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Full text of "Quarto of modern literature"

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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/quartoofmodernlibrow 



A Quarto of 







ern Literatur 




Sdited by 

Leonard Brown 

Syracuse University 
and 

Porter G. Perrin 

Colgate University 



TSlew Petition 



CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

NEW YORK CHICAGO BOSTON ATLANTA 

SAN FRANCISCO DALLAS 



U 1 1 
dtns 




<?r -K 



COPYRIGHT, I935, I94O, BY 
CHARLES SCRXBNER's SONS 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



All rights reserved. No part of this book 
may be reproduced in any form without 
the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons 




<s 



Preface 




jhis revision of A Quarto of Modem Literature retains the more valuable selections of the 
first edition and in addition includes selections from important recent works, both prose 
and poetry. Some new authors have been included and in some cases authors appearing 
in the 1935 edition are represented by new selections. The poetry section has been expanded 
by including writers such as Archibald MacLeish, and by a group of light verse. The prose 
section has a completely changed group of selections on art and literature and added personal 
essays and articles on current affairs. A generous portion of A Farewell to Anns illustrates the 
scope and movement of novels longer than Ethan Frome. The purpose of the present edition 
remains the same as that of the original book. 

The first third of our century saw such a live and varied intellectual activity that any 
gathering of its literature must reflect both its energy and its conflicts. The first decade, es- 
pecially in the United States, largely continued the "age of confidence" of the preceding gen- 
eration, though with a steadily growing body of realistic fiction and of acute social criticism, 
even more marked in England. The War of 1914-1918 developed a conservative reaction but 
more conspicuously intensified the current of realism, emphasized the uncertainty of convic- 
tions, encouraged experiment in subject, form, and style. The newest generation of writers 
seems somewhat more positive in its social direction, more poised in form, developing in vigor 
and subtlety and reasonableness — but no one would attempt to summarize our immediate 
literature in a phrase. 

A Quarto of Modern Literature represents this varied literature with selections from each of 
these "generations" in the different literary types. It is illuminating to consider some of the 
changes in subject and in treatment made possible in even this short time — by comparing and 
contrasting, say, The Apple Tree and The Web of Earth, A. E. Housman and Kenneth Fearing, 
Ethan Frome and Young Writer Remembering Chicago. Any such study will make us hesitate still 
more before generalizing about "contemporary literature." 

The Biography, Factual Prose, and Short Story sections can serve as background for 
student themes, by offering possible patterns for writing personal experiences and short criti- 
cisms and by offering articles that start trains of thought and discussion to serve as the back- 
ground for critical articles. The variety of styles represented, all current and all with virtues 
of their own, suggests the flexibility and effectiveness of modern English prose, a variety and 
strength it has not shown since Elizabethan times. 



in 






iv PREFACE 

Actually these articles and stones and poems and plays have not been drawn together for 
historical or technical reasons, but for their own sakes. They are offered in the hope that they 
will provoke discussion, in dormitory rooms as well as in classrooms, that some will give 
moments of illumination, of increased understanding of ourselves and of others: for we can 
consider with detachment situations in literature (such as those of The Luxury of Integrity or 
Spider! Spider! or The Silver Cord) as we never could if they were happening to ourselves or to 
our friends. 

Most important of all, these selections are here for immediate enjoyment, for the qualities 
that arouse in us a sincere and immediate response, whether from depth or poignancy of emo- 
tion, fantasy, suspense, humor, invective, keenness of analysis, ripe reflection, convincing 
glimpses of life, or stimulating ideals. . . . Naturally no one person can "like" in the same 
way or to the same degree both Thomas Hardy and Carl Sandburg, Dear Brutus and Justice, but 
each has a meaning and a quality that we can understand and feel, and each will appeal pro- 
foundly to some temperament. 

We believe that the study of literature is not essentially different from the reading of liter- 
ature, that study intensifies and enriches the experience of reading, and that the greatest profit 
of a course in literature is in helping students to find more often this enjoyment. 

L. B. 
P. G. P. 



Contents 



NOVEL 

Edith Wharton. Ethan Frome 3 

BIOGRAPHY 

Journal and Letters 

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. My Diaries 1888-1914 . 41 
Gertrude Bell. Climbing the Engelhorn ... 45 

Autobiography 

Thomas Wolfe. Where Now? 47 

Edmund Gosse. The Coming of Evolution; Parties 51 

Michael Pupin. End of My Apprenticeship as 

Greenhorn 54 

Malcolm Cowley. Significant Gesture .... 60 

Biography 

Lytton Strachey. Lady Hester Stanhope . . 63 

Max Eastman. Good Humorist 66 

Samuel Eliot Morison. The Young Man Wash- 
ington 70 

Van Wyck Brooks. Thoreau at Walden ... 81 

Biographical Fiction 
Harold Nicolson. Arketall 87 

DRAMA 

Eugene O'Neill. In the Zone 97 

Sidney Howard The Silver Cord 105 

J. M. Barbie. Dear Brutus 139 

John Galsworthy. Justice , 165 



POETRY 

Thomas Hardy. New Year's Eve 

The Man He Killed 
At the Draper's 

At Tea . . 
The Oxen 



In Time of "The Breaking of 
Nations" ....... 

The Darkling Thrush . 



195 

*95 
195 

196 
196 

196 
196 



197 
197 
197 
197 



198 



198 



A. E. Housman. Is My Team Plowing 

On the Idle Hill of Summer . 

Could Man Be Drunk For Ever 

With Rue My Heart Is Laden 

When I Was One-and-Twenty 

On Moonlit Heath and Lonesome 
Bank 198 

BredonHill 

Loveliest of Trees .... 198 

Reveill6 199 

Epilogue 199 

Edwin Arlington Robinson. Miniver Cheevy . zoo 

Richard Cory . . 2.00 
An Old Story . . 2.00 
Mr. Flood's Party 2.01 
Luke Havergal . 2.01 



The House on 


the 




Hill . . 


• 


iOI 


The Master . 


• 


ioi 


L' Envoi 




2.02, 



VI 



CONTENTS 



Edgar Lee Masters. Anne Rutleclge 

Lucinda Matlock 



. Z03 

. Z03 



Walter de la Mare. The Listeners Z03 

Robert Frost. The Tuft of Flowers 104 

Mending Wall 104 

Brown's Descent 105 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy- 
Evening 2.06 

The Road Not Taken .... zo6 

Two Tramps in Mud Time . . . zo6 

Vachel Lindsay. Factory Windows Are Always 

Broken 107 



Archibald MacLeish. Ars Poetica . 

Memory Green . 

Speech to Those Who 
Comrade . 

Wilfred Owen. Apologia Pro Poemate Meo 
Duke et Decorum Est . 

Allen Tate. Ode to the Confederate Dead 
Malcolm Cowley. Blue Juniata .... 



. 2.2.0 
. zzi 



Say 



. zzi 

. zzz 

. zzz 

. ZZ3 



ZZ4 



Abraham Lincoln Walks at Mid- 
night 



Z07 



Carl Sandburg. Chicago zo8 

Prairie zo8 

The People Will Live On . . zt 1 

Elinor Wylie. The Eagle and the Mole . . . ziz 

William Rose Benet. Jesse James 2.13 

Robinson Jeffers. Shine, Perishing Republic . . Z14 

T. S. Eliot. Animula Z15 

Conrad Aiken. Music I Heard with You . . . xi6 
And in the Hanging Gardens . zi6 
Samadhi Z17 

John Peale Bishop. Riviera zi8 

The Return 2.18 

Edna St. Vincent Millay. Ashes of Life . 



Light Verse 

E. B. White. I Paint What I See .... 2.Z5 

Commuter ZZ5 

Dorothy Parker. Bohemia ZZ5 

Indian Summer .... ZZ5 

Arthur Guiterman. On the Vanity of Earth- 
ly Greatness . . . zz6 

Morris Bishop. Eschatology zz6 

Ogden Nash. The Three Little Christmas 

Carols zz6 



Persis Greely Anderson. The Thinker 



ZZ7 



. Z19 

I Know I Am but 
Summer .... Z19 

Pity Me Not . . . Z19 

What Lips My Lips 
Have Kissed . . Z19 

Oh, My Beloved , Have 
You Thought of 
This Z19 

Wild Swans . . . zzo 



Kenneth Fearing. As the Fuse Burns Down . . zz8 

Dirge zz8 

W. H. Auden. Refugee Blues ZZ9 

September 1, 1939 ZZ9 

Stephen Spender. Oh Young Men Oh Young 

Comrades Z31 

Moving Through the Silent 
Crowd Z31 

The Express . . Z3 1 

The Funeral Z31 

I Think Continually of Those 
Who Were Truly Great . . Z3Z 

I Hear the Cries of Evening . Z3Z 

SHORT STORY 

Conrad Aiken. Spider! Spider! Z35 

Morley Callaghan. A Sick Call 240 



CONTENTS 



vii 



Willa Gather. Paul's Case Z43 

Joseph Conrad. The Lagoon Z5Z 

F. Scott Fitzgerald. Babylon Revisited . . . 2.58 
Ernest Hemingway. After the Storm .... z67 

Ring Lardner. Haircut 170 

{Catherine Mansfield. Life of Ma Parker . . 2.75 
Wilbur Daniel Steele. How Beautiful with Shoes Z78 



NOVELETTE 

John Galsworthy. The Apple Tree 
Thomas Wolfe. The Web of Earth 



2-89 



310 



FACTUAL PROSE 

Observation and Experience 

William Beebe. A Chain of Jungle Life 

Edmund Wilson. Red Cross Worker 

Morgan Farrell, "Fog's Thickening, Sir" 

Hanson W. Baldwin. R. M. S. Titanic 

D. H. Lawrence. Leaving Palermo . 

The New Yorkers. The Talk of the Town 

Albert Halper. Young Writer Remembering 

Chicago ..... 



343 
348 

353 
357 
364 

368 
373 



Social Criticism 

William Bennett Munro. Quack-Doctoring the 

Colleges . . . . 38Z 



Edmund Pearson. What Is Evidence? . 
Stuart Chase. The Luxury of Integrity 
Joseph Wood Krutch. Jam To-morrow 
Iris Barry. We Enjoyed the War 



• 386 

• 39 1 

• 397 
. 40Z 



Carl Landauer. The American Way .... 408 
Archibald MacLeish. The Young Can Choose . 416 

• Art and Literature 

Bonamy Dobree. The New Way of Writing . . 418 

Three Reviews 

Henry Seidel Canby. Story of the Brave . . 415 

Granville Hicks. The World of Robert Frost 418 

Clifton Fadiman. John Gunther Swallows 

Another Continent . . 4x9 

Paul Engle. New English Poets 431 

Thomas King Whipple. Machinery, Magic, and 

Art 436 

Lewis Mumford. Architecture in the Machine Age 441 

Philosophy 

Carl L. Becker. Climates of Opinion .... 449 
Bertrand Russell. A Free Man's Worship . .456 

Personal Essays 

Logan Pearsall Smith. Trivia 460 

James Thurber. A Preface to Dogs ..... 461 

Kenneth Grahame. The Piper at the Gates of 

Dawn 464 

Aldous Huxley. Comfort 468 

Stark Young. Mental Goodness ..... 47Z 

William McFee. The Pattern-Makers .... 476 

Novel 

Ernest Hemingway. The Retreat from Caporetto 

from "A Farewell to 
Arms" 485 

INDEX TO AUTHORS 

At end of volume 



NOVEL 



Ethan Frome 

Edith Wharton 



Edith Wharton (1863-1937) was born in New York City. She spent 
most of her childhood and youth in Europe, was privately educated, and 
was always interested in writing. She began to publish in 1889. Henry 
James was greatly taken by her work, and had a considerable influ- 
ence on her ideas of creative technique. After 1906 she lived chiefly in 
France. During the World War she engaged in relief work, and was the 
recipient of the Legion of Honor from France and the Order of Leopold 
from Belgium. In 1924 she was made an Officer of the Legion of Honor. 
She was awarded the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Arts and 
Letters in 1925, and a D.Litt. from Yale. ". . . every great novel," she says, 
"must first of all be based on a profound sense of moral values and then 
constructed with a classical unity and economy of means." Her books 
include The House of Mirth (1905), which established her reputation, 
Ethan Frome (1911), often called her finest work, The Age of Innocence, 
which won the Pulitzer Prize, several volumes of short stories, and The 
Writing of Fiction. 



had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, 
as generally happens in such cases, each time it was 
a different story. 

If you know Starkfield, Massachusetts, you know the 
post-office. If you know the post-office you must have 
seen Ethan Frome drive up to it, drop the reins on his 
hollow-backed bay and drag himself across the brick 
pavement to the white colonnade: and you must have 
asked who he was. 

It was there that, several years ago, I saw him for the 
first time; and the sight pulled me up sharp. Even then 
he was the most striking figure in Starkfield, though he 
was but the ruin of a man. It was not so much his great 
height that marked him, for the "natives" were easily 
singled out by their lank longitude from the stockier 
foreign breed : it was the careless powerful look he had, 
in spite of a lameness checking each step like the jerk of a 
chain. There was something bleak and unapproachable 
in his face, and he was so stiffened and grizzled that I 
took him for an old man and was surprised to hear that 
he was not more than fifty-two. I had this from Harmon 
Gow, who had driven the stage from Bettsbridge to 
Starkfield in pre-troiley days and knew the chronicle of 
all the families on his line. 

"He's looked that way ever since he had his smash-up; 
and that's twenty-four years ago come nest February," 
Harmon threw out between reminiscent pauses. 

The "smash-up" it was— I gathered from the same in- 
formant — which, besides drawing the red gash across 

Reprinted by permission of the author and vi the. publishers, Charles 
Scribncr*s Sons, New York. 



Ethan Frome's forehead, had so shortened and warped 
his right side that it cost him a visible effort to take the 
few steps from his buggy to the post-office window. He 
used to drive in from his farm every day at about noon, 
and as that was my own hour for fetching my mail I 
often passed him in the porch or stood beside him while 
we waited on the motions of the distributing hand be- 
hind the grating. I noticed that, though he came so 
punctually, he seldom received anything but a copy 
of the Bettsbridge Eagle, which he put without a glance 
into his sagging pocket. At intervals, however, the post- 
master would hand him an envelope addressed to Mrs. 
Zenobia — or Mrs. Zeena — Frome, and usually bearing 
conspicuously in the upper left-hand corner the address 
of some manufacturer of patent medicine and the name 
of his specific These documents my neighbour would 
also pocket without a glance, as if too much used to them 
to wonder at their number and variety, and would then 
turn away with a silent nod to the post-master. 

Every one in Starkfield knew him and gave him a 
greeting tempered to his own grave mien; but his taci- 
turnity was respected and it was only on rare occasions 
that one of the older men of the place detained him for a 
word. When this happened he would listen quietly, his 
blue eyes on the speaker's face, and answer in so low a 
tone that his words never reached me; then he would 
climb stiffly into his buggy, gather up the reins in his left 
hand and drive slowly away in the direction of his farm. 

"It was a pretty had smash-up?" I questioned Harmon, 
looking after Frome's retreating figure, and thinking 
how gallantly his lean brown head, with its shock of 



4 



NOVEL 



it hair, must have sat on his strong shoulders before 
they were bent out of shape. 

"Wust kind," my informant assented. "More'n enough 
to kill most men. Bat the Fromes are tough. Ethanll 
likely touch a hundred." 

"Good God!" I exclaimed. At the moment Ethan 
Frome, after climbing to his seat, had leaned over to 
assure himself of the security of a wooden box — also with 
a druggist's label on it — which he had placed in the back 
of dje buggy, and I saw his face as it probably looked 
when he thought himself alone. "That man touch a 
hundred ? He looks as if he was dead and in hell now!" 

Harmon drew a slab of tobacco from his pocket, cut 
off a wedge and pressed it into the leather pouch of bis 
cheek. "Guess he's been in Starkfield too many winters. 
Most of die smart ones get away," 

"Why didn't he?" 

"Somebody had to stay and care, for the folks. There 
warn't ever anybody but Ethan. Fust his father — then 
his mother — then his wife." 

"And then the smash-up?" 

Harmon chuckled sardonically. "That's so. He had to 
stay then." 

"I see. And since then they've had to care for him? 5 ' 

Harmon thoughtfully passed his tobacco to the other 
cheek. "Oh, as to that: I guess it's always Ethan done 
the caring." » 

Though Harmon Gow developed the tale as far as 
his mental and moral reach permitted, there were per- 
ceptible gaps between his facts, and I had the sense that 
the deeper meaning of the story was in the gaps. But one 
phrase stuck in my memory and served as the nucleus 
about which I grouped my subsequent inferences: 
"Guess he's been in Starkfield too many winters," 

Before my own rime there was up I had learned to 
know what that meant. Yet I had come in the degen- 
erate day of trolley, bicycle and rural delivery, when 
communication was easy between the scattered moun- 
tain villages, and the bigger towns in trie valleys, such 
as Bettsbridge and Shadd's Falls, had libraries, theatres 
and Y. M. CA. halls to which the youth of the bills 
could descend for recreation. But when winter shut 
down on Starkfield, and the village lay under a sheet of 
snow perpetually renewed from the pale skies, I began 
to see what life there — or rather its negation — must have 
been in Ethan Frome's young manhood. 

I had been sent up by my employers on a job con- 
nected widi the big power-house at Corbury Junction, 
and a long-drawn carpenters' strike had so delayed the 
work that I found myself anchored at Starkfield — the 
nearest habitable spot — for the best part of the winter. I 
chafed at first, and then, under die hypnotising e5ect of 
routine, gradually began to find a grim satisfaction in 
the life. During the early part of my stay I bad been 
struck by the contrast between the vitality of the. climate 



and the deadness of the community. Day by day, after 
the December snows were over, a blazing blue sky 
poured down torrents of light and air on the white land- 
scape, which gave them back in an intenser glitter. One 
would have supposed that such an atmosphere must 
quicken the emotions as well as the blood; but it seemed 
to produce no change except that of retarding still more 
the sluggish pulse of Starkfield. When I had been there 
a little longer, and had seen this phase of crystal clear- 
ness followed by long stretches of sunless cold; when 
the storms of February had pitched their white tents 
about the devoted village and the wild cavalry of March 
winds had charged down to their support; I began to 
understand why Starkfield emerged from its six months' 
siege like a starved garrison capitulating without quarter. 
Twenty years earlier die means of resistance must have 
been far fewer, and the enemy in command of almost all 
the hues of access between the beleaguered villages; and, 
considering these things, I felt the sinister force of Har- 
mon's phrase, "Most of the smart ones gtt away." But 
if that were the case, how could any combination of ob- 
stacles have hindered the flight of a man like Ethan 
Frome? 

During my stay at Starkfield I lodged with a middle- 
aged widow colloquially known as Mrs. Ned Hale. Mrs. 
Hale's father had been the village lawyer of the previous 
generation, and "lawyer Varaum's house," where my 
landlady still lived with her mother, was the most con- 
siderable mansion in the village. It stood at one end of 
the main street, its classic portico and small-paned win- 
dows looking down a flagged path between Norway 
spruces to the slim white steeple of the Congregational 
church. It. was clear that the Varnum fortunes were at 
die ebb. but the two women did what tiiey could to pre- 
serve a decent dignity; and Mrs. Hale, in particular, had 
a certain wan refinement not out of keeping with her 
pale old-fashioned house. 

In the "best parlour," with its black horse-hair and 
mahogany weakly illuminated by a gurgling Carcel 
lamp, I listened every evening to another and more deli- 
cately shaded version of the Starkfield chronicle. It was 
not that Mrs. Ned Hale felt, or affected, any social 
superiority to the people about her; it was only that the 
accident of a finer sensibility and a little more education 
had put just enough distance between herself and her 
neighbours to enable her to judge them with detach- 
ment. She was not unwilling to exercise this faculty, and 
I had great hopes of getting from her the missing facts 
of Ethan Frome's story, or rather such a key to his char- 
acter as should co-ordinate the facts I knew. Her mind 
was a store-house of innocuous anecdote, and any ques- 
tion about her acquaintances brought forth a volume of 
detail; but on the subject of Ethan Frome I found her un- 
expectedly reticent. There was no hint of disapproval in 
her reserve; I merely felt in her an insurmountable re- 



ETHAN FROME 



luctancc to speak of him or his affairs, a low "Yea, I knew 
them both ... it was awful . . ." seeming to be the ut- 
most concession that her distress could make to my 
curiosity. 

So marked was the change in her manner, such depths 
of sad initiation did it imply, that, with some doubts as 
to my delicacy, I put the case anew to my village oracle, 
Harmon Gow; but got for my pains only an uncompre- 
hending grunt. 

"Ruth Varnum was always as nervous as a rat; and, 
come to think of it, she was the first one to see 'em after 
they was picked up. It happened right below lawyer 
Varnum 's, down at the bend of the Corbury road, just 
round about the time diat Ruth got engaged to Ned 
Hale. The young folks was all friends, and I guess she 
just can't bear to talk about it. She's had troubles enough 
of her own," 

All the dwellers in Starkfield, as in more notable com- 
munities, had had troubles enough of their own to make 
them comparatively indifferent to those of their neigh- 
bours; and though al! conceded that Ethan Frome's had 
been beyond the common measure, no one gave me an 
explanation of the look in his face which, as 1 persisted 
in thinking, neither poverty nor physical suffering could 
have put there. Nevertheless, I might have contented 
myself with the story pieced together from these hints 
had it not been for the provocation of Mrs. Hale's silence, 
and — a litde later — for the accident of personal contact 
with the man. 

On my arrival at Starkfield, Denis Eady, the rich Irish 
grocer, who was the proprietor of Starkfield's nearest 
approach to a livery stable, had entered into an agree- 
ment to send me over daily to Corbury Flats, where I had 
to pick up my train for the Junction. But about the 
middle of the winter Eady's horses fell ill of a local 
epidemic. The illness spread to the other Starkfield 
stables and for a day or two I was put to it to find a 
means of transport. Then Harmon Gow suggested that 
Ethan Frome's bay was still on his legs and that his 
owner might be glad to drive me over. 

I stared at die suggestion. "Ethan Frome? But I've 
never even spoken to him. Why on earth should he put 
himself out for me?" 

Harmon's answer surprised me still more. "I don't 
know as he would; but I know he wouldn't be sorry to 
earn a dollar." 

I had been told that Frome was poor, and that the saw- 
mill and the arid acres of his farm yielded scarcely 
enough to keep his household through the winter; but I 
had not supposed him to be in such want as Harmon's 
words implied, and I expressed my wonder. 

"Well, matters ain't gone any too well with, him," 
Harmon said. "When a man's been setting round like a 
hulk for twenty years or more, seeing things that want 
doing, it eats inter him, and he loses his grit. That Frome 



farm was always 'bout as hare's a milkpan when the cat's 
been round; and you know what one of them old water- 
mills is wuth nowadays. When Ethan could sweat over 
'em both from sun-up to dark he kinder choked a living 
out of 'em; but his folks ate up most everything, even 
a, and I don't see how he makes out now. Fust his 
father got a kick, out haying, and went soft in the brain, 
and gave away money like Bible texts afore he died. 
Then his mother got queer and dragged along for years 
as weak as a baby; and his wife Zeena, she's always been 
the greatest hand at doctoring in the county. Sickness 
and trouble: that's what Ethan's had his plate full up 
with, ever since the very first helping." 

The next morning, when I looked out, I saw the 
hollow-backed bay between the Varnum spruces, and 
Ethan Frome, throwing back his worn bearskin, made 
room for me in the sleigh at his side. After that, for a 
week, he drove me over every morning to Corbury Flats, 
and on my return in the afternoon met me again and 
carried me back through the icy night to Starkfield. The 
distance each way was barely three miles, but the old 
bay's pace was slow, and even with, firm snow under the 
runners we were nearly an hour on the way. Ethan 
Frome drove in silence, the reins loosely held in his left 
hand, his brown seamed profile, under tine helmet-like 
peak of the cap, relieved against the banks of snow like 
the bronze image of a hero. He never turned his face to 
mine, or answered, except in monosyllables, the ques- 
tions I put, or such slight pleasantries as I ventured. He 
seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an 
incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and 
sentient in him fast hound below the surface; but there 
was nothing unfriendly in his silence. I simply felt that 
he lived in a depth of moral isolation too remote for 
casual access, and I had the sense that his loneliness was 
not merely the result of his personal plight, tragic as I 
guessed that to be, but had in it, as Harmon Gow had 
hinted, the profound accumulated cold of many Stark- 
field winters. 

Only once or twice was the distance between us 
bridged for a moment; and the glimpses thus gained 
confirmed my desire to know more. Once I happened 
to speak of an engineering job I had been on the previous 
year in Florida, and of the contrast between the winter 
landscape about us and that in which I had found my- 
self the year before; and to my surprise Frome said sud- 
denly: "Yes: I was down there once, and for a good 
while afterward I could call up the sight of it in winter. 
But now it's ail snowed under." 

He said no more, and I had to guess the rest from the 
inflection of his voice and his sharp relapse into silence. 

Another day, on getting into my train at the Flats, I 
missed a volume of popular science — I think it was on 
some recent discoveries in bio-chemistry — which I had 
carried with me to read on the way. I thought no more 



NOVEL 



about it till I got into the sleigh again that evening, and 
saw the book in Frome's hand. 

"I found it after you were gone," he said. 

I put the volume into my pocket and we dropped back 
into our usual silence; but as we began to crawl up the 
long hill from Corbury Flats to the Starkfield ridge I 
became aware in the dusk that he had turned his face 
:o mine. 

"There are things in that book that I didn't know the 
first word about," he said. 

I wondered less at his words than at the queer note 
of resentment in his voice. He was evidendy surprised 
and slightly aggrieved at his own ignorance. 

"Does that sort of thing interest you?" I asked. 

"It used to." 

"There are one or two rather new things in the book : 
there have been some big strides lately in that particular 
line of research." I waited a moment for an answer 
that did not come; then I said: "If you'd like to look 
the book through I'd be glad to leave it with you." 

He hesitated, and I had the impression that he felt 
himself about to yield to a stealing tide of inertia; 
then. "Thank you — I'll take it," he answered shordy. 

i. hoped that this incident might set up some more 
direct communication between us. Frome was so simple 
and straightforward that I was sure his curiosity about 
the book was based on a genuine interest in its subject. 
Such tastes and acquirements in a man of his condition 
made the contrast more poignant between his outer situ- 
ation and his inner needs, and I hoped that the chance 
of giving expression to the latter might at least unseal his 
lips. But something in his past history, or in his present 
way of living, had apparently driven him too deeply into 
himself for any casual impulse to draw him back to his 
kind. At our next meeting he made no allusion to the 
book, and our intercourse seemed fated to remain as 
negative and one-sided as if there had been no break in 
his reserve. 

Frome had been driving me over to the Fiats for 
about a week when one morning I looked out of my 
window into a thick snow-fall. The height of the white 
waves massed against the garden-fence and along the 
wall of the church showed that the storm must have 
been going on all night, and that the drifts were likely 
to be heavy in the open. I thought it probable that my 
train would be delayed; but I had to be at the power- 
house for an hour or two diat afternoon, and I decided, if 
Frome turned up, to push through to the Flats and wait 
there till my train came in. I don't know why I put it in 
the conditional, however, for I never doubted that Frome 
would appear. He was not the kind of man to be turned 
from his business by any commotion of the elements; 
and at the appointed hour his sleigh glided up through 
the snow like a stage-apparition behind thickening veils 
of gauae. 



I was getting to know him too well to express either 
wonder or gratitude at his keeping his appointment; but 
I exclaimed in surprise as I saw him turn his horse in a 
direction opposite to that of the Corbury road. 

"The railroad's blocked by a freight-train that got 
stuck in a drift below the Flats," he explained, as we 
jogged ofi into the stinging whiteness. 

"But look here — where axe you taking me, then?" 

"Straight to the Junction, by the shortest way," he an- 
swered, pointing up School House Hill with his whip. 

"To the Junction — in this storm? Why, it's a good ten 
miles!" 

"The bay'll do it if you give him time. You said you 
had some business there this afternoon. I'll see you get 
there." 

He said it so quiedy that I could only answer: "You're 
doing me the biggest kind of a favour." 

"That's all right," he rejoined. 

Abreast of the schoolhouse the road forked, and we 
dipped down a lane to the left, between hemlock boughs 
bent inward to their trunks by die weight of the snow. I 
had often walked that way on Sundays, and knew that 
the solitary roof showing through bare branches near the 
bottom of the hill was that of Frome's saw-mill. It looked 
exanimate enough, with its idle wheel looming above 
the black stream dashed with yellow-white spume, and 
its cluster of sheds sagging under their white load. Frome 
did not even turn his head as we drove by, and still in 
silence we began to mount the next slope. About a mile 
farther, on a road I had never travelled, we came to an 
orchard of starved apple-trees writhing over a hillside 
among outcroppings of slate that nuzzled up through 
the snow like animals pushing out their noses to breathe. 
Beyond the orchard lay a field or two, their boundaries 
lost under drifts; and above the fields, huddled against 
the white immensities of land and sky, one of those 
lonely New England farm-houses that make the land- 
scape lonelier. 

"That's my place," said Frome, with a sideway jerk 
of his lame elbow; and in the distress and oppression of 
the scene I did not know what to answer. The snow had 
ceased, and a flash of watery sunlight exposed the house 
on the slope above us in all its plaintive ugliness. The 
black wraith of a deciduous creeper flapped from the 
porch, and the thin wooden walls, under their worn coat 
of paint, seemed to shiver in the wind that had risen 
with the ceasing of the snow. 

"The house was bigger in my father's time: I had to 
take down the 'L,' a while back," Frome continued, 
checking with a twitch of the left rein the bay's evident 
intention of turning in through the broken-down gate. 

I saw then that the unusually forlorn and stunted look 
of the house was pardy due to the loss of what is known 
in New England as the "L": that long deep-roofed ad- 
junct usually built at right angles to the main house, and 



ETHAN FROME 



sacinectiug it, by way of store-rooms and tool-house, with 
the wood-shed and cow-barn. Whether because of its 
symbolic sense, the image it presents of a life linked with 
the soil, and enclosing in itself the chief sources of 
warmth and nourishment, or whether merely because of 
the consolatory thought that it enables the dwellers in 
diat harsh climate to get to their morning's work with- 
out facing the weather, it is certain that the "L" rather 
than the house itself seems to be the centre, the actual 
hearth-stone, of the New England farm. Perhaps this 
connection of ideas, which had often occurred to me in 
my rambles about Starkfield, caused me to hear a wistful 
note in Frome's words, and to see in the diminished 
dwelling the image of his own shrunken bod)'. 

"We're kinder side-tracked here now," he added, "but 
there was considerable passing before the railroad was 
carried through to the Flats." He roused the lagging bay 
with another twitch; then, as if the mere sight of the 
house had let me too deeply into his confidence for any 
farther pretence of reserve, he went on slowly: "I've al- 
ways set down the worst of mother's trouble to that. 
When she got the rheumatism so bad she couldn't move 
around she used to sit up there and watch the road by 
the hour; and one year, when they was six months mend- 
iag the Bettsbridge pike after the floods, and Harmon 
Gow had to bring his stage round this way, she picked 
up so that she used to get down to the gate most days to 
see him. But after the trains begun running nobody ever 
come by here to speak of, and mother never could get it 
through her head what had happened, and it preyed on 
her right along till she died." 

As we turned into the Corbury road the snow began 
to fall again, cutting off our last glimpse of the house; 
and Frome's silence fell with it, ietting down between 
us the old veil of reticence. This time the wind did not 
cease with the return of the snow. Instead, it sprang up 
to a gale which now and then, from a tattered sky, flung 
pale sweeps of sunlight over a landscape chaotically 
tossed. But the bay was as good as Frome's word, and 
we pushed on to the Junction through the wild white 
scene. 

In the afternoon the storm held off, and the clearness 
in the west seemed to my inexperienced eye the pledge of 
a fair evening. I finished my business as quickly as pos- 
sible, and we set out for Starkfield with a good chance of 
getting there for supper. But at sunset the clouds gath- 
ered again, bringing an earlier night, and the snow be- 
gan to fall straight and steadily from a sky without wind, 
in a soft universal diffusion more coiifusing than the 
gusts and eddies of the morning. It seemed to be a part 
of the thickening darkness, to be the winter night itself 
descending on us layer by layer. 

The small ray of Frome's lantern was soon lost in this 
smothering medium, in which even his sense of direc- 
tion, and the bay's homing instinct, finally ceased to serve 



us. Two or three times some ghostly landmark sprang 
up to warn us that we were astray, and then was sucked 
back into the mist; and when we finally regained our 
road the old horse began to show signs of exhaustion. 
1 felt myself to blame for having accepted Frome's offer, 
and after a short discussion I persuaded him to let me get 
out of die sleigh and walk along through die snow at 
the bay's side. In this way we struggled on for another 
mile or two, and at last reached a point where Frome, 
peering into what seemed to me formless night, said: 
"That's my gate down yonder*" 

The last stretch had been the hardest part of the way. 
The bitter cold and the heavy going had nearly knocked 
the wind out of me, and I could feel the horse's side tick- 
ing like a clock under my hand. 

"Look here, Frome," I began, "there's no earthly use 
in your going any farther—" but he interrupted me: 
"Nor you neither. There's been about enough of this for 
anybody." 

I understood that he was offering me a night's shelter 
at the farm, and without answering I turned into the 
gate at his side, and followed him to me barn, where I 
helped him to unharness and bed down the tired horse. 
When this was done he unhooked the lantern from the 
sleigh, stepped out again into the night, and called to me 
over his shoulder: "This way." 

Far off above us a square of light trembled through 
the screen of snow. Staggering along in Frome's wake 
I floundered toward it, and in the darkness almost fell 
into one of the deep drifts against the front of the house. 
Frome scrambled up the slippery steps of the porch, dig- 
ging a way through die snow with his heavily booted 
foot. Then he lifted his lantern, found the latch, and led 
the way into the house. I went after him into a low unlit 
passage, at the back of which a ladder-like staircase rose 
into obscurity. On our right a line of light marked the 
door of the room which had sent its ray across the night; 
and behind the door I heard a woman's voice droning 
querulously. 

Frome stamped on the worn oil-cloth to shake the 
snow from his boots, and set down his lantern on a 
kitchen chair which was the only piece of furniture in 
the hall. Then he opened the door. 

"Come in," he said; and as he spoke the droning voice 
grew still . . . 

It was that night that I found the clue to Ethan Frome, 
and began to put togedier this vision of his story . . . 



i 

The village lay under two feet of snow, with drifts at 
the windy corners. In a sky of iron the points of the 
Dipper hung like icicles and Orioa flashed his cold fires. 



8 



NOVEL 



The moon had set, but the night was so transparent that 
Lhe white house-fronts between the elms looked gray 
against die snow, cJumps of bushes made black stams 
on it, and the basement windows of the church sent 
shafts of yellow light far across the endless undula- 
tions. 

Young Ethan Frome v/alked at a quick pace along 
the deserted street, past the bank and Michael Eady's 
new brick store and lawyer Varnum's house with the 
two black Norway spruces at the gate. Opposite the 
Varnum gate, where the road fell away toward the Cor- 
bury valley, the church reared its slim white steeple and 
narrow peristyle. As the young man walked toward it 
the upper windows drew a black arcade along the side 
wall of the building, but from the lower openings, on the 
side where the ground sloped steeply down to the Cor- 
bury road, the light shot its long bars, illuminating many 
fresh furrows in the track leading to the basement door, 
and showing, under an adjoining shed, a line of sleighs 
with heavily blanketed horses. 

The night was perfectly still, and the air so dry and 
pure that it gave little sensation of cold. The effect pro- 
duced on Frome was rather of a complete absence of at- 
mosphere, a.j though nothing less tenuous than ether in- 
tervened between the white earth under his feet and 
the metallic dome overhead. "It's like being in an ex- 
hausted receiver," he thought. Four or five years earlier 
he had taken a year's course at a technological college at 
Worcester, and dabbled in the laboratory with a friendly 
professor of physics; and the images supplied by that ex- 
perience still cropped up, at unexpected moments, 
through the totally different associations of thought in 
which he had since been living. His father's death, and 
the misfortunes following it, had put a premature end 
to Ethan's studies; but though they had not gone far 
enough to be of much practical use they had fed his fancy 
and made him aware of huge cloudy meanings behind 
the daily face of things. 

As he strode along through the snow the sense of such 
meanings glowed in his brain and mingled with the 
bodily flush produced by his sharp tramp. At the end of 
the village he paused before the darkened front of the 
church. He stood there a moment, breathing quickly, 
and looking up and down the street, in which not an- 
other figure moved. The pitch of the Corbury road, be- 
low lawyer Varnum's spruces, was the favourite coasting- 
ground of Starkfield, and on clear evenings the church 
corner rang till late with the shouts of the coasters; but 
to-night not a sled darkened the whiteness of the long 
declivity. The hush of midnight lay on the village, and 
all its waking life was gathered behind the church win- 
dows, from which strains of dance-music flowed with the 
broad bands of yellow light. 

The young man, skirting the side of the building, went 
down the slope toward the basement door. To keep out 



of range of the revealing rays from within he made a cir- 
cuit through the untrodden snow and gradually ap- 
proached the farther angle of the basement wall. Thence, 
still hugging the shadow, he edged his way cautiously 
forward to the nearest window, holding back his straight 
spare body and craning his neck till he got a glimpse of 
the room. 

Seen thus, from the pure and frosty darkness in which 
he stood, it seemed to be seething in a mist of heat. The. 
metal reflectors of the gas-jets sent crude waves of light 
against the whitewashed walls, and the iron flanks of the 
stove at the end of the hail looked as though they were 
heaving with volcanic fires. The floor was dironged with 
girls and young men. Down the side wall facing the 
window stood a row o£ kitchen chairs from which the 
older women had just risen. By this time the music had 
stopped, and the musicians — a fiddler, and die young 
lady who played the harmonium on Sundays — were 
hastily refreshing themselves at one corner of the supper- 
tabie which aligned its devastated pie-dishes and ice- 
cream saucers on the platform at the end of the hall. 
The guests were preparing to leave, and the tide had 
already set toward the passage where coats and wraps 
were hung, when a young man with a sprightly foot and 
a shock of black hair shot into the middle of the floor 
and clapped his hands. The signal took instant effect. 
The musicians hurried to their instnunents, the dancers 
—some already half-muffled for departure — fell into line 
down each side of die room, the older spectators slipped 
back to their chairs, and the lively young man, after 
diving about here and there in the throng, drew forth a 
girl who had already wound a cherry-coloured "fas- 
cinator" about her head, and, leading her up to the end 
of the floor, whirled her down its length to the bounding 
tune of a Virginia reel. 

Frame's heart was beating fast. He had been straining 
for a glimpse of the dark head under the cherry- 
coloured scarf and it vexed him that another eye should 
have been quicker than his. The leader of the reel, who 
looked as if he had Irish blood in his veins, danced well, 
and his partner caught his fire. As she passed down the 
line, her light figure swinging from hand to hand in 
circles of increasing swiftness, the scarf flew off her bead 
and stood out behind her shoulders, and Frome. at each 
turn, caught sight of her laughing panting lips, the cloud 
of dark hair about her forehead, and the dark eyes which 
seemed the only fixed points in a maze of flying lines. 

The dancers were going faster and faster, and the 
musicians, to keep up with them, belaboured their instru- 
ments like jockeys lashing their mounts on the home- 
stretch; yet it seemed to the young man at the window 
that the reel would never end. Now and then he turned 
his eyes from the girl's face to that of her partner, which, 
in the exhilaradon of the dance, had taken on a look of 
almost impudent ownership. Denis Eady was the son of 



ETHAN FROME 



Michael Eady, the ambitious Irish grocer, whose supple- 
ness and effrontery had given Starkfield its first notion of 
"smart" business methods, and whose new brick store 
testified to the success of the attempt. His son seemed 
likely to follow in his steps, and was meanwhile apply- 
ing the same arts to the conquest of the Starkfield 
maidenhood. Hitherto Ethan Frome had been content 
to think him a mean fellow; but now he positively invited 
a horse-whipping. It was strange that the girl did not 
seem aware of it : that she could lift her rapt face to her 
dancer's, and drop her hands into his, without appearing 
to feel the offence of his look and touch. 

Frome was in the habit of walking into Starkfield to 
fetch home his wife's cousin, Mattie Silver, on the rare 
evenings when some chance of amusement drew her to 
the village. It was his wife who had suggested, when 
the girl came to live with them, that such opportunities 
should be put in her way. Mattie Silver came from 
Stamford, and when she entered the Fromes' household 
to act as her cousin Zeena's aid it was thought best, as 
she came without pay, not to let her feel too sharp a 
contrast between the life she had left and the isolation 
of a Starkfield farm. But for this— as Frome sardoni- 
cally reflected — it would hardly have occurred to Zeena 
to take any thought for the girl's amusement. 

When his wife first proposed that they should give 
Mattie an occasional evening out he. had inwardly de- 
murred at having to do the extra two miles to the vil- 
lage and back after his hard day on the farm; but not 
long afterward he had reached the point of wishing that 
Starkfield might give all its nights to revelry. 

Mattie Silver had lived under his roof for a year, and 
from early morning till they met at supper he had fre- 
quent chances of seeing her; but no moments in her 
company were comparable to those when, her arm in his, 
and her light step flying to keep time with his long stride, 
they walked back through the night to the farm. He had 
taken to the girl from the first day, when he had driven 
over to the Flats to meet her, and she had smiled and 
waved to him from the train, crying out "You must be 
Ethan!" as she jumped down with her bundles, while he 
reflected, looking over her slight person : "She don't look 
much on housework, but she ain't a fretter, anyhow." 
But it was not only that the coming to his house of a 
bit of hopeful young life was like the lighting of a 
fire on a cold hearth. The girl was more than the bright 
serviceable creature he had thought her. She had an eye 
to see and an ear to hear : he could show her things and 
tell her things, and taste the bliss of feeling that all he 
imported left long reverberations and echoes he could 
wake at will. 

It was during their night walks back to the farm that 
he felt most intensely the sweetness of this communion. 
He had always been more sensitive than the people 
about him to the appeal of natural beauty. His unfin- 



ished studies had given form to this sensibility and 
even in his unhappiest moments field and sky spoke 
to him with a deep and powerful persuasion. But 
hitherto the emotion had remained in him as a silent 
ache, veiling with sadness the beauty that evoked it. 
He did not even know whether any one else in the 
world felt as he did, or whether he was the sole victim 
of this mournful privilege. Then he learned that one 
other spirit had trembled with the same touch of won- 
der: that at his side, living under his roof and eating 
his bread, was a creature to whom he could say : "That's 
Orion down yonder; the big fellow to the right is Alde- 
baran, and the bunch of little ones— like bees swarming 
— they're the Pleiades . . ." or whom he could hold 
entranced before a ledge of granite thrusting up through 
the fern while he unrolled the huge panorama of the ice 
age, and the long dim stretches of succeeding time. The 
fact that admiration for his learning mingled with 
Mattie's wonder at what he taught was not the least part 
of his pleasure. And there were other sensations, less 
definable but more exquisite, which drew them together 
with a shock of silent joy: the cold red of sunset behind 
winter hills, the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of 
golden stubble, or the intensely blue shadows of hem- 
locks on sunlit snow. When she said to him once: "It 
looks just as if it was painted!" it seemed to Ethan that 
the art of definition could go no farther, and that words 
had at last been found to utter his secret soul. . . . 

As he stood in the darkness outside the church these 
memories came back with the poignancy of vanished 
things. Watching Mattie whirl down the floor from 
hand to hand he wondered how he could ever have 
thought that his dull talk interested her. To him, who 
was never gay but in her presence, her gaiety seemed 
plain proof of indifference. The face she lifted to her 
dancers was the same which, when she saw him, always 
looked like a window that has caught the sunset. He 
even noticed two or three gestures which, in his fatuity, 
he had thought she kept for him: a way of throwing her 
head back when she was amused, as if to taste her 
laugh before she let it out, and a trick of sinking her 
lids slowly when anything charmed or moved her. 

The sight made him unhappy, and rns unhappiness 
roused his latent fears. His wife had never shown any 
jealousy of Mattie, but of late she had grumbled increas- 
ingly over the house-work and found oblique ways of 
attracting attention to the girl's inefficiency. Zeena had 
always been what Starkfield called "sickly," and Frome 
had to admit that, if she were as ailing as she believed, 
she needed the help of a stronger arm than the one 
which lay so lightly in his during the night walks to the 
farm. Mattie had no natural turn for house-keeping, 
and her training had done nothing to remedy the defect. 
She was quick to learn, but forgetful and dreamy, and 
not disposed to take the matter seriously. Ethan had an 



10 



NOVEL 



idea that if she were to marry a man she was fond of 
the dormant instinct would wake, and her pies and 
biscuits become the pride of the county ; but domesticity 
in the abstract did not interest her. At first she was so 
awkward that he couid not help laughing at her; but 
she laughed with him and that made them better friends. 
He did his best to supplement her unskilled efforts, get- 
ting up earlier than usual to light the kitchen lire, carry- 
ing in the wood overnight, and neglecting the mill for 
the farm that he might help her about the house during 
the day. He even crept down on Saturday nights to 
scrub the kitchen floor after the women had gone to 
bed; and Zeena, one day, had surprised him at the churn 
and had turned away silendy, with one of her queer 
looks. 

Of late there, had been other signs of her disfavour, as 
intangible but more disquieting. One cold winter morn- 
ing, as he dressed in the dark, his candle flickering in 
the draught of the ill-fitting window, he had heard her 
speak from the bed behind him. 

"The doctor don't want I should be left without any- 
body to do for me," she said in her flat whine. 

He had supposed her to be asleep, and the sound of 
her voice had starded him, though she was given to 
abrupt explosions of speech after long intervals of 
secretive silence. 

He turned and looked at her where she lay indis- 
tinctly outlined under the dark calico quilt, her high- 
boned face taking a grayish tinge from the whiteness of 
the pillow. 

"Nobody to do for you?" he repeated. 

"If you say you can't afford a hired girl when Mattie 
goes." 

Frome turned away again, and taking up his razor 
stooped to catch the reflection of his stretched cheek in 
the blotched looking-glass above the wash-stand. 

"Why on earth should Mattie go?" 

"Well, when she gets married, I mean," his wife's 
drawl came from behind him. 

"Oh, she'd never leave us as long as you needed her," 
he returned, scraping hard at his chin. 

"I wouldn't ever have it said that I stood in the way 
of a poor girl like Mattie marrying a smart fellow like 
Denis Eady," Zeena answered in a tone of plaintive 
self-effacement. 

Ethan, glaring at his face in the glass, threw his head 
back to draw the razor from ear to chin. His hand was 
steady, but the attitude was an excuse for not making an 
immediate reply. 

"And the doctor don't want I should be left without 
anybody," Zeena continued. "He wanted I should speak 
to you about a girl he's heard about, that might 
come " 

Ethan laid down the razor and straightened himself 
with a laugh. 



"Denis Eady! If that's all I guess there's no such hurry 
to look round for a girl." 

"Well, I'd like to talk to you about it," said Zeena 
obstinately. 

He was getting into his clothes in fumbling haste. "All 
right. But I haven't got the time now; I'm late as it is," 
he returned, holding his old silver turnip-watch to die 
candle. 

Zeena, apparently accepting this as final, lay watching 
him in silence while he pulled his suspenders over his 
shoulders and jerked his arms into his coat; but as he 
went toward the door she said, suddenly and incisively, 
"I guess you're always late, now you shave every morn- 
ing." 

That thrust had frightened him more than any vague 
insinuations about Denis Eady. It was a fact that since 
Mattie Silver's coming he had taken to shaving every 
day; but his wife always seemed to be asleep when he 
left her side in the winter darkness, and he had stupidly 
assumed that she would not notice any change in his 
appearance. Once or twice in the past he had been 
faintly disquieted by Zenobia's way of letting things 
happen without seeming to remark them, and then, 
weeks afterward, in a casual phrase, revealing that she 
had all along taken her notes and drawn her inferences. 
Of late, however, there had been no room in his thoughts 
for such vague apprehensioas. Zeena herself, from an 
oppressive reality, had faded into an insubstantial shade. 
All his life was lived in the sight and sound of Mattie 
Silver, and he could no longer conceive of its being 
otherwise. But now, as he stood outside the church, and 
saw Mattie spinning down the floor with Denis Eady, a 
throng of disregarded hints and menaces wove their 
cloud about his brain. . . . 



n 



As the dancers poured out of the hall Frome, drawing 
back behind the projecting storm-door, watched the 
segregation of the grotesquely muffled groups, in which 
a moving lantern ray now and then lit up a face flushed 
with food and dancing. The villagers, being afoot, were 
the first to climb the slope to the main street, while the 
country neighbours packed themselves more slowly into 
the sleighs under the shed. 

"Ain't you riding, Mattie?" a woman's voice called 
back from the throng about the shed, and Ethan's heart 
gave a jump. From where he stood he could not see the 
persons coming out of the hall till they had advanced a 
few steps beyond the wooden sides of the storm-door; 
but through its cracks he heard a clear voice answer: 
"Mercy no I Not on such a night." 

She was there, then, close to him, only a thin board be- 
tween. In another moment she would step forth into 
the night, and his eyes, accustomed to the obscurity, 



ETHAN FROME 



11 



would discern her as clearly as though she stood in day- 
light. A wave of shyness pulled him back into the dark 
angle of the wall, and he stood there in silence instead of 
making his presence known to her. It had been one of 
the wonders of their intercourse that from the first, she, 
the quicker, finer, more expressive, instead of crushing 
him by the contrast, had given him something of her 
own ease and freedom; but now he felt as heavy and 
loutish as in his student days, when he had tried to 
"jolly" the Worcester girls at a picnic. 

He hung back, and she came out alone and paused 
within a few yards of him. She was almost the last to 
leave the hall, and she stood looking uncertainly about 
her as if wondering why he did not show himself. Then 
a man's figure approached, coming so close to her that 
under their formless wrappings they seemed merged 
in one dim outline. 

"Gendeman friend gone back on you? Say, Matt, 
that's tough! No, I wouldn't be mean enough to tell 
the other girls. I ain't as low-down as that." (How 
Frome hated his cheap banter!) "But look at here, ain't 
it lucky I got the old man's cutter down there waiting 
for us?" 

Frome heard the girl's voice, gaily incredulous: 
"What on earth's your father's cutter doin' down there?" 

"Why, waiting for me to take a ride. I got the roan 
colt too. I kinder knew I'd want to take a ride to-night," 
Eady, in his triumph, tried to put a sentimental note into 
his bragging voice. 

The girl seemed to waver, and Frome saw her twirl 
the end of her scarf irresolutely about her fingers. Not 
tor the world would he have made a sign to her, though 
it seemed to him that his life hung on her next gesture. 

"Hold on a minute while I unhitch the colt," Denis 
called to her, springing toward the shed. 

She stood perfectly still, looking after him, in an atti- 
tude of tranquil expectancy torturing to the hidden 
watcher. Frome noticed that she no longer turned her 
head from side to side, as though peering through the 
night for another figure. She let Denis Eady lead out 
the horse, climb into the cutter and fling back the bear- 
skin to make room for her at his side; then, with a swift 
motion of flight, she turned about and darted up the 
slope toward the front of the church. 

"Good-bye! Hope you'll have a lovely ridel" she called 
back to him over her shoulder. 

Denis laughed, and gave the horse a cut that brought 
him quickly abreast of her retreating figure. 

"Come along! Get in quick! It's as slippery as thun- 
der on this turn," he cried, leaning over to reach out a 
hand to her. 

She laughed back at him: "Good-night! I'm not get- 



ting in. 



By this time they had passed beyond Frome's earshot 
and he could only follow the shadowy pantomime of 



their silhouettes as they continued to move along the 
crest of the slope above him. He saw Eady, after a mo- 
ment, jump from the cutter and go toward the girl widi 
the reins over one arm. The other he tried to slip dirough 
hers; but she eluded him nimbly, and Frome's heart, 
which had swung out over a black void, trembled back 
to safety. A moment later he heard the jingle of de- 
parting sleigh bells and discerned a figure advancing 
alone toward the empty expanse of snow before the 
church. 

In the black shade of the Varnum spruces he caught 
up with her and she turned with a quick "Oh!" 

"Think I'd forgotten you, Matt?" he asked with sheep- 
ish glee. 

She answered seriously: "I thought maybe you 
couldn't come back for me." 

"Couldn't? What on earth, could stop me?" 

"I knew Zeena wasn't feeling any too good to-day." 

"Oh, she's in bed long ago." He paused, a question 
struggling in him. "Then you meant to walk home 
all alone?" 

"Oh, I ain't afraid!" she laughed. 

They stood together in the gloom of the spruces, an 
empty world glimmering about them wide and grey 
under the stars. He brought his question out. 

"If you thought I hadn't come, why didn't you ride 
back with Denis Eady?" 

"Why, where were you? How did you know? I never 
saw you!" 

Her wonder and his laughter ran together like spring 
rills in a thaw. Ethan had the sense of having done 
somediing arch and ingenious. To prolong the effect he 
groped for a dazzling phrase, and brought out, in a 
growl of rapture: "Come along." 

He slipped an arm through hers, as Eady had done, 
and fancied it was faintly pressed against her side; but 
neither of them moved. It was so dark under the spruces 
that he could barely see the shape of her head beside his 
shoulder. He longed to stoop his cheek and rub it against 
her scarf. He would have liked to stand there with her 
all night in the blackness. She moved forward a step or 
two and then paused again above the dip of the Corbury 
road. Its icy slope, scored by innumerable runners, 
looked like a mirror scratched by travellers at an inn. 

"There was a whole lot of them coasting before the 
moon set," she said. 

"Would you like to come in and coast with them some 
night?" he asked. 

"Oh, would you, Ethan? It would be lovely!" 

"Well come to-morrow if there's a moon." 

She lingered, pressing closer to his side. "Ned Hale 
and Ruth Varnum came just as near running into the 
big elm at the bottom. We were all sure they were 
killed." Her shiver ran down his arm. "Wouldn't it 
have been too awful? They're so happy!" 



12 



NOVEL 



"Oh, Ned ain't much at steering, I guess I can take 
you down all right!" he said disdainfully. 

He was aware that he was "talking big," like Denis 
Eady; but his reaction of joy had unsteadied him, and 
the inflection with which she had said of the engaged 
couple "They're so happy!" made the words sound as 
if she had been thinking of herself and him. 

"The elm is dangerous, though. It ought to be cut 
down," she insisted. 

"Would you be afraid of it, with me?" 

"I told you I ain't the kind to be afraid," she tossed 
back, almost indifferently; and suddenly she began to 
walk on with a rapid step. 

These alterations of mood were the despair and joy 
of Ethan Frome. The motions of her mind were as in- 
calculable as the flit of a bird in the branches. The fact 
that he had no right to show his feelings, and thus pro- 
voke the expression of hers, made him attach a fantastic 
importance to every change in her look and tone. Now 
he thought she understood him, and feared; now he was 
sure she did not, and despaired. To-night the pressure 
of accumulated misgivings sent the scale drooping 
toward despair, and her indifference was the more chill- 
ing after the flush of joy into which she had plunged 
him by dismissing Denis Eady. He mounted School 
House Hill at her side and walked on in silence till 
they reached the lane leading to the saw-mill; then the 
need of some definite assurance grew too strong for 
him. 

"You'd have found me right off if you hadn't gone 
back to have that last reel with Denis," he brought out 
awkwardly. He could not pronounce the name without 
a stiffening of the muscles of his throat. 

"Why. Ethan, how could I tell you were there?" 

"I suppose what folks say is true," he jerked out at 
her, instead of answering. 

She stopped short, and he felt, in the darkness, that 
her face was lifted quickly to his. "Why, what do folks 
say?" 

"It's natural enough you should be leaving us," he 
floundered on, following his thought. 

"Is that what they say?" she mocked back at him; 
then, with a sudden drop of her sweet treble: "You mean 
that Zeena — ain't suited with me any more?" she fal- 
tered. 

Their arms had slipped apart and they stood motion- 
less, each seeking to distinguish the other's face. 

"I know I ain't anything like as smart as I ought to 
be," she went on, while he vainly struggled for expres- 
sion. "There's lots of things a hired girl could do that 
come awkward to me still — and I haven't got much 
strength in my arms. But if she'd only tell me I'd try. 
You know she hardly ever says anything, and sometimes 
I can see she ain't suited, and yet I don't know why." 
She turned on him with a sudden flash of indignation. 



"You'd ought to tell me, Ethan Frome— ]^ou'd ought to! 
Unless you want me to go too " 

Unless he wanted her to go too! The cry was balm to 
his raw wound. The iron heavens seemed to melt and 
rain down sweetness. Again he struggled for the all- 
expressive word, and again, his arm in hers, found only 
a deep "Come along." 

They walked on in silence through the blackness of 
the hemlock-shaded lane, where Ethan's sawmill 
gloomed through the night, and out again into the com- 
parative clearness of the fields. On the farther side of 
the hemlock belt the open country rolled away before 
them grey and lonely under the stars. Sometimes their 
way led them under the shade of an overhanging bank 
or through the thin obscurity of a clump of leafless 
trees. Here and there a farmhouse stood far back among 
the fields, mute and cold as a grave-stone. The night 
was so still that they heard the frozen snow crackle 
under their feet. The crash of a loaded branch falling 
far off in the woods reverberated like a musket-shot, and 
once a fox barked, and Mattic shrank closer to Ethan, 
and quickened her steps. 

At length they sighted the group of larches at Ethan's 
gate, and as they drew near it the sense that the walk 
was over brought bad: his words. 

"Then you don't want to leave us, Matt?" 

Fie had to stoop his head to catch her stifled whisper : 
"Where'd I go, if I did?" 

The answer sent a pang through him but the tone 
suffused him with joy. He forgot what else he had 
meant to say and pressed her against him so closely that 
he seemed to feel her warmth in his veins. 

"You ain't crying are you, Matt?" 

"No, of course I'm not," she quavered. 

They turned in at the gate and passed under the 
shaded knoll where, enclosed in a low fence, the Frome 
grave-stones slanted at crazy angles through the snow. 
Ethan looked at them curiously. For years that quiet 
company had mocked his restlessness, his desire for 
change and freedom. "We never got away — how should 
you?" seemed to be written on every headstone; and 
whenever he went in or out of his gate he thought with 
a shiver: "I shall just go on living here till I join them." 
But now all desire for change had vanished, and the 
sight of the little enclosure gave him a warm sense of 
continuance and stability. 

"I guess well never let you go, Matt." he whispered, 
as though even the dead, lovers once, must conspire 
with him to keep her; and brushing by the graves, he 
thought: "Well always go on living here together, and 
some day she'll lie there beside me" 

He let the vision possess him as they climbed the hill 
to the house. He was never so happy with her as when 
he abandoned himself to these dreams. Half-way up the 
slope Mattie stumbled against some unseen obstruction 



ETHAN FROMJS 



13 



and clutched his sleeve to steady herself. The wave of 
warmth that went through him was like die prolonga- 
tion of his vision. For the first time he stole his arm 
about her, and she did not resist. They walked on as if 
they were floating on a summer stream. 

Zeena always went to bed as soon as she had had her 
supper, and the shutterless windows of the house were 
dark. A dead cucumber-vine dangled from the porch 
like the crape streamer tied to the door for a death, and 
die thought flashed through Ethan's brain: "If it was 
there for Zeena — " Then he had a distinct sight of his 
wife lying in her bedroom asleep, her mouth slightly 
open, her false teeth in a tumbier by the bed. . . . 

They walked around to the back of the house, between 
the rigid gooseberry bushes. It was Zeena's habit, when 
they came back late from the village, to leave the key of 
the kitchen door under the mat. Ethan stood before the 
door, his head heavy with dreams, his arm stili about 
Mattie. "Matt — " he began, not knowing what he 
meant to say. 

She slipped out of his hold without speaking, and he 
stooped down and felt for the key. 

"It's not there!" he said, straightening himself with 
a start. 

They strained their eyes at each other through the icy 
darkness. Such a thing had never happened before. 

"Maybe she's forgotten it," Mattie said in a tremulous 
whisper; but both of them knew that it was not like 
Zeena to forget. 

"It might have fallen off into the snow," Mattie con- 
tinued, after a pause during which they had stood 
intently listening. 

"It must have been pushed oft, then," he rejoined 
in die same tone. Anodier wild thought tore through 
him. What if tramps had been there — what if . . . 

Again he listened, fancying he heard a distant sound 
in the house; then he felt in his pocket for a match, and 
kneeling down, passed its light slowly over the rough 
edges of snow about the doorstep. 

He was still kneeling when his eyes, on a level with 
the lower panel of the door, caught a faint ray beneath it. 
Who could be stirring in that silent house? He heard 
a step on the stairs, and again for an instant the thought 
of tramps tore through him. Then the door opened and 
he saw his wife. 

Against the dark background of the kitchen she stood 
up tall and angular, one hand drawing a quilted counter- 
pane to her flat breast, while the other held a lamp. The 
light, on a level with her chin, drew out of the darkness 
her puckered throat and the projecting wrist of the hand 
that clutched the quilt, and deepened fantastically die 
hollows and prominences of her high-boned face under 
its ring of crimpiog-pins. To Ethan, still in the rosy 
haze of his hour with Mattie, the sight came with the 
intense precision of the last dream before waking. He 



felt as if he had never before known what his wife looked 
like. 

She drew aside without speaking, and Mattie and 
Ethan passed into the kitchen, which had the deadly 
chill of a vault after the dry. cold of the night. 

"Guess you forgot about us, Zeena," Ethan joked, 
stamping the snow from his boots. 

"No. 1 just fek so mean 1 couldn't sleep." 

Mattie came forward, unwinding her wraps, die 
colour of the cherry scarf in her fresh lips and cheeks. 
"I'm so sorry, Zeena! Isn't there anything I can do?" 

"No; there's nothing." Zeena turned away from her. 
"You might 'a' shook off that snow outside," she said to 
her husband. 

She walked out of die kitchen ahead of them and 
pausing in the hall raised the lamp at arm's-length, as if 
to light them up the stairs. 

Ethan paused also, affecting to fumble for the peg on 
which he hung his coat and cap. The doors of the two 
bedrooms faced each other across the narrow upper land- 
ing, and to-night it was peculiarly repugnant to him 
that Mattie should see him follow Zeena. 

"I guess I won't come up yet awhile," he said, turning 
as if to go back to the kitchen. 

Zeena stopped short and looked at him. "For die 
iand's sake — what you going to do down here?" 

"I've got the mill accounts to go over." 

She continued to stare at him, the flame of the un- 
shaded lamp bringing out widi microscopic cruelty the 
fretful lines of her face. 

"At this time o' night? You'll ketch your death. The 
fire's out long ago," 

Without answering he moved away toward the 
kitchen. As he did so his glance crossed Mattie's and he 
fancied that a fugitive warning gleamed through her 
lashes. The next moment they sank to her flushed 
cheeks and she began to mount the stairs ahead of Zeena 

"That's so. It is powerful cold down here," Ethan 
assented; and with lowered head he went up in his wife's 
wake, and followed her across the threshold of their 
room. 

Ill 

There was some hauling to be done at the lower end 
of the wood-lot, and Ethan was out early the next day. 

The winter morning was as clear as crystal. The sun- 
rise burned red in a pure sky, the shadows on the rim 
of the wood-lot were darkly blue, and beyond the white 
and scintillating fields patches of far-off forest hung like 
smoke. 

It was in the early morning stillness, when his muscles 
were swinging to their familiar task and his lungs ex- 
panding with long draughts of mountain air, that Ethan 
did his clearest thinking. He and Zeena had not ex- 
changed a word after the door of their room had closed 



14 



NOVEL 



on them. She had measured out some drops from a 
medicine-bottle on a chair by the bed and, after swallow- 
ing them, and wrapping her head in a piece of yellow 
flannel, had lain down with her face turned away. Ethan 
undressed hurriedly and blew out the light so that he 
should not see her when he took his place at her side. 
As he lay there he could hear Mattie moving about in 
her room, and her candle, sending its small ray across the 
landing, drew a scarcely perceptible line of light under 
his door. He kept his eyes fixed on the light till it 
vanished. Then the room grew perfectly black, and not 
a sound was audible but Zeena's asthmatic breathing. 
Ethan felt confusedly that there were many things he 
ought to think about, but through his tingling veins 
and tired brain only one sensation throbbed : the warmth 
of Mattie's shoulder against his. Why had he not kissed 
her when he held her there? A few hours earlier he 
would not have asked himself the question. Even a few 
minutes earlier, when they had stood alone outside the 
house, he would not have dared to think of kissing her. 
But since he had seen her lips in the lamplight he felt 
that they were his. 

Now, in the bright morning air, her face was still be- 
fore him. It was part of the sun's red and of the pure 
glitter on the snow. How the girl had changed since 
she had come to Starkfield! He remembered what a 
colourless slip of a thing she had looked the day he had 
met her at the station. And all the first winter, how she 
had shivered with cold when the northerly gales shook 
the thin clapboards and the snow beat like hail against 
die loose-hung windows! 

He had been afraid that she would hate the hard life, 
the cold and loneliness; but not a sign of discontent 
escaped her. Zeena took the view that Mattie was bound 
to make the best of Starkfield since she hadn't any other 
place to go to; but this did not strike Ethan as conclu- 
sive. Zeena, at any rate, did not apply the principle in 
her own case. 

He felt all the more sorry for the girl because misfor- 
tune had, in a sense, indentured her to them. Mattie 
Silver was the daughter of a cousin of Zenobia Frome's, 
who had inflamed his clan with mingled sentiments of 
envy and admiration by descending from the hills of 
Connecticut, where he had married a Stamford girl and 
succeeded to her father's thriving "drug" business. Un- 
happily Orin Silver, a man of far-reaching aims, had died 
too soon to prove that the end justifies the means. His 
accounts revealed merely what the means had been; 
and these were such that it was fortunate for his wife 
and daughter that his books were examined only after 
his impressive funeral. His wife died of the disclosure, 
and Mattie, at twenty, was left alone to make her way 
on the fifty dollars obtained from the sale of her piano. 
For this purpose her equipment, though varied, was in- 
adequate. She could trim a hat, make molasses candy, 



recite "Curfew shall not ring to-night," and play "The 
Lost Chord" and a pot-pourri from "Carmen." When 
she tried to extend the field of her activities in the direc- 
tion of stenography and book-keeping her health broke 
down, and six months on her feet behind the counter 
of a department store did not tend to restore it. Her 
nearest relations had been induced to place their savings 
in her father's hands, and though, after his death, they 
ungrudgingly acquitted themselves of the Christian duty 
of returning good for evil by giving his daughter all the 
advice at their disposal, they could hardly be expected to 
supplement it by material aid. But when Zenobia's doc- 
tor recommended her looking about for some one to 
help her with the house-work the clan instantly saw the 
chance of exacting a compensation from Mattie. Zenobia, 
though doubtful of the girl's efficiency, was tempted by 
the freedom to find fault without much risk of losing 
her; and so Mattie came to Starkfield. 

Zenobia's fault-finding was of the silent kind, but not 
the less penetrating for that. During the first months 
Ethan alternately burned with the desire to see Mattie 
defy her and trembled with fear of the result. Then the 
situation grew less strained. The pure air, and the long 
summer hours in the open, gave back life and elasticity 
to Mattie, and Zeena, with more leisure to devote to her 
complex ailments, grew less watchful of the girl's omis- 
sions; so that Ethan, struggling on under the burden of 
his barren farm and failing saw-mill, could at least 
imagine that peace reigned in his house. 

There was really, even now, no tangible evidence to 
the contrary; but since the previous night a vague dread 
had hung on his sky-line. It was formed of Zeena's 
obstinate silence, of Mattic's sudden look of warning, of 
the memory of just such fleeting imperceptible signs 
as those which told him, on certain stainless mornings, 
that before night there would be rain. 

His dread was so strong that, man-like, he sought to 
postpone certainty. The hauling was not over till mid- 
day, and as the lumber was to be delivered to Andrew 
Hale, the Starkfield builder, it was really easier for Ethan 
to send Jotham Powell, the hired man, back to the farm 
on foot, and drive the load down to the village himself. 
He had scrambled up on die logs, and was sitting astride 
of them, close over his shaggy grays, when, coming 
between him and their steaming necks, he had a vision 
of die warning look that Mattie had given him the 
night before. 

"If there's going to be any trouble I want to be there," 
was his vague reflection, as he threw to Jotham the un- 
expected order to unhitch the team and lead them back 
to the barn. 

It was a slow trudge home through the heavy fields, 
and when the two men entered the kitchen Mattie was 
lifting the coffee from the stove and Zeena was already 
at the table. Her husband stopped short at sight of her. 



ETHAN FROME 



15 



Instead o£ her usual calico wrapper and knitted shawl 
she wore her best dress of brown merino, and above 
her thin strands of hair, which still preserved the tight 
undulations of the crimping-pms, rose a hard perpendic- 
ular bonnet, as to which Ethan's clearest notion was that 
he had to pay five dollars for it at the Bettsbridge Em- 
porium. On the floor beside her stood his old valise and 
a bandbox wrapped in newspapers. 

"Why, where are you going, Zeena?" he exclaimed. 

"I've got my shooting pains so bad that I'm going 
over to Bettsbridge to spend the night with Aunt Martha 
Pierce and see that new doctor," she answered in a mat- 
ter-of-fact tone, as if she had said she was going into the 
store-room to take a look at the preserves, or up to the 
attic to go over the blankets. 

In spite of her sedentary habits such abrupt decisions 
were not without precedent in Zeena 's history. Twice or 
thrice before she had suddenly packed Ethan's valise and 
started off to Bettsbridge, or even Springfield, to seek 
the advice of some new doctor, and her husband had 
grown to dread these expeditions because of their cost. 
Zeena always came back laden with expensive remedies, 
and her last visit to Springfield had been commemorated 
by her paying twenty dollars for an electric battery of 
which she had never been able to learn the use. But for 
Ae moment his sense of relief was so great as to preclude 
all other feelings. He had now no doubt that Zeena had 
spoken the truth in saying, the night before, that she 
had sat up because she felt "too mean" to sleep: her 
abrupt resolve to seek medical advice showed that, as 
usual, she was wholly absorbed in her health. 

As if expecting a protest, she continued plaintively; 
"If you're too busy with the hauling I presume you can 
let Jodiarn Powell drive me over with the sorrel in time 
to ketch the train at the Flats." 

Her husband hardly heard what she was saying. Dur- 
ing the winter months there was no stage between Stark- 
field and Bettsbridge, and the trains which stopped at 
Cor bury Flats were slow and infrequent. A rapid cal- 
culation showed Ethan that Zeena could not be back at 
the farm before the following evening. . . , 

"If I'd supposed you'd 'a' made any objection to Jot- 
ham Powell's driving me over — " she began again, as 
though his silence had implied refusal. On the brink of 
departure she was always seized with a flux of words. 
"All I know is," she continued, "I can't go on the way I 
am much longer. The pains are clear away down to my 
ankles now, or I'd 'a' walked in to Starkfield on my own 
feet, sooner'n put you out, and ask Michael Eady to let 
me ride over on his wagon to the Flats, when he sends to 
meet the train that brings his groceries. I'd 'a' had two 
hours to wait in the station, but I'd sooner 'a' done it, 
even with this cold, than to have you say " 

"Of course }otham'll drive you over," Ethan roused 
himself to answer. He became suddenly conscious that 



he was looking at Mattie while Zeena talked to him, and 
with an effort he turned his eyes to his wife. She sat 
opposite the window, and the pale light reflected from 
the banks of snow made her face look more than usually 
drawn and bloodless, sharpened the three parallel creases 
between ear and cheek, and drew querulous lines from 
her thin nose to the corners of her mouth. Though she 
was but seven years her husband's senior, and he was 
only twenty-eight, she was already an old woman. 

Ethan tried to say something befitting the occasion, 
but there was only one thought in his mind: the fact that, 
for the first time since Mattie had come to live with 
them, Zeena was to be away for a night. He wondered 
if the girl were thinking of it too. . . . 

He knew that Zeena must be wondering why he did 
not offer to drive her to the Flats and let Jotham Powell 
take the lumber to Starkfield, and at first he could not 
think of a pretext for not doing so; tiien he said: "I'd 
take you over myself, only I've got to collect the cash 
for the lumber." 

As soon as the words were spoken he regretted them, 
not only because they were untrue — there being no pros- 
pect of his receiving cash payment from Hale — but also 
because he knew from experience the imprudence of 
letting Zeena think he was in funds on the eve of one 
of her therapeutic excursions. At the moment, however, 
his one desire was to avoid the long drive with her 
behind the ancient sorrel who never went out of a walk. 

Zeena made no reply: she did not seem to hear what 
he had said. She had already pushed her plate aside, and 
was measuring out a draught from a large bottle at her 
elbow. 

"It ain't done me a speck of good, but I guess I might 
as well use it up," she remarked; adding, as she pushed 
the empty bottle toward Mattie: "If you can get the 
taste out it'll do for pickles." 

IV 

As soon as his wife had driven off Ethan took his coat 
and cap from the peg. Mattie was washing up the 
dishes, humming one of the dance tunes of the night 
before. He said "So long, Matt," and she answered 
gaily "So long, Ethan"; and that was all. 

It was warm and bright in the kitchen. The sun 
slanted through the south window on the girl's moving 
figure, on the cat dozing in a chair, and on the geraniums 
brought in from the door-way, where Ethan had planted 
them in the summer to "make a garden" for Mattie. 
He would have liked to linger on, watching her tidy up 
and then settle down to her sewing; but he wanted still 
more to get the hauling done and be back at the farm 
before night. 

All the way down to the village he continued to think 
of his return to Mattie. The kitchen was a poor place, 



16 



NOVEL 



not "spruce' ; and shining as his mother had kept it in 
his boyhood; but it was surprising what a homelike 
look the mere fact of Zeena's absence gave it. And he 
pictured what it would be like that evening, when he 
and Mattie were there after supper. For the first time 
they would be alone together indoors, and they would 
sit there, one on each side of the stove, like a married 
couple, he in his stocking feet and smoking his pipe, 
she laughing and talking in that funny way she had, 
which was always as new to him as if he had never heard 
her before. 

The sweetness of the picture, and the relief of knowing 
that his fears of "trouble" with Zeena were unfounded, 
sent up his spirits with a rush, and he, who was usually 
so silent, whisded and sang aloud as he drove through 
the snowy fields. There was in him a slumbering spark 
of sociability which the long Starkfield winters had not 
yet extinguished. By nature grave and inarticulate, he 
admired recklessness and gaiety in others and was 
warmed to the marrow by friendly human intercourse. 
At Worcester, though he had the name of keeping to 
himself and not being much of a hand at a good time, he 
had secredy gloried in being clapped on the back and 
hailed as "Old Ethe" or "Old Stiff; and the cessation 
of such familiarities had increased the chill of his return 
to Starkfield. 

There the silence had deepened about him year by 
year. Left alone, after his father's accident, to carry the 
burden of farm and mill, he had had no time for con- 
vivial loiterings in the village; and when his mother fell 
ill the loneliness of the house grew more oppressive than 
that of the fields. His mother had been a talker in her 
day, but after her "trouble 1 " the sound of her voice was 
seldom heard, though she had not lost the power of 
speech. Sometimes, in the long winter evenings, when 
in desperation her son asked her why she didn't "say 
something," she would lift a finger and answer: "Be- 
cause I'm listening"; and on stormy nights, when the 
loud wind was about the house, she would complain, if 
he spoke to her: "They're talking so out there that I 
can't hear you." 

It was only when she drew toward her last illness, and 
his cousin Zenobia Pierce came over from the next vil- 
lage to help him nurse her, that human speech was heard 
again in the house. After the mortal silence of his long 
imprisonment Zeena's volubility was music in his ears. 
He felt that he might have "gone like his mother" if the 
sound of a new voice had not come to steady him. 
Zeena seemed to understand his case at a glance. She 
laughed at him for not. knowing the simplest sick-bed 
duties and told him to "go right along out" and leave her 
to sec to things. The mere fact of obeying her orders, of 
feeling free to go about his business again and talk with 
other men, restored his shaken balance and magnified 
his sense of what he owed her. Her efficiency shamed 



and dazzled him. She seemed to possess by instinct all 
the household wisdom that his long apprenticeship had 
not instilled in him. When the end came it was she who 
had to tell him to hitch up and go for the undertaker, 
and she thought it "funny" that he had not settled be- 
forehand who was to have his mother's clothes and the 
sewing-machine. After the funeral, when he saw her 
preparing to go away, he was seized with an unreasoning 
dread of being left alone on the farm; and before he 
knew what he was doing he had asked her to stay diere 
with him. He had often thought since that it would not 
have happened if his mother had died in spring instead 
of winter . . . 

When they married it was agreed that, as soon as he 
could straighten out the difficulties resulting from Mrs. 
Frome's long illness, they would sell the farm and saw- 
mill and try their luck in a large town. Ethan's love of 
nature did not take the form of a taste for agriculture. 
He had always wanted to be an engineer, and to live in 
towns, where there were lectures and big libraries and 
"fellows doing things." A slight engineering job in 
Florida, put in his way during his period of study at 
Worcester, increased his faith in his ability as well as his 
eagerness to see the world; and he felt sure that, with a 
"smart" wife like Zeena, it would not be long before he 
had made himself a place in it. 

Zeena's native village was slighdy larger and nearer to 
the railway than Starkfield, and she had let her husband 
see from the first that life on an isolated farm was not 
what she had expected when she married. But pur- 
chasers were slow in coming, and while he waited for 
them Ethan learned the impossibility of transplanting 
her. She chose to look down on Starkfield, but she could 
not have lived in a place which looked down on her. 
Even Bettsbridge or Shadd's Falls would not have been 
sufficiently aware of her, and in the greater cities which 
attracted Ethan she would have suffered a complete 
loss of identity. And within a year of their marriage she 
developed the "sickliness" which had since made her 
notable even in a community rich in pathological in- 
stances. When she came to take care of his mother she 
had seemed to Ethan like the very genius of health, but 
he soon saw that her skill as a nurse had been acquired 
by the absorbed observation of her own symptoms. 

Then she too fell silent. Perhaps it was the inevitable 
effect of life on the farm, or perhaps, as she sometimes 
said, it was because Ethan "never listened." The charge 
was not wholly unfounded. When she spoke it was only 
to complain, and to complain of things not in his power 
to remedy; and to check a tendency to impatient retort 
he had first formed the habit of not answering her, and 
finally of thinking of other things while she talked. Of 
late, however, since he had had reasons for observing her 
more closely, her silence had begun to trouble him, He 
recalled his mother's growing taciturnity, and wondered 



ETHAN FROME 



1? 



if Zeena were also turning "queer." Women did, he 
knew. Zeena, who had at her ringers' ends the patho- 
logical chart of the whole region, had cited many cases 
of the kind while she was nursing his mother; and he 
himself knew of certain lonely farm-houses in the neigh- 
bourhood where stricken creatures pined, and of others 
where sudden tragedy had come of their presence. At 
times, looking at Zeena's shut face, he felt the chill of 
such rorebodings. At other times her silence seemed 
deliberately assumed to conceal far-reaching intentions, 
mysterious conclusions drawn from suspicions and re- 
sentments impossible to guess. That supposition was 
even more disturbing than the other; and it was the one 
which had come to him the night before, when he had 
seen her standing in the kitchen door. 

Now her departure for Bettsbridge had once more 
eased his mind, and all his thoughts were on the prospect 
of his evening with Mattie. Only one thing weighed on 
him, and that was his having told Zeena that he was to 
receive cash for the lumber. He foresaw so clearly the 
consequence of this imprudence that with considerable 
reluctance he decided to ask Andrew Hale for a small 
advance on his load. 

When Ethan drove into Hale's yard the builder was 
just getting out of his sleigh. 

"Heiio, Ethel" he said. "This comes handy." 

Andrew Hale was a ruddy man with a big gray mous- 
tache and a stubbly double-chin unconstrained by a col- 
lar; but his scrupulously clean shirt was always fastened 
by a small diamond stud. This display of opulence 
was misleading, for though he did a fairly good business 
it was known that his easy-going habits and the demands 
of his large family frequently kept him what Starkfieid 
called "behind." He was an old friend of Ethan's family, 
and his house one of the few to which Zeena occasionally 
went, drawn there by the fact that Mrs. Hale, in her 
youth, had done more "doctoring" than any other 
woman in Starkfteld, and was still a recognized authority 
on symptoms and treatment. 

Hale went up to the grays and patted their sweating 
flanks. 

"Well, sir," he said, "you keep them two as if they v/as 
pets." 

Ethan set about unloading the logs and when he had 
finished his job he pushed open the glazed door of die 
shed which the builder used as his office. Hale sat with 
his feet up on the stove, his back propped against a bat- 
tered desk strewn with papers: the place, like the man, 
was warm, genial and untidy. 

"Sit right down and thaw out," he greeted Ethan. 

The latter did not know how to begin, but at length 
he managed to bring out his request for an advance of 
fifty dollars. The blood rushed to his thin skin under 
the sting of Hale's astonishment. It was the builder's 
custom to pay at the end of three months, and there was 



no precedent between the two men for a cash settle- 
ment. 

Ethan felt that if he had pleaded an urgent need Hale 
might have made shift to pay him; but pride, and an 
instinctive prudence, kept him from resorting to this 
argument. After his father's death it had taken time to 
get his head above water, and he did not want Andrew 
Hale, or any one else in Starkfieid, to think he was going 
under again. Besides, he hated lying; if he wanted the 
money he wanted it, and it was nobody's business to ask 
why. He therefore made his demand with the awkward- 
ness of a proud man who will not admit to himself that 
he is stooping; and he was not much surprised at Hale's 
refusal. 

The builder refused genially, as he did everything 
else : he treated the matter as something in the nature of 
a practical joke, and wanted to know if Ethan meditated 
buying a grand piano or adding a "cupolo" to his house; 
offering, in the latter case, to give his services free of cost. 

Ethan's arcs were soon exhausted, and after an embar- 
rassed pause he wished Hale good day and opened the 
door of the office. As he passed out the builder suddenly 
called after him: "See here — you ain't in a right place, 
are you?" 

"Not a bit," Ethan's pride retorted before his reason 
had time to intervene. 

"Well, that's good! Because I am, a shade. Fact is, I 
was going to ask you to give me a little extra time on 
that payment. Business is pretty slack, to begin with, 
and then I'm fixing up a little house for Ned and Rudi 
when they're married. I'm glad to do it for 'em, but it 
costs." His look appealed to Ethan for sympathy. "The 
young people like things nice. You know how it is your- 
self: it's not so long ago since you fixed up your own 
place for Zeena." 

Ethan left the grays in Hale's stable and went about 
some other business in the village. As he walked away 
the builder's last phrase lingered in his ears, and he 
reflected grimly that his seven years with Zeena seemed 
to Starkfieid "not so long." 

The afternoon was drawing to an end, and here and 
there a lighted pane spangled the cold gray dusk and 
made the snow look whiter. The bitter weather had 
driven every one indoors and Ethan had the long rural 
street to himself. Suddenly he heard die brisk play of 
sleigh-bells and a cutter passed him. drawn by a free- 
going horse. Ethan recognised Michael Eady's roan colt, 
and young Denis Eady, in a handsome new fur cap, 
leaned forward and waved a greeting. "Hello, Ethe!" 
he shouted and spun on. 

The cutter was going in die direction of the Frome 
farm, and Ethan's heart contracted as he listened to the 
dwindling bells. What more likely than that Denis Eady 
had heard of Zeena's departure for Bettsbridge, and was 



18 



NOVEL 



profiting by the opportunity to spend an hour with 
Mattie? Ethan was ashamed of the storm of jealousy in 
his breast. It seemed unworthy of the girl that his 
thoughts of her should be so violent. 

He walked on to the church corner and entered the 
shade of the Varnum spruces, where he had stood widi 
-her the night before. As he passed into their gloom he 
saw an indistinct outiine just ahead of him. At his 
approach it melted for an instant into two separate 
shapes and then conjoined again, and he heard a kiss, 
and a haif-laughing "Oh!" provoked by the discovery 
of his presence. Again the outline hastily disunited and 
the Varnum gate slammed on one half while the other 
hurried on ahead of him. Ethan smiled at the discom- 
fiture he had caused. What did it matter to Ned Hale 
and Ruth Varnum if they were caught kissing each 
other? Everybody in Starkfield knew they were en- 
gaged. It pleased Ethan to have surprised a pair of lovers 
on the spot where he and Mattie had stood with such a 
thirst for each other in dieir hearts; but he felt a pang at 
the thought that these two need not hide their happiness. 

He fetched the grays from Hale's stable and started on 
his long climb back to the farm. The cold was less sharp 
than earlier in the day and a thick fleecy sky threatened 
snow for the morrow. Here and there a star pricked 
through, showing behind it a deep well of blue. In an 
hour or two the moon would push up over the ridge 
behind the farm, burn a gold-edged rent in the clouds, 
and then be swallowed by them. A mournful peace 
hung on the fields, as though they felt the relaxing grasp 
of the cold and stretched themselves in their long winter 
sleep. 

Ethan's ears were alert for the jingle of sleigh-bells, but 
not a sound broke the silence of the lonely road. As he 
drew near the farm he saw, through the thin screen of 
larches at the gate, a light twinkling in the house above 
him. "She's up in her room," he said to himself, "fixing 
herself up for supper"; and he remembered Zeena's 
sarcastic stare when Mattie, on the evening of her arrival, 
had come down to supper with smoothed hair and a 
ribbon at her neck. 

He passed by the graves on the knoll and turned his 
head to glance at one of the older headstones, which 
had interested him deeply as a boy because it bore his 
name. 

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF 

ETHAN FROME AND ENDURANCE HIS WIFE, 

WHO DWELLED TOGETHER IN PEACE 

FOR FIFTY YEARS. 

He used to think that fifty years sounded like a long 
time to live together; but now it seemed to him that diey 
might pass in a flash. Then, with a sudden dart of irony, 
he wondered if, when their turn came, the same epitaph 
would be written over him and Zeena. 

He opened the barn-door and craned his head into the 



obscurity, half-fearing to discover Denis Eady's roan colt 
in the stall beside die sorrel. But the old horse was there 
alone, mumbling his crib with toothless jaws, and Ethan 
whisded cheerfully while he bedded down the grays and 
shook an extra measure of oats into their mangers. His 
was not a tuneful throat, but harsh melodies burst from 
it as he locked the barn and sprang up the hill to the 
house. He reached the kitchen-porch and turned the 
door-handle; but the door did not yield to his touch. 

Startled at finding it locked he ratded the handle vio- 
lendy; then he reflected that Mattie was alone and that 
it was natural she should barricade herself at nightfall. 
He stood in the darkness expecting to hear her step. It 
did not come, and after vainly straining his ears he called 
out in a voice that shook with joy: "Hello, Matt!" 

Silence answered; but in a minute or two he caught 
a sound on the stairs and saw a line of light above the 
door-frame, as he had seen it die night before. So strange 
was the precision with which the incidents of the pre- 
vious evening were repeating themselves that he half 
expected, when he heard the key turn, to see his wife 
before him on the threshold; but the door opened, and 
Mattie faced him. 

She stood just as Zeena had stood, a lifted lamp in her 
hand, against the black background of the kitchen. She 
held the light at the same level, and it drew out with the 
same distinctness her slim young throat and the brown 
wrist no bigger than a child's. Then, striking upward, 
it threw a lustrous fleck on her lips, edged her eyes with 
velvet shade, and laid a milky whiteness above the black 
curve of her brows. 

She wore her usual dress of darkish stuff, and there 
was no bow at her neck; but through her hair she had 
run a streak of crimson ribbon. This tribute to the un- 
usual transformed and glorified her. She seemed to 
Ethan taller, fuller, more womanly in shape and mo- 
don. She stood aside, smiling silendy, while he entered, 
and then moved away from him with something soft 
and flowing in her gait. She set the lamp on the table, 
and he saw that it was carefully laid for supper, with 
fresh dough-nuts, stewed blueberries and his favourite 
pickles in a dish of gay red glass. A bright fire glowed 
in the stove and the cat lay stretched before it, watching 
the table with a drowsy eye. 

Ethan was suffocated with the sense of well-being. He 
went out into the passage to hang up his coat and pull 
off his wet boots. When he came back Mattie had set the 
teapot on the table and the cat was rubbing itself per- 
suasively against her ankles. 

"Why, Puss! I nearly tripped over you," she cried, the 
laughter sparkling through her lashes. 

Again Ethan felt a sudden twinge of jealousy. Could 
it be his coming that gave her such a kindled face? 

"Well, Matt, any visitors?" he threw off, stooping 
down carelessly to examine the fastening of the stove. 



ETHAN FROME 



19 



She nodded and laughed "Yes, one," and he felt a 
blackness settling on his brows. 

"Who was that?" he questioned, raising himself up to 
slant a glance at her beneath his scowl. 

Her eyes danced with malice. "Why, Jotham Powell. 
He came in after he got back, and asked for a drop of 
coffee before he went down home." 

The blackness lifted and light flooded Ethan's brain. 
"That all? Well, I hope you made out to let him have 
it." And after a pause he felt it right to add : "I suppose 
he got Zeena over to the Flats all right?" 

"Oh, yes; in plenty of time." 

The name threw a chill between them, and they stood 
a moment looking sideways at each other before Mattie 
said with a shy laugh: "I guess it's about time for sup- 
per." 

They drew their seats up to the table, and the cat, un- 
bidden, jumped between them into Zeena's empty chair. 
"Oh, Puss!" said Mattie, and they laughed again. 

Ethan, a moment earlier, had felt himself on the brink 
of eloquence; but the mention of Zeena had paralysed 
him. Mattie seemed to feel die contagion of his embar- 
rassment, and sat with downcast lids, sipping her tea, 
while he feigned an insatiable appetite for dough-nuts 
and sweet pickles. At last, after casting about for an 
effective opening, he took a long gulp of tea, cleared his 
throat, and said : "Looks as if there'd be more snow." 

She feigned great interest. "Is that so? Do you sup- 
pose it'll interfere with Zeena's getting back?" She 
flushed red as the question escaped her, and hastily set 
down the cup she was lifting. 

Ethan reached over for another helping of pickles. 
"You never can tell, this time of year, it drifts so bad on 
the Flats." The name had benumbed him again, and 
once more he felt as if Zeena were in the room between 
diem. 

"Oh, Puss, you're too greedy!" Mattie cried. 

The cat, unnoticed, had crept up on muffled paws from 
Zeena's seat at the table, and was stealthily elongating its 
body in the direction of the milk-jug, which stood be- 
tween Ethan and Mattie. The two leaned forward at 
the same moment and their hands met on the handle of 
the jug. Mattie's hand was underneath, and Ethan kept 
his clasped on it a moment longer than was necessary. 
The cat, profiting by this unusual demonstration, tried 
to effect an unnoticed retreat, and in doing so backed 
into the pickle-dish, which fell to the floor with a crash. 

Mattie, in an instant, had sprung from her chair and 
was down on her knees by the fragments. 

"Oh, Ethan, Ethan — it's all to pieces! What will 
Zeena say?" 1 

But this time his courage was up. "Well, she'll have to 
say it to the cat, any way!" he rejoined with a laugh, 
kneeling down at Mattie's side to scrape up the swim- 
ming pickles. 



She lifted stricken eyes to him. "Yes, but, you see, she 
never meant it should be used, not even when there was 
company; and I had to get up on the step-ladder to reach 
it down from the top shelf of the china-closet, where she 
keeps it with all her best things, and of course she'll 
want to know why I did it " 

The case was so serious that it called forth all of 
Ethan's latent resolution. 

"She needn't know anything about it if you keep quiet. 
I'll get another just like it to-morrow. Where did it 
come from? I'll go to Shadd's Falls for it if I have to!" 

"Oh, you'll never get another even there! It was a 
wedding present — don't you remember? It came all the 
way from Philadelphia, from Zeena's aunt that married 
the minister. That's why she wouldn't ever use it. Oh, 
Ethan, Ethan, what in the world shall I do?" 

She began to cry, and he felt as if every one of her 
tears were pouring over him like burning lead. "Don't, 
Matt, don't — oh, don't!" he implored her. 

She struggled to her feet, and he rose and followed her 
helplessly while she spread out the pieces of glass on 
the kitchen dresser. It seemed to him as if the shattered 
fragments of their evening lay there. 

"Here, give diem to me," he said in a voice of sudden 
authority. 

She drew aside, instinctively obeying his tone. "Oh, 
Ethan, what are you going to do?" 

Without reply he gathered the pieces of glass into his 
broad palm and walked out of the kitchen to the passage. 
There he lit a candle-end, opened the china-closet, and, 
reaching his long arm up to the highest shelf, laid the 
pieces together with such accuracy of touch that a close 
inspection convinced him of the impossibility of detect- 
ing from below that the dish was broken. If he glued it 
together the next morning months might elapse before 
his wife noticed what had happened, and meanwhile he 
might after all be able to match the dish at Shadd's Falls 
or Bettsbridge. Having satisfied himself that there was 
no risk of immediate discovery he went back to the 
kitchen with a lighter step, and found Mattie discon- 
solately removing the last scraps of pickle from the floor. 

"It's all right, Matt. Come back and finish supper," 
he commanded her. 

Completely reassured, she shone on him through tear- 
hung lashes, and his soul swelled with pride as he saw 
how his tone subdued her. She did not even ask what 
he had done. Except when he was steering a big log 
down the mountain to his mill he had never known 
such a thrilling sense of mastery. 



They finished supper, and while Mattie cleared die 
table Ethan went to look at the cows and then took a last 
turn about the house. The earth lay dark under a muffled 
sky and the air was so still that now and then he heard a 



20 



NOVEL 



lump of snow come thumping down from a tree far off 
on the edge of the wood-lot 

When he returned to the kitchen Mattie had pushed 
up his chair to die stove and seated herself near die lamp 
with a bit of sewing. The scene was just as he had 
dreamed of it that morning. He sat down, drew his 
pipe from his pocket and stretched his feet to trie glow. 
His hard day's work in the keen air made him feel at 
once lazy and light of mood, and he had a confused sense 
of being in another world, where all was warmth and 
harmony and time could bring no change. The only 
drawback to his complete well-being was die fact that he 
could not see Mattie from where he sat; but he was too 
indolent to move and after a moment he said: "Come 
over here and sit by the stove." 

Zeena's empty rocking-chair stood facing him. Mattie 
rose obediendy, and seated herself in it. As her young 
brown head detached itself against the patch-work cush- 
ion chat habitually framed his wife's gaunt countenance, 
Ethan had a momentary shock. It was almost as if the 
other face, the face of the superseded woman, had ob- 
literated that of the intruder. After a moment Mattie 
seemed to be affected by the same sense of constraint. 
She changed her position, leaning forward to bend her 
head above her work, so that he saw only the fore- 
shortened tip of her nose and the streak of red in her 
hair; then she slipped to her feet, saying "I can't see to 
sew," and went back to her chair by the lamp. 

Ethan made a pretext of getting up to replenish the 
stove, and when he returned to his seat he pushed it side- 
ways that he might get a view of her profile and of the 
lamplight falling on her hands. The cat, who had been 
a puzzled observer of these unusual movements, jumped 
up into Zeena's chair, rolled itself into a ball, and lay 
watching them with narrowed eyes. 

Deep quiet sank on the room. The clock ticked above 
the dresser, a piece of charred wood fell now and then 
in the stove, and the faint sharp scent of the geraniums 
mingled with the odour of Ethan's smoke, which began 
to throw a blue haze about the lamp and to hang its 
greyish cobwebs in the shadowy corners of the room. 

All constraint had vanished between the two, and they 
began to talk easily and simply. They spoke of every- 
day things, of the prospect of snow, of the next church 
sociable, of the loves and quarrels of Starkfield. The 
commonplace nature of what they said produced in 
Ethan an illusion of long-established intimacy which no 
outburst of emotion could have given. 2nd he set his 
imagination adrift on the fiction that they had always 
spent their evenings thus and would always go on doing 
so . . . 

"This is the night we were to have gone coasting, 
Matt," he said at len ith the rich sense, as he spoke, 

that they could go on any othei night they chose, since 
they had all time before them. 



She smiled back at him. "I guess you forgot!" 

"No, I didn't forget; but it's as dark as Egypt out- 
doors. We might go to-morrow if there's a moon." 

She laughed with pleasure, her head tilted back, the 
lamplight sparkling on her lips and teedi. "That would 
be lovely, Ethan!" 

He kept his eyes fixed on her, marvelling at the way 
her face changed with each turn of their talk, like a 
wheat-field under a summer breeze. It was intoxicating 
to find such magic in his clumsy words, and he longed 
to try new ways of using it. 

"Would you be scared to go down the Corbury road 
with me on a night like this?" he asked. 

Her cheeks burned redder. "I ain't any more scared 
than you are!" 

"Well, I'd be scared, then; I wouldn't do it. That's an 
ugly corner down by the big elm. If a fellow didn't keep 
his eyes open he'd go plumb into it." He luxuriated in 
the sense of protection and authority which his words 
conveyed. To prolong and intensify the feeling he 
added : "I guess we're well enough here." 

She let her lids sink slowly, in the way he loved. "Yes, 
we're well enough here," she sighed. 

Her tone was so sweet that he took the pipe from his 
mouth and drew his chair up to the table. Leaning for- 
ward, he touched the farther end of the strip of brown 
stuff that she was hemming. "Say, Matt," he began with 
a smile, "what do you think I saw under die Varnum 
spruces, coming along home just now? I saw a friend of 
yours getting kissed." 

The words had been on his tongue all the evening, but 
now that he had spoken them they struck him as inex- 
pressibly vulgar and out of place. 

Mattie blushed to the roots of her hair and pulled her 
needle rapidly twice or thrice dirough her work, insen- 
sibly drawing the end of it away from him. "I suppose 
it was Ruth and Ned," she said in a low voice, as though 
he had suddenly touched on something grave. 

Ethan had imagined that his allusion might open the 
way to the accepted pleasantries, and these perhaps in 
turn to a harmless caress, if only a mere touch on her 
hand. But now he felt as if her blush had set a flaming 
guard about her. He supposed it was his natural awk- 
wardness that made him feel so. He knew that most 
young men made nothing at all of giving a pretty girl 
a kiss, and he remembered that the night before, when 
he had put his arm about Mattie, she had not resisted. 
But that had been out-of-doors, under the open irrespon- 
sible night. Now, in the warm lamplit room, with all its 
ancient implications of conformity and order, she 
seemed infinitely farther away from hirn and more unap- 
proachable. 

To ease his constraint he said: "I suppose they'll be 
setting a date before long." 

'Tes. I shouldn't wonder if they got married some 



ETHAN FROME 



21 



time along in the summer." She pronounced the word 
married as if her voice caressed it. It seemed a rustling 
covert leading to enchanted glades. A pang shot through 
Ethan, and he said, twisting away from her in his chair: 
"It'll be your turn next, I wouldn't wonder." 

She laughed a little uncertainly. "Why do you keep 
on saying that?" 

He echoed her laugh. "I guess I do it to get used to the 
idea." 

He drew up to the table again and she sewed on in 
silence, with dropped lashes, while he sat in fascinated 
contemplation of the way in which her hands went up 
and down above the strip of stuff, just as he had seen 
a pair of birds make short perpendicular flights over a 
nest they were building. At length, without turning her 
head or lifting her lids, she said in a low tone: "It's not 
because you think Zeena's got anything against me, 
is it?" 

His former dread started up full-armed at the sugges- 
tion. "Why, what do you mean?" he stammered. 

She raised distressed eyes to his, her work dropping on 
the table between them. "I don't know. I thought last 
night she seemed to have." 

"I'd like to know what/* he growled. 

"Nobody can tell with Zeena." It was the first time 
they had ever spoken so opemly of her attitude toward 
Mattie, and the repetition of the name seemed to carry it 
to the farther corners of the room and send it back to 
them in long repercussions of sound. Mattie waited, 
as if to give the echo time to drop, and then went on: 
"She hasn't said anything to you?" 

He shook his head. "No, not a word." 

She tossed the hair back from her forehead with a 
laugh. "I guess I'm just nervous, then. I'm not going 
to think about it any more." 

"Oh, no— don't let's think about it, Matt!" 

The sudden heat of his tone made her colour mount 
again, not with a rush, but gradually, delicately, like the 
reflection of a thought stealing slowly across her heart. 
She sat silent, her hands clasped on her work, and it 
seemed to him that a warm current flowed toward him 
along the strip of stuff that still lay unrolled between 
them. Cautiously he slid his hand palm-downward 
along the table till his finger-tips touched the end of the 
stuff. A faint vibration of her lashes seemed to show 
that she was aware of his gesture, and that it had sent a 
counter-current back to her; and she let her hands lie 
motionless on the other end of the strip. 

As they sat thus he heard a sound behind him and 
turned his head. The cat had jumped from Zeena's 
chair to dart at a mouse in the wainscot, and as a result 
of the sudden movement the empty chair had set up a 
spectral rocking. 

"She'll be rocking in it herself this time to-morrow," 
Ethan thought. "I've been in a dream, and this is the 



only evening we'll ever have together." The return to 
reality was as painful as the return to consciousness after 
taking an anesthetic. His body and brain ached with 
indescribable weariness, and he could think of nothing 
to say or to do that sliould arrest the mad flight of the 
moments. 

His alteration of mood seemed to have communicated 
itself to Mattie. She looked up at him languidly, as 
though her lids were weighted with sleep and it cost her 
an effort to raise them. Her glance fell on his hand, 
which now completely covered die end of her work and 
grasped it as if it were a part of herself. He saw a 
scarcely perceptible tremor cross her face, and without 
knowing what be did he stooped his head and kissed 
the bit of stuff in his hold. As his lips rested on it he 
felt it glide slowly from beneath them, and saw that 
Mattie had risen and was silently roiling up her work. 
She fastened it. with a pin, and then, finding her thimble 
and scissors, put them with the roll of stuff into the box 
covered with fancy paper which he had once brought to 
her from Bettsbddge. 

He stood up also, looking vaguely about the room. 
The clock above the dresser struck eleven. 

"Is the fixe all right?" she asked in a low voice. 

He opened the door of the stove and poked aimlessly 
at the embers. When he raised himself again he saw that 
she was dragging toward the stove the old soap-box 
lined with carpet in which the cat made its bed. Then 
she recro&sed the floor and lifted two of the geranium 
pots in her arms, moving them away from the cold 
window. He followed her and brought the other gera- 
niums, the hyacinth bulbs in a cracked custard bowl and 
the German, ivy trained over an old croquet hoop. 

When these nightly duties were performed there was 
nothing left to do but to bring in the tin candlestick from 
the passage, light the candle and blow out the lamp. 
Ethan put the candlestick in Mattie's hand and she went 
out of the kitchen ahead of him, die light that she carried 
before her making her dark hair look like a drift of mist 
on the moon. 

"Good-night, Matt," he said as she put her foot on the 
first step of the stairs. 

She turned and looked at him a moment. "Good 
night, Ethan," she answered, and went up. 

When the door of her room had closed on her he 
remember that he had not even touched her hand. 

VI 

The next morning at breakfast Jothaxn Powell was be- 
tween thera, and Ethan tried to hide his joy under an 
air of exaggerated indifference, lounging back in his 
chair to throw scraps to the cat, growling at the weather, 
and not so much as offering to help Mattie when she 
rose to clear away the dishes. 



22 



NOVEL 



\ 



He did not know why he was so irrationally happy, 
for nothing was changed in his life or hers. He had not 
even touched the tip of her fingers or looked her full in 
the eyes. But their evening together had given him a 
vision of what life at her side might be, and he was glad 
now that he had done nothing to trouble the sweetness 
of the picture. He had a fancy that she knew what had 
restrained him . . . 

There was a last load of lumber to be hauled to the 
village, and Jotham Powell — who did not work regularly 
for Ethan in winter — had "come round" to help with 
the job. But a wet snow, melting to sleet, had fallen in 
the night and turned the roads to glass. There was more 
wet in the air and it seemed likely to both men that the 
weather would "milden" toward afternoon and make 
the going safer. Ethan therefore proposed to his assistant 
that diey should load the sledge at the wood-lot, as they 
had done on the previous morning, and put off the 
"teaming" to Starkfield till later in the day. This plan 
had the advantage of enabling him to send Jotham to 
the Flats after dinner to meet Zenobia. while he himself 
took the lumber down to the village. 

He told Jotham to go out and harness up the grays, 
and for a moment he and Mattie had the kitchen to 
themselves. She had plunged the breakfast dishes into 
a tin dish-pan and was bending above it with her slim 
arms bared to the elbow, the steam from the hot water 
beading her forehead and tightening her rough hair into 
little brown rings like the tendrils on the traveller's joy. 

Ethan stood locking at her, his heart in his throat. He 
a anted to say: "We shall never be alone again like this." 
Instead, he reached down his tobacco-pouch from a shelf 
of the dresser, put it into his pocket and said: "I guess I 
can make out to be home for dinner." 

She answered "Ail right, Ethan," and he heard her 
singing over the dishes as he went. 

As soon as the sledge was loaded he meant to send 
Jotham back to the farm and hurry on foot into the 
village to buy the glue for the pickle-dish. With ordinary 
luck he should have had time to carry out this plan; but 
everything went wrong from the start. On the way over 
to the wood-lot one of the grays slipped on a glare of 
ice and cut his knee; and when they got him up again 
Jotham had to go back to the barn for a strip of rag to 
bind the cut. Then, when the loading finally began, a 
sleety rain was coming down once more, and the tree 
trunks were so slippery that it took twice as long as 
usual to lift them and get them in place on the sledge. 
It was what Jotham called a sour morning for work, and 
the horses, shivering and stamping under their wet 
blankets, seemed to like it as little as the men. It was 
long past the dinner-hour when the job was done, and 
Ethan had to give up going to die village because he 
wanted to lead the injured horse home and wash the cut 
himself. 



He thought that by starting out again with the lumber 
as soon as he had finished his dinner he might get back 
to the farm with the glue before Jotham and the old 
sorrel had had time to fetch Zenobia from the Flats; but 
he knew the chance was a slight one. It turned on the 
state of the roads and on the possible lateness of the Betts- 
bridge train. Fie remembered afterward, with a grim 
flash of self-derision, what importance he had attached 
to the weighing of these probabilities . . . 

As soon as dinner was over he set out again for the 
wood-lot, not daring to linger till Jotham Powell left. 
The hired man was still drying his wet feet at the stove, 
and Ethan could only give Mattie a quick look as he said 
beneath his breath: "I'll be back early." 

He fancied that she nodded her comprehension; and 
with that scant solace he had to trudge off through the 
rain. 

He had driven his load half-way to the village when 
Jotham Powell overtook him, urging the reluctant sorrel 
toward the Flats. "I'll have to hurry up to do it," Ethan 
mused, as the sleigh dropped down ahead of him over 
the dip of the school-house hill. He worked like ten at 
the unloading, and when it was over hastened on to 
Michael Eady's for the glue. Eady and his assistant were 
both "down street," and young Denis, who seldom 
deigned to take their place, was lounging by the stove 
with a knot of the golden youth of Starkfield. They 
hailed Ethan with ironic compliment and offers of con- 
viviality; but no one knew where to find the glue. Ethan, 
consumed with tiie longing for a last moment alone with 
Mattie, hung about impatiently while Denis made an 
ineffectual search in the obscurer corners of the store. 

"Looks as if we were all sold out. But if you'll wait 
around till the old man comes along maybe he can put 
his hand on it." 

"I'm obliged to you, but I'll try if I can get it down 
at Mrs. Homan's," Ethan answered, burning to be gone. 

Denis's commercial instinct compelled him to aver on 
oath that what Eady's store could not produce would 
never be found at the widow Homan's; but Ethan, heed- 
less of this boast, had already climbed to the sledge and 
was driving on to the rival establishment. Here, after 
considerable search, and sympathetic questions as to 
what he wanted it for, and whether ordinary flour paste 
wouldn't do as well if she couldn't find it, the widow 
Homan finally hunted down her solitary bottle of glue 
to its hiding-place in a medley of cough-lozenges and 
corset-laces. 

"I hope Zeena ain't broken anything she sets store by," 
she called after # him as he turned the grays toward home. 

The fitful bursts of sleet had changed into a steady 
rain and the horses had heavy work even without a load 
behind them. Once or twice, hearing sleigh-bells, Ethan 
turned his head, fancying that Zeena and Jotham might 
overtake him; but the old sorrel was not in sight, and he 



ETHAN FROMH 



23 



set his face against the rain and urged on his ponderous 
pair. 

The barn was empty when the horses turned into it 
and, after giving them the most perfunctory ministra- 
tions they had ever received from him, he strode up to 
the house and pushed open the kitchen door. 

Mattie was there alone, as he had pictured her. She 
was bending over a pan on the stove; but at the sound 
of his step she turned with a start and sprang to him. 

"See, here, Matt, I've got some stuff to mend the dish 
with! Let me get at it quick," he cried, waving the 
botde in one hand while he put her lighdy aside; but she 
did not seem to hear him. 

"Oh, Ethan— Zeena's come," she said in a whisper, 
clutching his sleeve. 

They stood and stared at each other, pale as culprits. 

"But the sorrel's not in the barn!" Ethan stammered. 

"Jotham Powell brought some goods over from the 
Flats for his wife, and he drove right on home with 
them," she explained. 

He gazed blankly about the kitchen, which looked 
cold and squalid in the rainy winter twilight. 

"How is she?" he asked, dropping his voice to Mattie's 
whisper. 

She looked away from him uncertainly. "I don't 
know. She went right up to her room." 

"She didn't say anything?" 

"No." 

Ethan let out his doubts in a low whistle and thrust 
the botde back into his pocket. "Don't fret; I'll come 
down and mend it in the night," he said. He pulled on 
his wet coat again and went back to the barn to feed the 
grays. 

While he was there Jotham Powell drove up with the 
sleigh, and when the horses had been attended to Ethan 
said to him: "You might as well come back up for a 
bite." He was not sorry to assure himself of Jotham's 
neutralising presence at the supper table, for Zeena was 
always "nervous" after a journey. But the hired man, 
diough seldom loth to accept a meal not included in his 
wages, opened his stiff jaws to answer slowly: "I'm 
obliged to you, but I guess I'll go along back." 

Ethan looked at him in surprise. "Better come up and 
dry off. Looks as if there'd be something hot for supper." 

Jotham's facial muscles were unmoved by this appeal 
and, his vocabulary being limited, he merely repeated: 
"I guess I'll go along back." 

To Ethan there was something vaguely ominous in 
this stolid rejection of free food and warmth, and he 
wondered what had happened on the drive to nerve 
Jotham to such stoicism. Perhaps Zeena had failed to 
see the new doctor or had not liked his counsels: Ethan 
knew that in such cases the first person she met was 
likely to be held responsible for her grievance. 

When he re-entered the kitchen the lamp lit up the 



same scene of shining comfort as on the previous eve- 
ning. The table had been as carefully laid, a clear fire 
glowed in the stove, the cat dozed in its warmth, and 
Mattie came forward carrying a plate of dough-nuts. 

She and Ethan looked at each other in silence; then 
she said, as she had said the night before: "I guess it's 
about time for supper." 



vn 



Ethan went out into the passage to hang up his wet 
garments. He listened for Zeena's step and. not hearing 
it, called her name up the stairs. She did not answer, and 
after a moment's hesitation he -went up and opened her 
door. The room was almost dark, but in the obscurity he 
saw her sitting by the window, bolt upright, and knew 
by the rigidity of the oudine projected against the pane 
that she had not taken off her travelling dress. 

"Well, Zeena," he ventured from the threshold. 

She did not move, and he continued: "Supper's about 
ready. Ain't you coming?" 

She replied: "I don't feel as if I could touch a morsel." 

It was the consecrated formula, and he expected it to 
be followed, as usual, by her rising and going down to 
supper. But she remained seated, and he could think of 
nothing more felicitous than: "I presume you're tired 
after the long ride." 

Turning her head at this, she answered solemnly: "I'm 
a great deal sicker than you think." 

Her words fell on his ear with a strange shock of won- 
der. He had often heard her pronounce them before — 
what if at last they were true? 

He advanced a step or two into the dim room. "I 
hope that's not so, Zeena," he said. 

She continued to gaze at him through the twilight 
with a mien of wan authority, as of one consciously 
singled out for a great fate. "I've got complications," 
she said. 

Ethan knew the word for one of exceptional import. 
Almost everybody in the neighbourhood had "troubles," 
frankly localized and specified; but only the chosen had 
"complications." To have them was in itself a distinc- 
tion, though it was also, in most cases, a death-warrant. 
People struggled on for years with "troubles," but they 
almost always succumbed to "complications." 

Ethan's heart was jerking to and fro between two 
extremities of feeling, but for the moment compassion 
prevailed. His wife looked so hard and lonely, sitting 
there in the darkness with such thoughts. 

"Is that what the new doctor told you?" he asked, 
instinctively lowering his voice. 

"Yes. He says any regular doctor would want me to 
have an operation." 

Ethan was aware that, in regard to the important ques- 
tion of surgical intervention, the female opinion of the 



24 



NOVEL 



neighbourhood was divided, some glorying in the pres- 
tige conferred by operations while others shunned them 
as indelicate. Ethan, from motives of economy, had 
alwavs been elad that Zeena was of the latter faction. 

In the agitation caused by the gravity of her announce- 
ment he sought a consolatory short cut. "What do you 
know about this doctor anyway? Nobody ever told you 
that before." 

He saw his blunder before she could take it up: she 
wanted sympathy, not consolation. 

"I didn't need to have anybody tell me I was losing 
ground every day. Everybody but you could see it. And 
everybody in Bettsbridge knows about Dr. Buck. He 
has his office in Worcester, and comes over once a fort- 
night to Shadd's Falls and Bettsbridge for consultations. 
Eliza Spears was wasting away with kidney trouble 
before she went to him, and now she's up and aiound, 
and singing in the choir." 

"Well, I'm glad of that. You must do just what he 
tells you," Ethan answered sympathetically. 

She was still looking at him. "I mean to," she said. 
He was struck by a new note in her voice. It was 
neither whining nor reproachful, but drily resolute. 

"What does he want you should do?" he asked, widi a 
mounting vision of fresh expenses. 

"He wants I should have a hired girl. He says I 
oughtn't to have to do a single thing around die house." 

"A hired girl?" Ethan stood transfixed. 

"Yes. And Aunt Martha found me one right off. 
Everybody said I was lucky to get a girl to come away 
out here, and I agreed to give her a dollar extry to make 
sure. She'll be over to-morrow afternoon." 

Wrath and dismay contended in Ethan. He had fore- 
seen an immediate demand for money, but not a perma- 
nent drain on his scant resources. He no longer believed 
what Zeena had told him of the supposed seriousness of 
her state: he saw in her expedition to Bettsbridge only 
a plot hatched between herself and her Pierce relations 
to foist on him the cost of a servant; and for the moment 
wrath predominated. 

"If you meant to engage a girl you ought to have told 
me before you started," he said. 

"How could I tell you before I started? How did I 
know what Dr. Buck would say?" 

"Oh, Dr. Buck — " Ethan's incredulity escaped in a 
short laugh. "Did Dr. Buck tell you how I was to pay 
her wages?" 

Her voice rose furiously with his. "No, he didn't. For 
I'd 'a' been ashamed to tell him that you grudged me the 
money to get back my health, when I lost it nursing your 
own mother!" 

"You lost your health nursing mother?" 

"Yes; and my folks all told me at the time you couldn't 
do no less than marry me after " 

"Zeena!" 



Through the obscurity which hid their faces their 
thoughts seemed to dart at each other like serpents shoot- 
ing venom. Ethan was seized with horror of the scene 
and shame at his own share in it. It was as senseless 
and savage as a physical fight between two enemies in 
the darkness. 

He turned to the shelf above the chimney, groped for 
matches and lit the one candle in the room. At first its 
weak flame made no impression on the shadows; then 
Zeena's face stood grimly out against the uncurtained 
pane, which had turned from gray to black. 

It was the first scene of open anger between the couple 
in dieir sad seven years together, and Ethan felt as if 
he had lost an irretrievable advantage in descending to 
the level of recrimination. But the practical problem 
was there and had to be dealt with. 

"You know I haven't got the money to pay for a girl, 
Zeena. You'll have to send her back: I can't do it." 

"The doctor says it'll be my death if I go on slaving 
the way I've had to. He doesn't understand how I've 
stood it as long as I have." 

"Slaving! — " He checked himself again. "You sha'n't 
lift a hand, if he says so. I'll do everything round the 
house myself -" 

She broke in: "You're neglecting the farm enough 
already," and this being true, he found no answer, and 
left her time to add ironically: "Better send me over to 
the almshouse and done with it. ... I guess there's 
been Fromes there afore now." 

The taunt burned into him, but he let it pass. "I 
haven't got the money. That settles it." 

There was a moment's pause in the struggle, as though 
the combatants were testing their weapons. Then Zeena 
said in a level voice: "I thought you were to get fifty 
dollars from Andrew Hale for that lumber." 

"Andrew Hale never pays under three months." He 
had hardly spoken when he remembered the excuse he 
had made for not accompanying his wife to the station 
the day before; and the blood rose to his frowning brows. 

"Why, you told me yesterday you'd fixed it up with 
him to pay cash down. You said that was why you 
couldn't drive me over to the Flats." 

Ethan had no suppleness in deceiving. He had never 
before been convicted of a lie, and all the resources of 
evasion failed him. "I guess that was a misunderstand- 
ing," he stammered. 

"You ain't got the money?" 

"No." 

"And you ain't going to get it?" 

"No." 

"Well, I couldn't know that when I engaged the girl, 
could I?" 

"No." He paused to control his voice. "But you know 
it now. I'm sorry, but it can't be helped. You're a poor 
man's wife, Zeena; but Fll do the best I can for you." 



STHAN FRGM£ 



25 



For a while she sat motionless, as if reflecting, he? arms 

stretched along the arms of her chair, her eyes fixed on 

vacancy. "Oh, I guess well make out," she said mildly. 

The change in her tone reassured him. "Of course we 

will! There's a whole lot more I can do for you, and 

Mattie * 

Zeena, while he spoke, seemed to be following out 
some elaborate mental calculation. She emerged from it 

to say: "There'll he Mattie's board less, anyhow " 

Ethan, supposing the discussion to be over, had turned 
to go down to supper. He stopped short, not. grasping 
what he heard. "Mattie's board less—?" he began. 

