by that name, nor could he think
of any that would have suited her better.
She had begun as Miss Wilkinson, and it seemed inseparable from his impression of
her.
He frowned a little: somehow or other he saw her now at her worst; he could not
forget his dismay when she turned round and he saw her in her camisole and the short
petticoat; he remembered the slight
roughness of her skin and the sharp, long lines on the side of the neck.
His triumph was short-lived. He reckoned out her age again, and he did
not see how she could be less than forty.
It made the affair ridiculous. She was plain and old.
His quick fancy showed her to him, wrinkled, haggard, made-up, in those frocks
which were too showy for her position and too young for her years.
He shuddered; he felt suddenly that he never wanted to see her again; he could not
bear the thought of kissing her. He was horrified with himself.
Was that love?
He took as long as he could over dressing in order to put back the moment of seeing
her, and when at last he went into the dining-room it was with a sinking heart.
Prayers were over, and they were sitting down at breakfast.
"Lazybones," Miss Wilkinson cried gaily. He looked at her and gave a little gasp of
relief.
She was sitting with her back to the window.
She was really quite nice. He wondered why he had thought such things
about her.
His self-satisfaction returned to him. He was taken aback by the change in her.
She told him in a voice thrilling with emotion immediately after breakfast that
she loved him; and when a little later they went into the drawing-room for his singing
lesson and she sat down on the music-stool
she put up her face in the middle of a scale and said:
"Embrasse-moi." When he bent down she flung her arms round
his neck.
It was slightly uncomfortable, for she held him in such a position that he felt rather
choked. "Ah, je t'aime.
Je t'aime.
Je t'aime," she cried, with her extravagantly French accent.
Philip wished she would speak English.
"I say, I don't know if it's struck you that the gardener's quite likely to pass
the window any minute." "Ah, je m'en fiche du jardinier.
Je m'en refiche, et je m'en contrefiche."
Philip thought it was very like a French novel, and he did not know why it slightly
irritated him. At last he said:
"Well, I think I'll tootle along to the beach and have a dip."
"Oh, you're not going to leave me this morning--of all mornings?"
Philip did not quite know why he should not, but it did not matter.
"Would you like me to stay?" he smiled. "Oh, you darling!
But no, go. Go.
I want to think of you mastering the salt sea waves, bathing your limbs in the broad
ocean." He got his hat and sauntered off.
"What rot women talk!" he thought to himself.
But he was pleased and happy and flattered. She was evidently frightfully gone on him.
As he limped along the high street of Blackstable he looked with a tinge of
superciliousness at the people he passed.
He knew a good many to nod to, and as he gave them a smile of recognition he thought
to himself, if they only knew! He did want someone to know very badly.
He thought he would write to Hayward, and in his mind composed the letter.
He would talk of the garden and the roses, and the little French governess, like an
exotic flower amongst them, scented and perverse: he would say she was French,
because--well, she had lived in France so
long that she almost was, and besides it would be shabby to give the whole thing
away too exactly, don't you know; and he would tell Hayward how he had seen her
first in her pretty muslin dress and of the flower she had given him.
He made a delicate idyl of it: the sunshine and the sea gave it passion and magic, and
the stars added poetry, and the old vicarage garden was a fit and exquisite
setting.
There was something Meredithian about it: it was not quite Lucy Feverel and not quite
Clara Middleton; but it was inexpressibly charming.
Philip's heart beat quickly.
He was so delighted with his fancies that he began thinking of them again as soon as
he crawled back, dripping and cold, into his bathing-machine.
He thought of the object of his affections.
She had the most adorable little nose and large brown eyes--he would describe her to
Hayward--and masses of soft brown hair, the sort of hair it was delicious to bury your
face in, and a skin which was like ivory
and sunshine, and her cheek was like a red, red rose.
How old was she? Eighteen perhaps, and he called her
Musette.
Her laughter was like a rippling brook, and her voice was so soft, so low, it was the
sweetest music he had ever heard. "What ARE you thinking about?"
Philip stopped suddenly.
He was walking slowly home. "I've been waving at you for the last
quarter of a mile. You ARE absent-minded."
Miss Wilkinson was standing in front of him, laughing at his surprise.
"I thought I'd come and meet you." "That's awfully nice of you," he said.
"Did I startle you?"
"You did a bit," he admitted. He wrote his letter to Hayward all the
same. There were eight pages of it.
The fortnight that remained passed quickly, and though each evening, when they went
into the garden after supper, Miss Wilkinson remarked that one day more had
gone, Philip was in too cheerful spirits to let the thought depress him.
One night Miss Wilkinson suggested that it would be delightful if she could exchange
her situation in Berlin for one in London.
Then they could see one another constantly.
Philip said it would be very jolly, but the prospect aroused no enthusiasm in him; he
was looking forward to a wonderful life in London, and he preferred not to be
hampered.
He spoke a little too freely of all he meant to do, and allowed Miss Wilkinson to
see that already he was longing to be off. "You wouldn't talk like that if you loved
me," she cried.
He was taken aback and remained silent. "What a fool I've been," she muttered.
To his surprise he saw that she was crying. He had a tender heart, and hated to see
anyone miserable.
"Oh, I'm awfully sorry. What have I done?
Don't cry." "Oh, Philip, don't leave me.
You don't know what you mean to me.
I have such a wretched life, and you've made me so happy."
He kissed her silently. There really was anguish in her tone, and
he was frightened.
It had never occurred to him that she meant what she said quite, quite seriously.
"I'm awfully sorry. You know I'm frightfully fond of you.
I wish you would come to London."
"You know I can't. Places are almost impossible to get, and I
hate English life."
Almost unconscious that he was acting a part, moved by her distress, he pressed her
more and more. Her tears vaguely flattered him, and he
kissed her with real passion.
But a day or two later she made a real scene.
There was a tennis-party at the vicarage, and two girls came, daughters of a retired
major in an Indian regiment who had lately settled in Blackstable.
They were very pretty, one was Philip's age and the other was a year or two younger.
Being used to the society of young men (they were full of stories of hill-stations
in India, and at that time the stories of Rudyard Kipling were in every hand) they
began to chaff Philip gaily; and he,
pleased with the novelty--the young ladies at Blackstable treated the Vicar's nephew
with a certain seriousness--was gay and jolly.
Some devil within him prompted him to start a violent flirtation with them both, and as
he was the only young man there, they were quite willing to meet him half-way.
