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This Is the End
by Stella Benson
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She thought a good deal about Mr. Russell. I am sure that he would have laughed painfully could he have seen the picture of himself that remained with the 'bus-conductor. The picture made him thinner, and his eyes more intelligent, and the line of his mouth happier, but it did not make him look younger, because Jay liked him to be Older and Wiser. He never came into the Secret World; several times she tried to drag him thither, but always at the critical moment he got left outside. Yet I cannot say that in her Secret World she missed him; the point of the bubble enchantment is that there is nothing lacking in it.

'Bus-conducting is a profession that does not engross the mind unduly. The eye and the ear and the hand work by themselves. Charing Cross whispered in a conductor's ear at the Bank produces a white ticket from her hand without any calculation on her part. She becomes a penny-in-the-slot machine, with her human brain free for other matters. She grows a great hatred for all fares above fourpence, because they need special thought.

Jay filled her day with unsatisfactory thinking. She found to her surprise that one may love life and yet also think lovingly of death. To live is most interesting in an uneasy way, but to die is to forget at once all these trivial turbulences, to forget equally the people you have loved and the people you have hated, to forget everything you ever knew, to be alone, and to be no longer disturbed by unceasing voices.

At this time I think Jay felt more hatred of everybody than love of any one person. But then, of course, she had vowed to Chloris after the affair with young William Morgan that she would never fall in love again. She said, "I have been through love. It is not a sea, as people say. It is only a river, and I have waded through it."

"Yet there is certainly something very remarkable about that man," she thought. "I don't believe I like him much, I don't want to know him better, though I should like him to know me. I believe he is my real next of kin. I believe he has a Secret World too."

She was on her last homeward journey, and it was one of her early days. The hours of a conductor move up and down the day. Sometimes Jay punctured her first ticket at a time when you and I are asleep, and when the coster-barrows, waving with ferns and fuchsias, move up the Strand like Birnam Wood moving to Dunsinane. On those days she was due home at half-past four or so. On other days she was able to have a late breakfast and to darn her stockings after it, but that meant that she did not get home till very late. Some 'buses, I gather, are called "single 'buses," but in this case the word does not imply celibacy alone. The single 'bus is occupied by one conductor all day Jong for a fortnight. The "double 'bus" is shared by two conductors, one presiding in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The double state also lasts a fortnight; it is arranged as an opportunity for lady 'bus-conductors to recuperate after the rigours (the more remunerative rigours) of service on a single 'bus. These statements of mine are open to extensive correction. Jay's hours always struck me as so very confusing that it is unlikely I should be able to retail the information correctly. However, it doesn't matter very much.

This was one of the early days on a double 'bus, and Jay was on her last journey, with several restless waking hours between her and possible sleep. Her 'bus was full, but not pressed down and running over. For the moment everybody in it was provided with a ticket. Jay was laboriously thinking small thoughts because she was tired of thinking of Love and Life and other things with capital letters.

She thought of the various indignities to which the public submits its 'bus-tickets. Some people use the ticket as a toothpick, some put spectacles on and read it without understanding, some decorate outstanding features of the 'bus with it. But I myself tear it gradually into small strips, and grind the strips by means of massage into fine powder. If the inspector comes, I am perfectly willing to pour the powder into his hand, and yet he often seems annoyed.

Jay reviewed the perspective of faces that lined her 'bus. They were all ugly, and not one of them was eager. The British public as a whole considers a deaf, dumb, and blind expression the only decent one to wear in a public conveyance. We roar through a wonderful and exciting world, and all the while we sit with glazed eyes and cotton-wool in our ears, and think about ourselves. They were mostly men in Jay's 'bus at that moment; they were almost all alike, and all insignificant, but not one of them knew it. Such a lot of men could never be loved by women, only found expedient.

But there was a sailor, a simple sub-lieutenant, sitting by the door. Sailors are a race apart. They have twisty faces, their boots and gloves look curiously accidental. In London they are rarely seen without a London Mail or a London Opinion in their grasp. There is something about a sailor that conduces to sentiment in every passer-by, and Jay, who was fleeing from that very feeling, looked hastily at some one else. Her seeking eye lit on a lady who had a complete skunk climbing up the nape of her neck, and a hat of the approximate size of a five-shilling piece worn over her right eyebrow. She looked such a fool that Jay concluded that the look was intentional, and indeed I suppose it must be, for the worst insult you can offer to young ladies of this type is to suggest that they have brains. Jay pondered on this, and then turned elsewhere for inspiration. All roads of thought at that time led to one destination, so she only allowed herself to go a little way along each road.

And presently she reached the end of her journey. She walked home, and Chloris was as usual waiting for her just outside the rocking-horse factory at the corner. Jay, as she passed that factory every day, watched with interest the progress of the grey ghost rocking-horses, eyeless, maneless, and tailless, as they ripened hourly into a form more like that of the friend of youth.

She smelt the little smell that is always astray in Mabel Place, she heard outside in the damp afternoon two rival barrow-men howling a cry that sounded like "One pound hoo-ray!" A neighbour in the garden was exchanging repartee with a gentleman caller. "Biby, siy Naughty Man, Biby, tell 'im what a caution 'e is." But there seemed little hope that the baby would. These sounds were provided with the constant Brown Borough background of shouts and quarrels and laughter and children crying and innumerable noises of work.

"Something has happened," said Jay to Chloris, as they went in. "I feel as if I had no friends to-night. Not even a Secret Friend."

Chloris lay on her lap in her usual attitude, bent into a circle like a tinned tongue. Chloris knew it was no use worrying about these things.

"Funny," thought Jay. "King David was a healthy man of ruddy countenance, and presumably he never lived in the Brown Borough, yet he knew very well what it feels like to have a temperature, and a sore heart, and to be alone in lodgings. Whenever I am very tired, it is funny how my heart quotes those tired Psalms of his, without my brain remembering the words. I wonder how David knew."

The little house was empty but for her. I ought perhaps to have told you before that Nana had been taken ill a month or so ago, and had gone away at Jay's expense to a South Coast Home.

"I'll go round and see Mrs. 'Ero Edwards," said Jay, when she had changed into mufti. "Neither Chloris nor David is adequate to the moment."

The ground-floor back room of Mrs. 'Ero Edwards was crowded. The Chap from the Top Floor was there, and Mrs. Dusty Morgan, and little Mrs. Love from Tann Street, and Mrs. 'Ero Edwards's daughter, Queenie, and several people's children. Conversation never wavered as Jay knocked and came in. When you find that your entrance no longer fills a Brown Borough room with sudden silence, you may be glad and know that you have ceased to be a lidy or a toff.

