Marriage by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here . Lonely Hut Lonely Hut § 1 Marjorie and Trafford walked slowly back to the hut. "There is much to do before the weather breaks," he said, ending a thoughtful silence. "Then we can sit inside there and talk about the things we need to talk about." -448- He added awkwardly: "Since we started, there has been so much to hold the attention. I remember a mood—an immense despair. I feel it's still somewhere at the back of things, waiting to be dealt with. It's our essential fact. But meanwhile we've been busy, looking at fresh things." He paused. "Now it will be different perhaps...." For nearly four weeks indeed they were occupied very closely, and crept into their bunks at night as tired as wholesome animals who drop to sleep. At any time the weather might break; already there had been two overcast days and a frowning conference of clouds in the north. When at last storms began they knew there would be nothing for it but to keep in the hut until the world froze up. There was much to do to the hut. The absence of anything but stunted and impoverished timber and the limitation of time, had forbidden a log hut, and their home was really only a double framework, rammed tight between inner and outer frame with a mixture of earth and boughs and twigs of willow, pine and balsam. The floor was hammered earth carpeted with balsam twigs and a caribou skin. Outside and within wall and roof were faced with coarse canvas—that was Trafford's idea—and their bunks occupied two sides of the hut. Heating was done by the sheet-iron stove they had brought with them, and the smoke was carried out to the roof by a thin sheet-iron pipe which had come up outside a roll of canvas. They had made the roof with about the pitch of a Swiss châlet, and it was covered with nailed waterproof canvas, held down by a large number of big lumps of stone. Much of the canvassing still remained to do when the men went down, and then the Traffords used every scrap of packing-paper and newspaper that had come up with them and was not needed for lining the bunks in covering any crack or join in the canvas wall. -449- Two decadent luxuries, a rubber bath and two rubber hot-water bottles, hung behind the door. They were almost the only luxuries. Kettles and pans and some provisions stood on a shelf over the stove; there was also a sort of recess cupboard in the opposite corner, reserve clothes were in canvas trunks under the bunks, they kept their immediate supply of wood under the eaves just outside the door, and there was a big can of water between stove and door. When the winter came they would have to bring in ice from the stream. This was their home. The tent that had sheltered Marjorie on the way up was erected close to this hut to serve as a rude scullery and outhouse, and they also made a long, roughly thatched roof with a canvas cover, supported on stakes, to shelter the rest of the stores. The stuff in tins and cases and jars they left on the ground under this; the rest—the flour, candles, bacon, dried caribou beef, and so forth, they hung, as they hoped, out of the reach of any prowling beast. And finally and most important was the wood pile. This they accumulated to the north and east of the hut, and all day long with a sort of ant-like perseverance Trafford added to it from the thickets below. Once or twice, however, tempted by the appearance of birds, he went shooting, and one day he got five geese that they spent a day upon, plucking, cleaning, boiling and putting up in all their store of empty cans, letting the fat float and solidify on the top to preserve this addition to their provision until the advent of the frost rendered all other preservatives unnecessary. They also tried to catch trout down in the river below, but though they saw many fish the catch was less than a dozen. -450- It was a discovery to both of them to find how companionable these occupations were, how much more side by side they could be amateurishly cleaning out a goose and disputing about its cooking, than they had ever contrived to be in Sussex Square. "These things are so infernally interesting," said Trafford, surveying the row of miscellaneous cans upon the stove he had packed with disarticulated goose. "But we didn't come here to picnic. All this is eating us up. I have a memory of some immense tragic purpose——" "That tin's boiling!" screamed Marjorie sharply. He resumed his thread after an active interlude. "We'll keep the wolf from the door," he said. "Don't talk of wolves!" said Marjorie. "It is only when men have driven away the wolf from the door—oh! altogether away, that they find despair in the sky? I wonder——" "What?" asked Marjorie in his pause. "I wonder if there is nothing really in life but this, the food hunt and the love hunt. Is life just all hunger and need, and are we left with nothing—nothing at all—when these things are done?... We're infernally uncomfortable here." -451- "Oh, nonsense!" cried Marjorie. "Think of your carpets at home! Think of the great, warm, beautiful house that wasn't big enough!—And yet here, we're happy." "We are happy," said Marjorie, struck by the thought. "Only——" "Yes." "I'm afraid. And I long for the children. And the wind nips." "It may be those are good things for us. No! This is just a lark as yet, Marjorie. It's still fresh and full of distractions. The discomforts are amusing. Presently we'll get used to it. Then we'll talk out—what we have to talk out.... I say, wouldn't it keep and improve this goose of ours if we put in a little brandy?" § 2 The weather broke at last. One might say it smashed itself over their heads. There came an afternoon darkness swift and sudden, a wild gale and an icy sleet that gave place in the night to snow, so that Trafford looked out next morning to see a maddening chaos of small white flakes, incredibly swift, against something that was neither darkness nor light. Even with the door but partly ajar a cruelty of cold put its claw within, set everything that was moveable swaying and clattering, and made Marjorie hasten shuddering to heap fresh logs upon the fire. Once or twice Trafford went out to inspect tent and roof and store-shed, several times wrapped to the nose he battled his way for fresh wood, and for the rest of the blizzard they kept to the hut. It was slumberously stuffy, but comfortingly full of flavours of tobacco and food. There were two days of intermission and a day of gusts and icy sleet again, turning with one extraordinary clap of thunder to a wild downpour of dancing lumps of ice, and then a night when it seemed all Labrador, earth and sky together, was in hysterical protest against inconceivable wrongs. -452- And then the break was over; the annual freezing-up was accomplished, winter had established itself, the snowfall moderated and ceased, and an ice-bound world shone white and sunlit under a cloudless sky. § 3 Through all that time they got no further with the great discussion for which they had faced that solitude. They attempted beginnings. "Where had we got to when we left England?" cried Marjorie. "You couldn't work, you couldn't rest—you hated our life." "Yes, I know. I had a violent hatred of the lives we were leading. I thought—we had to get away. To think.... But things don't leave us alone here." He covered his face with his hands. "Why did we come here?" he asked. "You wanted—to get out of things." "Yes. But with you.... Have we, after all, got out of things at all? I said coming up, perhaps we were leaving our own problem behind. In exchange for other problems—old problems men have had before. We've got nearer necessity; that's all. Things press on us just as much. There's nothing more fundamental in wild nature, nothing profounder—only something earlier. One doesn't get out of life by going here or there.... But I wanted to get you away—from all things that had such a hold on you.... -453- "When one lies awake at nights, then one seems to get down into things...." He went to the door, opened it, and stood looking out. Against a wan daylight the snow was falling noiselessly and steadily. "Everything goes on," he said.... "Relentlessly...." § 4 That was as far as they had got when the storms ceased and they came out again into an air inexpressibly fresh and sharp and sweet, and into a world blindingly clean and golden white under the rays of the morning sun. "We will build a fire out here," said Marjorie; "make a great pile. There is no reason at all why we shouldn't live outside all through the day in such weather as this." § 5 One morning Trafford found the footmarks of some catlike creature in the snow near the bushes where he was accustomed to get firewood; they led away very plainly up the hill, and after breakfast he took his knife and rifle and snowshoes and went after the lynx—for that he decided the animal must be. There was no urgent reason why he should want to kill a lynx, unless perhaps that killing it made the store shed a trifle safer; but it was the first trail of any living thing for many days; it promised excitement; some primordial instinct perhaps urged him. The morning was a little overcast, and very cold between the gleams of wintry sunshine. "Good-bye, dear wife!" he said, and then as she remembered afterwards came back a dozen yards to kiss her. "I'll not be long," he said. "The beast's prowling, and if it doesn't get wind of me I ought to find it in an hour." He hesitated for a moment. "I'll not be long," he repeated, and she had an instant's wonder whether he hid from her the same dread of loneliness that she concealed. Or perhaps he only knew her secret. Up among the tumbled rocks he turned, and she was still watching him. "Good-bye!" he cried and waved, and the willow thickets closed about him. -454- She forced herself to the petty duties of the day, made up the fire from the pile he had left for her, set water to boil, put the hut in order, brought out sheets and blankets to air and set herself to wash up. She wished she had been able to go with him. The sky cleared presently, and the low December sun lit all the world about her, but it left her spirit desolate. She did not expect him to return until mid-day, and she sat herself down on a log before the fire to darn a pair of socks as well as she could. For a time this unusual occupation held her attention and then her hands became slow and at last inactive, and she fell into reverie. She thought at first of her children and what they might be doing, in England across there to the east it would be about five hours later, four o'clock in the afternoon, and the children would be coming home through the warm muggy London sunshine with Fraulein Otto to tea. She wondered if they had the proper clothes, if they were well; were they perhaps quarrelling or being naughty or skylarking gaily across the Park. Of course Fraulein Otto was all right, quite to be trusted, absolutely trustworthy, and their grandmother would watch for a flushed face or an irrational petulance or any of the little signs that herald trouble with more than a mother's instinctive alertness. No need to worry about the children, no need whatever.... The world of London opened out behind these thoughts; it was so queer to think that she was in almost the same latitude as the busy bright traffic of the autumn season in Kensington Gore; that away there in ten thousand cleverly furnished drawing-rooms the ringing tea things were being set out for the rustling advent of smart callers and the quick leaping gossip. And there would be all sorts of cakes and little things; for a while her mind ran on cakes and little things, and she thought in particular whether it wasn't time to begin cooking.... Not yet. What was it she had been thinking about? Ah! the Solomonsons and the Capeses and the Bernards and the Carmels and the Lees. Would they talk of her and Trafford? It would be strange to go back to it all. Would they go back to it all? She found herself thinking intently of Trafford. -455- What a fine human being he was! And how touchingly human! The thoughts of his moments of irritation, his baffled silences, filled her with a wild passion of tenderness. She had disappointed him; all that life failed to satisfy him. Dear master of her life! what was it he needed? She too wasn't satisfied with life, but while she had been able to assuage herself with a perpetual series of petty excitements, theatres, new books and new people, meetings, movements, dinners, shows, he had grown to an immense discontent. He had most of the things men sought, wealth, respect, love, children.... So many men might have blunted their heart-ache with—adventures. There were pretty women, clever women, unoccupied women. She felt she wouldn't have minded—much—if it made him happy.... It was so wonderful he loved her still.... It wasn't that he lacked occupation; on the whole he overworked. His business interests were big and wide. Ought he to go into politics? Why was it that the researches that had held him once, could hold him now no more? That was the real pity of it. Was she to blame for that? She couldn't state a case against herself, and yet she felt she was to blame. She had taken him away from those things, forced him to make money.... -456- She sat chin on hand staring into the fire, the sock forgotten on her knee. She could not weigh justice between herself and him. If he was unhappy it was her fault. She knew if he was unhappy it was no excuse that she had not known, had been misled, had a right to her own instincts and purposes. She had got to make him happy. But what was she to do, what was there for her to do?... Only he could work out his own salvation, and until he had light, all she could do was to stand by him, help him, cease to irritate him, watch, wait. Anyhow she could at least mend his socks as well as possible, so that the threads would not chafe him.... She flashed to her feet. What was that? It seemed to her she had heard the sound of a shot, and a quick brief wake of echoes. She looked across the icy waste of the river, and then up the tangled slopes of the mountain. Her heart was beating very fast. It must have been up there, and no doubt he had killed his beast. Some shadow of doubt she would not admit crossed that obvious suggestion. This wilderness was making her as