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779 6 C ir c le

R T O NE — CH A P T ER

m
a st or y nigh t in N ovember ; out o f
T w as
doo rs the w ind sw ung through the street in a
,

rocking gale but in the parlou r behind the


,

curio sh 0 p li fe seemed at its ebb Old Solny


,
.

pored o ver a musty book and A nna stood with her ,

head thrown back her hands clas ped behind her her
, ,

eyes seeing drea ms ; abo ve them on the dun coloured ,


-

wall the Du t ch clock ticked methodically but other


, ,

wi se the room was bere f t ofsound .

It w as long be fore either mo v ed ; then Solny stirred


automatically all his ac tions were jerky and indi
rect — and Anna unclasped her hands She watched .

him fumble for his handkerchief and the corners o f ,

her mouth sti ffened unconsciously as he opened the


knotted corner and drew out his worn snu ffbox -
,

opening the lid with a little snap Youth is all raw .

edges to the foibles o f age and Anna w as not yet ,

sixteen She mo v ed impatiently and the dreamy


.
,

look dri fte d from her eyes like a shadow be fore the
sun .

Father h e said it 5 long past eight


,

s ,
“ ”
.

He turned and a tiny cloud li ke fine brown sand


, , ,

scattered from h is fi ngers along his sleeve .


2 THE CI R CL E
It after eight she said again

s ,

.


So ? He shut his book reluctantly
” “
A nd .

the supper ? ”


The supper has been ready for half an hour .

There was no v exation in her voi ce ; she spoke with


the indi fference ofo ne school ed to wait Li fe in the .

curio shop in the little parlour behind it in the


, ,

m
cr amped bedrooms upstairs w as one persistent waiting ,

— for something that ne ver came She ade the tea .

quietly in the R ussian fashion that her father had


brou ght with hi m to E ngland many years be fore ;
then she took her place at the table and began to
cut up the bread .

There w a another riot at the docks last night


s
,

m
she said and another robbery Whi t e s gang this
, .



e

A wom an w as robbed o f a purse with ten bank


n otes in it She dre w up her chair

. .


So ? Old Solny stretched out a furtive hand
"

and drew his book nearer by an inch .

Yes And she gave up the purse without a


.

word .

So
7,

At the third excla m ation the girl struck the tabl e

m
sharply with her h and Father she cried do say ”
.
, ,

something ore ! You m ake m e feel so m uch


her voice shook so m uch alone She glanced
,

.

round the little room with its scanty furniture its ,

odds and ends its accu m ulation o f v alue and rubb ish
, ,
THE CI R CL E 3

and her eyes suddenly filled with tea rs She kne w .

eve ry detail fro m the h al ffilled packing cases crowded


,
- -

on the window seat to the darkened ceiling but she


-
,

had never consciously spoken the word home She .

looked across the table an d throwin g back her head , , ,

tossed the tears out o fher eyes .

You d rather have one page o f that old book


Solny looked up perplexed ; then he pas sed his


fin ger lovingly over the manuscript “
B ut it is .

priceless he said “
Merovin gian — ten hundred
,

.

and twel ve He returned t o his pl ace on the sixth



.

A nna c u t hersel fanother round o fbread then she


sighed .I wi h I were a man s

Solny went o n deciphering ; the storm shook the


house in a further gale and the fire r ared up the o

chimney .

I wish I were a man she said again .

This ti m e her father looked at her o ver his glasses .


Why my child ? Are you not content ? Is the
,

li fe not good ? ”

Oh good enough , She leant back in her


chair .

B ut if I were a man — if I were a man ,

father I d get o n board a ship and be a sailor At



.
,

the docks to day the wind was roaring through the


-

masts and it ounded like a great loud song ; it


, s ,

made me mad to see the sea The world and the sea .

must be very much alike She rested her elbows on .


the table and to ok her fac e betwee n her hands .


4 THE CI R CL E
Solny m ade an unintelli gible sound The world .

is fit for one thing he said to keep out o f ,



, .

B ut father ,

You talk t oo much child Get me the cata , .

logue .

She rose Don t you think that the woman


.

whose purse was stolen w as a fool P ”


The catalogue His head was bent again .

She crossed the room and pausing by the boo k ,

shel f reached for a volume o n the upper tier


, If .

I had been in her place I d ha v e fought for what


belonged to me — With White or any man She .


tossed b ac k her plait o fthick red hair and blew some


dust from the co v er o f the book It must be fine .

,

you kno w to feel like that — to feel in the middle


,

o f things and not to care Here it s just pea rls ’


.
,

and china jars and dust always Don t you e v er .


want to go bac k ? ”

B ack where ?

Oh back into li fe ; back i nto when you were
,

young She paused


.

.

When I was young he said slowly there was ,



,

persecution po v erty and persecution for e very Jew .

That was all .


She loo ked at him lingeringly It must be fine .

t o be persecuted Did you feel a hero ? ”


.

No he aid shortly and h i head drooped


,

s ,
s .

An na w as studying the dial o f the clock and


mi sed the expression on his fac e At the brusque
s .

ness o fhis answer her ex pre ssion f ell You are n t ’


.
TH E C I R CL E 5

a bit like a story she said regretfully


,

you ne v er ,

never tell things and yo u must have seen She


made a descriptive gesture with her hands .

You can see too much he said l aconically ,



.

She sat o n the back o f a chair and swung her foot


t o and fro the rise and drop o f the wind w as beat
ing in her blood ; she strummed an accompanying
tattoo o n the list book in her hand Oh h o w I .

,

wish
Solny tapped the table with a gesture not unlike
her o wn . You talk too much he said again ,

.

The catalogue
Slowly she got to her feet and cross ed the room
her sense keen as razor blades were racing at the
s, ,

heels o fthe wind Within a yard o f her father she


.

paused ; her head bent suddenly and the pupils o f


her eyes enlarged .

Father di d you hear that ?


,

He turned a page .

Father
The bo ok dropped .

Anna s body was slightly bent and there w as


Colou r in h e r face Father it s a ro w ! she said


.
,
’ ”

with conviction I can hear the running and the


.

shouts Father ! She clasped her hand


.

Father s. ,

I heard someone cry out Gi v e me the lamp ! ”


.

The old man turned pale You are mad Anna .


, ,

he said tremulously What would you d 9 Y o u


. o

are mad .

She was listening intently ; the colour in her face


6 TH E C IR C L E
ca me and went like a flame Oh She drew in
.

m
her breath .
Q ui k father the lamp !
c , ,

m
Y o u are ad he faltered again
,

.

She turned to hi a torrent o f speech behi nd her


,

lips ; but in view o f his frightened face the words


died away “
. Father she said shortly let m e
,
“ ”
,

pass C an t you see th at worlds would n t keep me


.
’ ’

bac k ? ”

He stretched o u t his hand but her ey e s and her ,

ea rs were elsewhere She flew pas t him like a whirl


.

wind and sei zed the copper lamp ten seconds later
, ,

he hea rd her struggling with the bar o f the shop

m
door. Anna he called waveringly
,

Ann a .
,

think of y treas ures ! My stock


B ut his only answer w as the trail o f smell and
.

smoke that the l amp had left .


P A R T O NE —C H A P TER II

NN A held the lamp above her head and her ,

fingers moved eagerly as they u n fas tened


the catch of the bar There was no .

fear in her face no sh adow o f it in her ,

mind ; her whole bein g was absorbed in o n e idea


the kn owledge that betwee n her and the rush o f li fe
there stood o nly o ne sm all door .

She h e ard her father stumble she hea rd a dragging ,

so und as he pulled back the curta in that divided


,

the parlour from the shop ; then she quickened her


m ovements an d the bar dropped fro m the door with
a clang A n instant later she blew o ut the lam p
.
, .

Ifthere is a ro w it s best to h ave no light Do



.
,

you hear father ? ,


Solny res po nded inau di bly ; his voice had the pit
eousness o fa child s

.

Anna smiled It 5 all right Here s my hand


.
"
.
’ ”
.

She held out her hand an d t o her impatienc e the ,

m inute see med interm inable be fore his fin gers grop , ,

ing in the air found and grasped her own


, .

B ut you can do no good and I dislike the


dark Anna !
.

I was n t thinking about doin g good I w ant to



.

see thi ngs A re you ready ?



.
8 THE CI R CL E
His hand ti ghtened on hers .


Father ! she said afresh

You can hear it .

agai n n o w — if yo u liste n hard

m
It s away behind .

the house ; it s back in E bury Street but the wind



,

is blowi ng it roun d the corner Can t you hear ? .


V oice s and running ? She pulled him forward and”

fo r a space there w as no sound in the pl ac e beyond


their di fferently ta ken breaths .

Then she straighte ned hersel f Solny shrank .

agai nst her arm but she mo v ed him aside and took
,

a fresh step forward Just wait for me father


.

,

and don t light the lamp I ll be bac k in a minute



.

—I only want to see .


B ut Anna
, He groped forward and caught
h er arm . Ifyou m us t go go by the yard into the ,

m
Passage it s easier it s safer than the front door

,

.

She laughed And be t ra pled to dea th in the


.

Pas sage if a crowd ca me up T will be all right .


father ; I ll shut the door — and I ll knock when


’ ’

I m ready to come bac k Now



With a roar .

from the freed wind that whirled her skirts and

m
whistled in her ears she let the door fall open and
,

stood fra ed in the aperture For a moment h e . s

breathed in the freshness o f the night ; then sh e


m o v ed forward drawing the door with her A
,
.

second later it closed with a gentle thud — shutt in g


,

her on the outer side .

The street was a sweep o f grey whipped clea n by ,

the gale To her right as she paused on the nar row


.
,

foot path ran the by way known as the Pass age an


-
,
-
TH E CIR CL E 9

ill-kept lane that j oined E bury S treet with Spin m


ner s Alley and into which the yard at the side o f

,

S olnys hou se opened by a little doo r To her ri ght



.

stretched Felt Street on which the shop front opened


, ,

a place ofno great w idth tone paved and possessing ,


s -

houses o f enormous age She glanced along its .

len gth with impartial eyes It was unattracti v e in .

the day ; it w as e v en more unin v itin g in the night .

It had a desolate air — the desolate monotony o f


an over familiar scene She knew every cur ve in
-
.

the ea ves e v ery stone in the pavement Her eye


, . s

wandered from o ne obj ect t o another First be .


,

yond the curio shop came the baker s ; then the ,


pawn shop with its Haunting sign then the tiny cul
-

de sac no more than a gaping mouth among the dull


-
,

shadows ; then B ut her eyes grew weary ; she


turned and walked a step or two towards the corner ;
then paused again On the opposite side the j ut
.

ting houses were a black mass sa v e where a candle ,

showed thr ough a canty blind or a street lamps

ca ught reflections in a window pane E v erywhere -


.

were silence and shadow and an apprehensi v e sense


o f things to come She put up her hand and
.

smoothed the long wisps o f hair that the wind


had blown free o f her plait Th en she gav e a .

sli ght cry and stepped backward as a dog fled ,

round the corner o f the Passage and da rted down


Spinner s Al l ey with a howl A econd later h o t

.
s
,

upon its precursor came another fugitive ; but, ,

un like the dog it lurched into the cross stree ts


,
10 TH E CIR CL E
with the speed o f a badly launched arrow and -
,

there pause d .

Anna felt her blood eb b and her breath catch .

She stood immo vable her hand suspended in the air


, .

In the uncertain light the new comer was not easy of -

definition beyond the fact that he was a man and


small o f stature ; nevertheless as he paused in the ,

open space wi t h the breathless stillness o f a hunted


animal his figure showed up impressive and grey
, .

The pause was instantaneous but to the girl it ,

seemed immense She mo v ed ; the man turned ;


.

and in the hal f gloom she felt rather than knew , ,

that their glances met The wind w as blowin g


from him to her her skirts flapped like sai ls at sea ;
her hair blown across her eyes momentarily blinded
, ,

her ; faint and yet distinct came the sound that she
h ad heard from the parlour — the noise o f massed
feet and voices that is like no other sound on earth
, .

She tossed the hair o u t o f her eyes and l ooked


towards the man .

It was patent at a glance that the oncoming sound


h ad reach e d him as soon or sooner than it h ad h er
, , .

He seemed to sway for an insta nt in despair then ,

to gather decision from the v ery presence o fhis fear .

With a flash that was almost intuition she defined ,

his glance wild and eager as he revolved suddenly


, , ,

facing each o f the intersecting stree ts in turn ; an d


with an articulate sound o f excitement her mind ,

lea ped to the same solution at the sa m e instant


, ,

as did his .
THE C I R CL E 11

The black alley ! she said below her b reath ;


and she clasped her hands and shut her eyes as he


fled past her up the cul de sac beyond the baker s - -
,

and the pawn shop ; then she turned and stood


-

against the corner fac ing the Pas sage Almost .

instantaneously the crowd blocked by its o wn haste ,

in the narrow outlet found egress and poured into


,

the open space There it wavered fell asunder


.
, ,

drew together again and finally stood still , .

m
Anna watched it steadily With a throb o f ex .

c it e e nt she realised the situation and waited events .

It was a se cond o r two be fore she was seen ; then ,

m m
with a vague impulsiveness that always marks a
o b t h e press swayed towards her
,
. oving in upon ,

the foot path while the outer stragglers spread in a


-
,

dark tail across the t eet s r .

“ Seen a man ? demanded a v oice in the fore


gro u nd ; and a dozen other voices instantly echoed


the question .
The colour rushed into Anna s face ; the j oy and ’

danger ofher position assailed her in a rush .

Speak up came from the centre o fthe thron g .

m
The crowd wa v ered towards her then receded m o ,

e nt aril
y the b reath from many throats was ca rried

to her across the wind She suddenly looked up . .

Wh at sort o fman she said .

A small man The words were spas m odic ; the


.

chase h ad been a h ot o ne .

He war n t so small neither


m
’ ”
.
,

Shut up ! The first an turn ed .


12 THE C I R CL E
Bout my size put in a third pushing t o the
,

fr ont only to be elbowed back .

Anna clasped her hands behind her For the .

first time in her existence issues o freal moment were


at sta ke She glanced quickly over the faces that
.

con fronted her and t o her inner eyes the picture o f


,

the fugiti v e alone in the grey street rose plain and


sharp —the panic o f h i last movements the inc o n s ,

ru it o f o n e man against fi f
ty She tightened her
g y .

fin gers and her eyes gleamed .


He was a sm all man she said I saw hi m ,

.

quite plainly He was a small man


.

.


That s right Small he was B ut look sharp

.

I came out to get a breath o fair and to feel the


wind ; I was lea ning against the door She
spoke with slow deliberate unconcern ,
.

A wa v e o fimpatience crossed the crowd A man .

o n the outer e dg e j ostled and p u shed .

She s kiddin you mate ! he called ; and a


" ’

,

laugh followed quickly by a grow l rose and dropped


,

ag ain .


Maybe she h idin him volunteered another

s

,

.

There s oles enough !


’ ’

m
Se v eral exclamations followed this followed in ,

their turn by an o inous sway towards the foot


path towards the pawn shop and the cul de sac
,
- - -
.

Anna felt it and felt her resolution quail ; then


, ,

with an effort that was inspiration she drew hers el f ,

very straight .


Stop ! she c ried

Stop ! Her voice rang ;
.

14 THE CI R CL E
t rem bled and there w as a sin ging in her e ars Sh . e

stood i m movable for a considerable space then ,

suddenly she spran g alert to the remem b rance o f


the rescued m an From the shadow s on her ri ght
.
,

m
someone was movin g steadily nearer inch by inch .

The light fro the scattered gas lamps was poor -

sh e bent f orward in keen curiosity ; then abruptly


she drew back .

Oh she said involuntarily Oh ! .


At no time would the sight have been a pleasant


o n e ; in the h al f dusk o f the quiet street it almo st

possess ed elements o f fear The figure o f the man


.

was small and de formed his face had the bl uish hue
,

o f chalk his lips trembled a dark stain ran ac oss


, ,
r

the forehead from eyebrow to temple .

For an instant Anna s capacities swam then with



,

equal speed her sense o f necessity sprang into its


,

pl ace
.

What s happened to you ? she asked



What ”

have they done to you ? Y ou are hurt cut ! ”

He gazed at her in a stupor o f silence ; it struc k


her that his eyes were unusually large .

She moved nearer conquering her repulsion


,
Do .

ou know tha t you a re saf e quite sa e


f

y ?
His lips moved but no sound came ; he had c ut
,

stri pped s eech by se v eral degree s


p .

B ut yo u are Wake up ! Understand You are


saf e quite sa fe She caught his shoulder and

.

shook it gently to en force the words then she drew


back and look ed at her hand It w as stained with .
TH E C I R CL E 15

the blood that had dropped fro m his forehead to his


coat With a shock o f feeling she turned and
.
,

rapped violently on the shop door .

There was a long wait an incredibly lon g wait , ,

then the hinges creaked the dark shop opened be fore


,

her like a cave and t n e dry mell —the combination


, s

o fE astern spice wi t h Wester n must that had grown

wi th her into existence —fl oat ed out on the cold


air Pushing the stranger be fore her she stumbled
.
,

through the door Then she raise d her voice


. .

Father father are you there ? Strike a light


, ,

S ilence followed ; someone shut the door with a


thud then drew a matc h slowly ac ross a box It
, .

flared for an instan t lighting the scene the shop


,

with its litter its cobwebs its shadows ; the bent


, ,

form o f old Solny as he held it alo ft ; the drawn


, ,

h aggard face o f the rescued m an The united effec t .

verged on the grotesque .

Anna fel t hersel ftur n cold again ; but she laughed .

R eal li fe is rather terrible she said hus kily but ”


,

but it s fine all the sam e



, She sank down sud .

denly on an empty box .


PA R T O NE CH A P T E R I I I

mat ch flamed flickered and then fell


HE , , ,

and once more there was the darkness


with its magnified sense o f spice and
must For a space no one spoke ; then at
.

las t Ann a broke the silence her v ita lity re asserting ,


-

itselfwith a rush .

Father she cried sharply another match and


,

,

the lamp and hot water This man is cut to bits .

Solny fumbled ; then a fresh light flared up and


showed the stranger lean ing against the wall his ,

hands han ging by his sides his eyes glowing like ,

lamps in the uncertai n gloom A tinge o f pity .

moved Anna — the sense o f ownership and gentle


ness that one feels towards a rescued animal ; and
with o ne o f her rapid imp ulses she rose Solny had .

set a li ght to the lamp and she crossed the shop ,

quickly treadin g with caution between the china


,

and the stacks o f books .

You re very weak she said



Put your arm
,

.

round my neck ; I 11 help you to walk ’


.

The man wa v ered fo r an instant then obeyed , .

No w father she called go be fore us with the


li ght and we ll want a big fire —heaps and heaps


, , ,

o f coal Are you ready ? She turned t o the ”


.
TH E C IR CL E 17

stranger pas sing her arm about his body ; and to


get h er —h e swaying slightly she measuring h er
,

steps with care — they crossed the dusty floor to t h e


little room behind .

In the parlour the fire was casting oran ge flames ;


the homely supper was still to be remo v ed For the .

first time Anna realised the grip o f familiar thi ngs .

Draw up the arm chair father she said ; then she-


, ,

turned again to the new comer It s rather nu -


.
“ ’

steady but you must n t mind


,

.

He glanced at her and a peculiar expression a , ,

look that was ironical and yet patient touched h is ,

face No Fraulein he said in somewhat slow and ”


.
, ,

halting E nglish I do not think that I shall mind


,
.

Then quite suddenly and quite quietly he fainted in


her arms .

It happened in a second ; the whole thing seemed


as natural and as much in sequence as a scene upon

the stage Anna realised it on the instant as she


.
,

bent to the additi nal weight ; Solny grasped the o

fact a moment later and between them they laid ,

hi m on the ground opening his collar for greater ,

air For a space they watched him breathlessly ;


.

then w ith a certai n u neasv haste Solny rose from


his knees He leant deprecatingly against the table
.
,

pu hed h i glas ses onto his forehead drew them down


s s ,

again then spoke


, .


If you don t really nee d me Ann a ’
he said , ,

hesitatingly ifyou don t really need me there s a


“ ’

,

sentence in that manusc ri pt that baffl es me Y ou .

9
18 THE CI R CL E
know I ha v e been much upset to night His glance -
.

wandered wistfully from the unconscious figure of


the stran ger to the boo k still lying beside his
plate.

Anna followed his gaz e then quite suddenly sh e ,

laughed — a spontaneous irresistible laugh ,Oh .



,

father you are di f


, ferent from everyone in the
w orld ! Give me the cold water and a bowl and
I ll let you go ; I can see your fingers t witching

.

Li fe is v ery amusing after all ! She threw b ack


,

her head and her teeth glea med ; she had gained a
new standpoint though an unrealised one
, .

For a long ti me and very care fully she bathed


, ,

the stran ger s face then quite calmly she tied up his

wound : she had none o f the dread o f unconscious


ness that troubles less steady brains She stud ied .

his features with candid curiosity her lips remain ,

ing parted in the questioning attitude o f a child .


Father she said suddenly
,

suppose he ne ver ,

wakes at all ? ”

She hardly expected an answer and she recei ved ,

none Solny was se parated from her by eight cen


.

t u rie s.She bent laying her ear to the stranger s


,

lips ; then she redoubled her splashings o n his face


and hair When at len gth his throat trembled and
.

hi s eyelids hesitatingly stirred his first sight o f a ,

m
returning world was a pair o f brilliant e ves and
a ont h that qui v ered in its eagerness to smile ;
and the welcome was so exhilarating and so ne w
th at he forgot his troubles his pain and the inci ,
THE C IR CL E 19

dents that had b rought him there ; and accepting


the moment as it was returned the smile , .

A h that s better ! Anna drew a lon g breath


’ ”
.
1


For a while I thought you were dead And do .
,

o u know I ne v er dreamt that o u could smile


y , y
you have such gloomy eyes Father ! She raised .

her voice Father put away the boo k he s awake


.
, ,

again C ome and help him into the chair


. .

Solny shuffled round the table ; his glasses were


firmly fixed and his eyes looked preoccupied He .

m
put his hands under the man s lean arms and raised ’

hi . Dear me he said h o w thin you are ! I


“ “
,

suppose you know nothing o f Merovingian manu


script ? I ha v e put my hand upon a marvel .

The man smiled again in spite o f the pain his


mo vement caused “
I am o f little use I fear in
.
, ,

any way .

Anna interposed Action was her sphere ; her .

face looked radiant “


B ack to your book father .
, ,

we sha n t disturb you for an ho ur B ut first where s


’ ’
.
,

the French brandy ? ”

Solny gazed round abstrac tedly Where did I .


put the key ? he aid The brandy is in the top



s .

cupboard but the key ,

An na was trembling w ith i m patience Ne v e . r

mind the key ; you know you forget to lock the


cupboard in any case She prang to a chair .

s ,

poi sing hersel f lightly The strange eyes fol . r s



~

lowed her att entively ; she seemed all y uth and o

strength Of course !
. sh e cried with a laugh
“ ”
.
20 TH E C I R CL E
Of course The cupboard is as open as the day ”
!
.

She thrust her hand into the recess and drew o u t a


squat bottle o f old fashioned make Now this is -
.

pure gold she said seriously and must be taken


,

,

in drops like gold is melted in the mint


, She ”
.

sprang down and her eyes flashed in the brilliance


,

o fthe fire .


I ll set the kettle to boil and then put three

lumps of sugar in a tumbler — S o ! That s right ’

is n t it father ?

Solny muttered an assent .

And you ll feel as strong and well as if to night



-

had ne v er been She came and stood by th e new


.

comer . Already the pain is better eh ? ,


Already Fraulein , .

That s right ! B ut you m ust n t call me Frau


’ ’

lein I m just Anna you know — to everyone



, .

The man looked up .

And you She stirred the fire What are .

you called ? ”

He looked down again Johann he said shortly .


,

.

She repeated the name And nothing else .

Nothing else He spoke a fter a pause ”


. .

She seemed satisfi ed You are a Germ an eh ? ,


I come f rom Vienna .

There w as another silence ; then the girl spoke


a ain L isten to the

kettle It s going to sing ’

g . . .

Is Vienna very big ? B igger than London ?


Not so big but brighter .

Very bri ght ? She li fted o ff the kettle and ”


22 THE CI R CL E
What ? She frowned quickly ”
.

He m ade a deprecatin g motion with his hands .


Fraulein you know that I cannot stay here
,

Y ll know that
a

She drew back swi ftly “


Father did you hear .
,

that ? Disappointment and tears trembled in her


voice .

What child ? What ? Y o u have m ade me lose


,

m y place ”
.

Father I found him and sa ved him and b rought


,

him in and no w he wants to go


,

The man in the big chair mo ed uncom fortably v .

N ot wants Fraulein ,

Yes wants She turned o n him sharply then


, .

loo ked again to wards Solny Father did you .


,

hear ? ”

Solny ran his fingers desperately through his hair .

Have what you will child he said testily Ha v e , ,



.

whatever you will ; but lea v e me in peace If you .

want him no doubt he 11 stay Gi v e hi m the attic


,

.

roo m that John Desinski used ; gi v e him anything


you l ike — but don t speak again He turned in’
.

h is chair and put his hands o v er his ears .

T h e others con fronted each other silently .

B ut Fraule in ,

Anna raised her hand and mo v ed nearer by a step .

It s very well to talk about going she said but



,

can you go Then her manner chan ged ; her voice


so ftened and sh e smiled It w as like a wa v e o f sun .

through a c hill roo m Ho w do you arran ge to


. .
THE CIR CL E 23

walk , you can t stand alone ? She bent down


w h . I]
’ ”

and looked into his f ace and again the fireligh t


,

seemed reflected in her eyes “


We h av e an empty .

room here and a good welcome It is n t very nice


, .

o fyou to go

.

He looked up helplessly .


It is n t very kind o f yo u when I want you to

st ay
.

Her clear gaze m et his When I am so alone


when I —when I would like so much to ha v e a
.

friend Won t you stay Johann ’


.

The appeal was irresistible There was a lo ng .

silence ; he looked down then looked up , I am .

m
What in E nglish you call a beggar he said harshl y ,

.

She watch d hi fo r a second


e Then te ach me .

to talk in Se rm an she said and we 11 never u se


,

,

the word .

PA R T O NE —C H A P TER I V

UC H the ad v ent o f Johann He came


w as .

as a thunderbolt might hav e come in a ,

whirl o f con fusion ; and like the thunder


bolt when its thrill o f li fe is passed he lay ,

where he h ad fallen sinking dee p into the soil o f a


,

new existence t oo inert and pas si v e to seek farther


fields He slept in the bed that had once belonged
.

to John D esinski a Polish artist who had died in the


,

attic abo v e the shop and he slept with the ex h au s


,

tion that follows tumult o f the nerves ; the pain of


his wound lost itsel f and the pas t with the present
, , ,

fell away be fore the necessity o f re t W h en he s .

opened his eyes a fter many hours and blinked before


the sunshine o f a fresh day it was with scarcely any
,

consciousne ss o fthe previous night .