It happened that they played tennis quite well and Philip was tired of pat-ball with
Miss Wilkinson (she had only begun to play when she came to Blackstable), so when he
arranged the sets after tea he suggested
that Miss Wilkinson should play against the curate's wife, with the curate as her
partner; and he would play later with the new-comers.
He sat down by the elder Miss O'Connor and said to her in an undertone:
"We'll get the duffers out of the way first, and then we'll have a jolly set
afterwards."
Apparently Miss Wilkinson overheard him, for she threw down her racket, and, saying
she had a headache, went away. It was plain to everyone that she was
offended.
Philip was annoyed that she should make the fact public.
The set was arranged without her, but presently Mrs. Carey called him.
"Philip, you've hurt Emily's feelings.
She's gone to her room and she's crying." "What about?"
"Oh, something about a duffer's set. Do go to her, and say you didn't mean to be
unkind, there's a good boy."
"All right." He knocked at Miss Wilkinson's door, but
receiving no answer went in. He found her lying face downwards on her
bed, weeping.
He touched her on the shoulder. "I say, what on earth's the matter?"
"Leave me alone. I never want to speak to you again."
"What have I done?
I'm awfully sorry if I've hurt your feelings.
I didn't mean to. I say, do get up."
"Oh, I'm so unhappy.
How could you be cruel to me? You know I hate that stupid game.
I only play because I want to play with you."
She got up and walked towards the dressing- table, but after a quick look in the glass
sank into a chair. She made her handkerchief into a ball and
dabbed her eyes with it.
"I've given you the greatest thing a woman can give a man--oh, what a fool I was--and
you have no gratitude. You must be quite heartless.
How could you be so cruel as to torment me by flirting with those vulgar girls.
We've only got just over a week. Can't you even give me that?"
Philip stood over her rather sulkily.
He thought her behaviour childish. He was vexed with her for having shown her
ill-temper before strangers. "But you know I don't care twopence about
either of the O'Connors.
Why on earth should you think I do?" Miss Wilkinson put away her handkerchief.
Her tears had made marks on her powdered face, and her hair was somewhat
disarranged.
Her white dress did not suit her very well just then.
She looked at Philip with hungry, passionate eyes.
"Because you're twenty and so's she," she said hoarsely.
"And I'm old." Philip reddened and looked away.
The anguish of her tone made him feel strangely uneasy.
He wished with all his heart that he had never had anything to do with Miss
Wilkinson.
"I don't want to make you unhappy," he said awkwardly.
"You'd better go down and look after your friends.
They'll wonder what has become of you."
"All right." He was glad to leave her.
The quarrel was quickly followed by a reconciliation, but the few days that
remained were sometimes irksome to Philip.
He wanted to talk of nothing but the future, and the future invariably reduced
Miss Wilkinson to tears.
At first her weeping affected him, and feeling himself a beast he redoubled his
protestations of undying passion; but now it irritated him: it would have been all
very well if she had been a girl, but it
was silly of a grown-up woman to cry so much.
She never ceased reminding him that he was under a debt of gratitude to her which he
could never repay.
He was willing to acknowledge this since she made a point of it, but he did not
really know why he should be any more grateful to her than she to him.
He was expected to show his sense of obligation in ways which were rather a
nuisance: he had been a good deal used to solitude, and it was a necessity to him
sometimes; but Miss Wilkinson looked upon
it as an unkindness if he was not always at her beck and call.
The Miss O'Connors asked them both to tea, and Philip would have liked to go, but Miss
Wilkinson said she only had five days more and wanted him entirely to herself.
It was flattering, but a bore.
Miss Wilkinson told him stories of the exquisite delicacy of Frenchmen when they
stood in the same relation to fair ladies as he to Miss Wilkinson.
She praised their courtesy, their passion for self-sacrifice, their perfect tact.
Miss Wilkinson seemed to want a great deal.
Philip listened to her enumeration of the qualities which must be possessed by the
perfect lover, and he could not help feeling a certain satisfaction that she
lived in Berlin.
"You will write to me, won't you? Write to me every day.
I want to know everything you're doing. You must keep nothing from me."
"I shall be awfully, busy" he answered.
"I'll write as often as I can." She flung her arms passionately round his
neck. He was embarrassed sometimes by the
demonstrations of her affection.
He would have preferred her to be more passive.
It shocked him a little that she should give him so marked a lead: it did not tally
altogether with his prepossessions about the modesty of the feminine temperament.
At length the day came on which Miss Wilkinson was to go, and she came down to
breakfast, pale and subdued, in a serviceable travelling dress of black and
white check.
She looked a very competent governess.
Philip was silent too, for he did not quite know what to say that would fit the
circumstance; and he was terribly afraid that, if he said something flippant, Miss
Wilkinson would break down before his uncle and make a scene.
They had said their last good-bye to one another in the garden the night before, and
Philip was relieved that there was now no opportunity for them to be alone.
He remained in the dining-room after breakfast in case Miss Wilkinson should
insist on kissing him on the stairs.
He did not want Mary Ann, now a woman hard upon middle age with a sharp tongue, to
catch them in a compromising position. Mary Ann did not like Miss Wilkinson and
called her an old cat.
Aunt Louisa was not very well and could not come to the station, but the Vicar and
Philip saw her off. Just as the train was leaving she leaned
out and kissed Mr. Carey.
"I must kiss you too, Philip," she said. "All right," he said, blushing.
He stood up on the step and she kissed him quickly.
The train started, and Miss Wilkinson sank into the corner of her carriage and wept
disconsolately. Philip, as he walked back to the vicarage,
felt a distinct sensation of relief.
"Well, did you see her safely off?" asked Aunt Louisa, when they got in.
"Yes, she seemed rather weepy. She insisted on kissing me and Philip."
"Oh, well, at her age it's not dangerous."
Mrs. Carey pointed to the sideboard. "There's a letter for you, Philip.
It came by the second post." It was from Hayward and ran as follows:
My dear boy, I answer your letter at once.
I ventured to read it to a great friend of mine, a charming woman whose help and
sympathy have been very precious to me, a woman withal with a real feeling for art
and literature; and we agreed that it was charming.
You wrote from your heart and you do not know the delightful naivete which is in
every line.
And because you love you write like a poet. Ah, dear boy, that is the real thing: I
felt the glow of your young passion, and your prose was musical from the sincerity
of your emotion.
You must be happy! I wish I could have been present unseen in
that enchanted garden while you wandered hand in hand, like Daphnis and Chloe, amid
the flowers.
