Joan and Peter by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here . ADOLESCENCE ADOLESCENCE § 1 “The generations rushing to waste like rapids—like rapids....” Ten years later Oswald found himself repeating the words of the little private schoolmaster. He was in the gravest perplexity. Joan was now nineteen and a half and Peter almost of age, and they had had a violent quarrel. They would not live in the same house together any longer, they declared. Peter had gone back overnight to Cambridge on his motor bicycle; Joan’s was out of order—an embittering addition to her distress—and she had cycled on her push bicycle over the hills that morning to Bishop’s Stortford to catch the Cambridge train. And Oswald was left to think over the situation and all that had led to it. He sat alone in the May sunshine in the little arbour that overlooked his rose garden at Pelham Ford, trying to grasp all that had happened to these stormy young people since he had so boldly taken the care of their lives into his hands. He found himself trying to retrace the phases of their upbringing, and his thoughts went wide and far over the problem of human training. Suddenly he had discovered his charges adult. Joan had stood before him, amazingly grown up—a woman, young, beautiful, indignant. Who could have foretold ten years ago that Joan would have been declaring with tears in her voice but much stiffness in her manner, that she had “stood enough” from Peter, and calling him “weak.” “He insults all my friends, Nobby,” she had said, “and as for his——. He’s like that puppy we had who dug up rotten bones we had never suspected, all over the garden. “Oh! !” Joan had cried.... his women are horrible § 2 Oswald’s choice of a permanent home at Pelham Ford had been largely determined by the educational requirements of Joan and Peter. While Peter had been at White Court and Joan at Highmorton School twelve miles away, Oswald had occupied a not very well furnished “furnished house” at Margate. When Peter, after an inquisition by Oswald into English Public Schools, had been awarded at last as a sort of prize, with reservations, to Caxton, Oswald—convinced now by his doctors and his own disagreeable experiences that he must live in England for the rest of his life if he was to hope for any comfort or activity—decided to set up a permanent home with a garden and buildings that would be helpful through days of dullness in some position reasonably accessible from London, Caxton and Margate, and later on from Cambridge, to which they were both predestined. After some search he found the house he needed in the pretty little valley of the Rash, that runs north-eastward from Ware. The Stubland aunts still remained as tenants of The Ingle-Nook, and made it a sort of alternative home for the youngsters. The country to the north and east of Ware is a country of miniature gorges with frequent water-splashes. The stream widens and crosses the road in a broad, pebbly shallow of ripples just at the end of Pelham Ford, there is a causeway with a white handrail for bicycles and foot passengers beside the ford, and beyond it is an inn and the post office and such thatched, whitewashed homes as constitute the village. Then beyond comes a row of big trees and the high red wall and iron gates of this house Oswald had taken. The church of Pelham Ford is a little humped, spireless building up the hill to the left. The stream brawls along for a time beside the road. Through the gates of the house one looks across a lawn barred by the shadows of big trees, at a blazing flower-garden that goes up a series of terraces to the little red tiled summerhouse that commands the view of the valley. The house is to the right and near the road, a square comfortable eighteenth-century red-brick house with ivy on its shadowed side and fig trees and rose trees towards the sun. It has a classical portico, and a grave but friendly expression. The Margate house had been a camp, but this was furnished with some deliberation. Oswald had left a miscellany of possessions behind him in Uganda which Muir had packed and sent on after him when it was settled that there could be no return to Africa. The hall befitted the home of a member of the Plantain Club; African spoils adorned it, three lions’ heads, a white rhinoceros head, elephants’ feet, spears, gourds, tusks; in the midst a large table took the visitor’s hat and stick, and bore a large box for the post. Out of this hall opened a little close study Oswald rarely used except when Joan and Peter and their friends were at home and a passage led to a sunny, golden-brown library possessing three large southward windows on the garden, a room it had pleased him greatly to furnish, and in which he did most of his writing. It had a parquet floor and Oriental rugs like sunlit flower-beds. Across the hall, opposite the study, was a sort of sittingroom-livingroom which was given over to Joan and Peter. It had been called the Schoolroom in the days when their holiday visits had been mitigated by the presence of some temporary governess or tutor, and now that those disciplined days were over their two developing personalities still jostled in the one apartment. A large pleasant drawing-room and a dining-room completed the tale of rooms on the ground floor. In this room across the hall there was much that would have repaid research on the part of Oswald. The room was a joint room only when Joan and Peter were without guests in the house. Whenever there were guests, whether they were women or men, Joan turned out and the room became a refuge or rendezvous for Peter. It was therefore rather Peter’s than Joan’s. Here as in most things it was Peter’s habit to prevail over Joan. But she had her rights; she had had a voice in the room’s decoration, a share in its disorder. The upper bookshelves to the right of the fireplace were hers and the wall next to that. Against this stood her bureau, locked and secure, over and against Peter’s bureau. Oswald had given them these writing desks three Christmases ago. But the mess on the table under the window was Peter’s, and Peter had more than his fair share of the walls. The stuffed birds and animals and a row of sculls were the result of a “Mooseum” phase of Peter’s when he was fourteen. The water-colour pictures were Peter’s. The hearthrug was the lion-skin that Peter still believed had been brought for him from Nairobi by Oswald. Peter could caricature, and his best efforts were framed here; his style was a deliberate compliment to the incomparable Max. He had been very successful twice in bringing out the latent fierceness of Joan; one not ungraceful effort was called “The Scalp Dance,” the other, less pleasing to its subject, represented Joan in full face with her hands behind her back and her feet apart, “Telling the Whole Troof.” Joan, alas! had no corresponding skill for a retort, but she had framed an enlargement of a happy snap-shot of Peter on the garden wall. She had stood below and held her camera up so that Peter’s boots and legs were immense and his head dwindled to nothing in perspective. So seen, he became an embodiment of masculine brutality. The legend was, “The Camera can Detect what our Eyes Cannot.” One corner of this room was occupied by a pianola piano and a large untidy collection of classical music rolls; right and left of the fireplace the bookshelves bore an assortment of such literature as appealed in those days to animated youth, classics of every period from Plato to Shaw, and such moderns as Compton Mackenzie, Masefield, Gilbert Cannan and Ezra Pound. Back numbers of The Freewoman, The New Age, The New Statesman, and The Poetry Review mingled on the lowest shelf. There was a neat row of philosophical textbooks in the Joan section; Joan for no particular reason was taking the moral science tripos; and a microscope stood on Peter’s table, for he was biological.... § 3 Oswald’s domestic arrangements had at first been a grave perplexity. In Uganda he had kept house very well with a Swahili over-man and a number of “boys”; in Margate this sort of service was difficult to obtain, and the holiday needs of the children seemed to demand a feminine influence of the governess-companion type, a “lady.” A succession of refined feminine personalities had intersected these years of Oswald’s life. They were all ladies by birth and profession, they all wore collars supported by whalebone about their necks, and they all developed and betrayed a tenderness for Oswald that led to a series of flights to the Climax Club and firm but generous dismissals. Oswald’s ideas of matrimony were crude and commonplace; he could imagine himself marrying no one but a buxom young woman of three-and-twenty, and he could not imagine any buxom young woman of three-and-twenty taking a healthy interest in a man over forty with only half a face and fits of fever and fretfulness. When these ladies one after another threw out their gentle intimations he had the ingratitude to ascribe their courage to a sense of his own depreciated matrimonial value. This caused just enough indignation to nerve him to the act of dismissal. But on each occasion he spent the best part of a morning and made serious inroads upon the club notepaper before the letter of dismissal was framed, and he always fell back upon the stock lie that he was going abroad to a Kur-Ort and was going to lock up the house. On each occasion the house was locked up for three or four weeks, and Oswald lived a nomadic existence until a fresh lady could be found. Finally God sent him Mrs. Moxton. She came in at Margate during an interregnum while Aunt Phyllis was in control. Aunt Phyllis after a reflective interview passed her on to Oswald. She was more like Britannia than one could have imagined possible; her face was perhaps a little longer and calmer and her pink chins rather more numerous. “I understand,” she said, seating herself against Oswald’s desk, “that you are in need of some one to take charge of your household.” “Did you—hear?” began Oswald. “It’s the talk of Margate,” she said calmly. “So I understand that you are prepared to be the lady——” “I am a lady,” said Mrs. Moxton with a faint asperity. not “I beg your pardon,” said Oswald. “I am a housekeeper,” she said, as who should say: “atleast give me credit for that.” “I have had experience with a single gentleman.” There seemed to be an idea in it. “I was housekeeper to the late Mr. Justice Benlees for some years, until he died, and then unhappily, being in receipt of a small pension from him, I took to keeping a boarding-house. Winnipeg House. On the Marine Parade. A most unpleasant and anxious experience.” Her note of indignation returned, and the clear pink of her complexion deepened by a shade. “A torrent of Common People.” “Exactly,” said Oswald. “I have seen them walking about the town. Beastly new yellow boots. And fast, squeaky little girls in those new floppy white hats. You think you could dispose of the boarding-house?” Mrs. Moxton compressed her chins slightly in assent. “It’s a saleable concern?” “There are those,” said Mrs. Moxton with a faint sense of the marvels of God’s universe in her voice, “who would be glad of it.” He rested his face on his hand and regarded her profile very earnestly with his one red-brown eye—from the beginning to the end of the interview Mrs. Moxton never once looked straight at him. He perceived that she was incapable of tenderness, dissimulation, or any personal relationship, a woman in profile, a woman with a pride in her work, a woman to be trusted. “You’ll ,” he said. do “Of course, Sir, you will take up my references first. They are a little—old, but I think you will find them satisfactory.” “I have no doubts about your references, Mrs. Moxton, but they shall be taken up nevertheless, duly and in order.” “Thank you, Sir,” said Mrs. Moxton, giving him a three-quarter face, and almost looking at him in her pleasure. And thereafter Mrs. Moxton ruled the household of Oswald according to the laws and habits of the late Mr. Justice Benlees, who had evidently been a very wise, comfortable, and intelligent man. When she came on from the uncongenial furniture at Margate to the comfort and beauty of Pelham Ford she betrayed a certain approval by expanding an inch or so in every direction and letting out two new chins, but otherwise she made no remark. She radiated decorum and a faint smell of lavender. She had, it seemed, always possessed a black-watered-silk dress and a gold chain. Even Lady Charlotte approved of her. For some years Mrs. Moxton enabled Oswald to disregard the social difficulties that are supposed to surround feminine adolescence. Joan and Peter got along very well with Pelham Ford as their home, and no other feminine control except an occasional visit from the Stubland aunts. Then Aunt Charlotte became tiresome because Joan was growing up. “How can the gal grow up properly,” she asked, “even considering what she is, in a house in which there isn’t a lady at the head?” Oswald reflected upon the problem. He summoned Mrs. Moxton to his presence. “Mrs. Moxton,” he said, “when Miss Joan is here, I’ve been thinking, don’t you think she ought to be, so to speak, mistress of the place?” “I have been wondering when you would make the change, Mr. Sydenham,” said Mrs. Moxton. “I shall be very pleased to take my orders from Miss Joan.” And after that Mrs. Moxton used to come to Joan whenever Joan was at Pelham Ford, and tell her what orders she had to give for the day. And when Joan had visitors, Mrs. Moxton told Joan just exactly what arrangements Joan was to order Mrs. Moxton to make. In all things that mattered Mrs. Moxton ruled Joan with an obedience of iron. Her curtseys, slow, deliberate and firm, insisted that Joan was a lady—and had got to be one. She took to calling Joan “Ma’am.” Joan had to live up to it, and did. Visitors increased after the young people were at Cambridge. Junior dons from Newnham and Girton would come and chaperon their hostess, and Peter treated Oswald to a variety of samples of the younger male generation. Some of the samples Oswald liked more than others. And he concealed very carefully from Aunt Charlotte how mixed these young gatherings were, how light was the Cambridge standard of chaperonage, and how very junior were some of the junior dons from the women’s colleges. § 4 When children are small we elders in charge are apt to suppose them altogether plastic. There are resistances, it is true, but these express themselves at first only in tantrums, in apparently quite meaningless outbreaks; we impose our phrases and values so completely, that such spasmodic opposition seems to signify nothing. We impose our names for things, our classifications with their thousand implications, our interpretations. The child is imitative and obedient by instinct, its personality for the most part latent, warily hidden. That is “hand,” we dictate, that is “hat,” that is “pussy cat,” that is “pretty, pretty,” that is “good,” that is “nasty,” that is “ugly—Ugh!” That again is “fearsome; run away!” There is no discussion. If we know our parental business we are able to establish all sorts of habits, readinesses, dispositions in these entirely plastic days. “Time for Peter to go to bed,” uttered with gusto, becomes the signal for an interesting ritual upon which he embarks with dignity. Until some idiot visitor remarks loudly, “Doesn’t he going to bed? I always going to bed.” Whereupon in that matter the seeds of reflection and dissent are sown in the little mind. hate hated And so with most other matters. For a few years of advantage the new mind is clay and we have it to ourselves, and then, still clay, it becomes perceptibly resistant, perceptibly disposed to recover some former shape we have given it or to take an outline of its own. It discovers we are not divine and that even Dadda cannot recall the sunset. It is not only that other minds are coming in to modify and contradict our decisions. We contradict ourselves and it notes the contradiction. And old Nature begins to take an increasing share in the accumulating personality. Apart from what we give and those others give, things bubble up inside it, desires, imaginations, creative dreams. By imperceptible degrees the growing mind slips away from us. A little while ago it seemed like some open vessel into which we could pour whatever we chose; now suddenly it is closed and locked, hiding a fermentation. Perhaps things have always been more or less so between elders and young, but in the old days of slower change what fathers and mothers had to tell the child, priest and master re-echoed, laws and institutions confirmed, the practice of every one, good or evil, endorsed in black or white. But from the break-up of the Catholic culture in England onward there has been an unceasing conflict between more and more divergent stories about life, and in the last half century that clash has enormously intensified. What began as a war of ideals became at last a chaos. Adolescence was once either an obedience or a rebellion; at the opening of the twentieth century it had become an interrogation and an experiment. One heard very much of the right of the parent to bring up children in his own religion, his own ideas, but no one ever bothered to explain how that right was to be preserved. In Ireland one found near Dublin educational establishments surrounded by ten-foot walls topped with broken glass, protecting a Catholic atmosphere for a few precious and privileged specimens of the Erse nation. Mr. James Joyce in his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, has bottled a specimen of that Catholic atmosphere for the astonishment of posterity. The rest of the youth of the changing world lay open to every wind of suggestion that blew. The parent or guardian found himself a mere competitor for the attention and convictions of his charges. § 5 Through childhood and boyhood and girlhood, Peter’s sex and seniority alike had conspired to give him a leadership over Joan. His seemed the richer, livelier mind, he told most of the stories and initiated most of the games; Joan was the follower. That masculine ascendancy lasted until Peter was leaving Caxton; in spite of various emancipating forces at Highmorton. Then in less than a year Joan took possession of herself. Reserve is a necessary grace in all younger brothers and sisters. Peter spread his reveries as a peacock spreads its tail, but Joan kept her dreams discreetly private. All youth lives much in reverie; thereby the stronger minds anticipate and rehearse themselves for life in a thousand imaginations, the weaker ones escape from it. Against that early predominance of Peter, Joan maintained her self-respect by extensive secret supplements of the Bungo-Peter saga. For example she was Bungo-Peter’s “Dearest Belovèd.” Peter never suspected how Bungo-Peter and she cuddled up together at the camp fires and were very close and warm every night, until she went off to sleep.... When she was about fourteen Joan’s imagination passed out of the phase of myth and saga into the world of romance. The real world drew closer to her. Bungo-Peter vanished; Nobby shrank down to a real Uncle Nobby. Her childish reveries had disregarded possibility; now the story had to be plausible; it had to join on to Highmorton and The Ingle-Nook and Pelham Ford; its heroine had to be conceivable as the real Joan. And with the coming of reality, came moods. There were times when she felt dull, and the world looked on her with a grey and stupid face, and other times to compensate her for these dull phases, seasons of unwonted exaltation. It was as if her being sometimes drew itself together in order presently to leap and extend itself. In these new phases of expansion she had the most perfect conviction that life, and particularly her life, was wonderful and beautiful and destined to be more and more so. She began to experience a strange, new happiness in mere existence, a happiness that came with an effect of revelation. It is hard to convey the peculiar delight that invaded her during these phases. It was almost as if the earth had just been created for her and given to her as a present. There were moments when the world was a crystal globe of loveliness about her, moments of ecstatic realization of a universal beauty. The slightest things would suffice to release this sunshine in her soul. She would discover the intensest delight in little, hitherto disregarded details, in the colour of a leaf held up to the light, or the rhythms of ripples on a pond or the touch of a bird’s feather. There were moments when she wanted to kiss the sunset, and times when she would clamber over the end wall of the garden at Pelham Ford in order to lie hidden and still, with every sense awake, in the big clump of bracken in the corner by the wood beyond. The smell of crushed bracken delighted her intensely. She wanted to be a nymph then and not a girl in clothes. And shining summer streams and lakes roused in her a passionate desire to swim, to abandon herself wholly to the comprehensive sweet silvery caress of the waters. In the days of the Saga story, the time of the story had always been Now—and Never; but in the drama of adolescence the time of all Joan’s reveries was Tomorrow; what she dreamt of now were things that were to be real experiences in quite a little time, when she had grown just a year or so older, when she was a little taller, when she had left school, when she was really as beautiful as she hoped to be. The world about her by example and precept, by plays and stories and poems and histories, was supplying her with a rich confusion of material for these anticipatory sketches. One main history emerged in her fifteenth year. It went on for many months. Joan of Arc was in the making of it, and Jane Shore, and Nell Gwyn. At first she was the Lady Joan, and then she became just Joan Stubland, but always she was the king’s mistress. From the very beginning Joan had found something splendid and attractive in the word “mistress.” It had come to her first in a history lesson, and then more brightly clad in a costume novel. But it was a very glorious and noble kind of mistress that Joan had in view. Her ideas of the authority and duties of a mistress were vague; but she knew that a mistress rules by beauty. That she ruled Joan never doubted—or why should she be called mistress? And she prevailed over queens, so French history had instructed her. She made war and peace. Joan of Arc was inextricably mixed in with the vision. She was a beautiful girl, and she told the king of France what to do. At need she led armies. What else but a mistress could you call her? “Mistress of France,” magnificent phrase! Of such ideas was Joan Stubland woven. The king perhaps would do injustice, or neglect a meritorious case. Then Joan Stubland would appear, watchful and dignified. “No,” she would say. “That must not be. I am the king’s mistress.” And she wore a kind of light armour. Without skirts. Never with skirts. Joan at fourteen already saw long skirts ahead of her, and hated them as a man might hate a swamp that he must presently cross knee-deep. Where the king went Joan went. But he was not the current king, nor his destined successor. She had studied these monarchs in the illustrated papers—and in the news. She did not think much of them. They stood down out of Joan’s dream in favour of a younger autocrat. After all, was there not also a young prince, her contemporary, who would some day be king? But in her imagination he was not like his published portraits; instead—and this is curious—he was rather like Peter. He was as much like Peter as any one. This was all of Peter that ever got into her reveries, for there was a curious bar in her mind to Peter being thought of either as her lover or as any one not her lover. Something obscure in her composition barred any such direct imaginations about