He had sent the manuscript of his novel to a publisher who had not yet expressed any eagerness to accept it, and he had made a half-hearted effort to write a play for the Creams, but had not been very successful with it, chiefly because he felt contempt for The Girl Gets Left and had little liking for Mrs. Cream. She came to the sitting-room one morning when Hinde was away and her husband was interviewing his agent, and went straight to John, nibbling a pen at the writing desk, and put her arms about his neck.
"Don't do that," he said, disengaging her arms from about him.
"I love you," she replied very intensely.
"I daresay, but I'm not in love with you, Mrs. Cream, and I never will be. I don't like you. I like your wee man, but I don't like you. I think you're an awful humbug of a woman!..."
Mrs. Cream stood still as if she had been suddenly paralysed.
"You don't like me!..." she said at last, utterly incredulous.
"No, I don't."
She raised her hands, and for a few moments he imagined that she was about to strike him. Then she dropped them to her side again and laughed.
"I don't know whether to hug you or slap you," she said. "You impudent brat!"
"I wouldn't advise you to do either the one or the other," he answered.
She came nearer to him, and laid her hand on his sleeve.
"You're very cold and hard," she said, and then, in a softer voice, she added his name, "John!"
"What's cold about me? Or hard?" he asked.
"Everything. You must know that I feel more for you than for my husband!..."
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself for saying such a thing, Mrs. Cream. I want you to understand that I'm not that sort. I come from Ballyards, and we don't do things like that there. Forby, I'm not in love with you. I'm in love with somebody else ... a nice girl, not a married woman ... and I've no time to think of anybody else but her. I'm very busy the day, Mrs. Cream!..."
"Is she an Irish girl?"
"I don't know what nationality she is. I've not managed to get speaking to her yet. It'll be an advantage if she is Irish, but I'll overlook it if she isn't. I'm terrible busy, Mrs. Cream!"
She stood before him in an indecisive attitude.... "You're really a fool," she said, turning away. "I thought you were clever, but you're simply thick-headed!..."
"Because I won't start making love to you, I suppose?"
"Oh, no, Mr. MacDermott. You're thick apart from that. You're so thick that you'll never know how thick you are. I can't think why I wasted a minute's thought on you!..."
John sat down at his desk again. "Sticks an' stones'll break my bones, but names'll never hurt me," he quoted at her. "When you're dead and in your grave, you'll suffer for what you called me!"
She came behind him and put her arms tightly round his neck and forced his head back so that she could conveniently kiss him.
"There!" she exclaimed, hurrying from the room, "I've kissed you anyhow!"
He leaped up and ran to the top of the stairs and leant over the banisters.
"If you do that again," he shouted at her, "I'll give you in charge!"
"Bogie-bogie!" she mocked.
Soon after that time, the Creams had gone on tour again, and John, with a vague promise to Mr. Cream that he would try and do a play for him, let Mrs. Cream slip out of his mind altogether. She had not attempted to make love to him again, and her attitude towards him became more natural, almost, he thought, more friendly. She appeared to bear him no malice, and her friendliness caused him to shed some of his antagonism to her. When they bade goodbye to Hinde and John, she turned to her husband as they were leaving, and said, "I kissed him one morning, and do you know what he did?"
"No," her husband answered.
"He said he'd give me in charge if I tried to do it again," she exclaimed, laughing as she spoke.
"Goo' Lor'!" said Cream. "That's the first time that's ever been said to you, Dolly!" He turned to John. "You're a funny sort of a chap, you are! Fancy not letting Dolly kiss you. Goo' Lor'!"
He had tried hard to see Eleanor Moore again, but without success. Every day for a fortnight he went to lunch in the tea-shop where he had first seen her, and in the evening he would hang about the entrance to the offices where she was employed; but he did not see her either there or in the tea-shop, and when a fortnight of disappointment had gone by, he concluded that he would never see her again. He imagined that she was ill, that she had left London, that she had obtained work elsewhere, that he had frightened her ... for he remembered her startled look when she hurried from him into the Tube lift ... and finally and crushingly that she had married someone else. In the mood of bitterness that followed this devastating thought, he planned a tragedy, and in the evenings, when Hinde was engaged for his paper, he worked at it. But the bitterness which he put into it failed to relieve him of any of the bitterness that was in his own mind. He felt doubly betrayed by Eleanor Moore because he had had so little encouragement from her. It hurt him to think that he had only succeeded in alarming her. Maggie Carmichael had responded instantly when he spoke to her and had accepted his embraces and his kisses as amiably as she had accepted his chocolates he had bought for her; but this girl with the tender blue eyes that changed their expression so frequently, had made no response to his offer of affection, had run away from it. If only she had listened to him! He was certain that he could have persuaded her to "go out" with him. He had only to tell her that he loved her, and she would realise that a man who could fall in love with her so immediately as he had done must be acceptable!... The affair with Maggie Carmichael had considerably dashed his belief in romantic love, but he told himself now that it would be ridiculous to condemn his Uncle Matthew's ideals because one girl had fallen short of them. If Maggie Carmichael had behaved badly, that was not a sign that Eleanor Moore would also behave badly. Besides, Eleanor was different from Maggie. There was no comparison between the two girls. After all, he had not really cared for Maggie: he had only fancied that he cared for her. But there was no fancying or imagination about his love for Eleanor, and if he had the good fortune to meet her again, he would not let anything prevent him from telling her plump and plain that he wanted to marry her. Whenever he left the house, he looked about, no matter where he went, in the hope that he might see her.
Hinde urged him to do journalism and advised him to make a study of the London newspapers so that he might discover which of them he could most happily work for. "You could do a few articles, perhaps, and then it wouldn't matter whether you agreed with the paper or not, but I'd advise you to try and get a job on one paper for a while. You'll learn a lot from journalism if you don't stay at it too long. It'll be a good while yet before you can make a living at writing books, and you'll want something to keep you going until you can. Journalism's as good as anything, and in some ways, it's a lot better than most things, and let me tell you, Mac, anybody can make a decent living out of newspapers if he only takes the trouble to earn it. Half the fellows in Fleet Street treat journalism as if it were a religious vocation, and they lie about in pubs all day waiting for the Holy Ghost to come down and inspire them with a scoop!"
John studied the London newspapers, as Hinde advised him, but he did not feel drawn towards them. He considered that the morning papers were very inferior to the Northern Whig, and he was certain that the North Down Herald was far more interesting than the Times. The London evening papers, he said to Hinde, gave less value for a half-penny than the Belfast Evening Telegraph, and he complained that there was nothing to read in them.
"You'll have to start a paper yourself, Mac," said Hinde. "All the best papers were started by men who couldn't find anything to read in other papers. It would be a grand notion now to set up a paper for Ulstermen who can't find anything in London that's fit to read. By the Hokey O, that would be a grand notion. We could call the paper To Hell With the Pope or No Surrender!..."
"Ah, quit your codding," John interrupted. "You know rightly what's wrong with these London papers. They're not telling the truth!"
"And do you think the Whig and the Telegraph are?" Hinde demanded.
"Well, it's what we call the truth anyway," John stoutly retorted.
Hinde slapped him on the back. "That's right," he said. "Ulster against the whole civilised world!"
"If I was to take a job on one of these papers," John continued, "I'd insist on telling the truth to the people!"
"You would, would you? And do you know what 'ud happen to you? The people 'ud cut your head off at the end of a fortnight."
"I wouldn't let them."
Hinde sat in silence for a few minutes. Then he leant forward and tapped John on the shoulder, "The editor of the Daily Sensation is a Tyrone man," he said. "He comes from Cookstown!..."
"I never was in it," John murmured.
"Mebbe not, but it exists all the same. Go up the morrow evening to his office and tell him you want a job on his paper so's you can start telling everybody the truth. And see what happens to you."
John answered angrily. "You think you're having me on," he said, "but you're queerly mistaken. I will go, and we'll see what happens!"
"That's what I'm bidding you do," Hinde continued. "And listen! There's a couple I know, called Haverstock, living out at Hampstead. They have discussions every month at their house on some subject or other, and there's to be one next Wednesday. Will you come with me if I go to it?"
John nodded his head.
"Good! The Haverstocks'll be glad to welcome you as you're a friend of mine, but it's not them I'm wanting you to see. It's the crowd they get round them. All the cranks and oddities and solemn mugs of London seem to go to that house one time or another, and I'd just like you to have a look at some of them. The minute they find out you're Irish, they'll plaster you with praise. They'll expect you to talk like a clown, one minute, and weep bitter tears over England's tyranny the next. They're all English, most of them, and they'll tell you that England is the worst country in the world, and that Ireland would be the greatest if it weren't for the fact that some piffling Balkan State is greater. And they'll ram Truth down your throat till you're sick of it. You've only to bleat about Ireland's woes to them, and call yourself a member of a subject race, and they'll be all over you before you know where you are. There's only one other man has a better chance of shining in their society than an Irishman, and that's an Armenian."
"Well, that's great credit to them," John, replied. "I must say it makes me think well of the English!..."
"Don't do that. Never acknowledge to an Englishman that you think well of him. He'll think little of you if you do. Tell him he's a fool, that he's muddle-headed, that he's a tyrant, that he's a materialist and a compromiser and a hypocrite, and he'll pay you well for saying it. But if you tell the truth and say he's the decent fellow he is, he'll land you in the workhouse!..."
It had not been easy to interview the editor of the Daily Sensation. A deprecating commissionaire, eyeing him suspiciously, had cross-examined him in the entrance hall of the newspaper office, and then had compelled him to fill in a form with particulars of himself ... his name and his address ... and of his business. "I suppose," John said sarcastically to the commissionaire, "you don't want me to swear an affidavit about it?"