Zeena laughed. It was an odd unfamiliar sound —he 
did not remember ever having heard her laugh before. 
"You didn't suppose I was going to keep two girls, did 
you? No wonder you were scared at the expense!" 

He still had but a confused sense of what she was 
saying. From the beginning of the discussion he had in- 
stinctively avoided die mention of Mattie's name, fearing 
he hardly knew what: criticism, complaints, or vague 
allusions to the imminent probability of her marrying, 
But the thought of a definite rupture had never come to 
him, and even now could not lodge itself in his mind. 

"I don't know what you mean," he said. "Mattie Sil- 
ver's not a hired girl. She's your relation." 

"She's a pauper that's hung onto us all after her 
father'd done his best to ruin us. I've kep' her here a 
whole year : it's somebody else's turn now " 

As the shrill words shot out Ethan heard a tap on the 
door, which he had drawn shut when he turned back 
from the threshold. 

"Ethan— Zeena!" Matties voice sounded gaily from 
the landing, "do you know what time it is? Supper's 
been ready half an hour," 

Inside the room there was a moment's silence; then 
Zeena called out from her seat: "I'm not coming down 
to supper." 

"Oh, I'm sorry! Aren't you well? Sha'n't I bring you 
up a bite of something?" 

Ethan roused himself with an effort and opened the 
door. "Go along down, Matt. Zeena's just a little tired. 
I'm coming." 

He heard her "All right!" and her quick step on the 
stairs; then he shut the door and turned back into die 
room. His wife's attitude was unchanged, her face 
inexorable, and he was seized with the despairing sense 
of his helplessness. 
"You ain't going to do it, Zeena?" 
"Do what?" she emitted between flattened lips. 
"Send Mattie away— like this?" 
"I never bargained to take her for life!" 
He continued with rising vehemence: "You can't put. 
her out of the house like a thief— a poor girl without 
friends or money. She's done her best for you and she's 
got no place to go <o. You may forget she's your kin 



but everybody else'll remember it. If you do a thing 
like that what do you suppose folks'll say of you?" 

Zeena waited a moment, as if giving him time to feel 
the full force of the contrast between his own excitement 
and her composure. Then she replied in the same 
smooth voice: "I know well enough what they say of 
my having kep' her here as long as I have." 

Ethan's hand dropped from the door-knob, which he 
had held clenched since he had drawn the door shut on 
Mattie. His wife's retort was like a knife-cut across the 
sinews and he felt suddenly weak and powerless. He 
had meant to humble himself, to argue that Mattie's 
keep didn't cost much, after all, that he could make out 
to buy a stove and fix up a place in the attic for the 
hired girl— but Zeena's words revealed the peril of such, 
pleadings. 

"You mean to tell her she's got to go — at once?" he 
faltered out, in terror of letting his wife complete her 
sentence. 

As if trying to make him see reason she replied im- 
partially: "The girl will be over from Bettsbridge to- 
morrow, and I presume she's got to have somewheres to 
sleep." 

Ethan looked at her with loathing. She was no longei 
the listless creature who had lived at his side in a state of 
sullen self-absorption, but a mysterious alien presence 
an evil energy secreted from the long years of silent 
brooding. It was the sense of his helplessness that sharp- 
ened his antipathy. There had never been anything in 
her that one could appeal to; but as long as he could 
ignore and command he had remained indifferent. Now 
she had mastered him and he abhorred her. Mattie was 
her relation, not his: there were no means by which he 
could compel her to keep the girl under her roof, All 
the long misery of his baffled past, of his youth of fail- 
ure, hardship and vain effort, rose up in his soul in bit- 
terness and seemed to take shape before him in the 
woman who at every turn had barred his way. She had 
taken everything else from him; and now she meant to 
take die one thing that made up for all the others. For 
a moment such a flame of hate rose in him that it ran 
down his arm and clenched his fist against her. He took 
a wild step forward and then stopped. 

"You're—you're not coming down?" he said in a 
bewildered voice. 

"No I guess 111 lay down on the bed a little while, 
she answered mildly; and he turned and walked out of 
the room. 

In the kitchen Mattie was sitting by the stove, the cat 
curled up on her knees. She sprang to her feet as Ethan 
entered and carried the covered dish of meat-pie to the 
table. 
"I hope Zeena isn't sick?" she asked. 
"No." 
She shone at him across the table. "Well, sit right 



26 



NOVEL 



down then. You must be starving." She uncovered the 
pie and pushed it over to him. So they were to have 
one more evening together, her happy eyes seemed to 
say! 

He helped himself mechanically and began to eat; 
dien disgust took him by the throat and he laid down 
his fork. 

Mattie's tender gaze was on him and she marked the 



gesture. 



"Why, Ethan, what's the matter? Don't it taste 

right?" 

"Yes— it's first-rate. Only I—" He pushed his plate 
away, rose from his chair, and walked around the table 
to her side. She started up with, frightened eyes. 

"Ethan, diere's somediing wrong! I \new there was!" 

She seemed to melt against him in her terror, and .he 
caught her in his arms, held her fast there, felt her lashes 
beat his cheek like netted butterflies. 

"What is it—what is it?" she stammered; but he had 
found her lips at last and was drinking unconsciousness 
of everything but the joy they gave him. 

She lingered a moment, caught in the same strong 
current; then she slipped from him and drew back a step 
or two, pale and troubled. Her look smote him with 
compunction, and he cried out, as if he saw her drown- 
ing in a dream: "You can't go, Matt! Ill never let you!" 

"Go — go?" she stammered. "Must I go?" 

The words went on sounding between them as though 
a torch of warning flew from hand to hand through a 
black landscape. 

Ethan was overcome with shame at his lack of self- 
control in flinging the news at her so brutally. His head 
reeled and he had to support himself against the table. 
All the while he felt as if he were stil! kissing her, and 
yet dying of thirst for her lips. 

"Ethan, what has happened? Is Zeena mad with 
me?" 

Her cry steadied him, though it deepened his wrath 
and pity. "No, no," he assured her, "it's not that. But 
this new doctor has scared her about herself. You know 
she believes all they say the first time she sees them. And 
this one's told her she won't get well unless she lays up 
and don't do a thing about the house — not for 
months " 

He paused, his eyes wandering from her miserably. 
She stood silent a moment, drooping before him like 
a broken branch. She was so small and weak-looking 
that it wrung his heart; but suddenly she lifted her head 
and looked straight at him. "And she wants somebody 
handier in my place? Is that it?" 

"That's what she says to-night." 

"If she says it to-night she'll say it to-morrow." 

Both bowed to the inexorable truth: they knew that 
Zeena never changed her mind, and that in her case a 
resolve once taken wai equivalent to an act performed. 



There was a long silence between them; then Mattie 
said in a low voice: "Don't be too sorry, Ethan." 

"Oh, God — oh, God," he groaned. The glow of 
passion he had felt for her had melted to an aching 
tenderness. He saw her quick lids beating back the 
tears, and longed to take her in his arms and soothe her. 

"You're letting your supper get cold," she admonished 
him with a pale gleam of gaiety. 

"Oh, Matt— Matt— where'U you go to?" 

Her lids sank and a tremor crossed her face. He saw 
that for the first time the thought of die future came to 
her distinctly. "I might get something to do over at 
Stamford," she faltered, as if knowing that he knew she 
had no hope. 

He dropped back into his seat and hid his face in his 
hands. Despair seized him at the thought of her setting 
out alone to renew the weary quest for work. In the 
only place where she was known she was surrounded by 
indifference or animosity; and what chance had she, 
inexperienced and untrained, among the million bread- 
seekers of the cities ? There came back to him miserable 
tales he had heard at Worcester, and the faces of girls 
whose lives had begun as hopefully as Mattie's. ... It 
was not possible to think of such things without a revolt 
of his whole being. He sprang up suddenly. 

"You can't go, Matt! I won't let you! She's always 
had her way, but I mean to have mine now " 

Mattie lifted her hand with a quick gesture, and he 
heard his wife's step behind him. 

Zeena came into the room with her dragging down-at- 
the-heel step, and quietly took her accustomed seat be- 
tween them. 

"I felt a little mite better, and Dr. Buck says I ought 
to eat all I can to keep my stren'th up, even if I ain't got 
any appetite," she said in her flat whine, reaching across 
Mattie for the teapot. Her "good" dress had been re- 
placed by the black calico and brown knitted shawl 
which formed her daily wear, and with them she had 
put on her usual face and manner. She poured out her 
tea, added a great deal of milk to it, helped herself 
largely to pie and pickles, and made the familiar gesture 
of adjusting her false teeth before she began to eat. The 
cat rubbed itself ingratiatingly against her, and she said 
"Good Pussy," stooped to stroke it and gave it a scrap 
of meat from her plate. 

Ethan sat speechless, not pretending to eat, but Mattie 
nibbled valiantly at her food and asked Zeena one or 
two questions about her visit to Bettsbridge. Zeena an- 
swered in her every-day tone and, warming to the theme, 
regaled them with several vivid descriptions of intestinal 
disturbances among her friends and relatives. She looked 
straight at Mattie as she spoke, a faint smile deepening 
the vertical lines between her nose and chin. 

When supper was over she rose from her seat and 
pressed her hand to the flat surface over the region of 



ETHAN FROME 



27 



her heart. "That pie of yours always sets a mite heavy, 
Matt," she said, not ill-naturedly. She seldom abbrevi- 
ated the girl's name, and when she did so it was always 
a sign of affability. 

"I've a good mind to go and hunt up those stomach 
powders I got last year over in Springfield," she con- 
tinued. "I ain't tried them for quite a while, and maybe 
they'll help the heartburn." 

Mattie lifted her eyes. "Can't I get them for you, 
Zeena?" she ventured. 

"No. They're in a place you don't know about," 
Zeena answered darkly, with one of her secret looks. 

She went out of the kitchen and Mattie, rising, began 
to clear the dishes from the table. As she passed Ethan's 
chair their eyes met and clung together desolately. The 
warm still kitchen looked as peaceful as the night before. 
The cat had sprung to Zeena's rocking-chair, and the 
heat of the fire was beginning to draw out the faint sharp 
scent of the geraniums. Ethan dragged himself wearily 
to his feet. 

Til go out and take a look round," he said, going 
toward the passage to get his lantern. 

As he reached the door he met Zeena coming back into 
the room, her lips twitching with anger, a flush of excite- 
ment on her sallow face. The shawl had slipped from 
her shoulders and was dragging at her down-trodden 
heels, and in her hands she carried the fragments of the 
red glass pickle-dish. 

"I'd like to know who done this," she said, looking 
sternly from Ethan to Mattie. 

There was no answer, and she continued in a trem- 
bling voice: "I went to get those powders I'd put away in 
father's old spectacle-case, top of the china-closet, where 
I keep the things I set store by, so's folks sha'n't meddle 
with them—" Her voice broke, and two small tears 
hung on her lashless lids and ran slowly down her 
cheeks. "It takes the step-ladder to get at the top shelf, 
and I put Aunt Philura Maple's pickle-dish up there o' 
purpose when we was married, and it's never been down 
since, 'cept for the spring cleaning, and then I always 
lifted it with my own hands, so's 't it shouldn't get 
broke." She laid the fragments reverently on the table, 
"I want to know who done this," she quavered. 

At the challenge Ethan turned back into the room and 
faced her. "I can tell you, then. The cat done it." 

"Thecal?" 

"That's what I said." 

She looked at him hard, and then turned her eyes to 
Mattie, who was carrying the dish-pan to the table. 

"I'd like to know how the cat got into my china- 
closet," she said. 

"Chasin' mice, I guess," Ethan rejoined. "There was 
a mouse round the kitchen ail last evening." 

Zeena continued to look from one to the other; then 
she emitted her small strange laugh. "I knew the cat 



was a smart cat," she said in a high voice, "but I didn't 
know he was smart enough to pick up the pieces of my 
pickle-dish and lay 'em edge to edge on the very shelf 
he knocked 'em off of." 

Mattie suddenly drew her arms out of the steaming 
water. "It wasn't Ethan's fault, Zeena! The cat did 
break the dish; but I got it down from the china-closet, 
and I'm the one to blame for its getting broken." 

Zeena stood beside the ruin of her treasure, stiffening 
into a stony image of resentment. "You got down my 
pickle-dish — what for?" 

A bright flush flew to Mattie's cheeks. "I wanted to 
make the supper-table pretty," she said. 

"You wanted to make the supper-table pretty; and 
you waited till my back was turned, and took the thing I 
set most store by of anything I've got, and wouldn't 
never use it, not even when the minister come to dinner, 
or Aunt Martha Pierce come over from Bettsbridge — " 
Zeena paused with a gasp, as if terrified by her own 
evocation of the sacrilege. "You're a bad girl, Mattie 
Silver, and I always known it. It's the way your father 
begun, and I was warned of it when I took you, and I 
tried to keep my things where you couldn't get at 'em — 
and now you've took from me the one I cared for most 
of all—" She broke off in a short spasm of sobs that 
passed and left her more than ever like a shape of stone. 

"If I'd 'a' listened to folks, you'd 'a' gone before now, 
and this wouldn't 'a' happened," she said; and gathering 
up the bits of broken glass she went out of the room as 
if she carried a dead body. . . , 

VIII 

When Ethan was called back to the farm by his father's 
illness his mother gave him, for his own use, a small 
room behind the untenanted "best parlour." Here he had 
nailed up shelves for his books, built himself a box-sofa 
out of boards and a mattress, laid out his papers on a 
kitchen-table, hung on the rough plaster wall an engrav- 
ing of Abraham Lincoln and a calendar with "Thoughts 
from the Poets," and tried, with these meagre properties 
to produce some likeness to the study of a "minister" 
who had been kind to him and lent him books when he 
was at Worcester. He still took refuge there in summer, 
but when Mattie came to live at the farm he had had to 
give her his stove, and consequendy the room was unin- 
habitable for several months of the year. 

To this retreat he descended as soon as the house was 
quiet, and Zeena's steady breathing from the bed had 
assured him that there was to be no sequel to the scene 
in the kitchen. After Zeena's departure he and Mattie 
had stood speechless, neither seeking to approach the 
other. Then the girl had returned to her task of clearing 
up the kitchen for the night and he had taken his lan- 
tern and gone on his usual round outside the house. The 



28 



NOVEL 



kitchen was empty when he came back to it; but his 
tobacco-pouch and pipe had been laid on the tab!e, and 
under them was a scrap of paper torn from the back of a 
seedsman's catalogue, on which three words were writ- 
ten: "Don't trouble, Ethan." 

Going into his cold dark "study" he placed the lantern 
on the table and, stooping to its light, read the message 
again and again. It was the first time that Mattie had 
ever written to him, and the possession of the paper 
gave him a strange new sense of her nearness; yet if deep- 
ened his anguish by reminding him that henceforth they 
would have no other way of communicating with each 
other. For the life of her smile, the warmth of her voice, 
only cold paper aud dead words! 

Confused motions of rebellion stormed in him. He 
was too young, too strong, too full of the sap of living, 
to submit so easily to the destruction of his hopes. Must 
he wear out all his years at the side of a bitter querulous 
woman? Other possibilities had been in him, possibili- 
ties sacrificed, one by one, to Zeena's narrow-mindedness 
and ignorance. And what good had come of it? She 
was a hundred times bitterer and more discontented 
than when he had married her: the one pleasure left her 
was to inflict pain on him. All the healthy instincts of 
self-defence rose up in him against such waste , . . 

He bundled himself into his old coon-skin coat and 
lay down on the box-sofa to think. Under his cheek he 
felt a hard object with strange protuberances. It was a 
cushion which Zeena had made for him when they were 
engaged — the only piece of needlework he had ever seen 
her do. He flung it across the floor and propped his head 
against the wall . . . 

He knew a case of a man over the mountain — a young 
fellow of about his own age— who had escaped from just 
such a life of misery by going West with the girl he 
cared for. His wife had divorced him, and he had mar- 
ried the girl and prospered. Ethan had seen the couple 
the summer before at Shadd's Falls, where they had come 
to visit relatives. They had a little girl with fair curls, 
who wore a gold locket and was dressed like a princess. 
The deserted wife had not done badly either. Her hus- 
band had given her the farm and she had managed to 
sell it, and with that and the alimony she had started a 
lunch-room at Bettsbridge and bloomed into activity and 
importance. Ethan was fired by the thought. Why 
should he not leave with Mattie the next day, instead of 
letting her gn alone? He would hide his valise under the 
seat of the sleigh, and Zeena would suspect nothing till 
she went upstairs for her afternoon nap and found a 
letter on the bed . . . 

His impulses were still near the surface, and he sprang 
up, re-lit the lantern, and sat down at the table. He rum- 
maged in the drawer for a sheet of paper, found one, and 
began to write. 

"Zeena, I've done all I could for you, and I don't see 



as it's been any use. I don't blame you, nor I don't blame 
myself. Maybe both of us will do better separate. I'm 
going to try my luck West, mid you can sell the farm and 
mill, and keep the money—- — " 

His pen paused on the word, which brought home to 
him the relentless conditions of his lot. If he gave the 
farm and mill to Zeena what would be left him to start 
his own life with? Once in the West he was sure of 
picking up work — he would not have feared to try his 
chance alone. But with Mattie depending on him the 
case was different. And what of Zeena's fate? Farm and 
mill were mortgaged to the limit of their value, and even 
if she found a purchaser — in itself an unlikely chance- 
it was doubtful if she could clear a thousand dollars on 
the sale. Meanwhile, how could she keep the farm 
going? It was only by incessant labour and persona! 
supervision that Ethan drew a meagre living from his 
land, and his wife, even if she were in better health than 
she imagined, could never carry such a burden alone. 

Well, she could go back to her people, then, and see 
what they would do for her. It was the fate she was 
forcing on Mattie— -why not let her try it herself? By 
the time she had discovered his whereabouts, and 
brought suit for divorce, he would probably—wherever 
he was— be .earning enough to pay her a sufficient ali- 
mony. And the alternative was to let Mattie go forth 
alone, with far less hope of ultimate provision . . . 

He had scattered the contents of the table-drawer in 
his search for a sheet of paper, and as he took up his pen 
his eye fell on an old copy of the Bettsbridge Eagle. The 
advertising sheet was folded uppermost, and he read the 
seductive words: "Trips to the West: Reduced Rates." 

He drew the lantern nearer and eagerly scanned the 
fares; then the paper fell from his hand and he pushed 
aside his unfinished letter. A moment ago he had won- 
dered what he and Mattie were to live on when they 
reached the West; now he saw that he had not even the 
money to take her there. Borrowing was out of the 
question: six months before he had given his only se- 
curity to raise funds for necessary repairs to the mill, 
and he knew that without security no one at Starkfield 
would lend him ten dollars. The inexorable facts closed 
in on him like prison-warders hand-cuffing a convict 
There was no way out — none. He was a prisoner for 
life, and now his one ray of light was to be extinguished. 

Fie crept back heavily to the sofa, stretching himself 
out with limbs so leaden that he felt as if they would 
never move again. Tears rose in his throat and slowly 
burned their way to his lids. 

As he lay there, the window-pane that faced him, 
growing gradually lighter, inlaid upon the darkness a 
square of moon-suffused sky. A crooked tree -branch 
crossed it, a branch of the apple-tree under which, on 
summer evenings, he had sometimes found Mattie sit- 
ting when he came up from the mill. Slowly the rim of 



ETHAN FROM 



£ 



29 



the rainy vapours caught fire and burnt away, and a pure 
moon swung into the blue. Ethan, rising on his elbow, 
watched the landscape whiten and shape itself under the 
sculpture of the moon. Tins was the night on which he 
was to have taken Mattie coasting, and there hung the 
lamp to lighi them! He looked out at the slopes bathed 
in lustre, the silver-edged darkness of the woods, the 
spectral purple of the hills against the sky, and it seemed 
as though all the beauty of the night had been poured 
out to mock his wretchedness , . . 

He fell asleep, and when, he woke the chill of the win- 
ter dawn was in the room. He felt cold and stiff and 
hungry, and ashamed of being hungry. He rubbed his 
eyes and went to the window. A red sun stood ova* the 
gray rim of the fields, behind trees that looked black and 
brittle. He said to himself: "This is Mate's last day," and 
tried to think what die place would be without her. 

As he stood there he heard a step behind him and she 
entered. 

"Oh, Ethan — were you here all night?" 

She looked so small and pinched, in her poor dress, 
with the red scarf wound about her, and the cold light 
turning her paleness sallow, that Ethan stood before her 
without speaking. 

"You must be frozen," she went on, fixing lustreless 
eyes on him. 

He drew a step nearer. "How did you know I was 
here?" 

"Because I heard you go down stairs again after I 
went to bed, and I listened all night, and you didn't 
come up." 

All his tenderness rushed to his lips. He looked at her 
and said: "I'll come right along and make up the kitchen 
fire." 

They went back to the kitchen, and he fetched the coal 
and kindlings and cleared out the stove for her. while she 
brought in the milk and the cold remains of the meat- 
pie. When warmth began to radiate from the stove, snd 
the first ray of sunlight lay on the kitchen floor, Ethan's 
dark thoughts melted in the mellower air. The sight of 
Mattie going about her work ss he had seen her on so 
many mornings made it seem impossible that she should 
ever cease to be a part of the scene. He said to himself 
that he had doubtless exaggerated the significance of 
Zeena's threats, and that she too, with the return of day- 
light, would come to a saner mood. 

He went up to Mattie as she bent above the stove, and 
laid his hand on her arm. "I don'r want you should 
trouble either," he said, looking down into her eyes with 
a smile. 

She flushed up warmly and whispered back: "No, 
Ethan, I ain't going to trouble." 

"I guess things'!! straighten out," he added. 

There was no sn«wer but a quick throb of her lids, 
and he went on: "She ain't said anything this morning?" 



"No. I haven't seen her yzC* 

"Don't you take any notice when you do." 

With this injunction he left her and went out to the 
cow-barn. He saw Jotham Powell walking up the hill 
through the morning mist, and the familiar sight added 
to his growing conviction of security. 

As the two men were clearing out the stalls Jotham 
rested on his pitch-fork to say: "Dan'l Byrne's goin' 
over to the Flats to-day noon, an' he c'd take Matae's 
trunk along, and make it easier ridin' when I take her 
over in the sleigh." 

Ethan looked at liim blankly, and he continued: "Mis' 
Frome said die new girl'd be at the Flats at five, and I 
was to take Mattie then, so's 't she could ketch the six 
o'clock train for Stamford." 

Ethan felt the blood drumming in his temples. He 
had to wait a moment before he could find voice to say: 
"Oh, it ain't so sure about Mattie's going " 

"That so?" said Jotham indifferently; and they went 
on with their work. 

When they returned to the kitchen the two women 
were already at breakfast Zeena had an air of unusual 
alertness and activity. She drank two cups of coffee and 
fed die cat with the scraps left in the pie-dish; then she 
rose from her seat and, walking over to the window, 
snipped two or three yellow leaves from the geraniums, 
"Aunt Martha's ain't got a faded leaf on 'em; but they 
pine away when thev ain't cared for," she said reflec- 
tively. Then she turned to Jotham and asked: "What 
time'd you say Dan'l Byrne'd be along?" 

The hired man threw a hesitating glance at Ethan. 
"Round about noon," he said. 

Zeena turned to Mattie. "That trunk of yours is too 
heavy for the sleigh, and Dan'l Byrne'll be round to take 
it over to the Flats," she said. 

"I'm much obliged to you, Zeena," said Mattie. 

"I'd like to go over things with you first," Zeena con- 
tinued in an unperturbed voice. "I know there's a huck- 
abuck towel missing; and I can't make out what you 
done with that match-safe 5 t used to stand behind the 
stufled owl in the parlour." 

She went out followed by Mattie, and when the men 
were alone Jotham said to his employer : "I guess I better 
let Dan'! come round, then." 

Ethan finished his usual morning tasks about the 
house and barn; then he said to Jotham: "I'm go- 
ing down to Starkfield. TeJJ them not to wait din- 
ner." 

The passion of rebellion had broken out in him again 
That which had seemed incredible in the sober light of 
day had really come to pass, and he was to assist as a 
helpless spectator at Mattie's banishment. His manhood 
was humbled by the part he was compelled to play and 
by the thought of what Mattie must think of him. Con- 
fused impulses struggled in him as he strode along to the 



30 



NOVEL 



village. He had made up his mind to do something, but 
he did not know what it would be 

The early mist had vanished and the fields lay like 
a silver shield under the sun. It was one of the days 
when the glitter of winter shines through a pale haze 
of spring. Every yard of the road was alive with Mat- 
tie's presence, and there was hardly a branch against the 
sky or a tangle of brambles on the bank in which some 
bright shred of memory was not caught. Once, in the 
stillness, the call of a bird in a mountain ash was so like 
her laughter that his heart tightened and then grew 
large; and all these things made him see that something 
must be done at once. 

Suddenly it occurred to him that Andrew Hale, who 
was a kind-hearted man, might be induced to reconsider 
his refusal and advance a small sum on the lumber if he 
were told that Zeena's ill-health made it necessary to hire 
a servant. Hale, after all, knew enough of Ethan's situa- 
tion to make it possible for the latter to renew his appeal 
without too much loss of pride; and, moreover, how 
much did pride count in the ebullition of passions in his 
breast ? 

The more he considered his plan the more hopeful it 
seemed. If he could get Mrs. Hale's ear he felt certain of 
success, and with fifty dollars in his pocket nothing could 
keep him from Mattie . . . 

His first object was to reach Starkfield before Hale 
had started for his work; he knew the carpenter had a 
job down the Corbury road and was liJcely to leave his 
house early. Ethan's long strides grew more rapid with 
the accelerated beat of his thoughts, and as he reached 
the foot of School House Hill he caught sight of Hale's 
sleigh in the distance. He hurried forward to meet it, 
but as it drew nearer he saw that it was driven by the 
carpenter's youngest boy and that the figure at his side, 
looking like a large upright cocoon in spectacles, was that 
of Mrs. Hale. Ethan signed to them to stop, and Mrs. 
Hale leaned forward, her pink wrinkles twinkling with 
benevolence. 

"Mr. Hale? Why, yes, you'll find him down home 
now. He ain't going to his work this forenoon. He woke 
up with a touch o' lumbago, and I just made him put on 
one of old Dr. Kidder's plasters and set right up into the 
fire." 

Beaming maternally on Ethan, she bent over to add: 
a I on'y just heard from Mr. Hale *bout Zeena's going 
over to Bettsbridge to see that new doctor. I'm real 
sorry she's feeling so bad again! I hope he thinks he can 
do something for her? I don't know anybody round 
here's had more sickness than Zeena. I always tell Mr. 
Hale I don't know what she'd 'a' done if she hadn't V 
had you to look after her; and I used to say the same 
thing "bout your mother. You've had an awful mean 
time, Ethan Frome." 

She gave him a last nod of sympathy while her son 



chirped to the horse; and Ethan, as she drove off, stood 
in the middle of the road and stared after the retreating 
sleigh. 

It was a long time since any one had spoken to him 
as kindly as Mrs. Hale. Most people were either indif- 
ferent to his troubles, or disposed to think it natural that 
a young fellow of his age should have carried without 
repining the burden of three crippled lives. But Mrs. 
Hale had said "You've had an awful mean time, Ethan 
Frome," and he felt less alone with his misery. If the 
Hales were sorry for him they would surely respond to 
his appeal . . . 

He started down tine road toward their house, but at 
the end of a few yards he pulled up sharply, the blood in 
his face. For the first time, in the light of the words he 
had just heard, he saw what he was about to do. He was 
planning to take advantage of the Hales' sympathy to 
obtain money from them on false pretences. That was a 
plain statement of the cloudy purpose which had driven 
him in headlong to Starkfield. 

With the sudden perception of the point to which his 
madness had carried him, the madness fell and he saw 
his life before him as it was. He was a poor man, the 
husband of a sickly woman, whom his desertion would 
leave alone and destitute; and even if he had had the 
heart to desert her he could have done so only by deceiv- 
ing two kindly people who had pitied him. 

He turned and walked slowly back to the farm. 

IX 

At the kitchen door Daniel Byrne sat in his sleigh 
behind a big-boned gray who pawed the snow and 
swung his long head resdessly from side to sip!e. 

Ethan went into the kitchen and found his wife by 
the stove. Her head was wrapped in her shawl, and she 
was reading a book called "Kidney Troubles And Their 
Cure" on which he had had to pay extra postage only 
a few days before. 

Zeena did not move or look up when he entered, and 
after a moment he asked: "Where's Mattie?" 

Without lifting her eyes from the page she replied: 
"I presume she's getting down her trunk." 

The blood rushed to his face. "Getting down her 
trunk — alone?" 

"Jotham Powell's down in the wood-lot, and Dan! 
Byrne says he darsn't leave that horse," she returned. 

Her husband, without stopping to hear the end of the 
phrase, had left the kitchen and sprung up the stairs. 
The door of Mattie's room was shut, and he wavered a 
moment, on the landing. "Matt," he said in a low voice; 
but there was no answer, and he put his hand on the 
door-knob. 

He had never been in her room except once, in the 
early summer, when he had gone there to plaster up a 



ETHAN FROME 



31 



leak in the eaves, but he remembered exactly how every- 
thing had looked: the red and white quilt on her narrow 
bed, die pretty pin-cushion on the chest of drawers, and 
over it the enlarged photograph of her mother, in an 
oxydized frame, with a bunch of dyed grasses at the 
back. Now these and all other tokens of her presence 
had vanished, and the room looked as bare and com- 
fortless as when Zeena had shown her into it on the day 
of her arrival. In the middle of the floor stood her trunk, 
and on the trunk she sat in her Sunday dress, her back 
turned to die door and her face in her hands. She had 
not heard Ethan's call because she was sobbing; and she 
did not hear his step till he stood close behind her and 
laid his hands on her shoulders. 

"Matt— oh, don't— oh, Maul" 

She started up, lifting her wet face to his. "Ethan— I 
thought 1 wasn't ever going to see you again!" 

He took her in his arms, pressing her close, and with a 
trembling hand smoothed away the hair from her fore- 
head. 

"Not see me again? What do you mean?" 

She sobbed out: "Jotham said you told him we wasn't 
to wait dinner for you, and I thought— —" 

"You thought I meant to cut it?" he finished for her 
grimly. 

She clung to him without answering, and he laid his 
lips on her hair, which was soft yet springy, like certain 
mosses on warm slopes, and had the faint woody fra- 
grance of fresh sawdust in the sun. 

Through the door they heard Zeena's voice calling 
out from below: "Dan'l Byrne says you better hurry up 
if you want him to take that trunk." 

They drew apart with stricken faces. Words of resist- 
ance rushed to Ethan's lips and died there. Matrie found 
her handkerchief and dried her eyes; then, bending 
down, she took hold of a handle of the trunk. 

Ethan put her aside. "You let go, Matt," he ordered 
her. 

She answered: "It takes two to coax it round the cor- 
ner"; and submitting to this argument he grasped the 
other handle, and together they manoeuvred the heavy 
trunk out to the landing. 

"Now let go," he repeated; then he shouldered the 
trunk and carried it down the stairs and across the pas- 
sage to the kitchen. Zeena, who had gone back to her 
seat by the stove, did not lift her head from her book as 
he passed. Mattie followed him out of the door and 
helped him to lift the trunk into the back of the sleigh. 
When it was in place they stood side by side on the door- 
step, watching Daniel Byrne plunge off behind his 
fidgety horse. 

It seemed to Ethan that his heart was bound widi cords 
which an unseen hand was tightening with every tick 
of the clock. Twice he opened his lips to speak to 
Mattie and found no breath. At length, as she turned 



to re-enter the house, he laid a detaining hand on 
her. 
"I'm going to drive you over, Matt," he whispered. 
She murmured back: "I think Zeena wants I should 
go widi Jodiam." 

"I'm going to drive you over," he repeated; and she 
went into the kitchen without answering. 

At dinner Ethan could not eat. If he lifted his eyes 
they rested on Zeena's pinched face, and the corners of 
her straight lips seemed to quiver away into a smile. She 
ate well, declaring that the mild weather made her feel 
better, and pressed a second helping of beans on Jotham 
Powell, whose wants she generally ignored. 

Mattie, when the meal was over, went about her usual 
task of clearing the table and washing up the dishes. 
Zeena, after feeding the cat, had returned to her rocking 
chair by the stove, and Jotham Powell, who always lin- 
gered last, reluctantly pushed back his chair and moved 
toward the door. 

On the threshold he turned back to say to Ethan: 
"What time'll I come round for Mattie?" 

Ethan was standing near the window, mechanically 
rilling his pipe while he watched Matde move to and 
fro. He answered: "You needn't come round; I'm 
going to drive her over myself." 

He saw the rise of the colour in Matfie's averted cheek, 
and the quick lifting of Zeena's head, 

"I want you should stay here this afternoon, Ethan," 
his wife said. "Jotham can drive Mattie over." 

Mattie flung an imploring glance at him, but he re- 
peated curdy: "I'm going to drive her over myself." 

Zeena continued in the same even tone: "I wanted you 
should stay and fix up that stove in Mattie's room afore 
die girl gets here. It ain't been drawing right for nigh 
on a month now." 

Ethan's voice rose indignandy. "If it was good enough 
for Mattie I guess it's good enough for a hired girl." 

"That girl that's coming told me she was used to a 
house where they had a furnace," Zeena persisted with 
the same monotonous mildness. 

"She'd better ha' stayed there then," he flung back at 
her; and turning to Mattie he added in a hard voice: 
"You be ready by three. Matt; I've got business at Cor- 
bury." 

Jotham Powell had started for the barn, and Ethan 
strode down after him aflame with anger. The pulses in 
his temples throbbed and a fog was in his eyes, He went 
about his task without knowing what force directed him, 
or whose hands and feet were fulfilling its orders. It was 
not till he led out the sorrel and backed him between the 
shafts of the sleigh that he once more became conscious 
of what he was doing. As he passed the bridle ever the 
horse's head, and wound the traces around the shafts, he 
remembered the day when he had made the same prepa- 
rations in order to drive over and met t his wife's cousin 






NOVEL 



at the Flats. It was little more than a year ago, on just 
such a soft afternoon, with a "feel" of spring in the air. 
The sorrel, turning the same big ringed eye on him, 
nuzzled the palm of his hand in the same way; and one 
by one all the days between rose up and stood before 
him . . . 

He dung the bearskin into the sleigh, climbed to the 
seat, and drove up to the house. When he entered the 
kitchen it was empty, but Mattie's bag and shawl lay 
ready by the door. He went to the foot of the stairs and 
listened. No sound reached him from above, but pres- 
ently he thought he heard some one moving about in his 
deserted study, and pushing open the door he saw Mat- 
tie, in her hat and jacket, standing with her back to him 
near the table. 

She started at his approach and turning quickly, said: 
"Is it time?" 
"What are you doing here, Matt?" he asked her. 
She looked at him timidly. "I was just taking a look 
round — that's all," she answered, with a wavering smile. 
They went back into the kitchen without speaking, 
and Ethan picked up her bag and shawl. 
"Where's Zeeca?" he asked. 

"She went upstairs right after dinner. She said she 
had those shooting pains again, and didn't want to be 
disturbed." 
"Didn't she say good-bye to you?" 
"No. That was all she said." 

Ethan, looking slowly about the kitchen, said to him- 
self with a shudder that in a few hours he would be re- 
turning to it alone. Then the sense of unreality over- 
came him once more, and he could not bring himself to 
believe that Mattie stood there for the last time before 
him. 

"Come on," he said almost gaily, opening the door 
and putting her bag into the sleigh. He sprang to his seat 
and bent over to tuck the rug about her as she slipped 
into the place at his side. "Now then, go 'long," he said, 
with a shake of the reins that sent the sorrel placidly 
jogging down the hill, 

"We got lots of time for a good ride, Matt!" he cried, 
seeking her hand beneath the fur and pressing it in his. 
His face tingled and he felt dizzy, as if he had stopped 
in at the Starkfield saloon on a zero day for a drink. 

At the gate, instead of making for Starkfield, he turned 
the sorrel to the right, up the Bettsbridge road. Mattie 
sat silent, giving no sign of surprise; but after a moment 
she said: "Are you going round by Shadow Pond?" 
He laughed and answered: "I knew you'd knowl" 
She drew closer under the bearskin, so that, looking 
sideways around his coat-sleeve, he could just catch the 
tip of her nose and a blown brown wave of hair. They 
drove slowly up the road between fields glistening under 
the pale sua, and then bent to the right down a lane 
edged with spruce and larch. Ahead of them, a long 



way off, a range of hills stained by mottlings of black- 
forest flowed away in round white curves against the sky. 
The lane passed into a pine-wood with boles reddening 
in the afternoon sun and delicate blue shadows on the 
snow. As they entered' it the breeze fell and a warm 
stillness seemed to drop from the branches with die drop- 
ping needles. Here the snow was so pure that the tiny 
tracks of wood-animals had left on it intricate lace-like 
patterns, and the bluish cones caught in its surface stood 
out like ornaments of bronze. 

Ethan drove on in silence till they reached a part of 
the wood where die pines were more widely spaced; 
then he drew up and helped Mattie to get out of the 
sleigh. They passed between the aromatic trunks, the 
snow breaking crisply under their feet, till they came to 
a small sheet of water with steep wooded sides. Across 
its frozen surface, from the farther bank, a single hill 
rising against the western sun threw the long conical 
shadow which gave the lake its name. It was a shy secret 
spot, full of die same dumb melancholy that Ethan felt 
in his heart, 

He looked up and down the little pebbly beach till bis 
eye lit on a fallen tree-trunk half submerged in snow. 

"There's where we sat at the picnic," he reminded 
her. 

The entertainment of which he spoke was one of the 
few that they had taken part in together : a "church pic- 
nic" whkh, on a long afternoon of the preceding sum- 
mer, had filled the retired place with merry-making. 
Mattie had begged him to go with her but he had re- 
fused. Then, toward sunset, coining down from the 
mountain where he had been felling timber, he had been 
caught by some strayed revellers and drawn into the 
group by the lake, where Mattie, encircled by facetious 
youths, and bright as a blackberry under her spreading 
hat, was brewing coffee over a gipsy nre. He remem- 
bered the shyness he had felt at approaching her in his 
uncouth clothes, and. then the lighting up of her face, 
and the way she had broken through the group to come 
to him with a cup in her hand. They had sat for a few 
minutes on the fallen log by the pond, and she had 
missed her gold locket, and set the young men searching 
for it; and it was Ethan who had spied it in the moss . . . 
That was all; but all their intercourse had been made up 
of just such inarticulate flashes, when they seemed to 
come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised 
a butterfly in the winter woods . . . 

"It was right there I found your locket," he said, push- 
ing his foot into a dense tuft of blueberry bushes. 

"I never saw anybody with such sharp eyes!" she 
answered. 

She sat down on the tree-trunk in the sun and he sat 
down beside her. 

"You were as pretty as a picture in that pink hat," he 
said. 



ETHAN FROME 



■A 



She laughed with pleasure. "Oh, I guess it was the 
hat!" she rejoined. 

They had never before avowed their inclination so 
openly, and Ethan, for a moment, had the illusion that 
he was a free man, wooing the girl he meant to marry. 
He looked at her hair and longed to touch it again, and 
to tell her that it smelt of the woods; but he had never 
learned to say such things. 

Suddenly she rose to her feet and said: "We mustn't 
stay here any longer." 

He continued to gaze at her vaguely, only half- 
roused from his dream. "There's plenty of time," he 
answered. 

They stood looking at each other as if the eyes of each 
were straining to absorb and hold fast die other's image. 
There were things he had to say to her before they parted, 
but he could not say them in that place of summer 
memories, and he turned and followed her in silence to 
the sleigh. As they drove away the sun sank behind the 
hill and the pine-boles turned from red to gray. 

By a devious track between the fields they wound 
back to the Starkfield road. Under the open sky the light 
was still clear, with a reflection of cold red on the eastern 
hills. The clumps of trees in the snow seemed to draw 
together in ruffled lumps, like birds with their heads 
under their wings; and the sky, as it paled, rose higher, 
leaving the earth more alone. 

As they turned into the Starkfield road Ethan said: 
"Matt, what do you mean to do?" 

She did not answer at once, but at length she said: 
"I'll try to get a place in a store." 

"You know you can't do it. The bad air and the 
standing all day nearly killed you before." 

"I'm a lot stronger than I was before I came to Stark- 
field." 

"And now you're going to throw away all the good 
it's done you!" 

There seemed to be no answer to this, and again they 
drove on for a while without speaking. With every yard 
of the way some spot where they had stood, and laughed 
together or been silent, clutched at Ethan and dragged 
him back. 

"Isn't there any of your father's folks could help 
you?" 

"There isn't any of 'em I'd ask." 

He lowered his voice to say: "You know there's noth- 
ing I wouldn't do for you if I could." 

"I know there isn't." 

"But I can't ■" 

She was silent, but he felt a slight tremor in the shoul- 
der against his. 

"Oh, Matt," he broke out, "if I could ha' gone with 
you now I'd ha' done it " 

She turned to him, pulling a scrap of paper from her 
breast. "Ethan-- 1 found this," she stammered. Even 



in the failing light he saw it was the letter to his wife 
that he had begun the night before and forgotten to de- 
stroy. Through his astonishment there ran a fierce thrill 
of joy. "Matt — " he cried; "if I could ha' done it, would 
you?" 

"Oh, Ethan, Ethan — what's the use?" With a sudden 
movement she tore the letter in shreds and sent them 
fluttering off into the snow. 

"Tell me, Matt! Tell me!" he adjured her. 

She was silent for a moment; then she said, in such a 
low tone that he had to stoop his head to hear her: "I 
used to think of it sometimes, summer nights, when the 
moon was so bright I couldn't sleep." 

His heart reeled with the sweetness of it. "As long 
ago as that?" 

She answered, as if the date had long been fixed for 
her: "The first time was at Shadow Pond." 

"Was that why you gave me my coffee before the 
others?" 

"I don't know. Did I? I was dreadfully put out when 
you wouldn't go to the picnic with me; and then, when 
I saw you coming down the road, I thought maybe you'd 
gone home that wav o' purpose; and that made me 
glad." 

They were silent again. They had reached the point 
where the road dipped to die hollow by Ethan's mill 
and as they descended the darkness descended with them, 
dropping down like a black veil from the heavy hem- 
lock boughs. 

"I'm tied hand and foot, Matt. There isn't a tiling I 
can do," he began again. 

"You must write to me sometimes, Ethan." 

"Oh, what good'll writing do? I want to put my hand 
out and touch you. I want to do for you and care for 
you. I want to be there when you're sick and when 
you're lonesome." 

"You mustn't think but what I'll do all right," 

"You won't need me, you mean? I suppose you'll 
marry!" 

"Oh, Ethan!" she cried. 

"I don't know how it is you make me feel, Matt. I'd 
a'most rather have vou dead than that!" 

"Ob, I wish I was, 1 wish I was!" she sobbed. 

The sound of her weeping shook him out of his dark 
anger, and he felt ashamed. 

"Don't let's talk that way," he whispered. 

'Why shouldn't we, when it's true? I've been wishing 
it every minute of the day." 

"Matt! You be quiet! Don't you say it." 

"There's never anybody been good to me but you." 

"Don't say that either, when I can't lift a hand for 
you!" 

"Yes: but it's true ju3t the same." 

They had reached the top of School House Hill and 
Starkfield lay fcetaw them in thf twilight A cutter, 



34 



NOVEL 



mounting the road from the village, passed them by in 
a joyous flutter of bells, and they straightened them- 
selves and looked ahead with rigid faces. Along the 
main street lights had begun to shine from the house- 
fronts and stray figures were turning in here and there 
at the gates. Ethan, with a touch of his whip, roused 
the sorrel to a languid trot. 

As they drew near the end of the village the cries of 
children reached them, and they saw a knot of boys, 
with sleds behind them, scattering across the open space 
before the church. 

"I guess this'll be their last coast for a day or two," 
Ethan said, looking up at the mild sky. 

Mattie was silent, and he added: "We were to have 
gone down last night." 

Still she did not speak and, prompted by an obscure 
desire to help himself and her through their miserable 
last hour, he went on discursively: "Ain't it funny we 
haven't been down together but just that once last 
winter?" 

She answered: "It wasn't often I got down to the 
village." 

"That's so," he said. 

They had reached the crest of the Corbury road, and 
between the indistinct white glimmer of the church 
and the black curtain of the Varnum spruces the slope 
stretched away below them without a sled on its length. 
Some erratic impulse prompted Ethan to say: "How'd 
you like me to take you down now?" 

She forced a laugh. "Why, there isn't time!" 

"There's all the time we want. Game along!" His 
one desire now was to postpone the moment of turning 
the sorrel toward the Flats. 

"But the girl," she faltered. "The girlll be waiting 
at the station." 

"Well, let her wait. You'd have to if she didn't. 
Come!" 

The note of authority in his voice seemed to subdue 
her, and when he had jumped from the sleigh she let 
him help her out, saying only, with a vague feint of 
reluctance: "But there isn't a sled round any wheres." 

"Yes, there is! Right over there under the spruces." 

He threw the bearskin over the sorrel, who stood 
passively by the roadside, hanging a meditative head. 
Then he caught Mattie's hand and drew her after him 
toward the sled. 

She seated herself obediendy and he took his place 
behind her, so close that her hair brushed his face. "All 
right, Matt?" he called out, as if the width of the road 
had been between them. 

She turned her head to say: "It's dreadfully dark. 
Are you sure you can see?" 

He laughed contemptuously: "I could go down this 
coast with my eyes tied!" and she laughed with him, 
as if she liked his audacity. Nevertheless he sat still a 



moment, straining his eyes down the long hill, for it 
was the most confusing hour of the evening, the houf 
when the last clearness from the upper sky is merged 
with the rising night in a blur that disguises landmarks 
and falsifies distances. 

"Now!" he cried. 

The sled started with a bound, and they flew on 
through the dusk, gathering smoothness and speed as 
they went, with the hollow night opening out below 
them and the air singing by like an organ. Mattie sat 
perfectly still, but as they reached the bend at the foot 
of the hill, where the big elm thrust out a deadly elbow, 
he fancied that she shrank a little closer. 

"Don't be scared, Matt!" he cried exultandy, as they 
spun safely past it and flew down the second slope; and 
when they reached the level ground beyond, and the 
speed of the sled began to slacken, he heard her give a 
little laugh of glee. 

They sprang off and started to walk back up the hill. 
Ethan dragged the sled with one hand and passed the 
other through Mattie's arm. 

"Were you scared I'd run you into the elm?" he asked 
with a boyish laugh. 

"I told you I was never scared with you," she answered. 

The strange exaltation of his mood had brought on 
one of his rare fits of boastfulness. 'It is a tricky place, 
though. The least swerve, and we'd never ha' come up 
again. But I can measure distances to a hair's-breadth — 
always could." 

She murmured: e 1 always say you've got the surest 
eye . . ." 

Deep silence had fallen with the starless dusk, and 
they leaned on each other without speaking; but at 
every step of their climb Ethan said to himself: "It's the 
last time we'll ever walk together." 

They mounted slowly to the top of the hill. When 
they were abreast of the church he stooped his head to 
her to ask: "Are you tired?" and she answered, breath- 
ing quickly: "It was splendid!" 

With a pressure of his arm he guided her toward the 
Norway spruces. "I guess this sled must be Ned Hale's. 
Anyhow I'll leave it where I found it." He drew the 
sled up to the Varnum gate and rested it against the 
fence. As he raised himself he suddenly felt Mattie close 
to him among the shadows. 

"Is this where Ned and Ruth kissed each other?" she 
whispered breathlessly, and flung her arms about him. 
Her lips, groping for his, swept over his face, and he held 
her fast in a rapture of surprise. 

"Good-bye — good-bye," she stammered, and kissed 
him again. 

"Oh, Matt I can't let you go!" broke from him in the 
same old cry. 

She freed herself from his hold and he heard her sob- 
bing. "Oh, I can't go either!" she wailed. 



ETHAN FROME 



35 



"Matt! What'll we do? What'll we do?" 

They clung to each other's hands like children, and 
her body shook with desperate sobs. 

Through the stillness diey heard the church clock 
striking five. 

"Oh, Ethan, it's time!" she cried. 

He drew her back to him. "Time for what? You 
don't suppose I'm going to leave you now?" 

"If I missed my train where'd I go?" 

"Where are you going if you catch it?" 

She stood silent, her hands lying cold and relaxed in 
his. 

"What's the good of either of us going anywheres 
without the other one now?" he said. 

She remained motionless, as if she had not heard him. 
Then she snatched her hands from his, threw her arms 
about his neck, and pressed a sudden drenched cheek 
against his face. "Ethan! Ethan! I want you to take me 
down again!" 

"Down where?" 

"The coast. Right off," she panted. "So 't we'll never 
come up any more." 

"Matt! What on earth do you mean?" 

She put her lips close against his ear to say: "Right into 
the big elm. You said you could. So 't we'd never have 
to leave each other any more." 

"Why, what are you talking of? You're crazy!" 

"I'm not crazy; but I will be if I leave you." 

"Oh, Matt, Matt—" he groaned. 

She tightened her fierce hold about his neck. Her 
face lay close to his face. 

"Ethan, where'll I go if I leave you? I don't know how 
to get along alone. You said so yourself just now. 
Nobody but you was ever good to me. And there'll be 
that strange girl in the house . . . and she'll sleep in my 
bed, where I used to lay nights and listen to hear you 
come up the stairs. . ." 

The words were like fragm<*~is torn from his heart. 
With them came the hated vision of the house he was 
going back to — of the stairs he would have to go up 
every night, of the woman who would wait for him 
there. And the sweetness of Mattie's avowal, the wild 
wonder of knowing at last that all that had happened 
to him had happened to her too, made the other vision 
more abhorrent, the other life more intolerable to 
return to . . . 

Her pleadings still came to him between short sobs, 
but he no longer heard what she was saying. Her hat 
had slipped back and he was stroking her hair. He 
wanted to get the feeiing of it into his hand, so that it 
would sleep there like a seed in winter. Once he found 
her mouth again, and they seemed to be by the pond 
together in the burning August sun. But his cheek 
touched hers, and it was cold and full, of weeping, and 



he saw the road to the Flats under the night and heard 
the whistle of the train up the line. 

The spruces swathed them in blackness and silence. 
They might have been in their coffins underground. He 
said to hmiseif: "Perhaps it'll feel like this . . ." and 
then again : "After diis I sha'n't feel anything . . ." 

Suddenly he heard the old sorrel whinny across the 
road, and thought: "He's wondering why he doesn't 
get his supper . . ." 

"Come," Mattie whispered, tugging at his hand. 

Her sombre violence constrained him: she seemed the 
embodied instrument of fate. He pulled the sled out, 
blinking like a night-bird as he passed from the shade of 
the spruces into the transparent dusk of the open. The 
slope below them was deserted. All Starkfield was at 
supper, and not a figure crossed the open space before 
the church. The sky, swollen with the clouds that an- 
nounce a thaw, hung as low as before a summer storm. 
He strained his eyes through the dimness, and they 
seemed less keen, less capable than usual. 

He took his seat on the sled and Mattie instandy 
placed herself in front of him. Her hat had fallen into 
the snow and his lips were in her hair. He stretched 
out his legs, drove his heels into the road to keep the 
sled from slipping forward, and bent her head back be- 
tween his hands. Then suddenly he sprang up again. 

"Get up," he ordered her. 

It was the tone she always heeded, but she cowered 
down in her seat, repeating vehemendy: "No, no, noi" 

"Get up!" 

"W r hy?" 

"I want to sit in front." 

"No, no! How can you steer in front?" 

"I don't have to. We'll follow the track." 

They spoke in smothered whispers, as though the 
night were listening. 

"Get up! Get up!" he urged her; but she kept on re- 
peating: "W r hy do you want to sit in front?" 

"Because I — because I want to feel you holding me," 
he stammered, and dragged her to her feet. 

The answer seemed to satisfy her, or else she yielded 
to the power of his voice. He bent down, feeling in the 
obscurity for the glassy slide worn by preceding coasters, 
and placed the runners carefully between its edges. She 
waited while he seated himself with crossed legs in the 
front of the sled; then she crouched quickly down at his 
back and clasped her arms about him. Her breath in his 
neck set him shuddering again, and he almost sprang 
from his seat. But in a flash he remembered the alter- 
native. She was right: this was better than parting. He 
leaned back and drew her rnouth to his . . . 

Just as they started he heard the sorrel's whinny again, 
and the familiar wistful call, and all the confused images 
it brought with it, went with him down the first reach 
of the road. Half-way down there was a sudden drop, 



36 



NOVEL 



then a rise, and after that another long delirious descent 
As they took wing for this it seemed to him that they 
were flying indeed, flying far up into the cloudy night, 
with Starkiield immeasurably below them, falling away 
like a speck in space . . . Then the big elm shot up ahead, 
lying in wait for them at the bend of the road, and he 
said between his teeth: "We enn fetch it; I know we can 

fetch it " 

As they flew toward the tree Mattie pressed her arms 
tighter, and her blood seemed to be in his veins. Once 
or twice the sled swerved a litde under them. He 
slanted his body to keep it headed for the elm, repeating 
to himself again and again: "I know we can fetch it"; 
and little phrases she had spoken ran through his head 
and danced before him on the air. The big tree loomed 
bigger and closer, and as they bore down on it he 
thought: "It's waiting for us: it seems to know." But 
suddenly his wife's face, with twisted monstrous linea- 
ments, thrust itself between him a ad his goal, and he 
made an instinctive movement to brush it aside. The 
sled swerved in response, but he righted it again, kept it 
straight, and drove down on the black projecting mass. 
There was a last instant when the air shot past him like 
millions of fiery wires; and then the elm . . , 

The sky was still thick, but looking straight up he saw 
a single star, and tried vaguely to reckon whether it 
were Sirius,or — or — The effort tired him too much, and 
he closed his heavy lids and thought that he would sleep. 
. . . The stillness was so profound that he heard a little 
animal twittering somewhere near by under the snow. 
It made a small frightened cheep like a field mouse, and 
he wondered languidly if it were hurt. Then he under- 
stood that it must be in pain: pain so excruciating that 
he seemed, mysteriously, to feel it shooting through his 
own body. He tried in vain to roll over in the direction 
of the sound and stretched his left arm out across the 
snow. And now it was as though he felt rather than 
heard the twittering; it seemed to be under his palm, 
which rested on something soft and springy. The 
thought of the animal's suffering was intolerable to him 
and he struggled to raise himself, and could not because 
a rock, or some huge mass, seemed to be lying on him. 
But he continued to finger about cautiously with his left 
hand, thinking he might get hold of the litde creature 
and help it; and all at once he knew that the soft thing 
he had touched was Mattie's hair and that his hand was 
on her face. 

He dragged himself to his knees, the monstrous load 
on him moving with him as he moved, and his hand 
went over and over her face, and he felt that the twitter- 
ing came from her lips . . . 

He got his face down close to hers, with his ear to her 
mouth, and in the darknes* he saw her eyes open and 
heard her say his name. 



"Oh, Matt, I thought we'd fetched it," he moaned; 
and far off, up the hill, he heard the sorrel whinny, and 
thought: "I ought to be getting him his feed . . ." 



The querulous drone ceased as I entered Frame's 
kitchen, and of the two women sitting there I could not 
tell which had been the speaker. 

One of them, on my appearing, raised her tall bony 
figure from her seat, not as if to welcome me-— for she 
threw me no more than a brief glance of surprise — but 
simply to set about preparing the meal which Frame's 
absence had delayed, A slatternly calico wrapper hung 
from her shoulders and the wisps of her thin gray hair 
were drawn away from a high forehead and fastened at 
the back by a broken comb. She had pale opaque eyes 
which revealed nothing and reflected nothing, and her 
narrow lips were of the same sallow colour as her 
face. 

The other woman was much smaller and slighter. 
She sat huddled in an arm-chair near the stove, and 
when I came in she turned her head quickly toward me, 
without the least corresponding movement of her body. 
Her hair was as gray as her companion's, her face as 
bloodless and shrivelled, but amber-tinted, with swarthy 
shadows sharpening the nose and hollowing the temples. 
Under her shapeless dress her body kept its limp immo- 
bility, and her dark eyes had the bright witch-like stare 
that disease of the spine sometimes gives. 

Even for that part of the country the kitchen was a 
poor-looking place. With the exception of the dark- 
eyed woman's chair, which looked like a soiled relic of 
luxury bought at a country auction, the furniture was 
of the roughest kind. Three coarse china plates and a 
broken-nosed milk-jug had been set on a greasy table 
scored with knife-cuts, and a couple of straw-bottomed 
chairs and a kitchen dresser of unpainted pine stood 
meagrely against the plaster walls. 

"My, it's cold here! The fire must be 'most out," Frame 
said, glancing about him apologetically as he followed 
me in. 

The tall woman, who had moved away from us toward 
the dresser, took no notice; but the other, from her cush- 
ioned niche, answered complainingly, in a high thin 
voice: "It's on'y just been made up this very minute. 
Zeena fell asleep and slep' ever so long, and I thought 
I'd be frozen stiff before I could wake her up and get 
her to 'tend to it." 

I knew then that it was she who had been speaking 
when we entered. 

Her companion, who was just coming back to the 
table with the remains of a cold mince-pie in a bat- 
tered pie-dish, set down her unappetising burden with- 
out appearing to hear the accusation brought against 
has. 



ETHAN FRO 



37 



Frome stood hesitatingly before her as she advanced; 
then he looked at me and said: "This is my wife, Mis' 
Frome." After another interval he added, turning toward 
the figure in the arm-chair: "And this is Miss Mattie 
Silver . . ." 



Mrs. Hale, tender soul, had pictured me as lost in the 
Flats and buried under a snow-drift; and so lively was 
her satisfaction on seeing me safely restored to her the 
next morning that I felt my peril had caused me to ad- 
vance several degrees in her favour. 

Great was her amazement, and that of old Mrs. Var- 
num, on learning that Ethan Frome's old horse had 
carried me to and from Corbury Junction through the 
worst blizzard of the winter; greater still their surprise 
when they heard that his master had taken me in for the 
night. 

Beneath their wondering exclamations I felt a secret 
curiosity to know what impressions I had received from 
my night in the Frome household, and divined that the 
best way of breaking down their reserve was to let them 
try to penetrate mine. I therefore confined myself to 
saying, in a matter-of-fact tone, that I had been received 
with great kindness, and that Frome had made a bed 
for me in a room on die ground-floor which seemed in 
happier days to have been fitted up as a kind of writing- 
room or study. 

"Well," Mrs. Hale mused, "in such a storm I suppose 
he felt he couldn't do less than take you in — but I guess 
it went hard with Ethan. I don't believe but what you're 
the only stranger has set foot in that house for over 
twenty years. He's that proud he don't even like his old- 
est friends to go there; and I don't know as any do, any 
more, except myself and the doctor . . ." 

"You still go there, Mrs. Hale?" I ventured. 

"I used to go a good deal after the accident., when I 
was first married; but after awhile I got. to think it made 
'em feel worse to see us. And then one thing and an- 
other came, and my own troubles . . . But I generally 
make out to drive over there round about New Year's. 
and once in the summer. Only I always try to pick a 
day when Ethan's off somewheres. It's bad enough to 
see the two women sitting there — but his face, when he 
looks round that bare place, just kills me . . . You see, I 
can look back and call it up in his mother's day, before 
their troubles.'* 

Old Mrs. Varnum, by this time, had gone up to bed, 
and her daughter and I were sitting alone, after supper. 
in the austere seclusion of the horse-hair parlour. Mrs. 
Hale glanced at me tentatively, as though trying to see 
how much footing my conjectures gave her; and I 
guessed that if she had kept silence till now it was be- 
cause she had been waiting, through all the years, for 
some one who should see what she alone had seen. 



I waited to let her trust in me gather strength before 
I said: "Yes, it's pretty bad, seeing all three of them 
there together." 

She drew her mild brows into a frown of pain. "It was 
just awful from the beginning. I was here in the house 
when they were carried up— they laid Mattie Silver in 
the room you're in. She and I were great friends, and 
she was to have been my brides-maid in. the spring . . 
When she came to I went up to her and stayed all night 
They gave her things to quiet her. and she didn't know 
much till to'rd morning, and then all of a sudden she 
woke up just like herself, and looked straight at me out 
of her big eyes, and said . . . Oh, I don't know why I'm 
telling you all this," Mrs. Hale broke off, crying. 

She took of? her spectacles, wiped the moisture from 
them,, and put them on again with an unsteady hand. 
"It got about the next day," she went on, "that Ze< 
Frome had sent Mattie oil in a hurry because she had 
hired girl coming, and the folks here could never rightly 
tell what she and Ethan were doing that night coasting, 
when they'd ought to have been on their way to the 
Flats to ketch the train ... I never knew myself what 
Zeena thought—! don't to this day. Nobody knows 
Zeena's thoughts. Anyhow, when she heard o' the acci- 
dent she came right in and stayed with Ethan over to the 
minister's, where they'd carried him. And as soon as the 
doctors said that Mattie could be moved, Zeena sent for 
her and took her back to the farm." 

"And there she's been ever since?" 

Mrs. Hale answered simply: "There was nowhere else 
for her to go;" and my heart tightened at the thought of. 
the hard compulsions of the poor. 

"Yes, there she's been," Mrs. Hale continued, "and 
Zeena's done for her, and done for Ethan, as good as she 
could. It was a miracle, considering how sick she was — 
but she seemed to be raised right up just when the call 
came to her. Not as she's ever given up doctoring, and 
she's had sick spells right along; but she's had the 
strength given her to care for those two for over twenty 
years, and before the accident came she thought she 
couldn't even care for herself." 

Mrs. Hale paused a moment, and I remained silent, 
plunged in the vision of what her words evoked, "It's 
horrible for them all," I murmured. 

"Yes: it's pretty bad. And they ain't any of 'em easy 
people either. Mattie was, before the accident; I never 
knew a sweeter nature. But she's suffered too much — 
that's what I always say when folks tell me how she's 
soured. And Zeena, she was always cranky. Not but 
what she bears with Mattie wonderful— I've seen that 
myself. But sometimes the two of them get going at 
each other, and then Ethan's face'd break your heart . . . 
When I see that, I think it's him that suffers most . . . 
anyhow it ain't Zeena, because she ain't got the time 
. , . It's a pity, though," Mrs. Hale ended, sighing, "that 



38 



NOVEL 



they're all shut up there'll that cue kitchen. In the sum- 
mertime, on pleasant days, they move Mattie into the 
parlour, or out in the door-yard, and that makes it.easier 
. . . but winters there's the fires to be thought of; and 
there ain't a dime to spare up at the Fromes'." 

Mrs. Hale drew a deep breath, as though her memory 
were easied of its long burden, and she had no more to 
say : but suddenly an impulse of complete avowal seized 
her. 

She took off her spectacles again, leaned toward me 
across the bead-work table-cover, and went on with low- 



ered voice: "There was one day, about a week after the 
accident, when they all thought Mattie couldn't live. 
Well, I say it's a pity she did. I said it right out to our 
minister once, and he was shocked at me. Only he 
wasn't with me that morning when she first came to . . . 
And I say, if she'd ha' died, Ethan might ha' lived; and 
the way they are now, I don't see's there's much differ- 
ence between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes 
down in the graveyard; 'cept that down there they're 
all quiet and the women have got to hold their 
tongues." 






BIOGPvAPHY 




y Diaries 1888-1914 

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt 



Although diaries and letters are among the raw materials of biog- 
raphy and history, when their writers have had unusual experiences and 
rare opportunities for observing persons and events, these observations 
and reflections, colored by personality and preserving the immediate 
tone of the moments described, have the interest both of biography and 
of literature. 

Wilfrid Seawen Blunt (1840-1922) possessed ail the qualifications of a 
journal-keeper. Born into the British "ruling class" and having made a 
promising start in the diplomatic service, he ended his political career 
by exposing the supposedly hidden workings of imperial extension in 
Africa and India. The remainder of his life was devoted to agitation and 
to writing, several volumes of poems, numerous articles, and several 
books on his favorite themes {The Future of Islam, 1882; Ideas about 
India, 1885; The Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt, 
1907; The Land War in Ireland, 1912; and others). My Diaries 1888- 
igij. was published in 1919 and 1920 in two volumes with the subtitles 
"The Scramble for Africa" and "The Coalition against Germany." His 
temperament, his sympathies, and his principles are vigorously suggested 
in these varied extracts. 



'iph Oct., 1889. Paris. 

have left home once more for the winter, and 
with a lighter heart than 1 have lately had. My 
last act before leaving England was to write two 
letters severing the last links which bound me to 
political life. One was to the Kidderminister electors 
telling them diat they must not depend on me to stand 
again for Parliament, the other to T. P. O'Connor 
resigning my directorship of the 'Star.' 1 have intended 
this for more than a year, but have taken time to re- 
flect, and am sure now that the step is a wise one. As 
a matter of principle I cannot go on pretending to 
believe in die Liberal Party, with which I have not an 
idea in common, beyond Irish Home Rule. As a mat- 
ter of personal ambition, politics have nothing more 
to give me. 1 will not be a parliamentary drudge, and 
I cannot aspire to lead a party. 

"Of doing good in the world in any public way I 
also despair. I do not see clearly in what direction 
good lies. I do not love civilised humanity; and poor 
savage human nature seems a lost cause. I have done 
what I could for it. I have, I think, saved Egypt from 
absorption by Europe, and 1 have certainly, by stop- 
ping the Soudan war in 1885, put back the clock of 
African conquest for a generation, perhaps for a cen- 
tury. But die march of 'Progress' is irresistible in the 

From My Diaries, iS88-igi4, 1919. By permission of the pub- 
lishers, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 



end; and every year the old-fashioned idea of the rights 
of uncivilised man dies more completely out. Even in 
Ireland, the National cause is putting itself in line with 
nineteenth century thought. The moonlighters and 
catde-houghers and rebels of all kinds are disappear- 
ing; and, instead, we see Parnell manoeuvring and 
deceiving in Parliament neidier more nor less than 
Gladstone himself, and declaring with Rosebery for 
Imperial Federation! In all this I have no real lot or 
part. Ireland will doubtless get something of what she 
wants, and she has all my good wishes still. But Im- 
perial Federation is not worth going to prison for a 
second time nor even standing another contested elec- 
tion. I have done enough — possibly too much — and am 
sick and weary of the machinery of English public 
life. 

"On the other hand stands the world of art and 
poetry. In this I can still hope to accomplish some- 
thing, and with an advantage of experience not every 
poet has. I have a great deal to accomplish before old 
age takes me and little time. My poems, my memoirs, 
my book of maxims (the 'Wisdom of Merlyn'), my 
book of the Arab horse. These are work enough for 
all my remaining strength. Then, how delightful life 
is in perfect liberty! Never have I feh more capable of 
enjoyment, of the pleasures of friendship, of the casual 
incidents of romance, of the continuous happiness of 
life at home. These harmonise with a literary, not 



42 



BIOGRAPHY 



with a political ambition, and so it is best it should 
be. Am I not right?" 

"31st March [1898],— 'The Chronicle' has a sensa- 
tional but probably true account of an ultimatum sent 
by the American President to Spain on account of 
Cuba. It seems likely to lead to war. If so I hope that 
Spain may be able to hold her own, not that Cuban 
independence lacks my sympathy, but because between 
Spain and the United States I am obliged to be on 
the side of the older and more barbarous country. The 
Yankees as the coming race of the world would be 
worse even than ourselves. 

"1st April.— At five to-day Lady Gregory brought 
me the poet Yeats, an Irish mystic of an interesting 
type. He is tall, lean, dark, good looking, of the same type 
of countenance as John Dillon's, very narrow between 
the eyes and short-sighted. We talked much about the 
' '98' demonstrations of which he is organizer, and of 
the coming doom of England, and we talked also of 
another mystical poet and patriot, Russell (A. E.), with 
whom Yeats was a fellow student at Dublin. Russell, 
in order to subdue his will, became cashier in a haber- 
dasher's shop, where he acquired repute as an account- 
ant, but always spent his Sundays and holidays in the 
Wicklow Hills, writing poetry and seeing visions. Rus- 
sell has now been removed to a higher sphere as politi- 
cal organiser. Both believe in ghosts and fairies and in 
the transmigration of souls, and have magic powers of 
seeing the future and of prophecy. 

"Yeats experimented magically on me. He first took 
out a notebook and made what he called a pyramid in 
it which was a square of figures, then he bade me think 
of and see a square of yellow as it might be a door, and 
walk through it and tell him what I saw beyond. All 
that I could see at all clearly was that I seemed to be 
standing on a piece of green, rushy grass, in front of 
me a small pool from which issued two streams of very 
blue water to right and to left of me. He then bade me 
turn and go back through the door, and told me I 
should see either a man or woman who would give me 
something. I failed to see anything but darkness, but at 
last with some effort I made out the indistinct figure of 
a child, which offered me with its left hand some with- 
ered flowers. I could not see its face. Lastly he bade 
me thank the person to whose intervention the vision 
was due, and read from his notebook some vague sen- 
tences prefiguring this vision. The performance was 
very imperfect, not to say null." 

"22nd Dec. [1900]. — The old century is very nearly 
out, and leaves the world in a pretty pass, and the 
British Empire is playing the devil in it as never an 
empire before on so large a scale. We may live to see 
its fall. All the nations of Europe are making the same 
hell upon earth in China, massacring and pillaging and 
raping in the captured cities as outrageously as in the 



Middle Ages. The Emperor of Germany gives the 
word for slaughter and the Pope looks on and ap- 
proves. In South Africa our troops are burning farms 
under Kitchener's command, and the Queen and the 
two Houses of Parliament, and the bench of bishops 
thank God publicly and vote money for the work. The 
Americans are spending fifty millions a year on slaugh- 
tering the Filipinos; the King of the Belgians has in- 
vested his whole fortune on the Congo, where he is 
brutaiising the negroes to fill his pockets. The French 
and Italians for the moment are playing a less promi- 
nent part in the slaughter, but their inactivity grieves 
them. The whole white race is revelling openly in vio- 
lence, as though it had never pretended to be Christian. 
God's equal curse be on them all! So ends the famous 
nineteenth century into which we were so proud to 
have been born." 

"list Dec. — I bid good-bye to the old century, may it 
rest in peace as it has lived in war. Of the new century 
I prophesy nothing except that it will see the decline of 
the British Empire. Other worse Empires will rise per- 
haps in its place, but I shall not live to see the day. It 
all seems a very little matter here in Egypt, with the 
Pyramids watching us as they watched Joseph, when, 
as a young man four thousand years ago, perhaps in 
this very garden, he walked and gazed at the sunset 
behind them, wondering about the future just as I did 
this evening. And so, poor wicked nineteenth century, 
farewell!" 

"23 Jan,, 1901. Shcy\h Obeyd. 

"The Queen is dead of an apoplectic stroke and the 
great Victorian age is at an end." 

Such is almost the first entry in my diary of the new 
year and the new century. I was in Egypt when the 
tidings reached me. It was the second day of the Bai- 
ram festival, and all our country folk at Sheykh Obeyd 
were keeping holiday, a glorious morning of sunshine, 
and I had been watching the foxes in the garden at 
play among the beans which were coming into flower. 
It was thus the news reached me. The entry goes on: 

"This is notable news. It will mean great changes in 
the world, for the long understanding amongst the Em- 
perors diat England is not to be quarrelled with dur- 
ing the Queen's lifetime will now give place to freer 
action. The Emperor William does not love his uncle, 
our new king. On the other hand, it may possibly lead 
to a less bloody regime in South Africa; not that the 
Prince of Wales very likely is any more humane than 
his mother, who had a craze for painting the map Im- 
perial red, but because he knows European opinion bet- 
ter and the limitations of England's power and the 
necessity of moderating English arrogance. The Queen 
it was easy to flatter and mislead, the only paper she 
read was the 'Morning Post,' and the people about her 
did not dare tell her the real truth of things, but the 



MY DIARIES 



43 



Prince of Wales hears and knows everything that goes 
on abroad far more than does Lord Salisbury. All this 
is to the good. I suppose there must be a new dissolu- 
tion of Parliament — this also is for the good. As to Her 
Majesty personally, one does not like to say all one 
thinks even in one's journal. By all 1 have ever heard 
of her she was in her old age a dignified but rather 
commonplace good soul, like how many of our dow- 
agers, narrow-minded in her view of things, without 
taste in art or literature, fond of money, having a cer- 
tain industry and business capacity in politics, but easily 
flattered and expecting to be flattered, quite convinced 
of her own providential position in the world and al- 
ways ready to do anything to extend and augment it 
She has been so long accustomed to success that she 
seems to have imagined that everything she did was 
wise and right, and I should not be surprised if the dis- 
creditable failure in South Africa had hastened her end. 
I see that Roberts went down to Osborne just before the 
seizure took place, and perhaps she may have insisted 
upon hearing the whole truth from him and, realising 
it for the first time, have had the stroke of which she 
died. We shall probably be kept in the dark about this 
for a long while, for the public has got to look upon the 
old lady as a kind of fetish or idol, and nobody, even 
now she is dead, will dare print a word not to her 
glorification, 

"yd Feb. — The Prince o£ Wales has been proclaimed 
as Edward VII and begins his reign with the usual ac- 
clamations of the vulgar, the vulgar in this instance 
including everybody, all his little failings forgotten or 
hidden well out of sight. He has certain good qualities 
of amiability and a Philistine tolerance for other peo- 
ple's sins which endear him to rich and poor, from 
archbishops down to turf bookmakers, and the man in 
the street. He will make an excellent king for twen- 
tieth century England. His nephew, the Emperor Wil- 
liam, has come forward to stand his sponsor in face of 
the world, an evil conjunction, for William is the Apos- 
tle of European violence. All the same I should not be 
surprised to see German influence brought to bear upon 
the Boer war. Our people are pretty nearly at their wits' 
end what to do in South Africa. The war is costing 
them a million and a half a week and the financial 
gamblers are losing money. There is a reaction against 
the war now that it looks like a losing concern, and 
perhaps they may be glad of a pretext, such as the 
Queen's death affords, to try and bring about an ar- 
rangement with the Boers. William would be flattered 
to be the Deus ex machines and so recover his popular- 
ity in Germany which has been much compromised 
by his refusal to receive old Kruger. I am not sure, 
however, that the Boers will accept anything short of 
entire independence. There is talk of the Queen hav- 
ing expressed a strong wish for peace on her death- 



bed. What I hear through a very confidential channel 
is that Her Majesty's last wish was a very human one, 
that her little dog should be allowed to jump up on her 
bed and that it was with her till she died." 

"14th Feb. — To-day, while we were waiting for 
luncheon, we heard screams from the kitchen, and 
running to the window, I saw an old woman rush out 
brandishing a log of wood. I supposed at first it was a 
domestic quarrel of the cook's, but as everybody in the 
house was taking part in the fray, I went down into the 
yard to see what the case really was, and found them 
hauling a wolf out of the kitchen by a rope, which they 
had got round its neck, belabouring it the while with 
staves. The cook's boy was following them with his 
hand badly bitten. It appears that she boy had been 
left in charge of the stewpans, and, while he was 
watching them, what he thought was a dog, but which 
was really a wolf, looked in at the door. The boy turned 
to drive it out, when it sprang up at him and bit him 
on the hands. He caught it, however, by the throat (or 
rather, he afterwards explained, by the ears, which he 
said he could not let go, thus illustrating the proverb) 
and fell on it, while an old woman who was also there 
beat it with a log of wood. Then others came, and the 
boy still holding fast, they got the rope round its neck. 
When laid on the ground in the yard, the wolf pretended 
to be dead, though he did not look much hurt, but all 
declared he was mad and begged me to shoot him, and 
so reluctantly I did. He died without a groan, and 
from first to last did not make a sound. He was a fine 
dog-wolf, about the size of a collie dog, with reddish 
legs, and altogether a good deal redder than European 
wolves are, and a fine set of teeth. The boy was rather 
badly bitten, and after having his wounds washed, we 
sent him straight to Cairo to the Hydrophobic hospital. 
I cannot think the wolf was mad, as he was fat and in 
fine condition. He had no foam at the mouth, nor a 
haggard eye, nor any appearance of disease. I think 
rather, this being their breeding time, when they are 
bolder than usual, he simply followed his nose to a 
meal. We have often heard him lately howling in the 
garden, and once at night in the yard, so he probably 
knew his way about. The old woman, whose clothes 
had been torn and her legs bitten, but not badly, at 
once when the wolf was dead took some hairs from 
him to dress her wound with, and the heart was kept 
for the boy to eat. I had the wolf skinned; he was a 
powerful beast, with immense muscles in the throat 
and great depth of chest. There is at least one other 
in the garden; indeed, I hear one howling as I 
write." 

"13th March. — The poor boy Mohammed Sueylim, 
who was bitten by the wolf, is dead. He had been 
treated in Cairo on the Pasteur system and returned to 
us from the hospital on the 7th, having finished, they 



44 



BIOGRAPHY 



said, his cure. He was in good health and spirits and 
was at work on Friday in the kitchen as usual, but in 
the evening he complained that his arm hurt him, and 
we sent him to sleep at home with his family, intend- 
ing that he should go back next day to sec his doctor at 
Cairo, but his father, old Sueylim, objected to this, and 
he did not go. On the 9th he came with his father to 
the house, looking much frightened, and saying that he 
had a swelling in his throat and could neither eat nor 
drink, but still the father would not consent to his go- 
ing back to the hospital. In the afternoon he was re- 
ported to be better, but it was followed by a bad night, 
and early on the 10th he was taken to Cairo. There the 
Italian Doctor Simon saw him and sent a note back 
with him to say he certainly had hydrophobia. He 
would have detained the boy, but the father would not 
allow him to remain in the hospital for fear they would 
dissect the boy if he should die there. However, on the 
morning of the nth Sueylim took him in again, but 
again would not leave him, and the next night die boy, 
having gone raving mad, died. 

"This is a horrible thing for which there seems no 
accounting according to any theory of Providence, for it 
was not even a case of our miserable civilisation being 
in fault, It seems as if it might have happened in a pure 
state of nature, for here at Sheykh Obeyd the wild 
beasts have been allowed to come and go as they please 
without interference, nor have they ever before given 
trouble. Or is hydrophobia an effect of the unnatural 
condition of the tame dog, communicated to him by 
the wolf? Anyhow, it is a pitiful event. The boy was 
his father's only son and support, who was doing his 
work quiedy and well in the kitchen. The wolf, too, 
they tell me, leaves a widow and cubs in the garden. 
The old man complained pathetically of his loss. 'I 
have seven daughters,' he said, 'anyone of which the 
wolf would have been welcome to, and he has taken 
my only son!' " 

"21st June [1906]. — To-day the 'Manchester Guard- 
ian' has published a protest I have drawn up against 
the intended execution of certain fellahin, near Tantah, 
for the so-calied 'murder' of a British officer, and the 
hurting of several more, which took place on the 13th. 
[This was the notorious Denshawai affair, which led 
to world-wide results.] It is an abominable case. As 
far as one could learn from the telegrams and some 
slight admissions made by Grey in Parliament, the offi- 
cers were part of an English military force, making a 
promenade through the Delta, with the object of 
demonstrating for political purposes the military power 
of Great Britain. Finding themselves encamped near 
Tantah, they could think of nothing better to do than 
to shoot the tame pigeons in a village hard by, and 
went out, seven of them, in uniform for the purpose. 
They say they were invited there by an Omdeh of the 



village, but when they got there the villagers objected, 
and as none of them knew Arabic they got frightened; 
a gun then went off in the hands of one of them; a 
woman and some men were killed or wounded, and 
the officers were belaboured with nabuts. Two of these 
ran away, it is said to bring help from their camp, seven 
miles off, and one of them was found dead four miles 
from the village. This is exactly like all these cases, 
except that it is the first time an officer has been killed, 
and Reuter's telegrams are violent for punishment of 
the natives. I got Dillon to ask some questions in Par- 
liament on Monday, and yesterday there was a special 
telegram in the 'Daily Chronicle' saying that Cromer 
had decided to have the villagers shot. This, be it re- 
marked, before any trial had taken place, and all treat 
it as a case of murder with prearrangement, not on the 
part of the officers, but of the fellahin. It is the usual 
course these affairs take in Egypt, but a more than 
usually plain demonstration of the kind of justice dealt 
out between Englishman and native. Fortunately the 
'Manchester Guardian' has taken up the matter 
strongly, and may perhaps save some lives, but I doubt 
it. English feeling on diese matters has become abso- 
lutely callous, and I believe if Cromer ordered a dozen 
of the villagers to be crucified or impaled, no serious 
objection would be made to it here, still I have done 
what I could, and there is a chance. The 'trial' is to 
be on Sunday. 

"23rd June. — I see a telegram in the Tall Mall' which 
seems to show that Cromer has received a hint to be 
moderate in his zeal. It is reported that he has ordered 
Captain Bull's body to be exhumed and examined 
medically, with the result that it has been discovered 
that he died not of wounds but of sunstroke. 

"2jth June. — Still writing to Dillon, the 'Manchester 
Guardian,' and the 'Tribune,' about the abominable 
Denshawai affair which is to be judged to-day, or rather 
to be sentenced, for the whole thing has been judged 
by Cromer already and die so-called 'trial' will simply 
record his decision. 

"28th June. — They have condemned four of the Den- 
shawai villagers to death, four to penal servitude for 
life, three to fifteen years' imprisonment, six to seven 
years, three to one year with fifty lashes, and five to fifty 
lashes, thirty-one acquitted. This is a monstrous sen- 
tence and ought, I think, to do more to break up the 
legend of Cromer's paternal rule in Egypt than any- 
thing we have seen since its commencement. Dillon 
is bringing forward the case in Parliament, but nothing 
is likely to stop the executions. 

"29th June. — I have worried myself all day about the 
Egyptian villagers, and I see now that they were hanged 
yesterday under circumstances of revoking barbarity. 
A. 11 day I have been writing, and the thing is weighing 
on me like a nightmare still." 



CLIMBING THE ENGELHORN 



45 



"261k Nov. [1911] (Sunday.) — I took Housman for 
a waik and asked him how he had come to write his 
eariy verses and whether there was any episode in his 
life which suggested their gruesome character, but he 
assured me it was not so. He had lived as a boy in 
Worcestershire, not in Shropshire, though widiin sight 
of the Shropshire hills, and there was nothing gruesome 
to record. He shows no trace now of anything roman- 
tic, being a typical Cambridge Don, prim in his man- 
ner, silent and rather shy, conventional in dress and 
manner, learned, accurate, and well-informed. He is 
professor there of Latin, talking fairly well, but not 
brilliantly or with any originality, depressed in tone, 
and difficult to rouse to any strong expression of opin- 



ion. Nevertheless, I Uke him, and with Meynell's help 
we got him to discuss his own poems, though he re- 
fused absolutely to read them out. He read instead one 
of mine, in response to my having read one of his, the 
one I like best, Is My Team Ploughing?' I have a 
great admiration for his 'Shropshire Lad,' on account of 
its ballad qualities and the wonderful certainty in his 
choice of exacdy the right word. We had much pleas- 
ant talk all day, and sat up again till twelve at night 
telling ghost stories. He takes an interest in these. 
Housman's personal appearance is one of depression 
and indifferent health. He does not smoke, drinks lit- 
tle, and would, 1 think, be quite silent if he were 
allowed to be," 




ing the Engelhorn 



Gertrude Bell 



Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell (1868-1926) was born in London, 
educated at Queen's College, London, and at Lady Margaret Hall, Ox- 
ford. She devoted her life to the study of Arabian languages, customs, 
and antiquities, holding various posts in the British service at Bagdad, 
finally as Oriental Secretary to die High Commissioner of Iraq, working 
especially in establishing a museum of Arabic antiquities. 

Her letters, edited by her mother, are full of simple, moving accounts 
of her travels, especially of her Arabian experiences. The one printed 
here, to her father, tells of setting records in Alpine climbing. 



Rosenlaui, Sunday, 8th September, 1901. 

I am now going to give you a history of my adven- 
tures. Friday: we set out before dawn, the mists 
lying low everywhere, on the sporting chance of 
finding fine weather above them. We walked up the 
hour and a half of steep wood which is the preface to 
every climb here, and got to our familiar scene of action, 
a rocky valley called the Ochsenthal. Our problem was 
to find a pass over a precipitous wall of rock at the S. 
end of it. Now this rock wall had been pronounced 
impossible by the two experts of these parts and by 
their guides. We cast round and finally decided on a 
place where the rock wall was extremely smooth, but 
worn by a number of tiny water channels, sometimes as 
much as 3 inches deep by 4 across. These gave one a 
sort of handhold and foothold. Just as we started up it 
began to snow a little. The first 100 feet were very diffi- 
cult and took us tiiree quarters of an hour. The rock 
was excessively smooth and in one place there was a wall 

From 7/ie Letters of Gertrude Bell, 1927. By permission of 
the publishers, Livcright Publishing Corporation, New York. 



some 6 feet high where Ulrich had to stand on Hein- 
rich's shoulder. Above this 100 feet it went compara- 
tively easily and in an hour we found ourselves in a de- 
lightful cave, so deep that it sheltered us from the rain 
and sleet which was not falling thick. Here we break- 
fasted, gloomily enough. After breakfast things looked 
a little better and we decided to go on though it was 
still raining. The next bit was easy, rocks and grass and 
little ridges, but presendy we found ourselves on the 
wrong side of a smooth arete which gave us no hold at 
all. We came down a bit, found a possible traverse and 
got over with some difficulty. A rotten couloir and a still 
more rotten chimney and we were on the top of the pass, 
1 h. 20 m. from the cave. We were pleased with our- 
selves! It was a fine place; about 2000 feet of arete, less 
perhaps, between the great peak of the Engelhorn on the 
right and a lower peak on the left, which is the final 
peak of that arete of 4 peaks we did the other day. We 
called this 5th peak of our arete the Klein Engelhorn. 
. . . The whole place up there is marked with chamois 
paths, no one, I expect, having ever been there before to 



46 



BIOGRAPHY 



disturb them. There is, however, an old old cairn on the 
low slopes of the Engelhorn, made by some party who, 
having come over the Engelhorn, tried to traverse down 
the N. side and turned back at this place. We knew that 
neither the >N. nor die 5. side of the Gernse Sattel, as we 
have called it, has ever been done. Indeed the S. side 
may be impossible, but I don't think it is. They say it is, 
but we know that the experts may be mistaken. It was 
snowing so hard that we decided we could do no more 
that day and returned by the way we had come. . . . We 
got down the smooth rocks with the help of the extra 
rope. It was most unpleasant, for the water was stream- 
ing down the couloirs in torrents and we had to share 
the same couloirs with it. It ran down one's neck and 
up one's sleeves and into one's boots — disgusting! How- 
ever, we got down and ran home through the woods. In 
the afternoon it cleared and at dawn on Saturday we 
were oil again. We went again to the top of the Gernse 
Sattel ; it was a beautiful day and we knew our way and 
did the rocks in an hour and ten minutes less tiian we 
had taken the day before. Here we breakfasted and at 
10 we started off to make a small peak on the right of the 
saddle which we had christened beforehand the Klein 
Engelhorn. We clambered up an easy litde buttress peak 
which we called the Gernse Spitz and the Klein Engel- 
horn came into full view. It looked most unencourag- 
ing; the lower third was composed of quite smooth 
perpendicular rocks, the next piece of a very steep rock 
wall with an ill-defined couloir or two, the top of great 
upright slabs with deep gaps between them. It turned 
out to be quite as difficult as it looked. We got down 
the Gernse Spitz on to a small saddle, did a very difficult 
traverse forwards and upwards above the smooth pre- 
cipitous rocks, scrabbled up a very shallow crack and 
halted at the bottom of a smooth bit of overhanging rock. 
The great difficulty of it all was that it was so exposed, 
you couldn't ever get yourself comfortably wedged into 
a chimney, there was nothing but the face of the rock 
and up you had to go. For this reason I think it more 
difficult than the Simili Stock. Well, here we were on 
an awfully steep place under the overhanging place. 
Ulrich tried it on Heinrich's shoulder and could not 
reach any hold. I then clambered up on to Heinrich. 
Ulrich stood on me and fingered up the rock as high as 
he could. It wasn't high enough. I lifted myself still 
a litde higher — always with Ulrich on me, mind! — and 
he began to raise himself by his hands. As his foot left 
my shoulder I put up a hand straightened out my arm 
and made a ledge for him. He called out, "I don't feel 
at all safe — if you move we are all killed." I said, "All 
right, I can stand here for a week," and up he went by 
my shoulder and my hand. It was just high enough. 
Once up he got into a fine safe place and it was now my 
turn. I was on Heinrich's shoulder still with one foot 
and with one on the rock. Ulrich could not help me be- 



cause he hadn't got my rope — I had been the last on the 
rope, you see, and I was going up second, so that all I 
had was the rope between the two guides to hold on to. It 
was pretty hard work, but I got up. Now we had to get 
Heinrich up. He had a rope round his waist and my rope 
to hold, but no shoulder, but he could not manage it. 
The fact was, I think, that he lost his nerve, anyhow, he 
declared that he could not get up, not with 50 ropes, and 
there was nothing to do but to leave him. He unroped 
himself from the big rope and we let down the thin rope 
to him, with which he tied himself, while we fastened 
our end firmly on to a rock. There we left him like a 
second Prometheus — fortunately there were no vultures 
about! So Ulrich and I went on alone and got as far as 
the top of the first great slab which was a sort of gen- 
darme. 

[I must add as a footnote to this letter that when Ger- 
trude came home to us and related the thrilling ascent, 
still more exciting naturally in the telling, she told us that 
after it was over Ulrich had said to her, "If, when I was 
standing on your shoulders and asked you if you felt safe, 
you had said you did not, I should have fallen and we 
should all have gone over." And Gertrude replied to him, 
"/ thought I was jailing when I spof(e."~\ 

Here Ulrich shouted down to me, "It won't go!" My 
heart sank— after all this trouble to be turned back so 
near the top! Ulrich came down with a very determined 
face and announced that we must try lower down. We 
were now on the opposite side of the mountain from that 
on which we had left Heinrich. We went down a few 
feet and made a difficult traverse downwards above a 
precipice till we came to a chimney. I leant into the 
crack, Ulrich climbed on to my shoulder and got to the 
top. It was done! A few steps more brought us to the 
very top of all and we built a cairn and felt very proud. 
There was a difficult moment coming down the first 
chimney. We had left our thin rope with Heinrich, so 
we had to sling the thick rope round a rock for Ulrich 
to come down on. But it was sdll wet from the day be- 
fore and when we got to the bottom the rope stuck. He 
went up and altered its position and came down and it 
stuck again. Again he went up, and this lime he detached 
it and threw it down to me and came down without a 
rope at all. I gave him a shoulder and a knee at the last 
drop. So we got back and rescued Heinrich and after a 
great deal of complicated rope work we reached the 
Gemse Sattel again after 4 hours of as hard rock climb- 
ing as it would be possible to find. Lunch was most 
agreeable. Our next business was to get up the Engel- 
horn by the arete up which I told you we saw the 
chamois climb the other day. This proved quite easy- 
it has not been done before, however — and at 3.30 we 
were on die top of the Engelhorn. Now we had to come 
down the other side — this is the way the Engelhorn is 



WHERE NOW? 



47 



generally ascended. It's a long climb, cot difficult, but 
needing care, especially at the end of a hard day when 
you have no finger tips left. ... It was 7 o'clock before 
we reached the foot of the rocks. It was too iate and too 
dark to think of getting down into the valley so we de- 
cided that we would sleep at the Engen Alp at a shep- 
herd's hut. We wandered over Alps and Alps — not the 
ghost of a hut was to be found. It was an exquisite 
starry night, and I had almost resigned myself to the 
prospect of spending the whole night on the mountain 
side when suddenly our lantern showed us that we had 
struck a path. At 9.30 we hove up against a chalet nestled 
in to the mountain side and looking exacdy like a big 
rock. We went in and found a tiny light burning; in a 
minute 3 tall shepherds, with pipes in their mouths, 
joined us and slowly questioned us as to where we had 
come from and whither we were going. We said we 
were going no further and would like to eat and sleep. 
One of the shepherds lighted a blazing wood fire and 
cooked a quantity of milk in a 3-legged cauldron and we 
fell to on bowls of the most delicious bread and milk I 
ever tasted. The chalet was divided into two parts by a 
wooden partition. The first part was occupied by some 
enormous pigs, there was also a ladder in it leading up 
to a bit of wooden floor just under the roof, where the 
fresh hay was kept. Here I slept. The other room had a 
long berth all down one side of it and a shelf along an- 
other filled with rows of great milk tins. The floors were 
iust the hard earth and there was a wooden bench on 



which we ate and a low seat by it. I retired to my hay- 
loft, wrapped myself in a new blanket and covered my- 
self over with hay and slept soundly for 8 hours when 
my neighbours, the pigs, woke me by grunting loudly to 
be let out. The shepherd gave us an excellent breakfast 
of milk and coffee — we had our own bread and jam. It 
was so enchanting waking up in that funny iiule place 
high up on the mountain side with noisy torrents all 
round it. The goats came flocking home before we left: 
they had spent a night out on die mountains, having 
been caught somewhere in the dark and they bleated 
loud complaints as they crowded round the hut, licking 
the shepherd's hand. It was about 7.30 before Ulrich 
and I set off down the exquisite Urbach Thai; Heinrich 
had gone on before, We walked down for a couple of 
hours discussing ways up the Engelhorn and the Com- 
munal System! then we turned into the valley of the Aar 
and dropped down on to Innertkirchen in the green 
plain below. This is Ulrich's native place. We v/ent to 
his home and found his old father, a nice old man of 70, 
who welcomed us with effusion. It was an enchanting 
house, an old wooden chalet dated 1749, with low rooms 
and long rows of windows, with muslin curtains, and 
geranium pots in them. All spodessly clean. They gave 
me a large— well, lunch, it was 11.30, of eggs and tea and 
bread and cheese and bilberry jam, after which Ulrich 
and I walked up through the woods here and arrived at 
2 in the afternoon. I don't think I have ever had two 
more delightful alpine clays. 



Where Now? 

Thomas Wolfe 

For a note on Thomas Wolfe see page .310. 

This passage from The Story of a Novel, published in 1936, describes the 
period of gestation of his second novel, Of Time and the River, published in 
1935. It describes die "concrete definition of his resources" that preceded his 
actual writing and suggests an important step in the growth of any writer, the 
canvassing of the materia! that his experience has given him. Incidentally it 
brings out several qualities of Wolfe's mind and feeling. 



I think I may say that I discovered America during 
these years abroad out of my very need of her. The 
huge gain of this discovery seemed to come direcdy 
from my sense of loss. I had been to Europe five times 
now; each time I had come with delight, with madden- 
ing eagerness to return, and each time how, where, and 
in what way I did not know, I had felt the bitter ache 
of homelessness, a desperate longing for America, an 
overwhelming desire to return. 
During that summer in Paris, I think I felt this great 

From The Story of a Novel by Thomas Wolfe. By permission of the 
publishers, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 



homesickness more than ever before, and I really believe 
that from this emotion, this constant and almost intol- 
erable effort of memory and desire, the material and 
the structure of the books I now began to write were 
derived. 

The quality of my memory is characterized, I believe, 
in a more than ordinary degree by the intensity of its 
sense impressions, its power to evoke and bring back 
the odors, sounds, colors, shapes, and feel of things with 
concrete vividness. Now my memory was at work 
night and day, in a way that I could at first neither 
check nor control and that swarmed unbidden in a 



48 



BIOGRAPHY 



stream of blazing pageantry across my mind, with die 
million forms and substances of the life that I had left, 
which was my own, America. I would be sitting, for 
example, on the terrace of a cafe watching the flash and 
play of life before me on the Avenue de l'Opera and 
suddenly I would remember the iron railing that goes 
along the boardwalk at Adantic City. I could see it 
instantly just die way it was, the heavy iron pipe; its 
raw, galvanized look; the way the joints were fitted to- 
gether. It was all so vivid and concrete that I could feel 
my hand upon it and know the exact dimensions, its 
size and weight and shape. And suddenly I would 
realize that I had never seen any railing that looked like 
this in Europe. And diis utterly familiar, common 
diing would suddenly be revealed to me with all die 
wonder widi which we discover a diing which we have 
seen all our life and yet have never known before. Or 
again, it would be a bridge, the look of an old iron 
bridge across an American river, the sound the train 
makes as it goes across it; the spoke-and-hollow rumble 
of the ties below; the look of the muddy banks; die 
slow, thick, yellow wash of an American river; an old 
fiat-bottomed boat half filled with water stogged in the 
muddy bank; or it would be, most lonely and haunting 
of all die sounds I know, the sound of a milk wagon as 
it entered an American street just at the first gray of die 
morning, the slow and lonely clopping of the hoof upon 
the street, the jink of botdes, the sudden ratde of a bat- 
tered old milk can, the swift and hurried footsteps of 
the milkman, and again the jink of bottles, a low word 
spoken to his horse, and then the great, slow, clopping 
hoof receding into silence, and then quietness and a 
bird song rising in the street again. Or it would be a 
little wooden shed out in the country two miles from 
my home town where people waited for the street car, 
and I could see and feel again the dull and rusty color 
of the old green paint and see and feel all of the initials 
that had been carved out with jackknives on the planks 
and benches within the shed, and smell the warm and 
sultry smell so resinous and so dialling, so filled with a 
strange and nameless excitement of an unknown joy, 
a coming prophecy, and hear die street car as it came to 
a stop, the moment of brooding, drowzing silence; a 
hot thrum and drowsy stitch at three o'clock; the smell 
of grass and hot sweet clover; and then the sudden 
sense of absence, loneliness and departure when the 
street car had gone and there was nothing but the hot 
and drowsy stitch at three o'clock again. 

Or again, it would be an American street with all its 
jumble of a thousand ugly architectures. It would be 
Montague Street or Fulton Street in Brooklyn, or Elev- 
enth Street in New York, or other streets where I had 
lived; and suddenly I would see the gaunt and savage 
webbing of the elevated structure along Fulton Street, 
and how the light swarmed through in dusty, broken 



bars, and I could remember die old, familiar rusty color, 
that incomparable rusty color that gets into so many 
tilings here in America. And this also would be like 
something I had seen a million times and lived with all 
my life, 

I would sit there, looking out upon the Avenue de 
l'Opera and my life would ache with the whole mem- 
ory of it; the desire to see it again; somehow to find a 
word for it; a language that would tell its shape, its 
color, the way we have all known and felt and seen it. 
And when I understood this diing, I saw that I must 
find for myself the tongue to utter what 1 knew but 
could not say. And from die moment of that discovery, 
the line and purpose of my life was shaped. The end 
toward which every energy of my life and talent would 
be henceforth directed was in such a way as this denned. 
It was as if I had discovered a whole new universe of 
chemical elements and had begun to see certain rela- 
tions between some of them but had by no means tie- 
gun to organize the whole series into a harmonious and 
coherent union. From this time on, I think my efforts 
might be described as the effort to complete that organi- 
zation, to discover that articulation for which I strove, 
to bring about that final coherent union. 1 know that I 
have failed thus far in doing so, but I believe I under- 
stand pretty thoroughly just where the nature of my 
failure lies, and of course my deepest and most earnest 
hope is that the time will come when I shall not fail. 

At any rate, from this time on die general progress 
of the three books which I was to write in the next tour 
and a half years could be fairly described in somewhat 
this way. It was a progress that began in a whirling 
vortex and a creative chaos and that proceeded slowly at 
the expense of infinite confusion, toil, and error toward 
clarification and the articulation of an ordered and for- 
mal structure. An extraordinary image remains to me 
from that year, the year I spent abroad when the mate- 
rial of these books first began to take on an articulate 
form. It seemed that I had inside me, swelling and 
gathering all die time, a huge black cloud, and that this 
cloud was loaded with electricity, pregnant, crested, 
with a kind of hurricane violence that could not be held 
in check much longer; that the moment was appro idl- 
ing fast when it must break. Well, all I can say is that 
the storm did break. It broke diat summer while I was 
in Switzerland, It came in torrents, and it is not over 
yet. 

I cannot really say the book was written. It was some- 
thing that took hold of me and possessed me, and before 
I was done with it—that is, before I finally emerged 
with the first completed part — it seemed to me that it 
had done for me. It was exacdy as if diis great black 
storm cloud I have spoken of had opened up and, mid 
flashes of lightning, was pouring from its depth a tor- 
rential and ungovernable flood. Upon that flood ever)'- 



WHERE NOW? 



49 



thing was swept and borne along as by a great river. And 
I was borne along with it. 

There was nothing at first which could be called a 
novel. 1 wrote about night and darkness in America, 
and the faces of the sleepers in ten thousand little 
towns; and of the tides of sleep and how the rivers 
flowed forever in the darkness. I wrote about the hiss- 
ing glut of tides upon ten thousand miles of coast; of 
how the moonlight blazed down on the wilderness and 
filled the cat's cold eye with blazing yellow. I wrote 
about death and sleep, and of that enfabled rock of life 
we call the city. I wrote about October, of great trains 
that thundered through the night, of ships and stations 
in die morning; of men in harbors and the traffic of the 
ships. 

I spent die winter of that year in England from 
October until March, and here perhaps because of the 
homely familiarity of the English life, the sense of 
order and repose which such a life can give one, my 
work moved forward still another step from this flood 
tide chaos of creation. For the first time the work be- 
gan to take on the lineaments of design. These linea- 
ments were still confused and broken, sometimes ut- 
terly lost, but now I really did get the sense at last that I 
was working on a great block of marble, shaping a 
figure which no one but its maker could as yet define, 
but which was emerging more and more into the sin- 
ewy lines of composition. 

From the beginning — and this was one fact that in 
all my times of hopelessness returned to fortify my faith 
in my conviction — the idea, the central legend that I 
wished my book to express had not changed. And this 
central idea was this: the deepest search in life, it 
seemed to me, the thing that in one way or another was 
central to all living was man's search to find a father, 
not merely the father of his flesh, not merely the lost 
father of his youth, but the image of a strength and 
wisdom external to his need and superior to his hung*, r, 
to which the belief and power of his own life could be 
united. 

Yet I was terribly far away from the actual accom- 
plishment of a book — how far away I could not at that 
time foresee. But four more years would have to pass 
before the first of a series of books on which I was now 
embarked would be ready for the press, and if I could 
have known that in those next four years there would 
be packed a hundred lives of birth and death, despair, 
defeat, and triumph and the sheer exhaustion of a brute 
fatigue, I do not know whether or not I could have 
found the power within myself to continue. But J - 
still sustained by the exuberant optimism of youth. My 
temperament, which is pessimistic about many things, 
has always been a curiously sanguine one concerning 
time, and although more than a year had now gone by 
and I had done no more than write great chants on 



death and sleep, prepare coundess notes and trace here, 
and there the first dim outlines of a formal pattern, I 
was confident that by the spring or the fall of the next 
year my book would somehow miraculously be ready. 

So far as 1 can describe widi any accuracy, the prog- 
ress of that winter's work in England was not along the 
lines of planned design, but along this line tiiat I have 
mentioned — writing some of the sections which I knew 
would have to be in the book. Meanwhile what was 
really going on in my whole creative consciousness, dur- 
ing all this time, although I did not realize it at die 
moment, was this: What I was really doing, what I had 
been doing all the time since my discovery of my Amer- 
ica in Paris the summer before, was to explore day by 
day and month by month with a fanatical intensity, the 
whole material domain of my resources as a man and as 
a writer. This exploration went on for a period which I 
can estimate conservatively as two years and a half. It is 
still going on, although not with the same aii-absorbing 
concentration, because the work it led to, the work that 
after infinite waste and labor it helped me wonderfully 
to define, that work has reached such a state of final 
definition diat the immediate task of finishing it is the 
one that now occupies the energy and interest of my 
life. 

In a way, during that period of my life, I think I was 
like the Ancient Mariner who told the Wedding Guest 
that his frame was wrenched by the woeful agony 
which forced him to begin his tale before it left him 
tree. In my own experience, my wedding guests were 
the great ledgers in which I wrote, and the tale which 
I told to them would have seemed, I am afraid, com- 
pletely incoherent, as meaningless as Chinese characters, 
had any reader seen them. I could by no means hope to 
give a comprehensive idea of the whole extent of this 
labor because three years of work and perhaps a million 
and a half words went into these books. It included 
everything from gigantic and staggering lists of the 
towns, cities, counties, states, and countries I had been 
in, to minutely thorough, desperately evocative descrip- 
tions of the undercarriage, the springs, wheels, flanges, 
axle rods, color, weight, and quality of the day coach of 
an American railway train. There were lists of the 
rooms and houses in which I had lived or in which I 
had slept for at least a night, together with the most ac- 
curate and evocative descriptions of those rooms diat I 
could write — their size, their shape, the color and design 
of the wallpaper, the way a towel hung down, the way 
a chair creaked, a streak of water rust upon the ceiling. 
There were coundess charts, catalogues, descripdons 
that I can only classify here under the general heading 
of Amount and Number. What were the total com- 
bined populations of all the countries in Europe and 
America? In how many of those countries had I had 
some personal and vital experience? In the course of 



50 



BIOGRAPHY 



my twenty-nine or thirty years of living, how many peo- 
ple had I seen? How many had I passed by on the 
street? How many had I seen on trains and subways, 
in theatres, at baseball or football games? With how 
many had I actually had some vital and illuminating ex- 
perience, whether of joy, pain, anger, pity, love, or 
simple casual companionship, however brief? 

In addition, one might come upon other sections un- 
der some such cryptic heading as "Where now?" Under 
such a heading as this, there would be brief notations of 
those thousands of things which all of us have seen for 
just a flash, a moment in our lives, which seem to be of 
no consequence whatever at the moment that we see 
them, and which live in our minds and hearts forever, 
which are somehow pregnant with all the joy and sor- 
row of the human destiny, and which we know, some- 
how, are therefore more important than many things of 
more apparent consequence. "Where now?" Some 
quiet steps that came and passed along a leafy night- 
time street in summer in a litde town down South long 
years ago; a woman's voice, her sudden burst of low 
and tender laughter; then the voices and the footsteps 
going, silence, the leafy rustle of the trees. "Where 
now?" Two trains that met and paused at a litde sta- 
tion at some litde town at some unknown moment 
upon the huge body of the continent; a girl who looked 
and smiled from die window of the other train; another 
passing in a motor car on the streets of Norfolk; the 
winter boarders in a litde boarding house down South 
twenty years ago; Miss Florrie Mangle, the trained 
nurse; Miss Jessie Rimmer, the cashier at Reed's drug 
store; Doctor Richards, the clairvoyant; the pretty girl 
who cracked the whip and thrust her head into the 
lion's mouth with Johnny J. Jones Carnival and Com- 
bined Shows. 

"Where now?" It went beyond the limits of man's 
actual memory. It went back to the farthest adyt of his 
childhood before conscious memory had begun, the way 
he thought he must have felt the sun one day and heard 
Peagram's cow next door wrenching the coarse grass 
against the fence, or heard the street car stop upon the 
bill above his father's house at noon; and Earnest Pea- 
gram coming home to lunch, his hearty voice in mid- 
day greeting; and then the street car going, the sudden 
lonely green-gold silence of the street car's absence and 
an iron gate slamming, then the light of that lost day 
fades out. "Where now?" He can recall no more and 
does not know if what he has recalled is fact or fable or 
a fusion of the two. Where now — in these great ledger 
books, month after month, I wrote such things as this, 
not only the concrete, material record of man's ordered 
memory, but all the things he scarcely dares to think he 
has remembered; all the flicks and darts and haunting 
lights that flash across the mind of man that will return 
unbidden at an unexpected moment: a voice once 



heard; a face that vanished; the way the sunlight came 
and went; the rustling of a leaf upon a bough; a stone, 
a leaf, a door, 

It may be objected, it has been objected already by 
certain critics, that in such research as I have here at- 
tempted to describe there is a quality of intemperate 
excess, an almost insane hunger to devour the entire 
body of human experience, to attempt to include more, 
experience more, than the measure of one life can hold, 
or than the limits of a single work of art can well de- 
fine. I readily admit the validity of this criticism. I 
think I realize as well as any one the fatal dangers that 
are consequent to such a ravenous desire, the damage it 
may wreak upon one's life and on one's work. But hav- 
ing had this thing within me, it was in no way possible 
for me to reason it out of me, no matter how cogendy 
my reason worked against it. The only way I could 
meet it was to meet it squarely, not with reason but with 
life. 

It was part of my life; for many years it was my life; 
and the only way I could get it out of me was to live it 
out of me. And now I really believe that so far as the 
artist is concerned, the unlimited extent of human ex- 
perience is not so important for him as the depth and 
intensity with which he experiences things. I also know 
now that it is a great deal more important to have known 
one hundred living men and women in New York, than 
to have seen or passed or talked with 7,000,000 people 
upon the city streets. And what finally I should most 
like to say about this research which I have attempted to 
describe is this: That foolish and mistaken as much of 
it may seem, the total quality, end, and impact of that 
whole experience was not useless or excessive. And from 
my own point of view, at least, it is in its whole implica- 
tion the one thing I may have to tell about my experience 
as a writer which may be of some concrete value to 
other people. I consider this experience on the whole 
the most valuable and practical in my whole writing life 
thus far. With all the waste and error and confusion 
it led me into, it brought me closer to a concrete defini- 
tion of my resources, a true estimate of my talents at this 
period of my life, and, most of all, toward a rudimentary, 
a just-beginning, but a living apprehension of the articu- 
lation I am looking for, the language I have got to have 
if, as an artist, my life is to proceed and grow, than any 
other tiling that has ever happened to me. 

I know the door is not yet open. I know the tongue, 
the speech, the language that I seek is not yet found, but 
I believe with all my heart that I have found the way, 
have made a channel, am started on my first beginning. 
And I believe with all my heart, also, that each man for 
himself and in his own way, each man who ever hopes 
to make a living thing out of the substances of his one 
life, must find that way, that language, and that door- 
must find it for himself as I have tried to do. 



The Coming of Evolution; Parties 

Edmund Gosse 



Edmund Gosse was born in London in 1849 and died in 1929, "one 
of the last of the Victorians." He held various positions (assistant librarian 
of the British Museum, translator to a government board, Clark Professor 
of English Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, librarian of the House 
of Lords), but spent much of his life in gathering a notable private library 
and in writing poems, critical articles, essays. 

Father and Son, "A Study of Two Temperaments," appeared in 1907 
and has become one of the classics of autobiography. It is the story of 
Gosse 's gradual breaking away from his able but fanatical father, told with 
scrupulous and sensitive accuracy and with what is rare in narratives of 
rebellion, perfect understanding and sympathy. The description of his 
father's reaction to the new theory of evolution helps bring to life what is 
for most readers a bare fact and shows how history often conceals the joy 
and suffering of many persons; the account of the boy's parties has the 
pictorial and emotional qualities that we usually regard as characteristics 
of fiction. 



This was the great moment in the history of 
thought when the theory of the mutability of spe- 
cies was preparing to throw a flood of light upon 
all departments of human speculation and action. It was 
becoming necessary to stand emphatically in one army 
or the odier. Lyell was surrounding himself with disci- 
ples, who were making strides in the direction of discov- 
ery. Darwin had long been collecting facts with regard 
tc the variation of animals and plants. Hooker and Wal- 
lace, Asa Gray and even Agassiz, each in his own sphere, 
were coming closer and closer to a perception of that 
secret which was first to reveal itself clearly to the patient 
and humble genius of Darwin. In the year before, in 
1856, Darwin, under pressure from Lyell, had begun 
that modest statement of the new revelation, that "ab- 
stract of an essay," which developed so mightily into 
"The Origin of Species." Wollaston's "Variation of 
Species" had just appeared, and had been a nine days' 
wonder in the wilderness. 

On the other side, the reactionaries, although never 
dreaming of the fate which hung over them, had not 
been idle. In 1857 the astounding question had for the 
first time been propounded with contumely, "What, 
then, did we come from an orang-outang?" The famous 
"Vestiges of Creation" had been supplying a sugar-and- 
water panacea for those who could not escape from the 
trend of evidence, and who yet clung to revelation. Owen 
was encouraging reaction by resisting, with all the 

From Father and Son, 1907. By permission of the publishers, 
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 



strength of his prestige, the theory of the mutability of 



species. 



In this period of intellectual ferment, as when a great 
political revolution is being planned, many possible 
adherents were confidentially tested with hints and en- 
couraged to reveal their bias in a whisper. It was the no- 
tion of Lyell, himself a great mover of men, that before 
the doctrine of natural selection was given to a world 
which would be sure to lift up at it a howl of execration, 
a certain body-guard of sound and experienced natural- 
ists, expert in the description of species, should be pri- 
vately made aware of its tenour. Among those who were 
thus initiated, or approached with a view towards pos- 
sible illumination, was my Father. He was spoken to 
by Hooker, and later en by Darwin, after meetings of 
the Royal Society in the summer of 1857. 

My Father's attitude towards the theory of natural 
selection was critical in his career, and, oddly enough, it 
exercised an immense influence on my own experience as 
a child. Let it be admitted at once, mournful as the ad- 
mission is, that every instinct in his intelligence went out 
at first to greet the new light. It had hardly done so, 
when a recollection of the opening chapter of Genesis 
checked it at the outset. He consulted with Carpenter, 
a great investigator, but one who was fully as incapable 
as himself of remodelling his ideas with regard to the 
old, accepted hypotheses. They both determined, on 
various grounds, to have nothing to do with the terrible 
theory, but to hold steadily to the law of the fixity of 
species. It was exactly at this juncture that we left Lon- 



S» 



52 



BIOGRAPHY 



don, and the slight and occasional, but always extremely 
salutary personal intercourse with men of scientific lead- 
ing which my Father had enjoyed at the British Museum 
and at the Royal Society came to an end. His next act 
was to burn his ships, down to the last beam and log 
out of which a raft could have been made. By a strange 
act of wilfulness, he closed the doors upon himself for 
ever. 

My Father had never admired Sir Charles Lyell. I 
think that the famous "Lord Chancellor manner" of the 
geologist indmidated him, and we undervalue d\e intel- 
ligence of those whose conversation puts us at a dis- 
advantage. For Darwin and Hooker, on the other hand, 
he had a profound esteem, and I know not whether this 
had anything to do with die fact that he chose, for his 
impetuous experiment in reaction, the field of geology, 
rather than that of zoology or botany. Lyell had been 
threatening to publish a book on the geological history 
of Man, which was to be a bomb-shell flung into the 
camp of the catastrophists. My Father, after long reflec- 
tion, prepared a theory of his own, which, as he fondly 
hoped, would take the wind out of Lyell's sails, and 
justify geology to godly readers of "Genesis." It was, 
very briefly, that there had been no gradual modifica- 
tion of the surface of the earth, or slow development 
of organic forms, but that when the catastrophic act of 
creation took place, the world presented, instandy, the 
structural appearance of a planet on which life had 
long existed. 

The theory, coarsely enough, and to my Father's great 
indignation, was defined by a hasty press as being this — 
that God hid the fossils in the rocks in order to tempt 
geologists into infidelity, in truth, it was the logical and 
inevitable conclusion of accepting, literally, the doctrine 
of a sudden act of creation; it emphasised the fact that 
any breach in the circular course of nature could be con- 
ceived only on the supposition that tine object created 
bore false witness to past processes, which had never 
taken place. For instance, Adam would certainly pos- 
sess hair and teeth and bones in a condition which it 
must have taken many years to accomplish, yet he was 
created full-grown yesterday. He would certainly — 
though Sir Thomas Browne denied it — display an 
omphalos, yet no umbilical cord had ever attached him 
to a mother. 

Never was a book cast upon the waters with greater 
anticipations of success than was this curious, this ob- 
stinate, this fanatical volume. My Father lived in a fever 
of suspense, waiting for the tremendous issue. This 
"Omphalos" of his, be drought, was to bring all the tur- 
moil of scientific speculation to a close, fling geology 
into the arms of Scripture, and make the lion eat grass 
with the lamb. It was not surprising, he admitted, that 
there had been experienced an ever-increasing dis- 
cord between the facts which geology brings to light and 



the direct statements of the early chapters of "Genesis." 
Nobody was to blame for that. My Father, and my 
Father alone, possessed the secret of the enigma; 
he alone held the key which could smoothly open 
the lock o£ geological mystery. He offered it, with 
a glowing gesture, to atheists and Christians alike. This 
was to be the universal panacea; this the system of intel- 
lectual therapeutics which could not but heai all the 
maladies of the age. But, alas! atheists and Chris- 
tians alike looked at it and laughed, and threw it 
away. 

In the course of that dismal winter, as the post began 
to bring in private letters, few and chilly, and public 
reviews, many and scornful, my Fatiier looked in vain 
for the approval of the churches, and in vain for the 
acquiescence of the scientific societies, and in vain for the 
gratitude of those "thousands of thinking persons," 
which he had rashly assured himself of receiving. As 
his reconciliation of Scripture statements and geological 
deductions was welcomed nowhere; as Darwin con- 
tinued silent, and the youthful Huxley was scornful, 
and even Charles Kingsley, from whom my Father had 
expected the most instant appreciation, wrote that he 
could not "give up the painful and slow conclusion of 
five and twenty years' study of geology, and believe that 
God has written on the rocks one enormous and super- 
fluous lie," — as all this happened or failed to happen, a 
gloom, cold and dismal, descended upon our morning 
teacups. It was what the poets mean by an "inspissated" 
gloom; it thickened day by day, as hope and self-con- 
fidence evaporated in thin clouds of disappointment. 
My Father was not prepared for such a fate. He had 
been the spoiled darling of the public, the constant 
favourite of the press, and now, like the dark angels of 
old, 

so huge a rout 
Encumbered hiin with ruin, 

He could not recover from amazement at having 
offended everybody by an enterprise wliich had been 
undertaken in the cause of universal reconciliation. 

During that grim season, my Father was no lively 
companion, and circumstance after circumstance com- 
bined to drive him further from humanity. He missed 
more than ever the sympathetic ear of my Mother; there 
was present to support him nothing of that artful, 
female casuistry which insinuates into the wounded con- 
sciousness of a man the conviction that, after all, he is 
right and all the rest of the world is wrong. My Father 
used to tramp in solitude round and round the red 
ploughed field which was going to be his lawn, or, shel- 
tering himself from the thin Devonian rain, pace up and 
down the still-naked verandah where blossoming creep- 
ers were to be. And I think that there was added to his 
chagrin with all his fellow mortals a first tincture of that 



THE COMING OF EVOLUTION; PARTIES 



53 



heresy which was to attack him later on. It was now 
that, I fancy, he began, in his depression, to be angry 
with God. How much devotion had he given, how many 
sacrifices had he made, only to be left storming round 
this red morass with no one in all the world to care for 
him except one pale-faced child with its cheek pressed 
to the window! 