The Chap from the Top Floor was talking, and everybody else was there to hear him do it, except Mrs. 'Ero Edwards who could hardly bear it, because she only liked listening to herself. Jay sat modestly in a corner and listened, like the other representatives of her generation.

The Chap from the Top Floor was an Older and Wiser Man. His wife could not live with him, but he was very kind and fatherly to every one else, and Jay was rather fond of him. He was about fifty, and anything but beautiful. Also the C.O.S. would not have admired him. But I believe he did a good deal of thinking inside that bristly head of his.

"Ow my dear," said Mrs. 'Ero Edwards, laying a fat hand on Jay's knee. "We're all so 'appy. Dusty's wrote to siy 'e's got the sack from the Army becos of 'is rheumatics. We're 'avin' a bit of a beano becos of it."

Everybody smiled at Jay, and her heart grew warmer. Some one handed her a cup of tea sweetened with half an inch of sugar at the bottom of the cup. The spoon had been plunged to its hilt in condensed milk. What vulgar tastes she had!

"You can never mike a pal of a woman," said the Chap from the Top Floor, continuing an argument for the benefit of an audience of women. "One feller an' another—well—a pal's a pal. But women are all either wives or—, there ain't no manner of palliness in them."

"'Tain't gentlemanly to talk so, Elbert," said Mrs. 'Ero Edwards. "Yore mother was a woman, an' from 'er comes all you know, I'm thinkin', an' all you are. Women is pals with women, an' men is pals with men. It's only when men an' women gets assorted-like that palliness drops out."

"'Usbinds an' wives can be pals," said Mrs. Dusty. "Me an' Dusty useter 'ave a drop an' a jaw together every night for three months after we married. Never 'ad a thought apart, we didn't."

"If I ars't Dusty," said the Top Floor Chap, "I don't know but what 'e wouldn't tell a different tile."

"'Ere, 'bus-conductor, you can talk, an' you're a suffragette," said Mrs. Dusty. "Ain't bein' a pal just as much a woman's job as a man's?"

"What is bein' a pal?" asked Mrs. Love bitterly. "'Avin' some one 'oo drinks wiv you until she's sick, and then blacks your eye for you. There ain't no pals, men or women."

"I think they're rare," said Jay. "Isn't being a pal just refusing to admit a limit? Some people draw the line at a murderer, and some at a suffragette, and some at a vegetarian, and some at a lady who wears the same dress Sundays and week-days, but a real pal draws no line. Women and dogs as well as men can be faithful beyond limit, I think, but it's very rare in anybody."

"'Bus-conductors don't know nothink," said the Chap from the Top Floor in a loud belligerent voice, illuminated by an amiable smile. "I orfen look at 'bus-conductors, an' think, 'Pore devils, they don't know 'arf of life, not even a quarter. They only meets the harisocracy wot 'as pennies to frow about, they never passes the time of day with a plain walkin' feller like me wot ses 'is mind an' never puts on no frills. 'Bus-conducting oughter be done by belted earls an' suchlike, it ain't a real man's job. Pore devils,' I ses, lookin' at 'em bouncin' along, doin' the pretty to all the nobs, wivout so much as puttin' their toe in the mud. 'Pore devils.'"

"'Ere Elbert, 'old your jaw," said the tactful Mrs. 'Ero Edwards, nervous lest Jay should resent this insult to her calling. "Let's all go roun' to the Cross'n Beetle, an' see whether that won't stop 'is noise."

"After all, it's Dusty's birfdiy," said Mrs. Dusty with alacrity.

The day was evidently growing in importance every minute.

"You come along too," said little Mrs. Love, suddenly putting her hand in Jay's.

"No treatin' nowadiys," said the Top Floor Chap amiably. "But I don't mind 'andin' around the price of a drink before we start."

He only extended half-hearted generosity to Jay, because she was, after all, a 'bus-conductor, and to that extent a nob. She shook her head and laughed, when he held out to her the Law-circumventing coin.

Mrs. 'Ero Edwards only really found scope for her voice out of doors. No sooner was she in the street than she seized the arm of the Chap from the Top Floor and shouted him down, as she led him towards the Cross'n Beetle.

Mrs. Dusty and young Queenie walked arm in arm behind them, and whenever they saw a soldier they squeaked loudly, and addressed him invariably as "Colonel Mawmajuke."

Jay and little Mrs. Love, both rather confused and unhappy people, walked hand in hand a little way behind.

"We needn't go as fur as the Cross'n Beetle, if we don't like," said Mrs. Love. "They'll never notice if we 'ook it."

"I don't want to 'ook it," said Jay. "I want to keep very busy listening to noisy people. I don't want to hear myself think."

"You're mopey, eh?" asked Mrs. Love gently.

"I'm cold," said Jay. "I believe I've lost something. I believe I've lost a friend of mine."

"Friends is always gettin' lost," said Mrs. Love. "I told you so. Let's go an' 'ave a look at the pictures. They've got the 'Curse of a Crook' on up the street. Fairly mike yer 'air curl."

"I want noise," said Jay, "a much louder noise than that old piano. The pictures are so horribly quiet. Just an underfed man turning a handle, and an underfed woman hitting an underfed piano. At a play you can at least pretend that the actors are having a little fun too, but the pictures—there's only two sad people without smiles at the bottom of it all. I won't go to the pictures, I'll go and get drunk."

"Come on then," said Mrs. Love. "You won't find no lost friends there, but come on. I'll be yer pal for to-night. You've been a pal to me before now. We're temp'ary pals right enough, there' ain't no permanent kind. You won't find no shivers straying around in the ole Cross'n Beetle. Let's 'urry, an' get drunk, and keep 'and in 'and all the time. That's wot pals oughter do."

Jay suddenly saw the whole world as a thing running away from its thoughts. The crowd that filled the pavement was fugitive, and every man felt the hot breath of fear on the back of his neck. One only used one's voice for the drowning of one's thoughts; one only used one's feet for running away. The whole world was in flight along the endless streets, and the lucky ones were in trams and donkey carts that they might flee the faster.

"Hurry, hurry," said Jay. And she and little Mrs. Love ran hand in hand.

The Chap from the Top Floor and Mrs. 'Ero Edwards were already leading society in the Cross'n Beetle when Jay and Mrs. Love reached it. The barman knew Mrs. Edwards too well to think that she was drunk already, but you or I, transported suddenly thither, would have supposed that her beano was over instead of yet to come.

"'Elbert," said Mrs. 'Ero Edwards, "yo're an 'Un, yo're an internal alien, thet's what's the metter with you. I wonder I 'aven't blacked yer eye for you many a time and oft."