The commissionaire regarded him contemptuously, but did not reply to the sarcasm.
After a lengthy wait and much whistling and talking through rubber speaking-tubes, John was conducted to a lift, given into the charge of a small boy in uniform who treated him as a nuisance, and taken to the office of the editor. Here he had to wait in the society of the editor's secretary for another lengthy period. He had almost resolved to come away from the office without seeing the editor, when a bell rang and the secretary rising from her desk, bade him to follow her. He was led into an inner room where he saw a man seated at a large desk. The editor glared at him for a moment or two as if he were accusing him of an attempt to commit a fraud. Then he said "Sit down" and began to speak on the telephone. John glanced interestedly about him. There was a portrait of Napoleon ... The Last Phase ... on one wall, and, on the wall opposite to it, a portrait of the proprietor of the Daily Sensation in what might fairly be described as the first phase. On the editor's desk was a framed card bearing the legend: SAY IT QUICK....
The telephonic conversation ended, and Mr. Clotworthy ... the editor ... put down the receiver and turned to John, frowning heavily at him. "Well?" he said so shortly that the word was almost unintelligible. "I can give you two minutes," he added, pulling out his watch and placing it on the desk.
"That'll be enough," John, replied. "I want a job on this paper!"
"Everybody wants a job on this paper. The people who are most anxious to get on our staff are the people who are never tired of running us down!..."
"I daresay," said John.
"Ever done any newspaper work before?" the editor demanded.
"Then what qualifications have you for the work?..."
"I've written a novel!..."
"That's not a qualification!" Mr. Clotworthy exclaimed.
"But it's not been published yet," John replied.
"Oh, well!... Anything else?"
"I've written several articles which have not been printed, but they're as good as the stuff that's printed in any paper in London.."
"And I come from Ulster where all the good men come from," John concluded.
"I've seen some poor specimens from Ulster," Mr. Clotworthy said.
"Mebbe you have, but I'm not one of them."
The editor remained silent for a few moments. He tapped on his desk with an ivory paper-knife and glanced quickly now and then at John.
"What part of Ulster do you come from?" he demanded.
"I've heard of it," Mr. Clotworthy continued. "It's not much of a place, is it?"
John flared up angrily. "It's better than Cookstown any day," he said.
"Who told you I came from Cookstown?"
"Never mind who told me. If you don't want to give me a job on your paper, you needn't. There's plenty of other papers in this town!..."
"That temper of yours'll get you into serious bother one of these days, young fellow," said Mr. Clotworthy. "I'm willing to give you work on the paper if you're fit to do it, but don't run away with the notion that you've only to walk in here and say you're an Ulsterman, and you'll immediately get a position. What sort of work do you want to do? You know our paper, I suppose? Well, how would you improve it?"
John opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say a word, the editor stopped him.
"Don't," he exclaimed, "say it doesn't need improvement. A lot of third-rate fellows have tried that tack with me, as if they'd flatter me into giving them a job. The fools never seemed to realise that when they said the paper didn't need improvement they were giving the best reason that could be given why they shouldn't be employed on it. If you weren't a plain-spoken and direct young fellow I wouldn't give you that warning. Go on!"
"In my opinion," John replied, "what's wrong with your paper is that it doesn't tell the truth. It tells lies to its readers. My idea is to tell them the truth instead!"
Mr. Clotworthy laughed at him. "You won't do it on this paper," he said.
"Because it can't be done. There's no such thing as truth. There never was, and there never will be such a thing as truth. There's only point-of-view!..."
"Well, I've got my point-of-view," John interrupted.
"Yes, but on this paper we express the point-of-view of the man that owns it. That's him there!" He pointed to the companion picture to the portrait of Napoleon. "If you imagine that we spend hundreds of thousands of pounds every year to express your point-of-view, you're making a big mistake, young fellow my lad. What you want is a soap-box in Hyde Park. You can express your own point-of-view there if you can get anybody to listen to you. Or you can start a paper of your own. But this paper is the soap-box of that chap, and his is the only point-of-view that'll be expressed in it. Do you understand me?"
"I do," said John "All the same, I believe in telling the people the truth!"
The editor touched the bell on his desk. "Are you quite sure," said he, "that you know what the truth is?"
"Of course I'm sure." John began, but before he could finish his sentence, the door of the editor's room was opened by the lady-secretary.
"Good-morning, Mr. MacDermott!" said the editor, reaching for the telephone receiver.
"But I haven't finished yet," John protested.
"I have." He tapped the handle of the telephone.
"You can come and see me again when you've learned sense," he added, after he had given an instruction to the telephone operator. "Good morning!"
"Ah, but wait a minute!..."
"We've no use for John the Baptists here. Good morning!"
"All the same!..."
The editor impatiently waved him aside.
"This way, please!" the lady secretary commanded.
John glared at her, half in the mood to ask her what she meant by interrupting him and half in the mood to tell her that it little became a woman to intrude herself into the conversation of men, but the moods did not become complete, and, sulkily calling "Good morning!" to Mr. Clotworthy, he left the office.
"One of these days," he said to the lady secretary when they were in the outer office, "I'll be your boss. And his, too. And I'll sack the pair of you!"
"You'll find the lift at the end of the passage," she replied.
Hinde mocked him for his failure to make the editor of the Daily Sensation accept his view of the universe.
"That man sized you up the minute he clapped his eyes on you," he said. "He's seen hundreds of young fellows like you. We've all seen them. They come down from Oxford and Cambridge with their heads stuffed with ideas pinched from Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, and they try to stampede old Clotworthy. 'By God, I'm a superman!' is their cry, and they say that night and morning and before and after every meal until even they get sick of listening to it. Then they say 'Oh, damn!' and go into the Civil Service, and in three years' time an earthquake wouldn't rouse them. All you youngsters want to go about telling the truth, especially when it's disagreeable, but there isn't one in a million of you is fit to be let loose with the truth, and there isn't one in ten million of men or women wants to be bothered by the truth. Lord alive, Mac, can't you young fellows leave us a few decent lies to comfort ourselves with?..."
"You'll get no lies from me," John replied.
"I can see very well you're going to be a nice cheerful chum to have in the house," Hinde said. "However, I'll bear it. The Haverstocks' 'At Home' is to-night. I don't suppose you have a dress suit?"
"No, I haven't!"
"It doesn't matter. Half the people who go to the Haverstocks don't wear evening dress on principle. That's their way of showing their contempt for conventionality. I suppose you'll come with me?" John nodded his head. "Good! We'll start off immediately after we've had our dinner. You'll get a good dose of Truth to-night, my son. There was a couple went there once ... the rummest couple I ever saw in my life. They thought they must do something for Progress and Advanced Thought, so they pretended they weren't married, but were living in sin!..."
"Like the two downstairs?" said John.
"Aye, only they were legally married all right. You'll observe in time, Mac, that the people who make changes are never the advanced people who talk about them, but the ordinary, conventional people who have no theories about things, but just alter them when they become inconvenient. Butter wouldn't melt in the mouth of the man who is a devil of a fellow in print. This couple went to live at a Garden City and made an enormous impression on the Nut-eaters; and every Sunday evening crowds went to see them, living in sin. I went myself one night: it was terribly dull, and I thought if that's the best sin can do for a man, I'm going to join the Salvation Army. The woman took off her wedding-ring and hid it in the clock, and the man made a point of snorting every time he passed a parson. They had a grand time, as I tell you, until a terrible thing happened. A jealous nut-eater ... and I can tell you there's nothing on earth so fearful and vindictive as a jealous vegetarian ... discovered that these two were really married all the time, and he exposed them to their admirers. He produced a copy of their marriage-certificate at a public meeting which the man was addressing on the subject of Intolerable Bonds, and the meeting broke up in disorder. They had to leave the Garden City after that, and they're now hiding somewhere in the north of England and leading a life of shameful matrimony!..."
John giggled. "Are there really people like that?" he asked.
"Lots of them. You'll see some of them, mebbe, at the Haverstocks the night. I think there's to be some sort of a discussion, but I'm not sure. Mrs. Haverstock is a great woman for discussions, but I will say this for her, she doesn't humbug herself over them. She told me once that it was better to talk about adultery than to commit it!..."
John blushed frightfully. He felt the hot blood running all over his body. This casual way of speaking of things that were only acknowledged in the Ten Commandments had a very disturbing effect upon him. He hoped that Hinde would not observe his confusion, and he put his hand in front of his eyes so that he might conceal his red cheeks. If Hinde noticed that John was embarrassed, he did not make any comment about the matter.
"And I daresay it is," he went on. "As long as you're letting off steam, there's no danger of the engine bursting. I've often noticed that there's less misbehaviour in places where people are always chattering as if they had never conducted themselves with decency in their lives than there is in places where they never say a word about it. You'll notice that too, when you've learned to use your eyes better!..."