nervously responsive as a creature of the wild. Came a second shot; this time there was no doubt of it. Then the desolate silence closed about her again. She stood for a long time staring at the shrubby slopes that rose to the barren rock wilderness of the purple mountain crest. She sighed deeply at last, and set herself to make up the fire and prepare for the mid-day meal. Once far away across the river she heard the howl of a wolf. -457- Time seemed to pass very slowly that day. She found herself going repeatedly to the space between the day tent and the sleeping hut from which she could see the stunted wood that had swallowed him up, and after what seemed a long hour her watch told her it was still only half-past twelve. And the fourth or fifth time that she went to look out she was set atremble again by the sound of a third shot. And then at regular intervals out of that distant brown purple jumble of thickets against the snow came two more shots. "Something has happened," she said, "something has happened," and stood rigid. Then she became active, seized the rifle that was always at hand when she was alone, fired into the sky and stood listening. Prompt come an answering shot. "He wants me," said Marjorie. "Something——Perhaps he has killed something too big to bring!" She was for starting at once, and then remembered this was not the way of the wilderness. She thought and moved very rapidly. Her mind catalogued possible requirements, rifle, hunting knife, the oilskin bag with matches, and some chunks of dry paper, the rucksack—and he would be hungry. She took a saucepan and a huge chunk of cheese and biscuit. Then a brandy flask is sometimes handy—one never knows. Though nothing was wrong, of course. Needles and stout thread, and some cord. Snowshoes. A waterproof cloak could be easily carried. Her light hatchet for wood. She cast about to see if there was anything else. She had almost forgotten cartridges—and a revolver. Nothing more. She kicked a stray brand or so into the fire, put on some more wood, damped the fire with an armful of snow to make it last longer, and set out towards the willows into which he had vanished. -458- There was a rustling and snapping of branches as she pushed her way through the bushes, a little stir that died insensibly into quiet again; and then the camping place became very still.... Scarcely a sound occurred, except for the little shuddering and stirring of the fire, and the reluctant, infrequent drip from the icicles along the sunny edge of the log hut roof. About one o'clock the amber sunshine faded out altogether, a veil of clouds thickened and became greyly ominous, and a little after two the first flakes of a snowstorm fell hissing into the fire. A wind rose and drove the multiplying snowflakes in whirls and eddies before it. The icicles ceased to drip, but one or two broke and fell with a weak tinkling. A deep soughing, a shuddering groaning of trees and shrubs, came ever and again out of the ravine, and the powdery snow blew like puffs of smoke from the branches. By four the fire was out, and the snow was piling high in the darkling twilight against tent and hut.... § 6 Trafford's trail led Marjorie through the thicket of dwarf willows and down to the gully of the rivulet which they had called Marjorie Trickle; it had long since become a trough of snow-covered rotten ice; the trail crossed this and, turning sharply uphill, went on until it was clear of shrubs and trees, and in the windy open of the upper slopes it crossed a ridge and came over the lip of a large desolate valley with slopes of ice and icy snow. Here she spent some time in following his loops back on the homeward trail before she saw what was manifestly the final trail running far away out across the snow, with the spoor of the lynx, a lightly-dotted line, to the right of it. She followed this suggestion of the trail, put on her snowshoes, and shuffled her way across this valley, which opened as she proceeded. She hoped that over the ridge she would find Trafford, and scanned the sky for the faintest discolouration of a fire, but there was none. That seemed odd to her, but the wind was in her face, and perhaps it beat the smoke down. Then as her eyes scanned the hummocky ridge ahead, she saw something, something very intent and still, that brought her heart into her mouth. It was a big, grey wolf, standing with back haunched and head down, watching and winding something beyond there, out of sight. -459- Marjorie had an instinctive fear of wild animals, and it still seemed dreadful to her that they should go at large, uncaged. She suddenly wanted Trafford violently, wanted him by her side. Also she thought of leaving the trail, going back to the bushes. She had to take herself in hand. In the wastes one did not fear wild beasts. One had no fear of them. But why not fire a shot to let him know she was near? The beast flashed round with an animal's instantaneous change of pose, and looked at her. For a couple of seconds, perhaps, woman and brute regarded one another across a quarter of a mile of snowy desolation. Suppose it came towards her! She would fire—and she would fire at it. She made a guess at the range and aimed very carefully. She saw the snow fly two yards ahead of the grisly shape, and then in an instant it had vanished over the crest. -460- She reloaded, and stood for a moment waiting for Trafford's answer. No answer came. "Queer!" she whispered, "queer!"—and suddenly such a horror of anticipation assailed her that she started running and floundering through the snow to escape it. Twice she called his name, and once she just stopped herself from firing a shot. Over the ridge she would find him. Surely she would find him over the ridge. She found herself among rocks, and there was a beaten and trampled place where Trafford must have waited and crouched. Then on and down a slope of tumbled boulders. There came a patch where he had either thrown himself down or fallen. It seemed to her he must have been running.... Suddenly, a hundred feet or so away, she saw a patch of violently disturbed snow—snow stained a dreadful colour, a snow of scarlet crystals! Three strides and Trafford was in sight. She had a swift conviction he was dead. He was lying in a crumpled attitude on a patch of snow between convergent rocks, and the lynx, a mass of blood smeared silvery fur, was in some way mixed up with him. She saw as she came nearer that the snow was disturbed round about them, and discoloured copiously, yellow widely, and in places bright red, with congealed and frozen blood. She felt no fear now, and no emotion; all her mind was engaged with the clear, bleak perception of the fact before her. She did not care to call to him again. His head was hidden by the lynx's body, it was as if he was burrowing underneath the creature; his legs were twisted about each other in a queer, unnatural attitude. Then, as she dropped off a boulder, and came nearer, Trafford moved. A hand came out and gripped the rifle beside him; he suddenly lifted a dreadful face, horribly scarred and torn, and crimson with frozen blood; he pushed the grey beast aside, rose on an elbow, wiped his sleeve across his eyes, stared at her, grunted, and flopped forward. He had fainted. -461- She was now as clear-minded and as self-possessed as a woman in a shop. In another moment she was kneeling by his side. She saw, by the position of his knife and the huge rip in the beast's body, that he had stabbed the lynx to death as it clawed his head; he must have shot and wounded it and then fallen upon it. His knitted cap was torn to ribbons, and hung upon his neck. Also his leg was manifestly injured; how, she could not tell. It was chiefly evident he must freeze if he lay here. It seemed to her that perhaps he had pulled the dead brute over him to protect his torn skin from the extremity of cold. The lynx was already rigid, its clumsy paws asprawl—the torn skin and clot upon Trafford's face was stiff as she put her hands about his head to raise him. She turned him over on his back—how heavy he seemed!—and forced brandy between his teeth. Then, after a moment's hesitation, she poured a little brandy on his wounds. She glanced at his leg, which was surely broken, and back at his face. Then she gave him more brandy and his eyelids flickered. He moved his hand weakly. "The blood," he said, "kept getting in my eyes." She gave him brandy once again, wiped his face and glanced at his leg. Something ought to be done to that she thought. But things must be done in order. She stared up at the darkling sky with its grey promise of snow, and down the slopes of the mountain. Clearly they must stay the night here. They were too high for wood among these rocks, but three or four hundred yards below there were a number of dwarfed fir trees. She had brought an axe, so that a fire was possible. Should she go back to camp and get the tent? -462- Trafford was trying to speak again. "I got——" he said. "Yes?" "Got my leg in that crack. Damn—damned nuisance." Was he able to advise her? She looked at him, and then perceived she must bind up his head and face. She knelt behind him and raised his head on her knee. She had a thick silk neck muffler, and this she supplemented by a band she cut and tore from her inner vest. She bound this, still warm from her body, about him, wrapped her cloak round him. The next thing was a fire. Five yards away, perhaps, a great mass of purple gabbro hung over a patch of nearly snowless moss. A hummock to the westward offered shelter from the weakly bitter wind, the icy draught, that was soughing down the valley. Always in Labrador, if you can, you camp against a rock surface; it shelters you from the wind, reflects your fire, guards your back. "Rag!" she said. "Rotten hole," said Trafford. "What?" she cried sharply. "Got you in a rotten hole," he said. "Eh?" "Listen," she said, and shook his shoulder. "Look! I want to get you up against that rock." "Won't make much difference," said Trafford, and opened his eyes. "Where?" he asked. "There." He remained quite quiet for a second perhaps. "Listen to me," he said. "Go back to camp." "Yes," she said. -463- "Go back to camp. Make a pack of all the strongest food—strenthin'—strengthrin' food—you know?" He seemed troubled to express himself. "Yes," she said. "Down the river. Down—down. Till you meet help." "Leave you?" He nodded his head and winced. "You're always plucky," he said. "Look facts in the face. Kiddies. Thought it over while you were coming." A tear oozed from his eye. "Not be a fool, Madge. Kiss me good-bye. Not be a fool. I'm done. Kids." She stared at him and her spirit was a luminous mist of tears. "You old coward," she said in his ear, and kissed the little patch of rough and bloody cheek beneath his eye. Then she knelt up beside him. "I'm boss now, old man," she said. "I want to get you to that place there under the rock. If I drag, can you help?" He answered obstinately: "You'd better go." "I'll make you comfortable first," she answered, "anyhow." He made an enormous effort, and then with her quick help and with his back to her knee, had raised himself on his elbows. "And afterwards?" he asked. "Build a fire." "Wood?" "Down there." "Two bits of wood tied on my leg—splints. Then I can drag myself. See? Like a blessed old walrus." He smiled, and she kissed his bandaged face again. "Else it hurts," he apologized, "more than I can stand." She stood up again, thought, put his rifle and knife to his hand for fear of that lurking wolf, abandoning her own rifle with an effort, and went striding and leaping from rock to rock towards the trees below. She made the chips fly, and was presently towing three venerable pine dwarfs, bumping over rock and crevice, back to Trafford. She flung them down, stood for a moment bright and breathless, then set herself to hack off the splints he needed from the biggest stem. "Now," she said, coming to him. -464- "A fool," he remarked, "would have made the splints down there. You're—good, Marjorie." She lugged his leg out straight, put it into the natural and least painful pose, padded it with moss and her torn handkerchief, and bound it up. As she did so a handful of snowflakes came whirling about them. She was now braced up to every possibility. "It never rains," she said grimly, "but it pours," and went on with her bone-setting. He was badly weakened by pain and shock, and once he swore at her sharply. "Sorry," he said. She rolled him over on his chest, and left him to struggle to the shelter of the rock while she went for more wood. The sky alarmed her. The mountains up the valley were already hidden by driven rags of slaty snowstorms. This time she found a longer but easier path for dragging her boughs and trees; she determined she would not start the fire until nightfall, nor waste any time in preparing food until then. There were dead boughs for kindling—more than enough. It was snowing quite fast by the time she got up to him with her second load, and a premature twilight already obscured and exaggerated the rocks and mounds about her. She gave some of her cheese to Trafford, and gnawed some herself on her way down to the wood again. She regretted that she had brought neither candles nor lantern, because then she might have kept on until the cold of night stopped her, and she reproached herself bitterly because she had brought no tea. She could forgive herself the lantern, she had never expected to be out after dark, but the tea was inexcusable. She muttered self-reproaches while she worked like two men among the trees, panting puffs of mist that froze upon her lips and iced the knitted wool that covered her chin. Why don't they teach a girl to handle an axe?... -465- When at last the wolfish cold of the Labrador night had come, it found Trafford and Marjorie seated almost warmly on a bed of pine boughs between the sheltering dark rock behind and a big but well husbanded fire in front, drinking a queer-tasting but not unsavory soup of lynx-flesh, that she had fortified with the remainder of the brandy. Then they tried roast lynx and ate a little, and finished with some scraps of cheese and deep draughts of hot water. Then—oh Tyburnia and Chelsea and all that is becoming!