He look ed at the unste ady dressing table with its -

white cloth he ca ught a glint ofsun mirrored back


from the water in t he ewer ; he watched t h e shadows
chequering in drab square o n the bare boards ; and
s

then with a peculiar reali sation o fshelter he let h i


, ,
s

eyelids droop again .

A cautio u s shaking o f the d or handle was h i


o -
s

second summon s ba ck into the world .

May I come in
TH E C IR CL E 25

m
The voice brought a sudden colour to his face and
a de him raise h is hand to the unsightly bandage

o n his head .

Ifyou will Fraulein



.
,

S ay Anna or you get no break fast The ”


.

v oice tingled with a pleasant sense o f li fe he closed


hi eyes again and let it throb through him
s It .

warmed his mind like an intangible fire .

Well ? An impatient foot beat o n the floor


outside I can t hold the tray fo r e v er


.

.

He laughed in ner vous response Please then .

Anna .

With an accompanying sigh o frelie fthe door was


p ushed in ; and then it seemed to him that a sec
ond morning was created in the room that a second ,

flood o flight poured thr ugh it from some unguessed


o

source .

Good morning Johann She came slowly


,

acro s the room


s I ha v e made the co f
. fee as father
likes it and that means a l ot ; and I wasted three
pieces o f bread be fore the toast came right She .

care fully balanced the tray Bu t are you better ? .


Her t one sank and a solicito u l oo k cro sed her eye


,
s s s

it was one o f her characteri tics that her face and s

voice were a glass to her thought reflecting sensa s

tions to the finest point Poo Johann .she aid r s

simply Just for a sec ond yo u know I forgot


.
, , .

She helped him to sit up and p l aced the tray acr os , s

his knees ; then she lea nt against the foo t rail and
prepared to watch him ea t .
26 THE C IR CL E
A fter a full m inute s silence she spoke agai n ’
.

D o you remember anything about last night ?


The words light and unmea nt acted on hi m
, ,

curi usly He bent forward and laid his cup down


o .
,

with so jerky a movement that some ofthe coffee was


spilt on the sheet Don t he said nerv ously
.

I ’

,

.

had forgotten about las t night Your kindness and .

the daylight m ade me forget He co v ered his eyes .


and it seemed to the girl that his h and shook She .

wondered quickly if his re as n w as entirely sound o .

The de formed like the blind are qui k o finstinct ;


, , c

he looked up hal fconscious o fthe tho ught that had


,

crossed her mind Y o u are not to be a fraid


. he ,

said gently it is I who mus t be that



He stared .

past her at the window ; and it seemed to her that in


h i glazed eyes there were visions o fthe night be fore
s

f the streets o f the crowd — o f the uncertain


o , ,

baffling lights She laid her hand on his shoulder


.

m
with a firm protecti v e touch
, .

Tell e what it is Tell me what s the mat ter .



.

She stroked his arm Sometimes you know not


.
,

very o ften o fcourse but sometimes —I have a secret


, ,

o f my own ; and then I alway s tell it to my f ather .

He doe s n t always hear but that doe n t matter ;


,
s
"

the secret is gone and does n t weigh any more If ’


.

o u ll tell me yours ll listen all can and then



I I

y , ,
"
t will go from yo u — right away fr om you See ! .

She touched his hand entreatingly soothingly , .

He turned to her B ut you are a child Why


. .

sho uld I tell my tho ught to you ?



TH E CI R CL E 27

For an instant she looked annoyed ; then she


smiled again You ll tell me because you ll have
.
’ ’

to You ll tell me to morrow if you don t to day


.

-

-
.

A nd you re quite wrong about my being a child


’ ”
.

He looked at her so young so reliant a type o f , , ,

the world apart from him and a sweeping b it t ernes


surged through his mind the bitterest o fall bitter
things the knowledge o fbeing aloo f U nconsciously
,
.

he bent his head .

She too was silent fo r a space the sense o f his ,

depression weighing on her without explanation .

She moved to the window and drawing back the ,

curtain let in an added floo d o f light Then she


, .

turned bathed in its brightness


, Is there anything .

so fine as the light ? she said ”


.

He li fted his head And the darkness ? Wh at .

o fthe darkness ?

Oh I don t count that There must be d arkness


,

.

o f course as well as sun but when it comes we can


, ,

shut our eyes She tried to read his expression


.

,

b ut it puzzled and evaded her .

Ah yes fo r you you carry the brightness with


, ,

you e v en your hair is like a torch .


She glanced at his swi ftly then raised her hand .

My red hair Y o u are laughing ? ”

No not laughing
, His v oice lapsed again ”
. .

Ho w old are you ? ”

Thirty He sighed”
. .

Thirty ! She considered for a while



Half .

father s age and nearly twice mine Johann will we



.
, ,
28 T H E C I R CL E
forget about the sun and the shadow and thin gs and ,

be friends ? She held out her hand



.

He took the hand qu estioningly His o w n fingers .

were thin and pallid hers looked full o fforce by con


,

trast They both look ed down and An na laughed


.
,
.


I belie v e I could squeeze hardest See ! She .

tightened her grasp ; then suddenly let go Have .

I hurt you Your face went all red ”


.


It was not pain he said ha tily It wa ,

s .

s

Ne v er mind what it was ; some day you will know


perhaps .He drew away h is hand and rai sed the

co ffee cup again


-
.

B ut I want to know no w v at w as it ? .
‘ ”

He was silent .


Johann what w as it ?
,

It was nothing He broke a piec e of toas t .

Wh at does your father say o fme to — day


She laughed Father ! Shall I tell you ? Her
.

mind was tossed by a new thought as a lea f is blown


by the wind .

Yes .He sat up straight



.

Well after break fast


,
She settled hersel f
com forta bly against the foot rail You know he .
xc

always reads at meals and ne v er talk ti ll after s .

A fter break fast he put down his book and rubbed


,

his glasses ; then he asked me quite se ri ously ifthere


were rats in the attic room he said he heard noise s

there last night She threw bac k her head and


.

w e nt into another peal o f laughter o fre h and ,


s s

amused that Johann j oin ed .


PA R T O NE —C H A P TE R V

m
T was eleven o clock when Anna slung a bas ket

m m
o v er her ar and went out to buy dinner fo r
the day She was arket w o an and cook in
.

the curio shop as well as mistress and the


, ,

duties that fell to her were varied and nu m erous .

She bought a fish an arm ful o f vegetables a packet


, ,

o flentils some co f
,
fee and dried figs then her errand ,

mm
finished sh e turned homeward The reflection o f
, .

the o ing was in her eyes an audible so ng ro se ,

occasionally to her lips for the lulled s t orm h ad le ft


,

a wintry sunshine behind it that quickened the

blood .


Father she cried as she swun g into the shop
, , ,

you ought to go o ut ! There s a feel in the air ’

to day that would wake you


-
Then as Solny made ”
.
,

no answer she looked farther into the darkness


, .

W hat Johann
, W h o gave you lea v e to dress ? ”

She laid down her basket and went forward hur


riedl
y
. What are you doing ? C atalo g uing ?
How silly with a wounded head !
,

Joh ann raised a pallid face “


It only hurts a .

little ; beside beside I like t o be occupied ,



.

Anna shook h er head H o w silly ! she said


.

again . You look ghastly ; you c an hardly stand v


.
THE CI R CL E fl
z

Then I will sit for a little He loo ked u nce r .

t a inly about .

B ut the girl intervened C ome into the kitchen ; .

you can have a place by the fire while I work , .

He assented easily following her across the shop,

and through the li v ing room to the kitchen beyond ; -


,

it seemed that he lacked force to reason fo r hi mself .

m
See n by day his face looked meagre ; and the de
,

t
o xit
y that by night h ad appea red shadowy showed ,

cruelly in the colder light .

A nna drew a wooden chair t o the grate and pick ,

ing up a bellows et the fire in a blaze From her


,
s .

place by the hearth h e glanced up at hi m ,


s Your .

face IS all pinched she said and your fingers are “


, ,

blue with cold I ll ha v e to look after you I see


.

,
.

He sat down doc ilely and a silence fell , .

She washed the lentils for the soup slice the , d

onions and broke up the celery but her eyes and her ,

attention were all the w hile o n the stranger s face ;


, ,

it was with a preoccupied air that she finally began


to prepare the fi h s .

Johann in his turn was uneasy He moved


, , .
,

sighed thrust his hands into his pockets then sighed


, ,

again ; at last he ro e It is o f no u e he said


s

s
,

I cannot sit quite still It w as the sa m e when you .

left this morning I could not lie in bed


,
He walked ”
.

nervou sly to the dresser h i hands hanging by his ,


s

sides Anna watching him intently felt that he


.
, ,

thirsted t o speak ; but she kept her head silently


ben t
.
32 THE CI R CL E
Anna ! ”
He
o fingered the plate s .

m

Y es .

Oh it is o fno use , He c ssed to the window .


then walked back again Anna I c annot keep it .


,

to mysel f The sweat breaks out e v ery time I think


. .

I am a coward — a coward He sorted a heap o f


plates till they rattled .

She watched him unswer v ingly “


I supp o se we .

are all cowards Johann ”


.
,

The steadiness o f her tone mas tered him he


ceased h i ner v ous gestures an d passed again to the
s

wi ndow where he stood looking out


, If I only .

dared he said at last .

She c o sed the room and slipping her arm thro u gh


r s ,

his led him back to the fire


, No w tell me what .
,

it i s.

He dropped into his former seat and covered his


eyes I have been robbed he said abruptly


. and ,

I am a f raid He lowly w iped the dampnes from ”


. s s

h i face
s .

Anna returned to the table and began to slice the


fish There was a long pause ; then she spoke
. .


Suppose you begin at the beginning Most ,

things hav e a beginning you know Secret hunt , .



-

ing was ne w to her but h e had a keen instinct , s

for the right ac t and the right wo rd Most .

things ha v e a beginning she said again in a le v el ,


voice .

The tonic acted h e at up It w as like this s .

He cleared his th roat .


TH E CI R CL E 33

Take lots o ftime I hav e the fish t o cut up and


wash and dry ”
.

He steadied himsel f drawin g a short breath , .

For many yea rs I ha v e served a j ewel merchant in


V ienna — Golst oc k by name ; a man who has built
a grea t fortune for him el f; a hard man ; a man s

w ith a w ilLo f stone He paused and drew breath



.

again .

I ha ve been with him fo r ten years ; it
w as he who taught me the E nglish — to speak and

to write ; I hav e kept portions o f his E nglish cor


respondence fo r four years A little while ago he .

called me to his pri vate room


The man stopped ; and the only sound that broke
the silence w as the steady slicing o fthe fish .


He called me to his pri v ate room
paused again .

The girl waited drawing her finger tip slowly


,
-

across the tip o f the kni fe He r curiosity was run


Yes —I
.

ning riot but she kept a le vel v oice


, .

understand .

He pulled the edges of h i handkerchief thr ough s

his fingers seekin g ner ve in the friction o f the stuff


, .

Y o u wonder why I he itate and halt he said ”


s , ,

and shiver when I speak o f hi m ? I will tell

m
you why It is beca use I ha v e feared him all these
.

years He is a an who rules by fear


. .

Why ha v e yo u stayed with him all these years ?


That I hardly kno w He passed his hand again.

o ver his face The same reason I suppose that


.

, ,

made me come t o London on his errand the rea on s

3
34 TH E CI R CL E
that m akes men like him rule men like me always ; -

with just a word or a look from the eye ”


.

Anna looked down at her kni fe Wh at about .

the private room ? ”


I am comin g to that He moved nervously . .

When I entered the room he was sitting at his desk ,

and beside him on the top o f many papers was a


, ,

leather case he w as tappin g it with his fingers as I


cam e in . This is for a l ady in London he said

,

.


It m ust reach her in three days ; I am going to
trust it to you He opened the case and showed

.

me what lay inside five ornaments o f pink topaz -

with pearl and di amond rims ; two pins a ring a , ,

hair clas p and a dagger I reme m ber for I had to .


,

count the m many times till he was satisfied I should ,

not forget They were v ery brilliant and dazzled


.

me a little but I took them out and looked at them


,

one by one At last I ask ed him what they were


.

valued for He laughed


. Y o u are not paid to .

v aluate he said
,

Ne v er see beyond your own
.

horizon.


I hesitated for a mo m ent It was not that I .

feared the responsi b ility though a rose coloured -

topaz fro m B razil is something to be prized ; but I


was u ncertain I asked him at length why he h ad
.

chosen me He look ed at me slowly w ith his hard


.

eyes ; then he laughed once more I choose y u . o ,

Johann he said because you are a fool In the


,

,

.

case o fvaluabl es one honest fool is better tha n ten


,

cle ver rogues ’ ”


THE C I R CL E 35

Johann stirred uneasily at the remembrance o fthe


look and Anna felt the colour flood her ch eeks as it
,

had done when she faced the crowd .

What did you do she asked .

m
He shifted his position awkwardly I did noth .

ing — it did not see that there w as anything to


do.

The slow precision o f his E nglish the careful ,

for m ing o fhi s sentences m ade his meanings pain fully


clea r .

Go on ! She returned to her preparation o f


the fish H o w I should hate that man !


.

Do you hate me
Y ou Ho w silly She tossed back her plait .

Do you despise me ?
What a question ! Tell me what you said to
Golst oc k

.

said nothing He always talks


I .

.

Well ?
I consented to do the errand J oh ann s voi ce ” ’
.

was humble and low .

I would n t ha v e consented
’ ”
.

No ; yo u would not He waited for a little


.

then took up his theme again He gave me my .


route and my destination I was to tra vel to Bel .

gium in the least frequented way ; and reaching


Antwerp to cross to London by the sea People
, .

with v aluables take the quickest means I was to ,

ta ke the slowest It was all arranged it is a whim o f


.

Herr Golst oc k s working out these little schemes



.

It is his o nly whim th at I have known ; m ade since


36 THE C IR CL E
years ago he h ad a packet o f ru bies stolen in the
post . He stopped to collect his ideas ; a nd w h e n

he spoke again it was with more rapidity and force .


The end ca me through a countryma n— a bi g
Austrian with a yellow beard He ca me on board .

the ship when I did and we climbed the gangway ,

side by side During the day he spoke — casting a


.

word to me now and then in the E nglish with a ,

pleas ant smile B ut it w as at night in the cabin that


.

he played his card .

We were crowded together —so m e in bed some ,

undre sing ; the ship pitched ; and the smell o f the


s

s w in ging lamp w as very rank An argument was .

ru nning at the centre table but the voices out each ,

o ther so that nobody tried to hear Then o u t o f .

the medley like a gunshot ca me a ban g as the


, , ,

Austrian struck the table with his hand E verybody .

turned round IfI had the v alue o ften gold coins


.
,

he said I would throw them overboard sooner than


, ,

land with them to mo rro w night at the London -

docks His v oi ce shook the plac e and each man


.

,

acted a came best Some made a j est and laughed ;


s .

o thers laughed but not s ea ily ; and some turned ,


o s

pale and as ked hi m what he meant B ut he said no .

mo e Just for a moment his ca reless eyes ran round


r .

the pl ace like lightning dancing upon steel ; and it


,

m
was then in a sudden second that I felt his gaze o n
, ,

e. It w as but a flash but he saw my hand go to ,

m y pillow as I sat up he saw my thought show in


,

m y eyes The next day he came to me as I leant


.
38 T H E CIR CL E
do w n the sta irs and reached the street In the street
.

there were people — m an y people and I fell into


,

their m idst He stopped to catch his breath .


Go on Go on Anna s eyes flashed

.

I fell in amongst them my head was swin gin g


,

round ; then sharply from behind me I heard the


, ,

Au trian s voice with your E nglish cry o f Stop


s

thie f! A n d it see med to me that e v eryone I


most o fall began to run It w as then that I found


.

you . He suddenly collapsed .

There was a tense moment ; then Ann a let the fish


fall an d ran to hi m holdin g o ut her h ands
, .
P A R T O NE CHA P TE R VI

NN A took his hand and stroked it gently .

Poor Johann Poor Johann she said ,

punctuatin g the words with little motions


o f her fin gers She felt that the re were
.

things to say but they slipped her gras p His story


, .

m
still rang in her ears making dull echoes ; and she
,

watched hi with eyes half incredulous hal fenvious ,

o fthe adventure he h ad known .

He w as lying back with closed li ds and l ashes that


twitched w ith the drawing o fhis breath His pallid .

face looked thin ; and frequently in the years that,

followed the isolation o f his attitude in that mo


,

ment ca me back to her like the v aguely recalled


section o f a dream Time seemed to halt while
.

he sat there ; she counted four carts pass o v er the


cobbles o f the street then her patience broke away
,

she pressed his hand sharply and he sat up , .

Oh he moaned it w as terrible —terri ble


,
” “
,

His voice sank and he fell b ack again B ut Anna


, .

w as on the alert ; with a swi ft m ovement she drop ped


to her knees and looked up into his face F or a .

mo m ent the spirit in her eyes inspired him ; he raised


him self and sat forward in the chair “
I told .

you that I was a co ward Look . He held out


40 THE C I R CL E
his hand till the sun played on it ; she sa w that it

B ut Johann
,

His eyes turned o n her full o fquestion and doubt , .

m

Johann I want to underst and
, She rose and ”
.

o ved slowly to the fire Her tone lingered in a .

puzzled way an d her b rows were knit in a frown .

You have lost the jewels that s terri ble o f ’


,

course ; but it s not so bad as you say Y o u ll



.

go to this man in V ienna Her voice suddenly


st opped broken in o n by a laug h a lau gh as hard
,

and mirthles s as a crash o fstones .

Go back t o V ienna ! The v oice was as shrill ”

the laugh Go back to V ienna ! It would


.

make the dead turn in the gra v e A ll at once he .


sa w her f ace and his o w n chan ged


, Oh Fraulein .
, ,

I ha v e hurt you It w as the i rony and the fear


.

together Fraulein forgi v e


.
,

,
B ut Anna s back was turned

It is n t a hun .
“ ’

dred years ago she said coldly when a m an could


,

,

kill you or torture you .


True ! It is not a hundred years ago .


Then you are a coward Her tone w as short .


and contemptuous .

Th ere was a long pau se so long that she w a com ,


s

e lled at las t to turn round h e turned slowly then s


p ,

halted with a throb o f contrition .

He still sat forward but his face was humbly bent ; ,

his eyes pained a nd wi st ful were fixed o n her with


, ,

a co n centrated gaze ; as their glances met he spoke ,


.
TH E CIR CL E 41

I a m
as I was ma e
he said gently d I could be
,

.

faith ful ; I thi nk I could lo v e well ; but in my o wn


cau se I shall always be a coward Nature was look .

ing out o fthe window when I wa born He added ”


s .

the last with a twist in his thin voice .

An na laughed but there w as a catch in her laugh


,

ter She came behind him and touched his hair


. .


I was a wretch ! B ut I am so rry Will that .

do ? ”

It w as true what you said .


It w as not It was hate ful Let s start agai n


. .

where I got cross I said you must go to V ienna ;


.

you said it was impossible Now why ? .



Because it is impossible Im possible There . .

was a nervous whiteness round his mouth .

B ut why
Because I am a fraid I know men cannot kill .

but there are other things besides killing He would .

v ent his loss on me in other ways Oh not for all .


,

the v alue o f the stones would I go back He .


grasped the arms o f his chair .

A nna paused undecided ; then all at once a gen


e ro us impul e crossed her f
s ace ; h e walked swi f t ly s

round the chair and tood in front o f him s Then .

don t bother any more she said



Ifyou are a fraid
,

.

to go don t go Stay here with us She bent l ok


,

. .

, o

ing straightly in his eyes No o ne will find yo u .

he re ; this place is like a mouse hole in the bigne - ss

o f London ; you will be as sa fe as —a mouse .


She laughed ; then grew gra ve again There s .


“ ’
42 THE C I R CL E
a room waiting to be used ; the re s father grow ’

ing more forget ful e v ery day there s the shop want ’

ing more care Oh you would n t be an id l er — I


.
,

can p omise you that


r She held out her hand .

.

He took it unsteadily then let it drop One , .


thing pre v ents .


Johann ! Her v oice fell”


.

He rose abruptly thrust his hand inside his shirt


, ,

and held something to the light .

Johann she said again but in an altered voice , .

The object in his hand shone with a peculiar pinkish


glow . Oh Johann it s v ery very fine
, ,

IfI were to stay he said suddenly this would ”

, ,

b urn into me — little at first greater a fterwards ,

until to mysel f I becam e a thief He turned his


, ,
.

eyes from the jewel to her face from her face b ack ,

agai n “
Wh at can I do with it ? What am I to
.

do ? ”

She was silent for a space then she glanced up , .

There are two places that it can go to B ack to .

Vienna Johann shivered or to the place in L on



, ,

don where the others should have gone Is n t that .


right
He cowered again Oh but I dare not I dare .
, .

not ! ”

There is the post .


No no Packets are traced ; letters are traced


, .

.

He mo v ed uneasily about the room .

Anna knelt on the wooden chair her el bows


resting o n the back Johann she sai d .

,

THE CIR CL E 43

He turned to her .

You trust m e don t you ?,


’ ”

His eyes were eloquent .

Say it in words

.

I trust you
That s right ! N ow listen I 11 take your j ewel

.

t o the hous e where the other s should ha v e gone



.

Anna !

Yes Don t say anyt hin g I ll take it
.

Her .

.

voice quickened she suddenly knelt up Johann .


,

say that I can go ? The strength o f her anticipa


tion flashed across her eyes the force o f her excite


ment pas ed unconsciously to the man He moved
s .

towards her his face lighted by a new hope


, .

It would mean peace ? he said ”


.

Yes t would mean peace


,

She gras ped at the
.

word . T would mean pe ace for you Johann and



, ,

and who knows w hat for me She laughed


afresh and leant towards him Say I trust you .

again .

He moved awkwardly to the dresser and touched


the plates as he had done be fore ; then he turned .

I trust you ! And and I can never forget ”


.
PA R T O NE — CHA P TE R VI I

OUNT ING by human grades the journey ,

from the southeas t to the west o fLondon

m
is longer th an the crossing of the de sert .

To Anna it was the omentous under


takin g o f her li fe Pursued p art o f the way o n foo t
.

and pa rt by omnibus it held her spell bound with


,
-

inte rest and delight .

First came the by ways the intricate streets with


-
,

their j utting houses that h ad been familiar to her all


her li fe ; then the gradually widening thorough fare s ,

the warehouses the atmosphere o f steady comme ce


, r ,

the sense o f colo sal enterprise ; lastly a fter m any


s ,

intermediate ph as es hundreds o f graduating shades


the West E nd itsel f —
, ,

m
the thr on gs o f people the ,

glitter o f shops the colour and o v ement and


,

e xhilaration the surface suggestion o f li fe without


,

a ca re so no v el t o o ne bred in the ways o f toil It


, .

fas cinated and drew her forcibly ; for a time it


caused her to forget her errand and to loiter in
the crowd as dismounting from o ne omnibus she
, , ,

wai ted for the next that w as to take her on her way .

B ut the defection w as only momentary with a li t tle


gasp she recognised her con v eyance tightened her ,

finge s round the small linen bag she carried in


r
46 TH E CI R CL E
de sce nded the steps with headlon g spe ed Alm ost .

be fore she was aware she w as standi n alone in t h e


,
g

roadway watching the omnibus lurch pl acidly out


,

o f sight. Then she walked t o the foot path and -

c onsidered her next ac t .

She drew a slip of paper from h er poc ket rea d it ,

car e fully and glanced at the indicated house ; then


quite slowly her gaze travelled to her dress of coarse

m
b rown serge and she became alive to the stron gest
,

temptation that h ad assailed her yet the t e pt a


tion to run away The inclination was so compel
.

ling tha t she turned involuntarily an d w alked for


a couple o f y ards ; then the f ace o f Johann pale ,

and nervous , rose be fore her and she stood very


,

still It w as a trust ! She turned back ; her steps


.

dragged but did not swerve she reac hed the house
,

without a halt ; there settin g her lips she followed


, ,

the advice on the un familiar bell and pres sed .

F ar inside the hous e she heard a whiz zin g sound ,

and as she w aited a li ghtness stole through her a ,

fresh sense o f nervous anticipation that w as e ntirely


ne w . The time see m ed interminable ; then at last
t h e do or swu n g so f
tly back and sh e turned r ound .

A m anservant was gazin g at her with inquis iti v e


eyes .

m
The contact with a human prese nce b raced her ;
the trepidation vanished an d her courage ca e cree p
ing back .

. M
D oes Mrs axt ead li ve here ? she as ked He r
as level and direct ; b ut the

edmm
l
.

g la nce w an see ost


THE C I R CL E
in his scrutiny and she li ft ed her head Please be .

quick ! she added”


I ha v e no time to waste .

.

He eyed her while he prepared a retort then he


smiled .Time must be valuable where you co m e

from he said

.
,

The blood flew t o her face and her lip trembled .

It is she said after a pause


,
” “
There servan ts
, .

have no time to speak ; they have only time t o


work Tell Mrs ax t ead I want to see her Tell
.

her at once Her voice rose .



. M .
.

M
For a second the man s dignity choked hi m ; then ’

he subdued it Mrs ax t ead is not at home


. . .

m
Anna s lips parted but quite as swi ftly they close d

,

m
again and at the same instant the an strai ghten e d
himself Fro behind a curtain on the right o f the
.

hall cam e the sound o fa bell i mperatively run g , .


Stand in for a minute he said ; and keep on

,

the m at He glanced doubtfully at her boots


.

then swi ftly shutting the hall door he turned and ,

di sappeared behind the curta in .

m
F or Anna t here followed a di f ficu lt mo m ent a ,

oment in which she hung between a desi re t o cry


arid a fresh lon gin g to turn and fly Then swiftly .

as such things occasionally occur she forgot her

m
impulses forgot her o wn exist en ce even in the su dden
, ,

fascination o f so methi ng quite apart Fro behind .

the curtain ca m e the so und o fa voice —the first cul


m
t u re d wo an s voice she h ad ever heard

and stro ng
as a flam e her power o fappreciation sprang in t o li fe .

S he stood breathless attentive to every word , .


48 THE C I R CL E
Wh o is it B ranks So meone for m e ? The
, ?
voice w as like water ripplin g under m oss .

A young woman ma am The alteration in the ,



.

m an s tone was notable F o r the first time Anna



.

realised the gul fo fclass .