I can see you, my Daphnis, with the light of young love in your eyes, tender,
enraptured, and ardent; while Chloe in your arms, so young and soft and fresh, vowing
she would ne'er consent--consented.
Roses and violets and honeysuckle! Oh, my friend, I envy you.
It is so good to think that your first love should have been pure poetry.
Treasure the moments, for the immortal gods have given you the Greatest Gift of All,
and it will be a sweet, sad memory till your dying day.
You will never again enjoy that careless rapture.
First love is best love; and she is beautiful and you are young, and all the
world is yours.
I felt my pulse go faster when with your adorable simplicity you told me that you
buried your face in her long hair.
I am sure that it is that exquisite chestnut which seems just touched with
gold.
I would have you sit under a leafy tree side by side, and read together Romeo and
Juliet; and then I would have you fall on your knees and on my behalf kiss the ground
on which her foot has left its imprint;
then tell her it is the homage of a poet to her radiant youth and to your love for her.
Yours always, G. Etheridge Hayward.
"What damned rot!" said Philip, when he finished the letter.
Miss Wilkinson oddly enough had suggested that they should read Romeo and Juliet
together; but Philip had firmly declined.
Then, as he put the letter in his pocket, he felt a queer little pang of bitterness
because reality seemed so different from the ideal.
>
CHAPTER XXXVI
A few days later Philip went to London. The curate had recommended rooms in Barnes,
and these Philip engaged by letter at fourteen shillings a week.
He reached them in the evening; and the landlady, a funny little old woman with a
shrivelled body and a deeply wrinkled face, had prepared high tea for him.
Most of the sitting-room was taken up by the sideboard and a square table; against
one wall was a sofa covered with horsehair, and by the fireplace an arm-chair to match:
there was a white antimacassar over the
back of it, and on the seat, because the springs were broken, a hard cushion.
After having his tea he unpacked and arranged his books, then he sat down and
tried to read; but he was depressed.
The silence in the street made him slightly uncomfortable, and he felt very much alone.
Next day he got up early.
He put on his tail-coat and the tall hat which he had worn at school; but it was
very shabby, and he made up his mind to stop at the Stores on his way to the office
and buy a new one.
When he had done this he found himself in plenty of time and so walked along the
Strand. The office of Messrs.
Herbert Carter & Co. was in a little street off Chancery Lane, and he had to ask his
way two or three times.
He felt that people were staring at him a great deal, and once he took off his hat to
see whether by chance the label had been left on.
When he arrived he knocked at the door; but no one answered, and looking at his watch
he found it was barely half past nine; he supposed he was too early.
He went away and ten minutes later returned to find an office-boy, with a long nose,
pimply face, and a Scotch accent, opening the door.
Philip asked for Mr. Herbert Carter.
He had not come yet. "When will he be here?"
"Between ten and half past." "I'd better wait," said Philip.
"What are you wanting?" asked the office- boy.
Philip was nervous, but tried to hide the fact by a jocose manner.
"Well, I'm going to work here if you have no objection."
"Oh, you're the new articled clerk? You'd better come in.
Mr. Goodworthy'll be here in a while."
Philip walked in, and as he did so saw the office-boy--he was about the same age as
Philip and called himself a junior clerk-- look at his foot.
He flushed and, sitting down, hid it behind the other.
He looked round the room. It was dark and very dingy.
It was lit by a skylight.
There were three rows of desks in it and against them high stools.
Over the chimney-piece was a dirty engraving of a prize-fight.
Presently a clerk came in and then another; they glanced at Philip and in an undertone
asked the office-boy (Philip found his name was Macdougal) who he was.
A whistle blew, and Macdougal got up.
"Mr. Goodworthy's come. He's the managing clerk.
Shall I tell him you're here?" "Yes, please," said Philip.
The office-boy went out and in a moment returned.
"Will you come this way?"
Philip followed him across the passage and was shown into a room, small and barely
furnished, in which a little, thin man was standing with his back to the fireplace.
He was much below the middle height, but his large head, which seemed to hang
loosely on his body, gave him an odd ungainliness.
His features were wide and flattened, and he had prominent, pale eyes; his thin hair
was sandy; he wore whiskers that grew unevenly on his face, and in places where
you would have expected the hair to grow thickly there was no hair at all.
His skin was pasty and yellow. He held out his hand to Philip, and when he
smiled showed badly decayed teeth.
He spoke with a patronising and at the same time a timid air, as though he sought to
assume an importance which he did not feel.
He said he hoped Philip would like the work; there was a good deal of drudgery
about it, but when you got used to it, it was interesting; and one made money, that
was the chief thing, wasn't it?
He laughed with his odd mixture of superiority and shyness.
"Mr. Carter will be here presently," he said.
"He's a little late on Monday mornings sometimes.
I'll call you when he comes. In the meantime I must give you something
to do.
Do you know anything about book-keeping or accounts?"
"I'm afraid not," answered Philip. "I didn't suppose you would.
They don't teach you things at school that are much use in business, I'm afraid."
He considered for a moment. "I think I can find you something to do."
He went into the next room and after a little while came out with a large
cardboard box.
It contained a vast number of letters in great disorder, and he told Philip to sort
them out and arrange them alphabetically according to the names of the writers.
"I'll take you to the room in which the articled clerk generally sits.
There's a very nice fellow in it. His name is Watson.
He's a son of Watson, Crag, and Thompson-- you know--the brewers.
He's spending a year with us to learn business."
Mr. Goodworthy led Philip through the dingy office, where now six or eight clerks were
working, into a narrow room behind.
It had been made into a separate apartment by a glass partition, and here they found
Watson sitting back in a chair, reading The Sportsman.
He was a large, stout young man, elegantly dressed, and he looked up as Mr. Goodworthy
entered. He asserted his position by calling the
managing clerk Goodworthy.
The managing clerk objected to the familiarity, and pointedly called him Mr.
Watson, but Watson, instead of seeing that it was a rebuke, accepted the title as a
tribute to his gentlemanliness.
"I see they've scratched Rigoletto," he said to Philip, as soon as they were left
alone. "Have they?" said Philip, who knew nothing
about horse-racing.
He looked with awe upon Watson's beautiful clothes.
His tail-coat fitted him perfectly, and there was a valuable pin artfully stuck in
the middle of an enormous tie.
On the chimney-piece rested his tall hat; it was saucy and bell-shaped and shiny.
Philip felt himself very shabby.
Watson began to talk of hunting--it was such an infernal bore having to waste one's
time in an infernal office, he would only be able to hunt on Saturdays--and shooting:
he had ripping invitations all over the
country and of course he had to refuse them.
