Listen! If but women were
Half as kind as they are fair
There would be an end to all
Miseries that do appal.
Cloud and wind would fly
In a dance of sunny weather,
And the happy trees would throw
Gifts to travellers below.
Then the lion, meek and
With the lamb would, side by side,
Couch him friendly, and would be
Innocent of enmity.
Then the Frozen Pole would
Shaking off his fields of snow,
To a kinder clime and dance
Warmly with the girls of France.
These; if women only were
Half as kind as they are fair.
He had a high nose. He looked at one over the collar, so to
speak. His regard was very assured, and his speech was that short
bundle of monosyllables which the subaltern throws at the orderly.
He had never been questioned, and, the precedent being absent, he
had never questioned himself. Why should he? We live by question
and answer, but we do not know the reply to anything until a puzzled
comrade bothers us and initiates that divine curiosity which both
humbles and uplifts us.
He wanted all things for himself. What he owned he wished
to own completely. He would give anything away with the largest
generosity, but he would share with no one—
Whatever is mine, said he, must be entirely
mine. If it is alive I claim its duty to the last respiration of
its breath, and if it is dead I cannot permit a mortgage on it.
Have you a claim on anything belonging to me? then you may have
it entirely, I must have all of it or none.
He was a stockbroker, and, by the methods peculiar to that
mysterious profession, he had captured a sufficiency of money to
enable him to regard the future with calmness and his fellow-creatures
with condescension—perhaps the happiest state to which a certain
humanity can attain.
So far matters were in order. There remained nothing to round
his life into the complete, harmonious circle except a wife; but
as a stated income has the choice of a large supply, he shortly
discovered a lady whose qualifications were such as would ornament
any, however exalted, position—She was sound in wind and limb. She
spoke grammar with the utmost precision, and she could play the
piano with such skill that it was difficult to explain why she played
This also was satisfactory, and if the world had been made
of machinery he would have had the fee-simple of happiness. But
to both happiness and misery there follows the inevitable second
act, and beyond that, and to infinity, action and interaction, involution
and evolution, forging change for ever. Thus he failed to take into
consideration that the lady was alive, that she had a head on her
shoulders which was native to her body, and that she could not be
aggregated as chattel property for any longer period than she agreed
After their marriage he discovered that she had dislikes which
did not always coincide with his, and appreciations which set his
teeth on edge. A wife in the house is a critic on the hearth—this
truth was daily and unpleasantly impressed upon him: but, of course,
every man knows that every woman is a fool, and a tolerant smile
is the only recognition we allow to their whims. God made them as
they are—we grin, and bear it.
His wife found that the gospel of her husband was this—Love
me to the exclusion of all human creatures. Believe in me even when
I am in the wrong. Women should be seen and not heard. When you
want excitement make a fuss of your husband.—But while he entirely
forgot that his wife had been bought and paid for, she did not forget
it: indeed, she could not help remembering it. A wrong had been
done her not to be obscured even by economics, the great obscurer.
She had been won and not wooed. (The very beasts have their privileges!)
She had been defrauded of how many teasing and provoking prerogatives,
aloofnesses, and surrenders, and her body, if not her mind, resented
and remembered it.
There are times when calmness is not recognised as a virtue.
Of course, he had wooed her in a way. He took her to the opera,
he gave her jewels, he went to Church with her twice every Sunday,
and once a month he knelt beside her in more profound reverences:
sometimes he petted her, always he was polite—
But he had not told her that her eyes were the most wonderful
and inspiring orbs into which a tired man could look. He never said
that there would not be much to choose between good and evil if
he lost her. He never said that one touch of her lips would electrify
a paralytic into an acrobat. He never swore that he would commit
suicide and dive to deep perdition if she threw him over—none of
these things. It is possible that she did not wish him to say or
do such extravagances, but he had not played the game, and, knowing
that something was badly wrong, she nursed a grievance, that horrid
He was fiercely jealous, not of his love, but of his property,
and while he was delighted to observe that other men approved of
his taste, he could not bear that his wife should admire these outsiders.
This was his attitude to her: Give me your admirations, all of them,
every note of exclamation of which you are mistress, every jot and
tittle of your thoughts must be mine, for, lacking these, I have
nothing. I am good to you. I have interposed between you and the
buffets of existence. I temper all winds to the bloom of your cheek.
Do you your part, and so we will be happy.
There was a clerk in his office, a black-haired, slim, frowning
young man, who could talk like a cascade for ten minutes and be
silent for a month: he was a very angry young man, with many hatreds
and many ambitions. His employer prized him as a reliable and capable
worker, liked his manners, and paid him thirty-five shillings per
week—Outside of these matters the young man abode no more in his
remembrance than did the flower on the heath or the bird on the
It happened one day that the employer fell sick of influenza
and was confined to his bed. This clerk, by order, waited on him
to see to his correspondence; for, no matter who sneezes, work must
be attended to.
The young man stayed in the house for a week, and during his
sojourn there he met the lady. She fair, young, brooding! he also
young, silent, and angry! After the first look had passed between
them, there was little more to be said. They came together as though
they had been magnetised. Love or passion, by whatever name it is
called, was born abruptly. There is a force in human relations drawing
too imperatively for denial; defying self-interest, and dragging
at all anchors of duty and religion. Is it in man only the satisfaction
of self? Egotism standing like a mountain, and demanding, Give
me yourself or I will kill myself. And women! is their love
the degradation of self, the surrender and very abasement of lowliness?
or is it also egotism set on a pinnacle, so careless and self-assured
as to be fearful of nothing? In their eyes the third person, a shadow
already, counted as less than a shadow. He was a name with no significance,
a something without a locality. His certain and particular income
per annum was a thing to laugh at ... there was a hot, a swift voice
speaking—I love you, it said, I love you:
he would batter his way into heaven, he would tear delight from
wherever delight might be—or else, and this was harder, a trembling
man pleading, Aid me or I perish, and it is womans
instinct not to let a man perish. If I help you, I hurt myself,
she sighed; and, Hurt yourself, then, sighed the man;
would you have me perish...?
So the owner by purchase smiled—
You are mine, said he, altogether mine,
no one else has a lien upon you. When the weather is fine I will
take you for drives in the sunshine. In the nights we will go to
the opera, hearkening together to the tenor telling his sweet romanza,
and when the wintry rain beats on the windows you will play the
piano for me, and so we will be happy.
When he was quite recovered he went back to his office, and
found that one of his clerks had not arrived—this angered him; when
he returned home again in the evening, he found that his wife was
not there. So things go.