I remember, on one occasion, when the Browns, a 
family of Baptists who kept a large haberdashery shop in 
the neighbouring town, asked for the pleasure of my 
company "to tea and games," and carried complacency 
so far as to offer to send that local vehicle "the midge," to 
fetch me and bring me back, my Father's conscience was 
so painfully perplexed, that he desired me to come up 
with him to the now-deserted "boudoir" of the departed 
Marks, that we might "lay the matter before the Lord." 
We did so, kneeling side by side, with our backs to the 
window and our foreheads pressed upon the horsehair 
cover of the small coffin-like sofa. My Father prayed 
aloud, with great fervour, that it might be revealed to 
me, by the voice of God, whether it was or was not the 
Lord's will that I should attend the Browns' party. My 
Father's attitude seemed to me to be hardly fair, since 
he did not scruple to remind die Deity of various objec- 
tions to a life of pleasure and of the snakes that lie hidden 
in the grass of evening parties. It would have been 
more scrupulous, 1 thought, to give no sort of hint of the 
kind of answer he desired and expected. 

It will be jusdy said that my life was made up of very 
trifling things, since I have to confess that this incident 
of the Browns' invitation was one of its landmarks. As 
I knelt, feeling very small, by the immense bulk of my 
Father, there gushed through my veins like a. wine the 
determination to rebel. Never before, in all these years 
of my vocation, had I felt my resistance take precisely 
this definite form. We rose presently from the sofa, my 
forehead and the backs of my hands still chafed by the 
texture of the horsehair, and we faced one another in the 
dreary light. My Father, perfectly confident in the suc- 
cess of what had really been a sort of incantation, asked 
me in a loud wheedling voice, "Well, and what is the 
answer which our Lord vouchsafes?" I said nothing, 



and so my Father, more sharply, continued, "We have 
asked Him to direct you to a true knowledge of His will. 
We have desired Him to let you know whether it is, or 
is not, in accordance with His wishes that you should 
accept this invitation from the Browns." He positively 
beamed down at me; he had no doubt of the reply. He 
was already, I believe, planning some little treat to make 
up to me for the material deprivation. But my answer 
came, in the high-piping accents of despair: "The Lord 
says I may go to the Browns." My Father gazed at me 
in speechless horror. He was caught in his own trap> and 
though he was certain that the Lord had said nothing of 
the kind, there was no road open for him but just sheer 
retreat. Yet surely it was an error in tactics to slam the 
door. 

It was at this party at the Browns' — to which I duly 
went, although in sore disgrace — that my charnel poets 
played me a mean trick. It was proposed that "our 
young friends" should give their elders the treat of re- 
peating any pretty pieces that they knew by heart. Ac- 
cordingly a little girl recited "Casablanca," and another 
litde girl "We Are Seven," and various children were in- 
duced to repeat hymns, "some rather long," as Calverley 
says, but all very mild and innocuously evangelical. I 
was then asked by Mrs. Brown's maiden sister, a gush- 
ing lady in corkscrew curls, who led the revels, whether 
I also would not indulge diem "by repeating some 
sweet stanzas." No one more ready than I. Without 
a moment's hesitation, 1 stood forth, and in a loud voice 
I began one of my favourite passages from Blair's 
"Grave":— 

If death were nothing, and nought after death, — 

If when men died at once they ceased to be, — 

Returning to the barren Womb of Nothing 

Whence first they sprung, then might the debauchee 

"Thank you, dear, that will do nicely!" said the lady 
with the curls, "But diat's only the beginning of it," I 
cried. "Yes, dear, but that will quite do! We won't ask 
you to repeat any more of it" and I withdrew to the bor- 
ders of the company in bewilderment. Nor did the 
Browns or their visitors ever learn what it was die de- 
bauchee might have said or done in more favourable 
circumstances. 



End of My Apprenticeship 
as Greenhorn 

Michael Pupin 



Michael Pupin (1858-1935), son of a Serbian peasant family, came to 
the United States in 1874. After a few years of "apprenticeship" spent in 
manual labor, he entered Columbia, graduating in 1883. After study at 
Cambridge and Berlin he taught at Columbia, as professor of mechanics 
1892-1901 and as professor of electro-mechanics 1901-1931. He made dis- 
coveries that were applied in the telephone and the radio. 

From Immigrant to Inventor, published in 1923, received the Pulitzer 
Prize for Biography. This selection is from chapter iii, relating the end of 
his struggles to become an American and suggests in part the origins of his 
deep devotion to his new country and to American ideals. 



Christian was still in Cleveland, but his father 
received me with open arms and promised to 
find me a job. In less than a week he found me 
one in a famous cracker factory on Cortlandt Street. An 
acquaintance of his with the name Eilers, a Friesiander 
and distant relative of a famous German writer of 
that name, was employed there; he steered me during 
my first experiences in the factory. A place was given 
me in a squad of boys and girls who punched the firm's 
name upon a particular kind of biscuit. The job was 
easy from the point of view of physical strength, but it 
required much manual dexterity. In spite of my ambi- 
tion to advance to a high place in the squad I progressed 
very slowly. I soon discovered that in manual dexterity 
the American boys and girls stood very high; my hands 
moved fairly rapidly after some practice, but theirs vi- 
brated. I made up my mind that America was not a 
field in which I should gather many laurels by efforts 
requiring much manual dexterity. That idea had oc- 
curred to me before, when I first observed Christian 
handling his lathe. One day I was at the delivery desk 
of the Cooper Union Library, showing my library check 
to a youth behind the desk who countersigned it before 
a book was delivered to me. I noticed that he wrote 
rapidly, using sometimes his right hand and sometimes 
his left with equal ease and with much skill. "How can 
I ever compete with American boys," said I, "when 
they can write with either hand better than I can write 
with my right hand!" 

There never was a doubt in my mind that American 
adaptability which I observed on every occasion was in 

From From Immigrant to Inventor, 1923. By permission of the 
publishers, Charles Scribner'i Sons, New York. 



a great measure due to manual training which young 
people used to get here. Christian's suggestion, men- 
tioned above, that "a boy can learn anything quickly 
and well enough to earn a living if he will only try," I 
saw in a new light, when I watched the work of those 
boys and girls in the factory. Yes, American boys can, 
but not European, thought I. Lack of early manual 
training was a handicap which I felt on every step dur- 
ing my early progress in America. My whole experience 
confirmed me in the belief that manual training of the 
youth gives them a discipline which school-books alone 
can never give. I discovered later that three of the great- 
est characters in American history, Franklin, Jefferson, 
and Lincoln, excelled in practical arts requiring dex- 
terity, and that the constructive genius of the American 
nation can, in part, be traced to the discipline which one 
gets from early manual training. 

The great opportunities which, according to my good 
friends on the Delaware farm, awaited me in this coun- 
try were certainly not in the direction of arts requiring 
great manual dexterity. The country of baseball offered, 
I thought, very few opportunities in this direction to a 
foreign-born boy. I was convinced of that every time I 
made a comparison between myself and the other boys 
who were doing the same manual work in the factory 
that I did. They were my superiors. In one thing, how- 
ever, I thought I was their superior. They did not know 
much about the latest things described in the Scientific 
American, nor in the scientific supplements of the Sun- 
day Sun, which I read assiduously with the aid of a 
pocket dictionary. The educational opportunities in the 
factorv also escaped them. Jim, the boiler-room engi- 
neer and fireman of the factory, became interested in my 



54 



END OF MY APPRENTICESHIP AS GREENHORN 



53 



scientific reading and encouraged me by paying several 
compliments to my interest in these things. He once 
suggested that some day, perhaps, I might become his 
scientific assistant in the boiler-room, if I did not mind 
shovelling coal and attending to the busy fires. He was 
joking, but I took him seriously. Every morning before 
die factory started I was with Jim, who was getting the 
steam up and preparing to blow the whisde and start 
the wheels going. I volunteered to assist him "shovel- 
ling coal and attending to the busy fires," and after a 
time I understood the manipulations in the boiler-room 
quite well, according to Jim. The steam-engine excited 
my liveliest interest. It was the first opportunity that 
I had ever had to study at close range the operations of a 
steam-engine, and I made die most of it, thanks to Jim's 
patient interest in my thirst for new information. He 
was my first professor in engineering. 

One exceptionally hot afternoon during that summer 
found Jim prostrated by heat and I volunteered to run 
the boiler-room until he got well. I did it during the rest 
of that afternoon, much to the surprise of everybody, but 
was not allowed to continue, because a fireman's license 
was required for that. When Jim returned I urged him 
to help me get a license, but he answered that an intelli- 
gent boy, eager to learn, should not cross the Atlantic 
for the purpose of becoming a fireman. "You must aim 
higher, my lad," said Jim, and he added that if I contin- 
ued to make good use of my pocket dictionary and of 
my scientific reading I should soon outgrow the oppor- 
tunities offered by the New England Cracker Factory in 
Cordandt Street. He never missed a chance to encourage 
me and to promise new successes for new efforts. In 
that respect he reminded me much of my mother. 

Jim was a humble fireman and boiler-room engineer; 
his early education was scanty, so that he was not much 
on books; but he stood in awe in the presence of books. 
Referring to my habit of carrying a pocket dictionary in 
my hip pocket and looking up in it the meaning and the 
pronunciation of every word which was new to me, he 
would exclaim, jokingly, "Look in the book," whenever 
some obscure points arose in our boiler-room discussions. 
His admiration for books was much increased when I 
related to him the story of James Watt and his experi- 
ments with the steam-engine, a story which I had dug 
out in an old encyclopaedia in the Cooper Union Library. 
When I told him that James Watt had perfected his 
steam-engine and thus started the development of the 
modern steam-engine several years before the Declara- 
tion of Independence, he dropped a remark which I 
never forgot. He said: "The English made us write 
the Declaration of Independence, and they also gave us 
the steam-engine with which we made our independ- 
ence good." Jim was not much on learning but he was 
brimful of native practical philosophy. 

Jim had a relative attending classes at Cooper Union 



and encouraged me to join several of its evening classes, 
which I did. I reported to him regularly the new things 
which I learned there. This practice benefited me even 
more than it did Jim, because in trying to explain to him 
the laws of heat phenomena, which were explained to 
me in the evening lectures at Cooper Union, I got a 
very much better hold of them. The first ideas of sound 
and light I caught on the pasture-lands of my native 
village; the first ideas of the phenomena of heat I caught 
in the boiler-room in Cortlandt Street and at Cooper 
Union lectures. These lectures, supplemented by Jim's 
boiler-room demonstrations, proved much more effec- 
tive than the instruction which I had received from my 
teacher Kos, in Panchevo. Kos was a Slovene, a native 
of that beautiful valley in Carniola, in the very bosom 
of the Dolomites; it is nearer to being an ideal dream- 
land than any other spot in Europe. To Kos, as to every 
true Slav, and particularly to the Slovenes of Carniola, 
the poetical side of physical phenomena appealed most 
strongly. Hence his patient listening to my enthusiastic 
professions of the belief that sound and light were dif- 
ferent forms of the language of God. But as I watched 
the busy flames under Jim's boilers, and understood how 
they were sustaining the strenuous efforts of steam to 
supply every hustling wheel in the factory with driving 
power, I understood for the first time that there is also 
a prose in physics not a bit less impressive than its 
poetry. It is this prose which interested Jim, the fireman, 
just as it did the Cooper Union lecturer. Their chief 
concern was what heat can do and not what it is. My 
Slavonic craving for knowing what heat is was soon sat- 
isfied by reading a poem in prose concerning the nature 
of heat. But of that later. 

During my very first visits to the Cooper Union Li- 
brary I saw a great painting hung up in the northwest 
corner of its large reading-room. It was called "Men 
of Progress," and represented a group of very learned- 
looking men. I admired die painting, but took no pains 
to find out its meaning. One day, while reading in the 
Cooper Union Library, I saw quite near me an old 
gentleman standing and carefully scrutinizing what was 
going on. I imagined, at first, that he had stepped out 
of that painting. I looked again and found that the fig- 
ure in the painting which I fancied had walked out was 
still there and that the old gendeman near me was un- 
doubtedly the original from which the artist had painted 
that figure. The ambidextrous youth behind the library- 
desk told me afterward that the old gendeman was Peter 
Cooper, the founder of Cooper Union, and that he was 
one of the group of famous men represented in the great 
painting. He looked as I imagined the Patriarch of Kar- 
lovci must have looked. He was a striking resemblance 
to St. Sava, the Educator, as he is represented on an ikon 
in our church in Idvor. The same snowy locks and rosy 
complexion of saintly purity, and the same benevolent 



c/ 



BIOGRAPHY 



look from two luminous blue eyes. Peter Cooper was 
then eighty-five years of age, but he looked as lively as if 
lie were going to live another eighty-five years. His per- 
sonality as revealed by his appearance inspired me with 
awe, and I read everything I could lay my hands on con- 
cerning his life; then I read about the lives of the other 
great men who were associated with Peter Cooper in that 
historical painting. Some of these men were: Morse, the 
first promoter of the electric telegraph; Joseph Henry, the 
great physicist, head of the Smithsonian Institution, and 
founder of scientific bureaus in Washington; McCor- 
mick, the inventor of the reaper; Howe, the inventor of 
the sewing-machine; Ericsson, the engineer of the Moni- 
tor, and so forth. My study of their lives was a timely 
preparation for my visit to Philadelphia, to see the Cen- 
tennial Exposition, the preparatory work for which I had 
seen two years prior to that time, when, returning from 
the Delaware farm, I stopped at Philadelphia to search 
for opportunities. 

The work of those great captains of industry forming 
the group in the great painting, "Men of Progress,'' was 
in evidence in every nook and corner of the Centennial 
Exposition. This great show impressed me as a splendid 
glorification of all kinds of wonderful mechanisms, 
driven by steam and animal power, which helped to de- 
velop the great resources of the United States. All scien- 
tific efforts exhibited there concerned themselves with 
the question of what things can do, rather than what 
they are. The show was also a glorification of the great 
men who first formulated, clearly stated, and fought for 
the ideals of the United States. I saw that fact proclaimed 
in many of the historical features of the exposition, and I 
did not fail to understand clearly that the show took place 
in Philadelphia because the Liberty Bell and the Declara- 
tion of Independence were first heard in Philadelphia. 
When I left Philadelphia and its show I carried away in 
my head a good bit of American history. The American- 
ization process which was going on within me was very 
much speeded up by what I saw at the Centennial Expo- 
sition. 

On my return to New York I told Jim, die fireman, 
that he was right when he said: "The English made us 
write the Declaration of Independence, and they also 
gave us the steam-engine with which we made our inde- 
pendence good." But, instructed by my study of the lives 
of men who were represented in the painting "Men of 
Progress." and by what I learned at the Philadelphia ex- 
position of these men and of the leaders of the American 
Revolution, I suggested to Jim that the steam-engine 
without great men behind it would have been of little 
avail. "Yes," said Jim, "the Declaration of Independ- 
ence without men of character and brains behind it 
would also have been of little avail; and the great aims 
of the Civil War without men like Lincoln and Grant 
behind them would have ended in a foolish fizzle. This 



country, my lad," exclaimed Jim with much warmth, "is 
a monument to the lives of the men of brains and charac- 
ter and action who made it." Jim threw out this chunk 
of wisdom with the same ease and in the same offhand 
manner which he displayed when he threw a few shovel- 
fuls of coal upon the busy fires under his boilers. To him 
it was an obvious truth; to a lad like myself, who was 
accustomed to look upon countries as monuments to 
kings and princes and their victorious armies, it was a 
revelation ; and I said so. This brought from Jim another 
epigrammatic remark to the effect that my trip to 
America would teach me nothing if it did not teach me 
first to squeeze out of my mind all foolish European no- 
tions and make room for new ideas which I might pick 
up here and there in this new world. Jim's sayings were 
always short and to the point and their record in my mind 
never faded. 

Jim was very popular with everybody in the factory, 
and the fact that he thought well of me improved my 
standing much. A Mr. Paul, the youngest and most ac- 
tive member of the New England Cracker Factory in 
Cortlandt Street, paid frequent visits to the boiler-room. 
I had an idea that Jim's views of things interested him 
just as much as the operations of the boiler-room. One 
morning he made a very early visit before the steam- 
whistle had blown and the steam-engine had started on 
its daily routine, and he found me in the boiler-room, a 
busy volunteer fireman. Jim introduced me to him in a 
jocular way as a student who found his way from Prince- 
ton to Cortlandt Street, where in daytime I was rapidly 
learning every trick of the biscuit industry while in the 
evening I was absorbing all the wisdom of Cooper Union. 
A few days later Mr. Paul informed me that my fame 
as a painter of baker-wagons and of basements on Lex- 
ington Avenue, and also my record as a student in me- 
chanical drawing in the evening classes of Cooper Union, 
had reached the board of directors of the New England 
Cracker Factory, and that they had resolved to offer me 
a new job. I was advanced to the position of assistant to 
the shipping clerk. It meant not only more pay but also 
social advancement. I was no longer a workman in the 
factory, who worked for wages; I was a clerk who re- 
ceived a salary. I felt as people in England probably feel 
when peerage is conferred upon them. My fellow work- 
ers in the factory, including Eilers, who first got me the 
job, showed no envy. They agreed with Jim, who told 
them that I was "smart." Jim used the same word which 
my Vila on the banks of the Delaware had used when- 
ever I made a good recitation in English, and I saw in it 
a good omen. Jim and Vila and Christian of West Street 
were my authorities, who expressed what I considered a 
competent opinion upon my apprenticeship as green- 
horn, and that opinion was favorable. I felt assured that 
the apprenticeship was soon coming to an end. 

My duties as assistant to the shipping clerk were to 



END OF MY APPRENTICESHIP AS GREENHORN 



57 



superintend the packing of biscuits, to help address with 
brush and paint the boxes in which they were packed, 
and to see to it that they were shipped on time. A squad 
of some thirty girls did the packing and they seemed at 
first inclined to file objections whenever I found fault 
with their packing. They seemed to resent being bossed 
by an immigrant youth whose foreign accent would "stop 
a train," as they sometimes expressed it. I found out 
from Jim that the principal object of their resentment 
was to make me angry, because when my Serbian temper 
was up my accent became most atrocious and that fur- 
nished them a most hilarious amusement. I soon became 
convinced that my success as assistant to the shipping 
clerk demanded a perfect control of my temper and a 
speedy improvement of my accent, each of them a most 
difficult task. 

My efforts to control my temper were frequently put 
to severe tests. Now and then a biscuit, well aimed, 
would hit me on the head, and my Serbian blood would 
rush to my cheeks and I would look daggers at the sup- 
posed offender, "Look at the bashibozouk," one of the 
girls would sing out on these occasions, and another 
would add: "Did you ever see such a Bulgarian atroc- 
ity?" These words were in everybody's mouth at that 
time and they referred to the incidents of the Balkan 
War of 1876-1878, which Serbia, Montenegro, and Russia 
were waging against the Turks. A third girl would stick 
her tongue out and make funny faces at me in response 
to my savage glare. She evidendy tried to make me 
laugh, and I did laugh. Then a fourth girl would sing 
out: "Oh, look at the darling now; I just love him when 
he smiles." Then they all would sing: 

"Smile, Michael, smile, 
I love your sunny style." 

I did smile, and every day I smiled more and more, 
after I had discovered that the girls did not really dislike 
me, but just loved to tease me whenever I showed any 
signs of a European greenhorn. I dropped the airs put 
on by European superiors in authority and gradually the 
girls became friendly and began to call me by my first 
name instead of mockingly addressing me as "Mister" as 
they addressed the old shipping clerk. "You are getting 
on swimmingly, my lad," said Jim one day, and he added 
something hke this: "The girls are calling you Michael, 
just as they call me Jim. We are popular, my boy, but 
don't let this popularity mislead you into foolish notions. 
Just watch me; I have enjoyed this popularity for twenty 
years, and here I am still a bachelor, and an old bachelor 
at that. You have controlled your temper well, but how 
about controlling your heart, my lad?" Jim grinned and 
winked and placed his index finger in front of his fore- 
head, as if to indicate that many a wise experience is 
stored in the practical head of a canny old fireman. I 
understood his meaning, but did I heed its warning? I 



knew that it contained a warning, and I suspected 
strongly that Jim had discovered one of my deepest 
secrets. 

There was one girl among the thirty biscuit-packers 
who, in my opinion, never made a mistake in packing. 
I never took pains to inspect her work, and why should 
I when I was sure of her perfection ? But I watched her 
and feasted my eyes upon her whenever I had spare time 
and was sure that nobody was observing me. She became 
conscious of it and every now and then she would sud- 
denly look up and catch my admiring but cautious gaze. 
A bashful blush would give me away in spite of my 
efforts to hide my thoughts and feelings. She guessed 
them and she smiled as if gready pleased and much 
amused, but she cleverly avoided giving me an opportu- 
nity to make a confession. I might have done it in spite 
of my extreme bashfulness. My note-books were full of 
her pictures, which I drew and signed under them her 
name, Jane Macnamara. Perhaps Jim had seen these pic- 
tures among my many sketches of the boiler-room and its 
contents, and hence his warning to me. 

One Monday morning Jane did not appear at her usual 
place in the packing-room; her friend, anodier packing 
girl, told me that Jane had been married on the previous 
Saturday. I tried my best to appear as if I received the 
news with indifference, but failed. The girls observed a 
change; I neither smiled nor did I frown, but I thought a 
lot, and the girls seemed to take quite an interest in my 
thoughtfulness, but studiously avoided annoying me. 
Only now and then one of the girls would whisper to 
me: "Penny for your thoughts, Michael." Jim, I was 
sure, also observed the change, but said nothing, as if he 
had observed nothing. One day he introduced me to an 
acquaintance of his whom he called Fred, who looked 
Hke a middle-aged man. He had wonderful deep fur- 
rows in his face, and his hands were large and very 
bony and looked as if the daily toil had rubbed off all the 
superfluous flesh and fat from them. Jim told me that 
Fred was far from middle age, but barely over thirty, 
and that some twelve years before he had plans and am- 
bitions just as big as mine, backed by at least as much 
brains as he thought T had. Fred's friends expected big 
things from him, said Jim, but suddenly Fred lost his 
heart and married and raised a big family of children 
somewhere in Jersey City. "To-day," said Jim, "Fred is 
mentally just where he was twelve years ago, and if he 
did not have the contract of making the wooden packing- 
boxes for this factory he would look even older than he 
is looking now," and then he added, in his usual offhand 
manner by way of illustration, that corn-stalks cease to 
grow as soon as the ears of corn appear and all the sap 
of the cornstalk is served to the ears. Referring to Fred's 
numerous children, Jim finished his picture by saying 
that Fred looked hke a withering corn-stalk with many 
small ears of corn on it, and that he hoped that the with- 



:>8 



BIOGRAPHY 



ering corn-stalk would hold out until the numerous ears 
of corn had ripened. He admitted, however, that he him- 
self was a withering corn-stalk with no ears of corn at 
all ; that his iif e was the other extreme from Fred's, and 
that neither he nor Fred had in their younger days stud- 
ied and applied in practice the controlling regulators of 
life. Jim's sermons on self-control always hit the mark; 
and when, referring to his advice to me to control my 
temper, my heart, and my speech, I suggested that ac- 
cording to him life was a series of all kinds of controls 
difficult to manage, he answered that nothing is difficult 
when it becomes a habit "Just examine my boiler-room," 
he said, "and you will find that everything is controlled. 
The centrifugal governor controls the speed of the en- 
gine; the safety-valve limits the pressure of steam; every 
fire has a regulator of its air draft, and every oven has a 
temperature indicator, I know them all and I watch their 
operations without knowing that I am doing it. Practice 
makes perfect, my lad, and perfection knows no difficul- 
ties even in a boiler-room as full of all kinds of tricks as 
human life is." Jim's sermons were always short and far 
ahead of anything I had ever heard in the churches in 
Delaware City, or in Dayton, New Jersey, or in the Bow- 
ery Mission, or in any other church which up to that time 
I had visited in this country; and, moreover, they were 
not accompanied by congregational singing, which bored 
me. I understood why so many blacksmiths and other 
people of small learning made a great success as preach- 
ers in this country, whereas in my native village the 
priest, who prided himself upon his learning, was obliged 
to read those sermons only which were sent to him by the 
bishop of the diocese. I suggested to Jim in a jocular 
way to quit the boiler-room and become a preacher, and 
he answered that the boys and girls of the New England 
Cracker Factory in Cordandt Street furnished a suffi- 
ciendy large field for his religious and educational mis- 
sion. Jim's assistance helped me much to let the dream 
about Jane fade away gradually and make room in my 
imagination for the dreams which I first saw at Prince- 
ton under that elm-tree in front of Nassau Hall. 



One day, after leaving Cooper Union library, I walked 
along the upper Bowery, refreshing my memories of 
the hard winter of 1 874-1 875. In Broome Street near the 
Bowery I saw a store with a sign bearing the name of 
Lukanitch. The man of that name must be a Serb, 
thought I, and I walked in, longing to hear the language 
which I had not heard for over three years. It was a hard- 
ware store dealing principally in files and tools made of 
hardened steel. Behind the desk stood an elderly man, 
and he, much surprised, answered my Serbian greeting 
in the Serbian language with an accent reminding me of 
Kos, my Slovene teacher in Panchevo. Lukanitch told 
me that he was a Slovene and that in his young days he 



was a pedler, a Kranyats, as they called the Slovenian 
pedlers in my native village. His annual summer tours 
took him to my native Banat. A Kranyats travels on 
foot hundreds of miles, carrying on his back a huge case 
with numerous small drawers, each drawer containing a 
different line of goods: pins, needles, and threads; pens 
and pencils, cheap jewelry and gaily colored handker- 
chiefs; cotton, linen, silk, and all kinds of things which 
the peasants are apt to buy. A Kranyats was a familiar 
sight in my native village, and he was always welcome 
there, because he was a Slovene, a near kin to the Serb; 
and the Serb peasants of the Banat plains loved to hear 
a Kranyats describe the beauties of the mountainsides of 
little Slovenia on the eastern slope of the Dolomites. 
When I disclosed my name to Lukanitch he asked me 
for my father's name, and when I told him that it was 
Constantine and that he lived in Idvor, Banat, his eyes 
looked like two scintillating stars. He gave me a big 
hug and a big tear threatened to roll down his cheek 
when he said: "Ko che ko Bog?" (Who can fathom the 
will of God?) After relating to me that my father had 
befriended him nearly thirty years prior to that time and 
that he had often stayed as guest at my father's house 
whenever his annual tours as Kranyats took him through 
Idvor, he begged me to come to his house on the follow- 
ing Sunday and dine with his family. I did, and there I 
met his good wife, a fine Slavonic type, and also his son 
and daughter, who were born in this country and who 
looked like young Slavs with Americanism grafted upon 
them. His son was about to graduate from a high school, 
and his daughter was preparing for Normal College. 
They were both American in manner and sentiment, but 
father and mother, although deeply devoted to the 
United States, the native country of their children, were 
still sincerely attached to the beautiful customs of the 
Slovene land. The children preferred to speak English, 
but they delighted in Slovene music, which they culti- 
vated with much enthusiasm. That made their parents 
most happy. Their home was a beautiful combination 
of American and Slovene civilization. Once they in- 
vited me to an anniversary party and I found the whole 
family dressed in most picturesque Slovenian costumes; 
but everybody in the party, including even old Lukanitch 
and his wife and all the Slovenian guests, spoke English. 
Most of the guests were Americans, but they enjoyed the 
Slovenian dishes and the Slovenian music, singing, and 
dancing as much as anybody. To my great surprise the 
American girls, friends of Miss Lukanitch, played Slo- 
venian music exceedingly well, and I thought to myself 
that a sufficiently frequent repetition of parties of that 
kind would soon transform the American population in 
the vicinity of Prince Street into Slovenians. This inter- 
action between two very different civilizations gave me 
food for thought, which I am still digesting mentally. 
Lukanitch and his family became my devoted friends, 



END OF MY APPRENTICESHIP AS GREENHORN 



59 



and they were just as interested in my plans and aspira- 
tions as if I had been a member of their family. The old 
lady had a tender heart, and she shed many a tear listen- 
ing to bits of my history from the time when I bade 
good-by to father and mother at the steamboat landing 
on the Danube, five years before. The disappearance of 
my roast goose at Karlovci, my first railroad ride from 
Budapest to Vienna, my dialogues with the train con- 
ductor and the gaudy station-master at Vienna, and rny 
free ride in a first-class compartment from Vienna to 
Prague in company with American friends amused her 
and her husband hugely. I had to repeat the story many 
a time for the benefit of her Slovenian friends. She 
begged me repeatedly to tell the story of my crossing of 
the Atlantic and of my hardships as greenhorn, being 
evidendy anxious to have her children hear it. I did it 
several times, scoring much success on each occasion, 
and as a reward she loaded me with many little gifts and 
with many enjoyable feasts on Sundays and holidays. My 
interpretation of the American theory of freedom, which 
I had derived from reading the lives and the utterances 
of the great men who made this country and from my 
three years' struggles as greenhorn, found a most appre- 
ciative audience in the Lukanitch family. They ap- 
plauded Jim's sentiment, that this country is a monument 
to the great men who made it, and not to a single family 
like the Hapsburgs of Austria-Hungary. Old Lukanitch 
offered to engage me as his teacher in American history, 
and young Lukanitch offered to get me an invitation 
from the principal of his high school to deliver an oration 
on the Declaration of Independence. The offers were 
not meant very seriously, but there was enough sincerity 
in them to make me believe that my training in America 
was recognized as having substantial value by people 
whose opinion deserved respect. I saw in it the first real 
recognition referred to in the prophecy of my fellow 
passenger on the immigrant ship who said : "No matter 
who you are or what you know or what you have, you 
will be a greenhorn when you land in the New World, 
and a greenhorn has to serve his apprenticeship as green- 
horn before he can establish his claim to any recogni- 
tion." I said to myself: "Here is my first recognition 



small as it may be, and I am certainly no longer a green- 
horn." 

No longer a greenhorn! Oh, what a confidence that 
gives to a foreign-born youth who has experienced the 
hardships of serving his apprenticeship as a greenhorn! 
Then there were other sources of confidence: I had a 
goodly deposit in the Union Dime Savings Bank and it 
was several thousand times as big as the nickel which I 
brought to Castle Garden when I landed. Besides, I had 
learned a thing or two in the evening classes at Cooper 
Union, and rny English was considered good not only in 
vocabulary and grammar, but also in articulation, thanks 
to Bilharz. Young Lukanitch assured me that my knowl- 
edge of English, mathematics, and science would easily 
take me into college. He even prophesied a most success- 
ful college career, pointing at my big chest and broad 
shoulders and feeling my hard biceps. "You will make 
a splendid college oarsman," said he, "and they will do 
anything for you at Columbia if you are a good oars- 
man, even if you do not get from Bilharz so very much 
Greek or Latin." At that time Columbia stood very high 
in rowing. One of her crews won in the Henley Regatta, 
and its picture could be seen in every illustrated paper. 
I had seen it many a time and remembered the looks of 
every member of that famous crew. Young Lukanitch 
was so enthusiastic about it that he would have gone to 
Columbia himself if his father had not needed him so 
much in his steel-tool business. He did his best to turn 
my eyes from Nassau Hall to Columbia. He succeeded, 
but not so much en account of my prospects in rowing 
as on account of other things, and among them was the 
official name of that institution: "Columbia College in 
the City of New York." The fact that the college was 
located in the city of New York carried much weight, 
because New York appealed to my imagination more 
than any other place in die world. The impression which 
it made upon my mind as the immigrant ship moved 
into New York Harbor on that clear and sunny March 
day when I first passed through Casde Garden, the Gate 
of America, never faded. My first victory on American 
soil was won in New York when I fought for my right 
to wear the red fez. 



Significant Gesture 

Malcolm Cowley 



Malcolm Cowley was born in Pennsylvania in 1898; he graduated from 
Harvard in 1920 and studied a year at the University of Montpellier. He 
has written poetry and criticism and translated a number of books from 
French and since 1929 has been an editor of The New Republic. 

Exile's Return (1934) is the most revealing account we have of the intel- 
lectual experiences of most writers of Cowley's generation, from their 
conventional boyhoods, through their education, the unsettling years of 
the War, and especially of the group of "expatriate" Americans in Paris, 
their literary and social experiments, and the final acceptance by most of 
them of leftish ideals. The chapter "Significant Gesture" reads like an 
incident in the life of an Elizabethan writer. It is told with modesty and 
leads to an illuminating comment upon the ideals and the state of mind 
of radical French writers of the 1920's and of many Americans who were 
living among them. 



During the last three weeks before sailing for 
America, I wrote no letters. I was much too 
excited to write letters; I had never, in fact, spent 
prouder, busier or more amusing days. I was being ar- 
rested and tried for punching a cafe proprietor in the 
jaw. 

He deserved to be punched, though not especially by 
me; I had no personal grudge against him. His cafe, 
the Rotonde, had long been patronized by revolutionists 
of every nation. Lenin used to sit there, I was told; and 
proletarian revolts were still being planned, over coffee 
in the evening, by quiet men who paid no attention to 
the hilarious arguments of Swedish and Rumanian 
artists at the surrounding tables. The proprietor— whose 
name I forget — used to listen unobtrusively. It was be- 
lieved, on more or less convincing evidence, that he was 
a paid informer. It was said that he had betrayed sev- 
eral anarchists to the French police. Moreover, it was 
known that he had insulted American girls, treating 
them with the cold brutality that French cafe proprietors 
reserve for prostitutes. He was a thoroughly disagreeable 
character and should, we felt, be called to account. 

We were at the Dome, ten or twelve of us packed 
together at a table in the midst of the crowd that swirled 
in the Boulevard Montparnasse. It was July 14, 1923, the 
national holiday. Chinese lanterns hung in rows among 
the trees; bands played at every corner; everywhere peo- 
ple were dancing in the streets. Paris, deserted for the 
summer by its aristocrats, bankers and politicians, for- 
getting its hordes of tourists, was given over to a vast 
plebeian carnival, a general madness in which we had 

From Exile's Return, 1934. By permission of the publishers, W. W. 
Norton and Company, New York. 



eagerly joined. Now, tired of dancing, we sipped our 
drinks and talked in loud voices to make ourselves heard 
above the music, the ratde of saucers, the shuffle of feet 
along the sidewalk. I was trying, with my two hands on 
the table, to imitate the ridiculous efforts of Tristan 
Tzara to hop a moving train. "Let's go over," said 
Laurence Vail, tossing back his long yellow hair from 
his forehead, "and assault the proprietor of the Rotonde." 

"Let's," I said. 

We crossed the street together, some of the girls in 
bright evening gowns and some in tweeds, Louis Aragon 
slim and dignified in a dinner jacket. Laurence bare- 
headed and wearing a raincoat which he never removed 
in the course of the hot starlit night, myself coatless, 
dressed in a workman's blue shirt, worn trousers and 
rope-soled shoes. Delayed and separated by the crowd 
on the pavement, we made our way singly into the bar, 
which I was the last to enter. Aragon, in periodic scn : 
fences pronounced in a beautifully modulated voice, 
was expressing his opinion of all stool pigeons — mou- 
chards— and asking why such a wholly contemptible 
character as the proprietor of the Rotonde presumed to 
solicit the patronage of respectable people. The waiters, 
smelling a fight, were forming a wall of shirt fronts 
around their employer. Laurence Vail pushed through 
the wall; he made an angry speech in such rapid French 
that I could catch only a few phrases, all of them insults 
The proprietor backed away; his eyes shifted uneasily; 
his face was a dirty white behind his black mustache. 
Harold Loeb, looking on, was a pair of spectacles, a 
chin, a jutting pipe and an embarrassed smile. 

I was angry at my friends, who were allowing the situ- 
ation to resolve into a series of useless gestures; but even 



SIGNIFICANT GESTURE 



61 



more I was seized with a physical revulsion for the pro- 
prietor, with his look of a dog caught stealing chickens 
and trying to sneak of?. Pushing past the waiters, I 
struck him a glancing blow in the jaw. Then, before I 
could strike again, I was caught up in an excited crowd 
and forced to the door. 

Five minutes later, our band had once more assembled 
on the terrace of the Dome. I had forgotten the affair 
already: nothing remained but a vague exhilaration and 
the desire for further activity. I was obsessed with the 
idea that we should changer de quartier: that instead of 
spending the rest of the night in Montparnasse, we 
should visit other sections of Paris. Though no one else 
seemed endiusiastic, I managed by force of argument to 
assemble five hesitant couples, and the ten of us went 
strolling eastward along the Boulevard Montpar- 
nasse. 

On reaching the first cafe we stopped for a drink of 
beer and a waltz under the chestnut trees. One couple 
decided to return to the Dome. Eight of us walked on 
to another cafe, where, after a bock, two other couples 
became deserters. "Let's change our quarter," I said 
once more. At the next cafe, Bob Coatcs consulted his 
companion. "We're going back to the Dome," he said. 
Two of us walked on sadly. We caught sight of Mont- 
rouge— -more Chinese lanterns and wailing accordions 
and workmen dancing with shopgirls in the streets — 
then we too returned to Montparnasse. 

It was long after midnight, but the streets were as 
crowded as before and I was eager for adventure. At the 
DSme I met Tristan Tzara, seized him by the arm and 
insisted that we go for a stroll. We argued the question 
of whether the Dada movement could be revived. Under 
the chestnut trees we met a high-brown woman dressed 
in barbaric clothes; she was thought to be a princess from 
Senegal. I addressed her extravagant compliments in 
English and French ; Tzara added others in French, Ger- 
man and his three words of Rumanian. "Go 'way, white 
boys," she said in a Harlem voice. We turned back, pass- 
ing the crowded terrace of the Rotonde. The proprietor 
was standing there with his arms folded. At the sight of 
him, a fresh rage surged over me. 

"Quel sdaudl" I roared for the benefit of his six hun- 
dred customers. "Ah, quel petit mouchardl" 

Then I crossed the street once more toward the Dome, 
slowly. But when I reached the middle of the tracks, I 
felt each of my arms seized by a little blue policeman. 
"Come along with us," they said. And they marched me 
toward the station house, while Tzara rushed off to get 
the identification papers left behind in my coat. The 
crowds disappeared behind us; we were alone— I and 
the two flics and the proprietor of the Rotonde. 

One of the two policemen was determined to amuse 
himself. "You're lucky," he said, "to be arrested in Paris. 
U vow were arrested by those bratal policemen of New 



York, they would cuff you on the ear— like this," he 
snarled, cuffing me on the ear, "but in Paris we pat you 
gently on the shoulder." 

I knew I was in trouble. I said nothing and walked 
peacefully beside him. 

"Ah, the police of Paris are incomparably gende. If 
you were arrested in New York, they would crack you 
in die jaw — like this," he said, cracking me in the jaw, 
"but here we do nothing; we take you with us calmly." 

He rubbed his hands, then thrust his face toward mine. 
His breath stank of brandy. 

"You like the police of Paris, hein?" 

"Assuredly," I answered. The proprietor of the Ro- 
tonde walked on beside us, letting his red tongue play 
over the ends of his mustache. The other -flic said noth- 
ing. 

"I won't punch you in the nose like the New York 
policemen," said the drunken man, punching me in the 
nose. "I will merely ask you to walk on in front of me. 
. . . Walk in front of me, pig!" 

I walked in front of him. looking back suspiciously 
under my armpit. His hand was on his holster, loosen- 
ing the flap. I had read about people shot "while trying 
to escape," and began walking so very slowly that he had 
to kick me in the heels to urge me up the steps of the 
police station. When we stood at the desk before the 
sergeant, he charged me with an unprovoked assault on 
the proprietor of the Rotonde — and also with forcibly 
resisting an officer. "Why," he said, "he kicked me in 
the shins, leaving a scar. Look here!" 

He rolled up his trouser leg, showing a scratch half 
an inch long. It was useless for me to object that my 
rope-soled shoes wouldn't have scratched a baby. Police 
courts in France, like police courts everywhere, operate 
on the theory that a policeman's word is always to be 
taken against that of an accused criminal. 

Things looked black for me until my friends arrived 
—Laurence and Louis and Jacques Rigaut and my wife 
—bearing with them my identification papers and a sup- 
ply of money. Consulting together, we agreed that the 
drunken policeman must be bribed, and bribed he was; 
in the general confusion he was bribed twice over. He 
received in all 130 francs, at least four times as much as 
was necessary. Standing pigeon-toed before the sergeant 
at the desk and wearing an air of bashful benevolence, 
he announced that I was a pretty good fellow after all, 
even though I had kicked him in the shins. He wished 
to withdraw the charge of resisting an officer. 

My prospects brightened perceptibly. Everyone agreed 
that the false charge was the more serious of the two. 
For merely punching a stool-pigeon, the heaviest sen- 
tence I could receive would be a month in jail. Perhaps 
I would escape with a week. . . . 

A preliminary hearing was held on the following eve- 
ning, after a night in jail and a day spent vainly trying 



32 



BIOGRAPHY 



to sleep between visits from the police and telephone 
calls from anxious friends. I stopped at the Dome to 
collect my witnesses; fortunately there was a party that 
evening and they were easy to find. They consisted of 
nine young ladies in evening gowns. None of them had 
been present at the scene in the Rotonde the night before, 
but that didn't matter: all of them testified in halting 
French that I hadn't been present, either; die whole af- 
fair was an imposition on a writer known for his seri- 
ous character; it was a hoax invented by a cafe proprie- 
tor who was a pig and very impolite to American young 
women. 

The examining magistrate was deeply impressed. He 
confided later to Andre Salmon that the proprietor of 
the Rotonde had only his own waiters to testify in his 
favor, whereas I had nine witnesses, all of them very 
respectable people, des gens trh bien. It was Salmon, 
incidentally, who got me out of the scrape, by virtue of 
the influence he had acquired in the world of magis- 
trates through having reported all die important mur- 
der trials for Le Matin. He managed to have my actual 
trial delayed from day to day and finally abandoned. 

But the most amusing feature of the affair, and my 
justification for dealing with it at length, was the effect 
it produced on my French acquaintances. They looked 
at me with an admiration I could not understand, even 
when I reflected that French writers rarely came to blows 
and that they placed a high value on my unusual action. 
Years later I realized that by punching a cafe proprietor 
in the jaw, I had performed an act to which all dieir 
favorite catchwords could be applied. First of all, I had 



acted for reasons of public morality; bearing no private 
grudge against my victim, I had been disinterested. I 
had committed an indiscretion, acted with violence and 
disdain for the law, performed an arbitrary and signifi- 
cant gesture, uttered a manifesto; in their opinion I had 
shown courage. . . . For the first time in my life, I be- 
came a public character. I was entertained at dinners 
and cocktail parties, interviewed for the newspapers, 
asked to contribute to magazines published by the Da- 
daists in Amsterdam, Brussels, Lyons and Belgrade. My 
stories were translated into Hungarian and German. A 
party of Russian writers then visiting Paris returned to 
Moscow with several of my poems, which appeared in 
magazines issued at the expense of the Soviet govern- 
ment. 

These poems were not at all revolutionary in tone, 
but they dealt with a subject that had been arousing the 
enthusiasm of Soviet writers. They were poems about 
America, poems that spoke of movies and skyscrapers 
and machines, dwelling upon them with all the nostalgia 
derived from two long years of exile. I, too, was enthu- 
siastic over America; I had learned from a distance to 
admire its picturesque qualities. And I was returning to 
New York with a set of values that bore no relation to 
American life, with convictions that could not fail to 
be misunderstood in a country where Dada was hardly 
a name, and moral judgments on literary matters were 
thought to be in questionable taste — in a city where 
writers had only three justifications for their acts: they 
did them to make money, or to get their name in the 
papers, or else because they were drunk. 



Lady Hester Stanhope 

Lytton Strachey 



Lytton Strachey (1880-1932) brought to the writing of biography a gift 
for choosing significant and suggestive detail (both of picture and of 
action), a mildly ironical point of view, and a rhetorical virtuosity that has 
rarely been found in historical writing. He is credited with having revived 
the popularity of biography but he is at once more scrupulous and more 
interesting than most of his followers. He wrote two full-length biog- 
raphies, Queen Victoria (1921) and Elizabeth and Essex (1928), and a 
number of short portraits, gathered in three volumes, Eminent Victorians 
(1918), Books and Characters (1922), Portraits in Miniature (1931). 



The Pitt nose has a curious history. One can watch 
its transmigrations through three lives. The tre- 
mendous hook of old Lord Chatham, under whose 
curve Empties came to birth, was succeeded by the bleak 
upward-pointing nose of William Pitt the younger — the 
rigid symbol of an indomitable hauteur. With Lady 
Hester Stanhope came die final stage. The nose, still 
with an upward tilt in it, had lost its masculinity; the 
hard bones of the uncle and the grandfather had disap- 
peared. Lady Hester's was a nose of wild ambitions, of 
pride grown fantastical, a nose that scorned the earth, 
shooting off, one fancies, towards some eternally eccen- 
tric heaven. It was a nose, in fact altogether in the air. 
Noses, of course, are aristocratic things; and Lady Hes- 
ter was the child of a great aristocracy. But, in her case, 
the aristocratic impulse, which had carried her predeces- 
sors to glory, had less fortunate results. There has always 
been a strong strain of extravagance in the governing 
families of England; from time to time they throw off 
some peculiarly ill-balanced member, who performs a 
strange meteoric course. A century earlier, Lady Mary 
Wortley Montagu was an illustrious example of this tend- 
ency: that splendid comet, after filling half the heavens, 
vanished suddenly into desolation and darkness. Lady 
Hester Stanhope's spirit was still more uncommon; and 
she met with a most uncommon fate. 

She was born in 1776, the eldest daughter of that ex- 
traordinary Earl Stanhope, Jacobin and inventor, who 
made the first steamboat and the first calculating ma- 
chine, who defended the French Revolution in the House 
of Lords and erased the armorial bearings — 'damned 
aristocratical nonsense' — from his carriages and his plate. 
Her modier, Chatham's daughter and the favourite sis- 
ter of Pitt, died when she was four years old. The sec- 
ond Lady Stanhope, a frigid woman of fashion, left her 

From Boo^s and Characters. By permission of Harcourt, Brace and 
Company, New York. 



stepdaughters to the care of futile governesses, while 
'Citizen Stanhope' ruled the household from his labora- 
tory with the violence of a tyrant. It was not until Lady 
Hester was twenty-four that she escaped from the slavery 
of her father's house, by going to live with her grand- 
mother, Ladv Chatham. On Lady Chatham's death, 
three years later, Pitt offered her his protection, and she 
remained with him until his death in 1806. 

Her three years with Pitt, passed in the very centre of 
splendid power, were brilliant and exciting. She flung 
herself impetuously into the movement and the passion 
of that vigourous society; she ruled her uncle's household 
with high vivacity; she was liked and courted; if not 
beautiful, she was fascinating— very tall, with a very fair 
and clear complexion, and dark-blue eyes, and a counte- 
nance of wonderful expressiveness. Her talk, full of the 
trenchant nonchalance of those days, was both amusing 
and alarming: 'My dear Hester, what are you saying?' 
Pitt would call out to her from across the room. She 
was devoted to her uncle, who warmly returned her af- 
fection. She was devoted, too— but in a more dangerous 
fashion — to the intoxicating Antinous, Lord Granville 
Leveson Gower. The reckless manner in which she car- 
ried on this love-affair was the first indication of some- 
thing overstrained, something wild and unaccountable, 
in her temperament. Lord Granville, after flirting with 
her outrageously, declared that he could never marry her, 
and went off on an embassy to St. Petersburg. Her dis- 
traction was extreme: she hinted that she would follow 
him to Russia; she threatened, and perhaps attempted, 
suicide; she went about telling everybody that he had 
jilted her. She was taken ill, and then there were ru- 
mours of an accouchement, which, it was said, she took 
care to afficher, by appearing without rouge and fainting 
on the slightest provocation. In the midst of these excur- 
sions and alarums there was a terrible and unexpected 
catastrophe. Pitt died. And Lady Hester suddenly found 



64 



BIOGRAPHY 



herself a dethroned princess, living in a small house in 
Montagu Square on a pension of ^1200 a year. 

She did not abandon society, however, and the tongue 
of gossip continued to wag. Her immediate, marriage 
with a former lover, Mr. Hill, was announced: 'il est 
bien bon,' said Lady Bessborough. Then it was whispered 
that Canning was 'le regnant' — that he was with her 'not 
only all day, but almost all night.' She quarrelled with 
Canning and became attached to Sir John Moore. 
Whether she was actually engaged to marry him — as 
she seems to have asserted many years later — is doubtful ; 
his letters to her, full as they are of respectful tenderness, 
hardly warrant the conclusion; but it is certain that he 
died with her name on his lips. Her favourite brother, 
Charles, was killed beside him; and it was natural that 
under this double blow she should have retired from 
London. She buried herself in Wales; but not for long. 
In 1810 she set sail for Gibraltar with her brother James, 
who was rejoining his regiment in the Peninsula. She 
never returned to England. 

There can be no doubt that at the time of her departure 
the thought of a lifelong exile was far from her mind. 
It was only gradually, as she moved further and further 
eastward, that the prospect of life in England — at last 
even in Europe — grew distasteful to her; as late as 1816 
she was talking of a visit to Provence. Accompanied by 
two or three English fellow travellers, her English maid, 
Mrs. Fry, her private physician, Dr. Meryon, and a host 
of servants, she progressed, slowly and in great state, 
through Malta and Athens to Constantinople. She was 
conveyed in battleships, and lodged with governors and 
ambassadors. After spending many months in Constan- 
tinople, Lady Hester discovered that she was 'dying to 
see Napoleon with her own eyes,' and attempted accord- 
ingly to obtain passports to France. The project was 
stopped by Stratford Canning, the English Minister, 
upon which she decided to visit Egypt, and, chartering 
a Greek vessel, sailed for Alexandria in the winter of 
181 1. Off the island of Rhodes a violent storm sprang 
up; the whole party were forced to abandon the ship, 
and to take refuge upon a bare rock, where they re- 
mained without food or shelter for thirty hours. Eventu- 
ally, after many severe privations, Alexandria was 
reached in safety; but this disastrous voyage was a turn- 
ing-point in Lady Hester's career. At Rhodes she was 
forced to exchange her torn and dripping raiment for 
the attire of a Turkish gentleman — a dress which she 
never afterwards abandoned. It was the first step in her 
orientalisation. 

She passed the next two years in a triumphal progress. 
Her appearance in Cairo caused the greatest sensation, 
and she was received in state by the Pasha, Mehemet 
Ali. Her costume on this occasion was gorgeous: she 
wore a turban of cashmere, a brocaded waistcoat, a price- 
less pelisse, and a vast pair of purple velvet pantaloons 



embroidered all over in gold. She was ushered by cham- 
berlains with silver wands through the inner courts of 
the palace to a pavilion in the harem, where the Pasha, 
rising to receive her, conversed with her for an hour. 
From Cairo she turned northwards, visiting Jaffa, Jeru- 
salem, Acre, and Damascus. Her travelling dress was of 
scarlet cloth trimmed with gold and, when on horse- 
back, she wore over the whole a white-hooded and tas- 
selled burnous. Her maid, too, was forced, protesting, 
into trousers, though she absolutely refused to ride 
astride. Poor Mrs. Fry had gone through various and 
dreadful sufferings — shipwreck and starvation, rats and 
blaekbeedes unspeakable — but she retained her equa- 
nimity. Whatever her Ladyship might think fit to be, she 
was an Englishwoman to the last, and Philippaki was 
Philip Parker and Mustapha Mr. Farr. 

Outside Damascus, Lady Hester was warned that the 
town was the most fanatical in Turkey, and that the 
scandal of a woman entering it in man's clothes, un- 
veiled, would be so great as to be dangerous. She was 
begged to veil herself, and to make her entry under cover 
of darkness. 'I must take the bull by the horns,' she re- 
plied, and rode into the city unveiled at midday. The 
population were thunderstruck; but at last their amaze- 
ment gave way to enthusiasm, and the incredible lady 
was hailed everywhere as Queen, crowds followed her, 
coffee was poured out before her, and the whole bazaar 
rose as she passed. Yet she was not satisfied with her tri- 
umphs; she would do something still more glorious and 
astonishing; she would plunge into the desert and visit 
the ruins of Palmyra, which only half-a-dozen of the 
boldest travellers had ever seen. The Pasha of Damascus 
offered her a military escort, but she preferred to throw 
herself upon the hospitality of the Bedouin Arabs, who, 
overcome by her horsemanship, her powers of sight, and 
her courage, enrolled her a member of their tribe. After 
a week's journey in their company she reached Palmyra, 
where the inhabitants met her with wild enthusiasm, and 
under the Corinthian columns of Zenobia's temple 
crowned her head with flowers. This happened in March 
1813; it was the apogee of Lady Hester's life. Hencefor- 
ward her fortunes gradually but steadily declined. 

The rumour of her exploits had spread through Syria, 
and from the year 1813 onwards, her reputation was 
enormous. She was received everywhere as a royal, al- 
most as a supernatural, personage: she progressed from 
town to town amid official prostrations and popular 
rejoicings. But she herself was in a state of hesitation 
and discontent. Her future was uncertain; she had 
grown scornful of the West — must she return to it? The 
East alone was sympathetic, the East alone was tolerable 
— but could she cut herself off for ever from the past? 
At Laodicea she was suddenly struck down by the 
plague, and, after months of illness, it was borne in upon 
her that all was vanity. She rented an empty monastery 



LADY HESTER STANHOPE 



65 



on die slopes of Mount Lebanon, not far from Sayda (the 
ancient Sidon), and took up her abode there. Then her 
mind took a new surprising turn; she dashed to Ascalon, 
and, with the permission of the Sultan, began excavations 
in a ruined temple with the object of discovering a hid- 
den treasure of three million pieces of gold. Having un- 
earthed nothing but an antique statue, which, in order to 
prove her disinterestedness, she ordered her appalled doc- 
tor to break into little bits, she returned to her monastery. 
Finally, in 1816, she moved to another house, further up 
Mount Lebanon, and near the village of Djoun; and at 
Djoun she remained until her death more than twenty 
years later. 

Thus, almost accidentally as it seems, she came to the 
end of her wanderings, and the last, long, strange, 
mythical period of her existence began. Certainly the 
situation that she had chosen was sublime. Her house, 
on the top of a high bare hill among great mountains, 
was a one-storied group of buildings, with many ramify- 
ing "ourts and out-houses, and a garden of several acres 
surrounded by a rampart wall. The garden, which she 
herself had planted and tended with the utmost care, 
commanded a glorious prospect. On every side but one 
the vast mountains towered, but to the west there was an 
opening, through which, in the far distance, the deep 
blue Mediterranean was revealed. From this romantic 
hermitage, her singular renown spread over the world, 
European travellers who had been admitted to her 
presence brought back stories full of Eastern mystery; 
they told of a peculiar grandeur, a marvellous prestige, 
an imperial power. The precise nature of Lady Hester's 
empire was, indeed, dubious; she was in fact merely the 
tenant of her Djoun establishment, for which she paid a 
rent of ^20 a year. But her dominion was not subject 
tc such limitations. She ruled imaginatively, transcen- 
dentally: the solid glory of Chatham had been trans- 
muted into the phantasy of an Arabian Night. No doubt 
she herself believed that she was something more than 
a chimerical Empress. When a French traveller was 
murdered in the desert, she issued orders for the punish- 
ment of the offenders; punished they were, and Lady 
Hester actually received the solemn thanks of the French 
Chamber. It seems probable, however, that it was the 
Sultan's orders rather than Lady Hester's which pro- 
duced the desired effect In her feud with her terrible 
neighbour, the Emir Beshyr, she maintained an un- 
daunted front. She kept the tyrant at bay; but perhaps 
the Emir, who, so far as physical force was concerned, 
held her in the hollow of his hand, might have proceeded 
to extremities if he had not received a severe admonish- 
ment from Stratford Canning at Constantinople. What 
is certain is that the ignorant and superstitious popula- 
tions around her feared and loved her, and that she, re- 
acting to ha- own mysterious prestige, became at last 
even as they. She plunged into astrology and divination; 



she awaited the moment when, in accordance with 
prophecy, she should enter Jerusalem side by side with 
the Mahdi, the Messiah; she kept two sacred horses, 
destined, by sure signs, to carry her and him to their last 
triumph. The Orient had mastered her utterly. She 
was no longer an Englishwoman, she declared; she 
loathed England; she would never go there again; if she 
went anywhere 5 it would be to Arabia, to 'her own 
people.' 

Her expenses were immense — not only for herself but 
for others, for she poured out her hospitality with a noble 
hand. She ran into debt, and was swindled by the money- 
lenders; her steward cheated her, her servants pilfered 
her; her distress was at last acute. She fell into fits of 
terrible depression, bursting into dreadful tears and sav- 
age cries. Her habits grew more and more eccentric. 
She lay in bed all day, and sat up all night, talking un- 
ceasingly for hour upon hour to Dr. Meryon, who alone 
of her English attendants remained with her, Mrs. Fry 
having withdrawn to more congenial scenes long since. 
The doctor was a poor-spirited and muddle-headed man, 
but he was a good listener; and there he sat while that 
extraordinary talk, flowed on — talk that scaled the heav- 
ens and ransacked the earth, talk in which memories 
of an abolished past — stories of Mr. Pitt and of George 
III., vituperations against Mr. Canning, mimicries of 
the Duchess of Devonshire — mingled phantasmagori- 
cally with doctrines of Fate and planetary influence, and 
speculations on the Arabian origin of the Scottish clans, 
and lamentations over the wickedness of servants; till the 
unaccountable figure, with its robes and its long pipe, 
loomed through the tobacco-smoke like some vision of 
a Sibyl in a dream. She might be robbed and ruined, 
her house might crumble over her head ; but she talked 
on. She grew ill and desperate; yet still she talked. Did 
she feel that the time was coming when she should talk 
no more? 

Her melancholy deepened into a settled gloom when 
the news came of her brother James's death. She had 
quarrelled with all her English friends, except Lord 
Hardwickc — with her eldest brother, with her sister, 
whose kind letters she left unanswered ; she was at dag- 
gers drawn with the English consul at Alexandria, who 
worried her about her debts. Ill and harassed, she hardly 
moved from her bedroom, while her servants rifled her 
belongings and reduced the house to a condition of in- 
describable disorder and filth. Three dozen hungry cats 
ranged through the rooms, filling the courts with fright- 
ful noises. Dr. Meryon, in die midst of it all, knew not 
whether to cry or laugh. At moments the great lady 
regained her ancient fire; her bells pealed tumultuously 
for hours together; or she leapt up, and arraigned the 
whole trembling household before her, with her Arab 
war-mace in her hand. Her finances grew more and 
more involved— grew at length irremediable It was in 



66 



BIOGRAPHY 



vain that the faithru! Lord Hardwicke pressed her to 
return to England to settle her aflairs. Return to Eng- 
land, indeed! To England, that ungrateful, miserable 
country, where, so far as she could see, they had forgot- 
ten the very name of Kir. Pitt! The final blow fell when 
a letter came from the English authorities threatening 
to cut off her pension for the payment of her debts. 
Upon that, after dispatching a series of furious missives 
to Lord Palmerston, to Queen Victoria, to the Duke of 
Wellington, she renounced the world. She commanded 
Dr. Meryon to return to Europe, and he— how could he 
have done it? — obeyed her. Her health was broken, she 



was over sixty, and, save for her vile servants, absolutely 
alone She lived for nearly a year after he left her — we 
know no more. She had vowed never again to pass 
through the gate of her house; but did she sometimes tot- 
ter to her garden — that beautiful garden which she had 
created, with its roses and its fountains, its alleys and its 
bowers — and look westward at the sea? The end came 
in June 1839. Her servants immediately possessed them- 
selves of every moveable object in the house. But Lady 
Hester cared no longer : she was lying back in her bed — 
inexplicable, grand, preposterous, with her nose in the 
air. 



Good Humorist 

Max Eastman 



Max Eastman was born in Canandaigua, New York, in 1883, graduated 
from Williams, and studied and taught philosophy at Columbia. He edited 
The Masses, 1913-1917, and The Liberator, 1918-1922, and has written about 
Russian politics. He has published several volumes of poems and one of the 
most readable books about poetry, The Enjoyment of Poetry (New Edition 
1939), and The Literary Mind, Its Place in an Age of Science (1931), and 
Enjoyment of Laughter (1936). 

"Good Humorist" brings us close to the essential Art Young in the 
typical method of a "profile": chronology gives way to a more informal 
organization, facts are thrown in casually, anecdote replaces consecutive 
narrative. 



a rt Young is one of those people whom everybody 
I\ adores and cherishes and pays tributes to in the 
JL jL form of honorary banquets, anniversary celebra- 
tions, birthday cakes, Thanksgiving pies, puddings of 
congratulation, breakfasts in honor of his latest publica- 
tion, farewell lunches upon his departure for Bethel, 
Connecticut, cocktail parties to signalize his return to the 
metropolis. Ever since I have known Art Young, people 
have talked about him as if he were dead. They call him 
"good." And worse than that, he is good. It just comes 
natural to him to be gende and full of loving-kindness, 
and then, when necessary, also turn out to be hard-fibred 
and firm. 

Only last fall a celebration of bis sixty-seventh birthday 
was held in the Civic Repertory Theatre, sponsored by 
every New York dignitary standing anywhere to the left 
of the middle, from Arthur Brisbane to Carlo Tresca, 
presided over by Heywood Broun, and attended by two 
thousand enthusiastic-throated admirers. The enthu- 



From The Netu Yorker, March 2, 1935. By permission of Tie 
New Yorker and Mr. Eastman. 



siasm there was too thick for any systematic exposition 
of Art Young's merits or his place in history, and I 
should like, if possible, to introduce a little system into it. 
As a comic artist and cartoonist, Art Young has played 
so special a role that the Encyclopaedia Britannica illus- 
trates the modern changes in cartoon technique with a 
page of his drawings, and he writes the article to go with 
them. That page contains the famous "Nice Cool Sewer" 
joke from The Masses — "There you go! You're tired. 
Here I be a-standin' over a hot stove all day and you 
workin' in a nice cool sewer!" — and this picture pro- 
vides the best possible illustration of the changes in ques- 
tion. You are struck immediately by the brevity and 
simplicity of Art Young's drawing. He was always peel- 
ing the wrappings off his jokes — taking an eraser, or, if 
the drawing was in ink, an immense jackknife, and cut- 
ting away the non-conductive materials. The great car- 
toonists of the preceding era, Nast and Sir John Termiel, 
would draw an elaborate landscape or well-furnished in- 
terior, in which with infinite skill and patience they 
would lay the wires for an idea. Art Young drew the 



GOOD HUMORIST 



67 



idea. "Elimination" was his watchword ail his life long. 
Moreover, he was the first man in the world to draw a 
daily political cartoon — an innovation introduced by the 
Chicago Inter-Ocean in 1892— and this innovation gave 
a boost of necessity to the new, concise style. Art Young's 
old drawings in the Inter-Ocean contain a good deal of 
superfluous furniture by comparison with the "Nice Cool 
Sewer" picture, but they show plainly enough that a 
spring cleaning was on its way. 

I can remember, when I was a boy in school, going 
through the funny papers in the barbershop to look for 
pictures by Art Young. He had a "vogue" even in those 
days. Not only his elimination of detail, but his very free 
and individual technique, and his playing down of the 
preposterous, his disposition to laugh at people and to 
present them just exactly as they are — and just as Ameri- 
can as they are — were new and exciting to a large public 
His niche in the history of humorous art is secure. 

That does not, however, fully explain the eagerness of 
a wide circle of friends to invite in the public and pile up 
food, drink, and oratory in his honor. To understand 
that, you have to come back to his goodness, and the re- 
markable ease with which he accomplishes it. There is 
no taint of strenuous Christian virtue about Art Young. 
He is an easy-going character to whom being good is no 
more work than chewing the end of a cigar. Moreover, 
he does chew the ends of his cigars, and that is why I 
chose this metaphor. I wanted to remind his friends that 
he is not, after all, perfect. 

To realize how easy-going Art Young is, you have to 
try to pin him down to some specified future location in 
time and space. Try to make an appointment with him. 
This is the way it is done: You meet him about three- 
thirty in the afternoon and you say, "Art, I want to see 
you today about some very urgent business — will you be 
in your studio around five o'clock?" Art clutches his 
chest and clears his throat as though embarrassed by an 
untimely attack of bronchial pneumonia, coughs in a dis- 
persed and distracted way, adjusts his tie with a spas- 
modic gesture, looks up and down the street with the 
eyes of a hunted criminal, and finally says, "Well, now 
I tell you. I don't quite know. I was going to be there. 
I may be there, and I think I will. But I tell you what 
we'll do. If I shouldn't be there, why 111 leave a note on 
the door telling you that I've gone out. Or still better- 
no, this will be a better arrangement — in case I've gone 
out, I'll leave word with the man next door, so he can 
tell you where I started for, unless I should happen to 
have left town, in which case I'll drop you a line letting 
you know where I've gone. Do come around at five, 
anyway, and see if I'm there." 

In 1919, when Art Young decided he was about to 
give birth to that small, lively, and merrily biting pub- 
lication called Good Morning, I was called on to rejoice 
n the event. I told him it would be his downfall, it 



would destroy all the free, creative whims and beauties 
of his soul. "Art," I said, "you can't run a paper without 
being somewhere every once in a while in a perfectly 
concrete and specific way." 

Of course I was wrong. Art Young went right on 
being a beautiful and free soul, and all his friends and 
admirers gathered round and saw to it that the maga- 
zine came out frequendy and that it paid its bills every 
once in a while. It was known as a "one-man magazine" 
because Art Young wrote and drew practically every- 
thing that appeared in it, but the magazine was actually 
published by the entire responsible population of the 
lower West Side of New York. There was not a man 
or woman in Greenwich Village with a spark of civic 
virtue in his soul who did not feel it a part of his daily 
task and duty to the higher civilization to bring out the 
next issue of Good Morning. 

Art Young grew up in Monroe, Wisconsin, one of 
those agricultural small towns of the Middle West where 
this natural kind of goodness is sucked in with the 
breath of heifer-laden air, His father ran the general 
store, and his mother ran his father, and everything 
proceeded exactly as it should in the best of all possible 
small towns. Art went regularly and conscientiously to 
the little red school around the corner, and fell in love in 
a sweet, romantic way with a star-eyed girl who had "an 
interest in the cultural things of life." 

He did not go to school very long, however, for it soon 
appeared that he was too good to pay any attention to 
his lessons. He knew already at that very early age that 
the higher life for him and his duty to humanity de- 
manded that he should draw pictures. He therefore 
drew pictures all the time. His pictures enjoyed a 
fabulous circulation under the desks and benches 
of the little red school^ and that may have been 
one reason why he graduated from that institution at a 
precociously early age and without the formality of 
a diploma, and "went to work" in his father's store as a 
clerk. From this elevation too, however, his sense of a 
larger debt to humanity soon spurred him on. It was 
obvious, and to make it more obvious his father ex- 
plained it to him in considerable detail and with some 
fervor that he was meant for higher things. In fact, all 
he ever did to earn his pay as a clerk was to cover up 
the canned goods and crockery standing on the shelves 
with cartoons and water colors exhorting the citizens 
to a higher conception of the civic life. One of these 
paintings represented himself as a young lad of heroic 
mold addressing the body politic, which appeared in the 
form of a winged matron in flowing robes alighting on 
a driveway. Nearby on the grass stood a group of the 
town's most prominent lawyers in accurate portraiture. 
The caption read, "Arthur Henry Young to the citizenry 
of Monroe, Wisconsin: 'Here you have lawyers to be 



68 



BIOGRAPHY 



proud of, why don't you wake up and build a Court 
House that you can also feel proud of?'" The moral of 
that tale is to be found in the fact that the citizens did 
wake up, some years later, and build a new court house. 
Art Young's prophetic picture hangs there in the county 
clerk's office now, but Art Young in the inmost cham- 
bers of his heart feels that the new court house is a public 
eyesore and longs for the fine, strong, mellow lines of 
the old. 

Having done what he could for the citizenry of Mon- 
roe, Wisconsin, Art Young packed up a small bag and 
set out for Chicago, where he arrived in the year 1885 at 
the age of eighteen, and went right on drawing pictures. 
And since those were the days when any young lad 
could become President, the citizens of Chicago, in die 
person of a wholesale grocers' trade paper called the 
Nimble Nickel, straightway began paying him money 
for the pictures. This money, of course, he saved dili- 
gently, and went on to a larger field of endeavor in New 
York. 

He had already, before leaving home, attained the 
climax of life's ecstasy— he had sold his first picture to 
Judge. It was a picture of a boy dragging a dog by the 
neck, with a kindly old gendeman protesting, "Why, 
this is an ignominy!" and the reply, "Naw t'aint, it's 
nothin' but an ordinary pup" — a joke which bore the 
marks of home industry, I should say, even for 1884, and 
hardly foretold that Art Young was to become one of the 
most subde caption- writers, one of the least-edited comic 
arists, in America. In New York, he sold other pictures 
to Life and Puc\ and Judge, saved more money, and 
went on to Paris. There he studied painting for six 
months at the Academie Julian, and got honorable men- 
tion in a prize contest with a painting of triumphant 
David finding a foothold in Goliath's neck. Right after 
that he came down with pleurisy and lay dying or half- 
dead for two months in the Hotel de Nice, Rue des 
Beaux Arts, across the street from where Oscar Wilde 
was also dying. He lay there until his father packed 
up a bag in far-away Monroe and went over and got 
him. 

That was the end of his Wander jahre. In those brief 
months, however, he had triumphed over painting, 
trampling it under his feet as David trampled Goliath. 
He never took ship from these shores again, and never 
stopped drawing pictures from that day to this. The 
next time he fared forth from the Utile home town, it 
was to take a job as regular cartoonist on a big news- 
paper, the Chicago Inter-Ocean. There, in Cleveland's 
second administration, he began drawing a daily cartoon 
and becoming famous. I stated that he was the first man 
in the world to publish a political cartoon every day. 
He says, "At least I think I was, although it may have 
been Walt McDougalT— - which is characteristic 

I need not add that he went back and married the girl 



with an interest in the cultural tilings of life the moment 
he could provide her with a suitable home. 

When I asked him when this happened, he said, "By 
God, I can't remember. It may be in the Who's Who 
book here, if I have one. I think I was around twenty- 
nine. Figure that out. Anyway, it happened in Mil- 
waukee." 

Art Young seems to have risen above matrimony with 
the same serene and natural levitation with which he 
rose above school life and painting, shedding its tram- 
mels without anger and without regret as a zeppelin its 
anchor or a poliywog his tail I gather — with some diffi- 
culty, because of bis reticence — that he and Mrs. Young 
lived together for eight years and got two sons without 
a quarrel, and that they then parted without a quarrel, 
and lived separately without a quarrel forever after. But 
those were the days, remember, when any young lad 
could be President. And moreover, I have not assembled 
the testimony of Mrs. Young. The best light I can throw 
on the situation is that provided, by Art Young's answer 
when I asked him why he parted from his wife. "I am 
an artist," he said, "and the duties and courtesies of mar- 
ried life are too much for rne." The "duties and cour- 
tesies " — not the devilments, the worries^ the altercations, 
the profanations, the memory massacres, the dish po- 
groms, the upsetting of tables and throwing of lamps, 
cats, and other peaceable objects through the exasperated 
air! The duties and courtesies — that is the problem! 
What is goodness, after all, but knowing when you have 
reached the limit of your virtue and beating k through 
the back door? At any rate, Art Young and his wife did 
not waste their time with the intricacies of a legal 
separation, or dawdle with the trivialities of divorce. 
Their separation was continental. She took up her resi- 
dence in Los Angeles with the boys, and he remained in 
New York with the drawings. 

Another of the pomps and vanities of this wicked 
world that Art Young has eluded with almost unwaver- 
ing success has been the temptation to take a job. When 
he came East from Chicago in 18&8, he had a letter in his 
pocket from Eugene Field to Colonel John Cockerill, 
editor of the New York World, describing him as "by 
all odds the brightest and best caricaturist and artist we 
have had here in Chicago," and adding, "You will do 
the smart thing if you get a first mortgage on him." 
That word "mortgage" was a sufficient intimation to 
Art Young of the presence of die Adversary, and he put 
the letter away for posterity and never went near the 
New York World. He had, it is true, yielded to the lures 
of the Inter-Ocean in the matter of that daily cartoon 
in 1892, and he once again enjoyed a large and com- 
fortable salary for a period of almost six months on 
the New York Journal. Having sown these wild oats 
in early youth, however, he never again succumbed to 
the witchery ©£ the pay envelope, or what we speciously 



GOOD HUMORIST 



describe as "steady work" — never but once. That was 
during Wilson's first administration, when Harry Payne 
Whitney permitted the Metropolitan Magazine to take 
a short flight in the direction of the Cooperate Common- 
wealth, with William MaiJly, a Socialist Party comrade, 
writing the news comments, John Reed, the Harvard 
semi-anarchist, as star reporter, and Theodore Roose- 
velt, at the extreme left loop of his progressive orbit, 
composing the editorials. With his monthly illustrated 
letter from Washington, Art Young added to that exhi- 
bition of political acrobatics a note of benign and all- 
encompassing humor that was the most appropriate 
thing in it. 

Art Young has devoted himself with passion to the 
purely graphic aspects of his art. "I worry over composi- 
tion, drawing, light and shade, elimination — above all 
elimination," he tells me, "from breakfast time to dinner. 
People put me down as a propagandist. But the cause 
of art has been just as strong in me, the cause of the 
thing well done for its own sake. I believe in propa- 
ganda, but it doesn't bother me. It bothers men like 
Rivera and Orozco. They make wonderful mural dec- 
orations, cartoons in paint with a political or social mes- 
sage in them, and then they have to get out a little book- 
let explaining to the visiting public just what the mes- 
sage is. A few highbrows and critics look it up in the 
book, but ordinary' people merely stand there and enjoy 
the paintings, and murmur, 'Wonderful! But this mod- 
ern art is a trifle abstract, isn't it?' Meaning, 'What the 
hell is it all about?' " 

When I report this conversation, it goes too fast. Art 
Young is slow-brained, and his humor is of the gradu- 
ally-dawning-on-you, not the flashing, kind. After forty 
years lived in the heart of the metropolis, he remains 
stubbornly rustic both in mind and manner. Indeed, if 
you should drop in at the little old farmhouse in Bethel, 
Connecticut — with its art gallery, or its Art Young gal- 
lery, in the side yard — where he now spends half his 
time, and where he really belongs, you would find his 
greeting somewhat gruff and sluggish. You would think 
for a while that you were intruding on the misanthropic 
meditations of some thoroughly disgusted Connecticut 
Schopenhauer. Art Young looks a litde like a cigar-end- 
chewing Schopenhauer or Henrik Ibsen, notwithstand- 
ing his kind mouth and mild blue eye, and his ability 
to look awfully funny when he gives an imitation of a 
Southern congressman making a speech on the tariff. 
He looks that way when he greets you, but he will thaw 
out after a while and begin to look more'like P. T. Bar- 
num, his predecessor as the most illustrious citizen of 
Bethel, Connecticut. There is a hard look to Art Young's 
living quarters, too, that is deceiving, or revealing. You 
won't find any plump or plushy chairs around. The old 
studio at 9 East Seventeenth Street that he shared for 



years with Howard Smith, the commercial painter, was 
something between a bomb shop and a barrack-room in 
aspect. You had to climb five flights of stairs to get there, 
and you could recover your breath on a kitchen stool or 
an antique black morris chair with a seat all nicely 
padded like an ironing-board. 

Art Young has made and published several books at 
various periods of his life. "Trees at Night" is one of 
his favorites because it is sentimental and not humorous, 
but I never knew a humorist who did not carry around 
the secret belief that his jokes were due to some mis- 
understanding, and that he was really born to touch 
men's hearts to tearful meditation. Three others of these 
books, "Hell Up to Date," "Through Hell with Hiprah 
Hunt," and "Art Young's Inferno" (the only one still in 
print), are parodies of Dante, or of Gustave Dore's illus- 
trations of Dante. Outdoing Dante, Art Young has 
descended into hell three times in order to make grim 
comments on what flourishes in the name of civilization 
on these upper sides of the earth. I give these books a 
qualified admiration, as I do that of Dante. The 
elaborate working out into its details of a single conceit 
or comparison is even a less electric thing in humor 
than it is in poetry. Allegory is the bookman's abuse of 
metaphor. So it seems, at any rate, in these times of 
speed and high dramatic pressure of the real experience. 
Therefore you turn without a wrench from those hell 
exploits, admirable as individual things in them are, to 
that illustrated compendium of the man himself, "On 
My Way" — unique in spontaneity, at once a diary and a 
biography, and one of the most lovable and laughable of 
American books. 

Still more utterly American, perhaps, are Art Young's 
"comics" — those sturdy, rough, blunt, almost thumblike, 
and yet exquisite pictures of what is funny, and what is 
most pitifully funny, in our native life and character. A 
scene rises in my mind now: a city night, two ragged 
children of the slums, and the caption, "Chee, Annie, 
look at the stars, thick as bedbugs!" A joke, a sym- 
pathetic caress, a vicious protest — that is the blend of 
Art Young's humor. And it rises to heights beyond 
laughter in the murderous cartoons, the sanely savage 
assaults on every kind of organized meanness, cruelty, 
hypocrisy. . . . 

Art Young, although never convicted, has been twice 
arrested and dragged before the courts for crime — once 
for laughing libellously at the Associated Press during 
a great strike, once for laughing seditiously at the "War 
for Democracy." He has been a left Socialist, and has 
stuck to his guns at the cost of all success, as men com- 
monly measure success. That is perhaps the trait in 
which this man of humor really is unique. Jokes depend 
so much, as a rule, upon the commonplace preposses- 
sions of the average Philistine, and agitators depend so 
much upon being dead in earnest all day long. You have 



70 



BIOGRAPHY 



to go back to Aristophanes to find another professional 
humorist on trial for preaching peace in war-time. 

Art Young and I were companions in both his major 
crimes, and having relieved my feelings on the subject 
of his goodness,. I must also testify that he is one of the 
most unblushing and even-tempered criminals it has 
been my pleasure to consort with. The Associated Press 
dropped its case against us after a year or more, and 
our bail was handed back without explanation. Art 
Young drew a picture of the AP as a haughty and 
meretricious dame strutting across the page with nose 
and breasts in the air. On the floor behind her was a 
little roll of paper inscribed "The Masses Case," all 
nicely tied up with a small ribbon. The caption read, 
"Pardon, madam, you dropped something!" 

Our trial for sedition, or "obstructing the draft," as 
it was flatteringly described in the indictment, kept me 
awake for seven days and nights. It used to keep Art 
Young's attention, too, for a few hours of each morning. 
After a good lunch, though, and a tranquil cigar, this end- 
less wrangling of attorneys about the minor details of his 



frankly confessed crime of being opposed to all war and 
saying so, would begin to bore Art Young to death. He 
gave up one afternoon and stretched his legs out under 
the table and leaned back and went to sleep. That might 
have been all right with the jury — it was just what they 
wanted to do— but Art Young breathes a little heavily 
when he sleeps, and our lawyers weren't sure a prolonged 
and audible nap might not be in contempt of court. Art 
was sitting at the far end of the table from the oratory, 
and I saw Hillquit whisper something to Dudley Field 
Malone, and Malone leaned over Floyd Dell's shoulder, 
and Dell passed the word along to me: "For God's sake 
wake Art up!" Art woke up with a look of surprise to 
find himself on trial for a crime, and that look stays in 
my mind as the final comment of sane judgment on the 
whole proceeding. He picked up a pencil and drew a 
picture of himself fast asleep in his chair, and wrote 
under it: "Art Young on Trial for His Life" — a 
memento that was contended for, after the trial, by the 
District Attorney among others, and that was last seen 
hanging on the wall of Amos Pinchot's office. 



The Young Man Washington 

Samuel Eliot Morison 

Samuel Eliot Morison was born in Boston in 1887, studied at Harvard, 
and is now professor of history at Harvard; for three years he was Harold 
Vyvyan Harmsworth Professor of American History at the University of 
Oxford. Besides numerous articles on particular points in early American 
history, Professor Morison has written Maritime History of Massachusetts 
(1921), Oxford History of the United States (1927), Builders of the Bay 
Colony (1930), and at present is at work on the "Tercentennial History of 
Harvard," the first volume of which, The Founding of Harvard College, 
appeared in 1935. In his own writing and in his guidance of students he 
has contributed much to a reanalysis of American colonial history and the 
history of Harvard will be a distinctive addition to the intellectual and 
social history of the United States. 

The Young Man Washington was delivered in the Sanders Theatre, 
Cambridge, February 22, 1932, during the Washington Bicentennial 
celebration. Professor Morison is true to his profession in allaying super- 
stitions which those uncritically pious activities revived. But even more 
important, the address is an amiable and scholarly portrayal of a neglected 
period of Washington's life, emphasizing the development of his capacities 
and his ideals and the inspiration these may rightly have for us. 



Washington is the last person you would ever 
suspect of having been a young man, with all 
the bright hopes and black despairs to which 
young men are subject. In American folklore he is 
known only as a child or a general or an old, old man: 

By permission of the publishers, Harvard University Press, 
Cambridge. 



priggish hero of the cherry-tree episode, commander-in- 
chief, or the Father of his Country, writing a farewell 
address. By some freak of fate, Stuart's 'Athenaeum' por- 
trait of an ideal and imposing, but solemn and weary, 
Washington at the age of sixty-four has become the most 
popular. This year it has been reproduced as the 'officiaT 
portrait, and placed in every school in the country; so we 



THE YOUNG MAN WASHINGTON 



71 



may expect that new generations of American school- 
children will be brought up with the idea that Washing- 
ton was a solemn old bore. If only Charles Willson 
Peak's portrait of him as a handsome and gallant sol- 
dier could have been used instead! Or one of the charm- 
ing miniatures that shows him as a young man exulting 
in his strength! x His older biographers, too, have con- 
spired to create the legend; and the recent efforts to 
'popularize' Washington have taken the unfortunate line 
of trying to make him out something that he was not: 
a churchman, politician, engineer, business man, real- 
tor, or even 'travelling man.' These attempts to degrade 
a hero to a 'go-getter/ an aristocrat to a vulgarian, re- 
mind one of the epitaph that Aristotle wished to have 
carved on the tomb of Plato: Hie jacet homo, quern non 
licet, non decet, impiis vel ignorantibus laudare ('Here 
lies a man whom it is neither permissible nor proper for 
the irreverent or the ignorant to praise'). 

Perhaps it is not the fault of the painters and biog- 
raphers that we think of Washington as an old man, but 
because his outstanding qualities — wisdom, poise, and 
serenity — are not die qualities usually associated with 
youth. He seemed to have absorbed, wrote Emerson, 
"all the serenity of America, and left none for his rest- 
less, rickety, hysterical countrymen.' The Comte de 
Chasteilux, one of the French officers in die war, said 
that Washington's most characteristic feature was bal- 
ance: 'the perfect harmony existing between the physi- 
cal and moral attributes of which he is made up.' Yet 
Gilbert Stuart, after painting his first portrait of Wash- 
ington, said that 'all his features were indicative of the 
most ungovernable passions, and had he been born in 
the forests, it was his opinion that he would have been 
the fiercest man among the savage tribes/ Both men 
were right. Washington's qualities were so balanced 
that his talents, which were great but nothing extraor- 
dinary, were more effective in the long run than those 
of greater generals like Napoleon, or of bolder and more 
original statesmen like Hamilton and Jefferson, Yet as 
a young man Washington was impatient and passionate, 
eager for glory in war, wealth in land, and success in 
love. Even in maturity his fierce temper would some- 
times get the better of him. In Cambridge, at his head- 
quarters in the Craigie House, he once became so 
exasperated at the squabbling of drunken soldiers in the 
front yard that, forgetting the dignity of a general, he 
rushed forth and laid out' a few of the brawlers with 
his own fists; and then, much relieved, returned to his 
study. Under great provocation he would break out 
with a torrent of Olympian oaths that terrified the 
younger men on his staff. Tobias Lear, the smooth young 
Harvard graduate who became Washington's private 
secretary, admitted that the most dreadful experience in 
his life was hearing the General swear! 



It was only through the severest self-discipline that 
Washington attained his characteristic poise and seren- 
ity. Discipline is not a popular word nowadays, for we 
associate it with schoolmasters, drill-sergeants, and dic- 
tators; and it was certainly not discipline of that sort 
tliat made the passionate young Washington into an 
effective man. His discipline came in a very small part 
from parents, masters, or superiors; and in no respect 
from institutions. It came from environment, from a 
philosophy of life that he imbibed at an impressionable 
age; but most of all from his own will. He apprehended 
the great truth diat man can only be free through mas- 
tery of himself. Instead of allowing his passions to spend 
themselves, he restrained them. Instead of indulging 
himself in a life of pleasure, — for which he had ample 
means at the age of twenty, — he placed duty first. In 
fact he followed exactly that course of conduct which, 
according to the second-hand popularizers of Freud, 
makes a person 'thwarted,' "inhibited/ and *repre«sed. ? 
Yet Washington became a liberated, successful, and 
serene man. The process can hardly fail to interest young 
men who are struggling with the same difficulties as 
Washington—although, I am bound to say, under the 
fax more difficult conditions of depression and mechani- 
zation. 

Whence came this impulse to self -discipline? We can 
find nothing to account for it in the little we know of 
Washington's heredity. His family was gende but un- 
distinguished. George knew little of his forbears and 
cared less, although he used the family coat of arms. 
Lawrence Washington, sometime Fellow of Brasenose 
College, Oxford, was ejected from his living by the 
Roundheads as a 'malignant Royalist.' His son John 
came to Virginia by way of Barbados as mate of a 
tobacco-ship, settled diere, and became an Indian 
fighter, so undisciplined as to embarrass the Governor 
of Virginia as much as the Indians. His son Law- 
rence, father of Augustine, George's father, earned a 
competence in the merchant marine and settled down 
to planting. Love of the land was a trait which all 
Washingtons had in common: they might seek wealth 
at sea or glory in war, but happiness diey found only in 
the work and sport that came from owning and culti- 
vating land. 

Usually the Washingtons married their social betters, 
but the second marriage of George's father was an ex- 
ception. Mary Ball, the mother of Washington, has 
been the object of much sentimental writing; but the 
cold record of her own and her sons' letters shows her 
to have been grasping, querulous, and vulgar. She was 
a selfish and exacting mother, whom most of her chil- 
dren avoided as soon and as early as they could; to 
whom they did their duty, but rendered litde love. It 
was this sainted mother of Washington who opposed 



72 



BIOGRAPHY 



almost everything that he did for the public good, who 
wished his sense of duty to end with his duty to her, 
who pestered him in his campaigns by complaining let- 
ters, and who at a dark moment of the Revolutionary 
War increased his anxieties by strident complaints of 
neglect and starvation. Yet for one thing Americans 
may well be grateful to Mary Ball: her selfishness lost 
George an opportunity to become midshipman in the 
Royal Navy, a school whence few Americans emerged 
other than as loyal subjects of the King. 

There is only one other subject connected with Wash- 
ington upon which there has been more false sentiment, 
misrepresentation, and mendacity than on that of his 
mother, and that is his religion. Washington's religion 
was that of an eighteenth-century gentleman. Baptized 
in the Church of England, he attended service occasion- 
ally as a young man, and more regularly in middle age, 
as one of the duties of his station. He believed in God : 
the eighteenth-century Supreme Being, a Divine Phi- 
losopher who ruled all things for the best. He was cer- 
tain of a Providence in die affairs of men. By the same 
token, he was completely tolerant of other people's be- 
liefs, more so than the American democracy of today; 
for in a letter to the Swedenborgian church of Balti- 
more he wrote, 'In this enlightened age and in the land 
of equal liberty it is our boast that a man's religious ten- 
ets will not forfeit the protection of the law, nor deprive 
him of the right of attaining and holding the highest 
offices that are known in the United States.' But Wash- 
ington never became an active member of any Christian 
church. Even after his marriage to a devout church- 
woman, and when as President of the United States the 
eyes of all men were upon him, he never joined Martha 
in the beautiful and comfortable sacrament of the body 
and blood of Christ. The story of the "prayer at Valley 
Forge" is pure fable, and "George Washington's Prayer" 
is a pious fabrication. Christianity had little or no part 
in that discipline which made "Washington more humble 
and gende than any of the great captains, less proud and 
ambitious than most of the statesmen who have pro- 
claimed themselves disciples of the Nazarene. His in- 
spiration, as we shall see, came from an entirely different 
source. 

Washington gained little discipline from book-learn- 
ing; but like all young Virginians of the day he led an 
active outdoor life which gave him a magnificent phy- 
sique. When fully grown he stood a little over six feet, 
and weighed from 175 to 200 pounds. Broad-shouldered 
and straight-backed, he carried his head erect and his 
chin up, and showed a good leg on horseback. There is 
no reason to doubt the tradition of his prowess at run- 
ning, leaping, wresding, and horsemanship. The han- 
dling of horses, in which Washington was skilled at an 



early age, is one of the best means of discipline that a 
youngster can have: for he who cannot control himself 
can never handle a spirited horse; and for the same 
reason fox-hunting on horseback, which was Washing- 
ton's favorite sport, is the making or the breaking of & 
courageous and considerate gendeman. George may not 
have actually thrown a dollar across the Rappahannock 
(though as one elderly punster remarked, 'a dollar went 
farther in those days!'); but his amazing physical vital- 
ity is proved by an incident of his reconnaissance to the 
Ohio. At the close of December, 1753, he and the scout 
Christopher Gist attempted to cross the river just above 
the site of Pittsburgh, on a raft of their own making. 
The river was full of floating ice, and George, while try- 
ing to shove the raft away from an ice-floe with his set- 
ting-pole, fell overboard, but managed to climb aboard 
again. They were forced to land on an island and spend 
the night there without fire or dry clothing. Gist, the 
professional woodsman, who had not been in the water, 
froze all his fingers and some of his toes; but Washing- 
ton suffered no ill effects from the exposure. For that, 
his healthy Virginia boyhood may be thanked. 

His formal education was scanty. The colonial colleges 
provided a classical discipline more severe and selective 
than that of their successors, — for higher education had 
to become painless in America before it could be popu- 
lar, — but George had none of these 'advantages.' There 
were no means to prepare him for William and Mary, 
the college of the Virginia gentry; his father died when 
he was eleven years old; and his only schoolmasters were 
chosen haphazardly, as was natural for a younger son in 
a land-poor family. Endowed with the blood and the 
instincts of a gentleman, he was not given a gentleman's 
education, as he became painfully aware when at ado- 
lescence he went to live with his half-brother at Mount 
Vernon. 

In modern phrase, George was 'parked' on the estate 
which would one day be his. Evidently there had been 
some sort of family consultation about what to do with 
him; and Lawrence good-naturedly offered to take him 
in hand, if only to get him away from the exigent 
mother. Lawrence Washington, his father's principal 
heir and hope, had been sent to England for bis school- 
ing, had served under Admiral Vernon in the War of 
Jenkins's Ear, and had inherited the bulk of his father's 
property, to the exclusion of George and the four younger 
brothers and sisters. The proximity of Mount Vernon 
to the vast estates of the Fairfax family in the Northern 
Neck of Virginia gave Lawrence his opportunity. He 
married a Fairfax, and was admitted to the gay charmed 
circle of the First Families of Virginia. He was already 
a well-established gendeman of thirty when his hobble- 
dehoy half-brother came to stay. 



THE YOUNG MAN WASHINGTON 



73 



George was then a tall, gangling lad of sixteen years, 
with enormous hands and feet that were continually get- 
ting in his way. Young girls giggled when he entered a 
room, and burst out laughing at his awkward attempts 
to court them. He was conscious that he did not 'be- 
long,' and made every effort to improve his manners. 
About three years before, a schoolmaster had made him 
copy out no 'Rules of Civility' from a famous handbook 
by one Hawkins — a popular guide to good manners al- 
ready a century and a half old; and George was prob- 
ably glad to have this manuscript manual of social 
etiquette ready to consult. One of the most touching and 
human pictures of Washington is that of the overgrown 
schoolboy solemnly conning old Hawkins's warnings 
against scratching oneself at table, picking one's teeth 
with a fork, or cracking fleas in company, lest he commit 
serious 'breaks' in the houses of the great. 

These problems of social behavior no doubt occupied 
considerable space in Washington's adolescent thoughts. 
But he was also preparing to be a man of action. At 
school he had cared only for mathematics. He procured 
books, progressed farther than his schoolmaster could 
take him, and so qualified to be surveyor to Lord Fair- 
fax. This great gentleman and landowner had much 
surveying to be done in the Shenandoah Valley, and it 
was difficult to find men with enough mathematics to 
qualify as surveyors, or with sufficient sobriety to run a 
line straight and see a job through. So George at sixteen 
earned as Lord Fairfax's surveyor the high salary of a 
doubloon (about $7.50) a day, most of which he saved 
up and invested in land. For he had early decided that 
in the fresh lands of the Virginian Valley and the West 
lay the road to position, competence, and happiness. His 
personality as well as his excellent surveying earned him 
the friendship of the Fairfaxes, liberal and intelligent 
gendemen; and this, as we shall see, was of first impor- 
tance in Washington's moral and intellectual develop- 
ment. 

That friendship, not the doubloon a day, was the first 
and most fortunate gain from his surveying job; the 
second was the contact which it gave young Washington 
with frontiersmen, with Indians, and with that great 
teacher of self-reliance, the wilderness. He had the ad- 
vantage of a discipline that few of us can get today. We 
are born in crowded cities, and attend crowded schools 
and colleges; we take our pleasure along crowded high- 
ways and in crowded places of amusement; we are 
tempted to assert ourselves by voice rather than deed, to 
advertise, to watch the clock, escape responsibility, and 
leave decisions to others. But a hungry woodsman could 
not afford to lose patience with a deer he was trying to 
shoot, or with a trout he was trying to catch; and it did 
not help him much to 'bawl out' an Indian. If you can- 



not discipline yourself to quiet and caution in the wilder- 
ness, you won't get far; and if you make the wrong de- 
cision in woods infested with savages, you will probably 
have no opportunity to make another. What our New 
England forbears learned from the sea — that tough old 
nurse who plays no favorites and suffers no weaklings — 
Washington learned from the wilderness. 

His life from sixteen to twenty was not all spent on 
forest trails. This was the golden age of the Old Do- 
minion, the fifteen years from 1740 to the French and 
Indian War. The old roughness and crudeness were 
passing away. Peace reigned over the land, high prices 
ruled for tobacco, immigrants were pouring into the 
back country; the traditional Virginia of Thackeray and 
Vachel Lindsay — 'Land of the gaundet and the glove' 
— came into being. Living in Virginia at that time was 
like riding on the sparkling crest of a great wave just 
before it breaks and spreads into dull, shallow pools. 
At Mount Vernon, on the verge of the wilderness, you 
felt the zest of sharp contrasts, and received the dis- 
cipline that comes from life. On the one side were 
mansion houses where young Washington could learn 
manners and philosophy from gentlefolk. He took part 
in all the sports and pastimes of his social equals: danc- 
ing and card-playing and flirting with the girls. When 
visiting a town like Williamsburg he never missed a 
show; and later as President he was a patron of the new 
American drama. He loved gunning, fox-hunting, 
horse-racing, and all the gentleman's field sports of the 
day; he bet small sums at cards, and larger sums on the 
ponies — and was a good loser. He liked to make an im- 
pression by fine new clothes, and by riding unruly steeds 
when girls were looking on ; for though a graceful figure 
on horseback he was ungainly afoot. He belonged to 
clubs of men who dined at taverns and drank like gende- 
men; that is to say, they drank as much wine as they 
could hold without getting drunk — the opposite of mod- 
ern drinking, the object of which appears to be to get 
'as drunk as a lord' on as little liquor as possible. To- 
bacco, curiously enough, made George's head swim ; but 
he learned to smoke the peace-pipe with Indians when 
necessary without disgracing himself. 

On the other side of Mount Vernon were log cabins, 
and all the crude elements of American life: Scotch and 
'Pennsylvania Dutch,' and other poor whites who as 
insubordinate soldiers would prove the severest test of 
Washington's indefatigable patience, and proof of his 
power over men. The incidents of roughing it, such as 
the 'one thread bear blanket with double its weight of 
vermin, such as lice, fleas, etc.,' which he records in the 
journal of his first surveying trip, were not very pleasant 
at first, but he took it all with good humor and good 
sportsmanship. A little town called Alexandria sprang 



BIOGRAPHY 



up about a tobacco warehouse and wharf, and young 
Washington made the first survey of it. A Masonic 
Lodge was formed at Fredericksburg, and George, who 
was a good 'joiner,' became brother to all the rising 
journalists and lawyers of the northern colonies. The 
deep Potomac flowed past Mount Vernon, bearing ships 
of heavy burthen to the Chesapeake and overseas; you 
sent your orders to England every year with your tobacco, 
and ships returned with the latest modes and manners, 
books and gazettes, and letters full of coffee-house gos- 
sip. London did not seem very far away, and young 
George confessed in a letter that he hoped to visit that 
'gay Matrapolis' before long. 

It was probably just as well that he did not visit Lon- 
don, for he had the best and purest English tradition in 
Virginia. When Washington was in his later teens, just 
when a young man is fumbling for a philosophy of life, 
he came into intimate contact with several members of 
the Fairfax family. They were of that eighteenth-century 
Whig gentry which conformed outwardly to Christian- 
ity, but derived their real inspiration from Marcus Aure- 
Uus, Plutarch, and the Stoic philosophers. Thomas, sixth 
Lord Fairfax, was a nobleman devoted to 'Revolution 
Principles' — the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688, in which 
his father had taken an active part. Of the same line was 
that General Lord Fairfax, commander-in-chief of the 
New Model Army, who of all great soldiers in English 
history most resembles Washington. The ideal of this 
family was a noble simplicity of living, and a calm ac- 
ceptance of life: duty to the Commonwealth, generosity 
to fellow-men, unfaltering courage and enduring virtue; . 
in a word, the Stoic philosophy which overlaps Christian 
ethics more than any other discipline of the ancients. A 
Stoic never evaded life : he faced it. A Stoic never avoided 
responsibility : he accepted it. A Stoic not only believed 
in liberty : he practised it. 

It is not necessary to suppose that young Washington 
read much Stoic philosophy, for he was no great reader 
at any time; but he must have absorbed it from constant 
social intercourse with the Fairfaxes of Belvoir, neigh- 
bors whom he saw constandy. At Belvoir lived George 
William Fairfax, eight years Washington's senior, and 
his companion in surveying expeditions. Anne, the 
widow of Lawrence Washington, was Fairfax's sister, 
and Sally, the lady with whom George Washington was 
so happy — and so miserable — as to fall in love, was his 
wife. Books were there, if he wanted them. North's 
Plutarch was in every gentleman's library, and it was 
Plutarch who wrote the popular life of Cato, Washing- 
ton's favorite character in history — not crabbed Cato the 
Censor, but Cato of pent-up Utica. At the age of seven- 
teen, Washington himself owned an outline, in English, 
of the principal Dialogues of Seneca the younger, 'sharp- 
est of all the Stoicks,' The mere chapter headings are 



the moral axioms that Washington followed through 
life: 

A Sensual Life is a Miserable Life 

Hope and Fear are the Bane of Human Life 

An Honest Man can never be outdone in Courtesy 

A Good man can never be Miserable, nor a Wicked man 

Happy 
The Contempt of Death makes all the Miseries of Life Easy 

to us 

And of the many passages that young Washington 
evidendy took to heart, one may select this (p. 95) : 

No man is born wise: but Wisdom and Virtue require a 
Tutor; though we can easily learn to be Vicious without a 
Master. It is Philosophy that gives us a Veneration for God; 
a Charity for our Neighbor; that teaches us our Duty to 
Heaven, and Exhorts us to an Agreement one with another. 
It unmasks things that are terrible to us, asswages our Lusts, 
refutes our Errors, restrains our Luxury, Reproves our avar- 
ice, and works strangely on tender Natures. 

Washington read Addison's tragedy Cato in company 
with his beloved; and if they did not act it together in 
private theatricals, George expressed the wish that they 
might. At Valley Forge, when the morale of the army 
needed a stimulus, Washington caused Cato to be per- 
formed, and attended the performance. It was his favor- 
ite play, written, as Pope's prologue says, 

To make mankind in conscious virtue bold, 
Live o'er each scene, and be what they behold. 

Portius, Cato's son, whose 'steddy temper' 

Can look on guilt, rebellion, fraud, and Caesar 
In the calm lights of mild Philosophy 

declares (1, ii, 40-45) : 

I'll animate the soldiers' drooping courage 
With love of freedom, and contempt of Life: 
I'll thunder in their ears their country's cause 
And try to rouse up all that's Roman in 'em. 
'Tis not in Mortals to Command Success 
But we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll Deserve it. 

These last two lines sound the note that runs through 
all Washington's correspondence in the dark hours of 
the Revolutionary struggle; and these same lines are 
almost the only literary quotations found in the vast 
body of Washington' s writings. Many years after, when 
perplexed and wearied by the political squabbles of his 
presidency and longing to retire to Mount Vernon, 
Washington quoted the last lines of Cato's advice to 
Portius (rv, iv, 146-154) : 

Let me advise thee to retreat betimes 

To thy paternal seat, the Sabine field, 

Where the great Censor toil'd with his own hands, 

And ell our fxagai Ancestors ware blest 



THE YOUNG MAN WASHINGTON 



75 



Isa humble virtues, and a rural life. 

There live retired, pray for the peace of Rome: 

Content thy self to be obscurely good. 

When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway, 

The post of honour is a private station. 

From his camp with General Forbes's array in the 
wilderness Washington wrote to Sally Fairfax, Septem- 
ber 25, 1758: 

I should think our time more agreeably spent, believe me, 
in playing a part in Cato with the Company you mention, 
and myself doubly happy in being the Juba to such a Marcia 
as you must make. 

Marcia was the worthy daughter of Cato, and Juba 
her lover, the young Numidian prince to whom Syphax 
says 

You have not read mankind, your youth admires 
The throws and swellings of a Roman soul 
Cato's bold flights, th' extravagance of Virtue 

To which Juba replies (11, iv, 49-58) : 

Turn up thy eyes to Catol 
There may's thou see to what a godlike height 
The Roman virtues lift up mortal man, 
While good, and just, and anxious for his friends, 
He's still severely bent against himself; 
Renouncing sleep, and rest, and food, and ease, 
He strives with thirst and hunger, toil and heat; 
And when his fortune sets before him all 
The pomps and pleasures that his soul can wish, 
His rigid virtue will accept of none. 

Given this combination — a young man of innate noble 
qualities, seeking a philosophy of life, thrown in contact 
during his most impressionable years with a great gen- 
tleman whom he admired, a young gentleman who was 
his best friend, and a young lady whom he loved, all 
three steeped in the Stoical tradition — and what would 
you expect? Can it be a mere coincidence that this char- 
acterization of the Emperor Antoninus Pius by his 
adopted son Marcus Aurelius, the imperial Stoic, so 
perfectly fits the character of Washington? 

Take heed lest thou become a Caesar indeed; lest the pur- 
ple stain thy soul. For such things have been. Then keep 
thyself simple, good, pure, and serious; a friend to justice 
and the fear of God; kindly, affectionate, and strong to do 
the right. Reverence Heaven and succour man. Life is 
short; and earthly existence yields but one harvest, holiness 
of character and altruism of action. Be in everything a true 
disciple of Antoninus. Emulate his constancy in all rational 
activity, his unvarying equability, his purity, bis cheerful- 
ness of countenance, his sweetness, his contempt for noto- 
riety, and his eagerness to come at the root of the matter. 

Remember how he would never dismiss any subject until 
he had gained a dear insight into it and grasped it thor- 



oughly; how he bore with the injustice of his detractors and 
never retorted in kind; how he did nothJig in haste, turned a 
deaf ear to the professional tale-bearers, and showed himself 
an acute judge of characters and actions, devoid of all re- 
proachf ulness, timidity, suspiciousness, and sophistry; how 
easily he was satisfied,— for instance, with lodging, bed, 
clothing, food, and servants,— how fond of work and how 
patient; capable, thanks to his frugal diet, of remaining at 
his post from morning till night, having apparendy sub- 
jected even the operations of nature to his will; firm and 
constant in friendship, tolerant of the most outspoken criti- 
cism of his opinions, delighted if any one could make a 
better suggestion than himself, and, finally, deeply religious 
without any trace of superstition. 

When Washington was twenty years old, his brother 
Lawrence died. George, next heir by their father's will, 
stepped into his place as proprietor of Mount Vernon. 
At this stage of his life, George did not greatly enjoy 
the exacting task of running a great plantation; he 
thirsted for glory in war. But he soon began to enlarge 
and improve bis holdings, and in the end came to love 
the land as nothing else. Late in life, when the First 
Citizen of the World, he wrote, 'How much more de- 
lightful is the task of making improvements on the 
earth than all the vain-glory which can be acquired from 
ravaging it by the most uninterrupted career of con- 
quests. 9 And again, 'To see plants rise from the earth 
and flourish by the superior skill and bounty of the 
laborer fills a contemplative mind with ideas which are 
more easy to be conceived than expressed.' That was the 
way. with all Washington's ideas: they were more easily 
conceived and executed than expressed on paper. Ideas 
did not interest him, nor was he interested in himself. 
Hence the disappointing matter-of-fact objectiveness of 
his letters and diaries. 

Nevertheless, it is clear from Washington's diaries that 
farming was a great factor in his discipline. For the lot 
of a Virginia planter was not as romance has colored it. 
Slaves had to be driven, or they ate out your substance; 
overseers watched, or they slacked and stole; accounts 
rigidly balanced, or you became poorer every year. There 
were droughts, and insect pests, and strange maladies 
among the cattle. Washington's life at Mount Vernon 
was one of constant experiment, unremitting labor, un- 
wearying patience. It was a continual war against human 
error, insect enemies, and tradition. He might provide 
improved flails and a clean threshing floor in his new 
barn; when his back was turned the overseer would 
have the wheat out in the yard, to be trod into the muck 
by the cattle. His books prove that he was an eager and 
bold experimenter in that 'new husbandry' of which 
Coke of Norfolk was the great exponent. There were 
slave blacksmiths, carpenters, and bricklayers; a cider 
press and a still-house, where excellent corn and rye 
whiskey was made, and sold in barrels made by the 



BIOGRAPHY 



slaves from plantation oak. Herring and shad fisheries 
in the Potomac provided food for the slaves; a grist-mill 
turned Washington's improved strain of wheat into flour, 
which was taken to market in his own schooner, which 
he could handle like a down-east skipper. Indeed, it is in 
his husbandry that we can earliest discern those qualities 
that made Washington the first soldier and statesman of 
America. As landed proprietor no less than as com- 
mander-in-chief, he showed executive ability, the power 
of planning for a distant end, and a capacity for taking 
infinite pains. Neither drought nor defeat could turn 
him from a course that he discerned to be proper and 
right; but in farming as in war he learned from failure, 
and grew in stature from loss and adversity. 

Not long after inheriting Mount Vernon, Washington 
had opportunity to test what his brother had taught him 
of military tactics and the practice of arms. Drilling 
and tactics, like surveying, were a projection of Wash- 
ington's mathematical mind; like every born strategist 
he could see moving troops in his mind's eye, march and 
deploy them and calculate the time to a minute. He 
devoured accounts of Frederick's campaigns, and doubt- 
less dreamt of directing a great battle on a grassy plain 
— a terrain he was destined never to find in this shaggy 
country. As one of the first landowners in the county, 
at twenty he was commissioned major of militia. He 
then asked for and obtained the post of adjutant of 
militia for the county. The settlement of his brother's 
affairs brought him into contact with Governor Din- 
widdie, a shrewd Scot who knew a dependable young 
man when he saw one; and from this came his first great 
opportunity. 

At twenty-one he was sent on a highly confidential 
and difficult thousand-mile reconnaissance through the 
back country from western Virginia to the Ohio, and 
almost to the shores of Lake Eric. This young man just 
past his majority showed a caution in wilderness work, 
a diplomatic skill in dealing with Indians, and a courte- 
ous firmness in dealing with French commanders that 
would have done credit to a man twice his age. But on 
his next mission, one notes with a feeling of relief, youth- 
ful impetuosity prevailed. Unmindful that one must 
always let the enemy make the first aggression, our young 
lieutenant-colonel fired the shot that began the Seven 
Years War. 

A phrase of the young soldier's blithe letter to his 
younger brother: 'I heard the bullets whistle, and believe 
me, there is something charming in the sound,' got into 
the papers, and gave sophisticated London a good laugh. 
Even George the Second heard it and remarked, 'He 
would not say so, if he had been used to hear many.' 
That time would come soon enough. Washington's shot 
in the silent wilderness brought the French and Indians 
buzzing about his ears. He retired to Fort Necessity, 
which he had caused to be built in a large meadow, hop- 



ing to tempt the enemy to a pitched battle. But the enemy 
was so inconsiderate! He swarmed about the fort in such 
numbers that Washington was lucky to be allowed to 
capitulate and go home; for this was one of those wars 
that was not yet a war — it was not declared till two years 
after the fighting began. The enemy was so superior in 
numbers that nobody blamed Washington; and when 
General Braddock arrived with an army of regulars, he 
invited the young frontier leader to accompany his expe- 
dition into the wilderness. 

There is no need here to repeat the tale of Braddock's 
defeat, except to say that the general's stupidity and the 
colonel's part in saving what could be saved have both 
been exaggerated. Parkman wrote in his classic Mont- 
calm and Wolfe, 'Braddock has been charged with 
marching blindly into an ambuscade; but it was not so. 
There was no ambuscade; and had there been one, he 
would have found it.' That is the truth of the matter; 
and whilst Washington's behavior was creditable in 
every respect, he did not save Braddock's army; the 
French and Indians were simply too busy despoiling 
the dead and wounded, to pursue. 

Shortly after Washington reached Alexandria, the 
annual electoral campaign began for members of the 
Virginia Assembly. In a political dispute the Colonel 
said something insulting to a quick-tempered little fel- 
low named Payne, who promptly knocked him down 
with a hickory stick. Soldiers rushed up to avenge Wash- 
ington, who recovered just in time to tcli them he was not 
hurt, and could take care of himself, thank you! The 
next day he wrote to Payne requesting an interview at a 
tavern. The little man arrived, expecting a demand for 
an apology, or a challenge. Instead, Washington apolo- 
gized for his insult which had provoked the blow, hoped 
that Payne was satisfied, and offered his hand. Some of 
Washington's biographers cannot imagine or understand 
such conduct. One of them brackets this episode with 
the cherry-tree yarn as 'stories so silly and so foolishly 
impossible that they do not deserve an instant's con- 
sideration.' Another explains Washington's conduct as 
a result of his defeat at Fort Necessity: Washington was 
crushed into such meekness at this time that . . . instead 
of retaliating or challenging the fellow to a duel, he 
apologized.' But the incident, which has been well sub- 
stantiated, occurred after Braddock's defeat, not Wash- 
ington's; and it was due to Stoical magnanimity, not 
Christian meekness. 'It is the Part of a Great Mind to 
despise Injuries,' says Seneca the younger, in the 
L'Estrange translation that Washington owned. The 
Payne affair was merely an early instance of what Wash- 
ington was doing all his life: admitting he was wrong 
when he was convinced he was in the wrong, and doing 
the handsome thing in a gendemaniy manner. A man 
who took that attitude became impregnable to attack by 
itidans or any one else. For a young man of twenty- 



THE YOUNG MAN WASHINGTON 



77 



three to take it, meant that he had firm hold of a great 
philosophy. 

During the next two years, Washington had charge of 
the frontier defenses of Virginia, and a chain of thirty 
garrisoned stockades which followed the Shenandoah 
Valley and its outer bulwarks from Winchester to the 
North Carolina line. In the execution of this command 
he showed a prodigious physical activity, often riding 
thirty miles a day for several days over wilderness trails. 
His letters show a youthful touchiness about rank and 
recognition; he sorely tried the patience of Governor 
Dinwiddie, who, to Washington's evident surprise, ac- 
cepted a proffered resignation; but he was soon reap- 
pointed and took a leading part in General Forbes's ex- 
pedition against Fort Duquesne. It was merely to settle 
a question of precedence that Washington undertook a 
long journey to interview Governor Shirley, the com- 
mander-in-chief at Boston. One aid and two servants, 
clad in new London liveries of the Washington colors 
and mounted on horses with the Washington arms 
embroidered on their housings, accompanied their 
Colonel; for Washington had a young man's natural 
love of showing off. He stopped with great folk on the 
way and gave generous tips to their servants; he enjoyed 
seeing Bostoaians gape at the servants in scarlet and 
white livery — somewhat soiled by travel to be sure, 
although they had stopped in New York long enough to 
have everything cleaned, and the Colonel had two new 
uniforms made in Boston. But Washington never made 
the mistake of wearing splendid clothes on the wrong 
occasion. In the French and Indian War he wore a plain 
neutral-colored uniform instead of British scarlet, and 
dressed his men as frontiersmen, in buckskin and mocas- 
sins, so that they carried no superfluous weight and 
offered no mark to the Indians. 

As a young officer he often became impatient with the 
frontier folk — their short-sighted selfishness in refusing 
to unite under his command, their lack of discipline and 
liability to panic, and the American militiaman's pro- 
pensity to offer unwanted advice and sulk if it were not 
taken. But he found something to like in them as he 
did in all men, and learned to work with and through 
them. Militia deserted Washington as they deserted 
other officers, despite the flogging of sundry and the 
hanging of a few to encourage the rest. Here is plenty 
of material for a disparaging biographer to describe 
Washington as a military martinet who had not even 
the merit of a notable victory; and some of the 'de- 
bunkers,' who have never known what it is to command 
troops, have said just that. A sufficient reply to them, as 
well as striking proof of the amazing confidence, even 
veneration, which Washington inspired at an early age, 
is the "Humble Address' of the twenty-seven officers of 
his regiment, beseeching him to withdraw his resigna- 
tion : 



Sir, 

We your most obedient and affectionate Officers, beg leave 
to express our great Concern, at the disagreeable News we 
have received of your Determination to resign the Command 
of that Corps, in which we have under you long served . . . 

In our earliest Infancy you took us under your Tuition, 
train'd us up in the Practice of that Discipline, which alone 
can constitute good Troops, from the punctual Observance 
of which you never suffer'd the least Deviation. 

Your steady adherence to impartial Justice, your quick 
Discernment and invariable Regard to Merit, . . . first height- 
en 'd our natural Emulation, and our Desire to excel. . . 

Judge then, how sensibly we must be Affected with the 
loss of such an excellent Commander, such a sincere Friend, 
and so affable a Companion. . . 

It gives us an additional Sorrow, when we reflect, to find, 
our unhappy Country will receive a loss, no less irreparable, 
than ourselves. Where will it meet a Man so experiene'd in 
military affairs? One so renown'd for Patriotism, Courage 
and Conduct? Who has so great knowledge of the Enemy 
we have to deal with? Who so well acquainted with their 
Situation and Strength? Who so much respected by the 
Soldiery? Who in short so able to support the military Char- 
acter of Virginia? . . , 

We with the greatest Deference, presume to entreat you 
to suspend those Thoughts [of resigning] for another Year 
... In you we place the most implicit Confidence. Your 
Presence only will cause a steady Firmness and Vigor to 
actuate in every Breast, despising the greatest Dangers, and 
thinking light of Toils and Hardships, while lead on by the 
Man we know and Love. . . 

Fully persuaded of this, we beg Leave to assure you, that 
as you have hitherto been the actuating Soul of the whole 
Corps, we shall at all times pay the most invariable Regard 
to your Will and Pleasure, and will always be happy to 
demonstrate by our Actions, with how much Respect and 
Esteem we are, 

Sir, 
Fort Loudoun Your most affectionate 

Dec r 31st 1758 and most obedient humble Servants 

[Twenty-seven signatures] 

There stands the young man Washington, reflected 
in the hearts of his fellows. As one reads this youthfully 
sincere composition of the officers' mess at Fort Lou- 
doun, one imagines it addressed to a grizzled veteran of 
many wars, a white-whiskered colonel of fifty. Colonel 
Washington was just twenty-six. 

A farewell to arms, Washington was determined it 
must be. Fort Duquesne was won, and bis presence at 
the front was no longer needed. Virginia, the colony 
which had received the first shock of the war, could 
justly count on British regulars and the northern colonies 
to carry it to a glorious conclusion on the Plains of 
Abraham. 

In four years Washington had learned much from 
war. He found it necessary to discipline himself before 
he could handle men. He had learned that the inter- 
minable boredom of drill, arguing about supplies, and 



78 



BIOGRAPHY 



begging for transportation was ill rewarded by the music 
of whistling bullets; that war was simply hard, beastly 
work. The sufferings of the border people, the bloody 
shambles on the Monongahela, the frozen evidence of 
torture on the road to Fort Duquesne, cured his youth- 
ful appetite for glory, completely. When Washington 
again drew his sword, in 1775, it was with great reluc- 
tance, and only because he believed, like Cato (11, v, 85) : 

The hand of fate is over us, and Heaven 
Exacts severity from all our thoughts. 
It is not now a time to talk of aught 
But chains, or conquest; liberty, or death. 

Nor was Washington one to be rushed off his feet by 
every gust of war propaganda. Twice, as President of 
the United States, he courageously resisted popular 
clamor for war, and cheerfully sacrificed his popularity 
to preserve peace with England. 