There was almost enough noise even for Jay, and she and Mrs. Love, each armed with a generously topped glass, sat in the background, on the shiny seat that lined the wall.

To Jay this evening was an experiment, an experiment born of weariness of a well-worn road. She watched Mrs. Love blow some of the superfluous froth on to the floor, and did likewise. Directly she had put her lips to the thick brim of her glass she knew that here was the stuff of which certain dreams are made.

She had, I suppose, the weakest head in the world, and in three minutes she was giddy and much comforted. The noise seemed to clothe itself in a veil of music, there was hope in the shining brightness that shone from the bar. The placards that looked like texts and were advertisements of various drinks, seemed like jokes to Jay.

"There are only dreams," she thought very lucidly, "to keep our souls alive. We are lucky if we get good dreams. We'll never get anything better."

Through the glass between the patriotic posters that darkened the windows she could see the morbid colour of London air.

"Apart from dreams," thought this busconducting Omar Khayyam, "there is nothing but disappointment. We expected too much. We expected satisfaction. There is nothing in the world but second bests, but dreams are an excellent second best. Our last attitude must be 'How interesting, but how very far from what I wanted....'"

The speed of time, and the hurry of life suddenly rushed upon her again.

"I must hurry," she said. "Or I shan't have lived before I die. I must hurry."

"No 'urry, Jine," said Mrs. Love. "Let's keep in the light for a bit."

"Is this the only light left us, after a deluge of War?" thought Jay. "It doesn't matter, because of course War is hurrying too. Rushing over our heads like the sea over drowned sailors. But it will be over in a minute; this new kind of death must be a temporary death for temporary soldiers. What do fifty years without friends matter? You can hardly breathe before they're done."

She was dazzled and deafened. She had emptied her glass, and she did not know what steps she took to fill it again. Only she found it was suddenly full.

And in a minute she was on the path to the House by the Sea. She had come by a new way.

There was less colour than usual about the sea, a certain air of guilt seemed to haunt the path. And it was extraordinarily lonely, there seemed to be no promise of a Friend waiting at the other end of the path.

She sang the Loud Song to encourage herself, but she did not sing it very loudly.

There is no dream like my dream, Even in Heaven. There is no Friend like my Friend, Even in Heaven. There is no life like my life, Even in Heaven.

A voice said, "For 'eaven's sike, Jine, don't begin to sing."

Jay laughed. "Treating me as if I were drunk ..." she thought. She did not feel giddy any more. She could see the familiar outline of the House against an unpretentious sky, and that calm shape steadied her.

No breath of sound came from the House. The sky was grey, the sea was grey, there was no hint of sunlight. As Jay came to the door she noticed that the honeysuckle in the bowl at the hall window was still there, but dead. The wind had strewn the doorstep with leaves and straws and twigs, little refugees of the air.

In the hall there was an old woman, dressed in a black dress patterned with big red flowers. She was knitting. Her stiff skirts spread out in angular folds round her. Jay knew she was a fellow-ghost, because their eyes met.

Jay felt swallowed up by the silence. She could not speak, even to think, she felt, would be too noisy. The stiff skirt of the old lady made no rustle, the knitting needles made no click. But Jay could see that she was counting. The House seemed to be full of unmoving time. Outside the rain began to fall, and that grey sound enclosed the silence of the House.

After a very long time Jay spoke. "Where is my Friend?" she asked.

"Gone to the War," answered the old woman.

"There is no War in this world," said Jay.

"On the contrary," the fellow-ghost replied, "war is, even here, where Time is not. War is like air, in every house, in every land, on every sea. For ever."

Between her sentences she counted. Unpausing numbers moved her lips.

"On these shores," she said, "time and Life and the sea go up and down. Eternity has no logic. There are no reasons, there is no explanation. But there is always War. There are fighting sea men in the caves on the beach. Haven't you seen them, the dark sea people? Haven't you heard their high voices that were tuned to cut through the voice of the sea? Haven't you found their very wide, long-toed footprints in the sand? Have you walked blind through this world?"

"No," said Jay, "I remember. The women decorate their hair with seaweed, pink and green. I have watched them catch fish with their hands. I have watched them put their babies to play in the pools among the rocks...."

"On the cliffs," said the fellow-ghost, "men clad in armour share the camps of the Englishmen who fought at Cressy, and at Waterloo, and at the Marne. On these seas the most ancient pirates sing and laugh in chorus with Nelson's drowned sailors, and with men from the North Sea, men whose mothers still cry in the night for them. Did you think there was any seniority in Eternity?"

"But I don't understand," said Jay. "Time seems to leave itself behind so quickly...."

"There is nothing to understand," said the old woman. "There is no explanation. Time does not move. Men move." The noise of the rain seemed to wash out everything but remembrance, and there was no feeling in Jay but a terrible longing to have her Secret Friend with her again, and that long secret childhood of theirs, and to wipe out half her days and all her knowledge, and to hear once more those songs upon the sands of the cove, and to feel the tingling ground of the sunny hills.

"My Friend has never forsaken me before," she said.

She felt a hand press her hand, and she met the eyes of little Mrs. Love.

"Yo're a mousey sort of kid," said Mrs. Love, "sittin' there as if you was in church. Shall we go 'ome? The rine's gettin' worse an' worse, an' it's no good wytin'. I'll see you 'ome."

When Jay, very wet and dazed, reached Eighteen Mabel Place, she found a card pushed under the door. The name on it was Mr. Herbert Russell's, and there was a suggestion in a beautiful little handwriting on the back of it that she should ring him up next morning and tell him when to come and see her, as he had a message from her brother.

"This is the sort of thing that couldn't possibly happen in real life," said Jay. "I must be drunk after all. On no doorstep except Heaven's could one find a message so romantic."

She was instinctively disobedient to Older and Wiser people. She never entertained the idea of telephoning. She could imagine Mr. Russell answering the telephone in a prosaic voice like a double bass. She wrote the following letter:

DEAR SIR—Don't you remember, I was to meet you anyway on the steps of St. Paul's at ten o'clock next Sunday? I will wait till then for the message.—Yours faithfully,

JANE ELIZABETH MARTIN, 'Bus-conductor.

"That letter ought to put two and two together for him," she thought, "if he hasn't done it already. It's a complicated little sum, and the result is—what?"

She felt hot and feverish when she wrote the letter. And directly she had posted it she regretted having done so.

"I forget what I wrote," she said. "It is dangerous to post letters to Older and Wiser Men when drunk."

All that night she lay awake and mourned the desertion of her Secret Friend.