It was infernal luck, but he wasn't going to put up with it long; he was only in this
internal hole for a year, and then he was going into the business, and he would hunt
four days a week and get all the shooting there was.
"You've got five years of it, haven't you?" he said, waving his arm round the tiny
room.
"I suppose so," said Philip. "I daresay I shall see something of you.
Carter does our accounts, you know." Philip was somewhat overpowered by the
young gentleman's condescension.
At Blackstable they had always looked upon brewing with civil contempt, the Vicar made
little jokes about the beerage, and it was a surprising experience for Philip to
discover that Watson was such an important and magnificent fellow.
He had been to Winchester and to Oxford, and his conversation impressed the fact
upon one with frequency.
When he discovered the details of Philip's education his manner became more
patronising still.
"Of course, if one doesn't go to a public school those sort of schools are the next
best thing, aren't they?" Philip asked about the other men in the
office.
"Oh, I don't bother about them much, you know," said Watson.
"Carter's not a bad sort. We have him to dine now and then.
All the rest are awful bounders."
Presently Watson applied himself to some work he had in hand, and Philip set about
sorting his letters. Then Mr. Goodworthy came in to say that Mr.
Carter had arrived.
He took Philip into a large room next door to his own.
There was a big desk in it, and a couple of big arm-chairs; a Turkey carpet adorned the
floor, and the walls were decorated with sporting prints.
Mr. Carter was sitting at the desk and got up to shake hands with Philip.
He was dressed in a long frock coat.
He looked like a military man; his moustache was waxed, his gray hair was
short and neat, he held himself upright, he talked in a breezy way, he lived at
Enfield.
He was very keen on games and the good of the country.
He was an officer in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry and chairman of the Conservative
Association.
When he was told that a local magnate had said no one would take him for a City man,
he felt that he had not lived in vain. He talked to Philip in a pleasant, off-hand
fashion.
Mr. Goodworthy would look after him. Watson was a nice fellow, perfect
gentleman, good sportsman--did Philip hunt? Pity, THE sport for gentlemen.
Didn't have much chance of hunting now, had to leave that to his son.
His son was at Cambridge, he'd sent him to Rugby, fine school Rugby, nice class of
boys there, in a couple of years his son would be articled, that would be nice for
Philip, he'd like his son, thorough sportsman.
He hoped Philip would get on well and like the work, he mustn't miss his lectures,
they were getting up the tone of the profession, they wanted gentlemen in it.
Well, well, Mr. Goodworthy was there.
If he wanted to know anything Mr. Goodworthy would tell him.
What was his handwriting like? Ah well, Mr. Goodworthy would see about
that.
Philip was overwhelmed by so much gentlemanliness: in East Anglia they knew
who were gentlemen and who weren't, but the gentlemen didn't talk about it.
CHAPTER XXXVII
At first the novelty of the work kept Philip interested.
Mr. Carter dictated letters to him, and he had to make fair copies of statements of
accounts.
Mr. Carter preferred to conduct the office on gentlemanly lines; he would have nothing
to do with typewriting and looked upon shorthand with disfavour: the office-boy
knew shorthand, but it was only Mr.
Goodworthy who made use of his accomplishment.
Now and then Philip with one of the more experienced clerks went out to audit the
accounts of some firm: he came to know which of the clients must be treated with
respect and which were in low water.
Now and then long lists of figures were given him to add up.
He attended lectures for his first examination.
Mr. Goodworthy repeated to him that the work was dull at first, but he would grow
used to it. Philip left the office at six and walked
across the river to Waterloo.
His supper was waiting for him when he reached his lodgings and he spent the
evening reading. On Saturday afternoons he went to the
National Gallery.
Hayward had recommended to him a guide which had been compiled out of Ruskin's
works, and with this in hand he went industriously through room after room: he
read carefully what the critic had said
about a picture and then in a determined fashion set himself to see the same things
in it. His Sundays were difficult to get through.
He knew no one in London and spent them by himself.
Mr. Nixon, the solicitor, asked him to spend a Sunday at Hampstead, and Philip
passed a happy day with a set of exuberant strangers; he ate and drank a great deal,
took a walk on the heath, and came away
with a general invitation to come again whenever he liked; but he was morbidly
afraid of being in the way, so waited for a formal invitation.
Naturally enough it never came, for with numbers of friends of their own the Nixons
did not think of the lonely, silent boy whose claim upon their hospitality was so
small.
So on Sundays he got up late and took a walk along the tow-path.
At Barnes the river is muddy, dingy, and tidal; it has neither the graceful charm of
the Thames above the locks nor the romance of the crowded stream below London Bridge.
In the afternoon he walked about the common; and that is gray and dingy too; it
is neither country nor town; the gorse is stunted; and all about is the litter of
civilisation.
He went to a play every Saturday night and stood cheerfully for an hour or more at the
gallery-door.
It was not worth while to go back to Barnes for the interval between the closing of the
Museum and his meal in an A. B. C. shop, and the time hung heavily on his hands.
He strolled up Bond Street or through the Burlington Arcade, and when he was tired
went and sat down in the Park or in wet weather in the public library in St.
Martin's Lane.
He looked at the people walking about and envied them because they had friends;
sometimes his envy turned to hatred because they were happy and he was miserable.
He had never imagined that it was possible to be so lonely in a great city.
Sometimes when he was standing at the gallery-door the man next to him would
attempt a conversation; but Philip had the country boy's suspicion of strangers and
answered in such a way as to prevent any further acquaintance.
After the play was over, obliged to keep to himself all he thought about it, he hurried
across the bridge to Waterloo.
When he got back to his rooms, in which for economy no fire had been lit, his heart
sank. It was horribly cheerless.
He began to loathe his lodgings and the long solitary evenings he spent in them.
Sometimes he felt so lonely that he could not read, and then he sat looking into the
fire hour after hour in bitter wretchedness.
He had spent three months in London now, and except for that one Sunday at Hampstead
had never talked to anyone but his fellow- clerks.
One evening Watson asked him to dinner at a restaurant and they went to a music-hall
together; but he felt shy and uncomfortable.
Watson talked all the time of things he did not care about, and while he looked upon
Watson as a Philistine he could not help admiring him.
He was angry because Watson obviously set no store on his culture, and with his way
of taking himself at the estimate at which he saw others held him he began to despise
the acquirements which till then had seemed to him not unimportant.