W hat does she wan t What does she say ?

m
That sh e mu t e e you ma am ; she says noth s s ,

mg ore .

The owner o f the v oice laughed — a cool well ,

bred laugh You must make her sa v


. .


Yes ma am ,

.

B ranks — wait ! The v oice seemed to linger ”

and hesitate Is h e a common person ?


. s

Anna drew back a ste p ; fo r a second she hun g in


dire s uspense Then B ranks replied. .

Well ma am , He considered

Her clothes .

are shabby but she has a way if I might say it ,

m a am a dominee ring ordering way


,
- .

Ah ? The inflection was ery faint



Y ou v .

may show her in Yes in here ; I 11 see her here .



;

One s curio ity is so se ldom touched



s .

Yes ma am ,
B ranks de ferenti ally withdrew

.

.

In the h all he turned t o Anna she noticed that


he sti ll held himsel fv ery straight .


You may follow me he said and his v oice ,

,

sounded pompous and aggrie v ed A second late r .


,

with the clat ter o f brass rings he drew the cu rtain ,

back .
PA R T ONE —C H A P T E R VI I I

N the roo m there was a toning o f rose and


mau v e ; a toning that reminded Ann a o fJohn
D esin ski and the colour schemes o v er which
,

he used to ra v e in the attic abo v e the sh 0 p .

It was an instincti v e remembrance but instincti v ely ,

it linked this other li fe with hers and un consciously


sh e found the balance o f incidents as she passe d
through the door .

A m all table was drawn l uxuriously near the


s

fire and the suggestion o f lunch was still visible in


,

the diso rder o f sil v er and glass The occupant o f.

the room raised her head and disappointment was the


,

first feeling that sped through Anna s mind The ’


.

beauti ful voice did not belong t o a beauti ful face .

She pause d al m o t disconcerted ; then a second ex


s

pression the stealing o f a fresh impression crossed


,

her eyes and she moved on again


,
.

The owner o fthe v oice look ed up Y ou must n t .


he itate she said


s ,

I ha ve finished my lunch
quite She pushed back her chair and laid dow n
.

the book that she was holding She was a woman o f


.

thirty with dark hair and delicate skin but with e ves ,

that were almost unfeminine in their restless glance .

A woman de v oid o fgood looks but with a person al


,

4
50 TH E CI R CL E
ity an d a distinction that were magnetic — a woman
who need never fear a cro wd .

Without understandin g An na felt so methin g of ,

this She moved forward mechanically studying


.
,

the face be fore her line by line ; at las t she rested


her hand on the edge o fthe table and spoke .

It s quite wonderful she said thoughtfully



,

h o w you suit your voice If you d been pretty



.

you would n t ha ve suited it half so well — not half


M
so well

.

Mrs ax t e ad stared ; then she laughed


. B ranks .

w as correct she said looking at the girl “


You

.
, ,

m
certainly have a w ay Where in the world do you .

come fro ? I thought they h ad ceased t o manu


facture in the o ri ginal nowadays

.
,

Anna blushed then m v ed uncertainly


,
Y ou o .

must n t ask me that she aid



I have promised
,

s .
,

at leas t She stumbled at the words My .

father ca me from R ussia years ago if that i , ,


s

what you mean she added in a courteous a fter


,

thought .

The other laughed again and a faint irony under ,

ran the so f t ness o f the sound ; a tone that caught


one up with a sting o f interest at its start and lulled
one into forget fuln e ss at its fall ; a curious effect
o f salt and sweet that tin gled the senses into ac t iv

ity and le ft them anxious fo r what was yet to


come .

I t hought it was n t quite the E nglish type she


,

said slowly The E nglish type h as such a tendency


.
THE C IR CL E 51

to knock at doors No w you would never knock at .

a door — ifyou wanted to get in


Ann a considered I think it would depend she .
,

said truth fully If it were a m an s door I think I


.

,

should knock
M

.

Mrs ax t ead lay back in her chair


. Y ou irre .

sist ible child ! C ome and ha v e some coffee ? I could


sit and ask you things for ho urs ”
.

Anna moved then paused B ut she began


, .
,

but

My dear child there is no such word C ome ! , .

The co ffee is quite hot and there are years in which


to tell me what you want She drew forward a low ”
.

stool with a brocaded cushion and set it beside her


chair. This ought to suit you yo u ha v e the see
ing eyes She smiled
.

Y o u should sit lo w down .

in front o f a fire with your hands about you r knees ,

and see castles and dream dreams Y o u do it I .


,

know .

A slight wonder spread over Anna s face Don t ’


.

you see pictures ? she asked ”


.


I ! My dear child I find too many things to ,

see in li fe I might gaz e into the fire for minutes


.
,

but I d only calculate the amount o fcinders my coal


m
merchant makes his profit by I am hopelessly co m
erc ial you see —to the finger tips
.

, She laughed -
.

and spread her hands to the blaze They were per .

fee t in shape b ut like all t hat surrounded her they


, , ,

g a ve their own pecu liar sense o ffineness underlaid by

ste el The impression was disti nct ; it gave An na 3


.
52 TH E CI R C L E
little thrill and sent the recollection o f her errand
,

flashing back upon her with double force She took .

the pro ffered seat then resolutely looked U p into her


,

companion s face
M

.

Mrs axt e ad she said ; then she w aited fo r


.
,

there was an uncontrollable tremor in her voice It .

was well enough to rehearse the scene in the ra w air


or in the dust and shadow o f the shop but its real ,

ity was di sconcerting She h ad m ade no allowance .

for a listener with a manner perfectly e v en perfectly ,

and coolly sweet but with eyes that seemed to ,

run through the mind and pi geo nhole the thoughts


be fore they could sprin g to words It was more .

than disconcerting She squeezed the little bag .

hidden in the palm o f her hand and m ade a ne w


start.

You are expecting j ewels from V ienna — pink


topaz jewels with pearl and diamond ri ms She .

m
stopped The plunge was ta ken and she felt like the
.

swi mer who rising to the top o f the water shakes


, ,

the spray from his eyes and looks about She looked .

M
round wondering how big the splash had been
,
.

Mrs axt e ad was looking at her ; her eyes were


.

narrowed and glittering with interest but her face ,

was quite unmo v ed .

Yes ? she sai d in e v er so still a v oice ; then she


paused .

Anna fo und the pause more di fficult than the word .

She pushed back her stool and rose .


Well she said h un iedly you will never get
,
” '

,
54 TH E C I R CL E
Who t old you where to b ring it ? T he voice

w as like t h e crisp b reaking o f ice .


I cann ot tell you that .

Suppos e I were to com pel you


You co uld n t com pel me Anna loc ke d up

. .

I don t know There are some very effici en t


'


.

ways .

Anna suddenly raised her head and at the same ,

instant the trin g o f the bag ca me undone


s No .

One could make m e say she said I think you ”


.
,

know that as well — as well as if you were me ”


.

The loo k in h er eyes was not a common look her ,

v oice was fearless and clear With a swi ft mo v e .

ment she tore the clas p from its covering and held
it out Take it ! she said
M
“ ”
. .

Still Mrs ax t e ad was immovab le


. not even her ,

e yelids stirred She w as watching the girl with a


.

quiet alert gaze


, .

Why don t you look at it ? Why don t you


’ ’

ta ke it ? ”

Beca use I am thinking ofsomethin g else ”


.

A nna threw the cl asp upon the table Well I ve ,


done it I can go no w
. She walked to the door ”
. .


Wait for a minute The voice was essenti ally ”
.

persuas ive The girl paused . Would you like t o .

know what my thought was ? ”

No .

Are yo u quite sure ? ”

She turned “
I d like to know why you pre
.

t e nded not to see the cl as p



.
TH E C I R CL E 55

It was not pretence ”


.


Then what ? ”

I saw something tha t interested me m ore



.

An n a moved away again “


You are laughin g .
,

she said
Yes —at mysel f The wom an raised her b ril
.

“ ”
.

liant eyes and opened them wide “


I have lost
or you tell me I have lost —a present worth hun
.

dreds o f po unds Bein g a woman I should go


.
,

into hysterics instead o f which contrary to all


, ,

traditions I feel a ne w interest an d a ne w e nerg


,

flowing throu gh me by qu ite a new gate I see .

possibiliti e s and I want t o grasp them You don t .


understand ? Of course you don t They are all ’


.

wrapped up in haze like the rising sun She .


laughed and m oved forward h er voice as soft as ,

the rustle o f her dress Y ou ha v e shown me .

more th an the jewel she said a good deal more



,

, ,

and you have m ade m e greedy to increase m y kn owl


edge I wonder whether you would co m e to me
.

m
again ifI were to ask ? She laid her hands with ”

their firm pressure on the girl s ar “


C ome and ’
.

see me again ? She raised her eyeb rows in question


and smiled .

m
For a moment Anna s pride wave red She looked

.

across the room at the costly f u it ure then down at ,

her hostess s dress ; then at last she raised her eyes



.

I think I d lo v e t o come she said



,

.

m
A n d you are not t oo an gry t o shake hands
no t vexed at all — Her fingers
“ ’
I

now .
56 THE CI R CL E
turned the other s pressure I sh all c ome —when

.

e ver you like



.

Say this day next week


This day next week Like a dream sh e saw the .

curtain swing back and like a drea m she saw B ranks ,

open the hall door ; then the cool kee n air blew ,

ac ross her face whipping back the recollection o f


,

hersel f .

M
Inside the roo m o fpink lights and mau v e sh adows ,

Mrs . ax t e ad mo v ed to and f ro B e fore the hall .

door h ad closed her hand was on the bell a moment


later B ranks was in the room .

Where is Cé leste she asked .

In your room ma am It was only on occas ion


,

.

that B ranks hear d the ring resembling the ring of ,

steel in his mistress s v oice but he knew it well


,

,

enough to be swi ft in his response .


L e t her put on her hat and send h er t o me ,

here .

Y es m a am
’ ”

And B ranks —re mem ber there is al ways ti me


.
,

for gossip later on



.

M
Yes ma am , B ranks retired

.

.

Twi ce Mrs ax te ad walked from the fire to the


.

windo w and back again ; her glance flit t ed fr om


place t o place her fingers seemed trembling to ac t .

At last she stopped by the over mantel .

m
It is a look in itsel f she said suddenly and aloud ,

a look quite in itsel f This an has it She .


TH E CIR CL E 57

picked up a photograph and stu died it intently ; it


was the picture o f a m usician who had made the
whole world turn round .Catrina Lotz had it ;
Leone Perez h ad it ; and it w as in the girl s eyes as’

she threw up her head I m sure it was It is in



.

spiration whatever its output whatever its groo ve


, .

She pressed her finger tips excitedly on the mantel


-

shel f Inspiration ! she said below her breath


.
“ ”
.


The o ne thin g t o set a match to the world —the
o n e thin g that really lights Her han ds dropped

.

to her sides .

Ah Ce leste ! she said as she turned round


,

, .
P A R T O NE —C H A P T ER IX

T was late afternoon when Anna entered the


shop Johann looked up the duster in h i
.
,
s

hand fell to the ground and he leant back ,

against the counter .

Well ? he said ”
.

m
She walked up to him took off her hat and threw
,

it into a co er ; then sprang on to the counter and


sat s win ging her f eet The dusk had fallen heavily,
.

and the ill smelling o il lamp had not yet been lit ;
-

only the tiny candle in S olnys o ffice shed a waverin g ’

gleam Her face was in full shadow but even in the


.
,

sh adow Johann felt the light that her presence made


the inimita ble flash o fyouth and exhilaration that
n o af t er time can reproduce Instinctively he hun g
.

his head .

There followed a full mome ntous pau se which the


,

scratching o fold Solnys pen inadequately filled At



.

l as t she lea nt forward and laying her hands on his


shoulders turned his face slowly round to hers
, .


Johann she whispered rapturously I have seen
,

,

it ! Think o f it — I have seen it at last ! She ”

swayed back and forw ard little gasps o f delighted


,

laughter slippin g in betwee n her words 0h . ,

Johann ! Joh ann ! ”


TH E CIR CL E 59

He drew back Se en what ? His voice was


“ ”

timorously lo w .

Why li fe o fcourse ! Li fe !
, , She shook hi m a
little then looked away into the darkness o ver his
,

head . Oh Johann b ut it is fine ! They have


, ,

sil v er dishes to eat from and carpets like moss ; and


,

and e verything that is n t glittery is silk She


stopped to catch her breath .

Yes and the clasp


She laughed “
The clasp Why she h as rin gs
. .
,

that flash like twenty Clasps She dismissed the .

subj ect sum marily and retu rn ed to her train of


thought . She ga v e me co ffee in little gilded cups
that father would have died o f en vy fo r ; she m ade
m e sit o n an inlaid stool and —oh Johann it was , , ,

too lovely ! It was too lo v ely ! She clasped her ”

hands . I ran most o f the way home It was too .

wonderful to sit quite still .


There was a fresh wait then Johann spoke dully , .

I shall light the lamp he said ,



.

The lamp ! Oh Johann no It makes the


, , .

place so stu ffy and I burn Feel


, She raised o ne
.

o f his hands and put it against her cheek Let s



.

sit here in the dark —and talk P ”

He made no response .

Johann ”
.

Yes .

You are silent o r sad Johann She slipped .

to the ground Y o u don t as k things


. You are n t
"
.

ex cited a bit ; you are n t glad Her voice fell



.

.
60 TH E CI R CL E
B ut the silence continued .

Tell me what it is .

It is nothin g — nothing He moved away


from her Somewhere in his heart there was a dread
.

—a dr ead in whose shadow his own inefficiency his ,

o w n pitiable ter ors became very dw arf


r ed I am .

stupid he said below h i breath


,

I do not know
s .

what to ask I wo uld ask —I would ask ifI knew


.
, .

He turned again abrupt l y trying to see her face , .

B ut h e mi ed his mood When o ne is young it


s ss .

is hard to be a nything be side youth is all embracing -

in its demands The whole world to her eyes was a


.

b l ur o f rose and mau v e She laid her hands on his


.

shoulders again and laughed .

You dear stupid thin g she said You de ar .

stupid thing How I d like to wake you up You


are dull to night and I could sing and run and be


-
,

mad the world is so good .

The world is a child s puzzle he said sadly it



,

,

has two sides .

She caught him up swi ftly If it has two sid es .



,

then we ca n turn up which we like ; you h av e de


feated yoursel f! She lau hed again She was g .

like a young horse set loo se in a wide field ; there


w as a spa e in thing that
c
h e had not realised
s s

be fore Her exuberance o f spirit rose up demand


.
,
.

ing vent 0 h Johann


. she cried it is more
, ,

,

splendid than I e v er dreamt When I was little I .


,

fancied that this stree t was the whole world that


t h re w as nothing el se beyond
e Then o ne da y John .
,
62 TH E C I R CL E
She pe ered at him through the gloom Why do .

you ask such silly thin gs ? Six hours before she


would ha v e ans wered his question with a laugh n o w ,

she halted over her re ply To hersel f the hesitation


.

passed u nseen but it gripped at Joh an n s heart He


,

.

broke headlong in upon her w ords .


I was foolish Anna ; it was the sadness o f the
,

dusk It was the thought ofyour your brightness


.

and the other thought Forget that I spoke


. He ”
.

made a strenuous attempt to laugh .

B ut Anna w as silent ; when she spoke ag ain her


voice was tentative and still Johann she said
.

,

very so ftly do yo u really think that I could for


,

get that father is quite old — that the shop that


you She stopped and there was a question
,

in her attitude as she lea nt towards hi m Then .

ab ruptly and characteristica lly she li fted her head


and sprang back to h er f ormer seat Johann ”

she cried yo u are ri ght —quite right ! One does


.
,


,

row si ly in the d rk L i ght e lam p !


g l a . t h
P A R T O NE CH A P TE R X

T w as seven days later Mrs ax t ead w as

stan ding by the mantelpiece when the cur


. . M
tain w as drawn back and Anna s m iling and ,

radi ant walked into the room She watc hed


, .

her ente r with an expression that w as impo ssible t o


read ; her eyes were co ld and bright ; in he r hand
she held the m usician s photograph She laid the

.

picture in its place then she smil ed and put o ut her


,

hand .

I h ad al m ost be gun to wonder whether you


would co m e though your voice should have made
m e know ”
.

My voi ce ? Anna too k the extended hand



.

Yes You are original enough to have a candid


.

voice B ut you are cold Come to the fire


. . With .

perfec t graciousness she continued to hold the girl s ’

han d— drawin g her gently closer ti ll they stood ,

side by side .


No w w arm yoursel f Is it snowin g again ? I
.

never look through windows in winter time ”


.

Anna did not answer She was noting little .

changes storing m aterial for future dreams She


, .

sa w with a pang halfpain hal fadmiration that her


, , ,

hostess wore a di fferent and more elaborate dre ss ;


64 THE CIR CL E
she noti ce d that books and flowers had bo th bee n
changed and that a deep settee h ad ta ken the place
,

o f the lunch e o n tab le be fore t h e fire It was qui t e


-
.

a minute before she raise d her eyes .

I wonder why you ca re to ha ve me she said at ,


len gth.

For an i nstant their glanc es met and they studied ,

each other w ith th at look so peculi ar to the mo m ent


and to their sex The fi rst ac quaintance o f wo m en
.

m
rese mbles a shootin g plant The bare bo ugh is ri fe
.

with promi se fro its b ro wnness m ay spring flowe rs


or thorns ac co rdin g as the sun shines or the wind
,

cuts ; but for the mo m ent —the all pervadin g m o -

ment it is a bare bough and nothin g more Th ey .

watched each other for a mo m ent ; then the elder


shook thin gs into their groove with a laugh .

We shall be fri ends she said , I h ave an



.

instinct that is never quite astray Her eyes co n .


tinned t o rest on the girl s face but their glance ’

so ft ened and deepened in a way that w as m ore


eloquent than sound .

Anna who was usually restive under flattery re


, ,

s o nded t o the look as to a ray o f w ar m th You


p .

are kind she said sudde nly ; as kind as you are


,

cle ver The re was a ring of ad m iration on the


.

final word .

C lever ! The other laughed



My dear child .
,

h o w m uch you have to learn ! Sh e dropped the


hand that she was holdi ng and moved away ; then


she turned again a ne w ex pression on her face Sh e
, .
T HE C I R CL E 65

h ad the invalu ble gi ft o f choosing the mo m ent


a

with her confidence w as e v er a bid for so m ethin g


,

higher — rarely a futile o ne She cho se her w ords


m
.

n w with a critical pe rceptio n o f her li te ner ind ’


o . s s

chose t he m slowly with in finite ca re My dear, .

little girl she said there are two classes o f people


,

,

in the world the people who are clever and the ,

people who are keen and you must never mix the
two ; they m ee t and t ouch they are necessary to ,

each other b ut they never never blend Sit do wn !


, , .

You will be tire d Her voice chan ged on a n e w


.

sentence with extreme rapidi ty though ne v er en ,


.

croac h in
g on the principle o f her theme She g a e . v

A nna one o f her sudden smiles then turned again ,

to the fire her glance straying restlessly from t h e


,

bur ning logs t o the toe o f her slippe r as it rested


on the fender .

It is j ust four yea rs ince I sorted my ca pa ities s c

and clas sed myself Some people find the proc ess .

di f
ficult ; it ca m e rather easily to me ”
.

Anna look ed up from the settee Sh e was vi v idly .

enthralled and feared to break the enchan t ment e v en


by a breath She was rai ed to an altitude w here
. s

the air w as di fficult and rarefied where she scarcely ,

MM
ac kn owled ed h er o wn being
g .

m
rs. ax t e ad gazing abstractedly into the o v er
,

m antel mirror studied the e xcited f ce nd i l ed


,
a a s

cautio n Jy “Then she spoke again the r w a a


-
.
, e s

faintly deprecating tone running w ith e r ord h c s.

I w as twenty five whe n my husba nd died lea vin g


-
,

6
66 TH E C I R CL E
me with hundreds o f acquaintances and a thousand
pounds a year She stopped again and picking
.

up the photograph that she had touched be fore ,

made it a screen to sh ield her face No w wi th .


a thousand pounds a year one is barely rich enough


to ha ve desires She turned with an ironica l

.

glance .

Anna looked up dreamily She followed the .

sense o f the words vaguely as one follows the tory , s

o f an opera .It was the necessary adjunct to the


magnetic voice as the argument is the immaterial
,

adj unct to t h e music It ga v e her the opportunity.

to listen .

M
Please talk on she said ,
.

Mrs ax t ead laid down the photograph as she


.

h ad done be fore and crossed to the girl s side It “



.
,

is very seldom that I talk about mysel f she said ,


because it is very rarely that I wish to be under


stood.

She sank on the sett ee and took one o f
Anna s han ds stroking it e v enly till her ring m ade

,
s

a swerv e o f light Her touch as well as her voice


.

possessed a magnetic thrill .

It was then that I stood up straight and looked


about I had to make my o ne thousand into four
.
,

so I had to kno w mysel f .


Anna waited watching the strong supple fin gers


, ,

caress her o w n .

IVh at do you guess that I disco v ered


Anna shoo k her head .

I discovered that I had a capacity all my w n o .


TH E C I R CL E 67

Sh e rose again Her re tlessness was indomitable


. s
,

s omething she had ne ver quite subdued She .

crossed t o a table and picking up an u n read bo o k


began to cut the lea ve It was a capacity
s.

She used the paper kni fe with little j erks


'

- “
A .

capacity fo r exploiting cle v er people while ne v er ,

claiming cle verness fo r mysel f It is a track fe w .

people hav e follo w ed beca use fe w people are really


,

wise It sounds second hand but it is not It


.
, .

has a fund o f excitement that o ne can ne ver


plumb It is almo t port !
. s She mo ved back
s

a gain and stoo d w ith her back to the fire T h en .

she laughed .


I flatter mysel f that my position in li fe is
quite unique In four years I ha v e hel ped q uite
.

thirty people to tolerable success and without ,

makin g o ne obli gation or sapping o ne indepe nd


ence I have never o ffended a woman because I
.
,

ha v e studied h o w to take a second place w ith


grace ; and I have kept e very man friend I e v er

m
made by the simple means o f never expectin g
and ne v er allowin g h i to make love She .

paused and touched her dark hair with a peculi ar


gesture a gesture that was like a fine co mparison
,

or a neatly made po int Then she smiled once .

m ore and p re ssed the bell How I have talked


.
,

sh e said in a lowered v oice My throat feels like



.

dry sand ”
.

B ranks h ad brought in t h e t ea replenished the ,

fire and disappeared again be fore either spoke


, .
68 THE C IR CL E
Then it was Ann a who broke the pause ; her e v es
were filled w ith thoughtful shadows her mouth w as ,

grave .

What do you mean by exploit ? she as ked as ”


,

she crossed the room to fetch her cup “


No No . .

m
cream please ,
.

I know ; I pro v ided a lemon on pu rpose to see


R ussian ; I want you to think that my memory i s

good To exploit a person is t o d for them what


. o

they are too lazy or too incapable to do for them


sel v es ; to run them if you know what running ,

means There is youn g Anton Go lst ock for ex


.
,

ample Hot cakes o r cold ?


.

Anna s cu p beca me unstea dy fo r a mom ent She



.

t k a tiny cake
oo .

Th ere is Anton Golst oc k a clever boy — nephew


t o ld Go lst oc k o f V ienna w h o adores hi
o Well ,
,

m .
,

he h as talent as certainly as h is u ncle had m oney ,

but neither talent nor money can do quite e ery v

thin g though fooli h people think they can Theres .

were so m e particular doo r that A nton w as keen to s

open and it happe ned th at I p e ed the ke y It


,
o ss s s s.

w as all v ery simple and th e jewe l y u poke o f th


,
os s o s e

o ther day were the logical result Ifo ne were bitte . r,

m
o ne might call them the oil for the locks ; bu t
bitterness is such an unq u alified i take She at e s .

a biscuit critica l l y and sipped her t ea ; then h e s

looked at Anna with a wi ft sati ri cal s mile We l l



s , .
,

she said what have y u deduced ?


,

Her tone o

w a s light but her eye s flashed over the girl s f ac e



.
,
PA R T O NE —C HA P TE R XI
P I ER Anna s pronouncement there w as a

lengthy pause To the girl it was an


.

immaterial one for the atmosphere that


,

surrounded her — the warmth o f the


roo m the sense o fautumnal fl owe rs —was sufficient to
,

fill any spac e ; but to her companion it held a mean


in g that ra n below the surface and interwove itsel f
with facts as the pattern in the loom weaves through
, ,

i mprin t ing itsel fupon the silk It was a moment o f .

appreciation so spontaneou s and sincere that she ao


c e t ed it instinctively f orgettin g to look ironic ally
p ,

fo r the hidden moti v e power .

M
A ll n e w sensations are quieting fo r their o wn
duration Mrs . ax t e ad sat still f
. or a space o f
time ; her fingers toyed w ith c r teacup then with i ,

her spoon ; her hazel eye alternately lightened and


s

dee pened with the procession o f her th ughts At o .

la t the silver clock by her hand struck five and the


s ,

necessity f or action ca me leapin g b ack “ f


it h a .

slight movement o f her shoulders she became her


habit ual sel f— alert critical keen She ceased t o
, ,
.

mo v e her fin gers ; her lip parted for speech but


s ,

closed again Then she rose


. .

She rose softly ; her motions slight as the ru tl e ,


s

o fa leaf . For an instant Anna turned and looked at


THE CI R CL E 71

her then returned to her watchi n g o f the fire She


,
.

crossed to the piano her m ovements so gentle as t o


,

suggest stealth then still silently she seated h er


, ,

sel f and her fingers passed in mute thought across


,

the keys Then with sudden resolution she began to


.

play .

Anna stirred leant forw ard questionin gly then


, ,

dropp ed bac k again .

The piece was the Storm Prelude o f Chopin ”


.

“ h y she chose the theme it would be di fficult to say


T

m
,

though from e v ery act o f hers ran a thread o freason ,

whose shuttle sometime s floated on the surface o f


facts so m eti es hung vaguely in their mids t and
, ,

someti m es lay at the bottom inscrutable and unseen


, .

The first faintly repeated note fell o n the si l ence


almost casually as the first act ion in a great series
,

o fevents might f all One felt that there was mastery


.

ifnot genius in the player s touch in the stren gth


o fher fin gers in the poise o fthe sound


, .