—they smoked Trafford's pipe for alternate minutes, and Marjorie found great comfort in it. The snowstorm poured incessantly out of the darkness to become flakes of burning fire in the light of the flames, flakes that vanished magically, but it only reached them and wetted them in occasional gusts. What did it matter for the moment if the dim snow-heaps rose and rose about them? A glorious fatigue, an immense self-satisfaction possessed Marjorie; she felt that they had both done well. "I am not afraid of to-morrow now," she said at last—a thought matured. "No!" Trafford had the pipe and did not speak for a moment. "Nor I," he said at last. "Very likely we'll get through with it." He added after a pause: "I thought I was done for. A man—loses heart. After a loss of blood." -466- "The leg's better?" "Hot as fire." His humour hadn't left him. "It's a treat," he said. "The hottest thing in Labrador." "I've been a good squaw this time, old man?" she asked suddenly. He seemed not to hear her; then his lips twitched and he made a feeble movement for her hand. "I cursed you," he said.... She slept, but on a spring as it were, lest the fire should fall. She replenished it with boughs, tucked in the half-burnt logs, and went to sleep again. Then it seemed to her that some invisible hand was pouring a thin spirit on the flames that made them leap and crackle and spread north and south until they filled the heavens. Her eyes were open and the snowstorm overpast, leaving the sky clear, and all the westward heaven alight with the trailing, crackling, leaping curtains of the Aurora, brighter than she had ever seen them before. Quite clearly visible beyond the smoulder of the fire, a wintry waste of rock and snow, boulder beyond boulder, passed into a dun obscurity. The mountain to the right of them lay long and white and stiff, a shrouded death. All earth was dead and waste and nothing, and the sky alive and coldly marvellous, signalling and astir. She watched the changing, shifting colours, and they made her think of the gathering banners of inhuman hosts, the stir and marshalling of icy giants for ends stupendous and indifferent to all the trivial impertinence of man's existence.... That night the whole world of man seemed small and shallow and insecure to her, beyond comparison. One came, she thought, but just a little way out of its warm and sociable cities hither, and found this homeless wilderness; one pricked the thin appearances of life with microscope or telescope and came to an equal strangeness. All the pride and hope of human life goes to and fro in a little shell of air between this ancient globe of rusty nickel-steel and the void of space; faint specks we are within a film; we quiver between the atom and the infinite, being hardly more substantial than the glow within an oily skin that drifts upon the water. The wonder and the riddle of it! Here she and Trafford were! Phantasmal shapes of unsubstantial fluid thinly skinned against evaporation and wrapped about with woven wool and the skins of beasts, that yet reflected and perceived, suffered and sought to understand; that held a million memories, framed thoughts that plumbed the deeps of space and time,—and another day of snow or icy wind might leave them just scattered bones and torn rags gnawed by a famishing wolf!... -467- She felt a passionate desire to pray.... She glanced at Trafford beside her, and found him awake and staring. His face was very pale and strange in that livid, flickering light. She would have spoken, and then she saw his lips were moving, and something, something she did not understand, held her back from doing so. § 7 The bleak, slow dawn found Marjorie intently busy. She had made up the fire, boiled water and washed and dressed Trafford's wounds, and made another soup of lynx. But Trafford had weakened in the night, the stuff nauseated him, he refused it and tried to smoke and was sick, and then sat back rather despairfully after a second attempt to persuade her to leave him there to die. This failure of his spirit distressed her and a little astonished her, but it only made her more resolute to go through with her work. She had awakened cold, stiff and weary, but her fatigue vanished with movement; she toiled for an hour replenishing her pile of fuel, made up the fire, put his gun ready to his hand, kissed him, abused him lovingly for the trouble he gave her until his poor torn face lit in response, and then parting on a note of cheerful confidence set out to return to the hut. She found the way not altogether easy to make out, wind and snow had left scarcely a trace of their tracks, and her mind was full of the stores she must bring and the possibility of moving him nearer to the hut. She was startled to see by the fresh, deep spoor along the ridge how near the wolf had dared approach them in the darkness.... -468- Ever and again Marjorie had to halt and look back to get her direction right. As it was she came through the willow scrub nearly half a mile above the hut, and had to follow the steep bank of the frozen river down. At one place she nearly slipped upon an icy slope of rock. One possibility she did not dare to think of during that time; a blizzard now would cut her off absolutely from any return to Trafford. Short of that she believed she could get through. Her quick mind was full of all she had to do. At first she had thought chiefly of his immediate necessities, of food and some sort of shelter. She had got a list of things in her head—meat extract, bandages, corrosive sublimate by way of antiseptic, brandy, a tin of beef, some bread and so forth; she went over that several times to be sure of it, and then for a time she puzzled about a tent. She thought she could manage a bale of blankets on her back, and that she could rig a sleeping tent for herself and Trafford with one and some bent sticks. The big tent would be too much to strike and shift. And then her mind went on to a bolder enterprise, which was to get him home. The nearer she could bring him to the log hut, the nearer they would be to supplies. She cast about for some sort of sledge. The snow was too soft and broken for runners, especially among the trees, but if she could get a flat of smooth wood she thought she might be able to drag him. She decided to try the side of her bunk. She could easily get that off. She would have, of course, to run it edgewise through the thickets and across the ravine, but after that she would have almost clear going until she reached the steep place of broken rocks within two hundred yards of him. The idea of a sledge grew upon her, and she planned to nail a rope along the edge and make a kind of harness for herself. -469- She found the camping-place piled high with drifted snow, which had invaded tent and hut, and that some beast, a wolverine she guessed, had been into the hut, devoured every candle-end and the uppers of Trafford's well-greased second boots, and had then gone to the corner of the store shed and clambered up to the stores. She made no account of its depredations there, but set herself to make a sledge and get her supplies together. There was a gleam of sunshine, but she did not like the look of the sky, and she was horribly afraid of what might be happening to Trafford. She carried her stuff through the wood and across the ravine, and returned for her improvised sledge. She was still struggling with that among the trees when it began to snow again. It was hard then not to be frantic in her efforts. As it was, she packed her stuff so loosely on the planking that she had to repack it, and she started without putting on her snowshoes, and floundered fifty yards before she discovered that omission. The snow was now falling fast, darkling the sky and hiding everything but objects close at hand, and she had to use all her wits to determine her direction; she knew she must go down a long slope and then up to the ridge, and it came to her as a happy inspiration that if she bore to the left she might strike some recognizable vestige of her morning's trail. She had read of people walking in circles when they have no light or guidance, and that troubled her until she bethought herself of the little compass on her watch chain. By that she kept her direction. She wished very much she had timed herself across the waste, so that she could tell when she approached the ridge. -470- Soon her back and shoulders were aching violently, and the rope across her chest was tugging like some evil-tempered thing. But she did not dare to rest. The snow was now falling thick and fast, the flakes traced white spirals and made her head spin, so that she was constantly falling away to the south-westward and then correcting herself by the compass. She tried to think how this zig-zagging might affect her course, but the snow whirls confused her mind and a growing anxiety would not let her pause to think. She felt blinded; it seemed to be snowing inside her eyes so that she wanted to rub them. Soon the ground must rise to the ridge, she told herself; it must surely rise. Then the sledge came bumping at her heels and she perceived she was going down hill. She consulted the compass, and she found she was facing south. She turned sharply to the right again. The snowfall became a noiseless, pitiless torture to sight and mind. The sledge behind her struggled to hold her back, and the snow balled under her snowshoes. She wanted to stop and rest, take thought, sit for a moment. She struggled with herself and kept on. She tried walking with shut eyes, and tripped and came near sprawling. "Oh God!" she cried, "oh God!" too stupefied for more articulate prayers. -471- Would the rise of the ground to the ribs of rock never come? A figure, black and erect, stood in front of her suddenly, and beyond appeared a group of black, straight antagonists. She staggered on towards them, gripping her rifle with some muddled idea of defence, and in another moment she was brushing against the branches of a stunted fir, which shed thick lumps of snow upon her feet. What trees were these? Had she ever passed any trees? No! There were no trees on her way to Trafford.... She began whimpering like a tormented child. But even as she wept she turned her sledge about to follow the edge of the wood. She was too much downhill, she thought and she must bear up again. She left the trees behind, made an angle uphill to the right, and was presently among trees again. Again she left them and again came back to them. She screamed with anger at them and twitched her sledge away. She wiped at the snowstorm with her arm as though she would wipe it away. She wanted to stamp on the universe.... And she ached, she ached.... Something caught her eye ahead, something that gleamed; it was exactly like a long, bare rather pinkish bone standing erect on the ground. Just because it was strange and queer she ran forward to it. Then as she came nearer she perceived it was a streak of barked trunk; a branch had been torn off a pine tree and the bark stripped down to the root. And then her foot hit against a freshly hewn stump, and then came another, poking its pinkish wounds above the snow. And there were chips! This filled her with wonder. Some one had been cutting wood! There must be Indians or trappers near, she thought, and then realized the wood-cutter could be none other than herself. -472- She turned to the right and saw the rocks rising steeply close at hand. "Oh Rag!" she cried, and fired her rifle in the air. Ten seconds, twenty seconds, and then so loud and near it amazed her, came his answering shot. It sounded like the hillside bursting. In another moment she had discovered the trail she had made overnight and that morning by dragging firewood. It was now a shallow soft white trench. Instantly her despair and fatigue had gone from her. Should she take a load of wood with her? she asked herself, in addition to the weight behind her, and had a better idea. She would unload and pile her stuff here, and bring him down on the sledge closer to the wood. She looked about and saw two rocks that diverged with a space between. She flashed schemes. She would trample the snow hard and flat, put her sledge on it, pile boughs and make a canopy of blanket overhead and behind. Then a fire in front. She saw her camp admirable. She tossed her provisions down and ran up the broad windings of her pine-tree trail to Trafford, with the unloaded sledge bumping behind her. She ran as lightly as though she had done nothing that day. She found him markedly recovered, weak and quiet, with snow drifting over his feet, his rifle across his knees, and his pipe alight. "Back already," he said, "but——" He hesitated. "No grub?" She knelt over him, gave his rough unshaven cheek a swift kiss, and very rapidly explained her plan. § 8 In three days' time they were back at the hut, and the last two days they wore blue spectacles because of the mid-day glare of the sunlit snow. -473- It amazed Marjorie to discover as she lay awake in the camp on the edge of the ravine close to the hut to which she had lugged Trafford during the second day, that she was deeply happy. It was preposterous that she should be so, but those days of almost despairful stress were irradiated now by a new courage. She was doing this thing, against all Labrador and the snow-driving wind that blew from the polar wilderness, she was winning. It was a great discovery to her that hardship and effort almost to the breaking-point could ensue in so deep a satisfaction. She lay and thought how deep and rich life had become for her, as though in all this effort and struggle some unsuspected veil had been torn away. She perceived again, but now with no sense of desolation, that same infinite fragility of life which she had first perceived when she had watched the Aurora Borealis flickering up the sky. Beneath that realization and carrying it, as a river flood may carry scum, was a sense of herself as something deeper, greater, more enduring than mountain or wilderness or sky, or any of those monstrous forms of nature that had dwarfed her physical self to nothingness. She had a persuasion of self detachment and illumination, and withal of self-discovery. She saw her life of time and space for what it was. Away in London the children, with the coldest of noses and the gayest of spirits, would be scampering about their bedrooms in the mild morning sunlight of a London winter; Elsie, the