Peter. So, contrawise to all established morality and to everything to which her properly constituted teachers were trying to shape her, a chance phrase in a history book filled the imagination of Joan with this dream of a different sort of woman’s life altogether. In which one went side by side with a man in a manly way, sharing his power, being dear and beautiful to him. Compared with such a lot who would be one of these wives? Who would stay at home and—as a consequence apparently of the religious ceremony of matrimony—have babies? The king’s mistress story was Joan’s dominant reverie, but it was not her only one. It was, so to speak, her serial; it was always “to be continued in our next.” But her busy mind, whenever her attention was not fully occupied, was continually spinning romance; beside the serial story there were endless incidental ones. Almost always they were love stories. They were violent and adventurous in substance, full of chases, fights, and confrontations, but Joan did not stint herself of kissing and embraces. There were times when she liked tremendously to think of herself kissing. Most little girls of thirteen or fourteen are thinking with the keenest interest and curiosity about this lover business and its mysteries, and Joan was no exception. She was deeply interested to find she was almost as old as Juliet. Inspired by Shakespeare, Joan thought quite a lot about balconies and ladders—and Romeo. Some of her school contemporaries jested about these things and were very arch and sly. But she was as shy of talking about love as she was prone to love reveries. She talked of flowers and poetry and music and scenery and beautiful things as though they were things in themselves, but in her heart she was convinced that all the loveliness that shone upon her in the world was only so much intimation of the coming loveliness of love. The outward and visible disposition of Highmorton School was all against the spirit of such dreams. The disposition of Highmorton was towards a scorn of males. What Joan knew surely to be lovely, Highmorton denounced as “soppy.” “Soppy” was a terrible word in boys’ schools and girls’ schools alike, a flail for all romance. But in the girls’ schools it was used more particularly against tender thoughts of men. Highmorton taught the revolt of women from the love of men—in favour of the love of women. The school resounded always with the achievements of the one important sex, hitherto held back by man-made laws from demonstrating an all-round superiority. The staff at Highmorton had all a common hardness of demeanour; they were without exception suffragettes, and most of them militant suffragettes. They played hockey with great violence, and let the elder girls hear them say “damn!” The ones who had any beauty aspired to sub-virile effects; they impressed small adorers as if they were sexless angels. There was Miss Oriana Frobisher (science) with the glorious wave in her golden hair and the flash of lightning in her glasses. She had done great feats with love, it was said; she had refused a professor of botany and a fabulously rich widower, and the mathematical master was “gone” on her. There was Miss Kellaway, dark and pensive, known to her worshippers as “Queen of the Night,” fragile, and yet a swift and nimble forward. Aunt Phœbe also had become a leading militant, and Aunt Phyllis, who wavered on the verge of militancy, continued the Highmorton teaching in the holidays. “Absolute equality between the sexes,” was their demand; their moderate demand, seeing what men were. Joan would have been more than human not to take the colour of so universal a teaching. And yet in her reveries there was always one man exempt from that doom of general masculine inferiority. She had no use for a dream lover—unless he was dying of consumption or, Tristram fashion, of love-caused wounds—who could not out-run, out-fence, out-wrestle and out-think her, or for a situation of asserted equality which could not dissolve into caressing devotion. § 6 And of these preoccupations with the empire and the duties and destinies of the empire and the collective affairs of mankind, which to Oswald were the very gist and purpose of education, Highmorton taught Joan practically nothing. Miss Jevons, the Head, would speak now and then of “loyalty to the crown” in a rather distant way—Miss Murgatroyd had been wont to do the same thing—and for the rest left politics alone. Except that there was one thing, one supreme thing, the Vote. When first little Joan heard of the Vote at Limpsfield she was inclined to think it was a flattened red round thing rather like the Venerable Bede at the top of the flagstaff. She learned little better at Highmorton. She gathered that women were going to “get the vote” and then they were to vote. They were going to vote somehow against the men and it would make the world better, but there was very little more to it than that. The ideas remained strictly personal, strictly dramatic. Wicked men like Mr. Asquith who opposed the vote were to be cast down; one of the dazzling Pankhurst family, or perhaps Miss Oriana Frobisher, was to take his place. Profound scepticisms about this vote—in her heart of hearts she called it the “old Vote,” were hidden by Joan from the general observation of the school. She had only the slightest attacks of that common schoolgirl affliction, schoolmistress love; she never idolized Miss Jevons or Miss Frobisher or Miss Kellaway. Their enthusiasm for the vote, therefore, prevented hers. Later on it was to be different. She was to find in the vote a symbol of personal freedom—and an excellent excuse for undergraduate misbehaviour. It is true Highmorton School presented a certain amount of history and geography to Joan’s mind, but in no way as a process in which she was concerned. She grew up to believe that in England we were out of history, out of geography, eternally blessed in a constitution that we could not better, under a crown which was henceforth for ever, so to speak, the centre of an everlasting social tea-party, and that party “politics” in Parliament and the great Vote struggle had taken the place of such real convulsions of human fortune as occurred in other countries and other times. Wars, famine, pestilence; the world had done with them. Nations, kings and people, politics, were for Joan throughout all her schooldays no more than scenery for her unending private personal romance. But because much has been told here of Joan’s reveries it is not to be imagined that she was addicted to brooding. It was only when her mind was unoccupied that the internal story-teller got to work. Usually Joan was pretty actively occupied. The Highmorton ideal of breezy activity took hold of her very early; one kept “on the Go.” In school she liked her work, even though her unworshipping disposition got her at times at loggerheads with her teachers; there was so much more in the lessons than there had been at Miss Murgatroyd’s. Out of school she became rather a disorderly influence. At first she missed Peter dreadfully. Then she began to imitate Peter for the benefit of one or two small associates with less initiative than her own. Then she became authentically Peter-like. She tried a mild saga of her own in those junior days, and taught her friends to act a part in it as Peter had taught her to be a companion of the great Bungo. She developed the same sort of disposition to go up ladders, climb over walls, try the fronts of cliffs, go through open doors and try closed ones, that used to make Peter such agreeable company. Once or twice she and a friend or so even got lost by the mistress in charge of a school walk, and came home by a different way through the outskirts of Broadstairs. But that led to an awe-inspiring “fuss.” Moreover, it took Joan some years to grasp the idea that the physical correction of one’s friends is not ladylike. When it came to other girls she perceived that Peter’s way with a girl was really a very good way—better than either hauteur or pinching. Holding down, for instance, or the wrist wrench. All the time that she was at Highmorton Joan found no friend as good as Peter. Tel Wymark, with the freckles, became important about Joan’s fifteenth birthday as a good giggling associate, a person to sit with in the back seats of lectures and debates and tickle to death with dry comments on the forward proceedings. To turn on Tel quietly and slowly and do a gargoyle face at her was usually enough to set her off—or even to pull a straight face and sit as if you were about to gargoyle. Tel’s own humour was by no means negligible, and she had a store of Limericks, the first Limericks Joan had encountered. Joan herself rarely giggled; on a few occasions she laughed loudly, but for most comic occasions her laughter was internal, and so this disintegration of Tel by merriment became a fascinating occupation. It was no doubt the contrast of her dark restraint that subjected her to the passionate affection of Adela Murchison. That affair began a year or so before the friendship with Tel. Adela was an abundant white-fleshed creature rather more than a year older than Joan. She came back from the Easter holidays, stage struck, with her head full of Rosalind. She had seen Miss Lillah McCarthy as Rosalind in As You Like it, and had fallen violently in love with her. She went over the play with Joan, and Joan was much fascinated by the Rosalind masquerade; in such guise Joan Stubland might well have met her king for the first time. Then Adela and Joan let their imaginations loose and played at Shakespearian love-making. They would get together upon walks and steal apart whenever an opportunity offered. Adela wanted to kiss a great deal, and once when she kissed Joan she whispered, “It’s not Rosalind I love, not Lillah or any one else; just Joan.” Joan kissed her in return. And then something twisted over in Joan’s mind that drove her to austerity; suddenly she would have no more of this kissing, she herself could not have explained why or wherefore. It was the queerest recoil. “We’re being too soppy,” she said to Adela, but that did not in the least express it. Adela became a protesting and urgent lover; she wrote Joan notes, she tried to make scenes, she demanded Was there any one else? “No,” said Joan. “But I don’t like all this rot.” “You did!” said Adela with ready tears shining in her pretty eyes. “And I don’t now,” said Joan.... Joan herself was puzzled, but she had no material in her mind by which she could test and analyse this revulsion. She hid a dark secret from all the world, she hid it almost from herself, that once before, in the previous summer holidays, one afternoon while she was staying with her aunts at The Ingle-Nook, she had walked over by the Cuspard house on the way to Miss Murgatroyd’s. And she had met young Cuspard, grown tall and quaintly good-looking, in white flannels. They had stopped to talk and sat down on a tree together, and suddenly he had kissed her. “You’re lovely, Joan,” he said. It was an incredible thing to remember, it was a memory so astounding as to be obscure, but she knew as a fact that she had kissed him again and had liked this kissing, and then had had just this same feeling of terror, of enormity, as though something vast clutched at her. It was fantastically disagreeable, not like a real disagreeable thing, but like a dream disagreeable thing. She resolved that in fact it had not happened, she barred it back out of the current of her thoughts, and it shadowed her life for days. § 7 The modern world tells the young a score of conflicting stories—more or less distinctly—about every essential thing. While men like Oswald dream of a culture telling the young plainly what they are supposed to be for, what this or that or the other is for, the current method of instruction about God and state and sex alike is a wrangle that never joins issue. For every youth and maiden who is not strictly secluded or very stupid, adolescence is a period of distressful perplexity, of hidden hypotheses, misunderstood hints, checked urgency, and wild stampedes of the imagination. Joan’s opening mind was like some ill-defended country across which armies marched. Came the School of St. George and the Venerable Bede, led by Miss Murgatroyd and applauded by Aunt Phœbe, baring its head and feet and knees, casting aside corsets, appealing to nature and simplicity, professing fearlessness, and telling the young a great deal less than it had the air of telling them. Came Highmorton, a bracing wind after that relaxing atmosphere. But Limpsfield had at least a certain honesty in its limited initiation; Highmorton was comparatively an imposture. With an effect of going right on beyond all established things to something finer and newer, Highmorton was really restoring prudery in a brutalized form. It is no more vigorous to ban a topic by calling it “soppy” and waving a muddy hockey-stick at it in a threatening manner, than it is to ban it by calling it “improper” and primly cutting it dead. There the topic remains. A third influence had made a contributory grab at Joan; Aunt Charlotte Sydenham’s raid on the children’s education was on behalf of all that was then most orthodox. Hers was indeed the essential English culture of the earlier Victorian age; a culture that so far as sex went was pure suppression—tempered by the broad hints and tittering chatter of servants and base people.... Stuck away, shut in, in Joan’s memory, shut in and disregarded as bees will wax up and disregard the decaying body of some foul intruder, were certain passages with Mrs. Pybus. They carried an impression at once vague and enormous, of a fascinating unclean horror. They were inseparably mixed up with strange incredulous thoughts of hell that were implanted during the same period. Such scenery as they needed was supplied by the dusty, faded furnishings of the little house in Windsor, they had the same faintly disagreeable dusty smell of a home only cleansed by stray wipes with a duster and spiritless sweeping with tea-leaves. That period had been a dark patch upon the sunlit fabric of Joan’s life. Over it all brooded this Mrs. Pybus, frankly dirty while “doing” her house in the morning, then insincerely tidy in the afternoon. She talked continually to, at, and round about Joan. She was always talking. She was an untimely widow prone to brood upon the unpleasant but enormously importunate facts that married life had thrust upon her. She had an irresistible desire to communicate her experiences with an air of wisdom. She had a certain conceit of wisdom. She had no sense of the respect due to the ignorance of childhood. Like many women of her class and type she was too egotistical to allow for childhood. Never before had Joan heard of diseases. Now she heard of all the diseases of these two profoundly clinical families, the Pybuses and the Unwins. The Pybus family specialized in cancers, “chumors” and morbid growths generally; one, but he was rather remote and legendary, had had an “insec’ in ’is ’ed”; the distinction of the Unwins on the other hand was in difficult parturitions. All this stuff was poured out in a whining monologue in Joan’s presence as Mrs. Pybus busied herself in the slatternly details of her housework. “Two cases of cancer I’ve seen through from the very first pangs,” Mrs. Pybus would begin, and then piously, “God grant I never see a third.” “Whatever you do, Joan, one thing I say never do—good though Pybus was and kind. Never marry no one with internal cancer, ’owever ’ard you may be drove. Indigestion, rheumatism, even a wooden leg rather. Better a man that drinks. I say it and I know. It doesn’t make it any easier, Joan, to sit and see them suffer. “You’ve got your troubles yet to come, young lady. I don’t expec’ you understand ’arf what I’m telling you. But you will some day. I sometimes think if I ’adn’t been kep’ in ignorance things might have been better for me—all I bin called upon to go through.” That was the style of thing. It was like pouring drainage over a rosebud. First Joan listened with curiosity, then with horror. Then unavailingly, always overpowered by a grotesque fascination, she tried not to listen. Monstrous fragments got through to her cowering attention. Here were things for a little girl to carry off in her memory, material as she sickened for measles for the most terrifying and abominable of dreams. “There’s poor ladies that has to be reg’lar cut open.... “I ’ad a dreadful time when I married Pybus. Often I said to ’im afterwards, you can’t complain of , Pybus. The things one lives through!... me “’Is sister’s ’usband didn’t ’ave no mercy on ’er.... “Don’t you go outside this gate, Joan—ever. If one of these ’ere Tramps should get hold of you.... I’ve ’eard of a little girl....” If a congenial gossip should happen to drop in Joan would be told to sit by the window and look at the “nice picture book”—it was always that one old volume of The Illustrated London News—while a talk went on that insisted on being heard, now dropping to harsh whispers, now rising louder after the assurance of Mrs. Pybus: “Lord! won’t understand a word you’re saying.” She If by chance Mrs. Pybus and her friend drifted for a time from personal or consanguineous experiences then they dealt with crimes. Difficulties in the disposal of the body fascinated these ladies even more than the pleasing details of the act. And they preferred murders of women by men. It seemed more natural to them.... The world changed again. Through the tossing distress of the measles Aunt Phyllis reappeared, and then came a journey and The Ingle-Nook and dear Petah! and Nobby. She was back in a world where Mrs. Pybus could not exist, where the things of which Mrs. Pybus talked could not happen. Yet there was this in Joan’s mind, unformulated, there was a passionate stress against its formulation, that all the other things she thought about love and beauty were poetry and dreaming, but this alone of all the voices that had spoken over and about her, told of something real. In the unknown beyond to which one got if one pressed on, was something of that sort, something monstrous, painful and dingy.... Reality! Wax it over, little dream bees; cover it up; don’t think of it! Back to reverie! Be a king’s mistress, clad in armour, who sometimes grants a kiss. § 8 It was in the nature of Mrs. Pybus to misconceive things. She never grasped the true relationship of Joan and Peter; Mr. Grimes had indeed been deliberately vague upon that point in the interests of the Sydenham family, the use of the Stubland surname for Joan had helped him; and so there dropped into Joan’s ears a suggestion that was at the time merely perplexing but which became gradually an established fact in her mind. “Ow! don’t you know?” said Mrs. Pybus to her friend. “Ow, no! She’s——” (Her voice sank to a whisper.) For a time what they said was so confidential as to convey nothing to Joan but a sense of mystery. “Ow ’is mother ever stood ’er in the ’ouse passes my belief,” said Mrs. Pybus, coming up to the audible again. “Why! I’d ’ave ’er. But ladies and gentlemen don’t seem to ’ave no natural affections—not wot I call affections. There she was brought into the ’ouse and treated just as if she was the little chap’s sister.” killed “She’d be——?” said the friend, trying to grasp it. “’Arf sister,” said Mrs. Pybus. “Of a sort. Neither ’ere nor there, so to speak. Not in the eyes of the law. And there they are—leastways they was until Lady Charlotte Sydenham interfered.” The friend nodded her head rapidly to indicate intelligent appreciation. “It isn’t like being brother and sister,” said Mrs. Pybus, contemplating possibilities. “It’s neither one thing nor another. And all wrop up in mystery as you might say. Why, oo knows? They might go falling in love with each other.” reely “ ” said Mrs. Pybus’s friend. ’Orrible! “It ’ad to be put a stop to,” said Mrs. Pybus. Confirmatory nodding, with a stern eye for the little figure that sat in a corner and pretended to be interested in the faded exploits of vanished royalties, recorded in that old volume of The Illustrated London News.... That conversation sank down into the deeps of Joan’s memory and remained there, obscured but exercising a dim influence upon her relations with Peter. One phrase sent up a bubble every now and then into her conscious thoughts: “half-sister.” It was years after that she began to piece together the hidden riddle of her birth. Mummy and Daddy were away; that had served as well for her as for Peter far beyond the Limpsfield days. It isn’t until children are in their teens that these things interest them keenly. It wasn’t a thing to talk about, she knew, but it was a thing to puzzle over. Who was really her father? Who was her mother? If she was Peter’s half-sister, then either his father was not hers or his mother.... When people are all manifestly in a plot to keep one in the dark one does not ask questions. § 9 After the first violent rupture that Mr. Grimes had organized, Joan and Peter parted and met again in a series of separations and resumptions. They went off to totally dissimilar atmospheres, Joan to the bracing and roughening air of Highmorton and Peter first to the brightness of White Court and then to the vigorous work and play of Caxton; and each time they returned for the holidays to Margate or Limpsfield or Pelham Ford changed, novel, and yet profoundly familiar. Always at first when holidays brought them together again they were shy with each other and intensely egotistical, anxious to show off their new tricks and make the most of whatever small triumphs school life had given them. Then in a day or so they would be at their ease together like a joint that has been dislocated and has slipped into place again. Cambridge at last brought them nearer together, and ended this series of dislocations. After much grave weighing of the situation by Miss Fairchild, the principal of Newton Hall, Peter, when Joan came up, was given the status of a full brother. They grew irregularly, and that made some quaint variations of relationship. Peter, soon after he went to Caxton, fell to expanding enormously. He developed a chest, his limbs became great things. There was a summer bitten into Joan’s memory when he regarded her as nothing more than a “leetle teeny female tick,” and descanted on the minuteness of her soul and body. But he had lost some of his lightness, if none of his dexterity and balance, as a climber, and Joan got her consolations among the lighter branches of various trees they explored. Next Christmas Joan herself had done some serious growing, and the gap was not so wide. But it was only after her first term at Newnham that Joan passed from the subservience of a junior to the confidence of a senior. She did it at a bound. She met him one day in the narrow way between Sidney Street and Petty Cury. Her hair was up and her eyes were steady; most of her legs had vanished, and she had clothes like a real woman. We do not foregather even with foster brothers in the streets of Cambridge, but a passing hail is beyond the reach of discipline. “Hullo, Petah!” she said, “what a gawky great thing you’re getting!” Peter, a man in his second year, was so taken aback he had no adequate reply. “You’ve grown too,” he said, “if it comes to that”;—a flavourless reply. And there was admiration in his eyes. An encounter for subsequent regrets. He thought over it afterwards. The cheek of her! It made his blood boil. “So long, Petah,” said Joan, carrying it off to the end.... They were sterner than brother and sister with each other. There was never going to be anything “soppy” between them. At fourteen, when Peter passed into the Red Indian phase of a boy’s development, when there can be no more “blubbing,” no more shirking, he carried Joan with him. She responded magnificently to the idea of pluck. Spartan ideals ruled them both. And a dark taciturnity. Joan would have died with shame if Peter had penetrated the secret romance of Joan Stubland, and the days of Peter’s sagas were over for ever. When Peter was fifteen he was consumed by a craving for a gun, and Oswald gave him one. “But kill,” said Oswald. “If you let anything get away wounded——” Peter took Joan out into the wood at the back. He missed a pigeon, and then he got one. “Pick it up, Joan,” he said, very calmly and grandly. Joan was white to the lips, but she picked up the bloodstained bird in silence. These things had to happen. Then out of a heap of leaves in front darted a rabbit. Lop, lop, lop, went its little white scut. and over it rolled, but it wasn’t instantly killed. Horror came upon Joan. She was nearest; she ran to the wretched animal, which was lying on its side and kicking automatically, and stood over it. Its eyes were bright and wide with terror. “Oh, how am I to it?” she cried, with agony in her voice; “what am I to do-o?” She wrung her hands. She felt she was going to pieces, giving herself away, failing utterly. Peter would despise her and jeer at her. But the poor little beast! The poor beast! There is a limit to pride. She caught it up. “Petah!” she cried quite pitifully, on the verge of a whimper. Bang! kill Peter had come up to her. He didn’t look contemptuous. He was white-lipped too. She had never seen him look scared before. He snatched the rabbit from her and killed it by one, two, three—she counted—quick blows—she didn’t see. But she had met his eyes, and they were as distressed as hers. Just for a moment. Then he was a fifth form boy again. He examined his victim with an affectation of calm. “Too far back,” he said. “Bad shot. Mustn’t do that again.”