From one woman he learned perhaps as much as from 
war. Sally Gary, his fair tutor in Stoicism and the great 
love of his life, was eighteen and married to his friend 
and neighbor George William Fairfax, when at sixteen 
he first met her. Beautiful, intelligent, and of gentle 
birth, Mrs. Fairfax took a more than sisterly interest in 
the callow young surveyor; and as near neighbors they 
saw much of each other. Cryptic jottings in his diary 
for 1748 show that he was already far gone in love. His 
pathetic letter to her from Fort Necessity in 1755, ^eg- 
ging for a reply to 'make me happy as the day is long,' 
gives a human note in the midst of his business-like 
military correspondence. No letters from her to him 
have been preserved, but from the tone of his replies I 
gather that Sally was somewhat more of a tease than 
befitted Cato's daughter. Whatever her sentiments may 
have been toward him, Washington's letters leave no 
doubt that he was passionately in love with her; yet 
gentlemanly standards were then such that while her 
husband lived she could never be his wife, much less 
his mistress. What anguish he must have suffered, any 
young man can imagine. It was a situation that schooled 
the young soldier-lover in manners, moderation, and re- 
straint — a test case of his Stoical philosophy. His solution 
was notable for its common sense: when on a hurried 
visit to Williamsburg in the spring of 1758, to procure 
clothes for his ragged soldiers, he met, wooed, and won 
a housewifely little widow of twenty-seven named 
Martha Custis. She wanted a manager for her property 
and a stepfather for her children; he needed a house- 
keeper for Mount Vernon. It was a mortage de convc- 
nance that developed into a marriage of affection. But 
Martha well knew that she was not George's first or 
greatest love, nor he hers. 

Twenty-five years later, when Mrs. Fairfax was a poor 
and childless widow in London, crushing the memories 



of her Virginia springtime in her heart, there came a 
letter from Washington. The First Citizen of the World 
writes that the crowded events of the quarter <entury 
since they parted have not eradicated 'from my mind 
the recollection of those happy moments, the happiest of 
my life, which I enjoyed in your company.' Martha 
Washington enclosed a letter under the same cover, in 
order to show that she, too, understood. 

Let us neither distort nor exaggerate this relation, 
the most beautiful thing in Washington's life. Wash- 
ington saw no visions of Sally Fairfax in the battle- 
smoke. He did not regard himself as her knightly cham- 
pion, or any such romantic nonsense; Walter Scott had 
not yet revived the age of chivalry. Women occupied a 
small part in Washington's thoughts, as in those of most 
men of action. No more than Cato did he indulge in 
worry or bitter thoughts about his ill fortune in love. 
Suppose, however, Washington had turned out a failure 
or shown some fault of character at a critical moment, 
instead of superbly meeting every test. Every yapping 
biographer of the last decade would have blamed the 
three members of this blameless triangle. Since he turned 
out otherwise, we can hardly fail to credit both women 
with an important share in the formation of Washing- 
ton's character. And who will deny that Washington 
attained his nearly perfect balance and serenity, not 
through self-indulgence but through restraint? 

What of other women? — a subject which cannot be 
shirked in any honest account of the young man Wash- 
ington. Many of you must have heard, in dub or smok- 
ing-car gossip, the story of that so-called letter of Wash- 
ington inviting someone to Mount Vernon, and setting 
forth the charms of a certain slave-girl. No investigator 
has ever managed to see this letter, or even found a per- 
son who has seen it. The nearest we get is to the man 
who knows a man who has seen it — but that man for 
some peculiar reason is always sick, dead, or non-existent 
when you look for him, or else he refers you to another 
man, who knows the man, who knows the man that has 
it. Mr. John C. Fitzpatrick, who has spent much time on 
the trail of the seductive if mythical octoroon of Mount 
Vernon, believes that all stories of this sort were started 
by a spurious sentence in a letter from Benjamin Harri- 
son to Washington during the war, which was inter- 
cepted by the British and printed in England. Fortu- 
nately the original, a plain letter of military information, 
has been preserved. But when it was given out for pub- 
lication to the Gentleman's Magazine (of all places), 
the editor interpolated a jocularly bawdy description of 
'pretty little Kate the washer-woman's daughter,' whose 
charms the Commander-in-Chief was invited to share. 
Of similar origin are the stories of Washington's illegiti- 
mate children. Of course one cannot prove a negative 
to every rumor. I can only state my opinion that, in 



THE YOUNG MAN WASHINGTON 



79 



view of the fact that Washington fell deeply in love at 
sixteen, and remained in love with the same lady until 
his marriage, and maintained a reputation for faithful- 
ness under pitiless publicity, he led the life of a Christian 
gentleman. 

Plutarch wrote of Cato, 'He had not taken to public 
life, like some others, casually or automatically or for 
the sake of fame or personal advantage. He chose it 
because it was the function proper to a good man.' That 
was why Washington got himself elected in 1758 to the 
Virginia Assembly, an office proper to a gentleman of 
his station. He had no gift for speaking or for wire- 
pulling ; he showed no talent or desire for political lead- 
ership. But he learned at first hand the strange behavior 
of homo sapiens in legislative assemblies. Everyone mar- 
vels at the long-suffering patience shown by Washington 
in his dealings with Congress during the war; few re- 
member that he had been for many years a burgess of 
Virginia, and for several months a member of the very 
Congress to which he was responsible. 

So at twenty-seven George Washington was not only 
a veteran colonel who had won the confidence and af- 
fection of his men, but a member of the Virginia Assem- 
bly, a great landowner, and a husband. His youth was 
over, and he had the means for a life of ease and compe- 
tence; but the high example of antique virtue would not 
let him ignore another call to duty. When it came, his 
unruly nature had been disciplined by the land and the 
wilderness, by philosophy and a noble woman, and by 
his own indomitable will, to become a fit instrument for 
a great cause. There were other colonial soldiers in 1775 
who from better opportunity had gained more glory in 
the last war than he; but there was none who inspired 
so much confidence as this silent, capable man of forty- 
three. So that when the political needs of the moment 
required a Virginian, there was no question but that 
Colonel Washington should be commander-in-chief. 

If he had failed, historians would have blamed the 
Continental Congress for a political appointment of a 
provincial colonel with an indifferent war record. If he 
had failed, the American Revolution would have been 
something worse than futile — a Rebellion of '98 that 
would have soured the American character, made us 
another Ireland, with a long and distressful struggle for 
freedom ahead. If, like so many leaders of revolutions, 
he had merely achieved a personal triumph, or inocu- 
lated his country widi ambition for glory, the world 
would have suffered from his success. His country could 
and almost did fail Washington; but Washington could 
not fail his country, or disappoint the expectations of his 
kind. A simple gentleman of Virginia with no extraor- 
dinary talents had so disciplined himself that he could 
lead an insubordinate and divided people into ordered 
liberty and enduring union. 



NOTES 

[Note 1, 'Portraits of Washington,' Note 3, 'Washington 
and the Stoic Philosophy,' and Notes 4 to 6, references to 
sources, are here omitted.] 

2. Washington and the Church 

Whether Washington was or was not a Christian is largely 
a matter of definition. He was baptized a member of the 
Church of England, as every Virginian in his day had to be. 
Probably he received religious instruction from his mother. 
He attended church more or less regularly after he was mar- 
ried, for Martha Washington was undoubtedly a good 
churchwoman. He served as vestryman of his parish — one 
of the political duties of his station. He observed Christian 
ethics as few other statesmen have done. He recognized the 
value of religion in military discipline, and demanded chap- 
lains for his troops, and if one was wanting, probably read 
the service himself, If that is sufficient to make a man a 
Christian, Washington was a Christian, and the Church has 
a right to be proud of even the nominal adherence of such a 
man. But she should be too proud to claim more than her 
due, and too honest. 

Christianity meant little or nothing to Washington as a 
guide to life. Many ministers sent him printed sermons and 
tracts, which he always politely acknowledged, but only in 
one instance wrote approving the doctrine. That was a ser- 
mon by the Rev. Benjamin Stevens of Kittery on the death 
of a great colonial soldier, General Sir William Pepperrell. 
In acknowledging receipt of this pamphlet in T789, Wash- 
ington expressed his 'approbation of the doctrine incul- 
cated' (Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Bos- 
ton Athernsurn, pp, 193-194). In it there is no distinctive 
Christian doctrine. The text is Psalm Ixxxii, 7, 'But ye shall 
die like men.' Referring to the previous verse, the author 
insists that civil rulers, and those in 'Eminency of Station,' 
should be respected as gods, but not idolized. Addressing the 
son of the departed soldier, and quoting Gilbert West's 
translation of the Menexenus attributed to Plato, he says: 
'Hereditary Honor is indeed a noble and splendid Patri- 
mony. But to enjoy a fair Estate, either in Fame or Money, 
and for want of a proper Supply of Wealth and Glory of 
your own, not to be able to transmit it to your Posterity, is 
infamous and unmanly.' This was probably the doctrine 
that appealed to Washington. 

In Washington's library at the Boston Athenaeum I have 
found only one religious book that he actually purchased. 
That is Bishop Gilbert Burnet's Exposition of the Thirty- 
Nine Articles of the Church of England (London, 1759). He 
may have ordered it for Martha, but it bears his autograph. 
One of the many religious books sent to him by their authors 
was the Rev. Uzal Ogden's Antidote to Deism . . . or an 
ample Refutation of all the Objections of Thomas Paine, 
against the Christian Religion (Newark, New Jersey, 1705) 
Dedicated without his permission, to Washington, it was 
accompanied by a letter from the author declaring it was 
written 'to check the Progress of Infidelity and Vice, and 
to promote the Interests of Truth and Virtue — I shall be 
happy if the work shall be honored with your approbation.' 
No acknowledgment has been found. Washington must 



so 



BIOGRAPHY 



have refused to 'bite,' or his letter of endorsement would have 
been spread broadcast. {Catalogue of the Washington Col- 
lection, pp. 154-155.) 

No clergymen were among his friends or confidants, and 
those who visited Mount Vernon were not invited to hold 
family prayers. In many letters of advice to his stepsons and 
nephews and other young relatives he gives much moral 
advice, but says nothing about reading the Bible, keeping 
the Sabbath, attending church, or avoiding infidelity. In 
the hundreds of letters of his that have been printed, I have 
found no trace of Biblical phraseology, such as constant Bible 
readers are apt to use; and only two mentions of Christ have 
been found in all his papers. One is in some verses 'On 
Christmas Day' that he copied from a book of poems into 
his copybook at the age of thirteen or fourteen, along with 
the 'Rules of Civility.' The other is in his circular letter to 
the governors of the States on disbanding the army, in which 
he refers to the 'Divine Author of our blessed religion." This 
was in 1783; and from that time on there are frequent reli- 
gious expressions in his Thanksgiving proclamations, presi- 
dential messages, replies to loyal addresses of churches, and 
the like. But in all these statements except the one above- 
mentioned, both the name of Jesus and any direct allusion to 
Him seem to be studiously avoided. Even in his answer to 
an address of the bishops, clergy, and laity of the Church in 
which he was baptized, he gives 'cordial thanks' for their 
'devout supplications to the Supreme ruler of the Universe' 
on his behalf. 'Supreme Being' or 'Supreme Ruler of the 
Universe' was the usual manner in which Deists referred to 
God. Washington saw the Church disestablished, despoiled, 
and neglected in Virginia after the war without raising a 
finger to save her. He met his end calmly and bravely like 
a gendeman and Stoic, asking no spiritual help from any- 
one, leaving no dying words or deathbed declarations that 
could be turned to the service of cant or bigotry. 

It remains to take notice of some of the pious fables that 
are relied upon by religious pamphleteers to prove that 
Washington was something more than a nominal Christian. 

(a) The 'Prayer at Valley Forge.' This, the oldest, most 
popular, and most persistent of the legends, made familiar 
in a painting which has been widely reproduced; and even 
placed by the government on a postage stamp, is so little in 
accord with Washington's character, habits, and gentle- 
manly reticence as to be considered untrue per se. The story 
was first told by Weems, and by him attributed to one Isaac 
Potts, who was certainly nowhere near Valley Forge during 
the winter that the army spent there (J. C. Fitzpatrick, The 
Spirit of the Revolution, p. 88); even Weems did not have 
the story directly from him, nor is it corroborated save by & 
manuscript in the handwriting of Potts's daughter (who died 
in 1811), in a style indicating that it was derived from 
Weems rather than from her father. If the General was in 
the habit of failing on his knees in the snow and praying so 
loudly as to attract attention, why did nobody in the army 
observe it? The examination of this episode in Rupert 
Hughes's George Washington (vol. m), leaves nothing to 
be said for the Trayer at Valley Forge.' 

(b) The manuscript prayer-book called 'The Daily Sacri- 
fice/ discovered in 1891 among some papers in the possession 
of a collateral descendant of Washington, sold for the sum 



of $1250 as 'Washington's Prayers,' and often printed. There 
is no evidence to connect this pious compilation with George 
Washington, although it was owned by some member of 
the family. The diction is wholly foreign to bis known 
writings, and indeed to the English used in his lifetime. 
The handwriting is certainly not his. This spurious manual 
has been subjected to a devastating examination by Rupert 
Hughes in his George Washington (1, 552-559), but it has 
been dragged out of its deserved obscurity again by 
Canon E. S. Dunlap in his Washington as a Christian 
and Churchman, published by the Washington Cathedral, 

(c) Statements that Washington partook of Holy Com- 
munion at one time or another. If true, these would not 
necessarily prove anything; there being no bishop in the 
Colonies, there was no confirmation in the local Church of 
England, and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper wac cus- 
tomarily administered to all adult church attendants who 
desired it. Washington might have partaken to please his 
wife, without committing himself to anything, as many 
men have done before and since. It so happens, however, 
that all evidence of Washington having partaken is vague 
and secondary, while the evidence that he did not do so is 
direct and primary. Bishop Meade of Virginia stated in 
1857 (Old Churches . . . of Virginia, 11, 247-251), that 
Washington's pastor at Pohick Church told somebody who 
told him that Washington communicated there; and that 
'no company ever kept him from church.' Washington's 
diary proves that company and many other things kept him 
from church more often than not. Bishop Meade's reliabil- 
ity may be gauged by his endeavor to mislead his readers by 
rhetorical questions, such as 'What time was left him 
[G. W.j to waste in the sport of the chase? . . . What 
time, I ask, for the sports of the field ? What do we find in 
his diary, of dogs and kennels and the chase?' The answer 
is that his diaries prove he found plenty of time for hounds 
and kennels and the chase, and plenty for dancing and what 
the Bishop calls the ludicrous and indelicate exhibitions' of 
the theatre. He attended five plays in one week at Williams- 
burg in 1770 (Diaries, 1, 384). Bishop Meade was respon- 
sible for the story that the hour from nine to ten p. m., 
which Washington habitually spent in his library alone, was 
spent in devotional exercises. The Rev. Alexander Hamil- 
ton related a few years ago that his great-grandmother Mrs. 
Alexander Hamilton told him in 1854 (!) that she remem- 
bered seeing Washington receiving Holy Communion in 
St Paul's Chapel, New York, shortly after his inauguration 
in 1789. At Christ Church, Cambridge, in 1775, 'The Gen- 
eral's majestic figure, bent reverently in prayer, as with de- 
vout earnestness he entered into the service,' according to 
the Diary of Dorothy Dudley, a wholly fictitious work 
'first published' (and also composed) in 1876. At Morris- 
town, New Jersey, there is an oral tradition, first recorded 
in 1829, that Washington partook of the Lord's Supper at 
the hands of Parson Johnes of the Presbyterian church there 
in 1777, Of such nature is the 'evidence' upon which Canon 
Dunlap and other pious pamphleteers rely to prove Wash- 
ington a regular communicant, in direct contradiction to 
the testimony of two honest churchmen who observed 
Washington's religious habits for several years. 



THOREAU AT WALDEN 



81 



The Rev. James Abcrcrombie, assistant rector of Christ 
Church and St. Peter's Philadelphia, from 1794, related in 
1 83 1 that Washington always left church before the cele- 
bration of Holy Communion, 'leaving Mrs. Washington 
with the other communicants, — she invariably being 
one, — .' Consequently, Dr. Abercrombie adverted in a ser- 
mon to the 'unhappy tendency of example, particularly of 
those in elevated stations, who uniformly turned their backs 
upon the celebration of the Lord's Supper.' Thereafter, he 
says, Washington never attended his church on Communion 
Sundays (W. B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 
v, 394). Dr. Abcrcrombie's superior, the Rev. William 
White, later Bishop of Pennsylvania, had opportunity to 
observe Washington's habits in church, not only on his 
visits to Philadelphia during the war but also during his two 
presidential terms. Bishop White wrote in 1832: 

" 'His behaviour was always serious and attentive; but as 
your letter seems to intend an inquiry on the point of kneel- 
ing during the service, I owe it to truth to declare, that I 



never saw him in the said attitude. During his Presidency, 
our vestry provided him with a pew, ten yards in front of 
the reading desk. . . . Although I was often in company 
of this great man, and had the honour of dining often at 
his table, I never heard any thing from him that could 
manifest his opinions on the subject of religion' (pp. 189- 
190). And in 1835 he wrote to the same inquirer, Truth 
requires me to say, that General Washington never re- 
ceived the communion, in the churches of which I am paro- 
chial minister.' " — Bird Wilson, Memoir of Bishop White 
(1839), pp. 189-190,197. 

This direct testimony of Dr. Abercrombie and of Bishop 
White cannot be impeached; hence the less scrupulous 
church pamphleteers calmly ignore it. And if Washington 
did not communicate or even kneel in public prayer when 
he was the centre of public interest and accompanied by his 
wife, how can it seriously be maintained that he believed in 
the doctrine of the Trinity or in redemption through Jesus 
Christ? 



Thoreau at Walden 

Van Wyck Brooks 



Van Wyck Brooks was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, in 1886 and grad- 
uated from Harvard in 1908. He taught English at Leland Stanford University 
and was in the editorial departments of Doubleday, Page and Company and 
of the Century Company and from 1921 to 1924 he was an editor of The 
Freeman. His writings deal with the intellectual life of the United States, in 
our own time in America's Coming of Age (19 15) and Three Essays on 
America (1932), and in the past in a series of notable critical and historical 
studies of individuals and movements: The Ordeal of Mar\ Twain (1923), The 
Pilgrimage of Henry fames (1925), The Life of Emerson (1932), and The 
Flowering of New England, 1815-1865 (1936). 

In this chapter from The Flowering of New England Mr. Brooks shows 
us the life and mind and ideals of Henry Thoreau, principally by paraphrasing 
Thoreau's writings. He also relates Thoreau to the life and thought of his time, 
and incidentally to that of the past and of our present. 



Henry thoreau had built a hut at Walden. In 
March, 1845, he had borrowed Alcott's axe,— 
which he took pains to return with a sharper 
edge — and cut down some tall, arrowy pines for the 
timbers, studs and rafters. For the boards he bought a 
shanty from one of the Irish labourers on the railroad. 
The hut was ten feet by fifteen, shingled and plastered, 
with a garret and closet, a trap-door below, a brick fire- 



Taken from The Flowering of Near England by Van Wyck Brooks, 
published and copyrighted by E. P. Duttou & Co., Inc., New York. By 
permission of the publishers. 



place, windows at the sides and a door facing the cove. 
The cost, all told, was $28.12%, — less than the annual 
rent of a student's room in Cambridge. There was a 
bean-field, close by, with a patch of potatoes, corn, peas 
and turnips. As a quasi-Pythagorean, Thoreau seldom 
indulged in beans. He exchanged his crop for rice in 
the village. Rice was the proper diet for one who loved 
so well the writings of the Oriental sages. 

He had long cherished the notion of a forest-life. El- 
lcry Charming had built himself a hut on the prairie in 
Illinois, and Henry's college classmate, Stearns Wheeler, 



82 



BIOGRAPHY 



who had just died in Leipzig, had also built a rough 
woodland cabin, over at Flint's Pond, where he had 
lived for a year to save money, to buy Greek books and 
pay his way to Germany to study. Henry had spent six 
weeks in Wheeler's cabin, sharing one of his bunks of 
straw. There was nothing new in his own adventure, 
and he could not understand why his friends thought it 
was so peculiar. Some of them spoke as if he had gone 
to the woods in order to starve or freeze. Emerson had 
bought land on both sides of the pond, intending to 
build a summer-house, and Henry had carried out the 
project. Alcott, who liked to tinker at rustic architec- 
ture, helped him with his saw and hammer, along with 
the young Brook Farmer, George William Curtis of 
New York, who was boarding at Edmund Hosmer's in 
the village and working as a farm-hand. Henry felt at 
home in his sylvan dwelling. It made him think of 
some of those mountain-houses he had seen on his in- 
land excursions, high-placed, airy, fragrant, with a fresh, 
auroral atmosphere about them. It was quiet, clean and 
cool, fit to entertain a travelling god. For company, 
birds flitted through his chamber, red squirreds raced 
over the roof, chickadees perched on the armf tils of wood 
he carried, There were moles living in the cellar. He 
had occasional visits from a hare. As he sat at his door 
in the evening, he remembered that he was descended 
from the Greeks of old. He was a wanderer, too, one of 
the crew of Ulysses. The shore of die cove was another 
Ithaca. 

There was nothing about his "experiment," as his 
friends liked to call it, to arouse such curiosity and con- 
tempt. It was a common-sensible undertaking, and only 
a slight departure from Henry's usual mode of living. 
His average weekly ouday, for necessaries he could not 
supply himself, was twenty-seven cents. A few days at 
manual labour, building a boat or a fence, planting, 
grafting or surveying, — six weeks of work out of the 
year, when he had grown extravagant and had to have 
a microscope, — gave him an ample surplus. Why 
should anyone live by the sweat of his brow and bore 
his fellow-men by talking about it? Why should not 
everyone live with an ample margin? — as anyone could 
do, provided he followed the path of simplification, 
logically and ruthlessly enough. The mass of men led 
lives of quiet desperation. Why, if not to maintain a 
"standard of living" that every law of the universe con- 
troverted? Did they not know that the wisest had al- 
ways lived, with respect to comforts and luxuries, a life 
more simple and meagre than the poor? Had all the 
philosophers, Hindu, Greek and Persian, lived and 
taught in vain? Had anyone measured man's capaci- 
ties? Was it fair to judge by precedents, when so very 
Utile had been attempted? Who could say that if a man 
advanced, boldly, in the direction of his dreams, en- 
deavouring to live the life he had imagined, he would 



not meet with a success that he had never expected in 
common hours? Henry believed, and wished to prove, 
that the more one simplified one's life the less complex 
the laws of life would seem. Why all this pother about 
possessions? He liked to think of the ancient Mexicans, 
who burned all their goods every fifty years. Haw- 
thorne, in one of his stories, had pictured a similar holo- 
caust; and this was the kind of reform that Henry 
thought was worth considering. He meant to have his 
furniture, actual and symbolic, as simple as an Indian's 
or an Arab's. There were three bits of limestone on his 
table. They had to be dusted every day, while the furni- 
ture of his mind was still undusted. Out of the window, 
quick! 

If he had had the wealth of Crcesus, Henry's mode 
of living would not have been different. Space, air, 
time, a few tools, a note-book, a pen, a copy of Homer, 
what could he wish more than these? A bath in the 
pond at sunrise, a little Spartan sweeping and cleaning, 
then a bath for the intellect, perhaps in the Bhagavad- 
Gita, the pure water of Walden mingling in his mind 
with the sacred water of the Ganges. The day was his, 
for any wild adventure. Sometimes, on a summer 
morning, he would sit for hours in his sunny doorway, 
amid the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undis- 
turbed solitude and stillness. The birds flitted noise- 
lessly about him. He could feel himself growing like 
the corn. He knew what the Orientals meant by con- 
templation and the forsaking of works. He was a Yogi, 
too, a forest-seer, who might have composed the Upani- 
shads. His Reality was also Brahma, not the actualities 
of the world, but its potentialities. What did he care for 
temporal interests ? It was his vocation to discover God. 
His days were no longer days of the week, bearing the 
names of pagan deities, nor were they minced into 
hours or fretted by the ticking of a clock. He felt like 
a Puri Indian or a Mexican. If you had put a watch in 
his hand and asked him what the hour was, he might 
have looked at the dial and said, "Quien sabe?" The 
sounds of the railway rose and died in his ears like the 
distant drumming of a partridge. 

His life here seemed to flow in its proper channels. 
It followed its own fresh currents, and he felt himself 
lurking in crystalline thought as the trout lurked under 
the verdurous banks. Not so much as a bubble rose to 
the surface. At sunset, he jumped into his boat and 
paddled to the middle of the pond. There he played on 
his flute, while the charmed perch hovered about the 
stern, and the moon travelled over the floor of the pond, 
strewn with the wrecks of the forest. The wildest imagi- 
nation could not conceive the manner of life he was 
living, for the Concord nights were as strange as Ara- 
bian nights. He struck the side of the boat with his 
paddle, filling the woods with a circle of sound. What 
a pleasant mission it would be to go about the country 



THOREAU AT WALDEN 



83 



in search of echoes! He knew where to rind the pro- 
phetic places, the vocal, resounding, sonorous, hollow 
places, where oracles might be established, sites for 
oracles, sacred ears of Nature 

What could he say to a man who feared the woods, 
who shuddered at their solitude and darkness? What 
salvation was there for such a man? Did he not know 
diat God was mysterious and silent? Henry could never 
have wearied of the woods, as long as he could visit a 
nighthawk on her nest. He could hardly believe his 
eyes when he stood within seven feet of her. There she 
was, sitting on her eggs, so sphinx-like, so Saturnian, so 
one with the earth, a relic of the reign of Saturn that 
Jupiter had failed to destroy, a riddle that might cause a 
man to go and dash his head against a stone. No living 
creature, surely, far less a winged creature of the air. A 
figure in stone or bronze, like a gryphon or a phoenix. 
With its flat, greyish, weather-beaten crown, its eyes 
were ail but closed with stony cunning; and yet all the 
time this sculptured image, motionless as the earth, was 
watching with intense anxiety, through those narrow 
slits in its eyelids. Wonderful creature, sitting on its 
eggs, on the bare, exposed hill, through pelting storms 
of rain or hail, as if it were a part of the earth itself, the 
outside of the globe, with its eyes shut and its wings 
folded. It was enough to fill a man with awe. Henry 
thought for a moment that he had strayed into the Cau- 
casus, and that around die hill, on the other slope, he 
would find Prometheus chained to the rock. 

Round and round the pond, Henry followed the foot- 
path worn by the feet of Indian hunters, old as the race 
of men in Massachusetts. The critics and poets were 
always complaining that there were no American antiq- 
uities, no ruins to remind one of the past, yet the wind 
could hardly blow away the surface anywhere, exposing 
the spodess sand, but one found the fragments of some 
Indian pot or the little chips of flint left by some aborig- 
inal arrow-maker. When winter came, and the scent 
of the gale wafted over the naked ground, Henry 
tramped tiirough the snow a dozen miles to keep an 
appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch per- 
haps, or some old acquaintance among the pines. He 
ranged like a grey moose, winding his way through 
the shrub-oak patches, bending the twigs aside, guid- 
ing himself by the sun, over hills and plains and valleys, 
resting in the clear grassy spaces. He liked the whole- 
some colour of the shrub-oak leaves, well-tanned, sea- 
soned by the sun, the colour of the cow and the deer, 
silvery-downy underneath, over the bleached and rus- 
set fields. He loved the shrub-oak, with its scanty 
raiment, rising above the snow, lowly whispering to 
him, akin to winter, the covert which the hare and the 
partridge sought. It was one of his own cousins, rigid 
as iron, clean as the atmosphere, hardy as all virtue, 
tenacious of its leaves, leaves that did not shrivel but 



kept their wintry life, firm shields, painted in fast 
colours. It loved the earth, which it over-spread, tough 
to support the snow, indigenous, robust. The squirrel 
and the rabbit knew it well, and Henry could under- 
stand why the deermouse had its hole in the snow by 
the shrub-oak's stem. Winter was his own chosen sea- 
son. When, for all variety in his walks, he had only 
a rustling oak-leaf or the faint metallic cheep of a tree- 
sparrow, his life felt continent and sweet as the kernel 
of a nut. Alone in the distant woods or fields, in the 
unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rab- 
bits, on a bleak and, to most, a cheerless day, when a 
villager would be thinking of bis fire, he came to him- 
self and felt himself grandly related. Cold and solitude 
were his dearest friends. Better a single shrub-oak leaf 
at the end of a wintry glade, rustling a welcome at his 
approach, than a ship-load of stars and garters from 
the kings of the earth. By poverty, if one chose to use 
the word, monotony, simplicity, he felt solidified and 
crystallized, as water and vapour are crystallized by 
cold. 

All praise to winter, then, was Henry's feeling. Let 
others have their sultry luxuries. How full of creative 
genius was the air in which these snow-crystals were 
generated. He could hardly have marvelled more if 
real stars had fallen and lodged on his coat. What a 
world to live in, where myriads of these little discs, so 
beautiful to the most prying eye, were whirled down on 
every traveller's coat, on the restless squirrel's fur and 
on the far-stretching fields and forests, the wooded 
dells and mountain-tops — these glorious spangles, the 
sweepings of heaven's floor. He watched the men cut- 
ting the ice on the pond. Some of this ice, stowed in 
the holds of ships, was going over to India; and many 
a seeker of Brahma in Calcutta was destined to drink 
from his own Walden well. If winter drove one in- 
doors, all the better. It compelled one to try new fields 
and resources. Days of merry snowstorms and cheer- 
ful winter evenings by the fire. Evenings for books of 
natural history, Audubon, for one. It was pleasant to 
read about the Florida Keys, the flowering magnolia, 
the warm spice-breezes, while the wind beat the snow 
against one's window. Days to sit at home over one's 
journal, in one's own nest, perhaps on a single egg, 
though it might prove to be an egg of chalk. 

These were die days for writing, days to speak like 
a man in a waking moment to others in their waking 
moments. For Henry was hard at work. He was writ- 
ing articles, which Horace Greeley placed for him. He 
had begun to write a book, and he wished to pay his 
tribute to Carlyie, who had liberated the English lan- 
guage, cutting away the fetters imposed upon it by the 
pedantic writers of the British reviews. The frigid 
North American was even worse, a venerable cobweb 
that had escaped the broom. He liked to think of Car- 



84 



BIOGRAPHY 



lyle, on his vacations, riding on his horse "Yankee," 
bought from the American sale of his books. His own 
book, rewritten from his journal, was the Wce\ on the 
Concord and Merrimac Rivers, the story of the journey 
with his brother, never to be forgotten, when they had 
doubled so many capes and run before the wind and 
brought back news of far-away men. He did not pro- 
pose to crowd his day with work, even if the book had 
to be written. A writer, he thought, should saunter to 
his task surrounded by a halo of ease and leisure, and 
the labour of his hands should remove from his style 
all trace of sentimentality and palaver. One did not 
dance idly at one's writing when one had wood to cut 
and cord. As the strokes rang cheerily through the 
wood, so the stroke of the pen should ring on the 
reader's ear. Was the voyage an old story, eight or nine 
years old, and only a week at that? It represented a life- 
time's memories. No boy who had grown up on the 
Mississippi recalled those floating enchantments, the 
river-boats, and the fabulous river-men, with more of a 
thrill than Henry felt, remembering the canal-boats of 
his childhood. The news had spread through Concord 
that one of these boats was stealing through the mead- 
ows, silent as a cloud, widi its crew of "foreigners" 
from New Hampshire, and all the village boys had 
flocked to see it. Henry wished to write a book that 
would be saturated with his thought and reading, yet 
one that would not smell so much of the study, even the 
poet's cabin, as of the fields and woods. He dreamed of 
an unroofed book, lying open under the ether, a book 
that could hardly be forced to lie on a shelf. 

He was not by nature a hermit. He might have fre- 
quented the bar-rooms, he thought, if he had had any 
business that called him thither. Almost every day he 
walked to the village, to trade his beans for rice, to get 
a boot repaired, to collect the news of die family. Some- 
times he returned late at night, with a bag of rye or 
Indian meal, sailing back under the moon to his har- 
bour in the woods. It was only that he was wary of 
gossip. He did not wish to lumber his mind with the 
rubbish that most men seemed to rejoice in, the details, 
for example, of some case in court. One day he was ar- 
rested in the village for refusing to pay his poll-tax. He 
felt as Alcott felt. The government supported slavery, 
the government was backing the Mexican War; well, 
he would not support the government. He did not 
wish to trace the course of his dollar until it bought a 
man, or bought a gun to shoot a Mexican. He spent the 
night in jail — a fruitful night. It inspired his essay on 
Civil Disobedience. He wished to establish a principle, 
that one man locked up in jail for refusing to counte- 
nance slavery would be the end of slavery, or, to express 
it on a broader basis, "If the alternative is to keep all 
just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State 
will not hesitate which to choose." A foolish notion. 



many people thought, but some of them changed their 
minds, in later years, when one of Henry's Hindu 
readers, Gandhi, acting on die principle, disturbed the 
British Empire for several months. The next morning, 
Henry, released from jail, gadiered some of the boys 
and girls for a huckleberry party, on a hill, whence the 
State was nowhere to be seen. He never fastened his 
door at Walden, though sometimes, in his absence, he 
had unwelcomed visitors. How did Mrs. X happen to 
know that his sheets were not as clean as hers? Bur 
nothing was ever stolen, except his copy of Homer. One 
had to keep one's eye on bookish people. 

He had other guests, especially in April, when all the 
world seemed to be on the move. A runaway slave ap- 
peared, then Alek Therien, the French-Canadian wood- 
chopper, a true Hornerie peasant who had learned a 
little Greek from his priest in the north, then Hugh 
Quoil, an Irish soldier, who had fought at the Battle of 
Waterloo. Old Quoil, with his wife and his jug, was 
patiendy waiting for death in a hut in die woods. The 
shanty-Irish folk along the railroad somedmes came to 
see him. Henry thought them shifdess enough, widi 
dieir women washing under the trees and the pigs pok- 
ing about among the tubs. He eyed them with a vague 
hostility, as die red men had eyed the first setders, and 
with as much reason; for were they not the first wave 
of the sea that was to sweep away so many landmarks? 
Among the little ragamuffins that swarmed about these 
cabins, there were some in whom die prophetic eye 
might have seen the masters of the future, the lords of 
Greater Boston, mayors, governors, captains of police, 
even, perhaps, a cardinal. Henry had one good friend 
among them, little Johnny Riordan, with his quaint 
"old worthy" face, behind the sober visor of his cap, 
plodding to school through the snow in his next-to- 
nothing, facing and roudng it like a Persian army. A 
great sight, Johnny, in his rags, beside the well-fed vil- 
lagers, waddling about in their furs and finery. Emer- 
son also came, of course. Henry read aloud to him 
some pages from his book, while they sat under an oak 
beside the pond. Alcott arrived one night, struggling 
through the snow. Ellery Channing spent a fortnight 
with him. When the poets and sages came, he was glad 
that his dwelling was so spacious. As die conversation 
assumed a grander and loftier tone, they shoved their 
chairs further and further apart, until they touched the 
walls in opposite corners. This left plenty of neutral 
ground for their sentences to deploy in martial order. 

Once Henry left his house for a fortnight's excursion. 
He had cousins in Bangor, Maine, one of them in the 
lumber-trade, a good excuse to visit the northern woods. 
He wished to study the Indians in tiieir forest wilder- 
ness, and he wished to climb Mount Ktaadn. He never 
travelled without prayer and fasting, for he did not 
wish to dissipate his mind. With all the industry of a 



THOREAU AT WALDEN 



85 



busy life, how could one hope to know, really know, an 
area more than six miles square? Isaac Hecker had 
asked him to go to Rome, the two of them together, 
Hecker to pay the expenses, for Hecker, who had tried 
Brook Farm and Fruidands, was boarding with Mrs. 
Thoreau for a taste of Concord. He hoped to carry 
Henry over to Rome, in more than one fashion. Later, 
another friend, an Englishman, invited him for a visit 
in England. In both cases, Henry said, No. If Europe 
was much in his mind, and became more and more to 
him, Concord might become less and less; and what 
sort of bargain would that be? He did not wish his life 
to lose its homely savour. If the fields and streams ap.d 
woods that he loved so well, and the simple occupations 
of his townsmen, ever ceased to interest and surprise 
him, what culture or wealth could ever atone for die 
loss? He did not wish to go to Europe, nor did he wish 
to go — Like the farmers — west. What could he think of 
this foolish American habit, going east or west to a 
"better land," without lifting an honest finger to till 
and redeem one's own New England soil? As for the 
rush to California, it was a disgrace to humankind, — 
digging gold, the merest lottery, a kind of toil, if it 
deserved the name, in no sense beneficial to the world. 
A startling development, this, of the ethics of trade and 
all die modes of getting a living. It filled Henry with a 
cold scorn. For the rest, he had his own western hori- 
zon, towards which he was always moving, pitching 
his tent each day nearer the Golden Gate. But the 
really fertile soils and luxuriant prairies lay on one's 
own side of the Alleghanics, wherever a man minded 
his own business. Were not all the essentials of life 
to be found in Concord, ten times found if one properly 
valued them? — which a man could only do if he stood 
his ground. Henry had something to say to the men in the 
covered wagons, who were running away from some- 
thing besides the rocks. If the men in the covered 
wagons had no ears for Henry, he would be glad to 
wait for a few generations. The great-great-grandsons 
of the covered wagons would be ready to listen to 
him. 

Nobody knew the riches of Concord. As for natural 
history, he had found some of the Arctic phenomena 
there, red snow and one or two Labrador plants. Still, 
a litde travel now and then was not so bad to give one's 
mind an airing, especially if it oflered him a chance to 
observe the ways of the Indians. For the Indians had a 
special charm for Henry; they suggested a simpler 
mode of life and a greater nearness to the earth. Were 
there not two eternities, one behind him, which the 
Indians represented, as well as one before? Wherever 
he went, he trod in their tracks, yet only a few poets 
remembered them. Here and there, one saw their 
lonely wigwams, on the banks of some quiet stream, 
like the cabins of the muskrats in the meadows,— an old 



squaw, perhaps, living in her solitary hut, with her dog, 
her only companion, making baskets and picking ber- 
ries, insulted by the village boys and girls. Henry 
dreamed of writing a book about them; * for their 
memory seemed to him to harmonize with the russet 
hue of autumn that he loved. A race that had exhausted 
the secrets of nature, a race tanned with age, while the 
young, fair Anglo-Saxon slip, on whom the sun had 
shone for so short a time, was only just beginning its 
career. As sportsmen went in pursuit of ducks, and 
scholars of rare books, and all men went in pursuit of 
money, Henry went in search of arrow-heads, when die 
proper season came round again. He often spent whole 
afternoons, especially in the spring, when the rains had 
washed the ground bare, pacing back and forth over a 
sandy field, looking for diese relics. It might have 
rained arrow-heads. They lay all over the surface of the 
country, sometimes mingled with arrow-headiferous 
soil, ash-coloured, left by Indian fires. They were like 
so many fossil thoughts to Henry, forever recalling the 
far-away mind tiiat shaped them. 

To Maine, then! — where the Indians grew with the 
moose. A fortnight in the forest, the home of die bear 
and the caribou, the wolf, the beaver and the Penobscot 
redskins, where the wild fir flourished and the spruce- 
tops, seen from an elevation, were like the odour of 
cake in a schoolboy's nostrils. Hemlocks and cedars, 
silver and yellow birches, watery maples, damp and moss- 
grown rocks, real woods, these, wild and bearded. 
One caught the whisde of ducks on solitary streams, 
the flicker of the darting chickadee, the loon's desolate 
laugh. Sometimes, through the moss-clad aisles, one 
heard a dull, dry, rusding sound, as if smothered under 
the fungus-covered forest, the falling of a tree, like the 
shutting of a door in some distant entry of the dark and 
shaggy wilderness. There one could feel at home, 
shooting the rapids in one's birch canoe, like a bait bob- 
bing for some river monster, darting from side to side 
of the stream, then gliding swift and smoothly. This 
was the place to sing the "Canadian boat-song," or to 
play on one's flute, at night, under the stars, while the 
wolves howled about, in the darkness of the continent. 
Henry watched Joe Polis, the Indian guide, glued to the 
bank on his stomach, talking to the muskrats in their 
sylvan language. Sometimes, by the fireside, Joe Polis 
also sang, a mild and simple nasal chant, like the dawn 
of civilization over the woods. The white man's brow 
was clear and distinct, but over the brow of the Indian 
lingered a haze or mist. For the Indian, the white 
man's noon was four o'clock in the morning. 

A journey like tiiis was only a foretaste, too reward- 
ing not to be repeated. Henry was writing about his 
travels, and one of the magazines was glad to print his 

* Thorrau left eleven manuscript volumes, about 3,000 pages, filled 
with notes about the Indians for the book he had hoped to write. 



86 



BIOGRAPHY 



essay on Ktaadn. Later, on two occasions, he went to 
Maine again. He wished to visit Chesuncook, the Alle- 
gash and the East Branch. He was in his element in 
the woods, as Richard Henry Dana on the sea, as an old 
French-Canadian coureur de bois. Was he not a French- 
man as well as a Yankee, who might have run wild 
with Du Lhut and harried the woods for beavers? In 
the meantime, he had left his Walden cabin. Why? 
For as good a reason as he had gone there. He had 
other lives to live, and he had no more time to spare for 
this one. He wanted a change, he did not wish to stag- 
nate. About two o'clock in the afternoon, he had felt 
the world's axle creaking a little, as if it needed greas- 
ing, as if the oxen laboured widi the wain and could 
hardly get their load over the ridge of the day. Who 
would accept heaven on terms like this? — and a ticket 
for heaven had to include, for Henry, tickets for hell 
and purgatory also. Walden was only a bivouac in his 
campaign. He had other journeys in mind, to Cape 
Cod, for instance, with Ellery Channing, and later a 
jaunt to Canada, Quebec and Montreal. (Total ex- 
pense, two guide-books included, $12.75.) Ellery was* 
not a man for camping out, — that was an art one had 
to acquire slowly; but he shared Henry's taste for a 
simple equipment. And Henry would no more have 
thought of dressing, — dressing for a journey! — than he 
would have blacked his boots for fishing. Honest trav- 
elling was dirty work. A pair of overalls was the proper 
costume, a grey sack, corduroys perhaps; and as for this 
blacking of boots, he despised it on all occasions. In 
this, he was like some of the Harvard professors, who, 
as Mrs. Story was shocked to note, on one of her visits 
from Italy, did not have their boots blacked even for 
Commencement. Henry, who always carried a piece of 
tallow, in order to keep the water out of the leather, 
looked like a woodchuck or a musquash. This was his 
desire, at least, — the more like a quadruped the better, 
tawny, russet, yellow-brown, the colour of the sands. 
Vermont grey was not so bad ; and once he had had the 
perfect suit, a skilful mixture of browns, with light and 
dark cleverly proportioned, and a few threads of green. 
He had looked like a corner of a pasture, with patches 
of sweet-fern and lechea. He had been able to glide 



over the fields, as unperceived from the farmer's win- 
dows as a painted cruiser through a spyglass. The wild 
animals thought he was one of them. Ellery, who was 
not so systematic, shared Henry's feeling in the matter 
of hats. His own hat was old and weather-beaten and 
had plenty of holes around the brim. It was as rare and 
high as a good Stilton cheese. As for the rest of Henry's 
outfit, a handkerchief served for a bag, or a firm, stout 
sheet of brown paper, well tied up. What else? An 
umbrella, of course, a knapsack, with partitions for 
books and papers, a music-book for pressing flowers, a 
field-glass and a measuring-tape. A fish-line, spoon and 
dipper, a hide salt and sugar, tea, Indian meal and a 
slice of fruit-cake. If anyone asked him along the way 
to do a litde tinkering, that was a tribute to his com- 
mon sense. 

So Henry tramped to Provincetown. Having seen 
the woods, he wished to see the ocean, and Cape Cod 
was surely the place to see it. There, on the stretches of 
sand blown clean by the wind, he could forget the 
towns, where he felt so unspeakably mean and dis- 
graced. He could forget the bar-rooms of Massachusetts, 
where the full-grown were not weaned from their sav- 
age and filthy habits, sucking cigars and guzzling 
whiskey-punch. On the Cape, one saw wholesome 
faces, well preserved by the salty air, faces bleached like 
old sails, hanging cliffs of weather-beaten flesh. The 
Cape Cod boys leaped from their leading-strings into 
the shrouds; it was only a bound from their mothers' 
laps to the masthead. They boxed the compass in their 
infant day-dreams. They could hand, reef and steer by 
the time they flew a kite. This was a country almost as 
thrilling as Maine. Henry had three books more or less 
on the stocks: The Maine Woods, full of the scents of 
the forest, Cape Cod, redolent of the sea, even A Yankee 
in Canada. The well-known publishers, Time & Co., 
could be trusted to see that they were safely printed. 
One of his neighbours wrote about Human Culture. 
Why should he not write about Cape Cod, another 
name for the same thing, and hardly a sandier phase of 
it? Or Canada, for that matter? He wrote an opening 
paragraph, with both hands clenched: "Read my book 
if you dare!" 



Arketa 




Harold Nicolson 



Harold Nicolson was born in Tehran, Persia, in 1886, was educated at 
Baliiol College, Oxford, and from 1909 to 1929 held various posts at home 
and abroad under the British Foreign Office. 

He has written a book on biography. The Development of English 
Biography (1928); several biographies of authors: Paul Verlaine (1921), 
Tennyson (1923), Byron, the Last journey (1924), and Swinburne {1926); 
and a series of three books on diplomats and diplomacy : Lord Carnoc\, his 
father (1930), Peacemaking 101$, his own experiences at the Versailles 
Conference (1933), and Curzon: the Last Phase (1934). In "How I Write 
Biography" {Saturday Review of Uterature, May 26, 1934) he describes 
his theories and his methods of work in detail, and notes the yoiume Some 
People (1927), from which "ArketaH" is taken, as "an experiment in the 
most impure form of biography, namely, that of biographical fiction-" 
"Arketall'' may be read as a short story or as a revelation of an agreeable 
and litde-known side of Lord Curzon, 




I he train was waiting at Victoria Station and there 
remained but three minutes to the time when it 
was scheduled to leave. In front of die Pullman re- 
served for Lord Curzon clustered the photographers, 
holding their hooded cameras ungainlily. The station- 
master gazed towards the barrier. Already the two typ- 
ists were ensconced in the saloon : Sir William Tyrrell in 
the next compartment had disappeared behind a news- 
paper: the red despatch boxes were piled upon the rack, 
and on the linoleum of the gangway Lord Curzon's 
armorial dressing-case lay cheek by jowl with the fibre 
of Miss Pettkue's portmanteau. I waited with Allen 
Leeper on the platform. We were joined by Mr. Em- 
mott of Renter's. "Is the Marquis often as late as this?" 
he inquired. "Lord Curzon," I answered, "is never late," 
and as 1 said the words a slight stir was observable at the 
barrier. Majestically, and as if he were carrying his own 
howdah, Lord Curzon proceeded op the platform accom- 
panied by the police, paused for a moment while the 
cameras clicked, smiled graciously upon the station-mas- 
ter, and entered the Pullman. A whisde shrieked, a flag 
fluttered, the crowd stood back from the train and began 
to wave expectantly. It was then that I first saw Arke- 
taH. He was running with haste but dignity along the 
platform: in his left hand he held his bowler, and in his 
right a green baize foot-rest. He jumped on to the step 
as the train was already moving. "Crakey," said ArketalL, 
as he entered the saloon. 



From Some People, 1927. By permission of the publishers, Hough- 
toa Mifflin Csmpaay, Bostoa. 



Leeper and I sat opposite each other, going through 
the telegrams which had been sent down to the station 
from the Foreign Office. We sat there in the green 
morocco chairs of the Southern Railway : the marquetry 
on the panels behind us squeaked softly: the metal 
reading lamp chinked ever so slighdy against die glass 
top of the table: to our right the houses of Purley, to our 
left the houses of Lewisham, passed rapidly below us in 
the autumn sunshine: someone came and told Leeper 
that he was wanted by Lord Curzon. I pushed the tele- 
grams aside and leant back in my chair. Miss Petticue 
was reading the Royal magazine: Miss Bridges was read- 
ing her own passport: I had ample time to study Arke- 
tall. 

He sat opposite to me at the end of the saloon. A man, 
I should have said, of about, fifty -five; a tall man, at first 
impression, with a large naked face and large white 
bony hands. The fine Victorian modelling of his brow 
and chin was marred by a puffy weakness around the 
eyes and mouth: at certain angles the thoughtful refine- 
ment of his features suggested a drawing of Mr. Gals- 
worthy by George Richmond: he would then shift his 
position, the illusion v/ould pass, there would be a touch 
of red ink around the eyelids, a touch of violet, ink about 
the lips: the pallor of his cheeks, die litde bleached ridges 
around his mouth, would lose all suggestion of asceti- 
cism: when he leant forward in the full light of the 
window he had the appearance of an aged and dissolute 



87 



88 



BIOGRAPHY 



pro-consul. His face, if he will forgive my saying so, 
seemed at such moments, self-indulgent. "That man," 
I reflected, "drinks." 

I was well aware of the circumstances in which at the 
last moment Lord Curzon had engaged Arketall as his 
valet. Three days before we were due to leave for Lau- 
sanne, I had walked across to Carlton House Terrace 
with some papers that were urgently required. The Sec- 
retary of State was undergoing one of bis recurrent at- 
tacks of phlebitis and I was taken up to his bedroom. I 
gave him the papers and he began to look at them, his 
lips, as was his wont, moving rapidly in a faint, but not 
unpleasant, whisper as he read the documents. My eyes 
wandered around the room. It was a small room with 
but one window which looked over the park : there was 
a white washing-stand, a servant's chest of drawers, and 
a cheap brass bedstead: the walls were papered with a 
simple pattern of sweet-pea, and there were some photo- 
graphs and a brown wooden hair-brush upon the dress- 
ing-table: on the small mantelpiece beside me I noticed a 
washing-list, a bone collar -stud, and two pieces of string. 
It was like a single bedroom in one of the Gordon 
Hotels: the only luxuries were an elaborate telephone 
affixed to the wall beside the bed, and a large box of 
crystallised fruits upon a side-table. The problem of 
Lord Curzon's personality, which had become almost an 
obsession to me, was enhanced by the sight of these ac- 
cessories. My eyes wandered round the room in mute 
surprise. They returned finally to the figure in the bed. 
He was no longer looking at the documents, he was 
looking at me. "You are observing," he said, "the simple 
squalor of my bedroom. I can assure you, however, that 
my wife's apartments are of the most unexampled mag- 
nificence." And at this his shoulders shook with that in- 
fectious laughter of his, that rich eighteenth-century 
amusement. "You have also," he continued, "observed 
the telephone. A disastrous invention, my dear Nicol- 
son, but it has its uses. Thus if I make upon this ivory 
lever a slight pressure to deflect it to the right, a mere 
exiguum clinamen, the whole secrets of my household 
are revealed to me. I overhear. This morning, for in- 
stance, when thus switched on (I think that is the cor- 
rect term) to the universe, the bell rung. A voice said, 
'Is that you, Alf, and 'ow's it feeling this morning? I 
'ad a devil of a time coming in with the milk like that.' 
'My dear young lady,' I answered, 'you are singularly 
mistaken. You are not speaking to Mr. Alfred Horlick, 
you are speaking to Lord Curzon himself.' The noises, 
I may say, which greeted me from the other end indi- 
cated that my words had produced an effect which was 
positively blasting. And Horlick, an excellent valet, 
leaves me to-morrow." 

Victim of such coincidences did Arketall sit there 
that morning in the Pullman with a small and incongru- 
ous bowler perched upon his head. He became slightly 



uneasy at my scrutiny: he reached for his suit-case and 
extracted John o' London's Weekly: I returned to my 
telegrams. The train skimmed tinkling and direct above 
the Weald of Kent. 



Our arrival at Dover somewhat disconcerted Arketall. 
It was evident that he was proud of his competence as a 
travelling valet and anxious to win confidence by a brisk 
display of merit. Before the train had come to a standstill 
he was out on the platform, his face assuming the ex- 
pression of "Leave everything to me." He was at once 
brushed aside by an inspector of police and two Foreign 
Office messengers. A phalanx of porters stood behind 
the inspector and leapt upon our baggage. The Foreign 
Office messengers seized the despatch boxes. Before 
Arketall had realised what had happened, Lord Curzon 
was walking slowly towards the boat chatting to the in- 
spector with not unconscious affability. We strolled be- 
hind. Arketall came up to me and murmured something 
about passports. I waved him aside. There was a man 
beside the gangway with a cinematograph, the handle of 
which he began to turn gendy as we approached. I 
glanced behind me at Arketall. His attitude had stif- 
fened suddenly into the processional. "Arketall," I said to 
him, "you have forgotten the foot-rest." "Crakey!" he ex- 
claimed as he turned to run towards the train. The other 
passengers were by then beginning to dribble through 
the pens in which they had been herded : I leant over the 
taffrail, watching the single agitation meeting the mul- 
tiple agitation: widows hurrying along searching franti- 
cally in their reticules for those yellow tickets which 
would take them to Bordighera : Arketall, in acute anx- 
iety, breasting this fumbling torrent with his bowler in 
his hand. A policeman touched me on the shoulder: he 
was holding the foot-rest. "His lordship generally re- 
quires this with him on the voyage." But by then Arke- 
tall was but a distant dome-shaped head bobbing against 
a panic stream. The little cords that tied the awning 
above me were pattering against the stays in an off-shore 
wind : in the gap between the pier-heads a swell tumbled 
into foam, the inner harbour was wrinkled with scud- 
ding frowns: clearly we were in for a rough crossing. I 
took the foot-rest to Lord Curzon. He was sitting at his 
cabin table writing on loose sheets of foolscap in a huge 
flowing hand : his pencil dashed over the paper with in- 
credible velocity: his lips moved: from time to time he 
would impatiendy throw a finished sheet upon the chintz 
settee beside him. I adjusted the foot-rest. He groaned 
slightly as he moved his leg. He was much too occupied 
to notice my ministrations. I returned to the deck out- 
side. A voice wailed to me from the shore: "It's gone; 
it's gone." Arketall flung into the words that forlorn in- 
tensity which throbs in the earlier poems of Lord Ten- 
nyson. I replied by reassuring gestures indicative that 



ARKETALL 



89 



he should come on board. He was mopping his forehead 
with a large linen handkerchief: little white drops were 
still forming on it as he stood panting beside me. 
"Crakey," he gasped. "You had better go downstairs," 1 
answered, "it is going to be rough." He closed one eye 
at me. "A little peg ay don't think." His words, at the 
moment, had little apparent meaning. 



I did not see Arketall again until we were approaching 
Calais. I found him talking to Sir William Tyrrell out- 
side the cabin. "Now Ostend," he was saying, "that's 
another question. Nane francs a day and no questions 
asked." "And no questions asked,'' he repeated looking 
wistfully at the sand dunes. The inspector came up to 
me with a packet of passports: he said he would hand 
them over to the commissaire de police on arrival. I took 
them from him, desiring to solve a problem which had 
often assailed me, namely, whether Lord Curzon made 
out a passport for himself. It was there all right— -"We 
George Nathaniel," and then his name written again in 
the blank spaces. That amused me, and I was still con- 
sidering the curious associations evoked by such official 
Narcissism when we sidled up to the Calais landing- 
stage. The gangway was immediately opposite Lord 
Curzon's cabin: on the pier below stood the Consul in 
a top-hat, and some French officials : I went in to Lord 
Curzon and told him we were arriving: he was still 
writing hard, and paid no attention: on the settee be- 
side him was a pile of foolscap and at least twenty enve- 
lopes stamped and addressed. A muffled jerk showed 
that we were already alongside. Sighing deeply Lord 
Curzon addressed and stamped the last envelope. "Send 
me that valet man," he said. I fetched Arketall, telling 
him to hurry as the other passengers were being kept 
waiting: there they were on my left secured by a cord 
across the deck, a serried wedge of passengers looking 
their part. Lord Curzon emerged genially from his 
cabin at the exact moment the gangway was fixed : Arke- 
tall followed with the foot-rest: he stumbled as he 
stepped on to the gangway and clasped the rail. "Yes, I 
thought he was drunk," said Sir W. Tyrrell as we fol- 
lowed in our correct order. Lord Curzon was being 
greeted by the Representative of the French Republic. 
He moved slowly towards the train, leaning on his 
ebony cane; behind him zigzagged Arketall, clasping 
the green baize foot-rest. "Hadn't we better warn the 
Marquis . . . ?" I asked. "Oh, he'll notice it soon 
enough." Lord Curzon had paused by the train to say 
a few chosen words to the Consul. Behind him stood 
Arketall, very rigid as to the feet, but swaying slighdy 
with the upper part of the body, bending slowly for- 
wards and then straightening himself with a jerk. We 
left for Paris. 



The next thirty-six hours are somewhat of a blur in 
my memory. I can recall M. William Martin at the 
Gare du Nord and other top-hats raised simultaneously, 
and the flash and subsequent smell of magnesium wire 
lighting rows of white featureless faces beyond the bar- 
rier: a group of Americans pausing to stare at us, cock- 
tail in hand, as we entered the Ritz— "Why, look, Mrs. 
Cameron . . ." and then the figure of Mr. Ellis, pale 
and courtly, standing erect beside Lord Curzon in the 
lift: the corridor stretching white, airless, unwindowed, 
the little lighted globes in the ceiling, the four detectives 
grouped together, a bottle of Evian and two glasses on a 
Saratoga trunk. I remember also a late dinner and Olivier 
ministering to Lord Curzon and yet not ignoring us — 
Olivier blending with a masterly precision the servile 
and the protective, the deferential and the condescend- 
ing. And then the following day the familiar confer- 
ence atmosphere: the crackle of Rolls-Royces upon the 
raked and watered gravel in front of the Affaires Etran- 
geres: the slow ascent, maps, despatch boxes, politeness, 
up the wide stone staircase: the two huissiers in evening 
dress and silver chains, that huissier with a white nose, 
that other huissier whose nose is red : the first ante-room, 
gold and damask, the second soft-carpeted ante-room, 
damask and gold: the Salle de l'Horloge — green rect- 
angles of tables, a perspective of pink rectangles of blot- 
ting-paper : M. Poincare advancing from a group by the 
furthest window: the symmetry of alignment broken 
suddenly by papers on the green cloth, protruding edges 
of maps, despatch boxes with open lids, secretaries bend- 
ing from behind over their employers, the interpreter 
sitting with his pencils and note-book by himself: the 
soft hum of traffic along the Quai d'Orsay. 

We lunched that day with Madame Poincare and 
afterwards the discussions continued: at 4 p. m. the chan- 
deliers leapt in successive tiers to brilliance; the white and 
scarlet benches in the window recesses were hidden one 
by one as the silk curtains were drawn across them, and 
at five we had tea and macaroons in the large white room 
beyond. At nine we returned exhausted to our dinner; 
we were all to start for Lausanne next morning at 7.30. 

We gathered sleepily at 7.5 a. m. in the hall of the Ritz: 
the revolving glass door was clamped open and a man in 
a striped apron was shaking an india-rubber mat out on 
to the Place Vendome: the luggage had already preceded 
us, the typists were sitdng in the third motor rather 
pinched and blue : we waited for Lord Curzon. At 7.16 
a. m. he appeared from the lift escorted by Mr. Ellis. He 
climbed slowly into the motor, falling back on to the 
cushions with a sigh of pain : he beckoned to me : "I shall 
want my foot-rest." I dashed back into the hotel to search 
for Arketall. Mr. Ellis was standing by the staircase, and 
as I approached him I could hear something pattering 



90 



BIOGRAPHY 



above me dow n the stairs : at the last turning there was 
a bump and a sudden exclamation, and Arketall shot 
round and down the staircase like a bob-sleigh, landing 
beside me with his feet in the air and the foot-rest raised 
above him. "Crakey," he remarked. We had by then 
only eleven minutes in which to reach the Gare de Lyon. 
The three motors swayed and dashed along the boule- 
vards like fire-escapes to an incessant noise of Claxons. 
Then very slowly, processionally, sleepily we walked up 
through the station towards the platform. M. Poincare 
in a black silk cap with a peak was waiting, a little 
irritably I thought, beside the train. There was a saloon 
for the French Delegation, a saloon for the British Dele- 
gation, and separating them a satin-wood drawing-room 
carriage and a dining-car. The large white clocks marked 
7.29 as we entered the train. At 7.30 we slid out into the 
grey morning past a stiff line of saluting police and rail- 
way officials. Arketall was standing beside me: "Ay left 
me 'at behind," he remarked in sudden dismay. I had 
a picture of that disgraceful bowler lying upwards on the 
stair carpet of the Ritz: "Tiens," they would exclaim, "le 
chapeau de Lord Curzon." "You can get another," I 
answered, "at Lausanne." Miss Petticue came up to me 
holding a bowler. "They threw this into our motor as 
we were leaving the Ritz." I handed it in silence to 
Arketall. 



For the greater part of that twelve-hour journey we 
sat in the drawing-room carriage discussing with our 
French colleagues the procedure of the impending con- 
ference : from time to time a Frenchman would rise and 
retire to the back of the train to consult M. Poincare: 
from time to time Allen Leeper or I would make our 
way to the front of the train to consult Lord Curzon: 
outside his door Arketall sat on a spring bracket-seat 
which let down on to the corridor: he would stand up 
when we came, and the seat would fly up smack against 
the woodwork: Arketall looked shaken and unwell. 
Lord Curzon in his coupi carriage reclined in a dove- 
coloured armchair with his leg stretched out on the 
foot-rest. On the table beside him were at least thirty 
envelopes stamped and addressed: he did not appear to 
relish our interruptions. 

Towards evening the lights were lit in that satinwood 
saloon. We sat there, M. Barrere, General Weygand, Ad- 
miral Lacaze, Sir William Tyrrell, Laroche, Massigli, Al- 
len Leeper and myself. The discussion had by then be- 
come desultory: from time to time a station would leap 
up at us from the gathering dusk, flick past the train in a 
sudden rectangle of illuminated but unfocussed shapes, 
be lost again in the brooding glimmer of the Cotes d'Or. 
We stopped at Pontarlier and telephoned to M. Mussolini. 
He answered from Locarno. He wanted us to dine with 
feim that night at Vevcy. We pattered up and down the 



platform conveying messages from M. Poincar£ to Lord 
Curzon, from Lord Curzon to M. Poincare. It was agreed 
that they would both proceed to Vevey, and then the 
train slid onwards down upon Lausanne. Lord Curzon 
in his dove-coloured arm-chair was slighdy petulant. He 
was all for dining with M. Mussolini but would have pre- 
ferred another night. "And why Vevey?" he said. "Why 
indeed?" I echoed. Lord Curzon sighed deeply and went 
on writing, writing. I left him and stood in the corridor. 
Arketall had pulled up the blind, and as the train jigged 
of! to the left over some points a row of distant lights 
swung round to us, low lying, coruscating, white and 
hard. "Evian," I said to Arketall. "Ho indeed," he an- 
swered. Ten minutes later, the train came to rest in the 
station of Lausanne: there was a pause and silence: the 
arc-lamps on the platform threw white shapes across the 
corridor, dimming our own lights, which but a few min- 
utes before had seemed so garish against the darkness. 
I returned to Lord Curzon's compartment. "I think," 
he said, "that you and Leeper had better get out here. 
It is quite unnecessary for you to come on to Vevey." 
"Oh, but, sir ..." I protested. "Quite unnecessary," he 
repeated. I usually enjoyed an argument with Lord Cur- 
zon, but there was something in his voice which indi- 
cated that any argument at that moment would be mis- 
placed. I went and told Leeper: we both seized our 
despatch boxes and climbed down on to the platform. 
Bill Bentinck, who had been sent on two days before to 
complete arrangements, came up to us, immaculate, 
adolescent and so reliable. "There are four motors," he 
said, "and a lorry for the luggage." "The Marquis isn't 
coming," I informed him, "he and M. Poincare are going 
on to Vevey to dine with Mussolini. They won't get back 
here till midnight." "Oh Lud," he exclaimed, "and 
there's a vast crowd outside and the Mayor of Lausanne." 
"Lud," I echoed, and at that the slim presidential train 
began to slide past us towards the night and Mussolini. 
It was only then that I noticed that the platform was 
empty from excess rather than from lack of public inter- 
est: behind the harrier, behind a double row of police, 
stretched the expectant citizens of the Swiss Confedera- 
tion. On the wide bare desert of the platform stood 
Leeper in a little brown hat, myself in a little black hat, 
and Arketall in his recovered bowler: Miss Petticue: 
Miss Bridges: pitilessly the glare of forty arc-lamps beat 
down upon our isolation and inadequacy. We walked 
(with dignity I feel) towards the barrier: at our ap- 
proach the magnesium wire flashed up into its own 
smoke and there was a stir of excitement in the crowd; 
somebody cheered: Arketall raised his bowler in ac- 
knowledgment: the cheers were repeated: he held his 
bowler raised at exacdy the correct angle above his head: 
the Mayor advanced towards him. I intervened at that 
moment and explained the situation. The Mayor turned 
from me, a little curtly perhaps, and said something to 



ARKETALL 



91 



the police inspector. The wide lane which had been kept 
open for us ceased suddenly to be a lane and became a 
crowd leaving a station: we left with it. In a few min- 
utes we were hooting our way under the railway bridge 
and down to Quchy. 



The hall of the Beau Rivage was crowded with hotel 
managers and journalists. The former bowed ingratiat- 
ingly at our entry: the latter, who had been sitting to- 
gether at little tables drinking sherry, rose as a man to 
greet us. There was Mr. Walter, and Mr. Pirrie Gordon, 
and Mr. Ward Price, and Mr. Ryall. There were a great 
many others whom I did not know, they looked diverse 
and yet convivial : I like journalists in principle and was 
extremely sorry to disappoint them : at no moment of my 
life have I desired so acutely to be important. Through 
all this gratuitous humiliation I was conscious, however, 
of a thin thread somewhere within me of self-esteem. I 
lay idly in my bath trying to work this vaguely appre- 
hended fibre of pleasure into the central focus of my 
consciousness, which seemed in its turn wholly occupied 
by pain: I tested myself in successive phases: the plat- 
form, solid pain: the exit from the platform, pain unre- 
lieved : it was only when I went back to the phase in the 
motor that I ceased inwardly to wince. Leeper, rather 
tired and thinking silendy about Rumania, had sat be- 
side me; but Arketall, on the strapontin opposite, was 
full of talk. "Very civil," he had said, "these Swiss peo- 
ple. Now ay remember when ay was with a Columbian 
gentleman, we went to Zurich. You know Zurich, sir? 
Well, it was lake this . . ." Yes, Arketall at that moment 
had called me "sir": up to that moment he had treated 
me solely as a colleague. Something in the force of my 
personality or in Lord Curzon's absence had elevated me 
to a higher level of regard. I was gratified on discovering 
this, and lay back in my bath thinking affectionately of 
Lord Curzon, who at that moment must have been de- 
scending on to the platform at Vevey. Sir William Tyr- 
rell would have to carry the foot-rest: I did so hope that, 
if Lord Curzon got tired, Sir William would be able to 
soothe him down. 

We dined downstairs in the restaurant. The remainder 
of the Delegation had assembled by earlier trains. There 
was General Burnett-Stuart with a military staff, and Sir 
Roger Keyes with naval assistants : there was Mr. S. D. 
Waley of the Treasury, and Mr. Payne of the Board of 
Trade: our own Secretariat was under the charge of 
Tom Spring Rice: there was a young man of extreme 
elegance who looked after the maps: there was an ac- 
countant and two further lady typists, and there was Mr. 
McClure for the Press. Undoubtedly we were an impos- 
ing collection. M. Duca and M. Diamandy, the Ru- 
manian representatives, were seated at a further table; 
they came across to us and gave us caviare out of a flat 



tin box. I was pleased at this, mainly for Allen Leeper 's 
sake, since, although in general the most stimulating of 
companions, he is apt at moments to brood about Ru- 
mania in silent suffering: with their arrival his pang had 
found a voice. It was a pleasant dinner if 1 remember 
rightly, and when it was over, Leeper and I ascended to 
put the final touches to Lord Curzon's suite. A large 
drawing-room on the first floor gazing from its three 
high windows upon the lake: on the left a dining-room, 
on the right a bedroom with baths beyond. The draw- 
ing-room was sprinkled with little white arm-chairs and 
tables looking very occasional: there were palms and 
chrysanthemums in a large brass jardiniere: there was a 
little bean-shaped bureau, and on the walls some coloured 
prints of ladies in green riding-habits descending the 
steps of Chambord, Chenonceaux and Blois. We re- 
moved these pictures and secured a larger writing-table. 
We sent for more flowers, and arranged some newspa- 
pers and brandy and soda upon a side table. In the bed- 
room next door Arketall was unpacking several trunks: 
I looked in on him: he was not inclined for conversa- 
tion, but hiccoughed gendy to himself as he swayed, 
now over the Marquis' black suits and now over his grey. 
It was by then 11.30: a telephone message came in from 
Vevey to say that Lord Curzon should reach Lausanne 
about midnight: we descended to the hall to await his 

arrival. 

8 

At 12.10 there was a stir at the front door and the man- 
agers dashed to the entrance. They returned in triumph, 
escorting a small brown gendeman in a brown suit and 
very white shirt-cuffs. He carried a brown bowler in 
his left hand and his right was thrust into his waistcoat. 
The iris of his eyes was entirely surrounded by white, a 
phenomenon which I had hitherto observed only in the 
photographs of distinguished mesmerists. He was fol- 
lowed by three or four other gendemen and two boy- 
scouts in black shirts. An electric tremor ran through 
the assembled journalists. "Mussolini," they whispered 
in amazement. I turned to Allen Leeper. "Really," I 
remarked, "that was very odd indeed." "It was," he 
answered. 

Ten minutes later the glass doors again gyrated and 
Lord Curzon, magnificent and smiling, stood upon the 
threshold. Slowly and benignly he bowed to the man- 
agers: to the journalists he made a friendly gesture at 
once welcoming and dismissive: he proceeded to the 
lift. Seizing the green foot-rest from Sir William Tyr- 
rell, I hurried through the crowd towards the staircase: 
"Tiens," exclaimed a French journalist, indicating the 
foot-rest, "le trone de Bagdad." I pushed past him and 
arrived on the first floor just as Lord Curzon was leav- 
ing the lift. He paused at the doorway of his apartment 
and surveyed it. "How ghasdy!" he sighed. He walked 
towards the window, pulled aside the yellow cretonne 



92 



BIOGRAPHY 



curtain, and gazed across to the lights of Evian. "How 
positively ghastly," he repeated. We helped hirn out of 
his large Lovat mixture greatcoat; we propped the 
ebony cane against the white wall: we pulled up the 
least diminutive of the sixteen armchairs, and we placed 
the foot-rest in position. He sank back, sipped at a 
brandy-and-soda, sighed deeply, and then embarked on 
a narrative of the Vevey conference. 

Ah, those Curzonian dissertations! No small thing 
has passed from my life now they are silenced. As if some 
stately procession proceeding orderly through Arcs de 
Triomphe along a straight wide avenue: outriders, es- 
corts, bands; the perfection of accoutrements, the pre- 
cise marshalling of detail, the sense of conscious con- 
tinuity, the sense of absolute control. The voice rising 
at moments in almost histrionic scorn, or dropping at 
moments into a hush of sudden emotion; and then a 
flash of March sunshine, a sudden dart of eighteenth- 
century humour, a pause while his wide shoulders 
rose and fell in rich amusement. And all this under 
a cloud of exhaustion, under a cloud of persistent 
pain. 

The glamour of this particular discourse was some- 
what dimmed for me by anxiety on behalf of Arketall. 
The door into the bedroom was open, and there came 
from it the sound of cupboards opening and shutting, 
the sound at intervals of a hiccough inadequately sup- 
pressed. "We had by then," Lord Curzon was saying, 
"reached the last point of the six which I have grouped 
under category A. Mussolini had as yet not fully grasped 
my intention; with the assistance of that dilapidated 
marmoset who acts as his mentor I regained my point of 
departure: the status of pertinenza, I explained . . ." 

"'Ic" came loudly from the adjoining room. Lord 
Curzon paused. My eyes met those of Allen Leeper and 
I motioned to him to close the door. 

"... the status of pertinenza, I explained, was in no 
way identical with what we regard as domicile. Poin- 
care, who on all such points, is exasperatingly punc- 
tilious, insisted on interrupting. He maintained . . ." 

" 'Ic," said Arketall from the next room. Leeper had 
by then reached the doorway and closed it abruptly. 
"What was that?" said Lord Curzon, turning a petu- 
lant eye in my direction. "It is your servant, sir, unpack- 
ing some clothes." 

"He maintained that the droit d'etablissement . . ." 
The procession had re-formed and continued its stately 
progress: it continued until 2 a. m.: the Marquis then 
dismissed us: he said he had letters to write as well as 
a report for the Cabinet; he had by then to our certain 
knowledge been working without interruption for nine- 
teen hours; and yet in the morning there was a report 
of eight pages for the Cabinet, and on the table in the 
passage twenty-two letters addressed and stamped — or, 
as he himself would have said, "stamped and directed." 



9 

Next morning there was to be a meeting to continue 
the conversations begun at Vevey. We arranged a large 
table in Lord Curzon's room and placed paper and 
pencils at intervals. The Marquis sat at bis desk writ- 
ing rapidly. Punctually at eleven both doors were flung 
open by Arketall. "Excellence Poyncarry," he bawled, 
"and General Wiggand." Lord Curzon rose genially 
to meet them, and conducted them to the table. They 
sat down and waited for M. Mussolini. General Wey- 
gand began drawing little squares and triangles on the 
sheet before him. M. Poincare rose and walked up and 
down the room in obvious impatience flicking his pince- 
nez against his thumb-nail. From time to time he would 
pause at one of the windows, looking at the grey fog 
which crept among the conifers. Lord Curzon kept on 
sending me with messages to the Ducc urging him to 
come. I did not execute these missions, knowing them 
to be of no avail, but I had several pleasant chats in the 
passage with Mario Pansa, who was acting as M. Musso- 
lini's personal secretary. From time to time I would 
return to Lord Curzon's room and assure them all that 
M. Mussolini was on his way. I would then resume my 
talks with Mario, whose gay Harrovian chatter relieved 
a situation which but for him I might have found a trifle 
tense. When, at 11.35, M. Mussolini actually did come, 
he came very quickly. Pushing Arketall aside, His Ex- 
cellency shot into the room like a brown thunderbolt, 
stopped short, clicked his heels, bowed and exclaimed, 
"Je vous salue, Messieurs." They then sat down at the 
table, and we sat behind. The maps were spread in con- 
venient places; the interpreter sharpened his pencil. The 
Vevey conversations were resumed. 

That evening M. Poincare' returned to Paris, and M. 
Mussolini to Rome: Lord Curzon was left preeminent 
over a Conference consisting mostly of Ambassadors. 
There was M. Barrere and M. Bompard for France: and 
for Italy the aged Marchese Garroni: Ismet Pasha, deaf 
and boyish, coped with a large and resentful Turkish 
delegation: M. Venizelos, troubled but conciliatory, 
spoke for Greece: at moments, even, the mezzo-soprano 
of M. Tchicherine would quaver into our discussion. 
And as the days passed, Arketall, to my despair, entered 
visibly on a decline. 

10 

We found it difficult to induce Lord Curzon to treat 
the problem seriously. On the second morning Arketall, 
in helping his master on with his socks, had slipped and 
fallen. "Arketall," Lord Curzon had remonstrated, "you 
are either very ill or very drunk." "Both, m' Lord," 
Arketall had answered. Lord Curzon was so pleased 
with this response that his affection for Arketall became 
unassailable. We grew seriously uneasy. I found him 



ARKETALL 



93 



one morning standing by the side-table in the dining- 
room pouring liqueur-brandy into a claret glass. He 
winked slowly at me and placed a shaky forefinger be- 
side his nose. I was incensed at this gesture of confed- 
eracy : I told Bill Bentinck that the Marquis must again 
be warned. But unfortunately that morning Marchese 
Garroni had, in Lord Curzon's presence, mistaken 
Arketall for Sir Roger Keyes, had seized both his hands 
and had assured him in a torrent of Genoese French how 
great a debt, how unforgettable a debt, Italy owed to 
the noble and generous British Navy. Lord Curzon was 
so delighted by this incident that our warnings fell on 
even deafer ears. A catastrophe was imminent, and it 



came. 



The Hotel Beau Rivagc at Ouchy consists of two 
wings joined together by a large suite of ball-rooms and 
dining-rooms. In the evening the natives of Lausanne 
and the visitors undergoing either education or treat- 
ment would gather in the foyer to listen to the band, to 
watch the dancing, and to observe the diplomatists and 
journalists passing backwards and forwards on hurried 
and mysterious errands. Saturday was the gala night, 
and on Saturdays I would generally slip down after 
eleven and sit there admiring the couples jerking to- 
gether in the ball-room. There was an American woman 
of great distinction, who wore a stomacher of diamonds : 
there was a greedy-looking Cuban woman in a wheeled 
basket chair: there was Prince Nicholas of Russia, who 
was staying at a neighbouring pension and who danced 
with all the young ladies. It was a pleasant sight, and 
on the second Saturday I induced Lord Curzon to come 
and watch it. He stood there by the entrance to the 
ball-room leaning on his ebony cane, and smiling genially 
at the diverse couples who jigged and twirled before 
him. I observed the American lady syncopating towards 
us in the arms of a distinguished-looking gentleman in 
evening dress. I called Lord Curzon's attention to her, 
warning him to observe her stomacher as she passed. 
He glanced towards her and grasped my arm. "Surely," 
he said, "surely that can't be Arketall?" It was Arketall, 
and he recognised us at the same moment. In trying to 
wince away from the cold inquiry in Lord Curzon's 
eye, he slipped between the legs of the American lady 
and brought her down upon him. Lord Curzon had 
turned abruptly and was walking back across the foyer. 
I ran after him. "I think," he said, "that Arketall had 
better leave. He had better leave early to-morrow." 

I returned to the ball-room and accompanied Arketall 
to his room. He was somewhat dazed by his experience 
and he followed me meekly. I told him that there was a 
train at 7.30 next morning and he had better leave by it. 
He plunged under the bed and began pulling out his 
portmanteau: it refused to move and he tugged at it 
viciously: three empty bottles of Benedictine and a botde 
of Grand Marnier shot out into the room, followed by 



the trunk. Arketall sat on the floor, nodding at the 
empty botdes. "You must pull yourself together," I 
said. "You should at least assist us to minimise the scan- 
dal which your conduct has caused." "Never," he hic- 
coughed vaguely, "not no more." 

11 

I did not witness his departure. I merely heard next 
morning that he had gone. While having breakfast I 
received a message that Lord Curzon wished to see me 
urgently. I found him in his dressing-gown. He was 
half angry and half amused. "That indefinite Arketall," 
he said, "has stolen my trousers." "Not all your trou- 
sers?" I asked in some confusion. "Yes, all of them, 
except these." Lord Curzon was wearing his evening 
trousers of the night before. I glanced at my watch. 
There was still an hour before the meeting of the Con- 
ference, but by this time Arketall must have reached 
Pontarlier. I ran for Bill Bentinck and told him to 
telephone to the frontier police: "Don't say trousers," I 
shouted after him, "say 'quelques eftets.' ' I then se- 
cured the manager and proceeded to Arketall's room, 
We looked in, over and under the cupboard and into 
the chest of drawers : I peered under the bed ; there were 
three more botdes of Benedictine against the wall, but 
otherwise the space was empty. The manager and I 
looked at each other in despair. "C'est inenarrable," he 
muttered, "completement in'e-narrable." I sat down 
wearily on the bed to consider our position. I jumped 
up again immediately and pulled back the bed-spread. 
Upon the crumpled bed-clothes lay a trouser-press burst- 
ing with Lord Curzon's trousers. I sent the manager to 
stop Bill Bentinck telephoning; myself I clasped the 
trouser-press and returned in triumph to Lord Curzon. 
He was seated at his writing-table, his pencil dashing 
across sheets of foolscap, his lips moving. I stood there 
waiting. When he had finished four or five sheets and 
cast them from him he turned to me indignandy. His 
face relaxed into a smile and then extended into that 
irresistible laugh of his, that endearing boyish sense of 
farce. "Thank you," he said, "I shall now complete my 
toilet. There will only be Leeper to dinner tonight, and 
as a reward I shall give you my celebrated imitation of 
Tennyson reciting Tears, idle tears,' " 

He kept his promise. It was an amazing performance. 
We expressed our admiration and our gratitude. A sud- 
den wave of depression descended upon Lord Curzon. 
"Ah, yes," he sighed, "ah yes. I know. All that was 
years ago, when I was young and could still laugh at my 
elders. But all young men are remorseless. You will go 
upstairs this evening and chaff me behind my back. You 
will give imitations in after life of the old buffer imitat- 
ing Tennyson. And so it continues." He sighed deeply. 
And then he grinned. "I am sorry," he said, "for Arke- 
tall. I liked that man." 



DRAMA 



c 



ugene L 



Eugene O'Neill (5888- ) was born in New York, and for the first 
seven years of his life toured the country with his actor father. In 1906 he 
entered Princeton but was expelled at the end of his freshman year. Then 
began a life of adventure which included gold prospecting in Honduras, 
sailing the Adantic, reporting, and some acting. In 1913 ill-health forced 
O'Neill into a sanitarium, where he had leisure time to think over his 
experiences. Those thoughts and his reading of Strindberg decided him to 
be a dramatist. He studied a year with George Pierce Baker at the Harvard 
Workshop and then, with the encouragement of the Provincetown Players, 
began to produce his plays. His first fulHengdi play, Beyond the Horizon 
(1920), won the Pulitzer Prize, which he has won twice since, with Anna 
Christie (1921) and Strange Interlude (1928). His plays have been pro- 
duced in Europe and even in Japan, and his reputation is probably greater 
internationally than that of any other American dramatist. O'Neill is, in 
one sense, the despair of the critics, for they have found it impossible to 
anticipate on the basis of his completed work what he will do in forth- 
coming plays. He has written naturalism (Anna Christie), symbolism 
(The Great God Brown), satire and humor (Marco Millions), and ro- 
mance (The Fountain) ; he has experimented with almost every dramatic 
technique of the theatre which he has been able either to borrow or invent, 
from the Greek trilogy (Mourning Becomes Electro) and the device of 
the mask (The Great God Brown) to the dual dialogue of Strange Inter- 
lude. Nevertheless he has constant qualities. His genius is suited to 
tragedy rather than to comedy; he is uncompromising in choice of subject 
and expression; his dramatic characterization is finest when he is portray- 
ing people from the lower strata of society; and most characteristic of all, 
his best plays are inevitably marked by an intense emotional power and 
the effects of a brooding imagination which suffuses the meanest subjects 
with a poetic beauty. In the Zone (1917) is one of his sixteen one-act plays. 



|Cene — The Seamen's forecastle. On the right above 
the bun\s three or four portholes capered with 
blac\ cloth can be seen. On the floor near the door- 
way is a pail with a tin dipper. A lantern in the middle 
of the floor, turned down very low, throws a dim light 
around the place. Five men, Scotty, Ivan, Swanson, 
Smitty and Paul, are in their bun\s apparently asleep. 
It is about ten minutes of twelve on a night in the fall 
of the year 191$. 

Smitty turns slowly in his hun\ and, leaning out over 
the side, loo\s from one to another of the men as if to 
assure himself that they are asleep. Then he climbs care- 
fully out of his bun\ and stands in the middle of the fore- 
castle fully dressed, but in his stocking feet, glancing 
around him suspiciously. Reassured, he leans down and 
cautiously pulls out a suit-case from under the bun\ in 
front of him. 



By permkskwa oi t$te publishers, Random Haw?e» Inc., New York. 



Just at this moment Davis appears in the doorway, 
carrying a large steaming coffee-pot in his hand. He stops 
short when he sees Smitty. A puzzled expression comes 
aver his face, followed by one of suspicion, and he re- 
treats farther bac\ in the alleyway, where he can watch 
Smitty without being seen. 

All the latter' s movements indicate a fear of discovery. 
He takes out a small bunch of \eys and unlocks the suit- 
case, making a slight noise as he does so. Scotty wa\es 
up and peers at him over the side of the bun\. Smitty 
opens the suit-case and ta\es out a small blacky tin box, 
careftdly places this under his mattress, shoves the suit- 
case bac\ under the bun\, climbs into his bun\ again, 
closes his eyes and begins to snore loudly. 

Davis enters the forecastle, places the coffee-pot beside 
the lantern, and goes from one to the other of the sleepers 
and shades them vigorously, saying to each in a low 
voice: Near eight bells, Scotty. Arise and shine, Swan- 
son. Eight bells, Ivan. SMrrrY yau f ns loudly urith a 



07 



98 



DRAMA 



great pretense of having been dead asleep. All of the rest 
of the men tumble out of their bunhj, stretching and 
gaping, and commence to pull on their shoes. They go 
one by one to the cupboard near the open door, ta\e out 
their cups and spoons, and sit doom together on the 
benches. The coffee-pot is passed around. They munch 
their biscuits and sip their coffee in dull silence. 

Daves [suddenly jumping to his feet — nervously]. 
Where's that air comin' from ? [All are startled and loo\ 
at him wonderingly.] 

Swanson [a squat, surly-faced Swede — grumpily]. 
What air ? I don't feel nothing. 

Davis [excitedly], I kin feel it — a draft. [He stands on 
the bench and loo\s around — suddenly exploding.] 
Damn fool square-head! [He leans over the upper bun\ 
in which Paul is sleeping and slams the porthole shut.] 
I got a good notion to report him. Serve him bloody well 
right! What's the use o' blindin' the ports when that 
thick-head goes an' leaves 'em open? 

Swanson [yawning— too sleepy to be aroused by any- 
thing — carelessly.] Dey don't see what little light go out 
yust one port. 

Scotty [protestingly]. Dinna be a loon, Swanson! 
D'ye no ken the dangerr o' showin' a licht wi' a pack o' 
submarrines lyin' aboot ? 

Ivan [shading his shaggy ox-li\e head in an emphatic 
affirmative]. Dot's right, Scotty. I don' li-ike blow up, 
no, by devil 1 

Smitty [nis manner slightly contemptuous], I don't 
think there's much danger of meeting any of their sub- 
marines, not until we get into the War Zone, at any rate. 

Davis [he and Scotty loo\ at Smitty suspiciously — 
harshly.] You don't, eh? [He lowers his voice and 
speaks slowly.] Weil, we're in the war zone right: this 
mink if you wants to know. [The effect of this speech 
is instantaneous. All sit bolt upright on their benches 
and stare at Davis.] 

Smitty. How do you know, Davis? 

Davis [angrily]. 'Cos Drisc heard the First send the 
Third below to wake the skipper when we fetched the 
zone — bout five beils, it was. Now whata y' got to say? 

Smitty [conciliatingly]. Oh, I wasn't doubting your 
word, Davis; but you know they're not pasting up 
bulletins to let the crew know when the zone is reached 
— especially on ammunition ships like this. 

Ivan [decidedly]. I don't li-ike dees voyage. Next 
time I ship on windjammer Boston to River Plate, load 
with wood only so it float, by golly! 

Swanson [fretfully]. I hope British navy blow 'em to 
hell, those submarines, py damn! 

Scotty [looking at Smitty, who is staring at the door- 
way in a dream, his chin on his hands. Meaningly]. It 
is no the submarrines only we've to fear, I'm thinkin'. 

Davis [assenting eagerly]. That's no lie, Scotty. 



Swanson. You mean the mines? 

Scotty. I wasna thinkin' o' mines eitherr. 

Davis. There's many a good ship blown up and at the 
bottom of the sea, what never hit no mine or torpedo. 

Scotty. Did ye neverr read of the Gerrman spies and 
the dirrty work they're doin' all the war ? [He and Davis 
both glance at SmittY;, who is deep in thought and is not 
listening to the conversation.] 

Davis. An' the clever way they fool you! 

Swanson. Sure; I read it in paper many time. 

Davis. Well — [He is about to spea\ but hesitates and 
finishes lamely] you got to watch out, that's all I says. 

Ivan [drinking the last of his coffee and slamming his 
fist on the bench explosively]. I tell you dis rotten coffee 
give me belly-ache, yes! [They all loo\ at him in amused 
disgust.] 

Scotty [sardonically]. Dinna fret about it, Ivan. If we 
blow up yell no be mindin' the pain in your middle. 
[Jack enters. He is a young American with a tough, 
good-natured face. He wears dungarees and a heavy 
jersey.] 

Jack. Eight bells, fellers. 

Ivan [stupidly]. I don' hear bell ring. 

Jack. No, and yuh won't hear any ring, yuh boob — 
[lowering his voice unconsciously] now we're in the war 
zone. 

Swanson [anxiously]. Is the boats all ready? 

Jack. Sure; we can lower 'em in a second. 

Davis. A lot o' good the boats'll do, with us loaded 
deep with all kinds o' dynamite and stuff the like o' that! 
If a torpedo hits this hooker we'll all be in hell b'fore you 
could wink your eye. 

Jack. They ain't goin' to hit us, see? That's my dope. 
Whose wheel is it? 

Ivan [sullenly]. My wheel. [He lumbers out.] 

Jack. And whose lookout? 

Swanson. Mine, I think. [He follows Ivan.] 

Jack [scornfully], A hell of a lot of use keepin' a look- 
out! We couldn't run away or fight if we wanted to. 
[To Scotty and Smitty.] Better look up the bo'sun or 
the Fourth, you two, and let 'em see you're awake. 
[Scotty goes to the doorway and turns to wait for 
Smitty, who is still in the same position, head on hands, 
seemingly unconscious of everything. Jack slaps him 
roughly on the shoulder and he comes to with a start.] 
Aft and report, Duke! What's the matter with yuh — in 
a dope dream? [Smitty goes out after Scotty without 
answering. Jack lookj after him with a frown.] He's a 
queer guy. I can't figger him out. 

Davis. Nor no one else. [Lowering his voice — mean- 
ingly.] An' he's liable to turn out queerer than any of 
us think if we ain't careful. 

Jack [suspiciously]. What d'yuh mean? [They are 
interrupted by the entrance of Driscoll and Cocky.] 

Cocky [protestingly]. Blimey if I don't fink 111 put in 



IN THE ZONE 



9) 



this 'ere watch ahtside on deck. [He and Driscoll go 
over and get their cups.] I down't want to be caught in 
this 'oie it they 'its us. [He pours out coffee.] 

Driscoll [pouring his]. Divil a bit ut wud matther 
where ye arre. Ye'd be biown to smithereens b'fore ye 
cud say your name. [He sits down, overturning as he 
does so the untouched cup of coffee which Smitty had 
forgotten and left on the bench. They all jump nerv- 
ously as the tin cup hits the floor with a bang. Driscoll 
flies into an unreasoning rage.] Who's die dirty scut left 
this cup where a man 'ud sit on ut? 

Davis. It's Smitty's. 

Driscoll [\ickjng the cup across the forecastle]. Does 
he think he's too much av a bloody gendeman to put his 
own away loike the rist av us? If he does I'm the byeli 
beat that noshun out av his head. 

Cocky. Be the airs 'e puts on you'd think 8 e was the 
Prince of Wales. Wot's 'e doin' on a ship, I arsks yer ? 
'E ain't now good as a sailor, is s e? — dawdlin' abaht on 
deck like a chicken wiv 'is 'ead cut orf 1 

Jack [good-naturedly]. Aw, the Duke's all right. 
S'posin' he did ferget his cup — what's the dif ? [He ptc\s 
up the cup and puts it away — with a grin.] This war 
zone stuffs got yer goat, Drisc — and yours too, Cocky — 
and I ain't cheerin' much fur it myself, neither. 

Cocky [with a sigh]. Blimey, it ain't no bleedin' joke, 
yer first trip, to know as there's a ship full of shells ii'bie 
to go orf in under your bloomin' feet, as you might say, 
if we gets 'it be a torpedo or mine. [ With sudden sav- 
agery.] Calls they selves 'umaa bein's, tool Blarsted 'Uns! 

Driscoll [gloomily], 'Tis me last trip in the bloody 
zone, God help me. The divil take their twenty-foive per- 
cent bonus — and be drowned like a rat in a trap in the 
bargain, maybe. 

Davis. Wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't carryin' am- 
munition. Them's the kind the subs is layin' for. 

Driscoll [irritably]. Fur the love av hivin, don't be 
talkin' about ut. I'm sick wid thinkin' and jumpin' at 
iviry bit av a noise. [There is a pause during which they 
all stare gloomily at the floor.] 

Jack. Hey, Davis, what was you savin' about Smitty 
when they come in ? 

Davis [with a great air of mystery]. I'll tell you in a 
minit. I want to wait an' see if he's comin' back. [Im- 
pressively.] You won't be cailin' him all right when you 
hears what I seen with my own eyes. [He adds with an 
air of satisfaction.] An' you won't be feehn' no safer, 
neither. [They all loo\ at him with puzzled glances full 
of a vague apprehension.] 

Driscoll. God blarst utl [He fills his pipe and lights 
it. The others, with an air of remembering something 
they had forgotten, do the same. Sootty enters.] 

Scotty [in awed tones], JMon, but it's clear outside the 
nicht! Like day. 

Davis [in low tones]. Where's Smitty, Scotty? 



Scotty. Out on the hatch starin' at the moon like a 
mon half-daft. 

Davis. Kin you see him from the doorway ? 

Scotty [goes to doorway and carefully pee({s out]. 
Aye; he's sail there. 

Davis. Keep your eyes on him for a moment. I've got 
something I wants to tell the boys and I don't want him 
walkin' in in the middle of it. Give a shout if he starts 
this way. 

Scotty [with suppressed excitement]. Aye, I'll watch 
him. And I've somethin' myself to tell aboot his Lord- 
ship. 

Driscoll [impatiently]. Out wid ut! You're talkin' 
more than a pair av auld women wud be standin' in the 
road, and gittin' no further along. 

Davis. Listen! You 'member when I went to git the 
coffee, Jack? 

Jack. Sure, I do. 

Davis. Well, I brings it down here same as usual and 
got as far as the door there when I. sees him. 

Jack. Smitty? 

Davis. Yes, Smitty 1 He was standin* in the middle of 
the fo'c'sde there [pointing] lookin' around sneakin'- 
like at Ivan and Swanson and the rest 's if he wants to 
make certain they're asleep,, [He pauses significantly, 
looking from one to the other of his listeners. Scotty is 
nervously dividing his attention between Smitty on the 
hatch outside and Davis 1 story, fairly bursting to brea\ 
in with his own revelations.] 

Jack [impatiently]. What of it? 

Davis. Listen! He was standin' right there — [point- 
m g again] in his stockin' feet — no shoes on, mind, so 
he wouldn't make no noise! 

Jack [spitting disgustedly]. Aw! 

Davis [not heeding the interruption], I seen right 
away somethin' on the queer was up so I slides back into 
the alleyway where I kin see him but he can't see me. 
After he makes sure they're all asleep he goes in under 
the bunks there — bein' careful not to raise a noise, mind! 
— an' takes out his bag there. [By this time every one, 
Jack included, is listening breathlessly to his story,] Then 
he fishes in his pocket an' takes out a bunch o' keys an' 
kneels down beside the bag an' opens it. 

Scotty [unable to keep silent longer], Mon, didn't I 
see him do that same thing wi' these two eyes. Twas just 
that moment I woke and spied him. 

Davis [surprised, and a Ut nettled to have to share 
his story with any one]. Oh, you seen him, too, eh? 
[To the others.] Then Scotty kin tell you if I'm lyin' or 
not. 

Driscoll. An' what did he do whin he'd the bag 
opened? 

Davis. He bends down and reaches out his hand sort 
o' scared-like, like it was somethin' dang'rous he was 
after, an' feels round in under his duds — hidden in 



100 



DRAMA 



under his duds an' wrapped up in 'em, it was — an' he 
brings out a black iron box! 

Cocky [looking around him with a frightened glance] . 
Gawd blimey! [7 he others likewise betray their uneasi- 
ness, shuffling their feet nervously.] 

Davis, Ain't that right, Scotty? 

Scotty. Right as rain, I'm tellin' ye'! 

Davis [to the others with an air of satisfaction]. There 
you are! [Lowering his voice.] An' then what d'you 
suppose he did? Sneaks to his bunk an" slips the black 
box in under his mattress — in under his mattress, 
mind! 

Jack, And it's there now? 

Davis. Course it is! [Jack starts toward Smitty's bun\. 
Driscoll grabs him by the arm.] 

Driscoll. Don't be touchin' ut, Jack! 

Jack. Yuh needn't worry. I ain't goin' to touch it. 
[He pulls up Smitty's mattress and loo\s down. The 
others stare at him, holding their breaths, lie turns to 
them, trying hard to assume a careless tone.] It's there, 
aw right. 

Cocky [miserably upset]. I'm gointer 'op it aht on 
deck. [He gets up but Driscoll pulls him down again. 
Cocky protests .] It fair guvs me the trembles sittin' still 
in 'ere. 

Driscoll [scornfully]. Are ye frightened, ye toad? 
"Tis a hell av a thing fur grown men to be shiverin' loilec 
childer at a bit av a black box. [Scratching his head in 
uneasy perplexity.] Still, ut's damn queer, the looks av 
ut. 

Davis [sarcastically}. A bit of a black box, eh? How 
big d'you think them — [he hesitates] — things has to be — 
big as this fo'c'sde? 

Jack [in a voice meant to be reassuring]. Aw, hell! 
I'll bet it ain't nothin' but some coin he's saved he's got 
locked up in there. 

Davis [scornfully]. That's likely, ain't it? Then why 
does he act so s'picious ? He's been on ship near two year, 
ain't he? He knows damn well there ain't no thiefs in 
this fo'c'stle, don't he? An' you know 's well 's I do he 
didn't have no money when he came on board an' he 
ain't saved none since. Don't you? [Jack doesn't an- 
swer.] Listen! D'you know what he done after he put 
that thing in under his mattress? — an' Scotty'll tell you 
if I ain't speakin' truth. He looks round to see if any 
one's woke up 

Scotty. I clapped my eyes shut when he turned round. 

Davis. An' then he crawls into his bunk an' shuts 
his eyes, an' starts in snorin', pretendin' he was asleep; 
mind! 

Scotty. Aye, I could hear him. 

Davis. An' when I goes to call him I don't even shake 
him. I just says, "Eight bells, Smitty," in a'most a whis- 
per-like, an' up he gets yawnin' an' stretchin' fit to kill 
hissdf 's if he'd been dead asleep. 



Cocky. Gawd blimey! 

Driscoll [shaking his head], Ut looks bad, divil a 
doubt av ut. 

Davis [excitedly]. An' now I come to think of it, 
there's the porthole. How'd it come to git open, tell me 
that? I know'd well Paul never opened it. Ain't he 
grumblin' about bein' cold all the time? 

Scotty. The mon that opened it meant no good to 
this ship, whoever he was. 

Jack [sourly]. What porthole? What're yuh talkin' 
about? 

Davis [pointing over Paul's bunkf\. There. It was 
open when I come in. I felt the cold air on my neck an' 
shut it. It would'a been dear's a lighthouse to any sub 
that was watchin' — an' we s'posed to have all the ports 
blinded! Who'd do a dirty trick like that? It wasn't 
none of us, nor Scotty here, nor Swanson, nor Ivan. Who 
would it be, then? 

Cocky [angrily]. Must'a been 'is bloody Lordship. 

Davis. For all's we know he might'a been signallin' 
with it. They does it like that by winkin' a light. Ain't 
you read how they gets caught doin' it in London an' on 
the coast? 

Cocky [firmly convinced now]. An' wots 'e doin' aht 
alone on the 'atch — keepin' 'isself clear of us like 'e was 
afraid? 

Driscoll. Kape your eye on him, Scotty. 

Scotty. There's no a move oot o' him. 

Jack [in irritated perplexity]. But, hell, ain't he an 
Englishman ? What'd he wanta 

Davis. English? How d' we know he's English? Cos 
he talks it? That ain't no proof. Ain't you read in the 
papers how all them German spies they been catchin' in 
England has been livin' there for ten, often as not twenty 
years, an' talks English as good's any one? An' look 
here, ain't you noticed he don't talk natural ? He talks it 
too damn good, that's what I mean. He don't talk exactly 
like a toff, does he, Cocky ? 

Cocky. Not like any toff as I ever met up wiv. 

Davis. No; an' he don't talk it like us, that's certain. 
An' he don't look English. An' what d'we know about 
him when you come to look at it? Nothin'! He ain't 
ever said where he comes from or why. All we knows is 
he ships on here in London 'bout a year b'fore the war 
starts, as an A. B. — stole his papers most likly — when he 
don't know how to box the compass, hardly. Ain't that 
queer in itself ? An' was he ever open with us like a good 
shipmate? No; he's always had that sly air about him 
's if he was hidin' somethin'. 

Driscoll [slapping his thigh — angrily]. Divil take me 
if I don't think ye have the truth av ut, Davis. 

Cocky [scornfully]. Lettin' on be 'is silly airs, and all, 
'e's the son of a blarsted earl or somethink! 

Davis. An' the name he calls hisself — Smith! I'd risk 



IN THE ZONE 



iOi 



a quid of my next pay day that his real name is Schmidt, 
if the truth was known. 

Jack [evidently fighting against his own conviction]. 
Aw, say, you guys give me a pain! What'd they want 
puttin' a spy on this old tub for ? 

Davis [shading his head sagely]. They're deep ones. 
an' there's a lot o' things a sailor'll see in the ports he puts 
in ought to be useful to 'em. An' if he kin signal to 'em 
an' they blows us up it's one ship less, ain't it ? [Lowering 
his voice and indicating Smitty's bunf{i] Or if he blows 
us up hisself . 

Scotty [in alarmed tones]. Hush, mon! Here he 
comes! [Scotty hurries over to a bench and sits down. 
A thic\ silence settles over the forecastle. The men loo\ 
from one to another with uneasy glances. Smitty enters 
and sits down beside his bun\. He is seemingly un- 
aware of the dar\ glances of suspicion directed at him 
from all sides. He slides his hand bac\ stealthily over his 
mattress and his fingers move, evidently feeling to make 
sure the box is still there. The others follow this move- 
ment carefully with quic\ loo\s out of the corners of 
their eyes. Their attitudes grow tense as if they were 
about to spring at him. Satisfied the box is safe, Smitty 
draws his hand away slowly and utters a sigh of relief.] 

Smitty [in a casual tone which to them sounds sin- 
ister]. It's a good light night for the subs if there's any 
about. [For a moment he sits staring in front of him. 
Finally he seems to sense the hostile atmosphere of the 
forecastle and looks from one to the other of the men in 
surprise. All of them avoid his eyes. He sighs with a 
puzzled expression and gets up and wal\s out of the 
doorway. There is silence for a moment after his de- 
parture and then a storm of excited td\ breads loose.] 

Davis. Did you see him feelin' if it was there? 

Cocky. 'E ain't arf a sly one wiv 'is talk of submarines, 
Gawd blind 'im! 

Scotty. Did ye see the sneakin' looks he gave us? 

Driscoll. If ivir I saw black shame on a man's face 
'twas on his whin he sat there! 

Jack [thoroughly convinced at last]. He looked bad 
to me. He's a crook, aw right. 

Davis [excitedly]. What '11 we do? We gotter do some- 
thin' quick or- [He is interrupted by the sound of 

something hitting against the port side of the forecastle 
with a dull, heavy thud. The men start to their feet in 
wild-eyed terror and turn as if they were going to rush 
for the dec\. They stand that way for a strained moment, 
scarcely breathing and listening intently.] 

Jack [with a sickly smile]. Hell! It's on'y a piece of 
driftwood or a floatin' log. [He sits down again.] 

Davis [sarcastically]. Or a mine that didn't go o&— 
that time — or a piece o' wreckage from some ship they've 
sent to Davy Jones. 

Cocky [mopping his brow with a trembling hand]. 
Blimey! [He sin^s bac\ weakly on a bench.] 



Driscoll [furiously]. God blarst ut! No roan at all 
cud be puttin' up wid the ioike av this— an' I'm not wan 
to be fearin' anything or any man in the worrld'll stand 
up to me face to face; but this divil's trickery in the 

darrk [He starts for Smitty's bunk^.] I'll throw ut 

out wan av the portholes an' be done wid ut. [He reaches 
toward the mattress.] 

Scotty [grabbing his arm — wildly], Arre ye daft 
mou ? 

Davis. Don't monkey with it, Drisc. I knows what to 
do. Bring the bucket o' water here, Jack, will you? 
[Jack, gets it and brings it over to Davis.] An' you, 
Scotty, see if he's back on the hatch. 

Scotty [cautiously peering out]. Aye, he's sittin' there 
the noo. 

Davis. Sing out if he makes a move. Lift up the mat- 
tress, Drisc — careful now! [Driscoll does so with in- 
finite caution.] Take it out, Jack — careful- — don't shake 
it now, for Christ's sake! Here— put it in the water — 
easy! There, that's fixed it! [They all sit down with great 
sighs of relief.] The water'll git in and spoil it. 

Driscoll [slapping Davis on the bacJ(\. Good wurrk 
for ye, Davis, ye scut! [He spits on his hands aggres- 
sively.] An' now what's to be done wid that black- 
hearted thraitorr 

Cocky [belligerently]. Guv 'im a shove in the marf 
and 'eave 'im over the side! 

Davis. An' serve him right! 

Jack. Aw, say, give him a chance. Yuh can't prove 
nothin' till yuh find out what's in there. 

Driscoll [heatedly]. Is ut more proof ye'd be needin' 
afther what we've seen an' heard ? Then listen to me — 
an' ut's Driscoll talkin'— if there's divilmint in that box 
an' we see plain 'twas his plan to murrdher his own ship- 
mates that have served him fair- [He raises his fist.] 

I'll choke his rotten hearrt out wid me own hands, an' 
over the side wid him, and one man missin' in the 
mornin'. 

Davis. An' no one the wiser. He's the balmy kind 
what commits suicide. 

Cocky. They 'angs spies ashore., 

Jack [resentfully]. If he's done what yuh think I'll 
croak him myself. Is that good enough for yuh? 

Driscoll [lookjng down at the box], How'il we be 
openin' this, I wonder ? 

Scotty [from the doorway — warningly]. He's standin 9 
up. 

Davis. We'll take his keys away from him when he 
comes in. Quick, Drisc! You an' Jack get beside the 
door and grab him. [They get on either side of the door. 
Davis snatches a small coil of rope from one of the upper 
bun\s.] This'Il do for me an' Scotty to tie him. 

Scotty. He's turrnin' this way — he's comin'! [He 
moves away from door.] 

Davis, Stand by to lend a hand, Cocky. 



102 



DRAMA 



Cocky. Righto. [As Smitty enters the forecastle he is 
seized roughly from both sides and his arms pinned be- 
hind him. At first he struggles fiercely, but seeing the 
uselessness of this, he finally stands calmly and allows 
Davis and Scotty to tie up his arms.] 

Smitty [when they have finished — with cold con- 
tempt]. If this is your idea of a joke I'll have to confess 
it's a bit too thick for me to enjoy. 

Cocky [angrily]. Shut yer marf, 'ear! 

Driscoll [roughly], Ye'll find ut's no joke, me bucko, 
b'fore we're done wid you. [To Scotty.] Kape your eye 
peeled, Scotty, and sing out if any one's comin'. [Scotty 
resumes his post at the door.] 

Smitty [with the same icy contempt]. If you'd be 
good enough to explain 

Driscoll [furiously]. Explain, is ut? "Tis you'll do 
the explainin' — an' damn quick, or we'll know the reason 
why. [To Jack and Davis.] Bring him here, now. [They 
push Smitty over to the bucket.] Look here, ye murr- 
dherin' swab. D'you see ut? [Smitty lool^s down with 
an expression of amazement which rapidly changes to 
one of anguish.] 

Davis [with a sneer]. Look at him! S'prised, ain't 
you? If you wants to try your dirty spyin' tricks on us 
you've gotter git up earlier in the mornin'. 

Cocky. Thorght yer weren't 'arf a fox, didn't yer ? 

Smitty [trying to restrain his growing rage]. What — 
what do you mean ? That's only — How dare — What are 
you doing with my private belongings? 

Cocky [sarcastically]. Ho yus! Private b'longingsl 

Driscoll [shouting]. What is ut, ye swine ? Will you 
tell us to our faces? What's in ut? 

Smitty [biting his lips — holding himself in chec\ 
with a great effort]. Nothing but That's my busi- 
ness. You'll please attend to your own. 

Driscoll. Oho, ut is, is ut? [Shading his fist in 
Smitty's face.] Talk aisy now if ye know what's best for 
you. Your business, indade! Then we'll be makin' ut 
ours, I'm thinkin'. [To Jack and Davis.] Take his keys 
away from him an' we'll see if there's one'li open ut, 
maybe. [They start in searching Smitty, who tries to 
resist and \ickj out at the bucket. Driscoll leaps for- 
ward and helps them push him away.] Try to kick ut 
over, wud ye ? Did ye see him then ? Tryin' to murrdher 
us all, the scut! Take that pail out av his way, Cocky. 
[Smitty struggles with all of his strength and keeps 
them busy for a few seconds. As Cocky grabs the pail 
Smitty makes a final effort and, lunging forward, \ic\s 
again at the bucket but only succeeds in hitting Cocky 
on the shin. Cocky immediately sets down the pail with a 
bang and, clutching his \nee in both hands, starts hop- 
ping around the forecastle, groaning and swearing.] 

Cocky. Ooow! Gawd strike me pink! Kicked me, 'e 
did! Bloody, bleedin', rotten Dutch ! og! [Approaching 
Smitty, who has given up the fight and is pushed bac\ 



against the wall near the doorway with Jack and Davis 
holding him on either side — wrathfully, at the top of his 
lungs.] Kick me, will yer? I'll show yer what for, ye 
bleedin' sneak! [He draws bac\ his fist. Driscoll pushes 
him to one side.] 

Driscoll. Shut your mouth! D'you want to wake 
the whole ship? [Cocky grumbles and retires to a bench, 
nursing his sore shin.] 

Jack [taking a small bunch of \eys from Smitty's 
poc\et]. Here yuh are, Drisc 

Driscoll [taking them]. We'll soon be knowin'. [He 
ta\es the pail and sits down, placing it on the floor be- 
tween his feet. Smitty again tries to brea\ loose but he 
is too tired and is easily held bac\ against the wall.] 

Smitty [breathing heavily and very pale]. Cowards! 

Jack [ with a growl] . Nix on the rough talk, see! That 
don't git yuh nothin'. 

Driscoll [looking at the loc\ on the box in the water 
and then scrutinizing the keys in his hand], This'll be 
ut, I'm thinkin'. [He selects one and gingerly reaches his 
hand in the water.] 

Smitty [his face grown livid — chokingly]. Don't you 
open that box, Driscoll. If you do, so help me God, I'll 
kill you if I have to hang for it. 

Driscoll [pausing — his hand in the water]. Whin I 
open this box I'll not be the wan to be kilt, me sonny bye! 
I'm no dirty spy. 

Smitty [his voice trembling with rage. His eyes are 
fixed on Driscoll's hand]. Spy? What are you talking 
about? I only put that box there so I could get it quick 
in case we were torpedoed. Are you all mad? Do you 
think I'm [Chokingly.] You stupid curs! You cow- 
ardly dolts! [Davis claps his hand over Smitty's mouth.] 

Davis. That'll be enough from you! [Driscoll ta\es 
the dripping box from the water and starts to fit in the 
key. Smitty springs forward furiously, almost escaping 
from their grasp, and drags them after him half-way 
across the forecastle.] 

Driscoll. Hold him, ye divils! [He puts the box bac\ 
in the water and jumps to their aid. Cocky hovers on 
the outskirts of the battle, mindful of the kjc\ he re- 
ceived.] 

Smitty [raging]. Cowards! Damn you! Rotten curs! 
[He is thrown to the floor and held there.] Cowards! 
Cowards! 

Driscoll. I'll shut your dirty mouth for you. [He 
goes to his bun \ and pulls out a big wad of waste and 
comes bac\ to Smitty.] 

Smitty. Cowards! Cowards! 

Driscoll [with no gentle hand slaps the waste over 
Smitty's mouth]. That'll teach you to be misnamin' a 
man, ye sneak. Have ye a handkerchief, Jack? [jack] 
hands him one and he ties it tightly around Smitty's 
head over the waste.] That'll fix your gab. Stand him 
up, now, and tie his feet, too, so he'll not be movin'. 



IN THE ZONE 



103 



[They do so and leave him with his bac\ against the 
wall near Scotty. Then they all sit down beside Dris- 
coll, who again lifts the box out of the water and sets 
it carefidly on his knees. He picks out the \ey, then hesi- 
tates, looking from one to the other uncertainly '.] We'd 
best be takin' this to the skipper, d'you think, maybe? 

Jack [irritably]. To hell with the Old Man. This is 
our game and we c'n play it without no help. 

Cocky. Now bleedin' horficers, I say»I 

Davis. They'd only be takin' all the credit and makin' 
heroes of theyselves. 

Driscoll [boldly]. Here goes, thin! [He slowly turns 
the key in the loc\. The others instinctively turn away. 
He carefully pushes the cover bac\ on its hinges and 
lookj at what he sees inside with an expression of 
puzzled astonishment. The others crowd up close. Even 
Scotty leaves his post to take a lookj] What is lit, 
Davis? 

Davis [mystified]. Looks funny, don't it? Somethin 1 
square tied up in a rubber bag. Maybe it's dynamite — 
or somethin' — you can't never tell. 

Jack. Aw, it ain't got no works so it ain't no bomb, 
I'll bet. 

Davis [dubiously]. They makes them all kinds, they 
do. 

Jack. Open it up, Drisc 

Davis. Careful now! [Driscoll takes a blac\ rubber 
bag resembling a large tobacco pouch from the box and 
unties the string which is wound tightly around the top. 
He opens it and takes out a small packet of letters also 
tied up with string. He turns these over in his hands 
and lookj at the others quesiioningly.] 

Jack [with a broad grin]. On'y letters! [Slapping 
Davis on the bac\.] Yuh're a hell of a Sherlock Holmes, 
ain't yuh? Letters from his best girl too, I'll bet. Let's 
turn the Duke loose, what d'yuh say? [He starts to get 
up.] 

Davis [fixing him with a withering lookj. Don't be 
so damn smart, Jack. Letters, you says, 's if there never 
was no harm in 'cm. How d'you s'pose spies gets their 
orders and sends back what they find out if it ain't by 
letters and such things? There's many a letter is worser'n 
any bomb. 

Cocky. Righto! They ain't as innercent as they looks, 
I'll take me oath, when you read 'em. [Pointing at 
Smitty.] Not 'is Lordship's letters; not be no means! 

Jack [sitting down again]. Well, read 'em and find 
out. [Driscoll commences untying the packet. There 
is a muffled groan of rage and protest from Smitty.] 

Davis [triumphantly]. There! Listen to him! Look at 
him tryin' to git loose! Ain't that proof enough? He 
knows well we're findin' him out. Listen to me! Love 
letters, you says, Jack, 's if they couldn't harm nothin'. 
Listen! I was readin' in some magazine in New York 
on'y two weeks back how some German spy in Paris was 



writin' love letters to some woman spy in Switzerland 
who sent 'em on to Berlin, Germany. To read 'em you 
wouldn't s'pect nothin'— just mush and all. [Impres- 
sively.] But they had a way o' doin' it — a damn sneakin' 
way. They had a piece o' plain paper with pieces cut 
out of it an' when they puts it on top o' the letter they 
sees on'y the words what tells them what they wants to 
know. An' the Frenchies gets beat in a fight all on ac- 
count o' that letter. 

Cocky [awed]. Gawd blimey! They ain't 'arf smart 
bleeders! 

Davis [seeing hu audience is again all with him]. 
An' even if these letters of his do sound all right they 
may have what they calls a code. You can't never tell. 
[To Driscoll, who has finished untying the packet.] 
Read one of 'em, Drisc. My eyes is weak. 

Driscoll [Ta\es the first one out of its envelope and 
bends down to the lantern with it. He turns up the 
wic\ to give him a better light.] I'm no hand to be 
readin' but I'll try ut. [Again there is a muffled groan 
from Smitty as he strains at his bonds.] 

Davis [gloatingly]. Listen to him! He knows. Go 
ahead, Drisc! 

Driscoll [his brow furrowed wtih concentration], 

Ut begins: Dearest Man [His eyes travel down the 

page.] An' thin there's a lot av blarney tellin' him 
how much she misses him now she's gone away to 
singin' school— an' how she hopes he'll settle down to 
rale worrk an' not be skylarkin' around now that she's 
away loike he used to before she met up wid him — and 
ut ends: "I love you betther than any thin' in the worrk!. 
You know that, don't you, dear? But b'fore I can agree 
to live out my life wid you, you must prove to me that 
the black shadow— I won't menshun uts hateful name 
but you know what I mean — which might wreck both 
our lives, does not exist for you. You can do that, can't 
you, dear? Don't you see you must for my sake?" [He 
pauses for a moment — then adds gruffly.] Uts signed: 
''Edith." [At the sound of the name Smitty, who has 
stood tensely with his eyes shut as if he were under- 
going torture during the reading, makes a muffled 
sound like' & sob and half turns his face to the wall.] 

Jack [sympathetically]. Hell! What's the use of 
readin' that stuff even if— — 

Davis [interrupting him sharply]. Wait! Where's 
that letter from, Drisc ? 

Driscoll. There's no address on the top av ut. 

Davis [meaningly]. What'd I tell you? Look at the 
postmark, Drisc, — on the envelope. 

Driscoll. The name that's written is Sidney David- 
son, wan hundred an' 

Davis. Never mind that. O' course it's a false name. 
Look at the postmark, 

Driscoll. There's a furrin stamp on ut by the looks 
av ut. The mark's blurred so it's hard to read. [He 



104 



DRAMA 



spells it out laboriously.] B-e-r — the nixt is an 1, 1 think 
— i — an' an n. 

Davis [excitedly]. Berlin I What did I tell you? I 
knew them letters was from Germany. 

Cocky [shading his fist in Smitty's direction]. Rotten 
'oundl [The others loo\ at Smitty as if this last fact had 
utterly condemned him in their eyes.] 

Davis. Give me the letter, Drisc. Maybe I kin make 
somethin' out of it. [Driscoll hands the letter to him.] 
You go through the others, Drisc, and sing out if you 
sees anythin 5 queer. [He bends over the first letter as if 
he were determined to figure out its secret meaning. 
Jack, Cocky and Scotty loo\ over his shoulder with 
eager curiosity. Driscoll ta\es out some of the other 
letters, running his eyes quickly down the pages. He 
iookj curiously over at Smitty from time to time, and 
sighs frequently with a puzzled frown.] 

Davis [disappointedly], I gotter give it up. It's too 
deep for me, but we'll turn 'em over to the perlice when 
we docks at Liverpool to look through. This one I got 
was written a year before the war started, anyway. Find 
anythin' in yours, Drisc? 