He was one of those who shy at the tête-à-tête life which,
for a long time, matrimony demands. As his wedding-day approached
he grew fearful of the prolonged conversation which would stretch
from the day of marriage, down the interminable vistas, to his death,
and, more and more, he became doubtful of his ability to cope with,
or his endurance to withstand, the extraordinary debate called marriage.
He was naturally a silent man. He did not dislike conversation
if it was kept within decent limits: indeed, he responded to it
contentedly enough, but when he had spoken or been addressed for
more than an hour he became, first, impatient, then bored, and,
finally, sulky or ill-mannered.—With men, said he, one
can talk or be silent as one wishes, for between them there is a
community of understanding which turns the occasional silence into
a pregnant and fruitful interlude wherein a thought may keep itself
warm until it is wanted: but with a woman!—he could not pursue
that speculation further, for his acquaintance with the sex was
In every other respect his bride was a happiness. Her good
looks soothed and pleased him. The touch of her hand gave him an
extraordinary pleasure which concealed within it a yet more extraordinary
excitement. Her voice, as a mere sound, enchanted him. It rippled
and flowed, deepened and tinkled. It cooed and sang to him at times
like the soft ringdove calling to its mate, and, at times again,
it gurgled and piped like a thrush happy in the sunlight. The infinite
variation of her tone astonished and delighted him, and if it could
have remained something as dexterous and impersonal as a wind he
would have been content to listen to it for ever—but, could he give
her pipe for pipe? Would the rich gurgle or the soft coo sound at
last as a horrid iteration, a mere clamour to which he must not
only give an obedient heed, but must even answer from a head wherein
silence had so peacefully brooded?
His mind was severe, his utterance staccato, and he had no
knowledge of those conversational arts whereby nouns and verbs are
amazingly transfigured into a gracious frolic or an intellectual
pleasure. To snatch the chatter from its holder, toss and keep it
playing in the air until another snatched it from him; to pluck
a theory hot from the stating, and expand it until it was as iridescent
and, perhaps, as thin as a soap-bubble: to light up and vivify a
weighty conversation until the majestic thing sparkled and glanced
like a jewel—these things he could not do, and he knew it. Many
a time he had sat, amazed as at an exhibition of acrobatics, while
around him the chatter burst and sang and shone. He had tried to
bear his part, but had never been able to edge more than one word
into that tossing cataract, and so he fell to the habit of listening
instead of speaking.
With some reservations, he enjoyed listening, but particularly
he enjoyed listening to his own thoughts as they trod slowly, but
very certainly, to foregone conclusions. Into the silent arena of
his mind no impertinent chatter could burst with a mouthful of puns
or ridicule, or a reminiscence caught on the wing and hurled apropos
to the very centre of discussion. His own means of conveying or
gathering information was that whereby one person asked a question
and another person answered it, and, if the subject proved deeper
than the assembled profundity, then one pulled out the proper volume
of an encyclopaedia, and the pearl was elicited as with a pin.
Meanwhile, his perturbation was real. There are people to
whom we need not talk—let them pass: we overlook or smile distantly
at the wretches, retaining our reputation abroad and our self-respect
in its sanctuary: but there are others with whom we may not be silent,
and into this latter category a wife enters with assured emphasis.
He foresaw endless opportunities for that familiar discussion to
which he was a stranger. There were breakfast-tables, dinner-tables,
tea-tables, and, between these, there might be introduced those
preposterous other tables which women invent for no purpose unless
it be that of making talk. His own breakfast, dinner, and tea-tables
had been solitary ones, whereat he lounged with a newspaper propped
against a lamp, or a book resting one end against the sugar-bowl
and the other against his plate.—This quietude would be ravaged
from him for ever, and that tumult nothing could exorcise or impede.
Further than these, he foresaw an interminable drawing-room, long
walks together, and other, even more confidential and particular,
After one has married a lady, what does one say to her? He
could not conceive any one saying anything beyond Good-morning.
Then the other aspect arrested him, What does a woman find
to say to a man? Perhaps safety lay in this direction, for
they were reputed notable and tireless speakers to whom replies
are not pressingly necessary. He looked upon his sweetheart as from
a distance, and tried to reconstruct her recent conversations.—He
was amazed at the little he could remember. I, I, I, we, we,
we, this shop, that shop, Aunt Elsa, and chocolates. She had
mentioned all these things on the previous day, but she did not
seem to have said anything memorable about them, and, so far as
he could recollect, he had said nothing in reply but Oh, yes
and To be sure! Could he sustain a lifetime of small-talk
on these meagre responses? He saw in vision his most miserable tea-table—a
timid husband and a mad wife glaring down their noses at plates.
The picture leaped at him as from a cinematograph and appalled him...
. After a time they would not even dare to look at each other. Hatred
would crouch behind these figures, waiting for its chain to be loosed!
So he came to the knowledge that he, so soon to be a husband,
had been specially fashioned by nature to be a bachelor. For him
safety lay in solitude: others, less rigorously planned, might safely
venture into the haphazard, gregarious state of wedlock, but he
not only could not, but must not, do so, and he meditated an appeal
to his bride to release him from the contract. Several times the
meditation almost became audible, but always, just as he toppled
on the surge of speech, the dear lady loosed a torrent of irrelevancies
which swirled him from all anchorage, and left him at the last stranded
so distantly from his thought that he did not know how to find his
way back to it.
It would be too brutally direct to shatter information about
silk at one shilling the yard with a prayer for matrimonial freedom.
The girl would be shocked—he could see her—she would stare at him,
and suddenly grow red in the face and stammer; and he would be forced
to trail through a lengthy, precise explanation of this matter which
was not at all precise to himself. Furthermore, certain obscure
emotions rendered him unwilling to be sundered from this girl.—There
was the touch of her hand; more, the touch of her lips given bravely
and with ready modesty—a contact not lightly to be relinquished.
He did not believe he could ever weary of looking at her eyes: they
were grey, widely open, and of a kindness such as he could not disbelieve
in; a radiant cordiality, a soft, limpid goodwill; believing and
trustful eyes which held no guile when they looked at him: there
were her movements, her swiftness, spaciousness, her buoyant certainty:
one remembered her hair, her hands, the way she wore a frock, and
a strange, seductive something about the look of her shoe.
The thing was not possible! It is the last and darkest insult
to tell the woman who loves you that you do not wish to marry her.
Her indignant curiosity may be appeased only by the excuse that
you like some other woman better, and although she may hate the
explanation she will understand it—but no less legitimate excuse
than this may pass sunderingly between a man and a woman.