... The rabbit was quite still and limp now, dangling from Peter’s hand, its eye had glazed, blood dripped and clotted at its muzzle, but its rhythmic desperate kicking was still beating in Joan’s brain. Was this to go on? Could she go on? Peter’s gun and the pigeon were lying some yards away. He regarded them and then looked down at the rabbit he held. “Now I know I can shoot,” he said, and left the sentence unfinished. “Bring the pigeon, Joan,” he said, ending an indecision, and picked up his gun and led the way back towards the house.... “We got a pigeon and a rabbit,” Joan babbled at tea to Oswald. “Next time, Petah’s going to let me have the gun.” Our tone was altogether sporting. But there was no next time. There were many unspoken things between Joan and Peter, and this was to be one of them. For all the rest of their lives neither Joan nor Peter went shooting again. Men Peter was destined to slay—but no more beasts. Necessity never compelled them, and it would have demanded an urgent necessity before they would have faced the risk of seeing another little furry creature twist and wriggle and of marking how a bright eye glazes over. But they were both very bitterly ashamed of this distressing weakness. They left further shooting for “tomorrow,” and it remained always tomorrow. They said nothing about their real feelings in the matter, and Peter cleaned and oiled his new gun very carefully and hung it up conspicuously over the mantelshelf of their common room, ready to be taken down at any time—when animals ceased to betray feeling. § 10 Joan and Peter detested each other’s friends from the beginning. The quarrel that culminated in that amazing speech of Joan’s, had been smouldering between them for a good seven years. It went right back to the days when they were still boy and girl. To begin with, after their first separation they had had no particular friends; they had had acquaintances and habits of association, but the mind still lacks the continuity necessary for friendship and Euclid until the early teens. The first rift came with Adela Murchison. Joan brought her for the summer holidays when Peter had been just a year at Caxton. That was the first summer at Pelham Ford. Aunt Phyllis was with them, but Aunt Phœbe was in great labour with her first and only novel, a fantasia on the theme of feminine genius, “These are my Children, or Mary on the Cross.” (It was afterwards greatly censored. Boots, the druggist librarian, would have none of it.) She stayed alone, therefore, at The Ingle-Nook, writing, revising, despairing, tearing up and beginning again, reciting her more powerful passages to the scarlet but listening ears of Groombridge and the little maid, and going more and more unkempt, unhooked, and unbuttoned. Oswald, instead of resorting to the Climax Club as he was apt to do when Aunt Phœbe was imminent, abode happily in his new home. Adela was a month or so older than Peter and, what annoyed him to begin with, rather more fully grown. She was, as she only too manifestly perceived, a woman of the world in comparison with both of her hosts. She was still deeply in love with Joan, but by no means indifferent to this dark boy who looked at her with so much of Joan’s cool detachment. Joan’s romantic dreams were Joan’s inmost secret, Adela’s romantic intentions were an efflorescence. She was already hoisting the signals for masculine surrender. She never failed to have a blue ribbon astray somewhere to mark and help the blueness of her large blue eyes. She insisted upon the flaxen waves over her ears, and secretly assisted them to kink. She had a high colour. She had no rouge yet in her possession but there was rouge in her soul, and she would rub her cheeks with her hands before she came into a room. She discovered to Joan the incredible fact that Oswald was also a man. With her arm round Joan’s waist or over her shoulder she would look back at him across the lawn. “I say,” she said, “he’d be good-looking—if it wasn’t for .” frightfully that And one day, “I wonder if Mr. Sydenham’s ever been in love.” She lay in wait for Oswald’s eye. She went after him to ask him unimportant things. Once or twice little things happened, the slightest things, but it might have seemed to Joan that Oswald was disposed to flirt with Adela. But that was surely impossible.... The first effect of the young woman upon Peter was a considerable but indeterminate excitement. It was neither pleasurable nor unpleasurable, but it hung over the giddy verge of being unpleasant. It made him want to be very large, handsome and impressive. It also made him acutely ashamed of wanting to be very large, handsome and impressive. It turned him from a simple boy into a conflict of motives. He wanted to extort admiration from Adela. Also he wanted to despise her utterly. These impulses worked out to no coherent system of remarks and gestures, and he became awkward and tongue-tied. Adela wanted to be shown all over the house and garden. She put her arm about Joan in a manner Peter thought offensive. Then she threw back her hair at him over her shoulder and said, shooting a glance at him, “You come too.” Cheek! Still, she was a guest, and so a fellow had to follow with his hands in his pockets and watch his own private and particular Joan being ordered about and—what was somehow so much more exasperating— about. pawed At what seemed to be the earliest opportunity Peter excused himself, and went off to the outhouse in which he had his tools and chemicals and things. He decided he would rig up everything ready to make Sulphuretted Hydrogen—although he knew quite well that this was neither a large, handsome, nor impressive thing to do. And then he would wait for them to come along, and set the odour going. But neither of the girls came near his Glory Hole, and he was not going to invite them. He just hovered there unvisited, waiting with his preparations and whistling soft melancholy tunes. Finally he made a lot of the gas, simply because he had got the stuff ready, and stank himself out of his Glory Hole into society again. At supper, which had become a sort of dinner that night, Adela insisted on talking like a rather languid, smart woman of the world to Nobby. Nobby took her quite seriously. It was perfectly sickening. “D’you hunt much?” said Adela. “Not in England,” said Nobby. “There’s too many hedges for me. I’ve a sailor’s seat.” “All my people hunt,” said Adela. “It’s rather a bore, don’t you think, Mr. Sydenham?” Talk like that! Two days passed, during which Peter was either being bored to death in the company of Adela and Joan or also bored to death keeping aloof from them. He cycled to Ware with them, and Adela’s cycle had a change speed arrangement with a high gear of eighty-five that made it difficult to keep ahead of her. Beast! And on the second evening she introduced a new card game, Demon Patience, a scrambling sort of game in which you piled on aces in the middle and cried “Stop!” as soon as your stack was out. It was one of those games, one of those inferior games, at which boys in their teens are not nearly as quick as girls, Peter discovered. But presently Joan began to pull ahead and beat Adela and Peter. The two girls began to play against each other as if his poor little spurts didn’t amount to anything. They certainly didn’t amount to very much. Adela began to play with a sprawling eagerness. Her colour deepened; her manners deteriorated. She was tormented between ambition and admiration. When Joan had run her out for the third time, she cried, “Oh, Joan, you Wonderful Darling!” And clutched and kissed her!... All the other things might have been bearable if it had not been for this perpetual confabulating with Joan, this going off to whisper with Joan, this putting of arms round Joan’s neck, this whispering that was almost kissing Joan’s ear. One couldn’t have a moment with Joan. One couldn’t use Joan for the slightest thing. It would have been better if one hadn’t had a Joan. On the mill-pond there was a boat that Joan and Peter were allowed to use. On the morning of the fifth day Joan found Peter hanging about in the hall. “Joan.” “Yes?” “Come and muck about in Baker’s boat.” “If Adela——” “Oh, Adela! We don’t want her. She’d stash it all up.” leave “But she’s a visitor!” “Pretty rotten visitor! What did you bring her here for? She’s rotten.” “She’s not. She’s all right. You’re being horrid rude to her. Every chance you get. I like her.” “Silly tick, she is!” “She’s taller than you are, anyhow.” “Nyar Nyar Nyar Nyar,” said Peter in a singularly ineffective mockery of Adela’s manner. Adela appeared, descending the staircase. Peter turned away. “Peter wants to go in the boat on the mill-pond,” said Joan, as if with calculated wickedness. “Oh! I boats!” said Adela. love “What was a chap to do but go?” But under a thin mask of playfulness Peter splashed them both a lot—especially Adela. And in the evening he refused to play at Demon Patience and went and sat by himself to draw. He tried various designs. He was rather good at drawing Mr. Henderson, and he did several studies of him. Then the girls, who found Demon Patience slow with only two players, came and sat beside him. He was inspired to begin an ugly caricature of Adela. He began at the eyes. Joan knew him better than Adela. She saw what was coming. Down came her little brown paw on the paper. “No, you don’t, Petah,” she said. Peter looked into her face, hot against his, and there was a red light in his eyes. “Leago, Joan,” he said. A struggle began in which Adela took no share. The Sydenham blood is hot blood, and though it doesn’t like hurting rabbits it can be pretty rough with its first cousins. But Joan was still gripping the crumpled half of the offending sheet when Aunt Phyllis, summoned by a scared Adela, came in. The two were on the hearthrug, panting, and Joan’s teeth were deep in Peter’s wrist; they parted and rose somewhat abashed. “My !” cried Aunt Phyllis. dears “We were playing,” said Joan, flushed and breathless, but honourably tearless. “Yes,” said Peter, holding his wrist tight. “We were playing.” “Romping,” said Aunt Phyllis. “Weren’t you a little rough? Adela, you know, isn’t used to your style....” After that, Peter shunned further social intercourse. He affected a great concentration upon experimental chemistry and photography, and bicycled in lonely pride to Waltham Cross, Baldock, and Dunmow. He gave himself up to the roads of Hertfordshire. When at last Adela departed it made no difference in his aloofness. Joan was henceforth as nothing to him; she was just a tick, a silly little female tick, an associate of things that went “Nyar Nyar Nyar.” He hated her. At least, he would have hated her if there was anything that a self-respecting Caxtonian could hate in a being so utterly contemptible. (Yet at the bottom of his heart he loved and respected her for biting his wrist so hard.) Deprived of Adela, Joan became very lonely and forlorn. After some days there were signs of relenting on the part of Peter, and then came his visitor, Wilmington, a boy who had gone with him from White Court to Caxton, and after that there was no need of Joan. With a grim resolution Peter shut Joan out from all their pursuits. She was annihilated. The boys did experimental chemistry together, made the most disgusting stinks, blew up a small earthwork by means of a mine, and stained their hands bright yellow; they had long bicycle rides together, they did “splorjums” in the wood, they “mucked about” with Baker’s boat. Joan by no effort could come into existence again. Once or twice as Peter was going off with Wilmington, Peter would glance back and feel a gleam of compunction at the little figure that watched him going. But she had her Adelas. She and Adela wrote letters to each other. She could go and write to her beastly Adela now.... “Can’t Joan come?” said Wilmington. “She’s only a tick,” said Peter. “She’s not a bad sort of tick,” said Wilmington. (What business was it of his?) Joan fell back on Nobby, and went for walks with him in the afternoon. Then came a complication. Towards the end Wilmington got quite soppy on Joan. It showed. Aunt Phyllis suggested charades for the evening hour after dinner. Wilmington and Peter played against each other, and either of them took out any people he wanted to act with him. Aunt Phyllis was a grave and dignified actress and Nobby could do better than you might have expected. Peter did Salome. (Sal—owe—me; doing sal volatile for Sal.) He sat as Herod, crowned and scornful with the false black beard, and Joan danced and afterwards brought the football in on a plate. Aunt Phyllis did pseudo-oriental music. But when Wilmington saw Joan dance he knew what it was to be in love. He sat glowering passion. For a time he remained frozen rigid, and then broke into wild hand-clapping. His ears were bright red, and Aunt Phyllis looked at him curiously. It was with difficulty that his clouded mind could devise a charade that would give him a call upon Joan. But he thought at last of Milton. (Mill-tun.) “I want you,” he said. “Won’t Aunty do?” “No, . It’s got to be a girl.” you He held the door open for her, and stumbled going out of the room. He was more breathless and jerky than ever outside. Joan heard his exposition with an unfriendly expression. “And what am I to do then?” she asked.... “And then?...” They did “Mill” and “Tun” pretty badly. Came Wilmington’s last precious moments with her. He broke off in his description of Milton blind and Joan as the amanuensis daughter. “Joan,” he whispered, going hoarse with emotion. “Joan, you’re lovely. I’d die for you.” A light of evil triumph came into Joan’s eyes. “Ugly thing!” said Joan, “what did you come here for? You’ve spoilt my holidays. Let of my hand!... Let’s go in and do our tableau.” go And afterwards when Wilmington met Joan in the passage she treated him to a grimace that was only too manifestly intended to represent his own expression of melancholy but undying devotion. In the presence of others she was coolly polite to him. Peter read his friend like a book, but refrained from injurious comment, and Wilmington departed in a state of grave nervous disarray. A day passed. There was not much left now of the precious holidays. Came a glowing September morning. “Joe-un,” whooped Peter in the garden—in just the old note. “Pee-tah!” answered Joan, full-voiced as ever, distant but drawing nearer. “Come and muck about in Baker’s boat.” “Right-o, Petah!” said Joan, and approached with a slightly prancing gait. § 11 Growing out of his Red Indian phase Peter moved up into the Lower Sixth and became a regular cynical man of the world with an air of knowing more than a thing or two. He was, in fact, learning a vast number of things that are outside the books; and rearranging many of his early shocks and impressions by the help of a confusing and increasing mixture of half-lights. The chaotic disrespect of the young went out of his manner in his allusion to school affairs, he no longer spoke of various masters as “Buzzy,” “Snooks,” and “the Croker,” and a curious respectability had invaded his demeanour. The Head had had him in to tea and tennis. The handle of the prefect’s birch was perhaps not more than a year now from his grip, if he bore himself gravely. He reproached Joan on various small occasions for “thundering bad form,” and when Wilmington came, a much more wary and better-looking Wilmington with his heart no longer on his sleeve, the conversation became, so to speak, political. They talked at the dinner-table of the behaviour of so-and-so and this-and-that at “High” and at “Bottoms” and on “the Corso”; they discussed various cases of “side” and “cheek,” and the permanent effect of these upon the standing and reputations of the youths concerned; they were earnest to search out and know utterly why Best did not get his colours and whether it was just to “super” old Rawdon. They discussed the question of superannuation with Oswald very gravely. “Don’t you think,” said Oswald, “if a school takes a boy on, it ought to see him through?” “But if he doesn’t work, sir?” said Wilmington. “A school oughtn’t to produce that lassitude,” said Oswald. “A chap ought to a school,” said Peter. use That was a new point of view to Oswald and Joan. Afterwards came Troop, a larger boy than either Peter or Wilmington, a prefect, a youth almost incredibly manly in his manner, and joined on to these discussions. Said Oswald, “There ought not to be such a thing as superannuation. A man ought not to be let drift to the point of unteachable incapacity. And then thrown away. Some master ought to have shepherded him in for special treatment.” “They don’t look after us to that extent, sir,” said Troop. “Don’t they teach you? Or fail to teach you?” “It’s the school teaches us,” said Peter, as though it had just occurred to him. “Still, the masters are there,” said Oswald, smiling. “The masters are there,” Troop acquiesced. “But the life of the school is the tradition. And a big chap like Rawdon hanging about, too big to lick and too stupid for responsibility—— It breaks things up, sir.” Oswald was very much interested in this prefect’s view of the school life. Behind his blank mask he engendered questions; his one eye watched Troop and went from Troop to Peter. This manliness in the taught surprised him tremendously. Peter was acquiring it rapidly, but Troop seemed to embody it. Oswald himself had been a man early enough and had led a hard life of mutual criticism and exasperation with his fellows, but that had been in a working reality, the navy; this, he reflected, was a case of cocks crowing inside the egg. These boys were living in a premature autonomous state, an aristocratic republic with the Head as a sort of constitutional monarch. There was one questionable consequence at least. They were acquiring political habits before they had acquired wide horizons. Were the political habits of a school where all the boys were of one race and creed and class, suitable for the problems of a world’s affairs? Troop, under Oswald’s insidious leading, displayed his ideas modestly but frankly, and they were the ideas of a large child. Troop was a good-looking, thoroughly healthy youth, full of his grave responsibilities towards the school and inclined to claim a liberal attitude. He was very great upon his duty to “make the fellows live decently and behave decently.” He was lured into a story of how one youth with a tendency to long hair had been partly won and partly driven to a more seemly coiffure; how he had dealt with a games shirker, and how a fellow had been detected lending socialist pamphlets—“not to his friends, sir, I shouldn’t mind that so much, but pushing them upon any one”—and restrained. “Seditious sort of stuff, sir, I believe. No, I did not it, sir.” Troop was for cold baths under all circumstances, for no smoking under sixteen and five foot six, and for a simple and unquestioning loyalty to any one who came along and professed to be in authority over him. When he mentioned the king his voice dropped worshipfully. Upon the just use of the birch Troop was conscientiously prolix. There were prefects, he said, who “savaged” the fellows. Others swished without judgment. Troop put conscience into each whack. read Troop’s liberalism interested Oswald more than anything else about him. He was proud to profess himself no mere traditionalist; he wanted Caxton to “broaden down from precedent to precedent.” Indeed he had ambitions to be remembered as a reformer. He hoped, he said, to leave the school “better than he found it”—the modern note surely. His idea of a great and memorable improvement was to let the Upper Fifth fellows into the Corso after morning service on Sunday. He did not think it would make them impertinent; rather it would increase their self-respect. He was also inclined to a reorganization of the afternoon fagging “to stop so much bawling down the corridor.” There ought to be a bell—an electric bell—in each prefect’s study. No doubt that was a bit revolutionary—Troop almost smirked. “It’s all very well for schools like Eton or Winchester to stick to the old customs, sir, but we are supposed to be an Up-to-Date school. Don’t you think, sir?” The egg was everything to this young cockerel; the world outside was naught. Oswald led him on from one solemn puerility to another, and as the big boy talked in his stout man-of-the-world voice, the red eye roved from him to Peter and from Peter back to Troop. Until presently it realized that Peter was watching it as narrowly. “What does Peter really think of this stuff?” thought Oswald. “What does Nobby really think of this stuff?” queried Peter. “I suppose, some day, you’ll leave Caxton,” said Oswald. “I shall be very sorry to, sir,” said Troop sincerely. “Have you thought at all——” “Not yet, sir. At least——” “Troop’s people,” Peter intervened, “are Army people.” “I see,” said Oswald. Joan listened enviously to all this prefectorial conversation. At Highmorton that sort of bossing and influencing was done by the junior staff.... Oswald did his best to lure Troop from his administrative preoccupations into general topics. But apparently some one whom Troop respected had warned him against general topics. Oswald lugged and pushed the talk towards religion, Aunt Phyllis helping, but they came up against a stone wall. “My people are Church of England,” said Troop, intimating thereby that his opinions were banked with the proper authorities. It was not for him to state them. And in regard to politics, “All my people are Conservative.” One evening Oswald showed him a portfolio of drawings from various Indian temples, and suggested something of the complex symbolism of the figures. Troop thought it was “rather unhealthy.” But—turning from these monstrosities—he had hopes for India. “My cousin tells me, sir, that cricket and polo are spreading very rapidly there.” “Polo,” said Oswald, “is an Indian game. They have played it for centuries. It came from Persia originally.” But Troop was unable to imagine Indians riding horses; he had the common British delusion that the horse and the ship were both invented in our islands and that all foreign peoples are necessarily amateurs