Driscoll. They're all the same as the first — lovin' 
blarney, an' how her singin' is doin', an' the great things 
the Dutch teacher says about her voice, an' how glad she 
is that her Sidney bye is worrkin' harrd an' makin' a man 
av himself for her sake. [Smitty turns his face com- 
pletely to the wall.] 

Davis [disgustedly]. If we on'y had the code! 

Driscoll [taking up the bottom letter]. Hullo! Here's 
wan addressed to this ship — s. s. Glencairn, ut says — 

whin we was in Cape Town sivin months ago 

[Looking at the postmark] Ut's from London. 

Davis [eagerly]. Read it! [There is another choking 
groan from Smitty.] 

Driscoll [reads slowly— his voice becomes lower and 
lower as he goes on]. Ut begins wid simply the name 
Sidney Davidson— no dearest or sweetheart to this wan. 
"Ut is only from your chance meetin' wid Harry— whin 
you were drunk— that I happen to know where to reach 
you. So you have run away to sea loike the coward you 



are because you knew I had found out the truth — the 
truth you have covered over with your mean litde lies 
all the time I was away in Berlin and blindly trusted you. 
Very well, you have chosen. You have shown that your 
drunkenness means more to you than any love or faith av 
mine. I am sorry — for I loved you, Sidney Davidson— 
but this is the end. I lave you — the mem'ries; an' if ut is 
any satisfaction to you I lave you the real-i-zation that 
you have wrecked my loife as you have wrecked your 
own. My one remainin' hope is that nivir in God's worrld 
will I ivir see your face again. Good-by. Edith." [As he 
finishes there is a deep silence, bro\en only by Smitty's 
muffled sobbing. The men cannot loo\ at each other. 
Driscoll holds the rubber bag limply in his hand and 
some small white object falls out of it and drops noise- 
lessly on the floor. Mechanically Driscoll leans over 
and piclfs it up, and loof^s at it wonderingly.] 

Davis [in a dull voice]. What's that? 

Driscoll [slowly], A bit av a dried-up flower, — a rose, 
maybe. [He drops it into the bag and gathers up the 
letters and puts them bac\. He replaces the bag in the 
box, and lockj it and puts it bac\ under Smitty's mat- 
tress. The others follow him with their eyes. He steps 
softly over to Smitty and cuts the ropes about his arms 
and angles with his sheath \nife, and unties the hand- 
kerchief over the gag. Smitty does not turn around but 
covers his face with his hands and leans his head against 
the wall. His shoulders continue to heave spasmodically 
but he ma\es no further sound.] 

Driscoll [stales bac^ to the others — there is a moment 
of silence, in which each man is in agony with the hope- 
lessness of finding a word he can say — then Driscoll ex- 
plodes]. God stiffen us, are we never goin' to turn in 
fur a wink av sleep? [They all start as if awakening from 
a bad dream and gratefully crawl into their bun\s, shoes 
and all, turning their faces to the wall, and pulling their 
blankets up over their shoulders. Scotty tiptoes past 
Smitty out into the dar\ness . . . Driscoll turns down 
the light and crawls into his bun\ as 

[The Curtain Falls] 



The Silver Cord 



Sidney Howard 



Sidney Howard (1891-1939) was born and educated in California. In 
1916-17 he studied playwriting with the late George Pierce Baker at Har- 
vard. During the War he was in the Army. He wrote novels, short 
stories, script for the motion pictures, and adapted many foreign plays. 
His own plays are realistic in temper; his emphasis is on character, his 
technique conventional rather than experimental. The Silver Cord, in 
its unsparing psychological analysis of the mother, has induced critics to 
compare Howard to Ibsen, and Mrs. Phelps to Mrs. Alving of Ibsen's 
Ghosts. Howard's plays include Swords, They Knew What They Wanted, 
which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1925, huc\y Sam McCarver, Ned 
McCobb's Daughter, Yellowjac\, and Alien Corn. All of them — except the 
first, which is set in the Italian Renaissance — deal largely with realistic 
aspects of contemporary American life. The Silver Cord was produced 
in 1926. 




ACT I 

living-room, built and decorated in the best man- 
ner of 1905, and cluttered with the souvenirs of 
maternal love, European travel, and an orthodox 
enthusiasm for the arts. There is a vast quantity of Braun 
Clement and Arundel Society reproduction of the 
Renaissance Italian masters. The piano features Grieg, 
Sibelius and Macdowell. A door gives on a spacious 
hallway. Windows loo\ out over a snow-covered garden. 
The rise of the curtain discloses Hester lost in the roto- 
gravure sections of the Sunday papers. She is a lovely, 
frail phantom of a girl with a loo\ of recent illness about 
her. She wears the simplest and most charming of house 
froc\s. The doorbell rings. There is the least sound of 
commotion in the hall. Hester loo1{s up. In a moment 
the doors open and David enters. He is a personable 
young man, well enough dressed, and a gentleman. He 
belongs to the somewhat stolid or unimaginative type 
which is generally characterized, in this country, as 
"steady." His smile is slow and wide, his speech slow 
and to the point. His principal quality is a rare and most 
charming amiability, but he is clearly lacking in many of 
the more sophisticated perceptions and he is clearly of a 
conventional bent in his attitude toward life. The door, 
as he leaves it open, shows Christina, in the act of shed- 
ding her fur coat with the assistance of the maid. She, as 
David's wife, presents something of a contrast to her hus- 
band. She is tall, slender, grave, honest, shy, intelligent, 
most trusting and, when need be, courageous. She has a 
scientist's detachment and curiosity and these serve oddly 
to emphasize a very individual womanliness which is 
far removed from the accepted feminine. One suspects 



By permission of the publishers, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 



that, where David it stubborn, she is open-minded, where 
he is blind, she is amazingly clear-sighted. That is the 
difference which ma\es one the complement of the other. 
The common quality which brought them together in 
the holy bonds of matrimony is their mutual candor. 
David is incapable of subtlety; Christina will not bother 
with it. The result is congeniality. So much for David 
and Christina. Hester rises. 

Hester. Hello! 

David. Eh? ... Oh, I beg your pardon! The maid said 
there wasn't anybody home. 

Hester. You're David, aren't you? [She advances to 
meet him.] I'm Hester. 

David. You're not! [He goes quickly toward her and 
shades hands as Christina enters.] Well! [He turns; 
smiling broadly to Christina.] Look, Chris! Here's 
Hester who's going to marry my brother Rob. 

Christina [with the most charming warmth]. Isn't 

she lovely! 

Hester. Oh, I think you're dears, both of you! [The 
two women \iss.] Aren't you hours ahead of time? 

Christina. We caught the one o'clock instead of what- 
ever the other was. 

David. Where are Mother and Rob? 

Hester. Your mother's drinking tea at . . . Aren't there 
some people named Donohue? 

David. Great friends of Mother's. Why aren't you 
there? 

Hester. Not allowed. I'm having a breakdown. 

Christina. Why don't you telephone her, Dave? 
She'll want to know that you're here. 

David. She'll find out soon enough. Where's Rob? 

Hester. Gone skating. 



105 



106 



DRAMA 



David [turns to the window}. On the pond? No. 
There's no one on the pond. 

Hester. Somewhere else, then. 

Christina [hovering over the fire}. Dave, do you sup- 
pose I could get some tea? I'm half frozen. 

David. Of course you can. I'll order it. [To Hester] : 
What's the maid's name? 

Hester. Delia. 

David. Delia. It used to be Hannah and before that 
it was Stacia, who got married to our old coachman, 
Fred. Well, it's not so bad to be home again! 

[Robert enters, very much dressed for seating, and 
carrying his spates. Robert only faintly suggests 
his brother. He is more volatile and stammers 
slightly.] 

Robert [a shout]. Dave! 

David. Hello, Robert! [They sha\e hands vigorously.] 
We were just wondering when you'd come in and Hes- 
ter said . . . 

Hester [speaking at the same time]. Wasn't it lucky I 
was here to receive them? 

Robert [as he shades Christina's hand], I think this 
is simply magnificent! [As he strips off his seating 
things]: How did you get here so soon? We weren't 
expecting you for . . . 

David. We caught the one o'clock. 

Christina. Just. 

David. We diought it would be fun to surprise you. 

Robert. Mother'll drop dead in her tracks. 

David. How is she ? 

Robert. Oh, she's in fine form . . . [To Christina] : 
You'll adore her. 

Christina. I'm sure I shall. 

Robert. She is marvellous, isn't she, Hester? 

Hester. She is indeed. . . . Perfccdy marvellous! 

David. Mother's immense. And I'm glad, for Chris's 
sake, that things worked out this way. First Chris 
sees the old house. Then she meets Hester. Then Rob 
comes breezing in, full of health. And, last of all, Mother 
comes. 

Robert. It's like a play. I always want things to be 
like a play. Don't you, Hester? 

Hester. I dunno. Why? 

Robert. Don't you, Christina? [But he does not wait 
for an answer — a habit with him in his better humored 
moments.] You have to tell us you like this old house, 
you know. Mother and I wouldn't change it for the 
world. 

Christina [smiling as she loo\s around her]. How 
about that tea, Dave? 

David. Excuse me, Chris! I forgot. . . . 

Christina [to Robert]. I've been here three minutes 
and I'm ordering food already! 

Robert. Well, let me "do the honors." 

David. Honors, hell! Isn't Julia still in the kitchen? 



Robert. Sure she is. 

David. Well, I must see Julia! [He goes.] 

Robert [to Christina]. Julia'U drop dead, too. I ex- 
pect half the town'll be dropping dead. Dave's always 
been the Greek god around this place, you know. 

Hester. He should be. 

Robert. I can remember the time I didn't think so. 
[A door slams. In the hall, Mrs. Phelps is heard 
talkjng, excitedly.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Those bags! Have they come, Delia? 

Hester. Here's your mother now r 

Christina. So soon? How nice! 
[Mrs. Phelps enters. She is pretty, distinguished, 
stoutish, soft, disarming and, in short, has every- 
thing one could possibly as\ including a real gift 
for looking years younger than her age, which is 
well past fifty. She boasts a reasonable amount of 
conventional culture, no great amount of intellect, 
a superabundant vitality, perfect health and a prat- 
tling spirit. At the moment she is still wearing her 
hat and furs and she loo\s wildly about her.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Dave! Dave, boy! Where are you, Dave? 
Where are you? It's Mother, Dave! [She does not see 
him in the room and she is already turning bac\ to the 
hall without a word or a loo\ for anybody else.] Where 
are you, Dave? Come here this minute! Don't you 
hear me, Dave? It's Mother! [Then Davtd appears in 
the hall.} Oh, Dave! 

Davtd [a little abashed by the vigor of this welcome]. 
Hello, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. Dave, is it really you? 

David. Guess it must be, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. Dave, dear! [She envelops as much of 
him as she can possibly reach.] 

David [prying loose]. Well! Glad to see us, Mother? 

Mrs. Phelps. Glad! 

David. You certainly seem to be glad. . . . But you 
haven't spoken to . . . [Christina, at his loo\, steps for- 
ward.] 

Mrs. Phelps [still not seeing her}. To think I wasn't 
here! 

David. We're ahead of time, you know. Christina . 

Mrs. Phelps. I must have known somehow. Some- 
thing just made me put down my cup and rush home. 
But you're not looking badly. You are well, aren't you? 
I do believe you've put on weight. You must be careful, 
though, not to take cold this weather. Was the crossing 
awfully rough? Were you seasick? You haven't been 
working too hard, have you, Dave boy? 

Christina [unable to stand on one foot any longer]. 
He hasn't been working at all. Not for weeks! 

Mrs. Phelps [she turns at the sound of the strange 
voice}. Eh? Oh! 

Davtd. T've been trying to make you take notice of 
Christina, Mother. 



THE SILVER CORD 



107 



Mrs. Phelps [with the utmost warmth]. Oh, my dear 
Christina, I am sorry! [She fysses Christina on both 
cheeks.] Seeing this big boy again quite took me off my 
feet. Let me look at you, now. Why, Dave, she's splen- 
did. Perfectly splendid! I always knew Dave would 
choose only the best. Didn't I always say so, Dave, boy ? 
[Which takes her bac\ to David.] Dave, you have been 
working too hard. I don't like those circles under your 
eyes. 

Daved. Nonsense, Mother! 

Christina. I think he looks pretty well. 

Mrs. Phelps. But only pretty well. I can't help worry- 
ing about these big boys of mine. [Her emotion stops 
her. She turns gallantly to Robert.] Did you skate, 
Rob? 

Robert. As a matter of fact, I couldn't. They've been 
cutting ice on the pond and it's full of holes. 

Mrs. Phelps. I must have signs put up tomorrow. 
Remember that, everybody. If any of you do go out in 
this freezing cold, don't take the short cut across the 
pond. . . . Dave, boy, this is too good to be true. After 
two whole years away and five, nearly six months mar- 
ried. [The maid brings tea.] 

David. Here's tea. 

Mrs. Phelfs. Sit down here beside me, dear, dear 
Christina. And, Dave, boy, sit over there where I can 
see you. Just take my furs, Delia, so I can do my duty 
in comfort. My boy, my boy, you don't know . . . you 
don't know how happy I am to have you home again! 
Just hand me my salts, will you, Robin? This excite- 
ment has laid me out. Christina, my dear, how do you 
take your tea? 

[She sits at the table. Robin has fetched her bottle 
of "Crown Lavender" from somewhere. She mo- 
tions him to put it down and proceeds to pour tea.] 

Christina. Just tea, please. As it comes and nothing 
in it. 

Mrs. Phelps. A real tea drinker! I hope my tea stands 
the test. [She passes Christina her cup and ceases to 
ta\e any notice of her whatsoever.] Tea, Dave, boy? 

David. Please, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. The same old way? 

David. Yes. 

Mrs. Phelps. Tea, Robin ? [She hands David his cup.] 

Robert [busy passing sandwiches and such]. As usual, 
please. 

Mrs. Phelps [very absent-minded about the salts]. 
Who do you suppose was asking after you yesterday, 
Dave, boy? Old George, the doorman, down at the 
bank. You remember old George ? He's so thrilled about 
your coming back! And Mrs. Donohue's so thrilled! 
Such a sweet woman! You know, I'm afraid he's drink- 
ing again. You must run right over early tomorrow 
morning and let her have a look at you. I must have 
some people in to meet you. Some very nice new peo- 



ple who've come here since you went away. Named 
Clay. He used to be a publisher in Boston, but he gave 
it up because he says nobody really cares about good 
books any more. Of course, this house has been a real 
godsend to him. I must give a big dinner for you, Dave, 
and ask all our old friends. I do need your cool head, 
too, on my business. Robin does his best, but he isn't 
really a business man. You remember the American 
Telephone I bought? Mr. Curtin, at the bank, advises 
me to sell and take my profit, but I don't think so. 
What do you think, Dave, boy? 

Hester. May 1 have a cup, please, Mrs. Phelps? 

Mrs. Phelps. Hester, my dear, how forgetful of me! 
How will you have it? 

Hester. As usual. 

Mrs. Phelps. Let me see, that's cream and sugar ? 

Hester. Only cream. No sugar. 

Mrs. Phelps. Of course. Robin, will you give Hester 
her tea? 

Robert [as he gives Hester the cup]. You see, we have 
to take a back seat now. 

Mrs. Phelps. A back seat, Robin? 

Robert. I'm only warning Hester. She's got to know 
what to expect in this family when Dave's around. 

David. Oh, shut up, Rob! 

Mrs. Phelps [smiling]. My two beaux! My two 
jealous beaux! 

Robert. Oh, well! Dave's out in the great world now 
and I'm still the same old homebody 1 always was. Look 
at him, Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps [looking]. Oh, my boy, my boy, if you 
knew what it means to me to see all my plans and hopes 
for you fulfilled. I've dreamed of your being an architect 
ever since . . . ever since . . . 

Robert. Ever since he first showed an interest in his 
blocks. 

Mrs. Phelps. I have those blocks still, Dave. Do you 
remember them? 

David. Do I remember those blocks! 

Mrs. Phelps [solemnly]. You must never forget them, 
because it's quite true what Robin says and, some day, 
when you have children of your own, I shall show them 
the foundation stones of their father's great career. If I 
have one gift it's the ability to see what people have in 
them and to bring it out. I saw what David had in him, 
even then. And I brought it out. 

[She smiles benignly. There is a brief pause. A quiz- 
zical frown contracts Christina's brow.] 

Christina. It seems a risky business. 

Mrs. Phelps [turning with that same start which 
Christina's voice caused before]. What seems a risky 
business ? 

Christina. The way families have of doing that. 

Mrs. Phelps [setting her tea-cup down a little too de- 
liberately]. What could be more natural? 



ux 



DRAMA 



Hester [coming to Christina's rescue from an abyss 
of boredom]. I sec what Christina means. From blocks 
to architecture is a long guess. You might very easily 
have guessed wrong, you know. I had some rabbits, 
once, and I loved 'em. Suppose my family had seen what 
I had in me, then, and brought me up to be a lion tamer ? 

Mrs. Phelps [offended]. Really, Hester! 

Hester. Isn't that just what happens to most of us? 
Christina's job doesn't sound like the kind parents usu- 
ally pick out for a girl, though. 

Robert. I'll say it doesn't. 

Christina. My parents did pick it out, though. I'm 
just like the rest. 

Hester. Well, it only goes to prove what I was saying. 
Christina might have been a homebody instead of a 
scientist. I might have been a lion tamer. If only our 
parents hadn't had ideas about us! 

David. One guess is as good as another. I daresay I 
wanted to be a fireman. What do little girls want to be? 

Hester. Queens. 

Christina. Wouldn't it be a pleasant world with noth- 
ing but queens and firemen in it! 

Robert. I guess Mother knew. She always does know. 

Hester. What I say about children is this: Have 'em. 
Love 'em. And then leave 'em be. 

Christina [amused], I'm not sure that isn't a very 
profound remark. 

Mrs. Phelps [she ma\es up her mind to investigate 
this daughter-in-law more closely and, with sudden 
briskness, takes bac\ the conversation]. Why don't you 
two great things take the bags upstairs out of the 
hall? 

David. That's an idea. 

Mrs. Phelps. Dear Christina's in the little front room, 
and Dave, you're in the back in your old room. 

David [surprised]. I say, Mother . . . can't wc . . . 

Hester. Don't they want to be together, Mrs. Phelps ? 
Let me move out of the guest room and then . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Indeed, I'll do nothing of the sort. Hes- 
ter's here for a rest and I won't upset her. Dave can be 
perfecdy comfortable in his old room and so can Chris- 
tina in front and it won't hurt them a bit. 

Christina. Of course not. . . . 

Hester. But, Mrs. Phelps . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Not another word, my dear. [To Chris- 
tina]: This child has danced herself into a decline and 
she's got to be taken care of. 

David. Right! 

Robert. Come along, Dave. 

Mrs. Phelps. Go and supervise, Hester, and leave me 
to ... to visit with my new daughter. 
[Dave and Rob go. Hester following.] 

Hester [as she goes]. But really, David, I might just 
as well move. I didn't think. And if you and Chris- 
tina . . . 



Mrs. Phelps [a broad smile to Christina]. Now, my 
dear, let me give you another cup of tea. 

Christina. Thank you. 

Mrs. Phelps. And take your hat off so that I can really 
see you. I've never seen a lady scientist before. 

Christina. I hope I'm not so very different from other 
women. 

Mrs. Phelps. I've quite got over being afraid of you. 

Christina. Afraid of me, Mrs. Phelps? 

Mrs. Phelps. Can't you understand that? My big boy 
sends me a curt cable to say that he's marrying a charm- 
ing and talented research geologist. 

Christina. Biologist. 

Mrs. Phelps. Biologist. It did sound just the least bit 
in the world improbable. 

Christina. Yes. , . . I can see that. 

Mrs. Phelps. Now that I know you, though, I'm very 
proud to have you for a daughter. Every woman wants 
a daughter, you know! 

Christina. You're being very nice to me, Mrs. Phelps. 

Mrs. Phelps. It isn't at all hard to be nice to you, my 
dear. Tell me about your tour. You went to Sicily? 

Christina. We did, indeed. 

Mrs. Phelps. Sicily, the home of . . . [She gives herself 
up to Sicilian emotion] ... of all those great ancient . . . 
poets and . . . poets. To think of your taking my boy to 
Sicily where I'd always planned to take him! I've never 
been, you see. How many opportunities we miss! That's 
what we're always saying of dead people, isn't it? 
Though, of course, I shouldn't think of calling David 
dead merely because he's got married. I do hope you 
read "Glorious Apollo" before you went to Venice. 
When I read it, I felt that I had made a new friend. I 
always make such close friends of my books and, you 
know, there's no friend like a really good book. And 
there's nothing like a good historical novel to make a 
city vivid and interesting. They do bring things back 
to one. "Glorious Apollo!" What a despicable charac- 
ter that man Byron was! Though I daresay he couldn't 
have been as bad as he was painted. People do exag- 
gerate so. Especially writers. Do you know "The Little 
Flowers of St. Francis"? 

Christina. I'm afraid not. Are they exaggerated ? 

Mrs. Phelps. Well, of course, they're really fairy tales. 
Only to one with a profoundly religious point of view 
. . . and, if there's one thing I pride myself on it is my 
profoundly religious point of view ... I always keep the 
"Little Flowers" on the table beside my bed. And read 
in them, you know? I quite brought Robin up on them. 
Dave never took to them. Though Dave loved his regu- 
lar fairy tales. His Grimm and his Hans Christian. 
You read, I hope? 

Christina. I can. I sometimes have to. 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, my dear, I only meant that I think 
it's so important, for David's happiness, that you should 



THE SILVER CORD 



109 



be what / call "a reader." Both my boys learned their 
classics at their mother's knee. Their Scott and their 
Thackeray. And their Dickens. Lighter things too, of 
course. "Treasure Island" and "Little Lord Faunderoy." 
And you went to Prague, too. Dave wrote me from 
Prague. Such interesting letters, Dave writes! I won- 
dered why you stayed so long in Prague. 

Christina. It's a charming city, and an architect's 
paradise. Dave and I thought he ought to look at some- 
thing besides cathedrals and temples. . . . There is do- 
mestic architecture, you know. 

Mrs. Phelps. Yes. I suppose there is. 

Christina. People do want houses. I'm inclined to 
think houses are more interesting than churches nowa- 
days. 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, nowadays! I'm afraid I've very little 
use for nowadays. I've always thought it a pity that 
Dave and Rob couldn't have grown up in Italy in the 
Renaissance and known such men as . . . well, as Cellini. 

Christina. I'm not sure Cellini would have been the 
ideal companion for a growing boy. 

Mrs. Phelps. No? Well, perhaps not. I must certainly 
take in Prague my next trip abroad. It's really been very 
hard for me to stay home these last two years. But I said 
to myself: Dave must have his fling. I don't like mothers 
who keep their sons tied to their apron strings. I said: 
Dave will come home to me a complete man. Though 
I didn't actually look for his bringing you with him, my 
dear, and coming home a married man. Still ... So I 
stayed home with Robin. And I was glad to. I'm not 
sure I haven't sometimes neglected Robin for David. 
Given myself too much to the one, not enough to the 
other. The first born, you know. We mothers are hu- 
man, however much we may try not to be. Tell me, 
Christina, you think David is well, don't you? 

Christina. Yes, perfectly. 

Mrs. Phelps. He didn't seem quite himself just now. 

Christina. Perhaps he was embarrassed. 

Mrs. Phelps. With me? His own mother? 

Christina. Wouldn't I have accounted for it? 

Mrs. Phelps. How silly of me not to remember that! 
Tell me what your plans are — if you have any plans, 
which I hope you haven't, because I've been making so 
many for you and such perfect ones. 

Christina. Well, as a matter of fact, we haven't many, 
but what we have are pretty definite. 

Mrs. Phelps. Really! Are they really? What are they? 

Christina. Well, we're going to live in New York, of 
course. 

Mrs. Phelps. Why "New York of course"? It seems 
to me that you might choose a pleasanter place to live 
than New York. 

Christina. No doubt of that, Mrs. Phelps. But it does 
seem a good place for Dave to work and . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, I can't agree with you! 



Christina. 1 shouldn't have thought there could be 
two ways about New York for Dave any more than 
for me. 

Mrs. Phelps. For you? 

Christina. It's where my appointment is. 

Mrs. Phelps. Your appointment ? 

Christina. At the Rockefeller Institute. 

Mrs. Phelps. So that's what takes Dave and you to 
New York? Your geology. 

Christina. Partly. Only it isn't geology. It's biology. 

Mrs. Phelps. Of course. Geology's about rocks, isn't 
it? 

Christina. Largely. 

Mrs. Phelps. And biology? 

Christina. Well — about Life. 

Mrs. Phelps [getting it clear]. So you're a student of 
Life, my dear. I do wish David had called you that 
instead of the other. 

Christina. I understand how you felt, Mrs. Phelps. 
I hope you don't hold my job against me. 

Mrs. Phelps [with deep feeling]. My dearest Chris- 
tina, I don't! Oh, if you thought that, I should be heart- 
broken. You've made my darling David happy, my 
dear, and for that I'm prepared to love everything about 
you. Even your job. Do you smoke? 

Christina. Yes, thank you. May I? 

Mrs. Phelps. Please. And I shall, too. . . . [They 
light cigarettes.] Don't you like my lighter? 

Christina. It's sweet. And very handy, I should think. 

Mrs. Phelps. A friend sent it me from London. Let 
me give it to you. 

Christina. Oh, no. 

Mrs. Phelps. Please? I've not had a chance yet to give 
my new daughter anything. My dearest Christina . . . 
please? 

Christina. Thank you. I shall always keep it and 
use it. 

Mrs. Phelps. I like the litde ceremonial gift. . . . 
Now, about your job . . . 

Christina. My job ? 

Mrs. Phelps. As you call it. I don't like to say "profes- 
sion" because that has such a sinister sound for a woman. 
And then science is hardly a profession, is it? Rather 
more of a hobby. You're planning to continue? 

Christina. With my job? Oh, yes. 

Mrs. Phelps. Just as though you hadn't married, I 
mean? 

Christina. I have to, don't I? To earn my right to 
call myself a biologist . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Do people call you that? 

Christina. I guess they call me "doctor." 

Mrs. Phelps. You're not a doctor ? 

Christina. Technically, I am. 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, I can never agree with you that 
women make good doctors! 



110 



DRAMA 



Christina. We shan't have to argue that point. I've no 
intention of practicing. 

Mrs. Phelps. Not at all? Above all, not on David? 

Christina. I shouldn't think of it. 

Mrs. Phelps. I remember hearing that doctors never 
do practice on their own families. I remember that when 
our doctor here had a baby ... of course, his wife had the 
baby ... he called in quite an outsider to deliver the 
child. I remember how that struck me at the time. Tell 
me more about yourself, my dear. When Dave cabled 
me about meeting you and marrying you so suddenly . . . 

Christina. It wasn't so sudden, Mrs. Phelps. I spent a 
good six or seven months turning him down flat. 

Mrs. Phelps [offended]. Indeed? 

Christina. Dave and I met in Rome last winter. Then 
he came to Heidelberg where I was working and I ac- 
cepted him. ... I'd never given him the least encourage- 
ment before. 

Mrs. Phelps [as before). Indeed? 

Christina. We were married straight off . . . and went 
to Sicily. 

Mrs. Phelps. I didn't know about the preliminaries. 
Dave never told me. And now you're taking him off to 
New York! 

Christina. Please don't put it that way. 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm stating a fact, my dear girl. After 
all, you have got your — [She gets it right this time] — 
biology to think of. 

Christina. You can't blame me for that, dear Mrs. 
Phelps, so long as I think of Dave's work, too. 

Mrs. Phelps. No. ... So long as you do that. . . . How 
did you come to select your career? 

Christina. My father was a doctor. I grew up in his 
hospital. Everything followed quite naturally. 

Mrs. Phelps. Your father — is he living? 

Christina. He died two years ago. Tragically, but 
rather splendidly. 

Mrs. Phelps. How? 

Christina. He'd been experimenting for years on in- 
fantile paralysis and . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. And he died of that? [Christina nods 
rather solemnly.] Is your mother living? 

Christina. Oh, yes; at home. 

Mrs. Phelps. At home? 

Christina. In Omaha. 

Mrs. Phelps [meditatively]. Omaha . . . 

Christina. Yes. 

Mrs. Phelps. Hm . . . And you'll go on with your 
father's experiments? 

Christina. Oh, no! That's not at all in my line. 

Mrs. Phelps. What is your line? 

Christina. It's hard to say. I did some rather hard 
work this last year at Heidelberg on the embryos of 
chickens. In the egg, you know. 



Mrs. Phelps. For heaven's sake, what for? 

Christina. Trying to find out something about what 
makes growth stop. 

Mrs. Phelps. Why . . . ? 

Christina. Curiosity, I guess. Now I'm admitting 
what low people we scientists are. I think that curios- 
ity's all we have. And a little training. 

Mrs. Phelps. Does David follow your work? 

Christina. No. And I don't expect him to. 

Mrs. Phelps. Quite right David wouldn't be ap- 
pealed to by rotten eggs Not that he couldn't under- 
stand them if they did appeal to him. 

Christina. Of course. 

Mrs. Phelps. Isn't the Rockefeller Institute one of 
those places where they practice vivisection? 

Christina. One of many. Yes. . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Have you . . . 

Christina. What? 

Mrs. Phelps, Experimented on animals? 

Christina. Isn't it a part of my job? Dave understands 
that. You must try to understand it. 

Mrs. Phelps. Very well, I shall try, my dear. Now 
you must listen to me and try to understand me. . . , 
Look at me. What do you see? Simply — David's 
mother. I can't say of you that you're simply David's 
wife, because, clearly, you're many things beside that. 
But I am simply his mother. ... I think, as I talk to you, 
that I belong to a dead age. I wonder if you think that? 
In my day, we considered a girl immensely courageous 
and independent who taught school or gave music les- 
sons. Nowadays, girls sell real estate and become scien- 
tists and think nothing of it. Give us our due, Chris- 
tina. We weren't entirely bustles and smelling salts, we 
girls who did not go into the world. We made a great 
profession which I fear may be in some danger of van- 
ishing from the face of the earth. We made a profession 
of motherhood. That may sound old-fashioned to you. 
Believe me, it had its value. I was trained to be a wife 
that I might become a mother. [Christina is about to 
protest. Mrs. Phelps stops her.] Your father died of his 
investigations of a dangerous disease. You called that 
splendid of him, didn't you? Would you say less of us 
who gave our lives to being mothers? Mothers of sons, 
particularly. Listen to me, Christina. David was five, 
Rob only a little baby, when my husband died. I'd been 
married six years, not so very happily. I was pretty, as a 
girl, too. Very pretty. [This thought holds her for a 
second.] For twenty-four years, since my husband died, 
I've given all my life, all my strength to Dave and Rob. 
They've been my life and my job. They've taken the 
place of husband and friends both, for me. Where do I 
stand, now? Rob is marrying. Dave is married already. 
This is the end of my life and my job. . . . Oh, I'm not 
asking for credit or praise. I'm asking for something 
more substantial. I'm asking you, my dear, dear Chris- 



THE SILVER CORD 



111 



tina, not to take all my boy's heart. Leave me. I beg you, 
a little, little part of it. I've earned that much. I'm not 
sure I couldn't say that you owe me that much — as 
David's mother. I believe I've deserved it. Don't you 
think I have? 

Christina [deeply moved]. My dear, dear Mrs. 
Phelps! 

Mrs. Phelps. It's agreed then, isn't it, that I'm not to 
be shut out? 

Christina. Of course you're not! 

Mrs. Phelps. Not by you, Christina. Nor by your 
work? 

Christina. No! No! 

Mrs. Phelps. Nor by anything? 

Christina. You must know that I should never come 
between a mother and her son. You must know that I 
appreciate what you've done for Dave and all you've 
always been and meant to him. You must know that! 

Mrs. Phelps. Christina, my dear, you're a very dis- 
arming person. You are kkdeed. I've known you ten 
minutes and unloaded my whole heart to you, 

Christina. I'm proud that you trust me. 

Mrs. Phelps [patting her hand]. Thank you, my dear. 
And now . . . now that you know how I feel . . . now you 
won't go to New York, will you ? You won't take Dave 
to New York ? 

Christina [drawing bac\ in alarm]. But, Mrs. Phelps! 

Mrs. Phelps. Because that would be coming between 
mother and son as you just now said. That could mean 
only one thing — crowding me out, setting me aside, rob- 
bing me. . . . 

Christina [completely baffled]. You're quite mis- 
taken, Mrs. Phelps! You've no reason to think any 
such thing! 

Mrs. Phelps. Well, it's nice of you to reassure me, and 
we don't have to worry about it for some time yet. You'll 
have plenty of time to see how carefully I've worked 
everything out for David — and for you, too, my dear. 
You've a nice, long visit ahead and . . . 

Christina. I only wish we had a nice long visit, Mrs. 
Phelps. 

Mrs. Phelps. What do you mean? 

Christina. I start work at the Institute a week from 
tomorrow. 

Mrs. Phelps [staggered]. What are you saying, child? 

Christina. We didn't even bring our trunks up, you 
know. 

Mrs. Phelps [recovering herself]. I'll not hear of it! 
A week of David after two years without him ? What 
are you thinking of? Don't you realize that David has 
practically been my sole companion for nearly twenty- 
five years? 

Christina. You've had Robert, too. 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm not thinking so much of Robert, 
now. He isn't threatened as David is. 



Christina. Threatened, Mrs. Phelps? 

Mrs. Phelps. I don't want to see David's career sacri- 
ficed. 

Christina. But, I'm not planning to sacrifice it. 

Mrs. Phelps. You make the word sound disagreeable. 
I admire your work, Christina, but I am very clearly of 
the impression that it may easily obliterate David's work. 

Christina. I don't see any conflict. 

Mrs. Phelps. Aren't you taking him to New York, 
which he simply loathes? To live in a stuffy tenement 
. . . well, an apartment. . . . They're the same thing. 
. . . Without proper heat or sunshine or food? I told 
you I'd made plans. I've arranged everything for David's 
best interest. I can't believe that a girl of your intelli- 
gence won't realize how good my arrangements are. I 
happen to own a very large tract of land here. A very 
beautiful tract, most desirable for residences. To the 
north of the Country Club just beside the links. Hilly 
and wooded. You can see it, off there to the left of the 
pond. I've had many offers for it, most advantageous 
offers. But I've held on to it, ever since Dave chose his 
profession. Pleasant Valley, it's called. I shall change 
the name to Phelps Manor and open it. David will have 
charge. David will lay out the streets, design the gate- 
ways, build the houses and make his fortune, his reputa- 
tion and his place in the world out of it. 

Christina [pause, then]. Don't you mean his place in 
this part of the world, Mrs. Phelps? 

Mrs. Phelps [positively]. As well this as any. With 
me to back him, he's certain of a proper start here, and 
there can't be any doubt about the outcome. His success 
is assured here and his happiness and prosperity with it. 
And yours, too. Don't you see that? 

Christina. It certainly sounds safe enough. 

Mrs. Phelps. I knew you'd see. Furthermore, he's 
never happy in New York. 

Christina. Happiness is very important. Only differ- 
ent people have different ideas of it. 

Mrs. Phelps. David's always had my ideas. And 
they're very sound ones. 

Christina [politely]. I'm sure of it. But perhaps they 
aren't sound for David. I mean, from what I know of 
him. . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm David's mother, my dear. I know 
him better than you do. 

Christina. I wonder! 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, I do! And I know how little New 
York has to offer. I know die competition there. I know 
what the struggle would be. Look at the choice. On the 
one hand obscurity, a desk in some other man's office, 
years of hack work and discouragement. On the other, 
immediate prominence, unquestionable success . . . 

Christina. With his mother behind him. 

Mrs. Phelps. Who better? 

Christina. Oh, I see the difference! 



112 



DRAMA 



Mrs. Phelps. Yes, don't you! And as to your work, 
my dear, I'm sure we can keep you busy and contented. 

Christina [smiling in spite of herself]. How will you 
do that? 

Mrs. Phelps. Well, it's hard to say, off-hand. But if 
we really set our minds to it. ... I know! I'm the 
chairman of our hospital here, and I have a great deal of 
influence with the doctors. We've a beautiful laboratory. 
You couldn't ask for anything nicer or cleaner or more 
comfortable than that laboratory. You do your work in a 
laboratory, I suppose? 

Christina. Usually. 

Mrs. Phelps. I'll take you down in the morning and 
introduce you to Dr. McClintock, homeopathic, but very 
agreeable, and he'll show you our laboratory. We've just 
got in a new microscope, too. Oh, a very fine one! One 
the High School didn't want any more. You'll simply 
love our laboratory. Oh, you will! It has a splendid 
new sink with hot and cold running water and quite a 
good gas stove because it's also the nurses' washroom 
and diet kitchen. And you'll be allowed to putter around 
as much as you like whenever it isn't in use by the nurses 
or the real doctors. I can arrange everything perfectly, 
my dear. I'm certain that, when you see our laboratory, 
you'll sit right down and write to Mr. Rockerfeller, who, 
I'm told, is a very kind old man at heart, and won't mis- 
understand in the least, that you've found an opening 
here that's ever so much more desirable than his old 
Institute, where you won't be obliged to cut up cats and 
dogs. You will think it over, won't you? Going to 
New York, I mean. Taking Dave to New York and 
ruining all his prospects? 

Christina [after a pause, in all sincere kindliness]. 
Mrs. Phelps, the third time I refused Dave, he asked me 
for a reason. I told him I couldn't throw myself away 
on a big frog in a small puddle. 

Mrs. Phelps. You don't mean that you want him to 
be a small frog, a mere polliwog, in a great ocean like 
New York? 

Christina. I'm afraid that's just what I do mean. 
And when he came back at me three months later with 
some real sketches and a great deal more humility and 
with a real job in a real architect's office . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Has David a job? In New York? 

Christina. A chance anyway. With Michaels. 

Mrs. Phelps. Michaels ? 

Christina. He's a big man. And he's interested in 
Dave. 

Mrs. Phelps. I don't approve at all. I think it's mad- 
ness. 

Christina. You may be right. But, isn't it best left 
to Dave and me? 

Mrs. Phelps [deeply hurt at the implication]. My dear 
Christina, if you think I'm frying to interfere, you're 
quite mistaken. You're very unfair. . . . Only tell me 



what makes you so sure Dave can succeed in New York. 

Christina. I haven't given a thought to whether he'll 
succeed or not. That depends on his own talent, doesn't 
it? As to how much he makes, or how we get on, at 
first, I don't think that matters either ... so long as 
Dave stands really on his own feet. 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, Christina, be honest with yourself. 
You are sacrificing David! 

Christina. How? 

Mrs. Phelps. By thinking only of yourself, of course. 

Christina. Won't you believe that I'm thinking of 
both of us ? 

Mrs. Phelps. How can I ? It's too bad of you, really. It 
means — [In despair.] — It means that it's all been for 
nothing! 

Christina. What has? 

Mrs. Phelps [crescendo, as she wal\s about]. All, all 
that I've done for David and given up for him and 
meant to him! 

Christina. How can you say that? 

Mrs. Phelps. I did so want to be friendly with David's 
wife. If you knew how I've wished and dreamt and 
prayed for that! 

Christina [rising herself]. But can't we be friends? 

Mrs. Phelps. Some day you'll have a child of your 
own and then you may know what I mean, if . . . 

Christina. If what? 

Mrs. Phelps [the last volley]. If you don't sacrifice 
your child, too, to this work of yours. 

Christina [deeply distressed]. Mrs. Phelps, I wish 
you wouldn't feel that. It makes me feel that I've got 
off on a very wrong foot here. 
[Robert enters.] 

Robert. Christina! 

Christina. Yes? 

Robert. Dave says, if you want a bath before dinner, 
you'd better be quick about it. 

Christina. I didn't know it was so late. Thanks. 
[She goes to Mrs. Phelps.] You'll see that I do under- 
stand, dear Mrs. Phelps. You'll see that it all comes 
straight somehow and turns out for the best. Life takes 
care of such things. All we have to do is to keep out of 
life's way and make the best of things as healthily as 
possible. 

Mrs. Phelps. You think I'm selfish. 

Christina. Oh, no! I don't think anything of the sort! 

Mrs. Phelps. Because if there's one thing I pride my- 
self on, I may have many faults, but I am not selfish. I 
haven't a selfish hair in my head. 

Christina. I tell you, I understand. 
[She \isses her quickly and goes out.] 

Robert [looking curiously after Christina]. Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps [wildly]. Oh, Robin! I'm so lonely! So 
lonely! 

Robert [startled]. Mother! 



THE SILVER CORD 



113 



Mrs. Phelps. I'm afraid I'm a dreadful coward! 

Robert. You, Mother? 

Mrs. Phelps. I ought to have been prepared to lose my 
two great, splendid sons. I've told myself over and over 
again that the time would come, and now that it has 
come, I can't face it! She's taking Dave away to New 
York, away from me, away from all the wonderful plans 
I've made for him here! 

Robert. Well, if Dave's fool enough to gol 

Mrs. Phelps. I shouldn't do to any woman on earth 
what she's doing to me! 

Robert. Of course you wouldn't. But then, Christina 
isn't your sort, is she? 

Mrs. Phelps. You've noticed that, too? 

Robert. Who is your sort, Mother? . . . Oh, it's a 
wonderful gift you've given us. 

Mrs. Phelps. What's that, Robin? 

Robert. A wonderful ideal of womanhood. You 
know what I mean. 

Mrs. Phelps. No. What ? 

Robert. Your own marvellous self, Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps. Dave didn't stop to think of any such 
ideal, did he? 

Robert. Oh, Dave! 

Mrs. Phelps. Perhaps I shouldn't be hurt. But you 
can't know what it is to be a mother. I nearly died when 
Dave was born. Hours and hours I suffered for him, 
trapped in agony. He was a twelve-pound baby, you 
know. If I could be sure of his happiness! 

Robert. You mustn't ask too much. 

Mrs. Phelps. You're right. No mother should expect 
any woman to love her son as she loves him. 

Robert. Your sons don't expect any woman to love 
them as you do. 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, Robin! Is that how you feel? 

Robert. I think it must be. [She loo\s at him, watch- 
ing him thin\ it all out.] It's a funny business, isn't it? 
After a woman like you has suffered the tortures of the 
damned bringing us into the world, and worked like a 
slave to help us grow up in it, we can't wait to cut loose 
and give up the one thing we can be sure of! And for 
what? To run every known risk of disillusion and 
disappointment. 

Mrs. Phelps [struct^ by this]. What is the one thing 
you can be sure of, Robin ? 

Robert. You are. Don't you know that? Why can't 
we leave well enough alone? 

Mrs. Phelps. Presently you'll be going too, Rob. 

Robert. Yes ... I know I shall. . . . But nothing 
will ever come between us, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. Come over here by the fire, Robin, and 
let's forget all these unpleasant things. [She goes to sit 
by the fire.] Let's have a real old-time talk about nothing 
at all. Sit down. [He sits as directed on a stool at her 
feet.] Head in my lap! [He obeys.] Sol This has shown 



me something I've always suspected. That you are my 
son. David takes after his father. 

Robert. Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps. Tell me, Robin, what you meant just 
now when you said that about the one thing you can be 
sure of. Did you mean that you've had dark thoughts 
about your future ? 

Robert. I must have meant something of the sort. 

Mrs. Phelps. Hm. ... It was dear of you, my great 
Robin, to say what you did about my being your ideal. 
You know my dream has always been to see my two boys 
married and settled down. But happily! Happily! Has 
Hester come to any decision about where she wants to 
spend her honeymoon? 

Robert. Abroad. 

Mrs. Phelps. Nothing more definite than just 
"abroad" ? 

Robert. No. She doesn't care where we go. 

Mrs. Phelps. That seems very odd to me. I took such 
an interest in my honeymoon. Why, your father and I 
had every day of it planned, weeks before we were mar- 
ried. . . . Hester hasn't picked out her flat silver yet, 
either, has she? 

Robert. I don't think so. 

Mrs. Phelps. I can't understand it! 

Robert. What? 

Mrs. Phelps. Her indifference. It rather shocks me. 
[She notices that Robert is shocked, too.] But I suppose 
I'm old-fashioned. Like this room. You must give me 
a little of your time and taste, Robin, before you're mar- 
ried, and advise me about doing this room over. 

Robert [eagerly]. Have you come to that at last? 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm afraid so. How's Hester planning 
to do your new home? 

Robert [his spirits subsiding at once]. Oh, I don't 
know. 

Mrs. Phelps. You don't mean to say she hasn't made 
any plans ? 

Robert. I've been trying to get her interested in house- 
hunting. 

Mrs. Phelps. And she doesn't care about that either? 

Robert. She says anything will suit her. 

Mrs. Phelps. Does she, indeed! Most girls . . . most 
normal girls, that is, look forward so to having their 
homes to receive their friends in. 

Robert. She leaves it all to me. She says I know much 
more about such things than she does. 

Mrs. Phelps. How little she understands my poor 
Robin who ought never to be bothered! 

Robert. Oh, well! 

Mrs. Phelps. Do you happen to know if Hester has 
many friends? I mean, many men friends? Did she 
have lots of suitors beside you ? 

Robert. I daresay she had loads. 

Mrs. Phelps. Do you \now that she had? 



114 



DRAMA 



Robert. She never told me so. Why? 

Mrs. Phelps. I was wondering. She's been out two 
years. One does wonder how much a girl has been 
sought after. But, then, why should she have bothered 
with others when she thought she could land you? 
Ynu are rather a catch, you know. 

Robert. I, Mother? 

Mrs. Phelps. Any girl would set her cap for you. 

Robert. I don't believe Hester did that. 

Mrs. Phelps. My dear, I wasn't saying that she did! 
But why shouldn't she? Only . . . 

Robert. Only what? 

Mrs. Phelps. I can't help wondering if Hester's feel- 
ing for you is as strong as you think it is. [Robert won- 
ders, too.] I've been wondering for some time, Robin. 
I've hesitated to speak to you about it. But after what 
you've just told me . . . 

Robert. Well, it's too late to worry now. 

Mrs. Phelps. I can't help worrying, though. Marriage 
is such an important step and you're such a sensitive, 
shrinking character. It would be too terrible if you had 
to go through what you were just speaking of — the dis- 
illusionment and disappointment. . . . I'm only trying 
to find out what it is that's come between you two young 
people. 

Robert. Nothing has, Mother. Hester isn't you, that 1 * 
all! 

Mrs. Phelps. Nonsense, Robin! ... It isn't that aw- 
ful woman I was so worried about when you were at 
Harvard? 

Robert. I'm not raising a second crop of wild oats. 

Mrs. Phelps. Then it must be that risk you were 
speaking of! Oh, why do boys run that risk! Why will 
they break away! 

Robert. I wish I knew! 

Mrs. Phelps. Perhaps your trouble is that — [A pause. 
Then, very low] — that you don't love Hester. 

Robert. Oh, love! I must love her or I wouldn't have 
asked her to marry me. I guess she loves me in her way. 
Is her way enough? I'll find that out in time. A man 
ought to marry. 

Mrs. Phelps [a little more positively]. You don't love 
Hester, and it isn't fair to her! 

Robert. Yes, I do love her! Only I wonder if I'm the 
marrying kind. Failing the possibility of marrying you. 
I mean your double. 

Mrs. Phelps [always increasing]. You don't love 
Hester. 

Robert. I do, I tell you! Who could help loving her? 
I mean . . . Good God, what do I mean ? 

Mrs. Phelps. Either you don't love Hester or Hester 
doesn't love you. 

Robert. She does love me. 

Mrs. Phelps. She may say she does, but I haven't seen 
her showing it 



Robert. Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps. You don't love Hester and Hester doesn't 
love you. It's as simple as that, Robin, and you're mak- 
ing a very grave mistake to go on with this. These things 
may be painful, but they're better faced before than after. 
Children come after, Robin, and then it's too late! 
Think, Robin! Think before it's too late! And remem- 
ber, the happiness of three people is at stake! 

Robert. Hester's and mine and . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. And mine! And mine! . . . Only, I was 
wrong to say that! You must put my fate out of your 
mind just as Dave has done. Let Dave find out for 
himself what he's done. She won't be able to hold him. 
She won't have time for a home and children. She won't 
take any more interest in him than Hester takes in you. 
But you, Robin, you can still be saved! I want to save 
you from throwing yourself away as Dave has: You will 
face the facts, won't you? 

Robert. You mean . . . I'm to ... to break with 
Hester? 

Mrs. Phelps. You will be a man ? 

Robert [pause, then]. Well . . . I'll . . . I'll try, 
Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps [pause, then]. When? 

Robert. Well . . . the . . . the first chance I get. 

Mrs. Phelps [trying not to appear eager]. Tonight? 
. . . You'll have your chance tonight, Robin. Ill see that 
you get it. Promise me to take it ? 

Robert [pause]. All right. ... If you think I'd bet- 
ter. . . . All right. . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, thank God for this confidence be« 
tween us! Thank God I've saved my boy one more 
tumble! You'll see it won't be so bad to put up with 
your mother a little longer! You'll see I've still plenty 
to give you and to do for you! 

Robert. My blessed, blessed mother! 

Mrs. Phelps [unable to repress her triumph]. And I 
won't have to be lonely now! I won't have to be lonely! 

Robert. No, Mother! No! 
[He ta\es her in his arms.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Kiss me. 

[He does; on the lips, fervently. David comes in, 
dressed for dinner.] 

David. Hello! That's a pretty picture! . . . Chris'll 
be down in a minute. 

Robert. Where's Hester? 

David. In Chris's room. I heard them giggling in 
there. Isn't it grand diey've hit it off so well? 

Robert [meeting his mother's eyes]. Isn't it? Ill 
make a cocktail. 
[He goes.] 

David. You like Christina, don't you, Mother? 

Mrs. Phelps. Didn't you know I should ? 

David. Sure I did! After all, I couldn't have gone far 
wrong on a wife, could I? I mean, having you for a 



THE SILVER CORD 



115 



mother would make most girls look pretty cheesey. I 
waited a long time. And all the time I was waiting for 
Chris I You'll see how wonderful Chris is. Why, she 
gets better every day. I don't know how I ever pulled 
it off. I swear I don't. I certainly had luck. 

Mrs. Phelps. You're happy? 

David. You bet I'm happy! 

Mrs. Phelps. You're not going to let your happiness 
crowd me out entirely, are you, Dave boy? 

David [amiably irritated]. Oh, Mother! Lay off! 
[Robert returns with sha\er and cocktail glasses.] 

Robert. This is just a preliminary, Mother. We both 
need it, before we dress. 

Mrs. Phelps. Perhaps we do. 

David, Shan't we call Chris and Hester ? 

Mrs. Phelps. No! just we three! 

Robert. It'll never be we three any more. I heard 
them coming as I crossed the hall. 

[He pours the cocktail into the glasses and goes 
about passing them,] 

Mrs. Phelps. My two boys! My big one and my little 
one! 

David [calls out]. Hurry up, Chris! 

Mrs. Phelps. If I can keep the little corner Christina 
doesn't need, Dave . . . that's all I ask. . . . 

David. Don't you worry, Mother [Christina and 
Hester enter. They are both dressed appropriately for 
the evening. Christina is particularly lovely.] Here we 
are! 

Christina. Thank you, Robert. 
[They sip their cocktails.] 

David. Chris! 

Christina. Yes? 

David. Let's tell Mother. 

Christina. Now? In front of everybody? 

David. It won't hurt 'em to hear. 

Christina. I don't mind, if they don't. 

Robert. Mind what? 

David. It'll make Mother so happy. 

Mrs. Phelps. What will? 

David. A surprise Chris and I have got to spring on 
you! 

Mrs. Phelps. How nice! What is it? 

Christina [a smiling pause — then]. In about four 
months I'm going to have a baby. 

Hester. Oh, Christina, how wonderful! 

Robert. Are you really! 

David. Isn't that a grand surprise, Mother? 

Mrs. Phelps [recovering as from a body blow]. Of 
course . . . David. I'm very glad, my dear. Very glad 
. . . Have you a napkin there, Robin? I've spilled my 
cocktail all over my dress. 



curtain 



ACT TWO 

The First Scene 

The living-room again. It is the same evening, after sup- 
per. The lamps are lighted. Mrs. Phelps, Hester, 
Christina, David and Rob are all present. Chris- 
tina, Hester and David are dressed as we saw them 
at the end of the first act. Rob wears his dinner coat 
and his mother has changed to a simple evening 
dress. They have only just finished their coffee and 
Mrs. Phelps is busily showing a collection of photo- 
graphs which she has in a great Indian basket beside 
her chair. 

Christina. What were you doing in the sailor suit, 
Dave? 

David. Dancing the hornpipe, I believe. 

Mrs. Phelps [fondly]. That was at Miss Briggs's 
dancing school. Do you remember Miss Briggs, David? 

David. Do I! The hornpipe must have been some- 
thing special, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. I see that I've marked it "Masonic 
Temple, April 6th, 1904," 

David. It must have been special. They don't usually 
dance hornpipes in Masonic Temples. 

Christina. Did Miss Briggs teach you to be graceful, 
Dave? 

David. She did indeed. As a boy I was a gazelle. But 
I got over it. 

Christina. I'm just as glad. I've known one or two 
adult gazelles. 

Mrs. Phelps. Both David and Robin danced beauti- 
fully. 

David. I haven't thought of Miss Briggs for years. I 
remember her so well. She seemed so old to me. She 
must have been old, too. A good deal older than God. 
She looked it, in spite of her red hair and her castanets. 
Spain, she used to say, is the land of the dance. 

Mrs. Phelps. She had all the nicest children. 

David. Castanets and Spanish shawls . . . and a 
police whisde. She blew the whisde at the boys for run- 
ning and sliding. God knows what dances she taught 
us. Very different from the steps you indulge in, Hester, 
with your low modern tastes. 

Hester. Running and sliding sounds very pleasant. 

David. We thought that up for ourselves. 

Mrs. Phelps. How long ago that all seems! [She 
shows another photograph.] This is David when he was 
ten weeks old. 

Christina. Oh, David! 

Hester. Let me see. [Christina shows her.] What a 
darling baby! Did they always sit them in shells in those 
days? 



116 



DRAMA 



Mrs. Phelps [just a little coldly]. It was a fashion like 
any other. 

Christina. David on the half shell! 

Hester. Have you ever noticed how much all babies 
look like Chief Justice Taft? 

Mrs. Phelps [she takes the photographs bac\ in ill- 
concealed irritation], David was a beautiful child. 

David. I didn't always sit in shells, Mother's got one 
of me on a white fur rug. 

Mrs. Phelps. It hangs over my bed to this day. 

Christina. In the nude? 

David. No. In an undershirt. 
[Hester giggles.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Fashions change. 

Christina. I suppose they must. David wouldn't 
think of being photographed in his undershirt, now. Let 
me see the picture again, Mrs. Phelps. 

Mrs. Phelps. I think that's enough for this evening. 
[She rises, in great dignity, to put the photographs 
aside.] 

Christina. Dear Mrs. Phelps, please don't be angry. 
We were only teasing David. They're awfully interest- 
ing pictures. 

Mrs. Phelps. Only interesting to me, I'm afraid. 

Christina. Not at all. I loved them. Do show me 
some more, Mrs. Phelps. Are there many more? 

Mrs. Phelps [still stern about them]. Dave and Robin 
were photographed twice every month until they were 
twelve years old. 

Hester [calculating rapidly]. Good Lord! That makes 
over two hundred and fifty of each! 

Mrs. Phelps. I never counted. I used to study their 
photographs, month by month, just as I did their weight. 
I wasn't satisfied to watch only their bodies grow. I 
wanted a record of the development of their little minds 
and souls as well. I could compare the expression of 
Dave's eyes, for instance, at nine, with their expression 
at eight and a half, and see the increased depth. And I 
was never disappointed. 

Hester. I knew a mother once who called her son 
"her beautiful black swan." 

Mrs. Phelps. I should never have called either of my 
sons by such a name! 

Robert. I can remember when you used to call us 
your Arab steeds! 

Mrs. Phelps [furious]. Only in fun. Will you put 
them away, Robin ? 

[Robert ta\es the photographs.] 

Robert. Sure you don't want to go through the rest, 
Mother? 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm afraid of boring Christina. Christina 
has other interests, of course. Higher interests than her 
husband. Higher even than children, I suspect, 

[There is an abashed, awful pause, at this. Chris- 
tina loo\s hurt and baffled. Hester is horrified. 



David, puzzled, rises and goes to the window. 
Robert smiles to himself as he stows the photo- 
graphs away.] 

Hester [breaking out]. Well, of all the . . . 
[Christina, catching her eye, stops her.] 

Mrs. Phelps [polite, but dangerous]. What was it you 
were about to say, Hester? 

Hester [recovering herself none too expertly]. I was 
just looking at Christina's dress. I was just going to say: 
"Well, of all the lovely dresses I ever saw, that's the 
loveliest." ■ 

Christina. It is nice, isn't it? I got it in Paris. From 
Poiret. Dave made me, 

Mrs. Phelps [as she studies the dress]. I've a little 
woman right here in town who does well enough for me. 
I know who that dress would look well on! Dave, you 
remember Clara Judd? Such an exquisite figure, Clara 
had, and such distinction! That dress wants distinction 
and a figure. You might wear it, too, Hester. 

[There is another painful pause. Christina is really 
crushed.] 

David [desperately snatching for a change of subject]. 
Look, Chris! The moon's up. You can see the kids 
coasting down the long hill. 

Christina [joining him at the window gratefully]. If 
I weren't all dressed up, I'd join them! 

Hester. Don't you love coasting? 

Christina [she nods]. Once last winter we had a big 
snowfall at Heidelberg. I'd been all day in the laboratory, 
I remember, straining my eyes out at a scarlet fever cul- 
ture for our bacteriology man. Krauss, his name was. 
They called him "The Demon of the Neckar." The 
theory was that he used to walk along the river bank, 
thinking up cruel things to say to his students. I never 
knew such a terrifying man. . . . Well, this day I'm 
talking about, I came out of Krauss's laboratory into the 
snow. Into Grimm's fairy tales, as Dave knows, because 
Dave's seen Heidelberg. Another bacteriologist, a dear 
boy from Marburg, came with me. We looked at the 
snow and we wanted to coast. . . . We found a small 
boy with a very large sled and we rented it, with the 
boy, who wouldn't trust us not to steal it. We certainly 
coasted. We got so ardent, we took the funicular up 
the Schlossberg and coasted down from there. The 
lights came out along the Neckar and the snow turned 
the colors and colors snow can turn and still we coasted. 
. . . Presendy, we had an accident, A bob turned over 
in front of us with an old man on it We couldn't stop 
and so we just hit the bob and the old man and you 
know how that is when you're going fast! . . . We 
picked ourselves up — or, rather, dug ourselves out — and 
went to. see if we'd hurt the old fellow and, God save 
us, it was Krauss himself! ... I don't mind telling you 
our hearts sank. We stood there petrified. Bur. we 
needn't have worried. Krauss didn't mind. He smiled 



THE SILVER CORD 



117 



the sweetest smile — you'd never have suspected be had 
it in him!—and touched his cap like a litde boy and 
apologized for his clumsiness, "My age hasn't improved 
my skill," he said. ... I could have kissed him. I wasn't 
quite sure how he'd have taken that, so, instead, I asked 
him to join us. He was delighted. We kept it up for 
another hour, we two students and the great god 
Krauss. "Jugend ist Trunkenheit ohne Wein!" he said. 
I daresay he was quoting a poem. . . . He couldn't, have 
been a day under seventy. Three months later, he died 
of an inoperable internal tumor. In his notes, they found 
an observation he had written on his condition that very 
day we coasted. Think of a man who could write ob- 
servations on his approaching death and then go off to 
coast afterwards! It's what life can be and should be. 
It's the difference between life and self. 

Mrs. Phelps. Hm! . . . 

Hester. I think that's the most marvellous story I've 
ever heard I 

Robert. Isn't it marvellous ? 

Hester. I wish I'd known such a man! 

Christina. Do you remember the night we coasted in 
Heidelberg, Dave? 

David. Do I? [To Ms mother.] Chris means the 
night she accepted me! 

Mrs. Phelps. Does she really? 

David [dashed and giving it up]. Yeah. . . . Let's go 
outside and watch the kids, Chris. It'll do us good. 

Christina [seeing his point]. Right! I'd love to! 
[They go.] 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm beginning to wonder if Christina's 
studies at Heidelberg haven't made her just the least 
little bit in the world pro-German. 

Hester. Mrs. Phelps, how can you say such a thing! 
[Hester looks from Robert to his mother in amaze- 
ment. Mrs. Phelps sits down at the piano and begins to 
play the easier portions of one of Chopin's nocturnes.] 
I think that was simply inspiring! 

Mrs. Phelps. I can't play Chopin if you interrupt me, 
Hester. 

Hester. I'm sorry. I simply can't get Christina out of 
my mind. 

Mrs. Phelps. What do you mean ? 

Hester. I mean that I think she's the most perfect 
person I've ever seen. 

Mrs. Phelps. Do you really? Which way did they 
go, Robin ? 

Robert [at the window]. Down the front. 

Mrs. Phelps. Can you see them? 

Robert. They're just standing in the road. Nov/ 
they're moving down under the trees. 

Mrs. Phelps. But they can't even see the long hill from 
the trees. 

Robert. They're not looking at the long hill. 

Mrs. Phelps. What are they looking at? 



Robert. Each other. It's quite a romantic picture. Now 
she's put her head on his shoulder. His arm is around 
her waist. . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Faugh! Call them in! 

[Her irritation produces a discord in the nocturne, 
Robert moves to go.] 

Hester. Oh, don't, Rob! It's the first chance they've 
had to be alone together. 

Mrs. Phelps. They can be alone without David's 
catching pneumonia, can't they? She drags him out of 
doors at night in freezing weather to spoon in the road 
like a couple of mill hands! I should think she might 
have some consideration for her husband's health, let 
alone for my feelings. 

Hester [a little hotly]. In the first place, it was David 
who dragged her out. In the second, they are in love and 
do want to be alone. In the third, I don't see any reason 
for worrying over the health of any man who looks as 
husky as David does. And in the fourth, if there is any 
worrying to be done, let me remind you that it's Chris- 
tina and not David who is going to have a baby. [Mrs. 
Phelps brea\s off her playing in the middle of a phrase.] 
I'm sorry if I've shocked you, but the truth is, you've 
both shocked me. 

Robert. How have we shocked you? 

Hester. By not being a great deal more thrilled over 
Christina's baby. When I drank my cocktail to it before 
dinner, neither of you drank yours. When I wanted to 
talk about it during dinner, you both changed the sub- 
ject. You haven't mentioned that baby since dinner, 
except once, and that was catty! You've known about 
that baby for over two hours and you aren't excited about 
it yet! Not what / call excited. 

Mrs. Phelps. If youll forgive my saying so, Hester, 
I'm not sure that an unborn baby is quite the most suit- 
able subject f or . . . 

Hester. I'm blessed if I see anything bad form about 
a baby! 

Robert. No more does Mother — after it's born. 

Hester. I can't wait for that. I love thinking about 
them. And wondering what they're going to be — I 
mean, boy or girl. Why, we had bets up on my sister's 
baby for months before he was born. 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm not ashamed to be old-fashioned. 

Hester. You ought to be. This is going to be a very 
remarkable baby. There aren't many born with such 
parents. And I intend to go right on talking about it 
with anyone who'll listen to me. Christina doesn't mind. 
She's just as interested as I am. I've already made her 
promise to have my sister's obstetrician. 

Mrs. Phelps. Really, Hester! 

Hester. I'd go to the ends of the earth for that man. 
Christina's baby has put me in a very maternal frame of 
mind. 

Mrs. Phelps. Maternal! 



118 



DRAMA 



Hester. What I say is: I'm as good as married. I 
might as well make the best of my opportunities to get 
used to the idea. Because I intend to have as many babies 
as possible. 

Mrs. Phelps [glancing at Robert]. Is that why you're 
marrying Rob, Hester? 

Hester. What better reason could I have? I'm sorry 
if I've shocked you, but, as I said before, you've shocked 
me and that's that. 

[Coolly, Mrs. Phelps goes for the coffee tray. Her 
eyes meet Robert's and there is no mistaking the 
intention of the loo\ they give him. Then, with- 
out a word, she leaves Robert and Hester alone 
together.] 
Robert [starting after her]. Mother! . . . Hester 
didn't mean. . . . Oh. . . . [He turns bac\ to Hester.] 
Hester, how could you? 
Hester. I don't know. . . . But! don't care if I did! 
Robert. It doesn't make things any easier for me. 
Hester. Oh, Rob, dear, I am sorry! 
Robert. You've got Mother all ruffled and upset. Now 
we'll have to smooth her down and have all kinds of 
explanations and everything. Really, it was too bad of 



you. 



Hester. I know. I lost my temper. . . . You under- 
stand, don't you? 

Robert. I understand that you're a guest in Mother's 
house. 

Hester. Is that all you understand? Oh, Rob! 

Robert. I'm sorry, Hester. But, for the moment, I'm 
thinking of Mother. 

Hester. I see. ... I'll apologize. 

Robert. That's up to you. 

Hester. I suppose she'll never forgive me. It isn't this, 
though. 

Robert. This? 

Hester. The scene I made. 

Robert. What do you mean? 

Hester. I don't know. . . . Some mothers like tb? 
girls their sons marry. 

PvObert. Doesn't that depend on the girls? 

Hester. Not entirely. 

Robert. You mustn't be unjust to Mother. 

Hester. Rob, I'm a litde tired of hearing about your 
mother. . . . [Suddenly penitent again.] Oh, I didn't 
mean to say that! I didn't mean it a bit! I'm sorry, Rob. 
. . . Now I'm apologizing to you. Don't you hear 
me? 

Robert. Yes, I hear you. What then? 

Hester. Oh, what difference does it make? I'm not 
marrying your mother. I'm marrying you. And I love 
you, Rob! I love you! 

Robert. Yes, my dear. 

Hester. I'll never be bad again. 

Robert. I'm willing to take your word for it. 



Hester. You'd better be. Oh, you are angry with me, 
Rob! 

Robert. No. I'm not. 

Hester. You're a queer one. 

Robert. Think so? How? 

Hester. As a lover. I've never seen another like you. 

Robert. Haven't you? [A thought strides him.] Tell 
me something, Hester. 

Hester. What? 

Robert. Have you had many ? 

Hester. Many what? 

Robert. Lovers. 

Hester. Oh, Robert, what a thing to say to a lady! 

Robert. You know what I mean. 

Hester. I'm not quite sure I want to answer. 

Robert. I'm not asking for their names. 

Hester. Oh, I shouldn't mind that ... the truth is 
... I don't know . . . 

Robert. You must. 

Hester. I don't really. I used to think ... oh, quite 
often . . . that one of my beaux was coming to the 
point . . . but . . . 

Robert. Yes? 

Hester. But none of them ever did. 

Robert. That surprises me. Why not ? 

Hester. I don't think it was entirely lack of allure, 
Rob. 

Robert. Of course it wasn't! 

Hester. / think it was because I always laughed. 

Robert. You didn't laugh at me. 

Hester. You looked foolish enough, now that I think 
of it. 

Robert. Yes. I daresay. ... So I was the only one. 

Hester. Say the only one I didn't laugh at, please. 
You make me sound so undesirable. 

Robert. I didn't mean to. Tell me, Hester . . . 

Hester. Anything. 

Robert. Have you thought what it will mean to be 
my wife? 

Hester. A rery pleasant life. 

Robert. For you? 

Hester. I certainly hope so. 

Robert. I don't know that I quite share your enthusi- 
asm for children. 

Hester. You will. 

Robert. They don't exactly help a career, you know. 

Hester. Have you got a career? 

Robert. I fully intend to have one. 

Hester. I'm glad to hear it. 

Robert. I've got just as much talent as Dave has. 

Hester. What kind of talent? 

Robert. I haven't decided. I can draw pretty well. I'm 
not a bad musician. I might decide to compose. I might 
even write. I've often thought of it. And children, you 



THE SILVER CORD 



119 



Hester. I don't know much about careers, but Lincoln 
had children and adored 'em, and if you can do half as 
well as he did . . . 

Robert. Then my preferences aren't to be considered? 

Hester. You just leave things to me. If we're poor, 
I'll cook and scrub floors. I'll bring up our children. I'll 
take care of you whether we live in New York or Kam- 
chatka. This business is up to me, Rob. Don't let it 
worry you. 

Robert [crushed], I only wanted to make sure you 
understood my point of view. 

Hester. If I don't, I shall, so let's cut this short. [She 
goes a little huffily to the window, R.obert watching her 
uneasily.] Hello! 

Robert. What is it? 

Hester. There goes your mother down the road. 

Robert [he joins her]. So it is! What can she be 
doing? 

Hester, She's fetching her darling David in out of the 
cold. I knew she would. 

Robert. Hester, would you mind not speaking that 
way of Mother? 

Hester. Can't she leave them alone for a minute? 

Robert. She's the worrying kind. 

Hester. Oh, rot! 

Robert. Evidently you're bent on making things as 
difficult as possible for me. 

Hester. I'm sorry you feel that. 
[A long irritable pause, then.] 

Robert. Hester? 

Hester. Yes? 

Robert. Have you thought any more about our 
honeymoon ? 

Hester. Didn't we decide to go abroad? 

Robert. Abroad's a pretty general term. You were to 
think where you wanted to be taken. 

Hester. I left that to you. 

Robert. You said you "didn't care." 

Hester. I don't. 

Robert. Nor 'where we live after . . . nor how. 

Hester. I don't ... I don't ... I want to live with 
you. [Suddenly warming] What's the use of this. 
Rob? 

Robert. We've never talked seriously about our mar- 
riage before. 

Hester. What is there to say about it? 

Robert. A great deal. 

Hester. I don't agree. Marriages are things of feeling. 
They'd better not be talked about. 

Robert. Real marriages can stand discussion! 

Hester. Rob! 

Robert. What? 

Hester. That wasn't nice. 

Robert. Wasn't it? 

Hester [suddenly frightened]. What's the matter. 



Rob? Ill talk as seriously as you please. Do I love you? 
Yes. Am I going to make you a good wife? I hope so, 
though I am only twenty and may make mistakes. Are 
you going to be happy with me? I hope that, too, but 
you'll have to answer it for yourself. 

Robert. I can't answer it. 

Hester. Why can't you? 

Robert. Because I'm not sure of it. 

H ester. Aren't you, Rob? 

Robert. These things are better faced before than 
after. 

Hester. What is it you're trying to say? 

Robert. If only we could be sure! 

Hester [stunned]. So that's it! 

Robert. Are you so sure you want to marry me? 

Hester. How can I be — now? 

Robert. Marriage is such a serious thing. You don't 
realize how serious. 

Hester. Don't I? 

Robert. No. ... I hope you won't think harshly of 
me. . . . And, mind you, I haven't said I wanted to 
break things off. ... I only want . . . 

Hester. Please, Rob! 

Robert. No. You've got to hear me out. 

Hester. I've heard enough, thank you! 

Robert. I'm only trying to look at this thing . . . 

Hester. Seriously. ... I know. . . . 

Robert. Because, after all, the happiness of three peo- 
ple is affected by it. 

Hester. Three? 

Robert. As Mother said, before dinner. 

Hester. So you talked this over with your mother ? 

Robert. Isn't that natural ? 

Hester. Is your mother die third ? 

Robert. Wouldn't she be? 

Hester. Yes, I suppose she would. ... I think you 
might tell me what else she had to say. 

Robert. It was all wise and kind. You may be as hard 
as you like on me, but you mustn't be hard on poor 
splendid lonely Mother. 

Hester [savage — under her breath]. So she's lonely, 
too! 

Robert. You will twist my meaning! 

Hester. You said "lonely." 

Robert. Perhaps I did. But Mother didn't. You know, 
she never talks about herself. 

Hester. I see. What else did she say about us? 

Robert. Well, you haven't been very interested in 
planning our future. She notices such things. 

Hester. What else? 

Robert. She sees through people, you know. 

Hester. Through me? 

Robert. She thought, as I must say I do, that we didn't 
love each other quite enough to ... At least, she 
thought we ought to think very carefully before wc . . . 



120 



DRAMA 



Hester [gripping his two arms with all her strength, 
she stops him\. If you really want to be free ... if you 
really want that, Rob, it's all right. It's perfectly all 
right. . . . I'll set you free. . . . Don't worry. . Only 
you've got to say so. You've got to. . . . Answer me, 
Rob. Do you want to be rid of me? [There is a pause. 
Robert cannot hold her gaze and his eyes jail. She ta\es 
the blow.] I guess that's answer enough. [She draws a 
little bac\ from him and pulls the engagement ring from 
her finger.] Here's your ring. 

Robert. Hester! Don't do anything you'll be sorry 
for afterwards! Don't, please! I can't take it yet! 

Hester [without any sign of emotion, she drops it on 
a table]. I shall have an easier time of it, if you keep 
away from me. I want to save my face ... if I can. 

Robert. Hester, please! 

Hester. All right, if you won't go, I will. 

Robert. I'm sorry. Of course I'll go. 

Hester. And take your ring with you. 

[He goes to the table, pichj up the ring, pockets it 
and has just got to the door when Hester brea\s 
into furious, hysterical sobbing. Her sobs rac\ her 
and seem, at the same time, to stride Robert li\e 
the blows of a whip.] 

Robert. For God's sake, Hester. . . . [She drops into 
a chair and sits, staring straight before her, shaken by her 
sobs of outraged fury and wretchedness.] Mother! Chris- 
tina! Come here! Hester . . . [Christina appears in 
the door. Mrs. Phelps follows her, David appears. 
Robert returns to Hester.] Can't you pull yourself to- 
gether? [She motions him away.] 

Christina. What's the matter? 

Robert. It's Hester. Can't you stop her? 

Mrs. Phelps. Good heavens, Robin! What's wrong 
with the child? 

Robert. She's . . . upset . . . you see, I was just . . . 
you know . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. I seel . . . She's taking it badly. 
[Hester's sobs only increase.] 

Christina. Hester, stop it! 

Hester. I'm all right. ... I can't . . . I . . . Christina 
. . . please . . . 

Christina. Open a window, Dave. . . . Haven't you 
any smelling salts in the house, Mrs. Phelps? 

[Mrs. Phelps goes for them where she left them at 
teatime.] 

Hester. Tell Rob to go away! Tell Rob to go away! 

Christina. Never mind Rob! . . . Get me some aro- 
matic spirits, one of you! Hurry up!! 
[Robert goes.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Here are my salts. 

Christina [peremptorily]. Hester! [She holds the 
salts for Hester to smell.] Now, stop it! Stop it, do you 
hear me? 

Hester. I'm trying to stop. If you'd only send these 



awful people out! Take me away, Christina! Take me 
back to New York! I've got to get away from here. I 
can't face them! I can't! I can't! 

Christina. Now, stop it! 

David [comes forward from a window]. Here's some 
snow in my handkerchief. Rub it on her wrists and 
temples. 

Christina. Thanks, Dave. 

[She applies it. Hester, by dint of great effort, 
gradually overcomes her sobs. Robert returns 
with a tumbler partly filled with a mil1{y solution 
of aromatic spirits.] 

Mrs. Phelps [speaking at the same time, in unfeigned 
wonderment to David]. Really, I do wonder at what 
happens to girls nowadays! When I was Hester's age I 
danced less and saved a little of my strength for self- 
control. 

Robert [speaking through]. Here, Dave. Take this. 
[David ta\es it. Robert goes again. David gives the 
tumbler to Christina.] 

Christina. Good! Can you drink this now, Hester? 

Hester. Thank you, Christina. I'm all right now. It 
was only . . . 

Christina. Never mind what it was. Drink this. 
[Hester drin\s it.] There, now. That's better. Just sit 
still and relax. 

David. What on earth brought it on? 

Mrs. Phelps [shrugging her shoulders]. Rob and she 
must have had a falling out. 

David. No ordinary one. . . . Rob! He's gone. . . . 
That's funny. 

Mrs. Phelps. He'd naturally be distressed. 

Hester. I'm really all right, now, Christina . . . and 
frightfully ashamed. . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. You'd better see how Rob is, Dave. His 
nerves are none too stout. Such scenes aren't good for 
him. 

Hester [in a high, strained voice]. No, isn't that so, 
Mrs. Phelps? 

Mrs. Phelps. Did you speak to me, Hester? 

Hester. Take the smelling salts to Rob with my love. 
. . . Oh God, Christina! 

Christina. Now, never mind, Hester. You'll go to 
pieces again. 

Hester. But I've got to mind! And I'm all right! It 
won't hurt me. ... I wish you'd go, David. 

Christina. Yes, Dave, do. I'll come up in a jiffy. 

Mrs. Phelps. When Hester's quieted down. [To 
David.] We'd better both go and see how Rob is. 
[She is just going.] 

Hester. Mrs. Phelps. There's something I want to 
ask you before we part. 

Mrs. Phelps. To-morrow, my dear girl. . . . 

Hester. There isn't going to be any to-morrow. 

Mrs. Phelps. What? 



THE SILVER CORD 



121 



Hester. Rob has just broken our engagement. 

Mrs. Phelps. Not really! 

Christina [staggered]. Hester, what do you mean? 

Hester. I mean what I say. Rob's just broken our 
engagement. 

[Christina motions to Dave to go. He obeys.] 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm immensely distressed, of course. 

Hester [shading her head doggedly]. He talked it all 
over with you before dinner. He told me that much, so 
it won't do you the least bit of good to pretend to be 
surprised. 

Mrs. Phelps. Aren't you forgetting yourself, Hester ? 

Hester. You made him do it. Why did you make 
him do it, Mrs. Phelps? 

[Christina, amazed, draws bac\ to observe the pair 
of them.] 

Mrs. Phelps [perfect dignity]. I don't intend to stand 
here, Hester, and allow any hysterical girl to be rude 
to me. 

Hester [driving on querulously]. I'm not being rude! 
All I want to know is why you talked Rob into jilting 
me. Will you answer me, please? 

Mrs. Phelps. Such things may be painful, my dear 
girl, but they're far less painful before than after. 

Hester. He quoted that much. 

Christina. What's the good of this, Hester? 

Hester. I'm only trying to make her tell me why she 
did it. 

Mrs. Phelps. But, Hester! Really! This is absurd! 

Hester. You've got to! You've got to explain! 

Mrs. Phelps. I had nothing to do with Robin's change 
of heart. 

Hester. You must have had, Mrs. Phelps, and I'm 
demanding an explanation of why you talked Rob 
into . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Isn't it enough that he found out in time 
that you weren't the wife for him? 

Hester. That isn't the truth! 

Christina. Hester, darling! 

Hester. Can you tell me what he meant when he said 
that the happiness of three people was at stake? 

Mrs. Phelps. He must have been thinking of your 
happiness as well as his own and mine. 

Hester. What about your loneliness? 

Mrs. Phelps. This is contemptible of you! 

Christina. Really, Hester, this can't do any good! 

Hester. I'm going to make her admit that she made 
Rob . . . 

Mrs. Phelps [exploding]. Very well, then, since you 
insist! I did advise my son to break with you. Do you 
want to know why? 
Hester. Yes! 

Mrs. Phelps. Because of your indifference. . . . 
Hester. Oh! 
Mrs. Phelps. Because he came to me to say that you 



neither love him nor make any pretense of loving 
him. . . . 

Hester. Rob said that? 

Mrs. Phelps. He even said that you must have mis- 
construed his friendship and that he never wanted to 
marry you . . . 

Hester. No! 

Mrs. Phelps. And I told him to risk anything . . . 
anything, rather than such an appalling marriage . . . 

Hester. I don't believe a word of it! 

Mrs. Phelps. You may believe it or not! 

Christina. Mrs. Phelps, you had really better let me 
handle this. 

Mrs. Phelps. Willingly. 

Hester. Do you believe I took advantage of Rob, 
Christina ? 

Christina. Of course not! 

Mrs. Phelps. So you take her side, Christina! 

Christina. I don't believe that, Mrs. Phelps. 

Mrs. Phelps [she realizes that she has gone too far]. 
No? Well, perhaps . . . 

Christina. Whatever Robert may think, I can't be- 
lieve that he said . . . 

Mrs. Phelps [frightened]. Perhaps he didn't say quite 
that, in so many words . . . but he certainly meant . . . 

Hester. I'm going. I'm going now. Right this minute. 

Mrs. Phelps. There's a train at nine in the morning. 
It gets you to New York at twelve. I shall have the car 
for you at eight-thirty. 

Hester. May I have the car now, please, Mrs. Phelps? 

Mrs. Phelps. There's no train to-night. 

Hester. It doesn't matter. I won't stay here. Not an- 
other minute. I'll go to the hotel in town. 

Mrs. Phelps. You'll do nothing of the sort! 

Hester. You see if I don't! 

Mrs. Phelps. You've got to think of appearances! 

Hester. Appearances are your concern. Yours and 
Rob's. I'm going to the hotel. I don't care what people 
say! I don't care about anything. I won't stay here! 

Mrs. Phelps. Can't you talk to her, Christina ? Surely 
you see . . . for all our sakes! 

Hester. If you won't let me have the car, I'll call a 

12X1* • • * 

[She plunges towards the telephone.] 
Mrs. Phelps. I forbid you! 

Hester [seizing the instrument]. I want a taxi . . . 
a taxi. . . . What is the number? . . . Well, give it to 
me. . . . Locust 4000? Give me Locust 4000! 

[Mrs. Phelps hesitates an instant, then, with terrible 
coolness, steps forward and )er\s the telephone 
cord from the wall. TLxcept for a startled exclama- 
tion, very low, from Christina, there is not a 
sound. Hester hangs up the receiver and sets 
down the dead instrument.] 
Mrs. Phelps [after an interminable silence]. You are 



122 



DRAMA" 



the only person in the world who has ever forced me to 
do an undignified thing. I shall not forget it. 
[She goes nobly.] 

Hester [weakly, turning to Christina]. Christina, it 
isn't true what she said. . . . He did. . . . He did want 
to marry me I Really, he did! He did! 

Christina. Of course he did, darling! 

Hester. I won't stay! I won't stay under that woman's 
roof! 

Christina. Hester, darling! 

Hester. I'll walk to town! 

Christina. Don't, Hester! 

Hester. That wasn't true, what she said! 

Christina. Of course not! 

Hester. I still love him. . . . Let me go, Christina, I'll 
walk . . . 

Christina. You can't, at this time of night! It 
wouldn't be safe! 

Hester. I don't care! I won't stay! 

Christina. There! There! You'll come to bed now, 
won't you! 

Hester. No! No! I can't! I'd rather die! I'll walk to 
town. 

Christina. You'll force me to come with you, Hester. 
I can't let you go alone. 

Hester. I won't stay another minute! 

Christina. Do you want to make me walk with you ? 
Think, Hester! Think what I told you before dinner! 
Do you want to make me walk all that way in the cold ? 

Hester [awed by this]. Oh, your baby! I didn't mean 
to forget your baby! Oh, Christina, you mustn't stay, 
either! This is a dreadful house! You've got to get your 
baby away from this house, Christina! Awful things 
happen here! 

Christina. Hester, darling! Won't you please be sen- 
sible and come up to bed? 

Hester [speaking at the same lime as her nerves begin 
to go again]. Awful things, Christina. . . . You'll see 
if you don't come away! You'll see! ... She'll do the 
same thing to you that she's done to me. You'll see! 
You'll see! 

curtain 



ACT TWO 

Scene Two 

Scene: The curtain rises again, as soon as possible, upon 
David's little bedroom, untouched since the day 
when Davtd went away to Harvard and scorned to 
take his prep school trophies and souvenirs with 
him. The furniture is rather more than simple. The 
bed is single. There is a dresser. There are only a 
couple of chairs. The curtains at the single window 



nave been freshly laundered and put bac\ in their 
old state by Mrs. Phelps in a spirit of maternal 
archeology. Insignificant loving cups, won at tennis, 
stand about the dresser. No pennants, no banners. 
There might be some tennis racquets, golf stickj, 
crossed s\is, a pair of snow-shoes, class photographs 
and framed diplomas. There must also be a fairly 
important reproduction of Velasquez' Don Bal- 
thazar Carlos on horseback^, selected by Mrs. Phelps 
as David's favorite Old Master. A final touch is 
David's baby pillow. 

[Davtd stands in his pajamas and sockj, about to enter 
upon the last stages of his preparation to retire for 
the night. The room has been strewn with clothing 
during the preliminary stages. Now he is in the 
ambulatory state of mind. A series of crosses and 
circumnavigations produces several empty pac\s of 
cigarettes from several poc\ets, corners of the suit- 
case, etc. This frustration brings on baffled scratch- 
ings of the head and legs. Then he gives up the ciga- 
rette problem, turns again to the suitcase, spills out 
several dirty shirts and finally, apparently from the 
very bottom, extracts a dressing-gown, a pair of slip- 
pers, a tooth-brush and some tooth-paste. He sheds 
the sockj, dons the slippers and dressing-gown and 
sallies forth with brush and paste to do up his teeth 
in the bathroom. He goes by the door which gives 
on the hall at the head of the stairs. 

After he has been gone a few seconds, a tiny scratching 
sound is heard on the other side of the other door to 
the room and that is opened from without. We see 
the scratcher at wor\ conveying the impression that 
a wee mousie wants to come in. The wee mousie is 
none other than Mrs. Phelps, all smiles in her best 
negligee, the most effective garment she wears in 
the course of the entire play, carrying the largest 
eiderdown comfort ever seen on any stage. 

The smile fades a little when she discovers that the room 
is empty. Then its untidiness catches her eye and 
she shades her head reprovingly, as who should say: 
"What creatures these big boys are!" She goes to 
wor\ at once, true mother that she is, to pic\ things 
up. She loves her wor\ and puts her whole heart 
into it. The trousers are neatly hung over the bac\ 
of the chair, the coat and waistcoat hung over them. 
The shirts, socks and underwear are folded and laid 
chastely on the seat. One or two of the garments 
receive devout maternal kisses and hugs. Then she 
goes to the bed, lifts off the suitcase, pushes it under- 
neath, adjusts the eiderdown, smooths the pillow 
and kjsses that. Last, all smiles again, she sits, care- 
fully disposing her laces and ribbons, to await 
David's return. She yearns for it and she has not 
long to wait. 



THE SILVER CORD 



123 



David returns. His mother's beaming smile, as he opens 
the door, arouses his usual distaste for filial senti- 
mentality. It is intensified, now — and very ill-con- 
cealed — by the hour, his costume and recent events. 
He hesitates in the doorway.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Why do you look so startled ? It's only 
Mother! 

David [laconic]. Hello, Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps. I came in to ask if you needed anything 
and . . . 

David. Not a thing, thanks. 

Mr. Phelps. And to warn you against opening the 
window in this weather. Oh, and I brought you that 
extra cover. I've been picking up after you, too! 

David [looking gloomily about]. You needn't have 
troubled. 

Mrs. Phelps. It took me back to the old days when I 
used to tuck you up in that same little bed . . . 

David [a strong hint]. Yeah. . . . I'm just turning in, 
Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps [regardless]. . . . And then sit in this 
very chair and talk over all my problems with you. I fee! 
that I must talk to my big boy to-night. ... I must get 
acquainted with my Dave again. 

David [an even stronger hint]. We're not exactly 
strangers, are we? And besides, it's getting late. 

Mrs. Phelps [even more persistent]. It was always in 
these late hours that we had our talks in the old days 
when we were still comrades. Oh, are those days gone 
forever? Don't you remember how we used to play 
that we had an imaginary kingdom where we were king 
and queen? 

David [moribund]. Did we? I wish Chris 'ud come 
up. 

Mrs. Phelps [a frown and she spea\s quickly]. Have 
you noticed, Dave boy, that your room is just as you left 
it? I've made a little shrine of it. The same curtains, the 
same . . . 

David [breaking in]. I suppose Chris is still trying to 
get Hester quiet ? 

Mrs. Phelps. I suppose so. . . . And every day I 
dusted in here myself and every night I prayed in here 
for . . . 

David [a little too dryly for good manners]. Thanks. 

Mrs. Phelps [reproachfully]. Oh, David, you can't 
get that horrid scene downstairs out of your mind! 

David. No. 

Mrs. Phelps. Try! I need my big boy so! Because I'm 
facing the gravest proKlem of my life, Dave. And you've 
got to help me. 

David. What is it ? 

Mrs. Phelps. Is it true that I'm of no more use to my 
two sons ? 

David. Whatever put such an idea in your head ? 

Mks. Pheum. You dkL 



David [shocked]. I? 

Mrs. Phelps [nodding]. You weren't really glad to 
see me this afternoon. 

David [in all sincerity]. I was. . . . I was delighted! 

Mrs. Phelps [bravely stopping him]. Not glad as I 
was to see you. I noticed, Dave! . . . And that made 
me wonder whether this scientific age — because it is a 
scientific age, Dave — isn't making more than one boy 
forget that the bond between mother and son is the 
strongest bond on earth. . . . 

David [not quite sure of the superlative]. Well, it's 
certainly strong. 

Mrs. Phelps. Do you realize how sinful any boy 
would be to want to loosen it? 

David. Sure I realize that! 

Mrs. Phelps. I see so many poor mothers, no less de- 
serving of love and loyalty than I, neglected and dis- 
carded by their children, set aside for other interests. 

David. What interests ? 

Mrs. Phelps. All kinds of things. . . . Wives. . . . 

David [shying]. Nonsense, Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps. The Chinese never set any relationship 
above their filial piety. They'd be the greatest people on 
e*arth if only they'd stop smoking opium. 

David. You haven't any kick, have you ? I mean : Rob 
and I haven't let you down? 

Mrs. Phelps. Not yet, Dave. But, you know the old 
saying? 

David. What old saying? 

Mrs. Phelps. That a boy's mother is his best friend. 

David. Oh! Bet I dol 

Mrs. Phelps. Do you think of your mother as your 
best friend ? 

David. None better, certainly. 

Mrs. Phelps. None better! Hm! You can say, though, 
that you haven't entirely outgrown me? 

David. Of course I haven't! Why, I'd hate to have 
you think that just because I'm a grown man, I . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. No son is ever a grown man to his 
mother! [A \noc\ at the door.] Who can that be at 
this hour? 

David. I hope it's Chris. 
[He starts for the door.] 

Mrs. Phelps [freezing suddenly as she rises]. Dave! 

David [turning]. What? 

Mrs. Phelps. Wait. ... I mustn't intrude. . . . Good- 
night. . . . 

David [calling out]. Just a minute! [To his mother, 
politely]. You wouldn't be intruding! 

Mrs. Phelps. Not on you, I know. But . . . 

David. Not on Chris either! 

Mrs. Phelps. I know best. Kiss me good-night. 
[He fosses her chee\.] 

David. Good-night, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps [a quic\ hug]. God bless my big boy! 



L24 



DRAMA 



[She goes as she came. David's loo\, as he watches 
her door close behind her, is baffled. He goes 
quickly to the other door. Robert is standing out- 
side.] 

David. For Pete's sake, Rob! I thought it was Chris! 
. . . Why didn't you walk in? 

Robert. I thought Mother was in here. 

David. She was. She just went to bed. 

Robert [entering]. She must have thought it was 
Chris > too! 

David. How do you mean ? 

Robert. I shouldn't rush things if I were you. 

David. Maybe you're right. Women are too deep for 
me. 

Robert. I came in for a smoke. I had to talk to you. 
I've been sitting in my room wondering what you think 
of all this. 

David [cigarette business]. I don't think much and 
that's the truth! 

Robert. Good God. Dave, can't you be a little easier 
on me? Didn't you ever feel any doubts when you were 
engaged? Were you always so sure of Christina that 
you . . . 

David. The first time I asked Chris to marry me, shl 
made it perfectly clear that, as far as she was concerned, 
I was to consider myself dripping wet. After that I was 
too damn scared I wouldn't get her to think whether she 
loved me or not. 

Robert [darkly]. And I never had one comfortable 
moment from the time Hester accepted me. 

David. Oh, being in love's like everything else. You've 
got to put some guts in it. 

Robert [bitter anger]. You think I haven't got any 
guts. You want to make me look like a callous cad! All 
right, I'll be a cad. I don't care what people think about 
me! But I'll tell you one thing! I'm damned if I'm 
going to let you turn Mother against me! 

David. Do what? 

Robert. You heard me! 

David. My God, haven't you outgrown that old stufr 
yet? 

Robert. I know from experience what to expect when 
you and Mother get together. I used to listen at that 
door, night after night, night after night, while you and 
Mother sat in here and talked me over. Then I'd watch 
for the change in her next morning at breakfast when 
I hadn't slept a wink all night. The way you used to 
own the earth at those breakfasts! Well, if you try any 
of that old stuff to-night, I'll lose the only prop I've got 
left. 

David. Isn't it about time you let go of Mother's apron- 
strings ? 

Robert. You would say that! You don't realize that 
I'm desperate. 

Davtd. Desperate, hell! You're crazy! Mother's gone 



to bed and . . . [The wee mousie scratches at the door 
again.] What's that? 

Mrs. Phelps [entering]. It's only Mother. Are my 
two beaux quarreling? Jealous, jealous Robin! What's 
the matter? 

David. Nothing. 

Mrs. Phelps. A fine man is a frank man, David! Do 
you think I didn't hear every word you said ? Surely you 
must know that Hester wasn't worthy of your brother? 

David. Wasn't she? Well, let's not talk any more 
about it. 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, but we must. For all our sakes, we 
must clear the air. / have always taken the stand that my 
boys could do absolutely no wrong and that is the proper 
stand for a mother to take. Didn't I always side with 
you in your school scrapes? Even against the masters? 
Even when you were clearly in the wrong? Of course, 
I did! And I shall not permit one word of criticism 
against your brother now. Loyalty, Dave! Loyalty! 
Come, now! Tell Mother all about it! 

David. But if you overheard every word we said! 

Mrs. Phelps. "Overheard," David? Am I given to 
eavesdropping? 

David. I didn't say so. 

Mrs. Phelps. I simply want to make sure I didn't miss 
anything while I was in my bath. 

David. I don't misunderstand him. I'm sorry for 
Hester, that's all. 

Robert. We're all sorry for Hester. 

David. I don't think it's your place to be too sorry. 

Robert. Let's drop it, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. No. I've got to know what's on Dave's 
mind. My whole life may hang on it. What is it, Dave? 
[Carefully sounding.] If Robin's not to blame, perhaps 
I am? 

Robert [horrified]. Mother! 

David. What's the use of getting so worked up over 
nothing ? 

Mrs. Phelps. Nothing! Can you say "nothing" after 
what we were talking about a few minutes ago? 

David [cornered]. I only think . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. What? 

David. Well, that you've both handed Hester a some- 
what dirty deal. And Chris must think so, too! 

Mrs. Phelps [wary]. Indeed! And how, please? 

David. Well, it comes of what Chris calls "mythol- 
ogizing." 

Mrs. Phelps [frightened]. Does Christina discuss our 
family affairs already? 

David. No. It's one of her old ideas about people in 
general. You mythologize Rob into a little tin god. Rob 
thinks he is a little tin god. Along comes Hester and 
falls in love with the real Rob. She never heard of your 
little tin god Rob. She doesn't deliver the incense and 
tom-toms. That makes you and Rob sore and the whole 



THE SILVER CORD 



125 



works goes to hell. That's mythologizing. Believe me, 
it can make plenty of trouble. 

Mrs. Phelps [relieved that the criticism is so general] . 
If that's all I'm to blame for, I don't know that I can 
object. Expecting the best of everyone is, at least, a 
worthy fault. Still, if I may venture an older woman's 
opinion on one of Christina's ideas? 

David. I wish to God I hadn't started this. 

Mrs. Phelps. So do I. But perhaps you'll tell me what 
Christina would say to the true reason for Robin's break 
with Hester? 

David. What is the true reason? 

Mrs. Phelps. Do you want to tell him, Robin ? 

Robert [inspired]. I broke with Hester because of an 
ideal, the ideal of womankind Mother gave us both by 
being the great woman that she is. / knew / couldn't be 
happy with any woman who fell short of her. 

Mrs. Phelps. What becomes of your "dirty deal" now, 
David ? 

David. But I'm not going against that ideal, Mother. 
That's another thing. 

Robert. You couldn't have troubled much about it 
when you married I 

Mrs. Phelps. You shouldn't have said that, Robin. I 
haven't had Christina's advantages. I wasn't given a 
German education. 

David. Now, don't take this out on Chris, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. I think I know a little of a mother's duty 
toward her daughter-in-law. Good-night, Robin. I must 
talk with your brother alone, now. And before you 
quarrel again, stop to think that you are all I have, you 
two, and try to consider me. It isn't much to ask and it 
won't be for long. You both know what the doctors 
think about my heart! Dr. McClintock tells me I may 
go at any moment. [Pause, then.] Good-night, Robin. 

Robert [frightened]. Good-night, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. You may come into my room later, if 
you like. I may need you to comfort me after . . . [She 
waves her hand. He leaves. She has never ta\en her 
eyes off David. When the door closes behind Robert, 
she speaks.] David, in this moment, when your brother 
and I most needed your loyalty, you have hurt me more 
than I have ever been hurt in my life before, even by 
your father. 

David. I never meant to hurt you. 

Mrs. Phelps [workjng it up]. You have been wicked, 
David! Wicked! Wicked! 

David. How? 

Mrs. Phelps. You have shown me too clearly that 
what I most dreaded has already come to pass! 

David. What, Mother? 

Mrs. Phelps. You have loosened the bond between us. 
You have discarded me. 

David [horrified]. But I haven't done any such thing! 

Mrs. Phelps. Don't say any more! Act upon your 



treachery, if you will, but don't, please, don't say another 
thing. Remember! 

"The brave man does it with a sword, 
The coward with a word!" 

[And she sweeps out, slamming her door after her.] 

David [speaking through her door]. But I didn't 
mean anything. . . . Won't you let me explain? ... I 
didn't know what I was talking about! 

[There is no answer. He rattles the door. It is 
loc\ed. He comes away, swearing softly under 
his breath. Then, manfully, he ta\es refuge in 
sulkj. He hjc\s off his slippers and throws his 
dressing-gown aside. He lights a cigarette and 
flounces into bed, snatching up a boo\ or maga- 
zine en route. Just as he is settled, his mother's 
door opens again very slowly. Mrs. Phelps pre- 
sents a tear-stained face to view and comes in.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Smoking in bed, Dave boy? 

David [starting up]. Eh? 

Mrs. Phelps. It's only Mother. . . . No, don't get up. 
. . . Let me sit here as I used to in the old days. 

David [sitting up]. Mother, I didn't mean . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Never mind. I was wrong to be hurt. 

David. But you had me all wrong. I mean . . . You 
and I . . . We're just the same as we always were. 
. . . Believe me, we are. . . . Why, if anything came to 
spoil things between us . . . 

Mrs. Phelps [the first objective conquered]. That's 
what I wanted you to say! Nov/ talk to me about Chris- 
tina. 

David [ta\en abac\ without \nowing why]. Huh? 

Mrs. Phelps. Give me your hand in mine and tell me 
all about her. 

David [obeying rather reluctantly]. What is there to 
tell? 

Mrs. Phelps. Well, for one thing, tell me you think 
she's going to like me! 

David [warmly]. She does already! 

Mrs. Phelps. Doesn't think I'm an old-fashioned 
frump? 

David. I should say not! How could she? 

Mrs. Phelps. She's such a modern young lady. So 
lovely, but so very up-to-date. You must tell me every- 
thing I can do to win her to me. And I'll do it. Though 
I'm afraid of her, Dave. 

David [amused]. Afraid of Chris? Why? 

Mrs. Phelps. She's so much cleverer than I am. She 
makes me realize that I'm just a timid old lady of the 
old school. 

David [nice indignation]. You old! 

Mrs. Phelps [archly so brave about it]. Yes, I am! 

David. Well, you and Chris are going to be the best 
friends ever. 

Mrs. Phelps. You are happy, aren't you? 



126 



DRAMA 



David. You bet I am! 

Mrs. Phelps. Really happy? 

David. Couldn't be happier! 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm so glad! And I thank God that 
when your hour struck it didn't strike falsely as it did 
for Robin. Because any one can see the difference be- 
cween Christina and Hester. Of course, that's a little 
the difference between you and Rob. You know what 
I've always said. You are my son. Robert takes after his 
father. But you mustn't be impatient with Christina if 
she seems, at first, a litde slow, a little resentful of our 
family. We've always been so close, we three. She's 
bound to feel a little out of it, at first. A little jealous . . . 

David. Not Chris! 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, come now, Dave! I'm sure she's 
perfect, but you mustn't try to tell me she isn't human. 
Young wives are sure to be a little bit possessive and 
exacting and . . . selfish at first. 

David. We needn't worry about that. 

Mrs. Phelps. No. ... At first I thought Christina 
was going to be hard and cold. I didn't expect her to 
have our sense of humor and I don't believe she has 
much of that. But we've more than we need already. If 
only she will learn to care for me as I care for her, we 
can be so happy, all four of us together, can't we? 

David. You bet we can! 

Mrs. Phelps [dreamily]. Building our houses in 
Phelps Manor. . . . Deciding to put an Italian Villa 
here and a little bungalow there. . . . [As David grows 
restive.] But the important thing for you, Dave boy, is a 
sense of proportion about your marriage. I'm going to 
lecture you, now, for your own good. If, at first, Chris- 
tina does seem a litde exacting or unreasonable, partic- 
ularly about us, remember that she has to adjust herself 
to a whole new world here, a very different world from 
her friends in Omaha. And you must never be impatient 
with her. Because, if you are, I shall take her side against 
you. 

David. You are a great woman, Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps. You're the great one! How many boys 
of your age let their wives undermine all their old asso- 
ciations and loosen all their old ties! 

David. Chris wouldn't try that! 

Mrs. Phelps. She might not want to. But jealous girls 
think things that aren't so and say things that aren't 
true. Morbid things. 

David. Morbid things? Chris? 

Mrs. Phelps. Only you won't pay too much attention 
or take her too seriously. I know that, because you would 
no more let anyone strike at me than I would let anyone 
strike at you. 
David. But Chris wouldn't . . . 
Mrs. Phelps. As I said to Christina this afternoon: 
"Christina," I said, "I cannot allow you to sacrifice 
David!" 



David. Chris sacrifice me! How? 

Mrs. Phelps. Why, by taking you away from your 
magnificent opportunity here. 

David. Oh! 

Mrs. Phelps. Be master in your own house. Meet her 
selfishness with firmness, her jealousy with fairness and 
her . . . her exaggerations with a grain of salt. . . . 

David. What exaggerations? 

Mrs. Phelps. Well, you know ... a girl ... a young 
wife, like Chrisdna . . . might possibly make the mis- 
take of . . . well, of taking sides ... in what happened 
downstairs, for instance . . . and without fully under- 
standing. . . . You can see how fatal that would be. 
. . . But, if you face the facts always, Dave boy, and 
nothing but the facts, your marriage will be a happy one. 
And, when you want advice, come to your mother 
always. 

David. Thanks. 

Mrs. Phelps. Now, isn't your mother your best friend? 

David. You bet you are, Mummy! 

Mrs. Phelps. How long is it since you called me that! 
Bless you, my dear, dear boy! 

[She leans over to seal her triumph with a \iss. 
Christina's entrance follows so closely upon her 
\noc\ that the picture is still undisturbed for her 
to see. She has changed her dress for a very simple 
negligee. Her mood is dangerous.] 

Christina. Oh, I beg your pardon! 

Mrs. Phelps [so sweetly, after the very briefest pause]. 
Come in, Christina. I was only saying good-night to 
Dave. Nothing private! You're one of the family now. 
You must feel free to come and go as you like in the 
house. 

Christina. Thank you. 

Mrs. Phelps. We can accustom ourselves to it, can^ 
we, Dave? 

David. Yeah. . . . 

Christina. Dave and I have got so used to sharing the 
same room, I came in here quite naturally and . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Here's your dressing-gown, Dave boy. 
We won't look while you slip it on. 

[Confusedly Dave gets out of bed and robes himself. 
Christina's eyes meet his mother's. Christina's 
eyes have the least flash of scorn in them, Mrs. 
Phelps' the least quaver of fear. In that glance, 
the two women agree on undying enmity.] 

David. You can . . . you can look now. 

Christina. Are you quite sure / may, Mis. Phelps ? 

Mrs. Phelps. Whatever else you may have taken from 
me, Christina, you cannot take from me the joy of feel- 
ing my son here, once more, in his old room, beside me. 

Christina [marking up the first score]. I haven't 
meant to take anything from you, Mrs. Phelps. 

Mrs. Phelps [so sweetly again]. You know I was only 
joking. [She is routed, though .] Good-night [The two 



^5n 



THE SILVER CORD 



127 



women \iss.] Don't keep Dave up too late. He's very 
tired. [She pats Dave, as she passes him on her way to 
her door.] You must be tired, too, Christina. How is 
Hester, now? 

Christina. Quite all right, thank you. 

Mrs. Phelps. Thank you! 

[She blows a \iss to David from the door and goes. 
Christina stands motionless. David reaches for a 
cigarette.] 

David. You look pretty stern, Chris, 

Christina. Do I ? 

Davtd. You've been a brick. 

Christina. Thanks. 

David. Hester is all right, isn't she? 

Christina. Yes, poor youngster! I shouldn't be sur- 
prised if she were really in luck, Dave. 

David. You may be right. But it isn't exactly up to 
me to say so, is it? 

[He lights his cigarette. Her eyes burn him up.] 

Christina. Dave. . . . 

David. Yes? 

Christina. Whom do you love? 

David. You. Why? 

Christina. I wondered, that's all. I want to be 
kissed. 

David. That's easy. 

[He ta\es her in his arms.] 

Christina. Such a tired girl, Dave. ... I want to be 
held on to and made much of. ... I want to feel all safe 
and warm. ... I want you to tell me that you're in love 
with me and that you enjoy being in love with me. Be- 
cause just loving isn't enough and it's being in love that 
really matters. . . . Will you tell me ail that, please, 
Dave? 

David [hugging her]. Darling! 

Christina. You haven't kissed me yet. 

David [complying, a trifle absent-mindedly]. There! 

Christina [as she draws hac\ from him]. That isn't 
what I call making love in a big way. 

David [repeating the \iss with more energy]. Is that 
better ? 

Christina. There's still something lacking. . . . 
What's the matter ? There's nobody watching us. 

David. That's a funny thing to say. 

Christina. You take me right back to my first beau in 
Germany. He never got very far, either. All the English 
he knew was "water closet." 

David. Chris! Shame on you! 

Christina. Shame on you, making me take to low 
jokes to amuse you. ... I love you. 

Davtd. Darling, darling, Chris! 

Christina. I love you! I love you! [For a moment 
she clings to him wildly.] I hate being so far from you 
to-night, Dave. 'Way off there at the other end of ths 
hall! 



David. I'm none too pleased myself. It's just one of 
Mother's fool ideas. 

[He lowers his voice whenever he mentions his 
mother.] 

Christina. She naturally wanted you near herf 

David. That's it. [His eyes fall beneath her steady 
gaze.] We mustn't talk so loud. We'll keep Mother 
awake. She can hear every sound we make. 

Christina. Let her hear! It'll do her good! 

David. That's no way to talk, Chris! 

Christina. Excuse me. I didn't mean to snap. I've 
been fearfully shaken up to-night, 

David. I know you have, 

Christina. And I'm awfully tired. 

David. Poor girl! 

Christina. Poor Hester! ... I don't feel like going 
to bed yet. I want to talk. Do you mind? 

David. Go to it. 

Christina. I've never come up against anything like 
this before, I've heard of it, but I've never met it. I don't 
know what to do about it. And it scares me. 

David. What does? 

Christina. I don't know how to tell you. [Then with 
sudden force] . But I've got to tell you, Dave. I've got to 
tell you. There are no two ways about that. 

David. What are you driving at? 

Christina. Well . . . [But she changes her mind.] 
May I ask you a question? Rather an intimate one? 

David. If you must! 

Christina. Being your wife, I thought I might. 

David, Shoot! 

Christina. Do you look on me as apart from all other 
women ? I mean, do you think of all the women in the 
world and then think of me quite, quite differently ? Do 
you, Dave? 

David. Ill bite. Do I? 

Christina. Please answer me. It's awfully important 
to me just now. 

David. Of course I do. . . . Why is it so important 
just now? 

Christina. Because that's how I feel about you and all 
the other men in the world. Because that's what being 
in love must mean and being properly and happily mar- 
ried. Two people, a man and a woman, together by 
themselves, miles and miles from everybody, from 
everybody else, glancing around, now and then, at all 
the rest of mankind, at all the rest, Dave, and saying: 
"Are you still there? And getting along all right? Sure 
there's nothing we can do to help?" 

David. Only we do help, don't we? 

Christina. Only really if we feel that way about one 
another. Only by feeling that way. 

David. That's pretty deep! You do go off on the 
damnedest tacks! 



128 



DRAMA 



Christina. Don't you see how that feeling between a 
man and a woman is what keeps life going? 
David. Is it? 

Christina. What else could be strong enough? 
David. Perhaps you're right. [Then, unaccountably, 
he shies.] But what's the idea in getting so worked up 
about it? 

Christina. Because it matters so much, Dave . . . 
just now . . . that you and I feel that way about each 
other and that we go on feeling that way and exclude 
everybody, everybody else. Tell me you think so, too? 

David. Sure, I think so. . . . [Then, again, he shies 
from her inner meaning.] You're getting the worst habit 
of working yourself up over nothing! 

Christina. Do you realize, Dave, that the blackest 
sinner on earth is the man ... or woman . . . who 
breaks in on that feeling? Or tampers with it in any 
way? Or perverts it? 
David. If you say so, I'll say he is, 
Christina. He! 
David. Huh? 

Christina. Never mind. . . . Your brother didn't feel 
that way about poor Hester, did he? 
David. Rob always was a funny egg. 
Christina. Your mother calls him Robin! "Tweet! 
Tweet! What does the Birdie say?" 

David. From all I can gather, Hester didn't feel much 
of any way about him. 

Christina. I know better than that. . . . I've had that 
child on my hands for the past hour. I've learned an 
awful lot, Dave. About her, and from her. 

David. Look here, Chris. . . . Don't you get mixed 
up in this business, will you ? 
Christina. I wonder if I'm not mixed up in it already. 
David. Well, don't "take sides." 
Christina. I wonder if I can help taking sides. 
David. It's none of our business. 
Christina. I wish I were sure of that. [Baffled, she 
again shifts her approach.] Poor little Hester goes to- 
morrow morning. How long are we staying? 
David. Oh, I dunno. 
Christina. A week? 
David. We can't do less, can we? 
Christina. Can't we? 

David. Don't you want to? [There is another pause 
before Christina shades her head. David frowns.] You 
see what comes of taking things so hard ? I'm just as dis- 
tressed over what's happened as you are. Maybe more. 
But I certainly don't want to run away. It wouldn't be 
right. Mother'd never understand. I'd feel like a bum 
going off and leaving her in the lurch after this. Think 
what Rob's put her through today and what she'll have 
to go through with Hester's family and all her friends 
and everybody else before she's done! 
Christina. She seems to be bearing up. 



David. You can't be sure with Mother. 
Christina. Can't you? 

David. She's so damned game. 

Christina. Is she? 

David. Can't you see that? And, anyway, I've got to 
look around. 

Christina. What at? The houses in Phelps Manor? 

David. I know how you feel, Chris, about Mother's 
helping hand. But I can't be throwing away opportuni- 
ties, now, can I? With the baby coming? 

Christina [gravely]. No, Dave. Of course, you can't. 
Neither can I. 

David. How do you mean? 

Christina. Forgotten all about my opportunities, 
haven't you? 

David. What opportunities? 

Christina. My appointment. 

David. Didn't Mother say she could scare up some- 
thing for you here? 

Christina. She thought she might "scare up" a place 
where I could "putter around" and keep myself "happy 
and contented" when the "real doctors" weren't 
working. 

David. She didn't mean anything unkind, Chris. Just 
give Mother a chance and . . . What are you crying for? 

Christina [hotly untruthful]. I'm not crying. 

David. You are! 

Christina. I can't help it. . . . 

David. But what's the matter? 

Christina. It doesn't look as if I'm to have much of 
a show for my eight years of hard work, does it? 

David. Mother and I'll dope out something. I couldn't 
leave her now. You know that. And anyway, I've got 
to stay til! I get my shirts washed. I've only got two left. 

Christina. Then we stay, of course. 

David. And I must say, Chris, that I don't think 
you're quite playing ball to judge my home and my fam- 
ily entirely on what you've seen tonight. Besides, the 
whole purpose of this visit was to bring you and Mother 
together and to show Mother that a lady scientist mayn't 
be as bad as she sounds. Because you and Mother have 
just got to hit it off, you know. 

Christina. Have we? 

David. You're apt to be impatient, Chris, and I'm 
afraid you're intolerant. 

Christina. Those are bad faults in a scientist. 

David. They're bad faults in anybody. . . . Now, you 
just give metimcandyou'lJ see how things straighten out. 

Christina. Aren't you satisfied with die way our meet- 
ing has come off? 

David. There's no use pretending it was ideal. I be- 
lieve in facing the facts always. But don't you worry. 
Mother gets on my nerves sometimes. You just have to 
^.member what a hard life she's had. 

Christtna. How has it been hard ? 



THE SILVER CORD 



129 



David. Oh, lots of ways. My father wasn't much, you 
know. 

Christina. I didn't know. You've never mentioned 
him. 

David. He died when I was five. 

Christina. What was the matter with him ? Women 
or drink? 

David. Nothing like that. He just didn't amount to 
much. 

Christina. Made a lot of money, didn't he? 

David. Lots. 

Christina. And left your mother rich. What other 
troubles has she had? 

David. Well, her health. 

Christina. It doesn't seem so bad. 

David. It is, though. Heart. And I wish I could tell 
you half of what she's gone through for Rob and me. 

Christina. Go on and tell me. I'd like to hear. 

David. I've heard her say she was born without a 
selfish hair in her head, 

Christina. No! 

David. And that's about true. Why, I've seen her 
nurse Rob through one thing after another when she'd 
admit to me that she was twice as sick as he was. I've 
seen her come in here from taking care of him and she'd 
be half fainting with her bad heart, but there'd be noth- 
ing doing when I'd beg her to get him a nurse. She said 
we were her job and she just wouldn't give in. And 
the way she always took interest in everything we did. 
Why, when she used to come up to school, all the boys 
went just crazy about her. 

Christina. I'm sure they did. [But she turns the en- 
quiry into more significant channels,] How did your 
girl friends get on with her? 

David. Oh, they loved her, too! Mother used to give 
us dances here. 

Christina. Did she invite the girls you were in love 
with? 

David. I never fell in love! Not really. Not till I met 
you. 

Christina. Darling! [She smiles rather absently.] 
What was the name of the one your mother thought 
could wear my dress? 

David. Clara Judd? 

Christina. Weren't you sweet on Clara ? 

David. I dunno. What made you ask that? 

Christina. Just something in the way your mother 
spoke of her this evening. It came back to me. Weren't 
you? 

David. Mother thought so. 

Christina. Used to pester you about Clara, didn't she? 

David. She was afraid I was going to marry Clara. 

Christina. I see. Anything wrong with her? 

David. With Clara? No. Damn nice girl. You'll 
meet her. 



Christina. Then why didn't your mother want you 
to marry her? 

David. Thought I was too young. 

Christina. When was it? 

David. Summer after the war. 

Christina. You weren't so young, were you? 

David. You know Mother. 

Christina. How about your brother? Did he used 
to fall in love a great deal? 

David. I don't know that I'd call it "in love." 

Christina. Why not? 

David. It's the family skeleton. She was a chorus 
girl, my dear. She cost Mother twelve thousand berries, 

Christina. That must have been jolly! Was she the 
only one or were there others? 

David. There were plenty of others. Only they didn't 
have lawyers. 

Christina. And then Hester? 

David. Right. 

Christina. Well, that's all very interesting. 

David. What are you trying to prove? 

Christina. An idea this affair of Hester's put into my 
head. And I must say, it fits in rather extraordinarily. 

David. What does? 

Christina. Your being too young to marry after 
the war and Robert's taking to wild women. . . . And 
you had to be three thousand miles from home to fall 
in love with me! Never mind. . . . That's enough of 
that! Now let me tell you something. Only you must 
promise not to get mad. 

David. I won't get mad. 

Christina. Promise? 

Davtd. Promise. 

Christina [a deep breath, then]. Shirts or no shirts, 
we've got to get out of here tomorrow. 

David [as though she had stuc\ him with a pin]. 
Now, Chris! Haven't we been over all that? 

Christina. Yes. But not to the bottom of it. 

David. What more is there to say? 

Christina [with sudden violence]. That a defense- 
less, trusting, little girl has been cruelly treated! We've 
got to "take sides" with her, Dave! 

David. What's the matter with Hester's own family? 
This is their business, not ours! 

Christina. Wc owe it to ourselves to make it our 
business. 

David. I don't see it. 

Christina. Why don't you see. it? What have you put 
over your eyes that keeps you from seeing it? Do you 
dare answer that? 

David. Dare? What do you mean? 

Christina. "Face the facts," Dave! "Face the 
facts!" 

David. Rot! You're making a mountain out of a 
mole-hill S 



130 



DRAMA 



Christina. Cruelty to children isn't a mole-hill! 

David. You're exaggerating! Hester's engagement 
isn't the first that was ever broken. 

Christina. Think how it was broken and by whom! 

David. You just said she was in luck to be rid of Rob. 
I'll grant you that. I haven't any more use for Rob than 
you have. 

Christina. Who stands behind Rob? 

David. I don't know what you mean. 

Christina. Don't you ? 

David. No. 

Christina. All-right, I'll tell you. 

David [quickly]. You needn't. . . . Are you trying to 
pick a fight with me? 

Christina. On the contrary. I'm asking you to stand 
by me. [Her eyes corner him.] 

David. I won't go away and leave Mother in the lurch. 

Christina. You see? You do know what I mean! 

David. I don't! I'm just telling you I won't let Mother 
down. 

Christina. You'd rather stand by your mother than 
by the right, wouldn't you? 

David. Oh, the right? 

Christina. Isn't Hester the right? 

David [cornered again]. I can't help it if she is. I 
won't let Mother down. 

Christina. You'll let me down. 

David. Oh, Chris! It's late. Come on. Let's turn in. 

Christina. You'd rather stand by your mother than 
by me, wouldn't you? 

David. No, I wouldn't. I tell you Hester's none of 
our business. 

Christina. You'll admit this is ? 

Davtd. What is? 

Christina. This! . . . Who comes first with you? Your 
mother or me? 

David. Now what's the good of putting things that way? 