He felt for the first time the humiliation of poverty.
His uncle sent him fourteen pounds a month and he had had to buy a good many clothes.
His evening suit cost him five guineas. He had not dared tell Watson that it was
bought in the Strand.
Watson said there was only one tailor in London.
"I suppose you don't dance," said Watson, one day, with a glance at Philip's club-
foot.
"No," said Philip. "Pity.
I've been asked to bring some dancing men to a ball.
I could have introduced you to some jolly girls."
Once or twice, hating the thought of going back to Barnes, Philip had remained in
town, and late in the evening wandered through the West End till he found some
house at which there was a party.
He stood among the little group of shabby people, behind the footmen, watching the
guests arrive, and he listened to the music that floated through the window.
Sometimes, notwithstanding the cold, a couple came on to the balcony and stood for
a moment to get some fresh air; and Philip, imagining that they were in love with one
another, turned away and limped along the street with a heavy hurt.
He would never be able to stand in that man's place.
He felt that no woman could ever really look upon him without distaste for his
deformity. That reminded him of Miss Wilkinson.
He thought of her without satisfaction.
Before parting they had made an arrangement that she should write to Charing Cross Post
Office till he was able to send her an address, and when he went there he found
three letters from her.
She wrote on blue paper with violet ink, and she wrote in French.
Philip wondered why she could not write in English like a sensible woman, and her
passionate expressions, because they reminded him of a French novel, left him
cold.
She upbraided him for not having written, and when he answered he excused himself by
saying that he had been busy. He did not quite know how to start the
letter.
He could not bring himself to use dearest or darling, and he hated to address her as
Emily, so finally he began with the word dear.
It looked odd, standing by itself, and rather silly, but he made it do.
It was the first love letter he had ever written, and he was conscious of its
tameness; he felt that he should say all sorts of vehement things, how he thought of
her every minute of the day and how he
longed to kiss her beautiful hands and how he trembled at the thought of her red lips,
but some inexplicable modesty prevented him; and instead he told her of his new
rooms and his office.
The answer came by return of post, angry, heart-broken, reproachful: how could he be
so cold? Did he not know that she hung on his
letters?
She had given him all that a woman could give, and this was her reward.
Was he tired of her already?
Then, because he did not reply for several days, Miss Wilkinson bombarded him with
letters.
She could not bear his unkindness, she waited for the post, and it never brought
her his letter, she cried herself to sleep night after night, she was looking so ill
that everyone remarked on it: if he did not love her why did he not say so?
She added that she could not live without him, and the only thing was for her to
commit suicide.
She told him he was cold and selfish and ungrateful.
It was all in French, and Philip knew that she wrote in that language to show off, but
he was worried all the same.
He did not want to make her unhappy. In a little while she wrote that she could
not bear the separation any longer, she would arrange to come over to London for
Christmas.
Philip wrote back that he would like nothing better, only he had already an
engagement to spend Christmas with friends in the country, and he did not see how he
could break it.
She answered that she did not wish to force herself on him, it was quite evident that
he did not wish to see her; she was deeply hurt, and she never thought he would repay
with such cruelty all her kindness.
Her letter was touching, and Philip thought he saw marks of her tears on the paper; he
wrote an impulsive reply saying that he was dreadfully sorry and imploring her to come;
but it was with relief that he received her
answer in which she said that she found it would be impossible for her to get away.
Presently when her letters came his heart sank: he delayed opening them, for he knew
what they would contain, angry reproaches and pathetic appeals; they would make him
feel a perfect beast, and yet he did not see with what he had to blame himself.
He put off his answer from day to day, and then another letter would come, saying she
was ill and lonely and miserable.
"I wish to God I'd never had anything to do with her," he said.
He admired Watson because he arranged these things so easily.
The young man had been engaged in an intrigue with a girl who played in touring
companies, and his account of the affair filled Philip with envious amazement.
But after a time Watson's young affections changed, and one day he described the
rupture to Philip.
"I thought it was no good making any bones about it so I just told her I'd had enough
of her," he said. "Didn't she make an awful scene?" asked
Philip.
"The usual thing, you know, but I told her it was no good trying on that sort of thing
with me." "Did she cry?"
"She began to, but I can't stand women when they cry, so I said she'd better hook it."
Philip's sense of humour was growing keener with advancing years.
"And did she hook it?" he asked smiling.
"Well, there wasn't anything else for her to do, was there?"
Meanwhile the Christmas holidays approached.
Mrs. Carey had been ill all through November, and the doctor suggested that she
and the Vicar should go to Cornwall for a couple of weeks round Christmas so that she
should get back her strength.
The result was that Philip had nowhere to go, and he spent Christmas Day in his
lodgings.
Under Hayward's influence he had persuaded himself that the festivities that attend
this season were vulgar and barbaric, and he made up his mind that he would take no
notice of the day; but when it came, the
jollity of all around affected him strangely.
His landlady and her husband were spending the day with a married daughter, and to
save trouble Philip announced that he would take his meals out.
He went up to London towards mid-day and ate a slice of turkey and some Christmas
pudding by himself at Gatti's, and since he had nothing to do afterwards went to
Westminster Abbey for the afternoon service.
The streets were almost empty, and the people who went along had a preoccupied
look; they did not saunter but walked with some definite goal in view, and hardly
anyone was alone.
To Philip they all seemed happy. He felt himself more solitary than he had
ever done in his life.
His intention had been to kill the day somehow in the streets and then dine at a
restaurant, but he could not face again the sight of cheerful people, talking,
laughing, and making merry; so he went back
to Waterloo, and on his way through the Westminster Bridge Road bought some ham and
a couple of mince pies and went back to Barnes.
He ate his food in his lonely little room and spent the evening with a book.
His depression was almost intolerable.
When he was back at the office it made him very sore to listen to Watson's account of
the short holiday.
They had had some jolly girls staying with them, and after dinner they had cleared out
the drawing-room and had a dance. "I didn't get to bed till three and I don't
know how I got there then.
By George, I was squiffy." At last Philip asked desperately:
"How does one get to know people in London?"
Watson looked at him with surprise and with a slightly contemptuous amusement.
"Oh, I don't know, one just knows them. If you go to dances you soon get to know as
many people as you can do with."
Philip hated Watson, and yet he would have given anything to change places with him.
The old feeling that he had had at school came back to him, and he tried to throw
himself into the other's skin, imagining what life would be if he were Watson.
CHAPTER XXXVIII
At the end of the year there was a great deal to do.