You promised War and Thunder and Romance. You promised true, but we were very blind, And very young, and in our ignorance We never called to mind That truth is seldom kind.

You promised love, immortal as a star. You promised true, yet how the truth can lie! For now we grope for hands where no hands are, And, deathless, still we cry, Nor hope for a reply.

You promised harvest and a perfect yield. You promised true, for on the harvest morn, Behold a reaper strode across the field, And man of woman born Was gathered in as corn.

You promised honour and ordeal by flame. You promised true. In joy we trembled lest We should be found unworthy when it came; But—oh—we never guessed The fury of the test.

You promised friends and songs and festivals. You promised true. Our friends, who still are young, Assemble for their feasting in those halls Where speaks no human tongue. And thus our songs are sung.

I have very rarely found Sunday in London a successful day. I hate idleness without peace, and festivity without beauty, and noise without music. I hate to see London people in unnatural clothes. I hate to see a city holding its breath.

Jay waited ten minutes on the steps of St. Paul's for Mr. Russell. This was not because he was late, but because she was early; and this again was not because she was indecently eager, but because she had hit on an unexpectedly non-stop 'bus. She felt a fool for ten minutes. And when you have waited ten minutes on those enormous steps under the eye of the pigeons, you will know why she felt a fool.

Mr. Russell arrived in Christina the motor car, and simultaneously a shower fell. From the first moment Jay felt unsuccess in the air of that much-anticipated day. She was introduced to Christina, and said, "But we can't take that thing into the Cathedral."

"We don't want to," said Mr. Russell, although, as he was a born driver, the challenge made him instinctively measure with his eye the depth of the steps, and the width of the doorway, from Christina's point of view. "We don't want to pray. We want to talk."

Anonyma would have been astonished to hear him say this.

"As a matter of fact," said Jay, "I brought Chloris for the same reason."

Chloris was eating the bread which a kind but short-sighted old lady believed herself to be giving to the pigeons.

Mr. Russell had hardly been able to imagine his 'bus-conductor in any dress but that of her calling. Now that he saw her in unambitious London-coloured things, he was glad to notice that her clothes were not Sunday clothes, but the sort that you forget about directly you look away from them.

This was the sort of day that breaks up delusions, and as Christina the motor car started away, Jay discovered that her hat was not adequately attached to her head. There are few discoveries more depressing than this at the beginning of a day of movement.

The bells of St. Paul's began to sing. Little fairy bells dodged behind and about the great notes. But Christina soon swept the sound into the forgotten air behind her.

"I've got a lot to talk to you about," said Mr. Russell as he headed Christina Hackney-way. He was conscious that he was taking his miracle curiously for granted. I don't think he really believed in it yet. For Mr. Russell all truth was haunted by the ghost of a clanking lie. He discerned deceit on the part of Providence where no deceit was. "I'll give you your brother's message first, because it interests me personally least. He is gone. There was a sudden move across the Channel last week, and he went—I suppose—ten days ago now. The message he hadn't time to give you was an appeal to give up 'bus-conducting. He had an absurd idea that you walked out with men-conductors in Victoria Park."

"Not at all absurd," said Jay. "Not half so absurd as the idea of driving out with a casual fare. I know some delightful conductors and drivers; we joke together when the traffic sticks. There is one perfect darling called Edward; his only fault is that he drives a mere Steamer. But we always bow, and once when a horse fell down and we got hung up for twenty minutes in the Strand, he sang me a little song about a star."

Mr. Russell listened to all this very attentively, and then continued: "Your brother wants you to go back to your Family. His last words to me about it were that if you could manage to be ladylike for three years or the duration of War, at the end of that time he and you would go and live by your two selves in New Zealand, and if you liked you need wear no skirts at all there, but riding breeches all the time."

"Ladylike!" snorted Jay. "What's the use of ladyliquity even for five minutes? So Kew sent you as an antidote? I suppose he didn't know you were one of my fares?"

"A fare," said Mr. Russell sententiously, "may, I suppose, be a wonderful revelation, because you only see your fare's eyes for a second, and the things you may see have no limit, and you never know the silly little truth about him. Yet even so, there is more than a ticket and a look between you and me, and you know it."

"Possibly there is a Secret World between you and me," said Jay. "But that's a pretty big thing to divide us."

"Supposing it doesn't divide us?" said Mr. Russell, looking fiercely at the road in front of him. "Supposing it showed me how much I love you?"

"How disappointing!" said Jay in the worst of possible taste. (She was like that to-day.) "You're ceasing to be an Older and Wiser, and trying to become an ordinary Nearah and Dearah."

("Oh, curse," she thought in brackets. "I shall kick myself to-night.")

"That's a horrid thing to say," said Mr. Russell. "But still I do love you."

"It sounds very Victorian and nice," said Jay, wondering if he could still see her through her veil of bad temper. "But, you know, in spite of Secret Worlds, and secret souls, and centuries of secret knowledge, we still have to keep up this 1916 farce, and leave something of ourselves in sensible London. How do I know you're not married?"

Mr. Russell thought for a very long time indeed, and then said, "I am."

Jay was not very well brought up. She did not stop the car and step out with dignity into respectable Hackney. She was just silent for a long time.

"As you were," she said to herself, when she found herself able to think again. "This is a bad day, but it will be over in something less than a hundred years."

"You drive well," she said presently, looking with relief from Mr. Russell's face to his hands. Christina the motor car and two 'buses were just then indulging in a figure like the opening steps of the Grand Chain. "You drive as though driving were poetry and every mile a verse."

"After all," she told herself, "the man loves me, and I must at least take an intelligent interest in him."

"Are you a poet?" she added.

Nobody had ever asked Mr. Russell this question before, and not knowing the answer to it, he did not answer.

"I have never written a line of poetry," said Jay. "Or rather, I have several times written a line, but never another line to fit it. Yet because I have a Friend,—I know in what curious and extended order the verses come, and how the tunes come first, and the various voices next, and the words last, and how a good rhyme warms you like a fire, and how the tunes fall away when the thing is finished, and how ready-made it all is really, and yet how tired you feel...."

To Mr. Russell it all seemed true, and part of the miracle. He had nothing to add, and therefore added nothing.

"Obviously you are a poet," said Jay. "You have a poetic look."

"What look is that?" asked Mr. Russell, much pleased. It was twenty years since he had even remembered that he possessed a look of his own.

"A silly sullen look," said Jay. Presently she added: "But it must have been disappointing to find yourself a poet in Victorian times. I always think of you Olders and Wisers as coming out of your stuffy nineteenth century into our nice new age with a sigh of relief."

"Oh no," said Mr. Russell. "You must remember that when we were born into it, it became our nice new age, and therefore to us there is no age like it."