It lay, therefore, that he must amend his own hand, and, accordingly,
for the purpose of marital intercourse, he began a sad inquiry into
the nature of things. The world was so full of things: clouds and
winds and sewing machines, kings and brigands, hats and heads, flower-pots,
jam and public-houses—surely one could find a little to chat about
at any moment if one were not ambitiously particular. With inanimate
objects one could speak of shape and colour and usefulness. Animate
objects had, beside these, movements and aptitudes for eating and
drinking, playing and quarrelling. Artistic things were well or
badly executed, and were also capable of an inter-comparison which
could not but be interesting and lengthy.—These things could all
be talked about. There were positive and negative qualities attaching
to everything, and when the former was exhausted the latter could
still be profitably mined—Order, said he, subsists
in everything, and even conversation must be subject to laws capable
He carefully, and under the terms of badinage, approached
other men, inquiring how they bore themselves in the matrimonial
dispute, and what were the subjects usually spoken of in the intimacies
of family life. But from these people he received the smallest assistance.—Some
were ribald, some jocose, some so darkly explanatory that intelligence
could not peer through the mist or could only divine that these
hated their wives. One man held that all domestic matters should
be left entirely to the wife and that talking was a domestic matter.
Another said that the words yes, no, and why would safeguard
a man through any labyrinth, however tortuous. Another said that
he always went out when the wife began to speak; and yet another
suggested that the only possible basis for conversation was that
of perpetual opposition, where an affirmation was always countered
by a denial, and the proving of the case exercised both time and
As he sat in the train beside his wife the silence which he
so dreaded came upon them. Emptiness buzzed in his head. He sought
diligently for something to speak about—the characteristics of objects!
There were objects and to spare, but he could not say—that
window is square, it is made of glass, or, the roof
of this carriage is flat, it is made of wood.
Suddenly his wife buried her face in her muff, and her shoulders
were convulsed... .
Love and contrition possessed him on the instant. He eased
his husky throat, and the dreaded, interminable conversation began—
What are you crying for, my dear? said he.
Her voice, smothered by the fur, replied—
I am not crying, darling, said she, I am
He got stiffly up from his seat before the fire—
Be hanged, said he, if I wait any longer
for her. If she doesnt please to come in before this hour
let her stop out. He stared into the fire for a few moments—Let
her go to Jericho, said he, and he tramped up to bed.
They had been married just six months, after, as he put it,
the hardest courtship a man ever undertook. She was more like a
piece of quicksilver than a girl. She was as uncertain as a spring
wind, as flighty as a ball of thistledown—Doesnt know
her own mind for ten minutes together, he groaned. Hasnt
any mind at all, hed think an hour later. While, on
the following day, it might be—That woman is too deep, she
is dodging all round me, she is sticking her finger in my eye. She
treats me as if I wasnt there at one moment, and diddles me
as if I was Tom Fool the next—Ill get out of it.
He had got out of it three or four times—halted her against
a wall, and, with a furious forefinger, wagged all her misdeeds
in her face; then, rating her up, down and round, he had prepared
to march away complacent and refreshed like Justice taking leave
of a sinner, only to find that if the jade wept he could not go
Dash it all, said he, you cant leave
a girl squatting down against a wall, with her head in her lap and
she crying. Hang it, said he, you feel as if there was
water round your legs and youll splash if you move.
So he leavened justice with mercy, and, having dried her tears
with his lips, he found himself in the same position as before,
with a mad suspicion tattering through his brain that maybe he had
been diddled again.
But he married her, and to do that was a job also. She shied
at matrimony. She shied at everything that looked plain or straight.
She was like a young dog out for a walk: when she met a side-street
she bolted down it and was instantly surrounded by adventure and
misery, returning, like the recovered pup, thick with the mud of
those excursions. There was a lust in her blood for side-streets,
laneways and corners.
Marriage! said she, and she was woebegone—Marriage
will be for ever.
So will heaven, he retorted comfortingly.
So will—the other place, said she, with a giggle,
and crushed him under the feeling that she envisaged him as the
devil of that particular Hades, instead of as an unfortunate sinner
plucked up by the heels and soused into the stew-pan by his wife.
He addressed himself—
When we are married, said he, Ill
keep a hand on you, my lady, that you wont be able to wriggle
away from. If you are slippery, and faith you are, why Im
tough, and so youll find it. Get rid of your kinks
before you marry, said he. Ive no use for a wife
with one eye on me, and it a dubious one, and the other one squinting
into a parlour two streets off. Youve got to settle down and
quit tricks. A wife has no one else to deceive but her husband,
thats all she can want tricks for, and theres not going
to be any in my house. Its all right for a pretty girl to
be a bit larky——
Am I really pretty? said she, deeply interested
and leaning forward with her hands clasping her knees—Do you
really and truly think I am pretty? I met a man one time, he had
a brown moustache and blue eyes, outside a tailors shop in
Georges Street, with a public-house on one side, and he said he
thought I was very pretty: he told me what his name was, but I forget
it: maybe, you know him: he wears a tweed suit with a stripe and
a soft hat—Let me see, no, his name began with a T——
His name was Thief, he roared, and that
was his profession too. Dont let me catch you talking with
a strange man, or youll get hurt, and his brown eyes will
be mixed up with his blue moustache.
So married they were, six months now, and the wits were nearly
worried out of him in trying to keep pace with his wifes vagaries.
Matrimony had not cured her love for side-streets, short cuts and
chance acquaintances, and she was gradually making her husband travel
at a similar tangent. When they started to go to church he would
find, to his amazement, that they were in the Museum. If they journeyed
with a Museum for an objective they were certain to pull up in the
Botanic Gardens. A call on a friend usually turned into a visit
to a theatre or a walk by the Dodder—
Heart-scalded I am, said he, with her hopping
and trotting. She travels sideways like a crab, so she does. She
has a squint in her walk. Her boots have a bias outwards. Im
getting bow-legged, so I am, slewing round corners after her. Ill
have to put my foot down, said he.
And now it was all finished. Here was twelve oclock
at night and an absent wife—a detestable combination. Twelve oclock
at night outside a house is an immoral hour, inside a house it is
non-moral, but respectable. There is nothing in the street at that
time but dubiety. Who would be a husband listening through the tolling
of midnight for a muffled footfall?—And he had told her not to go:
had given an order, formulated his imperative and inflexible will—
Never mind! Ill stand by it, said he, this
is the last straw. One break and then freedom. Surgery is better
than tinkering. Cut the knot and let who will try to join it then.
One pang, and afterwards ease, fresh air, and freedom: fresh air!
gulps of it, with the head back and an easy mind. Im not the
man to be fooled for ever—surgery! surgery!