parlourmaid, would be whisking dexterous about the dining-room, the bacon would be cooking and the coffee-mill at work, the letters of the morning delivery perhaps just pattering into the letter-box, and all the bright little household she had made, with all the furniture she had arranged, all the characteristic decoration she had given it, all the clever convenient arrangements, would be getting itself into action for another day—and it wasn't herself! It was the extremest of her superficiality. -474- She had come out of all that, and even so it seemed she had come out of herself; this weary woman lying awake on the balsam boughs with a brain cleared by underfeeding and this continuous arduous bath of toil in snow-washed, frost cleansed, starry air, this, too, was no more than a momentarily clarified window for her unknown and indefinable reality. What was that reality? what was she herself? She became interested in framing an answer to that, and slipped down from the peace of soul she had attained. Her serenity gave way to a reiteration of this question, reiterations increasing and at last oppressing like the snowflakes of a storm, perpetual whirling repetitions that at last confused her and hid the sky.... She fell asleep.... § 9 With their return to the hut, Marjorie had found herself encountering a new set of urgencies. In their absence that wretched little wolverine had found great plenty and happiness in the tent and store-shed; its traces were manifest nearly everywhere, and it had particularly assailed the candles, after a destructive time among the frozen caribou beef. It had clambered up on the packages of sardines and jumped thence on to a sloping pole that it could claw along into the frame of the roof. She rearranged the packages, but that was no good. She could not leave Trafford in order to track the brute down, and for a night or so she could not think of any way of checking its depredations. It came each night.... Trafford kept her close at home. She had expected that when he was back in his bunk, secure and warm, he would heal rapidly, but instead he suddenly developed all the symptoms of a severe feverish cold, and his scars, which had seemed healing, became flushed and ugly-looking. Moreover, there was something wrong with his leg, an ominous ache that troubled her mind. Every woman, she decided, ought to know how to set a bone. He was unable to sleep by reason of these miseries, though very desirous of doing so. He became distressingly weak and inert, he ceased to care for food, and presently he began ta talk to himself with a complete disregard of her presence. Hourly she regretted her ignorance of medicine that left her with no conceivable remedy for all the aching and gnawing that worried and weakened him, except bathing with antiseptics and a liberal use of quinine. -475- And his face became strange to her, for over his flushed and sunken cheeks, under the raw spaces of the scar a blond beard bristled and grew. Presently, Trafford was a bearded man. Incidentally, however, she killed the wolverine by means of a trap of her own contrivance, a loaded rifle with a bait of what was nearly her last candles, rigged to the trigger. But this loss of the candles brought home to them the steady lengthening of the nights. Scarcely seven hours of day remained now in the black, cold grip of the darkness. And through those seventeen hours of chill aggression they had no light but the red glow of the stove. She had to close the door of the hut and bar every chink and cranny against the icy air, that became at last a murderous, freezing wind. Not only did she line the hut with every scrap of skin and paper she could obtain, but she went out with the spade toiling for three laborious afternoons in piling and beating snow against the outer frame. And now it was that Trafford talked at last, talked with something of the persistence of delirium, and she sat and listened hour by hour, silently, for he gave no heed to her or to anything she might say. He talked, it seemed, to God.... -476- § 10 Darkness about a sullen glow of red, and a voice speaking. The voice of a man, fevered and in pain, wounded and amidst hardship and danger, struggling with the unrelenting riddle of his being. Ever and again when a flame leapt she would see his face, haggard, bearded, changed, and yet infinitely familiar. His voice varied, now high and clear, now mumbling, now vexed and expostulating, now rich with deep feeling, now fagged and slow; his matter varied, too; now he talked like one who is inspired, and now like one lost and confused, stupidly repeating phrases, going back upon a misleading argument, painfully, laboriously beginning over and over again. Marjorie sat before the stove watching it burn and sink, replenishing it, preparing food, and outside the bitter wind moaned and blew the powdery snow before it, and the shortening interludes of pallid, diffused daylight which pass for days in such weather, came and went. Intense cold had come now with leaden snowy days and starless nights. Sometimes his speech filled her mind, seemed to fill all her world; sometimes she ceased to listen, following thoughts of her own. Sometimes she dozed; sometimes she awakened from sleep to find him talking. But slowly she realized a thread in his discourse, a progress and development. -477- Sometimes he talked of his early researches, and then he would trace computations with his hands as if he were using a blackboard, and became distressed to remember what he had written. Sometimes he would be under the claws of the lynx again, and fighting for his eyes. "Ugh!" he said, "keep those hind legs still. Keep your hind legs still! Knife? Knife? Ah! got it. Gu—u—u, you Beast!" But the gist of his speech was determined by the purpose of his journey to Labrador. At last he was reviewing his life and hers, and all that their life might signify, even as he determined to do. She began to perceive that whatever else drifted into his mind and talk, this recurred and grew, that he returned to the conclusion he had reached, and not to the beginning of the matter, and went on from that.... "You see," he said, "our lives are nothing—nothing in themselves. I know that; I've never had any doubts of that. We individuals just pick up a mixed lot of things out of the powers that begat us, and lay them down again presently a little altered, that's all—heredities, traditions, the finger nails of my grandfather, a great-aunt's lips, the faith of a sect, the ideas of one's time. We live and then we die, and the threads run, dispersing this way and that. To make other people again. Whatever's immortal isn't that, our looks or our habits, our thoughts or our memories—just the shapes, these are, of one immortal stuff.... One immortal stuff."... The voice died away as if he was baffled. Then it resumed. "But we ought to partake of immortality; that's my point. We ought to partake of immortality. "I mean we're like the little elements in a magnet; ought not to lie higgledy-piggledy, ought to point the same way, be polarized——Something microcosmic, you know, ought to be found in a man. -478- "Analogies run away with one. Suppose the bar isn't magnetized yet! Suppose purpose has to come; suppose the immortal stuff isn't yet, isn't being but struggling to be. Struggling to be.... Gods! that morning! When the child was born! And afterwards she was there—with a smile on her lips, and a little flushed and proud—as if nothing had happened so very much out of the way. Nothing so wonderful. And we had another life besides our own!..." Afterwards he came back to that. "That was a good image," he said, "something trying to exist, which isn't substance, doesn't belong to space or time, something stifled and enclosed, struggling to get through. Just confused birth cries, eyes that hardly see, deaf ears, poor little thrusting hands. A thing altogether blind at first, a twitching and thrusting of protoplasm under the waters, and then the plants creeping up the beaches, the insects and reptiles on the margins of the rivers, beasts with a flicker of light in their eyes answering the sun. And at last, out of the long interplay of desire and fear, an ape, an ape that stared and wondered, and scratched queer pictures on a bone...." He lapsed into silent thought for a time, and Marjorie glanced at his dim face in the shadows. "I say nothing of ultimates," he said at last. He repeated that twice before his thoughts would flow again. "This is as much as I see, in time as I know it and space as I know it—something struggling to exist. It's true to the end of my limits. What can I say beyond that? It struggles to exist, becomes conscious, becomes now conscious of itself. That is where I come in, as a part of it. Above the beast in me is that—the desire to know better, to know—beautifully, and to transmit my knowledge. That's all there is in life for me beyond food and shelter and tidying up. This Being—opening its eyes, listening, trying to comprehend. Every good thing in man is that;—looking and making pictures, listening and making songs, making philosophies and sciences, trying new powers, bridge and engine, spark and gun. At the bottom of my soul, that. We began with bone-scratching. We're still—near it. I am just a part of this beginning—mixed with other things. Every book, every art, every religion is that, the attempt to understand and express—mixed with other things. Nothing else matters, nothing whatever. I tell you——Nothing whatever! -479- "I've always believed that. All my life I've believed that. "Only I've forgotten." "Every man with any brains believes that at the bottom of his heart. Only he gets busy and forgets. He goes shooting lynxes and breaks his leg. Odd, instinctive, brutal thing to do—to go tracking down a lynx to kill it! I grant you that, Marjorie. I grant you that." "Grant me what?" she cried, startled beyond measure to hear herself addressed. "Grant you that it is rather absurd to go hunting a lynx. And what big paws it has—disproportionately big! I wonder if that's an adaptation to snow. Tremendous paws they are.... But the real thing, I was saying, the real thing is to get knowledge, and express it. All things lead up to that. Civilization, social order, just for that. Except for that, all the life of man, all his affairs, his laws and police, his morals and manners—nonsense, nonsense, nonsense. Lynx hunts! Just ways of getting themselves mauled and clawed perhaps—into a state of understanding. Who knows?..." -480- His voice became low and clear. "Understanding spreading like a dawn.... "Logic and language, clumsy implements, but rising to our needs, rising to our needs, thought clarified, enriched, reaching out to every man alive—some day—presently—touching every man alive, harmonizing acts and plans, drawing men into gigantic co-operations, tremendous co-operations.... "Until man shall stand upon this earth as upon a footstool and reach out his hand among the stars.... "And then I went into the rubber market, and spent seven years of my life driving shares up and down and into a net!... Queer game indeed! Stupid ass Behrens was—at bottom.... "There's a flaw in it somewhere...." He came back to that several times before he seemed able to go on from it. "There is a collective mind," he said, "a growing general consciousness—growing clearer. Something put me away from that, but I know it. My work, my thinking, was a part of it. That's why I was so mad about Behrens." "Behrens?" "Of course. He'd got a twist, a wrong twist. It makes me angry now. It will take years, it will eat up some brilliant man to clean up after Behrens——" "Yes, but the point is"—his voice became acute—"why did I go making money and let Behrens in? Why generally and in all sorts of things does Behrens come in?..." He was silent for a long time, and then he began to answer himself. "Of course," he said, "I said it—or somebody said it—about this collective mind being mixed with other things. It's something arising out of life—not the common stuff of life. An exhalation.... It's like the little tongues of fire that came at Pentecost.... Queer how one comes drifting back to these images. Perhaps I shall die a Christian yet.... The other Christians won't like me if I do. What was I saying?... It's what I reach up to, what I desire shall pervade me, not what I am. Just as far as I give myself purely to knowledge, to making feeling and thought clear in my mind and words, to the understanding and expression of the realities and relations of life, just so far do I achieve Salvation.... Salvation!... -481- "I wonder, is Salvation the same for every one? Perhaps for one man Salvation is research and thought, and for another expression in art, and for another nursing lepers. Provided he does it in the spirit. He has to do it in the spirit...." There came a silence as though some difficulty baffled him, and he was feeling back to get his argument again. "This flame that arises out of life, that redeems life from purposeless triviality, isn't life. Let me get hold of that. That's a point. That's a very important point." Something had come to him. "I've never talked of this to Marjorie. I've lived with her nine years and more, and never talked of religion. Not once. That's so queer of us. Any other couple in any other time would have talked religion no end.... People ought to." Then he stuck out an argumentative hand. "You see, Marjorie is life," he said. "She took me." He spoke slowly, as though he traced things carefully. "Before I met her I suppose I wasn't half alive. No! Yet I don't remember I felt particularly incomplete. Women were interesting, of course; they excited me at times, that girl at Yonkers!—H'm. I stuck to my work. It was fine work, I forget half of it now, the half-concealed intimations I mean—queer how one forgets!