at such things. “I thought they rode elephants,” said Troop with quiet conviction.... Troop was not only a great experience for Oswald, he also exercised the always active mind of Joan very considerably. Peter, it seemed, hadn’t even mentioned her beforehand. “Hullo!” said Troop at the sight of her. “Got a sister?” “Foster-sister,” said Peter, minimizing the thing. “Joan, this is Troop.” Joan regarded him critically. “Can he play D.P.?” “Not one of my games,” said Troop, who was chary of all games not usually played. “It’s a game like Snap,” said Peter with an air of casual contempt, and earned a bright scowl. For a day or so Troop and Joan kept aloof, watching one another. Then she caught him out rather neatly twice at single wicket cricket; he had a weakness for giving catches to point and she had observed it. “Caught!” he cried approvingly. Also she snicked and slipped and at last slogged boldly at his patronizing under-arm bowling. “Here’s a Twister,” he said, like an uncle speaking to a child. Joan smacked it into the cedar. “ ” quoth Joan, running. Twister! After that he took formal notice of her, betraying a disposition to address her as “Kid.” (Ralph Connor was at that time adding his quota to the great British tradition. It is true he wrote in American about cowboys—but a refined cowboy was the fullest realization of an English gentleman’s pre-war ideals—and Ralph Connor’s cowboys are essentially refined. Thence came the “Kid,” anyhow.) But Joan took umbrage at the “Kid.” And she disliked Troop’s manner and influence with Peter. And the way Peter stood it. She did not understand what a very, very great being a prefect is in an English public school, she did not know of Troop’s superbness at rugger, it seemed to her that it was bad manners to behave as though a visit to Pelham Ford were an act of princely condescension. She was even disposed to diagnose Troop’s largeness, very unjustly, as fat. So she pulled up Troop venomously with “My name’s not Kit, it’s Joan. J.O.A.N.” “Sorry!” said Troop. And being of that insensitive class whose passions are only to be roused by a smacking, he began to take still more notice of her. She was, he perceived, a lively Kid. He felt a strong desire to reprove and influence her. He had no suspicion that what he really wanted to do was to interest Joan in himself. Joan’s tennis was incurably tricky. Troop’s idea of tennis was to play very hard and very swiftly close over the net, but without cunning. Peter and Wilmington followed his lead. But Joan forced victory upon an unwilling partner by doing unexpected things. Troop declared he did not mind being defeated, but that he was shocked by the spirit of Joan’s play. It wasn’t “sporting.” “Those short returns aren’t done, Kid,” he said. “I do them,” said Joan. “Ancient.” Peter and Wilmington were visibly shocked, but Troop showed no resentment at the gross familiarity. “But if every one did them!” he reasoned. “I could take them,” said Joan. “Any one could take them who knew how.” The dispute seemed likely to die down into unverifiable assertions. “Peter can take them,” said Joan. “He drops them back. But he isn’t doing it today.” Peter reflected. Troop would never understand, but there was something reasonable in Joan’s line. “I’ll see to Joan,” he said abruptly, and came towards the middle of the net. The game continued on unorthodox but brilliant lines. “I don’t call this tennis,” said Troop. “If you served to her left,” said Peter. “But she’s a girl!” protested Troop. “ ” Serve! He made the concessions that are proper to a lady, and Joan scored the point after a brief rally with Peter. “Game,” said Joan. Troop declared he did not care to play again. It would put him off tennis. “Take me as a partner,” said Joan. “No—I don’t think so, thanks,” said Troop coldly. Every one became thoughtful and drifted towards the net. Oswald approached from the pergola, considering the problem. “I’ve been thinking about that sort of thing for years,” he remarked, strolling towards them. “Well, sir, aren’t you with me?” asked Troop. “No. I’m for Joan—and Peter.” “But that sort of trick play——” “No. The way to play a game is to get all over the game and to be equal to anything in it. If there is a stroke or anything that spoils the game it ought to be barred by the rules. Apart from that, a game ought to be worked out to its last possibility. Things oughtn’t to be barred in the interests of a few conventional swipes. This cutting down of a game to just a few types of stroke——” Peter looked apprehensive. “It’s laziness,” said Oswald. Troop was too puzzled to be offended. “But you have to work tremendously hard, sir, at the proper game.” “Not mentally,” said Oswald. “There’s too much good form in all our games. It’s just a way of cutting down a game to a formality.” “But, for instance, sir, would you bowl grounders at cricket?” “If I thought the batsman had been too lazy to learn what to do with them. Why not?” “If you look at it like , sir!” said Troop and had no more to say. But he went away marvelling. Oswald was a V.C. Yet he looked at games like—like an American, he played to win; it was enough to perplex any one.... that “Must confess I don’t see it,” said Troop when Oswald had gone.... When at last Troop and Wilmington departed Oswald went with them to the station—the luggage was sent on in the cart—and walked back over the ploughed ridge and up the lane with Peter. For a time they kept silence, but Troop was in both their minds. “He’s a good sort,” said Peter. “Admirable—in some ways.” “I thought,” said Peter, “you didn’t like him. You kept on pulling his leg.” So Peter had seen. “Well, he doesn’t exercise his brain very much,” said Oswald. “Stops short at his neck,” said Peter. “Exercise, I mean.” “You and Troop are singularly unlike each other,” said Oswald. “Oh, that’s exactly it. I can’t make out why I like him. If nothing else attracted me, that would.” “Does he know why he likes you?” “Hasn’t the ghost of an idea. It worries him at times. Makes him want to try and get all over me.” “Does he—at all?” “Lots,” said Peter. “I fag at the blessed Cadet Corps simply because I like him. At rugger he’s rather a god, you know. And he’s a clean chap.” “He’s clean.” “Oh, he’s clean. It’s catching,” said Peter, and seemed to reflect. “And in a sort of way lately old Troop’s taken to swatting. It’s pathetic.” Then with a shade of anxiety, “I don’t think for a moment he twigged you were pulling his leg.” Oswald came to the thing that was really troubling him. “Allowing for his class,” said Oswald, “that young man is growing up to an outlook upon the world about as broad and high as the outlook of a bricklayer’s labourer.” Peter reflected impartially, and Oswald noted incidentally what a good profile the boy was developing. “A Clean, Serious bricklayer’s labourer,” said Peter, weighing his adjectives carefully. “But he may go into Parliament, or have to handle a big business,” said Oswald. “Army for Troop,” said Peter, “via a university commission.” “Even armies have to be handled intelligently nowadays,” said Oswald. “He’ll go into the cavalry,” said Peter, making one of those tremendous jumps in thought that were characteristic of himself and Joan. § 12 A day or so after Troop’s departure Peter waylaid Oswald in the garden. Peter, now that Troop had gone, was amusing himself with dissection again—an interest that Troop had disposed of as a “bit morbid.” Oswald thought the work Peter did neat and good; he had to brush up his own rather faded memories of Huxley’s laboratory in order to keep pace with the boy. “I wish you’d come to the Glory Hole and look at an old rat I dissected yesterday. I want to get its solar plexus and I’m not sure about it. I’ve been using acetic acid to bring out the nerves, but there’s such a lot of white stuff about....” The dissection was a good piece of work, the stomach cleaned out and the viscera neatly displayed. Very much in evidence were eight small embryo rats which the specimen under examination, had not science overtaken her, would presently have added to the rat population of the world. “The old girl’s been going it,” said Peter in a casual tone, and turned these things over with the handle of his scalpel. “Now is all stuff solar plexus, Nobby?”... this The next morning Oswald stopped short in the middle of his shaving, which in his case involved the most tortuous deflections and grimacings. “It’s all right with the boy,” he said to himself. “I it’s all right. think “No nonsense about it anyhow. “But what a tortuous, untraceable business the coming of knowledge is! Curiosity. A fad for dissecting. An instinct for cleanliness. Pride. A bigger boy like Troop.... Suppose Troop had been a different sort of boy?... “But then I suppose Peter and he wouldn’t have hit it off together.” Oswald scraped, and presently his mind tried over a phrase. “Inherent powers of selection,” said Oswald. “Inherent.... I suppose I picked my way through a pretty queer lot of stuff....” He stood wiping his safety-razor blade. “There was more mystery in my time and more emotion. This is better.... “Facts are clean,” said Oswald, uttering the essential faith with which science has faced vice and priestcraft, magic and muddle and fear and mystery, the whole world over. “Facts are clean.” § 13 Joan followed a year after Peter to Cambridge. She entered at Newton Hall. Both Oswald and Aunt Phyllis preferred Newnham to Girton because of the greater freedom of the former college. They agreed that, as Oswald put it, if women were to be let out of purdah they might as well be let right out. Coming from Highmorton to Newnham was like emerging from some narrow, draughty passage in which one marches muddily with a whispering, giggling hockey team all very much of a sort, into a busy and confused market-place, a rather squabbling and very exciting market-place, in which there is the greatest variety of sorts. And Joan’s mind, too, was opening out in an even greater measure. A year or so ago she was a spirited, intelligent animal, a being of dreams and unaccountable impulses; in a year or so’s time she was to become a shaped and ordered mind, making plans, controlling every urgency, holding herself in relation to a definite conception of herself and the world. We have still to gauge the almost immeasurable receptivity of those three or four crucial years. We have still to grasp what the due use of those years may mean for mankind. Oswald had been at great pains to find out what was the best education the Empire provided for these two wards of his. But his researches had brought him to realize chiefly how poor and spiritless a thing was the very best formal education that the Empire could offer. It seemed to him, in the bitter urgency of his imperial passion, perhaps even poorer than it was. There was a smattering of Latin, a thinner smattering of Greek, a little patch of Mediterranean history and literature detached from past and future—all university history seemed to Oswald to be in disconnected fragments—but then he would have considered any history fragmentary that did not begin with the geological record and end with a clear tracing of every traceable consequence of the “period” in current affairs; there were mathematical specializations that did not so much broaden the mind as take it into a gully, modern and mediaeval language specializations, philosophical studies that were really not philosophical studies at all but partial examinations of remote and irrelevant systems, the study of a scrap of Plato or Aristotle here, or an excursion (by means of translations) into the Hegelian phraseology there. This sort of thing given out to a few thousand young men, for the most part greatly preoccupied with games, and to a few hundred young women, was all that Oswald could discover by way of mental binding for the entire empire. It seemed to him like innervating a body as big as the world with a brain as big as a pin’s head. As Joan and Peter grew out of school and went up to Cambridge they became more and more aware of a note of lamentation and woe in the voice of their guardian. He talked at them, over their heads at lunch and dinner, to this or that visitor. He also talked to them. But he had a great dread of preachments. They were aware of his general discontent with the education he was giving them, but as yet they had no standards by which to judge his charges. Over their heads his voice argued that the universities would give them no access worth considering to the thoughts and facts of India, Russia, or China, that they were ignoring something stupendous called America, that their political and economic science still neglected the fact that every problem in politics, every problem in the organization of production and social co-operation is a psychological problem; and that all these interests were supremely urgent interests, and how the devil was one going to get these things in? But one thing Joan and Peter did grasp from these spluttering dissertations that flew round and about them. They had to find out all the most important things in life for themselves. Perhaps the problem of making the teacher of youth an inspiring figure is an insoluble one. At any rate, there was no great stir evoked in Joan and Peter by the personalities of any of their university tutors, lecturers, and professors. These seemed to be for the most part little-spirited, gossiping men. They had also an effect of being underpaid; they had been caught early by the machinery of prize and scholarship, bred, “in the menagerie”; they were men who knew nothing of the world outside, nothing of effort and adventure, nothing of sin and repentance. Not that there were not whispers and scandals about, but such sins as the dons knew of were rather in the nature of dirty affectations, got out of Petronius and Suetonius and practised with a tremendous sense of devilment behind locked doors, than those graver and larger sins that really distress and mar mankind. As Joan and Peter encountered these master minds, they appeared as gowned and capped individuals, hurrying to lecture-rooms, delivering lectures that were often hasty and indistinct, making obscure but caustic allusions to rival teachers, parrying the troublesome inquiring student with an accustomed and often quite pretty wit. With a lesser subtlety and a greater earnestness the women dons had fallen in with this tradition. There were occasional shy personal contacts. But at his tea or breakfast the don was usually too anxious to impress Peter with the idea that he himself was really only a sort of overgrown undergraduate, to produce any other effect at all. Into the Cambridge lecture rooms and laboratories went Joan and Peter, notebook in hand, and back to digestion in their studies, and presently they went into examination rooms where they vindicated their claim to have attended to textbook and lecture. In addition Peter did some remarkably good sketches of tutors and professors and fellow students. This was their “grind,” Joan and Peter considered, a drill they had to go through; it became them to pass these tests creditably—if only to play the game towards old Nobby. Only with Peter’s specialization in biology did he begin to find any actuality in these processes. He found a charm in phylogenetic speculations; and above the narrow cañons of formal “research” there were fascinating uplands of wisdom. Upon those uplands there lay a light in which even political and moral riddles took on a less insoluble aspect. But going out upon those uplands was straying from the proper work.... Joan got even less from her moral philosophy. Her principal teacher was a man shaped like a bubble, whose life and thought was all the blowing of a bubble. He claimed to have human immortality. It was, he said, a very long and severe logical process. About desire, about art, about social association, about love, about God—for he knew also that there was no God—it mattered not what deep question assailed him, this gifted being would dip into his Hegelian suds and blow without apparent effort, and there you were—as wise as when you started! And off the good man would float, infinitely self-satisfied and manifestly absurd. proved But even Peter’s biology was only incidentally helpful in answering the fierce questions that life was now thrusting upon him and Joan. Nor had this education linked them up to any great human solidarity. It was like being guided into a forest—and lost there—by queer, absent-minded men. They had no sense of others being there too, upon a common adventure.... “And it is all that I can get for them!” said Oswald. “Bad as it is, it is the best thing there is.” He tried to find comfort in comparisons. “Has any country in the world got anything much better?” § 14 One day Oswald found himself outside Cambridge on the Huntingdon road. It was when he had settled that Peter was to enter Trinity, and while he was hesitating between Newnham and Girton as Joan’s destiny. There was a little difficulty in discovering Girton. Unlike Newnham, which sits down brazenly in Cambridge, Girton is but half-heartedly at Cambridge, coyly a good mile from the fountains of knowledge, hiding its blushes between tall trees. He was reminded absurdly of a shy, nice girl sitting afar off until father should come out of the public-house.... He fell thinking about the education of women in Great Britain. At first he had been disposed to think chiefly of Peter’s education and to treat Joan’s as a secondary matter; but little by little, as he watched British affairs close at hand, he had come to measure the mischief feminine illiteracy can do in the world. In no country do the lunch and dinner-party, the country house and personal acquaintance, play so large a part in politics as they do in Great Britain. And the atmosphere of all that inner world of influence is a womanmade atmosphere, and an atmosphere made by women who are for the most part untrained and unread. Here at Girton and Newnham, and at Oxford at Somerville, he perceived there could not be room for a tithe of the girls of the influential and governing classes. Where were the rest? English womanhood was as yet only nibbling at university life. Where were the girls of the peerage, the county-family girls and the like? Their brothers came up, but they stayed at home and were still educated scarcely better than his Aunt Charlotte had been educated forty years ago—by a genteel person, by a sort of mental maid who did their minds as their maids did their hair for the dinner-table. “No wonder,” he said, “they poison politics and turn it all into personal intrigues. No wonder they want religion to be just a business of personal consolations. No wonder every sort of charlatan and spook dealer, fortune-teller and magic healer flourishes in London. Well, Joan anyhow shall have whatever they can give her here.... “It’s better than nothing. And she’ll talk and read....” § 15 But school and university are only the formal part of education. The larger part of the education of every human being is and always has been and must be provided by the Thing that Is. Every adult transaction has as its most important and usually most neglected aspect its effect upon the minds of the young. Behind school and university the Empire itself was undesignedly addressing Joan and Peter. It was, so to speak, gesticulating at them over their teachers’ heads and under their teachers’ arms. It was performing ceremonies and exhibiting spectacles of a highly suggestive nature. In a large and imposing form certain ideas were steadfastly thrust at Joan and Peter. More particularly was the idolization of the monarchy thrust upon them. In terms of zeal and reverence the press, the pulpit, and the world at large directed the innocent minds of Joan and Peter to the monarch as if that individual were the Reason, the Highest Good and Crown of the collective life. Nothing else in the world of Joan and Peter got anything like the same tremendous show. Their early years were coloured by the reflected glories of the Diamond Jubilee; followed the funeral pomps of Queen Victoria, with much mobbing of negligent or impecunious people not in black by the loyal London crowd; then came the postponed and then the actual coronation of King Edward, public prayings for his health, his stupendous funeral glories; succeeded by the coronation of King George, and finally, about the time that Joan followed Peter up to Cambridge, the Coronation Durbar. The multitude which could not go to India went at least to the Scala cinema, and saw the adoration in all its natural colours. Reverent crowds choked that narrow bystreet. Across all the life and activities of England, across all her intellectual and moral effort, holding up legislation, interfering with industry, stopping the traffic, masking every reality of the collective life, these vast formalities trailed with a magnificent priority. Nothing was respected as they were respected! Sober statesmen were seen invested in strange garments that no sensible person would surely wear except for the gravest reasons; the archbishops and bishops were discovered bent with reverence, invoking the name of God freely, blessing the Crown with the utmost gravity, investing the Sovereign with Robe and Orb, Ring and Sceptre, anointing him with the Golden Coronation Spoon. Either the Crown was itself a matter of altogether supreme importance to the land or else it was the most stupendous foolery that ever mocked and confused the grave realities of a great people’s affairs. The effect of it upon the minds of our two young people was—complicating. How complicating it is few people realize who have not closely studied the educational process of the British mind as a whole. Then it becomes manifest that the monarch, the state church, and the system of titles and social precedence centering upon the throne, constitute a system of mental entanglements against which British education struggles at an enormous disadvantage. The monarchy in Great Britain is a compromise that was accepted by a generation regardless of education and devoid of any sense of the future. It is now a mask upon the British face; it is a gaudy and antiquated and embarrassing wrapping about the energies of the nation. Because of it Britain speaks to her youth, as to the world, with two voices. She speaks as a democratic republic, just ever so little crowned, and also she speaks as a succulently loyal Teutonic monarchy. Either she is an adolescent democracy whose voice is breaking or an old monarchy at the squeaking stage. Now her voice is the full strong voice of a great people, now it pipes ridiculously. She perplexes the world and stultifies herself. That was why her education led up to no such magnificent exposition and consolidation of purpose as Oswald dreamt of for his wards. Instead, the track presently lost itself in a maze of prevarications and evasions. The country was double-minded, double-mindedness had become its habit, and it had lost the power of decision. Every effort to broaden and modernize university education in Britain encountered insurmountable difficulties because of this fundamental dispersal of aim. The court got in the way, the country clergy got in the way, the ruling-class families got in the way. It is impossible to turn a wandering, chance-made track into a good road until you know where it is to go. And that question of destination was one that no Englishman before the war could be induced to put into plain language. Doublemindedness had become his second nature. From the very outset it had taken possession of him. When a young American goes to his teacher to ask why he should serve his state, he is shown a flag of thirteen stripes and eight and forty stars and told a very plain and inspiring history. His relations to his country are thenceforward as simple and unquestionable as a child’s to its mother. He may be patriotic or unpatriotic