Christina. That's what things come to! If your 
mother and I ever quarreled about anything, if it ever 
came up to you to choose between sticking by me and 
sticking by her, which would you stick by? 

David. I'd . . . I'd try to do the right thing. . . . 

Christina. That isn't an answer. That's another 
evasion. 

David. But why ask such a question? 

Christina. Because I love you. Because I've got to 
find out if you love me. And I'm afraid . . . I'm 
afraid. . . . 

David. Why? 

Christina. Because you won't see the facts behind all 
this. I'm trying to tell you what they are and you won't 
listen. You can't even hear me. 

David. I can hear you. And a worse line of hooey 
I've never listened to in my life. 

Christina [gravely, hut with steadily increasing 



fervor]. Have you ever thought what it would be like 
to be trapped in a submarine in an accident? I've 
learned tonight what that kind of panic would be like. 
I'm in that kind of a panic now, this minute. I've been 
through the most awful experience of my life tonight. 
And I've been through it alone. I'm still going through 
it alone. It's pretty awful to have to face such things 
alone. . . . No, don't interrupt me. I've got to get this 
off my chest. Ever since we've been married I've been 
coming across queer rifts in your feeling for me, like 
arid places in your heart. Such vast ones, tool I mean, 
you'll be my perfect lover one day and the next, I'll find 
myself floundering in sand, and alone, and you nowhere 
to be seen. We've never been really married, Dave. 
Only now and then, for a litde while at a time, between 
your retirements into your arid places. ... I used to 
wonder what you did there. At first, I thought you did 
your work there. But you don't. Your work's in my part 
of your heart, what there is of my part. Then I decided 
the other was just No-Man's Land. And I thought: litde 
by little, I'll encroach upon it and pour my love upon it, 
like water on the western desert, and make it flower 
here and bear fruit there. I thought: then he'll be all 
alive, all free and all himself; not pardy dead and tied 
and blind; not partly some one else — or nothing. You 
sec, our marriage and your architecture were suffering 
from the same thing. They only worked a little of the 
time. I meant them both to work all the time. I meant 
you to work all the time and to win your way, all your 
way, Dave, to complete manhood. And that's a good 
deal farther than you've got so far. . . . Then we came 
here and this happened with Hester and your brother 
and you just stepped aside and did nothing about it! 
You went to bed. You did worse than that. You retired 
into your private wastes and sat tight. . . . I've shown 
you what you should do and you won't see it. I've 
called to you to come out to me, and you won't come. 
So now I've discovered what keeps you. Your mother 
keeps you. It isn't No-Man's Land at all. It's your 
mother's land. Arid, sterile, and your mother's! You 
won't let me get in there. Worse than that, you won't 
let life get in there! Or she won't! . . . That's what I'm 
afraid of, Dave: your mother's hold on you. And that's 
what's kept me from getting anywhere with you, all 
these months. I've seen what she can do with Robert. 
And what she's done to Hester. I can't help wondering 
what she may not do with you and to me and to the 
baby. That's why I'm asking you to take a stand on this 
business of Hester's, Dave. You'll never find the right 
any clearer than it is here. It's a kind of test case for me. 
Don't you see? What you decide about this is what you 
may, eventually, be expected to decide about . . . about 
our marriage. 

Davtd [a pause, then, with sullen violence]. No! I'm 
damned if I see! 



THE SILVER CORD 



131 



Christina [breaking]. Then I can't hope for much, 
can I ? ... I feel awfully like a lost soul, right now. . . . 
Oh, my God, what am I going to do! What am I going 
to do! 

David. I hope you're going to behave. You ought to 
be ashamed. Just as I was bringing Mother around to 
you and . . . 

Christina [violently]. You'd better think a little about 
bringing me around to your mother! 

David. Chris! 

Christina. Why should your mother and I get 
on? 

David. Because you should, that's why. Because she's 
an older woman and my mother. And you know, just 
as well as I do . . . 

Christina. I know a great deal better than you that 
your mother dislikes me fully as much as I dislike her. 
You're wasting your time trying to bring your mother 
and me together, because we won't be brought. You 
say you believe in facing the facts. Well, let's see you 
face that one! 

David. I've never heard anything so outrageous. 
When you know what Mother means to me and 
what . . > 

Christina [desperate]. Your mother! Your mother! 
Always your mother! She's got you back! Dave, her 
big boy, who ran off and got married! She's got you 
back! ' 

David. I won't stand for any more of this. A man's 
mother is his mother. 

Christina [crescendo]. And what's hi* wife, may I 
ask? Or doesn't she count? 

David. This is morbid rot! She warned me you'd be 
jealous of her! 

Christina. Did she? 

David. But I never expected anything like this! 

Christina. What's going to become of me? 

Da via. I won't stand for any more. . . . 

Christina. Hester's escaped, but I'm caught! I can't 
go back and be the old Christina again. She's done for. 
And Christina, your wife, doesn't even exist! That's the 
fact I've got to face! I'm going to have a baby by a man 
who belongs to another woman! 

David. Damn it, Chris! Do you want Mother to hear 
you? 

Christina. Do I not! 

[Mrs. Phelps stands in her door, white, but steady.] 

David [turning, sees her]. Oh . . . You did hear! 

Mrs. Phelps. How could I help hearing every word 
that Christina said? 

David. Oh, this is awful! 

Mrs. Phelps. We know, now, where we stand, all 
three of us. 

David. Chris, can't you tell her you didn't mean it? 

Mrs. Phelps [heroic sarcasm]. Christina isn't one to 



say things she doesn't mean. And I have no intention 
of defending myself. 

David. Mother, please! . . . Chris, you'd better beat it. 

Mrs. Phelps. I ask her to stay. She has made me afraid 
ever to be alone with you again. She must have made 
you afraid to be alone with me. 

David. Nonsense, Mother! She hasn't done anything 
of the sort. You'd better go, Chris. It's the least you can 
do after what you've said. 

Christina. The very least. I belong with Hester now. 
[She goes qukkjy.] 

David [turning wildly to his mother]. I'll straighten 
everything out in the morning. I swear I will! 

Mrs. Phelps [a very different, very noble tone]. This 
is an old story, Dave boy, and I'm on Christina's side 
just as I said I should be. 

Davtd. I can't have you talking like that, Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps. I accept my fate. You have your own 
life to live with the woman you have chosen. No boy 
could have given me back the love I gave you. Go to 
Christina! Make your life with her! No bond binds 
you to me any longer. 

David. That isn't true! 

Mrs. Phelps. I'm not complaining. I'm only sorry 
for one thing. I'm only sorry to see you throw away 
your chance here, your great chance! 

David. But I haven't thrown it away. I'll stay here 
and work for you, if you want me to. 

Mrs. Phelps. Christina won't let you. You know that! 

David. She's my wife, isn't she? 

Mrs. Phelps. Think what that means, Dave! Think 
what that means! 

David. And you're my mother. I'm thinking what 
that means, too! 

Mrs. Phelps. Then it isn't good-bye? Then I've sdll 
got my big boy, after all ? 

David. You bet you've got him! 

Mrs. Phelps [triumph]. Oh, Dave! Dave! Dave! 

David. Now, Mummy! [But a sound downstairs dis- 
tracts him.] Hello! What's that? [She listens, too.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Heavens, it isn't a fire, is it? 

David. Wait ... I'll see. . . . 

[He opens the door into the hall and stands listen- 
ing.] 

Christina [off-stage and below], I went into her 
room and she wasn't there and then I looked for her and 
I found the dining-room window open. 

Robert [off-stage and below]. What do you think has 
happened? 

Christina [off-stage and below], I don't like to imag- 
ine things, but . . . 

Robert [off-stage and below]. Hester, where are you? 

Christina [off-stage and below]. She's got away! I 
tell you, she's got away! I shouldn't have left her. . . . 

Davtd [speaking during the above]. What? 



132 



DRAMA 



Mrs. Phelps. It's Christina and Robert. 

David. Something's happened to Hester. 

Mrs. Phelps. No! 

David. Chris! What's going on? 

Robert [off-stage]. Hester! Where are you, Hester? 

Christina [appearing in the hall]. Hester's got away, 
Dave. Out by the dining-room window. You'il have 
to get dressed and find her. She can't get to town to- 
night in this cold. 

David. All right. We'll have a look. 

Mrs. Phelps. The litde fool! Let her go, Dave! 

Christina. But, Mrs. Phelps, she isn't properly 
dressed. She didn't even take her coat. . . . 

Robert [still calling off-stage and below]. Hester! 
Where are you, Hester? Hester! . . . Oh, my God! 
[Christina has walked to the window to loo\ out. 
She utters an inarticulate scream.] 

David. What is it, Chris? 

Mrs. Phelps. Good heavens! 

Christina [strangled with horror]. It's the pond! The 
holes in the pond! Quick, Dave, for heaven's sake! 

David. What? . . . Oh! . . . 

[He runs out as Christina opens the window.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Dave! . . . [To Christina.] What is it 
you say? 

Robert [off-stage and below]. Dave! For God's sake! 
Hold on, Hester! Don't struggle! 
[David's shouts join his.] 

Christina [as she collapses on the bed]. The pond! 
... I can't look. . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, I've no patience with people who 
have hysterics! 

Christina. Mrs. Phelps, the girl's drowning! 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, no! . . . Not that! [She, too, goes 
to the window, but recoils in horror from what she 
sees.] They'll save her, won't they? They must ... they 
must save her .... If only . . . [Then a new fear over- 
whelms her.] If only those two boys don't catch pneu- 
monia! [And she leaps to the window to call after her 
sons as they race, shouting, across the snow.] Robin, 
you're not dressed! Dave, get your coat! Are you crazy? 
Do you want to catch pneumonia? 

CURTAIN 



ACT THREE 

The living-room again, and the next morning. Mrs. 
Phelps is wearing a simple house dress and busily fixing 
a great many flowers which she ta\es from boxes strewn 
about the stage. After she has been so occupied for a few 
seconds, Robert enters. 



Robert. The doctor's gone. 

Mrs. Phelps [surprised]. Without seeing me? 

Robert. It seems so. 

Mrs. Phelps. Doesn't that seem very strange to you, 
Robin? Of course, I thought it best not to go up to Hes- 
ter's room with him. In view of the perfectly unreason- 
able attitude she's taken toward me. But, L should have 
supposed, naturally, that he'd have made his report to 
me. 

Robert. He says she may as well go today. He says 
traveling won't be as bad for her as staying here. 

Mrs. Phelps. Did he say that to you? 

Robert. I couldn't face him. They told him the whole 
story. 

Mrs. Phelps. Christina and Hester? [Robert nods.] 
I might have known they would. . . . And he listened 
to them and never so much as asked for me? 

Robert. What of it! 

Mrs. Phelps. He'll never enter this house again! 

Robert. So he said! He also said there's nothing the 
matter with your heart and never has been anything the 
matter with it. He said it would take a stick of dynamite 
to kill you. 

Mrs. Phelps. Damned homeopadi! 

Robert. And that isn't the worst. 

Mrs. Phelps. What more? 

Robert. He said that I'd always been a rotter. 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh? 

Robert. And that I couldn't have been anything else — 
with such a mother. 

[There is venom in this last. Mrs. Phelps's lips 
stiffen under it.] 

Mrs. Phelps. I think you might have spared me that, 
Robin. 

Robert. I didn't mean to be nasty. 

Mrs. Phelps. No. Still, there are things one doesn't 
repeat to sensitive people. [But a dar\ foreboding will 
not be downed.] Somehow, though, I can't help feel- 
ing diat . . . [She does not say what she sees in the 
future.] 

Robert. Neither can I. 

[She loo\s at him in quic\ fear. Then she returns to 
her flowers with a shrug.] 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, well! There can't have been much 
wrong with the girl if she's able to go this morning. 

Robert. Thank God for that. [Then with level-eyed 
cruelty.] It might have been serious, though, after what 
you did to the telephone. Because we couldn't have 
reached a soul, you know. And without Christina in the 
house . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. How was I to know the litde fool wanted 
to drown herself? 

Robert [shuddering]. For heaven's sake, don't put 
it that way! 

Mrs. Phelps. How do yo« put it? 



THE SILVER CORD 



133 



Robert. She tried to get away, that's all. And she got 
lost in the dark and . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. I tell you, she tried to kill herself. I've 
always suspected there was insanity in her family. She 
had a brother who was an aviator in the war. Everybody 
knows that aviators are lunatics. Her own conduct has 
never been what I should call normal. Everything points 
to insanity. That's another reason why you shouldn't 
have married her. Because we've never had any of 
that in our family. Except your father's Bright's Dis- 
ease. I shall certainly tell everyone that Hester is 
insane. 

Robert. Perhaps that will make things simpler. 

Mrs. Phelps. As to the telephone, it's the only thing 
I've ever done to be ashamed of, and I said as much 
when I did it. She made me angry with her wanton at- 
tacks on you. 

Robert. I didn't hear any wanton attacks. 

Mrs. Phelps. Where were you ? 

Robert. Out there in the hall. 

Mrs. Phelps. You couldn't have heard the things she 
muttered under her breath. 

Robert [an incredulous sneer]. No! [There is a pause, 
sullen on his part, troubled on hers.] We're just like 
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, aren't we? 

Mrs. Phelps. For heaven's sakes, how ? 

Robert. We've got into a mess we can't ever get out of. 
We'll have to get in deeper and deeper until we go mad 
and . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Don't be ridiculous. 

Robert. I'm sorry, Mother, but I can't help regretting. 

Mrs. Phelps. Regretting what? 

Robert [lour]. Hester. 

Mrs. Phelps. Nonsense, Robin! I tell you . . . 

Robert. What do you know about it? Do you under- 
stand me any better than Hester did? 

Mrs. Phelps. How can you, Robin ? I not understand 
you? Haven't I always told you that however David 
may take after his father, you are my son ? 

Robert. What's that got to do with it? 

Mrs. Phelps. Robin! 

Robert. If I wasn't sure that I loved Hester, how on 
earth can I be sure that I didn't love her? I don't know 
this minute whether I loved her or not. I only know that 
I'll regret losing her all my life long. [A movement of 
exasperation from his mother stops him. Then he con- 
cludes^] Maybe Dave's right about me. Maybe I am 
too weak to love any one. 

Mrs. Phelps [frightened — to herself]. Dave didn't say 
that! 

Robert. He said I hadn't any guts. 

Mrs. Phelps. Ugh! That horrible word! No, Robin. 
You must put all such thoughts aside. 

Robert. I suppose I'll have to take your word for it. 



[Then with sudden, cold fury.] But I won't next 
time! 

Mrs. Phelps. Robin! You're not holding me respon- 
sible ? 

Robert. Who put the idea in my head? Who per- 
suaded me? Who made me promise ? 

Mrs. Phelps. Are you implying that / came between 
you? 

Robert. Well, if you didn't, who did ? 

Mrs. Phelps. Robin! You ought to be ashamed! 

Robert. Think so? 

Mrs. Phelps. That you should turn on me! Some day 
you'll regret diis. It won't be Hester, but this that you'll 
regret. . . . When it's too late. 

[And from force of habit her hand steals to her 
heart.] 

Robert. I daresay I've got a life full of regrets ahead 
of me. [He walf{s sullenly to the window.] 

Mrs. Phelps. You frighten me, Robin! I don't know 
you like this. 

Robert. Don't you ? 

[There is a pause. Mrs. Phelps stares at him in 
growing horror. He loofys out of the window.] 

Mrs. Phelps. No. 

Robert [looking out, his bac\ to her]. That's too bad 
. . . There's Dave putting up danger signs all around 
the pond! Isn't that like him! After it's too late. [She 
turns away from him and dully goes on with her flowers, 
carrying a bowl of them over to the piano. Robert 
watches her coldly. Then a sudden frown contracts his 
brow and he moves toward her.] Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps What? 

Robert. Don't put those flowers there! They're too 
low! 

Mrs. Phelps. Fix them yourself. 

Robert [changing them with a jar of something else]. 
Isn't that better ? 

Mrs. Phelps. Much. What an eye you have! 

Robert. Perhaps I'll develop it some day. 

Mrs. Phelps. Would you like to? 

Robert. I've got to do something. 

Mrs. Phelps [darkly]. I quite agree. Every young 
man should have some profession. 

[Then, suddenly and involuntarily, the boy reverts 
and is a child again.] 

Robert. What are we going to do, Mother ? 

Mrs. Phelps [low]. Do? 

Robert. What are we going to do, you and I ? We're 
in the same boat, you know. 

Mrs. Phelps [lower]. I don't know what you mean. 

Robert. Well, what am I going to do, then? I can't 
stay here and face people after this! 

Mrs. Phelps. What will there be to face? 

Robert [crescendo]. You know as well as I do. This 
story '11 be all over this damn town. And Hester's people 



134 



DRAMA 



aren't going to keep quiet in New York. Her brothers 
go everywhere I go. My friends will begin cutting me in 
the street. 

Mrs. Phelps. If we say she's insane? 

Robert. What difference will that make? 

Mrs. Phelps [very low]. The Paris sails on Saturday. 

Robert [pause, then, tremulously]. What of it? 

Mrs. Phelps. We might go to Washington to hurry 
our passports. i 

Robert. Could we get passage, though? 

Mrs. Phelps [slowly]. I've already wired for it. This 
morning. 

Robert. I see. . . . Then we're to sneak away like 
two guilty fugitives! 

Mrs. Phelps [avoiding his eye]. Shi Don't say such 
things! 

[David enters, his chee\s stung crimson by the cold,] 

David. Phew, it's cold. The pond'll be frozen again by 
tomorrow if this keeps up. What's the doc say about 
Hester ? 

Robert. She's leaving us today. 

David. I'm glad she's well enough. 

Mrs. Phelps. There never was anything the matter 
with her. 

David. It's easy to see, Mother, that you don't often 
bathe in that pond in zero weather. 

Mrs. Phelps. I hope I have more self-control. Robin, 
will you see, please, that the car is ready for Hester ? 

Robert. Yes. 
[He goes.] 

David. Anybody seen Chris? 

Mrs. Phelps. Not I. 

David. No. I suppose not. . . . What's the idea in the 
floral display ? 

Mrs. Phelps. I felt I had to have flowers about me. 

David. That sounds pretty Green Hattish. ... It has 
a festive look, too. I don't see what there is to celebrate. 

Mrs. Phelps [noble tragedienne that she is]. Last 
night, at a single blow, beauty was stricken out of my life. 
I can't live without beauty, Dave. You must know that. 
So I went to the florist this morning and bought these. 
They comfort me ... a little. 

David [that worried loo\ again]. I've been thinking, 
Mother, that maybe, all things considered, after last 
night, it will be as well for me to take Chris away on 
Wednesday, say. 

Mrs. Phelps. If you like. 

David. We can come back later. After things have 
cooled down. 

Mrs. Phelps. Later, I hope, and often. 

David. Time does make things easier, doesn't it ? 

Mrs. Phelps. They say so. 

David. When scientists get these wild ideas and fly off 
the handle, they're just as embarrassed afterwards as any 
one else would be. 



Mrs. Phelps. Naturally. 

David. And then Hester's running away and the tele- 
phone being busted and all. . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. I quite understand. 

David. I knew you would. 

Mrs. Phelps [the boxes and papers all stowed away, 
she sits down to business]. What I'm wondering now, 
though, is what I'm to do with Robin? And I'm afraid 
you've got to help me with him. 

David. I'll do anything I can. 

Mrs. Phelps. If I were well and able to stand the 
things I used to stand before my heart went back on me 
— because it has gone back on me — and before my blood 
pressure got so high ... I shouldn't trouble you. But 
as I am, and with Robin on the verge of a complete break- 
down . . . 

David. But Rob isn't . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, yes, he is, Dave! He said things to 
me before you came in that no son of mine would dream 
of saying unless he had something the matter with him. 
I've got to get him away. 

David. Send him abroad. 

Mrs. Phelps. I don't think he ought to go alone. He 
can't face things alone. He's like his father, in that. 
You're my son, you know. That's why I always turn to 
you. 

David. Why not go with him? 

Mrs. Phelps. Because I'm really not well enough in 
case anything should happen. . . . And I don't know 
what to do. Oh, Dave, boy, do you think . . . 

David. What? 

Mrs. Phelps. That Christina could spare you for a 
little? Just a few weeks? Just long enough to get Rob 
and me setded in some restful place? Do you think she 
would ? 

David. There's no need of that! 

Mrs. Phelps. Of course, I'd love to have Christina, too. 
Only I'm afraid that would be asking too much. I mean, 
making her put ofl her work when she's so set on it. 

David. But Rob isn't going to give you any trouble. 

Mrs. Phelps. Do you think I'd ask such a sacrifice of 
you . . . and Christina, if I weren't sure that it's abso- 
lutely necessary? Oh, I'm not thinking of myself. I no 
longer matter. Except that I shouldn't want to die abroad 
with only Robin there, in his present condition. 

David. Don't talk that way, Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps. Why not? I'm not asking you to be sorry 
for me. It's Robin I'm thinking of. Because we haven't 
done all that we should for Robin. And now that I'm old 
, . . and sick . . . dying . - . 
[She breads down.] 

David. You're not, Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps [weeping hysterically]. I can't cope with 
him. He'll slip back again to drinking and fast 
women . . . 



THE SILVER CORD 



135 



David. Get hold of yourself, Mother 1 

Mrs. Phelps [more hysterical]. And when I think of 
what I might have done for him and realize that it's 
too late, that I haven't any more time . . . only a few 
months ... or weeks ... I don't know . . . I . . . 
[She really becomes quite faint.] 

David [snatching her hand in terror]. Mother, what's 
the matter? Are you ill? 

Mrs. Phelps [recovering by inches as she gasps for 
breath]. No! It's nothing . . . I . . . Just give me a 
minute . . . Don't call any one . . . I'll be all right. . . . 
There! . . . That's better! 

David. You scared me to death. 

Mrs. Phelps. I scare myself sometimes. You see I do 
Deed somebody's help. 

David. Yes, I see you do. 

Mrs. Phelps. And so I thought: Well, since Dave is 
going to build my houses in Phelps Manor. . . . You're 
not going to disappoint me there, I hope? 

David. Oh, no! 

Mrs. Phelps. Well, then you won't want to start in 
that New York office. 

David. Why not ? 

Mrs. Phelps. When you'll be leaving so soon to begin 
here? They wouldn't want you. 

David. I hadn't thought of that. 

Mrs. Phelps. And so I thought: Well, he can't begin 
here until April anyway and that leaves him with two 
idle months on his hands when he might be drawing 
plans and getting ideas abroad. Think it over, Dave, boy. 

David. You certainly are a great planner, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. I make such good plans! 

David. When would you be sailing? 

Mrs, Phelps. Well, I ... I had thought . . . vaguely 
... of sailing on the Paris . . . Saturday . . . 

David. Good Lord! Give a man time to think ! I want 
to do the right thing, but I couldn't leave Chris . . . Not 
with the baby coming, you know. 

Mrs. Phelps. But you'll be home in plenty of time for 
that. 

David. That may all be, but, just the same, I wouldn't 
feel right to leave her. 
[Robert returns.] 

Mrs. Phelps. I've just been telling Dave about our 
wonderful plans, Robin, and he's so enthusiastic! I 
shouldn't wonder if he came along with us. 
[A sign to David to play up.] 

Robert. What are the plans? 

Mrs. Phelps. Why, your going abroad to study in- 
terior decorating, of course. 
[Robert loof(s surprised.] 

David. Oh, is Rob going to do that? 

Robert. Any objections? 

David. I think it's just the job for you. Painting rose- 
buds on bath-tubs. 



Robert. I can make your houses look like something 
after you've finished with them. 

Mrs. Phelps [ecstatically]. My two boys in partner- 
ship! Oh, that's always been my dream! Oh, how simply 
things come straight when people are willing to coop- 
erate and make little sacrifices! If there's one thing I 
pride myself on, it's my willingness to make little sacri- 
fices. Here we are, we three, a moment ago all at odds 
with life and with each other; now united and of a single 
mind . . . 

David, This is all very fine. But don't you forget that 
I've got to talk to Christina . . . 

[But Christina has opened the door upon his very 
words. She is dressed as she was when she first 
came to the house. She wears her hat and her fur 
coat and carries her bag in her hand.] 

Christina [speaking as she enters]. Well, now's your 
chance, Dave. What have you got to talk to me about ? 

David [staring at her]. What's the idea, Chris? 

Christina [setting the bag down by the door]. I'm 
going away with Hester. Are you coming, too? 

David [staggered]. Now? 

Christina. In a few minutes. I came down ahead. No, 
don't go, Mrs. Phelps. And won't you stay, too, Robert? 
I think it's best that we should thrash this question out 
together, here and now, for good and all. 

Mrs. Phelps. What question, Christina? 

Christina. The David question, Mrs. Phelps. Whether 
David is going on from this point as your son or as my 
husband. 

Robert. What? 

Christina. Isn't that the issue ? 
[She as^s the question less of David than of Mrs. 
Phelps, who turns to her sons in terror^] 

Mrs. Phelps. I can't go through this a second time! 

David [quieting her with a gesture]. No one expects 
you to. . . . [To Christina, pleading almost pathetically]. 
You're not going to begin all that again, Chris ? 

Christina. I'm afraid I am. 

David. But, just as I was getting everything all straight- 
ened out . . . 

Christina. Were you doing that? 

David. If only you'll leave things be, they'll be all 
right. You may believe it or not . . . 

Christina. I can't believe it and I can't leave things 
beo Oh, I'd walk out without a word, even loving you as 
I do, if I thought this state of affairs made any one of 
you happy. 

Robert. What state of affairs? 

Christina. The state of affairs you've all been living 
in and suffering from, for so long. 

Mrs. Phelps. You might let us judge our own happi- 
ness. 

Christina. I might, if you had any. But you haven't 

Robb%t. You're quite sure of that? 



136 



Christina. Quite, Robert. You're all of you perfectly 
miserable! Am I wrong? 

Mrs. Phelps. Christina! Flease! 

Robert. Thank you for being sorry for us! 

Christina. You give me such good reason, Robert. 
Such awfully good reason! Because you're not really 
bad people, you know. You're just wrong, all wrong, 
terribly, pitifully, all of you, and you're trapped . . . 

Mrs. Phelps. What we say in anger, we sometimes 
regret, Christina 

Christina. Oh, I'm not angry, I was, but I've got 
over it. I rather fancy myself, now, as a sort of scientific 
Nemesis. I mean to strip this house and to show it up 
for what it really is. I mean to show you up, Mrs. Phelps. 
Then Dave can use his own judgment. 

Mrs. Phelps [blan\ terror at this attach^. Oh! Dave, 
I... 

David. Now, Mother! Chris! Haven't you any con- 
sideration for our feelings? Are they nothing to you? 

Christina. I'm trying to save my love, my home, my 
husband and my baby's father. Are they nothing to 
you ? 

David. But sureiy I can be both a good son and a good 
husband ! 

Christina, Not if your mother knows it, you can't! 

Mrs. Phelps [a last desperate snatch at dignity]. If 
you'll excuse me, I'd rather not stay to be insulted again. 
[She is going.] 

Christina. You'll probably lose him if you don't stay, 
Mrs. Phelps! [Mrs. Phelps stays. Christina turns to 
David.] No, Dave. There's no good in any more pre- 
tending. Your mother won't allow you to divide your 
affections and I refuse to go on living with you on any 
basis she will allow. 

Mrs. Phelps. I cannot see that this is necessary. 

Christina. It's a question a great many young wives 
leave unsettled, Mrs. Phelps. I'm not going to make 
that mistake. [Bac\ to Dave again.] You see, Dave, 
I'm not beating about the bush. I'm not persuading you 
or wasting any time on tact. Do you want your chance 
or don't you ? Because, if you don't, I'll have to get over 
being in love with you as best I can and . . . 

David. I wish you wouldn't talk this way, Chris! 

Christina. Are you coming with me ? On the under- 
standing that, for the present, until your affections are 
definitely 'settled on your wife and child, you avoid your 
mother's society entirely. Well? What do you say? 

David. I don't know what to say. 

Christina. You never do, Dave darling. 

David. I'm too shocked. I've never been so shocked 
in my life. 

Christina [a glance at her wrist watch]. Just take 
your time and think before you speak. 

David. 1 don't mean that I don't know what to say 
about taking my chance, as you call it. I can answer 



that by reminding you of your duty to me. I can an- 
swer that by calling all this what I called it last night. 
Morbid rot! But I am shocked at your talking this way 
about my mother and to her face, too! 

Christina. Is that your answer ? 

David. No, it isn't! But a man's mother is his mother. 

Christina. So you said last night. I'm not impressed. 
An embryological accident is no grounds for honor. 
Neither is a painful confinement, for I understand, Mrs. 
Phelps, that you're very proud of the way you bore 
your children. I know all about the legend of yourself 
as a great woman that you've built up these thirty years 
for your sons to worship. It hasn't taken me long to see 
that you're not fit to be any one's mother. 

David. Chris! 

Robert [speaking at the same time]. See here, now! 

Mrs. Phelps. Let her go on! Let her go on! She will 
explain that or retract it! 

Christina. I'm only too glad to explain. It's just what 
I've been leading up to. And I'll begin by saying that if 
my baby ever feels about me as your sons feel about 
you, I hope that somebody will take a little enameled 
pistol and shoot me, because I'll deserve it. 

Mrs. Phelps [going again]. I've been insulted once 
too often. 

Christina. I don't mean to insult you. I'm being as 
scientific and impersonal as possible. 

Robert. Good God! 

Christina [regardless]. Speaking of insults, though, 
what explanation can you offer me for your rudeness to 
me as a guest in your house? 

Mrs. Phelps. I have not been rude to you. 

Christina. You have been appallingly rude. Second 
question : Why do you resent the fact that I am going to 
have a baby? 

Mrs. Phelps. I don't resent it. 

Christina. Then why are you so churlish about it? 

Mrs. Phelps. Your indelicacy about it would have . . . 

Christina. That's another evasion. You're afraid that 
baby will give me another and stronger hold on David 
and you mean to separate David and me if it's humanly 
possible. 

Mrs. Phelps. I do not! I do not! 

Christina. Did you or did you not bend every effort 
to separate Hester and Robert? 

Mrs. Phelps. I most certainly did not! 

Christina. Then how do you account for the delib- 
erate and brutal lies you told Hester about Robert? Be- 
cause she did lie to Hester about you, Robert. She told 
Hester that you never wanted to marry her. 

Robert [aghast]. Mother, you didn't! 

Mrs. Phelps. Of course, I didn't! 

Christina [Joan of Arc raising the siege of Orleans]. 
I heard her. And I heard her call both of you back, last 
night, when you ran out to save Hester from drowning. 



THE SILVER CORD 



137 



I heard her call you back from saving a drowning giri > 
for fear of your catching cold. I heard her. I heard her. 

David \sha\en]. You shouldn't have called us, 
Mother! 

Christina. Can she deny that her one idea is to keep 
her sons, dependent on her? Can she deny that she 
opposes any move that either one of you makes toward 
independence? Can she deny that she is outraged by 
your natural impulses toward other women r 

Mrs. Phelps [furious]. I deny all of it! 

Christina. You may deny it until you're black in the 
face; every accusation I make is true! You belong to a 
type that's very common in this country, Mrs. Phelps — 
a type of self-centered, self-pitying, son-devouring tigress, 
with unmentionable proclivities suppressed on the side. 

David. Chris! 

Christina. I'm not at all sure it wouldn't be a good 
idea, just as an example to the rest of the tribe, to hang 
one of your kind every now and then! 

Robert. Really! 

Christina. Oh, there are normal mothers around; 
mothers who want their children to be men and women 
and take care of themselves; mothers who are people, 
too, and don't have to be afraid of loneliness after they've 
oudived their motherhood; mothers who can look on 
their children as people and enjoy them as people and 
not be forever holding on to them and pawing them and 
fussing about their health and singing them lullabies and 
tucking them up as though they were everlasting babies. 
But you're not one of the normal ones, Mrs. Phelps! 
Look at your sons, if you don't believe me. You've de- 
stroyed Robert. You've swallowed him up until there's 
nothing left of him but an effete make-believe. Now he's 
gone melancholy mad and disgraced himself. And Dave! 
Poor Dave! The best he can do is dodge the more des- 
perate kinds of unhappiness by pretending! How he 
survived at all is beyond me. If you're choking a bit 
on David, now, that's my fault because you'd have swal- 
lowed him up, too, if I hadn't come along to save hirn! 
Talk about cannibals! You and your kind beat any 
cannibals I've ever heard of I And what makes you 
doubly deadly and dangerous is that people admire you 
and your kind. They actually admire you! You profes- 
sional mothers! . . . You see, I'm taking this differently 
from that poor child upstairs. She's luckier than I am, 
too. She isn't married to one of your sons. Do you re- 
member what she said about children yesterday ? "Have 
'em. Love 'em. And leave 'em be." 

Mrs. Phelps. You are entitled to your opinions, Chris- 
tina, just as I am to mine and David is to his. I only hope 
that he sees the kind of woman he's married. I hope he 
sees the sordidness, the hardness, the nastiness she offers 
him for his life. 

Christina [an involuntary cry of pain]. I'm not 
nasty! I'm not! 



Mas. Phelps. What have you to offer David ? 

Christina. A hard time. A chance to work on his 
own. A chance to be on his own. Very litde money on 
which to share with me the burden of raising his child. 
The pleasure of my society. The solace of my love. The 
enjoyment of my body. To which I have reason to be- 
lieve he is not indifferent. 

Mrs. Phelps {revolted]. Ugh! 

Christina. Can you offer so much ? 

Mrs. Phelps. I offer a mother's love. Or perhaps you 
scoff at that ? 

Christina. Not if it's kept within bounds. I hope my 
baby loves me. I'm practically certain I'm going to love 
my baby. But within bounds. 

Mrs. Phelps. And what do you mean by within 
bounds? 

Christina. To love my baby with as much and as deep 
respect as I hope my baby will feel for me if I deserve 
its respect. To love my baby unpossessively ; above all, 
unromantically. 

Mrs. Phelps. I suppose that's biology! You don't 
know the difference between good and evil! 

Christina. As a biologist, though, I do know the dif- 
ference between life and death. And I know sterility 
when I see it. I doubt if evil is any more dian a fancy 
name for sterility. And sterility, of course, is what you 
offer Dave. Sterility for his mind as well as for his body. 
That's your professional mother's stock in trade. Only 
we've been over that, haven't we? Well, Dave! How 
about it? 

Robert. I think this has gone far enough! 

Mrs. Phelps. No! This woman has got to answer me 
one question. 

Christina. Willingly. What is it? 

Mrs. Phelps. How old were you when you married? 

Christina. The same age I am now. Twenty-nine. 

Mrs. Phelps. I was twenty. 

Christina. Just Hester's age. 

Mrs. Phelps {ruling over her]. I was twenty and my 
husband was fifteen years older than I. Oh, thirty-five 
isn't old, but he was a widower, too, and an invalid. 
Everyone told me I'd made a great match. And I 
thought I had. But before we'd been married a week, I 
saw my illusions shattered. I knew at the end of a week 
how miserable and empty my marriage was. He was 
good to me. He made very few demands on me. But 
he never dreamed of bringing the least atom of happi- 
ness into my life. Or of romance. . . . Only a woman 
who has lived without romance knows how to value it. 

. . That isn't true of my life either. I didn't live with- 
out romance. I found it . . . and I'm proud to have found 
it where you say it doesn't belong ... in motherhood. 
I found it in my two babies. In Dave first and in Robin 
four years later. I found it in doing for them myself all 
those things which, nowadays, nurses and governesses 



138 



DRAMA 



are hired to do. To spare mothers! I never asked to be 

spared Their father died. The night he died, Robin 

had croup and I had to make the final choice between 
cay duties. I stayed with Robin. You, with your mod- 
ern ideas and your science, Christina, would you have 
diosen differendy? I knew the difference between life 
and death that night. And I've known it for every step 
of tfee way 1 battled for Robin's health, every step as I 
taught Dave his gendeness and his generosity. ... If I 
made my iffisistakes, and I'm only human . . . I'm sorry for 
them. But I can point to my two sons and say that my 
mistakes could not have been serious ones. . . . Think! I 
was a widow, rich and very pretty, at twenty-five. Think 
what that means! But I had found my duty and I never 
swerved from it. . . . There was one man in particular. 
A fine man. But I resisted. I knew that second marriage 
was not for me. Not when I had my sons. I put them 
first, always. ... I shall not stoop to answer any of the 
foulnesses you have charged me with. They are beneath 
my dignity as a woman and my contempt as a mother. 
No, there is one I cannot leave unanswered. That word 
"sterility." Sterility is what I offer David, you say. I 
wonder, is sterility David's word for all he has had of 
me these thirty years ? Let him answer that for himself. 
All my life I have saved to launch my two boys on their 
careers, saved in vision as well as in money. I don't offer 
my sons a love half dedicated to selfish, personal ambi- 
tion. I don't offer them careers limited by the demands 
of other careers. I offer David a clear field ahead and a 
complete love to sustain him, a mother's love, until a real 
marriage, a suitable marriage may be possible for him. 
And I do not deny that I would cut off my right hand 
and burn the sight out of my eyes to rid my son of you! 
, . . That is how I answer your impersonal science, 
Christina. 

Christina [before either of the boys can speaJ(]. I see! 
. . . Well. . . . It's a very plausible and effective an- 
swer. And I'm sure you mean it and I believe it's sin- 
cere. But it is the answer of a woman whose husband 
let her down pretty hard and who turned for satisfaction 
to her sons. . . . I'm almost sorry I can't say more for 
it, but I can't. . . . [She turns from Mrs. Phelps to 
the two sons.] It's a pity she didn't marry again. Things 
would have been so much better for both of you if she 
had. [Then, with an increasing force, to David.] But 
the fact remains, Dave, that she did separate you and me 
last night and that she separated us because she couldn't 
bear the thought of our sleeping together. [They flinch 
at this, but she downs them.] And she couldn't bear 
that because she refuses to believe that you're a grown 
man and capable of desiring a woman. And that's be- 
cause, grown man that you are, down, down in the 
depths of her, she still wants to suckle you at her breast! 

David [a cry of horror]. Chris! 

Robert [at the same time]. Good God! 

Mrs. Phelps [at the same time]. No! 



Christina. You find that picture revolting, do you? 
Well, so it is. ... I can't wait any longer for your 
answer, Dave. 

David. 1 don't think you've any sense of decency left 
in you. Of all the filthy, vile . . . 

Christina. I'm sorry you feel that way. 

David. How else can I feel? 

Christina. Is that your answer ? 

David. 1 want to do the right thing, but . . . 

Christina. Remember me, won't you, on Mother's 
Day! [Then she calls out.] Are you ready, Hester? 

David. You make things mighty hard, Chris, for a 
man who knows what fair play is and gratitude and all 
those other things I naturally feel for my mother. 

Christina. Do I? 

David. What do you expect me to say ? 

Christina. I don't know. I've never known. That's 
been the thrill of it. [Hester, dressed for her journey, 
appears in the door and stands beside Christina. Chris- 
tina's arm encircles the younger girl's shoulders.] It's 
time, Hester. 

Hester. Isn't David coming with us? 

Christina. I'm afraid not. 

Hester. Oh, Christina! 

Christina. Sssh! Never mind. It can't be helped. 

Robert [breaking out]. Hester! Hester! Couldn't we 
try again? Couldn't you . . . 

Hester. What? 

Robert. I mean . . . what are you going to do . . . 
now? 

Hester. I don't know. [Then a smile comes through.] 
Yes, I do, too, know. I'm going to marry an orphan. 

Christina [a long loo\ at David]. Good-bye, Dave. 

David [desperately pleading], Chris, you can't! It isn't 
fair to me! 

Christina [still looking at him]. I'm sorry it's come 
to this. ... It might easily have been so . . . 

[Her voice cho\es with crying. She pic\s up her 
bag where she put it down beside the door and 
goes quic\ly out. Hester, with a reproachful 
glance at David, follows her. David stands rigid. 
Mrs. Phelps watches him. Robert covers his face 
with his hands. Then the front door slams and 
David comes suddenly to life.] 

David [a frantic cry]. Chris! [He turns excitedly to 
his mother.] I'm sorry, Mother, but I guess I'll have to 

go- 
Mrs. Phelps [reeling]. No, Dave! No! No! 

David. I guess she's right. 

Mrs. Phelps. Oh, no!! You mustn't say that! You 
mustn't say that! 

David [holding her off from him], I can't help it. 
She said we were trapped. We are trapped. I'm trapped. 

Mrs. Phelps [absolutely beyond herself]. No! No! 
She isn't right! She can't be right! I won't believe it! 

David [breaking loose from her]. I can't help that! 



DEAR BRUTUS 



139 



Mrs. Phelps [speaking at the same time]. For God's 
«ke, Dave, don't go with her! Not with that awful 
woman, Dave! That wicked woman! For God's sake 
don't leave me for her, Dave! [She turns wildly to 
Robert.] You know it isn't true, Robin! You know it 
was vile, what she said! Tell him! Tell him! [But he 
is gone.] Dave! My boy! My boy! My boy! Oh, my 
God! Dave! She isn't right! She isn't, Dave! Dave! 
Dave! [The front door slams a second time. An awful 
pause, then]. He's gone. 

Robert [uncovering his face]. Who? Dave? 

Mrs. Phelps. Can you see them from the window? 

Robert [looking out]. Yes. . . . They're talking. . . . 
Now he's kissed her and taken the suitcase. . . . Now 
he's helping Hester . . . Hester into the car. . . . New 
he's getting in. . . . Now they're starting. 

Mrs. Phelps. I loved him too much. I've been too 
happy. Troubles had to come. I must be brave. I must 
bear my troubles bravely. 



Robert [turning to her]. Poor Mother! 

Mrs. Phelps. I must remember that I still have one of 
my great sons. I must keep my mind on that. 

Robert [a step or two toward her]. That's right, 
Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps. And well go abroad, my great Robin 
and I, and stay as long as ever we please. 

Robert [as he kneels beside her]. Yes, Mother. 

Mrs. Phelps [her voice growing stronger as that 
deeply religious point of view of hers comes to her 
rescue]. And you must remember that David, in his 
blindness, has forgotten. That mother love suffereth 
long and is kind; envieth not, is not puffed up, is not 
easily provoked; beareth all things; believeth all things; 
hopeth all things; endureth all things. ... At least, I 
think my love does? 

Robert [engulfed forever]. Yes, Mother. 

CURTAIN 



Dear Brutus 

J. M. Barrie 

J. M. Barrie (1860-1937) was born in Scotland. He studied at Edin- 
burgh University and in 1885 went to London as a journalist. During the 
'90's his best work was done in the novel, - but in 1902 appeared Quality 
Street and The Admirable Crichton, Peter Pan following in 1904. With 
these three plays Barrie sounded his distinctive note, freed himself from 
the unstable anti-Ibsenish beginnings as a dramatist of earlier years, and 
began to produce a notable series of plays which now includes What Every 
Woman Knows, The Twelve Pound Loo\, A Kiss for Cinderella, Dear 
Brutus, The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, and Mary Rose. Barrie has. been 
called sentimental and mystical by critics who would divorce his plays from 
the main current of modern naturalistic drama, from Ibsen or Galsworthy 
for example; but a fairer way in which to describe his work, perhaps, is by 
saying that the c harac ters of a Barrie play always movejn a peculiar atmos- 
phere, an 1 atmos^plierT^f^criaFm, half fantasyj half realism; and at any 
moment the fantasy Is i likely to absorb all tlir action^ only to return it the 
next moment again to the realistic plane. On this wTiimsical borderline 
between the two worlds of objective realism and imaginative fantasy, is 
located, in the last analysis, Barrie's best work. He was created a baronet 
in 1913, and in 1922 a Rector of Edinburgh University. In the latter year 
he was awarded the Order of Merit. In 1930 he was made Chancellor of 
the University. His fiction includes Autd Licht Idylls, A Window in 
Thrums, The Little Minister, Sentimental Tommy, and Margaret Ogilvy. 



ACT I 

The scene is a darkened room, which the curtain re- 
veals so stealthily that if there was a mouse on the 
stage it is there still. Our object is to catch our two 
chief characters unawares; they are Darkness and Light. 
The room is so obscure as to be invisible, but at the 

By permission of the publishers, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 



bac\ of the obscurity are French windows, through 
which is seen Lob's garden bathed in moonshine. The 
Darkness and Light, which this room and garden repre- 
sent, are very still, but we should feel that it is only the 
pause in which old enemies regard each other before 
they come to the grip. The moonshine stealing about 
among the flowers, to give them their last instructions, 
has left a smile upon them, but it is a smile with a men- 



;4C 



DRAMA 



ace in it for the dwellers in dar\ness. What we expect 
to see next is the moonshine slowly pushing the windows 
open, so that it may whisper to a confederate in the house, 
whose name is Lob. But though we may be sure that this 
was about to happen it does not happen; a stir among the 
dwellers in darkjiess prevents it. 

These unsuspecting ones are in the dining-room, and 
as a communicating door opens we hear them at play. 
Several tenebrious shades appear in the lighted doorway 
and hesitate on the two steps that lead down into the 
unlit room. The fanciful among us may conceive a rustle 
at the same moment among the flowers. The engage- 
ment has begun, though not in the way we had intended. 

Voices. — 

'Go on, Coady: lead the way.' 

'Oh dear, J don't see why 1 should go first.' 

'The nicest always goes first.' 

'It is a strange house if I am the nicest.' 

'It is a strange house.' 

'Don't close the door; I can't see where the switch is.' 

'Over here.' 

They have been groping their way forward, blissfully 
unaware of how they shall be groping there again more 
terribly before the night is out. Some one finds a switch, 
and the room is illumined, with the effect that the gar- 
den seems to have drawn bac\ a step as if worsted in the 
first encounter. But it is only waiting. 

The apparently inoffensive chamber thus suddenly re- 
vealed is, for a bachelor's home, creditably li\e a charm- 
ing country house drawing-room and abounds in the 
little feminine touches that are so often best applied by 
the hand of man. There is nothing in the room inimical 
to the ladies, unless it be the cut flowers which are from 
the garden and possibly in collusion with it. The fire- 
place may also be a little dubious. It has been hacked out 
of a thic\ wall which may have been there when the 
other walls were not, and is presumably the cavern where 
hob, when alone, sits chatting to himself among the 
blue smo\e. He is as much at home by this fire as any 
gnome that may be hiding among its shadows; but he is 
less familiar with the rest of the room, and when he sees 
it, as for instance on his lonely way to bed, he often stares 
long and hard at it before chuckling uncomfortably. 

There are five ladies, and one only of them is elderly, 
the Mrs. Coade whom a voice in the darkness has al- 
ready proclaimed the nicest. She is the nicest, though 
the voice was no good judge. Coady, as she is familiarly 
called and as her husband also is called, each having for 
many years been able to answer for the other, is a 
rounded old lady with a beaming smile that has ac- 
companied her from childhood. If she lives to be a hun- 
dred she will pretend to the census man that she is only 
ninety-nine. She has no other vice that has not been 
smoothed out of existence by her placid life, and she has 



but one complaint against the male Coady, the rather 
odd one that he has long forgotten his first wife. Our 
Mrs. Coady never \new the first one but it is she alone 
who sometimes loo\s at the portrait of her and preserves 
in their home certain mementos of her, such as a loc\ 
of brown hair, which the equally gentle male Coady 
must have treasured once but has now forgotten. The 
first wife had been slightly lame, and in their brief mar- 
ried life he had carried solicitously a rest for her foot, 
had got so accustomed to doing this, that after a quarter 
of a century with our Mrs. Coady he still finds footstools 
for her as if she were lame also. She has ceased to pucker 
her face over this, taking it as a \ind little thoughtless 
attention, and indeed with the years has developed a 
friendly limp. 

Of the other four ladies, all young and physically fair, 
two are married. Mrs. Dearth is tall, of smouldering eye 
and fierce desires, murky beasts lie in ambush in the 
labyrinths of her mind, she is a white-faced gypsy with 
a husky voice, most beautiful when she is sullen, and 
therefore frequently at her best. The other ladies when 
in conclave refer to her as The Dearth. Mrs. Purdie is 
a safer companion for the toddling \ind of man. She is 
soft and pleading, and would see\ what she wants by 
laying her head on the loved one's shoulder, while The 
Dearth might attain it with a pistol. A brighter spirit 
than either is Joanna Trout who, when her affections are 
not engaged, has a merry face and figure, but can dis- 
miss them both at the important moment, which is at 
the word 'love.' Then Joanna quivers, her sense of 
humour ceases to beat and the dullest man may go 
ahead. There remains Lady Caroline Laney of the dis- 
dainful poise, lately from the enormously select school 
where they are taught to pronounce their t's as w's; noth- 
ing else seems to be taught, but for matrimonial success 
nothing else is necessary. Every woman who pronounces 
r as w will find a mate: it appeals to all that is chivalrous 
in man. 

An old-fashioned gallantry induces us to accept from 
each of these ladies her own estimate of herself, and for- 
tunately it is favourable in every case. This refers to 
their estimate of themselves up to the hour of ten on the 
evening on which we first meet them; the estimate may 
have changed temporarily by the time we part from 
them on the following morning. What their mirrors say 
to each of them is, A dear face, not classically perfect but 
abounding in that changing charm which is the best 
type of English womanhood; here is a woman who has 
seen and felt far more than her reticent nature readily 
betrays; she sometimes smiles, but behind that conces- 
sion, controlling it in a manner hardly less than adorable, 
lur\s the sigh called Knowledge; a strangely interesting 
face, mysterious; a line for her tombstone might be 'If I 
had been a man what adventures I could have had with 
her who lies here.' 



DEAR BRUTUS 



141 



Are these ladies then so very ali\e? They would all 
deny if, so we must ta\e our own soundings. At this 
moment of their appearance in the drawing-room at least 
they are ali\e in having a common interest. No sooner 
has the dining-room door closed than purpose leaps to 
their eyes; oddly enough, the men having been got rid 
of, the drama begins. 

Alice Dearth [the darkest spirit hut the bravest]. We 
must not waste a second. Our minds are made up, I 
think? 

Joanna. Now is the time. 

Mrs. Coade [at once delighted and appalled]. Yes, now 
if at all; but should we? 

Alice. Certainly; and before the men come in. 

Mabel Purdie. You don't think we should wait for 
the men ? They are as much in it as we are. 

Lady Caroline [unlucky, as her opening remar\ is 
without a single r]. Lob would be with them. If the thing 
is to be done at all it should be done now. 

Mrs. Coade. Is it quite fair to Lob ? After all, he is our 
host. 

Joanna. Of course it isn't fair to him, but let's do it, 
Coady. 

Mrs. Coade. Yes, let's do it! 

Mabel. Mrs. Dearth is doing it. 

Alice [who is writing out a telegram]. Of course I 
am. The men are not coming, are they? 

Joanna [reconnoitring]. No; your husband is having 
another glass of port. 

Alice. I am sure he is. One of you ring, please. 
[The bold Joanna rings.] 

Mrs. Coade. Poor Matey! 

Lady Caroline. He wichly desewves what he is about 
to get. 

Joanna. He is coming! Don't all stand huddled to- 
gether like conspirators. 

Mrs. Coade. It is what we are! 

[Swiftly they find seats, and are sun\ thereon li\e 
ladies waiting languidly for their lords when the 
doomed butler appears. He is a man of brawn, 
who could cast any one of them forth for a wager; 
but we are about to connive at the triumph of 
mind over matter.] 

Alice [always at her best before "the bright face of 
danger"]. Ah, Matey, I wish this telegram sent. 

Matey [a general favourite]. Very good, ma'am. The 
village post office closed at eight, but if your message is 
important 

Alice. It is; and you are so clever, Matey, I am sure 
that you can persuade them to oblige you. 

Matey [taking the telegram]. I will sec to it myself, 
ma'am; you can depend on its going. 

[There comes a little gasp from Coady, which is the 
equivalent to dropping a stitch in needle-wor\.] 



Alice [who is The Dearth now]. Thank you. Better 
read the telegram, Matey, to be sure that you can make 
it. out. [Matey reads it to himself, and he has never 
quite the same faith in woman again. The Dearth con- 
tinues in a purring voice.] Read it aloud, Matey. 

Matey. Oh, ma'am i 

Alice [without the purr]. Aloud. 

[Thus encouraged he reads the fatal missive.] 

Matey. 'To Police Station, Great Cumney. Send offi- 
cer first thing to-rnorrow morning to arrest Matey, but- 
ler, for theft of rings.' 

Alice. Yes, that is quite right. 

Matey. Ma'am! [But seeing that she has ta\en up a 
boo\, he turns to Lady Caroline.] My lady! 

Lady Caroline [whose voice strikes colder than The 
Dearth's]. Should we not say how many wings? 

Alice. Yes, put in the number of rings, Matey. 
[Matey does not put in the number, but he produces 
three rings from unostentatious parts of his person 
and returns them without noticeable dignity to 
their various owners.] 

Matey [hopeful that the incident is now closed]. May 
I tear up the telegram, ma'am? 

Alice. Certainly not. 

Lady Caroline. I always said that this man was the 
culpwit. I am nevaw mistaken in faces, and I see bwoad 
awwows all over youws, Matey. 

[He might reply that he sees w's all over hers, but 
it is no moment for repartee.] 

Matey. It is deeply regretted. 

Alice [darkjy]. I am sure it is. 

Joanna [who has seldom remained silent for so long]. 
We may as well tell him now that it is not our rings we 
are worrying about. They have just been a means to an 
end, Matey. 

[The stir among the ladies shows that they have ar- 
rived at the more interesting point.] 

Alice. Precisely. In other words that telegram is sent 

unless 

[Matey's head rises,] 

Joanna. Unless you can tell us instantly what peculiar- 
ity it is that all we ladies have in common. 

Mabel. Not only the ladies; all the guests in this 
house. 

Alice. We have been here a week, and we find that 
when Lob invited us he knew us all so little that we begin 
to wonder why he asked us. And now from words he 
has let drop we know that we were invited because of 
something he thinks we have in common. 

Mabel. But he won't say what it is. 

Lady Caroline [drafting bac\ a little from Joanna]. 
One knows that no people could be more unlike. 

Joanna [thankfully]. One does. 

Mrs. Coade. And we can'f sleep at night, Matey, for 
wondering what this something is. 



142 



DRAMA 



Joanna [summing up]. But we are sure you know, 
and if you don't tell us — quod. 

Matey [with growing uneasiness]. I don't know what 
you mean, ladies. 

Alice. Oh yes, you do. 

Mrs. Coade. You must admit that your master is a 
very strange person. 

Matey [wriggling]. He is a little odd, ma'am. That is 
why every one calls him Lob; not Mr. Lob. 

Joanna. He is so odd that it has got on my nerves that 
we have been invited here for some sort of horrid ex- 
periment. [Matey shivers.] You look as if you thought 
so too! 

Matey. Oh no, miss, I — he — [The words he would 
l^eep bac\ elude him]. You shouldn't have come, ladies; 
you didn't ought to have come. 

[For the moment he is sorrier for them than for 
himself.] 

Lady Caroline. Shouldn't have come! Now, my man, 
what do you mean by that? 

Matey. Nothing, my lady: I— I just mean, why did 
you come if you are the kind he thinks ? 

Mabel. The kind he thinks? 

Alice. What kind does he think ? Now we are get- 
ting at it. 

Matey [guardedly]. I haven't a notion, ma'am. 

Lady Caroline [whose w's must henceforth be sup- 
plied by the judicious reader]. Then it is not necessarily 
our virtue that makes Lob interested in us? 

Matey [thoughtlessly]. No, my lady; oh no, my lady. 
[This ma\es an unfavourable impression.] 

Mrs. Coade. And yet, you know, he is rather lovable. 

Matey [carried away]. He is, ma'am. He is the most 
lovable old devil — I beg pardon, ma'am. 

Joanna. You scarcely need to, for in a way it is true. 
{ have seen him out there among his flowers, petting 
mem, talking to them, coaxing them till they simply 
had to grow. 

Alice [making use perhaps of the wrong adjective]. 
It is certainly a divine garden. 

[They all loo\ at the unblinking enemy.] 

Mrs. Coade [not more deceived than the others]. How 
lovely it is in the moonlight. Roses, roses, all the way. 
[Dreamily.] It is like a hat I once had when I was young. 

Alice. Lob is such an amazing gardener that I believe 
he could even grow hats. 

Lady Caroline [who will catch it for this]. He is a 
wonderful gardener; but is that quite nice at his age? 
What is his age, man? 

Matey [shuffling]. He won't tell, my lady. I think he 
is frightened that the police would step in if they knew 
how old he is. They do say in the village that they re- 
member him seventy years ago, looking just as he does 
to-day. 

Alice. Absurd. 



Matey. Yes, ma'am ; but there are his razors. 

Lady Caroline. Razors? 

Matey. You won't know about razors, my lady, not 
being married — as yet— excuse me. But a married lady 
can tell a man's age by the number of his razors. [A 
little scared.] If you saw his razors — there is a little 
world of them, from patents of the present day back to 
implements so horrible, you can picture him with them 
in his hand scraping his way through the ages. 

Lady Caroline. You amuse one to an extent. Was he 
ever married? 

Matey [too lightly]. He has quite forgotten, my lady. 
[Reflecting.] How long ago is it since Merry England? 

Lady Caroline. Why do you ask? 

Mabel. In Queen Elizabeth's time, wasn't it? 

Matey. He says he is all that is left of Merry England : 
that litde man. 

Mabel [who has brothers]. Lob? I think there is a 
famous cricketer called Lob. 

Mrs. Coade. Wasn't there a Lob in Shakespeare? No, 
of course I am thinking of Robin Goodfellow. 

Lady Caroline, The names are so alike. 

Joanna. Robin Goodfellow was Puck. 

Mrs. Coade [with natural elation]. That is what was 
in my head. Lob was another name for Puck. 

Joanna. Well, he is certainly rather like what Puck 
might have grown into if he had forgotten to die. And, 
by the way, I remember now he does call his flowers by 
the old Elizabethan names. 

Matey. He always calls the Nightingale Philomel, 
miss — if that is any help. 

Alice [who is not omniscient]. None whatever. Tell 
me this, did he specially ask you all for Midsummer 
week ? 

[They assent.] 

Matey [who might more judiciously have re-mained 
silent]. He would! 

Mrs. Coade. Now what do you mean? 

Matey. He always likes them to be here on Midsum- 
mer night, ma'am. 

Alice. Them? Whom? 

Matey. Them who have that in common. 

Mabel, What can it be? 

Matey. I don't know. 

Lady Caroline [suddenly introspective]. I hope we 
are all nice women? We don't know each other very well. 
[Certain suspicions are reborn in various breasts.] Does 
anything startling happen at those times? 

Matey. I don't know. 

Joanna. Why, I believe this is Midsummer Eve! 

Matey. Yes, miss, it is. The villagers know it. They 
are all inside their houses, to-night — with the doors 
barred. 

Lady Caroline. Because of — of him? 

Matey. He fri^atens them. There are stories. 



DEAR BRUTUS 



143 



Alice. What alarms them? Tell us — or — [She bran- 
dishes the telegram.] 

Matey. I know nothing for certain, ma'am. I have 
never done it myself. He has wanted me to, but I 
wouldn't. 

Mabel. Done what? 

Matey [with fine appeal]. Oh, ma'am, don't ask me. 
Be merciful to me, ma'am. I am not bad naturally. It 
was just going into domestic service that did for me; 
the accident of being flung among bad companions. It's 
touch and go how the poor turn out in this world j^all 
d epends on your taking the right or the wron g turnin g., 

Mits. Coade [the lenient], I daresay that is true. 

Matey [under this touch of sun]. When I was young, 
ma'am, I was offered a clerkship in the city. If I had 
taken it there wouldn't be a more honest man alive to- 
day. I would give the world to be able to begin over 
again. 

[He means every word of it, though the flowers 
would here, if they dared, burst into ironical 
applause.] 

Mrs. Coade. It is very sad, Mrs. Dearth. 

Alice. I am sorry for him; but still 

Matey [his eyes turning to Lady Caroline]. What do 
you say, my lady? 

Lady Caroline [briefly]. As you ask me, I should cer- 
tainly say jail. 

Matey [desperately]. If you will say no more about 
this, ma'am — I'll give you a rip that is worth it. 

Alice. Ah, now you are talking. 

Lady Caroline. Don't listen to him. 

Matey [lowering]. You are the one that is hardest 
on me. 

Lady Caroline. Yes, I flatter myself I am. 

Matey [forgetting himself]. You might take a wrong 
turning yourself, my lady. 

Lady Caroline. I? How dare you, man. 

[But the flowers rather like him for this; it is pos- 
sibly what gave them a certain idea.] 

Joanna [near the \eyhole of the dining-room door]. 
The men are rising. 

Alice [hurriedly]. Very well, Matey, we agree — if the 
'tip' is good enough. 

Lady Caroline. You will regret this. 

Matey. I think not, my lady. It's diis : I wouldn't go 
out to-night if he asks you. Go into the garden, if you 
like. The garden is all right. [He really believes this.] 
I wouldn't go farther — not to-night. 

Mrs. Coade. But he never proposes to us to go farther. 
Why should he to-night? 

Matey. I don't know, ma'am, but don't any of you 
go — [devilishly] except you, my lady; I should like you 
to go. 

Lady Caroline. Fellow! 
[They consider this odd warning.] 



Alice. Shall I? [They nod and she tears up the tele- 
gram.] 

Matey [with a gulp]. Thank you, ma'am. 

Lady Caroline. You should have sent that telegram 
off. 

Joanna. You are sure you have told us all you know, 
Matey? 

Matey. Yes, miss. [But at the door he is more gen- 
erous.] Above all, ladies, I wouldn't go into the wood. 

Mabel. The wood? Why, there is no wood within a 
dozen miles of here. 

Matey. No, ma'am. But all the same I wouldn't go 
into it, ladies — not if I was you. 

[ With this cryptic warning he leaves them, and any 
discussion of it is prevented by the arrival of their 
host. Lob is very small, and probably no one has 
ever looked so old except some newborn child. To 
sitch as watch him narrowly, as the ladies now do 
for the first time, he has the effect of seeming to be 
hollow, an attenuated piece of piping insuffi- 
ciently inflated; one feels that if he were to stride 
against a solid object he might rebound feebly 
from it, which would be less disconcerting if he 
did not obviously kriow this and carefully avoid 
the furniture; he is so light that the subject must 
not be mentioned in his presence, but it is possible 
that, were the ladies to combine, they could blow 
him out of a chair. He enters portentously, his 
hands behind his bac\, as if every bit of him, from 
his domed head to his little feet, were the physical 
expressions of the deep thoughts within him, then 
suddenly he whirls round to ma\e his guests 
jump. This amuses him vastly, and he regains his 
gravity with difficulty. He addresses Mrs. Coade.] 

Lob. Standing, dear lady ? Pray be seated. 

[He finds a chair for her and pulls it aivay as she is 
about to sit, or kindly pretends to be about to do 
so, for he has had this quaint conceit every evening 
since she arrived.] 

Mrs. Coade [who loves children]. You naughty! 

Lob [eagerly]. It is quite a flirtation, isn't it? 

[He rolls on a chair, l{ic\ing out his legs in an ecstasy 
of satisfaction. But the ladies are not certain that 
he is the little innocent they have hitherto thought 
him. The advent of Mr. Coade and Mr. Purdie 
presently adds to their misgivings. Mr. Coade is 
old, a sweet pippin of a man with a gentle smile 
for all; he must have suffered much, you conclude 
incorrectly, to acquire that tolerant smile. Some- 
times, as when he sees other people at wor\, a 
wistful loo\ ta\es the place of the smile, and Mr. 
Coade fidgets likjs one who would be elsewhere. 
Then there rises before his eyes the room called 
the study in his house, whose walls are lined with 
boxes marked A.B.Cto Z. and A*. B*. C. to 1C. 



144 



DRAMA 



These contain dusty notes for his great work on 
the Feudal System, the notes many years old, the 
work, strictly speaking, not yet begun. He still 
speaks at times of finishing it but never of begin- 
ning it. He knows that in more fayjoyrjibte cir- 
cumstances, for instance if he had been a poor 
man instead of pleasantly well to do, he could have 
fung himself avidly into that noble undertaking; 
but he does not allow his secret sorrow to embitter 
him or dar\en the house. Quictyy the vision 
passes, and he is again his bright self. Idleness, he 
says in his game way, has its recompense. It is 
charming now to see how he at once crosses to his 
wife, solicitous for her comfort. He is bearing 
down on her with a footstool when Mr. Purdie 
comes from the dining-room. He is the most 
brilliant of our company, recently notable in de- 
bate at Oxford, where he was runner-up for the 
presidentship of the Union and only lost it because 
the other man was less brilliant. Since then he has 
gone to the bar on Monday, married on Tuesday 
and had a brief on Wednesday. Beneath his bril- 
liance, and makjng charming company for him- 
self, he is aware of intellectual powers beyond his 
years. As we are about to see, he has made one 
mista\e in his life which he is bravely facing.} 
Alice. Is my husband still, sampling the port, Mr. 

Purdie? 
Purdie {with a disarming smile for the absent 

Dearth]. Do you know, I believe he is. Do the ladies like 

our proposal, Coade? 
Coade. I have not told them of it yet. The fact is, I am 

afraid that it might tire my wife too much. Do you feel 

equal to a little exertion to-night, Coady, or is your foot 

troubling you? 
Mrs. Coade [the kind creature]. I have been resting it, 

Coady. 
Coade [propping it on the footstool]. There! Is that 

more comfortable? Presendy, dear, if you are agreeable 

we are all going out for a walk. 
Mrs. Coade [quoting Matey]. The garden is all right. 
Purdie [with jocular solemnity]. Ah, but it is not to be 

the garden. We are going farther afield. We have an 

adventure for to-night. Get thick shoes and a wrap, 

Mrs. Dearth; all of you. 
Lady Caroline [with but languid interest]. Where do 

you propose to take us? 
Purdie. To find a mysterious wood. 

[With the word 'wood' the ladies are blown upright. 
Their eyes turn to Lob, who, however, has never 
loo\ed more innocent]. 
Ioanna. Are you being funny, Mr. Purdie? You know 

quite well that there are not any trees for miles around. 

You have said yourself that it is the one blot on the 

landscape. 



Coade [almost as great a humourist as Purdie]. Ah, on 
ordinary occasions! But allow us to point out to you, 
Miss Joanna, that this is Midsummer Eve. 

[Lob again comes sharply under female observa- 
tion.] 

Purdie. Tell them what you told us, Lob. 

Lob [with a pout for the credulous]. It is all nonsense, 
of course; just foolish talk of the villagers. They say that 
on Midsummer Eve there is a strange wood in this part 
of the country. 

Alice [lowering]. Where? 

Purdie. Ah, that is one of its most charming features. 
It is never twice in the same place apparendy. It has 
been seen on different parts of the Downs and on 
More Common; once it was close to Radley village and 
another time about a mile from the sea. Oh, a sporting 
wood! 

Lady Caroline. And Lob is anxious that we should 
all go and look for it? 

Coade. Not he; Lob is the only sceptic in the house. 
Says it is all rubbish, and that we shall be sillies if we go. 
But we believe, eh, Purdie? 

Purdie [waggishly]. Rather! 

Lob [the artful]. Just wasting the evening. Let us 
have a round game at cards here instead. 

Purdie [grandly]. No, sir, I am going to find that 
wood. 

Joanna. What is the good of it when it is found? 

Purdie. We shall wander in it deliciously, listening 
to a new sort of bird called the Philomel. 

[Lob is behaving in the most exemplary manner; 
making sweet little clucking sounds.] 

Joanna [doubtfully]. Shall we keep together, Mr. 
Purdie? 

Purdie. No, we must hunt in pairs. 

Joanna [converted]. I think it would be rather fun. 
Come on, Coady, I'll lace your boots for you. I am 
sure your poor foot will carry you nicely. 

Alice. Miss Trout, wait a moment. Lob, has this 
wonderful wood any special properties? 

Lob. Pooh! There's no wood. 

Lady Caroline. You've never seen it? 

Lob. Not I. I don't believe in it. 

Alice. Have any of the villagers ever been in it? 

Lob [dreamily]. So it's said; so it's said. 

Alice. What did they say were their experiences? 

Lob. That isn't known. They never came back. 

Joanna [promptly resuming her seat]. Never came 
back! 

Lob. Absurd, of course. You see in the morning the 
wood was gone; and so they were gone, too. [He clucks 
again.] 

Joanna. I don't think I like this wood. 

Mrs. Coade. It certainly is Midsummer Eve. 

Coade [remembering that women are not yet civil- 



DEAR BRUTUS 



145 



ised]. Of course if you ladies are against it we will drop 
the idea. It was only a bit of fun. 

Alice [with a malicious eye on Lob]. Yes, better give 
it up — to please Lob, 

Purdie. Oh, all right, Lob. What about that round 
game of cards ? 

[The proposal meets with approval.) 
Lob [bursting into tears], I wanted you to go. I had 
set my heart on your going. It is the thing I wanted, and 
it isn't good for me not to get the thing I want. 

[He creeps under the table and threatens the hands 
that would draw him out.] 
Mrs. Coade, Good gracious, he has wanted it all the 
time. You wicked Lob! 
Alice. Now, you see there is something in it. 
Coade. Nonsense, Mrs. Dearth, it was only a joke. 
Mabel [melting]. Don't cry, Lobby. 
Lob. Nobody cares for me — nobody loves me. And I 
need to be loved. 

[Several of them are on their \nees to him.] 
Joanna. Yes, we do, we all love you. Nice, nice Lobby, 
Mabel. Dear Lob, I am so fond of you. 
Joanna. Dry his eyes with my own handkerchief. [He 
holds up his eyes but is otherwise inconsolable. \ 
Lady Caroline. Don't pamper him. 
Lob [furiously]. I need to be pampered. 
Mrs. Coade. You funny little man. Let us go at once 
and look for his wood. 

[All feel that thus alone can his tears be dried.] 
Joanna. Boots and cloaks, hats forward. Come on, 
Lady Caroline, just to show you are not afraid of Matey. 
[There is a general exodus, and Lob left alone 
emerges from his temporary retirement. He 
clucks victoriously, but presently is on his \nees 
again distressfully regarding some flowers that 
have fallen from their bowl.] 
Lob. Poor bruised one, it was I who hurt you. Lob is 
so sorry. Lie there! [To another.] Pretty, pretty, let me 
see where you have a pain? You fell on your head; is 
this the place? Now I make it better. Oh, little rascal, 
you are not hurt at all; you just pretend. Oh dear, oh 
dear! Sweetheart, don't cry, you are now prettier than 
ever. You were too tall. Oh, how beautiful you smell 
now that you are small. [He replaces the wounded 
tenderly in their bowl.] Drink, drink. Now, you are 
happy again. The litde rascal smiles. All smile, please — 
nod heads — aha! aha! You love Lob — Lob loves you. 
[Joanna and Mr. Purdie stroll in by the window.] 
Joanna. What were you saying to them, Lob? 
Lob. I was saying 'Two's company, three's none.' 

[He departs with a final cluc\.) 
Joanna. That man — he suspects! 

[This is a very different Joanna from, the one who 
has so jar flitted across our scene. It is also a dif- 
ferent Purdie. In company they seldom loo\ at 



each other, though when the one does so the eyes 
of the other magnetically respond. We have seen 
them trivial, almost cynical, but now we are to 
greet them as they \now they really are, the great 
strong-hearted man and his natural mate, in the 
grip of the master passion. For the moment Lob's 
words have unnerved Joanna and it is John Pur- 
die's dear privilege to soothe her.) 
Purdie. No one minds Lob. My dear, oh my dear. 
Joanna [faltering]. Yes, but he saw you kiss my hand. 
Jack, if Mabel were to suspect! 
Purdie [happily]. There is nothing for her to suspect. 
Joanna [eagerly). No, there isn't, is there? [She is 
desirous ever to be without a flaw.) Jack, I am not doing 
anything wrong, am I? 
Purdie. You! 

[ With an adorable gesture she gives him one of her 
hands, and manli\e he ta\es the other also.) 
Joanna. Mabel is your wife, Jack. I should so hate 
myself if I did anydiing that was disloyal to her. 

Purdie [pressing her hand to her eyes as if counting 

them, in the strange manner of lovers). Those eyes could 

never be disloyal — my lady of the nut-brown eyes. [He 

holds ha~ from him, surveying her, and is scorched in 

the flame of her femininity.) Oh, the sveldtness of you. 

[Almost with reproach.) Joanna, why are you so sveldt! 

[For his sak^e she would be less sveldt if she could, 

but she can't. She admits her failure with eyes 

grown still larger, and he envelops her so that he 

may not see her. Thus men see\ safety.) 

Joanna [while out of sight). All I want is to help her 

and you. 

Purdie. I know — how well I know — my dear brave 
love. 

Joanna. I am very fond of Mabel, Jack. I should like 
to be the best friend she has in the world. 

Purdie. You are, dearest. No woman ever had a better 
friend. 

Joanna. And yet I don't think she really likes me. I 
wonder why? 

Purdie [ who is the bigger brained of the two.) It is just 
that Mabel doesn't understand. Nothing could make me 

say a word against my wife 

Joanna [sternly). I wouldn't listen to you if you did. 
Purdie. I love you all the more, dear, for saying that. 
But Mabel is a cold nature and she doesn't understand. 
Joanna [thinking never of herself but only of him). 
She doesn't appreciate your finer qualities. 

Purdie [ruminating). That's it. But of course I am 
difficult. I always was a strange, strange creature. I 
often think, Joanna, that I am rather like a flower that 
has never had the sun to shine on it nor the rain to 
water it. 
Joanna. You break my heart. 
Purdie [with considerable enjoyment). I suppose there 



146 



DRAMA 



is no more lonely man that I walking the earth to-day. 

Joanna [beating her wings]. It is so mournful. 

Purdie. It is the thought of you that sustains me, ele- 
vates me. You shine high above me like a star. 

Joanna. No, no. I wish I was wonderful, but I am not. 

Purdie. You have made me a better man, Joanna. 

Joanna. I am so proud to think that. 

Purdie. You have made me kinder to Mabel. 

Joanna. I am sure you are always kind to her. 

Purdie. Yes, I hope so. But I think now of special 
little ways of giving her pleasure. That never-to-be-for- 
gotten day when we first met, you and I! 

Joanna [fluttering nearer to him.] That tragic, lovely 
day by the weir. Oh, Jack! 

Purdie. Do you know how in gratitude I spent the rest 
of that day? 

Joanna [crooning]. Tell me. 

Purdie. I read to Mabel aloud for an hour. I did it 
out of kindness to her, because I had met you. 

Joanna. It was dear of you. 

Purdie. Do you remember that first time my arms — 
your waist — you are so fluid, Joanna. [Passionately.] 
Why are you so fluid? 

Joanna [downcast]. I can't help it, Jack. 

Purdie. I gave her a ruby bracelet for that. 

Joanna. It is a gem. You have given that lucky woman 
many lovely tilings. 

Purdie. It is my invariable custom to go straight off 
and buy Mabel something whenever you have been sym- 
pathetic to me. Those new earrings of hers — they are in 
memory of the first day you called me Jack. Her Paquin 
gown — the one with the beads — was because you let me 
kiss you. 

Joanna. I didn't exactly let you. 

Purdie. No, but you have such a dear way of giving 



in. 



Joanna. Jack, she hasn't worn that gown of late. 
Purdie. No, nor the jewels. I think she has some sort 
of idea now that when I give her anything nice it means 
that you have been nice to me. She has rather a suspi- 
cious nature, Mabel; she never used to have it, but it 
seems to be growing on her. I wonder why, I wonder 
why? 

[In this wonder which is shared by Joanna their 
lips meet, and Mabel, who has been about to enter 
from the garden quietly retires.] 
Joanna. Was that any one in the garden? 
Purdie [returning from a quest]. There is no one 
there now. 

Joanna. I am sure I heard some one. If it was Mabel! 
[With a perspicacity that comes of knowledge of her 
sex.] Jack, if she saw us she will think you were kissing 
me. 

[These fears are confirmed by the rather odd bear- 
ing of Mabel, who now joins their select party.] 



Mabel [apologetically]. I am so sorry to interrupt you, 
Jack; but please wait a moment before you kiss her 
again. Excuse me, Joanna. [She quietly draws the cur- 
tains, thus shutting out the garden and any possible 
onlooker.] I did not want the others to see you; they 
might not understand how noble you are, Jack. You 
can go on now. 

[Having thus passed the time of day with them she 
withdraws by the door, leaving Jack, bewildered 
and Joanna knowing all about it.] 

Joanna. How extraordinary! Of all the ! Oh, but 

how contemptible! [She sweeps to the door and calls to 
Mabel by name.] 

Mabel [returning with promptitude]. Did you call 
me, Joanna? 

Joanna [guardedly]. I insist on an explanation. [With 
creditable hauteur.] What were you doing in the garden, 
Mabel? 

Mabel [who has not been so quiet all day], I was look- 
ing for something I have lost. 

Purdie [hope springing eternal]. Anything impor- 
tant? 

Mabel. I used to fancy it, Jack. It is my husband's 
love. You don't happen to have picked it up, Joanna? 
If so and you don't set great store by it I should like it 
back — the pieces, I mean. 

[Mr. Purdie is about to reply to this, when Joanna 
rather wisely fills the breach.] 
Joanna. Mabel, I — I will not be talked to in that way* 
To imply that I — that your husband — oh, shame! 

Purdie [finely]. I must say, Mabel, that I am a little 
disappointed in you. I certainly understood that you 
had gone upstairs to put on your boots. 

Mabel. Poor old Jack. [She muses.] A woman like 
that! 

Joanna [changing her comment in the moment of ut- 
terance]. — I forgive you, Mabel, you will be sorry for 
this afterwards. 

Purdie [warningly, but still reluctant to thin\ less 
well of his wife]. Not a word against Joanna, Mabel. 
If you knew how nobly she has spoken of you. 

Joanna [imprudently]. She does know. She has been 
listening. 

[There is a moments danger of the scene degenerat- 
ing into something mid-Victorian. Fortunately a 
chivalrous man is present to lift it to a higher 
plane. John Purdie is one to whom subterfuge of 
any hind is abhorrent; if he has not spoken out 
before it is because of his reluctance to give Mabel 
pain. He speakj out now, and seldom probably 
has he proved himself more worthy.] 
Purdie. This is a man's business. I must be open with 
you now, Mabel: it is the manlier way. If you wish it I 
shall always be true to you in word and deed; it is your 
right. But I cannot pretend that Joanna is not the one 



DEAR BRUTUS 



147 



woman in the world for me. If I had met her before 
you— it's Kismet, I suppose. [He swells.] 

Joanna [from a chair]. Too late, too late. 

Mabel [although the woman has seen him swell]. I 
suppose you never knew what true love was till you met 
her, Jack? 

PuRDm. You force me to say it. Joanna and I arc as 
one person. We have not a thought at variance. We are 
one rather than two. 

Mabel [looking at Joanna]. Yes, and that's the one! 
[With the cheapest sarcasm.] I am so sorry to have 
marred your lives. 

Purdie. If any blame there is, it is all mine; she is as 
spotless as the driven snow. The moment I mentioned 
love to her she told me to desist. 

Mabel. Not she. 

Joanna. So you were listening! [The obtuseness of 
Mabel is very srange to her.] Mabel, don't you see how 
splendid he is! 

Mabel. Not quite, Joanna. 

[She goes away. She is really a better woman than 
this, but never capable of scaling that higher plane 
to which he has, as it were, offered her a hand.] 

Joanna. How lovely of you, Jack, to take it all upon 
yourself. 

Purdie [simply]. It is the man's privilege, 

Joanna. Mabel has such a horrid way of seeming to 
put people in the wrong. 

Purdie. Have you noticed that? Poor Mabel, it is not 
an enviable quality. 

Joanna [despondently], I don't think I care to go out 
now. She has spoilt it all. She has taken the innocence 
out of it, Jack. 

Purdie [a rocf(\. We must be brave and not mind her. 
Ah, Joanna; if we had met in time. If only I could 
begin again. To be battered for ever just because I once 
took the wrong turning, it isn't fair. 

Joanna [emerging from his arms]. The wrong turn- 
ing! Now, who was saying that a moment ago— about 
himself? Why, it was Matey. 
[A footstep is heard.] 

Purdie [for the first time losing patience with his 
wife]. Is that her coming back again? It's too bad. 
[But the intruder is Mrs. Dearth, and grees her 
with relief.] 

Ah, it is you, Mrs. Dearth. 

Alice. Yes, it is; but thank you for telling me, Mr. 
Purdie. I don't intrude, do I? 

Joanna [descending to the lower plane, on which even 
goddesses snap]. Why should you? 

Purdue. Rather not. We were— hoping it would be 
you. We want to start on the walk. I can't think what 
has become of the others. We have been looking for 
them everywhere. [He glances vaguely round the room, 
as if they might so far have escaped detection.] 



Alice [pleasantly]. Well, do go on looking; under 
that flower-pot would be a good place. It is my husband 
I am in search of. 

Purdie [who likes her best when they are in different 
rooms]. Shall I rout him out for you? 

Alice. How too unutterably kind of you, Mr. Purdie. 
I hate to trouble you, but it would be the sort of service 
one never forgets. 
Purdie. You know, I believe you are chaffing me. 
Alice. No, no, I am incapable of that. 
Purdie. I won't be a moment 

Alice. Miss Trout and I will await your return with 
ill-concealed impatience. 

[They await it across a table, the newcomer in a 
reverie and Joanna watching her. Presently Mrs. 
Dearth loo\s up, and we may notice that she has 
an attractive screw of the mouth which denotes 
humour,] 
Yes, I suppose you are right; I dare say I am. 
Joanna [puzzled], I didn't say anything. 
Alice. I thought I heard you say 'That hateful 
Dearth woman, coming butting in where she is not 
wanted. 

[Joanna draws up her sveldt figure, but a screw of 
one mouth often calls for a similar demonstration 
from another, and both ladies smile. They nearly 
become friends.] 
Joanna. You certainly have good ears. 
Alice [drawling]. Yes, they have always been rather 
admired. 

Joanna [snapping]. By the painters for whom you sat 
when you were an artist's model? 
Alice [measuring her]. So that has leaked out, has it! 
Joanna [ashamed]. I shouldn't have said that. 
Alice [their brief friendship over]. Do you think I 
care whether you know or not? 

Joanna [ma\ing an effort to be good], I'm sure you 
don't. Still, it was cattish of me. 
Alice. It was. 
Joanna [in flame], I don't see it. 

[Mrs. Dearth laughs and forgets her, and with the 
entrance of a man from the dining-room Joanna 
drifts elsewhere. Not so much a man, this new- 
comer, as the relic of what has been a good one; it 
is the most he would ever claim for himself. Some- 
times, brandy in hand, he has visions of the Will 
Dearth he used to be, clear of eye, sees him but a 
field away, singing at his easel or, fishing-rod in 
hand, leaping a stile. Our Will stares after the 
fellow for quite a long time, so long that the two 
melt into the one who finishes Lob's brandy. He 
is scarcely intoxicated as he appears before the 
lady of his choice, but he is shaJ(y and has watery 
eyes. 
Alice has had a rather wild love for this man, or for 



14® 



DRAMA 



that other one, and he for her, but somehow it has 
gone whistling down the wind. We may expect 
therefore to see them at their worst when in each 
other's company .] 

Dearth [who is not without a humorous outlook on 
his own degradation]. I am uncommonly flattered, Alice, 
to hear that you have sent for me. It quite takes me 
aback. 

Alice [with cold distaste]. It isn't your company I 
want, Will. 

Dearth. You know, I felt that Purdie must have de- 
livered your message wrongly. 

Alice. I want you to come with us on this mysterious 
walk and keep an eye on Lob. 

Dearth. On poor little Lob? Oh, surely not. 

Alice. I can't make the man out. I want you to tell 
me something; when he invited us here, do you think it 
v/as you or me he specially wanted ? 

Dearth. Oh, you. He made no bones about it; said 
there was something about you that made him want 
uncommonly to have you down here. 

Alice. Will, try to remember this: did he ask us for 
any particular time? 

Dearth. Yes, he was particular about its being Mid- 
summer week. 

Alice. Ah! I thought so. Did he say what it was about 
me that made him want to have me here in Midsummer 
week? 

Dearth. No, but I presumed it must be your fascina- 
tion, Alice. 

Alice. Just so. Well, I want you to come out with us 
to-night to watch him. 

Dearth. Crack-in-my-eye-Tommy, spy on my host! 
And such a harmless litde chap, too. Excuse me, Alice. 
Besides I have an engagement. 

Alice. An engagement — with the port decanter, I 
presume. 

Dearth. A good guess, but wrong. The decanter is 
now but an empty shell. Still, how you know me! My 
engagement is with a quiet cigar in the garden. 

Alice. Your hand is so unsteady, you won't be able to 
light the match. 

Dearth. I shall just manage. [He triumphantly proves 
the exact truth of his statement.] 

Alice. A nice hand for an artist! 

Dearth. One would scarcely call me an artist now- 
a-days. 

Alice. Not so far as any work is concerned. 

Dearth. Not so far as having any more pretty dreams 
to paint is concerned. [Grinning at himself.] Wonder 
why I have become such a waster, Alice? 

Alice. I suppose it was always in you. 

Dearth [with perhaps e glimpse of the fishing-rod]. 
I suppose so; and yet I was rather a good sort in the 
days when I went courting you. 



Alice. Yes, I thought so. Unlucky days for me, as it 
has turned out. 

Dearth [heartily]. Yes, a bad job for you. [Puzzling 
unsteadily over himself.] I didn't know I was a wrong 
'un at the time; thought quite well of myself, thought a 
vast deal more of you. Crack-in-my-eye-Tommy, how I 
used to leap out of bed at 6 a.m. all agog to be at my 
easel; blood ran through my veins in those days. And 
now I'm middle-aged and done for. Funny! Don't know 
how it has come about, nor what has made the music 
mute. [Mildly curious.] When did you begin to despise 
me, Alice? 

Alice. When I got to know you really, Will; a long 
time ago. 

Dearth [bleary of eye]. Yes, I think that is true. It 
was a long time ago, and before I had begun to despise 
myself. It wasn't till I knew you had no opinion of me 
that I began to go down hill. You will grant that, won't 
you; and that I did try for a bit to fight on? If you had 
cared for me I wouldn't have come to this, surely ? 

Alice. Well, I found I didn't care for you, and I wasn't 
hypocrite enough to pretend I did. That's blunt, but you 
used to admire my bluntness. 

Dearth. The bluntness of you, the adorable wildness 
of you, you untamed thing! There were never any 
shades in you; kiss or kill was your motto, Alice. I felt 
from the first moment I saw you that you would love 
me or knife me. 

[Memoirs of their shooting star flare in both of 
them for as long as a sheet of paper might ta\e to 
burn.] 

Alice. I didn't knife you. 

Dearth. No. I suppose that was where you made the 
mistake. It is hard on you, old lady. [Becoming watery.] 
I suppose it's too late to try to patch things up? 

Alice. Let's be honest; it is too late, Will. 

Dearth [whose tears would smell of brandy]. Perhaps 
if we had had children — Pity! 

Alice. A blessing I should think, seeing what sort of 
a father they would have had. 

Dearth [ever reasonable]. I dare say you're right. 
Well, Alice, I know that somehow it's my fault. I'm 
sorry for you. 

Alice. I'm sorry for myself. If I hadn't married you 
what a different woman I should be. What a fool I was. 

Dearth. Ah! Three things they say come not back to 
men nor women — the spoken word, the past life and the 
neglected opportunity. Wonder if we should make any 
more of them, Alice, if they did come back to us. 

Alice. You wouldn't. 

Dearth [avoiding a hiccup]. I guess you're right. 

Alice. But I 

Dearth [sincerely]. Yes, what a boon for you. But I 
hope it's not Freddy Finch-Fallowe you would put in 
my place; I know he is following you about again. [He 



DEAR BRUTUS 



149 



is far from threatening her, he has too beery an opinion 
of himself for that.] 

Alice. He followed me about, as you put it, before I 
knew you. I don't know why I quarrelled with him. 

Dearth. Your heart told you that he was no good, 
Alice. 

Alice. My heart told me that you were. So it wasn't 
of much service to me, my heart! 

Dearth. The Honourable Freddy Finch-Fallowe is a 
rotter. 

Alice [ever inflammable]. You are certainly an au- 
thority on the subject. 

Dearth [with the sad smile of the disillusioned]. You 
have me there. After which brief, but pleasant, litde 
connubial chat, he pursued his dishonoured way into 
the garden. 

[He is however prevented doing so for the moment 
by the return of the others. They are all still in 
their dinner clothes though wearing wraps. They 
crowd in through the door, chattering.] 
Lob. Here they are! Are you ready, dear lady? 
Mrs. Coade [seeing that Dearth's hand is on the win- 
dow curtains]. Are you not coming with us to find the 
wood, Mr. Dearth ? 

Dearth. Alas, I am unavoidably detained. You will 
find me in the garden when you come back. 

Joanna [whose sense of humour has been restored]. 
If we ever do come back! 

Dearth. Precisely. [With a groggy bow.] Should we 
never meet again, Alice, fare thee well. Purdie, if you 
find the tree of knowledge in the wood bring me back 
an apple. 
Purdie. I promise. 

Lob. Come quickly. Matey mustn't see me. [He is 
turning out the lights.] 

Lady Caroline [pouncing]. Matey? What difference 
would that make, Lob? 
Lob. He would take me off to bed; it's past my time. 
Coade [not the least gay of the company]. You know, 
old fellow, you make it very difficult for us to embark 
upon this adventure in the proper eerie spirit. 
Dearth. Well, I'm for the garden. 

[He wal\s to the window, and the others are going 
out by the door. But they do not go. There is a 
hitch somewhere — at the window apparently, for 
Dearth, having begun to draw the curtains apart 
lets them fall, li\e one who has had a shoc\. The 
others remember long afterwards his grave face as 
he came quietly bac\ and put his cigar on the 
table. The room is in darkness save for the light 
from one lamp.] 
Purdie [wondering]. How, now, Dearth? 
Dearth. What is it we get in that wood, Lob? 
Alice. Ah, he won't tell us that. 
Lob [shrinking]. Come on! 



Alice [impressed by the change that has come over 
her husband]. Tell us first. 

Lob [forced to the disclosure]. They say diat in the 
wood you get what nearly everybody here is longing for 
^second chance? 

[The ladies are simultaneously enlightened.] 
Joanna [spea\ing for all]. So that,is_^haL.Wf, haYe in . 
comrnonl 

Coade [with gentle regret]. I have often thought, 
Coady, that if I had a second chance I should be a useful 
man instead of just a nice lazy one. 
Alice [morosely]. A second chance! 
Lob. Come on. 

Purdie [gaily]. Yes, to the wood — the wood! 
Dearth [as they are going out by the door]. Stop, why 
not go this way? 

[He pulls the curtains apart, and there comes a sud- 
den indrawing of breath from all, for no garden is 
there now. In its place is an endless wood of great 
trees; the nearest of them has come close to the 
window. It is a sombre wood, with splashes of 
moonshine and of blackness standing very still 
in it. 
The party in the drawing-room are very still also; 
there is scarcely a cry or a movement. It is perhaps 
strange that the most obviously frightened is Lob 
who calls vainly for Matey. The first articulate 
voice is Dearth's.] 
Dearth [very quietly]. Any one ready to risk it? 
Purdie [after another silence]. Of course there is noth- 
ing in it — just 

Dearth [grimly]. Of course. Going out, Purdie ? 

[Purdie draws bac\.] 
Mrs. Dearth [the only one who is undaunted]. A 
second chance! [She is looking at her husband. They 
all loo\ at him as if he had been a leader once.] 

Dearth [with his sweet mournful smile], I shall be 
back in a moment — probably. 

[As he passes into the wood his hands rise, as if a 
hammer had tapped him on the forehead. He is 
soon lost to view.] 
Lady Caroline [after a long pause]. He does not come 
back, 
Mrs. Coade. It's horrible. 

[She steals off by the door to her room, calling to her 
husband to do likewise. He ta\es a step after her, 
and stops in the grip of the two words that holds 
them all. The stillness continues. At last Mrs. 
Purdie goes out into the wood, her hands raised, 
and is swallowed up by it.] 
Purdie. Mabel! 

Alice [sardonically]. You will have to go now, Mr. 
Purdie. 

[He loo\s at Joanna, and they go out together, one 
tap of the hammer for each.] 



150 



DRAMA 



Lob. That's enough. [Warningly.] Don't you go, 
Mrs. Dearth. You'll catch it if you go. 
Alice. A second chance' 

[She goes out unflinching.] 
Lady Caroline. One would like to know. 

[She goes out. Mrs. Coade's voice is heard from the 
stair calling to her husband. He hesitates but fol- 
lows Lady Caroline. To Lob now alone comes 
Matey with a tray of coffee cups.] 
Matey [as he places his tray on the table]. It is past 
your bed-time, sir. Say good-night to the ladies, and 
come along. 
Lob. Matey, look! 
[Matey looks.] 
Matey [shrinking]. Great heavens, then it's true! 
Lob. Yes, but I — I wasn't sure. 

[Matey approaches the window cautiously to peer 
out, and his master gives him a sudden push that 
propels him into the wood. Lob's bac\ is toward 
us as he stands alone staring out upon the un- 
sown. He is terrified still; yet quivers of rapture 
are running up and down his little frame.] 



ACT II 

We are translated to the depths of the wood in 
the enchantment of a moonlight night. In some 
other glade a nightingale is singing; in this one, 
m proud motoring attire, recline two mortals whom 
we have known in different conditions; the sec- 
ond chance has converted them into husband and wife. 
The man, of gross muddy build, lies luxurious on his 
bac\ exuding afff,uence, a prominent part of him heaving 
playfully, life some little wave that will not rest in a .still 
sea. A handkerchief over his face conceals from us what 
Colossus he may be, but his mate is our Lady Caroline. 
The nightingale trills on, and Lady Caroline ta\es up its 
song. 

Lady Caroline. Is it not a lovely night, Jim. Listen, 
my own, to Philomel ; he is saying that he is lately mar- 
ried. So are we, you ducky thing. I feel, Jim, that I am 
Rosalind and that you are my Orlando. 

[The handkerchief being removed Mr. Matey is 
revealed; and the nightingale see\s some farther 
tree.] 
Matey. What do you say 1 am, Caroliny? 
Lady Caroline [clapping her hands]. My own one, 
don't you think it would be fun if we were to write 
poems about each other and pin them on the tree trunks ? 
Matey [tolerantly]. Poems? I never knew such a lass 
for high-flown language. 
Lady Caroline. Your lass, dearest. Jim's lass. 



Matey [pidling her ear]. And don't you forget it. 

Lady Caroline [with the curiosity of woman]. What 
would you do if I were to forget it, great bear ? 

Matey. Take a stick to you. 

Lady Caroline [so proud of him], I love to hear you 
talk like that; it is so virile. I always knew that it was 
a master I needed. 

Matey. It's what you all need. 

Lady Caroline. It is, it is, you knowing wretch. 

Matey. Listen, Caroliny. [He touches his money 
poc\et, which emits a crinkly sound — the squeak of 
angels.] That is what gets the ladies. 

Lady Caroline. How much have you made this week, 
you wonderful man? 

Matey [blandly]. Another two hundred or so. That's 
all, just two hundred or so. 

Lady Caroline [caressing her wedding ring]. My 
dear golden fetter, listen to him. Kiss my fetter, Jim. 

Matey. Wait till I light this cigar. 

Lady Caroline. Let me hold the darling match. 

Matey. Tidy-looking Petitey Corona, this. There was 
a time when one of that sort would have run away with 
two days of my screw. 

Lady Caroline. How I should have loved, Jim, to 
know you when you were poor. Fancy your having once 
been a clerk. 

Matey [remembering Napoleon and others]. We all 
have our beginnings. But it wouldn't have mattered 
how I began, Caroliny: I should have come to the top 
just the same. [Becoming a poet himself.] I am a climber 
and there are nails in my boots for the parties beneath 
me. Boots! I tell you if I had been a bootmaker, I should 
have been the first bootmaker in London. 

Lady Caroline [a humourist at last]. I am sure you 
would, Jim; but should you have made the best 
boots? 

Matey [uxoriously wishing that others could have 
heard this]. Very good, Caroliny; that is the neatest 
thing I have heard you say. But it's late; we had best be 
strolling back to our Rolls-Royce. 

Lady Caroline [as they rise], I do hope the ground 
wasn't damp. 

Matey. Don't matter if it was; I was lying on your 
rug. 

[Indeed we notice now that he has had all the rug, 
and she the bare ground. Joanna reaches the 
glade, now an unhappy lady who has got what 
she wanted. She is in country dress and is un- 
known to them as they are to her.] . 

Who is the mournful party? 

Joanna [hesitating]. I wonder, sir, whether you hap- 
pen to have seen my husband? I have lost him in the 
wood. 

Matey. We are strangers in these parts ourselves, 
missis. Have we passed any one, Caroliny? 



DEAR BRUTUS 



151 



Lady Caroline [coyly]. Should we have noticed, dear? 
Might it be that old gent over there? [After the delight- 
ful manner of those happily wed she has already picked 
up many of her lover's favourite words and phrases.] 
Joanna. Oh no, my husband is quite young. 

[The woodland er referred to is Mr. Coade in gala 
costume; at his mouth a whistle he has made him 
from some friendly twig. To its ravishing music 
he is seen pirouetting charmingly among the trees, 
his new occupation ?\ 
Matey [signing to the unknown that he is wanted]. 
Seems a merry old cock. Evening to you, sir. Do you 
happen to have seen a young gendeman in the wood 
lately, all by himself, and looking for his wife? 
Coade [with a flourish of his legs]. Can't say I have. 
Joanna [dolefully]. He isn't necessarily by himself; 
and I don't know that he is looking for me. There may 
be a young lady with him. 

[The more happily married lady smiles, and Joanna 
is quic^ to ta\e offence.] 
Joanna. What do you mean by that? 
Lady Caroline [neatly]. Oho — if you like that better. 
Matey. Now, now, now — your manners, Caroliny. 
Coade. Would he be singing or dancing? 
Joanna. Oh no — at least, I hope not. 
Coade [an artist to the tips]. Hope not? Odd! If he 
is doing neither I am not likely to notice him, but if I 
do, what name shall I say? 
Joanna [gloating not]. Purdie; I am Mrs. Purdie. 
Coade. I will try to keep a look-out, and if I see him 
, . . but I am rather occupied at present. . . . [The ref- 
erence is to his legs and a new step they are acquiring. 
He sways this way and that, and, whistle to lips, minuets 
off in the direction of Paradise.] 

Joanna [looking elsewhere]. I am sorry I troubled 
you. I see him now. 
Lady Caroline. Is he alone? 

[Joanna glares at her.] 
Ah, I see from your face that he isn't. 
Matey [who has his wench in training], Caroliny, 
no awkward questions. Evening, missis, and I hope you 
will get him to go along with you quiedy. [Looking 
after Coade.] Watch the old codger dancing. 

[Light-hearted as children they dance after him, 
while Joanna behind a tree awaits her lord. Pur- 
die in \nic\erboc\ers approaches with misgivings 
to makje sure that his Joanna is not in hiding, and 
then he gambols joyously with a charming confec- 
tion whose name is Mabel. They chase each other 
from tree to tree, but fortunately not round Joan- 
na's tree?] 
Mabel [as he catches her]. No, and no, and no. I 
don't know you nearly well enough for that. Besides, 
what would your wife say! I shall begin to think you 
are a very dreadful man, Mr. Purdie. 



Purdie [whose sincerity is not to be questioned]. 
Surely you might call me Jack by this time. 

Mabel [heaving]. Perhaps, if you are very good, Jack. 

Purdie [of noble thoughts compact]. If only Joanna 
were more like you. 

Mabel. Like me? You mean her face? It is a — well, 
if it is not precisely pretty, it is a good face. [Hand- 
somely?] I don't mind her face at all. I am glad you 
have got such a dependable little wife, Jack. 

Purdie [gloomily]. Thanks. 

Mabel [seated with a moonbeam in her lap]. What 
would Joanna have said if she had seen you just now? 

Purdie. A wife should be incapable of jealousy. 

Mabel. Joanna jealous? But has she any reason ? Jack, 
tell me, who is the woman? 

Purdie [restraining himself by a mighty effort, for he 
wishes always to be true to Joanna]. Shall I, Mabel, 
shall I? 

Mabel [faltering, yet not wholly giving up the chase]. 
I can't think who she is. Have I ever seen her ? 

Purdie. Every time you look in a mirror. 

Mabel [with her head on one side]. How odd, Jack, 
that can't be; when I look in a mirror I see only myself. 

Purdie [gloating]. How adorably innocent you are, 
Mabel. Joanna would have guessed at once. 

[Slowly his meaning comes to her, and she is 
appalled.] 

Mabel. Not that! 

Purdie [aflame]. Shall I tell you now? 

Mabel [palpitating exquisitely]. I don't know, I am 
not sure. Jack, try not to say it, but if you feel you must, 
say it in such a way that it would not hurt the feelings 
of Joanna if she happened to be passing by, as she 
nearly always is. 

[A little moan from Joanna's tree is unnoticed.] 

Purdue. I would rather not say it at all than that way. 
[He is touchingly anxious that she should kjtow him as 
he really is.] I don't know, Mabel, whether you have 
noticed that I am not like other men. [He goes deeply 
into the very structure of his being.] All my life I have 
been a soul that has had to walk alone. Even as a child 
I had no hope that it would be otherwise. I distincdy 
remember when I was six thinking how unlike other 
children I was. Before I was twelve I suffered from ter- 
rible self -depreciation ; I do so still. I suppose there never 
was a man who had a more lowly opinion of himself. 

Mabel. Jack, you who are so universally admired. 

Purdie. That doesn't help; I remain my own judge. I 
am afraid I am a dark spirit, Mabel. Yes, yes, my dear, 
let me leave nothing untold however it may damage me 
in your eyes. Your eyes! I cannot remember a time when 
I did not think of Love as a great consuming passion; I 
visualised it, Mabel, as perhaps few have done, but al- 
ways as the abounding joy that could come to others but 
never to me. I expected too much of women: I suppose 



152 



DRAMA 



I was touched to finer issues than most. That has been 
my tragedy. 

Mabel. Then you met Joanna. 

Purdie. Then I met Joanna. Yes! Foolishly, as I now 
see, I thought she would understand that I was far too 
deep a nature really to mean the little things I sometimes 
said to her. I suppose a man was never placed in such a 
position before. What was I to do? Remember, I was 
always certain that the ideal love could never come to 
me. Whatever the circumstances, I was convinced that 
my soul must walk alone. 

Mabel. Joanna, how could you. 

Purdie [firmly]. Not a word against her, Mabel; if 
blame there is the blame is mine. 

Mabel. And so you married her. 

Purdie. And so I married her. 

Mabel. Out of pity. 

Purdie. I felt it was a man's part. I was such a child in 
worldly matters that it was pleasant to me to have the 
right to pay a woman's bills; I enjoyed seeing her gar- 
ments lying about on my chairs. In time that exultation 
wore off. But I was not unhappy, I didn't expect much, 
I was always so sure that no woman could ever plumb 
the well of my emotions. 

Mabel. Then you met me. 

Purdie. Then I met you. 

Mabel. Too late — never — forever — forever — never. 
They are the saddest words in the English tongue. 

Purdie. At the time I thought a still sadder word was 
Joanna. 

Mabel. What was it you saw in me that made you love 
me? 

Purdie [plumbing the well of his emotions]. I think it 
was the feeling that you are so like myself. 

Mabel [with great eyes]. Have you noticed that, 
Jack? Sometimes it has almost terrified me. 

Purdie. We think the same thoughts; we are not two, 
Mabel; we are one. Your hair 

Mabel. Joanna knows you admire it, and for a week 
she did hers in the same way. 

Purdie. I never noticed. 

Mabel. That was why she gave it up. And it didn't 
really suit her. [Ruminating.] I can't think of a good 
way of doing dear Joanna's hair. What is t^iat you are 
muttering to yourself, Jack ? Don't keep anything from 
me. 

Purdie. I v/as repeating a poem I have written: it is 
in two words, 'Mabel Purdie.' May I teach it to you, 
sweet : say 'Mabel Purdie' to me. 

Mabel [timidly covering his mouth with her little 
hand]. If I were to say it, Jack, I should be false to Jo- 
anna : never ask me to be that. Let us go on. 

Purdie [merciless in his passion]. Say it, Mabel, say it. 
See I write it on die ground with your sunshade. 

Mabel. If it could be! Jack, I'll whisper it to you. 



[She is whispering it as they wander, not two fan 
one, farther into the forest, ardently believing in 
themselves; they are not hypocrites. The some- 
what bedraggled figure of Joanna follows them, 
and the nightingale resumes his love-song. 'That's 
all you \now, you bird I' things Joanna cynically. 
The nightingale, however, is not singing for them 
nor for her, but for another pair he has espied 
below. They are racing, the prize to be for the 
one who first finds the spot where the easel was 
put up last flight. The hobbledehoy is sure to be 
the winner, for she is less laden, and the father 
loses time by singing as he comes. Also she is all 
legs and she started ahead. Brambles adhere to 
her, one boot has been in the water and she has as 
many freezes as there are stars in heaven. She is 
as lovely as you thin\ she is, and she is aged the 
moment when you li\e your daughter best. A 
hoot of triumph from her brings her father to the 
spot.] 
Margaret. Daddy, Daddy. I have won. Here is the 
place. Crack-in-my-eye-Tommy! 

[He comes. Crac\-in-my-eye-Tommy, this engag- 
ing fellow in tweeds is Mr. Dearth, ablaze in hap- 
piness and health and a daughter* He finishes his 
song, pic\ed up in the Latin Quarter.] 
Dearth. Yes, that is the tree I stuck my easel under 
last night, and behold the blessed moon behaving more 
gorgeously than ever. I am sorry to have kept you wait- 
ing, old moon; but you ought to know by now how 
time passes. Now, keep still, while I hand you down to 
posterity. 

[The easel is erected, Margaret helping by getting 
in the way.] 
Margaret [critical, as an artist's daughter should be]. 
The moon is rather pale to-night, isn't she? 
Dearth. Comes of keeping late hours. 
Margaret [showing off]. Daddy, watch me, look at 
me. Please, sweet moon, a pleasant expression. No, no, 
not as if you were sitting for it; that is too professional. 
That is better; thank you. Now keep it. That is the 
sort of thing you say to them, Dad. 

Dearth [quickly at worJ(]. I oughtn't to have brought 
you out so late; you should be tucked up in your cosy 
bed at home. 

Margaret [pursuing a squirrel that isn't there]. With 
the pillow anyhow. 
Dearth. Except in its proper place. 
Margaret [wetting the other foot]. And the sheet 
over my face. 
Dearth. Where it oughtn't to be. 
Margaret [more or less upside down]. And Daddy 
tiptoeing in to take it off. 
Dearth. Which is more than you deserve. 
Margaret [in a tree]. Then why does he stand so long 



DEAR BRUTUS 



153 



at the door? And before he has gone she bursts out 
laughing, for she has been awake all the time. 

Dearth. That's about it. What a life! But I oughtn't 
to have brought you here.. Best to have the sheet over 
you when the moon is about; moonlight is bad for little 
daughters. 

Margaret [pelting him with nuts]. I can't sleep when 
the moon's at the full; she keeps calling to me to get up. 
Perhaps I am her daughter too. 

Dearth. Gad, you look it to-night. 

Margaret. Do I? Then can't you psint me into the 
picture as well as Mamma? You could call it 'A Mother 
and Daughter' or simply 'Two ladies,' if the moon thinks 
that calling me her daughter would make her seem too 
old. 

Dearth. O matre pulchra filia pulchrior. That means, 
e O Moon — more beautiful than any twopenny-halfpenny 
daughter.' 

Margaret [emerging in an unexpected place}. Daddy, 
do you really prefer her? 

Dearth. 'Sh! She's not a patch on you; it's the sort of 
thing we say to our zitters to keep them in good humour. 
[He surveys ruefully a great stain on her froc\.] I wish 
to heaven, Margaret, we were not both so fond of apple- 
tart. And what's this! [Catching hold of her s\irt.] 

Margaret [unnecessarily]. It's a tear. 

Dearth. I should think it is a tear. 

Margaret. That boy at the farm did it. He kept call- 
ing Snubs after me, but I got him down and kicked him 
in the stomach. He is rather a jolly boy. 

Dearth. He sounds it. Ye Gods, what a night! 

Margaret [considering the picture]. And what a 
moon! Dad, she is not quite so fine as that. 

Dearth. 'Sh! I have touched her up. 

Margaret, Dad, Dad — what a funny man! 

[She has seen Mr. Coade with whistle, enlivening 
the wood. He pirouettes round them and departs 
to add to the happiness of others. Margaubt gives 
an excellent imitation of him at which her father 
shakes Ms head, then reprehensively joins in 
the dance. Her mood changes, she clings to 
him.] 

Margaret. Hold me tight. Daddy, I'm frightened. I 
think they want to take you away from me. 

Dearth. Who, gosling? 

Margaret. I don't know. It's too lovely, Daddy; I 
won't be able to keep hold of it. 

Dearth. What is? 

Margaret. The world — everything — and you, Daddy, 
most of all. Things that are too beautiful can't last. 

Dearth [who \nows it]. Now, how did you find that 
out? 

Margaret [still in his arms]. I don't know, Daddy, am 
I sometimes stranger than other people's daughters? 

Dearth. More of a madcap, £>erha£)s. 



Margaret [solemnly]. Do you think I am sometimes 
too full of gladness ? 

Dearth. My sweetheart, you do sometimes run over 
with it. [He is at his easel again.] 

Margaret [persisting]. To be very gay, dearest dear, 
is so near to being very sad. 

Dearth [who \nows it]. How did you find that out, 
child? 

Margaret. I don't know. From something in me 
that's afraid. [Unexpectedly.] Daddy, what is a 'might- 
have-been'? 

Dearth. A might-have-been? They are ghosts, Mar- 
garet. I daresay I 'might have been' a great swell of a 
painter, instead of just this uncommonly happy nobody. 
Or again, I might have been a worthless idle waster of a 
fellow. 

Margaret [laughing]. You! 

Dearth. Who knows? Some little kink in me might 
have set me off on the wrong road. And that poor soul 
I might so easily have been might have had no Margaret. 
My word, I'm sorry for him. 

Margaret. So am I. [She conceives a funny picture.] 
The poor old Daddy, wandering about the world with- 
out me! 

Dearth. And there are other 'might-have-beens' — 
lovely ones, but intangible. Shades, Margaret, made of 
sad folk's thoughts. 

Margaret [jigging about]. I am so glad I am not a 
shade. How awful it would be, Daddy, to wake up and 
find one wasn't alive. 

Dearth, ft would, dear. 

Margaret. Daddy, wouldn't it be awful. I think men 
need daughters. 

Dearth. They do. 

Margaret. Especially artists. 

Dearth. Yes, especially artists. 

Margaret. Especially artists. 

Dearth. Especially artists. 

Margaret [covering herself with leaves and \ic\ing 
them off]. Fame is not everything. 

Dearth. Fame is rot; daughters are the thing. 

Margaret. Daughters are the thing. 

Dearth. Daughters are the diing. 

Margaret. I wonder if sons would be even nicer ? 

Dearth. Not a patch on daughters. The awful thing 
about a son is that never, never — at least, from the day 
he goes to school — can you tell him that you rather like 
him. By the time he is ten you can't even take him on 
your knee. Sons are not worth having, Margaret. Signed 
W. Dearth. 

Margaret. But if you were a mother, Dad, I daresay 
he would let you do it. 

Dearth. Think so? 

Margaret. I mean when no one was looking. Sons 
are not so bad. Signed, M. Dearth. But I'm glad you 



154 



DRAMA 



prefer daughters. [She wor\s ha- way toward him on 
her \nees, making the tear larger.'] At what age are we 
nicest, Daddy? [She has constantly to repeat her ques- 
tions, he is so engaged with his moon.] Hie, Daddy, at 
what age are we nicest? Daddy, hie, hie, at what age 
are we nicest? 

Dearth. Eh? That's a poser. I think you were nicest 
when you were two and knew your alphabet up to G 
but fell over at H. No, you were best when you were 
half -past three; or just before you struck six; or in the 
mumps year, when I asked you in the early morning 
how you were and you said solemnly 1 haven't tried 
yet.' 

Margaret [awestruc^]. Did I? 

Dearth. Such was your answer. [Struggling with the 
momentous question.] But I am not sure that chicken- 
pox doesn't beat mumps. Oh Lord, I'm all wrong. The 
nicest time in a father's life is the year before she puts up 
her hair. 

Margaret [topheavy with pride in herself.] 1 suppose 
that is a splendid time. But there's a nicer year coming 
to you. Daddy, there is a nicer year coming to you. 

Dearth. Is there, darling? 

Margaret. Daddy, the year she does put up her hair! 

Dearth [with arrested brush]. Puts it up for ever? 
You know, I am afraid that when the day for that comes 
I shan't be able to stand it. It will be too exciting. My 
poor heart, Margaret. 

Margaret [rushing at him]. No, no, it will be lucky 
you, for it isn't to be a bit like that. I am to be 3 girl and 
woman day about for the first year. You will never know 
which I am till you look at my hair. And even then you 
won't know, for if it is down I shal] put it up, and if it 
is up I shall put it down. And so my Daddy will gradu- 
ally get used to the idea. 

Dearth [wryly]. I see you have been thinking it 
out. 

Margaret [gleaming], I have been doing more th;in 
that. Shut your eyes, Dad, and I shall give you a glimpse 
into the future. 

Dearth. I don't know that I want that: the present 
is so good. 

Margaret. Shut your eyes, please. 

Dearth. No, Margaret. 

Margaret. Please, Daddy. 

Dearth. Oh, all right. They are shut. 

Margaret. Don't open them till I tell you. What fin- 
ger is that? 

Dearth. The dirty one. 

Margaret [on her \nees among the leaves]. Daddy, 
now I am putting up my hair. I have got such a darling 
of a mirror. It is such a darling mirror I've got, Dad. 
Dad, don't look. I shall tell you about it. It is a litde 
pool of water. I wish we could take it home and hang it 
up. Of course the moment my hair is up there will be 



other changes also; for instance, 1 shall talk quite diflfer- 
endy. 

Dearth. Pooh. Where are my matches, dear? 

Margaret. Top pocket, waistcoat. 

Dearth [trying to light his pipe in darkjiess]. You 
were meaning to frighten me just now. 

Margaret. No. I am just preparing you. You see, 
darling, I can't cajil you Dad when my hair is up. I diink 
I shall call you Parent. 
[He growls.] 

Parent dear, do you remember the days when your 
Margaret was a slip of a girl, and sat on your knee? How 
foolish we were, Parent, in those distant days. 

Dearth. Shut up, Margaret. 

Margaret. Now I must be more distant to you; more 
like a boy who could not sit on your knee any more. 

Dearth, See here, I want to go on painting. Shall I 
look now? t 

Margaret. I am not quite sure whether I want you to. 
It makes such a difference. Perhaps you won't know me. 
Even the pool is looking a little scared. [The change in 
her voice ma\es him open his eyes quickly. She confronts 
him shyly.] What do you think? Will I do? 

Dearth. Stand still, dear, and let me look my fill. The 
Margaret that is to be. 

Margaret [the change in his voice falling clammy on 
her]. You'll see me often enough, Daddy, like this, so 
you don't need to look your fill. You are looking as long 
as if this were to be the only time. 

Dearth [with an odd tremor]. Was I? Surely it isn't 
to be that. 

Margaret. Be gay, Dad. [Bumping into him and 
round him and over him.] You will be sick of Margaret 
with her hair up before you are done with her. 

Dearth. I expect so. 

Margaret. Shut up, Daddy [She waggles her head, 
and down comes her hair.] Daddy, I know what you are 
thinking of. You are thinking what a handful she is 
going to be. 

Dearth. Well, I guess she is. 

Margaret [surveying him from another angle]. Now 
you are thinking about — about my being in love some 
day. 

Dearth [with unnecessary warmth]. Rot! 

Margaret [reassuringly]. I won't, you know; no, 
never. Oh, I have quite decided, so don't be afraid. [Dis- 
ordering his hair.] Will you hate him at first, Daddy? 
Daddy, will you hate him? Will you hate him, Daddy ? 

Dearth [at wor}(\. Whom? 

Margaret. Well, if there was? 

Dearth. If there was what, darling? 

Margaret. You know the kind of thing I mean, quite 
well. Would you hate him at first? 

Dearth. I hope not. I should want to strangle him, 
but I wouldn't hate him. 



DEAR BRUTUS 



155 



Margaret. / would. That is to say, if I liked him. 

Dearth. If you liked him how could you hate him? 

Margaret. For daring! 

Dearth. Daring what? 

Margaret. You know. [Sighing.] But of course I 
shall have no say in the matter. You will do it all. You 
do everything for me. 

Dearth [with a groan]. I can't help it. 

Margaret. You will even write my love-letters, if I 
ever have any to write, which I won't. 

Dearth [ashamed]. Surely to goodness, Margaret, I 
will leave you alone to do that! 

Margaret. Not you; you will try to, but you won't 
be able. 

Dearth [in a hopeless attempt at self-defence]. I want 
you, you see, to do everything exquisitely. I do wish I 
could leave you to do things a little more for yourself. I 
suppose it's owing to my having had to be father and 
mother both. I knew nothing practically about the 
bringing up of children, and of course I couldn't trust 
you to a nurse. 

Margaret [severely]. Not you; so sure you could do 
it better yourself. That's you all over. Daddy, do you 
remember how you taught me to balance a biscuit on 
my nose, like a puppy ? 

Dearth [sadly]. Did I? 

Margaret. You called me Rover. 

Dearth. I deny that. 

Margaret. And when you said 'snap' I caught the 
biscuit in my mouth. 

Dearth. Horrible. 

Margaret [gleaming]. Daddy, I can do it still! [Put- 
ting a biscuit on her nose.] Here is the last of my supper. 
Say 'snap,' Daddy. 

Dearth. Not I. 

Margaret. Say 'snap,' please. 

Dearth. I refuse. 

Margaret. Daddy! 

Dearth. Snap. 

[She catches the biscuit in her mouth.] 

Let that be the last time, Margaret. 

Margaret. Except just once more. I don't mean now, 
but when my hair is really up. If I should ever have a — 
a Margaret of my own, come in and see me, Daddy, in 
my white bed, and say 'snap' — and I'll have the biscuit 
ready. 