The Haverstocks lived in an old creeper-covered and slightly decrepit house in the Spaniards' Road. It was without a bathroom until the Haverstocks took possession of it, for it had been built in the days when the middle-classes had not yet contracted the habit of frequently washing their bodies. From the front windows of the house one saw across Hampstead Heath towards London, and from the back windows one saw across the Heath towards Harrow. The house, in spite of its slight decrepitude and the clumsiness of its construction—the stairs were obviously an afterthought of the architect—had that air of comfortable kindliness which is only to be seen in houses which have been occupied by several generations of human beings. Mr. Haverstock was vaguely known as a sociologist. He investigated the affairs of poor people, and was constantly engaged in inveigling labourers into filling large questionnaires with particulars of the wages they earned, the manner in which they spent those wages, the food they ate, the number of children they procreated, and other intimate and personal matters. He was anxious to discover exactly how much proteid was necessary to the maintenance of a labouring man in health and efficiency, and he conducted the most elaborate experiments with beans and bananas for that purpose. It was one of the most discouraging features of modern civilisation, he often said, that the spirit of research and disinterested enquiry was less prevalent among the labouring classes than was desirable. He could not induce a labouring man to live exclusively on beans and bananas for six months in order that he might compare his physical condition at the end of that period with his physical condition after a period spent in flesh-eating. He told sad stories of the reception that had been accorded to some of his assistants at the time that they were obtaining data from workmen on the question of the limitation of the family!...
He was a kindly, solemn man, with large, astonished eyes, and he wore a beard, less as a decoration than as a protest. The beard was really a serious nuisance to him, for he had dainty manners and he disliked to think of soup dribbling down it; but someone had convinced him that a man who wore a beard early in life was definitely bidding defiance to the conventions of the time, and so he sacrificed his sense of niceness to his desire to epater les bourgeois. He said that a beard was a sign of Virility!... Mrs. Haverstock and he were childless. Mrs. Haverstock, a quick-witted and merry-minded American, had married her husband in the days when she believed that a man who wrote books of sufficient dullness must be a distinguished and desirable man; and since she brought a considerable fortune to England with her, she enabled him to write more dull books than he could otherwise have had published. Much of her awe of her husband had disappeared in the course of time, but it had, fortunately, been replaced by deep affection: for his generosity and kindliness appealed to her increasingly as her respect for his learning and solemnity declined. She often said of him that he would do more for his friends than his friends would do for themselves ... and indeed many of them were willing to allow him to do anything and everything for them ... but so long as knight-errantry with an entirely sociological intent made him happy, she did not mind how he spent her money. He had many moments of dubiety about her fortune ... he frequently threatened to cross the Atlantic in order to discover whether the money was justly earned ... but he invariably comforted himself with the reflection that even if the money were ill-gained, he could at least put it to better use than anyone else; and so he refrained from crossing the Atlantic, not without a sensation of relief, for he was an unhappy sailor.
He loved discussions and arguments about Deep Things, and Mrs. Haverstock had invented her series of At Homes in order that her husband might get rid of some of his noble principles at them. She felt that if he could dissipate part of them in argument with other very high-minded men, life, between the At Homes, would be a little more human and livable for her. She secured a regular supply of attendants at these discussions by the simple method of supplying an excellent supper to those who came to them.
"I first met Haverstock," Hinde said to John as they walked along the Spaniards' Road, "during a strike at Canning Town. He was trying to persuade the police to remember that the strikers were men and brothers, and he was trying also to persuade the strikers that force was no argument and that they ought to use constitutional means of settling their disputes with their employers. And between the two, he was in danger of getting his eye knocked out, until I hauled him out of the crowd and shoved him into a cab and took him home. Mrs. Haverstock was so grateful to me that she's invited me to her house ever since ... but the people I meet there make me feel murderous. I like her, a sensible, sonsy woman, and I like him too, although his solemn, priggish airs make me tired, but I cannot bear the crowd they get round them: all the cranks and oddities and smug, self-sufficient, interfering people seem to get into their house, and they're all reforming something or uplifting something else or generally bleating against this country. Things done in England are always inferior to things done elsewhere. English cooking is inferior to French cooking: English organisation is inferior to German organisation. Whatever is done in England is wrongly done. The English are hypocrites, the English are sordid and materialistic, the English are everlastingly compromising, the English are this, that and the other that is unpleasant and objectionable!... I tell you, Mac, there's nobody makes me feel so sick as the Englishman who belittles England!"
"Well, we make little of the English, don't we?" John protested.
"I know we do, and perhaps it is natural that we should, but it's a poor, cheap thing at the best, and does very little credit to our intelligence. The English ideal of life is as good an ideal as there is in the world. I think it is far the finest ideal there is, chiefly because it does not make impossible demands on human beings. When everything that can be alleged against the English is alleged and admitted, it remains true that they love freedom far more constantly than other people, and that without them, freedom would have a very thin time in the world. You ask any liberty-loving American which country has more freedom, his country or this country, and he'll tell you very quickly, England! Englishmen don't argue about freedom: they just are free, and on the whole, they carry freedom with them. An American will argue about liberty even while he is clapping you into gaol for asserting your right to freedom!... Here's the house!"
They turned into the front garden of the Haverstocks' house as he spoke.
"In a way," he said, as they walked along the gravel path leading to the door, "the English Radical is the strongest testimony to the English ideal of freedom that you could have. He is so jealous of his country's good name that he is always ready to shout out if he is not satisfied with her behaviour. That's a good sign, really! Only they're so smug about it!..."
Most of the guests were already assembled when they entered the drawing-room where Mr. and Mrs. Haverstock bade them welcome. Hinde introduced John to them, mentioning that he had only lately arrived from Ireland. Mrs. Haverstock smiled and hoped he would often come to see them, and Mr. Haverstock looked pontifical and said, "Ah, yes. Poor Ireland! Poor Ireland! Tragic! Tragic!" He waved his hand in a vague fashion, and then turned to greet the representative of another distressed nation. John could hear him murmuring, "Ah, yes. Poor Georgia! Poor Georgia! Tragic! Tragic!" but was unable to hear any more because Mrs. Haverstock led him up to a lean, staring youth with goggle eyes who, she said, had promised to read several of his poems to the guests and to open a discussion on Marriage. The goggle-eyed poet informed John that Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Shelley and Browning were comic old gentlemen who entirely misunderstood the nature and function of poetry. He had founded a new school of poetry. It appeared from his account of this school that the important thing was not what was said in a poem, but what was left out of it. He illustrated his meaning by allowing John to read the manuscript of one of the poems he proposed to read that evening. It was entitled "Life," and it contained two lines!...
Big, black crows on bare, black branches, Cawing!...
"Where's the rest of it!" said John innocently.
The poet looted at him with such contempt that he felt certain he had committed an indiscretion. "Is that the whole of it?" he hurriedly asked.
"That fact that you ask such a question," said the poet, "shows that you have no knowledge of the completeness of life!..."
"Well, I only came here about a fortnight ago," John humbly replied ... but the poet had moved away and would not listen to him any longer. "I seem to have put my foot in it," John murmured to himself.
He made his way to Hinde's side, resolved that he would not budge from it for the rest of the evening. The people present frightened him, particularly after his experience with the poet, and he determined that he would keep himself as inconspicuous as possible. He felt that all these people were terribly clever and that his ignorance would be immediately apparent if he opened his mouth in their presence. He tried hard to realise the magnitude of "Life," but he could not convince himself that it was either an adequate description of existence or that it was a description of anything; and, in his innocence, he believed that he was mentally deficient. Hinde named some of the guests to him. This one was a novelist and that one had written a play ... and in the excitement of seeing and listening to men who had actually done things that he wished to do, John forgot some of his humiliation.
"I saw you talking to Palfrey," Hinde said to him.
"The poet chap?" John replied.
Hinde nodded his head. "What did you think of him?" he continued.
"He showed me one of his poems. I couldn't understand it, and when I said so, he walked away!"
Hinde laughed. "That's as good a description of him as you could invent," he said. "He always walks away when you can't understand what he's getting at. The reason why he does that is he's afraid someone'll discover he isn't getting at anything. He's just an impertinent person. He thinks he's being great when he's only being cheeky!"
John repeated the poem entitled "Life" to Hinde. "What do you think of that?" he asked.
"I don't think anything of it," Hinde replied.
John felt reassured. "I asked him where the rest of it was, and he nearly ate the face off me," he said. "I was afraid he'd think me a terrible gumph!..."
"If you let a humbug like that impose upon you, Mac, I'll never own you for my friend. Any intelligent office-boy could write poems like that all day long!"
There was a movement in the room, and the guests began to settle in their seats or on the floor, and after a short while, Mr. Haverstock, who acted as chairman of the meeting, took his place in front of a small table, and Mr. Palfrey sat down beside him. The poet, said the chairman, would honour them by reading some new poems to them, after which he would open a discussion on Marriage. They all knew that Marriage was an important matter, affecting the lives of men and women to a far greater extent, probably, than anything else in the world, and it was desirable therefore that they should discuss it frankly and frequently. Problems would remain insoluble so long as people remained silent about them. He could not help expressing his regret to those present at the extraordinary reluctance which the average person had to revealing experiences of matrimony. He had initiated an important enquiry into the question of marital relationships with a view to discovering exactly what it was that caused so many marriages to fail, and he had had to abandon the enquiry because very few people were willing to tell anything about their marriages to him. There was a great deal of foolish reticence in the world ... at this point Mr. Palfrey emphatically said, "Hear! Hear!"... and he trusted that those present that evening would cast away false modesty and would say quite openly what their experiences had been. He would not detain them any longer ... he was quite certain that they were all very anxious to hear Mr. Palfrey ... and so without any more ado he would call upon him to read his poems and then to discuss the great and important question of Marriage.
Mr. Palfrey read his poems in a curious sing-song fashion, beating time with his right hand as he did so. He seemed to be performing physical exercises rather than modulating his own accents, and on two occasions his gesture was longer than his poem. He read "Life" very slowly and very deliberately, saying the word "cawing" in a high-pitched tone, and prolonging it until his breath was exhausted. He recited a dozen of these poems, obtaining his greatest effect with, the last of them, which was entitled, "The Sea":
Immense, incalculable waste, The dribblings from a giant's beard....