"It seems incredible," said Jay. "Did Older and Wiser people ever live violently, ever work—work hard—until their brains were blind and they cried because they were so tired? Did they ever get drowned in seas full of foaming ambitions? Did they ever fight without dignity but with joy for a cause? Did they ever shout and jump with joy in their pyjamas in the moonlight? Did they ever feel just drunk with being young, and in at the start? And were Older and Wiser people's jokes ever funny?"

"We were fools often," said Mr. Russell. "Once, when I was fifteen, I bit my hand—and here is the scar—because I thought I had found a new thing in life, and I thought I was the first discoverer. But as to jokes, you are on very dangerous ground there. One's sense of humour is a more tender point than one's heart, especially an Older and Wiser sense of humour. You know, we think the jokes of your nice new age not half so funny as ours. But as neither you nor I make jokes, that obstacle need not come between us."

"Oh, I think difference of date is never in itself an obstacle," said Jay. "Time is not important enough to be an obstacle."

"You and I know that," said Mr. Russell.

A little unnoticed knot of Salvationists surprised Jay at a distance by singing the tune of a sentimental song popular five years ago, and then they surprised her again, as she passed them, and heard the words to which the tune was being sung. Brimstone had usurped the place of the roses in that song, and the love left in it was not apparently the kind of love that Hackney understands.

"Why don't they sing the old hymn tunes?" asked Jay. "Or tunes like 'Abide with Me'—not very old or very good, but worn down with devotion like the steps of an old church? Why do they take the drama out of it all?"

Chloris at that moment introduced drama into the drive by jumping out of the back seat of Christina. I must, I suppose, admit that Chloris was not Really Quite a Lady. On the contrary, motor 'buses were the only motors she knew. She mistook the estimable Christina for a deformed motor 'bus, and when she smelt Victoria Park, she jumped out. Even for Chloris this was an unsuccessful day. A flash of yelping lightning caught the tail of Jay's eye, and she looked round to see her dignified dog, upside down, skid violently down a steep place into the gutter, and there disappear beneath the skirt of a female stranger who was poised upon the kerb. Unhurt, but probably blushing furiously beneath her fur over her own vulgarity, Chloris was retrieved, and spent the rest of the drive in wiping all traces of the accident off her ribs on to the cushions of Christina. I am glad that Mr. Russell's Hound was not there to witness poor Chloris's unsophisticated confession of caste.

"Where are we going?" asked Jay, when she was calm again.

"God knows where ..." said Mr. Russell.

"I'm always coming across districts of that name," said Jay severely. "I often direct my enquiring fares to the region of God Knows Where. It is most unsatisfying. Where are we going?"

"On for ever," said Mr. Russell. "Out of the world. To the House by the Sea."

"Then will you please set me down at Baker's Arms?" said Jay. "Do you know, by the way, that Anonyma always says 'Stay' to a 'bus, if she remembers in time not to say 'Hi, stop,' like a common person."

She was talking desperately against failure, but it seemed a doomed day, and nothing she could think of seemed worth saying.

"I want to talk to you about your House by the Sea," said Mr. Russell. "You know I found it."

"Don't tell me any facts," implored Jay. "Don't tell me you pressed half a crown into the palm of the oldest and wisest inhabitant, and found out facts about some nasty young man who was born in seventeen something, and lived in a place called Atlantic View, and wore curls and a choky stock, and fought at Waterloo, and lies in the village church under a stone monstrosity. Don't tell me facts, because I know they will bar me for ever out of my House by the Sea. Facts are contraband there."

"There is no House by that Sea now," said Mr. Russell. "A slate quarry has devoured the headland on which it used to stand. Where the House used to be there is air now. I daresay the ghosts you knew still trace out the shape of the House in the air."

"The ghosts I know," corrected Jay. "Don't put it in the past."

"It's all in the past," said Mr. Russell. "It's all a dream, and an echo, and the ghost of the day before yesterday."

"How do you know?" asked Jay. "How can you tell it's not 1916 that's the ghost?"

She had been taught by her Friend to take very few things for granted, and time least of all.

"I asked you to tell me no facts," she added.

"I'll only tell you two," persisted Mr. Russell. "One is that they have in the church near the quarry a dark wooden figure of a saint, with the raised arm broken, and straight draperies. I saw it, and they told me what I knew already, that it came out of the hall of a house that was drowned in the sea. The other fact is a story that the tobacconist told me, about a wriggly ladder, and stone balls, and the Law. In the tobacconist's childhood they found the stone balls at the foot of the cliff in the sand. That story, too, I knew already. Quite apart from your letters, you little secret friend, I knew the face of that sea directly I saw it."

"But how did you know? How dared you know?"

"Oh well," said Mr. Russell, "you asked me to tell you no facts."

Mr. Russell was not observant. He was not sufficiently alive to be observant. He was much occupied in remembering phantom yesterdays, and I do not think he listened very much to what the 'bus-conductor said. He only enjoyed the sound of her voice, which he remembered. So he did not know that she was unhappy.

They came presently to a separate part of the forest, which is impaled upon a straight white road. The earth beneath the trees was caught in a mesh of shadows. The trees are high and vaulted there, but the forest is very reticent. The detail of its making is so small that you can only see it if you lie down on your face. Do this and you can see the green threads of the earth's material woven across the skeletons of last year's leaves. You can see the little lawns of moss and weeds, too small to name, that make the way brilliant for the ants. You can watch the heroic armoured beetles defying their world. You can cover with a leaf the great open-air public meeting-places of six-legged things. You can see the spiders at work on their silver cranes, you can watch the bold elevated activities of the caterpillars. You can feel the scattered grasses stroke your eyelids, you can hear the low songs of fairies among the roots of the trees. All these things you may enjoy if you lie down, but the forest does not show them to you. The forest pays you the great compliment of ignoring you, and it does not care whether you see its intimate possessions or not. I think perhaps no day is really unsuccessful that gives you forest earth against your forehead, and forest grass between your fingers, and high forest trees to stand between you and the ultimate confession of failure.

Jay and Mr. Russell boarded out Christina the motor car for the day at an inn, and then they sat and gradually introduced themselves to the forest. Showers fell on their hatless heads, and they did not notice. A mole rose like a submarine from the waves of the forest earth, and they did not notice. The butterflies danced like little tunes in the sunlit clearing, and they did not notice. And from a long way off, near the swings, holiday shrieks trailed along the wind, and they did not notice.