—but I know I felt my way to wide, deep things. It was like exploring caves—monstrous, limitless caves. Such caves!... Very still—underground. Wonderful and beautiful.... They're lying there now for other men to seek. Other men will find them.... Then she came, as though she was taking possession. The beauty of her, oh! the life and bright eagerness, and the incompatibility! That's the riddle! I've loved her always. When she came to my arms it seemed to me the crown of life. Caves indeed! Old caves! Nothing else seemed to matter. But something did. All sorts of things did. I found that out soon enough. And when that first child was born. That for a time was supreme.... Yes—she's the quintessence of life, the dear greed of her, the appetite, the clever appetite for things. She grabs. She's so damned clever! The light in her eyes! Her quick sure hands!... Only my work was crowded out of my life and ended, and she didn't seem to feel it, she didn't seem to mind it. There was a sort of disregard. Disregard. As though all that didn't really matter...." -482- "My dear!" whispered Marjorie unheeded. She wanted to tell him it mattered now, mattered supremely, but she knew he had no ears for her. His voice flattened. "It's perplexing," he said. "The two different things." Then suddenly he cried out harshly: "I ought never to have married her—never, never! I had my task. I gave myself to her. Oh! the high immensities, the great and terrible things open to the mind of man! And we breed children and live in littered houses and play with our food and chatter, chatter, chatter. Oh, the chatter of my life! The folly! The women with their clothes. I can hear them rustle now, whiff the scent of it! The scandals—as though the things they did with themselves and each other mattered a rap; the little sham impromptu clever things, the trying to keep young—and underneath it all that continual cheating, cheating, cheating, damning struggle for money!... -483- "Marjorie, Marjorie, Marjorie! Why is she so good and no better! Why wasn't she worth it altogether?... "No! I don't want to go on with it any more—ever. I want to go back. "I want my life over again, and to go back. "I want research, and the spirit of research that has died in me, and that still, silent room of mine again, that room, as quiet as a cell, and the toil that led to light. Oh! the coming of that light, the uprush of discovery, the solemn joy as the generalization rises like a sun upon the facts—floods them with a common meaning. That is what I want. That is what I have always wanted.... "Give me my time oh God! again; I am sick of this life I have chosen. I am sick of it! This—busy death! Give me my time again.... Why did you make me, and then waste me like this? Why are we made for folly upon folly? Folly! and brains made to scale high heaven, smeared into the dust! Into the dust, into the dust. Dust!..." He passed into weak, wandering repetitions of disconnected sentences, that died into whispers and silence, and Marjorie watched him and listened to him, and waited with a noiseless dexterity upon his every need. -484- § 11 One day, she did not know what day, for she had lost count of the days, Marjorie set the kettle to boil and opened the door of the hut to look out, and the snow was ablaze with diamonds, and the air was sweet and still. It occurred to her that it would be well to take Trafford out into that brief brightness. She looked at him and found his eyes upon the sunlight quiet and rather wondering eyes. "Would you like to get out into that?" she asked abruptly. "Yes," he said, and seemed disposed to get up. "You've got a broken leg," she cried, to arrest his movement, and he looked at her and answered: "Of course—I forgot." She was all atremble that he should recognize her and speak to her. She pulled her rude old sledge alongside his bunk, and kissed him, and showed him how to shift and drop himself upon the plank. She took him in her arms and lowered him. He helped weakly but understandingly, and she wrapped him up warmly on the planks and lugged him out and built up a big fire at his feet, wondering, but as yet too fearful to rejoice, at the change that had come to him. He said no more, but his eyes watched her move about with a kind of tired curiosity. He smiled for a time at the sun, and shut his eyes, and still faintly smiling, lay still. She had a curious fear that if she tried to talk to him this new lucidity would vanish again. She went about the business of the morning, glancing at him ever and again, until suddenly the calm of his upturned face smote her, and she ran to him and crouched down to him between hope and a terrible fear, and found that he was sleeping, and breathing very lightly, sleeping with the deep unconsciousness of a child.... -485- When he awakened the sun was red in the west. His eyes met hers, and he seemed a little puzzled. "I've been sleeping, Madge?" he said. She nodded. "And dreaming? I've a vague sort of memory of preaching and preaching in a kind of black, empty place, where there wasn't anything.... A fury of exposition... a kind of argument.... I say!—Is there such a thing in the world as a new-laid egg—and some bread-and-butter?" He seemed to reflect. "Of course," he said, "I broke my leg. Gollys! I thought that beast was going to claw my eyes out. Lucky, Madge, it didn't get my eyes. It was just a chance it didn't." He stared at her. "I say," he said, "you've had a pretty rough time! How long has this been going on?" He amazed her by rising himself on his elbow and sitting up. "Your leg!" she cried. He put his hand down and felt it. "Pretty stiff," he said. "You get me some food—there were some eggs, Madge, frozen new-laid, anyhow—and then we'll take these splints off and feel about a bit. Eh! why not? How did you get me out of that scrape, Madge? I thought I'd got to be froze as safe as eggs. (Those eggs ought to be all right, you know. If you put them on in a saucepan and wait until they boil.) I've a sort of muddled impression.... By Jove, Madge, you've had a time! I say you have had a time!" His eyes, full of a warmth of kindliness she had not seen for long weeks, scrutinized her face. "I say!" he repeated, very softly. -486- All her strength went from her at his tenderness. "Oh, my dear," she wailed, kneeling at his side, "my dear, dear!" and still regardful of his leg, she yet contrived to get herself weeping into his coveted arms. He regarded her, he held her, he patted her back! The infinite luxury to her! He'd come back. He'd come back to her. "How long has it been?" he asked. "Poor dear! Poor dear! How long can it have been?" § 12 From that hour Trafford mended. He remained clear-minded, helpful, sustaining. His face healed daily. Marjorie had had to cut away great fragments of gangrenous frozen flesh, and he was clearly destined to have a huge scar over forehead and cheek, but in that pure, clear air, once the healing had begun it progressed swiftly. His leg had set, a little shorter than its fellow and with a lump in the middle of the shin, but it promised to be a good serviceable leg none the less. They examined it by the light of the stove with their heads together, and discussed when it would be wise to try it. How do doctors tell when a man may stand on his broken leg? She had a vague impression you must wait six weeks, but she could not remember why she fixed upon that time. "It seems a decent interval," said Trafford. "We'll try it." She had contrived a crutch for him against that momentous experiment, and he sat up in his bunk, pillowed up by a sack and her rugs, and whittled it smooth, and padded the fork with the skin of that slaughtered wolverine, poor victim of hunger!—while she knelt by the stove feeding it with logs, and gave him an account of their position. -487- "We're somewhere in the middle of December," she said, "somewhere between the twelfth and the fourteenth,—yes! I'm as out as that!—and I've handled the stores pretty freely. So did that little beast until I got him." She nodded at the skin in his hand. "I don't see myself shooting much now, and so far I've not been able to break the ice to fish. It's too much for me. Even if it isn't too late to fish. This book we've got describes barks and mosses, and that will help, but if we stick here until the birds and things come, we're going to be precious short. We may have to last right into July. I've plans—but it may come to that. We ought to ration all the regular stuff, and trust to luck for a feast. The rations!—I don't know what they'll come to." "Right O," said Trafford admiring her capable gravity. "Let's ration." "Marjorie," he asked abruptly, "are you sorry we came?" Her answer came unhesitatingly. "No!" "Nor I." He paused. "I've found you out," he said. "Dear dirty living thing!... You are dirty, you know." "I've found myself," she answered, thinking. "I feel as if I've never loved you until this hut. I suppose I have in my way——" "Lugano," he suggested. "Don't let's forget good things, Marjorie. Oh! And endless times!" "Oh, of course! As for that——! But now—now you're in my bones. We were just two shallow, pretty, young things—loving. It was sweet, dear—sweet as youth—but not this. Unkempt and weary—then one understands love. I suppose I am dirty. Think of it! I've lugged you through the snow till my shoulders chafed and bled. I cried with pain, and kept on lugging——Oh, my dear! my dear!" He kissed her hair. "I've held you in my arms to keep you from freezing. (I'd have frozen myself first.) We've got to starve together perhaps before the end.... Dear, if I could make you, you should eat me.... I'm—I'm beginning to understand. I've had a light. I've begun to understand. I've begun to see what life has been for you, and how I've wasted—wasted." -488- "We've wasted!" "No," she said, "it was I." She sat back on the floor and regarded him. "You don't remember things you said—when you were delirious?" "No," he answered. "What did I say?" "Nothing?" "Nothing clearly. What did I say?" "It doesn't matter. No, indeed. Only you made me understand. You'd never have told me. You've always been a little weak with me there. But it's plain to me why we didn't keep our happiness, why we were estranged. If we go back alive, we go back—all that settled for good and all." "What?" "That discord. My dear, I've been a fool, selfish, ill-trained and greedy. We've both been floundering about, but I've been the mischief of it. Yes, I've been the trouble. Oh, it's had to be so. What are we women—half savages, half pets, unemployed things of greed and desire—and suddenly we want all the rights and respect of souls! I've had your life in my hands from the moment we met together. If I had known.... It isn't that we can make you or guide you—I'm not pretending to be an inspiration—but—but we can release you. We needn't press upon you; we can save you from the instincts and passions that try to waste you altogether on us.... Yes, I'm beginning to understand. Oh, my child, my husband, my man! You talked of your wasted life!... I've been thinking—since first we left the Mersey. I've begun to see what it is to be a woman. For the first time in my life. We're the responsible sex. And we've forgotten it. We think we've done a wonder if we've borne men into the world and smiled a little, but indeed we've got to bear them all our lives.... A woman has to be steadier than a man and more self-sacrificing than a man, because when she plunges she does more harm than a man.... And what does she achieve if she does plunge? Nothing—nothing worth counting. Dresses and carpets and hangings and pretty arrangements, excitements and satisfactions and competition and more excitements. We can't do things. We don't bring things off! And you, you Monster! you Dream! you want to stick your hand out of all that is and make something that isn't, begin to be! That's the man——" -489- "Dear old Madge!" he said, "there's all sorts of women and all sorts of men." "Well, our sort of women, then, and our sort of men." "I doubt even that." "I don't. I've found my place. I've been making my master my servant. We women—we've been looting all the good things in the world, and helping nothing. You've carried me on your back until you are loathing life. I've been making you fetch and carry for me, love me, dress me, keep me and my children, minister to my vanities and greeds.... No; let me go on. I'm so penitent, my dear, so penitent I want to kneel down here and marry you all over again, heal up your broken life and begin again."... -490- She paused. "One doesn't begin again," she said. "But I want to take a new turn. Dear, you're still only a young man; we've thirty or forty years before us—forty years perhaps or more.... What shall we do with our years? We've loved, we've got children. What remains? Here we can plan it out, work it out, day after day. What shall we do with our lives and life? Tell me, make me your partner; it's you who know, what are we doing with life?" § 13 What are we doing with life? That question overtakes a reluctant and fugitive humanity. The Traffords were but two of a great scattered host of people, who, obeying all the urgencies of need and desire, struggling, loving, begetting, enjoying, do nevertheless find themselves at last unsatisfied. They have lived the round of experience, achieved all that living creatures have sought since the beginning of the world—security and gratification and offspring—and they find themselves still strong, unsatiated, with power in their hands and years before them, empty of purpose. What are they to do? The world presents such a spectacle of evasion as it has never seen before. Never was there such a boiling over and waste of vital energy. The Sphinx of our opportunity calls for the uttermost powers of heart and brain to read its riddle—the new, astonishing riddle of excessive power. A few give themselves to those honourable adventures that extend the range of man, they explore untravelled countries, climb remote mountains, conduct researches, risk life and limb in the fantastic experiments of flight, and a monstrous outpouring of labour and material goes on in the strenuous preparation for needless and improbable wars. The rest divert themselves with the dwarfish satisfactions of recognized vice, the meagre routine of pleasure, or still more timidly with sport and games—those new unscheduled perversions of the soul. -491- We are afraid of our new selves. The dawn of human opportunity appals us. Few of us dare look upon this strange light of freedom and limitless resources that breaks upon our world. "Think," said Trafford, "while we sit here in this dark hut—think of the surplus life that wastes itself in the world for sheer lack of direction. Away there in England—I suppose that is westward"—he pointed—"there are thousands