"Isn't it wonderful?" said an ecstatic girl sitting next to John.
"No," he replied.
She looked at him interrogatively, and he added, very aggressively, "I think it's twaddle!"
"Oh, do you?" she exclaimed as if she could scarcely believe her ears.
"I do," said John.
He would have said more, but that Mr. Haverstock was on his feet proposing that they should now have supper and take the more important business of the evening afterwards, namely, the discussion of this great problem of Marriage. They had all been deeply moved by Mr. Palfrey's beautiful verses and would no doubt like an opportunity of discussing them in an informal manner....
Mrs. Haverstock led John to a girl who was sitting at the back of the room, and introduced him to her. Miss Bushe was the daughter of the editor of the Daily Groan, and Mrs. Haverstock desired that John would take her into supper.
"Mr. MacDermott is Irish—he has only just arrived from Ireland," Mrs. Haverstock said to Miss Bushe by way of explanation or possibly as a means of providing them with conversation.
"I've always wanted to go to Ireland," said Miss Bushe, taking his arm and allowing him to lead her to the dining-room.
"Well, why don't you go?" he asked.
All evening people had been telling him that they had always wanted to go to Ireland, but had somehow omitted to do so.
"Well, mother likes Bournemouth," Miss Bushe replied, "and so we always go there. She says that she knows there'll be a bathroom at Bournemouth, and plenty of hot water and she can't bear the thought of going to some place where hot water isn't laid on. I suppose I shall go to Ireland some day!"
"There's plenty of hot water in Ireland," said John.
Miss Bushe giggled. "You're so satirical," she said.
"Satirical?" he exclaimed.
"Yes. About the hot water in Ireland!"
He gazed blankly at her. "I don't understand you," he replied. "I meant just what I said. You can get hot water in Ireland as easily as you can in England. Some people have it laid on in pipes, and other people have to boil it on the fire; but you can get it all right!"
There was a look of disappointment on Miss Bushe's face. "I thought you were making a reference to politics," she said.
John stared at her. Then he turned away. "Will I get you something to eat?" he murmured as he did so. He had observed the other men gallantly waiting upon the ladies.
"Oh, thank you," she said. She glanced towards the table. "I wonder if that trifle has got anything intoxicating in it?" she added.
"I daresay," he answered. "Trifles usually have drink of some sort in them!"
"I couldn't take it if it has anything intoxicating in it," she burbled.
"Why not?" John demanded. "It'll do you no harm!"
"Oh, I couldn't. I simply couldn't if it has anything intoxicating in it. We're very strict about intoxicants. They do so much harm!"
John did not know what to do or say next. She still stared longingly at the trifle, and it was clear that she would greatly like to eat some of it.
"Well?" he said vaguely.
"I wonder," she replied, "whether you'd mind tasting it first, just to see whether it has anything intoxicating in it?"
John thought that this was a strange sort of young woman to take into supper, but he did as she bid him. He took a large portion of the trifle on to a plate and tasted it. She gazed at him in a very anxious manner.
"It has," he said, "and it's lovely!"
The light went out of her eyes. "Then I think I'll just have some blanc-mange," she said.
"There's nothing intoxicating in that," he replied, going to get it for her.
"Do you know," she murmured when he had returned and she was eating the blanc-mange, "I almost wish you had said there was nothing intoxicating in the trifle!..."
"That would have been a lie," John interrupted.
"Yes, but!... Oh, well, this blanc-mange is quite nice!"
John tempted, her. "Taste the trifle anyway," he said.
"Oh, no," she replied, shrinking back. "I couldn't. We're very strict!..."
After supper, Mr. Palfrey opened the discussion on Marriage. He declared that Marriage was the coward's refuge from Love. He said that Marriage had been invented by lawyers and parsons for the purpose of obtaining fees and authority. These unpleasant people, the lawyers and the parsons, had contrived to make Love an impropriety and had reduced Holy Passion to the status of a schedule to an act of parliament. Cupid had been furnished with a truncheon and a helmet and had been robbed of his wings in order that he might more suitably serve as a policeman. He demanded Free Love, and pleaded for the chaste promiscuity of the birds!... After he had said a great deal in the same strain, he sat down amid applause, and Mr. Haverstock invited discussion. He would like to say, however, that he strongly believed in regulation. In his opinion there was something beautiful in the sight of a bride and a bridegroom signing the parish register in the presence of their friends. The young couple, he said, asked for the approval and sanction of the community in their love-making. Love without Law was License, and he trusted that Mr. Palfrey was not inviting them to approve of Licentiousness....
Mr. Palfrey created an enormous sensation and some laughter by saying that that was precisely what he did invite them to do. All law was composed of hindrances and obstacles and forbiddings, and therefore he was entirely opposed to Law. This statement so nonplussed Mr. Haverstock that he abruptly sat down, and for a few moments the meeting was in a state of chaotic silence. Then a large man rose from the floor where he had been lying almost at full length and announced that in his opinion the world would cease to have any love in it at all if the present craze for vegetable diet increased to any great extent. How could a bean-feaster, he demanded, feel passion in his blood? Meat, he declared, excited the amorous instincts. All the great lovers of the world were extravagantly carnivorous, and all poetry, in the last resort, rested on a foundation of beef-steak puddings. What sort of lover would Romeo have been had he lived on a diet of lentils? Would Juliet have had the power to move the sympathies of generations of men and women if she had nourished her love on haricot beans?...
Immediately he sat down, a lean and bearded youth sprang to his feet and announced in vibrant tones that he had been a practising vegetarian from birth and could affirm from personal experience that a vegetable diet, so far from suppressing the passions, actually stimulated them; and he offered to prove from statistics that vegetarians, in proportion to their number, had been more frequently engaged in romantic philandering than carnivorous persons had. Look at Shelley!... He could assure those present that he was as amorous and passionate as any meat-eater in the room....
The discussion went to pieces after that, and became a wrangle about proteid and food values. There was an elderly lady who insisted on telling John all about the gastric juices!... Hinde rescued him on the plea that they had a long journey in front of them, and very gratefully John accepted the suggestion that they should set off at once in order to reach their lodgings at a reasonable hour. Mr. and Mrs. Haverstock conducted them to the door ... a chilly and contemptuous nod had been accorded to John by Mr. Palfrey ... and pressed them to come again soon. "Every Wednesday evening," said Mr. Haverstock, "we're at home, and we discuss ... everything!..."
They hurried along the Spaniards' Road towards the Tube Station, and as they did so, John told Hinde of his encounter with Miss Bushe over the trifle.
"That accounts for it," Hinde exclaimed aloud.
"Accounts for what?" John demanded.
"The Daily Groan. I've often wondered what was the matter with that paper, and now I know. They're always wondering whether there's anything intoxicating in the trifle!... I don't mind a boy talking in that wild way. A clever, intelligent lad ought to talk revolutionary stuff, but when a man reaches Palfrey's age and is still gabbling that silly-cleverness, then the man's an ass. There's no depth in him!..."
They sat in the sitting-room for a long while after they had returned to Brixton, and Hinde related some of his reminiscences to John.
"I'm one of the world's failures," he said. "I came to London to try and do great work, and I'm still a journalist. I can recognise a fine book when I see it, but I can't create one. I'm just a journalist, and a journalist isn't really a man. He has no life of his own ... he goes home on sufferance, and may be called up by his editor at any minute to go galloping off in search of a 'story.' We go everywhere and see nothing. We meet everybody and know nobody. A journalist is a man without beliefs and almost without hope. The damned go to Fleet Street when they die. It's an exciting life ... oh, yes, quite exciting, but it's horrible to see men merely as 'copy' and to think of the little secret, intimate things of life only as materials for a good 'story.' I wish I were a grocer!..."
"Why?" John demanded.
"Well, at least a grocer does not look upon human beings merely as consumers of sugar!"
"I could have been a grocer if I'd wanted to," John continued. "My mother wanted me to be a clergyman!"
"What put it into your head to turn scribbler?"
"I just wanted to write a book. I can't make you out, Hinde. One minute you're advising me to go on a paper, and the next minute you're telling me a journalist isn't a man!..."
"When you know more of us," Hinde interrupted, "you'll know that all journalists belittle journalism. It's the one consolation that's left to them. Unless you're prepared to associate only with journalists, Mac, you'd much better keep out of Fleet Street. Newspaper men always feel like fish out of water when they're in the company of other men. They must be near the newspaper atmosphere ... they can't breathe without the stink of ink in their nostrils!..."
"All the same I'll have a try at the life," said John.
But at the end of his first month in London, John had no more to his account than this, that he had begun but had not completed a music-hall sketch, that he had begun but had not made much progress with a tragedy, that he had tried to obtain employment on the staff of the Daily Sensation and had failed to do so, and, worst of all, that he had fallen in love with Eleanor Moore but could not find her anywhere. His novel supplied the one element of hope that lightened his thoughts on his month's work. He wished now that he had asked Hinde to read it before it had been sent to the publisher. Perhaps it would redeem the month from its dismal state.
THE FOURTH CHAPTER
It was Hinde who brought the good news to John. Mr. Clotworthy, the editor of the Daily Sensation, had met Hinde in Tudor Street that afternoon and when he had heard that John and Hinde were living together, he said, "Tell him I'll take him on the staff if he'll promise to keep the Truth well under control!" and had named the following morning for an appointment.
"It's a queer thing," said Hinde as he related the news to John, "that I'm advising you to take the job when I was telling you the other night that journalism's no work for a man; but that only shows what a journalist I am. No stability ... carried off my feet by any excitement. And mebbe the life'll disgust you and you'll go home again!..."