In complete silence with one m otionless listener


, ,

the m usic went on and on The so ft tonin g o f the


.

room melted into fireligh t —the fireglo w o f deep


shadows and coloured lights Beside the piano the .

tall Chrysa nthemum plants stood boldly up their ,

so ft lea v es a mere suggestion their massed blooms a ,

blot o f pink their scent pungent and remini scent


, , ,

mingling in the air The player s eyes fell separately


.

and critically upon e v ery detail then with a perfect ,

e venness o f glance they ran the polished length o f


,

the pian o and p aused o n the listener s face show ’


72 T H E C I R CL E
ing clea r again st the back ground o f t h e settee .

hey rested on it lon g and studiously passin g from


the curve o f the hair and the sweep o f the thick


eyelashes to the generous impulsi v e lips And all , .

the wh ile the music swelled and grew with no sug ,

g estion lost no point missed


, the chords cras hin g ,

and mergin g the compelling m otive growin g do m i


,
~

nant with every repeated note .

It w as a fine mo m en t The player s eyes were .


c old questioning
, and b ri ght her fin gers unerring
, , .

The sounds cut the silence into pain the pathos ,

and lo s seemed to b eat together ; then w ith con


s ,

summate effect breaking upon the repeated note


, ,

ca me ilence the silence that only such a pause can


s

be The player s hand dropped quietly to her sides


.

s ,

but her eyes did not swerve .

Ann a caught her bre ath uneas ily and turned round .

M
What s that ? she said

Wh at s it called

.

Mrs axt ead leant f


. orward ; her fi gure was o h
servant in every line .

C ome here ! she said .

Ann a rose and crossed the room .

M
There was a sil v er m atch box on the piano Mrs -
. .

ax t e ad put out her hand quietly picked it up and ,

s truck a matc h .

The momentary light shot up and the girl s face ’

w as illumined the whitenes f her teeth between


- s o

M
the parted lips the su ddenl y narrowed pupils o f the
,

eyes Mrs axt ead looked swi ftly from one to the
. .

o ther then blew on the flame and dropped the match


,
.
THE CI R CL E 73

Ah well she said ; there are more ro ads to


, ,
” “

R ome than o n e

.

Anna stared I don t understa nd


.

.


Did I expect you t o understand ? She rose
and laid her hand o n the girl s arm No w I am ’
.

m
g oin g to ask for a concession I w ant to he ar yo u r .

nam e She pressed the ar she held


.

I mu t c ll . s a

you something or how can we be friend ?


,
-
s

My name is Anna The girl raised her eyes


.

.

A nna that means graciousness ”


.

Anna was silent .

And what comes afterwards ? You can s urely


trust me such a little way ? ”

The girl counted the leaves o n one Chrysanthemum


pla nt while she made her decision ; then for the
second time she li fted her eyes .

I think yo u ha v e the right to ask It i A nna . s

Solny My father was Nicholas Solnikofi but he


.

d opped the e nding when the persecution came He


r .

M
says that in E ngland it i wiser to be brief ”
s .

Mrs ax t ead smiled


. A philosopher ! And a .

Je w eh
,

A nna nodded .

A R ussian Jew She ceased to s m ile and


once more glanced in the direction o f the fire A .

R u ssian Jew h e said again There has n t been ’


s .

an inspired R ussian Je w since She broke o ff


and looked up Do you know the history o f your
.

race
Anna took a step bac k No My father ne v er . .
74 TH E C I R CL E
speaks o fhis religion or o fhis people he says that
he h as suffered too much fo r both He says that God .

m
is for everyone to find with h is own lamp He is a .

MM
strange man y father - She stopped .

.

There was an interval rs axt e ad continue d


. .

m
to look towards the glowing coal s ; An na stood
otionless At las t the former broke the silence
. .

A R ussian Je w ! she said again Then she .

turned her manner changed


,
D o you know that .

this father o f yours with his philosophies h is


, ,

theories his strangeness may have gone critically


, ,

near to making a career to being a great teacher or


a great leader ? Do you know that suppressed races
burst out at intervals like volcanoes in a fl as h o f
, ,

flame —a flash of genius ? You must study your


people you must know your race ”
.

For a moment the cold voice was warmed To .

Anna it seemed as ifsilver h ad uddenly melted into s

gold her hesitancy fell from her she stepped t o the


other s side

.

When you talk like that she said simply you ,



,

make me see pictures like the pictures in the fire .


M
She spoke earnestly with the ea rnestness o fa child
, .

W hen Mrs ax t ea d responded her tone her very


.
, ,

gestures were care fully ruled


, You ar e very good .

to my v oice she said ,


” “
Some day it must move
.

you to greater things than a fire could do Sh e



.

m
laughed gently and drew the girl across the room ;
by the man telpiece she released her ar and sank o n
to the settee “
As for those pictures
. She sat up ”
.
TH E CIR CL E 75

and touched Anna s wai st Tell me what they look



.

like Tell me what yo u do w ith them when they


.

made . Insensibly her touch tightened she drew t h e


girl lower and nearer till they sat side by side ; then
once more she took the hand she had bee n holding an d ,

stroked it every motion accompanying a word .

m

E veryo ne who makes a dream she said puts ”

his dream into an act —or Wishes to That an


, ,

m
with the cu rious mouth She nodded towards
the picture on the mantel shel f That an puts -
.

his dreams into the ho w o f his vi olin and draws


them out into realities for thousands and thousands
o fears Others
. She spoke slowly tentati v ely , .

Others put theirs into colours and mediums and ,

make big s paces o f can v as into living thing s

She paused keenly and glanced for the twentieth


,

time at the girl s face ’


.

An na s hand tightened o n hers but the glan


that responded to her words was not the glance


that she w aited for .


Oh I know cried the girl
, ,
” “
John Desin ski .

m ade his dreams li ke that


M

.

John D esinski Mrs ax t ead quietly dropped .

the hand Who was John Basinski P


.

He was an artist a Polish artist Anna spoke


- .

dreamily with a ring o fmemory in her voice Quite


poor —but with so much hope He was an exile
.

. .

like my father ; and my father gave him shelter He .

h ad nothing but his canvases and tubes but he u se d ,

to sing the wh ole day long as he worked in the att ic


76 THE CI R CL E
roo m And when I took him up his m eals — fo r
orget to eat —he d put down h is
.

s ometi m es he d f
’ ’

palette and catch my hands swingin g them to and ,

fro ; and he d speak with tea rs and laughter mix


ing in his voice Ah little Anna ! he used to say


.
, .


L ittle Anna ! When my ships come home " B ut
then his v oice would break o ff sho rt and he (I ”

cough while the colou rushed into h i face T was


,
r s .

always the sa m e H o w well I reme mbe r ! B ut he


.

died five years ago Her tone droppe d He died



. .

be fore he painted the great picture that was t o

M
bring fortune to u all It w as v ery sads . .

Mrs ax t ead shivered


. Don t talk o f dea t h .
“ ’

,

s h e said ; it is the one ine v itable that I refuse to


reckon with She too k the girl han d again So ’

s .

he painted picture ? And what did you do whi le


s

the pictures were being m ade I “

Anna looked up with an involunta ry smile .

C leaned the palette she said “


and sometim es
,

,

the palette kni fe


Ne v er got t o brush es ? ”

M
She shook her head .

Mrs .ax t ead pre sed the hand th at she was


s

holding .

Then your dream d not materialise through s o

s ticky mediums and oily tu bes ? Her tone was ”

light but the hal fintense hal fironic question that


,
-
,
-

underran it was like a metal plating beaten very fine .

Anna co n side re d fo r a moment then looked ,

uaintly down N o h e said I har ly think


” “
q .
"
d , s ,
P A R T O NE —C H A P T E R XII

the cu rio shop the domain of old So lny was


F
silent with dus t the rest o f the house —the
, ,

parlo ur the sca nty bedrooms the kitchen each


, , ,

nook and crevice where Anna s brooms and ’

cloths could make an entry reflected cl eanliness


itself It was her pride to be thorough ; and much
.

o f the absorption that went to m ake her drea m s ,

straightened her shoulders an d bent her kn ee s t o


unpleasant ta sks .

Many a m orning when the snow lay o n the ground


and the dawn had sca rcely broken over Felt Street ,

the rattle ofpails and pans might be hea rd in the tiny


yard the curl o fs m oke be seen risin g from the chi m
,

ney as Ann a capab le self reli ant and cheerful went


, , ,
-
, ,

about the makin g o f her father s early cup o f tea ;


a tas k that as a child o f seven with sleepy eyes and


,

numbed hands she had first set hersel fto pe rform


, .

B ut whate v er o fher care o fher individuality was


, ,

t o be seen throughout the house it was in her own ,

bedroom that h e most markedly showed herse lf A


s .

narrow room with whitewas hed walls slanting ceilin g , ,

and une v en floo r it was yet big enough to hold a


,

key to her inner mind —a key that did not hang ,

as one m i ht have expected on the space o f wall


g ,
TH E CI R CL E 79

betwee n th e little ivory water font and John Desin -

ski s study o fa child s head ; but a key t hat lay upon


’ ’

the bare boards in the form o f an E astern ca rpet


strip so rich oftexture so gorgeo us o fcolou ri n g that
, ,

it defied time and lay there in its scanty setting as


,

much a flower in the desert o f po verty as on the day


w hen An na struggling under its weight had proudly
, ,

carried it f rom the shop up the crooked stai rs


breathing and pausi ng o n e very step .

What circumstance had m ade it hers what deed ,

o f virtue it h ad rewarded what impulse o n old


,

S olnys p art it had shown forth she h ad long ago


forgotten but the thing remained — eternal


, ,

chan ging ; her prayer rug her magician s carpet,


from whose arabesque she drew many a picture in ,

whose glowing tones she h ad many times mirrored


t he world from her n arrow bed It was part o fh er .

s el f; so woven to mystery in her imagination as


almost to take o n human form E ach twist o f the .

design was the memento o fsome incident the record ,

o f some hour Across the wide stripe of blue were


.

m
the two round marks where for years she h ad knelt
morning and night to whisper — sometimes ech an i
cally sometimes with an excess o fardour the aspi
,

ration s o f the Greek church that John D e inski h ad s

taught her t o repeat Then further down where


.
,

the orange crossed the blue was the great sta in that
,

the broom had ne ver quite remo v ed the stai n that


her tears had made when the same John De sin ski no ,

l nger able to sing or work a cold still shadow of


o , ,
80 THE CIR CL E

m
himsel f w as nailed into the deal co ffin and ca rried
,

with many horrible jerks and knocks down the ar

ro w sta irs Then last o f all — the newest keenest


.
, ,

record o f all ca me the mark o fcandle grease on t h e


tri angle o f black ; the open palpable proo f o f a
,

heart that h ad throbbed and a hand that had


trembled with excitement as she carried her candle
upstairs o n the first night that the enchanted wand
had touched her eyelids and she had seen li fe .

She gazed at it no w as she stood leaning on the


handle o f her sweeping brush the pan of newly
-
,

gathered dust at her feet ; gazed at it as she h ad


gaze d a hun dred ti m es in the past weeks with eye s ,

that sa w in it an omen o fun fathomable things To .

her it was partly sacred the one blot upon her


,

treasure that she m ade no e ffort to Wipe out She .

looked long and questioningly ; then she su ddenly


straightened herself tossed bac k her plait and picked
, ,

up the dustpan with a j erk Holding it care fully


.
,

she crossed to the open window and overturned it on


the silk Attentively she watched the specks the ,

threa d the tiny scraps of dust eddy o u t u pon the


s,

air ; then she dropped to her knee s ta king her face ,

between her hands .

From the Pas age below rose the occasional sound


s

o fstri f
e It w as the li v ing hour o f the day Poles
. .

with drying clothes hung from the opposite windows ,

an od our o f decaying v egetables hung o n the ai ; r

b ut above where the slanting roo fs cut the sky


, ,

shone a space o f frosty blue and upon th is she fix ed


,
THE CI R CL E . 81

her gaze She owned the inestimable quality o f


.

ng nothing below her wants .

Her eyes re sted on the strip of blue and away , ,

like zigzag lines w andered the pictures ofher mind


, .

Granite castles towered and battlemented rose out


, ,

o f a shimmering cloud ; belts o f fir trees shot into -

the air frost tipped and glistening as the sun white


,
-

a venues sti ff with ice twisted to illi mitable len gth


, , .

She looked till her eyes ached then she rose and ,

crossed the room Her face was flushed her eyes


.
,

dark ; she turned bac k the patched coverlet of the


bed and dre w out a book It was a small book .

boun d in calf; the lea v es th in and yellow were torn , ,

in parts ; acro ss the fly leaf ran the title A bra“ -

Mule ; or Lo v e and E mpire A Tragedy Passing


, .

.

this with small consideration she opened the book ,

at The Plain Dealer a C omedy and began to



, ,

re ad The words fr om fie q ue nt perusal were known


.

to her but through habit her eyes skimmed the


,

lines .

Five minutes pas sed —ten minutes h e sti ll read s

on. Then a knock fell upon the door .

She forgot to raise her hea d and the knock was


repeat ed At last she li ft ed her chin
. .

C ome in she call ed and at the ame moment , s

she thrust the book into it hiding place s - .

The handle turned and Johann face showed ,



s

round the co rne r f the door o .

You to l d me to tell yo u when it w as twel v e It .

is twel v e now He looked haras ed and ill at ease



. s .

6
82 TH E C I R CL E
Twel v e already ! C ome in Johann my work s , ,

all done C ome in while I put on m y h at ”


. .

He obeyed slowly and she w heeled towardshim , .


Would you be nervous to day — if you were ,
-

me She pushed a chair in his direction I was .

awake at fi v e and I hardly ate any break fast .

I noticed he said in a strained voice



.
,

A fter all it is but natural because it is the most


, ,

splendid day o fall my li fe W hen I return to night -

I 11 h ave seen a real pl ay —not a play in a booth


.

— or a play in a book she glanced involuntarily ,


t owards the bed but a play in a theatre with


,

a real stage She broke o ff abru ptly and look ed


.

across the room at the wist ful face and the twisted
body so pain fully conscious of itsel f
, Joh ann .
,

is n t she too g ood to me ?


’ ”

Johann turned his face fro m the light .

Whate ver seems good to you Anna is go od ,

to m e It is but natural that she sho uld love you


. .

It is but what I understand .


Ann a ran to him and squeezed his finge ’

Johann ! dear Johann ! Ho w kind you are ! I


feared that you might be cross to day and n o w -
,

you re not It see ms go od ! Look e ven the sun



.
,

shines ! She nodded towards the window then



,

passed to the door and li fted her hat fro m the hook .

She looked at it with a m omentary sigh .

Oh Johann she has such lovely clothes ! Will


, ,

she be ashamed d you think to be seen wi t h ,


me ? ”
THE CI R CL E
Johann gave one o fhis rare harsh laugh ,

in the glas he said


s,

.

She turned hurt and puzzled


, .

Forgi v e ! Th e frost makes my he ad ache I am .

bitter not worth o ne of yo ur bright thoughts .

B ut can you understand ? He hal f thrust out his ”

hand then dre w it bac k


,

C an you understand ?.

This woman who claims you who ta kes yo u away ~ ~

day after day He devoured her with his eyes .

This woman Anna h as all all ; and we your


, ,

father and I and the shop we ha v e nothing ,

nothing Ah I grow stupid with jealous


,

thoughts His words broke he rose and turn ed


towards the door .

Ann a thrust on her hat and picked up her

Johann She caught his arm You grudge .


,

Johann

m Grudge ! Ah no no He turned veh e ”


-
.
,

ent l
y . Grudge ! You know I would lie down
under your feet to bring you one little wish .

In so m e points a woman in others still strangely ,

a child Anna s eyes grew misty in quick response


,

.

She was touched without comprehending ; without


realising she sa w
, .

Have I been un kind Johan n these two m onths , ,

since yo u came ?
Unkind He tried to sm ile .

Then what
He shook his head .
84 TH E C I R CL E
You won t tell ’

There is nothin g to tell .


Then you 11 come with me to the door You 11


" ’

sa
y g ood b ye -

Y es I will come with you to the doo


. r.

They descended the stairs in silence and in silence ,

passed through the lo w ceiled shop Anna paused -


.

by her father s partitioned desk and tapped on the


glas s .

I a m going out father she ca ll e d



.
, ,

Solny looked up with abstracted eyes .

Ah so ! E nj oy yoursel f my child
, He bent , .

his head again .

Anna turned to Johann Do fathers e ver ask .

where people go — o r see m to care ? Did you r


father ca re Her mind was strung by anticipation ,

but she was a w are suddenly o f a dropped link o me s

where in her o w n li fe .

Lookin g at her puz zl e d face a great impatience o f ,

old Solny rose in Johann s hea t Perhaps some’


r .

day he sai d in v oluntarily he will learn t o care


,

,

m
t oo much

.

An na ga 7e d at hi in question .

He shrugged his shoulders “


I told you I was .

m
bitte r t o day He walked across the shop
- .

.

Her face was grave as she followed hi to the


door b ut at the door the frost in the air was keen .

It swept doubt and disappointment be fo re it as


cobwebs are b rushed as ide She turned —her hand
,

held out .
86 TH E C I R CL E
hi m of her He looked up labori o usly ;
.

after a minute his lips moved


Go d ta ke care ofher he said ; and turning he
,

Walk ed into t he shop


.
P ART O NE C HA P TER X II I

N D the pla y Anna The play ,

Anna w as silent It was the third ti me


.

she had been silent to the same ques


tion put on each occasion in a fre sh
,

form Without raising her eyes she stirred in the


.

MM
deep ch air and stretched her feet to the fire .

rs ax t e ad pulled back the white s ilk c ur tains


.

of her bedroom windows and let the las t ofthe grey


daylight fall into the roo m ; then she moved t o the
dre singtab l e and shi fted the sil ver scent bottles from
s - -

plac e to place She w as o n the e v e o ftesting chan


.

and through all her blood she felt the nea rn e f ss o

It h ad been decisive fro m the first From the .

m m e nt that the footlights had been rai sed and sh e


o ,

had caught sight o fAnna s eyes in the dimn ess o fthe


bo x she h ad felt the cri is in the air


,
s .

Her moment h ad come and she gripped it meta ,

m
p h o ricall
y between her fingers
,
Then as a cat with.
,

a ouse she experienced the lon ging to let it slip a


,

little w ay fo r the keen delight of drawing it back


again She would m ake certainty trebly ce rta in be
.

fo re sh e burnt her boats With a sense o fexaltation


.

she loosened her fur wrap and laid it on the bed ;


then sh e crossed deliberately to the fire and stoo d
88 T H E C I R CL E
A nna —her el bows resti ng on the back o fthe
be hind
g irl’
s ch air her f , ace held between her h ands A co . m
m
pe lling vitality pe rvaded her ; there w as a pe culiar ,

h alfih u oro us expectation in her very attitude as


her glan c e fell o n the girl s hair ’
.

She chose her opening se ntence with excess ive care .

My dear Anna she said wit h cuttin g clearnes s


,

you are a bsolutely wrong The wom an was absurd .

in t h e p a rt Absurd ! . She s m iled her kee n s m ile


as she sa w the i m passi v e shoulders sti f f e n b ut h er ,

face w as bl ank as A nna turned rou nd .

A bsurd ? The girl spoke questioni ngly a


v ague repro ach overshadowin g her eyes ; t h en h er


face flushed beco m in g suddenly and sensitively
,

ali v e Ho w can you be so so unj us t There -

Mrs . M
w as a thrill in her voice

axt e ad s lids w ere lowered ;


care fully at her polished nails The trap h ad be en


.

she l ooked
.

al m ost too well b aite d With e xtre m e consi stency


.

she controlled her voi ce .


My dear little Anna you are so very youn g ! ,

There are s uch esse ntial grades i n an act res s such


de gree s Y o u wh o have never be fore see n a play
.
,

She made a delicate m o vement with her sho ulde rs .

I who h ave se en the m by the score


, She brok e
her se nte nces with good e ffect .

Anna s be wildered eyes sought h ers



.

B ut peo ple cheered and stam ped and cl apped ”


In t h e gallery people are force d t o stam p —t o
rest thei r fee t .

TH E CI R CL E 89

The bewildered look deepened in Anna s eye s ’


.

B ut h e was real she persisted ; she w as real


s ,

.

Thi nk o f her when h e stood up in the seco nd ac t


s

with her hands sti ff and her eyes cold Oh I think .


,

you are unjust


The other s eyelids drooped again

B ut my dea r .
,

child h o w she tortur ed her words ! She gave the


,

lines like this


. M
Mrs ax t e ad was ne v er so sweetly natural as in a
studied scene She dr opped her arms from the chair
.

with a pe rfectly imp u l ive jerk and the dr oop ofher


s ,

head as she seemed to pau e o n her resolve w as


,
s ,

without a flaw ; late w hen she mo ved across the


r,

room the swish o f her kirt against the carpet


,
s s

w as the essence o f spontaneous haste By the nar .

ro w b ookca se sh e pause d With a touch o f question .

E ach o f the tightly packed books w as bound in


-

m
white ; her fingers mo v ed hesitatingly c o nsideringly , ,

o ver the upper tier ; ho vered abo ve a olu e that i

stood slightly forward from the rest ; then with ,

a delightful air of decision fell o n it and drew ,

Her head was be nt her fi ngers busy with the page s


,

as she recr ossed the room “


Her rea ding o f the
.

pas sage was something like this Anna If I ,

am wron g you will correct me 9 She look ed up


,

with a bri lliant smile .

A nna t urned questi o ningly but her co mpanion


,
s

aze had returned to the book


g .

She took up her old position but her attit ude w as ,


90 T H E C I R CL E
slightly chan ged she could now watch Anna s pro ‘

file clear cut again t the glowing fire She arranged


,
s .

the book ; then v ery deliberately set hersel f to read


from the play .

She had a flexible voice and she dropped it ,

to a dull m onotone that touched and frayed the


ner v es At the fi ft h line she saw the girl s lips ’
.

t w itch and her nostrils distend She bent her head .

with a little nod — a j ust perceptible m ovement o f


satisfaction and went steadily on .

For several se conds Anna sat ri gid ; then she


m o v ed uneasily in her chair leant back bent frt , ,

ward her susc eptibilities throbbing like the pendu


,

lum ofa clock .

The m onotonous voice went on on irritatin g ,

persistent seemin gly endless Anna felt a dampness


, .

on her forehead She li fted her hand and pushed


.

back her hair Somethin g within her w as bein g


.

slowly wound up and up The inner self—t h e .

sel f that h ad risen as from lon g darkness on the


ni ght o f Johann s rescue ; the unnamed po wer that

had ridden above her givin g her heart givin g her


, ,

ca pacity giving her win gs to so ar


, .

She rose une venly — a great l i ght on her face ;


and without a gesture o fpreparation swept the book
from the other s hand

.


You are c ruel Unjust and cru el ! What you
.

read is a lie She spoke it this way


. She thre w
back her head with sure decision and began s l owly , ,

line by line .
THE CI R CL E 91

F or te n m inutes the ro om seemed t o hold its

m
b reath The words were the words o f a fine pla y ;
.

m
at the at in ee they had been spoken by a fine
actress ; but n o w in the quiet o f the fi
, religh t fro
,

the lips of a young untaught girl with an audience


, ,

o fo ne they h ad a meaning unpo ssessed be f


, ore Ti
.

sp ark that God sets in the fe w glowed in her voice


m
. M
and shone in her eyes

.

Mrs ax t ead s glance w as over bri ght her face a


-
,

little pale when Anna laid down the book her sure
,

ness her spontaneity seemed to have forsa ken her


, ,

as she cr ossed the room .

You will be the grea te st actress I have ever


known she said ; and for the first ti m e in her o wn
,

knowledge there was a quiver in her voice .


PA R T O NE —C HA P TE R X IV

HR OU GH the w indow o fthe little room


above the curio shop the sun no longer
shone ; the curtain was cl o sely drawn a ,

candle fl c ke red in the co ldnes o fthe air


i
s

and cas t sh adows on the bare washed wal l , By s .

m
the old fashi oned chest o f drawers stood Anna ;
-

her hat w as on one ar w as still through the slee v e


,

of h er coat the other had been h as tily drawn o u t ;


,

between her fin ger s she held an en velope th ick and ,

square in hape She held it closely and as she


s .
,

mo v ed neare r to the candle flame h e twisted it s

between her hands On her face were min gled ex


.

pressions excitement hesita ncy specu lation


, , .

She twisted the envelope again ; and her mind ,

with swi ft precision re v iewed the e v ents that had


,

m
m ade it hers .

As in a shi fting picture h e sa w herself once ore


s

in the lux uriou bedroom ; saw the white c urtains


s
,

thr ough which the daylight filtered as through mist


s aw the long glasses that reflected her in e v ery atti

tude u pon e v ery hand the bed with its embroidered


sheets and silk co v erlet ; then the picture stirred ,

growing clearer and closer to her m ental sight A


moment became discernible —t he moment
.

fre sh
94 TH E C I R CL E
and read it in your own room with your door locked , .

Then t o morrow co m e to m e again I shall wait i n


- .

all day Anna looked do wn and s m oothed the



.

envelope afresh .

On th e roo f opposite a ca t wailed The ound . s

ro used her She crossed to the window and drew


.

t h e curtai n back Then with a sudden impulse she


.

turned into the room and tore the en velope ap art .

The first three lines she deciphered in semi darkness ; -

then sh e stepped t o the candle and held the pages to


t he light Her fingers shoo k a little and her throat
.
,

see m ed tied with c ords .

M
lett r it is
e ;
A NN A —
Y DE A R

a question —
Tl1ls is not an ( ay it is not a
,

and the ans wer li es with you


m ,

.

Ann a laid down the shee ts and push ed back her


hair ; then she took a deep agitated breath ,
.


T o be candid is the privilege o f the strong ,

she read ca re fully It is only weakness that h ang s

on the outskirts o f a point I will rob the po int .

ev en of its frills ; I w ill be blunt .

On the first day that I saw you I felt that some


where o u some plane o f li fe you were meant to
, ,

st a nd quite alone In the m int o f existence we


.

are all stamped ; and your sta mp is in your eye s,

m
in your voice in the e xas peratin gly ini m itable
,

so e thing tha t m arks you all over .

m

Th at was a month ago and I was prophetic ; ,

mthis is to day and I a j ustified When I told


-
, .

yself then that you had genius I w as original ; ,


THE CIR CL E 95

when I repeat it no w I but an ticipate t h e who le


,

m
world by a year or t w o .

This ay seem t oo bi g a sen te nce too stro ng a , .

sentiment ; if it does just pause L ay dow n the


, .

paper be fore you read another line and think —think


hard Shut your eyes and repeat slowly to yo ur
.

se l f T his is written by a woman —of a wo m an


,

.

Ift hat fai ls to convince you I have no more t o say



.
,

Anna paused and unconsciously obeyed The can .

dle fl ame seemed to len gthen then to shorten ; t he ,

w alls to contract then to expand


, She put up he r .

hand and tentatively touched her face ; she was


doubtful even o f hersel f It was as if a grea t
.

clamour o f music had beate n on her ears an d then


passed by lea v ing her dea fened Automatically sh e
, .

m
li fted the letter to the light again .