His wife had wished to see a friend that night and requested
her husband to go with her—he refused—
Youre always trapsin about, said he.
He heaved an angry forehead at her, puckered an eye, toned
a long No that wagged vibration behind it like an undocked tail.
She persisted, whereupon he loosed his thunder—
Youre not to step outside the house this night,
maam, said he; and to her angry I will go,
he barked, If you do go, dont come back here. Ill
have a dutiful wife or Ill have none—stay in or stay out.
Im tired humouring your whimsies, let you humour mine now——
Then a flame gathered on her face, it grew hot in her voice,
flashed to a point in her eyes—
Im going out to-night, said she loudly;
are you coming with me?
Im not, said he.
Then, she snapped, Ill go by myself.
Wherever you go to-night you can stay, he roared.
Dont come back to this house.
Im not mad enough to want to, she replied.
I wish Id never seen your old house. I wish Id
never seen yourself. You are just as dull as your house is, and
nearly as flat. Its a stupid, uninteresting, slow house, so
it is, and you are a stupid, dissatisfied grump of a man, so you
are. Id sooner live in a cave with a hairy bear, so I would——
and out she ran.
Two minutes later he had heard the door bang, and then silence.
That was five hours ago, and during all these long hours he
had sat staring sourly into the fire, seeing goodness knows what
burnt-up visions therein, waiting to hear a footfall, and an entreating
voice at the key-hole; apologies and tears perhaps, and promises
of amendment. Now it was after twelve oclock, darkness everywhere
and silence. Time and again a policemans tramp or the hasty,
light footfall of adventure went by. So he stood up at last sour
She would have her fling. She wouldnt give in.
She doesnt care a tinkers curse what I say... . Let
her go to Jericho, said he, and he tramped up to bed.
In his bedroom he did not trouble to get a light. He undressed
in a bitterly savage mood and rolled into bed, only to jump out
again in sudden terror, for there was some one in it. It was his
wife. He lay down with a hazy, half-mad mind. Had he wronged her?
Was she more amenable than he had fancied? She had not gone out
at all—or, had she gone out, sneaked in again by the back door and
crept noiselessly to bed... .?
He fell asleep at last on the tattered fringe of a debate—Had
he wronged her? or had she diddled him again?
It was now his custom to sit there. The world has
its habits, why should a man not have his? The earth rolls out of
light and into darkness as punctually as a business man goes to
and from his office; the seasons come with the regularity of automata,
and go as if they were pushed by an ejector; so, night after night,
he strolled from the Place de lObservatoire to the Font St.
Michel, and, on the return journey, sat down at the same Café, at
the same table, if he could manage it, and ordered the same drink.
So regular had his attendance become that the waiter would
suggest the order before it was spoken. He did not drink beer because
he liked it, but only because it was not a difficult thing to ask
for. Always he had been easily discouraged, and he distrusted his
French almost as much as other people had reason to. The only time
he had varied the order was to request un vin blanc gommée,
but on that occasion he had been served with a postage stamp for
twenty-five centimes, and he still wondered when he remembered it.
He liked to think of his first French conversation. He wanted
something to read in English, but was timid of asking for it. He
walked past all the newspaper kiosks on the Boulevard, anxiously
scanning the vendors inside—they were usually very stalwart, very
competent females, who looked as though they had outgrown their
sins but remembered them with pleasure. They had the dully-polished,
slightly-battered look of a modern antique. The words Msieu,
Madame rang from them as from bells. They were very alert,
sitting, as it were, on tiptoe, and their eyes hit one as one approached.
They were like spiders squatting in their little houses waiting
for their daily flies.
He found one who looked jolly and harmless, sympathetic indeed,
and to her, with a flourished hat, he approached. Said he, Donnez-moi,
Madame, sil vous plaît, le Daily Mail. At the second
repetition the good lady smiled at him, a smile compounded of benevolence
and comprehension, and instantly, with a Vla Msieu,
she handed him The New York Herald. They had saluted each other,
and he marched down the road in delight, with his first purchase
under his arm and his first foreign conversation accomplished.
At that time everything had delighted him—the wide, well-lighted
Boulevard, the concierges knitting in their immense doorways, each
looking like a replica of the other, each seeming sister to a kiosk-keeper
or a cat. The exactly-courteous speech of the people and their not
quite so rigorously courteous manners pleased him. He listened to
the voluble men who went by, speaking in a haste so breathless that
he marvelled how the prepositions and conjunctions stuck to their
duty in so swirling an ocean of chatter. There was a big black dog
with a mottled head who lay nightly on the pavement opposite the
Square de lObservatoire. At intervals he raised his lean skull
from the ground and composed a low lament to an absent friend. His
grief was respected. The folk who passed stepped sidewards for him,
and he took no heed of their passage—a lonely, introspective dog
to whom a caress or a bone were equally childish things: Let me
alone, he seemed to say, I have my grief, and it is company enough.
There was the very superior cat who sat on every window-ledge, winking
at life. He (for in France all cats are masculine by order of philology),
he did not care a rap for man or dog, but he liked women and permitted
them to observe him. There was the man who insinuated himself between
the tables at the Café, holding out postcard-representations of
the Pantheon, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and other places. From beneath
these cards his dexterous little finger would suddenly flip others.
One saw a hurried leg, an arm that shone and vanished, a bosom that
fled shyly again, an audacious swan, a Leda who was thoroughly enjoying
herself and had never heard of virtue. His look suggested that he
thought better of one than to suppose that one was not interested
in the nude. Msieu, he seemed to say, with his
fixed, brown-eyed regard, this is indeed a leg, an authentic
leg, not disguised by even the littlest of stockings; it is arranged
precisely as Msieu would desire it. His sorrow as he
went away was dignified with regret for an inartistic gentleman.
One was en garçon, and yet one would not look at ones postcards!
One had better then cease to be an artist and take to peddling onions
and asparagus as the vulgar do.
It was all a long time ago, and now, somehow, the savour had
departed from these things. Perhaps he had seen them too often.
Perhaps a kind of public surreptitiousness, a quite open furtiveness,
had troubled him. Maybe he was not well. He sat at his Café, three
quarters down the Boulevard, and before him a multitude of grotesque
beings were pacing as he sipped his bock.