"With my tail between my legs?" John demanded. "No, I'll not do that. I'd be ashamed to go home and admit I hadn't done what I set out to do. What time does Mr. Clotworthy want me?"
Hinde told him.
"I'll write to my mother at once," said John, "and tell her he's sent for me. That'll impress her. Shell be greatly taken, with the notion that he sent for me instead of me running after him!..."
"The great fault in an Ulsterman," said Hinde, "is his silly pride that won't let him acknowledge his mistake when he's made one. You'll get into a lot of bother, John MacDermott, if you go about the world letting on you've done right when you've done wrong, and pretending a mistake is not a mistake!"
"I'll run the risk of that," John replied.
Mr. Clotworthy spoke very sharply to him. "You understand," he said, "that you're here to write what we want you to write, and not to write what you think. If you start any of your capering about Truth and Reforming the world, I'll fire you into the street the minute I catch you at it. You're here to interest people. That's all. You're not here to elevate their minds or teach them anything. You're here to keep up our sales and increase them if you can. D'you understand me?"
"I do," said John.
"I'll try the job for a while and see how I like it!"
Mr. Clotworthy sat back in his chair and rubbed his glasses with his handkerchief. "You've a great nerve," he said, smiling. "I don't know whether you talk like that because you're sure of yourself or just stupid!"
"I always knew my own mind," John replied.
Mr. Clotworthy turned him over to Mr. Tarleton, the news-editor, who was instructed to give him hints on his work and introduce him to other members of the staff.
For two days John did very little in the office, beyond finding his way about, but on the third day of his employment, Tarleton suddenly called him into his room and told him that the musical critic had telephoned to say he was unwell and would not be able to attend a concert at the Albert Hall that evening.
"You'll have to go instead," said Tarleton.
"But I don't know anything about music," John protested.
"What's that got to do with it?"
"Well, I thought one was supposed to know something about music before you wrote a criticism of it!"
"Look here, young fellow," said Tarleton. "Let me give you a piece of advice. Never admit that there's anything in this world that you don't know. A Daily Sensation man knows everything! ..."
"But I have no ear for music. I hardly know a minim from a semi-quaver!..."
"Well, that doesn't matter. Get a programme. Mark on it the songs and pieces that get the most applause. Those are the best things. See? Anybody can criticise music when he knows a tip or two like that. If the singer is a celebrated person, like Melba or Tetrazzini, you say she was in her usual brilliant form. If the singer isn't celebrated, just say that she shows promise of development!..."
"But supposing I don't like her?"
"Then say nothing about her. If we can't praise people on this paper, we ignore them. Get your stuff in before eleven, will you? Here's the ticket!"
Tarleton thrust the card into John's hand and, a little dazed and a little excited, John went out of the room. This was his first important job. Words that he had written would appear in print in the morning, and hundreds of thousands of people would read them. The Daily Sensation had an enormous circulation ... a million people bought it every morning, so Tarleton said, and that meant, he explained, that about three or four million people read it. Each copy of a paper was probably seen by several persons. The thought that some judgment of his would be read by a million men and women in the morning caused John to feel tremendously responsible. He must be careful to give his praise judiciously. All of the persons present at the concert that night, but more especially the singers and instrumentalists, would turn first of all to his notice. There might be a great political crisis or a sensational murder reported in the morning's news, but these people would turn first to his notice to see what he had said about the music. And it would not do to let them have a wrong impression about the concert. Tarleton had told him not to dispraise anything ... "it'll be cut out if you do" ... but at all events he would take care that his praise was justly given. He would send copies of the papers, marked with blue pencil, to his mother and Mr. McCaughan and Mr. Cairnduff. He could imagine the talk there would be in Ballyards about his criticism of the concert. The minister and the schoolmaster would be greatly impressed when they realised that the paper with the largest circulation in the world had asked him to say what he thought of Madame Tetrazzini. Mr. McCaughan had never heard anything greater than a cantata sung by the church choir in the church room, and he had been deeply impressed by the statements made about it by a reporter from the North Down Herald who declared that the rendering of the sacred work reflected great credit on all concerned in it, but particularly on the Reverend Mr. McCaughan to whose sterling instruction in the principles of true religion, the young people engaged in singing the cantata clearly owed the sincerity and fervour with which they sang their parts. If he were so greatly impressed by a report in the North Down Herald, would he not be overwhelmed by the fact that one of his congregation had been chosen to pronounce judgment on the greatest singer in the world in the greatest newspaper in the world ... for John was now satisfied that the Daily Sensation was enormously more important than any other paper that was published. He went to a tea-shop in Fleet Street where he knew he could hope to meet Hinde, and found him sitting in a corner with a friend who, soon after John's arrival, went away.
"You needn't go to the concert if you're not desperately keen on it," Hinde said when John had told him of his job. "You can write your notice now!..."
"Write it now! ... But I haven't been to the concert!"
"I wouldn't give much for the man who couldn't write a criticism of a concert without going to it," Hinde contemptuously replied. "Say that Tetrazzini's wonderful voice enthralled the audience and that there were scenes of unparalleled enthusiasm as the diva graciously responded to the clamorous demands for encores. Add a few words about the man who played her accompaniments and the number of floral tributes she received, and there you are. That's all that's necessary!"
"I couldn't do it," said John. It wouldn't be honest!"
"Don't be a prig," Hinde exclaimed.
"Prig! Is it being a prig to do your work fairly?"
"No, but it's being a prig to treat a thing as important that isn't important at all. I wanted you to come to a music-hall with me to-night!"
"I'm sorry," John replied stiffly, "I'd like to go with you, but I couldn't think of doing such a thing as you suggest to me!"
"I wonder how long you'll feel like that, Mac?" Hinde laughed.
"All my life, I hope!"
"Well, have it your own way, then. But you're wasting your time!"
"And another thing," John continued, "I want to hear the woman singing. I've never heard anybody great at the music yet!"
He entered the great circular hall, and sat, very solemnly, in his seat on the ground floor. He felt nervous and uneasy and certain that he would not be able to write adequately of the concert. He tried to think of suitable words to great music, but it seemed to him that he could not think at all. He glanced about the Hall, hoping that perhaps he would find inspiration in the ceiling, but there was no inspiration there. He could see wires stretched across the roof from side to side, and there were great pieces of canvas radiating from the central cluster of lights in the dome. He wondered why the wires were there. Blondin, he remembered, had walked across a wire, as thin-looking as those, which was stretched high up in the roof of the Exhibition at the Old Linen Hall in Belfast; but he could scarcely believe that these wires were intended for tight-rope performances. He turned to a man at his side. "Would you mind telling me what those things are for?" he asked, pointing to them.
"To break the echoes," the man replied, entering into an involved account of acoustics. "It's all humbug really," he added. "They don't break the echoes at all, but we all imagine that they do, and so we're quite happy!"
The warm, comfortable look of the red-curtained boxes in the softened electric light pleased him, and he liked the effect of the tiers rising up to the high roof, and the great spread of floor, and the gigantic magnificence of the organ.
"How many people does this place hold?" he demanded of his neighbour.
"About ten thousand," his neighbour answered, glancing at him quizzically. "Is this the first time you've been here?"
"Yes. I'm new to London. They must take a great deal of money in a night at a place like this. An immense amount!"
"They do. It's part of the Albert Memorial, this hall. The other part is in the Park across the road. Have you seen it?"
"No," said John. "Is it any good?"
"Well," said the stranger, "we've tried to overlook it ... but unfortunately it's too big. There are some excellent bits in it, but the whole effect!... Poor dear Queen Victoria ... she was a little woman, and so, of course, she believed in magnitude. She liked Bigness. She's out of fashion, nowadays ... people titter behind their hands when they speak of her ... and there's a tendency to regard her as a somewhat foolish and sentimental old woman ... but really, she was a very capable old girl in her narrow way, and there was nothing soft about her. She was as hard as nails ... almost a cruel woman ... she'd compel her maids-of-honour to stand in her presence until the poor girls fainted with fatigue.... I'm sure she'd have made Queen Elizabeth feel uncomfortable in some ways. This hall is a memorial to her husband."
"Yes," said John. "There's a Memorial in Belfast to him. What did he do?"
"He was Queen Victoria's husband!"
"I suppose," said John, "it wasn't much fun being her man?"
"Fun!" exclaimed the stranger. "Well, of course, it depends on what you call fun!"
There was a bustling sound from the platform and some applause, and then a dark-looking man emerged from the sloping gangway underneath the organ and sat down at the piano. He played Mascagni's Pavana delle Maschere, and while he played it, John took some writing paper from his pocket and prepared to note down his opinions of the evening's entertainment.
"Hilloa," said the stranger in a whisper, "are you a critic?"
John, feeling extraordinarily important, nodded his head and continued to listen to the music. It sounded quite pleasant, but it conveyed nothing to him. All he could think of was the contortions of the pianist as he played his piece, and he wished that all pianists could be concealed behind screens so that their grimaces and gyrations should not be seen. He ought to say something about the man, but he had no idea of what was fitting!... The solo ended and was followed by another one, and then the pianist stood up to acknowledge the applause.
"What do you think of it?" the stranger respectfully asked, and John, aware of the respect in his voice and conscious that he did not know what to think of it, murmured, "Um-m-m! Not bad!"
"Coldish, I think," the stranger continued. "Technically skilful, but hardly any feeling!"
John considered for a moment or two, and then answered very judicially. "Yes! Yes, I think that's a fair description of him!"
He waited until the stranger was engaged in reading the programme, and then he jotted down on his writing-paper, "Mr. Pietro Mancinelli played Mascagni's Pavana delle Maschere with great technical ability, but with hardly any emotional quality!"