of men going out to-day to shoot. Think of the beautifully made guns, the perfected ammunition, the excellent clothes, the army of beaters, the carefully preserved woodland, the admirable science of it—all for that idiot massacre of half-tame birds! Just because man once had need to be a hunter! Think of the others again—golfing. Think of the big, elaborate houses from which they come, the furnishings, the service. And the women—dressing! Perpetually dressing. You, Marjorie—you've done nothing but dress since we married. No, let me abuse you, dear! It's insane, you know! You dress your minds a little to talk amusingly, you spread your minds out to backgrounds, to households, picturesque and delightful gardens, nurseries. Those nurseries! Think of our tremendously cherished and educated children! And when they grow up, what have we got for them? A feast of futility...." § 14 On the evening of the day when Trafford first tried to stand upon his leg, they talked far into the night. It had been a great and eventful day for them, full of laughter and exultation. He had been at first ridiculously afraid; he had clung to her almost childishly, and she had held him about the body with his weight on her strong right arm and his right arm in her left hand, concealing her own dread of a collapse under a mask of taunting courage. The crutch had proved admirable. "It's my silly knees!" Trafford kept on saying. "The leg's all right, but I get put out by my silly knees." -492- They made the day a feast, a dinner of two whole day's rations and a special soup instead of supper. "The birds will come," they explained to each other, "ducks and geese, long before May. May, you know, is the latest." Marjorie confessed the habit of sharing his pipe was growing on her. "What shall we do in Tyburnia!" she said, and left it to the imagination. "If ever we get back there," he said. "I don't much fancy kicking a skirt before my shins again—and I'll be a black, coarse woman down to my neck at dinner for years to come!..." Then, as he lay back in his bunk and she crammed the stove with fresh boughs and twigs of balsam that filled the little space about them with warmth and with a faint, sweet smell of burning and with flitting red reflections, he took up a talk about religion they had begun some days before. "You see," he said, "I've always believed in Salvation. I suppose a man's shy of saying so—even to his wife. But I've always believed more or less distinctly that there was something up to which a life worked—always. It's been rather vague, I'll admit. I don't think I've ever believed in individual salvation. You see, I feel these are deep things, and the deeper one gets the less individual one becomes. That's why one thinks of those things in darkness and loneliness—and finds them hard to tell. One has an individual voice, or an individual birthmark, or an individualized old hat, but the soul—the soul's different.... It isn't me talking to you when it comes to that.... This question of what we are doing with life isn't a question to begin with for you and me as ourselves, but for you and me as mankind. Am I spinning it too fine, Madge?" -493- "No," she said, intent; "go on." "You see, when we talk rations here, Marjorie, it's ourselves, but when we talk religion—it's mankind. You've either got to be Everyman in religion or leave it alone. That's my idea. It's no more presumptuous to think for the race than it is for a beggar to pray—though that means going right up to God and talking to Him. Salvation's a collective thing and a mystical thing—or there isn't any. Fancy the Almighty and me sitting up and keeping Eternity together! God and R. A. G. Trafford, F.R.S.—that's silly. Fancy a man in number seven boots, and a tailor-made suit in the nineteen-fourteen fashion, sitting before God! That's caricature. But God and Man! That's sense, Marjorie."... He stopped and stared at her. Marjorie sat red-lit, regarding him. "Queer things you say!" she said. "So much of this I've never thought out. I wonder why I've never done so.... Too busy with many things, I suppose. But go on and tell me more of these secrets you've kept from me!" "Well, we've got to talk of these things as mankind—or just leave them alone, and shoot pheasants."... -494- "If I could shoot a pheasant now!" whispered Marjorie, involuntarily. "And where do we stand? What do we need—I mean the whole race of us—kings and beggars together? You know, Marjorie, it's this,—it's Understanding. That's what mankind has got to, the realization that it doesn't understand, that it can't express, that it's purblind. We haven't got eyes for those greater things, but we've got the promise—the intimation of eyes. We've come out of an unsuspecting darkness, brute animal darkness, not into sight, that's been the mistake, but into a feeling of illumination, into a feeling of light shining through our opacity.... "I feel that man has now before all things to know. That's his supreme duty, to feel, realize, see, understand, express himself to the utmost limits of his power." He sat up, speaking very earnestly to her, and in that flickering light she realized for the first time how thin he had become, how bright and hollow his eyes, his hair was long over his eyes, and a rough beard flowed down to his chest. "All the religions," he said, "all the philosophies, have pretended to achieve too much. We've no language yet for religious truth or metaphysical truth; we've no basis yet broad enough and strong enough on which to build. Religion and philosophy have been impudent and quackish—quackish! They've been like the doctors, who have always pretended they could cure since the beginning of things, cure everything, and to this day even they haven't got more than the beginnings of knowledge on which to base a cure. They've lacked humility, they've lacked the honour to say they didn't know; the priests took things of wood and stone, the philosophers took little odd arrangements of poor battered words, metaphors, analogies, abstractions, and said: "That's it! Think of their silly old Absolute,—ab-solutus, an untied parcel. I heard Haldane at the Aristotelian once, go on for an hour—no! it was longer than an hour—as glib and slick as a well-oiled sausage-machine, about the different sorts of Absolute, and not a soul of us laughed out at him! The vanity of such profundities! They've no faith, faith in patience, faith to wait for the coming of God. And since we don't know God, since we don't know His will with us, isn't it plain that all our lives should be a search for Him and it? Can anything else matter,—after we are free from necessity? That is the work now that is before all mankind, to attempt understanding—by the perpetual finding of thought and the means of expression, by perpetual extension and refinement of science, by the research that every artist makes for beauty and significance in his art, by the perpetual testing and destruction and rebirth under criticism of all these things, and by a perpetual extension of this intensifying wisdom to more minds and more minds and more, till all men share in it, and share in the making of it.... There you have my creed, Marjorie; there you have the very marrow of me."... -495- He became silent. "Will you go back to your work?" she said, abruptly. "Go back to your laboratory?" He stared at her for a moment without speaking. "Never," he said at last. "But," she said, and the word dropped from her like a stone that falls down a well.... "My dear," he said, at last, "I've thought of that. But since I left that dear, dusty little laboratory, and all those exquisite subtle things—I've lived. I've left that man seven long years behind me. Some other man must go on—I think some younger man—with the riddles I found to work on then. I've grown—into something different. It isn't how atoms swing with one another, or why they build themselves up so and not so, that matters any more to me. I've got you and all the world in which we live, and a new set of riddles filling my mind, how thought swings about thought, how one man attracts his fellows, how the waves of motive and conviction sweep through a crowd and all the little drifting crystallizations of spirit with spirit and all the repulsions and eddies and difficulties, that one can catch in that turbulent confusion. I want to do a new sort of work now altogether.... Life has swamped me once, but I don't think it will get me under again;—I want to study men." -496- He paused and she waited, with a face aglow. "I want to go back to watch and think—and I suppose write. I believe I shall write criticism. But everything that matters is criticism!... I want to get into contact with the men who are thinking. I don't mean to meet them necessarily, but to get into the souls of their books. Every writer who has anything to say, every artist who matters, is the stronger for every man or woman who responds to him. That's the great work—the Reality. I want to become a part of this stuttering attempt to express, I want at least to resonate, even if I do not help.... And you with me, Marjorie—you with me! Everything I write I want you to see and think about. I want you to read as I read.... Now after so long, now that, now that we've begun to talk, you know, talk again——" Something stopped his voice. Something choked them both into silence. He held out a lean hand, and she shuffled on her knees to take it.... "Don't please make me," she stumbled through her thoughts, "one of those little parasitic, parroting wives—don't pretend too much about me—because you want me with you——. Don't forget a woman isn't a man." -497- "Old Madge," he said, "you and I have got to march together. Didn't I love you from the first, from that time when I was a boy examiner and you were a candidate girl—because your mind was clear?" "And we will go back," she whispered, "with a work——" "With a purpose," he said. She disengaged herself from his arm, and sat close to him upon the floor. "I think I can see what you will do," she said. She mused. "For the first time I begin to see things as they may be for us. I begin to see a life ahead. For the very first time." Queer ideas came drifting into her head. Suddenly she cried out sharply in that high note he loved. "Good heavens!" she said. "The absurdity! The infinite absurdity!" "But what?" "I might have married Will Magnet——. That's all." She sprang to her feet. There came a sound of wind outside, a shifting of snow on the roof, and the door creaked. "Half-past eleven," she exclaimed looking at the watch that hung in the light of the stove door. "I don't want to sleep yet; do you? I'm going to brew some tea—make a convivial drink. And then we will go on talking. It's so good talking to you. So good!... I've an idea! Don't you think on this special day, it might run to a biscuit?" Her face was keenly anxious. He nodded. "One biscuit each," she said, trying to rob her voice of any note of criminality. "Just one, you know, won't matter." She hovered for some moments close to the stove before she went into the arctic corner that contained the tin of tea. "If we can really live like that!" she said. "When we are home again." -498- "Why not?" he answered. She made no answer, but went across for the tea.... He turned his head at the sound of the biscuit tin and watched her put out the precious discs. "I shall have another pipe," he proclaimed, with an agreeable note of excess. "Thank heaven for unstinted tobacco...." And now Marjorie's mind was teaming with thoughts of this new conception of a life lived for understanding. As she went about the preparation of the tea, her vividly concrete imagination was active with the realization of the life they would lead on their return. She could not see it otherwise than framed in a tall, fine room, a study, a study in sombre tones, with high, narrow, tall, dignified bookshelves and rich deep green curtains veiling its windows. There should be a fireplace of white marble, very plain and well proportioned, with furnishings of old brass, and a big desk towards the window beautifully lit by electric light, with abundant space for papers to lie. And she wanted some touch of the wilderness about it; a skin perhaps.... The tea was still infusing when she had determined upon an enormous paper-weight of that iridescent Labradorite that had been so astonishing a feature of the Green River Valley. She would have it polished on one side only—the other should be rough to show the felspar in its natural state.... It wasn't that she didn't feel and understand quite fully the intention and significance of all he had said, but that in these symbols of texture and equipment her mind quite naturally clothed itself. And while this room was coming into anticipatory being in her mind, she was making the tea very deftly and listening to Trafford's every word. -499- § 15 That talk marked an epoch to Marjorie. From that day forth her imagination began to shape a new, ordered and purposeful life for Trafford and herself in London, a life not altogether divorced from their former life, but with a faith sustaining it and aims controlling it. She had always known of the breadth and power of his mind, but now as he talked of what he might do, what interests might converge and give results through him, it seemed she really knew him for the first time. In his former researches, so technical and withdrawn, she had seen little of his mind in action: now he was dealing in his own fashion with things she could clearly understand. There were times when his talk affected her like that joy of light one has in emerging into sunshine from a long and tedious cave. He swept things together, flashed unsuspected correlations upon her intelligence, smashed and scattered absurd yet venerated conventions of thought, made undreamt-of courses of action visible in a flare of luminous necessity. And she could follow him and help him. Just as she had hampered him and crippled him, so now she could release him—she fondled that word. She found a preposterous image in her mind that she hid like a disgraceful secret, that she tried to forget, and yet its stupendous, its dreamlike absurdity had something in it that shaped her delight as nothing else could do; she was, she told herself—hawking with an archangel!... These were her moods of exaltation. And