as a son may be dutiful or undutiful, but he will not be muddle-headed. But when Joan and Peter first began to realize that they belonged to the British Empire they were shown a little old German woman and told that reverence for her linked us in a common abjection with the millions of India. They were told also that really this little old lady did nothing of the slightest importance and that the country was the freest democracy on earth, ruled by its elected representatives. And each of these preposterously contradictory stories pursued them in an endless series of variations up to adolescence.... To two naturally clear-headed young people it became presently as palpably absurd to have a great union of civilized states thus impersonated as it is to have Wall impersonated by Snout the Tinker in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They were already jeering at royalty and the church with Aunt Phyllis long before they went up to Cambridge. There they found plenty of associates to jeer with them. And there too they found a quite congenial parallel stream of jeering against Parliament, which pretended to represent the national mind and quality, but which was elected by a method that manifestly gave no chance to any candidate who was not nominated by a party organization. In times of long established peace, when the tradition of generations has established the illusion of the profoundest human security, men’s minds are not greatly distressed by grotesqueness and absurdity in their political forms. It is all part of the humour and the good-humour of life. When one believes that all the tigers in the jungle are dead, it is quite amusing to walk along the jungle paths in a dressing-gown with a fan instead of a gun. Joan and Peter grew up to the persuasion that the crown above them was rather a good joke, and that Parliament and its jobs and party flummery were also a joke, and that the large, deep rottenness in this British world about them was perhaps in the nature of things and anyhow beyond their altering. They too were becoming double-minded according to the tradition of the land. Yet beneath this acquiescence in the deep-rooted political paradox of Britain they were capable of the keenest interest in a number of questions that they really believed were alive. It became manifest to them that this great golden preposterous world was marred by certain injustices and unkindnesses. Something called Labour they heard was unhappy and complained of unfair treatment, certain grumblings came from India and Ireland, and there was a curiously exciting subject which demanded investigation and reforming activities called the sex question. And generally there seemed to be, for no particular reason, a lot of restrictions upon people’s conduct. In addition Peter had acquired from Oswald, rather by way of example than precept, a very definite persuasion, and Joan had acquired a persuasion that was perhaps not quite so clearly and deeply cut, that to make it respectable there ought to be something in one’s life in the nature of special work. In Oswald’s case it was his African interest. Peter thought that his own work might perhaps be biological. But that one’s work ought to join on to the work of the people or that all the good work in the world should make one whole was a notion that had not apparently entered Peter’s mind. Oswald with his dread of preachments was doubtful about any deliberate dissertations in the matter. He got Peter to begin the Martyrdom of Man, which had so profoundly affected his own life, but Peter expressed doubts about the correctness of Reade’s Egyptian history, and put the book aside and did not go on reading it. At times Oswald tried to say something to Joan and Peter of his conception of the Empire as a great human enterprise, playing a dominating part in the establishment of a world peace and a world civilization, and giving a form and direction and pride to every life within it. But these perpetual noises of royalty in its vulgarest, most personal form, the loyalist chatter of illiterate women and the clamour of the New Imperialism to “tax the foreigner” and exploit the empire for gain, drowned his intention while it was still unspoken in his mind. There were moments when he could already ask himself whether this empire he had shaped his life to serve, this knightly empire of his, enlightened, righteous, and predominant, was anything better than a dream—or a lie. § 16 When Joan left Highmorton she came into the market-place of ideas. She began to read the newspaper. She ceased to be a leggy person with a skirt like a kilt and a dark shock of hair not under proper control; instead, she became visibly a young lady, albeit a very young young lady, and suddenly all adult conversation was open to her. Under the brotherly auspices of Peter she joined the Cambridge University Fabian Society. Peter belonged to it, but he explained that he didn’t approve of it. He was in it for its own good. She also took a place in two suffrage organizations, and subscribed to three suffrage papers. Tel Wymark, who was also in Newton Hall, introduced her to the Club of Strange Faiths, devoted to “the impartial examination of all religious systems.” And she went under proper escort to the First Wednesday in Every Month Teas in Bunny Cuspard’s rooms. Bunny was an ex-collegiate student, he had big, comfortable rooms in Siddermorton Street, and these gatherings of his were designed to be discussions, very memorable discussions of the most advanced type, about this and that. As a matter of fact they consisted in about equal proportions of awkward silences, scornful treatment of current reputations, and Bunny, in a loose, inaccurate way, spilling your tea or handing you edibles. Bunny’s cakes and sandwiches were wonderful; in that respect he was a born hostess. Junior dons and chance visitors to Cambridge would sometimes drift in to Bunny’s intellectual feasts, and here it was that Joan met young Winterbaum again. Young Winterbaum was rather a surprise. He had got his features together astonishingly since the days of Miss Murgatroyd’s school; he had grown a moustache, much more of a moustache than Peter was to have for years yet, and was altogether remarkably grown up and a man of the world. “Funny lot,” he remarked to Joan when he had sat down beside her. “Why do come to Cambridge?” you “My people make me come up here,” he explained; “family considerations, duty to the old country, loyalty to the old college, and all that. But I’d rather be painting. It’s the only live thing just now. You up to anything?” “Ears and eyes and mouth wide open,” said Joan. “This show isn’t worth it. Do you ever drift towards Chelsea?” Joan said she went to Hampstead now and then; she stayed sometimes with the Sheldricks, who were in a congested house on Downshire Hill now, and sometimes with Miss Jepson. Henceforth, now that she was no longer under the Highmorton yoke, she hoped to be in London oftener. “Did you see the Picasso show?” asked Winterbaum. She had not. “You missed something,” said young Winterbaum, just like old times. “Picasso, Mancini; these are the gods of my idolatry....” Bunny Cuspard interrupted clumsily with some specially iced cakes. Joan, accepting a cake, discovered Wilmington talking absent-mindedly to her chaperon and looking Pogroms at Winterbaum. So Joan, pleased rather than excited by this chance evidence of a continuing interest, lifted up a face of bright recognition and smiled and nodded to Wilmington.... § 17 It was the ambition of Mrs. Sheldrick and her remaining daughters—some of them had married—to make their home on Downshire Hill “a little bit of the London Quartier Latin.” Mr. Sheldrick had worn out the large, loose, tweed suit that had held him together for so long, he had gone to pieces altogether and was dead and buried, and the Sheldricks were keeping a home together by the practice of decorative arts and promiscuous hospitalities. Mrs. Sheldrick was writing a little in the papers of the weaker among the various editors who lived within her social range; little vague reviews and poems she wrote, with a quiet smile, that were not so much allusive as with an air of having recently had a flying visit from an allusion that was unable to stay. Sydney Sheldrick was practising sculpture, and Babs was attending the London School of Dramatic Art, to which Adela Murchison had also found her way. Antonia, the eldest, was in business, making djibbah-like robes. There was downstairs and the passage and staircase and upstairs, a sitting-room in front, and a sort of oriental lounge (that later in the evening became the bedroom of Antonia and Babs) behind. It had all been decorated in the most modern style by Antonia in a very blue blue that seemed a little threadbare in places and very large, suggestive shapes of orange, with a sort of fringe of black and white chequers and a green ceiling with harsh pink stars. And the chairs, except for the various ottomans and cosy corners which were in faded blue canvas, had been painted bright pink or grey. Into this house they gathered, after nine and more particularly on Saturdays, all sorts of people who chanced to be connected by birth, marriage, misfortune, or proclivity with journalism or the arts. Hither came Aunt Phœbe Stubland, and read a paper called insistently: Watchman, What of the Night? What of it? and quite up to its title; and hither too came Aunt Phyllis Stubland, quietly observant. But quite a lot of writers came. And in addition there were endless conspirators. There was Mrs. O’Grady, the beautiful Irish patriot, who was always dressed like a procession of Hibernians in New York, and there was Patrick Lynch, a long, lax black object, ending below in large dull boots, and above in a sad white face under wiry black hair, grieving for ever that grief for Ireland— and all the rest of it—that only these long, black, pale Irishmen can understand. And there was Eric Schmidt, who was rare among Irish patriots because of his genuine knowledge of Erse. All these were great conspirators. Then there was Mrs. Punk, who had hunger-struck three times, and Miss Corcoran-Deeping the incendiary. And American socialists. And young Indians. And one saw the venerable figure of Mr. Woodjer, very old now and white and deaf and nervous and indistinct, who had advocated in several beautiful and poetical little volumes a new morality that would have put the wind up of the Cities of the Plain. And Winterbaum drifted in, but cautiously, as doubting whether it wasn’t just “a bit too marginal,” to bring away his two frizzy-haired sisters, very bright-eyed and eager, rapid-speaking and au fait, and wonderfully bejewelled for creatures so young. They were going in for dancing; they did Spanish dances, stupendously clicking down their red heels with absolute precision together; they took the Sheldricks on the way to the Contangos or the Mondaines or the Levisons, or even to the Hoggenheimers; they glittered at Downshire Hill like birds of Paradise, and had the loveliest necks and shoulders and arms. Outside waited young Winterbaum’s coupé—a very smart little affair in black and cream, with an electric starter wonderfully fitted. Cathleen ni Houlihan Here too came young Huntley, who had written three novels before he was twenty-two, and who was now thirty and quite well known, not only as a novelist of reputation, but as a critic eminently unpopular with actor managers; a blond young man with a strong profile, a hungry, scornful expression and a greedy, large blue eye that wandered about the crush as if it sought something, until it came to rest upon Joan. Thereafter Mr. Huntley’s other movements and conversation were controlled by a resolution to edge towards and overshadow and dominate Joan with the profile as much as possible. Joan, by various delicacies of perception, was quite aware of these approaches without seeming at any time to regard Huntley directly; and by a subtlety quite imperceptible to him she drifted away from each advance. She did not know who he was, and though the profile interested her, his steadfast advance towards her seemed to be premature. Until suddenly an apparently quite irrelevant incident spun her mind round to the idea of encouraging him. The incident was the arrival of Peter. Early in the afternoon he had vanished from Mrs. Jepson’s, where he and Joan were staying; he had not come in to dinner, and now suddenly he appeared conspicuously in this gathering of the Sheldricks’, conspicuously in the company of Hetty Reinhart, who was to Joan, for quite occult reasons, the most detestable of all his large circle of detestable friends. That alone was enough to tax the self-restraint of an exceedingly hot-tempered foster sister. (So this was what Peter had been doing with his time! This had been his reason for neglecting his own household! At the , or some such place—with ! A girl with a cockney accent! A girl who would stroke your arm as soon as speak to you!...) But though the larger things in life strain us, it is the smaller things that break us. What finally turned Joan over was a glance, a second’s encounter with Peter’s eye. Hetty had sailed forward with that extraordinary effect of hers of being a grown-up, experienced woman, to greet Mrs. Sheldrick, and Peter stood behind, disregarded. (His expression of tranquil self-satisfaction was maddening.) His eye went round the room looking, Joan knew, for two people. It rested on Joan. Petit Riche her The question that Peter was asking Joan mutely across the room was in effect this: “Are you behaving yourself, Joan?” Then, not quite reassured by an uncontrollable scowl, Peter looked away to see if some one else was present. Some one else apparently wasn’t present, and Joan was unfeignedly sorry. He was looking for Mir Jelalludin, the interesting young Indian with the beautifully modelled face, whom Joan had met and talked to at the Club of Strange Faiths. At the Club of Strange Faiths one day she had been suddenly moved to make a short speech about the Buddhist idea of Nirvana, which one of the speakers had described as extinction. Making a speech to a little meeting was not a very difficult thing for Joan; she had learnt how little terrible a thing is to do in the Highmorton debating society, where she had been sustained by a grim determination to score off Miss Frobisher. She said that she thought the real intention was not extinction at all, but the escape of the individual consciousness after its living pilgrimage from one incarnate self to another into the universal consciousness. That was the very antithesis of extinction; one lost oneself indeed, but one lost oneself not in darkness and non-existence, but in light and the fullness of existence. There was all the difference between a fainting fit and ecstasy between these two conceptions. And it was true of experience that one was least oneself, least self-conscious and egotistical at one’s time of greatest excitement. Mir Jelalludin received these remarks with earnest applause. He made as if to speak after her, rose in his place, and then hastily sat down. Afterwards he came and spoke to her, quite modestly and simply, without the least impertinence. He explained, with a pleasant staccato accent and little slips in his pronunciation that suggested restricted English conversation and much reading of books, how greatly he had been wanting to say just what she had said, “so bew-ti-fully,” but he had been restrained by “impafction of the pronunsation. So deefi’clt, you know.” One heard English people so often not doing justice to Indian ideas so that it was very pleasant to hear them being quite sympathetically put. There was something very pleasing in the real intellectual excitement that had made him speak to her, and there was something very pleasing to the eye in the neat precision with which his brown features were chiselled and the decisive accuracy of every single hair on his brow. He was, he explained, a Moslem, but he was interested in every school of Indian thought. He was afraid he was not very orthodox, and he showed a smile of the most perfect teeth. There had always been a tendency to universalism in Indian thought, that affected even the Moslem. Did she know anything of the Brahmo Somaj? Had she read any novel of Chatterji’s? There was at least one great novel of his the English ought to read, the Ananda Math. No one could understand Indian thought properly who had not read it. He had a translation of it into English—which he would lend her. Would she be interested to read it? Might he send it to her? Joan’s chaperon was a third year girl who put no bar upon these amenities. Joan accepted the book and threw out casually that she sometimes went to Bunny Cuspard’s teas. If Mr. Jelalludin sent her Chatterji’s book she could return it to Bunny Cuspard’s rooms. It was in Bunny Cuspard’s room that Peter had first become aware of this exotic friendship. He discovered his Joan snugly in a corner listening to an explanation of the attitude of Islam towards women. It had been enormously misrepresented in Christendom. Mr. Jelalludin was very earnest in his exposition, and Joan listened with a pleasant smile and regarded him pleasantly and wished that she could run her fingers just once along his eyebrow without having her motives misunderstood. But at the sight of his Joan engaged in this confabulation Peter suddenly discovered all the fiercest traits of race pride. He fretted about the room and was rude to other people and watched a book change hands, and waited scarcely twenty seconds after the end of Joan’s conversation before he came up to her. “I say, Joan,” he said, “you can’t go chumming with Indians anyhow.” “Peter,” she said, “we’ve chummed with India.” “Oh, nonsense! Not socially. Their standards are different.” “I hope they are,” said Joan. “The way you make these Indian boys here feel like outcasts is disgraceful.” “They’re different. The men aren’t uncivil to them. But it isn’t for you——” “It’s for all English people to treat them well. He’s a charming young man.” “It isn’t , Joan.” done “It’s going to be, Petah.” “You’re meeting him again?” “If I think proper.” “Oh!” said Peter, baffled for the time. “All , Joan.” right A fierce exchange of notes followed. “Don’t you understand the fellow’s a polygamist?” Peter wrote. “He keeps his women in purdah. No decent woman could be talked to in India as he talked to you. Not even an introduction. Personally, I’ve no objection to any friends you make provided they are decent friends....” “He isn’t a polygamist,” Joan replied. “I’ve asked him. And every one says he’s a first-rate cricketer. As for decent friends, Peter——” The issue had been still undecided when they came down for the Christmas vacation. So far Joan had maintained her positions without passion. But now suddenly her indignation at Peter’s interference flared to heaven. That he should come here, hot from Soho, to tyrannize over ! Indians indeed! As if Hetty Reinhart wasn’t worse than a Gold Coast nigger!... her The only outward manifestation of this wild storm of resentment had been her one instant’s scowl at Peter. Thereafter Joan became again the quiet, intelligently watchful young woman she had been all that evening. But now she turned herself through an angle of about thirty degrees towards Huntley, who was talking to old Mrs. Jex, the wonder of Hampstead, who used to know George Eliot and Huxley, the while he was regarding Joan with sidelong covetousness. Joan lifted her eyes towards him with an expression of innocent interest. The slightly projecting blue eyes seemed to leap in response. Mrs. Jex was always rather inattentive to her listener when she was reciting her reminiscences, and Huntley was able to turn away from her quietly without interrupting the flow. The Sheldrick circle scorned the formalities of introductions. “Are you from the Slade school?” said Huntley. “Cambridge,” said Joan. “My name’s Gavan Huntley.” But this was going to be more amusing than Joan had expected. This was a real live novelist—Joan’s first. Not a fortnight ago she had read The Pernambuco Bunshop, and thought it rather clever and silly. “Not Gavan Huntley?” she said. the His face became faintly luminous with satisfaction. “Just Gavan Huntley,” he said with a large smile. “The Pernambuco Bunshop?” she said. “Guilty,” he pleaded, smiling still more naïvely. One had expected something much less natural in a novelist. “I it,” said Joan, and Huntley was hers to do what she liked with. Joan’s idea of a proper conversation required it to be in a corner. “Do Sheldricks never sit down?” she asked. “I’ve been standing all the evening.” loved “They can’t,” he said confidentially. “They’re the other sort of Dutch doll, the cheap sort, that hasn’t got joints at the knees.” “Antonia sometimes leans against the wall.” “Her utmost. The next thing would be to sit on the floor with her legs straight out. I’ve seen her do that. But there is a sort of bench on the staircase landing.” Thither they made their way, and there presently Peter found them. He found them because he was making for that very corner in the company of Sydney Sheldrick. “Hullo!” said Sydney. “That you, Joan?” “We’ve taken this corner for the evening,” said Huntley, laying a controlling hand on Joan’s pretty wrist. Joan and Peter regarded each other darkly. “There ought to be more seats about somewhere,” said Sydney. “Come up to the divan, old Peter....” Of course Peter must object to Huntley. They were scarcely out of the Sheldricks’ house when he began. “That man Huntley’s a bad egg, Joan. Everybody knows it.” For a time they disputed about Huntley. “Peter,” said Joan, with affected calm, “is there any man, do you think, to whom so—so untrustworthy a girl as I am might safely talk?” Peter seemed to consider. “There’s chaps like Troop,” he said. “Troop!” said Joan, relying on her intonation. “It isn’t that you’re untrustworthy,” said Peter. “Fragile?” “It’s the look and tone of things.” “I wonder how you get these ideas.” “What ideas?” “Of how I behave in a corner with Jelalludin or Gavan Huntley.” “I haven’t suggested anything.” “You’ve suggested everything. Do you think I collect stray kisses like Sydney Sheldrick? Do you think I’m a dirty little—little—cocotte like Hetty Reinhart?” “ ” Joan! “ ,” said Joan savagely, and said no more. Well Peter came to the defence of Hetty belatedly. “How can you say such things of Hetty?” he asked. “What can you know about her?” “Pah! I can smell what she is across a room. Do you think I’m an absolute young fool, Peter?” “You’ve got no right, Joan——” “Why argue, Peter, why argue? When things are plain. Can’t you go your own way, Peter”—Joan was annoyed to find suddenly that she was weeping. Tears were running down her face. But the road was dark, and perhaps if she gave no sign Peter would not see. “You go your own way, Peter, go your own way, and let me go mine.” Peter was silent for a little while. Then compunction betrayed itself in his voice. “It’s you I’m thinking of, Joan. I can’t bear to see you make yourself cheap.” “Cheap! And ?” you “I’m different. I’m altogether different. A man is.” Silence for a time. Joan seemed to push back her hair, and so smeared the tears from her face. “We interfere with each other,” she said at last. “We interfere with each other. What is the good of it? You’ve got to go your way and I’ve got to go mine. We used to have fun—lots of fun. ....” Now She couldn’t say any more for a while. “I’m going my own way, Peter. It’s a different way——Leave me alone. Keep off!” They said no more. When they got in they found Miss Jepson sitting by the fire, and she had got them some cocoa and biscuits. The headache that had kept her from the Sheldrick festival had lifted, and Joan plunged at once into a gay account of the various people she had seen that evening—saving and excepting Gavan Huntley. But Peter stood by the