Dearth [turning away his head]. Right O. 

Margaret. Dad, if I ever should marry, not that I will 
but if I should — at the marriage ceremony will you let 
me be the one who says 'I do'? 

Dearth. I suppose I deserve this. 

Margaret [coaxingly]. You think I'm pretty, don't 
you, Dad, whatever other people say? 

Dearth. Not so bad. 

Margaret. I \now I have nice ears. 



Dearth. They are all right now, but I had to work on 
them for months. 

Margaret. You don't mean to say that you did my 
ears? 

Dearth. Rather! 

Margaret [grown humble]. My dimple is my own. 

Dearth. I am glad you think so. I wore out the point 
of my little finger over that dimple. 

Margaret. Even my dimple! Have I anything that is 
really mine? A bit of my nose or anything? 

Dearth. When you were a babe you had a laugh that 
was all your own. 

Margaret. Haven't I it now? 

Dearth. It's gone. [He looJ^s ruefully at her.] I'll 
tell you how it went. We were fishing in a stream — 
that is to say, I was wading and you were sitting on my 
shoulders holding the rod. We didn't catch anything. 
Somehow or another — I can't think how I did it — you 
irritated me, and I answered you sharply. 

Margaret [gasping], I can't believe that. 

Dearth. Yes, it sounds extraordinary, but I did. It 
gave you a shock, and, for the moment, the world no 
longer seemed a safe place to you; your faith in me had 
always made it safe till then. You were suddenly not 
even sure of your bread and butter, and a frightened 
tear came to your eyes. I was in a nice state about it, I 
can tell you. [He is in a nice state about it still.] 

Margaret. Silly! [Bewildered.] But what has that to 
do with my laugh, Daddy? 

Dearth. The laugh that children are born with lasts 
just so long as they have perfect faith. To think that it 
was I who robbed you of yours! 

Margaret. Don't, dear. I am sure the laugh just went 
off with the tear to comfort it, and they have been play- 
ing about that stream ever since. They have quite for- 
gotten us, so why should we remember them. Cheeky 
little beasts! Shall I tell you my farthest back recollec- 
tion? [In some awe.] I remember the first time I saw 
the stars. I had never seen night, and then I saw it and 
the stars together. Crack-in-my-eye-Tommy, it isn't 
every one who can boast of such a lovely, lovely, recol- 
lection for their earliest, is it? 

Dearth. I was determined your earliest should be a 
good one. 

Margaret [blandly]. Do you mean to say you planned 
it? 

Dearth. Rather! Most people's earliest recollection is 
of some trivial thing; how they cut their finger, or lost 
a piece of string. I was resolved my Margaret's should 
be something bigger. I was poor, but I could give her 
the stars. 

Margaret [clutching him round the legs]. Oh, how 
you love me, Daddikins. 

Dearth. Yes, I do, rather. 

[A vagrant woman has wandered In their direr- 



156 



DRAMA 



tion, one whom the shrill winds of life have 
lashed and bled; here and there ragged graces 
still cling to her, and unruly passion smoulders, 
but she, once a dear, fierce rebel, with eyes of 
storm, is now first of all a whimperer. She and 
they meet as strangers.] 

Margaret [nicely, as becomes an artist's daughter.] 
Good evening. 

Alice. Good evening, Missy; evening, Mister. 

Dearth [seeing that her eyes search the ground]. 
Lost anything? 

Alice. Sometimes when the tourists have had their 
sandwiches there are bits left over, and they squeeze 
them between the roots to keep the place tidy. I am 
looking for bits. 

Dearth. You don't tell me you are as hungry as that? 

Alice [with spirit']. Try me. [Strange that he should 
not \now that once loved hus\y voice.] 

Margaret [rushing at her father and feeling all his 
pockets.] Daddy, that was my last biscuit! 

Dearth. We must think of something else. 

Margaret [taking her hand]. Yes, wait a bit, we are 
sure to think of something. Daddy, think of some- 
thing. 

Alice [sharply]. Your father doesn't like you to touch 
the likes of me. 

Margaret. Oh yes, he does. [Defiantly.] And if he 
didn't, I'd do it all the same. This is a bit of myself, 
Daddy. 

Dearth. That is all you know. 

Alice [whining]. You needn't be angry with her, 
Mister; I'm all right. 

Dearth. I am not angry with her; I am very sorry 
for you. 

Alice [flaring]. If I had my rights, I would be as good 
as you — and better. 

Dearth. I daresay. 

Alice. I have had men-servants and a motor-car. 

Dearth. Margaret and I never rose to that. 

Margaret [stung]. I have been in a taxi several times, 
and Dad often gets telegrams. 

Dearth. Margaret! 

Margaret. I'm sorry I boasted. 

Alice. That's nothing. I have a town house — at least 
I had ... At any rate he said there was a town house. 

Margaret [interested]. Fancy his not knowing for 
certain. 

Alice. The Honourable Mrs. Finch-Fallowe — that's 
who I am. 

Margaret [cordially]. It's a lovely name. 

Alice. Curse him. 

Margaret. Don't you like him? 

Dearth. We won't go into that. I have nothing to do 
with your past, but I wish we had some food to ofTer 
you. 



Alice. You haven't a flask? 

Dearth. No, I don't take anything myself. But let 
me see. . . . 

Margaret [sparkling]. I know! You said we had five 
pounds. [To the needy one.] Would you like five 
pounds? 

Dearth. Darling, don't be stupid; we haven't paid 
our bill at the inn. 

Alice [with bravado]. All right; I never asked you 
for anything. 

Dearth. Don't take me up in that way: I have had 
my ups and downs myself. Here is ten bob and wel- 
come. 

[He surreptitiously slips a coin into Margaret's 
hand.] 

Margaret. And I have half a crown. It is quite easy 
for us. Dad will be getting another fiver any day. You 
can't think how exciting it is when the fiver comes in; 
we dance and then we run out and buy chops. 

Dearth. Margaret! 

Alice. It's kind of you. I'm richer this minute than I 
have been for many a day. 

Dearth. It's nothing; I am sure you would do the 
same for us. 

Alice. I wish I was as sure. 

Dearth. Of course you would. Glad to be of any help. 
Get some victuals as quickly as you can. Best of wishes, 
ma'am, and may your luck change. 

Alice. Same to you, and may yours go on. 

Margaret. Good-night. 

Alice. What is her name, Mister? 

Dearth [who has returned to his easel], Margaret. 

Alice. Margaret. You drew something good out of 
the lucky bag when you got her, Mister. 

Dearth. Yes. 

Alice. Take care of her; they are easily lost. 
[She shuffles away.] 

Dearth. Poor soul. I expect she has had a rough time, 
and that some man is to blame for it — pardy, at any 
rate. [Restless.] That woman rather affects me, Mar- 
garet; I don't know why. Didn't you like her husky 
voice? [He goes on painting.] I say, Margaret, we lucky 
ones, let's swear always to be kind to people who are 
down on their luck, and then when we are kind let's be 
a little kinder. 

Margaret [gleefully]. Yes, let's. 

Dearth. Margaret, always feel sorry for the failures, 
the ones who are always failures — especially in my sort 
of calling. Wouldn't it be lovely, to turn them on the 
thirty-ninth year of failure into glittering successes ? 

Margaret. Topping. 

Dearth. Topping. 

Margaret. Oh, topping. How could we do it, Dad ? 

Dearth. By letter. 'To poor old Tom Broken Heart, 
Top Attic, Garret Chambers, S.E.— *Dear Sir,— His 



DEAR BRUTUS 



157 



Majesty has been graciously pleased to purchase your su- 
perb picture of Marlow Ferry.' 

Margaret. 'P.S. — I am sending the money in a sack 
so as you can hear it chink.' 

Dearth. What could we do for our friend who passed 
just now? I can't get her out of my head. 

Margaret. You have made me forget her. [Plain- 
tively.] Dad, I didn't like it. 

Dearth. Didn't like what, dear ? 

Margaret [shuddering], I didn't like her saying that 
about your losing me. 

Dearth [the one thing of which he is sure], I shan't 
lose you. 

Margaret [hugging his arm]. It would be hard for 
me if you lost me, but it would be worse for you. I 
don't know how I know that, but I do know it. What 
would you do without me? 

Dearth [almost sharply]. Don't talk like that, dear. 
It is wicked and stupid, and naughty. Somehow that 
poor woman — I won't paint any more to-night. 

Margaret. Let's get out of the wood; it frightens me. 

Dearth. And you loved it a moment ago. Hullo! 
[He has seen a distant blurred light in the wood, appar- 
ently from a window.] I hadn't noticed there was a house 
there. 

Margaret [tingling]. Daddy, I feel sure there wasn't 
a house there! 

Dearth. Goose. It is just that we didn't look: our old 
way of letting the world go hang; so interested in our- 
selves. Nice behaviour for people who have been boast- 
ing about what they would do for other people. Now I 
see what I ought to do. 

Margaret. Let's get out of the wood. 

Dearth. Yes, but my idea first. It is to rouse these 
people and get food from them for the husky one. 

Margaret [clinging to him]. She is too far away now. 

Dearth. I can overtake her. 

Margaret [in a frenzy]. Don't go into that house, 
Daddy! I don't know why it is, but I am afraid of that 
house! 

[He waggles a reproving finger at her.] 

Dearth. There is a kiss for each moment until I come 
back. 

[She wipes them from her face.] 

Oh, naughty, go and stand in the corner, 

[She stands against a tree but she stamps her foot.] 

Who has got a nasty temper! 

[She tries hard not to smile, but she smiles and he 
smiles, and they ma\e comic faces at each other, 
as they have done in similar circumstances since 
she first opened her eyes.] 

I shall be back before you can count a hundred. 

[He goes off humming his song so that she may still 
hear him when he is lost to sight; all just as so 
often before. She tries dutifully to count her hun- 



dred, but the wood grows dar\ and soon she is 
afraid again. She runs from tree to tree calling to 
her Daddy. We begin to lose her among the 
shadows.] 
Margaret [out of the impalpable that is carrying her 
away]. Daddy, come back; I don't want to be a might- 
have-been. 

ACT III 

Lob's room has gone very dar\ as he sits up awaiting 
the possible return of the adventurers. The curtains are 
drawn, so that no light comes from outside. There is a 
tapping on the window, and anon two intruders are 
stealing about the floor, with muffled cries when they 
meet unexpectedly. They find the switch and are re- 
vealed as Purdie and his Mabel. Something has hap- 
pened to them as they emerged from the wood, but it is 
so superficial that neither notices it: they are again in 
the evening dress in which they had left the house. But 
they are still being led by that strange humour of the 
blood. 

Mabel [looking around her curiously], A pretty little 
room; I wonder who is the owner? 

Purdie. It doesn't matter; the great thing is that we 
have escaped Joanna. 
Mabel. Jack, look, a man! 

[The term may not be happily chosen, but the per- 
son indicated is Lob curled up on his chair by a 
dead fire. The last loo\ on his face before he fell 
asleep having been a leery one it is still there.] 
Purdie. He is asleep. 
Mabel. Do you know him ? 

Purdie. NotL Excuse me, sir, Hi! [No shading, how- 
ever, wakens the sleeper.] 
Mabel. Darling, how extraordinary. 
Purdie [always considerate]. After all, precious, have 
we any right to wake up a stranger, just to tell him that 
we are runaways hiding in his house ? 

Mabel [who comes of a good family]. I think he 
would expect it of us. 
Purdie [after trying again]. There is no budging him. 
Mabel [appeased]. At any rate, we have done the civil 
thing. 

[She has now time to regard the room more atten- 
tively, including the tray of coffee cups which 
Matey had left on the table in a not unimportant 
moment of his history.] 
There have evidently been people here, but they 
haven't drunk their coffee. Ugh! cold as a deserted egg 
in a bird's nest. Jack, if you were a clever detective you 
could construct those people out of their neglected coffee 
cups. I wonder who they are and what has spirited them 
away? 



158 



DRAMA 



Purdie. Perhaps they have only gone to bed. Ought 
we to knock thern up? 

Mabel [after considering what her mother would have 
done}. I think not, dear. I suppose we have run away, 
Jack — meaning to? 

Purdie [with the sturdiness that weaker vessels adore]. 
Irrevocably. Mabel, if the dog-like devotion of a life- 
time. . . . [He becomes conscious that something has 
happened to Lob's leer. It has not left his face but it has 
shifted.] He is not shamming, do you think? 

Mabel. Shake him again. 

Purdie [after shading him]. It's all right. Mabel, if 
the dog-like devotion of a lifetime . . . 

Mabel. Poor little Joanna! Still, if a woman insists on 
being a pendulum round a man's neck . . . 

Purdie. Do give me a chance, Mabel. If the dog-like 
devotion of a lifetime . . . 

[Joanna comes through the curtains so inoppor- 
tunely that for the moment he is almost pettish.] 

May I say, this is just a little too much, Joanna! 

Joanna [unconscious as they of her return to her din- 
ner gown]. So, sweet husband, your soul is still walking 
alone, is it? 

Mabel [who hates coarseness of any hind]. How can 
you sneak about in this way, Joanna? Have you no 
pride?. 

Joanna [dashing away a tear]. Please to address me as 
Mrs. Purdie, madam. [She sees Lob.] Who is this man? 

PuRDre. We doo't know; and there is no waking him. 
You can try, if you like. 

[Failing to rouse him Joanna maizes a third at table. 
They are all a little inconsequential, as if there 
were still some moonshine in their hair.] 

Joanna. You were saying something ab©ut the devo- 
tion of a lifetime; please go on, 

Purdie [diffidently]. I don't like to before you, Joanna. 

Joanna [becoming coarse again]. Oh, don't mind me. 

Purdie [looking li^e a note of interrogation]. I should 
certainly like to say it. 

Mabel [loftily]. And I shall be proud to hear it. 

Purdie. 1 should have liked to spare you this, Joanna; 
you wouldn't put your hands over your ears? 

Joanna [a/or ]. No, sir. 

Mabel. Fie, Joanna. Surely a wife's natural deli- 
cacy . . . 

Purdie [severely]. As you take it in that spirit, Joanna, 
I can proceed with a clear conscience. If the dog-like de- 
votion of a lifetime — [He reels a little, staring at Lob, 
over whose face the leer has been wandering U\e an 
insect.] 

Mabel. Did he move? 

Purdie. It isn't that. I am feeling — very funny. Did 
one of you tap mc just now on the forehead? 

[Their hands also have gone to (heir foreheads.] 

Mabel. I think I have been in this room before 



Purdie [flinching]. There is something coming rush- 
ing back to me. 

Mabel. I seem to know that coffee set. If I do, the lid 
of the milk jug is chipped. It is! 

Joanna. I can't remember this man's name; but I am 
sure it begins with L. 

Mabel. Lob. 

Purdie. Lob. 

Joanna. Lob. 

Purdie. Mabel, your dress ? 

Mabel [beholding it]. How on earth . . .? 

Joanna. My dress! [To PuRDre.] You were in knick- 
erbockers in the wood. 

Purdie. And so I am now. [He sees he is not.] Where 
did I change? The wood! Let me think. The wood 
. . . the wood, certainly. But the wood wasn't the wood. 

Joanna [revolving like one in pursuit]. My head is 
going round. 

Mabel. Lob's wood! I remember it all. We were 
here. We did go. 

Purdie. So we did. But how could . . .? where 
was . . .? 

Joanna. And who was r 

Mabel. And what was . . .? 

Purdie [even in this supreme hour a man]. Don't let 
go. Hold on to what we were doing, or we shall lose 
grip of ourselves. Devotion. Something about devotion. 
Hold on to devotion. 'If the do^-like devotion of a life- 
time . . .' which of you was I saying that to? 

Mabel. To me. 

Purdie. Are you sure? 

Mabel [sha\ily], I am not quite sure. 

Purdie [anxiously]. Joanna, what do you think? 
[ With a sudden increase of uneasiness.] Which of you 
is my wife? 

Joanna [without enthusiasm]. I am. No, I am not. 
It is Mabel who is your wife I 

Mabel. Me? 

Purdie [with a curious gulp]. Why, of course you are, 
Mabel! 

Mabel. I believe I am! 

Purdie. And yet how can it be? I was running away 
with you. 

Joanna [solving that problem]. You don't need to do 
it now. 

Purdie. The wood. Hold on to the wood. The 
wood is what explains it Yes, I see the whole thing. 
[He gazes at Lob.] You infernal old rascal! Let us try 
to think it out. Don't any one speak for a moment 
Think first. Love . . . Hold on to love. [He gets an- 
other tap.] I say, I believe I am not a deeply passionate 
chap at all; I believe I am just ... a philanderer! 

Mabel. It is what you are. 

Joanna [more magnanimous]. Mabel, what about our- 
selves? 



DEAR BRUTUS 



159 



Purdie [to whom it is truly a nauseous draught]. I 
didn't know, just a philanderer! [The soul of him 
would like at this instant to creep into another body.] 
And if people don't change, I suppose we shall begin 
all over again now. 

Joanna [the practical], I daresay; but not with each 
other. I may philander again, but not with you. 

[They loo\ on themselves without approval, always 
a sorry occupation. The man feels it most because 
he has admired himself most, or perhaps partly for 
some better reason.] 

Purdie [saying good-bye to an old friend]. John 
Purdie, John Purdie, the fine fellow I used to think you! 
[When he is able to loo.{ them in the face again.] The 
wood has taught me one thing, at any rate. 

Mabel [dismally]. What, Jack? 

Purdie. That it isn't accident that shapes our lives. 

Joanna. No, it's Fate. 

Purdie [the truth running through him, seeding for a 
permanent home in him, willing to give him still another 
chance, loth to desert him]. It's not Fate, Joanna. Fate 
is somedung outside us. What really plays the dickens 
with us is something in ourselves. Something that makes 
us go on doing the same sort of fool things, however 
many chances we get. 

Mabel. Something in ourselves? 

Purdie [shivering]. Something we are born with. 

Joanna. Can't we cut out the beasdy thing? 

Purdie. Depends, I expect, on how long we have pam- 
pered him. We can at least control him if we try hard 
enough. But I have for the moment an abominably clear 
perception that the likes of me never really tries. For- 
give me, Joanna — no, Mabel — both of you. [He is a 
shamed man.] It isn't very pleasant to discover that one 
is a rotter. I suppose I shall get used to it. 

Joanna. I could forgive anybody anything to-night. 
[Candidly.] It is so lovely not to be married to you, Jack. 

Purdie [spiritless], I can understand that. I do feci 
small. 

Joanna [the true friend]. You will soon swell up 
again. 

Purdie [for whom, alas, we need not weep]. That is 
the appalling thing. But at present, at any rate, I am a 
rag at your feet, Joanna — no, at yours, Mabel. Are you 
going to pick me up? I don't advise it. 

Mabel. I don't know whether I want to, Jack. To 
begin with, which of us is it your lonely soul is in 
search of? 

Joanna. Which of us is the fluid one, or the fluider one? 

Mabel. Arc you and I one? Or are you and Joanna 
one? Or are the three of us two? 

Joanna. He wants you to whisper in his ear, Mabel, 
the entrancing poem, 'Mabel Purdie.' Do it, Jack; there 
will be nothing wrong in it now. 

Purdie. Rub it in. 



Mabel. When I meet Joanna's successor 

Purdie [quailing]. No, no, Mabel, none of that. At 
least credit me with having my eyes open at last. There 
will be no more of this. I swear it by all that is 

Joanna [in her excellent imitation of a sheep]. Baa-a, 
he is off again. 

Purdie. Oh Lord, so I am. 

Mabel. Don't, Joanna. 

Purdie [his mind still illumined]. She is quite right — 
I was. In my present state of depression — which won't 
last — I feel there is something in me that will make me 
go on being the same ass, however many chances I get. 
I haven't the stuff in me to take warning. My whole 
being is corroded. Shakespeare knew what he was 
talking about — 

'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, 
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.' 

Joanna. For 'dear Brutus' we are to read 'dear audi- 
ence' I suppose? 

Purdie. You have it. 

Joanna. Meaning that we have the power to shape 
ourselves ? 

Purdie. We have the power right enough. 

Joanna. But isn't that rather splendid? 

Purdie. For those who have the grit in them, yes. 
[Still seeing with a strange clearness through the chin\ 
the hammer has made,] And they are not the dismal 
chappies; they are the ones with the thin bright faces. 
[He sits lugubriously by his wife and is sorry for the first 
time that she has not married a better man.] [ am afraid 
there is not much fight in me, Mabel, but we shall see. 
If you catch me at it again, have the goodness to whisper 
to me in passing, 'Lob's Wood.' That may cure me for 
the time being. 

Mabel [still certain that she loved him once but not so 
sure why]. Perhaps I will ... as long as I care to 
bother, Jack. It depends on you how long that is to be. 

Joanna [to brea\ an awkward pause] . I feel that there 
is hope in that as well as a warning. Perhaps the wood 
may prove to have been useful after all. [This brighter 
view of the situation meets with no immediate response. 
With her next suggestion she reaches harbour.] You 
know, we are not people worth being sorrowful about — 
so let us laugh. 

[The ladies succeed in laughing though not prettily, 
but the man has been too much shaken.] 

Joanna [in the middle of her laugh]. We have for- 
gotten the others! I wonder what is happening to diem? 

Purdie [reviving j . Yes, what about them ? Have they 
changed! 

Mabel. I didn't sec any of thero in the wood. 

Joanna. Perhaps we did see them without knowing 
them; we didn't know Lob. 

Purdie [daunted]. That's true. 



160 



DRAMA 



Joanna. Won't it be delicious to be here to watch 
them when they come back, and see them waking up — 
or whatever it was we did. 

Purdie. What was it we did? I think something 
tapped me on the forehead. 

Mabel [blanching]. How do we know the others will 
:ome back? 

Joanna [infected]. We don't know. How awful! 

Mabel. Listen! 

Purdie. I distinctly hear some one on the stairs. 

Mabel. It will be Matey. 

PuRDm [the chin\ beginning to close]. Be cautious 
both of you; don't tell him we have had any . . . odd 
experiences. 

[It is, however, Mrs. Coade who comes downstairs 
in a dressing-gown and carrying a candle and her 
husband's muffler.] 

Mrs. Coade. So you are back at last. A nice house, I 
must say. Where is Coady ? 

Purdie [ta\en abacl(]. Coady! Did he go into the 
wood, too? 

Mrs. Coade [placidly], I suppose so. I have been down 
several times to look for him. 

Mabel. Coady, too! 

Joanna [seeing visions]. I wonder . . . Oh, how 
dreadful! 

Mrs. Coade. What is dreadful, Joanna? 

Joanna [airily]. Nothing. I was just wondering what 
he is doing. 

Mrs. Coade. Doing? What should he be doing? Did 
anything odd happen to you in the wood? 

Purdie [taking command]. No, no, nothing. 

Joanna. We just strolled about, and came back. [That 
subject being exhausted she points to Lob.] Have you 
noticed him? 

Mrs. Coade. Oh, yes; he has been like that all the time. 
A. sort of stupor, I think; and sometimes the strangest 
grin comes over his face. 

Purdie [wincing]. Grin? 

Mrs. Coade. Just as if he were seeing amusing things 
in his sleep. 

Purdie [guardedly]. I daresay he is. Oughtn't we to 
get Matey to him? 

Mrs. Coade. Matey has gone, too, 

Purdie. Wha-at! 

Mrs. Coade. At all events he is not in the house. 

Joanna [unguardedly]. Matey! I wonder who is with 
him. 

Mrs. Coade. Must somebody be with him? 

Joanna. Oh, no, not at all. 

[They are simultaneously aware that some one out- 
side has reached the window.] 

Mrs. Coade. I hope it is Coady. 

[The other ladies are too fond of her to share this 
wish.] 



Mabel. Oh, I hope not. 

Mrs. Coade [blissfully]. Why, Mrs. Purdie? 

Joanna [coaxingly]. Dear Mrs. Coade, whoever he is, 
and whatever he does, I beg you not to be surprised. We 
feel that though we had no unusual experiences in the 
wood, others may not have been so fortunate. 

Mabel. And be cautious, you dear, what you say to 
them before they come to. 

Mrs. Coade. 'Come to'? You puzzle me. And Coady 
didn't have his muffler. 

[Let it be recorded that in their distress for this old 
lady they forget their own misadventures. Purdie 
ta\cs a step toward the curtains in a vague desire 
to shield her; — and gets a rich reward; he has seen 
the coming addition to their circle.] 

Purdie [elated and pitiless]. It is Matey! 

[A butler intrudes who still things he is wrapped in 
fur.] 

Joanna [encouragingly]. Do come in. 

Matey. With apologies, ladies and gents. . . . May I 
ask who is host? 

Purdie [splashing in the temperature that suits him 
best]. A very reasonable request. Third on the left. 

Matey [advancing upon Lob]. Merely to ask, sir, if 
you can direct me to my hotel? 

[The sleeper's only response is a slight quiver in one 
leg.] 

The gendeman seems to be reposing. 

Mrs. Coade. It is Lob. 

Matey. What is lob, ma'am? 

Mrs. Coade [pleasantly curious]. Surely you haven't 
forgotten? 

Purdie [over-riding her]. Anything we. can do for 
you, sir? Just give it a name. 

Joanna [in the same friendly spirit], I hope you are 
not alone: do say you have some lady friends with 
you. 

Matey [with an emphasis on his leading word]. My 
wife is with me. 

Joanna. His wife! . . . [With commendation.] You 
have been quick! 

Mrs. Coade. I didn't know you were married. 

Matey. Why should you, madam? You talk as if you 
knew me. 

Mrs. Coade. Good gracious, do you really think I 
don't? 

Purdie [indicating delicately that she is subject to a 
certain softening]. Sit down, won't you, my dear sir, and 
make yourself comfy. 

Matey [accustomed of late to such deferential treat- 
ment]. Thank you. But my wife . . . 

Joanna [hospitably]. Yes, bring her in; we are simply 
dying to make her acquaintance. 

Matey. You are very good; I am much obliged. 

Mabel [m he goes out]. Who can she be? 



DEAR BRUTUS 



161 



Joanna [leaping]. Who, who, who! 

Mrs. Coade. But what an extraordinary wood. He 
doesn't seem to know who he is at all. 

Mabel [soothingly]. Don't worry about that, Coady 
darling. He will know soon enough. 

Joanna [again finding the bright side.] And so will 
the litde wife! By the way, whoever she is, I hope she is 
fond of butlers. 

Mabel [who has peeped]. It is Lady Caroline! 

Joanna [leaping again]. Oh, joy, joy! And she was so 
sure she couldn't take the wrong turning! 

[Lady Caroline is evidently still sure of it.] 

Matey. May I present my wife— Lady Caroline 
Matey. 

Mabel [glowing]. How do you do! 

Purdie. Your servant, Lady Caroline. 

Mrs. Coade. Lady Caroline Matey! You? 

Lady Caroline, [without an i in her]. Charmed, I'm 
sure. 

Joanna [neatly]. Very pleased to meet any wife of 
Mr. Matey. 

Purdie [taking the floor]. Allow me. The Duchess of 
Candelabra. The Ladies Helena and Matilda MTSfab. 
I am the Lord Chancellor. 

Mabel. I have wanted so long to make your acquaint- 
ance. 

Lady Caroline. Charmed. 

Joanna [gracefully]. These informal meetings are so 
delightful, don't you think. ? 

Lady Caroline. Yes, indeed. 

Matey [the introductions being thus pleasantly con- 
cluded]. And your friend by the fire? 

Purdie. I will introduce you to him when you wake 
up — I mean when he wakes up. 

Matey. Perhaps I ought to have said that I am James 
Matey. 

Lady Caroline [the happy creature]. The James 
Matey. 

Matey. A name not, perhaps, unknown in the world 
of finance. 

Joanna. Finance? Oh, so you did take that clerkship 
in the City! 

Matey [a little stiffly], I began as a clerk in the City, 
certainly; and I am not ashamed to admit it. 

Mrs. Coade [still groping]. Fancy that, now. And did 
k save you? 

Matey. Save me, madam ? 

Joanna. Excuse us — we ask odd questions in this 
house; we only mean, did that keep you honest? Or are 
you still a pilferer ? 

Lady Caroline [an outraged swan]. Husband mine, 
what does she mean? 

Joanna, No offence; I mean a pilferer on a large 
scale. 

Matey [remembering certain newspaper jealousy]. If 



you are referring to that Labrador business — or the 
Working Women's Bank. . . . 

Purdie [after the manner of one who has caught a fly]. 
O-ho, got him! 

Joanna [bowing]. Yes, those are what I meant. 

Matey [stoutly]. There was nothing proved. 

Joanna [like one calling a meeting]. Mabel, Jack, here 
is another of us! You have gone just the same way again, 
my friend. [Ecstatically.] There is more in it, you see, 
than taking the wrung turning; you would always take 
the wrong turning, f The only fitting comment]. 

Tra-la-ia! 

Lady Caroline. If you are casting any aspersions on 
my husband, allow me to say that a prouder wife than I 
does not to-day exist. 

Mrs. Coade [who finds herself the only clear-headed 
one]. My dear, do be careful. 

Mabel. So long as you are satisfied, dear Lady Caro- 
line. But I thought you shrank from all blood that was 
not blue. 

Lady Caroline. You thought? Why should you think 
about me? I beg to assure you that I adore my Jim. 

[She see\s his arm, but her Jim has encountered the 
tray containing coffee cups and a ca\e, and his 
hands close on it with a certain intimacy.] 

Whatever are you doing, Jim ? 

Matey. I don't understand it, Caroliny; but somehow 
I feel at home with this in my hands. 

Mabel. 'Caroliny!' 

Mrs. Coade. Look at me well; don't you remember 
me? 

Matey [musing], I. don't remember you; but I seem 
to associate you with hard-boiled eggs. [With convic- 
tion.] You like your eggs hard-boiled. 

Purdie. Hold on to hard-boiled eggs! She used to tip 
you especially to see to them. 

[ Matey 's hand goes to his pocket.] 

Yes, that was the pocket. 

Lady Caroline [with distaste]. Tip! 

Matey [without distaste]. Tip! 

Purdie. Jolly word, isn't it? 

Matey [raising the tray]. It seems to set me think- 
ing. 

Lady Caroline [feeling the tap of the hammer]. Why 
is my work-basket in this house ? 

Mrs. Coade. You are living here, you know. 

Lady Caroline. That is what a person feels. But when 
did I come ? It is very odd, but one feels one ought to say 
when did one go. 

Purdie. She is coming to with a wush! 

Matey [under the hammer]. Mr. . . . Purdie! 

Lady Caroline. Mrs. Coade! 

Matey. The Guv'nor! My clothes! 

Lady Caroline. One is in evening dress! 

Joanna [charmed to explain]. You will understand 



162 



DRAMA 



clearly in a minute, Caroliny. You didn't really take that 
clerkship, Jim: you went into domestic service; but in 
the essentials you haven't altered. 

Purdie [pleasantly]. I'll have my shaving water at 
7.30 sharp, Matey. 

Matey [mechanically]. Very good, sir. 

Lady Caroline. Sir? Midsummer Eve! The wood! 

Purdie. Yes, hold on to the wood. 

Matey. You are . . . you are . . . you are Lady Caro- 
line Laney! 

Lady Caroline. It is Matev, die butler! 

M^bel. You seemed quite happy with him, you know, 
Lady Caroline. 

Joanna [nicely]. We won't tell. 

Lady Caroline [subsiding], Caroline Matey! And I 
seemed to like it! How horrible! 

Mrs. Coade [expressing a general sentiment]. It is 
rather difficult to see what we should do next. 

Matey [tentatively]. Perhaps if I were to go down- 
stairs? 

Purdie. It would be conferring a personal favour on 
us all. 

[Thus encouraged Matey and his tray resume 
friendly relations with the pantry.] 

Lady Caroline [with itching fingers as she glares at 
Lob]. It is all that wretch's doing. 

[A quiver from Lob's right leg acknowledges the 
compliment. The gay music of a pipe is heard 
from outside.] 

Joanna [peeping]. Coady! 

Mrs. Coade. Coady! Why is he so happy? 

Joanna [troubled]. Dear, hold my hand. 

Mrs. Coade [suddenly trembling]. Won't he know 
me? 

Purdie [abashed by that soft face]. Mrs. Coade, I'm 
sorry. It didn't so much matter about the likes of us, but 
for your sake I wish Coady hadn't gone out. 

Mrs. Coade. We that have been happily married this 
thirty years. 

Coade [popping in buoyantly]. May I intrude? My 
name is Coade. The fact is I was playing about in the 
wood On a whistle, and I saw your light. 

Mrs. Coade [the only one with the nerve to answer]. 
Playing about in the wood with a whisde! 

Coade [with mild dignity]. And why not, madam? 

Mrs. Coade. Madam! Don't you know me? 

Coade. I don't know you. . . . [Reflecting.] But I 
wish I did. 

Mrs. Coade. Do you? Why? 

Coade. If I may say so, you have a very soft, lovable 
face. 

[Several persons breathe again.] 

Mrs. Coade [inqidsitorially]. Who was with you, play- 
ing whistles in the wood? [The breathing ceases.] 

Coade. No one was with mc 



[And is resumed.] 

Mrs. Coade. No . . . lady? 

Coade. Certainly not. [Then he spoils it.] I am a 
bachelor. 

Mrs. Coade. A bachelor! 

Joanna. Don't give way, dear; it might be much 
worse. 

Mrs. Coade. A bachelor! And you are sure you never 
spoke to me before? Do think. 

Coade. Not to my knowledge. Never . . . except in 
dreams. 

Mabel [taking a risk]- What did you say to her in 
dreams ? 

Coade. I said, 'My dear.' [This when uttered surprises 
him.] Odd! 

Joanna. The darling man! 

Mrs. Coade [wavering]. How could you say such 
things to an old woman ? 

Coade [thinking it out]. Old? I didn't think of you 
as old. No, no, young — with the morning dew od your 
face — coming across a lawn — in a black and green dress 
— and carrying such a pretty parasol. 

Mrs. Coade [thrilling]. That was how he first met 
me! He used to love me in black and green; and it was 
a pretty parasol. Look, I am old. ... So it can't be the 
same woman. 

Coade [blinking]. Old? Yes, I suppose so. But it is 
the same soft, lovable face, and the same kind, beaming 
smile that children could warm their hands at. 

Mrs. Coade. He always Liked my smile. 

Purdie. So do we all. 

Coade [to himself]. Emma! 

Mrs. Coade. He hasn't forgotten my name! 

Coade. It is sad that we didn't meet long ago. I think 
I have been waiting for you. I suppose we have met too 
late? You couldn't overlook my being an old fellow, 
could you, eh? 

Joanna. How lovely; he is going to propose to her 
again. Coady, you happy thing, he is wanting the same 
soft face after thirty years! 

Mrs. Coade [undoubtedly hopeful]. We mustn't be 
too sure, but I think that is it. [Primly.] What is it 
exactly that you want, Mr. Coade? 

Coade [under a lucky star]. I want to have the right 
to hold the parasol over you. Won't you be my wife, my 
dear, and so give my long dream of you a happy ending? 

Mrs. Coade [preening]. Kisses are not called for at 
our age, Coady, but here is a muffler for your old neck. 

Coade. My muffler; I have missed it. [It is however to 
his forehead that his hand goes. Immediately thereafter 
he misses his sylvan attire.] Why . . . why . . . what 
. . . who . . . how is this ? 

Purdie [nervously]. He is coming to. 

Coade [reeling and righting himself]. Lob! 
[The leg indicates that he has got tt.] 



DEAR BRUTUS 



163 



Bless me, Coady, I went into that wood! 

Mrs.Coade. And without your muffler,you that are so 
subject to chills. What are you feeling for in your pocket? 

Coade. The whistle. It is a whisde I — Gone! of course 
it is. It's rather a pity, but . . . [Anxious.] Have I been 
saying awful things to you? 

Mabel. You have been making her so proud. It is a 
compliment to our whole sex. You had a second chance, 
and it is her, again! 

Coade. Of course it is. [Crestfallen.] But I see I was 
just the same nice old lazy Coady as before; and I had 
thought that if I had a second chance, I could do things. 
I have often said to you, Coady, that it was owing to my 
being cursed with a competency that I didn't write my 
great book. But I had no competency this time, and I 
haven't written a word. 

Purdie [bitterly enough]. That needn't make you feel 
lonely in this house. 

Mrs. Coade [in a small voice]. You seem to have been 
quite happy as an old bachelor, dear. 

Coade. I am surprised at myself, Emma, but I fear I 
was. 

Mrs. Coade [with melancholy perspicacity]. I wonder 
if what it means is that you don't especially need even 
me. I wonder if it means that you are just the sort of 
amiable creature that would be happy anywhere, and 
anyhow? 

Coade. Oh dear, can it be as bad as that! 

Joanna [a ministering angel she]. Certainly not. It is 
a romance, and I won't have it looked upon as anything 
else. 

Mrs. Coade. Thank you, Joanna. You will try not to 
miss that whistle, Coady? 

Coade [getting the footstool for her]. You are all I 
need. 

Mrs. Coade. Yes; but I am not so sure as I used to be 
that it is a great compliment. 

Joanna. Coady, behave. 

[There is a \noc\ on the window.] 

Purdie [peeping]. Mrs. Dearth! [His spirits revive.] 
She is alone. Who would have expected that of herl 

i. 

Mabel. She is a wild one, Jack, but I sometimes 
thought rather a dear; I do hope she has got ofl cheaply. 
[Alice comes to them in her dinner gown.] 

Purdie [the irrepressible]. Pleased to see you, stranger. 

Alice [prepared for ejection], I was afraid such an 
unceremonious entry might startle you. 

Purdie. Not a bit. 

Alice [defiant]. I usually enter a house by the front 
door. 

Purdie. I have heard that such is the swagger way. 

Alice [simpering]. So stupid of me. I lost myself in 
the wood . . . and ... 

Joanna [genially]. Of course you did. But never mind 
that; do tell us your name. 



Lady Caroline [emerging again]. Yes,yes,your name. 

Alice. Of course, I am the Honourable Mrs. Finch- 
Fallowe. 

Lady Caroline. Of course, of course 1 

Purdie. I hope Mr. Finch-Fallowe is very well? We 
don't know him personally, but may we have the pleas- 
ure of seeing him bob up presently? 

Alice. No, I arn not sure where he is. 

Lady Caroline [with point]. I wonder if the dear 
clever police know? 

Alice [imprudently]. No, they don't. 

[It is a very secondary matter to her. This woman 
of calamitous fires hears and sees her tormentors 
chiefly as the probable owners of the ca\e which is 
standing on that tray.] 

So awkward, I gave my sandwiches to a poor girl and 
her father whom I met in the wood, and now . . . isn't 
it a nuisance — I am quite hungry. [So far with a mine 
ing bravado.] May I? 

[Without waiting for consent she falls to upon the 
ca\e, looking over it li\e one ready to fight them 
for it.] 

Purdie [sobered again]. Poor soul. 

Lady Caroline. We are so anxious to know whether 
you met a friend of ours in the wood — a Mr. Dearth. 
Perhaps you know him, too? 

Alice. Dearth ? I don't know any Dearth, 

Mrs. Coade. Oh, dear, what a wood ! 

Lady Caroline. He is quite a front door sort of man; 
knocks and rings, you know. 

Purdie. Don't worry her. 

Alice [gnawing], I meet so many; you see I go out a 
great deal. I have visiting-cards— printed ones. 

Lady Caroline. How very distingue. Perhaps Mr. 
Dearth has painted your portrait; he is an artist. 

Alice. Very likely; they all want to paint me, I dare- 
say that is the man to whom I gave my sandwiches. 

Mrs. Coade. But I thought you said he had a daugh- 
ter? 

Alice. Such a pretty girl; I gave her half a crown. 

Coade. A daughter? That can't be Dearth. 

Purdie [darkly]. Don't be too sure. Was the man 
you speak of a rather chop-fallen, gone-to-seed sort of 
person ? 

Alice. No, I thought him such a jolly, attractive man. 

Coade. Dearth jolly, attractive! Oh no. Did he say 
anything about his wife? 

Lady Caroline. Yes, do try to remember if he men- 
tioned her. 

Alice, [snapping]. No, he didn't. 

Purdie. He was far from jolly in her time. 

Alice [with an archness for which the ea\e is respon- 
sible]. Perhaps that was the lady's fault. 

[The last of the adventurers draws nigh, carolling a 
French song as he comes.] 



164 



DRAMA 



Coade. Dear til's voice. He sounds quite merry! 

Joanna [protecting]. Alice, you poor thing. 

Purdie. This is going to be horrible, 

[A clear-eyed man of lusty gait comes in.] 

Dearth. I am sorry to bounce in on you in this way, 
but really I have an excuse. I am a painter of sorts 
and . . . 

[He sees he has brought some strange discomfort 
here.] 

Mrs. Coade. I must say, Mr. Dearth, I am delighted to 
see you looking so well. Like a new man, isn't he? 
[No one dares to answer.] 

Dearth. I am certainly very well, if you care to know. 
But did I tell you my name? 

Joanna [for some one has to spea\]. No, but — but we 
have an instinct in this house. 

Dearth. Well, it doesn't matter. Here is the situation; 
my daughter and I have just met in the wood a poor 
woman famishing for want of food. We were as happy 
as grigs ourselves, and the sight of her distress rather cut 
us up. Can you give me something for her? Why are 
you looking so startled? [Seeing the remains of the 
ca\e.] May I have this? 

[A shrinking movement from one of them draws 
his attention, and he recognises in her the woman 
of whom he has been speaking. He sees her in 
fine clothing and he grows stern.] 

I feel I can't be mistaken; it was you I met in the 
wood? Have you been playing some trick on me? [To 
the others.] It was for her I wanted the food. 

Alice [her hand guarding the place where his gift 
lies]. Have you come to take back the money you gave 
me? 

Dearth. Your dress! You were almost in rags when I 
saw you outside. 

Alice [frightened as she discovers how she is now 
attired]. I don't . . . understand . . . 

Coade [gravely enough]. For that matter, Dearth, I 
daresay you were different in the wood, too. 
[Dearth sees his own clothing.] 

Dearth. What . . . ! 

Alice [frightened]. Where am I? [To Mrs. Coade.] 
I seem to know you . . . do I ? 

Mrs. Coade [motherly]. Yes, you do; hold my hand, 
and you will soon remember all about it. 

Joanna. I am afraid, Mr. Dearth, it is harder for you 
than for the rest of us. 

Purdie [looking away]. I wish I could help you, but 
I can't; I am a rotter. 

Mabel. We are awfully sorry. Don't you remember 
. . . Midsummer Eve? 

Dearth [controlling himself]. Midsummer Eve? This 
room. Yes, this room. . . . You . . . was it you? . . . 
were going out to look for something. . . . The tree of 
knowledge, wasn't it? Somebody wanted me to go, too. 



. . . Who was that? A lady, I think. . . . Why did she 
ask me to go? What was I doing here? I was smoking 
a cigar. ... I laid it down, there. . . . [He finds the 
cigar.] Who was the lady? 

Alice [feebly]. Something about a second chance. 

Mrs. Coade. Yes, you poor dear, you thought you 
could make so much of it. 

Dearth. A lady who didn't like me — [With convic- 
tion.] She had good reasons, too — but what were 
they . . . ? 

Alice. A little old man! He did it. What did he do? 
[The hammer is raised.] 

Dearth. I am ... it is coming back — I am not the 
man I thought myself. 

Alice. I am not Mrs. Finch-Faliowe. Who am I? 

Dearth [staring at her]. You were that lady. 

Alice. It is you — my husband! 
[She is overcome.] 

Mrs. Coade. My dear, you are much better off, so far 
as I can see. than if you were Mrs. Finch-Fallowe. 

Alice [with passionate knowledge]. Yes, yes indeed! 
[Generously.] But he isn't. 

Dearth. Alice! . . . I — [He tries to smile.] I didn't 
know you when I was in the wood with Margaret. She 
. . . she . . . Margaret . . . 
[The hammer falls.] 

O my God! 

[He buries his face in his hands.] 

Alice. I wish — I wish 

[She presses his shoulder fiercely and then stales out 
by the door.] 

Purdie [to Los, after a time]. You old ruffian. 

Dearth. No, I am rather fond of him, our lonely, 
friendly little host. Lob, I thank thee for that hour. 
[The seedy-looking fellow passes from the scene.] 

Coade. Did you see that his hand is shaking again? 

Purdie. The watery eye has come back. 

Joanna. And yet they are both quite nice people. 

Purdie [finding the tragedy of it). We are all quite 
nice people. 

Mabel. If she were not such a savage! 

Purdie. I daresay there is nothing the matter with 
her except that she would always choose the wrong 
man, good man or bad man, but the wrong man for her. 

Coade. We can't change. 

Mabel. Jack says the brave ones can. 

Joanna. 'The ones with the thin bright faces.' 

Mabel. Then there is hope for you and me, Jack. 

Purdie [ignobly]. I don't expect so. 

Joanna [wandering about the room, li\e one renew- 
ing acqumntsmce with it after returning from a jour- 
ney]. Hadn't we better go to bed? It must be getting late. 

Purdie. Hold on to bed! [They all brighten.] 

Matey [entering]. Breakfast is quite ready. 
[They exclaim.] 



JUSTICE 



165 



Lady Caroline. My watch has stopped. 

Joanna. And mine. Just as well perhaps! 

Mabel. There is a smell of coffee. 
[The gloom continues to lift.] 

Coade. Come along, Coady; I do hope you have not 
been tiring your foot. 

Mrs. Coade. I shall give it a good rest to-morrow., 
dear. 

Matey. I have given your egg six minutes, ma'am. 
[They set forth once more upon the eternal round. 
The curious Joanna remains behind.] 

Joanna. A strange experiment, Matey; does it ever 
have any permanent effect? 

Matey [on whom it has had none]. So far as I know, 
not often, miss ; but, I believe, once in a while. 



[There is hope in this for the brave ones. If we could 
wait long enough we might see the Dearths 
breasting their way into the light.] 
He could tell you. 

[The elusive person thus referred to \ic\s respon- 
sively, meaning perhaps that none of the others 
will change till there is a tap from another ham- 
mer. But when Matey goes to rout him from his 
chair he is no longer there. His disappearance is 
no shock to Matey, who shrugs his shoulders and 
opens the windows to let in the glory of a summer 
morning. The garden has returned, and our queer 
little hero is busy at wor\ among his flowers. A 
lar\ is rising.] 

The End 



us tice 





P8 John Galsworthy (1867-1933) came of a good English family, took an 
honor degree in law at Oxford, travelled widely, and practised his profes- 
sion but little. His career as a writer extended from 1898 to the year of 
his death. His most distinguished work is probably The Forsyte Sags, 
a realistic fictional study of British middle-class society. Yet he wrote 
poetry, essays, criticism, short stories, and plays as well as novels. Like, 
many writers of his generation he was tremendously interested in modern 
society, particularly in the individual who fell victim o£ our imperfect 
social institutions, and although he strove consciously to render perfect 
justice to the institution as well as to the individual, it has been suggested 
that his sympathy for die underdog is usually apparent. Galsworthy 
attempted, in his own words, "to set before the public no cut-and-dried 
codes, but the phenomena of life and character, selected and combined, 
but not distorted, by the dramatist's outlook, set down without fear, favor, 
or prejudice, leaving the public to put down such poor moral as nature 
may afford," His work grew from life itself: "A human being is the best 
plot there is. . . . He is organic. . . . The dramatist who hangs his charac- 
ters to a plot, instead of hanging his plot to his characters, is guilty of car- 
dinal sin. , . . Take care of character: action and dialogue will take care 
of themselves. . . . The naturalistic is the most exacting and difficult of 
all techniques." Galsworthy believed firmly that our imperfections arise 
largely from our lack of imaginative sympathy, our inability or refusal 
to feel and understand the lives of others. Justice, produced in 1910 and a 
good example of his artistic attitude, is said to have been responsible for 
certain reforms in English prison life,. Galsworthy received the Order of 
Merit in 1929 and the Nobel Prize in 1932. 



ACT I 

The scene is the managing clerk's room, at the of- 
fices of James and Walter How, on a July morn- 
ing. The room is old-fashioned, furnished with 
well-worn mahogany and leather, and lined with tin 
boxes and estate plans. It has three doors. Two of them 

By permission of the publishers, Charles Scrihner's Sons, New York. 



are close together in the centre of a wail. One of these 
two doors leads to the outer office, which is only divided 
from the managing clerk's room by a partition of wood 
and clear glass; and when the door into this outer office 
is opened there can be seen the wide outer door leading 
out on to the stone stairway of the building. The other 
of these two centre doors leads to the junior clerk's room. 
The third door is that leading to the partners' room. 



166 



DRAMA 



The managing cler\, Cokeson, is sitting at kis table 
adding up figures in a pass-boo\, and murmuring their 
numbers to himself. He is a man of sixty, wearing spec- 
tacles; rather short, with a bald head, and an honest, 
pug-dog face. He is dressed in a well-worn blacky froc\- 
coat and pepper-and-salt trousers. 

Cokeson. And five's twelve, and three — fifteen, nine- 
teen, twenty-three, thirty-two, forty-one — and carry 
four [he tic\s the page, and goes on murmuring]. Five, 
seven, twelve, seventeen, twenty-four and nine, thirty- 
three, thirteen and carry one. 

[He again mak^es a Uc\. The outer office door is 
opened, and Sweedle, the office-boy, appears, clos- 
ing the door behind him. He is a pale youth of 
sixteen, with spil^y hair.] 
Cokeson [with grumpy expectation]. And carry one. 
Sweedle. There's a party wants to see Falder, Mr, 
Cokeson. 

Cokeson. Five, nine, sixteen, twenty-one, twenty-nine 
—and carry two. Sent him to Morris's. What name? 
Sweedle. Honeywill. 
Cokeson. What's his business? 
Sv/eedle. It's a woman. 
Cokeson. A lady? 
Sweedle. No, a person. 

Cokeson. Ask her in. Take this pass-book to Mr. 
James [he closes the pass-boo^]. 

Sweedle [reopening the door]. Will you come in, 
please? 

[Rijth Honeywill comes in. She is a tall woman, 
twenty-six years old, unpretentiously dressed, with 
blac\ hair and eyes, and an ivory-white, clear-cut 
face. She stands very still, having a natural dig- 
nity of pose and gesture.] 
[Sweedle goes out into the partners' room with the 
pass-book^.] 
Cokeson [looking round at Ruth]. The young man's 
out [suspiciously]. State your business, please. 

Ruth [who speaks in a matter-of-fact voice, and with 
a slight West-Country accent]. It's a personal matter, sir. 
Cokeson. We don't allow private callers here. Will 
you leave a message? 
Ruth. I'd rather see him, please. 

[She narrows her dar\ eyes and gives him a honeyed 
loo^.] 
Cokeson [expanding]. It's all against the rules. Sup- 
pose I had my friends here to see me! It'd never do! 
Ruth. No, sir. 

Cokeson [a little ta\en abacf(]. Exactly! And here 
you are wanting to see a junior clerk! 
Ruth. Yes, sir; I must see him. 

Cokeson [turning full round to her with a sort of out- 
raged interest]. But this is a lawyer's office. Go to his 
private address. 



Ruth. He's not there. 

Cokeson [uneasy]. Are you related to the party? 
Ruth. No, sir. 

Cokeson [in real embarrassment]. I don't know what 
to say. It's no affair of the office. 
Ruth. But what am I to do? 
Cokeson. Dear me! I can't tell you that. 

[Sweedle comes bac\. He crosses to the outer of- 
fice and passes through into it, with a quizzical 
loo\ at Cokeson, carefully leaving the door an 
inch or two open.] 
Cokeson [fortified by this loof(\. This won't do, you 
know, this won't do at all. Suppose one of the partners 
came in! 

[An incoherent \noching and chuckling is heard 
from the outer door of the outer office.] 
Sweedle [putting his head in]. There's some children 
outside here. 
Ruth. They're mine, please. 
Sweedle. Shall I hold them in check ? 
Ruth. They're quite small, sir. [She ta\es a step 
towards Cokeson.] 

Cokeson. You mustn't take up his time in office 
hours; we're a clerk short as it is. 
Ruth. It's a matter of life and death. 
Cokeson [again outraged]. Life and death! 
Sweedle. Here is Falder. 
[Falder has entered through the outer office. He is 
a pale, good-looking young man, with quic\, 
rather scared eyes. He moves towards the door of 
the cierhj' office, and stands there irresolute.] 
Cokeson. Well, I'll give you a minute. It's not regu- 
lar. 

[Taking up a bundle of papers, he goes out into the 

partners' room.] 

Ruth [in a low, hurried voice]. He's on the drink 

again, Will. He tried to cut my throat last night. I 

came out with the children before he was awake. I went 

round to you 

Falder. I've changed my digs. 
Ruth. Is it all ready for to-night? 
Falder. I've got the tickets. Meet me 11.45 at ^ ie book- 
ing office. For God's sake don't forget we're man and 
wife! [Looking at her with tragic intensity] Ruth! 
Ruth. You're not afraid of going, are you? 
Falder. Have you got your things, and the children's ? 
Ruth. Had to leave them, for fear of waking Honey- 
will, all but one bag. I can't go near home again. 

Falder [wincing]. All that money gone for nothing. 
How much must you have? 
Ruth. Six pounds — I could do with that, I think. 
Falder. Don't give away where we're going. [As if to 
himself] When I get out there I mean to forget it all. 

Ruth. If you're sorry, say so. I'd sooner he killed me 
than take you against your will. 



JUSTICE 



167 



Falder [with a queer smile]. We've got to go. I don't 
care; I'll have you. 

Ruth. You've just to say; it's not too late. 

Falder. It is too late. Here's seven pounds. Booking 
office — 11.45 to-night. If you weren't what you are to 
me, Ruth ! 

Ruth. Kiss me! 

[They cling together passionately, then fly apart 
just as Cokeson re-enters the room. Ruth turns 
and goes out through the outer office. Cokeson 
advances deliberately to his chair and seats him- 
self.] 

Cokeson. This isn't right, Falder. 

Falder. It shan't occur again, sir. 

Cokeson. It's an improper use of these premises. 

Falder. Yes, sir. 

Cokeson. You quite understand — the party was in 
some distress; and, having children with her, I allowed 

my feelings [He opens a drawer and produces from 

it a tract] Just take this! "Purity in die Home." It's a 
well-written thing. 

Falder [taking it, with a peculiar expression]. Thank 
you, sir. 

Cokeson. And look here, Falder, before Mr. Walter 
comes, have you finished up that cataloguing Davis had 
in hand before he left? 

Falder. I shall have done with it to-morrow, sir — for 
good. 

Cokeson. It's over a week since Davis went. Now it 
won't do, Falder. You're neglecting your work for pri- 
vate life. I shan't mention about the party having called, 
but 

Falder [passing into his room]. Thank you, sir. 
[Cokeson stares at the door through which Falder 
has gone out; then shades his head, and is just 
settling down to write, when Walter How comes 
in through the outer office. He is a rather refined- 
loo\ing man of thirty-five, with a pleasant, almost 
apologetic voice.] 

Walter. Good-morning, Cokeson. 

Cokeson. Morning, Mr. Walter. 

Walter. My father here? 

Cokeson [always with a certain patronage as to a 
young man who might be doing better]. Mr. James has 
been here since eleven o'clock. 

Walter. I've been in to see the pictures, at the Guild- 
hall. 

Cokeson [looking at him as though this were exactly 
what was to be expected]. Have you now — ye-es. This 
lease of Boulter's — am I to send it to counsel? 

Walter. What does my father say? 

Cokeson. 'Aven't bothered him. 

Walter. Well, we can't be too careful. 

Cokeson. It's such a little thing — hardly worth the 
fees. I thought you'd do it yourself. 



Walter. Send it, please. I don't want the responsi- 
bility. 

Cokeson [with an indescribable air of compassion]. 
Just as you like. This "right-of-way" case — we've got 
'em on the deeds. 

Walter. I know; but the intention was obviously to 
exclude that bit of common ground. 

Cokeson. We needn't worry about that. We're the 
right side of the law. 

Walter. I don't like it. 

Cokeson [with an indulgent smile]. We shan't want 
to set ourselves up against the law. Your father wouldn't 
waste his time doing that. 

[As he speaks James How comes in from the part- 
ners' room. He is a shortish man, with white side- 
whiskers, plentiful grey hair, shrewd eyes, and 
gold pince-nez.] 

James. Morning, Walter. 

Walter. How are you, father? 

Cokeson [looking down his nose at the papers in his 
hand as though deprecating their size]. I'll just take 
Boulter's lease in to young Falder to draft the instruc- 
tions. [He goes out into Falder's room.] 

Walter. About that right-of-way case? 

James. Oh, well, we must go forward there. I thought 
you told me yesterday the firm's balance was over four 
hundred. 

Walter. So it is. 

James [holding out the passboo\ to his son]. Three — 
five— one, no recent cheques. Just get me out the cheque- 
book. 

[Walter goes to a cupboard, unlocks a drawer, and 
produces a cheqite-boo\.] 

James. Tick the pounds in the counterfoils. Five, 
fifty-four, seven., five, twenty-eight, twenty, ninety, 
eleven, fifty-two, seventy -one. Tally? 

Walter [nodding]. Can't understand. Made sure it 
was over four hundred. 

James. Give me the cheque-book. [He u\es the 
chcque-boo\ and cons the counterfoils] What's this 
ninety ? 

Walter. Who drew it ? 

James. You. 

Walter [ta\ing the cheque-boo^]. July 7th? That's 
che day I went down to look over the Trenton Estate 
—last Friday week; I came back on the Tuesday, you 
remember. But look here, father, it was nine I drew a 
cheque for. Five guineas to Smithers and my expenses. 
It just covered all but half a crown. 

James [gravely]. Let's look at that ninety cheque. 
[He sorts the cheque out from the bundle in the pocket 
of the pass-boo\] Seems all right. There's no nine 
here. This is bad. Who cashed that nine-pound 
cheque ? 

Walter [puzzled and pained]. Let's see! I was fin- 



168 



DRAMA 



ishing Mrs. Reddy's will — only just had time; yes — I 
gave it to Cokeson. 

James. Look at that t y : that yours ? 

Walter [after consideration]. My y's curl back a lit- 
tle; tliis doesn't. 

James [as Cokeson re-enters from F alder's room]. 
We must ask him. Just come here and carry your mind 
back a bit. Cokeson. D'you remember cashing a cheque 
for Mr. Walter last Friday week — the day he went to 
Trenton ? 

Cokeson. Ye-es. Nine pounds. 

James. Look at this. [Handing him the cheque.] 

Cokeson. No! Nine pounds. My lunch was just 
coming in; and of course I li\e it hot; I gave the cheque 
to Davis to run round to the bank. He brought it back, 
all gold — you remember, Mr. Walter, you wanted some 
silver to pay your cab. [With a certain contemptuous 
compassion] Here, let me see. You've got the wrong 
cheque. 

[He ta\es cheque-boo\ and pass-book from 
Walter.] 

Walter. Afraid not. 

Cokeson [having seen for himself]. It's funny. 

James. You gave it to Davis, and Davis sailed for 
Australia on Monday. Looks black.. Cokeson. 

Cokeson [puzzled and upset]. Why this'd be a felony! 
No, no! there's some mistake. 

James. I hope so. 

Cokeson. There's never been anything of that sort in 
the office the twenty-nine years I've been here. 

James [looking at cheque and counterfoil]. This is a 
very clever bit of work; a warning to you not to leave 
space after your figures, Walter. 

Walter [vexed]. Yes, I know— I was in such a tear- 
ing hurry that afternoon. 

Cokeson [suddenly]. This has upset me. 

James. The counterfoil altered too — very deliberate 
piece of swindling. What was Davis's ship? 

Walter. City of Rangoon. 

James. We ought to wire and have him arrested at 
Naples; he can't be there yet. 

Cokeson. His poor young wife. I liked the young 
man. Dear, oh dear! In this office! 

Walter. Shall I go to the bank and ask the cashier? 

James [grimly]. Bring him round here. And ring 
up Scotland Yard. 

Walter. Really? 

[He goes out through the outer office. James paces 
the room. He stops and loo\s at Cokeson, who 
is disconsolately rubbing the \nces of his 
trousers] 

James. Well, Cokeson! There's something in charac- 
ter, isn't there? 

Cokeson [looking at him over his spectacles]. I don't 
quite take you, sir. 



James. Your story would sound d d thin to any 

one who didn't know you. 

Cokeson. Ye-es! [He laughs. Then with sudden 
gravity] I'm sorry for that young man. I feel it as if it 
was my own son, Mr. James. 

James. A nasty business! 

Cokeson. It unsettles you. All goes on regular, and 
then a thing like this happens. Shan't relish my lunch 
to-day. 

James. As bad as that, Cokeson? 

Cokeson. It makes you think. [Confidentially] He 
must have had temptation. 

James. Not so fast. We haven't convicted him yet. 

Cokeson. I'd sooner have lost a month's salary than 
had this happen. [He broods.] 

James. I hope that fellow will hurry up. 

Cokeson [peeping things pleasant for the cashier]. It 
isn't fifty yards, Mr. James. He won't be a minute. 

James. Th» idea of dishonesty about this office — it 
hits me hard, Cokeson. 

[He goes towards the door of the partner/ room.] 

Sweedle [entering quietly, to Cokeson in a low voice]. 
She's popped up again, sir — something she forgot to 
say to Falder. 

Cokeson [roused from his abstraction]. Eh? Impos- 
sible. Send her away! 

James. What's that? 

Cokeson. Nothing, Mr. James. A private matter. 
Here, I'll come myself. [He goes into the outer office as 
James passes into the partners' room] Now, you really 
mustn't — we can't have anybody just now. 

Ruth. Not for a minute, sir? 

Cokeson. Reely! Recly! I can't have it. If you want 
him, wait about; hell be going out for his lunch 
directly. 

Ruth. Yes, sir. 

[Walter, entering with the cashier, passes Ruth 
as she leaves the outer office.] 

Cokeson [to the cashier, who resembles a sedentary 
dr agoon]. Good-morning. [To Walter] Your father's 
in there. 

[Walter crosses and goes into the partners' room.] 

Cokeson. It's a nahsty, unpleasant little matter, Mr. 
Cowley. I'm quite ashamed to have to trouble you. 

Cowley. I remember the cheque quite well. [As if 
it were a liver] Seemed in perfect order. 

Cokeson. Sit down, won't you? I'm not a sensitive 
man, but a thing like this about the place — it's not nice, 
I like people to be open and jolly together. 

Cowley. Quite so. 

Cokeson [buttonholing him, and glancing towards 
the partners' room]. Of course he's a young man. I've 
told him about it before now — leaving space after his 
figures, but he will do it. 



JUSTICE 



169 



Cowley. I should remember the person's face— quite 
a youth. 

Cokeson. I don't think we shall be able to show him 
to you, as a matter or fact. 

[James and Walter have come bac\ from the part- 
ners' room.] 
James. Good-morning, Mr. Cowley. You've seen my 
son and myself, you've seen Mr. Cokeson, and you've 
seen Sweedle, my office-boy. It was none of 'us, I take it. 
[The cashier shades his head with a smile.] 
James. Be so good as to sit there. Cokeson, engage 
Mr. Cowley in conversation, will you? 
[He goes towards Falder's room.] 
Cokeson. Just a word, Mr. James. 
James. Well? 

Cokeson. You don't want to upset the young man in 
there, do you? He's a nervous young feller, 

James. This must be thoroughly cleared up, Cokeson, 

for the sake of Falder's name, to say nothing of yours. 

Cokeson [with some dignity]. That'll look after 

itself, sir. He's been upset once this morning; I don't 

want him starded again. 

James. It's a matter of form; but I can't stand upon 
niceness over a thing like this— too serious. Just talk to 
Mr. Cowley. 

[He opens the door of Falder's room.] 
James. Bring in the papers in Boulter's lease, will you, 
Falder? 
Cokeson [bursting into voice]. Do you keep dogs? 
[The cashier, with his eyes fixed on the door, does 
not answer.] 
Cokeson, You haven't such a thing as a bulldog pup 
you could spare me, I suppose? 

[At the loo\ on the cashier's face his jaw drops, and 
he turns to see Falder standing in the doorway, 
with his eyes fixed on Cowley, li\e the eyes of a 
rabbit fastened on a sna\e.] 
Falder [advancing with the papers]. Here they are, 
sir! 
James [taking them]. Thank you. 
Falder. Do you want me, sir? 
James. No, thanks! 

[Falder turns and goes bac\ into his own room. 
As he shuts the door James gives the cashier an 
interrogative loo\, and the cashier nods.] 
James, Sure? This isn't as we suspected. 
Cowley. Quite. He knew me. I suppose he can't slip 
out of that room? 

Cokeson [gloomily]. There's only the window— a 
whole floor and a basement. 

[The door of Falder's room is quietly opened, and 
Falder, with his hat in his hand, moves towards 
the door of the outer office.] 
James [quietly]. Where are you going, Falder? 
Falder. To have my lunch, sir. 



James Wait a few minutes, would you? I want to 
speak to you about this lease. 

Falder. Yes, sir. [He goes bac\ into his room.] 

Cowley. If I'm wanted, I can swear that's the young 
man who cashed the cheque. It was the last cheque I 
handled that morning before my lunch. These are the 
numbers of the notes he had. [He puts a slip of paper 
on the table; then, brushing his hat round] Good-morn- 
ing! 

James. Good-morning, Mr. Cowley! 

Cowley [to Cokeson]. Good-morning. 

Cokeson [with stupefaction]. Good-morning. 

[The cashier goes out through the outer office. 
Cokeson sits down in his chair, as though it were 
the only place left in the morass of his feelings.] 

Walter. What are you going to do? 

James. Have him in. Give me the cheque and the 
counterfoil, 

Cokeson. I don't understand. I thought young 
Davis 

James. We shall see. 

Walter. One moment, father: have you thought it 
out? 

James. Call him in! 

Cokeson [rising with difficulty and opening Falder's 
door; hoarsely]. Step in here a minute. 
[Falder comes in.] 

Falder [impassively]. Yes, sir? 

James [turning to him suddenly with the cheque held 
out]. You know this cheque, Falder? 

Falder. No, sir. 

James. Look at it. You cashed it last Friday week. 

Falder. Oh! yes, sir; that one— Davis gave it me. 

James. I know. And you gave Davis the cash? 

Falder. Yes, sir. 

James. When Davis gave you the cheque was it 
exactly like this? 

Falder. Yes, I think so, sir. 

James. You know that Mr. Walter drew that cheque 
for nine pounds? 

Falder. No, sir— ninety. 

James. Nine, Falder. 

Falder [faintly], I don't understand, sir. 

James. The suggestion, of course, is that the cheque 
was altered; whether by you or Davis is the question. 

Falder. I— I 

Cokeson. Take your time, take your time. 

Falder [regaining his impassivity]. Not by me, 
sir. 

James. The cheque was handed to Cokeson by Mr. 
Walter at one o'clock; we know that because Mr. Coke- 
son's lunch had just arrived. 

Cokeson, I couldn't leave it. 

James. Exactly; he therefore gave the cheque to 
Davis. It was cashed by you at 1.15. We know that 



170 



DRAMA 



because the cashier recollects it for the last cheque he 
handled before his iuxtch. 

Falder. Yes, sir, Davis gave it to me because some 
friends were giving him a farewell luncheon. 

James [puzzled]. You accuse Davis, then? 

Falder. I don't know, sir — it's very funny. 

[Walter, who has come close to his father, says 
something to him in a low voice.] 

James. Davis was not here again after that Saturday, 
was he? 

Cokeson [anxious to be of assistance to the young 
man, and seeing faint signs of their all being jolly once 
more]. No, he sailed on the Monday. 

James. Was he, Falder? 

Falder [very faintly]. No, sir. 

James. Very well, then, how do you account for the 
fact that this nought was added to the nine in the coun- 
terfoil on or after Tuesday? 

Cokeson [surprised]. How's that? 

[Falder gives a sort of lurch; he tries to pull him- 
self together, but he has gone all to pieces.] 

James [very grimly]. Out, I'm afraid, Cokeson. The 
cheque-book remained in Mr. Walter's pocket till be 
came back from Trenton on Tuesday morning. In the 
face of this, Falder, do you still deny that you altered 
both cheque and counterfoil? 

Falder. No, sir — no, Mr. How. I did it, sir: I did it. 

Cokeson [succumbing to his feelings]. Dear, dear! 
what a thing to do! 

Falder. I wanted the money so badly, sir. I didn't 
know what I was doing. 

Cokeson. However such a thing could have come into 
your head! 

Falder [grasping at the words]. I can't think, sir, 
really! It was just a minute of madness. 

James. A long minute, Falder. [Tapping the counter- 
foil] Four days at least. 

Falder. Sir, I swear I didn't know what I'd done till 
afterwards, and then I hadn't the pluck. Oh! sir, look 
over it! I'll pay the money back — I will, I promise. 

James. Go into your room. 

[Falder, with a swift imploring loo\, goes bac\ 
into his room. There is silence.] 

James. About as bad a case as there could be. 

Cokeson. To break the law like that — in here! 

Walter. What's to be done? 

James: Nothing for it. Prosecute. 

Walter. It's his first offence. 

James [shading his head]. I've grave doubts of that. 
Too neat a piece of swindb'ng altogether. 

Cokeson. I shouldn't be surprised if he was tempted. 

James. Life's one long temptation, Cokeson. 

Cokeson. Ye-es, but I'm speaking of the flesh and 
the devil, Mr. James. There was a woman come to sec 
him this morning. 



Walter. The woman we passed as we came in just 
now. Is it his wife? 

Cokeson. No, no relation. [Restraining what in jol- 
lier circumstances would have been a win1(] A married 
person, though. 

Walter. How do you know? 

Cokeson. Brought her children. [Scandalised.] There 
they were outside the office. 

James. A real bad egg. 

Walter. I should like to give him a chance. 

James. I can't forgive him for the sneaky way he 
went to work — counting on our suspecting young Davis 
if the matter came to light. It was the merest accident 
the cheque-book stayed in your pocket. 

Walter. It must have been the temptation of a mo- 
ment. He hadn't time. 

James. A man doesn't succumb like that in a moment, 
if he's a clean mind and habits. He's rotten; got the 
eyes of a man who can't keep his hands off when there's 
money about. 

Walter [dryly]. We hadn't noticed that before. 

James [brushing the remar\ aside]. I've seen lots of 
those fellows in my time. No doing anything with them 
except to keep 'em out of harm's way. They've got a 
blind spot. 

Walter. It's penal servitude. 

Cokeson. They're nahsty places — prisons. 

James [hesitating]. I don't see how it's possible to 
spare him. Out of the question to keep him in this of- 
fice — honesty's the sine qua non. 

Cokeson [hypnotised]. Of course it is. 

James. Equally out of the question to send him out 
amongst people who've no knowledge of his character. 
One must think of society. 

Walter. But to brand him like this? 

James. If it had been a straightforward case I'd 
give him another chance. It's far from that. He has 
dissolute habits. 

Cokeson. I didn't say that — extenuating circum- 
stances. 

James. Same thing. He's gone to work in the 
most cold-blooded way to defraud his employers, 
and cast die blame on an innocent man. If that's not 
a case for the law to take its course, I don't know what 
is. 

Walter. For the sake of his future, though. 

James [sarcastically]. According to you, no one would 
ever prosecute. 

Walter [nettled]. I hate the idea of it. 

Cokeson. That's rather ex parte, Mr. Walter! We 
must have protection. 

James. This is degenerating into talk. 
[He moves towards the partner/ room.] 

Walter. Put yourself in his place, father. 

James. You ask too much of me. 



JUSTICE 



171 



Walter. We. can't possibly tell the pressure there 
was on him. 

James. You may depend on it, my boy, if a man is 
going to do this sort of thing he'll do it, pressure or 
no pressure; if he isn't no thing 11 make him. 
Walter. He'll never do it again. 
Cokeson [fatuously], S'pose I were to have a talk 
with him. We don't want to be hard on the young 
man. 

James. That'll do, Cokeson. I've made up my mind. 
[He passes into the partners' room.] 

Cokeson [after a doubtful moment]. We must ex- 
cuse your father. I don't want to go against your father; 
if he thinks it right. 
Walter. Confound it, Cokeson! why don't you 

back me up? You know you feel 

Cokeson [on his dignity], I really can't say what I 
feel. 
Walter. We shall regret it. , 

Cokeson. He must have known what he was doing. 
Walter [bitterly]. "The quality of mercy is not 
strained." 

Cokeson [looking at him askance]. Come, come, Mr. 
Walter. We must try and see it sensible. 
Sweedle [entering with a tray]. Your lunch, sir. 
Cokeson. Put it down! 

[While Sweedle is putting it doom on Cokeson's 
table, the detective, Wister, enters the outer of- 
fice, and, finding no one there, comes to the inner 
doorway. He is a square, medium-sized man, 
clean-shaved, in a serviceable blue serge suit and 
strong boots.] 
Wister [to Walter]. From Scodand Yard, sir. De- 
tective-Sergeant Wister. 

Walter [askance]. Very well! I'll speak to my 
father. 

[He goes into the partners' room. James enters.] 
James. Morning! [In answer to an appealing gesture 
from Cokeson] I'm sorry; I'd stop short of this if I felt 
I could. Open that door. [Sweedle, wondering and 
scared, opens it] Come here, Mr. Falder. 

[As Falder comes shrin\ingly out, the detective, in 
obedience to a sign from James, slips his hand out 
and grasps his arm.] 
Falder [recoiling]. Oh! no, — oh! no! 
Wister. Come, come, there's a good lad. 
James. I charge him with felony. 
Falder. Oh, sir! There's some one: — I did it for her. 
Let me be till to-morrow. 

[James motions with his hand. At that sign of 
hardness, Falder becomes rigid. Then, turning, 
he goes out quietly in the detective's grip. James 
follows, stiff and erect. Sweedle, rushing to the 
door with open mouth, pursues them through 
the outer office into the corridor. When they 



have all disappeared Cokeson spins completely 
round and makes a rush for the outer office.] 
Cokeson [hoarsely]. Here! Here! What are we 
doing? 

[There is silence. He takes out his handkerchief 
and mops the sweat from his face. Going back 
blindly to his table, sits down, and stares blankly 
at his lunch.] 

The curtain falls. 



ACT II 

A Court of Justice, on a foggy October afternoon — 
crowded with barristers, solicitors, reporters, ushers, 
and jurymen. Sitting in the large, solid dock ^ 
Falder, with a warder on either side of him, placed 
there for his safe custody, but seemingly indifferent 
to and unconscious of his presence. Falder is sit- 
ting exactly opposite to the Judge, who, raised above 
the clamour of the court, also seems unconscious of 
and indifferent to everything. Harold Cleaver, the 
counsel for the Crown, is a dried, yellowish man, of 
more than middle age, in a wig worn almost to the 
colour of his face. Hector Frome, the counsel for 
the defence, is a young, tall man, clean-shaved, in a 
very white wig. Among the spectators, having al- 
ready given their evidence, are James and Walter 
How, and Cowley, the cashier. Wister, the detec- 
tive, is just leaving the witness-box. 
Cleaver. That is the case for the Crown, me lud! 
[Gathering his robes together, he sits down.] 

Frome [rising and bowing to the Judge]. If it please 
your lordship and gentlemen of the jury. I am not going 
to dispute the fact that the prisoner altered this cheque, 
but I am going to put before you evidence as to the 
condition of his mind, and to submit that you would not 
be justified in finding that he was responsible for his ac- 
tions at the time. I am going to show you, in fact, that 
he did this in a moment of aberration, amounting to 
temporary insanity, caused by the violent distress under 
which he was labouring. Gentlemen, the prisoner is only 
twenty-three years old. I shall call before you a woman 
from whom you will learn the events that led up to this 
act. You will hear from her own lips the tragic circum- 
stances of her life, the still more tragic infatuation with 
which she has inspired the prisoner. This woman, gen- 
demen, has been leading a miserable existence with a 
husband who habitually ill-uses her, from whom she 
actually goes in terror of her life. I am not, of course, 
saying that it's either right or desirable for a young man 
to fall in love with a married woman, or that it's his bust- 



172 



DRAMA 



ness to rescue her from an ogre-Iikc husband. I'm not 
saying anything of the sort. But we all know the power 
of the passion of love; and I would ask you to remember, 
gentlemen, in listening to her evidence, that, married to 
a drunken and violent husband, she has no power to get 
rid of him; for, as you know, another offence besides 
violence is necessary to enable a woman to obtain a di- 
vorce; and of this offence it does not appear that her 
husband is guilty. 

Judge. Is this relevant, Mr. Frome? 

Frome. My lord, I submit, extremely— I shall be able 
to show your lordship that direcdy. 

Judge. Very well. 

Frome. In these circumstances, what alternatives were 
left to her? She could either go on living with this 
drunkard, in terror of her life; or she could apply to the 
Court for a separation order. Well, gendemen, my ex- 
perience of such cases assures me that this would have 
given her very insufficient protection from the violence 
of such a man; and even if effectual would very likely 
have reduced her either to the workhouse or the streets 
—for it's not easy, as she is now finding, for an unskilled 
woman without means of livelihood to support herself 
and her children without resorting either to the Poor 
Law or— to speak quite plainly— to the sale of her body. 

Judge. You are ranging rather far, Mr. Frome. 

Frome. I shall fire point-blank in a minute, my lord. 

Judge. Let us hope so. 

Frome. Now, gentlemen, mark— and this is what I 
have been leading up to— this woman will tell you, and 
the prisoner will confirm her, that, confronted with such 
alternatives, she set her whole hopes on himself, know- 
ing the feeling with which she had inspired him. She 
saw a way out of her misery by going with him to a new 
country, where they would both be unknown, and might 
pass as husband and wife. This was a desperate and, as 
my friend Mr. Cleaver will no doubt call it, an immoral 
resolution ; but, as a fact, the minds of both of them were 
constantly turned towards it. One wrong is no excuse 
for another, and those who are never likely to be faced 
by such a situation possibly have the right to hold up 
their hands— as to that I prefer to say nothing. But 
whatever view you take, gentlemen, of this part of the 
prisoner's story— whatever opinion you form of the 
right of these two young people under such circum- 
stances to take the law into their own hands— the fact 
remains that this young woman in her distress, and 
this young man, little more than a boy, who was so 
devotedly attached to her, did conceive this— if you like 
—reprehensible design of going away together. Now, 
for that, of course, they required money, and— they had 
none. As to the actual events of the morning of July 
7th, on which this cheque was altered, the events on 
which I rely to prove the defendant's irresponsibility— 
I shall allow those events to speak for themselves, 



through the lips of my witnesses. Robert Cokeson. [He 

turns, loo\s round, taJ^es up a sheet of paper, and waits.] 

[Cokeson is summoned into court, and goes into 

the witness-box, holding his hat before him. The 

oath is administered to him.] 

Frome. What is your name? 

Cokeson. Robert Cokeson. 

Frome. Are you managing clerk to the firm of solici- 
tors who employ the prisoner? 

Cokeson. Ye-es. 

Frome. How long had the prisoner been in their 
employ ? 

Cokeson. Two years. No, I'm wrong there— all but 
seventeen days. 

Frome. Had you him under your eye all that time? 

Cokeson. Except Sundays and holidays. 

Frome. Quite so. Let us hear, please, what you have 
to say about his general character during those two 
years. 

Cokeson [confidentially to the jury, and as if a little 
surprised at being as\ed]. He was a nice, pleasant- 
spoken young man. I'd no fault to find with him— quite 
the contrary. It was a great surprise to me when he did 
a thing like that. 

Frome. Did he ever give you reason to suspect his 
honesty ? 

Cokeson. No! To have dishonesty in our office, that'd 
never do. 

Frome. I'm sure the jury fully appreciate that, Mr. 
Cokeson. 

Cokeson. Every man of business knows that honesty's 
the sign qua non. 

Frome. Do you give him a good character all round, 
or do you not? 

Cokeson [turning to the Judge], Certainly. We were 
all very jolly and pleasant together, until this happened. 
Quite upset me. 

Frome. Now, coming to the morning of the 7th of 
July, the morning on which the cheque was altered. 
What have you to say about his demeanour that morn- 
ing? 

Cokeson [to the jury]. If you ask me, I don't think he 
was quite compos when he did it. 

The Judge [sharply]. Are you suggesting that he was 
insane? 

Cokeson. Not compos. 

The Judge. A little more precision, please. 

Frome [smoothly]. Just tell us, Mr. Cokeson. 

Cokeson [somewhat outraged]. Well, in my opinion 
—[looking at the Judge]— such as it is— he was jumpy at 
the time. The jury will understand my meaning. 

Frome. Will you tell us how you came to that con- 
clusion ? 

Cokeson. Ye-es, I will. I have my lunch in from the 
restaurant, a chop and a potato— saves time. That day 



JUSTICE 



173 



it happened to come just as Mr. Walter How handed 
me the cheque. Well, I like it hot; so I went into the 
clerks' office and I handed the cheque to Davis, the 
other clerk, and told him to get change. I noticed young 
Falder walking up and down. I said to him: "This is 
not the Zoological Gardens, Falder." 

Frome. Do you remember what he answered? 

Cokeson. Ye-es: "I wish to God it were!" Struck 
me as funny. 

Frome. Did you notice anything else peculiar? 

Cokeson. I did. 

Frome. What was that? 

Cokeson. His collar was unbuttoned. Now, I like a 
young man to be neat. I said to him: "Your collar's 
unbuttoned." 

Frome. And what did he answer? 

Cokeson. Stared at me. It wasn't nice. 

The Judge. Stared at you? Isn't that a very common 
practice? 

Cokeson. Ye-es, but it was the look in his eyes. I 
can't explain my meaning — it was funny. 

Frome. Had you ever seen such a look in his eyes 
before? 

Cokeson. No. If I had I should have spoken to the 
partners. We can't have anything eccentric in our pro- 
fession. 

The Judge. Did you speak to them on that occasion? 

Cokeson [confidentially]. Well, I didn't like to trou- 
ble them about prime facey evidence. 

Frome. But it made a very distinct impression on 
your mind? 

Cokeson. Ye-es. The clerk Davis could have told you 
the same. 

Frome. Quite so. It's very unfortunate that we've 
not got him here. Now can you tell me of the morning 
on which the discovery of the forgery was made ? That 
would be the 18th. Did anything happen that morn- 
ing? 

Cokeson [with his hand to his ear]. I'm a little deaf. 

Frome. Was there anything in the course of that 
morning— I mean before the discovery — that caught 
your attention? 

Cokeson. Ye-es — a woman. 

The Judge. How is this relevant, Mr. Frome? 

Frome. I am trying to establish the state of mind in 
which the prisoner committed this act, my lord. 

The Judge. I quite appreciate that. But this was long 
after the act 

Frome. Yes, my lord, but it contributes to my con- 
tention. 

The Judge. Well! 

Frome. You say a woman. Do you mean that she 
came to the office? 

Cokeson. Ye-es. 

Fromi. What for? 



Cokeson. Asked to see young Falder; he was out at 
the moment. 

Frome. Did you see her? 

Cokeson. I did. 

Frome. Did she come alone? 

Cokeson [confidentially]. Well, there you put me 
in a difficulty. I mustn't tell you what the office-boy 
told me. 

Frome. Quite so, Mr. Cokeson, quite so 

Cokeson [breaking in with an air of "You are young 
— leave it to me"]. But I think we can get round it. In 
answer to a question put to her by a third party the 
woman said to me: "They're mine, sir." 

The Judge. What are? What were? 

Cokeson. Her children. They were outside. 

The Judge. How do you know? 

Cokeson. Your lordship mustn't ask me that, or I 
shall have to tell you what I was told — and that'd never 
do. 

The Judge [smiling]. The office-boy made a state- 
ment. 

Cokeson. Egg-zacdy. 

Frome. What I want to ask you, Mr. Cokeson, is 
this. In the course of her appeal to see Falder, did the 
woman say anything that you specially remember? 

Cokeson [looking at him as if to encourage him to 
complete the sentence], A leede more, sir. 

Frome. Or did she not? 

Cokeson. She did. I shouldn't like you to have led 
me to the answer. 

Frome [with an irritated smile]. Will you tell the 
jury what it was? 

Cokeson. "It's a matter of life and death." 

Foreman of the Jury. Do you mean the woman 
said that? 

Cokeson [nodding]. It's not the sort of thing you like 
to have said to you. 

Frome [a little impatiently]. Did Falder come in 
while she was there? [Cokeson nods] And she saw him, 
and went away? 

Cokeson. Ah! there I can't follow you. I didn't see 
her go. 

Frome. Well, is she there now? 

Cokeson [with an indulgent smile]. No! 

Frome. Thank you, Mr. Cokeson. [He sits down.] 

Cleaver [rising]. You say that on the morning of 
the forgery the prisoner was jumpy. Well, now, sir, 
what precisely do you mean by tiiat word? 

Cokeson [indulgently], 1 want you to understand. 
Have you ever seen a dog that's lost its master ? He was 
kind of everywhere at once with his eyes. 

Cleaver. Thank you; I was coming to his eyes. You 
called them "funny." What are we to understand by 
that? Strange, or what? 

Cokeson. Ye-es, funny. 



174 



DRAMA 



Cleaver [sharply]. Yes, sir, but what may be funny 
to you may not be funny to me, or to the jury. Did they 
look frightened, or shy, or fierce, or what ? 

Cokeson. You make it very hard for me. I give you 
the word, and you want me to give you another. 

Cleaver [rapping his des1(\. Does "funny" mean mad? 

Cokeson. Not mad, fun 

Cleaver. Very well! Now you say he had his collar 
unbuttoned? Was it a hot day? 

Cokeson. Ye-es; I think it was. 

Cleaver. And did he button it when you called his 
attention to it? 

Cokeson. Ye-es, I think he did. 

Cleaver. Would you say that that denoted insanity? 
[He sits down. Cokeson, who has opened his mouth 
to reply, is left gaping.] 

Frome [rising hastily]. Have you ever caught him in 
that dishevelled state before? 

Cokeson. No! He was always clean and quiet. 

Frome. That will do, thank you. 

[Cokeson turns blandly to the Judge, as though to 
rebu\e counsel for not remembering that the 
Judge might wish to have a chance; arriving at 
the conclusion that he is to be as\ed nothing 
further, he turns and descends from the box, and 
sits down next to James and Walter.] 

Frome. Ruth Honeywill. 

[Ruth comes into court, and ta\es her stand sto- 
ically in the witness-box. She is sworn.] 

Frome. What is your name, please? 

Ruth. Ruth Honeywill. 

Frome. How old are your 

Ruth. Twenty-six. 

Frome. You are a married woman, living with your 
husband? A litde louder. 

Ruth. No, sir; not since July. 

Frome. Have you any children? 

Ruth. Yes, sir, two. 

Frome. Are they living widi you? 

Ruth. Yes, sir. 

Frome. You know the prisoner ? 

Ruth [looking at him]. Yes. 

Frome. What was the nature of your relations with 
him? 

Ruth. We were friends. 

The Judge. Friends ? 

Ruth [simply]. Lovers, sir. 

The Judge [sharply]. In what sense do you use that 
word? 

Ruth. We love each other. 

The Judge. Yes, but 

Ruth [shading her head]. No, your lordship — not yet. 

The Judge. Not yet! H'rn! [He loohj from Ruth to 
Falder] Well! 

Frome. What is your husband? 



Ruth. Traveller. 

Frome. And what was the nature of your married 
life? 

Ruth [shading her head]. It don't bear talking 
about. 

Frome. Did he ill-treat you, or what? 

Ruth. Ever since my first was born. 

Frome. In what way? 

Ruth. I'd rather not say. All sorts of ways. 

The Judge. I am afraid I must stop this, you know. 

Ruth [pointing to Falder].. He offered to take me 
out of it, sir. We were going to South America. 

Frome [hastily]. Yes, quite—and what prevented 
you? 

Ruth. I was outside his office when he was taken 
away. It nearly broke my heart. 

Frome. You knew, then, that he had been arrested? 

Ruth. Yes, sir. I called at his office afterwards, and 
[pointing to Cokeson] that gendeman told me all about 
it. 

Frome. Now, do you remember the morning of Fri- 
day, July 7th? 

Ruth. Yes. 

Frome. Why? 

Ruth. My husband nearly strangled me that morn- 



ing. 



The Judge. Nearly strangled youi 

Ruth [bowing her head]. Yes, my lord. 

Frome. With his hands, or ? 

Ruth. Yes, I just managed to get away from him. I 
went straight to my friend. It was eight o'clock. 

The Judge. In the morning? Your husband was not 
under the influence of liquor then ? 

Ruth. It wasn't always that. 

Frome. In what condition were you? 

Ruth. In very bad condition, sir. My dress was torn, 
and I was half choking. 

Frome. Did you tell your friend what had happened ? 

Ruth, Yes. I wish I never had.. 

Frome. It upset him? 

Ruth. Dreadfully. 

Frome. Did he ever speak to you about a cheque? 

Ruth. Never. 

Frome. Did he ever give you any money ? 

Ruth. Yes. 

Frome. When was that? 

Ruth. On Saturday. 

Frome. The 8th? 

Ruth. To buy an outfit for me and the children and 
get all ready to start. 

Frome. Did that surprise you, or not? 

Ruth. What, sir? 

Frome. That he had money to give you. 

Ruth. Yes, because on the morning when my hus- 
band nearly killed me my friend cried because he hadn't 



JUSTICE 



175 



the money to get me away. He told me afterwards he'd 
come into a windfall. 

Frome. And when did you last see him? 

Ruth. The day he was taken away, sir. It was the 
day we were to have started. 

Frome. Oh, yes, the morning of the arrest. Well, did 
you see him at all between the Friday and diat morning? 
[Ruth nods] What was his manner then? 

Ruth. Dumb-like — sometimes he didn v t seem able 
to say a word. 

Frome. As if something unusual had happened to 
him? 

Ruth. Yes. 

Frome. Painful, or pleasant, or what? 

Ruth. Like a fate hanging over him. 

Frome [hesitating]. Tell me, did you love the prisoner 
very much? 

Ruth [bowing her head]. Yes. 

Frome. And had he a very great affection for you ? 

Ruth [looking at Falder]. Yes, sir. 

Frome. Now, ma'am, do you or do you not think that 
your danger and unhappiness would seriously affect his 
balance, his control over his actions? 

Ruth. Yes. 

Frome. His reason, even? 

Ruth. For a moment like, I think it would. 

Frome. Was he very much upset that Friday morn- 
ing, or was he fairly calm? 

Ruth. Dreadfully upset. I could hardly bear to let 
him go from me. 

Frome. Do you still love him? 

Ruth [with her eyes on Falder]. He's ruined himself 
for me. 

Frome. Thank you. 

[He sits down. Ruth remains stoically upright in 
the witness-box.] 

Cleaver [in a considerate voice]. When you left him 
on the morning of Friday the 7th you would not: say 
that he was out of his mind, I suppose? 

Ruth. No, sir. 

Cleaver. Thank you; I've no further questions to 
ask you. 

Ruth [bending a little forward to the jury]. I would 
have done the same for him; I would indeed. 

The Judge. Please, please! You say your married life 
is an unhappy one? Faults on both sides? 

Ruth. Only that I never bowed down to him. I don't 
see why I should, sir, not to a man like that. 

The Judge. You refused to obey him? 

Ruth [avoiding the question]. I've always studied 
him to keep things nice. 

The Judge. Until you met the prisoner — was that it? 

Ruth. No; even after that. 

The Judge. I ask, you know, because you seem to me 
to glory in this affection of yours for the prisoner. 



Ruth [hesitating]. I — I do. It's the only thing in my 
life now. 

The Judge [staring at her hard]. Well, step down, 
please. 

[Ruth loo\s at Falder, then passes quietly down 
and ta\es her seat among the witnesses^] 

Frome. I call the prisoner, my lord. 

[Falder leaves the doc\; goes into the witness-box, 
and is duly sworn.] 

Frome. What is your name? 

Falder. William Falder. 

Frome. And age? 

Falder. Twenty-three. 

Frome. You are not married ? 
[Falder shades his head.] 

Frome. How long have you known the last witness ? 

Falder. Six months. 

Frome. Is her account of the relationship between you 
a correct one? 

Falder. Yes. 

Frome. You became devotedly attached to her, how- 
ever? 

Falder. Yes. 

The Judge. Though you knew she was a married 
woman? 

Falder. I couldn't help it, your lordship. 

The Judge. Couldn't help it? 

Falder. I didn't seem able to. 

[The Judge slightly shrugs his shoulders.] 

Frome. How did you come to know her? 

Falder. Through my married sister. 

Frome. Did you know whether she was happy with 
her husband? 

Falder. It was trouble all the time. 

Frome. You knew her husband ? 

Falder. Only through her — he's a brute. 

The Judge. I can't allow indiscriminate abuse of a 
person not present. 

Frome [bowing]. If your lordship pleases. [To Fal- 
der] You admit altering this cheque? 
[Falder bows his head.] 

Frome. Carry your mind, please, to the morning of 
Friday, July the 7th, and tell the jury what happened. 

Falder [turning to the jury]. I was having my break- 
fast when she came. Her dress was all torn, and she was 
gasping and couldn't seem to get her breath at all; there 
were the marks of his fingers round her throat; her arm 
was bruised, and the blood had got into her eyes dread- 
fully. It frightened me, and then when she told me, I 
felt — I felt — well — it was too much for me! [Hardening 
suddenly] If you'd seen it, having the feelings for her 
that I had, you'd have felt the same, I know. 

Frome. Yes? 

Falder. When she left me — because I had to go to the 
office— I was out of my senses for fear that he'd do it 



176 



DRAMA 



again, and thinking what I could do. I couldn't work — 
all the morning I was like that — simply couldn't fix my 
mind on anything. I couldn't think at all. I seemed to 
have to keep moving. When Davis — the other clerk — 
gave me the cheque — he said: "It'll do you good, Will, 
to have a run with this. You seem half of! your chump 
this morning." Then when I had it in my hand — I don't 
know how it came, but it just flashed across me that 
if I put the t y and the nought there would be the money 
to get her away. It just came and went — I never thought 
of it again. Then Davis went out to his luncheon, and 
I don't really remember what I did till I'd pushed the 
cheque through to the cashier under the rail. I remem- 
ber his saying "Gold or notes?" Then I suppose I knew 
what I'd done. Anyway, when I got outside I wanted to 
chuck myself under a 'bus; I wanted to throw the money 
away; but it seemed I was in for it, so I thought at any 
rate I'd save her. Of course the tickets I took for the 
passage and the little I gave her's been wasted, and all, 
except what I was obliged to spend myself, I've restored. 
I keep thinking over and over however it was I came to 
do it, and how I can't have it all again to do differendy! 
[Falder is silent, twisting his hands before him.] 

Frome. How far is it from your office to the bank ? 

Falder. Not more than fifty yards, sir. 

Frome. From the time Davis went out to lunch to 
the time you cashed the cheque, how long do you say 
it must have been? 

Falder. It couldn't have been four minutes, sir, be- 
cause I ran all the way. 

Frome. During those four minutes you say you re- 
member nothing? 

Falder. No, sir; only that I ran. 

Frome. Not even adding the t y and the nought? 

Falder. No, sir. I don't really. 

[Frome sits down, and Cleaver rises.] 

Cleaver. But you remember running, do you ? 

Falder. I was all out of breath when I got to the bank. 

Cleaver. And you don't remember alerting the 
cheque? 

Falder [faintly]. No, sir. 

Cleaver. Divested of the romantic glamour which 
my friend is casting over the case, is this anything but 
an ordinary forgery? Come. 

Falder. I was half frantic all that morning, sir. 

Cleaver. Now, now! You don't deny that the t y and 
the nought were so like the rest of the handwriting as 
to thoroughly deceive the cashier? 

Falder. It was an accident. 

Cleaver [cheerfully]. Queer sort of accident, wasn't 
it? On which day did you alter the counterfoil? 

Falder [hanging his head]. On the Wednesday 
morning. 

Cleaver. Was that an accident too? 

Falder [faintly]. No. 



Cleaver. To do that you had to watch your opportu- 
nity, I suppose? 

Falder [almost inaudibly]. Yes. 

Cleaver. You don't suggest that you were suffering 
under great excitement when you did that?* 

Falder. I was haunted. 

Cleaver. With the fear of being found out? 

Falder [very low]. Yes. 

The Judge. Didn't it occur to you that the only thing 
for you to do was to confess to your employers, and 
restore the money? 

Falder. I was afraid. [There is silence.] 

Cleaver. You desired, too, no doubt, to complete 
your design of taking this woman away? 

Falder. When I found I'd done a thing like that, to 
do it for nothing seemed so dreadful. I might just as 
well have chucked myself into the river. 

Cleaver. You knew that the clerk Davis was about 
to leave England — didn't it occur to you when you 
altered this cheque that suspicion would fall on him ? 

Falder. It was all done in a moment. I thought of 
it afterwards. 

Cleaver. And that didn't lead you to avow what 
you'd done? 

Falder [sullenly]. I meant to write when I got out 
there — I would have repaid the money. 

The Judge. But in the meantime your innocent fel- 
low clerk might have been prosecuted. 

Falder. I knew he was a long way off, your lordship. 
I thought there'd be time. I didn't think they'd find it 
out so soon. 

Frome. I might remind your lordship that as Mr. 
Walter How had the cheque-book in his pocket till 
after Davis had sailed, if the discovery had been made 
only one day later Falder himself would have left, and 
suspicion would have attached to him, and not to 
Davis, from the beginning. 

The Judge. The question is whether the prisoner 
knew that suspicion would light on himself, and not 
on Davis. [To Falder sharply] Did you know that 
Mr. Walter How had the cheque-book till after Davis 
had sailed? 

Falder. I — I — thought — he 

The Judge. Now speak the truth — yes or no! 

Falder [very low]. No, my lord. I had no means of 
knowing. 

The Judge. That disposes of your point, Mr. Frome. 
[Frome bows to the Judge.] 

Cleaver. Has any aberration of this nature ever at- 
tacked you before? 

Falder [faintly]. No, sir. 

Cleaver. You had recovered sufficiendy to go back to 
your work that afternoon? 

Falder. Yes, I had to take the money back. 

Cleaver. You mean the nine pounds. Your wits were 



JUSTICE 



■7-7 



i -7- 



sufficiently keen for you to remember that? And you 
still persist in saying you don't remember altering this 
cheque. [He sits down.] 

Falder. If I hadn't been mad I should never have 
had the courage. 

Frome [rising]. Did you have your lunch before 
going back ? 

Falder. I never ate a thing all day; and at night I 
couldn't sleep. 

Frome. Now, as to the four minutes that elapsed be- 
tween Davis's going out and your cashing the cheque: 
do you say that you recollect nothing during those four 
minutes? 

Falder [after a moment], I remember thinking of 
Mr. Cokeson's face. 

Frome. Of Mr. Cokeson's face! Had that any con- 
nection with what you were doing? 

Falder. No, sir. 

Frome. Was that in the office, before you ran out? 

Falder. Yes, and while I was running. 

Frome. And that lasted till the cashier said: "Will 
you have gold or notes?" 

Falder. Yes, and then I seemed to come to myself- - 
and it was too late. 

Frome. Thank you. ThaL closes the evidence for the 
defence, my lord. 

[The Judge nods, and Falder goes bac\ to his seat 
in the doc\.] 

Frome [gathering up notes]. If it please your lordship 
— Gendemen of the Jury, — My friend in cross-examina- 
tion has shown a disposition to sneer at the defence 
which has been set up in this case, and I am free to 
admit that nothing I can say will move you, if the evi- 
dence has not already convinced you that the prisoner 
committed this act in a moment when to all practical 
intents and purposes he was not responsible for his 
actions; a moment of such mental and moral vacuity, 
arising from the violent emotional agitation under which 
he had been suffering, as to amount to temporary mad- 
ness. My friend has alluded to die "romantic glamour" 
with which I have sought to invest this case. Gendemen, 
I have done nothing of the kind. I have merely shown 
you the background of "life" — that palpitating life 
which, believe me — whatever my friend may say — al- 
ways lies behind the commission of a crime. Now gen- 
demen, we live in a highly civilised age, and the sight 
of brutal violence disturbs us in a very strange way, 
even when we have no personal interest in the matter. 
But when we see it inflicted on a woman whom we 
love — what then? Just think of what your own feelings 
would have been, each of you, at the prisoner's age; and 
then look at him. Well! he is hardly the comfortable, 
shall we say bucolic, person likely to contemplate with 
equanimity marks of gross violence on a woman to 
whom he was devotedly attached. Yes, gendemen, look 



at him! He has not a strong face; but neither has he a 
vicious face. He is just the sort of man who would 
easily become the prey of his emotions. You have heard 
the description of his eyes. My friend may laugh at the 
word "funny" — I think it better describes the peculiar 
uncanny look of those who are strained to breaking- 
point than any other word which could have been used. 
I don't pretend, mind you, that his mental irresponsi- 
bility was more than a flash of darkness, in which all 
sense of proportion became lost; but I do contend, that, 
just as a man who destroys himself at such a moment 
may be, and often is, absolved from the stigma attach- 
ing to the crime of self-murder, so he may, and fre- 
quendy does, commit other crimes while in this irrespon- 
sible condition, and that he may as justly be acquitted 
of criminal intent and treated as a patient, I admit that 
this is a plea which might well be abused. It is a matter 
for discretion. But here you have a case in which there 
is every reason to give the benefit of the doubt. You 
heard me ask the prisoner what he thought of during 
those four fatal minutes. What was his answer? "I 
thought of Mr. Cokeson's face!" Gendemen, no man 
could invent an answer like that; it is absolutely stamped 
with truth. You have seen the great affection (legitimate 
or not) existing between him and this woman, who 
came here to give evidence for him at the risk of her 
life. It is impossible for you to doubt his distress on the 
morning when he committed this act. We well know 
what terrible havoc such distress can make in weak 
and highly nervous people. It was all the work of a 
moment. The rest has followed, as death follows a stab 
to the heart, or water drops if you hold up a jug to 
empty it. Believe me, gendemen, there is nothing more 
tragic in life than the utter impossibility of changing 
what you have done. Once this cheque was altered and 
presented, the work of four minutes — four mad minutes 
— the rest has been silence. But in those four minutes 
the boy before you has slipped through a door, hardly 
opened, into that great cage which never again quite 
lets a man go — the cage of the Law. His further acts, 
his failure to confess, the alteration of the counterfoil, 
his preparations for flight, are all evidence — not of delib- 
erate and guilty intention when he committed the prime 
act from which these subsequent acts arose; no — they 
are merely evidence of the weak character which is 
clearly enough his misfortune. But is a man to be lost 
because he is bred and born with a weak character? 
Gendemen, men like the prisoner are destroyed daily 
under our law for want of that human insight which 
sees them as they are, patients, and not criminals. If the 
prisoner be found guilty, and treated as though he were 
a criminal type, he will, as all experience shows, in all 
probability become one. I beg you not to return a ver- 
dict that may thrust him hack into prison and brand 
him for ever. Gentlemen, Justice is a machine that. 



178 



DRAMA 



when some one has once given it the starting push, rolls 
on of itself. Is this young man to be ground to pieces 
under this machine for an act which at the worst was 
one of weakness? Is he to become a member of the 
luckless crews that man those dark, ill-starred ships 
called prisons? Is that to be his voyage — from which so 
few return ? Or is he to have another chance, to be still 
looked on as one who has gone a little astray, but who 
will come back ? I urge you, gendemen, do not ruin this 
young man ! For, as a result of those four minutes, ruin, 
utter and irretrievable, stares him in the face. He can 
be saved now. Imprison him as a criminal, and I affirm 
*d you that he will be lost He has neither the face nor 
the manner of one who can survive that terrible ordeal. 
Weigh in the scales his criminality and the suffering he 
has undergone. The latter is ten times heavier already. 
He has lain in prison under this charge for more than 
two months. Is he likely ever to forget that? Imagine 
the anguish of his mind during that time. He has had 
his punishment, gendemen, you may depend. The roll- 
ing of the chariot-wheels of Justice over this boy began 
when it was decided to prosecute him. We are now 
already at the second stage. If you permit it to go on to 
the third I would not give — that for him. 

[He holds up finger and thumb in the form of a cir- 
cle, drops his hand, and sits down. 
They jury stir, and consult each other's faces; then 
they turn towards the counsel for the Crown, 
who rises, and, fixing his eyes on a spot that seems 
to give him satisfaction, slides them every now and 
then towards the jury.] 
Cleaver. May it please your lordship — [Rising on his 
toes] Gendemen of die Jury, — The facts in this case are 
not disputed, and the defence, if my friend will allow 
me to say so, is so thin that I don't propose to waste the 
time of the Court by taking you over the evidence. The 
plea is one of temporary insanity. Well, gentlemen, I 
daresay it is clearer to me than it is to you why this 
rather — what shall we call it? — bizarre defence has been 
set up. The alternative would have been to plead guilty. 
Now, gendemen, if the prisoner had pleaded guilty my 
friend would have had to rely on a simple appeal to his 
lordship. Instead of that, he has gone into the byways 
and hedges and found this — er — peculiar plea, which 
has enabled him to show you the proverbial woman, to 
put her in the box — to give, in fact, a romantic glow to 
this affair. I compliment my friend; I think it highly 
ingenious of him. By these means, he has — to a certain 
extent — got round the Law. He has brought the whole 
story of motive and stress out in court, at first hand, in 
a way that he would not otherwise have been able to do. 
But when you have once grasped that fact, gendemen, 
you have grasped everything. [With good-humoured 
contempt] For look at this plea of insanity; we can't put 
it lower than that. You have heard the woman. She has 



every reason to favour the prisoner, but what did she 

say? She said that the prisoner was not insane when 
she left him in the morning. If he were going out of 
his mind through distress, that was obviously the mo- 
ment when insanity would have shown itself. You 
have heard the managing clerk, another witness for the 
defence. With some difficulty I elicited from him the 
admission that the prisoner, though jumpy (a word that 
he seemed to think you would understand, gendemen, 
and I'm sure I hope you do), was not mad when the 
cheque was handed to Davis. I agree with my friend 
that it's unfortunate that we have not got Davis here, 
but the prisoner has told you the words with which 
Davis in turn handed him the cheque; he obviously, 
therefore, was not mad when he received it, or he would 
not have remembered those words. The cashier has 
told you that he was certainly in his senses when he 
cashed it. We have therefore the plea that a man who 
is sane at ten minutes past one, and sane at fifteen min- 
utes past, may, for the purposes of avoiding the conse- 
quences of a crime, call himself insane between those 
points of time. Really, gendemen, this is so peculiar 
a proposition that I am not disposed to weary you with 
further argument. You will form your own opinion of 
its value. My friend has adopted this way of saying a 
great deal to you — and very eloquendy — on the score of 
youth, temptation, and the like. I might point out, how- 
ever, that the offence with which the prisoner is charged 
is one of the most serious known to our law; and there 
are certain features in this case, such as the suspicion 
which he allowed to rest on his innocent fellow-clerk, 
and his relation with this married woman, which will 
render it difficult for you to attach too much importance 
to such pleading. I ask you, in short, gendemen, for that 
verdict of guilty which, in the circumstances, I regard 
you as, unfortunately, bound to record. 

[Letting his eyes travel from the Judge and the jury 
to Frome, he sits down.] 
The Judge [bending a little towards the jury, and 
speaking in a business4i\e voice]. Gendemen, you have 
heard the evidence, and the comments on it. My only 
business is to make clear to you the issues you have to 
try. The facts are admitted, so far as the alteration of 
this cheque and counterfoil by the prisoner. The de- 
fence set up is that he was not in a responsible condition 
when he committed the crime. Well, you have heard the 
prisoner's story, and the evidence of the other witnesses 
— so far as it bears on the point of insanity. If you think 
that what you have heard establishes the fact that the 
prisoner was insane at the time of the forgery, you will 
find him guilty, but insane. If, on the other hand, you 
conclude from what you have seen and heard that the 
prisoner was sane — and nothing short of insanity will 
count — you will find him guilty. In reviewing the testi- 
mony as to his mental condition you must bear in mind 



JUSTICE 



179 



very carefully the evidence as to his demeanour and 
conduct both before and after the act of forgery — the evi- 
dence of the prisoner himself, of the woman, of the wit- 
ness — er — Cokeson, and — er — of the cashier. And in re- 
gard to that I especially direct your attention to the 
prisoner's admission that the idea of adding the t y and 
the nought did come into his mind at the moment when 
the cheque was handed to him; and also to the alteration 
of the counterfoil, and to his subsequent conduct gen- 
erally. The bearing of all this on the question of pre- 
meditation (and premeditation will imply sanity) is 
very obvious. You must not allow any considerations 
of age or temptation to weigh you in the finding of your 
verdict. Before you can come to a verdict of guilty but 
insane you must be well and thoroughly convinced 
that the condition of his mind was such as would have 
qualified him at the moment for a lunatic asylum. [He 
pauses; then, seeing that the jury are doubtful whether 
to retire or no, adds:] You may retire, gendemen, if you 
wish to do so. 

[The jury retire by a door behind the Judge. The 
Judge bends over his notes. Falder, leaning from 
the doc\, spea\s excitedly to his solicitor, point- 
ing down at Ruth. The solicitor in turn spea\s 
to Frome.] 

Frome [rising]. My lord. The prisoner is very anx- 
ious that I should ask you if your lordship would kindly 
request the reporters not to disclose the name of the 
woman witness in the Press reports of these proceedings. 
Your lordship will understand that the consequences 
might be extremely serious to her. 

The Judge [pointedly — with the suspicion of a 
smile]. Well, Mr. Frome, you deliberately took this 
course which involved bringing her here. 

Frome [with an ironic bow]. If your lordship thinks 
I could have brought out the full facts in any other way ? 

The Judge. H'm! Well. 

Frome. There is very real danger to her, your lordship. 

The Judge. You see, I have to take your word for all 
that. 

Frome. If your lordship would be so kind. I can 
assure your lordship that I am not exaggerating. 

The Judge. It goes very much against the grain with 
me that the name of a witness should ever be suppressed. 
[With a glance at Falder, who is gripping and clasping 
his hands before him, and then at Ruth, who is sitting 
perfectly rigid with her eyes fixed on Falder] I'll con- 
sider your application. It must depend. I have to re- 
member that she may have come here to commit perjury 
on the prisoner's behalf. 

Frome. Your lordship, I really 

The Judge. Yes, yes — I don't suggest anything of the 
sort, Mr. Frome. Leave it at that for the moment. 
[As he finishes speaking, the jury return, and file 
bac\ into the box.] 



Clerk of Assize. Gentlemen, are you agreed on your 
verdict? 

Foreman. We are. 

Clerk of Assize. Is it Guilty, or Guilty but insane? 

Foreman. Guilty. 

[The Judge nods; then, gathering up his notes, sits 
looking at Falder, who stands motionless,] 

Frome [rising]. If your lordship would allow me to 
address you in mitigation of sentence. I don't know if 
your lordship thinks I can add anything to what I have 
said to the jury on the score of the prisoner's youth, and 
the great stress under which he acted. 

The Judge. I don't think you can, Mr. Frome. 

Frome. If your lordship says so-^-I do most earnesdy 
beg your lordship to give the utmost weight to my plea. 
[He sits down.] 

The Judge [to the Clerk]. Call upon him. 

The Clerk. Prisoner at the bar, you stand convicted 
of felony. Have you anything to say for yourself, why 
the Court should not give you judgment according to 
law? [Falder shades his head.] 

The Judge. William Falder, you have been given fair 
trial and found guilty, in my opinion righdy found 
guilty, of forgery. [He pauses; then, consulting his notes, 
goes on] The defence was set up that you were not re- 
sponsible for your actions at the moment of committing 
this crime. There is no doubt, I think, that this was a 
device to bring out at first hand the nature of the tempta- 
tion to which you succumbed. For throughout the trial 
your counsel was in reality making an appeal for mercy. 
The setting up of this defence of course enabled him to 
put in some evidence that might weigh in that direction. 
Whether he was well advised to do so is another matter. 
He claimed that you should be treated rather as a pa- 
tient than as a criminal. And this plea of his, which in 
the end amounted to a passionate appeal, he based in 
effect on an indictment of the march of Justice, which 
he practically accused of confirming and completing 
the process of criminality. Now, in considering how far 
I should allow weight to his appeal, I have a number of 
factors to take into account. I have to consider on the 
one hand the grave nature of your ofTence, the deliberate 
way in which you subsequendy altered the counterfoil, 
the danger you caused to an innocent man — and that, 
to my mind, is a very grave point — and finally I have to 
consider the necessity of deterring others from following 
your example. On the other hand, I have to bear in mind 
that you are young, that you have hitherto borne a good 
character, that you were, if I am to believe your evidence 
and that of your witnesses, in a state of some emotional 
excitement when you committed this crime. I have every 
wish, consistendy with my duty — not only to you, but 
to the community — to treat you with leniency. And 
this brings me to what are the determining factors in 
my mind in my consideration of your case. You are a 



180 



DRAMA 



clerk in a lawyer's office— that is a very serious element 
in this case; there can be no possible excuse made for 
you on the ground that you were not fully conversant 
with the nature of the crime you were committing, and 
the penalties that attach to it. It is said, however, that 
you were carried away by your emotions. The story has 
been told here to-day of your relations with this— er— 
Mrs. Honey will; on that story both the defence and the 
plea for mercy were in effect based. Now what is that 
story? It is that you, a young man, and she, a young 
woman, unhappily married, had formed an attachment, 
which you both say— with what truth I am unable to 
gauge— had not yet resulted in immoral relations, but 
which you both admit was about to result in such rela- 
tionship. Your counsel has made an attempt to palliate 
this, on the ground that the woman is in what he de- 
scribes, I think, as "a hopeless position." As to that I 
can express no opinion. She is a married woman, and 
the fact is patent that you committed this crime with the 
view of furthering an immoral design. Now, however 
I might wish, I am not able to justify to my conscience 
a plea for mercy which has a basis inimical to morality. 
It is vitiated ab initio, and would, if successful, free you 
for the completion of this immoral project. Your coun- 
sel has made an attempt to trace your offence back to 
what he seems to suggest is a defect in the marriage 
law ; he has made an attempt also to show that to punish 
you with further imprisonment would be unjust. I do 
not follow him in these flights. The Law is what it is— 
a majestic edifice, sheltering all of us, each stone of 
which rests on another. I am concerned only with its 
administration. The crime you have committed is a 
very serious one. I cannot feel it in accordance with 
my duty to Society to exercise the powers I have in your 
favor. You will go to penal servitude for three years. 
[Falder, who throughout the Judge's speech has 
looked at him steadily, lets his head fall forward 
on his breast. Ruth starts up from her seat as he 
is ta\en out by the warders. There is a bustle in 
court.] 

The Judge [speaking to the reporters]. Gendemen of 
the Press, I think that the name of the female witness 
should not be reported. 

[The reporters bow their acquiescence.] 

The Judge [to Ruth, who is staring in the direction in 
which Falder has disappeared]. Do you understand, 
your name will not be mentioned ? 

Cokeson [pulling her sleeve]. The judge is speaking 
to you. 

[Ruth turns, stares at the Judge, and turns away.] 

The Judge. I shall sit rather late to-day. Call the next 
case. 

Clerk of Assize [to a warder]. Put up John Booley. 

To cries of "Witnesses in the case of Booley": 
The curtain falls. 



ACT III 
Scene I 

A prison. A plainly furnished room, with two large 
barred windows, overlooking the prisoners' exercise 
yard, where men, in yellow clothes mar\ed with 
arrows, and yellow brimless caps, are seen in single 
fie at a distance of four yards from each other, walk- 
ing rapidly on serpentine white lines marked on the 
concrete floor of the yard. Two warders in blue uni- 
forms, with pea\ed caps and swords, are stationed 
amongst them. The room has distempered walls, a 
bookcase with numerous official-looking boo\s, a 
cupboard between the windows, a plan of the prison 
on the wall, a writing-table covered with documents. 
It is Christmas Eve. 

The Governor, a neat, grave-looking man, with a trim, 
fair moustache, the eyes of a theorist, and grizzled 
hair, receding from the temples, is standing close 
to this writing-table looking at a sort of rough saw 
made out of a piece of metal. The hand in which he 
holds it is gloved, for two fingers are missing. The 
chief warder, Wooder, a tall, thin, military-looking 
man of sixty, with grey moustache and melancholy, 
mon\ey-li\e eyes, stands very upright two paces 
from him. 

The Governor [with a faint, abstracted smile]. Queer- 
looking affair, Mr. Wooder! Where did you find it? 

Wooder. In his mattress, sir. Haven't come across 
such a thing for two years now. 

The Governor [with curiosity]. Had he any set plan? 

Wooder. He'd sawed his window-bar about that 
much. [He holds up his thumb and finger a quarter of 
an inch apart.] 

The Governor. I'll see him this afternoon. What's his 
name? Moaney! An old hand, I think? 

Wooder. Yes, sir— fourth spell of penal. You'd think 
an old lag like him would have had more sense by now. 
[With pitying contempt.] Occupied his mind, he said. 
Breaking in and breaking out— that's all they think 
about. 

The Governor. Who's next him? 

Wooder. O'Cleary, sir. 

The Governor. The Irishman. 

Wooder. Next him again there's that young fellow, 
Falder— star class— and next him old Clipton. 

The Governor. Ah, yes! "The philosopher." I want 
to see him about his eyes. 

Wooder. Curious thing, sir: they seem to know when 
there's one of these tries at escape going on. It makes 
them restiivc^there's a regular wave going through them 
just now. 



JUSTICE 



181 



The Governor [meditatively]. Odd things — those 
waves. [Turning to loo\ at the prisoners exercising.] 
Seem quiet enough out here! 

Wooder. That Irishman, O'Cleary, began banging on 
his door this morning. Little thing like that's quite 
enough to upset the whole lot. They're just like dumb 
animals at times. 

The Governor. I've seen it with horses before thun- 
der — it'll run right through cavalry lines. 

[The prison Chaplain has entered. He is a dar\- 
haired, ascetic man, in clerical undress, with a 
peculiarly steady, tight-lipped face and slow, cul- 
tured speech^] 

The Governor [holding up the saw]. Seen this, 
Miller? 

The Chaplain. Useful-looking specimen. 

The Governor. Do for the Museum, eh! [He goes 
to the cupboard and opens it, displaying to view a num- 
ber of quaint ropes, hoo\s, and metal tools with labels 
tied on them.] That'll do, thanks, Mr. Wooder. 