Jay told Mr. Russell, one by one, small unmattering things that she remembered out of her Secret World, and each time when she had told him he wondered with regret why he had not remembered it by himself. He had never thought it worth while to remember before; his imagination was crippled, and needed crutches. He had not thought it worth while to think much about the time when he was young, the time when his past had been as big and shining as his future. The longer we live, it seems, the less we remember, and no men and few women normally possess a secret story after thirty. It would not matter so much if you only lost your story, a worse fate than loss befalls it—you laugh at it. It is curious how the world draws in as one gets older and wiser. The past catches one up, the future burns away like a candle. I used to think that growing up was like walking from one end of a meadow to the other, I thought that the meadow would remain, and one had only to turn one's head to see it all again. But now I know that growing up is like going through a door into a little room, and the door shuts behind one.

I think Mr. Russell's point of difference from most older and wiser people was that he had not forgotten the excitement of writing down snatches of his secret story as it came to him, and the passion of tearing up the thing that he wrote, and the delight of finding that he could not tear it out of his heart. He was a silent person, and a rather neglected person, and unbusinesslike, and unsuccessful, and uncultured, and unsociable, and unbeautiful. So there was nothing worse than emptiness where his secret story used to be. He had not found it worth while to fill the space. He had not found it worth while to shut the door.

"Do you remember that Christmas," said Jay, "when there was a blizzard, and a great sea, and the foam blinded the western windows of the House, and the children went out to sing 'Love and joy come to you'? (Those aren't real words any more now, are they? only pretty caricatures.) And when the children came in with snow and foam plastered up their windward sides, do you remember that one of them said, 'Is this what Lot's wife felt like?'"

"I can just remember Love and Joy mixed up with the wind at the window," said Mr. Russell. "But always best of all I can remember the way you looked on ..."

"Me?" said Jay. "I wasn't there."

"Oh yes you were, and that's what you forget. You were there always, and when I was looking for the House I believe it was always you I was expecting to find there."

"Me! Me, with this same old face?" gasped Jay. "Oh, excuse me, but you lie. You never recognised me in my 'bus."

"I knew without knowing I knew. I remembered without remembering that I remembered. We haven't made a psychical discovery, Jay, we have done nothing to write a book about. Only you remember so well that you have reminded me."

"I don't believe that can be true," said Jay. "I know I wasn't there."

"Why can't you see the truth of it?" asked Mr. Russell, sighing for so many words wasted. "In that House by the Sea, who was your Secret Friend?"

"My Friend," said Jay, "is young and very full of youth. He is like a baby who knows life and yet finds it very amusing, and very new. He is without the gift of rest, but then he does not need it, the world in which he lives is not so tired and not so muddling as our world. In him my only belief and my only colour and my last dregs of romance, and certainly my youth survive. We never bother about reserve, and we never mind being sentimental in my Secret World. We just live, and we are never tortured by the futility of knowledge."

"Well," said Mr. Russell, "I had a Secret Friend in my House, and she was wonderful because she was so young that she knew nothing. She never asked questions, but she thought questions. She knew nothing, she was waiting to grow up. She had little colour, only peace and promise. I knew she would grow up, but I also knew she would never grow old. I knew she would learn much, but I also knew she would never become complete and ask no more questions. That voice of hers would always end on a questioning note. You see, I have found my Secret Friend, grown-up, grown old enough to enjoy and understand a new and more vital youth."

"Shall I find my Friend?" asked Jay.

"Yes," said Mr. Russell in a very low voice. "You can find him if you look. You can find him, grown very old and ugly and tired. There are different ways of growing up, and your Secret Friend was rash in using up too great a share of his sum of life in the House by the Sea."

Then Jay was suddenly enormously happy, and the veil of failure fell away from the day and from her life. She held in her hand incredible coincidences. The angle of the forest, the upright trees upon the sloping earth, the bend of the sky, the round bubble shapes of the clouds upon their appointed way, the agreement of the young leaves one with another, the unfailing pulse of the spring,—all these things seemed to her a chance, an unlikely and perfect consummation, that had been reached only by the extraordinary cleverness of God. All love and all success were pressed into a hair's-breadth, and yet the target was never missed.

"You shall go down to the House by the Sea," said Jay. "You shall go when the moon is next full over the sea that drowned our house. You shall come from the east, along the rocky path, as you used to come, between the foxgloves; you shall play at being a god, coming between the stars and the sea. And I will play at being a goddess, as I used to play at being a ghost, and I will run to meet you from the west, and the high grasses and the ferns shall whip my knees, and the thistles shall bow to me, and the sea shall be very calm and say no word, and there shall be no ship in sight. And we will go down the steep path to the shore, and we will stand where the sand is wet, and look up to where our drowned House used to be. And there shall be no facts any more, only the ghosts, and the dreams. Oh, surely it has never happened before—this meeting of Secret Friends—and surely no friend ever loved her friend as I love you, and surely there never was so little room for sin and disappointment in any love as there is in ours. Surely there are no tears in the world any more, and no Brown Borough, and no War. I don't care if I go hungry every day till we meet, I don't care if I have nothing but hated clothes to wear in my Secret World. I don't care if there are six changes on the journey to the sea, and at every change I miss my connection. I don't care if the end lasts only a minute, because the minute will last for ever, there are no facts any more. Because of you the little bothers of the world are gone, and the big bothers never did exist, because of you. Oh, I can say what I mean at last, and if it's nonsense—I don't care, because of you...."

Presently she said, "And now I wonder if I am very proud or very much ashamed of having spoken."

"You said once," Mr. Russell reminded her, "that life was just a bead upon a string. Well, does it much matter whether one bead is the colour of pride or the colour of shame? Does one successful bead more or less matter, my dear? I think it's all a succession of explanations, more or less lucid, and all different and all confusing. A string of beads more or less beautiful, and all unvalued. We don't know that any of the explanations are true, we don't know that any of the beads have any worth. We only know that they are ours...."

"I don't care if I trample my beads in the mud," said Jay. "Now let's go home and think."

When she and Chloris got home that evening to Eighteen Mabel Place, Chloris barked at a man who was waiting outside the door. He was a young man in khaki, with one star; he looked very white, and was reading something from his pocket-book.

"Great Scott, Bill," said Jay. "I thought you were busy sapping in France. Were you anywhere near Kew?"

I do not know if you will remember the name of young William Morgan. I think I have only mentioned him once or twice.

"I got back on leave two hours ago," said Mr. Morgan. "I have been waiting here thirty-two minutes. I saw Kew every day last week, and I was with him when he died, three hours before I came away yesterday."

Jay was silent. She opened the door, and in the sitting-room she placed—very carefully—two chairs looking at each other across the table.