"I'm very glad I sat down beside this chap," he murmured to himself, as the accompanist played the opening bars of Handel's Droop not, young lover, and then he settled down to listen to the man who sang it. He was happier here, for singing was more easy to judge than instrumental music. Either a song was well sung, he told himself, or it was not well sung, and the gentleman who was singing Droop not, young lover certainly had a voice that sounded well in that great hall.... He wrote in his report that "Mr. Albert Luton's magnificent voice was heard to great advantage in Handel's charming aria..." and was exceedingly glad that he had lately read some musical notices in one of the newspapers, and could remember some of the phrases that had been used in them.
"Now for a treat," said the stranger, as a burst of hearty applause opened out from the platform and went all round the hall.
John glanced towards the passage leading to the artist's room and saw a smiling, plump lady, with very bright, dark eyes and dark hair come on to the platform. She was clad in white that made her Italian looks more pronounced.
"Tetrazzini!" the stranger whispered in John's ear.
The applause died down, and the singer stood rigidly in front of the platform while the pianist played the opening of Verdi's Caro nome. Then her voice sounded very clear and bell-like in the deep silence of the great hall. ... She sang Solveig's Song by Greig and A Pastoral by Veracini, and then the satiated audience allowed her to retire from the platform.
John sat back in his seat in a dazed fashion. All round him were applauding men and women ... and he could not applaud. There was a buzz of admiring talk, and he could hear the words "wonderful" and "magnificent" ... and he had not been moved at all. The great voice had not caused him to feel any thrill or emotion whatever. It was wonderful, indeed, but that was all that it was. There was no generous glow in her music; she did not cause him to feel any emotion other than that of astonishment at the perfection of her vocal organs. He had imagined that the great singer's voice would compel him to jump out of his seat and wave his hands wildly and shout and cheer ... but instead he had sat still and wondered at the marvellous way in which her throat functioned.
"Well?" said his neighbour, in the tone of one who would say that only words of an extremely adulatory character were conceivable after such a performance.
"She's a very remarkable woman," John replied.
"Remarkable!" his neighbour indignantly exclaimed. "She's a miracle!..."
John disregarded his ecstatics. "I kept on thinking of a clever machine," he said. "The wheels went round without a hitch. She's a grand invention, that woman! She can sing her pieces without thinking about them. She hardly knows the notes are coming out of her mouth ... she doesn't know where they come from or why they come at all, and I don't suppose it matters to her where they go. There's a grand machine in our place that prints the papers. You put a big roll of white paper on to it, and you turn a wee handle, and the machine sends the roll spinning round and round until it's done, and a lot of folded papers, nicely printed, come tumbling out in counted batches, all ready to be taken away and sold in the shops and streets. It's a wonderful machine ... but it can't read its own printing and it doesn't know what's in the papers after it's done with them. That's what she's like; a wonderful machine!..."
"My dear sir," the stranger exclaimed, but John prevented him from saying any more.
"That's my opinion anyway," he went on, "and I can only think the things I think. I can't think what other people think!"
"A limitation," said the stranger. "A distinct limitation!"
"Mebbe it is, but I don't see what that matters!"
After Tetrazzini had left the platform and the applause of her admirers had died away, there was a violin solo, and then came an interval of fifteen minutes. John determined to write part of his notice in the vestibule of the Hall, and he got up from his seat to do so. He mounted the stairs that led to the first tier of boxes, and as he approached them, he saw Eleanor Moore sitting in the box nearest the exit through which he was about to pass. There were other people in the box ... girls, he thought ... but he hardly saw them. As he came nearer to her, she raised her eyes from her programme and looked straight at him, and for a few moments neither of them averted their eyes. Then she looked away, and he passed through the curtained exit.
He had found her again! She had not flown away from London ... she was not ill, as he had so alarmingly imagined, nor, as he had horribly imagined for one dreadful moment, was she dead. She lived ... she was well ... she was here in this very hall, separated from him only by a thin partition of wood ... and she had looked at him without fear in her eyes. He mounted the short flight of stairs leading to the corridor on to which the doors of the boxes opened, and read the name written on the card underneath the number painted on the door of the box in which Eleanor was sitting. "The Viscountess Walbrook." The name puzzled him, and he turned to an attendant, a lugubrious man in a dingy frock-coat looking extraordinarily like a dejected image of Albert the Good, and asked for an explanation.
"It means that she owns that box," he explained. "Lots of the seats and boxes 'ere belong to private people. That one belongs to the Viscountess Walbrook. She in'erited it from 'er father. Very kind-'earted woman ... always gives 'er box to orphans and widders and people like that!"
"Then the ladies in the box now are not friends of hers?" John asked, meaning by "friends," relatives.
"I shouldn't think so," the attendant answered. "I noticed the party comin' in. They come in a 'ired carriage. No, they're orphans or widders or somethin'. There's always a lot of orphans an' widders about this 'All, partic'lar on a Sunday afternoon when they're doin' 'Andel's Messiar. And the Elijiar, too! You know! Mendelssohn's bit! Reg'lar fascination for orphans an' widders that 'as. I call it depressin' meself, but some 'ow it seems to fit in with orphans an' widders!..."
John thanked the attendant and moved down the corridor. He must not lose sight of Eleanor now that he had found her again. If only he could discover where she lived ... He stood where he could see the door of the Viscountess Walbrook's box, and brooded over the chances of discovering Eleanor's home. He must not lose sight of her ... that was imperative. The luckiest thing in the world had brought him into her company again, and he might never have such an opportunity again if he let this one slip away from him. He could look round every now and then from his seat to assure himself that she was still in the box, but supposing she were to go away in the interval between his assuring glances? Even if he were to see her leaving the box, he would have some difficulty in getting to her in time to keep her in sight!... No, no, he must not run the risk of losing her again. He must stay in some place from which he could immediately see her leaving the box and from which he could easily follow her without ever missing her. He looked about him, and felt inclined to sit down in the corridor and wait there until Eleanor emerged from the Viscountess Walbrook's private property! But the corridor was a draughty and conspicuous and depressing place in which to loiter, and he felt that the cheerless attendant might suspect him of some felonious or other criminal intent if he were to stay there during the whole of the second part of the programme. He peered through the curtains which separated the corridor from the auditorium and saw an empty seat on the opposite side of the gangway to that on which Lady Walbrook's box was situated; and when the interval was ended and the violinist began to play the first movement of Beethoven's Romance in G, he slipped into the seat, and sat so that he could see every movement that Eleanor made. How very beautiful she looked! She seemed more beautiful to him in her blue evening dress even than she had seemed on the first day that he saw her. Until he had come to London, he had never seen a woman in evening dress, except in photographs and in illustrated papers, and when, for the first time, he had seen real women in real evening clothes in a theatre, the sight of their bare white shoulders and bosoms had appeared to him both beautiful and improper. Eleanor's shoulders were bare, and as he looked at her, he could see her bosom very gently rising and falling with her breathing, but he felt no confusion in seeing her in that bare state. She was beautiful ... he could think of nothing else but her beauty. Her shapely head was perfectly poised upon her strong neck, and he was aware instantly of the graceful line of her shoulders. If she had not been in those pretty evening clothes, he would not have known that her neck and shoulders were so beautiful. Her soft, dark hair, loosely dressed over her ears, glowed with loveliness, and the narrow golden band that bound it was no brighter than her eyes. How lovely she is, he said to himself, indifferent to the applause that was offered to the violinist, and then he fell to admiring the way in which she clapped her gloved hands together, slowly but firmly. Her applause was not languid applause, neither was it without discrimination. She seemed to John to be telling the violinist that he had played well, but might have played better....
"She's the great wee girl," he said to himself.
He saw now that she shared the box with two other girls, but he had no further interest in them than that they were in her company and that they were not men. He wished that her hands were not gloved so that he might see whether she wore rings on her fingers, and if so, on which fingers they were worn. Supposing she were engaged to some other man ... or worse still, supposing she were married! It was possible for her to have been married since he last saw her!... An agony of doubt and despair came upon him as he brooded over the thought of her possible marriage, and although he was aware that Tetrazzini was singing Mazzone's Sogni e Canti and Benedict's Carnevale di Venezia, the music was no more than a noise in the air to him. What should he do if Eleanor were married? Bad enough if she were engaged, but married!... An engagement was not an irrefragable affair, and he could woo her so ardently that his rival would swiftly vanish from her thoughts ... but a marriage!... He knew that marriages were not so irrefragable as they might be, and that a very desperate couple might go to the length of running away together even though one of them were married to someone else ... but he did not like the thought of running away with a married woman. Eleanor might not wish to run away with him ... his agony of mind was such that he stooped to that humility of imagination ... she might very dearly love her husband!...
Lord alive, why couldn't that Italian woman stop singing! Why was not this silly music ended so that he could settle his doubts about Eleanor's freedom to marry him! Why could the audience not be content with two songs from the woman instead of demanding encores from her!...
And then the concert ended after what seemed an interminable time, and the audience began to emerge from the Hall. John went quickly into the corridor and waited until the door of the Viscountess Walbrook's box opened and Eleanor, followed by her friends, came out of it. She had a long coat with a furry collar over her pretty blue frock, and as she gathered her skirts about her, he could see that she was wearing blue satin shoes and blue silk stockings. One hand firmly grasped her skirts and the other hand held the furry collar in front of her mouth. She passed so close to him that he could have touched her glowing cheeks with his hands, but she did not see him. The crush of people made progress slow and difficult, but he was glad of this for it enabled him to be near to her much longer than he could otherwise have hoped to be. As she passed him, he had fallen in behind her, and now he could touch her very gently without her being aware that his touch was any more than the unavoidable contact of people in the crowd. There was a faint smell of violets about her clothes, and he snuffed up the delicate odour eagerly. Mrs. Cream had smelt strongly of perfume, an overpowering hothouse-smelling perfume that had made him feel as if he were stifling, but this delicate odour pleased him. How natural, how very obvious even, that Eleanor should use the scent of violets!