Philip went to various places with a clerk named Thompson and spent the day
monotonously calling out items of expenditure, which the other checked; and
sometimes he was given long pages of figures to add up.
He had never had a head for figures, and he could only do this slowly.
Thompson grew irritated at his mistakes.
His fellow-clerk was a long, lean man of forty, sallow, with black hair and a ragged
moustache; he had hollow cheeks and deep lines on each side of his nose.
He took a dislike to Philip because he was an articled clerk.
Because he could put down three hundred guineas and keep himself for five years
Philip had the chance of a career; while he, with his experience and ability, had no
possibility of ever being more than a clerk at thirty-five shillings a week.
He was a cross-grained man, oppressed by a large family, and he resented the
superciliousness which he fancied he saw in Philip.
He sneered at Philip because he was better educated than himself, and he mocked at
Philip's pronunciation; he could not forgive him because he spoke without a
cockney accent, and when he talked to him sarcastically exaggerated his aitches.
At first his manner was merely gruff and repellent, but as he discovered that Philip
had no gift for accountancy he took pleasure in humiliating him; his attacks
were gross and silly, but they wounded
Philip, and in self-defence he assumed an attitude of superiority which he did not
feel. "Had a bath this morning?"
Thompson said when Philip came to the office late, for his early punctuality had
not lasted. "Yes, haven't you?"
"No, I'm not a gentleman, I'm only a clerk.
I have a bath on Saturday night." "I suppose that's why you're more than
usually disagreeable on Monday." "Will you condescend to do a few sums in
simple addition today?
I'm afraid it's asking a great deal from a gentleman who knows Latin and Greek."
"Your attempts at sarcasm are not very happy."
But Philip could not conceal from himself that the other clerks, ill-paid and
uncouth, were more useful than himself. Once or twice Mr. Goodworthy grew impatient
with him.
"You really ought to be able to do better than this by now," he said.
"You're not even as smart as the office- boy."
Philip listened sulkily.
He did not like being blamed, and it humiliated him, when, having been given
accounts to make fair copies of, Mr. Goodworthy was not satisfied and gave them
to another clerk to do.
At first the work had been tolerable from its novelty, but now it grew irksome; and
when he discovered that he had no aptitude for it, he began to hate it.
Often, when he should have been doing something that was given him, he wasted his
time drawing little pictures on the office note-paper.
He made sketches of Watson in every conceivable attitude, and Watson was
impressed by his talent.
It occurred to him to take the drawings home, and he came back next day with the
praises of his family. "I wonder you didn't become a painter," he
said.
"Only of course there's no money in it." It chanced that Mr. Carter two or three
days later was dining with the Watsons, and the sketches were shown him.
The following morning he sent for Philip.
Philip saw him seldom and stood in some awe of him.
"Look here, young fellow, I don't care what you do out of office-hours, but I've seen
those sketches of yours and they're on office-paper, and Mr. Goodworthy tells me
you're slack.
You won't do any good as a chartered accountant unless you look alive.
It's a fine profession, and we're getting a very good class of men in it, but it's a
profession in which you have to..." he looked for the termination of his phrase,
but could not find exactly what he wanted,
so finished rather tamely, "in which you have to look alive."
Perhaps Philip would have settled down but for the agreement that if he did not like
the work he could leave after a year, and get back half the money paid for his
articles.
He felt that he was fit for something better than to add up accounts, and it was
humiliating that he did so ill something which seemed contemptible.
The vulgar scenes with Thompson got on his nerves.
In March Watson ended his year at the office and Philip, though he did not care
for him, saw him go with regret.
The fact that the other clerks disliked them equally, because they belonged to a
class a little higher than their own, was a bond of union.
When Philip thought that he must spend over four years more with that dreary set of
fellows his heart sank. He had expected wonderful things from
London and it had given him nothing.
He hated it now. He did not know a soul, and he had no idea
how he was to get to know anyone. He was tired of going everywhere by
himself.
He began to feel that he could not stand much more of such a life.
He would lie in bed at night and think of the joy of never seeing again that dingy
office or any of the men in it, and of getting away from those drab lodgings.
A great disappointment befell him in the spring.
Hayward had announced his intention of coming to London for the season, and Philip
had looked forward very much to seeing him again.
He had read so much lately and thought so much that his mind was full of ideas which
he wanted to discuss, and he knew nobody who was willing to interest himself in
abstract things.
He was quite excited at the thought of talking his fill with someone, and he was
wretched when Hayward wrote to say that the spring was lovelier than ever he had known
it in Italy, and he could not bear to tear himself away.
He went on to ask why Philip did not come.
What was the use of squandering the days of his youth in an office when the world was
beautiful? The letter proceeded.
I wonder you can bear it.
I think of Fleet Street and Lincoln's Inn now with a shudder of disgust.
There are only two things in the world that make life worth living, love and art.
I cannot imagine you sitting in an office over a ledger, and do you wear a tall hat
and an umbrella and a little black bag?
My feeling is that one should look upon life as an adventure, one should burn with
the hard, gem-like flame, and one should take risks, one should expose oneself to
danger.
Why do you not go to Paris and study art? I always thought you had talent.
The suggestion fell in with the possibility that Philip for some time had been vaguely
turning over in his mind.
It startled him at first, but he could not help thinking of it, and in the constant
rumination over it he found his only escape from the wretchedness of his present state.
They all thought he had talent; at Heidelberg they had admired his water
colours, Miss Wilkinson had told him over and over again that they were chasing; even
strangers like the Watsons had been struck by his sketches.
La Vie de Boheme had made a deep impression on him.
He had brought it to London and when he was most depressed he had only to read a few
pages to be transported into those chasing attics where Rodolphe and the rest of them
danced and loved and sang.
He began to think of Paris as before he had thought of London, but he had no fear of a
second disillusion; he yearned for romance and beauty and love, and Paris seemed to
offer them all.
He had a passion for pictures, and why should he not be able to paint as well as
anybody else?
He wrote to Miss Wilkinson and asked her how much she thought he could live on in
Paris.
She told him that he could manage easily on eighty pounds a year, and she
enthusiastically approved of his project. She told him he was too good to be wasted
in an office.
Who would be a clerk when he might be a great artist, she asked dramatically, and
she besought Philip to believe in himself: that was the great thing.
But Philip had a cautious nature.
It was all very well for Hayward to talk of taking risks, he had three hundred a year
in gilt-edged securities; Philip's entire fortune amounted to no more than eighteen-
hundred pounds.