And n o w it ran o n a I have m ade y pro


,

,
s

logue let me come to fac ts ; let me range yo u r


,

equ ipments and your drawbac ks side by side O n .

the one hand you have brain you ha v e good looks , ,

m
you ha v e ambition though you ha v e n t di scove i

i t a yet ; on the other ha nd


s e ember I am being r

blunt —on the other hand you hav e no education to


speak of yo u hav e no position w orth the name yo u
, ,

possess not one influential friend L e ft to yourse l f .


,

what future do you see ? L e t me answer for you .

The saddest future on this profitable earth the


future o fa thwarted career o fa di con t ented w a ted
,
s ,
s

li fe No w where is the remedy w here is the lo op


.
,

h ole ? For even the pessimists s o m etimes adm it that


96 TH E C I R CL E
we are eac h gi v en one chance at l eas t My child the .
,

remedy lies with me ! ”

For a seco nd the page s flutt ered in A nna s ha nd ’

and h er eyes da rkened ; then she reco vere d hersel f

and went te adily on s .

The remedy lies with m e I am your chance ! .

To be poetic there is a golden ladder waiting fo r


,

you but you will need it to be steadied while you


climb Well you ha v e seen my hands —they are
,

.
,

unusually strong .


Gi v e yourself to me and there is nothing to
which you may not attain Thanks t o your nation .

ality you already speak in French You shall go t o


, .

Fran ce —to Paris from where so many stars ha v e ,

s hone For fi v e years you wi ll work work work


.
-

for five years no one wi ll see you though it will be ,

my duty when the ti m e comes to arran ge that your


, ,

name is not unknown Wh en the five years are .

passed you wi ll co me into a world that is waiting


,

for you So m e day you will understand what that


.

m eans .

M
You admire my house ; I have een your adm i s

ration in your eyes y child this house is a ho v el . ,

compared to what y u can ha e by the li fting o f o v

vour hand Y o u can ha v e j ewels you can hav e


.
,

dresses you can hav e admiration without end


,

should admirati n please you ; but throu gh it all o ,

m
abo v e it all v ou will ha v e vour ambition to keep
,

m
you s traight I fee l y frozen enthusias m tha w
.

for Long ago when the world and the


“ i.
, ,
98 THE C I R CL E
gi ft that tarnishes so very soon B ut I dr i ft again ! .

My child you must pull me up A woman o f


, .

thirty with sentiments ! Ho w futile L e t me


start a f resh .


All that I have o ffered you I can give — and
m ore. Mentally I see your generosity leap up
as you read this ; but that must not be As I .

ha v e o ften told you fo r everything I give it is


,

my policy to receive I have my interest like .


,

the money lender — the pursuer o f any trade In


-
.

this case belie v e me I am all sel f Hereto fore I


, , .

ha v e steered my little boat evenly thr ough troubled


seas ; in the future I mean to rise on the very crest
o f the wave wit h you A s for m y condi tions they
.
,

are these
First we enter into a ten years bargain not a
,

legal bargain as yet fo r you are not legally o f age


,

b ut a bargain o f honour I see j ust h o w high


.

h onour stands with you and I take the risk For .

the first fi ve years I meet e very expense ; for the


se cond five I take a percentage — a large one re ,

member upon all money that you make If you


, .

succeed well there is the crest o f the wave fo r us


,

bot h ifyou fail B ut there is no such word !



That is my first condition my second is more ,

pe rs onal —womanlike I put it to the l as t So


m
"

.
,

ake a clear head and take your courage in b oth

h ands for you are facing your first problem


,

.

A nna felt her fingers turn a little colder : other


wise she re m ained un m oved .
TH E CI R CL E 99

My child when I say that I can claim experience


,

I scarcely think you will dispute the point I do .

claim experience I have seen mistakes made ; I


.

ha v e m ade my o w n mistakes ; and in vour regard I


am determined I say it with all force I am dete r
-

mined that there shall be no false step No w the .

great artist like the great ruler must have no past


, , .

It is essenti al I ha v e known it I have proved it


. :

t o be true A future is one s o w n ; a p as t is the



.

property o f imbeciles and kna v es .


Were I to s peak to you face to face to give you ,

m y reas ons to raise you my arguments I know that


, ,

by their v ery tr uth I must win you t o my side ; but


thi s is a fight that if possible —if at all p ossible
,

I want yo u t o wage for you rsel f I make the propo


or you —I hope without prej udice o r
.

sit io n ; it is f

persuas ion —to accept .

m
T o be concise my meaning lies like this
, If .

you come to me you co e alone You leave your


, .

father and your home ; you break your li fe v olu n


t arily in t wo —setting one hal f as ide with things
that are done with and dead giving the othe r half ,

to me — to be born afresh .

Perhaps I seem inexpli ca ble I know that I


s ee m cruel in reality I am neither I am m erely a .

woman who has fished for long in the pond o f Pub


licit y and who has studied the seasons —and the
,

m
My dea r c hild in your present li fe there is an
,

ele m ent for the moment we will call it an ele ent ,


1 00 TH E CI R CL E
to morrow I c an be explicit if you desire — an ele
-

ment that has wrapped you in secrecy an element ,

that bro u ght you to me in the first instance upon a


mission of —forgi v e me a very doubt ful kind .

N w this element is your o wn under the micro


o ,

scope its particles might pro v e innocent enough ;


but —there is t h e inevitable but —is it the sand in
which to set the reporter the interviewer the busy
, ,

body of fi v e years hence digging with his l i t tle


,

spade ? I ha ve put the que tion t mysel f in fi fty


s o

forms and the answer has unchangingly b een No



.
,


No You are going to be too grea t ; you are
.

goin g to set your tent t oo fully in the daylight .

There m ust be no loophole fo r petty pite s .

Put the pas t away fro m you E very woman


lea rns the word sacrifi ce at some period o fher li fe ;

be thank ful to lea rn it no w Tears flo w e asily and


.

dry eas ily at sixt een For the rest I have taxed
.
,

your thoughts enough ; if I ha v e o v e rtaxed them I


can only plead my cause C ome to me to morrow
.
-

at any ti m e ; no one has ever been more looked for


tha n you will be. JE A NNE A XTE A D M .

There was a dull pause Anna folded the letter


.
,

re folded it slowly ; then with a swi ft movement


, ,

blew out the light .


1 02 TH E C I R CL E
l ifte d fro m her shoulders to another s while she ’

stood passively by The knowledge was cl ear cut


.
-

and unerring ; for the seco nd time she let her hand
fall
.

She crossed the room and raise d the wick o f the


lamp ; then she passed to the fire and crouch ed
be fore it spreading her fingers to the bl aze The
, .

wheel o f her ideas h ad ceased to turn The click o f .

china behind her the so ft motion o fJ oh ann s feet


,

pausing here h alting there absorbed her co n


,

sc iou sness ; beyond him her thoughts would not


stray The knowledge that his eyes were fixed
.

o n her was so sharp the certainty that his lips


,

trembled and yet dreaded t o spe ak w as so absolute ,

that it held her still At las t with an e ffof; she


.

bro ke the spell .


Johann where did these logs c ome fro m
,
She
nodded towards a pile o fw od tac ked to dry in the o ,
s

warmth o fthe fire .

The click ofchina ceased In i m agination she saw .

Johann s lips fall apart in the eager half reluctant



, ,
-

ac tion that always preceded speech And hot upon .

the fancy came another thought ; the thought o f a

m
li fe in which Johann s lips and Johann s words and
’ ’

all that pe rt ained to them would be a m e or


y
lapsing l osing deta il with every year T h e t h ough t
, .

fright ened her

logs

,
She raised her voice
Johann where did they co me fro —t h ese
. .

m
He m ade a deprecating sound You have often .
THE C IR CL E 1 03

said h ow fine t h e wood fires are A ship wi t h timbe r .

cam e in to day; I heard o f it and I re m em be re d


- .

It was very simple He stopped ”


. .

An na sti ffen ed her hands .

And you carried the wood home


Of course It was very simple ”
. .

There w as a wait A burning w al dropped with


.

a little crash Ann a raised her head


. .

The stairs were cleaned to d ay ; I saw as I ca me


in Who cleaned them
I cl eaned them ”
.

A groan rose to Anna s lips but did not n a pe ’

, .

She look ed be fore her at the crackli ng fire .

Johann
Yes Ann a
, .

It w as t he old form ula The qu estion sharp and .

decisive ; the answer re ady anticipating hu nge ring


-
, ,


Joh ann you have done the work o f t h e whole
,

hou se while I have been away When will you do .

your own work all the tedious work that fat ha ad s


,

you
Johann w as silent and e mbarrassed .


Johan n when ,

I shall find ti me .

She changed her position Droppi ng t o t h e alge .

o f the fender she turned roun d Johann you



.
, ,

mean that you will sit up half the ni ght that you -

slave t hat you do your own work and mine as well


-

while I stand by and do nothin g —nothin g at all


,


.
1 04 TH E C I R CL E
The words d ropped sepa ratel y incontesta bly; for ,

the first ti m e in w eeks facts nak ed and cold stoo d


, , ,

s hiverin g in the li ght She saw Johann and she sa w


.

hersel f Suddenly she rose


. .


Johann h e r e yes were direc t h e r hands were
, ,

cl as ped behind her Johann why do you do all



, ,

this for m e ? ”

There was an acute silence ; then a c up slipped


fro m Johann s hand He stoo ped and fu mbled on

.

the fl oo r S o m ethin g withi n hi m was leapin g in


.

answer to her words ; so m ewhere in his inner co n

sc io usness a voice was c rying



No w ! Now It ,

ec h oed through hi m it ree led in his b rain He


, .

li fte d hi m sel f laboriously to one kn ee His pulses .

w e re boundin g T h e gates o fli fe see m ed aj ar need


.
,

ing b ut a tou ch .

Johann tell the truth


, .

T h e v oice se nt the blood to his fo re head ; he


caught the t able and dre w hi m sel fslowly up then he ,

turned to her His fac e was i n shadow hers was in


.

the hi ll li ght The a rran gement w as prophetic It


. .

stru ck hi m with a chi ll He ste adied hi m sel f and .

m
felt the tide of blood recede .

Ann a he began then paused S he stood u, .

co nsciously typi fyin g Fate The red crow n o f her


h air t h e darkne ss ofher eyes —each was symbolic
.

.
,

He dre w a lon g breath such a b re ath as he had ,

draw n on t h e first night at his first sight o fh e r ,


.


Johann, sh e said again “
wh d you d

o o
y ,
106 TH E C I R C L E
Quite s t eadily he returned her glan ce The glow .

m
had gone from his face as the light from a quen ched
candle . Yes that is what I mean Y ou sav ed e
, .

you are God t o me .



And if one lost God ? Her words were low ”

and indistinct Johann ifone lost God P


. ,

He raised his shoulders automatically and again ,

thrust out his hands but without touchin g hers , .

I have said With loss the heart breaks He



. .

ca u ght up a piece o f bread and bendin g it betwe en

h is fin gers broke it in two ; then he crossed to t h e


fire and dropped the pieces into the blaze .

Anna stood by the table She was perfectly silen t .


,

perfectly still ; she was fighting inch by inch No .

o ne who glanced at her eyes could ha v e seen t h e


tumult behind them no on e who watched her first
forward mo v ement could ha v e gue ssed that with it a
castle toppled su mmarily from the skies The battle .

was vital absorbed intense A t last reluctantly


, , .
,

s te p by step she crossed the roo m


, .

Johann she said



.
,

He sprang towards her .


Johann yo u aid o nce I trust you
, s Will you ‘

say it again now to plea e me i s


m
With a sharp mo v ement he caught h er han d .

Ah ore than myse l f F o r alway Anna for


,
. s,

always
F or a m ment h e looked down at his bent head
o s

then the warmth o f his generosity shook her f


wi t h a rush across her heart
lowed
Her tear s rose bl .
,

, m
TH E CI R CL E 1 O7

ring her sight ; her perplexity and her doubt met and
broke in a sob.

Oh Johann she cried with childish abandon


,

ment . Johann Johann ! ”

And up from the depth s o f remembran ce clear


,

and far as a bell among the mountains mocking and


,

distinct as an echo came the gho st o fa sentence


, .


Tears flo w easily and dry eas ily — at sixteen ! ”

With a little gasp her sobbin g ceased .


PA R T O NE —C HA P T E R X VI

RS . M blotted the letter that


AXTEA D
she w as writing and laid it on the t 0 p
o f her desk Then she pushed back
.

her chair .

For t wo minutes she h ad been consciou s that Anna


w as standing in the doorway fo r quite o ne minute
she had been aware that her o wnpulses were moving
at a quickened rate but appearances were o fprimar y
acco un t She was ca re ful first to blot the letter
.
,

a fterwards to turn round .

Her unmoved expression as she greeted the girl


did her credit Anna at a first glance was di
.
, ,
s

m
concertin g Her fi gure was limp her face m arred
.
,

M
by sleeple ssness and tear s .

Like the organiser o f a ca paign Mrs ax t e ad , .

summed up the situation She bracketed the state

m
.

o f affairs and her own plan o faction then she w ent


f rward with both hand si l ently held
o s t .

Anna stood motionless fo r a ec nd t hen s uddenly s o

walked past her into the room pau in g by the bed . s .

I only ca me for a minute she said I did n t


” ’
.
,

want to come at all but it seemed right The .

letter is no good No go od ! I have thought


it out and I can t do it —I can t

Her voice ’
1 10 TH E C I R CL E
B ecause Anna s strength de erted her

s .

Becau se my mind is made up you know — fixe d , .

Because
. MShe twisted her fingers
Mrs axtead sat very st ill
Anna come here .

.
.

An na mo ved reluctantl y forward .

Sit down It tire me to ee people stand


s s .

Still reluctantly Anna dre w forward a chair and


obeyed She trembled to shake o ff the fascin ation
.

that was holding her to stand up and go ; but she


,

lacked the courage o f the ac t She sat m ute and .

M
miserable
Mrs ax t ead s voice broke in again —lo w silky
.


.
, ,

How long is it since you first cam e here ? ”

Nine weeks .

In those nine weeks you have seen m ore t han


you e v er sa w learnt more understood m ore ? ”

Anna nodded
And —this is not m eanness it is necessity ; I
.

want to force a point In those nine weeks you


.

have been give n constantly given ; you have never


,

once been as k ed t o give Is that not so ?.


Anna flushed deeply .

M
What do you want ? she asked afte r a pause”
.

Mrs . ax t ead smiled That i s ri ght Li fe


.

should never be made harder than it is For the .

moment I w ant the small g i ft o fyour confidence


, .

The flush di ed slowly out of Anna s face Sh e ’


.
THE C I R CL E 11 I

Th e other held out her hand S it down again .

it is no t so very terrible A question o r t w o .

that is all She leant forward her face impassi ve


.

, ,

her lashes lowered It was a bad omen for an O ppo .

nent when she hid her eyes Her v oice had never .

been more smooth than when she spoke ag ain .

It is not for yours el f Anna that you refuse this , ,

o ffer P ”

No . Anna s tone was uneven and dragged


” ’
.

The other waited Her next question came in a .

change o fkey .

Your father is ecce ntric You have o ften said .

that he scarcely knows that yo u exist Am I right .

in that ?
Anna took a deep breath For the first time t h e .

m
warmth and scent o f the room seemed to su ffocate .

She ade a great effort .

M
Y es you are right

.
,

Mrs ax t ead s eye remained upon the fire


.

.


And you can tell me candidly tell me that , ,

it is for a man who ignores you that you ,

refuse ? The v oice was meta ll ic ; it scattered


A nna s caution

.

No she said hurri edly ; it is no t —it i not


,
” “
s

M
for him

.

Ah ! Mrs ax t ead stirred ever so



little
. .

Then it is for the Austrian — the man who stol e


my jewels ? ”

Anna s chair made a dull rasp as she pushed it


bac k She rose ; took a step for ward a step back ;


.
,
(H E

1 12 CI R CL E
then with a loss o fvitality sank into her sea t again
, , .

Long ago the story o fJuda s had fascinated her f om r

John Desins ki s lips The v i i n o fthe sil v er piec



. s o es

seemed to rise no w and float be fore her mind .

In an a ony o f sel faccusation she cla ped her


g -
s

hands
Wh en did I say it ? she said slowly H w

. o

did I say it ?
M
She lea nt for w ard in her chair

.

From her place by the fire Mrs axt ead laughed . .

How great you would be in tragedy h e said ,



s .

B ut you need not accuse yoursel f; my knowledge


has n t come fro m you It is an e vent in a sequence

.

o f e v ents — nothing more She leant back and ”


.

closed her eye s Her face was pe rfectly alert per


.
,
~

fect ly serene ; the face o f a woman who appreciat e s

the moment to its minutest point .

You see when a child like you starts a game f


, o

co nseq uence s with me the handica p is t oo great ; ,

the result is t oo clear On the first day tha t yo u .

came here I had yo u followed Sin ce then I ha v e .

seen you constantly with ther people s eyes ; ha v e o


wound the whole skein o f your circumstan ces threa d


by thread Now what hav e you to say ? Like a
.
,

flash she turned the bri ghtness o f her eye upon the
g irl . W hat ha v e you t say 9 o

A nna looked up Her lip were set . s .


I suppo se —I am like a mouse in a trap h e ,

s

Ra ther descripti v e ! Bu t the trap h as yet to


s hut . Is it t o be war be t ween us ? ”
1 14 TH E C I R CL E
very faint flush touched her cheek then died away , .


In five years she said we will both remembe r
,

,

this and laugh I am glad I ha v e my te m per in


.

good co ntrol .

There was a pause


And this A ust rian —is his honesty really as
.

b ri ttle as his heart ? ”

Anna h it her lip .


Did he m ake you his co nfidant e in the jewel -

af fair s
"

I am his only friend .


A dangerous position ! ”

Anna was silent


And his only interest in li fe —as well as h is
.

only friend ? ”

m
Yes .At the root o f Anna s voice there was a
” ’

isgi v ing ; she crushed it down .

Does he never re fer to the j ewels now


N o he ne ve r re fers .

B ecause his innocence is so well proved ? ”

Oh you are very cruel !


,

He would cou rt a trial you think ,

M
Oh no I don t know ! I don t know ’ ’

, .

Mrs. ax t e ad smiled Anna there is some .


,

thing here She thought fully crossed the room .

Something fo r you to read She stop ped by the .


desk and her hand hovered above it Sometimes .

sidelights are very illuminating She searched and .



,

drew out a letter It was written in care ful E n glish


.

in a fine forei gn hand


, .
TH E C I R CL E 1 15

Jusr glance thro ugh it S h e w a v ed the sheets
.

and they r u s t led a little again t the air s .

Mech anically Ann a stretched out her arm A .

great fea r a great shadow seemed lurching towards


,

her She opened the letter cautiously as if conta


.
,

gion l urked between the lines .

M
The whole letter ?
Mrs axt e ad looked up
.

N ot quite the whole
.

letter ; say from the third p age ”


.

Anna found the place .

In the matter o fthe j ewels m y dea r friend the , ,


writing ran “
I com m end your philosophy ! F o r
,

mysel f I can claim no such calm In one direction


, .

at least my fingers itch


, .

Who wrote this ? Anna s tone w as sharp then


” ’

m
without waitin g for an answer she read on again .


My fingers itch after my lost me ssenger w ho ,

your whirlpool of London see m s to have ca ught in


its eddy B ut as yet I do not repine ; such carrion
.

rise to the surface if o ne has the patience to wait .

When the time arri v e I promise you I shall p ss ss


s o e

m
mysel f to the v alue o f the stones I ha l l u ge . s r

the pr ec u t io n to its limits — and the limits sho u l d


be wide The fellow is either imbecile or a villain ;
.

in one c ase or in the other he will obtain his


dese rts As m y pe n inscribes th is I think I see
. ,

you s m i le ! ”

Anna laid down the letter and glanced up She .

would not admit the thought that was knocking at


her hea rt but against her will her eyes mirrored it .
1 16 TH E C IR C L E
This i Go lst oc k she said
s .

M
That is Golst oc k ”
.

Her lips opened sti ffly Mrs axt ead read their . .

question and made a motion with her hand .

m
In that letter she said you have the whole

,

,

an . It is an interesting letter The loss o f the .

stones he accepts — h e shrugs his shoulders at ; but


the fact o f being duped he does not accept That .

rankles like a pebble in a wound B ut my dea r .


,

little girl we fence ! We have fenced all along


, .

The quizzical tone died out of her voi ce ; she


ceas ed to guard her eyes She was keen direct .
, ,

set to her point .

I nstincti v ely Anna strai ghtened hersel f .

My dear child let me put things to you as they


,

are Let the issue he plain


. .

Anna mo v ed inconsequently to the desk and


picked up a paper kni fe -
.


I have never seen this A ust rian m you know
that B ut I ha v e made a picture o f him through
you —through Golst oc k through my maid Cé
.

leste I know him as if I had met him a hun dred


.

times In many points he is like a dog and like a


.

maim ed dog he has appealed to yo u He is ge ntle .


,

faith ful trustin g


, tru ting abo v e all thin gs ; but
s

he lacks one trait that the dog possesses He i a . s

coward ! ”

A nna caught her breath .


Yes he is a coward ! Y o u say that if he lost
,

you his heart would brea k No w that works two .


1 18 TH E C I R C L E
You don t think that Johann stole the stones P

Candi dly I do not


, .

Then you think


That his presence — his existence hinders me

m
beyond that I do not think Ifhe goe t o his pun . s

ish ent it will be you who ent him there My s .

conscience will be clear .


You are cruel !


I am human You are looking at the pre sent
.

moment ; I am looking five years ahead One day .

you will thank me for my l o ng sight Go home .


,

and face things Question yoursel f question Johann ;


.
,

if you find him ready to meet Gol t oc k — h e



s s

len gthened her words ready to face the e v i


dence o f the clas p — brought bac k by you as resti


t ut io n ; the eviden c e o f his li f
e in hiding then ,

well and good ! You cannot do better than sit d wn o

in yo u r curio shop — and wait B ut if if on the .


,

other hand he is not so ready to take the risk ; if


,

the loss o fyou in a secure re fuge seems more endurable


than the loss o f you in a prison then she let the ,

sentence fall and caught it up again urgency and ,

speed tipping the word then make your fare


s ,

m
well s t o night and come to me in the morning ; I
-

shall gi v e you until ten Sudden decisions —fo r e d


.

decisions hold the best ”


.

Anna s shoulder pressed hea v ily against the panel


o fthe door

And if I —if I were to come


.

The words
were faint relucta nt
, If I were —t o come
.

Joh ann would be safe ?


TH E C I R CL E 1 19

My dear am I Golst oc k s bloodhound


,

Anna turned the handle o f the door mo v ed for ,

ward then on the threshold turned back


, , , .

MM
Ho w h ard you are
rs .axt ead laughed
she said
.

operatin g on a child The kni fe hurts ; the child


.
.

It is like a doctor

scream s ; but the doctor can afford to smile .

Calmly picking up Golst oc k s letter from the floor



,

In the d oorway Anna still stood irresolute


I —I —I hate you
.

she said suddenly . I


I hat e you ! A nd she fled down sta irs

.
P A R T O NE C HA P T E R X V I I

m m
m
LD S olny t by the parlour fire i ,

ersed in a book When Anna entered


.

the roo m he raised his eye s absently


, ,

shi ft ed his position then dropp ed his


,

gaz e agai n .

She ca m e in hurri edly Her first glance w as at .

the Dutch clock The hands m arked eight Her


. .

conscience stung her and she looked towa rds the


,

t able ; but the supper o f an hour ag o h ad been


removed In plac e o f the after fragm ents the
.
,

cru mbs the soiled pla tes a clean clot h m et her


, ,

lanc s lit ry cup and sauce r a so lita rv kni f

m
\
g e ; a o a e ,

m
and f ork ne wly poli sh ed in expe ct a tion o f her co
,

ing Her eyes strayed fro


. the table to the fire ;
w ith a d ull sinki ng o f the heart she saw the kettl e

re ady pl ac e d She turned to her fathe r


. .

Where is Johan n ? she said ”


.

So lny too k t h e nu mbe r o f his page then clo ed ,


s

t h e boo k Johann ! he repeate d vaguely ; the n


“ ”
.

he co ll ect e d hi m sel f Johann h as gon e fo r h is



.

w alk
m
He o pe n ed t he book again

.
.

A nna oved t ow ards t h e table Th ere w as a h or


m
.

ri ble conclusiveness in t h e wo rds ; t h ey see e d a last

s ur were a last spur needed ; t h e com preh e n si ve


p ,
122 THE C I R CL E
Father she said unsteadily

.

Old So lny did not hear .

She drew in her breath and crossed agitatedly to


the window ; kneeling on the window sill she looked -
,

out .

The bl urred panes gave on the little yard With .

attenti ve listening she could hear the relucta nt rain


d ops fa l ling on the buckets and zinc cans ; with a
r

stretch o fimagination she co uld see the grass blades


bet w en the cobbles that in summer time seen
e , ,

t h ro ugh the imperfect glass spread and elon gated to ,

pra i ie greenness The idea blew across her with a


r .

breath ofpas t thin gs She saw hersel fa baby wi th


.

big e yes and pale fac e little hand clasped litt l e


,
s ,

cheeks pressed again st the glas lost in wonder at s,

the si ght H o w long ago it seemed !


.

S h e sighed .

H o w long ago ! H o w much farther h o w much ,

longer would it seem She tightened her h ands


one above the other and pressed her hot face against
,

the pane One tear — two é splashed down in lo w


.
-
s

accompaniment to the rain ; with a swi ft i mpulse


she m o v ed till her lips t uched the glass Then she
o .

turned and her feet ca me sharply to the ground .

Father she said again .

Solny moved without turning round “


Y es my .
,

child .

Perhaps it was the moment perhaps the unwonte d ,

tenderness o f the words but her hear t swelled a,

sob rose t o her throat and was driven back .


THE CI R CL E 12 3

Father Her head felt v ery light She .

walked slowly round the room pausing at each ,

point halting fin ally be hind his chair


,
Father .

Curiosity held no pl ace in Soln y He stared .

straight be fore him at the fire .

Father there is a question I want to ask


, .

Well my child ? The tone was gentle and


,

v ague .


Father which is eas ier to mend — a broken
,

heart or a cut th roat ? Her breath seemed to ”

There was a pause Her eyes were turned nervously


.

on the door that led into the shop ; to her s trained


ea rs the clock ticked With in c redible loudness .

Father she urged .

He li fted his head and answered as from a dream .