fireplace, silent, looking down into the fire, sulking or grieving. All the while that Joan rattled on to Miss Jepson she was watching him with almost imperceptible glances and wondering whether he sulked or grieved. Did he feel as she felt? If he sulked—well, confound him! But what if this perplexing dissension hurt him as much as it was hurting her! § 18 Joan had long since lost that happiness, that perfect assurance, that intense appreciation of the beauty in things which had come to her with early adolescence. She was troubled and perplexed in all her ways. She was full now of stormy, indistinct desires and fears, and a gnawing, indefinite impatience. No religion had convinced her of a purpose in her life, neither Highmorton nor Cambridge had suggested any mundane devotion to her, nor pointed her ambitions to a career. The only career these feminine schools and colleges recognized was a career of academic successes and High School teaching, intercalated with hunger strikes for the Vote, and Joan had early decided she would rather die than teach in a High School. Nor had she the quiet assurance her own beauty would have given her in an earlier generation of a discreet choice of lovers and marriage and living “happily ever afterwards.” She had a horror of marriage lurking in her composition; Mrs. Pybus and Highmorton had each contributed to that; every one around her spoke of it as an entire abandonment of freedom. Moreover there was this queerness about her birth—she was beginning to understand better now in what that queerness consisted—that seemed to put her outside the customary ceremonies of veil and orange blossoms. Why did they not tell her all about it—what her mother was and where her mother was? It must be a pretty awful business, if neither Aunt Phyllis nor Aunt Phœbe would ever allude to it. It would have to come out—perhaps some monstrous story—before she could marry. And who could one marry? She could not conceive herself marrying any of these boys she met, living somewhere cooped up in a little house with solemn old Troop, or under the pursuing eyes, the convulsive worship, of Wilmington. She had no object in life, no star by which to steer, and she was full of the fever of life. She was getting awfully old. She was eighteen. She was nineteen. Soon she would be twenty. All her being, in her destitution of any other aim that had the slightest hold upon her imagination, was crying out for a lover. It was a lover she wanted, not a husband; her mind made the clearest distinction between the two. He would come and unrest would cease, confusion would cease and beauty would return. Her lover haunted all her life, an invisible yet almost present person. She could not imagine his face nor his form, he was the blankest of beings, and yet she was so sure she knew him that if she were to see him away down a street or across a crowded room, instantly, she believed, she would recognize him. And until he came life was a torment of suspense. Life was all wrong and discordant, so wrong and discordant that at times she could have hated her lover for keeping her waiting so wretchedly. And she had to go on as though this suspense was nothing. She had to disregard this vast impatience of her being. And the best way to do that, it seemed to her, was to hurry from one employment to another, never to be alone, never without some occupation, some excitement. Her break with Peter had an extraordinary effect of release in her mind. Hitherto, whatever her resentment had been she had admitted in practice his claim to exact a certain discretion from her; his opinion had been, in spite of her resentment, a standard for her. Now she had no standard at all—unless it was a rebellious purpose to spite him. On Joan’s personal conduct the thought of Oswald, oddly enough, had scarcely any influence at all. She adored him as one might a political or historical hero; she wanted to stand well in his sight, but the idea of him did not pursue her into the details of her behaviour at all. He seemed preoccupied with ideas and unobservant. She had never had any struggle with him; he had never made her do anything. And as for Aunts Phyllis and Phœbe—while the latter seemed to make vague gestures towards quite unutterable liberties, the former maintained an attitude of nervous disavowal. She was a woman far too uncertain-minded for plain speaking. She was a dear. Clearly she hated cruelty and baseness; except in regard to such things she set no bounds. Hitherto Joan had had a very few flirtations; the extremest thing upon her conscience was Bunny Cuspard’s kiss. She had the natural shilly-shally of a girl; she was strongly moved to all sorts of flirtings and experimentings with love, and very adventurous and curious in these matters; and also she had a system of inhibitions, pride, hesitation, fastidiousness, and something beyond these things, a sense of some ultimate value that might easily be lost, that held her back. Rebelling against Peter had somehow also set her rebelling against these restraints. Why shouldn’t she know this and that? Why shouldn’t she try this and that? Why, for instance, was she always “shutting up” Adela whenever she began to discourse in her peculiar way upon the great theme? Just a timid prude she had been, but now——. And all this about undesirable people and unseemly places, all this picking and choosing as though the world was mud; what nonsense it was! She could take care of herself surely! She began deliberately to feel her way through all her friendships to see whether this thing, passion, lurked in any of them. It was an interesting exercise of her wits to try over a youth like old Troop, for example; to lure him on by a touch of flattery, a betrayal of warmth in her interest, to reciprocal advances. At first Troop wasn’t in the least in love with her, but she succeeded in suggesting to him that he was. But the passion in him released an unsuspected fund of egotistical discourse; he developed a disposition to explain himself and his mental operations in a large, flattering way both by word of mouth and by letter. Even when he was roused to a sense of her as lovable, he did not become really interested in her but only in his love for her. He arrived at one stride at the same unanalytical acceptance of her as of his God and the Church and the King and his parents and all the rest of the Anglican system of things. She was his girl—“the kid.” He really wasn’t interested in those other things any more than he was in her; once he had given her her rôle in relation to him his attention returned to himself. The honour, integrity, and perfection of Troop were the consuming occupations of his mind. This was an edifying thing to discover, but not an entertaining thing to pursue; and after a time Joan set herself to avoid, miss, and escape from Troop on every possible occasion. But Troop prided himself upon his persistence. He took to writing her immense, ill-spelt, manly letters, with sentences beginning: “You understand me very little if——.” It was clear he was hers only until some simpler, purer, more receptive and acquisitive girl swam into his ken. Wilmington, on the other hand, was a silent covetous lover. Joan could make him go white, but she could not make him talk. She was a little afraid of him and quite sure of him. But he was not the sort of young man one can play with, and she marvelled greatly that any one could desire her so much and amuse her so little. Bunny Cuspard was a more animated subject for experiment, and you could play with him a lot. He danced impudently. He could pat Joan’s shoulder, press her hand, slip his arm round her waist and bring his warm face almost to a kissing contact as though it was all nothing. Did these approaches warm her blood? Did she warm his? Anyhow it didn’t matter, and it wasn’t anything. Then there was Graham Prothero, a very good-looking friend of Peter’s, whom she had met while skating. He had a lively eye, and jumped after a meeting or so straight into Joan’s dreams, where he was still more lively and good-looking. She wished she knew more certainly whether she had got into his dreams. Meanwhile Joan’s curiosity had not spared Jelalludin. She had had him discoursing on the beauties of Indian love, and spinning for her imagination a warm moonlight vision of still temples reflected in water tanks, of silvery water shining between great lily leaves, of music like the throbbing of a nerve, of brown bodies garlanded with flowers. There had been a loan of Rabindranath Tagore’s love poems. And once he had sent her some flowers. Any of these youths she could make her definite lover she knew, by an act of self-adaptation and just a little reciprocal giving. Only she had no will to do that. She felt she must not will anything of the sort. The thing must come to her; it must take possession of her. Sometimes, indeed, she had the oddest fancy that perhaps suddenly one of these young men would become transfigured; would cease to be his clumsy, ineffective self, and change right into that wonderful, that compelling being who was to set all things right. There were moments when it seemed about to happen. And then the illusion passed, and she saw clearly that it was just old Bunny or just staccato Mir Jelalludin. In Huntley, Joan found something more intriguing than this pursuit of the easy and the innocent. Huntley talked with a skilful impudence that made a bold choice of topics seem the most natural in the world. He presented himself as a leader in a great emancipation of women. They were to be freed from “the bondage of sex.” The phrase awakened a warm response in Joan, who was finding sex a yoke about her imagination. Sex, Huntley declared, should be as incidental in a woman’s life as it was in a man’s. But before that could happen the world must free its mind from the “superstition of chastity,” from the idea that by one single step a woman passed from the recognizable into an impossible category. We made no such distinction in the case of men; an artist or a business man was not suddenly thrust out of the social system by a sexual incident. A woman was either Mrs. or Miss; a gross publication of elemental facts that were surely her private affair. No one asked whether a man had found his lover. Why should one proclaim it in the case of a woman by a conspicuous change of her name? Here, and not in any matter of votes or economics was the real feminine grievance. His indignation was contagious. It marched with all Joan’s accumulated prejudice against marriage, and all her growing resentment at the way in which emotional unrest was distracting and perplexing her will and spoiling her work at Cambridge. But when Huntley went on to suggest that the path to freedom lay in the heroic abandonment of the “fetish of chastity,” Joan was sensible of a certain lagging of spirit. A complex of instincts that conspired to adumbrate that unseen, unknown, and yet tyrannous lover, who would not leave her in peace and yet would not reveal himself, stood between her and the extremities of Huntley’s logic. There were moments when he seemed to be pretending to fill that oppressive void; moments when he seemed only to be hinting at himself as a possible instrument of freedom. Joan listened to him gravely enough so long as he theorized; when he came to personal things she treated him with the same experimental and indecisive encouragement that she dealt out to her undergraduate friends. Huntley’s earlier pose of an intellectual friend was attractive and flattering; then he began to betray passion, as it were, unwittingly. At a fancy dress dance at Chelsea—and he danced almost as well as Joan—he became moody. He was handsome that night in black velvet and silver that betrayed much natural grace; Joan was a nondescript in black and red, with short skirts and red beads about her pretty neck. “Joan,” he said suddenly, “you’re getting hold of me. You’re disturbing me.” He seemed to soliloquize. “I’ve not felt like this before.” Then very flatteringly and reproachfully, “You’re so damned intelligent, Joan. And you dance—as though God made you to make me happy.” He got her out into an open passage that led from the big studio in which they had been dancing, to a yard dimly lit by Chinese lanterns, and at the dark turn of the passage kissed her more suddenly and violently than she had ever been kissed before. He kissed her lips and held her until she struggled out of his arms. Up to that moment Joan had been playing with him, half attracted and half shamming; then once more came the black panic that had seized her with Bunny and Adela. She did not know whether she liked him now or hated him. She felt strange and excited. She made him go back with her into the studio. “I’ve got to dance with Ralph Winterbaum,” she said. “Say you’re not offended,” he pleaded. She gave him no answer. She did not know the answer. She wanted to get away and think. He perceived her confused excitement and did not want to give her time to think. She found Winterbaum and danced with him, and all the time, with her nerves on fire, she was watching Huntley, and he was watching her. Then she became aware of Peter regarding her coldly, over the plump shoulder of a fashion-plate artist. She went to him as soon as the dance was over. “Peter,” she said, “I want to go home.” He surveyed her. She was flushed and ruffled, and his eyes and mouth hardened. “It’s early.” “I want to go home.” “Right. You’re a bit of a responsibility, Joan.” “Don’t, then,” she said shortly, and turned round to greet Huntley as though nothing had happened between them. But she kept in the light and the crowd, and there was a constraint between them. “I want to talk to you more,” he said, “and when we can talk without some one standing on one’s toes all the time and listening hard. I wish you’d come to my flat and have tea with me one day. It’s still and cosy, and I could tell you all sorts of things—things I can’t tell you here.” Joan’s dread of any appearance of timid virtue was overwhelming. And she was now blind with rage at Peter—why, she would have been at a loss to say. She wanted to behave outrageously with Huntley. But in Peter’s sight. This struck her as an altogether too extensive invitation. “I’ve never noticed much restraint in your conversation,” she said. “It’s the interruptions I don’t like,” he said. “You get me no ice, you get me no lemonade,” she complained abruptly. “That’s what my dear Aunt Adelaide used to call changing the subject.” “It’s the cry of outraged nature.” “But I saw you having an ice—not half an hour ago.” “Not the ice I wanted,” said Joan. “Distracting Joan! I suppose I must get you that ice. But about the tea?” “I tea,” said Joan, with a force of decision that for a time disposed of his project. hate Just for a moment he hovered with his eye on her, weighing just what that decision amounted to, and in that moment she decided that he wasn’t handsome, that there was something about his profile, that he was pressing her foolishly. And anyhow, none of it really mattered. He was nothing really. She had been a fool to go into that dark passage, she ought to have known her man better; Huntley had been amusing hitherto and now the thing had got into a new phase that wouldn’t, she felt, be amusing at all; after this he would pester. She hated being kissed. And Peter was a beast. Peter was a hateful beast.... unsound Joan and Peter went home in the same taxi—in a grim silence. Yet neither of them could have told what it was that kept them hostile and silent. § 19 But Joan and Peter were not always grimly silent with one another. The black and inexplicable moods came and passed again. Between these perplexing mute conflicts of will, they were still good friends. When they were alone together they were always disposed to be good friends; it was the presence and excitement and competition of others that disturbed their relationship; it was when the species invaded their individualities and threatened their association with its occult and passionate demands. They would motor-cycle together through the lanes and roads of Hertfordshire, lunch cheerfully at wayside inns, brotherly and sisterly, relapse again into mere boy and girl playfellows, race and climb trees, or, like fellow-students, share their common room amicably, dispute over a multitude of questions, and talk to Oswald. They both had a fair share of scholarly ambition and read pretty hard. They had both now reached the newspaper-reading stage. Peter was beginning to take an interest in politics, he wanted to discuss socialism and economic organization thoroughly; biological work alone among all scientific studies carries a philosophy of its own that illuminates these questions, and Oswald was happy to try over his current interests in the light of these fresh, keen young minds. Peter was a discriminating advocate of the ideas of Guild socialism; Oswald was still a cautious individualist drifting towards Fabianism. The great labour troubles that had followed the Coronation of King George had been necessary to convince him that all was not well with the economic organization of the empire. Hitherto he had taken economic organization for granted; it wasn’t a matter for Sydenhams. Pelham Ford at such times became a backwater from the main current of human affairs, the current that was now growing steadily more rapid and troubled. Thinking could go on at Pelham Ford. There were still forces in that old-world valley to resist the infection of intense impatience that was spreading throughout the world. The old red house behind its wall and iron gates seemed as stable as the little hills about it; the road and the row of great trees between the stream and the road, the high pathway and the ford and the village promised visibly to endure for a thousand years. It was when Aunt Phyllis or Aunt Phœbe descended upon the place to make a party, “get a lot of young people down and brighten things up,” or when the two youngsters went to London together into the Sheldrick translation of the Quartier Latin, or when they met in Cambridge in some crowded chattering room that imagination grew feverish, fierce jealousies awoke, temperaments jarred, and the urge of adolescence had them in its clutch again. It was during one of these parties at Pelham Ford that Joan was to happen upon two great realizations, realizations of so profound an effect that they may serve to mark the end for her of this great process of emotional upheaval and discovery that is called adolescence. They left her shaped. They came to her in no dramatic circumstances, they were mere conversational incidents, but their effect was profound and conclusive. In the New Year of 1914 Oswald was to take Peter to Russia for three weeks. Before his departure, Aunt Phœbe had insisted that there should be a Christmas gathering of the young at Pelham Ford. They would skate or walk or toboggan or play hockey by day, and dress up and dance or improvise charades and burlesques in the evening. One or two Sheldricks would come, Peter and Joan could bring down any stray friends who had no home Christmas to call them, and Aunts Phyllis and Phœbe would collect a few young people in London. The gathering was from the first miscellaneous. Christmas is a homing time for the undergraduates of both sexes, such modern spirits as the home failed to attract used to go in those days in great droves to the Swiss winter sports, and Joan found nobody but an ambitious Scotch girl whom she knew but slightly and Miss Scroby the historian, who was rather a friend for Aunt Phyllis than herself. Peter discovered that Wilmington intensely preferred Pelham Ford to his parental roof, and brought also two other stray men, orphans. This selection was supplemented by Aunt Phœbe, who had latterly made Hetty Reinhart her especial protégée. She descanted upon the obvious beauty of Hetty and upon the courage that had induced Hetty to leave her home in Preston and manage for herself in a great lonely studio upon Haverstock Hill. “The bachelor woman,” said Aunt Phœbe; “armed with a latchkey and her purity. A vote shall follow. Hetty is not one of the devoted yet. But I have my hopes. We need our Beauty Chorus. Hetty shall be our Helen, and Holloway our Troy.” So with Peter’s approval Hetty was added to the list before Joan could express an opinion, and appeared with a moderate sized valise that contained some extremely exiguous evening costumes, and a steadfast eye that rested most frequently on Peter. In addition Aunt Phœbe brought two Irish sisters, one frivolous, the other just recuperating from the hunger-strike that had ended her imprisonment for window-breaking in pursuit of the Vote, and a very shy youth of seventeen, Pryce, the caddie-poet. Huntley was to constitute a sort of outside element in the party, sharing apartments with young Sopwith Greene the musician, in the village about half a mile away. These two men were to work 350and keep away when they chose, and come in for meals and sports as they thought fit. At the eleventh hour had come a pathetic and irresistible telegram from Adela Murchison: Alone Xmas may I come wire if inconvenient. and she, too, was comprehended. The vicarage girls were available for games and meals except on Sunday and Christmas Day; there was a friendly family of five sons and two daughters at Braughing, a challenging hockey club at Bishop’s Stortford, and a scratch collection at Newport available by motor-car for a pick-up match if the weather proved, as it did prove, too open for skating. Oswald commonly stood these Aunt parties for a day or so and then retreated to the Climax Club. Always beforehand he promised himself great interest and pleasure in the company of a number of exceptionally bright and representative youths and maidens of the modern school, but always the actual gathering fatigued him and distressed him. The youths and maidens wouldn’t be representative, they talked too loud, too fast and too inconsecutively for him, their wit was too rapid and hard—and they were all over the house. It was hard to get mental contacts with them. They paired off when there were no games afoot, and if ever talk at table ceased to be fragmentary Aunt Phœbe took control of it. In a day or so he would begin to feel at Pelham Ford like a cat during a removal; driven out of his dear library, which was the only available room for dancing, he would try to work in his unaccustomed study, with vivid, interesting young figures passing his window in groups of two or three, or only too audibly discussing the world, each other, and their general arrangements, in the hall. His home would have felt altogether chaotic to him but for the presence, the unswerving, if usually invisible, presence of Mrs. Moxton, observing times and seasons, providing copious suitable meals, dominating by means of the gong, replacing furniture at every opportunity, referring with a calm dignity to Joan as the hostess for all the rules and sanctions she deemed advisable. From unseen points of view one felt her eye. One’s consolation for the tumult lay in one’s 351confidence in this discretion that lay behind it. Even Aunt Phœbe’s way of speaking of “our good Moxton” did not mask the facts of the case. Pelham Ford was ruled. At Pelham Ford even Aunt Phœbe came down to meals in time. At Pelham Ford no fire, once lit, ever went out before it was right for it to do so. You might in pursuit of facetious ends choose to put your pyjamas outside your other clothes, wrap your window curtains about you, sport and dance, and finally, drawn off to some other end, abandon these wrappings in the dining-room or on the settee on the landing. When you went to bed your curtains hung primly before your window again, and your pyjamas lay folded and reproved upon your bed. The disposition of the new generation to change its clothes, adopt fantastic clothes, and at any reasonable excuse get right out of its clothes