He hesitated. Then it chanced that one day Mr. Goodworthy
asked him suddenly if he would like to go to Paris.
The firm did the accounts for a hotel in the Faubourg St. Honore, which was owned by
an English company, and twice a year Mr. Goodworthy and a clerk went over.
The clerk who generally went happened to be ill, and a press of work prevented any of
the others from getting away.
Mr. Goodworthy thought of Philip because he could best be spared, and his articles gave
him some claim upon a job which was one of the pleasures of the business.
Philip was delighted.
"You'll 'ave to work all day," said Mr. Goodworthy, "but we get our evenings to
ourselves, and Paris is Paris." He smiled in a knowing way.
"They do us very well at the hotel, and they give us all our meals, so it don't
cost one anything. That's the way I like going to Paris, at
other people's expense."
When they arrived at Calais and Philip saw the crowd of gesticulating porters his
heart leaped. "This is the real thing," he said to
himself.
He was all eyes as the train sped through the country; he adored the sand dunes,
their colour seemed to him more lovely than anything he had ever seen; and he was
enchanted with the canals and the long lines of poplars.
When they got out of the Gare du Nord, and trundled along the cobbled streets in a
ramshackle, noisy cab, it seemed to him that he was breathing a new air so
intoxicating that he could hardly restrain himself from shouting aloud.
They were met at the door of the hotel by the manager, a stout, pleasant man, who
spoke tolerable English; Mr. Goodworthy was an old friend and he greeted them
effusively; they dined in his private room
with his wife, and to Philip it seemed that he had never eaten anything so delicious as
the beefsteak aux pommes, nor drunk such nectar as the vin ordinaire, which were set
before them.
To Mr. Goodworthy, a respectable householder with excellent principles, the
capital of France was a paradise of the joyously obscene.
He asked the manager next morning what there was to be seen that was 'thick.'
He thoroughly enjoyed these visits of his to Paris; he said they kept you from
growing rusty.
In the evenings, after their work was over and they had dined, he took Philip to the
Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergeres.
His little eyes twinkled and his face wore a sly, sensual smile as he sought out the
pornographic.
He went into all the haunts which were specially arranged for the foreigner, and
afterwards said that a nation could come to no good which permitted that sort of thing.
He nudged Philip when at some revue a woman appeared with practically nothing on, and
pointed out to him the most strapping of the courtesans who walked about the hall.
It was a vulgar Paris that he showed Philip, but Philip saw it with eyes blinded
with illusion.
In the early morning he would rush out of the hotel and go to the Champs Elysees, and
stand at the Place de la Concorde. It was June, and Paris was silvery with the
delicacy of the air.
Philip felt his heart go out to the people. Here he thought at last was romance.
They spent the inside of a week there, leaving on Sunday, and when Philip late at
night reached his dingy rooms in Barnes his mind was made up; he would surrender his
articles, and go to Paris to study art; but
so that no one should think him unreasonable he determined to stay at the
office till his year was up.
He was to have his holiday during the last fortnight in August, and when he went away
he would tell Herbert Carter that he had no intention of returning.
But though Philip could force himself to go to the office every day he could not even
pretend to show any interest in the work. His mind was occupied with the future.
After the middle of July there was nothing much to do and he escaped a good deal by
pretending he had to go to lectures for his first examination.
The time he got in this way he spent in the National Gallery.
He read books about Paris and books about painting.
He was steeped in Ruskin.
He read many of Vasari's lives of the painters.
He liked that story of Correggio, and he fancied himself standing before some great
masterpiece and crying: Anch' io son' pittore.
His hesitation had left him now, and he was convinced that he had in him the makings of
a great painter. "After all, I can only try," he said to
himself.
"The great thing in life is to take risks." At last came the middle of August.
Mr. Carter was spending the month in Scotland, and the managing clerk was in
charge of the office.
Mr. Goodworthy had seemed pleasantly disposed to Philip since their trip to
Paris, and now that Philip knew he was so soon to be free, he could look upon the
funny little man with tolerance.
"You're going for your holiday tomorrow, Carey?" he said to him in the evening.
All day Philip had been telling himself that this was the last time he would ever
sit in that hateful office.
"Yes, this is the end of my year." "I'm afraid you've not done very well.
Mr. Carter's very dissatisfied with you." "Not nearly so dissatisfied as I am with
Mr. Carter," returned Philip cheerfully.
"I don't think you should speak like that, Carey."
"I'm not coming back.
I made the arrangement that if I didn't like accountancy Mr. Carter would return me
half the money I paid for my articles and I could chuck it at the end of a year."
"You shouldn't come to such a decision hastily."
"For ten months I've loathed it all, I've loathed the work, I've loathed the office,
I loathe Loudon.
I'd rather sweep a crossing than spend my days here."
"Well, I must say, I don't think you're very fitted for accountancy."
"Good-bye," said Philip, holding out his hand.
"I want to thank you for your kindness to me.
I'm sorry if I've been troublesome.
I knew almost from the beginning I was no good."
"Well, if you really do make up your mind it is good-bye.
I don't know what you're going to do, but if you're in the neighbourhood at any time
come in and see us." Philip gave a little laugh.
"I'm afraid it sounds very rude, but I hope from the bottom of my heart that I shall
never set eyes on any of you again."
CHAPTER XXXIX
The Vicar of Blackstable would have nothing to do with the scheme which Philip laid
before him. He had a great idea that one should stick
to whatever one had begun.
Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind.
"You chose to be an accountant of your own free will," he said.
"I just took that because it was the only chance I saw of getting up to town.
I hate London, I hate the work, and nothing will induce me to go back to it."
Mr. and Mrs. Carey were frankly shocked at Philip's idea of being an artist.
He should not forget, they said, that his father and mother were gentlefolk, and
painting wasn't a serious profession; it was Bohemian, disreputable, immoral.
And then Paris!
"So long as I have anything to say in the matter, I shall not allow you to live in
Paris," said the Vicar firmly. It was a sink of iniquity.
The scarlet woman and she of Babylon flaunted their vileness there; the cities
of the plain were not more wicked.
"You've been brought up like a gentleman and Christian, and I should be false to the
trust laid upon me by your dead father and mother if I allowed you to expose yourself
to such temptation."
"Well, I know I'm not a Christian and I'm beginning to doubt whether I'm a
gentleman," said Philip. The dispute grew more violent.
There was another year before Philip took possession of his small inheritance, and
during that time Mr. Carey proposed only to give him an allowance if he remained at the
office.