When they reached the front of the Hall, Eleanor turned to her friends and made some remark about a carriage. He supposed they had hired a vehicle to bring them to the Hall and take them home again, and when he discovered that his supposition was right, a sense of disappointment filled him. He had hoped that they would walk home or that they would get on to a 'bus!...
He watched them climb into the shabby hired brougham, and when the door was closed upon them and the driver had whipped up his horse, he followed it into the Kensington Road. The traffic was so congested that the horse had to move at a walking pace, and John was easily able to keep close to it; but in a few moments, he told himself, the driver would get clear of the congestion and then the horse would begin to trot; and while the thought passed through his mind, the driver cracked his whip and the slow, spiritless horse began to move more rapidly ... and as it gathered speed, resolution suddenly came to John out of a sudden vision of a boy's pleasure.
"Fancy not thinking of this before," he said, as he swung himself on to the back of the carriage and balanced uncomfortably on the bar.
The brougham drove along Kensington Road and then turned sharply into Church Street along which it was drawn at an ambling pace to Notting Hill. It turned to the right, and went along the Bayswater Road, and then John lost his bearings. He was in one of the streets off the Bayswater Road, but in the darkness he could not tell what its name was. Presently the driver shouted "Whoa!" to his horse and drew up in front of a dreary, tall house, with a pillared portico, and John had only sufficient time in which to drop from the back of the carriage and skip across the street to the opposite pavement before the three girls alighted from the brougham and stood for a few moments in front of the house. The driver drove off, and John, lurking in the shadow of a doorway, watched the girls as they stood talking together. Then he saw two of them climb up the steps leading to the house, and Eleanor, calling out "Good-night!" to them, went round the corner. He hurried after her, and saw her going up the steps of a similar house immediately round the corner from the one into which her friends had entered. She was fumbling at the keyhole with her key as he came opposite the house, and she did not see him until he spoke to her.
"Miss Moore," he said in a hesitating manner, taking off his hat as he spoke.
She started and turned round. "What is it?" she said in an alarmed manner.
"I ... I've been trying to find you for a long time!..."
She shrank away from him. "I don't know you," she said. "You've made a mistake. Please go away!"
"Don't be afraid of me," he pleaded. "I know you don't know me, but I know you. You're Eleanor Moore!..."
She came forward from the shadow. "Yes," she said, half in alarm, half out of curiosity. "Yes, that's my name, but I don't know you!..." Then she recognised him. "Oh, you're that man!" she said, now wholly alarmed.
"I saw you at the tea-shop," he replied hastily. "You remember you left a letter behind and I picked it up and gave it to you. That's how I know your name!"
"Why are you persecuting me?" she demanded, almost tearfully.
He was daunted by her tone. "Persecuting you!" he said.
"Yes. You follow me about in the street, and stare at me. I saw you this evening at the Albert Hall, and you stared at me!..."
"Because I love you, Eleanor!" He went nearer to her, and as he did so, she retreated further into the shadow. "Don't be afraid of me, please," he said. "I fell in love with you the moment I saw you, but I'm a stranger in this town and I had no way of getting to know you. I tried hard, Eleanor!..."
"Don't call me Eleanor!"
"I can't help it. I think of you as Eleanor. I always call you Eleanor to myself. You see, dear, I'm in love with you!"
"But you don't know me. I wish you'd go away. I shall ring the bell or tell the policeman at the corner!..."
"Let me tell you about myself," he pleaded.
"I don't want to hear about you. I don't like you. You stare so hard, and you're always looking at my stockings!..."
"Yes, you are. You're looking at them now!"
"Only because you mentioned them. I won't look at them if you tell me not to!..."
"I don't want to tell you anything," she murmured. "I only want you to go away!..."
"I know that, dearest, but just let me tell you this. My name is John MacDermott!..."
"I don't care what your name is," she interrupted. "It doesn't interest me in the least!..."
"But it will, Eleanor, darling. When you're married to me!..."
She burst out laughing, "I think you're mad," she said.
"I was very lonely, Eleanor, when I saw you. I have not got a friend in London!..." He omitted to remember the existence of Hinde. "I come from Ireland!..."
"And I had not been in London more than a day when I saw you. I fell in love with you at once!..."
"Absurd!" she said.
"It's true. After you'd gone back to your office, I went for a long walk, but all the time, I was thinking of you, and I hurried back to the shop at teatime, hoping I'd see you. And you were there, looking lovelier than you looked in the middle of the day. Do you remember?"
"Yes," she said. "You looked so ridiculous!..."
"Perhaps I did, but I didn't care how I looked so long as I was near you. I felt miserable and lonely, and you were the only person in London I knew!..."
"But you didn't know me!" she insisted.
"I knew your name, and I was in love with you. That was enough. I tried to speak to you, but you would not let me. I asked you to be friends with me, and you got up and walked away. I felt ashamed of myself because I thought I had frightened you, and I hurried out of the shop and followed you so that I might tell you how sorry I was and how much I loved you, but I lost you at your office, and the man at the lift nearly had a fight with me!..."
"Then it was you who had been asking for me? He told me that a suspicious character had been hanging about the hall, enquiring for me. I thought it might be you!"
"I don't look suspicious, do I?"
"You behave suspiciously. You speak to people whom you do not know, and you follow them in the street!..."
"Only you, Eleanor. Not anybody else!"
There was a silence for a few moments, and then she turned to the door and inserted the key in the lock.
"Well, please go away now," she said. "You can't do any good here!..."
"Let me come in and tell your father and mother I want to marry you!"
She opened the door and gazed at him as if she could not believe her ears.
"This is a residential club for women," she said. "I have no parents, I think you're the silliest man I've ever encountered. Please go away! You'll get me talked about!..."
She shut the door in his face.
He stared blankly at the glass panels of the door for a few moments and then went down the steps into the street, and as he did so, he saw a light suddenly illuminate the room immediately above the pillared portico. He stared up at it, and saw that the window was open, and while he looked, he saw Eleanor come to it and begin to draw it down.
He called out to her. "Eleanor!" he said, "Hi, Eleanor!"
She peered out of the window, and then leant her head through the opening. "There's a policeman at the corner," she said, "I shall call him if you don't go away!"
"Very well," he replied. "They can't put a man in gaol for loving a woman!"
"They can put him in gaol for annoying her!"
"I'm not annoying you. How can I annoy you when I'm in love with you? No, don't interrupt me. You haven't let me get a word out of my mouth all night!" He could hear her laughing at him. "Are you codding me?" he said.
"What?" she replied in a puzzled voice.
"Are you codding me?" he repeated. "Are you making fun of me?"
She leant out of the window as if she were trying to see him more closely. "You really are funny," she said. "I was afraid of you ... you stared so ... but I'm not afraid of you now. You're a funny little fellow, but I do wish you'd go away!"
"Come down and talk to me, and I'll go home content!..."
"You're being silly again!"
"No, I'm not. I tell you, girl, I'm mad in love with you, and I'll sit on your doorstep all night 'til you agree to go out with me!"
"The policeman would lock you up if you were to do that," she replied. "I'm not in love with you ... I don't even like you ... I think you're a horrid man, staring at people the way you do ... and I won't 'go out with you,' as you call it. I'm not a servant girl!..."
"What does it matter to me what sort of a girl you are, if I'm in love with you. You must like me ... you can't help it!..."
"Oh, can't I?"
"No. I never heard tell yet of a man loving a woman the way I love you, and her not to fall in love with him!"
"Don't talk so loudly, please," she said in a lowered tone. "People will hear you, and there's someone coming down the street."
"I don't care!..."
"But I do. Now listen to me, Mr.... Mr.... I can't remember your name!"
"My name's MacDermott, but you can call me John."
"Thank you, Mr. MacDermott, but I don't wish to call you John. Now listen to me. I think you're a very romantic young man!... No, please let me finish one sentence! You're a very romantic young man, and I daresay you think that all you've got to do is to tell the first girl you meet that you're in love with her, and she'll say, 'Oh, thank you!' and fall into your arms. Well you're wrong! You may think you're very romantic, but I think you're just a tedious fool!..."
"A tedious fool. You've made me feel exceedingly uncomfortable more than once. I had to stop going to that tea-shop because I couldn't eat my food without your eyes staring at me all the time. Fortunately, the work I was doing in the City was only a temporary job, and I got a permanent post elsewhere and was able to move away from the City altogether!..."
"How dare you call me Eleanor!"
"Because I love you!" he said.
She seemed to be nonplussed by his reply. She did not speak for a few moments. Then, altering her tone, she said, "Oh, well, I daresay you think you do!"
"I don't think. I know. I'll not be content till I marry you. Now, Eleanor, do you hear that?"
"I know nothing whatever about you!..."
"Come down to the doorstep and I'll tell you. Will you?"
"No, of course not!"
"Well, how can you blame me then if you won't listen to me when I offer to tell you about myself. You know my name. John MacDermott. And I'm Irish!..."
"Yes," she interrupted, "I'm making big allowances for that!"
"My family's the most respected family in Ballyards!..."
"Where's that?" she asked.