she was sure she had never loved her man before, that this was indeed her beginning. It was as if she had just found him.... -500- Perhaps, she thought, true lovers keep on finding each other all through their lives. And he too had discovered her. All the host of Marjories he had known, the shining, delightful, seductive, wilful, perplexing aspects that had so filled her life, gave place altogether for a time to this steady-eyed woman, lean and warm-wrapped with the valiant heart and the frost-roughened skin. What a fine, strong, ruddy thing she was! How glad he was for this wild adventure in the wilderness, if only because it had made him lie among the rocks and think of her and wait for her and despair of her life and God, and at last see her coming back to him, flushed with effort and calling his name to him out of that whirlwind of snow.... And there was at least one old memory mixed up with all these new and overmastering impressions, the memory of her clear unhesitating voice as it had stabbed into his life again long years ago, minute and bright in the telephone: "It's me, you know. It's Marjorie!" Perhaps after all she had not wasted a moment of his life, perhaps every issue between them had been necessary, and it was good altogether to be turned from the study of crystals to the study of men and women.... And now both their minds were Londonward, where all the tides and driftage and currents of human thought still meet and swirl together. They were full of what they would do when they got back. Marjorie sketched that study to him—in general terms and without the paper-weight—and began to shape the world she would have about it. She meant to be his squaw and body-servant first of all, and then—a mother. Children, she said, are none the worse for being kept a little out of focus. And he was rapidly planning out his approach to the new questions to which he was now to devote his life. "One wants something to hold the work together," he said, and projected a book. "One cannot struggle at large for plain statement and copious and free and courageous statement, one needs a positive attack." -501- He designed a book, which he might write if only for the definition it would give him and with no ultimate publication, which was to be called: "The Limits of Language as a Means of Expression." ... It was to be a pragmatist essay, a sustained attempt to undermine the confidence of all that scholasticism and logic chopping which still lingers like the sequelæ of a disease in our University philosophy. "Those duffers sit in their studies and make a sort of tea of dry old words—and think they're distilling the spirit of wisdom," he said. He proliferated titles for a time, and settled at last on "From Realism to Reality." He wanted to get at that at once; it fretted him to have to hang in the air, day by day, for want of books to quote and opponents to lance and confute. And he wanted to see pictures, too and plays, read novels he had heard of and never read, in order to verify or correct the ideas that were seething in his mind about the qualities of artistic expression. His thought had come out to a conviction that the line to wider human understandings lies through a huge criticism and cleaning up of the existing methods of formulation, as a preliminary to the wider and freer discussion of those religious and social issues our generation still shrinks from. "It's grotesque," he said, "and utterly true that the sanity and happiness of all the world lies in its habits of generalization." There was not even paper for him to make notes or provisional drafts of the new work. He hobbled about the camp fretting at these deprivations. -502- "Marjorie," he said, "we've done our job. Why should we wait here on this frosty shelf outside the world? My leg's getting sounder—if it wasn't for that feeling of ice in it. Why shouldn't we make another sledge from the other bunk and start down—" "To Hammond?" "Why not?" "But the way?" "The valley would guide us. We could do four hours a day before we had to camp. I'm not sure we couldn't try the river. We could drag and carry all our food...." She looked down the wide stretches of the valley. There was the hill they had christened Marjorie Ridge. At least it was familiar. Every night before nightfall if they started there would be a fresh camping place to seek among the snow-drifts, a great heap of wood to cut to last the night. Suppose his leg gave out—when they were already some days away, so that he could no longer go on or she drag him back to the stores. Plainly there would be nothing for it then but to lie down and die together.... And a sort of weariness had come to her as a consequence of two months of half-starved days, not perhaps a failure so much as a reluctance of spirit. "Of course," she said, with a new aspect drifting before her mind, "then—we could eat. We could feed up before we started. We could feast almost!" § 16 "While you were asleep the other night," Trafford began one day as they sat spinning out their mid-day meal, "I was thinking how badly I had expressed myself when I talked to you the other day, and what a queer, thin affair I made of the plans I wanted to carry out. As a matter of fact, they're neither queer nor thin, but they are unreal in comparison with the common things of everyday life, hunger, anger, all the immediate desires. They must be. They only begin when those others are at peace. It's hard to set out these things; they're complicated and subtle, and one cannot simplify without falsehood. I don't want to simplify. The world has gone out of its way time after time through simplifications and short cuts. Save us from epigrams! And when one thinks over what one has said, at a little distance,—one wants to go back to it, and say it all again. I seem to be not so much thinking things out as reviving and developing things I've had growing in my mind ever since we met. It's as though an immense reservoir of thought had filled up in my mind at last and was beginning to trickle over and break down the embankment between us. This conflict that has been going on between our life together and my—my intellectual life; it's only just growing clear in my own mind. Yet it's just as if one turned up a light on something that had always been there.... -503- "It's a most extraordinary thing to think out, Marjorie, that antagonism. Our love has kept us so close together and always our purposes have been—like that." He spread divergent hands. "I've speculated again and again whether there isn't something incurably antagonistic between women (that's you generalized, Marjorie) and men (that's me) directly we pass beyond the conditions of the individualistic struggle. I believe every couple of lovers who've ever married have felt that strain. Yet it's not a difference in kind between us but degree. The big conflict between us has a parallel in a little internal conflict that goes on; there's something of man in every woman and a touch of the feminine in every man. But you're nearer as woman to the immediate personal life of sense and reality than I am as man. It's been so ever since the men went hunting and fighting and the women kept hut, tended the children and gathered roots in the little cultivation close at hand. It's been so perhaps since the female carried and suckled her child and distinguished one male from another. It may be it will always be so. Men were released from that close, continuous touch with physical necessities long before women were. It's only now that women begin to be released. For ages now men have been wandering from field and home and city, over the hills and far away, in search of adventures and fresh ideas and the wells of mystery beyond the edge of the world, but it's only now that the woman comes with them too. Our difference isn't a difference in kind, old Marjorie; it's the difference between the old adventurer and the new feet upon the trail." -504- "We've got to come," said Marjorie. "Oh! you've got to come. No good to be pioneers if the race does not follow. The women are the backbone of the race; the men are just the individuals. Into this Labrador and into all the wild and desolate places of thought and desire, if men come you women have to come too—and bring the race with you. Some day." "A long day, mate of my heart." "Who knows how long or how far? Aren't you at any rate here, dear woman of mine.... (Surely you are here)." He went off at a tangent. "There's all those words that seem to mean something and then don't seem to mean anything, that keep shifting to and fro from the deepest significance to the shallowest of claptrap, Socialism, Christianity.... You know,—they aren't anything really, as yet; they are something trying to be.... Haven't I said that before, Marjorie?" -505- She looked round at him. "You said something like that when you were delirious," she answered, after a little pause. "It's one of the ideas that you're struggling with. You go on, old man, and talk. We've months—for repetitions." "Well, I mean that all these things are seeking after a sort of co-operation that's greater than our power even of imaginative realization; that's what I mean. The kingdom of Heaven, the communion of saints, the fellowship of men; these are things like high peaks far out of the common life of every day, shining things that madden certain sorts of men to climb. Certain sorts of us! I'm a religious man, I'm a socialistic man. These calls are more to me than my daily bread. I've got something in me more generalizing than most men. I'm more so than many other men and most other women, I'm more socialistic than you...." "You know, Marjorie, I've always felt you're a finer individual than me, I've never had a doubt of it. You're more beautiful by far than I, woman for my man. You've a keener appetite for things, a firmer grip on the substance of life. I love to see you do things, love to see you move, love to watch your hands; you've cleverer hands than mine by far.... And yet—I'm a deeper and bigger thing than you. I reach up to something you don't reach up to.... You're in life—and I'm a little out of it, I'm like one of those fish that began to be amphibian, I go out into something where you don't follow—where you hardly begin to follow. "That's the real perplexity between thousands of men and women.... -506- "It seems to me that the primitive socialism of Christianity and all the stuff of modern socialism that matters is really aiming—almost unconsciously, I admit at times—at one simple end, at the release of the human spirit from the individualistic struggle—— "You used 'release' the other day, Marjorie? Of course, I remember. It's queer how I go on talking after you have understood." "It was just a flash," said Marjorie. "We have intimations. Neither of us really understands. We're like people climbing a mountain in a mist, that thins out for a moment and shows valleys and cities, and then closes in again, before we can recognize them or make out where we are." Trafford thought. "When I talk to you, I've always felt I mustn't be too vague. And the very essence of all this is a vague thing, something we shall never come nearer to it in all our lives than to see it as a shadow and a glittering that escapes again into a mist.... And yet it's everything that matters, everything, the only thing that matters truly and for ever through the whole range of life. And we have to serve it with the keenest thought, the utmost patience, inordinate veracity.... "The practical trouble between your sort and my sort, Marjorie, is the trouble between faith and realization. You demand the outcome. Oh! and I hate to turn aside and realize. I've had to do it for seven years. Damnable years! Men of my sort want to understand. We want to understand, and you ask us to make. We want to understand atoms, ions, molecules, refractions. You ask us to make rubber and diamonds. I suppose it's right that incidentally we should make rubber and diamonds. Finally, I warn you, we will make rubber unnecessary and diamonds valueless. And again we want to understand how people react upon one another to produce social consequences, and you ask us to put it at once into a draft bill for the reform of something or other. I suppose life lies between us somewhere, we're the two poles of truth seeking and truth getting; with me alone it would be nothing but a luminous dream, with you nothing but a scramble in which sooner or later all the lamps would be upset.... But it's ever too much of a scramble yet, and ever too little of a dream. All our world over there is full of the confusion and wreckage of premature realizations. There's no real faith in thought and knowledge yet. Old necessity has driven men so hard that they still rush with a wild urgency—though she goads no more. Greed and haste, and if, indeed, we seem to have a moment's breathing space, then the Gawdsaker tramples us under." -507- "My dear!" cried Marjorie, with a sharp note of amusement. "What is a Gawdsaker?" "Oh," said Trafford, "haven't you heard that before? He's the person who gets excited by any deliberate discussion and gets up wringing his hands and screaming, 'For Gawd's sake, let's do something now!' I think they used it first for Pethick Lawrence, that man who did so much to run the old militant suffragettes and burke the proper discussion of woman's future. You know. You used to have 'em in Chelsea—with their hats. Oh! 