It was clear to Philip that if he meant not to continue with accountancy he must leave
it while he could still get back half the money that had been paid for his articles.
The Vicar would not listen.
Philip, losing all reserve, said things to wound and irritate.
"You've got no right to waste my money," he said at last.
"After all it's my money, isn't it?
I'm not a child. You can't prevent me from going to Paris if
I make up my mind to. You can't force me to go back to London."
"All I can do is to refuse you money unless you do what I think fit."
"Well, I don't care, I've made up my mind to go to Paris.
I shall sell my clothes, and my books, and my father's jewellery."
Aunt Louisa sat by in silence, anxious and unhappy.
She saw that Philip was beside himself, and anything she said then would but increase
his anger.
Finally the Vicar announced that he wished to hear nothing more about it and with
dignity left the room. For the next three days neither Philip nor
he spoke to one another.
Philip wrote to Hayward for information about Paris, and made up his mind to set
out as soon as he got a reply.
Mrs. Carey turned the matter over in her mind incessantly; she felt that Philip
included her in the hatred he bore her husband, and the thought tortured her.
She loved him with all her heart.
At length she spoke to him; she listened attentively while he poured out all his
disillusionment of London and his eager ambition for the future.
"I may be no good, but at least let me have a try.
I can't be a worse failure than I was in that beastly office.
And I feel that I can paint.
I know I've got it in me." She was not so sure as her husband that
they did right in thwarting so strong an inclination.
She had read of great painters whose parents had opposed their wish to study,
the event had shown with what folly; and after all it was just as possible for a
painter to lead a virtuous life to the glory of God as for a chartered accountant.
"I'm so afraid of your going to Paris," she said piteously.
"It wouldn't be so bad if you studied in London."
"If I'm going in for painting I must do it thoroughly, and it's only in Paris that you
can get the real thing."
At his suggestion Mrs. Carey wrote to the solicitor, saying that Philip was
discontented with his work in London, and asking what he thought of a change.
Mr. Nixon answered as follows:
Dear Mrs. Carey, I have seen Mr. Herbert Carter, and I am
afraid I must tell you that Philip has not done so well as one could have wished.
If he is very strongly set against the work, perhaps it is better that he should
take the opportunity there is now to break his articles.
I am naturally very disappointed, but as you know you can take a horse to the water,
but you can't make him drink. Yours very sincerely, Albert Nixon.
The letter was shown to the Vicar, but served only to increase his obstinacy.
He was willing enough that Philip should take up some other profession, he suggested
his father's calling, medicine, but nothing would induce him to pay an allowance if
Philip went to Paris.
"It's a mere excuse for self-indulgence and sensuality," he said.
"I'm interested to hear you blame self- indulgence in others," retorted Philip
acidly.
But by this time an answer had come from Hayward, giving the name of a hotel where
Philip could get a room for thirty francs a month and enclosing a note of introduction
to the massiere of a school.
Philip read the letter to Mrs. Carey and told her he proposed to start on the first
of September. "But you haven't got any money?" she said.
"I'm going into Tercanbury this afternoon to sell the jewellery."
He had inherited from his father a gold watch and chain, two or three rings, some
links, and two pins.
One of them was a pearl and might fetch a considerable sum.
"It's a very different thing, what a thing's worth and what it'll fetch," said
Aunt Louisa.
Philip smiled, for this was one of his uncle's stock phrases.
"I know, but at the worst I think I can get a hundred pounds on the lot, and that'll
keep me till I'm twenty-one."
Mrs. Carey did not answer, but she went upstairs, put on her little black bonnet,
and went to the bank. In an hour she came back.
She went to Philip, who was reading in the drawing-room, and handed him an envelope.
"What's this?" he asked. "It's a little present for you," she
answered, smiling shyly.
He opened it and found eleven five-pound notes and a little paper sack bulging with
sovereigns. "I couldn't bear to let you sell your
father's jewellery.
It's the money I had in the bank. It comes to very nearly a hundred pounds."
Philip blushed, and, he knew not why, tears suddenly filled his eyes.
"Oh, my dear, I can't take it," he said.
"It's most awfully good of you, but I couldn't bear to take it."
When Mrs. Carey was married she had three hundred pounds, and this money, carefully
watched, had been used by her to meet any unforeseen expense, any urgent charity, or
to buy Christmas and birthday presents for her husband and for Philip.
In the course of years it had diminished sadly, but it was still with the Vicar a
subject for jesting.
He talked of his wife as a rich woman and he constantly spoke of the 'nest egg.'
"Oh, please take it, Philip. I'm so sorry I've been extravagant, and
there's only that left.
But it'll make me so happy if you'll accept it."
"But you'll want it," said Philip. "No, I don't think I shall.
I was keeping it in case your uncle died before me.
I thought it would be useful to have a little something I could get at immediately
if I wanted it, but I don't think I shall live very much longer now."
"Oh, my dear, don't say that.
Why, of course you're going to live for ever.
I can't possibly spare you." "Oh, I'm not sorry."
Her voice broke and she hid her eyes, but in a moment, drying them, she smiled
bravely.
"At first, I used to pray to God that He might not take me first, because I didn't
want your uncle to be left alone, I didn't want him to have all the suffering, but now
I know that it wouldn't mean so much to your uncle as it would mean to me.
He wants to live more than I do, I've never been the wife he wanted, and I daresay he'd
marry again if anything happened to me.
So I should like to go first. You don't think it's selfish of me, Philip,
do you? But I couldn't bear it if he went."
Philip kissed her wrinkled, thin cheek.
He did not know why the sight he had of that overwhelming love made him feel
strangely ashamed.
It was incomprehensible that she should care so much for a man who was so
indifferent, so selfish, so grossly self- indulgent; and he divined dimly that in her
heart she knew his indifference and his
selfishness, knew them and loved him humbly all the same.
"You will take the money, Philip?" she said, gently stroking his hand.
"I know you can do without it, but it'll give me so much happiness.
I've always wanted to do something for you. You see, I never had a child of my own, and
I've loved you as if you were my son.
When you were a little boy, though I knew it was wicked, I used to wish almost that
you might be ill, so that I could nurse you day and night.
But you were only ill once and then it was at school.
I should so like to help you. It's the only chance I shall ever have.
And perhaps some day when you're a great artist you won't forget me, but you'll
remember that I gave you your start." "It's very good of you," said Philip.
"I'm very grateful."
A smile came into her tired eyes, a smile of pure happiness.
"Oh, I'm so glad."
>