Good manners decreed that he should not stare too steadfastly,
and he was one who obeyed these delicate dictations. Alas! he was
one who obeyed all dictates. For him authority wore a halo, and
many sins which his heyday ought to have committed had been left
undone only because they were not sanctioned by immediate social
usage. He was often saddened when he thought of the things he had
not done. It was the only sadness to which he had access, because
the evil deeds which he had committed were of so tepid and hygienic
a character that they could not be mourned for without hypocrisy,
and now that he was released from all privileged restraints and
overlookings and could do whatever he wished he had no wish to do
His wife had been dead for over a year. He had hungered, he
had prayed for her death. He had hated that woman (and for how many
years!) with a kind of masked ferocity. How often he had been tempted
to kill her or to kill himself! How often he had dreamed that she
had run away from him or that he had run away from her! He had invented
Russian Princes, and Music Hall Stars, and American Billionaires
with whom she could adequately elope, and he had both loved and
loathed the prospect. What unending, slow quarrels they had together!
How her voice had droned pitilessly on his ears! She in one room,
he in another, and through the open door there rolled that unending
recitation of woes and reproaches, an interminable catalogue of
nothings, while he sat dumb as a fish, with a mind that smouldered
or blazed. He had stood unseen with a hammer, a poker, a razor in
his hand, on tiptoe to do it. A movement, a rush, one silent rush
and it was done! He had revelled in her murder. He had caressed
it, rehearsed it, relished it, had jerked her head back, and hacked,
and listened to her entreaties bubbling through blood!
And then she died! When he stood by her bed he had wished
to taunt her, but he could not do it. He read in her eyes—I am dying,
and in a little time I shall have vanished like dust on the wind,
but you will still be here, and you will never see me again—He wished
to ratify that, to assure her that it was actually so, to say that
he would come home on the morrow night, and she would not be there,
and that he would return home every night, and she would never be
there. But he could not say it. Somehow the words, although he desired
them, would not come. His arm went to her neck and settled there.
His hand caressed her hair, her cheek. He kissed her eyes, her lips,
her languid hands; and the words that came were only an infantile
babble of regrets and apologies, assurances that he did love her,
that he had never loved any one before, and never would love any
one again... .
Every one who passed looked into the Café where he sat. Every
one who passed looked at him. There were men with sallow faces and
wide black hats. Some had hair that flapped about them in the wind,
and from their locks one gathered, with some distaste, the spices
of Araby. Some had cravats that fluttered and fell and rose again
like banners in a storm. There were men with severe, spade-shaped,
most responsible-looking beards, and quizzical little eyes which
gave the lie to their hairy sedateness—eyes which had spent long
years in looking sidewards as a woman passed. There were men of
every stage of foppishness—men who had spent so much time on their
moustaches that they had only a little left for their finger-nails,
but their moustaches exonerated them; others who were coated to
happiness, trousered to grotesqueness, and booted to misery. He
thought—In this city the men wear their own coats, but they all
wear some one elses trousers, and their boots are syndicated.
He saw no person who was self-intent. They were all deeply
conscious, not of themselves, but of each other. They were all looking
at each other. They were all looking at him; and he returned the
severe, or humourous, or appraising gaze of each with a look nicely
proportioned to the passer, giving back exactly what was given to
him, and no more. He did not stare, for nobody stared. He just looked
and looked away, and was as mannerly as was required.
A negro went by arm in arm with a girl who was so sallow that
she was only white by courtesy. He was a bulky man, and as he bent
greedily over his companion it was evident that to him she was whiter
than the snow of a single night.
Women went past in multitudes, and he knew the appearance
of them all. How many times he had watched them or their duplicates
striding and mincing and bounding by, each moving like an animated
note of interrogation! They were long, and medium, and short. There
were women of a thinness beyond comparison, sheathed in skirts as
featly as a rapier in a scabbard. There were women of a monumental,
a mighty fatness, who billowed and rolled in multitudinous, stormy
garments. There were slow eyes that drooped on one heavily as a
hand, and quick ones that stabbed and withdrew, and glanced again
appealingly, and slid away cursing. There were some who lounged
with a false sedateness, and some who fluttered in an equally false
timidity. Some wore velvet shoes without heels. Some had shoes,
the heels whereof were of such inordinate length that the wearers
looked as though they were perched on stilts and would topple to
perdition if their skill failed for an instant. They passed and
they looked at him; and from each, after the due regard, he looked
away to the next in interminable procession.
There were faces also to be looked at: round chubby faces
wherefrom the eyes of oxen stared in slow, involved rumination.
Long faces that were keener than hatchets and as cruel. Faces that
pretended to be scornful and were only piteous. Faces contrived
to ape a temperament other than their own. Raddled faces with heavy
eyes and rouged lips. Ragged lips that had been chewed by every
mad dog in the world. What lips there were everywhere! Bright scarlet
splashes in dead-white faces. Thin red gashes that suggested rat-traps
instead of kisses. Bulbous, flabby lips that would wobble and shiver
if attention failed them. Lips of a horrid fascination that one
looked at and hated and ran to... . Looking at him slyly or boldly,
they passed along, and turned after a while and repassed him, and
turned again in promenade.
He had a sickness of them all. There had been a time when
these were among the things he mourned for not having done, but
that time was long past. He guessed at their pleasures, and knew
them to be without salt. Life, said he, is as unpleasant as a plate
of cold porridge. Somehow the world was growing empty for him. He
wondered was he outgrowing his illusions, or his appetites, or both?
The things in which other men took such interest were drifting beyond
him, and (for it seemed that the law of compensation can fail) nothing
was drifting towards him in recompense. He foresaw himself as a
box with nothing inside it, and he thought—It is not through love
or fear or distress that men commit suicide: it is because they
have become empty: both the gods and the devils have deserted them
and they can no longer support that solemn stagnation. He marvelled
to see with what activity men and women played the most savourless
of games! With what zest of pursuit they tracked what petty interests.
He saw them as ants scurrying with scraps of straw, or apes that
pick up and drop and pick again, and he marvelled from what fount
they renewed themselves, or with what charms they exorcised the
demons of satiety.
On this night life did not seem worth while. The taste had
gone from his mouth; his bock was water vilely coloured; his cigarette
was a hot stench. And yet a full moon was peeping in the trees along
the path, and not far away, where the countryside bowed in silver
quietude, the rivers ran through undistinguishable fields chanting
their lonely songs. The seas leaped and withdrew, and called again
to the stars, and gathered in ecstasy and roared skywards, and the
trees did not rob each other more than was absolutely necessary.
The men and women were all hidden away, sleeping in their cells,
where the moon could not see them, nor the clean wind, nor the stars.
They were sundered for a little while from their eternal arithmetic.