altogether, greatly impressed Oswald. Hetty in particular betrayed a delight in the beauties of her own body with a freedom that in Oswald’s youth was permitted only to sculpture. But Adela made no secrets of her plump shoulders and arms, and Joan struck him as insensitive. Skimpiness was the fashion in dress at that time. No doubt it was all for the best, like the frankness of Spartan maidens. And another thing that brought a flavour of harsh modernity into the house was the perpetual music and dancing that raged about it. There was a pianola in the common room of Joan and Peter, but when they were alone at home it served only for an occasional outbreak of Bach, or Beethoven, or Chopin. Now it was in a state of almost continuous eruption. Aunt Phyllis had ordered a number of rolls of dance music from the Orchestrelle library, and in addition she had brought down a gramophone. Never before had music been so easy in the world as it was in those days. In Oswald’s youth music, good music, was the rare privilege of a gifted few, one heard it rarely and listened with reverence. Nowadays Joan could run through a big fragment of the Ninth Symphony, giving a rendering far better than any but a highly skilled pianist could play, while she was waiting for Peter to come to breakfast. And this Christmas party was pervaded with One Steps and Two Steps, pianola called to gramophone and gramophone to 352pianola, and tripping feet somewhere never failed to respond. Most of these young people danced with the wildest informality. But Hetty and the youngest Irish girl were serious propagandists of certain strange American dances, the Bunny Hug, and the Fox Trot; Sopwith Greene and Adela tangoed and were getting quite good at it, and Huntley wanted to teach Joan an Apache dance. Joan danced by rule and pattern or by the light of nature as occasion required. The Christmas dinner was at one o’clock, a large disorderly festival. Gavan Huntley and Sopwith Greene came in for it. Oswald carved a turkey, Aunt Phyllis dispensed beef; the room was darkened and the pudding was brought in flaming blue and distributed in flickering flames. Mince-pies, almonds and raisins, Brazil nuts, oranges, tangerines, Carlsbad plums, crystallized fruits and candied peel; nothing was missing from the customary feast. Then came a mighty banging of crackers, pre-war crackers, containing elaborate paper costumes and preposterous gifts. Wilmington ate little and Huntley a great deal, and whenever Joan glanced at them they seemed to be looking at her. Hetty, flushed and excited, became really pretty in a paper cap of liberty, she waved a small tricolour flag and knelt up in her chair to pull crackers across the table; Peter won a paper cockscomb and was moved to come and group himself under her arm and crow as “Vive la France!” The two Irish girls started an abusive but genial argument with Sopwith Greene upon the Irish question. Aunt Phœbe sat near Aunt Phyllis and discoursed on whether she ought to go to prison for the Vote. “I try to assault policemen,” she said. “But they elude me.” One of Peter’s Cambridge friends, it came to light, had been present at a great scene in which Aunt Phœbe had figured. He emerged from his social obscurity and described the affair rather amusingly. It had been at an Anti-Suffrage meeting in West Kensington, and Aunt Phœbe had obtained access to the back row of the platform by some specious device. Among the notabilities in front Lady Charlotte Sydenham and her solicitor had figured. Lady Charlotte had entered upon that last great phase in a woman’s life, that phase known to the 353vulgar observer as “old lady’s second wind.” It is a phase often of great Go and determination, a joy to the irreverent young and a marvel and terror to the middle-aged. She had taken to politics, plunged into public speaking, faced audiences. It was the Insurance Act of 1912 that had first moved her to such publicity. Stung by the outrageous possibility of independent-spirited servants she had given up her usual trip to Italy in the winter and stayed to combat Lloyd George. From mere subscriptions and drawing-room conversations and committees to drawing-room meetings and at last to public meetings had been an easy series of steps for her. At first a mere bridling indignation on the platform, she presently spoke. As a speaker she combined reminiscences of Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury and Marie Antoinette on the scaffold with vast hiatuses peculiar to herself. “My good people,” she would say, disregarding the more conventional methods of opening, “have we neglected our servants or have we not? Is any shop Gal or factory Gal half so well off as a servant in a good house? Is she? I ask. The food alone! The morals! And now we are to be taxed and made to lick stamps like a lot of galley-slaves to please a bumptious little Welsh solicitor! For my part I shall discontinue all my charitable subscriptions until this abominable Act is struck off the Statute Book. Every one. And as for buying these Preposterous stamps—— Rather than lick a stamp I will eat skilly in prison. Stamps indeed. I’d as soon lick the man’s boots. That’s all I have to say, Mr. Chairman (or ’My Lord,’ or ’Mrs. Chairman,’ as the case might be). I hope it will be enough. Thank you.” And she would sit down breathing heavily and looking for eyes to meet. For the great agitation against the Insurance Act that sort of thing sufficed, but when it came to testifying against an unwomanly clamour for votes, the argument became more complicated and interruptions difficult to handle, and after an unpleasant experience when she was only able to repeat in steadily rising tones, “I am not one of the Shrieking Sisterhood” ten times over to a derisive roomful, she decided to adopt the more feminine expedient of a spokesman. She had fallen back upon Mr. Grimes, who like all solicitors had his parliamentary ambitions, and she took him about with her 354in the comfortable brown car that had long since replaced the white horse, and sat beside him while he spoke and approved of him with both hands. Mr. Grimes had been addressing the meeting when Aunt Phœbe made her interruption. He had been arguing that the unfitness of women for military service debarred them from the Vote. “Let us face the facts,” he said, drawing the air in between his teeth. “Ultimately—ultimately all social organization rests upon Force.” It was just at this moment that cries of “Order, Order,” made him aware of a feminine figure close beside him. He turned to meet the heaving wrath of Aunt Phœbe’s face. There was just an instant’s scrutiny. Then he remembered, he remembered everything, and with a wild shriek leapt clean off the platform upon the toes of the front row of the audience. “If you me!” he screamed.... touch The young man told the incident briefly and brightly. “Thereby hangs a tale,” said Aunt Phœbe darkly, and became an allusive Sphinx for the rest of the dinner. “I shook that man,” she said at last to Pryce. “What— ?” said Pryce, staring round-eyed at the young man from Cambridge. him “No, the man at the meeting.” “What—afterwards?” said Pryce, lost and baffled. “No,” said Aunt Phœbe; “ .” before Pryce tried to look intelligent, and nodded his head very fast to conceal the fear and confusion in his mind. Amidst all these voices and festivities sat Oswald, with a vast paper cap shaped rather like the dome of a Russian church cocked over his blind side, listening distractedly, noting this and that, saying little, thinking many things. The banquet ended at last, and every one drifted to the library. Affairs hovered vaguely for a time. Peter handed cigarettes about. Some one started the gramophone with a Two Step that set every one tripping. Hetty with a flush on her cheek and a light in her eyes was keeping near Peter; she seized upon him now for a dance that was also an embrace. Peter laughed, nothing loath. “Oh! but this is glorious!” panted Hetty. 355“Come and dance, too, Joan,” said Wilmington. “It’s stuffy!” said Joan. Oswald, contemplating a retreat to his study armchair, found her presently in the hall dressed to go out with Huntley. “We’re going over the hill to see the sunset,” Joan explained. “It’s too stuffy in there.” Oswald met Huntley’s large grey eye for a moment. He had an instinctive distrust of Huntley. But on the other hand, surely Joan had brains enough and fastidiousness enough not to lose her head with this—this phosphorescent fish of a novelist. “Right-o,” said Oswald, and hovered doubtfully. Aunt Phœbe appeared on the landing above carrying off a rather reluctant Miss Scroby to her room for a real good talk; a crash and an unmistakable giggle proclaimed a minor rag in progress in the common room across the hall in which Sydney Sheldrick was busy. The study door closed on Oswald.... Joan and Huntley passed by outside his window. He sat down in front of his fire, poked it into a magnificent blaze, lit a cigar and sat thinking. The beat of dancing, the melody of the gramophone and a multitude of less distinct sounds soaked in through the door to him. He was, he reflected, rather like a strange animal among all this youth. They treated him as something remotely old; he was one-and-fifty, and yet this gregarious stir and excitement that brightened their eyes and quickened their blood stirred him too. He couldn’t help a feeling of envy; he had missed so much in his life. And in his younger days the pace had been slower. These young people were actually noisier, they were more reckless, they did more and went further than his generation had gone. In his time, with his sort of people, there had been the virtuous life which was, one had to admit it, slow, and the fast life which was noisily, criminally, consciously and vulgarly vicious. This generation didn’t seem to be vicious, and was anything but slow. How far did they go? He had been noting little things between Peter and this Reinhart girl. What were they up to between them? He didn’t understand. Was she manœuvring to marry the 356boy? She must be well on the way to thirty, twenty-six or twenty-seven perhaps, she hadn’t a young girl’s look in her eyes. Was she just amusing herself by angling for calf-love? Was she making a fool of Peter? Their code of manners was so easy; she would touch his hands, and once Peter had stroked her bare forearm as it lay upon the table. She had looked up and smiled. Leaving her arm on the table. One could not conceive of Dolly permitting such things. Was this an age of daring innocence, or what was coming to the young people? Joan seemed more dignified than the others, but she, too, had her quality of prematurity. At her age Dolly had dressed in white with a pink sash. At least, Dolly must have been Joan’s age when first he had seen her. Eighteen—seventeen? Of course a year or so makes no end of difference just at this age.... about From such meditations Oswald was roused by the tumult of a car outside. He took a wary glimpse from his window at this conveyance, and discovered that it was coloured an unusual bright chocolate colour, and had its chauffeur—a depressed-looking individual—in a livery to match. He went out into the hall to discover the large presence, the square face, the “whisker,” and the china-blue eyes of Lady Charlotte Sydenham. He knew she was in England, but he had had no idea she was near enough to descend upon them. She stood in the doorway surveying the Christmas disorder of the hall. Some one had adorned Oswald’s stuffed heads with paper caps, the white rhinoceros was particularly motherly with pink bonnet-strings under its throat, a box of cigarettes had been upset on the table amidst various hats, and half its contents were on the floor, which was also littered with scraps of torn paper from the crackers; from the open door of the library came the raucous orchestration of the gramophone, and the patter and swish of dancers. “I thought you’d be away,” said Aunt Charlotte, a little checked by the sight of Oswald. “I’m staying at Minchings on my way to sit on the platform at Cambridge. We’re raising money to get those brave Ulstermen guns. Something has to be done if these Liberals are not to do as they like with us. They and their friends the priests. But I there’d 357be a party here. And those aunts. So I came.... Who are all these young people you have about?” knew “Miscellaneous friends,” said Oswald. “You’ve got a touch of grey in your hair,” she noted. “I must get a big blond wig,” he said. “You might do worse.” “You’re looking as fresh as paint,” he remarked, scrutinizing her steadfastly bright complexion. “Is that the faithful Unwin sitting and sniffing in the car? It’s a rennet face.” “She can sit,” said Lady Charlotte. “I shan’t stay ten minutes, and she’s got a hot-water bottle and three rugs. But being so near I had to come and see what was being done with those wards of mine.” “Former wards,” Oswald interjected. “The Gal I passed. Where is Master Stubland? I’ll just look at him. Is he one of these people making a noise in here?” She went to the door of the library and surveyed the scene with an aggressive lorgnette. The furniture had been thrust aside with haste and indignity, the rugs rolled up from the parquet floor, and Babs Sheldrick was presiding over the gramophone and helping and interrupting Sydney in the instruction of Wilmington, of Peter and Hetty and of Adela and Sopwith Greene in some special development of the tango. All the young people still wore their paper caps and were heated and dishevelled. In the window-seat the convalescent suffragette was showing wrist tricks to one of the young men from Cambridge. “Party!” said Lady Charlotte. “Higgledy-piggledy I call it. Which is Peter?” Peter was indicated. “Well, he’s grown! Who’s that fast-looking girl he’s hugging?” Peter detached himself from Hetty and came forward. His ancient terror of the whisker-woman still hung about him, but he made a brave show of courage. “Glad you’ve not forgotten us, Lady Charlotte,” he said. “Not much Stubland about ,” she remarked to Oswald. “There’s a photograph of you before you blew your face off—” him 358“It’s his mother he’s like,” said Oswald, laying a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “I never saw a family harp on themselves more than the Sydenhams,” the lady declared. “It’s like the Habsburg chin.... This one of the new improper dances, Peter?” “Honi soit,” said Peter. “People have been whipped at the cart’s tail for less. In my mother’s time no decent woman waltzed. Even—in crinolines. Now a waltz isn’t close enough for them.” The gramophone came to an end and choked. “Thank goodness!” said Lady Charlotte. “Won’t you dance yourself, Lady Charlotte?” said Peter, standing up to her politely. The hard blue eye regarded him with a slightly impaired disfavour, but the old lady made no reply. They heard the startled voice of the youth from Cambridge. “It’s !”... her But the sting of the call was at its end. “So that’s Peter,” said Lady Charlotte, as the chauffeur and Oswald assisted her back into her liver-coloured car. “I told you I saw the Gal?” “Joan?” “I passed her on the road half a mile from here. Came upon her and her ’gentleman friend’—I suppose she’d call him—as we turned a corner. A snap-shot so to speak. It’s the walking-out instinct. Blood will tell. I saw her, but she didn’t see me. Lost, she was, to things mundane. But it was plain enough how things were. A tiff. Some lovers’ quarrel. Wake , Unwin.” up “What do you mean?” “What I say,” said Lady Charlotte. “That fellow Huntley!” “ So now you’ll lock the stable door! What else was to be expected?” Ha! “But this is nonsense!” “I may be mistaken. I hope I am mistaken. I just give you my impression. I’m not a fool, Oswald, though it’s always been your pleasure to treat me as one. Time shows.” There was a pause while rugs with loud monograms were adjusted about her. 359“Well, I’m glad I came over. I wanted to see the Great Experiment. I said at the time it can’t end well. Bad in the beginnings. No woman to help him—except for those two Weird Sisters. No religion. You see? The boy’s a young Impudence. The girl’s in some mess already. What did I tell you?” Oswald was late with his recovery. “Look here, auntie! you keep your libellous mind off my wards.” “Home, Parbury!” said Lady Charlotte to the chocolate-uniformed chauffeur. She fired a parting shot. “I warned you long ago, you’d get the Gal into a thoroughly false position....” She was getting away after her raid with complete impunity. Never before had she scored like this. Was Oswald growing old? She made her farewell of him with a stately gesture of head and hand. She departed disconcertingly serene. A flood of belated repartee rushed into Oswald’s mind. But except for a violent smell of petrol and a cloud of smoke and a kind of big scar of chocolate on the retina nothing remained now of Lady Charlotte. In the hall he paused before a mirror and examined that touch of grey. § 20 But it had not been a lovers’ quarrel that had blinded Joan to the passing automobile. It had been the astounding discovery of her real relationship to Peter. So astounding had that been that at the moment she was not only regardless of the passing traffic but oblivious of Huntley and every other circumstance of her world. Huntley was not one of those people who love; he was a pursuing egotist with an unwarrantable scorn for the intelligence of his fellow-creatures. He liked to argue and show people that they were wrong in a calm, scornful manner; The Pernambuco Bunshop was a very sarcastic work. He was violently attracted by the feminine of all ages; it fixed his attention with the vast possibilities of admiration 360and triumph it offered him. And he had greedy desires. Joan attracted him at first because she was admired. He saw how Wilmington coveted her. She had a prestige in her circle. She had, too, a magnetism of her own. Before he realized the slope down which he slid, he wanted her so badly that he thought he was passionately in love. It kept him awake of nights, and distracted him from his work. He did not want to marry her. That was against his principles. That was the despicable way of ordinary human beings. He lived on a higher plane. But he wanted her as a monkey wants a gold watch—he wanted this new, fresh, lovely and beautiful thing just to handle and feel as his own. There was little charm about Huntley and less companionship. He was too arrogant for companionship. But he abounded in ideas, he knew much, and so he interested her. He talked. He pursued her with the steadfast scrutiny of his large grey eyes—and with arguments. He tried to argue and manœuvre Joan into a passionate love for him. Well, Joan had a broad brow; she thought things over; she was amenable to ideas. He harped on “freedom.” He carried freedom far beyond the tempered liberties of ordinary human association. Any ordinary belief was by his standards a limitation of freedom. There was a story that he had once been caught burgling a house in St. John’s Wood and had been let off by the magistrate only because the crime seemed absolutely motiveless. No doubt he had been trying to convince himself of his freedom from prejudice about the rights of property. He had an obscure idea that he could induce Joan to plunge into wild depravities merely to prove himself free from her own decent instincts. But he was ceasing to care for his argument if only he could induce her. There was a moment when he said, “Joan, you are the one woman”—he always called her a woman—“who could make me marry her.” “I’ll spare you,” said Joan succinctly. “Promise me that.” “Promise.” “Anyhow.” “Anyhow.” 361On this Christmas afternoon he discoursed again upon freedom. “You, Joan, might be the freest of the free, if only you chose. You are absolutely your own mistress. Absolutely.” “I have a guardian,” she said. “You’re of age.” “No; I’m nineteen.” “You—it happens, were of age at eighteen, Joan.” He watched her face. He had been burning to get to this point for weeks. “Even about your birth there was freedom.” “So know that.” you “Icy voice! To me it seems the grandest thing. When I reflect that I, alas! was born in loveless holy wedlock I grit my teeth.” “Oh! I don’t care. But how do you know?” “It’s fairly well known, Joan. It’s no very elaborate secret. I’ve got a little volume of your father’s poetry.” She hesitated. “I didn’t know my father wrote poetry,” she said. “It was all Will Sydenham ever did that was worth doing—except launch you into the world. He was a dramatic critic and something of a journalist, I believe. Stoner of the Post knew him quite well. But all this is ancient history to you.” “It isn’t. Nobody has told me.... I didn’t know.” “But what did you think?” “Never mind what I thought. Every one doesn’t talk with your freedom. I’ve never been told. Who was my mother?” “Stoner says she died in hospital. Soon after you were born. He never knew her name.” “Wasn’t it Stubland?” “Lord, No! Why should it be?” “But then——” “That’s one of the things that makes you so splendidly new, Joan. You start clean in the world—like a new Eve. Without even an Adam to your name. Fatherless, motherless, sisterless, brotherless. You fall into the world like a meteor!” She stood astonished at the way in which she had blundered. 362Brotherless! If Huntley had not drawn her back by the arm Lady Charlotte’s car would have touched her.... § 21 That night some one tapped at the bedroom door of Aunt Phyllis. “Come in,” she cried, slipping into her dressing-gown, and Joan entered. She was still wearing the dress of spangled black in which she had danced with Huntley and Wilmington and Peter. She went to her aunt’s fire in silence and stood over it, thinking. “You’re having a merry Christmas, little Joan?” said Aunt Phyllis, coming and standing beside her. “Ever so merry, Auntie. We go it—don’t we?” Aunt Phyllis looked quickly at the flushed young face beside her, opened her mouth to speak and said nothing. There was a silence, it seemed a long silence, between them. Then Joan asked in a voice that she tried to make offhand, “Auntie. Who was my father?” Aunt Phyllis was deliberately matter-of-fact. “He was the brother of Dolly—Peter’s mother.” “Where is he?” “He was killed by an omnibus near the Elephant and Castle when you were two years old.” “And my mother?” “Died three weeks after you were born.” Joan was wise in sociological literature. “The usual fever, I suppose,” she said. “Yes,” said Aunt Phyllis. “Do you know much about her?” “Very little. Her name was Debenham. Fanny Debenham.” “Was she pretty?” “I never saw her. It was Dolly—Peter’s mother—who went to her....” “So that’s what I am,” said Joan, after a long pause. “Only we love you. What does it matter? Dear Joan of my heart,” and Aunt Phyllis slipped her arm about the girl’s shoulder. 