'Gawdsaking' is the curse of all progress, the hectic consumption that kills a thousand good beginnings. You see it in small things and in great. You see it in my life; Gawdsaking turned my life-work to cash and promotions, Gawdsaking——Look at the way the aviators took to flying for prizes and gate-money, the way pure research is swamped by endowments for technical applications! Then that poor ghost-giant of an idea the socialists have;—it's been treated like one of those unborn lambs they kill for the fine skin of it, made into results before ever it was alive. Was there anything more pitiful? The first great dream and then the last phase! when your Aunt Plessington and the district visitors took and used it as a synonym for Payment in Kind.... It's natural, I suppose, for people to be eager for results, personal and immediate results—the last lesson of life is patience. Naturally they want reality, naturally! They want the individual life, something to handle and feel and use and live by, something of their very own before they die, and they want it now. But the thing that matters for the race, Marjorie, is a very different thing; it is to get the emerging thought process clear and to keep it clear—and to let those other hungers go. We've got to go back to England on the side of that delay, that arrest of interruption, that detached, observant, synthesizing process of the mind, that solvent of difficulties and obsolescent institutions, which is the reality of collective human life. We've got to go back on the side of pure science—literature untrammeled by the preconceptions of the social schemers—art free from the urgency of immediate utility—and a new, a regal, a god-like sincerity in philosophy. And, above all, we've got to stop this Jackdaw buying of yours, my dear, which is the essence of all that is wrong with the world, this snatching at everything, which loses everything worth having in life, this greedy confused realization of our accumulated resources! You're going to be a non-shopping woman now. You're to come out of Bond Street, you and your kind, like Israel leaving the Egyptian flesh-pots. You're going to be my wife and my mate.... Less of this service of things. Investments in comfort, in security, in experience, yes; but not just spending any more...." -508- -509- He broke off abruptly with: "I want to go back and begin." "Yes," said Marjorie, "we will go back," and saw minutely and distantly, and yet as clearly and brightly as if she looked into a concave mirror, that tall and dignified study, a very high room indeed, with a man writing before a fine, long-curtained window and a great lump of rich-glowing Labradorite upon his desk before him holding together an accumulation of written sheets.... She knew exactly the shop in Oxford Street where the stuff for the curtains might be best obtained. § 17 One night Marjorie had been sitting musing before the stove for a long time, and suddenly she said: "I wonder if we shall fail. I wonder if we shall get into a mess again when we are back in London.... As big a mess and as utter a discontent as sent us here...." Trafford was scraping out his pipe, and did not answer for some moments. Then he remarked: "What nonsense!" "But we shall," she said. "Everybody fails. To some extent, we are bound to fail. Because indeed nothing is clear; nothing is a clear issue.... You know—I'm just the old Marjorie really in spite of all these resolutions—the spendthrift, the restless, the eager. I'm a born snatcher and shopper. We're just the same people really." "No," he said, after thought. "You're all Labrador older." "I always have failed," she considered, "when it came to any special temptations, Rag. I can't stand not having a thing!" -510- He made no answer. "And you're still the same old Rag, you know," she went on. "Who weakens into kindness if I cry. Who likes me well-dressed. Who couldn't endure to see me poor." "Not a bit of it. No! I'm a very different Rag with a very different Marjorie. Yes indeed! Things—are graver. Why!—I'm lame for life—and I've a scar. The very look of things is changed...." He stared at her face and said: "You've hidden the looking-glass and you think I haven't noted it——" "It keeps on healing," she interrupted. "And if it comes to that—where's my complexion?" She laughed. "These are just the superficial aspects of the case." "Nothing ever heals completely," he said, answering her first sentence, "and nothing ever goes back to the exact place it held before. We are different, you sun-bitten, frost-bitten wife of mine."... "Character is character," said Marjorie, coming back to her point. "Don't exaggerate conversion, dear. It's not a bit of good pretending we shan't fall away, both of us. Each in our own manner. We shall. We shall, old man. London is still a tempting and confusing place, and you can't alter people fundamentally, not even by half-freezing and half-starving them. You only alter people fundamentally by killing them and replacing them. I shall be extravagant again and forget again, try as I may, and you will work again and fall away again and forgive me again. You know——It's just as though we were each of us not one person, but a lot of persons, who sometimes meet and shout all together, and then disperse and forget and plot against each other...." -511- "Oh, things will happen again," said Trafford, in her pause. "But they will happen again with a difference—after this. With a difference. That's the good of it all.... We've found something here—that makes everything different.... We've found each other, too, dear wife." She thought intently. "I am afraid," she whispered. "But what is there to be afraid of?" "Myself." She spoke after a little pause that seemed to hesitate. "At times I wish—oh, passionately!—that I could pray." "Why don't you?" "I don't believe enough—in that. I wish I did." Trafford thought. "People are always so exacting about prayer," he said. "Exacting." "You want to pray—and you can't make terms for a thing you want. I used to think I could. I wanted God to come and demonstrate a bit.... It's no good, Madge.... If God chooses to be silent—you must pray to the silence. If he chooses to live in darkness, you must pray to the night...." "Yes," said Marjorie, "I suppose one must." She thought. "I suppose in the end one does," she said.... § 18 Mixed up with this entirely characteristic theology of theirs and their elaborate planning-out of a new life in London were other strands of thought. Queer memories of London and old times together would flash with a peculiar brightness across their contemplation of the infinities and the needs of mankind. Out of nowhere, quite disconnectedly, would come the human, finite: "Do you remember——?" -512- Two things particularly pressed into their minds. One was the thought of their children, and I do not care to tell how often in the day now they calculated the time in England, and tried to guess to a half mile or so where those young people might be and what they might be doing. "The shops are bright for Christmas now," said Marjorie. "This year Dick was to have had his first fireworks. I wonder if he did. I wonder if he burnt his dear little funny stumps of fingers. I hope not." "Oh, just a little," said Trafford. "I remember how a squib made my glove smoulder and singed me, and how my mother kissed me for taking it like a man. It was the best part of the adventure." "Dick shall burn his fingers when his mother's home to kiss him. But spare his fingers now, Dadda...." The other topic was food. It was only after they had been doing it for a week or so that they remarked how steadily they gravitated to reminiscences, suggestions, descriptions and long discussions of eatables—sound, solid eatables. They told over the particulars of dinners they had imagined altogether forgotten; neither hosts nor conversations seemed to matter now in the slightest degree, but every item in the menu had its place. They nearly quarrelled one day about hors-d'œuvre. Trafford wanted to dwell on them when Marjorie was eager for the soup. "It's niggling with food," said Marjorie. "Oh, but there's no reason," said Trafford, "why you shouldn't take a lot of hors-d'œuvre. Three or four sardines, and potato salad and a big piece of smoked salmon, and some of that Norwegian herring, and so on, and keep the olives by you to pick at. It's a beginning." -513- "It's—it's immoral," said Marjorie, "that's what I feel. If one needs a whet to eat, one shouldn't eat. The proper beginning of a dinner is soup—good, hot, rich soup. Thick soup—with things in it, vegetables and meat and things. Bits of oxtail." "Not peas." "No, not peas. Pea-soup is tiresome. I never knew anything one tired of so soon. I wish we hadn't relied on it so much." "Thick soup's all very well," said Trafford, "but how about that clear stuff they give you in the little pavement restaurants in Paris. You know—Croûte-au-pot, with lovely great crusts and big leeks and lettuce leaves and so on! Tremendous aroma of onions, and beautiful little beads of fat! And being a clear soup, you see what there is. That's—interesting. Twenty-five centimes, Marjorie. Lord! I'd give a guinea a plate for it. I'd give five pounds for one of those jolly white-metal tureens full—you know, full, with little drops all over the outside of it, and the ladle sticking out under the lid." "Have you ever tasted turtle soup?" "Rather. They give it you in the City. The fat's—ripping. But they're rather precious with it, you know. For my own part, I don't think soup should be doled out. I always liked the soup we used to get at the Harts'; but then they never give you enough, you know—not nearly enough." "About a tablespoonful," said Marjorie. "It's mocking an appetite." "Still there's things to follow," said Trafford.... They discussed the proper order of a dinner very carefully. They decided that sorbets and ices were not only unwholesome, but nasty. "In London," said Trafford, "one's taste gets—vitiated."... -514- They weighed the merits of French cookery, modern international cookery, and produced alternatives. Trafford became very eloquent about old English food. "Dinners," said Trafford, "should be feasting, not the mere satisfaction of a necessity. There should be—amplitude. I remember a recipe for a pie; I think it was in one of those books that man Lucas used to compile. If I remember rightly, it began with: 'Take a swine and hew it into gobbets.' Gobbets! That's something like a beginning. It was a big pie with tiers and tiers of things, and it kept it up all the way in that key.... And then what could be better than prime British-fed roast beef, reddish, just a shade on the side of underdone, and not too finely cut. Mutton can't touch it." "Beef is the best," she said. "Then our English cold meat again. What can equal it? Such stuff as they give in a good country inn, a huge joint of beef—you cut from it yourself, you know as much as you like—with mustard, pickles, celery, a tankard of stout, let us say. Pressed beef, such as they'll give you at the Reform, too, that's good eating for a man. With chutney, and then old cheese to follow. And boiled beef, with little carrots and turnips and a dumpling or so. Eh?" "Of course," said Marjorie, "one must do justice to a well-chosen turkey, a fat turkey." "Or a good goose, for the matter of that—with honest, well-thought-out stuffing. I like the little sausages round the dish of a turkey, too; like cherubs they are, round the feet of a Madonna.... There's much to be said for sausage, Marjorie. It concentrates." Sausage led to Germany. "I'm not one of those patriots," he was saying presently, "who run down other countries by way of glorifying their own. While I was in Germany I tasted many good things. There's their Leberwurst; it's never bad, and, at its best, it's splendid. It's only a fool would reproach Germany with sausage. Devonshire black-pudding, of course, is the master of any Blutwurst, but there's all those others on the German side, Frankfurter, big reddish sausage stuff again with great crystalline lumps of white fat. And how well they cook their rich hashes, and the thick gravies they make. Curious, how much better the cooking of Teutonic peoples is than the cooking of the South Europeans! It's as if one needed a colder climate to brace a cook to his business. The Frenchman and the Italian trifle and stimulate. It's as if they'd never met a hungry man. No German would have thought of soufflé. Ugh! it's vicious eating. There's much that's fine, though, in Austria and Hungary. I wish I had travelled in Hungary. Do you remember how once or twice we've lunched at that Viennese place in Regent Street, and how they've given us stuffed Paprika, eh?" -515- "That was a good place. I remember there was stewed beef once with a lot of barley—such good barley!" "Every country has its glories. One talks of the cookery of northern countries and then suddenly one thinks of curry, with lots of rice." "And lots of chicken!" "And lots of hot curry powder, very hot. And look at America! Here's a people who haven't any of them been out of Europe for centuries, and yet they have as different a table as you could well imagine. There's a kind of fish, planked shad, that they cook on resinous wood—roast it, I suppose. It's substantial, like nothing else in the world. And how good, too, with turkey are sweet potatoes. Then they have such a multitude of cereal things; stuff like their buckwheat cakes, all swimming in golden syrup. And Indian corn, again!" -516- "Of course, corn is being anglicized. I've often given you corn—latterly, before we came away." "That sort of separated grain—out of tins. Like chicken's food! It's not the real thing. You should eat corn on the cob—American fashion! It's fine. I had it when I was in the States. You know, you take it up in your hands by both ends—you've seen the cobs?—and gnaw." The craving air of Labrador at a temperature of -20° Fahrenheit, and methodically stinted rations, make great changes in the outward qualities of the mind. "I'd like to do that," said Marjorie. Her face flushed a little at a guilty thought, her eyes sparkled. She leant forward and spoke in a confidential undertone. "I'd—I'd like to eat a mutton chop like that," said Marjorie. § 20 One morning Marjorie broached something she had had on her mind for several days. "Old man," she said, "I can't stand it any longer. I'm going to thaw my scissors and cut your hair.... And then you'll have to trim that beard of yours." "You'll have to dig out that looking-glass." "I know," said Marjorie. She looked at him. "You'll never be a pretty man again," she said. "But there's a sort of wild splendour.... And I love every inch and scrap of you...." Their eyes met. "We're a thousand deeps now below the look of things," said Trafford. "We'd love each other minced." -517- She broke into that smiling laugh of hers. "Oh! it won't come to that," she said. "Trust my housekeeping!" 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 (2011). Marriage. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/35338/35338-h/35338-h.htm This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. 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