The grasping hands were lying as quietly as the paws of a sleeping
dog. Those eyes held no further speculation than the eyes of an
ox who lies down. The tongues that had lied all day, and been treacherous
and obscene and respectful by easy turn, said nothing more; and
he thought it was very good that they were all hidden, and that
for a little time the world might swing darkly with the moon in
its own wide circle and its silence.
He paid for his bock, gave the waiter a tip, touched his hat
to a lady by sex and a gentleman by clothing, and strolled back
to his room that was little, his candle that was three-quarters
consumed, and his picture which might be admired when he was dead
but which he would never be praised for painting; and, after sticking
his foot through the canvas, he tugged himself to bed, agreeing
to commence the following morning just as he had the previous one,
and the one before that, and the one before that again.
Do you hate me, you!
Sitting quietly there,
With the burnished hair
That frames the two
Deep eyes of your face
In a smooth embrace.
And you say naught,
And I never speak;
But you rest your cheek
On your hand, a thought
Showing plain as the brow
Goes wrinkling now.
Of what do you think,
Sitting opposite me,
As you stir the tea
That you do not drink,
And frown at nought
With those brows of thought.
WOMEN WHO WEPT
He was one of those men who can call ladies by their Christian names.
One day he met twenty-four duchesses walking on a red carpet, and
he winked at them, and they were all delighted. It was so at first
he appeared to her. Has a mere girl any protection against a man
of that quality? and she was the very merest of girls—she knew it.
It was not that she was ignorant, for she had read widely about
men, and she had three brothers as to whom she knew divers intimate
has been reared among brothers has few defences against other males.things.
The girl who She has acquired two things—a belief in the divine
right of man, and a curiosity as to what those men are like who
are not her brothers. She may love her brothers, but she cannot
believe that they adequately represent the other sex. Does not every
girl wish to marry the antithesis of her brother? The feeling is
that one should marry as far outside of the family as is possible,
and as far outside of ones self as may be; but love has become
subject to geography, and our choice is often bounded by the tramline
upon which we travel from our houses to our businesses and back
While she loved and understood her brothers, she had not in
the least understood or believed in the stories she had read, and
so, when the Young Man out of a Book came to her, she was delighted
It was difficult to live up to him worthily. It was difficult
to know what he would do next, and it was exceedingly difficult
to keep out of his way; for, indeed, he seemed to pervade the part
of the world where she lived. He was as ubiquitous as the air or
the sky. If she went into a shop, he was pacing on the pavement
when she came out. If she went for a walk he was standing at the
place farther than which she had decided not to go. She had found
him examining a waterfall on the Dodder, leaning over the bear-pit
in the Zoological Gardens, and kneeling beside her in the Chapel,
and her sleep had been distressed by the reflection that maybe he
was sitting on her window-sill like a sad sparrow drenched in the
rain, all its feathers on end with the cold, and its eyes wide open
staring at misery.
The first time they met he spoke to her. He plucked a handkerchief
from somewhere and thrust it into her hand, saying—
You have dropped this, I think—and she had been
too alarmed to disown it.
It was a mighty handkerchief. It was so big that it would
scarcely fit into her muff.—It is a table-cloth, said
she, as she solemnly stuffed away its lengthy flaps. It is
his own, she thought a moment later, and she would have laughed
like a mad woman, only that she had no time, for he was pacing delicately
by her side, and talking in a low voice that was partly a whisper
and partly a whistle, and was entirely and disturbingly delicious.
The next time they met very suddenly. Scarcely a dozen paces
separated them. She could see him advancing towards her, and knew
by his knitted brows that he was searching anxiously for something
to say. When they drew together he lifted his hat and murmured—
How is your handkerchief to-day?
The query so astonished her that (the verb is her own) she
simply bawled with laughter. From that moment he treated her with
freedom, for if once you laugh with a person you admit him to equality,
you have ranked him definitely as a vertebrate, your hand is his
by right of species, scarcely can you withhold even your lips from
Another, a strange, a fascinating thing, was that he was afraid
of her. It was inconceivable, it was mad, but it was true. He looked
at her with disguised terror. His bravado was the slenderest mask.
Every word he said was uttered tentatively, it was subject to her
approval, and if she opposed a statement he dropped it instantly
and adopted her alternative as one adopts a gift. This astonished
her who had been prepared to be terrified. He kept a little distance
between them as he walked, and when she looked at him he looked
away. She had a vision of herself as an ogre—whiskers sprouted all
over her face, her ears bulged and swaggled, her voice became a
cavernous rumble, her conversation sounded like fee-faw-fum—and
yet, her brothers were not afraid of her in the least; they pinched
her and kicked her hat.
He spoke (but always without prejudice) of the loveliest things
imaginable—matters about which brothers had no conception, and for
which they would not have any reverence. He said one day that the
sky was blue, and, on looking she found that it was so. The sky
was amazingly blue. It had never struck her before, but there was
a colour in the firmament before which one might fall down and worship.
Sunlight was not the hot glare which it had been: it was rich, generous,
it was inexpressibly beautiful. The colour and scent of flowers
became more varied. The world emerged as from shrouds and cerements.
It was tender and radiant, comeliness lived everywhere, and goodwill.
Laughter! the very ground bubbled with it: the grasses waved their
hands, the trees danced and curtsied to one another with gentle
dignity, and the wind lurched down the path with its hat on the
side of its head and its hands in its pockets, whistling like her
And then he went away. She did not see him any more. He was
not by the waterfall on the Dodder, nor hanging over the bear-pit
in the Zoo. He was not in the Chapel, nor on the pavement when she
came out of a shop. He was not anywhere. She searched, but he was
not anywhere. And the sun became the hot pest it had always been:
the heavens were stuffed with dirty clouds the way a second-hand
shop is stuffed with dirty bundles: the trees were hulking corner-boys
with muddy boots: the wind blew dust into her eye, and her brothers
pulled her hair and kicked her hat; so that she went apart from
all these. She sat before the mirror regarding herself with woeful
He was afraid of me! she said.
And she wept into his monstrous handkerchief.
When he came into the world he came howling, and he howled
without ceasing for seven long years, except at the times when he
happened to be partaking of nourishment, or was fast asleep, and,
even then, he snored with a note of defiance and protest which proved
that his humour was not for peace.
The time came when he ceased to howl and became fascinated
by the problem of how to make other people howl. In this art he
became an adept. When he and another child chanced to be left together
there came, apparently from the uttermost ends of the earth, a pin,
and the other child and the pin were soon in violent and lamentable
So he grew.
Be hanged if I know what to do with him, said
his father as he rebuckled on his belt. The devils self
hasnt got the shape or match of such an imp in all the length
and breadth of his seven hells. Im sick, sore and sorry whacking
him, so I am, and before long Ill be hung on the head of him.