363But Joan stood stiff and intent, not answering her caress. “I knew—in a way,” she said. The thought that consumed her insisted upon utterance. “So I’m not Peter’s half-sister,” she said. “But have you thought——?” Joan remained purely intellectual. “I’ve thought dozens of things. And I thought at last it was that.... Why was I called Stubland? I’m not a Stubland.” “It was more convenient. It grew up.” “It put me out. It has sent me astray....” She remained for a time taking in this new aspect of things so intently as to be regardless of the watcher beside her. Then she roused herself to mask her extravagant preoccupation. “You’re no relation then of mine?” she said. “No.” “You’ve been so kind to me. A mother....” Aunt Phyllis was weeping facile tears. “Have I been kind, dear? Have I seemed kind? I’ve always wanted to be kind. And I’ve loved you, Joan, my dear. And love you.” “And Nobby?” “Nobby too.” “You’ve been bricks to me, both of you. No end. Aunt Phœbe too. And Peter——? Does Peter know? Does he know what I am?” “I don’t know. I don’t know what he knows, Joan.” “If it hadn’t been for the same surname. Joan Debenham.... I’ve had fancies. I’ve thought Nobby, perhaps, was my father.... Queer!... Why did you people bother yourselves about me?” “My dear, it was the most natural thing in the world.” “I suppose it was—for you. You’ve been so decent——” “Every woman wants a daughter,” said Aunt Phyllis in a whisper, and then almost inaudibly; “you are mine.” “And the tempers I’ve shown. The trouble I’ve been. All these years. I wonder what Peter knows? He must suspect. He must have ideas.... Joan Debenham—from outside.” She stood quite still with the red firelight leaping up to 364light her face, and caressing the graceful lines of her slender form. She stood for a time as still as stone. Had she, after all, a stony heart? Aunt Phyllis stood watching her with a pale, tear-wet, apprehensive face. Then abruptly the girl turned and held out her arms. “Can I ever thank you?” she cried, with eyes that now glittered with big tears.... Presently Aunt Phyllis was sitting in her chair stroking Joan’s dark hair, and Joan was kneeling, staring intently at some strange vision in the fire. “Do you mind my staying for a time?” she asked. “I want to get used to it. It’s just as though there wasn’t anything—but just here. I’ve lost my aunt—and found a mother.” “My Joan,” whispered Aunt Phyllis. “My own dear Joan.” “Always I have thought Peter was my brother—always. My half brother. Until today.” § 22 It was Adela who inflicted Joan’s second shock upon her, and drove away the last swirling whispers of adolescent imaginations and moon mist from the hard forms of reality. This visit she had seemed greatly improved to Joan; she was graver. Visibly she thought, and no longer was her rolling eye an invitation to masculine enterprise. She came to Joan’s room on Boxing Day morning to make up dresses with her for the night’s dance, and she let her mind run as she stitched. Every one was to come in fancy dress; the vicarage girls would come and the Braughing people. Every one was to represent a political idea. Adela was going to be Tariff Reform. All her clothes were to be tattered and unfinished, she said, even her shoes were to have holes. She would wear a broken earring in one ear. “I don’t quite see your point,” said Joan. “Tariff Reform means work for all, dear,” Adela explained gently. Days before Joan had planned to represent Indian Nationalism. It was a subject much in dispute between her and Peter, whose attitude to India and Indians seemed to her 365unreasonably reactionary—in view of all his other opinions. She could never let her controversies with Peter rest; the costume had been aimed at him. She was going to make up her complexion with a little brown, wear a sari, sandals on bare feet, and a band of tinsel across her forehead. She had found some red Indian curtain stuff that seemed to be adaptable for the sari. She worked now in a preoccupied manner, with her mind full of strange thoughts. Sometimes she listened to what Adela was saying, and sometimes she was altogether within herself. But every now and then Adela would pull her back to attention by a question. “Don’t you think so, Joan?” “Think what?” asked Joan. “Love’s much more business than it is theirs.” our That struck Joan. “Is it?” she asked. She had thought the shares in the business were equal and opposite. “All this waiting for a man to discover himself in love with you; it’s rot. You may wait till Doomsday.” “Still, they do seem to fall in love.” “With any one. A man’s in love with women in general, but women fall in love with men in particular. We’re the choosers. Naturally. We want a man, that man and no other, and all our own. They don’t feel like that. And we have to hang about pretending they choose and trying to make them choose without seeming to try to make them. Well, we’re altering all that. When I want a man——” Adela’s pause suggested a particular reference. “I’ll get him somehow,” she said intently. “If you mean to get him—if you don’t mind much the little things that happen meanwhile—you’ll get him,” said Adela, as though she repeated a creed. “But, of course, you can’t make terms. When a man knows that a woman is his, when he’s sure of it—absolutely, then she’s got him for good. Sooner or later he must come to her. I haven’t had my eyes open just for show, Joan, this last year or so.” “Good luck, Adela,” said Joan. Adela attempted no pretences. “It stands to reason if you love a man——” Her eyes filled with tears. “Love his very self. You can make him happy and safe. Be his line of least resistance. But the meanwhile is hard——” 366Adela stitched furiously. “That’s why you came down here?” Joan asked. “You haven’t seen?” Adela’s preoccupation with Sopwith Greene had been the most conspicuous fact in the party. “Once or twice a gleam,” said Joan. “Ask him to play tonight, dear,” said Adela. “Some of his own things.” But now the last checks upon Adela’s talk were removed. She wanted to talk endlessly and unrestrainedly about love. She wanted to hear herself saying all the generosities and devotions she contemplated. “There’s no bargain in love,” said Adela. “You just watch and give.” Running through all her talk was a thread of speculation; she was obsessed by the idea of the relative blindness and casualness of love in men. “We used to dream of lovers who just concentrated upon us,” she said. “But there’s something nimmy-pimmy in a man concentrating on a woman. He ought to have a Job, something Big, his Art, his Aim—Something. One wouldn’t really respect a man who didn’t do something Big. Love’s a nuisance to a real man, a disturbance, until some woman takes care of him.” “Couldn’t two people—take care of each other?” asked Joan. “Oh, that’s Ideal, Joan,” said Adela as one who puts a notion aside. “A man takes his love where he finds it. On his way to other things. The easier it is to get the better he likes it. That’s why, so often, they take up with any—sort of creature. And why one needn’t be so tremendously jealous....” Adela reflected. “ don’t care a bit about him and Hetty.” I “Hetty Reinhart?” “Everybody talked about them. Didn’t you hear? But of course you were still at school. Of course there’s that studio of hers. You know about her? Yes. She has a studio. Most convenient. She does as she pleases. It amused him, I suppose. Men don’t care as we do. They’re just amused. Men can fall in love for an afternoon—and out of it again. He makes love to her and he’s not even 367jealous of her. Not a bit. He doesn’t seem to mind a rap about Peter.” She babbled on, but Joan’s mind stopped short. “Adela,” she said, “what is this about Hetty and Peter?” “The usual thing, I suppose, dear. You don’t seem to hear of at Cambridge.” anything “But you don’t mean——?” “Well, I know of Hetty. And I’ve got eyes.” something “You mean to say she’s—she’s Peter?” got “It shows plainly enough.” “ Peter!” cried Joan sharply. My “You’re not an Egyptian princess,” said Adela. “You mean—he’s gone—Peter’s gone—to her studio? That—things like that have happened?” Adela stared at her friend. “These things to happen, Joan.” have “But he’s only a boy yet.” “She doesn’t think he’s a boy. Why! he’s almost of age! Lot of boy about Peter!” “But do you mean——?” “I don’t mean anything, Joan, if you’re going to look like that. You’ve got no right to interfere in Peter’s love affairs. Why should you? Don’t we all live for experience?” “But,” said Joan, “Peter is different.” “No. No one is different,” said Adela. “But I tell you he’s Peter.” my “He’s your brother, of course.” “ ” No! “Your half brother then. Everybody knows that, Joan—thanks to the Sheldricks. A sister can’t always keep her brothers away from other girls.” Joan was on the verge of telling Adela that she was not even Peter’s half sister, but she restrained herself. She stuck to the thing that most concerned her now. “It’s spoiling him,” she said. “It will make a mess of him. Why! he may think that is love, that!—slinking off to a studio. The nastiness! And she’s had a dozen lovers. She’s a common thing. She just strips herself here and shows her arms and shoulders because she’s—just that.” 368“She’s really in love with him anyhow,” said Adela. “She’s gone on him. It’s amusing.” “Love! —love! It makes me sick to think of it,” said Joan. That “A man isn’t made like that,” said Adela. “Peter has to go his own way.” “Peter,” said Joan, “who used to be the cleanest thing alive.” “Good sisters always feel like that,” said Adela. “I know how shocked I was when first I heard of Teddy.... It isn’t the same thing to men, Joan. It isn’t indeed....” “ Peter,” said Joan with intense conviction. “Of course I’ve known. Of course I’ve known. Any one could see. Only I wouldn’t know.” Dirty She thrust the striped red stuff for her Indian dress from her. “I shan’t be Indian Nationalism, Adela, after all. Somehow I don’t care to be. Why should I cover myself up in this way?” “You’d look jolly.” “No. I want something with black in it. And red. And my arms and shoulders showing. Why shouldn’t we all dress down to Hetty? She has the approval of the authorities. Aunt Phœbe applauds every stitch she takes off. Freedom—with a cap of Liberty.” “Hetty said something about being Freedom,” hesitated Adela. “Then I shall come as Anarchy,” said Joan, staring at the red stuff upon the table before her. Came a pause. “I don’t see why Peter should have all the fun in life,” said Joan. § 23 Joan as Anarchy made a success that evening at Pelham Ford. In the private plans of Hetty Reinhart that success had not been meant for Joan. Hetty as Freedom gave the party her lithe arms, her slender neck, and so much of her back that the two vicarage girls, who had come very correctly 369in powder and patches as Whig and Tory, were sure that it was partly accidental. On Hetty’s dark hair perched a Phrygian cap, and she had a tricolour skirt beneath a white bodice that was chiefly decolletage and lace. About her neck was a little band of black which had nothing to do with Freedom; it was there for the sake of her slender neck. She was much more like La Vie Parisienne. She was already dancing with Peter when Joan, who had delayed coming down until the music began, appeared in the doorway. Nobby, wrapped in a long toga-like garment of sun-gold and black that he alleged qualified him to represent Darkest Africa, was standing by the door, and saw the effect of Joan upon one of the Braughing boys before he discovered her beside him. Her profile was the profile of a savage. She lifted her clear-cut chin as young savage women do, and her steady eyes regarded Hetty and Peter. Her black hair was quite unbound and thrown back from her quiet face, and there was no necklace, no bracelet, not a scrap of adornment nor enhancement upon her arms or throat. It had not hitherto occurred to Oswald that his ward had the most beautiful neck and shoulders in the world, or that Joan was as like what Dolly once had been as a wild beast is like a cherished tame one. But he did presently find these strange ideas in his mind. Her dress was an exiguous scheme of slashes and tatters in black and bright red. She was bare ankled—these modern young people thought nothing of that—but she had white dancing shoes upon her feet. “Joan!” said Huntley, advancing with an air of proprietorship. “No,” said Joan with a gesture of rejection. “I don’t want to dance with any one in particular. I’m going to dance alone.” “Well—dance!” said Huntley with a large courtly movement of a white velvet cloak all powdered with gold crosses and fleur-de-lys, that he pretended was a symbol of Reaction. “When I choose,” said Joan. “And as I choose.” Across the room Peter was staring at her, and she was looking at Peter. He tripped against Hetty, and for a little 370interval the couple was out of step. “Come on, Peter,” said Hetty, rallying him. Joan appeared to forget Peter and every one. There was dancing in her blood, and this evening she meant to dance. Her body felt wonderfully light and as supple as a whip under her meagre costume. There was something to be said for this semi-nudity after all. The others were dancing a two-step with such variations as they thought fit, and there was no objection whatever at Pelham Ford to solo enterprises. Joan could invent dances. She sailed out into the room to dance as she pleased. Oswald watched her nimble steps and the whirling rhythms of her slender body. She made all the others seem overdressed and clumsy and heavy. Her face had a grave preoccupied expression. Huntley stood for a moment or so beside Oswald, and then stepped out after her to convert her dance into a duet. He too was a skilful and inventive dancer, and the two coquetted for a time amidst the other couples. Then Joan discovered Wilmington watching her and Huntley from the window bay. She danced evasively through Huntley’s circling entanglements, and seized Wilmington’s hand and drew him into the room. “I can’t dance, Joan,” he said, obeying her. “You I can’t dance.” know “You have to dance,” she said, aglow and breathing swiftly. “Trust me.” She took and left his hands and took them again and turned him about so skilfully that a wonderful illusion was produced in Wilmington’s mind and in those about him that indeed he could dance. Huntley made a crouching figure of jealousy about them; he spread himself and his cloak into fantastic rhombs—and then the music ceased.... “The Argentine Tango!” cried Huntley. “Joan, you tango.” must “Never.” “Dance Columbine to my Harlequin then.” “And stand on your knee? I should break it.” “Try me,” said Huntley. “Kneel,” said Joan. “Now take my hands. Prepare for 371the shock.” And she leapt lightly to his knee and posed for a second, poised with one toe on Huntley’s thigh, and was down again. “Do it again, Joan,” he cried with enthusiasm. “Do it again.” “Let us invent dances,” cried Aunt Phyllis. “Let us invent dances. Couldn’t we dance charades?” “Let them dance as nature meant them to,” said Aunt Phœbe’s deepest tones. “ ” Madly! “Shall we try that Tango we did the other night?” said Hetty, coming behind Peter. Peter had come forward to the group in the centre of the room. Old habits were strong in him, and he had a vague feeling that this was one of the occasions when Joan ought to be suppressed. “We’re getting chaotic,” he said. “You see, Peter, I’m Anarchy,” said Joan. “An ordered Freedom is the best,” said Peter without reflecting on his words. “Nobby, I want to dance with you,” said Joan. “I’ve never danced anything but a Country Dance—you know the sort of thing in which people stand in rows—in my life,” said Oswald. “A country dance,” cried Joan. “Sir Roger de Coverley.” “We want to try a fox-trot we know,” complained one of the Braughing guests. Two parties became more and more distinctly evident in the party. There was a party which centred around Hetty and the Sheldrick girls, which was all for the rather elaborately planned freak dances they had more or less learnt in London, the Bunny-Hugs, the Fox-Trot, and various Tangoes. Most of the Londoners were of this opinion, Sopwith Greene trailed Adela with him, and Huntley was full of a passionate desire to guide Joan’s feet along the Tango path. But Joan’s mind by a kind of necessity moved contrariwise to Hetty’s. Either, she argued, they must dance in the old staid ways—Oswald and the Vicarage girls applauding—or dance as the spirit moved them. “Oh, dance your old Fox-Trots,” she cried, with a gesture that seemed to motion Huntley and Hetty together. “Have 372your music all rattle and rag-time like sick people groaning in trains. That’s neither here nor there. I want to dance to better stuff than that. Come along, Willy.” She seized on Wilmington’s arm. “But where are you going?” cried Huntley. “I’m going to dance Chopin in the hall—to the pianola.” “You’re going to play,” she told Wilmington. “But you can’t,” said Peter. Joan disappeared with her slave. A light seemed to go out from the big library as she went. “Now we can get on,” said Hetty, laying hands on her Peter. For a time the Fox-Trot ruled. The Vicarage girls didn’t do these things, and drifted after Joan. So did Oswald. Towards the end the dancers had a sense of a cross-current of sound in the air, of some adverse influence thrown across their gymnastics. When their own music stopped, they became aware of that crying voice above the thunder, the Revolutionary Etude. There was a brief listening pause. “Now, how the deuce,” said Huntley, “can she be dancing ?” that He led the way to the hall.... “I’m tired of dancing,” whispered Hetty. “Stay back. They’re all going. I want you to kiss the little corner of my mouf.” Peter looked round quickly, and seized his privilege with unseemly haste. “Let’s see how Joan is dancing that old row,” he said.... Animation, boldness, and strict relegation of costume to its function of ornament had hitherto made Hetty the high light of this little gathering. She was now to realize how insecure is this feminine predominance in the face of fresher youth and greater boldness. And Joan was full of a pretty girl’s discovery that she may do all that she dares to do. For a time—and until it is time to pay. Life had intoxicated Joan that night. A derision of seemliness possessed her. She was full of impulse and power. She felt able to dominate every one. At one time or other she swept nearly every man there except Oswald and Peter and Pryce into her dancing. Two of the Braughing youths fell visibly in love with her, and Huntley lost his head, badgered 373her too much to dance, and then was offended and sulked in a manner manifest to the meanest capacity. And she kissed Wilmington. That was her wildest impulse. She came into the study where he was playing the pianola for her dancing. She wanted him to change the roll for the first part of the Kreutzer Sonata, and found herself alone with him. She loved him because he was so completely and modestly hers. She bent over him to take off the roll from the instrument, and found her face near his forehead. “Dear old Willy,” she whispered, and put her hand on his shoulder and brushed his eyebrows with her lips. Then she was remorseful. “It doesn’t mean anything, Willy,” she said. “I know it doesn’t,” he said in a voice of the deepest melancholy. “Only you are a dear all the same,” she said. “You are clean. You’re .” right “If it wasn’t for my damned Virtues——” said Wilmington. “But anyhow. Thank you, Joan—very much. Shall I play you this right through?” “A little slowly,” she said. “It’s marked too fast,” and went towards the open door. Then she flitted back to him.... Her intent face came close to his. “I don’t love any one, Willy,” she said. “I’m not the sort. I just dance.” They looked at each other. “I love ,” said Wilmington, and watched her go. you But she had made him ridiculously happy.... She danced through the whole Kreutzer Sonata. The Kreutzer Sonata has always been a little dirty since Tolstoy touched it. Tolstoy pronounced it erotic. There are men who can find a lascivious import in a Corinthian capital. The Kreutzer Sonata therefore had a strong appeal to Huntley’s mind. These associations made it seem to him different from other music, just as calling this or that substance a “drug” always dignified it in his eyes with the rich suggestions of vice. He read strange significances into Joan’s choice of that little music as he watched her over the heads of the Braughing girls. But Joan just danced. 374At supper she found herself drifting to a seat near Peter. She left him to his Hetty, and went up the table to a place under Oswald’s black wing. The supper at Pelham Ford was none of your stand-up affairs. Mrs. Moxton’s ideas of a dance supper were worthy of Britannia. Oswald carved a big turkey and Peter had cold game pie, and Aunt Phyllis showed a delicate generosity with a sharp carver and a big ham. There were hot potatoes and various salads, and jugs of lemonade and claret cup for every one, and whisky for the mature. Joan became a sober enquirer about African dancing. “It’s the West Coast that dances,” said Oswald. “There’s richer music on the West Coast than all round the Mediterranean.” “All this American music comes from the negro,” he declared. “There’s hardly a bit of American music that hasn’t colour in its blood.” After supper Joan was the queen of the party. Adela was in love with her again, as slavish as in their schooldays, and the Sheldricks and the Braughing boys and girls did her bidding. “Let’s do something processional,” said Joan. “Let us dress up and do the Funeral March of a Marionette.” Hetty didn’t catch on to that idea, and Peter was somehow overlooked. Most of the others scampered off to get something black and cast aside anything too coloured. Aunt Phyllis knew of some black gauze and produced it. There were black curtains in the common room, and these were seized upon by Huntley and Wilmington. They made a coffin of the big black lacquered post-box in the hall, and a bier of four alpenstocks and a drying-board from the scullery. Joan was chief mourner, and after the Funeral March was over danced the sorrows of life before the bier to the first part of the Fifth Symphony. Hetty and Peter sat close together and yet unusually apart upon the broad window-seat. Hetty looked tired and Peter seemed inattentive. Perhaps they had a little overdone each other’s charm that Christmas. And only once more that evening did it happen that Peter and Joan met face to face. Nearly everybody poured out 375into the garden to see the guests go off. The Braughing people crowded hilariously into a car; the others walked. The weather had suddenly hardened, a clear dry cold made the paths and road very like metal, and not the littlest star was missing from the quivering assembly in the sky. “We’ll have skating yet,” cried the Braughing party. Adela and Joan and Wilmington and Pryce came with Huntley and Greene and the vicarage girls along the road and over the ice-bound water-splash as far as the vicarage gate. “Too cooold to say good-bye,” cried Joan. “Oh, my bare legs!” and led a race back. poor Adela was left far behind, but neither Wilmington nor Pryce would let Joan win without a struggle. The three shot in through the wide front door almost abreast, and Joan ran straight at Peter and stopped short within two feet of him. “I’ve won!” said Joan. Just for an instant the two looked at one another, and it seemed to Joan afterwards that she had seen something then in Peter’s eyes, something involuntary that she had caught just once before in them—when she had come upon him by chance in Petty Cury when first she had gone up to Cambridge. A silly thing to think about! What did it matter? What did anything matter? Life was a dance, and Joan, thank heaven! could dance. Peter was just nothing at all. Nothing at all. Nothing at all. “I wonder, Joan, how many miles you have pranced tonight!” said Aunt Phyllis, kissing her good night. “Joan,” said Adela, “you The Loveliest.”... are For a minute or so Joan stood in front of her looking-glass, studying a flushed, candle-lit figure.... “Pah!” she said at last. “ ” and flung her scanty clothes aside. Hetty! She caught the reflection of herself in the mirror again. She spread out her hands in a gesture to the pretty shape she saw there, and stood. “What’s the Good of it?” she said at last. As soon as Joan’s head touched the pillow that night she 376fell asleep, and she slept as soundly as a child that had been thoroughly naughty and all at sixes and sevens, and that has been well slapped and had a good cry to wind up with, and put to bed. In all the world there is no sounder sleep than that. About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books. This book is part of the public domain. H. G. Wells (2020). Joan and Peter. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/61426/61426-h/61426-h.htm This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org , located at https://www.gutenberg.org/policy/license.html.