"Jay," said William Morgan, "I am deadly afraid of doing this badly. Kew and I talked a good deal before it happened, and there was a good deal he wanted me to tell you. All the way back in the train and on the boat I have been writing notes to remind me what I had to say to you. I hope you don't mind. I hope you don't think it callous."

"No," said Jay.

"He was very anxious you should know the truth about it, because he said he had never lied to you. He was always sure that if he were shot it would be in the back while he was lacing his boots, or at some other unromantic moment. And in that case he said he could lie to Anonyma and your cousin vicariously through the War Office, which would write to them about Glory, and Duty, and Thanks Due. But he wanted me to write to you, and tell you how it happened, and tell you that death was just an ordinary old thing, no more romantic than anything else, without a capital letter, and that one died as one had lived—in a little ordinary way—and that there was no such thing as Glory between people who didn't lie to each other. I am telling you all this from my notes. I should never have thought of any of it for myself, as you know. I hope you don't mind."

"No," said Jay. She heard what he said, yet she was not listening. Her mind was listening to things heard a very long time ago. She heard herself and Kew in confidential chorus, saying those laboriously simple prayers that Anonyma used to teach them. She heard again the swishing that their feet used to make in the leaves of Kensington Gardens. Kew's was the louder swish by right. She thought of him as an admirable big brother of eight, with a round face and blunt feet and very hard hands. She heard the comfortable roar of the nursery fire, and the comfortable sound of autumn rain baffled by the window; she saw the early winter breakfast by lamplight, and the red nursery carpet that had an oblong track worn away round the table by the frequent game of "Little Men Jumping." She heard the voice of Kew clamouring against the voice of Nana because he would not eat his bacon-fat. On those days there was a horrid resurrection at luncheon of the bacon-fat uneaten at breakfast.

"As it happened," continued Mr. Morgan, no longer white, but very red, "he wasn't killed in an advance, or anything grand. He told me to tell you, so I am telling you. He was killed by a sniper while he was setting a trap of his own invention to catch the rats as they came over the parapet. He was shot in the chest very early yesterday morning, and he lived about four hours. He was not in much pain, he even laughed a little once or twice to think he should have lived and died so consistently. He told me that he had never seen a moment's real romantic fighting; he had never once felt patriotic or dramatic or dutiful, he said. He wandered a little, I think, because he seemed worried about the rats that might be caught in the trap he had set. He seemed to mix up the rats and the Boches. He said that these creatures didn't know they were vermin, they just thought they were honest average animals doing their bit, and then suddenly killed by a malignant chaos. My notes are very hurried. I am afraid I am repeating myself."

Jay remembered the mouse they once caught, and kept in a bottle for a day, and the palace they made for it out of stones and mud and moss, and the sun-bath of patted mud they made by the door of the palace. But the mouse, when it was installed, flashed straight out of the front door, and jumped the sun-bath, and knocked down a daisy, and was never seen again. But Jay and Kew used to believe that on moonlit nights it came back to the palace, and brought its wife and children, and was grateful to the palace builders.

"A few days before he was killed," said Mr. Morgan, "he told me that he had lied so successfully all his life that quite a lot of people thought him a most admirable young man. He said Anonyma once brought him into a book, and when he read that book he saw how lying paid, as long as one didn't lie to absolutely everybody. He said if he died Anonyma would write something very nice upon his memorial brass about a pure heart or everlasting life, and he thought you would smile a little at that. He said that he remembered going home with you in a 'bus and seeing on the window of the 'bus a text that promised everlasting life on certain conditions. He said the remembrance of that text tired him still. He said he had had too much of himself, he had known himself too well, and when death came, he wanted it to be an honest little death with no frills, and after that an everlasting sleep with no dreams. I am putting it all in the wrong order. I shall make you despise me. You talk so well yourself."

Jay was remembering the "Coos" they used to have in the big armchair in the nursery. When they found that they suddenly loved each other unbearably, they had a Coo, they tied themselves up in a little tangle together, and sang Coo in soft voices. And then they felt relieved. Jay remembered the last Coo. It happened when Kew's voice was breaking ten years ago, and he found that he could no longer coo except in a funny falsetto. So, rather than become farcical, the Coos ceased.

"I don't know quite why Kew wanted me to tell you all this," said Mr. Morgan, "except that he said you knew so much about him that you might as well get as near as possible to knowing everything. He never thought he would be killed, in fact I gave him a lot of messages of my own to give to my mother in case I went. But at the last, when he knew he was dying, he was desperately anxious you should know that he did not die a 'Stranger's death,' as he said. He thought any hint of drama about his death would spoil your friendship. He said you knew more than most people about friends, and he thought that in this way you could find for him a certain 'secret immortality' which would make the soil of France comfier for him to sleep in. And then he said, 'If I'm too poetic—like a swan—don't report me too accurately.' He seemed to go to sleep for some time after that, and every now and then he laughed very faintly in his sleep. I had to leave him for a bit, and when I came back he was still asleep. The only thing he said after that was: 'This is awfully exciting.' He said that about ten minutes before he died. I hope I'm not making it too painful for you, dear little Jay.'"

"No," said Jay. Quite irrelevantly, she had found her Secret Friend. She found a little dark wood, burnt and broken by fire, in a grey light, and there was a wet ditch that skirted the edge of it. She saw the hopeless and regretful sky, there was neither night nor morning in it, there was neither sun nor moon. These things she noticed, but more than all she saw her Secret Friend, lying crouched upon his side close to the ditch, with his arms about his face. She saw the slow leaves fall upon him from the ruined trees, she saw the damp air settle in beads upon his clothes. His feet were in the undergrowth, and above them the dripping net of the spider was flung. She had never seen her Friend quite still before. All her life her Secret Friend and her Secret Sea had kept her soul awake with movement. But her Friend was dead, and there was no more sea. The very fine rain blew across her Secret World, and blotted it out. The very distant sound of guns—which was not so much a sound as an indescribable vacuum of sound—shattered the walls of her bubble enchantment.

"Oh, darling Jay," said Mr. William Morgan, "I wish I could help you. I can't go away and leave you like this. I wish I could help you."

She found she had her forehead on the table, and her hands were knotted in her lap. And where once the Gate to the House had been, there was only London now. No more would the drum of the sea beat in her heart, there was nothing left but the throbbing of distant trams.

"So it's all lies ..." she said quietly. "There really is a thing called death after all. People die...."

"Jay, darling, don't," sobbed Mr. Morgan. "For God's sake marry me, and I'll comfort you. I won't die—I swear I won't. And after all, it's Spring. There's no real death in the Spring. Kew can't have died."