Im saying that theres more deceit and devilment in his
bit of a carcass than there is in a public-house full of tinkers,
so there is.
He turned to his wife—
Its no credit at all the son youve bore
me, maam, but a sorrow and a woe thatll be killing us
in our old age and maybe damning our souls at the heel of it. Where
he got his blackguardly ways from Im not saying, but it wasnt
from my side of the house anyway, so it wasnt, and thats
a moral. Get out of my sight you sniffling lout, and if ever I catch
you at your practices again Ill lam you till you wont
be able to wink without help, so I will.
Musha, sobbed his wife, dont be always
talking out of you. Any one would think that it was an old, criminal
thief you were instructing, instead of a bit of a child thatll
be growing out of his wildness in no time. Come across to me, child,
come over to your mother, my lamb.
That night, when his father got into bed, he prodded his foot
against something under the sheets. Investigation discovered a brown
paper bag at the end of the bed. A further search revealed a wasps
nest, inside of which there was an hundred angry wasps blazing for
combat. His father left the room with more expedition than decency.
He did not stop to put on as much as his hat. He fled to the stream
which ran through the meadow at the back of their house, and lay
down in it, and in two seconds there was more bad language than
water in the stream. Every time he lifted his head for air the wasps
flew at him with their tails curled. They kept him there for half
an hour, and in that time he laid in the seeds of more rheumatism
than could be cured in two lifetimes.
When he returned home he found his wife lying on the floor
with a blanket wrapped about her head, groaning by instinct, for
she was senseless.
Her face had disappeared. There was nothing where it had been
but poisoned lumps. A few days later it was found that she was blind
of one eye, and there was danger of erysipelas setting in.
The boy could not be found for some time, but a neighbour,
observing a stone come from nowhere in particular and hit a cat,
located the first cause in a ditch. He brought the boy home, and
grabbed his father just in time to prevent murder being done.
It was soon found that the only thing which eased the restless
moaning woman was the touch of her son. All her unmanageable, delirious
thoughts centred on him—
Sure hes only a boy; beating never did good to
anything. Give him a chance now for wouldnt a child be a bit
wild anyhow. You will be a good boy, wont you? Come to your
mother, my lamb.
So the lad grew, from twelve to fifteen, from fifteen to twenty.
Soon he attained to manhood. To his mother he seemed to have leaped
in a day from the careless, prattling babe to the responsibly-whiskered
miracle at whom mothers sit and laugh in secret delight. This towering,
big-footed, hairy person! was he really the little boy who used
to hide in her skirts when his father scowled? She had only to close
her eyes and she could feel again a pair of little hands clawing
at her breast, sore from the violent industry of soft, wee lips.
So he grew. Breeches that were big became small. Bony wrists
were continually pushing out of coat cuffs. His feet would burst
out of his boots. He grew out of everything but one. A man may outgrow
his breeches, he cannot outgrow his nature: his body is never too
big or too small to hold that.
Every living thing in the neighbourhood knew him. When a cat
saw him coming it climbed a tree and tried to look as much like
a lump of wood as it could. When a dog heard his step it tucked
its tail out of sight and sought for a hole in the hedge. The birds
knew he carried stones in his pockets. No tree cast so black a shadow
in the sunlight as he did. There were stories of a bottle of paraffin
oil and a cat that screeched in flames. Folk told of a maltreated
dog that pointed its nose to heaven and bayed a curse against humanity
until a terrified man battered it to death with a shovel. No one
knew who did it, but every one said there were only two living hearts
capable of these iniquities—one belonged to the devil, the other
to our young man, and they acquitted Satan of the deeds.
The owner of the dog swore by the beasts in the field and
the stars in the sky that he would tear the throat of the man who
had injured his beast.
The father drove his one-eyed wife from the house, and went
with her to live elsewhere; but she left him and went back to her
son, and her husband forswore the twain.
When women saw him in the road they got past him with their
breath hissing through their teeth in fear. When men passed him
they did it warily, with their fists clenched and their eyes alert.
He was shunned by every one. The strength of his arms also was a
thing to be afraid of, and in the world there was but two welcomes
for him, one from his mother, the other from an old, grey rat that
slept in his breast—
Sure, youre all against him, his mother
would say. Why dont you give the boy a chance? Its
only the hot blood of youth thats working in him—and he never
did it either. Look how kind he is to me! never the bad word or
the hard look! Ye black hearts that blame my boy, look among yourselves
for the villain. No matter who is against you, come to your mother,
He was found one day at the foot of the cliff with his neck
broken. Some said that he had slipped and fallen, some said he had
committed suicide, other some pursed their lips tightly and said
nothing. All were relieved that he was gone, saving his mother only,
she mourned for her only son, and wept bitterly, refusing to be
comforted until she died.
She had begun to get thin. Her face was growing sharp and
peaked. The steady curve of her cheek had become a little indeterminate.
Her chin had begun to sag and her eyes to look a little weary. But
she had not observed these things, for we do not notice ourselves
very much until some other person thinks we are worthy of observation
and tells us so; and these changes are so gradual and tiny that
we seldom observe them until we awaken for a moment or two in our
middle age and then we get ready to fall asleep again.
When her uncle died, the solicitors who had administered his
will handed her a small sum of money and intimated that from that
date she must hew out her own path in life, and as she had most
of the household furniture of her late uncle at her disposal, she
decided to let lodgings. Setting about that end with all possible
expedition she finished writing apartments to let on
a square of pasteboard, and, having placed it prominently in a window,
she folded her mittened hands and sat down with some trepidation
to await the advent of a lodger.
He came in the night time with the stars and the moon. He
was running like a youthful god, she thought, for her mind had not
yet been weaned from certain vanities, and she could not see that
a gigantic policeman was in his wake, tracking him with elephantine
bounds, and now and again snatching a gasp from hurry to blow furious
warnings on a whistle.
It was the sound of the whistle which opened her eyes through
her ears. She went to the door and saw him coming framed in the
moonlight, his arms pressed tightly to his sides, his head well
up and his feet kicking a mile a minute on the pavement. Behind
him the whistle shrilled with angry alarm, and the thunder of monumental
feet came near as the policeman sprinted in majesty.
As the lodger ran she looked at him. He was a long-legged,
young man with a pleasant, clean-shaven face. His eyes met hers,
and, although he grinned anxiously, she saw that he was frightened.
That frightened smile gripped her and she panted noiselessly, Oh,
As he drew level he fixed his gaze on her, and, stopping suddenly,
he ducked under her arm and was inside the house in a twinkling.