There is no mending my child for either ; they , ,

di ffer that is all


,

.

Anna s fingers were steel against his arm



A nd .

the di fference the di fference

m
His head drooped .


One makes li fe so long he said that a an ,

,

dare not l ook ah ead ; the other makes li fe so short


that he dare not look behind He still spoke as .

m
from a dream .

A nna s fingers relaxed hi s arm dropped ; she


stood for a oment with shoulders sti ff as his own .

Then she extended her fingers moving the m slowly ,

do w nward till they touched his hand


, .

Good night father she said


-
, ,

.
( H E

1 24 C I R CL E
Good ni ght my child Sleep well !
-
, He took
.

up his book .

She hesitated waited then dre w away Heavily


, , .

she picked up her coat and crossed the room At .

the door h e stopped


s .


Father she said Father Go od nigh t !
.
“ -

B ut the words did no t reach Solny settled h i . s

glasses leant back in his cha ir and shift ed the


, ,

position o f his book .


196 TH E CI R CL E
clock struck six She counted the trokes fearfu lly ;
. s

as the last died out she stirred and looked down at

Her clothes lay Within a yard o f her The y lay .

precisely as they had lain morning a fter morning


sin ce first she had l earnt to dress hersel f Slowly .

she stretched out her fi nge rs and felt them o ne by


o ne ; there w as something ghostly and unreal in
their touch She shivered drew a garment towa ds
.
,
r

her and mechanically began to dress


, .

The dressing was a slow affair Her hands fumbled .

m
o ver buttons and halted at the tying o f knots

oved awkwardly as ifi mpelled by a force not quite


her own
,

E v en the shock o f the cold water as she


.
She .

washed le ft h e r still benumbed .

Sitting on the edge o f her bed sh e com bed and ,

m
plai t ed her hair ; then she ro se and li fting her hat ,

fro its peg put it on Her coat still da m p from


, .
,

las t night s rain w as thrown ac ross a chair ; she took


it up slowly shook it and forced her arms through


,

the tight sleeves Then very silently she strai ght


.

ened herself and turn e d about — ready save for her ,

boots .

With the same slowness o fmotion she took a step ,

forward and placed her hands on the foot rail o fthe -

bed letting her gaze run furtively along the wall


, .

In the struggling light John D esinski s childis h


portrait o f her stared at her with its question in g eyes .

Di mly she could follow the tangle o f the red hair ,

t h e so ft outline o f the face She re m e mbe red t h e


.
THE CI R CL E 12 7

day of it s painting How gay he had bee n ! How


.

amusing ! Wh at stories he had told to keep her still !


Her eyes stared back into the pict ured eyes and a ,

void seemed suddenly t o stretc h be fore her She .

shivered again but her hands tightened o n the rail


,

and her eye s mo v ed in their sur v ey tra v elling fro m


,

one poor ornament t o another with delibera t e care .

Then for a moment her lids droop e d .

Until n o w she h ad guarded her glance ; but now


with a firm mo v ement she raised her body leant over ,

the rail and let her eyes rest long and steadily on
,

the carpe t beside the bed It w as the crucial test


. .

In the glimmering light the blue and orange stood


out with sharp distinctness ; the pattern seemed cut
as with a kni fe She looked in perfect silence as she
.
,

m ight have looked o n an unconscious anim al Her .

eyes smarted her throat swelled Then suddenly


, .

m
she dropped to the ground picked up her boots and
, ,

carrying the in her hand walked stea dfastly t o the


,

The door handle turn ed with a creak that brought


-

her heart t o her lips ; but she stepped across the


landing At the top o f the sta irs she paused but
.
,

the pause w as momentary At the third step she


.

st opped and leant against the wall ; the sm arting


behind her eyes had become a burning pain an ache ,

o f parting no longe r t o be denied Her whole form


.

swayed backward with her impulse but she caught ,

herself in the nick o f time With a stealthy rush


.

she began to des c end the stairs .


12 8 THE C I R CL E
At each crack and strain of the worn out st eps -

her b reath ca ught ; at each succeedin g silence it was


let go again .

Fro m the attic Johann could hear nothing Her .

father slept like the dead She reiterated the knowl


.

edge silently a ain and again Th en at last the foot


g .

o fthe stairs w as reached There she stopped . .

From the thought o f the shop door with its bar -


,

and its cumberso me hinges her mind drew back ; ,

in stincti vely it turned to the kitchen and the yard


with their narrow entrance into the Passag e ; and
almost without volition her dec ision was m ade .

Downstairs the ticking o f the clock filled all the


,

spaces Th e kitchen w ith its raked out fire possessed


.
-

a h uman loneliness Its b are gre y windo ws had the


.

look f eyes ; its fam iliar obj ects the sense o f out
o

s tretched hands She crept through has tily — the


.

m
great eyes seemed to pierce her soul The door into .

the yard w as eas y o f anagement ; the key turned


s m oothly the latch li ft ed with scarcely a click and
, ,

the raw ai r poured thr ugh the aperture with a o

rush .

She stepped hastily out and drew the d oor behind


her Then she sat down upon the doorstep and
.

pulled on her boots .

With the chill o f the day the w a ve o f h er resolu


tion receded leaving a d ull fear A dazed o v er
,
.
,

whelmin g loneliness seemed to li ft from the en folding


gl oo m ; her fin ge rs fumbled wi th the boot laces her -

head drooped Then suddenly she rose


. .
13 0 THE C I R CL E
shutt ers would be taken do wn mornin g aft er o
ing the dazzlin g dayli ght would pour in like an
mm
,

invading army Her father would take his position


.

by the de k Johann would take his place behi n d the


s

co unter ; the quiet une v ent ful round o fbar ter would
,

go on and on Day after day day after day


. .

Only in the kitchen in the parlour in the little yard


, ,

all would be still quite sti ll .

She closed her eyes but wi t h closed eyes the i mage


,

o f Johann so frequently recur rent rose p ain fully


, , .

She started alert again .

Johann would never understand With a n e w con .

fu sion the new thought spran g up Johann would .

think She put her hand over her eyes What .

would Johann think Leavin g like this without


a word without a messag e without good bye -

Her eyes trav elled down the counter over a pile ,

of milita ry cloaks then upward t o the black slate


,

and its recordin g ch alk hanging side by side u pon


,

the wall How many gam es o f Noughts and


.

C rosses they had served for in childish days


She stood with a dazed mind ; her ideas rose and


fell eac h li ft ing itself to su ffocate the last Then .

with a little cry she spran g back her hand upon the ,

door The silence h ad been rudely broken T he Dutch


. .

clock had struck again se ven inexorable beats .

In hal f an hour Johann would be downstair s.

m
m
E v en n o w he was awake In sudden fear she drew
.

back into the p ar lour ; but she left the c o u nica


tion door ajar .
THE C I R CL E 13 1

She glan ced to the ri ght then to the le ft ; sh e ,

passed her hand again over her eyes Then she .

raised her glance to the clock It marked five min .

utes past the hour Her feet seemed weighted to


.

the floor ; she fe ared to go ; she dreaded to stay .

Without a word ! Wi thout good bye ! The -

thought rang through her con fusion ; swung to


the ticking o f the time .

Slowly slowly she retraced her steps ; slowly she


,

passed into the shop and behind the counter ; blindly


she stumbled over the cloaks ; then hesitatingly she
stood be fore the slate With her eyes on the ground
.

sh e took up the chalk .

Her fingers were numb ; her mind w as numb ; her


hand poi sed itsel f irresolute .

Somewhere upstairs a chair was overturned She .

jerked and the chalk made a white line on the black


,

surface Shakin gly she sti ffened her wrist wiped the
.
,

slate then began to write


, .

She wrote slowly pain fully indistinctly ; the let


, ,

ters were j agged and sti ff .

A n na will come back



.

Then without a gl ance at her work without a


, ,

backward look she replaced the chalk and walked


into the parlour ; from the parlour to the kitchen ;
fro m the kitchen into the yard ; from the yard o ut
into the st reet .
PA R T T WO —C H A P TE R I

T was an April day ; a day o f cool sunshine ,

. M
buddin g leav es and promise On either side o f
Mrs ax t ead s hall door was a narrow win

-
.

do w ; B ranks fro m his position in the hall


, ,

watched the ebb and fl o w o f li fe through the glass .

L o okin g to the le ft he co uld scan the young green


,

o f the Park trees and raisin g his gl ance could catch


,

a glint ofpale blue sky but his eyes h ad an absent


expression One is apt to become ab se nt when one
.

h a gazed o n the same scene with s m all intermission


s

fo r more tha n ei ght years Not that B ranks com


.

plained his b read was buttered with a liberal hand ,

and he understood the value o f butter to an ounce .

His ey e s continued to skim the gree nness ; then


verged to the nearer grey o f the road with its jin
gling stream o fv eh icles ; it s bright swi ft rush ofli fe
, .

London was filling ; with e v e y incoming train the


r

m
flood o f humanity thickened ; with each new morn

m
ing blinds were raised t rades e n s ladders borne
,

away fu it ure re urrected from its holland co ver


,
s

ings The sense o f a brilliant season was in the


.

air.

B ranks speculated on the po int with lazy sat isfac


tion He was a little stouter a little less supe rc ilio us
.
,
13 4 TH E C I R CL E
stri king She wore a tra v elling coat o f da rk sable
.
-

and carri ed a bunch o f v iolets in her hand .

W here had he seen her be fore ? H is d ull mind was


twisted by the questio n The outline w as so familiar
.
,

yet so un familiar so tantalising s aggrav ating


, ,
o .

Then quite swi ftly she turned and he gasped in,

audible relief .

He remembered the portrait in the dining roo m -


,

the girl in the trailing muslin dress and wide


brimmed hat Only yesterday his mistress h ad
.

turned from a pile o f newspapers and nodded to the


pic ture The greatest actress in E urope B ranks
.
,

she h ad said ; and he h ad replied Yes ma am in , ,


,

his most deferenti al tone .

With a flourish he threw the door wide .

The stranger ran up the steps her lips were smil


in g and her eyes seemed to reflect the smile
,
.

B ranks she said holding o u t her hand


, .

B ranks drew bac k cust om and good training were


strong within him but the h and w as still held out ,

and there is a charm be fore which the most per fect


training in the world goes ine v i t ably to the wall .

\ V ith an awkward movement he adv anced .


Ma am — miss

He was somewhat inc o
herent . We hav e heard o f your su cces miss s, .

We all feel proud —if I might say .


She laughed but her eyes darkened for a second


, .

M
It 8 good to be home again Branks Where s
" ”
.
,

Mrs . ax t ead ? In her bedroom ? All right


don t announce me Just see to my boxes —and to

.
m
TH E C I R CL E 135

m y m aid ; she s so ewhere in the third ca b



She ”
.

ran across the hall ; but o n the lowest step o f t h e

stairs she paused .


B ranks ! ”

M
Y es mis

s.
,

Is Mrs ax t ead s bedroo m still white ? In all the


.

times I ve see n her I ve never remembe red to a k



,

s .

The room is still white miss ,



.

Ah
M
She turned and fl e w up the stairs
Mrs ax t ead laid down her newspaper with the
.

nearest appro ach to a start she had ever allowed


.

Anna ! she said sharply ”


Anna —from the .

very skies ! ”

The girl crossed t ne room eagerly From no .


w here so high Jeanne She bent laughingly and ”


.
,

M
kissed the other s cheek ’
.

Mrs ax t ead in her turn laughed


. L isten to
, , .

this — I was reading it as you opened the door .

Mdlle Solny the young Parisian actress contem


.
, ,

plates a tour in R ussia be fore opening her season in


London in the middle o f May A trifle inc on ist .

s

ent eh P She rai sed her brows


,

.

Anna swept the sheets aside My dear Jeanne .


,

who is e ver consistent ? Tell me you are glad to ,

see me
The other smiled again “
You know I never say .

things saying is so bad for the imagination B ut


-
.

she pressed the girl s hand Make your explanations ’


.
,

Anna Three weeks ago in V ienna you told me to


.
, ,
13 6 TH E CIR C L E
expect you four days be fore your opening ni ght
no t an hour soo ner

.

I know Bu t a month ago Jeann e Thin gs


.
, .

happen She took o ff her hat and threw it on


the bed.

Her co mpanion smiled again a sli ghtly iro nical ,

Why do you smile Anna turned round .

A reminiscence You are very m uc h —and v ery


litt le —changed in the eight years
.


.
,

Anna threw back her head Do n t talk of that ’


.

Ask me wh y I came .

I ha v e asked ”
.

m
There w as a pause .

mm
How lo v ely o fyou to have a e Ann a crossed
the o and knelt on the white rug “
I ve been .

praying for an E n glish spring and an E nglish fire


fo r four years She bent close to the blaze and the

.

flames lit up her face A fte r a m oment s wait she .


turned round .


It was two ni ghts ago at th e Archduchess s ’

Jeanne ; R lsle n h ad bee n singing you know how

m
her singin g seems to tighten round one s heart I ’

thinking —making i
.

w as standing by mysel f

pos ible drea ms


s She laughed a little and picked
up the bunch o f v iolets that she had dropped a
second be fore . Old Prince R ox ofl ca me to me '

sometimes he h as a very gentle manner and he said


quite so ftly They te ll me Mademoiselle that you
,

, ,

o i ng home In themselve s the words were



are g .
13 8 THE CI R CL E
M ax t eacr ssed the room
the bell she turned
d o

.
, but with her fin ger on
,

Anna ”
.

m
Yes .

I not quite certain abo ut to night



-
.

Oh Jeanne , The girl s voice fell .


” ’
.

I hav e planned your first appearan ce in London ,

your fi rs t introduction to London so many times , .

It has been one of my schemes It was to be brilliant


—in e v ery sense
.

m

.

I tired o fbrilliance

.

I am not tired o f brilliance fo r you In eigh t .


years the v oice had lost nothing o fits ring .

Anna frowned ; then laughed Would you send .


M
me to bed like a naughty child ,

Possibly Mrs ax t e ad was speculative ; then


.

.

s wi ft ly with a flash o fenergy she mo v ed back to the


, ,

c entre o f the room My dear Anna what are yo u .


,

thinking o f What are you dream in g of Y ou

m
forget that the very hoardin g s in the streets talk o f
'

y o ur co in
g You will be a nine days
. wonder when "

you are fi t seen



rs .

Anna arranged her violets I d gladly postpone .


"

m
the nine da y wonder B ut Jeanne I do want to
s

.
, ,

M
eet your gu e sts ; I do want to listen to the crowd .

y dear child
Anna mo ved quickly forward ; there was colour in
her face and h er eyes gleamed Jeanne h e said . ,

s

suddenly I ha v e an inspiration I ha v e an idea


,

. .

Y ou say y u rs el f that I am unknown here


o that
TH E CIRCLE 13 9

I

venot been seen Le t me enj oy the blessin g ?
.

Let s forget engagements and triumphs and sensa


t ions ju t for onces let me be your p rotégée


c at yo ur p rotégée returned fro m abroad ? The
chances are twenty to o ne a hundred to one , ,

that I sha n t be recognised I can wear a white


’ ’
.

froc k and a string o f pearls I can look nineteen . .

Jeanne
The appeal w as irresistible Mrs ax t ead s lips
tightened then relaxed at las t she laughed
. . M .

And the great Solny she said .

Will gi v e her understudy a chance I take .

the responsibility Jeanne I ll sit in the darkest


, .

cor ner and be the least attractive woman in the


,

room .

The other looked at her ; then her lips fell to


their old satirical cur v e The c r ner will ha ve
.

o

t be v ery dar k she said dryly ; and re crossing the


” -
o ,

room she pressed the be ll


, .
PA R T T WO C HA P T E R I I

dinner Mrs
FT E R ax t ead rose

lipped her arm through Anna s


s
, and . M ’
.

C ome upstairs she said It s ,



.

only nine ; I like an hour in my o wn


room be fore the storm bursts .

They both laughed and mo ed across the room v


,

then crossing the hall slowly ascended the stairs


, .

In the bedroom the fire h ad been replenished ;


otherwise the room was dark Anna crossed to the .

window and drew the curtains back The sky was .

clear and studded with stars ; the moon in its first ,

qu arter hung above the opposi t e trees against the


,

dark roadway the cab lamps m ade a strea m o f flit


ting lights S he looked in silence for a while ; then
.

quite abruptly she spoke .

M
I am breakin g my own prece pts Jeanne , .

Mrs . ax t ead w as h o lding a match to the tall

candles on the dressing table In wha t ? she -


.

asked.


I wanted to be shallow t o night and my mind -
,

will be per v erse and think



.
,

Co me away from the window then The stars , .

always demoralising

.
14 2 THE CI R CL E
l er slight alert figure were apparent to the glance .

She stood as she m ight have stood eight years be fore ;


when she spo ke it was in the same v oice with the
, ,

same preci ion the same infle xibly as sured ring


s , .

m
Anna she said you think I don t see your
,
” “
,

thoughts I a looking into the m as ifthey were a


.

pool o f w ater whe re I could see e v ery shred o f mo s s

and every tiny s t one This is a di fficult moment fo r


.

you you must make it a succ essful o ne Take this .

ghost o fyours and kill it outright ; make an end o f


it once for all You ha e rolled it into a gra ve and
, .
v

strewn earth o v er it then you have run away and all


,

the time sleeping and waking resting and working ,

you ha v e the thou ght that it s no t dead that at ’

any moment it can shake o ffthe ea rth and rise


Anna put o ut her hand Stop Jeanne I won t .
, .

listen ; I won t hear ’


.

There w as a long wait then she turned suddenly

mm
and ca u ght the other s h and Jeanne wha t a fool

thirstin g to h ear —th irsting t o speak


. ,


Ia ! I
—and you know I am S he freed her ha nd again
.

,

M
and pushed back her hair .

Mrs ax te ad was silent


. .

When yo u to o k m e away eight years ago , ,

I w rote a letter e very day to Johann or to my ,

father letters pages long letters of explanation of , ,

affection of homesickness and I stored them away


, , ,

promising mysel f to post them in fi ve years time ’


.

m
The posting was to be my first act o f emancipation
my first act ; I saw vself r nning through the u
TH E CI R CL E 14 3

streets with the bundle in my hand ; I saw m ysel f


as I heard it drop into the let t er box I have cried .

night aft er night Jeanne at the len gth o f those five


, ,

debarred years ; I ha v e waked morning after morn


ing with a prayer o f thank fulness that another day
,

w as g one She turned to the window B ut that



. .

was eight years ago — eight whole years ago In .

the secon d yea r I wrote my lette rs e e rv week in tead v s

m
o fe v ery day ; in the third I wrote them e v ery month ,

-
and not always e v ery o nt h ; in the fourth I ,

ceas ed to write at all She stopped ”


. .


At the end o f the fi fth year o h you Knew the ,

world very well J eanne ; you had ca lculated very


well —ah the end o f the fih h year on the day o f
,

m
my triu ph at the C onservatoi re yo u ca me to me ,
,

and reminded me that our old bargain was ended


a nd o ur n e w bargain w as to be gin that I was a ,

w oman f ree to do what I liked with my o wn li fe


, .

Y o u were quite frank quite generous ,


I think you
guessed how sa fe the generosity was And I — what .

did I do ? Where were my re solutions and my


promises to myself? With my ambition o n fire and
my conceit running riot I went to my o wn roo m , ,

locked the door and burnt the letters o ne by


,

one Y o u never knew h o w w ell you scored — you


.

and the world She laughed with a catch in her


v oice
Mrs
.

M
ax t ead s glance was fixed o n the sky with
.

its light o f misted stars Presently she lowered h er


.

li ds .And now she said .


1 44 TH E C I R CL E

m
m
Now ? Anna li fted her head ”
There s no .
“ ’


Jeanne —fo r that I ha v e learnt the l esson
,

.

very w ell ; something seems dead here She


touched her heart Sometimes I think t will ne v er
.

wake up again The time is gone when I could


.

sa
y I

h ate you ! I h te y u ! as I once sa ida I o

.

have grown blunt ; I see thr ough you n o w Jeanne ; ,

I understand you but I can t say I hate you any ’

more You are a part o fthe w ld and I e gro w n


. or ,

v

to like the world — its good thi ng — it ea e and s s s

its success When the old day s come back I hut


.
,
s

mv e ves ; I can t look them in the face and den y


them as yo u would do ; I can t look them in the


,

face and acknowledge the m ; so I take the middle


course I shut my eyes Jeanne
, She look ed .

suddenly into the other s face “


Jeanne let me ’
.
,

keep my eyes shut P She raised her hand again


with the o ld childish gesture and pushed back her ,

h air ; then she shivered slightly and turn ed to the

M m
window .

Mrs ax t ead mo v ed so f
. tly into the roo and
set a light to the groups o f ca ndles han ging from
the wall Then she walked back to Anna and
.

touched her arm .

The gi l started wheeled about then laughed


r , ,

ner v ou l y s .

Oh the lights ! W hat a charm against bad


,

M
thoughts 3 You are very com prehending Jeanne , .

She laughed again unevenly ; and Mrs ax t ead .

di e w the curtains across the window .


P A RT T WO —C H A P T E R I II

long afte r her host ess left her Anna


OR ,

stood by the dressi ng ta ble From down -

stairs a faint m urm ur reached her —the


.

j in glin g echo of t rafic ho e through the m


o pen door into the h all t h e hu m o f laughter and
,

v oice s the pulsation and rustle and movement that


,

denotes arri ving gu ests She heard it mechanically


.
,

as o ne hears the roar o f a sto rm while absorbed in

the reading o f a boo k ; then as when a wilder gust ,

o f wind shakes the house one so metimes shuts the


,

boo k she broke the thread o fher musings and raised


,

m
her head attracted by a fresh sound The swing of
, .

usic lo w but un m istak able ca m e across the roo m


, , .

She stood upright and her fac e brighte ned ; it was


a gay inco nsequent tune a waltz sh e h ad danced t o
, ,

countless time s It ro use d h er stir red her ; uncon


.
,

sc iou sl she walked t o the doo r and opened it a little


y
w a ; t h e rush D f existence be came audible again

y ,

r unning bel o w the music in f aint accompaniment .

Cautiously she stepped ac ross the corridor and looked

The scene was bright A gainst the dark carpeting


.
,

m
the glimmer o fj ewels and the so ft tones o fwomen s ‘

dresses made a glow and patch o f colo ur ; f o r

b ! w ee n the p alms o fthe inner hall the waltz float e d


e
THE C IR CL E 1 47

up inspiritingly ; she caught the light scrape o f the


violins the deeper th rob o f the cello With a
,

.

sudden impulse she turned again and passed back


into the room .

C rossing to the dressing table she stood be fore -


,

the glas s and studied her reflection while a minute


pas sed ; with subdued excitement she ca ught up two
candlesticks and raised them till the light fell full

m
m
upon her face ; then silently repl acing them she
, ,

picked up her gloves and b u e d the tune o f the


,

waltz as she drew them on A second later she left .

the room descended by a side staircase and stood in


, ,

momentary hesitation by the door o f the reception


room ,

The reception roo m was the largest in the house


-
,

and t o Anna the least familiar In former days its


, , .

poli hed floor its panels and gilding its furniture o f


s , ,

Louis X VI had each in turn been a so u rce o f awe


.
, .

She smiled a little now as h e remembered h o w,


s

large they once h ad loomed ; then a glimpse o fher


hostess s black dress caught her eye and sh e crossed

M
the room .

Mrs ax t ead was st anding in a quiet corner ; a


.

tall screen served the double purpose o f a back


ground and a parti al shield As Anna approached .
,

she was leaning bac k agai nst it her eyes lowered her , ,

fan swayin g gently as she talked to her companion


, ,

a young man with a straight sli ght figure and an ,

attenti ve pose o f the head She loo ked round with.

a smile as the girl reached her .


1 48 TH E C I R CL E
You ve chosen a good moment she said

I m ,

.

takin g te m porary shelter The hurrica ne was pretty .

h ad .She laughed ; then her gaze narrowed to the


girl s face

B ut what ha v e you been doing ? Your
.

eyes look like big stars .

Anna laughed and blushed I ha ve been study


ing charms as propounded by you She caught

M m
the stranger s eye and stopped ’
.

Mrs axt e ad laid her fingers on her ar


. An na .
,

I ve al ways wanted you to know Mr Strode May



. .

I introduce him no w ? ”

Anna s m iled and the stranger bowed There was .

courteous deference in his bearing vitality and ,

stren gth in the clearness o f his eyes an d the healthy

. M
tan o f his skin She was noting each item when
Mrs axt e ad spoke again
Mr Strode is favoured by Fate she said
.

He
.

.
.
,

is delight ful by nationality Hal f his li fe h as been .

spent in C anada hal f in C ornwall ; he ca n expie ss ,

a n E nglishman s sincerity with an A merica n s charm


’ ’ ”
.

I ’
m
Anna smiled again and Strode laughed
a fraid he said that Mrs
rather like a lightning fla h She drops into dingy
,

,

ax t e ad s ,

s .
. M
.

c rners then i m agine they were ne v er dark


o ,
His s .

v oice was e as y and as ured his manner h ad a faint s ,

deliberation his eyes an attenti v e w av o f resting on


,

h i listener s face that marked hi m from other men



s .

In v oluntarily Anna returned h i glance Jeanne s .

has the secret o f popularity h e said she ees ,



s s

people as they would be seen .



1 50 TH E CI R CL E
She looked agai n across the room .


I hardly kn ow ; at best o f times it s an un ’

pleasan t process —one generally finds one sel f so


,

v ery small B ut let us talk o f somethi ng else


. .

She turn ed once m ore and met his eyes and the con ,

tact gave her an unlooked for thrill Ha v e you


-
.

known Jeanne fo r lon g ? Are you one o f the set


She in di cated the groups with a mo vement o f her
fan .

He laugh ed Oh absolutely not I m an


M
'
.
.
,

outsider —an offseas on friend When Mrs ax


m
-
. .

tead co m es to T rescar she takes co passion u pon


,

m e We are neighbours there you know Fro m the


.
, .

tower o f m y house I can see the woodbine climbing


round her chimney stac ks We introduced ou rs el v es
-
.

on the stren gth o f that woodbine He laughed ”


.

again .


B ut I thought Jeanne said Can ada ? She ”

raised her eyes .


She said Cornwall as well He s m il ed
.
”“
I .

li v ed at T rescar ti ll I w as fi fteen years old ; then my


father died an d my uncl e in C an ada thought that
,

trade in a new country was better for me than tra


dition in an old and I w as shipped to A merica
,

much against my will I was twenty one be fore


.
-

I saw ho m e ag ain You can guess I counted the


.

An na l ooked down critically at her gloves . You


returned when you ca me o fage ?

I sailed on m y birthday He laughed


.