"Oh, what's the use of these eternal seasons?" said Jay. "There is a thing called death. And death has no romance and no reason. The rats died, and Kew died, and the secret world died, and there is nothing left...."

It was young David, lord of sheep and cattle, Pursued his Fate, the April fields among, Singing a song of solitary battle, A loud mad song, for he was very young.

Vivid the air—and something more than vivid,— Tall clouds were in the sky—and something more,— The light horizon of the spring was livid With a steel smile that showed the teeth of War.

It was young David mocked the Philistine. It was young David laughed beside the river. There came his mother—his and yours and mine— With five smooth stones, and dropped them in his quiver.

You never saw so green-and-gold a fairy. You never saw such very April eyes. She sang him sorrow's song to make him wary, She gave him five smooth stones to make him wise.

The first stone is love, and that shall fail you. The second stone is hate, and that shall fail you. The third stone is knowledge, and that shall fail you. The fourth stone is prayer, and that shall fail you. The fifth stone shall not fail you.

For what is love, O lovers of my tribe? And what is love, O women of my day? Love is a farthing piece, a bloody bribe Pressed in the palm of God, and thrown away.

And what is hate, O fierce and unforgiving? And what shall hate achieve, when all is said? A silly joke, that cannot reach the living, A spitting in the faces of the dead.

And what is knowledge, O young men who tasted The reddest fruit on that forbidden tree? Knowledge is but a painful effort wasted, A bitter drowning in a bitter sea.

And what is prayer, O waiters for the answer? And what is prayer, O seekers of the cause? Prayer is the weary soul of Herod's dancer, Dancing before blind kings without applause.

The fifth stone is a magic stone, my David, Made up of fear and failure, lies and loss. Its heart is lead, and on its face is graved A crooked cross, my son, a crooked cross.

It has no dignity to lend it value; No purity—alas—it bears a stain. You shall not give it gratitude, nor shall you Recall it all your days except with pain.

Oh, bless your blindness, glory in your groping! Mock at your betters with an upward chin! And, when the moment has gone by for hoping, Sling your fifth stone, O son of mine, and win.

Grief do I give you—grief and dreadful laughter. Sackcloth for banner, ashes in your wine. Go forth, go forth, nor ask me what comes after. The fifth stone shall not fail you, son of mine.

GO FORTH, GO FORTH, AND SLAY THE PHILISTINE!

There were a few very warm days and nights in the west last spring. It was at the time of the full moon.

There were so few clouds in the sky that when the sun went down it found no canvas on which to paint its picture. So it went down unpictured into a bank of grey heat that hid the horizon of the sea, and no one thought it worth watching except a man coming alone along the cliff from the northeast. The moon came up and filled the quarry with ghosts, and with confused and blinded memories. The sea advanced in armies of great smooth waves, but under the moon the wind went down, and the waves went down, and there was less and less sound in the air.

One man watched the dwindling waves troop into the cove near the quarry. There was only one pair of eyes in the whole world that tried that night to trace in the air the shape of a drowned house. There was only one shadow by the quarry for the moon to cast upon the thyme. There was no voice but the voice of the sea. No passing but the peaceful passing of the lambs disturbed the thistles and the foxgloves.

The sea rose like a wall across the night, a wall that shut half of life away. The sky fell like a curtain on the land, but there was no piece to be played, so the curtain was never raised.

One man waited all the night through, like a child waiting for the fairies. The sea grew calmer and calmer, the tide went down, and the cove spread out its long sands like fingers into the sea. There was a shadow on the sands below the quarry, and it may have been the shadow of a house. And perhaps when the tide came up at dawn it devoured old footprints upon the shore, the prints of feet that will never come back. I think that when the moon fled away into oblivion, it was not only the moon that fled, but also a bubble world, full of dead secrets.

How foolish to wait for the culmination of a secret story! How foolish of a man to wait all night for the redemption of an old promise, for the resurrection of a forgotten romance! There are no secret stories, there is no secret world, there are no secret friends. The House by the Sea has been drowned, and even its ghosts have forgotten it. After all, there was nothing to remember. The gate to the House is barred, not by a lock but by a laugh. Reality and not adversity has blown the bubble away.

I remember the moment when Jay found four-fifths of her life proved false. I remember that she besieged the world with tears; I remember that she bruised her hands against the iron gate. How foolish to bruise one's hands against nothingness!



ANTI-CLIMAX

"It is well," sighed Anonyma, "that our little Jay has at last found Romance. Since first she came to my arms—a toddling sceptic of four—I have seen what she lacked, I have prayed that I—who possessed it—might perhaps be inspired to give her the Clue.... Yet to young Bill Morgan it was given to show her the way ... to unlock the door.... Oh! Russ, we grow older and wiser and are left behind. The young reap where we have sown.... Is this always to be the end of our youth?"

Mr. Russell laughed a little. "Yes," he said. "This is the end."

The finest fruit God ever made Hangs from the Tree of Heaven blue. It hangs above the steel sea blade That cuts the world's great globe in two.

The keenest eye that ever saw Stares out of Heaven into mine, Spins out my heart, and seems to draw My soul's elastic very fine.

The greatest beacon ever fired Stands up on Heaven's Hill to show The limit of the thing desired Beyond which man may never go.

* * * * *

At midnight, when the night did dance Along the hours that led to morning, I saw a little boat advance Towards the great moon's beacon warning.

(The moon, God's Slave, who lights the torch, Lest men should slip between the bars, And run aground on Heav'n and scorch To death upon a bank of stars.)

The little boat, on leaning keel, Sang up the mountains of the sea, Bearing a man who hoped to steal God's Slave from out eternity.

My love, I see you through my tears. No pity in your face I see. I have sailed far across the years: Stretch out, stretch out your arms to me.

My love, I have an island seen, So shadowed, God's most piercing star Shall never see where we have been, Shall never whisper where we are.

There we will wander, you and I, Down guilty and delightful ways, While palm-trees plait their fingers high Against your God's enormous gaze.

For oh—the joy of two and two, Your Paradise shall never see The ecstasy of me and you, The white delight of you and me.

I know the penalty—the clutch Of God's great rocks upon my keel. Drowned in the ocean of Too Much— So ends your thief—yet let me steal....

The Slave of God she froze her face, The Slave of God she paid no heed, And thund'ring down high Heaven's space Loud angels mocked the sailor's greed.

The diamond sun arose, and tossed A billion gems across the sea. "The Slave of God is lost, is lost, The Slave of God is lost to me...."

He grounded on the common beach, He trod the little towns of men, And God removed from his reach The cup of Heaven's passion then, And gave him vulgar love and speech, And gave him threescore years and ten.

THE END

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