The poor ladys inside curled up in fear and had started
to uncurl in screams when she felt a hand laid gently on her arm,
and, Dont make a noise, or Im caught, said
a voice, whereupon, and with exceeding difficulty, she closed her
mouth while the scream went sizzling through her teeth in little
gasps. But now the enemy appeared round the corner, tooting incessantly
on his whistle, and whacking sparks from the cobblestones as he
ran. Behind her she could hear the laboured breathing of a spent
runner. The lodger was kneeling at her skirts: he caught her hand
and pressed his face against it entreatingly—
The policeman drew near—
Did you see a fellow skedaddling along here, maam?
She hesitated for only a moment and then, pointing to a laneway
He went up there.
Thank you, maam, said the policeman with
a genial smile, and he sprinted up the laneway whistling cheerily.
She turned to the lodger—
You had better go now, said she.
He looked at her ruefully and hesitated—
If I go now, he replied, Ill be caught
and get a month. Ill have to eat skilly, you know, and pick
oakum, and get my hair cut.
She looked at his hair—it was brown and wavy, just at his
ears it crisped into tiny curls, and she thought it would be a great
pity to cut it. He bore her scrutiny well, with just a trifle of
embarrassment and a shyly humorous eye—
You are the kindest woman I ever met, said he,
and Ill never forget you as long as I live. Ill
go away now because I wouldnt like to get you into trouble
for helping me.
What did you do? she faltered.
I got into a fight with another man, he replied,
and while we were hammering each other the policeman came
up. He was going to arrest me, and, before I knew what I was doing,
I knocked him down.
She shook her head—
You should not have done that. That was very wrong,
for he was only doing his duty.
I know it, he admitted, but, do you see,
I didnt know what I was doing, and then, when I hit him, I
got frightened and ran.
You poor boy, said she tenderly.
And somehow, when I saw you, I knew you wouldnt
give me up: wasnt it queer?
What a nice, gentlemanly young fellow he is, she thought.
But, of course, I cannot be trespassing on your kindness
any longer, he continued, so Ill leave at once,
and if ever I get the chance to repay your kindness to a stranger——
Perhaps, said she, it might not be quite
safe for you to go yet. Come inside and I will give you a cup of
tea. You must be worn out with the excitement and the danger. Why,
you are shaking all over: a cup of tea will steady your nerves and
give him time to stop looking for you.
Perhaps, said he, if I turned my coat inside
out and turned my trousers up, they wouldnt notice me.
We will talk it over, she replied with a wise
That was how the lodger came. He told her his name and his
employment—he was a bookmakers clerk. He brought his luggage,
consisting mostly of neckties, to her house the following day from
his former lodgings—
Had a terrible time getting away from them, said
he. They rather liked me, you know, and couldnt make
out why I wanted to leave.
As if you werent quite free to do as you wished,
quoth his indignant new landlady.
And then, when they found I would go, they made me pay
two weeks rent in lieu of notice—mean, wasnt it?
The low people, she replied. I will not
ask you to pay anything this week.
He put his bandbox on the ground, and shook hands with her—
You are a brick, said he, the last and the
biggest of them. There isnt the like of you in this or any
other world, and never was and never will be, world without end,
Oh, dont say that, said she shyly.
I will, he replied, for its the truth.
Ill hire a sandwichman to stop people in the street and tell
it to them. Ill get a weeks engagement at the theatre
and sing it from the stage. Ill make up a poem about your
goodness. I dont know what to do to thank you. Do you see,
if I had to pay you now Id have to pawn something, and I really
believe I have pawned everything theyd lend on to get the
money for that two weeks rent. Im broke until Friday,
thats my pay day, but that night Ill come home with
my wages piled up on a cart.
I can lend you a few shillings until then, said
Oh, no, said he. Its not fair. I couldnt
do that, but he could.
Well the light of the world shone out of the lodger. He was
like a sea breeze in a soap factory. When he awakened in the morning
he whistled. When he came down to breakfast he sang. When he came
home in the evening he danced. He had an amazing store of vitality:
from the highest hair on the top of his head down to his heels he
was alive. His average language was packed with jokes and wonderful
curses. He was as chatty as a girl, as good-humoured as a dog, as
unconscious as a kitten—and she knew nothing at all of men, except,
perhaps, that they wore trousers and were not girls. The only man
with whom she had ever come in contact was her uncle, and he might
have been described as a sniffy old man with a cold; a blend of
gruel and grunt, living in an atmosphere of ointment and pills and
patent medicine advertisements—and, behold, she was living in unthinkable
intimacy with the youngest of young men; not an old, ache-ridden,
cough-racked, corn-footed septuagenarian, but a young, fresh-faced,
babbling rascal who laughed like the explosion of a blunderbuss,
roared songs as long as he was within earshot and danced when he
had nothing else to do. He used to show her how to do hand-balances
on the arm-chair, and while his boots were cocked up in the air
she would grow stiff with terror for his safety and for that of
the adjacent crockery.
The first morning she was giving him his breakfast, intending
afterwards to have her own meal in the kitchen, but he used language
of such strangely attractive ferocity, and glared at her with such
a humorously-mad eye that she was compelled to breakfast with him.
At night, when he returned to his tea, he swore by this and
by that he would die of hunger unless she ate with him; and then
he told her all the doings of the day, the bets that had been made
and lost, and what sort of a man his boss was, and he extolled the
goodness of his friends, and lectured on the vast iniquity of his
So things went until she was as intimate with him as if he
had been her brother. One night he came home just a trifle tipsy.
She noted at last what was wrong with him, and her heart yearned
over the sinner. There were five or six glasses inside of him, and
each was the father of an antic. He was an opera company, a gymnasium,
and a menagerie at once, all tinged with a certain hilarious unsteadiness
which was fascinating. But at last he got to his bed, which was
more than she did.
She sat through the remainder of the night listening to the
growth of her half-starved heart. Oh, but there was a warmth there
now... .! Springtime and the moon in flood. What new leaves are
these which the trees put forth? Bird, singing at the peep of morn,
where gottest thou thy song? Be still, be still, thou stranger,
fluttering a wing at my breast... .
At the end of a month the gods moved, and when the gods move
they trample mortals in the dust.
The lodgers employer left Dublin for London, taking
his clerk with him.
Good-bye, said he.
Good-bye, she replied, and a pleasant journey
And she took the card with Apartments to Let written
upon it and placed it carefully in the window, and then, folding
her mittened hands, she sat down to await the coming of another
lodger, and as she sat she wept bitterly.