"Do you not know either? You're the second person I've met in London didn't know that. It's in County Down. My mother lives there, and so does my Uncle William. I've come here to write books!..."
"Are you an author?" she exclaimed with interest.
"I am," he said proudly. "I've written a novel and I'm writing a play!... Come down and I'll tell you about them!"
"Oh, no, I can't. It's too late. And you must go home. Where do you live?"
"At Brixton," he answered.
"That's miles from here. And you'll miss the last bus if you don't hurry!..."
"I can walk. Come down, will you!"
"No. No, no. It's much too late," she said hurriedly. "And I can't stay here talking to you any longer. Someone will make a complaint about me. You'll get me into trouble!..."
"Well, will you meet me to-morrow somewhere? Wherever you like!"
"No, I won't. Why should I?"
"Because I'm in love with you and want you to meet me."
"Then I'll sit here all night then. I'll let the peeler take me up, and I'll tell the whole world I'm in love with you!"
"You're a beast. You're really a beast!"
"I'm not. I'm in love with you. That's all. Will you meet me the morrow?"
"I don't know!..."
"Well, make up your mind then."
She remained silent for a few moments.
"Well?" he said.
"I don't see why I should meet you!..."
"Never mind about that. Just meet me!"
"Well ... perhaps ... only perhaps, mind you ... I don't promise really ... I might meet you ... just for a minute or two!..."
"At the bookstall in Charing Cross station. Do you know it?"
"I'll soon find it. What time?"
"Right. I'll be there to the minute!..."
"Go home now. You've a long way to go, and I'm very tired!"
"All right, Eleanor. I wish you'd come down, though. Just for a wee while!"
"I can't. Good-night!"
"Good-night, my dear. You've the loveliest eyes!..."
She closed the window, but he could see her standing behind the glass looking at him.
He kissed his hand to her and then, when she had moved away, he walked off.
"Good night, constable!" he said cheerily to the policeman at the corner.
The policeman looked suspiciously at him.
"How do you get to Brixton from here?" John continued.
"First on the right, first on the left, first on the right again, and you're in the Bayswater Road. Turn to the left and keep on until you reach Marble Arch. You'll get a 'bus there, if you're lucky. If you're too late, you'll have to walk it. Go down Park Lane and ask again. Make for Victoria!"
"Thanks," said John.
He walked along the Bayswater Road, singing in his heart, and after a while, finding that the street was almost empty, he began to sing aloud. The roadway shone in the cold light thrown from the high electric lamps, and there was a faint mist hanging about the trees in Kensington Gardens. He looked up at the sky and saw that it was full of friendly stars. All around him was beauty and light. The gleaming roadway and the gleaming sky seemed to be illuminated in honour of his triumphant love, for he did not doubt that his love was triumphant. The night air was fresh and cool. It had none of the exhausted taste that the air seems always to have in London during the day. It was new, clean air, fresh from the sea or from the hills, and he took off his hat so that his forehead might be fanned by it. He glanced about him as if in every shadow he expected to see a friend. London no longer seemed too large to love.
"I like this place," he said, waving his hat in the air.
A policeman told him of a very late 'bus that went down Whitehall and would take him as far as Kensington Gate, and he hurried off to Charing Cross and was lucky enough to catch the 'bus.
"How much?" he said to the conductor.
"Sixpence on this 'bus," the conductor replied.
John handed a shilling to him. "You can keep the change," he said.
Hinde was lying on the sofa in the sitting-room when John, slightly tired, but too elated to be aware of his fatigue, got home.
"Hilloa," he said sleepily, "how did the concert go?"
John suddenly remembered.
"Holy O!" he exclaimed, clapping his hand to his head.
"What's that?" Hinde said.
"I forgot all about it," John replied.
"Forgot all about it! Do you mean you didn't go to it?"
"I went all right, but I forgot to take my notice to the office!"
Hinde sat up and stared at him. "You forgot!..." He could not say any more.
John told him of the encounter with Eleanor.
"You mean to say you let your paper down for the sake of a girl," Hinde exclaimed incredulously.
"I'll go back now," John said, turning to leave the room.
"Go back now! What's the good of that? The paper's been put to bed half an hour and more ago. My God Almighty ... you let the paper down. For the sake of a girl!"
He seemed to have difficulty in expressing his thoughts, and he sat back and gaped at John as if he had just been informed that the Last Day had been officially announced.
"You needn't show your nose in that office again," he said again. "I never heard of such a reason for letting a paper down! Good heavens, man, don't you realise what you've done? You've let the paper down!"
"I'm in love with this girl!..."
Hinde almost snarled at him. "Ach-h-h, love!" he shouted. "And you propose to be a journalist. Let your paper down. For a girl. You sloppy fellow!... My heavens above, I never heard of such a thing. Letting your paper down!..."
He walked about the room, repeating many times that John had "let his paper down."
"And I recommended you to Clotworthy, too. I told him you had the stuff in you. I thought you had. I thought you could do a job decently, but by the Holy O, you're no good. You let your own feelings come between you and your work. Oh! Oh, oh! Oh, go to bed quick or I'll knock the head off you. I'll not be responsible for myself if you stand there any longer like a moonstruck fool!"
"If you talk to me like that," said John, "I'll hit you a welt on the jaw. I'm sorry I forgot about the paper, but sure what does it matter anyway?..."
"What does it matter!" Hinde almost shrieked at him. "Your paper will be the only paper in London which won't have a report of that concert in it to-morrow. That's what it matters? I'd be ashamed to let my paper down for any reason on earth. If my mother was dying, I wouldn't let her prevent me from doing my job!... If you can't understand that, John MacDermott, you needn't try to be a journalist. You haven't got it in you. Your paper's your father and your mother and your wife and your children! Oh, go to bed, out of my sight, or I'll forget myself!..."
John walked towards the door.
"I'd rather love a woman any day than a paper," he said.
"Well, go and love her then, and don't try to interfere with a paper again! Don't come down Fleet Street pretending you're a journalist!"
"Yah-h-h!" said Hinde.
THE FIFTH CHAPTER
It had been exceedingly difficult for John to explain his defection to Mr. Clotworthy and to Tarleton. The only mitigating feature of the business was that the matter to be reported was only a concert. Both Mr. Clotworthy and Tarleton trembled when they thought of the calamity that would have befallen the paper if the forgotten report had been of a murder! They hardly dared contemplate such a devastating prospect. They invited John to think of another profession and wished him a very good morning. Tarleton quitted the room, leaving John alone with the editor, and as he went he showed such contempt towards him as is only shown towards the meanest of God's creatures.
"Well, where's your Ulster now?" said Mr. Clotworthy very sardonically when they were alone together.
"I know rightly I'm in the wrong from your point of view, Mr. Clotworthy," John replied, "but I'd do the same thing again if twenty jobs depended on it. It's hard to make you understand, and mebbe I'm a fool to try, but there it is. The minute I clapped my eyes on her, I forgot everything but her. I'm sorry I've lost my post here, but I'd be sorrier to have lost her. That's all about it. You were very kind to give me the work, and I wish I hadn't let your paper down the way Hinde says I did, but it's no good me pretending about it. I'd do it again if the same thing happened another time. That's the beginning and end of it all. I'd rather be her husband than edit a dozen papers like yours. I'd rather be her husband than be anything else in the world!"
"Well, good afternoon!" said Mr. Clotworthy.
"Good afternoon!" said John, turning away.
He moved towards the door of the room, feeling much less assurance than he had felt when he came into it.
"If you care to send in some articles for page six," Mr. Clotworthy added, "I'd be glad to see them!"
"Thank you," said John.
"Not at all," the editor replied without glancing up.
He left the Daily Sensation office, and walked towards Charing Cross. A queer depression had settled upon his spirits. Hinde had treated him as if he were mentally deficient, and he knew that Mr. Clotworthy and Tarleton, particularly Tarleton, regarded him with coldness, but he was not deeply affected by their disapproval. Nevertheless, depression possessed him. He felt that Eleanor would fail to keep her appointment. Quietly considered, there seemed to be no reason why she should keep it. She knew absolutely nothing of him except what he had told her while she leaned out of the window. How was she to know that he was speaking the truth? What right had he to expect her to pay any heed to him at all? Dreary, drizzling thoughts poured through his mind. He felt as certain that his novel would not be published as he felt that Eleanor would not be at the bookstall at Charing Cross station when he arrived there. The tragedy on which he was working had seemed to him to be a very marvellous play, but now he thought it was too poor to be worth finishing. He had been in London for what was quite a long time, but he had achieved nothing. He had not even written the music-hall sketch for the Creams. He had not earned a farthing during the time that he had been in London. All the exaltation which had filled him as he walked along the Bayswater Road on the previous night, with his mind full of Eleanor and love and starshine and moonlight and gleaming streets and trees hanging with mist and friendliness for all men, had gone clean out of him. Fleet Street was a dirty, ill-ventilated alley full of scuffling men and harassed women. London itself was a great angry thing, a place of distrust and contention, where no one ever offered a friendly greeting to a stranger. He would go to Charing Cross station and he would stand patiently in front of the bookstall, but Eleanor would not come to meet him. He would stand there, dumb and uncomplaining, and no one of the hurrying crowd of people would turn to him and say, "You're in trouble. I'm sorry!" They would neither know nor care. They would be too busy catching trains. He would stand there for an hour, for two hours ... until his legs began to ache with the pain of standing in one place for a long time ... and then, when it was apparent that waiting was useless and he had, perhaps, aroused the suspicions of policemen and railway porters concerning his purpose in loitering thus so persistently in front of the bookstall, he would go home in his misery to a contemptuous Hinde!...