. I m

TH E C I R CL E 151

af raid I rather stick at things ; no pl ace will e v er be


quite Cornwall to me ; I l ook to returning perma
n ent l
y o ne day when my pile is made , He .

laughed once more .

A n d in the mean time ?



Anna smoothed her ”

gloves .

Oh in the mean time I grind hard at copper


, ,

m ining an d when trade and my uncle can spare me


, ,

I run across B ut why do you ne v er come t o


.

T rescar ? Don t you like the sea


She looked up quickly I loved the sea be fore “

I ever saw it ; now it is a sort o f fetish to me ; But


I ve ne v er seen T rescar —o r Jeanne s White Cot
’ ’

tage Like you I ve been out o fE ngland fo r many


.
,

years .

Studyin g ? ”

Studying She smoothed her glo v e again the n


.

again she looked up Yes ; also like you I want . ,

to make my fortun e some day some dista nt day .

For the present I m content to hear other people ’

talk o ftheirs .

There was a pause ; scraps o f conversation floated


t o the m the sound o fpas sin g skirt s on the opposite
,

side o f the screen the sway o f the music from the


,

hall outside Strode m oved nearer to her by a


.

m
step
I wish you d come to C ornwall he said i pul

,

sivel
y I don t know why but I feel we d grow t o

,

kn ow e ach other there There s something about .


the sea that levels things — prej udice and form ality
1 52 TH E C I R CL E

m
and thin gs He stopped and smoothed his fault

.

m
lessly smooth hair His speech h ad the slight an .

neris his v oice the deliberate intonation that


,

in the ne w country the E nglishman endeavours


to acquire and the Ame ri can d oe s his best to
discard .

Anna looked at him That s v ery true she .


“ ’

,

s aid I v e o ften thou ght it but I e ne ver put


.

,

v

it in quite that way The sea has a wonderful .

power .

Yes Like some people it takes one o u t o f n


.
, o e

s e l f Do you know that w e v e been stan ding h


.

e re

for hal f an hour ?


She glanced round and coloured N o ; when .

one is interested I suppose o ne forgets He r eyes .


were v ery bri ght .

Precisely Would I be trespassing if I as ked



.

you to come and find a seat — somewhere outside


the crowd ? Be quite candid in your answer ; I come
from a country where people mostly say ex actly what
they mea n He pau sed waiting for her reply and
.

, ,

it struck her that no man had e ver looked her so


h nestly in the eye A wa v e o fli fe o fexhil aration
o s. , ,

o f youth swept acros s her ; she returned his glance

w ith a smile .

Jeanne says that candour is worse than crime ,


she said Whose dogma shall I follow ? Hers or


.

yours ? Her eyes gleamed



.

Invol untarily Strode c ame nearer till s .

n either Let me an w er fo r you



. s .
P A R T T W O —C H A P T E R I V

RS M . sat e e her bed


A X T EA D b fo r
room fire It was well p t two o clock
. as

but as yet her only att empt at retiring


for the night had consi sted o fdrawing
o f all her rings and making them into a little heap .

A cup o f black coffee stood on a ta ble by her side ,

and against the saucer rested a halfburnt cigarette


-
.

On her face was an expression o fexpectation an -

expectation that settled into quiet certainty when


the handle o f her door was so ftly turned and so m e
o ne came into the room She made no attempt to
.

raise her head o r to look behind ; but with a faint


movement that was satisfacti on and decision in one ,

she let the rings slip to her lap and brou ght her
fi uger tips to gether
-
.

Anna came silently across the room She w as .

wrapped in a Chinese robe with a fantastic patte rn

M
in gold and wore slippers o f Oriental m ake She
, .

crossed the room and laid her hands on Mrs ax .

te ad s shoulders ; then her eyes fell on the co ffee cup



-

and she s m iled.

Co ffee and cigarettes at t wo in the m orning !


How many women would be sippin g hot wate and r

p repa rin g f
o r a day in bed !

THE C I R CL E 155

. M
Mrs axt ead laughed her satirical laugh
in bed make me realise the gra v e
D ays
She gave a little .

.

shi ver . As for hot water —I never cou ld to lerate


it utside my bath
o She li fted the co ffee cup to her
.

-

l ips and laying it down picked up the cigarette and


, ,

to ssed it into the fire .


B ut I ve come to a conclusion concerning you

Anna Sit o n the ground and lean against my knees


. .

Anna gathered her wrapper abo ut her and obeyed .

To sit on the ground be fore a fire and gaze into the


blaze charmed her no w as much as it had e v er done .

M
It was her most confidential her most familiar pose , , ,

d long ago Mrs ax t ead h ad gauged its worth


. .

For a m oment they both followed the play o f the


fireligh t o n the dark blue and gold ofthe girl s ro be ;

then the silence fell away .

MM Your conclusion Jeanne I am cu rious ”


.
,

rs . ax t ead made a tower o f her rin g s then ,

tossed it down again “


To night passed she said .
-
,

,

but it can t be repeated You re too c onspic u


’ ’

ous —no that s a hate ful word : you re t oo ori gin al


.

’ ’
,

for Lo ndon An na The dark corners are too fe w ”


. .
,


Jeanne h o w inhospitable — h o w very horrid of
,

you Anna raised her eyes .

Ho w c onsiderate o f me She touched t h e


girl s chee k

My dear child so m ething must be
.
,

arranged In three days pe ople wi ll be talking ; i n a


week yo u w il l be recogn i ed in a whispering hal f s ,

hearted way and the big plash that I have promised


,
s

m ysel f will degenerate into a little ring of bubbles .


1 56 TH E C I R CL E
I can t ha v e that you kn w I can t hav e it

, o She .

straigh t ened hersel f .

A m o m ent followed in which the words died a w ay


then hal f humorously and hal f se riously Anna set
, ,

her lips .

I won t leave E ngland Jeanne it 3 no use


,

.

A faint amused gleam crossed the other eyes ’


s .

E ngland or London h e asked below h e r s

breath .

Anna hesitated ; then un accountably blushed .

M
E ngland I th ink .

Mrs ax t ead leant back in her chair ; she se emed


.

t o make deduction and calculation tha t were not


s s

unpleasant t o her mind ; when at last she hal frai sed


her lids and spoke again her v oice had its old silky,

tone.

You ve heard me spe ak ofT rescar An na ?



,

The girl mo v ed slightly Her fin gers carefully .

outlined a gold dragon that stretched across her


robe.

Her companion almost miled s .

Ha v e yo u e v er thought o fC ornwall as a place o f


interest Of course the e a there is n t like the sea s

at Naples but till ,


s She let her v oice drop .

Anna bent over her tas k she was absorbed in the


c urves o fthe drag on s ta il

.


There is a great slope of roc k at T rescar and a
stretch f heather and rather a pict uresque view
o , .

I forget w hether you like v iew s .


With a twi st o f the wri t Anna fini hed trac s s


1 58 TH E CI R CL E
. M
Mrs ax te ad pick ed up a polishin g pad and began -

m
t o rub her nails .

m
A an with three pro vinw s is apt to have
sup erfluous possessions she said dryly No I ,

. .

inclined t o call yo u wise The ri ght man Anna .


, ,

will ha ve a good deal mo re than th ree pro v inces


and a good deal less it see ms to me Her , .

b right eyes scanned the girl s fac e No w run ’


.

alon g t o bed To m orrow morn in g w e 11 talk busi ”


-
.

ness in the study ; to morrow evenin g at T rescar -

we ll begin to forget that busin ess exists Good



.

ni ght ! She bent lightly and kissed the girl s cheek ’


.

Ann a rose For a space she stood st rokin g a fold of


.

her robe ; then she looked up I ca me t o say a lot .

M
o fthin g s Jeanne ; no w they somehow won t g et said
’ ”
.
,

Mrs ax t ead was intent upon her n ails


. S ome .

how I thin k I understand Her voi ce h ad a quizzical .


Ann a smiled and moved towards the doo r ; h alf


way across the roo m she sto pped .


Jean ne ”
.


Yes ”
.

Mr Strode will be at T rescar


. .

A fter the w ords ca me a little pau se ; then with a


deli ghtful assu m ption o f vagueness Mrs
rai sed her head .
ax t ea d , . M

M auri ce ? She hesitated ”
Oh of course .
, ,

m m
M aurice St rode ”
.

Anna blushed “
Yes ; the A erican ; the an
.

who was here to ni ght I only wanted to say that


~
.
T H E C I R CL E 1 59

he h as got the ridiculous idea into his hea d that

MM
I am a relation a cousin or somethin g o f yours ”
.
, ,

rs . ax t ea d retu rn ed t o the polish in g o f her

nails . We can ea ily undeceive him on that score


s ,

ifthat is all

.

Of course Anna s v oice was not enthusias tic


” ’
.
.

She t ook a fe w steps forward then pau se d afresh , .


Jeanne .

Yes .

It s rather nice t o be talked t o —to be liked


you know j ust for onesel f


, .

So I have always found ”


.

M
You are exasperatin g

m
Mrs . ax t ead lau ghed very so f t ly Anna too k .

t wo steps onward then pause d f or a third ti


, e .


Jeanne

.

Well P ”

Would it be very wron g — would it matter


much if I stayed your cousin for the thre e
weeks ? Her eyes were bright as they had bee n

when she sto od behind the screen ; there was a


n e w quick excitement in her voice .

m
Her companion noted both th ough her head was ,

bent When she raise d her eyes there w as un is


.
,

takable laughter in their depths .

That depends on Maurice Strode s se n se o fright ’

ar d wrong she said dryl y not upon mine B ut


” “
.
, ,

are say we ca n work it ifyou really like


“ ”
.
,
P A R T T W O —C H A P T E R I
/

RS . M A X T EA D
leant bac k against a
com fortably cu rved rock and sh ifl ed
her white parasol till its shadow fell
ac ross her book ; f or ten minutes she

read on without ra i ing her head s .

The corner was unique : on either hand rose rocks


o f v aried shape lichened to rust c olour and blac k
,
-

a nd g re y ; behind the cli ff loomed up a gu arding


, ,

m
w all o f gorse and b racken c rossed by a thread like,
-

pa th ; and straight in front immense superb illi it , , ,

a ble stretch ed the sea and sky — the o ne a h aze o f


,

mau v e the other a swee p o f blue the two blended


, ,

a n d toned and merged in a mist o f light bronz e ;

m
w hile abo v e all f ul filment o f the mo rning s promise ’

, ,

s u rety fo r t he co ing ni ght ho v ered the stilln e ss, ,

the brea thlessness that belon gs so absolutely and so

MM
e xquisitely to one hour in t h e twenty f our -
.

Suddenly rs axt ead h ut her book


.

What
s .

a gla r E she said


e With a little i magination one
.
,

m ight c onju re E gypt Sixpence f r your thoughts


. o ,

Anna 3
A nna ti rred luxuriously
s S h e lay at full length
.

o n the t rip o fgras


s t hat the nook af
s forded ; her hat
w a of
s f her hand cla ped be hind her head ; her eyes
. s s
,
1 62 THE CI R CL E
M
Mrs ax t e ad shut her parasol with a good deal
.

o f elaboration I should rather like to under


.

st and she said


,

.

You know very well what I mean The village .

people in the dear little straggling village ; the fish


ermen mendi n g their nets and ta rring their boats ;
old Treherne u at the C ottage trying to find weeds
p

M
in the flower beds on the lawn
-

Mrs ax t ead suddenly raised her head


. .

—And Maurice Strode e v erywhere she said ,



.

I i magine I understand .

Anna sat straight up That s the first tactless


.

thing I v e known you to say Jeanne



, .

The other smiled with serene good humour It -


.

is h ard to be truth ful and tactful both .


An na took her chin in her hand and gazed be ,

fore her at the se a It h as n t even the exc use of’


.

truth .

No
No
M

.

Mrs .ax t ead narrowed her e e s in calculation


y .

We ca me here in the middle o f April she said ,



,

and it is now the be ginnin g o f May I may be .

wrong but I cannot recall three consecutive hours o f


,

any day in which we have not seen Maurice Str ode .

Ofcourse I may be wrong


Anna watched the sea deepen from azure to steel ,

and as she watched a chan ge p assed across her f


, ace ,

her expressions wavered and m o v ed like clouds before


t h e wind ; the frown betwee n her eyeb rows smoothed
THE CI R CL E 1 63

itsel f away ; the flush on her cheeks paled a little


at last she smiled .


Jeanne she said turnin g w ith a sudden impulse
,

, ,


why is it th at one can never be really an gry with
you ?
M

Mrs .ax t ead moved her parasol as she might

hav e shrugged her shoulders One does n t lose .


one s temper with a gnat because it stings B ut you



.

are slippin g past the point and the point interests ,

me When two wo m en accept a man when he is


.

m
present and com b ine to ignore him when he is
,

absent it means that one o f the t wo takes h i


,

seriously No w I have n t taken a man seriously


.

for thirteen years What am I to conclude ? ”


.


That all theories are fallible Anna laughed .

hastily and c v ered her cheek with her hand


o .

There was a silence in which the girl sat preter ,

naturally still w hile her companion plucked three


,

grasses and began to plait them with distracting

Talking o f theories she said at len gth I , ,


wonder how Maurice will take his enlightening ? ”


His enlightening Anna turned round .

The sorting o f his ideas if you like it better , .

I wonder h o w my little cousin with her simple


m anners and her linen frocks will expand into
Solny who has set the fashion in shoes and ce nt s

fo r three Pari sian seas ons —whose cast of


,

f flowe rs -

are worth five times their weight in gold —who se


hats th ree painters ha v e made fam ous Sh e
1 64 THE CI R CL E
paused between e v ery phrase arrangin g her bl ade s ,

o f grass .

A wa v e o f colour pread across Anna s face I s



.

think Mr Strode will u nderstand ; he is a gentleman


. .

The other laughed Man is an older word than .

gentleman Anna ; and man is a conservati v e animal


, .

She stopped .

Anna rose and leant against the rock ; the sun


had fallen palpably ; the first faint shadow o f the
e v ening crept across the cli ffwi th a little chill She .

shivered then lau ghed but some o f the spontane


, ,

ity was lackin g in the l augh “


We are chan ging .

places she said


,

You are gettin g sentimental and .

I se rious ; it 8 time we were gettin g home .


We dine with Maurice to ni ght - .


I know She picked up her hat


.

Ho w per .

M
sistent you are Jeanne ,

Mrs .ax t ead unloosed her gras ses and began

plaiting them again Persistence is a jewel she


“ ”
.
,

said if one learns how to polish it In lookin g at


,

.

Ma urice s face what strikes you most ?


,

Nothing Anna arranged her hat


.

.

Anna ! ”

Oh well — his eyes ; the horribly ste ady look


,

M
about his eyes She spoke with a little rush .

.

Mrs .ax t e ad nodded once or twi ce as she


completed her tas k “
Anna she said tentatively . ,

have you e v er noticed that men with those ey


those horribly steady eyes —can be somewh at hard
to handle a little restive on occasion
P A R T T WO — C HA P T E R VI

N their arrival that night Strode met ,

m
them in the hall They had lunched .

with hi twice and once they h ad ,

strolled across from the Co ttage at t ea


time and had been shown o v er the whole ramblin g
house fro m the dinin g roo m with its oak settl es and
,
-

ra ft ers to the tower at the eastern angle ; b ut they


had never dined with hi m be fore .

The dinner was an epoch Strode h ad felt it as


.

he dre ssed ; he h ad felt it as he paced the t errace a ,

cigar between his lips his eyes on the White C ottage


,

and he re alised it with so methin g o f a shock as he

m
held A nna s hand for a m oment and sa w th at t h e

co ttons and m uslins h ad bee n set aside for so ethin g


th at shimmered so ftly like the leaf o f a rose He
i
.

felt the ch ange with a subtle physical thrill and ,

involuntarily his fin gers tightened upon hers .

M

This is v ery g ood o f you he said gently ; t hen
,

he turned to Mrs axt ead wi th a smile


. .

I ve been dreading your wrath all day he


,

began as they crossed the hall to the drawin g roo m


,
-

beyond I ve h ad a real bad afternoon


’ ”

m
.
,

Poor M aurice What s happened ? Your c oo k


utinied
THE CI R CL E 1 67

Worse . Y ou see thre e people
, can

t (line to

m
Ofco urse not ”
.

m
Ifyou re sarcastic I going to sto p
’ ’ ”
.
,

My dear boy I earnest to depression


,

. Please

go o n.

Wel l there had to be a man to m ake a fourth


,
.

They entered the drawing room -


.

An na laugh ed What it is to have a reputa


.

tion Jeanne !
M

,

Mrs axte ad walked to a m irror


. Would you .

m
say that Maurice was thinki ng qu ite absolut ely o f

m
e B ut who is this m ysteri ous individual ? ”

I afraid to tell you


m
’ ”
.


R a ke up your cour age ! All en are alike to
me .

B ut you h ave antipathies .

So have cats Be quick .

S trode smoothed his hair w hi msi cally I ll put .


it in the form o f a riddle What comes nea re t to . s

death P
Doctors responded Mrs ( axt ead promptly
,

. .

Strode laughed ' “


R ight ' You v e tr uck the
.

s

fourth guest It s the doctor from Cave ly ; a very



.

dece nt chap who s driving fourt een m iles fo r the


,

M
pl easure o f meeting yo u Just appreciate that ”
. .

m
Mrs axt ead waited to touch her hair then she
.
,

m
looked round I ll smell chloro for every time I ’

m
.

look at hi m and I know I shall watch hi cut U p


"
his eat .
1 68 TH E C I R CL E
Strode s lips twitched

There 5 a ga e called .

m
playing with fire .

She picked up a book .

A nna was smelling a jar o fpo t pourri ; she raised -

her eyes gleamin g with amusement and met Strode s


, .

glance . You can always think Jeann e that it , ,

mi g ht ha v e been an undertaker .

Doctor Penrhyn announ ced a servant from the


d oor.

The dinner was a success Strode s spirits were


M

.

unquenchable Mrs ax t ead excelled hersel f spurred


.
,

to unusual hei ght by the presence o f the new g uest ;


and Anna from the moment o f the first cou rse ate
, ,

and laughed and talked as if li fe held no other


obli gation .

The food and wines were g ood A heavy iron .

lamp hanging from the ceiling cast a glow upon the


, ,

cloth and a bank o fsca rlet flowers in the centre o f


,

the ta ble m ade a patch o f colour E veryt hing sug .

ge sted bri ghtness and ligh t ; and the ent ree h ad


been ser v ed and removed be fore the first pause b roke
the run o f talk Th e pau se was moment ary
. one
o f those silences that no one f eels and from which
con v ersation flowed on a fresh with fres h impetus ; ,

but sho rt as was its duration it w as long enough ,

fo r one circumstance long enou gh t o gi v e Anna s


im agination time to wake When Doct or Penrhyn


raising his head turned to Mrs ,
ax t ead with a
.

. M ,

ne w question the girl s eyes were on the flowers by



,
1 70 TH E C IR CL E
Strode was speakin g to a servant Anna looked .

up interestedly .

Y o u think excessive brain m eans eccentricity ? ”

sh e said .


No t as you understand the word He smiled .

indulgently I don t mean that a genius must eat


.

like a sa v age or forget to wash I believe that for .

ten years fo r twenty years a genius may act like an


, ,

ordinary hum an being but at the end o f those years ,

I believe the abnormality would break out .


Anna laughed In what form ? she as ked


.

.

Oh the form would depend upon chance Th e


, .

form o fa cri me the form o fan act o ffolly any form


, ,

M
you like to na m e B ut it s only a the ry as Mrs .

o , .

a xt ad says ; you c a n re f ute it if you like He ”


e .

picked up his glass again .

M
Hallo Penrhyn ! Talki ng o f geniuses in Mrs
, .

ax t ead s presence ? Strode turned back to the


’ ”

table with a laugh “


In town they tell me that
.
,

she deals in them buys and sells them by the ton .

Ask her for her O pinion don t o ffer yours you ll ,


’ ’

find yoursel f in the wron g s t reet ”


.

M
P e nrh yn s f ace expressed as tonishment He looked

.

from Mrs ax t ead to Strode


. from Strode back ,

again
Mrs
.

. M
ax t ead laughed You are un fair Mau
rice ; you know that I bar trade the moment I put
.
,

my foot on Cornish soil .


M
Penrhyn bent forward “
For the sake of the .

theorists Mrs , ax t ea d . .

T H E C I R CL E 17 1

Just to score o ff the theorists Strode laughed .


agai n .

Anna fin gered her glass ; her eyes were o n her

M
friend s fac e

.

Mrs axt ead cast her o ne glance swi ft ly satirical


.
,
'

and reassu ring th en she turned to Strode


,
.

“7hen Do cto r Penrhyn goes o u t to dinner Mau ,

rice he lea v es h is m e dical appliance s in the consult


,

ing room I claim the same grac e Am I within


- . .

my rights Doctor Penrhyn ? , She looked round ”

with a bright smile .

Penrhyn bowed solemnl y and they all lau ghed .

F o r Anna there was a moment o f unaccountably


,

swi ft relie f Then with a chan ge o fcourse the talk


.
, ,

flowed o n again into a n e w groove .

The rest o f the dinner sped o n very light wings


and when the end came it was with a distinct sense ,

o fwell bein g that they pushed b ac k their chairs and


-

rose A waft o f air faintly co ol met them at the


.
, ,

door ofthe drawing room o n e o f the long windows -

m
stood aj ar and the fine scent o fmignonette blew in
, ,

ingled with sweet briar -


.

Anna cros sed directly to the window and S trode ,

followed ; fo r a m oment they sto od silently looking


o ut
. A hundred yards below the terrace they could
hear the sea po undi n g against the rocks ; near at
hand they c ould see the lawn with its glistening
moisture and plot of flowers ; hal fway between the -

m
two they could follow the high rose hedge already
,
-
,

astar w ith buds Presently followin g a frank i


.
,

pul se Anna turned


, .
1 72 TH E CI R CL E
Does n t it seem a shame to lea ve it all in three

little miserable days ? ”

In three days ? B ut I thought


She smiled So did I but Jeanne has arranged

di fferently She told me this e vening that we go


.

back to town on Thu rs day Does n t it sound .


soon
Strode said nothing He was looking across the .

M
lawn towards the cli ff .

They heard Mrs ax t ead laugh and Penrhyn


.

open the piano ; then very gently the notes o f


C hopin s Funeral March poured across the room

.

Strode looked round at Anna B ut you 11 come .


back I 11 see you again P


’ ”

Without looking at him she m oved across the


room .

Jeanne she said sharply why do yo u
,

,

M
play that ? Y o u know that I hate it .

Mrs ax t e ad stopped
.

Doctor Penrhyn h a .
s

never buried anybody to it ; I was j ust showing him


how it went She began a b ar or t wo o f Greig s
.
” ’

Wedding March .

Anna coloured and walked to the piano You .

are incorrigible She laid her hand on the other s ’

fingers Doctor Penrhyn don t you think it


.
,
’ ’
s

horrid of her to play o f serious things like marrying


and dying when we were all o gay ?
, s

Penrhyn looked across the room That de .

m
pends he said dryly
,

Our host might be co n .

t e plat ing either one or the other judging b y

looks .

P A R T T W O —C H A P T E R V I I

HE
waters o f the creek shone green in
the m ornin g light S t rode in a flannel .

suit with a pipe between his lips leant


, ,

over the side o f his boat and looked


down into the depths ; shorewards the cli ff cas t ,

emerald shadows ; sea ward the sun m ade a network ,

o f gold ; by his side a shelf o f flat rocks with many

j agged points many smoothed spac e s and glim m eri ng


,

pools ran out into the sea


,
.

It was a m ornin g o f shinin g stillness ; the scrape


o fthe moored boat ca m e m ethodically as each f aint ,

swell caused her to b rush the rocks ; o n the grey


shin gle the i m perceptible waves broke with a tiny
crash ; and hi gh above his h ead from the barley ,

fields beyond the cli ff came the rise and drop of a


,

l ark s son g

.

m
Anna th reading her w ay down the steep path
, ,

halted in silent ad iration ; the clearness o f the


morning the sh arp cut newness o f the day broke
,
-

on her with sudden meanin g ; she stopped and drew


in her breath From her position on the cli ff
.
,

Strode s bo at lyin g under the shadow o f the rock s



,

w as invisible F o r a moment she wondered ifit w a


.
s

dese crat ion to intrude on such a scene then smil , ,


TH E CIR C L E 1 75

ing at the thought she went o n again Th e joy and


, .

st re ng th o fli fe were in the air ; the and o fthe path s

rose about her feet in little clouds t h e light tinted -

poppies mau v e and straw col o ur and pink swept -

her skirts as she passed ; with e v ery step her speed ‘

increased ti ll turning a cu v e in the track the


, , r ,

moored boat met her gaze and she stood still again ,

smiling and flushed .

IVit h the swi f t ness o fher pause a hand ful of peb


bles were unloosed and fell t o the rocks in a little


shower Strode loo ked up
. .


One moment ! he called as he raised his hat

, .

Stay where yo u are He threw his pipe into the


.

bo w and sprang as hore Anna o n the path abo v e .


, ,

watched the s win ging ease with which he crossed the


rocks and in v oluntarily the smile deepened round her
,

mouth The sun was on his face as he neared her and


.
,

in the critical light of the morning his tann ed skin


looked as clear as a bo y s his grey eyes almost as frank ’
, .

The nicest thing about you is your reliableness ,


he said Y o u keep a promise as ifyou were a man


. .

Is n t it a glorious day ?

He held out his hand ”
.

She too k it and the stren gth o f the fingers and


,

c oolness o f his skin struck her ; she looked down at

t h e hand and smiled .

You e been in the sea



v .

Yes at six o clock


,

.

They began t o descend the cli ff .

Had you a good swim


fine ! I pulled round t o my special divin g ‘
1 76 TH E C I R CL E
stone and had a glorious plun ge Look out That . .

s

a bad bit B ut I ve been home since then and hav e


.

bru hed my hair I would n t have dared meet you


s ,

o therwi se He laughed and t ok o ffhis hat



. o .

She looked at his well smoothed hai That was -


r.

very considerate o fyou Sh miled . e s .

He looked at her seriously Do you find me .


considerate

No special reaso n I d like to seem a decent
.

sort o fchap — to you .


They were silent ti ll the boat was reached Ann a .

s tepped in with due regard to balance ; then be fore


taking her place in the stern she li fted a cushion ,

and held it up Here is your witn e ss she said


.
,

.