Wooder [saluting]. Thank you, sir. [He goes out.] 

The Governor. Account for the state of the men last 
day or two, Miller? Seems going through the whole 
place. 

The Chaplain. No. I don't know of anything. 

The Governor. By the way, will you dine with us on 
Christmas Day? 

The Chaplain. To-morrow. Thanks very much. 

The Governor. Worries me to feel the men discon- 
tented. [Gazing at the saw.] Have to punish this poor 
devil. Can't help liking a man who tries to escape. [He 
places the saw in his pocket and loc\s the cupboard 
again.] 

The Chaplain. Extraordinary perverted will-power — 
some of them. Nothing to be done till it's broken. 

The Governor. And not much afterwards, I'm afraid. 
Ground too hard for golf? 
[Wooder comes in again.] 

Wooder. Visitor who's been seeing Q3007 asks to 
speak to you, sir. I told him it wasn't usual. 

The Governor. What about? 

Wooder. Shall I put him off, sir ? 

The Governor [resignedly]. No, no. Let's see him. 
Don't go, Miller, 

[Wooder motions to some one without, and as the 
visitor comes in, withdraws. 
The visitor is Cokeson, who is attired in a thic\ 
overcoat to the \nees, woollen gloves, and carries 
a top hat.] 

Cokeson. I'm sorry to trouble you. I've been talking 
to the young man. 

The Governor. We have a good many here. 

Cokeson. Name of Falder, forgery. [Producing a 
card, and handing it to the Governor.] Firm of James 
and Walter How. Well known in the law. 



The Governor [receiving the card — with a faint 
smile]. What do you want to see me about, sir? 

Cokeson [suddenly seeing the prisoners at exercise]. 
Why! what a sight! 

The Governor. Yes, we have that privilege from here; 
my office is being done up. [Sitting down at his table] 
Now, please! 

Cokeson [dragging his eyes with difficulty from the 
window]. I wanted to say a word to you; I shan't keep 
you long. [Confidentially.] Fact is, I oughtn't to be here 
by rights. His sister came to me — he's got no father and 
mother — and she was in some distress. "My husband 
won't let me go and see him," she said; "says he's dis- 
graced the family. And his other sister," she said, "is an 
invalid." And she asked me to come. Well, I take an in- 
terest in him. He was our junior — I go to the same 
chapel— and I didn't like to refuse. And what I wanted 
to tell you was, he seems lonely here. 

The Governor. Not unnaturally. 

Cokeson. I'm afraid it'll prey on my mind. I see a lot 
of them about working together. 

The Governor. Those are local prisoners. The con- 
victs serve their three months here in separate confine- 
ment, sir. 

Cokeson. But we don't want to be unreasonable. He's 
quite downhearted. I wanted to ask you to let him run 
about with the others. 

The Governor [with faint amusement]. Ring the bell 
—would you, Miller ? [To Cokeson.] You'd like to hear 
what the doctor says about him, perhaps. 

The Chaplain [ringing the bell]. You are not accus- 
tomed to prisons, it would seem, sir. 

Cokeson. No. But it's a pitiful sight. He's quite a 
young fellow. I said to him: "Before a month's up," I 
said, "you'll be out and about with the others; it'll be a 
nice change for you." "A month!" he said— like that! 
"Come!" I said, "we mustn't exaggerate. What's a 
month? Why, it's nothing!" "A day," he said, "shut 
up in your cell thinking and brooding as I do, it's longer 
than a year outside. I can't help it," he said; "I try- 
but I'm built that way, Mr. Cokeson." And he held his 
hand up to his face. I could see the tears trickling through 
his fingers. It wasn't nice. 

The Chaplain. He's a young man with large, rather 
peculiar eyes, isn't he? Not Church of England, I 
think? 

Cokeson. No. 

The Chaplain. I know. 

The Governor [to Wooder, who has come in]. Ask 
the doctor to be good enough to come here for a minute. 
[Wooder salutes, and goes out.] Let's see, he's not 
married ? 

Cokeson. No. [Confidentially.] But there's a party 
he's very much attached to, not altogether com-il-fo. It's 
a sad story. 



182 



DRAMA 



The Chaplain. If it wasn't for drink and women, sir, 
this prison might be closed. 

Cokeson [looking at the Chaplain over his spec- 
tacles]. Ye-es, but I wanted to tell you about that, spe- 
cial. He had hopes they'd have let her come and see him, 
but they haven't. Of course he asked me questions. I 
did my best, but I couldn't tell the poor young fellow a 
lie, with him in here — seemed like hitting him. But I'm 
afraid it's made him worse. 

The Governor. What was this news then ? 

Cokeson. Like this. The woman had a nahsty, spite- 
ful fellow for a husband, and she'd left him. Fact is, she 
was going away with our young friend. It's not nice — 
but I've looked over it. Well, when he was put in here 
she said she'd earn her living apart, and wait for him to 
come out. That was a great consolation to him. But after 
a month she came to me — I don't know her personally — 
and she said; "I can't earn the children's living, let alone 
my own — I've got no friends. I'm obliged to keep out of 
everybody's way, else my husband'd get to know where I 
was. I'm very much reduced," she said. And she has lost 
flesh. "I'll have to go in the workhouse!" It's a painful 
story. I said to her: "No," I said, "not that! I've got a 
wife an' family, but sooner than you should do that I'll 
spare you a little myself." "Really," she said — she's a nice 
creature — "I don't like to take it from you. I think I'd 
better go back to my husband." Well, I know he's a 
nahsty, spiteful feller — drinks — but I didn't like to per- 
suade her not to. 

The Chaplain. Surely, no. 

Cokeson. Ye-es, but I'm sorry now; it's upset the poor 
young fellow dreadfully. And what I wanted to say was : 
He's got his three years to serve. I want things to be 
pleasant for him. 

The Chaplain [with a touch of impatience}. The Law 
hardly shares your view, I'm afraid. 

Cokeson. But I can't help thinking that to shut him 
up there by himself '11 turn him silly. And nobody wants 
that, I s'pose. I don't like to see a man cry. 

The Chaplain. It's a very rare thing for them to give 
way like that. 

Cokeson [looking at him — in a tone of sudden dogged 
hostility]. I keep dogs. 

The Chaplain. Indeed? 

Cokeson. Ye-es. And I say this: I wouldn't shut one 
of them up all by himself, month after month, not if he'd 
bit me all over. 

The Chaplain. Unfortunately, the criminal is not a 
dog; he has a sense of right and wrong. 

Cokeson. But that's not the way to make him feel it. 

The Chaplain. Ah! there I'm afraid we must differ. 

Cokeson. It's the same with dogs. If you treat 'em 
with kindness they'll do anything for you; but to shut 
'em up alone, it only makes 'em savage. 

The Chaplain. Surely you should allow those who 



have had a little more experience than yourself to know 
what is best for prisoners. 

Cokeson [doggedly], I know this young fellow, I've 
watched him for years. He's eurotic — got no stamina. 
His father died of consumption. I'm thinking of his 
future. If he's to be kept there shut up by himself, with- 
out a cat to keep him company, it'll do him harm. I said 
to him: "Where do you feel it?" "I can't tell you, Mr. 
Cokeson," he said, "but sometimes I could beat my head 
against the wall." It's not nice. 

[During this speech the Doctor has entered. He is 
a medium-sized, rather good-looking man, with a 
quic\ eye. He stands leaning against the window.] 

The Governor. This gendernan thinks the separate 
is telling on Q 3007— Falder, young thin fellow, star 
class. What do you say, Doctor Clements? 

The Doctor. He doesn't like it, but it's not doing him 
any harm. 

Cokeson. But he's told me. 

The Doctor. Of course he'd say so, but we can al- 
ways tell. He's lost no weight since he's been here. 

Cokeson. It's his state of mind I'm speaking of. 

The Doctor. His mind's all right so far. He's nerv- 
ous, rather melancholy. I don't see signs of anything 
more. I'm watching him carefully. 

Cokeson [nonplussed]. I'm glad to hear you say that. 

The Chaplain [more suavely]. It's just at this period 
that we are able to make some impression on them, sir. 
I am speaking from my special standpoint. 

Cokeson [turning bewildered to the Governor]. I 
don't want to be unpleasant, but having given him this 
news, I do feel it's awkward. 

The Governor. I'll make a point of seeing him to-day. 

Cokeson. I'm much obliged to you. I thought per- 
haps seeing him every day you wouldn't notice it. 

The Governor [rather sharply]. If any sign of injury 
to his health shows itself his case will be reported at 
once. That's fully provided for. [He rises.] 

Cokeson [following his own thoughts]. Of course, 
what you don't see doesn't trouble you; but having seen 
him, I don't want to have him on my mind. 

The Governor. I think you may safely leave it to us, 
sir. 

Cokeson [mollified and apologetic]. I thought you'd 
understand me. I'm a plain man — never set myself up 
against authority. [Expanding to the Chaplain.] Noth- 
ing personal meant. Good-morning. 

[As he goes out the three officids do not loo\ at each 
other, but their faces wear peculiar expressions.] 

The Chaplain. Our friend seems to think that prison 
is a hospital. 

Cokeson [returning suddenly with an apologetic air]. 
There's just one little thing. This woman — I suppose I 
mustn't ask you to let him see her. It'd be a rare treat for 
them both. He's thinking about her all the time. Of 



JUSTICE 



183 



course she's not his wife. But he's quite safe in here. 
They're a pitiful couple. You couldn't make an ex- 
ception? 

The Governor [wearily]. As you say, my dear sir, 
I couldn't make an exception; he won't be allowed an- 
other visit of any sort till he goes to a convict prison. 

Cokeson. I see. [Rather coldly.] Sorry to have troubled 
you. [He again goes out.] 

The Chaplain [shrugging his shoulders]. The plain 
man indeed, poor fellow. Come and have some lunch, 
Clements ? [He and the Doctor go out talking.] 

[The Governor, with a sigh, sits down at his table 
and takes up a pen.] 

The curtain falls. 



Scene II 

Part of the ground corridor of the prison. The walls are 
coloured with greenish distemper up to a stripe of 
deeper green about the height of a man's shoulder, 
and above this line are whitewashed. The floor is of 
blackened stones. Daylight is filtering through a 
heavily barred window at the end. The doors of 
four cells are visible. Each cell door has a little 
round peep-hole at the level of a man's eye, covered 
by a little round disc, which, raised upwards, affords 
a view of the cell. On the wall, close to each cell 
door, hangs a little square board with the prisoner's 
name, number, and record. 

Overhead can be seen the iron structures of the first-floor 
and second-floor corridors. 

The Warder Instructor, a bearded man in blue uni- 
form, with an apron, and some dangling keys, is 
just emerging from one of the cells. 

Instructor [speaking from the door into the cell]. I'll 
have another bit for you when that's finished. 

O'Cleary [unseen — in an Irish voice]. Litde doubt 
o' that, sirr. 

Instructor [gossiping]. Well, you'd rather have it 
than nothing, I s'pose. 
O'Cleary. An' that's the blessed truth. 

[Sounds are heard of a cell door being closed and 
locked, and of approaching footsteps.] 
Instructor [in a sharp, changed voice]. Look alive 
over it! [He shuts the cell door, and stands at attention.] 
[The Governor comes walking down the corridor, 
followed by Wooder.] 
The Governor. Anything to report ? 
Instructor [saluting]. Q 3007 [he points to a cell] is 
behind with his work, sir. He'll lose marks to-day. 

[The Governor nods and passes on to the end cell. 
The Instructor goes away.] 



The Governor. This is our maker of saws, isn't it? 
[He takes the saw from his pocket as Wooder 
throws open the door of the cell. The convict 
Moaney is seen lying on his bed, athwart the cell, 
with his cap on. He springs up and stands in the 
middle of the cell. He is a raw-boned fellow, about 
fifty-six years old, with outstanding bat's ears and 
fierce, staring, steel-coloured eyes.] 

Wooder. Cap off! [Moaney removes his cap.] Out 
here! [Moaney comes to the door.] 

The Governor [beckoning him out into the corridor, 
and holding up the saw — with the manner of an officer 
speaking to a private]. Anything to say about this, my 
man? [Moaney is silent.] Come! 

Moaney. It passed the time. 

The Governor [pointing into the cell]. Not enough 
to do, eh ? 

Moaney. It don't occupy your mind. 

The Governor [tapping the saw]. You might find a 
better way than this. 

Moaney [sullenly]. Well! What way? I must keep 
my hand in against the time I get out. What's the good 
of anything else to me at my time of life? [V/ith a 
gradual change to civility, as his tongue warms.] Ye 
know that, sir. I'll be in again within a year or two, 
after I've done this lot. I don't want to disgrace meself 
when I'm out. You've got your pride keeping the prison 
smart; well, I've got mine. [Seeing that the Governor 
is listening with interest, he goes on, pointing to the saw.] 
I must be doin' a litde o' this. It's no harm to any one. 
I was five weeks makin' that saw — a bit of all right it is, 
too; now I'll get cells, I suppose, or seven days' bread and 
water. You can't help it, sir, I know that — I quite put 
meself in your place. 

The Governor. Now, look here, Moaney, if I pass it 
over will you give me your word not to try it on again ? 
Think! [He goes into the cell, walkj to the end of it, 
mounts the stool, and tries the window-bars^] 

The Governor [returning]. Well? 

Moaney [who has been reflecting]. I've got another 
six weeks to do in here, alone. I can't do it and think o' 
nothing. I must have something to interest me. You've 
made me a sporting offer, sir, but I can't pass my word 
about it. I shouldn't like to deceive a gendeman. [Point- 
ing into the cell.] Another four hours' steady work 
would have done it. 

The Governor. Yes, and what then ? Caught, brought 
back, punishment. Five weeks' hard work to make this, 
and cells at the end of it, while they put a new bar to 
your window. Is it worth it, Moaney ? 

Moaned [with a sort of fierceness]. Yes, it is. 

The Governor [putting his hand to his brow]. Oh, 
well! Two days' cells — bread and water. 

Moaney, Thank 'e, sir. [He turns quic\ly li\e an ani- 
mal and slips into his cell.] 



184 



DRAMA 



[The Governor loo\s after him and shades his head 
as Wooder closes and locl^s the cell door.] 
The Governor. Open Clipton's cell. 

[Wooder opens the door of Clipton's cell, Clipton 
is sitting on a stool just inside the door, at wor\ on 
a pair of trousers. He is a small, thic\, oldish man, 
with an almost shaven head, and smouldering little 
dar\ eyes behind smo\ed spectacles. He gets up 
and stands motionless in the doorway, peering at 
his visitors.] 
The Governor [beckoning]. Come out here a minute, 
Clipton. 

[Clipton, with a sort of dreadful quietness, comes 
into the corridor, the needle and thread in his 
hand. The Governor signs to Wooder, who goes 
into the cell and inspects it carefully^] 
The Governor. How are your eyes? 
Clipton. I don't complain of them. I don't see the 
sun here. [He maizes a stealthy movement, protruding 
his nec\ a little.] There's just one thing, Mr. Governor, 
as you're speaking to me. I wish you'd ask the cove next 
door here to keep a bit quieter. 

The Governor. What's the matter ? I don't want any 
tales, Clipton. 

Clipton. He keeps me awake. I don't know who he 
is. [With contempt.] One of this star class, I expect. 
Oughtn't to be here with us. 

The Governor [quietly]. Quite right, Clipton. He'll 
be moved when there's a cell vacant. 

Clipton. He knocks about like a wild beast in the 
early morning. I'm not used to it— stops me getting my 
sleep out. In the evening too. It's not fair, Mr. Governor, 
as you're speaking to me. Sleep's the comfort I've got 
here; I'm entitled to take it out full. 

[Wooder comes out of the cell, and instantly, as 
though extinguished, Clipton moves with stealthy 
suddenness bac\ into his cell.] 
Wooder. All right, sir. 

[The Governor nods. The door is closed and 
locked.] 
The Governor. Which is the man who banged on his 
door this morning? 

Wooder [going towards O'Cleary's cell]. This one, 
sir; O'Cleary. [He lifts the disc and glances through the 
peep-hole.] 
The Governor. Open. 

[Wooder throws open the door. O'Cleary, who is 
seated at a little table by the door as if listening, 
springs up and stands at attention just inside the 
doorway. He is a broad-faced, middle-aged man, 
with a wide, thin, flexible mouth, and little holes 
under his high cheekbones.] 
The Governor. Where's the joke, O'Cleary? 
O'Cleary. The joke, your honour? I've not seen one 
for a long time. 



The Governor. Banging on your door? 

O'Cleary. Oh! that! 

The Governor. It's womanish. 

O'Cleary. An' it's that I"m becoming this two months 
past. 

The Governor. Anything to complain of? 

O'Cleary. No, sirr. 

The Governor. You're an old hand; you ought to 
know better. 

O'Cleary. Yes, I've been through it all. 

The Governor. You've got a youngster next door; 
you'll upset him. 

O'Cleary. It cam' over me, your honour. I can't al- 
ways be the same steady man. 

The Governor. Work all right? 

O'Cleary [taking up a rush mat he is making]. Oh! 
I can do it on me head. It's the miserablest stuff— don't 
take the brains of a mouse. [Wording his mouth.] It's 
here I feel it— the want of a little noise— a terrible little 
wud ease me. 

The Governor. You know as well as I do that if you 
were out in the shops you wouldn't be allowed to talk. 

O'Cleary [with a loo\ of profound meaning]. Not 
with my mouth. 

The Governor. Well, then? 

O'Cleary. But it's the great conversation I'd have. 

The Governor [with a smile]. Well, no more conver- 
sation on your door. 

O'Cleary. No, sirr, I wud not have the little wit to 
repeat meself. 

The Governor [turning]. Good-night. 

O'Cleary. Good-night, your honour. 

[He turns into his cell. The Governor shuts the 
door.] 

The Governor [looking at the record card]. Can't 
help liking the poor blackguard. 

Wooder. He's an amiable man, sir. 

The Governor [pointing down the corridor]. Ask 
the doctor to come here, Mr. Wooder. 

[Wooder salutes and goes away down the corridor. 
The Governor goes to the door of Falder's cell. 
He raises his uninjured hand to uncover the peep- 
hole; but, without uncovering it, sha\es his head 
and drops his hand; then, after scrutinising the 
record board, he opens the cell door. Falder, who 
is standing against it, lurches forward.] 

The Governor [beckoning him out]. Now tell me: 
can't you settle down, Falder? 

Falder [in a breathless voice]. Yes, sir. 

The Governor. You know what I mean ? It's no good 
running your head against a stone wall, is it? 

Falder. No, sir. 

The Governor. Well, come. 

Falder. I try, sir. 

The Governor. Can't you sleep? 



JUSTICE 



185 



Balder. Very little. Between two o'clock and getting 
up's the worst time. 
The Governor. Flow's that ? 

Falder [his lips twitch with a sort of smile]. I don't 
know, sir. I was always nervous. [Suddenly voluble.] 
Everything seems to get such a size then. I feel I'll never 
get out as long as I live. 

The Governor. That's morbid, my lad. Pull yourself 
together. 

Falder [with an equally sudden dogged resentment]. 
Yes — I've got to— — 
The Governor. Think of all these other fellows? 
Falder. They're used to it. 

The Governor. They all had to go through it once 
for the first time, just as you're doing nowj 

Falder. Yes, sir, I shall get to be like them in time, I 
suppose. 

The Governor [rather ta\en abacJ(]. H'm! Well! 
That rests with you. Now come. Set your mind to it, 
like a good fellow. You're still quite young. A man can 
make himself what he likes. 
Falder [wistfully]. Yes, sir. 

The Governor. Take a good hold of yourself. Do you 
read? 

Falder. I don't take the words in. [Hanging his head.] 
I know it's no good; but I can't help thinking of what's 
going on outside. In my cell I can't see out at all. It's 
thick glass, sir. 
The Governor. You've had a visitor. Bad news? 
Falder. Yes. 

The Governor. You mustn't think about it. 
Falder [looking bac\ at his cell]. How can I help it, 
sir? 

[He suddenly becomes motionless as Wooder and 
the Doctor approach. The Governor motions to 
him to go bac\ into his cell.] 
Falder [quic\ and low]. I'm quite right in my head, 
sir. [He goes bac\ into his cell.] 

The Governor [to the Doctor]. Just go in and see 
him, Clements. 

[The Doctor goes into the cell. The Governor 
pushes the door to, nearly closing it, and walks 
towards the window.] 
Wooder [following]. Sorry you should be troubled 
like this, sir. Very contented lot of men, on the whole. 
The Governor [shortly]. You think so? 
Wooder. Yes, sir. It's Christmas doing it, in my 
opinion. 
The Governor [to himself]. Queer, that! 
Wooder. Beg pardon, sir? 
The Governor. Christmas! 

[He turns towards the window, leaving Wooder 
looking at him with a sort of pained anxiety.] 
Wooder [suddenly]. Do you think we make show 
enough, sir ? If you'd like us to have more holly ? 



The Governor. Not at all, Mr. Wooder. 

Wooder. Very good, sir. 

[The Doctor has come out of Falder's cell, and the 
Governor beckons to him.] 

The Governor. Well ? 

The Doctor. I can't make anything much of him. 
He's nervous, of course. 

The Governor. Is there any sort of case to report? 
Quite frankly, Doctor. 

The Doctor. Well, I don't think the separate's doing 
him any good; but then I could say the same of a lot 
of them — they'd get on better in the shops, there's no 
doubt. 

The Governor. You mean you'd have to recommend 
others? 

The Doctor. A dozen at least. It's on his nerves. 
There's nothing tangible. That fellow there [pointing to 
O'Cleary's cell], for instance — feels it just as much, in 
his way. If I once get away from physical facts — I shan't 
know where I am. Conscientiously, sir, I don't know how 
to differentiate him. He hasn't lost weight. Nothing 
wrong with his eyes. His pulse is good. Talks all right. 

The Governor. It doesn't amount to melancholia ? 

The Doctor [shading his head]. I can report on him 
if you like; but if I do I ought to report on others. 

The Governor. I see. [Looking towards Falder's 
cell.] The poor devil must just stick it then. [As he says 
this he loof{s absently at Wooder.] 

Wooder. Beg pardon, sir ? 

[For answer the Governor stares at him, turns on 
his heel, and wallas away. There is a sound as of 
beating on metal.] 

The Governor [stopping]. Mr. Wooder? 

Wooder. Banging on his door, sir. I thought we 
should have more of that. 

[He hurries forward, passing the Governor, who 
follows closely.] 

The curtain falls. 



Scene III 

Falder's cell, a whitewashed space thirteen feet broad by 
seven deep, and nine feet high, with a rounded ceil- 
ing. The floor is of shiny blackened bricks. The 
barred window of opaque glass, with a ventilator, is 
high tip in the middle of the end wall. In the middle 
of the opposite end wall is the narrow door. In a 
corner are the mattress and bedding rolled up {two 
blankets, two sheets, and a coverlet). Above them 
is a quarter-circular wooden shelf, on which are a 
Bible and several little devotional boo\s, piled in a 
symmetrical pyramid; there are also a blac\ hair- 
brush, tooth-brush, and a bit of soap. In another 



18* 



DRAMA 



corner is the wooden frame of a bed, standing on 
end. There is a dar\ ventilator under the window, 
and another over the door. Falder's wor\ (a shirt 
to which he is putting buttonholes) is hung to a nail 
on the wall over a small wooden table, on which the 
novel "Lorna Doone" lies open. Low down in the 
corner by the door is a thic\ glass screen, about a 
foot square, covering the gas-jet let into the wall. 
There is also a wooden stool, and a pair of shoes be- 
neath it. Three bright round tins are set under the 
window. 

In fast-failing daylight, Falder, in his stockings, is seen 
standing motionless, with his head inclined towards 
the door, listening. He moves a little closer to the 
door, his stockinged feet making no noise. He stops 
at the door. He is trying harder and harder to hear 
something, any little thing that is going on outside. 
He springs suddenly upright — as if at a sound — and 
remains perfectly motionless. Then, with a heavy 
sigh, he moves to his wor\, and stands looking at it, 
with his head down; he does a stitch or two, having 
the air of a man so lost in sadness that each stitch is, 
as it were, a coming to life. Then turning abruptly, 
he begins pacing the cell, moving his head, li\e an 
animal pacing its cage. He stops again at the door, 
listens, and, placing the palms of his hands against it 
with his fingers spread out, leans his forehead against 
the iron. Turning from it, presently, he moves slowly 
bac\ towards the window, tracing his way with his 
finger along the top line of the distemper that runs 
round the wall. He stops under the window, and, 
picking up the lid of one of the tins, peers into it. It 
has grown very nearly dar\. Suddenly the lid falls 
out of his hand with a clatter — the only sound that 
has bro\en the silence — and he stands staring in- 
tently at the wall where the stuff of the shirt is hang- 
ing rather white in the darkness — he seems to be see- 
ing somebody or something there. There is a sharp 
tap and clic\; the cell light behind the glass screen 
has been turned up. The cell is brightly lighted. 
Falder is seen gasping for breath. 

A sound from far away, as of distant, dull beating on 
thic\ metal, is suddenly audible. Falder shrinks 
bac\, not able to bear this sudden clamour. But the 
sound grows, as though some great tumbril were 
rolling towards the cell. And gradually it seems to 
hypnotise him. He begins creeping inch by inch 
nearer to the door. The banging sound, travelling 
from cell to cell, draws closer and closer; Falder's 
hands are seen moving as if his spirit had already 
joined in this beating, and the sound swells till it 
seems to have entered the very cell. He suddenly 
raises his clenched fists. Panting violently, he flings 
himself at his door, and beats on it. 

The amain falls. 



ACT IV 

The scene is again Cokeson's room, at a few minutes to 
ten of a March morning, two years later. The doors 
are all open. Sweedle, now blessed with a sprouting 
moustache, is getting the offices ready. He arranges 
papers on Cokeson's table; then goes to a covered 
washstand, raises the lid, and loo\s at himself in 
the mirror. While he is gazing his fill Ruth Honey- 
will comes in through the outer office and stands 
in the doorway. There seems a \ind of exultation 
and excitement behind her habitual impassivity. 

Sweedle [suddenly seeing her, and dropping the lid 
of the washstand with a bang]. Hello! It's you! 

Ruth. Yes. 

Sweedle. There's only me here! They don't waste 
their time hurrying down in the morning. Why, it 
must be two years since we had the pleasure of seeing 
you. [Nervously] What have you been doing with your- 
self? 

Ruth [sardonically]. Living. 

Sweedle [impressed]. If you want to see him [he 
points to Cokeson's chair], he'll be here directly— never 
misses — not much. [Delicately] I hope our friend's 
back from the country. His time's been up these three 
months, if I remember. [Ruth nods] I was awful sorry 
about that. The governor made a mistake — if you ask 
me. 

Ruth. He did. 

Sweedle. He ought to have given him a chanst. And, 
/ say, the judge ought to ha' let him go after that. 
They've forgot what human nature's like. Whereas we 
know. [Ruth gives him a honeyed smile.] 

Sweedle. They come down on you like a cartload of 
bricks, flatten you out, and when you don't swell up 
again they complain of it. I know 'em — seen a lot of 
that sort of thing in my time. [He shades his head in 
the plenitude of wisdom] Why, only the other day the 

governor 

[But Cokeson has come in through the outer office; 
bris\ with east wind, and decidedly greyer.] 

Cokeson [drawing off his coat and gloves]. Why! 
it's you! [Then motioning Sweedle out, and closing the 
door] Quite a stranger! Must be two years. D'you want 
to see me? I can give you a minute. Sit down! Family 
well? 

Ruth. Yes. I'm not living where I was. 

Cokeson [eyeing her askance]. I hope things are 
more comfortable at home. 

Ruth. I couldn't stay with Honeywill, after all. 

Cokeson. You haven't done anything rash, I hope. I 
should be sorry if you'd done anything rash. 

Ruth. I've kept the children with me. 

Cokeson [beginning to feel that things are not so jolly 
m be had hoped]. Well, I'm glad to have «ecn you. 



JUSTICE 



187 



You've not heard from the young man. I suppose, since 
he came out? 

Ruth. Yes, I ran across him yesterday. 

Cokeson. I hope he's well. 

Ruth [with sudden fierceness). He can't get any- 
thing to do. It's dreadful to see him. He's just skin and 
bone. 

Cokeson [with genuine concern]. Dear me! I'm sorry 
to hear that. [On his guard again] Didn't they find him 
a place when his time was up? 

Ruth. He was only there three weeks. It got out. 

Cokeson. I'm sure I don't know what I can do for 
you. I don't like to be snubby, 

Ruth. I can't bear his being like that. 

Cokeson [scanning her not unprosperous figure]. I 
know his relations aren't very forthy about him. Per- 
haps you can do something for him, till he finds his feet. 

Ruth. Not now. I could have — but not now. 

Cokeson. I don't understand. 

Ruth [proudly]. I've seen him again — that's all over, 

Cokeson [staring at her — disturbed]. I'm a family 
man — I don't want to hear anything unpleasant. Excuse 
me — I'm very busy. 

Ruth. I'd have gone home to my people in the coun- 
try long ago, but they've never got over me marrying 
Honeywill. I never was waywise, Mr. Cokeson, but 
I'm proud. I was only a girl, you see, when I married 
him. I thought the world of him, of course ... he used 
to come travelling to our farm. 

Cokeson [regretfully]. I did hope you'd have got on 
better, after you saw me. 

Ruth. He used me worse than ever. He couldn't break 
my nerve, but I lost my health; and then he began 
knocking the children about. ... I couldn't stand that. 
I wouldn't go back now, if he were dying. 

Cokeson [who has risen and is shifting about as 
though dodging a stream of lava]. We mustn't be vio- 
lent, must we? 

Ruth [smouldering]. A man that can't behave bet- 
ter than that [There is silence.] 

Cokeson [fascinated in spite of himself] . Then there 
you were! And what did you do then ? 

Ruth [with a shrug]. Tried the same as when I left 
him before . . . making skirts' . . . cheap things. It was 
the best I could get, but I never made more than ten 
shillings a week, buying my own cotton and working 
all day; I hardly ever got to bed till past twelve. I kept 
at it for nine months. [Fiercely) Well, I'm not fit for 
that; I wasn't made for it. I'd rather die. 

Cokeson. My dear woman! We mustn't talk like that 

Ruth. It was starvation for the children too — after 
what they'd always had. I soon got not to care. I used 
to be too tired. [She is silent.] 

Cokeson [with fearful curiosity]. Why, what hap- 
pened then? 



Ruth [with a laugh]. My employer happened then- 
he's happened ever since. 

Cokeson. Dear! Oh dear! I never came across a thing 
like this. 

Ruth [dully). He's treated me all right. But I've 
done with that. [Suddenly her lips begin to quiver, and 
she hides them with the bac\ of her hand) I never 
thought I'd see him again, you see. It was just a chance 
I met him by Hyde Park. We went in there and sat 
down, and he told me all about himself. Oh! Mr. Coke- 
son, give him another chance. 

Cokeson [greatly disturbed). Then you've both lost 
your livings! What a horrible position! 

Ruth. If he could only get here — where there's noth- 
ing to find out about him! 

Cokeson. We can't have anything derogative to the 
firm. 

Ruth. I've no one dst to go to. 

Cokeson. I'll speak to the partners, but I don't think 
they'll take him, under the circumstances. I don't really. 

Ruth. He came with me; he's down there in the 
street. [She points to the window.) 

Cokeson [on his dignity). He shouldn't have done 
that until he's sent for. [Then softening at the loo\ on 
her face) We've got a vacancy, as it happens, but I can't 
promise anything. 

Ruth. It would be the saving of him. 

Cokeson. Well, I'll do what I can, but I'm not san- 
guine. Now tell him that I don't want him till I see 
how things are. Leave your address? [Repeating her) 
83 Mullingar Street? [He notes it on blotting-paper] 
Good-morning. 

Ruth. Thank you. 

[She moves towards the door, turns as if to spea\ t 
but does not, and goes away.) 

Cokeson [wiping his head and forehead with a large 
white cotton handkerchief). What a business! [Then 
looking amongst his papers, he sounds his bell. Sweedle 
answers it.] 

Cokeson. Was that young Richards coming here to- 
day after the clerk's place? 

Sweedle. Yes. 

Cokeson. Well, keep him in the air; I don't want to 
see him yet. 

Sweedle. What shall I tell him, sir? 

Cokeson [with asperity). Invent something. Use 
your brains. Don't stump him off altogether. 

Sweedle. Shall I tell him that we've got illness, sir ? 

Cokeson. No! Nothing untrue. Say I'm not here 
to-day. 

Sweedle. Yes, sir. Keep him hankering? 

Cokeson. Exactly. And look here. You remember 
Falder? I may be having him round to see me. Now, 
treat him like you'd have him treat you in a similar 
po&itio Li. 



188 



DRAMA 



Sweedle. I naturally should do. 

Cokeson. That's right. When a man's down never 
hit 'im. Tisn't necessary. Giye him a hand up. -That's 
a metaphor I recommend to you in lite. It's sound 
policy. 

Sweedle. Do you think the governors will take him 
on again, sir? 

Cokeson. Can't say anything about that. [At the 
sound of some one having entered the outer office] 
Who's there? 

Sweedle [going to the door and looking]. It's Falder, 



sir. 



Cokeson [vexed]. Dear me! That's very naughty of 

her. Tell him to call again. I don't want 

[He breads off as Falder comes in. Falder is thin, 
pale, older, his eyes have grown more restless. His 
clothes are very worn and loose.] 
[Sweedle, nodding cheerfully, withdraws.] 

Cokeson. Glad to see you. You're rather previous. 
[Trying to \eep things pleasant] Shake hands! She's 
striking while the iron's hot. [He wipes his forehead] I 
don't blame her. She's anxious. 

[Falder timidly ta\es Cokeson's hand and glances 
towards the partners' door.] 

Cokeson. No — not yet! Sit down! [Falder sits in the 
chair at the side of Cokeson's table, on which he places 
his cap] Now you are here I'd like you to give me a 
little account of yourself. [Looking at him over his 
spectacles] How's your health? 

Falder. I'm alive, Mr. Cokeson. 

Cokeson [preoccupied]. I'm glad to hear that. About 
this matter. I don't like doing anything out of the ordi- 
nary; it's not my habit. I'm a plain man, and I want 
everything smooth and straight. But I promised your 
friend to speak to the partners, and I always keep my 
word. 

Falder. I just want a chance, Mr. Cokeson. I've paid 
for that job a thousand times and more. I have, sir. 
No one knows. They say I weighed more when I came 
out than when I went in. They couldn't weigh me here 
[he touches his head] or here [he touches his heart, and 
gives a sort of laugh]. Till last night I'd have thought 
there was nothing in here at all. 

Cokeson [concerned]. You've not got heart disease? 

Falder. Oh! they passed me sound enough. 

Cokeson. But they got you a place, didn't they? 

Falder. Yes; very good people, knew all about it — 
very kind to me. I thought I was going to get on first 
rate. But one day, all of a sudden, the other clerks got 
wind of it. ... I couldn't stick it, Mr. Cokeson, I couldn't, 
sir. 

Cokeson. Easy, my dear fellow, easy! 

Falder. I had one small job after that, but it didn't last. 

Cokeson. How was that? 

Falser. It's ixo good deceiving you, Mr. Cokeson. The 



fact is, I seem to be struggling against a thing that's all 
round me, I can't explain it: it's as if I was in a net; as 
fast as I cut it here, it grows up there. I didn't act as I 
ought to have, about references; but what are you to 
do? You must have them. And that made me afraid, 
and I left. In fact, I'm — I'm afraid all the time now. 
[He bows his head and leans dejectedly silent over 
the table. 

Cokeson. I feel for you — I do really. Aren't your sis- 
ters going to do anything for you? 

Falder. One's in consumption. And the other 

Cokeson. Ye . . . es. She told me her husband wasn't 
quite pleased with you. 

Falder. When I went there — they were at supper — 
my sister wanted to give me a kiss— I know. But he 
just looked at her, and said: "What have you come for?" 
Well, I pocketed my pride and I said: "Aren't you going 
to give me your hand, Jim? Cis is, I know," I said. 
"Look here!" he said, "that's all very well, but we'd 
better come to an understanding. I've been expecting 
you, and I've made up my mind. I'll give you fifteen 
pounds to go to Canada with." "I see," I said— "good 
riddance! No, thanks; keep your fifteen pounds." 
Friendship's a queer thing when you've been where I 
have. 

Cokeson. I understand. Will you take the fifteen 
pounds from me? [Flustered, as Falder regards him 
with a queer smile] Quite without prejudice; I meant 
it kindly. 

Falder. I'm not allowed to leave the country. 

Cokeson. Oh! ye . . . es— ticket-of -leave? You aren't 
looking the thing. 

Falder. I've slept in the Park three nights this week. 
The dawns aren't all poetry there. But meeting her— I 
feel a different man this morning. I've often thought 
the being fond of her's the best thing about me; it's 
sacred, somehow — and yet it did for me. That's queer, 
isn't it? 

Cokeson. I'm sure we're all very sorry for you. 

Falder. That's what I've found, Mr. Cokeson. Aw- 
fully sorry for me. [With quiet bitterness] But it doesn't 
do to associate with criminals! 

Cokeson. Come, come, it's no use calling yourself 
names. That never did a man any good. Put a face on it. 

Falder. It's easy enough to put a face on it, sir, when 
you're independent. Try it when you're down like me. 
They talk about giving you your deserts. Well, I think 
I've had just a bit over. 

Cokeson [eyeing him as\ance over his spectacles]. I 
hope they haven't made a Socialist of you. 

[Falder is suddenly still, as if brooding over his past 
self; he utters a peculiar laugh.] 

Cokeson. You must give them credit for the best in- 
tentions. Really you must. Nobody wishes you harm, 
I'm sure. 



JUSTICE 



189 



Falder. I believe that, Mr. Cokeson. Nobody wishes 
you harm, but they down you all die same. This feeling 
— [He stares round him, as though at something dosing 
'«] It's crushing me, \With sudden impersonality} I 
know it is. 

Cokeson [horribly disturbed], There's nothing there! 
We must try and take it quiet. I'm sure I've often had 
vou in my prayers. Now leave it to me. I'll use my 
gumption and take 'em when they're jolly. 
[As he spea\s the two partners come in.] 

Cokeson [rather disconcerted, but trying to put them 
all at ease] I didn't expect you quite so soon. I've just 
been having a talk with this young man. I think you'll 
icmember him. 

James [with a grave, \een lool(]. Quite well How 
axe you, Falder? 

Walter [holding out his hand almost timidly]. Very 
glad to see you again, Falder, 

Falder [who has recovered his self-control, ta\es the 
hand]. Thank you, sir. 

Cokeson. Just a word, Mr. James. [To Falder, point- 
ing to the clerk/ office] You might go in there a minute. 
You know your way. Our junior won't be coming this 
morning. His wife's just had a little family. 

[Falder goes uncertainly out into the clerk's office.] 

Cokeson [confidentially]. I'm bound to tell you all 
about it. He's quite penitent. But there's a prejudice 
against him. And you're not seeing him to advantage 
this morning; he's under-nourished. It's very trying 
to go without your dinner. 

James. Is that so, Cokeson? 

Cokeson. I wanted to ask you. He's had his lesson. 
Now we know all about him, and we want a clerk. 
There is a young fellow applying, but I'm keeping him 
in the air, 

James. A gaol-bird in the office, Cokeson? I don't 
see it. 

Walter. "The rolling of the chariot-wheels of Jus- 
tice!" I've never got that out of my head. 

James. I've nothing to reproacb myself with in this 
affair. What's he been doing since he came out? 

Cokeson. He's had one or two places, but he hasn't 
kept them. He's sensitive— quite natural. Seems to 
fancy everybody's down on him. 

James. Bad sign. Don't like the fellow— never did 
from the first, "Weak character" 's written all over him. 

Walter. I think we owe him a leg up. 

James. He brought it all on himself. 

Walter. The doctrine of full responsibility doesn't 
quite hold in these days. 

James [rather gritnly\ You II find it safer to hold it 
for all that, my boy. 

Waiter. For oneself, yes— -not fcr other people, thanks. 

Jambs. Weill I don't want to be hard. 

Cokeson. I'm glad to hear you say that. He seems 



to sec something [spreading his arms] round him. 
'Tisn't healthy. 

James. What about that woman he was mixed up 
with? I saw some one uncommonly like her outside 
as we came in. 

Cokeson. That! Well, I can't keep anything from 
you. He has met her. 

James. Is she with her husband? 

Cokeson. No. 

James. Falder living with her, I suppose? 

Cokeson [desperately trying to retain the new-found 
jollity], I don't know that of my own knowledge. Tisn't 
my business. 

James. It's our business, if we're going to engage him, 
Cokeson. 

Cokeson [reluctantly]. I ought to tell you, perhaps. 
I've had the party here this morning. 

James. 1 thought so. [To Walter] No, my dear 
boy, it won't do. Too shady altogether! 

Cokeson. The two dungs together make it very 
awkward for you — I see that. 

Walter [tentatively]. I don't quite know what we 
have to do with his private life. 

James. No, no! He must make a cleaa sheet of it, or 
he can't come here. 

Walter. Poor devil! 

Cokeson. Will you have him in? [And as James 
nods] I think I can get him to see reason. 

James [grimly]. You can leave that to me, Cokeson. 

Walter [to James, in a low voice, while Cokeson is 
summoning Falder]. His whole future may depend on 
what we do, dad. 

[Falder comes in. He has pulled himself together, 
and presents a steady front.] 

James. Now look here, Falder. My son and I want 
to give you another chance; but there are two things I 
must say to you. In the first place: It's no good corning 
here as a victim. If you've any notion that you've been 
unjusdy treated — get rid of it. You can't play fast and 
loose with morality and hope to go scot-free. If Society 
didn't take care of itself, nobody would — the sooner you 
realise that the better. 

Falder. Yes, sir; but— may I say something? 

James. Well? 

Falder. I had a lot of time to think it over in prison. 
[He stops,] 

Cokeson [encouraging him]. I'm sure you did. 

Falder. There were all sorts there. And what I 
mean, sir, is, that if we'd been treated differently the first 
time, and put under somebody that could look after us 
a bit, and not put in prison, not a quarter of us would 
ever have got there. 

James [shading his head]. I'm afraid I've very grave 
doubts of that, Falder. 

Falder [with a gleam of malice]. Yes, sir, so I found. 



190 



DRAMA 



James. My good fellow, don't forget that you began it. 

Falder. I never wanted to do wrong. 

James. Perhaps not. But you did. 

Falder [with all the bitterness of his past suffering]. 
It's knocked me out of time. [Pulling himself up] That 
is, I mean, I'm not what I was. 

James. This isn't encouraging for us, Falder. 

Cokeson. He's putting it awkwardly, Mr. James, 

Falder [throwing over his caution from the intensity 
of his feeling], I mean it, Mr. Cokeson. 

James. Now, lay aside all those thoughts, Falder, and 
look to the future. 

Falder [almost eagerly]. Yes, sir, but you don't under- 
stand what prison is. It's here it gets you. [He grips his 
chest.] 

Cokeson [in a whisper to James]. I told you he wanted 
nourishment. 

Walter. Yes, but, my dear fellow, that'll pass away. 
Time's merciful. 

Falder [with his face twitching]. I hope so, sir. 

James [much more gently]. Now, my boy, what 
you've got to do is to put all the past behind you and 
build yourself up a steady reputation. And that brings 
me to the second thing. This woman you were mixed 
up with — you must give us your word, you know, to 
have done with that. There's no chance of your keeping 
straight if you're going to begin your future, with such 
a relationship. 

Falder [looking from one to the other with a hunted 
expression]. But sir . . . but sir . . . it's the one thing I 
looked forward to all that time. And she too ... I 
couldn't find her before last night. 

[During this and what follows Cokeson becomes 
more and more uneasy.] 

James. This is painful, Falder. But you must see for 
yourself that it's impossible for a firm like this to close 
its eyes to everything. Give us this proof of your resolve 
to keep straight, and you can come back— not otherwise. 

Falder [after staring at James, suddenly stiffens him- 
self], I couldn't give her up. I couldn't! Oh, sir, I'm all 
she's got to look to. And I'm sure she's all I've got. 

James. I'm very sorry, Falder, but I must be firm. 
It's for the benefit of you both in the long run. No good 
can come of this connection. It was the cause of all 
your disaster. 

Falder. But sir, it means — having gone through all 
that — getting broken up — my nerves are in an awful 
state — for nothing. I did it for her. 

James. Come! If she's anything of a woman she'll see 
it for herself. She won't want to drag you down further. 
If there were a prospect of your being able to marry her 
— it might be another thing. 

Falder. It's not my fault, sir, that she couldn't get rid 
of him — she would have if she could. That's been. the 
whole trouble from the beginning. [Looking suddenly 



at Walter] ... If anybody would help her! It's only 
money wanted now, I'm sure 

Cokeson [breaking in, as Walter hesitates, and is 
about to spea\]. I don't think we need consider that — 
it's rather far-fetched. 

Fairer [to Walter, appealing]. He must have given 
her full cause since; she could prove that he drove her 
to leave him. 

Walter. I'm inclined to do what you say, Falder, if 
it can be managed. 
Falder. Oh, sir I 

[He goes to the window and loo\s down into the 
street.] 
Cokeson [hurriedly]. You don't take me, Mr. Walter. 
I have my reasons. 

Falder [from the window]. She's down there, sir. 
Will you see her P I can beckon to her from here. 

[Walter hesitates, and looJ{s from Cokeson to 
James.] 
James [with a sharp nod]. Yes, let her come. 

[Falder bec\ons from the window.] 
Cokeson [in a low fluster to James and Walter]. No, 
Mr. James. She's not been quite what she ought to ha 8 
been, while this young man's been away. She's lost her 
chance. We can't consult how to swindle the Law. 
[Falder has come from the window. The three 
men loo\ at him in a sort of awed silence.] 
F alder [with instinctive apprehension of some change 
—looking from one to the other]. There's been nothing 

between us, sir, to prevent it What I said at the trial 

was true. And last night we only just sat in the Park. 
[Sweedle comes in from the outer office.] 
Cokeson. What is it? 

Sweedle. Mrs. Honeywill. [There is silence.] 
James. Show her in. 

[Ruth comes slowly in, and stands stoically with 
Falder on one side and the three men on the 
other. No one speaks. Cokeson turns to his table, 
bending over his papers as though the burden of 
the situation were forcing him bac\ into his ac- 
customed groove.,] 
James [sharply]. Shut the door there. [Sweedle shuts 
the door] We've asked you to come up because there 
are certain facts to be faced in this matter. I understand 
you have only just met Falder again. 
Ruth. Yes — only yesterday. 
James. He's told us about himself, and we're very 
sorry for him. I've promised to take him back here if 
he'll make a fresh start. [Looking steadily at Ruth] 
This is a matter that requires courage, ma'am. 

[Ruth, who is looking at Falder^ begins to twist 
her hands in front of her as though prescient of 
disaster.] 

Falder. Mr. Walter How is good enough to say that 
he'll help us to get you a divorce. 



JUSTICE 



191 



[Ruth flashes a startled glance at James and Wal- 
ter.] 

James. I don't think that's practicable, Falder. 

Falder. But, sir — — I 

James [steadily]. Now Mrs. Honeywill. You're fond 
of him. 

Ruth. Yes. sir; I love him. [She loo\s miserably at 
Falder.] 

James. Then you don't want to stand in his way, do 
you? 

Ruth [in a faint voice]. I could take care of him. 

James. The best way you can take care of him will be 
to give him up. 

Falder,. Nothing shall make me give you up. You 
can get a divorce. There's been nothing between us, 
has there? 

Ruth [mournfully shading her head — without look- 
ing at him]. No. 

Falder. We'll keep apart till it's over, sir; if youll only 
help us — we promise. 

James [to Ruth]. You see the thing plainly, don't 
you? You see what I mean? 

Ruth [just above a whisper]. Ye*. 

Cokeson [to himself]. There's a dear woman. 

James. The situation is impossible. 

Ruth. Must I, sir ? 

James [forcing himself to look at her]. I put it to you, 
ma'am. His future is in your hands. 

Ruth [miserably]. I want to do the best for him. 

James [a little huskily]. That's right, that's right! 

Falder. 1 don't understand. You're not going to give 
me up — after all this ? There's something — - [Starting 
forward to James] Sir, I swear solemnly there's been 
nothing between us. 

James. I believe you, Falder. Come, my lad, be as 
plucky as she is. 

Falder. Just now you were going to help us. [He 
stares at Ruth, who is standing absolutely still; his face 
and hands twitch and quiver as the truth dawns on him] 
What is it? You've not been™ 

Walter. Father! 

James [hurriedly]. There, there! That'll do, that'll 
do! I'll give you your chance, Falder. Don't let me 
know what you do with yourselves, that's all. 

Falder [as if he has not heard], Ruth? 

[Ruth loo\s at him; and Falder covers his face with 
his hands. There is silence.] 
Cokeson [suddenly]. There's some, one out there, 
[To Ruth] Go in here. Youll feel better by yourself 
for a minute, 

[He points to the clerks' room and moves towards 
the outer office. Falder does not move. Ruth 
puts out her hand timidly. He shrinks back from 
the touch. She turns and goes miserably into the 
clerks' room. With a brusque movement he fol- 



lows, seizing her by the shoulder just inside the 
doorway. Cokeson shuts the door.] 
James [pointing to the outer office]. Get rid of that, 
whoever it is. 

Sweedle [opening the office door, in a scared voice]. 
Detective-Sergeant Wister. 

[The detective enters, and closes the door behind 
him.] 
Wister. Sorry to disturb you, sir. A clerk you had 
here, two years and a half ago. I arrested him in this 
room. 
James. WTiat about him? 

Wister. I thought perhaps I might get his where- 
abouts from you. [There is an awkward silence.] 

Cokeson [pleasantly, coming to the rescue]. We're 
not responsible for his movements; you know that. 
James. What do you want with him? 
Wister. He's failed to report himself this last four 
weeks. 
Walter. How d'you mean ? 

Wister. Ticket-of-leave won't be up for another six 
months, sir. 

Walter. Has he to keep in touch with the police till 
then? 

Wister. We're bound to know where he sleeps every 
night. I dare say we shouldn't interfere, sir, even though 
he hasn't reported himself. But we've just heard there's 
a serious matter of obtaining employment with a forged 
reference. What with the two things together — we must 
have him. 

[Again there is silence. Walter and Cokeson steal 
glances at James, who stands staring steadily at 
the detective.] 
Cokeson [expansively]. We're very busy at the mo- 
ment. If you could make it convenient to call again we 
might be able to tell you then. 

James [decisively]. I'm a servant of the Law, but I 
dislike peaching. In fact, I can't do such a thing. If you 
want him you must find him without us. 

[As he speaks his eye falls on F alder's cap, still 
lying on the table, and his face contracts.] 
Wister [noting the gesture — quietly]. Very good, sir. 
I ought to warn you that, having broken the terms of 
his licence, he's still a convict, and sheltering a con- 
vict 

James. I shelter no one. But you mustn't come here 
and ask questions which it's not my business to answer. 
Wister [dryly], I won't trouble you further then, 
gentlemen. 

Cokeson. I'm sorry we couldn't give you the informa- 
tion. You quite understand, don't you? Good morning! 
[Wister turns to go, but instead of going to the 
door of the outer office he goes to the door of the 
clerks' room.] 
Cokeson. The other door . . . the other door! 



192 



DRAMA 



[Wister opens the clerks' door. Ruth's voice is 
heard: "Oh, do!" and Falder's: "/ can't!" There 
is a little pause; then, with sharp fright, Ruth 
says: "Who's that?" Wister has gone in.] 
[The three men loo\ aghast at the door.] 
Wister [from within]. Keep back, please! 
[He comes swiftly out with his arm twisted in Fal- 
der's. The latter gives a white, staring loo\ at the 
three men.] 
Walter. Let him go this time, for God's sake! 
Wister. I couldn't take the responsibility, sir. 
Falder [with a queer, desperate laugh]. Good! 
[Flinging a loo^ bac\ at Ruth, he throws up his 
head, and goes out through the outer office, half 
dragging Wister after him.] 
Walter [with despair]. That finishes him. It'll go on 
for ever now. 

[Sweedle can be seen staring through the outer 
door. There are sounds of footsteps descending 
the stone stairs; suddenly a dull thud, a faint "My 
God!" in Wister's voice. 
James. What's that? 

[Sweedle dashes forward. The door swings to be- 
hind him. There is dead silence.] 
Walter [starting forward to the inner room]. The 
woman — she's fainting! 

[He and Cokeson support the fainting Ruth from 
the doorway of the clerks' room.] 
Cokeson [distracted]. Here, my dear! There, there! 
Walter. Have you any brandy? 
Cokeson. I've got sherry. 
Walter. Get it, then. Quick! 
[He places Ruth in a chair— which James has 
dragged forward.] 
Cokeson [with sherry]. Here! It's good strong 
sherry. [They try to force the sherry between her lips. 
There is the sound of feet, and they stop to listen. 
The outer door is reopened — Wister and Sweedle 
are seen carrying some burden.] 



James [hurrying forward]. What is it? 

[They lay the burden down in the outer office, out 
of sight, and all but Ruth cluster round it, speak- 
ing in hushed voices.] 
Wister. He jumped — neck's broken. 
Walter. Good God! 

Wister, He must have been mad to think he could 
give me the slip like that. And what was it — just a 
few months! 
Walter [bitterly]. Was that all? 
James. What a desperate thing/ [Then, in a voice 
unli\e his own] Run for a doctor— you! [Sweedle 
rushes from the cuter office] An ambulance! 

[Wister goes out. On Ruth's face an r expression 
of fear and horror has been seen growing, as if 
she dared not turn towards the voices? She now 
rises and steals towards them.] 
Walter [turning suddenly]. Look! 

[The three men shrin\ bac\ out of her way, one 
by one, into Cokeson's room. Ruth drops on 
her \nees by the body.] 
Ruth [in a whisper]. What is it? He's not breathing. 
[She crouches over him] My dear! My pretty! 

[In the outer office doorway the figures of men are 
seen standing.] 
Ruth [leaping to her feet]. No, no! No, no! He's 
dead! [The figures of the men shrin\ bac\.] 

Cokeson [stealing forward. In a hoarse voice]. 
There, there, poor dear woman! 

[At the sound behind her Ruth faces round at 
him.] 
Cokeson. No one'll touch him now! Never again! 
He's safe with gentle Jesus! 

[Ruth stands as though turned to stone in the 
doorway staring at Cokeson, who, bending hum- 
bly before her, holds out his hand as one would 
to a lost dog.] 

The curtain falls. 



POETRY 



Thomas Hardy 



Thomas Hardy (i 840-1 928) was born in Dorsetshire. He studied archi- 
tecture during his early years, but turned in the i86o's to literature. The 
grimness of his novels provoked so much controversy that he published only 
poetry after 1896. His verse includes Collected Poetns, Winter Words in Vari- 
ous Moods and Metres, and The Dynasts. The last is a gigantic epic of the 
Napoleonic Wars. Among his novels are Far From the Madding Crowd, The 
Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D'Urbertrilles, 
and Jude the Obscure. He represents one strain in the general emotional temper 
at the end of the nineteenth century, and one of the strong notes with which 
modern poetry enters the twentieth. "The road to a true philosophy of life," 
he said, "seems to lie in humbly recording diverse readings of its phenomena as 
they are forced upon us by chance and change." 



NEW YEAR'S EVE 

"I have finished another year," said God, 

"In gray, green, white and brown; 
I have strewn the leaf upon the sod, 
Sealed up the worm within the clod, 
And let the last sun down." 

"And what's the good of it?" I said, 

"What reasons made you call 
From formless void this earth we tread, 
When nine-and-ninety can be read 

Why nought should be at all? 

"Yea, Sire; why shaped you us, 'who in 

This tabernacle groan' — 
If ever a joy be found herein. 
Such joy no man had wished to win 

If he had never known I" 

Then he: "My labors— logicless — 

You may explain; not I: 
Sense-sealed I have wrought, without a guess 
That I evolved a Consciousness 

To ask for reasons why. 

"Strange that ephemeral creatures who 

By my own ordering are, 
Should see the shortness of my view, 
Use ethic tests I never knew, 

Or made provision for!" 

He sank to raptness as of yore, 

And opening New Year's Day 
Wove it by rote as theretofore, 
And went on working evermore 

In his unweeting way, 



From Collected Poems of Thomas Hardy. By permission of the 
publishers, The Macmillan Company, New York. 



THE MAN HE KILLED 

"Had he and I but met 
By some old ancient inn, 
We should have set us down to wet 
Right many a nipper kin! 

"But ranged as infantry, 
And staring face to face, 
I shot at him as he at me, 
And killed him in his place. 

"I shot him dead because— 
Because he was my foe, 
Just so; my foe of course he was; 
That's clear enough; although 

"He thought he'd 'list, perhaps, 
Off-hand like: — just as I — 
Was out of work — had sold his traps- 
No other reason why. 

"Yes; quaint and curious war is! 
You shoot a fellow down 
You'd treat if met where any bar is, 
Or help to half-a-crown." 



AT THE DRAPER'S 

"I stood at the back of the shop, my dear, 

But you did not perceive me. 
Well, when they deliver what you were shown 

/ shall know nothing of it, believe me!" 

And he coughed and coughed as she paled and said, 
"Oh, I didn't see you come in there — 

Why couldn't you speak?"— "Well, I didn't. I left 
That you should not notice I'd been there. 



*95 



196 



POETRY 



"You were viewing some lovely tilings. 'Soon required 

For a widow, of latest fashion'; 
And I knew 'twould upset you to meet the man 

Who had to be cold and ashen 

"And screwed in a box before they could dress you 

'In the last new note in mourning,' 
As they defined it. So, not to distress you, 

I left you to your adorning." 

AT TEA 

The ketde descants in a cosy drone, 

And the young wife looks in her husband's face, 

And then at her guest's, and shows in her own 

Her sense that she fills an envied place; 

And the visiting lady is all abloom, 

And says there was never so sweet a room. 

And the happy young housewife does not know 
That the woman beside her was first his choice, 
Till the fates ordained it could not be so. . . . 
Betraying nothing in look or voice 
The guest sits smiling and sips her tea, 
And he throws her a stray glance yearningly. 

THE OXEN 

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock. 

"Now they are all on their knees," 
An elder said as we sat in a flock 

By the embers in hearthside ease. 

We pictured the meek mild creatures where 
They dwelt in their strawy pen, 

Nor did it occur to one of us there 
To doubt they were kneeling then. 

So fair a fancy few would weave 

In these years! Yet, I feel, 
If someone said on Christmas Eve, 

"Come; see the oxen kneel 

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb 

Our childhood used to know," 
I should go with him in the gloom, 

Hoping it might be so. 



o 



Only thin smoke without flame 
From the heaps of couch-grass; 

Yet this will go onward the same 
Though Dynasties pass. 



in 



Yonder a maid and her wight 

Come whispering by : 
War's annals will cloud into night 

Ere their story die. 



THE DARKLING THRUSH 

I leant upon a coppice gate 

When Frost was spectre-gray, 
And Winter's dregs made desolate 

The weakening eye of day. 
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky 

Like strings from broken lyres, 
And all mankind that haunted nigh 

Flad sought their household fires. 

The land's sharp features seemed to be 

The Century's corpse oudeant; 
His crypt the cloudy canopy, 

The wind his death-lament. 
The ancient pulse of germ and birth 

Was shrunken hard and dry, 
And every spirit upon earth 

Seemed fervourless as I. 

At once a voice burst forth among 

The bleak twigs overhead 
In a full-hearted evensong 

Of joy unlimited; 
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small, 

In blast-berufHed plume, 
Had chosen thus to fling his soul 

Upon the growing gloom. 



IN TIME OF "THE BREAKING OF 
NATIONS" 



Only a man harrowing clods 

In a slow silent walk 
With an old horse that stumbles and nods 

Half asleep as they stalk. 



So little cause for carolings 

Of such ecstatic sound 
Was written on terrestrial things 

Afar or nigh around, 
That I could think there trembled through 

His happy good-night air 
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew 

And I was unaware. 



A. E. Housman 



A. E. Housman (1859-1936) was educated at Oxford, and professor of 
Latin at Cambridge from 191 1 until his death. He published two small books, 
A Shropshire Lad and Last Poems, twenty-six years apart. "I publish these 
poems, few though they are," he said in the preface to Last Poems (1922), 
"because it is not likely that I shall ever be impelled to write much more. I 
can no longer expect to be revisited by the continuous excitement under which 
in the early months of 1895 I wrote the greater part of my other book, nor in- 
deed could I well sustain it if it came." His critical study, The Name and 
Nature of Poetry, was published in 1933. His poem "Epilogue" is his apologia 
for the kind of poetry he wrote. 



IS MY TEAM PLOWING 

"Is my team plowing, 
That I was used to drive 

And hear the harness jingle 
When I was man alive?" 

Aye, the horses trample, 
The harness jingles now; 

No change though you lie under 
The land you used to plow. 

"Is football playing 

Along the river shore, 
With lads to chase the leather, 

Now I stand up no more?" 

Aye, the ball is flying, 

The lads play heart and soul; 
The goal stands up, the keeper 

Stands up to keep the goal. 

"Is my girl happy, 

That I thought hard to leave, 
And has sheared of weeping 

As she lies down at eve?" 

Aye, she lies down lightly, 
She lies not down to weep: 

Your girl is well contented. 
Be still, my lad, and sleep. 

"Is my friend hearty, 
Now I am thin and pine; 

And has he found to sleep in 
A better bed than mine?" 

Aye, lad, I lie easy, 

I lie as lads would choose; 
I cheer a dead man's sweetheart 

Never ask me whose. 



ON THE IDLE HILL OF SUMMER 

On the idle hill of summer, 
Sleepy with the flow of streams, 

Far I hear the steady drummer 
Drumming like a noise in dreams. 

Far and near and low and louder 
On the roads of earth go by, 

Dear to friends and food for powder, 
Soldiers marching, all to die. 

East and west on fields forgotten 
Bleach the bones of comrades slain, 

Lovely lads and dead and rotten; 
None that go return again. 

Far the calling bugles hollo, 
High the screaming fife replies, 

Gay the files of scarlet follow: 
Woman bore me, I will rise. 

COULD MAN BE DRUNK FOR EVER 

Could man be drunk for ever 
With liquor, love, or fights, 

Lief should I rouse at morning 
And lief lie down of nights. 

But men at whiles are sober 
And think by fits and starts, 

And if they think, they fasten 
Their hands upon their hearts. 

WITH RUE MY HEART IS LADEN 

With rue my heart is laden 
For golden friends I had, 

For many a rcse-lipt maiden 
And many a lightfoot lad. 



*97 



198 



POETRY 



By brooks too broad for leaping 
The lightfoot boys are laid; 

The rose-lipt girls are sleeping 
In fields where roses fade. 



WHEN I WAS ONE-AND-TWENTY 

When I was one-and-twenty 

I heard a wise man say, 
"Give crowns and pounds and guineas 

But not your heart away; 
Give pearls away and rubies 

But keep your fancy free." 
But I was one-and-twenty, 

No use to talk to me. 

When I was one-and-twenty 

I heard him say again, 
"The heart out of the bosom 

Was never given in vain; 
'Tis paid with sighs a-plenty 

And sold for endless rue." 
And I am two-and-twenty, 

And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true. 



ON MOONLIT HEATH AND LONESOME 

BANK 

On moonlit heath and lonesome bank 

The sheep beside me graze; 
And yon the gallows used to clank 

Fast by the four cross ways. 

A careless shepherd once would keep 

The flocks by moonlight there, 
And high amongst the glimmering sheep 

The dead man stood on air. 

They hang us now in Shrewsbury jail: 

The whisdes blow forlorn, 
And trains all night groan on the rail 

To men that die at morn. 

There sleeps in Shrewsbury jail to-night, 

Or wakes, as may betide, 
A better lad, if things went right, 

Than most that sleep outside. 

And naked to the hangman's noose 

The morning clocks will ring 
A neck God made for other use 

Than strangling in a string. 



BREDON HILL 

In summertime on Bredon 
The bells they sound so clear; 

Round both the shires they ring them 
In steeples far and near, 
A happy noise to hear. 

Here of a Sunday morning 

My love and I would lie, 
And see the colored counties, 

And hear the larks so high 

About us in the sky. 

The bells would ring to call her 
In valleys miles away: 

"Come all to church, good people; 
Good people, come and pray." 
But here my love would stay. 

And I would turn and answer 
Among the springing thyme, 

"Oh, peal upon our wedding, 
And we will hear the chime, 
And come to church in time." 

But when the snows at Christmas 
On Bredon top were strown, 

My love rose up so early 
And stole out unbeknown 
And went to church alone. 

They tolled the one bell only, 
Groom there was none to see, 

The mourners followed after, 
And so to church went she, 
And would not wait for me. 

The bells they sound on Bredon, 
And still the steeples hum. 

"Come all to church, good people, — " 
Oh, noisy bells, be dumb; 
I hear you, I will come. 

LOVELIEST OF TREES 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now 
Is hung with bloom along the bough, 
And stands about the woodland ride 
Wearing white for Eastertide. 

Now of my threescore years and ten, 
Twenty will not come again, 
And take from seventy springs a score, 
It only leaves me fifty more. 

And since to look at things in bloom 
Fifty springs are little room, 
About the woodlands I will go 
To see the cherry hung with snow. 



A. E. HOUSMAN 



199 



REVEILLE 

Wake: the silver dusk returning 
Up the beach of darkness brims, 

And the ship of sunrise burning 
Strands upon the eastern rims. 

Wake: the vaulted shadow shatters, 
Trampled to the floor it spanned, 

And the tent of night in tatters 
Straws the sky-pavilioned land. 

Up, lad, up, 'tis late for lying: 
Hear the drums of morning play; 

Hark, the empty highways crying 
"Who'll beyond the hills away?" 

Towns and countries woo together, 
Forelands beckon, belfries call; 

Never lad that trod on leather 
Lived to feast his heart with all 

Up, lad : thews that lie and cumber 
Sunlit pallets never thrive; 

Morns abed and daylight slumber 
Were not meant for man alive. 

Clay lies still, but blood's a rover; 

Breath's a ware that will not keep. 
Up, lad: when the journey's over 

There'll be time enough to sleep. 

EPILOGUE 

"Terence, this is stupid stuff; 

You eat your victuals fast enough; 

There can't be much amiss, 'tis clear, 

To see the rate you drink your beer. 

But oh, good Lord, the verse you make, 

It gives a chap the belly-ache. 

The cow, the old cow, she is dead; 

It sleeps well, the horned head: 

We poor lads, 'tis our turn now 

To hear such tunes as killed the cow. 

Pretty friendship 'tis to rhyme 

Your friends to death before their time 

Moping melancholy mad: 

Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad." 

Why, if 'tis dancing you would be, 
There's brisker pipes than poetry. 
Say, for what were hop-yards meant, 
Or why was Burton built on Trent? 
Oh, many a peer of England brews 
Livelier liquor than the Muse, 
And malt does more than Milton can 
To justify God's ways to n?an. 



Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink 

For fellows whom it hurts to think : 

Look into the pewter pot 

To see the world as the world's not. 

And faith, 'tis pleasant till 'tis past: 

The mischief is that 'twill not last. 

Oh, I have been to Ludlow fair 

And left my necktie God knows where, 

And carried half way home, or near, 

Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer: 

Then the world seemed none so bad, 

And I myself a sterling lad; 

And down in lovely muck I've lain, 

Happy till I woke again. 

Then I saw the morning sky : 

Hcigho, the tale was ail a lie; 

The world, it was the old world yet, 

I was I, my things were wet, 

And nothing new remained to do 

But begin die game anew. 

Therefore, since the world has still 
Much good, but much less good than ill, 
And while the sun and moon endure 
Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure, 
I'd face it as a wise man would, 
And train for ill and not for good. 
Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale 
Is not so brisk a brew as ale: 
Out of a stem that scored the hand 
I wrung it in a weary land. 
But take it: if the smack is sour, 
The better for the embittered hour; 
It should do good to heart and head 
When vour soul is in mv soul's stead ; 
And I will friend you, if I may, 
In the dark and cloudy day. 

There was a king reigned in the East: 

There, when kings will sit to feast, 

They get their fill before they think 

With poisoned meat and poisoned drink. 

He gathered all that springs to birth 

From the many-venomed earth; 

First a little, thence to more, 

He sampled all her killing store; 

And easy, smiling, seasoned sound, 

Sate the king when healths went round. 

They put arsenic in his meat 

And stared aghast to watch him eat; 

They poured strychnine in his cup 

And shook to see him drink it up: 

They shook, they stared as white's their shirt: 

Them it was their poison hurt. 

—I tell the tale that I heard told. 

Mithridates, he died old. 



Ed 




nson 



Edwin Arlington Robinson (i 869-1 935) was born in Maine, studied at 
Harvard 1 891-1893, and published his first important book of poems, The 
Children of the Night, in 1897. Impressed by his poetry President Theodore 
Roosevelt made him a clerk in the New York Custom House, which served to 
relieve Robinson from the poverty against which he had been struggling. After 
five years he resigned the clerkship to devote himself to writing. He spent most 
of his summers at the MacDowell Colony, and his winters in either Boston or 
New York. Despite his humble circumstances, he steadfastly refused to waste 
his energies in profitable lecturing. His books won the Pulitzer Prize three 
times. The last edition of his Collected Poems was issued in 1937. He has been 
described as a fatalist and an agnostic, and was a great admirer of Hardy. 



MINIVER CHEEVY 

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn, 
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons; 

He wept that he was ever born, 
And he had reasons. 

Miniver loved the days of old 

When swords were bright and steeds were prancing; 
The vision of a warrior bold 

Would set him dancing. 

Miniver sighed for what was not, 
And dreamed, and rested from his labors; 

He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot, 
And Priam's neighbors. 

Miniver mourned the ripe renown 
That made so many a name so fragrant; 

He mourned Romance, now on the town, 
And Art, a vagrant. 

Miniver loved the Medici, 

Albeit he had never seen one; 
He would have sinned incessantly 

Could he have been one. 

Miniver cursed the commonplace 

And eyed a khaki suit with loathing; 
He missed the medieval grace 

Of iron clothing. 

Miniver scorned the gold he sought, 

But sore annoyed was he without it; 
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought, 

And thought about it. 

Miniver Cheevy, born too late, 
Scratched his head and kept on thinking; 

Miniver coughed, and called it fate, 
And kept on drinking. 

"Mr. Flood's Party" from Collected Poems by permission of tlie 
publishers, The Macmillan Company, New York. The other poems by 
Robinson from The Town Down the River and The Children of the 
Night by permission of the publishers, Charles Scribner's Sons. New 
York. 



RICHARD CORY 

Whenever Richard Cory went down town, 
We people on the pavement looked at him: 

He was a gentleman from sole to crown, 
Clean favored, and imperially slim. 

And he was always quietly arrayed, 
And he was always human when he talked; 

But still he fluttered pulses when he said, 
"Good morning," and he glittered when he walked. 

And he was. rich— yes, richer than a king— 
And admirably schooled in every grace: 

In fine, we thought that he was everything 
To make us wish that we were in his place. 

So on we worked, and v/aited for the light, 
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread; 

And Richard Cory, one calm summer xiight, 
Went home and put a bullet through his head. 



AN OLD STORY 

Strange that I did not know him then, 

That friend of mine! 
I did not even show him then 

One friendly sign; 

But cursed him for the ways he had 

To make me see 
My envy of the praise he h^d 

For praising me. 

I would have rid the earth 6i him 

Once, in my pride. . . . 
I never knew the worth of ^hjfji 

Until he died. 



200 



EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON 



201 



MR. FLOOD'S PARTY 

Old Eben Flood, climbing alone one night 
Over the hill between the town below 
And the forsaken upland hermitage 
That held as much as he should ever know 
On earth again of home, paused warily. 
The road was his with not a native near; 
And Eben, having leisure, said aloud, 
For no man else in Tilbury Town to hear: 

"Well, Mr. Flood, we have the harvest moon 
Again, and we may not have many more; 
The bird is on the wing, the poet says, 
And you and I have said it here before. 
Drink to the bird." He raised up to the light 
The jug that }ie had gone so far to fill, 
And answered huskily: "Well, Mr. Flood, 
Since you propose it, I believe I will." 

Alone, as if enduring to the end 

A valiant armor of scarred hopes outworn, 

He stood there in the middle of the road 

Like Roland's ghost winding a silent horn. 

Below him, in die town among the trees, 

Where friends of other days had honored him, 

A phantom salutation of the dead 

Rang thinly till old Eben's eyes were dim. 

Then, as a mother lays her sleeping child 

Down tenderly, fearing it may awake, 

He set the jug down slowly at his feet 

With trembling care, knowing that most things break; 

And only when assured that on firm earth 

It stood, as the uncertain lives of men 

Assuredly did not, he paced away, 

And with his hand extended paused again: 

"Well, Mr. Flood, we have not met like diis 
In a long time; and many a change has come 
To both of us, I fear, since last it was 
We had a drop together. Welcome home!" 
Convivially returning with himself, 
Again he raised the jug up to the light; 
And with an acquiescent quaver said: 
"Well, Mr. Flood, if you insist, I might. 

"Only a very little, Mr. Flood— 

For auld lang syne. No more, sir; that will do." 

So, for the time, apparendy it did, 

And Eben evidently thought so too; 

For soon amid the silver loneliness 

Of night he lifted up his voice and sang, 

Secure, with only two moons listening, 

Until die whole harmonious landscape rang— 



"For auld lang syne." The weary throat gave out, 
The last word wavered; and the song being done, 
He raised again the jug regretfully 
And shook his head, and was again alone. 
There was not much that was ahead of him, 
And there was nothing in the town below — 
Where strangers would have shut the many doors 
That many friends had opened long ago. 

LUKE HAVERGAL 

Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal, 
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall, 
And in the twilight wait for what will come. 
The leaves will whisper diere of her, and some, 
Like flying words, will strike you as they fall; 
But go, and if you listen, she will call. 
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal — 
Luke Havergal. 

No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies 
To rift the fiery night that's in your eyes; 
But there, where western glooms are gathering, 
The dark will end the dark, if anything: 
God slays himself with every leaf that flies, 
And hell is more than half of paradise. 
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies — 
In eastern skies. 

Out of a grave I come to tell you this, 
Out of a grave I come to quench the kiss 
That flames upon your forehead with a glow 
That blinds you to the way that you must go. 
Yes, there is yet one way to where she is, 
Bitter, but one that faith may never miss. 
Out of a grave I come to tell you this — 
To tell you this. 

There is the western gate, Luke Havergal, 
There are the crimson leaves upon the wall. 
Go, for the winds are tearing them away, — 
Nor think to riddle the dead words they say, 
Nor any more to feel them as they fall; 
But go, and if you trust her she will call. 
There is die western gate, Luke Havergal — 
Luke Havergal. 

THE HOUSE ON THE HILL 

They are all gone away, 

The House is shut and still, 
There is nothing more to say. 

Through broken walls and gray. 

The winds blow bleak and shrill: 
They are all gone away. 



202 



POETRY 



Nor is there one to-day 

To speak them good or ill: 
There is nothing more to say. 

Why is it then we stray 

Around the sunken sill? 
They are all gone away, 

And our poor fancy-play 

For them is wasted skill: 
There is nothing more to say. 

There is ruin and decay 

In the House on the Hill : 
They are all gone away, 
There is nothing more to say. 



THE MASTER 

{Supposed to have been written not long after the Civil War) 

A flying word from here and diere 
Had sown the name at which we sneered, 
But soon the name was everywhere, 
To be reviled and then revered: 
A presence to be loved and feared, 
We cannot hide it, or deny 
That we, the gendemen who jeered, 
May be forgotten by and by. 

He came when days were perilous 
And hearts of men were sore beguiled; 
And having made his note of us, 
He pondered and was reconciled. 
Was ever master yet so mild 
As he, and so untamable? 
We doubted, even when he smiled, 
Not knowing what he knew so well. 

He knew that undeceiving fate 

Would shame us whom he served unsought; 

He knew that he must wince and wait — 

The jest of those for whom he fought; 

He knew devoudy what he diought 

Of us and of our ridicule; 

He knew that we must all be taught 

Like litde children in a school. 

We gave a glamour to the task 

That he encountered and saw through, 

But litde of us did he ask, 

And little did we ever do. 

And what appears if we review 

The season when we railed and chaffed? 

It is the face of one who knew 

That we were learning while we laughed. 



The face that in our vision feels 
Again the venom that we flung, 
Transfigured to the world reveals 
The vigilance to which we clung. 
Shrewd, hallowed, harassed, and among 
The mysteries that are untold, 
The face we see was never young, 
Nor could it ever have been old. 

For he, to whom we bad applied 
Our shopman's test of age and worth, 
Was elemental when he died, 
As he was ancient at his birth: 
The saddest among kings of earth, 
Bowed with a galling crown, this man 
Met rancor with a cryptic mirth, 
Laconic — and Olympian. 

The love, the grandeur, and the fame 
Are bounded by the world alone; 
The calm, the smoldering, and the flame 
Of awful patience were his own: 
With him they are forever flown 
Past all our fond self-shadowings, 
Wherewith wc cumber the Unknown 
As with inept Icarian wings. 

For we were not as other men: 
'Twas ours to soar and his to see. 
But we are coming down again, 
And we shall come down pleasandy; 
Nor shall we longer disagree 
On what it is to be sublime, 
But flourish in our perigee 
And have one Titan at a time. 






L'ENVOI 

Now in a thought, now in a shadowed word, 
Now in a voice that thrills eternity, 
Ever diere comes an onward phrase to me 
Of some transcendent music I have heard; 
No piteous thing by soft hands dulcimered, 
No trumpet crash of blood-sick victory, 
But a glad strain of some vast harmony 
That no brief mortal touch has ever stirred. 

There is no music in the world like this, 
No character wherewith to set it down, 
No kind of instrument to make it sing. 
No kind of instrument? Ah, yes, there is; 
And after time and place are overthrown, 
God's touch will keep its one chord quivering. 



Edgar Lee Masters 

Edgar Lee Masters (1869- ) was born in Kansas, spent most of his life in Illinois, 
and now lives in New York. Spoon River Anthology (1915), a series of self -composed 
epitaphs by the dead villagers of Spoon River, is done chiefly in free verse and after the 
manner of the Gree\ Anthology. As Masters has freely confessed, these epitaphs reflect his 
fluctuating love and hate for the people of his mid-western environment. His prose work 
includes the biography Vachel Lindsay, and his autobiography Across Spoon River. 



ANNE RUTLEDGE 

Out of me unworthy and unknown 

The vibrations of deathless music; 

"With malice toward none, with charity for all." 

Out of me the forgiveness of millions toward millions, 

And the beneficent face of a nation 

Shining with justice and truth. 

I am Anne Rudedge who sleep beneath these weeds, 

Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln, 

Wedded to him, not through union, 

But through separation. 

Bloom forever, O Republic, 

From the dust of my bosom! 

LUCINDA MATLOCK 

I went to the dances at Chandlerville, 
And played snap-out at Winchester. 
One time we changed partners, 

By permission of the author. 



Driving home in the moonlight of middle June, 

And then I found Davis. 

We were married and lived together for seventy years, 

Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children, 

Eight of whom we lost 

Ere I had reached the age of sixty. 

I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick, 

I made the garden, and for holiday 

Rambled over the. fields where sang the larks, 

And by Spoon River gathering many a shell, 

And many a flower and medicinal weed — 

Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green 

valleys. 
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is ail, 
And passed to a sweet repose. 
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness, 
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes? 
Degenerate sons and daughters, 
Life is too strong for you — 
It takes life to love Life. 




Walter de la Mare (1873- ) was bora in Kent. "The Listeners," which 
is included below, is perhaps his best known poem, and is a good illustration 
of the kind of poetry he writes. Among his books are Collected Poems, Memoirs 
of a Midget, and Desert Islands and Robinson Crusoe. 



THE LISTENERS 

'Is there anybody there?' said the Traveller, 

Knocking on the moonlit door; 
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses 

Of the forest's ferny floor: 
And a bird flew up out of a turret, 

Above the Traveller's head : 
And he smote upon the door again a second time; 

'Is there anybody there?' he said. 
But no one descended to the Traveller; 

No head from the leaf-fringed sill 
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes, 

Where he stood perplexed and still. 
But only a host of phantom listeners 

That dwelt in die ione house then 
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight 

To that voice from the world of men: 



From The Listeners and Other Poems by Walter de la Marc. By 
permission of the publishers, Henry Holt and Company, New York. 



Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair, 

That goes down to the empty hall, 
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken 

By the lonely Traveller's call. 
And he felt in his heart their strangeness, 

Their stillness answering his cry, 
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf, 

'Neath the starred and leafy sky; 
For he suddenly smote on the door, even 

Louder, and lifted his head:— 
'Tell them I came, and no one answered, 

That I kept my word,' he said. 
Never the least stir made the listeners, 

Though every word he spake 
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house 

From the one man left awake : 
Aye, they heard his foot upon the stirrup, 

And the sound of iron on stone, 
And how the silence surged softly backward, 

When the plunging hoofs were gone. 



103 




obert Frost 



Robert Frost (1875- ) was born in California, but moved at an early 
age to New England. After a few months at Dartmouth in 1892 he went to 
work as a bobbin-boy in the mills of Lawrence. In 1897 he married. Then 
followed two years of study of the classics at Harvard, teaching, cobbling, edit- 
ing, farming, and a return to teaching. In 1912 he moved to England. For 
years Frost had been trying vainly to get his poems published in America. Two 
of his books were now brought out in England, and he was started toward his 
present fame. With the war's outbreak he returned to America, setding in New 
Hampshire; With the exception of three years at the University of Michigan, 
he served as professor of English at Amherst 1916-1938. In 1939 he was made 
Emerson Fellow in poetry at Harvard. His Collected Poems was published in 

1939- 



THE TUFT OF FLOWERS 

I went to turn the grass once after one 
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun. 

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen 
Before I came to view the leveled scene. 

I looked for him behind an isle of trees; 
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze. 

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown, 
And I must be, as he had been, — alone, 

"As all must be," I said within my heart, 
"Whether they work together or apart." 

But as I said it, swift there passed me by 
On noiseless wings a bewildered butterfly, 

Seeking with memories grown dim over night 
Some resting flower of yesterday's delight. 

And once I marked his flight go round and round, 
As where some flower lay withering on the ground. 

And then he flew as far as eye could see, 

And then on tremulous wings came back to me. 

I thought of questions that have no reply, 
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry; 

But he turned first, and led my eye to look 
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook, 

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared 
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared. 

I left my place to know them by their name, 
Finding them butterfly-weed when I came. 

The mower in the dew had loved them thus, 
By leaving them to flourish, not for us, 

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him, 
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim. 



From Collected Poems by Robert Frost. By permission of the pub- 
lishers, Henry Holt and Company, New York. 



The butterfly and I had lit upon, 
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn, 

That made me hear the wakening birds around, 
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground, 

And feel a spirit kindred to my own; 

So that henceforth I worked no more alone; 

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid, 
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade; 

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech 
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach. 

"Men work together," I told him from the heart, 
"Whether they work together or apart." 



MENDING WALL 

Something there is that doesn't love a wall, 
That sends the frozen ground-swell under it, 
And spills the upper bowlders in the sun; 
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. 
The work of hunters is another thing: 
I have come after them and made repair 
Where they have left not one stone on a stone, 
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, 
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, 
No one has seen them made or heard them made, 
But at spring mending-time we find them there. 
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; 
And on a day we meet to walk the line 
And set the wall between us once again. 
We keep the wall between us as we go. 
To each the bowlders that have fallen to each. 
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls 
We have to use a spell to make them balance: 
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!" 
We wear our fingers rough with handling them. 
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, 



204. 



ROBERT FROST 



205 



One on a side. It comes to little more: 

There where it is we do not need the wall: 

He is. all pine and I am apple-orchard. 

My apple trees will never get across 

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 

He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors." 

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder 

If I could put a notion in his head: 

"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it 

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. 

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know 

What I was walling in or walling out, 

And to whom I was like to give offense. 

Something there is that doesn't love a wall, 

That wants it down!" I could say "elves" to him, 

But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather 

He said it for himself. I see him there, 

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top 

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. 

He moves in darkness, as it seems to me, 

Not of woods only and the shade of trees. 

He will not go behind his father's saying, 

And he likes having thought of it so well 

He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors." 

BROWN'S DESCENT 

Or, The Willy-Nilly Slide 

Brown lived at such a lofty farm 

That every one for miles could see 
His lantern when he did his chores 

In winter after half-past three. 

And many must have seen him make 
His wild descent from there one night, 

'Cross lots, 'cross walls, 'cross everything, 
Describing rings of lantern light. 

Between die house and barn the gale 

Got him by something he had on 
And blew him out on the icy crust 

That cased the world, and he was gone! 

Walls were all buried, trees were few: 

He saw nostay-unless he stove 
A hole in somewhere with his heel. 

But though repeatedly he strove 

And stamped and said things to himself, 
And sometimes something seemed to yield, 

He gained no foothold, but. pursued 
His journey down from field to field. 

•Sometimes he came with arms outspread 

Like wings revolving in the scene 
Upon his longer axis, and 
With no small dignity of mien. 



Faster or slower as he chanced, 

Sitting or standing as he chose, 
According as he feared to risk 

His neck, or thought to spare his clothes. 

He never let the lantern drop. 

And some exclaimed who saw afar 
The figure he described with it 

"I" wonder what those signals are 

"Brown makes at such an hour of night! 

He's celebrating something strange. 
I wonder if he's sold his farm, 

Or been made Master of the Grange." 

He reeled, he lurched, he bobbed, he checked; 

He fell and made the lantern ratde 
(But saved the light from going out). 

So half-way down he fought the battle 

Incredulous of his own bad luck. 

And then becoming reconciled 
To everything, he gave it up 

And came down like a coasting child. 

"Well — I — be — " that was all he said, 

As standing in the river road, 
He looked back up the slippery slope 

(Two miles it was) to his abode. 

Sometimes as an authority 

On motor-cars, I'm asked if I 
Should say our stock was petered out, 

And this is my sincere reply: 

Yankees are what they always were. 

Don't think Brown ever gave up hope 
Of getting home again because 

He couldn't climb that slippery slope; 

Or even diought of standing there 

Undl the January thaw 
Should take the polish off the crust. 

He bowed with grace to natural law, 

And then went round it on his feet, 

After die manner of our stock; 
Not much concerned for those to whom, 

At that pardcular time o'clock, 

It must have looked as if die course 
He steered was really straight away 

From that which he v/as headed for — 
Not much concerned for them, I say, 

But now he snapped his eyes three times; 

Then shook his lantern, saying, "lie's 
'Bout out!" and took the bag way -home 

By road, a matter of several miles. 



206 



POETRY 



STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY 
EVENING 

Whose woods these are I think I know. 
His house is in the village though; 
He will not see me stopping here 
To watch his woods fill up with snow. 

My little horse must think it queer 
To stop without a farmhouse near 
Between the woods and frozen lake 
TJbe darkest evening of the year. 

He gives his harness bells a shake 
To ask if there is some mistake. 
The only other sound's the sweep 
Of easy wind and downy flake. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, 
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep. 



THE ROAD NOT TAKEN 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference. 



TWO TRAMPS IN MUD TIME 

Out of the mud two strangers came 
And caught me splitting wood in the yard. 
And one of them put me off my aim 
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!" 



I knew pretty well why he dropped behind 
And let the other go on a way. 
I knew pretty well what he had in mind: 
He wanted to take my job for pay. 

Good blocks of beech it was I split, 
As large around as the chopping block; 
And every piece I squarely hit 
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock. 
The blows that a life of self-control 
Spares to strike for the common good 
That day, giving a loose to my soul, 
I spent on die unimportant wood. 

The sun was warm but the wind was chill. 

You know how it is with an April day 

When the sun is out and the wind is still, 

You're one month on in the middle of May. 

But if you so much as dare to speak, 

A cloud comes over the sunlit arch, 

A wind comes oil a frozen peak, 

And you're two months back in the middle of March. 

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight 

And fronts the wind to unruffle a plume, 

His song so pitched as not to excite 

A single flower as yet to bloom. 

It is snowing a flake: and he half knew 

Winter was only playing possum. 

Except in color he isn't blue, 

But he wouldn't advise a thing to blossom. 

The water for which we may have to look 
In summertime with a witching-wand, 
In every wheelrut's now a brook, 
In every print of a hoof a pond. 
Be glad of water, but don't forget 
The lurking frost in the earth beneath 
That will steal forth after the sun is set 
And show on the water its crystal teeth. 

The time when most I loved my task 
These two must make me love it more 
By coming with what they came to ask. 
You'd think I never had felt before 
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft, 
The grip on earth of outspread feet, 
The life of muscles rocking soft 
And smooth and moist in vernal heat. 

Out of the woods two hulking tramps 
(From sleeping God knows where last night, 
But not long since in die lumber camps). 
They thought all chopping was theirs of right. 
Men of the woods and lumberjacks, 
They judged me by tiieir appropriate tool. 
Except as a fellow handled an ax, 
They had no way of knowing a fool. 



VACHEL LINDSAY 



207 



Nothing on either side was said. 

They knew they had but to stay their stay 

And all their logic would fill my head: 

As that I had no right to play 

With what was another man's work for gain. 

My right might be love but theirs was need. 

And where the two exist in twain 

Theirs was the better right — agreed. 



But yield who will to their separation, 
My object in living is to unite 
My avocation and my vocation 
As my two eyes make one in sight. 
Only where love and need are one, 
And the work is play for mortal stakes, 
Is the deed ever really done 
For Heaven and the future's sakes. 



Vachel Lindsay 

Vachei Lindsay (i 879-1931) was born in Illinois, He finally came to sub- 
stantial public notice, after the failures of his early unsettled years, with the 
poems which Harriet Monroe printed in 1913 in her magazine Poetry. He was 
a crusader in many causes and often went on walking tours to preach his "gospel 
of beauty." His Collected Poems (revised edition) appeared in 1925, and the 
Selected Poems of Vachel Lindsay, with an introduction by Hazleton Spencer, 
in 1931. 



FACTORY WINDOWS ARE ALWAYS 
BROKEN 

Factory windows are always broken. 
Somebody's always throwing bricks, 
Somebody's always heaving cinders. 
Playing ugly Yahoo tricks. 

Factory windows are always broken. 
Other windows are let alone. 
No one throws through the chapel-window 
The bitter, snarling derisive stone. 

Factory windows are always broken. 
Something or other is going wrong. 
Something is rotten — I think, in Denmark. 
End of the factory-window song. 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN WALKS AT 
MIDNIGHT 

(In Springfield, Illinois) 

It is portentous, and a thing of state 
That here at midnight, in our little town 
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest, 
Near the old courr-hoMse pacing up and down. 

Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yards 
He lingers where nis children used to play, 



From Collected Poems by Vachel Lindsay. By permission of the 
publishers, The Macmillan Company, New York. 



Or through the market, on the well-worn stones 
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away. 

A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black, 
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl 
Make him the quaint great figure that men love, 
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all. 

He cannot sleep upon his hillside now. 

He is among us: — as in times before! 

And we who toss and He awake for long 

Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door. 

His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings. 
Yes, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep? 
Too many peasants fight, they know not why, 
Too many homesteads in black terror weep. 

The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart. 
He sets the dreadnaughts scouring every main. 
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now 
The bitterness, the folly and the pain. 

He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn 
Shall come; — the shining hope of Europe free: 
The league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth, 
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea. 

It breaks his heart that kings must murder still, 
That all his hours of travail here for men 
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace 
That he may sleep upon his hill again? 



Carl Sandbur! 



Carl Sandburg (1878- ) was born in Illinois. His early years were 
remarkable for the variety of occupations in which he engaged — soldiering, 
truck-handling, dish- washing, harvesting, advertising, reporting, in short the 
work of industrial and agricultural America which he celebrates in his poems. 
In 1914 several of his poems appeared in the famous Chicago publication Poetry: 
A Magazine of Verse, edited by Harriet Monroe, and in 1916 he issued his first 
notable volume, Chicago Poems. His subsequent books include Cornhus\ers, 
Smo\e and Steel, Slabs of the Sunburnt West, Good-Morning America, and 
The People Yes (poems), several volumes of tales for children, the astonishing 
biography of Abraham Lincoln, Pulitzer Prize winner in 1939, and the collec- 
tion of our native folksongs called The American Songbag. 



CHICAGO 

Hog Butcher for the World, 

Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, 

Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight 

Handler; 
Stormy, husky, brawling, 
City of the Big Shoulders : 
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I 
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps 
luring the farm boys. 
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it 
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to 
kill again. 
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is : On the 
faces of women and children I have seen the marks 
of wanton hunger. 
And having answered so I turn once more to those who 
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer 
and say to them : 
Come and show me another city with lifted head sing- 
ing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and 
cunning. 
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on 
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the 
little soft cities; 
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning 
as a savage pitted against the wilderness, 

Bareheaded, 

Shoveling, 

Wrecking, 

Planning, 

Building, breaking, rebuilding. 

Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing 

with white teeth, 
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a 

young man laughs, 

"Chicago" from Chicago Poems, copyright, 191 6, and "Prairie" 
from Cornhuskers, copyright, 1918, by permission of the publishers, 
Henry Holt and Company, New York. 



Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has 
never lost a battle, 

Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, 
and under his ribs the heart of the people, 
Laughing! 

Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of 
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog 
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with 
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation. 

PRAIRIE 

I was born on the prairie and the milk of its wheat, the 
red of its clover, the eyes of its women, gave me a 
song and a slogan. 

Here the water went down, the icebergs slid with 
gravel, the gaps and the valleys hissed, and the black 
loam came, and the yellow sandy loam. 

Here between the sheds of the Rocky Mountains and 
the Appalachians, here now a morning star fixes a 
fire sign over the timber claims and cow pastures, 
the corn belt, the cotton belt, the catde ranches. 

Here the gray geese go five hundred miles and back 
with a wind under their wings honking the cry for a 
new home. 

Here I know I will hanker after nothing so much as 
one more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a 
river moon of water. 

The prairie sings to me in the forenoon and I know in 
the night I rest easy in the prairie arms, on the prairie 
heart. 



After the sunburn of the day 

handling a pitchfork at a hayrack, 

after the eggs and biscuit and coffee, 

the pearl-gray haystacks 

in the gloaming 

arc cool prayers 

to the harvest hands. 



aoS 



CARL SANDBURG 



209 






Ii the city among the walls the overland passenger train 
is choked and the pistons hiss and the wheels curse. 

On die prairie the overland flits on phantom wheels and 
the sky and the soil between them muffle the pistons 
and cheer the wheels. 



I am here when the dues are gone. 

I am here before the cides come. 

1 nourished the lonely men on horses. 

I will keep the laughing men who ride iron. 

I am dust o£ men. 

The running water babbled to the deer, the cottontail, 

the gopher. 
You came in wagons, making streets and schools, 
Kin of the ax and rifle, kin of die plow and horse, 
Singing Yankee Doodle, Old Dan Tuc\er, Turkey in 

the Straw, 
You in the coonskin cap at a log house door hearing a 

lone wolf howl, 
You at a sod house door reading the blizzards and 

chinooks let loose from Medicine Hat, 
I am dust of your dust, as I am brother and mother 
To the copper faces, the worker in flint and clay, 
The singing women and their sons a thousand years ago 
Marching single file the umber and the plain. 

I hold the dust of these amid changing stars. 

I last while old wars are fought, while peace broods 
mother-like, 

While new wars arise and the fresh killings of young 
men. 

I fed the boys who went to France in great dark days. 

Appomattox is a beautiful word to me and so is Valley 
Forge and the Marne and Verdun, 

I who have seen the red birdis and the red deaths 

Of sons and daughters, I take peace or war, I say noth- 
ing and wait. 

Have you seen a red sunset drip over one of my corn- 
fields, the shore of night stars, the wave lines of 
dawn up a wheat valley? 

Have you heard my threshing crews yelling in the chaff 
of a strawpile and the running wheat of the wagon- 
boards, my corah uskers,. my harvest hands hauling 
crops, singing dreams of women, worlds, horizons? 



Rivers cut a path on flat lands. 
The mountains stand up. 
The salt oceans press in 
And push on the coast lines. 
The sun, the wind, bring rain 
And I know what the rainbow writes 
across the east or west in a half-circle: 



A love-letter pledge to come again. 



Towns on the Soo Line, 
Towns on the Big Muddy, 
Laugh at each odier for cubs 
And tease as children. 

Omaha and Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Paul, sis- 
ters in a house together, dirowing slang, growing up. 

Towns in the Ozarks, Dakota wheat towns, Wichita, 
Peoria, Buffalo, sisters throwing slang, growing up. 



Out of the prairie-brown grass crossed with a streamer 
of wigwam smoke — out of a smoke pillar, a blue 
promise — out of wild ducks woven in greens and 
purples — 

Here I saw a city rise and say to the peoples round the 
world : Listen, I am strong, I know what I want. 

Out of log houses and stumps — canoes stripped from 
tree-sides — Satboats coaxed with an ax from the um- 
ber claims — in the years when the red and the white 
men met — die houses and streets rose. 

A diousand red men cried and went away to new places 
for corn and women : a million white men came and 
put up skyscrapers, threw out rails and wires, feelers 
to the salt sea; now die smokestacks bite the skyline 
with stub teeth. 

In an early year the call of a wild duck woven in greens 
and purples: now the riveter's chatter, the police 
pauol, the song-whisde of the steamboat. 

To a man across a thousand years I offer a handshake. 
I say to him: Brother, make the story short, for the 
stretch of a thousand years is short. 



What brothers these in the dark ? 
What eaves of skyscrapers against a smoke moon? 
These chimneys shaking on the lumber shanties 
When the coal boats plow by on the river — 
The hunched shoulders of the grain elevators — 
The flame sprockets of die sheet steel mills 
And the men in the rolling mills widi their shirts off 
Playing their flesh arms against the twisting wrists of 
steel: 

what brothers these 

in the dark 

of a diousand years? 



A headlight searches a snowstorm. 
A funnel of white light shoots from over the pilot of the 
Pioneer Limited crossing Wisconsin. 



210 

In the morning hours, in the dawn, 
The sun puts out the stars of the sky 
And the headlight of the. Limited train. 



The fireman waves his hand to a country school teacher 

on a bobsled. 
A boy, yellow hair, red scarf and mittens, on the bobsled, 

in his lunch box a pork chop sandwich and a V of 

gooseberry pie. 

The horses fathom a snow to their knees. 
Snow hats are on the rolling prairie hills. 
The Mississippi bluffs wear snow hats. 

a • • > 

Keep your hogs on changing corn and mashes of grain, 
O farmerman. 

Cram their insides till they waddle on short legs 
Under the drums of bellies, hams of fat. 
Kill your hogs with a knife slit under the ear. 
Hack them with cleavers. 
Hang them with hooks in the hind legs. 

■ t * • 

A wagonioad of radishes on a summer morning 

Sprinkles of dew on the crimson-purple balls. 

The farmer on the seat dangles the reins on the rumps 

of dapple-gray horses. 
The farmer's daughter with a basket of eggs dreams of 

a new hat to wear to the county fair. 

On the left- and right-hand side of the road, 

Marching corn — 
I saw it knee high weeks ago — now it is head high- 
tassels of red silk creep at the ends of the ears. 



POETRY 



Falltime and winter apples take on the smolder of the 
five o'clock November sunset: falltime, leaves, bon- 
fires, stubble, the old things go, and the earth is 



grizzled. 



The land and the people hold memories, even among the 
anthills and the angleworms, among the toads and 
woodroaches — among gravestone writings rubbed 
out by the rain — they keep old things that never 
grow old. 

The frost loosens corn husks. 
The sun, the rain, the wind loosen corn husks. 
The men and women are helpers. 
They are all cornhuskers together. 
I see them late in the western evening in a smoke-red 
dusk. 



The phantom of a yellow rooster flaunting a scarlet 
comb, on top of a dung pile crying hallelujah to the 
streaks of daylight, 

The phantom of an old hunting dog nosing in the 
underbrush for muskrats, barking at a coon in a 
treetop at midnight, chewing a bone, chasing his tail 
round a coracrib, 

The phantom of an old workhorse taking the steel point 
of* a plow across a forty-acre field in spring, hitched 
to a harrow in summer, hitched to a wagon among 
cornshocks in fall, 

These phantoms come into the talk and wonder of 
people on the front porch of a farmhouse late sum- 
mer nights. 

"The shapes that are gone are here," said an old man 
with a cob pipe in his teeth one night in Kansas with 
a hot wind on the alfalfa. 



I am the prairie, mother of men, waiting. 

They are mine, the threshing crews eating beefsteak, the 
farmboys driving steers to the railroad cattle pens. 

They are mine, the crowds of people at a Fourth of July 
basket picnic, listening to a lawyer read the Declara- 
tion of Independence, watching the pinwheels and 
Roman candles at night, the young men and women 
two by two hunting the bypaths and kissing bridges. 

They are mine, the horses looking over a fence in the 
frost of late October saying good-morning to the 
horses hauling wagons of rutabaga to market. 

They are mine, the old zigzag rail fences, the new barb 
wire. 



The cornhuskers wear leather on their hands. 

There is no let-up to die wind. 

Blue bandannas arc knotted at the ruddy chins. 



Look at six eggs 
In a mockingbird's nest. 
Listen to six mockingbirds 
Flinging follies of O-be-joyful 
Over the marshes and uplands. 

Look at songs 
Hidden in eggs. 



When the morning sun is on the trumpet-vine blossoms, 
sing at the kitchen pans: Shout All Over God's 
Heaven. 

When the rain slants on the potato hills and the sun 
plays a silver shaft on the last shower, sing to the 
bush at the backyard fence: Mighty Lak a Rose. 

When the icy sleet pounds on the storm windows and 
the house lifts to a great breath, sing for the outside 



CARL SANDBURG 



211 



hills: The Ole Sheep Done Know the Road, the 
Young Lambs Must Find the Way. 

Spring slips back with a girl face calling always: "Any 

oew songs for me? Any new songs?" 
O prairie girl, be lonely, singing, dreaming, waiting— 

your lover comes — your child comes — the years creep 

with toes of April rain on new-turned sod. 
O prairie girl, whoever leaves you only crimson poppies 

to talk with, whoever puts a good-by kiss on your 

lips and never comes back — 
There is a song deep as the falltime redhaws, long as 

the layer of black loam we go to, the shine of the 

morning star over the corn belt, the wave line of 

dawn up a wheat valley. 



prairie mother, I am one of your boys. 

1 have loved the prairie as a man with a heart shot full 

cf pain over love. 
Here I know 1 will hanker after nothing so much as one 
more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a river 
moon of water. 



I speak of new cities and new people. 

I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes. 

I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down, a sun dropped 

in the west. 
i tell you there is nothing in the world, only an ocean 

of to-morrows, a sky of to-morrows. 
I am a brother of the cornhuskers who say at sundown: 
To-morrow is a day. 

THE PEOPLE WILL LIVE ON 

The people will live on. 

The learning and blundering people will live on. 
They will be tricked and sold and again sold 

And go back to the nourishing earth for roothoids, 
The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback, 
You can't laugh off their capacity to take it. 

The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas. 

The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic, 

is a vast huddle with many units saying: 
"1 earn my living. 
I make enough to get by 
and it takes all my time. 
If I had more rime 
I could do more for myself 
and maybe for others. 

"The People Will Live On" from The People, Yes, by Carl Sand- 
burg. Copyright, 1936, by Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., New 
York. By permission of the publishers. 



I could read and study 
and talk things over 
and find out about things. 
It takes time. 
I wish I had the time.'' 

The people is a tragic and comic two-face: hero and 
hoodlum: phantom and gorilla twisting to moan 
with a gargoyle mouth: "They buy me and sell me 
. . . it's a game . . . sometime I'll break loose . . ." 

Once having marched 
Over the margins of animal necessity, 
Over the grim line of sheer subsistence 

Then man came 
To the deeper rituals of his bones, 
To die lights lighter than any bones, 
To the time for thinking things over, 
To the dance, the song, the story, 
Or die hours given over to dreaming, 

Once having so marched. 

Between the finite limitations of the five senses 

and the endless yearnings of man for the beyond 

the people hold to the humdrum bidding of work and 

food 
while reaching out when it comes their way 
for lights beyond the prison of the five senses, 
for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death. 

This reaching is alive. 
The panderers and liars have violated and smutted it. 

Yet this reaching is alive yet 

for lights and keepsakes. 

The people know the salt of the sea 

and the strength of the winds 

lashing the corners of the earth. 

The people take the earth 

as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope. 

Who else speaks for the Family of Man? 

They are in tune and step 

with constellations of universal law. 

The people is a polychrome, 

a spectrum and a prism 

held in a moving monolith, 

a console organ of changing themes, 

a clavilux of color poems 

wherein the sea oilers fog 

and the fog moves off in rain 

and the Labrador sunset shortens 

to a nocturne of clear stars 

serene over the shot spray 

of northern lights. 



212 

The steel mill sky is alive. 

The fire breaks white and zigzag 

shot on a gun-metal gloaming. 

Man is a long time coming. 

Man will yet win. 

Brother may yet line up with brother: 

This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers. 
There are men who can't be bought. 



POETRY 



The fireborn are at home in fire. 

The stars make no noise. 

You can't hinder the wind from blowing. 

Time is a great teacher. 

Who can live without hope? 

In the darkness with a great bundle of grief the people 

march. 
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, 

the people march: 

"Where to? what next?" 



Elinor Wylie 

Elinor Wylie (1885-1928) was born in New Jersey of a distinguished 
ancestry, educated largely in private schools, and began to issue her poetry 
publicly in 1921. Both her prose and her verse are distinguished by an exact- 
ness of detail and an intellectual fastidiousness well represented by "The Eagle 
and the Mole." The Collected Poems of Elinor Wylie, edited by her husband, 
William Rose Benet, appeared in 1932; the Collected Prose of Elinor Wylie in 
1933; and The Novels of Elinor Wylie in 1934. 



THE EAGLE AND THE MOLE 

Avoid the reeking herd, 
Shun the polluted flock, 
Live like that stoic bird, 
The eagle of the rock. 

The huddled warmth of crowds 
Begets and fosters hate; 
He keeps, above the clouds, 
His cliff inviolate. 

When flocks are folded warm, 
And herds to shelter run, 



Reprinted from Collected Poems of Elinor Wylie. By permission of 
and special arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.,' New York, author- 
ized publishers. 



He sails above the storm, 
He stares into the sun. 

If in the eagle's -track- 
Your sinews cannot leap,> 
Avoid the lathered pack, 
Turn from the steaming sheep. 

If you would keep your soul 
From spotted sight or sound, 
Live like the velvet mole; 
Go burrow underground. 

And there hold intercourse 
With roots of trees and stones, 
With rivers at their source, 
And disembodied bones. 



William Rose Benet 

William Rose Benet (1886- ) was born in New York and educated at 
Yale. His career has been devoted primarily to literary pursuits, chiefly editing, 
writing and publishing. His preference for narrative verse of strong character 
is illustrated by his famous poem "Jesse James." A volume of selected poems 
entided Man Possessed was published in 1927. 



JESSE JAMES 

Jesse James was a two-gun man, 

(Roll on, Missouril) 
Strong-arm chief of an oudaw clan. 

(From Kansas to Illinois!) 
He twirled an old Colt forty-five, 

(Roll on, Missouril) 
They never took Jesse James alive. 

(Roll, Missouri, roll!) 
Jesse James was a King of the Wes'; 

(Cataracts in the Missouri!) 
He'd a di'mon' heart in his lef breas'; 

(Brown Missouri rolls!) 
He'd a fire in his heart no hurt could stifle; 

(Thunder, Missouril) 
Lion eyes an' a Winchester rifle. 

(Missouri, roll down!) 

Jesse James rode a pinto hawse; 
Come at night to a water-cawse; 
Tetched with the rowel that pinto's flank; 
She sprung the torrent from bank to bank. 

Jesse rode through a sleepin' town; 
Looked the moonlit street both up an' down; 
Crack-crack-crack, the street ran flames 
An' a great voice cried, "I'm Jesse James!" 

Hawse an' afoot they're after Jess! 

(Roll on, Missouri!) 
Spurrin' an' spurrin' — but he's gone Wes'. 

(Brown Missouri rolls!) 
He was ten foot tall when he stood in his boots; 

(Ughtniri light the Missouri!) 
More'n a match fer sich galoots. 

(Roll, Missouri, roll!) 

Jesse James rode outa the sage; 

Roun' the rocks come the swayin' stage; 

Straddiin' the road a giant Stan's 

An' a great voice beilers, "Throw up yer han's!" 



From Gclden Fleect by William Rose Benet. Used by permission 
he publishers, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. 



Jesse raked in the di'mon' rings, 

The big gold watches an' the yuther things; 

Jesse divvied 'em then an' thar 

With a cryin' child had lost her mar. 

The U. S. Troopers is after Jess; 

(Roll on, Missouril) 
Their hawses sweat foam, but he's gone Wes'; 

(Hear Missouri roar!) 
He was broad as a b'ar, he'd a ches' like a drum, 

(Wind an rain through Missouri!) 
An' his red hair flamed like Kingdom Come. 

(Missouri down to the sea!) 

Jesse James all alone in the rain 
Stopped an' stuck up the Eas'-boun' train ; 
Swayed through the coaches with horns an' a tail, 
Lit out with the bullion an' the registered mail. 

Jess made 'em all turn green with fright* 
Quakin' in the aisles in the pitch-black night;, 
An' he give all the bullion to a pore ole tramp 
Campin' nigh the cuttin' in the dirt an' damp. 

The whole U. S. is after Jess; 

(Roll on, Missouril) 
The son-of-a-gun, if he ain't gone Wes'; 

(Missouri to the sea!) 
He could chaw cold iron an' spit blue flame; 

(Cataracts down the Missouril) 
He rode on a catamount he'd larned to tame. 

(Hear that Missouri roll!) 

Jesse James rode into a bank; 

Give his pinto a tetch on the flank; 

Jumped the teller's window with an awful crash; 

Heaved up the safe an' twirled his mustache; 

He said, "So long, boys!" He yelped, "So long! 
Feelin' porely to-day—I ain't feelin' strong!" 
Rode right through the wail agoin' crack-crack-crack, 
Took the safe home to Mother in a gunny-sack. 

{ They're creepin', they're crawlin', fjiey're stalkin' Jess; 
(Roll on, Missouri!) 

213 



214 



POETRY 



They's a rumor he's gone much further Wes'; 

( Roll, Missouri, roll!) 
They's word of a cayuse hitched to the bars 

(Ruddy clouds on Missouri!) 
Of a golden sunset that busts into stars. 

(Missouri, roll downl) 

Jesse James rode hell fer leather; 

He was a hawse an' a man together; 

In a cave in a mountain high up in air, 

He lived with a rattlesnake, a wolf, an' a bear. 

Jesse's heart was as sof as a woman; 

Fer guts an' stren'th he was sooper-human; 

He could put six shots through a woodpecker's eye 

And take in one swalier a gallon o' rye. 

They sought him here an' they sought him there, 

(Roll on, Missouri!) 
But he strides by night through the ways of the air, 

(Brown Missouri rolls!) 
They say he was took an' they say he is dead; 

(Thunder, Missouri!) 



But he ain't— he's a sunset overhead! 
(Missouri down to the sea!) 

Jesse James was a Hercules. 

When he went through the woods he tore up the trees. 
When he went on the plains he smoked the groun' 
An' the hull Ian' shuddered fer miles aroun'. 

Jesse James wore a red bandanner 

That waved on the breeze like the Star Spangled 

Banner; 
In seven states he cut up dadoes. 
He's gone with the huffier an' the desperadoes. 

Yes, Jesse James was a two-gun man 

(Roll on, Missouri!) 
The same as when tins song began; 

(From Kansas to Illinois!) 
An' when you see a sunset bust in flames 

(Ughtnin' light the Missouri!) 
Or a thunderstorm blaze — that's Jesse James! 

(Hear that Missouri roll!) 



Robmson Teffers 



Robinson Jefters (1887- ) was born In Pittsburgh, educated here and 
abroad, and has lived most of his life in California. He lives in seclusion, hav- 
ing built a stone tower on die cliffs overlooking the Pacific, in which he does 
most of his wridng. The Selected Poetry of Robinson Uffers was published in 
1938. 



SHINE, PERISHING REPUBLIC 

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, 

heavily thickening to empire, 
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and 

sighs out, and the mass hardens, 

I sadly remember that the flower fades to make fruit, 

the fruit rots to make earth. 
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, 

ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother. 

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; 
life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly 

Reprinted by permission of the publishers, Random House, Inc., 
New York. Copyright, 1924, by Peter G. Boyle. Copyright, 1925, by 
Horace Liveright, Inc. 



A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than 
mountains: shine, perishing republic. 

But for my children, I would rather have them keep 
their distance 

from the thickening center; corruption 
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the 

monster's feet there are left the mountains. 



And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, 

a clever servant, insufferable master. 
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that 
caught— 

they say — God, when he walked on earth. 



. S. Eliot 



T. S. Eliot (1888- ) was born in St. Louis, and educated at Harvard, 
the Sorbonne and Oxford. Since 191 3 he has lived in England, becoming a 
naturalized British citizen in 1927. The influence of his poetic attitudes, as 
exemplified for instance in his poem "The Wasteland" (192.2), was tremendous 
during the 1920'$, many of his readers professing to see in his poetry, rightly 
or wrongly, the finest expression of certain phases of the "despair" of the period. 
Among his books are Selected Essays, Collected Poems, and the play Murder in 
the Cathedral, 



ANIMULA 

Issues from the hand of God, the simple soul' 
To a flat world of changing lights and noise, 
To light, dark, dry or damp, chilly or warm; 
Moving between the legs of tables and of chairs, 
Rising or falling, grasping at kisses and toys, 
Advancing boldly, sudden to take alarm, 
Retreating to the corner of arm and knee, 
Eager to be reassured, taking pleasure 
In the fragrant brilliance of the Christmas tree, 
Pleasure in the wind, the sunlight and the sea; 
Studies the sunlit pattern on the floor 
And running stags around a silver tray; 
Confounds the actual and the fanciful, 
Content with playing-cards and kings and queens, 
What the fairies do and what the servants say. 
The heavy burden of the growing soul 
Perplexes and offends more, day by day; 



From Collected Poems of T. S. Eliot. By permission of the pub- 
lishers, Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., New York. 



Week by week, offends and perplexes more 

With the imperatives of 'is and seems' 

And may and may not, desire and control. 

The pain of living and the drug of dreams 

Curl up the small soul in the window seat 

Behind the Encyclopaedia Britannica. 

Issues from the hand of time the simple soul 

Irresolute and selfish, misshapen, lame, 

Unable to fare forward or retreat, 

Fearing the warm reality, the offered good, 

Denying the importunity of the blood, 

Shadow of its own shadows, spectre in its own gloom, 

Leaving disordered papers in a dusty room; 

Living first in the silence after the viaticum. 

Pray for Guiterriez, avid of speed and power, 

For Bouclin, blown to pieces, 

For this one who made a great fortune. 

And that one who went his own way. 

Pray for Floret, by the boarhound slain between the 

yew trees, 
Pray for us now and at the hour of our birth. 



"5 



Conrad Aiken 



Conrad Aiken (1889- ) was born in Georgia, educated at Harvard, 
and published his first book of poems in 1914. His interest in music, painting 
and psychology is discernible in the sound and scenic qualities of his poetic 
language and in his exploration of delicate mental and emotional states in both 
his poetry and narrative prose. His books include Selected Poems, which won 
the Pulitzer Prize in 1930, Time in the Roc\, another volume of poetry which 
appeared in 1936, Blue Voyage and Great Circle (novels), Bring! Bring! and 
Costumes by Eros (short stories), and Scepticisms (criticism). 



MUSIC I HEARD WITH YOU 

Music I heard with you was more than music, 
And bread I broke with you was more than bread; 
Now that I am without you, all is desolate; 
All that was once so beautiful is dead. 

Your hands once touched this table and this silver, 
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass. 
These things do not remember you, beloved, — 
And yet your touch upon them will not pass. 

For it was in my heart you moved among them, 
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes; 
And in my heart they will remember always, — 
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise. 



AND IN THE HANGING GARDENS 

And in the hanging gardens there is rain 
From midnight until one, striking the leaves 
And bells of flowers, and stroking boles of planes, 
And drawing slow arpeggios over pools, 
And stretching strings of sound from eaves to ferns. 
The princess reads. The knave of diamonds sleeps. 
The king is drunk, and flings a golden goblet 
Down from the turret window (curtained with rain) 
Into the lilacs. 

And at one o'clock 
The vulcan under the garden wakes and beats 
The gong upon his anvil. Then the rain 
Ceases, but gently ceases, dripping still, 
And sound of falling water fills the dark 
As leaves grow bold and upright, and as eaves 
Part with water. The princess turns the page 
Beside the candle, and between two braids 
Of golden hair. And reads: "From there I went 
Northward a journey of four days, and came 
To a wild village in the hills, where none 
Was living save the vulture and the rat, 



From Selected Poems by Conrad Aiken. By permission of the pub- 
lishers, Charles Scribner** Sons, New York. 



And one old man, who laughed, but could not speak. 
The roofs were fallen in; the well grown over 
With weed; and it was there my father died. 
Then eight days further, bearing slightly west, 
The cold wind blowing sand against our faces, 
The food tasting of sand. And as we stood 
By the dry rock that marks the highest point 
My brother said: *Not too late is it yet 
To turn, remembering home.' And we were silent 
Thinking of home." The princess shuts her eyes 
And feels the tears forming beneath her eyelids 
And opens them, and tears fall on the page. 
The knave of diamonds in the darkened room 
Throws off his covers, sleeps, and snores again. 
The king goes slowly down the turret stairs 
To find the goblet. 

And at two o'clock 
The vulcan in his smithy underground 
Under the hanging gardens, where the drip 
Of rain among the clematis and ivy 
Still falls from sipping flower to purple flower, 
Smites twice his anvil, and the murmur comes 
Among the roots and vines. The princess reads: 
"As I am sick, and cannot write you more, 
Nor have not long to live, I give this letter 
To him, my brother, who will bear it south 
And tell you how I died. Ask how it was, 
There in the northern desert, where the grass 
Was withered, and the horses, all but one, 
Perished" . . . The princess drops Jier golden head 
Upon the page between her two white arms 
And golden braids. The knav