They both laughed and Strode setting the boat


, ,

adri ft jumped in ; a se cond later the boat swung


, ,

s l o wly outward from the rocks A dozen rapid .

strokes sent t h em well into the open ; the cli ff


receded becoming a dark mass again st the sky ;
,

t h e sea spread be f ore them a lawn of enchan ted


g r een. Anna leant back the rope s o f the rudder ,

held i dly in her hands ; to her ears the click f ,


o

the c ars in the rowlocks w a like soothing m u sic : s

the j oy o f motion a n tingling through her It was


r .

a full minute be fore h e tirred o r spoke ; e v en then


s s

it was lazily as o ne makes a forced concession


,
.

I want you to talk she spoke without looking up


,

.

Strode leant forward resting on the c ars Can


,
.

I choose the subj ect


1 78 THE CI R CL E
w ithout his skin Just admit that there are other
.

things in li fe beside minin g and smelting and export


ing P He leant across the c ars
Anna blushed suddenly L ook she said . .

We re dri fting out to sea



.

I want an answer to my question .


And I w ant to skirt the head close in by the ,

land .

The boat spun round ; in twenty strokes they were


in shelter o fthe cli ff skimming slowly past the rocks
, .


No w yo u ve got your way let me have mine ?

Just admit that the re are other things ?


Anna was si l ent ; she lea nt o ut and caught a strand
o fseaweed dangling f rom a rock .

Are n t there other things


I suppose t h ere are Is n t this a lovely b rown ?


.
’ ”

She held the seaweed to the light .

Strode deliberately shipped the c ars and let the


boat dri ft ; then he leant forward and took the sea
weed from her hand .

Their eyes met .

m

When the crew m utinies she said it s time

,

,

for the p assen ger to j u p ashore She laughed a ”


.

little nervously but there was an excited brightness


,

in her eyes .

Without chan ging his po sition Str ode thr ew the ,

seaweed overboard The pas senger would only wet


.

her pretty frock he said ; she would n t alter the


,
” ’

inevitable by a pin s po int He looked at her


’ ”
.
THE CI R CL E 1 79

A nna s fingers ti ghtened again round the rope s



.

She looked out across the sea — o ver the spaces o f


glassy green to the white hori zon line .

Strode bent very near With o ne hand he warded


.

the bo at f om the rock s with the other he touched


r ,

her arm .


Th ere are times w hen a man see m a fool he s ,

said the more he feel the greater fool h e see ms


s, .

I wan t you no t to laugh .


A nna remained silent but a mist , either o f sun


or tears crossed her eyes and shut away the sea .

His finge rs moved down and touched her hand .

“ ’
I ve cared fo r you since that first night in town .

Say do I seem at all worth caring for ?


,

There was no sound So great was the quiet that


.

fi fty yards abo v e them they could hear a goat mo v


ing amongst the bracken on the cli ff .

Anna ?
A pu ffin sailed round the stern o fthe boat looked ,

up inquisiti vely at t h e silent figures then dived ,

under the keel .

Anna
At las t Anna turned ; there was a light in her eyes
and her smile was very sweet When she Spoke
.

there was an echo o f the old childish candour run


ning through her voice .


I think you are more worth carin g for than any
body in the world she said simply and her warm
,

fingers closed round h is .


P A RT T W O —CHA P T ER VIII

RS . Mnewsp pershook
A X TE A D the sheets
and skimmed the
out

o f h er a

paragraph s w ith a preoccupied glance


it w as the Mor ning Post o f the ”

day be fore and stale news lacks piquancy A fter a


, .

fi v e minute s peru al h laid the pa pe down and her



s s e r ,

finger strayed to the day s c o rre pondence There ’


s s .

were nine letters for her and fourteen for Anna


four teen envelopes mostly foreign and all m uch re
,

addresse d She sorted them quickly and leaning


.
,

across the table made a l ittle heap beside the girl s ’

plate ; then she picked u p a kni fe and opened her


own letter one by one s .

Th e mall round table had been drawn into the


s

sun ; bunches o f mignonette ro se cool and odorou s


from green bowls ; the Chintz co v ere d furniture and -

muslin cu rta ins shone in the light and through the


open French w indow the warm sal t fragrance o f
the sea dri fted in across the lawn T h e promise o f .

the day that t w o hours be fore had lain coo lly o n the
,

w aters w as already merging into hot f


, ulfilment In .

C ornwal l summer sits luxuriously in the flower


,

fields while in less fav oured spots spring is still


,

tra iling her skirts .


1 82 THE CI R CL E
an d laughed Do you think I need dru ggin g ?
.
“ ”

She looked across at Strode .

He returned her glance humorously D you .


know he said I ve so meti m es speculated on that


,

,

very score .

m
Her eyes sparkled Specul ation my dear Mau .
,

rice is another for of laziness Come in and rin g


, .

the bell Of course you ll stay to break fas t now


.

that you are here ? ”


I wish I could H is eyes sought An na s bu t
” ’
.
!

hers were o n t he flowers .

What pre ven t s ? ”

Well yo u see H passed his h and over his


,
e

hair . Penrhyn stayed with me last night ; I sup


po se he ll want some food It s a great bore of



.

,

course
Mrs M
ax t e ad poured some cream into her cup
. .

H o w inconsiderate o f Penrhyn ! She raised her ”

eyes .

Though somehow I look upon hi m leni
ently ; I ve b een starvin g mysel f for hal fan hour

, , .

Anna dropped her flowers Oh Jeanne h o w .



, ,

abominable o fme ! Let me m ake up She li fted


the co v er o fthe sil ver dish .

Strode stepped from the windowand took up a plate .

You should have seen the sea thi s morning ,

Jeanne Anna helped the fish quickly


” “
It was
pure glass —like a magic mirror
. .


.

The mirro r o fShalot Strode balanced the hot .


plate .It reflected all the things in li fe .


Ann a colour ed and has tily covered the dish It .


TH E CI R CL E 1 83

was so still under the headland that we could hear a

M
goat cropping the grass ever so high abo v e , .

Fact Mrs ax t ead Strode car ried round the


, . .

M
pla te and set it down .

Mrs ax t ead l ooked out across the lawn


.

Poor .

Do ctor Penrhyn she m u rm ured below her breath .

Strode looked at his watch Yes ; I expect .

o n e h as obligations He looked regretfully round


. .

“That a j olly room this is Go t a so rt o f cur v ed

M
e ffect He stopped .

Mrs ax t ead l ooked bac k into the roo m


.

When .

I stay with you Maurice you ll arrange that we


, ,

breakfast independently won t you ? It w o uld be ,


su ch a savin g o f ti m e

.

m
Strode laughed If Penrhyn has missed a meal
.
,

he s gained a cha pion Good bye



He held o ut
.
-

.

his hand .


Since when have we become ceremonious she
said ignoring the hand
,
.

He t urned to A nna “
Will you P .

She extended her hand laughin gly It s right .


to pity the rej ected is n t it ,


Their fingers touched and Strode s eyes fell o n ,


her plate .

What a lot o fletters


Involunta rily her free hand touched the top en
ve lo e
p . What “
a lot o f responsibilities ! There ”

was a ner v ous no t e in her v oice she raised her eyes


and met his straight glance We all have our

.

responsibilities You have Doctor Penrhyn


.

She laughed agai n .


184 TH E C I R CL E
The faint shadow o f question left his face as
q u ickly as it had come He pressed her hand . .

You should have none ; you were made to shi ft


your burdens on to someone else .


Maurice !
Not another word Mrs ax t ead ; I m o f
,

He crossed the room but at the French window he


f’ . M ’ ”

turned back
,

She looked up
.

Say Mrs ax t ead . M .

Penrhyn will be with me till evening ; we ll be ’

bo ring each other t o death by afternoon


She raised her cup Doctor Penrhyn struck me
.

as being rather interesting she remarked dryly ”


.
,

Strode stepped back into the roo m “


Then as k .

u s along to tea

There was a long pause ; then Mrs


looked up with a whimsical expression “
ax t ead

Trans
.

.
M
parent as you are Maurice you shut out the sun
, , .

Strode backed o n to the lawn B ut the tea ? .

Oh ifyou want to come very badly turn up at


, ,

You re the rudest person created but we ll come


’ ’

at fi v e
.

He l oo ked toward Anna but she had s ,

picked up her flowers again with a laugh he turned ,

towards the sea and they heard him whistle as he


,

crossed the lawn .

A fte r he h ad gone there was a m o m entous pause .

Anna arran ged the poppies with undue attention to


their shades ; she felt her companio n s eyes like ’
,
1 86 THE CI R CL E

stage fright at the l as t mo m ent
A nd go t ”
.

Anna smiled Well at first there was the sun


.
,

and the sea and the quickness o f the boat and I ,

could n t b rea k in o n the m straight away afterwards



,

under the cli ff She stopped again .

The other looked up keenly and qui zzi cally .

What happened under the cli ff? ”

For a second the girl moved irresolutely ; then


with a little rustle sh e dropped to her knees beside
her companion s chair and looked up into her face

, .

M
Under the cli ff Jeanne it was impossi ble ”

Mrs ax t ead bent —an unusual impulse wi t h


, , .

her. And why Anna ? ,


Anna returned her gaze ; for a second the single


ness o f her soul showed like sta rlight in her eyes ,

m
then her l as hes fell Because he cares fo r me
.

Jeanne and I care for hi m —and there w as no roo


,

for anything beside



.

An odd express ion crossed the other s face — an ’

expression fleeting as air that was yet a shadow a , ,

faint reflection o f a thought She bent lower and .

her lips p art ed then suddenly she shrugged her


,

shoulders and sat upright A s econd l ater she .

laughed her old casual lau gh


,
.


My dear Anna yo u have a wonderful power
, .

An other minute and I believe I should have cried .

M
Get up and ring fo r a n ew breakfast ! As for
aurice Strode I made up my mind ten months
ago that you and he should m arry ; it took me f o ur
years t o find a genius it h as ta ken m e eleven to
,
THE CI R CL E 187

find an She shook out her skirts an d

Anna st ood up as well ; but still held t h e


other s hand and there were tears in her eyes

, .

M
Jeanne
Mrs . axt ead her hand and held it up .

D on t !
’ ”
she B lame is bracing but ,

praise She ne ver finished ; wi th a sudden hasty


move m en t sh e walked to the window and out across
P A R T T W O — C H A P TE R IX

RS . M
lay back in her long
A X TEA D
deck chair and held up her hand -
.

What a day it h as been ! E ven the


de w is forgetting to fall !

Penrhyn fro m his camp stool looked critically


, ,

towards the copper tinted sky Storm to morrow !


-
.
-

he said laconically as he laid his empty cup o n t h e


,

g rass
.

M
What a prophet o fevil She smiled .

Never mind Penrhyn Mrs ax t e ad he h a , .


, s a

prophetic instinct f r sulphurou smells Strode


o s .

lying o n the lawn shi fted his hat from his face and
,

laughed .

Anna li fted her head and unconsciou sly echoed t h e

laugh She was standin g by the tea table throwing


.
-
,

crumbs to the thrushes as they hopped in and out ,

am on gst t he fl ower beds Her tall fig ure in its so ft


-
. ,

p ink dress was outlined against the whiteness o f the


,

hou se her face lo ked v ery radiant and v ery young


o .

What a lazy a fte noon she said We were


r .

silent fo r five minutes till Jeanne spoke I counted ,

as I f ed the birds

m

.

m
l

What a shameful w aste o f ti e Strode rose ,

shaking some newly mown hay fro his clothes .

It s six o clock ; I propose a w alk


“ ’ ’ ”
.
1 90 THE CI R CL E

MM
She looked at hi m for an instant then her glan ce
met rs axt e ad s and she smiled
.

, B ow to the .

inevitable I suppose
, .

Strode smiled his gratitude ana a moment later


the two crossed the lawn They walked quickly .
,

only the very young and the very happy walk ; their
forms were silhouetted straight and clear against the
orange sky ; and as they turned to the right and ,

M
the white gate swun g to behind them Strode s ca re ,

less laugh floated back across the qu iet rs Max . .

tead sighed then moved restlessly


, .

Doctor Penrhyn she said there is one gul f



,

o u scientists will ne v er brid ge ; one thing you will


y
never give us back .

Penrhyn leant forward And th at ? he as ked.



.

Is our youth She closed her eyes


. .

The t rack round the headland h ad darkened to


purple agalnst the green o f the brac ken ; above the
waters the coming dus k h ad gathere d in a cloud ;
against a m eta llic sky a ban d o f rooks drew slowly

homeward with a flap o f hea vy win gs and an occa


sio nal raw cr in the distance a cow lowed with
y ; ,

gentle persi stence The whole o f nature seemed


.

drowsy with coming sleep .

Anna looked up at Strode Do you ever feel .


,

she said that there are ti m es when o ne is t oo


happy —when everyth ing is so st ill that one waits


,

for and dreads a break ?


For an swer b e bent and kissed her


, Dea rest .
,

TH E C I R CL E 1 91

he said qui etly whe n two people suddenlv find


,

their hands full o f happiness they don t look away ,


for suppositions ; they w ant their thoughts fo r some


thing nearer home .

They walked ou again and in v oluntarily she ,

closed her eyes ; there w a dee p safety and pro t e c s

tion in the clasp o f his fingers about her hand She


put her next qu estion in a reluctant v oice .

m
Maurice ha v e y u e v er h ad anything o n your
, o

ind
He looked at her hu morously Of course .

.

He laughed Debts and duty and heaps o fthing


. s.

Bu t why
Because she mo v ed her fingers e tless l y

r s

in his then looked quickly up


, beca use I ha v e “

something on mine — something I want to say .


Something seri ous ? He gazed directly out ”

across the sea .

S mething quite erious


o s .

Then I won t hear it He looked round



.

.

There is only one seri u s thing that I ll li t en to o



s

to night and that I v e already heard


-
, He li fted
’ ”
.

her hand and held it again st his lips Hi manner . s

was quiet but there w a a reliant intonation in his


, s

v oice .

She l ooked up agai n with swi ft appreciati n o .

Maurice I v e alway aid you would be g ood at


,

s s

u nderstanding W as I right ? .

He thought for a moment without replying then


he glanced down at her with an amused smile I .
1 92 TH E C I R CL E
expect that de pends he said I have been ,

.

called obstinate and prejudiced and a lot o f other


un plea an t things ; but I think I could be very
s

m
lenient to yo u .

This thing o f mine Her fingers mo v ed u


easil y agai n It so little and yet so big ; I
.
“ ’
s

want to say it and I can t say it Wh at must I ’


.

do ? She laughed

.

Walking quickly they ha d turned the first bend ,

o f the cli f
f and the full majesty o f the sea spread
,

before the m ; above crowning the headland stood , ,

th ree trees whipped into fantastic shapes by re


,

M
current gales ; and below sharp against the water , ,

rose the pointed rock that m arked Mrs axt e ad s .


n ook Anna looked towards the horizon then back


.
,

to the path stretchin g in a dark ribbo n fro m their

What am I to do ? she said again .

For a full minute Strode was silent then quite ,

abru ptly he stood still .

I told you that I ve been called obstinate he ’


,

said , but no one has e ver called me in q ui siti ve .

m
I care for you beyond anything in t h e world ,

which mea ns I believe in you beyond a i lring in


the world I don t want to hear your secret bu t if
.

it worries you ha v e it out Have it out and let


, .
,

s

forget it ! I gi v e yo u to the nook to scre w up your


co urage He laughed again and in the fading
.

daylight his eyes looked very clear .

Anna drew a great sigh of satis faction “


Y ou .
1 94 THE C I R CL E
There was a delicious sense o f da nger in the d usk of
the sharp descent .

Strode held up his arms Quite sa fe like this


.

He held her fo r a moment closely then they both


stood flushed and laughin g on the little rock bound -

plateau .

Ann a felt her h at then began t o twist the rose


,

s talks into a b unch .

May I have one ? ”

She raised her eyes C an I spare one


.

m
You ha v e t oo many g ood things already ”
.

She s iled and slowly detached t wo buds Have


, .

you a pin
He searched the lapel ofhis coat “
N o won t it .

do without

Of course not You d lose one b ud and the ’
.
,

other would feel so small all alone in the world , .

Perhaps this will do 9 She put her hand to her


belt and drew out a pearl headed pin “


No w stand
-
.

quite still .

He obeyed and the roses were arranged She took .

a step back and surveyed the e f fe ct That s q uite


“ ’
.

nice but you must gi ve me something in exchan ge for


,

the pin pins are unlucky you know , .


So they are Just a econd


. He searched s

one pocket then another ; then he looked up with


,

whimsical distress B y Jove he said P enryh n


.
,

has cleaned me out at piquet There is n t a six ’


.

pence left .

Involuntarily she laughed A penny then .


, .

THE CI R CL E 1 95

I scattered my coppers amon g the urch ins as we ,

cam e to tea What are we to do ?


.

She laughed again “


Gi v e me back my pin
.

.

He looked up Your first present N ot quite


. .

He recommenced his search ; then suddenly his face


clea red . By Jove ! he said again and with a jerk

he pulled out his watch .

Anna ca m e nearer
This is a coin with a history —o r rather the
.


,

co in ofa man with a history His fin gers were busy .


on a little ring I would n t part with it to anyone


.

but you I would n t really ; I must tell you its story


some day when you ve got time to listen


,

With a .

twist the ring opened and he held ou t the coi n a -

copper coin that showed du lly in the twilight .

Anna took it and held it up This is valuable .


,

she said interes tedly It belongs to the Greek


.

Imperial coinage She scanned the rude reli gious


.

rite that the coin portrayed .

He looked at her with sudden admiration One .

is always finding new things in you I did n t know .


you cared fo r coins and things like that .


She blushed .I understand the m a little


coins and manuscript She drew away from him and
M

.
,

settled hersel f hastil y in Mrs avourite


ax t e ad s f .

sea t making a place for S trode at her feet


, .

He dropped in t o t h e appointed place and sat


silent for a while ; then he l ooked up “
Now what .

about the wonderf ul secret ? He too k o ff his hat ”

and laid it on the gr ass .


1 96 THE C I R CL E
She s t oo ped forw ard and touched his hair
When we get back she said so ftly ,

.

Come you re shirking the compact


,

.

Maurice
No excuse s He smiled and felt for h er hand
.

.

She looked at the rocks then at the sea ; then ,

she closed her eyes in drea my pleasure .

Maurice let s make a bargain


,

He look ed up at her A deal ? He raised h is ”

eyebrows .

She opened her eyes l azily and smiled Something .

o f the co ming w arm t h and darkn ess o f the ni ght

were shadowed in her face Y es Tell m e you . . r

story now and I ll tell m ine afterwards It is the


,

.

very hour for a romance .


Strode raised hi m sel f B ut m y dear child .


, ,

t would take an hour


’ ”
.

I d like it to take t wo Be ni ce Maurice and



. , ,

give m e my way .

You won t like it ; it s a sad story


’ ’ ”
.

She leant forward gently and laid her hand in his .

When o ne is very happy Maurice one likes to , ,

hear o fother people s sadness it makes one appre ’

S t rode sank back .

You t e a regular tyrant he said ; but I sup



,

p ose the at m osphere is in league with you ; no one

M
would have the physical energy to res ist anyt hing
t o—

night . ay I light m y pi pe ?
1 98 THE CI R CL E
on me at the time ; it s m ade so rt o f echoes e ver ’

since Promise you won t l augh


.

She put out her hand a nd touched his hair .

What do you think ? ”


Well then it began in an uncommon way
, , .

He settled himse lf more com fortably It was my .

first day in London ; I possessed no club then and ,

the fe w people l knew were out o f town I was in .

the dull position o f an absolutely aimless being ,

when strollin g down the Strand I ran against a


, ,

man I kne w He t ook his pi pe from between h i


.

teeth “
He was a man I had met on shipboard
.

Lorrison by name ; a man who always sat wrapped


in a shawl with a cap pulled o v er his eyes and a
, ,

pile o f books at his feet He w as not the precise .

co m pani on I d have chose n but I belie v e I d have



,

shaken hands with the de v il himsel fon that part ic u


lar day I asked him what he h ad in v iew and he
.
,

told me he was bound for some benighted shop in


some beni ght ed sl u m o n a hunt for Mero v ingian ,

manu script T was rather Greek t o me ; but I sa id


.

tha t if he did n t m ind I d hail a hanso m and come



,

alon g He h ad no obj ection I hailed the cab and


. .

got inside It was a dreary morning and the .

drive was n t stimulating all smell and slum and fog



, .

I ll leave the details out It s enough to say th at



.

we arri ved le ft the hansom in a th rough fare and o

a narrow street —Hang this pipe !


, ,

v alked down

It s ac tually gone ou t At the le ft hand side o fthe



-

stree t was a shop Ah that s better He st ruck .


,

.

TH E C I R CL E 1 99

a matc h re lit the pipe and drew in a long b reath


,
-
,

o r s m oke .


The shop was very low ceiled very mu ty - s

quite romantica lly musty —and on that particular


,

morning v ery dark A we entered I remember . s , ,

all the light there was seemed concentrated in a


glass partition that shut o ff a little desk Sitting .

at the desk in a huddled up sort o f way was -


,

the oddest fi gure Hallo ! W hat s that ? ’’


z

Only the coin The coin slipped . Anna bent .


and thrust her fingers Shakingly between the cre vices


o fthe rocks .


One minute ! I ll strike a light ! He struck ’ ”

a fresh mat ch and the girl put up her han d


, .

The glare hurts y o ur eyes


A little Please go o n
. .

Well inside the glass partition as I tell you


, , ,

w as the oddest figure I had ever seen It looked .

the very picture o f desolation the extremes o f ,

loneliness and isolation wrapped in o ne It seemed .

t o stare o u t o f the gloom like a f act that s sud


denly forced home It s fi v e years ago but I ll ’ ’


.
,

ne v er forget it ; I remember it as plain as I t e


member yesterday He wa v ed the match to and
.

fro as he searched The man was de formed but


.
,

somehow it was n t his deformity — it was his atti


tude his expression the air he breathed I tell


, , .

you commonplace beggar that I am I felt his


, ,

tra gedy be fore I d been five minutes in the place



.

Hallo there s the coin ! Between that anemone


,

200 THE C I R CL E
tu ft and your dress Ann a mo v ed sti ffly and he
.

pick ed it up .

Won t you take it ’


He held it o ut .

She hal f stretched out h er hand then with an ,

unconquerable repu gnance drew rt back again , .


Keep it for the present ; it might slip ag ain

.

She spoke slowly but her voice was in excelle nt


,

control .

Strode dropped the coin into his po cket Well .


,

to go on Lorrison nodded to the man and as ked


.
,

after his m aster ; b ut the fellow instead o f answer ,

ing began to talk o f books I put him down as


m orbidly reticent —then and there For half an
.
,

hour he and Lorrison talked while I lean t against ,

the coun ter and j ust watched No w in action is .

m
very unpleasant to me ; but I found that watchin g
the m ost en grossin g thing I d ever done The an ’

gripped m e —literally gripped m e


.


.

He stopped t o rest and Anna leant bac k again st


,

the rock F o r the m o m ent she was entirely nu m b


. .

Wh at she h ad felt in any past hour was ch ao s ;


what she m i ght feel in any hour to come was
blank She passed her hand slowly along the cold
.

ness of the rock and it seemed that her blood w as


,

o f the sa me temperat ure B ut it is an o dd tru th


.

that one seldom meets the astounding facts o f li fe


with any great display \V hen Strode s v oice .

b roke in again her nerv es scarcely experienced a


,

j ar.

When we left the shop he said ,

, I questioned
2 02 TH E C I R CL E
the night and precisely as I pas sed the door it
,

opened and my odd friend came out I spoke to .

him and he shied away from me like a fri ghtened


,

horse ; then he saw my face by a gas lamp an d a -

look o f recognition cro sed his eyes — a look that



s

was almost a crav ing for sympathy it seemed to me , .

Without his lea v e I j oined him and we walked down ,

the street side by side He led me by a hundr ed


.

little by ways and cross streets down to the whar ves


—his usual walking place And there in the midst
- -

-
.
,

o f a network o f bales and barrels with the ships ,

looming huge in the partial dark the mesh o f masts ,

and rigging cut against the sky we walked for t wo ,

hours : The filth o fthe town came to us mixed with


the tar o f the sea ; the fires o f the late workmen
flared up at interv als o f smoky gloom The scene .

was weird but in the whole odd medley my com


,

panion was the weirdest obj ec t o f all — his pale ,

face sometimes in shadow so metimes lit up ; his ,

deformed body sharp and plain at one moment v ague ,

and indistinct the next It was a queer experience


.

ifI was interested be fore I was twenty times more


,

interested then I set mysel f to draw hi m out with


.

all the persistence I possessed I walked with him .

u
p and down I.w orked on him hung back urged , ,

him o n .

Strode paused His tobac co pouch was .
-

held between his hands I had made up m y mind


.

to get at the man s story Anna and I won


,
In ,

his voice there w as the alert tone the assurance that ,

c h ar acterised his whole being He lean t bac k and .


THE CI R CL E 2 03

looked up into the girl s face B ut the night had ’


.

fallen be tween them like a veil His glance failed .

t o reac h her though his tone did not


, .

A shudder ran through her to her feet and finger


tips She closed her eyes as on e closes them be fore
.
,

a precipice ; her brain swung round as it mi ght o n a


giddy height She h ad never fainted in her li fe but
.
,

she found hersel f wondering in an imperso nal way , ,

what the se nsation might be like .


And I won Anna ! I won ! ,

Her lips formed some word she w as uncertain ,

what Only an inarticulate sourrd esca ped them


. .

T hen she bent forw ard in sudden fear that he h ad


noti c ed and touched his h and
,
.

He caught her fin gers Sweetheart what a per


.
,
?

ee t listener you make ! She withdrew her hand ”


f
so ftly and he meditatively refilled his pipe He h ad
, .

the air o fa man wh o has settled down t o the tellin g


ofa yarn V isions o f night excursions in the Cana
.

dian forests o flyin g round a fire in the vast solitude


,

while men talked or listened in the eas y fre edom that


the dark engenders floated round him in lazy peace
, .

Y o u are as good a comrade as a man he said at



,

len gth Then he struc k a match


. .

Anna s faculties were numbed bu t her fear w as



,

still astir The throbbing o f her heart fr i ghtened


.

her by its i rre gulari ty ; the tingling se nsation crept


from her fin gers to her wrists At last panic sei zed .

h er and she sat up “


Maurice she said I am so ”

curious Please go ou —straight on to th e poin t


.
, ,


.
.
2 04 TH E CI R CL E
St rode pulled gently at his newly lit pipe Of -
.

course he said it s the sto ry o fa woman


,
” “
,
’ ”
.


Why o fcourse 9 ‘ ’ ”

B ecause woman is the big jump over which so


m any o f us get smashed up He laughed “
No .

.
,

dearest ! Se riously it was the blankest case o f cal


,
'

lou sn ess on a woman s part the hardest breakin g up



-
,

o f a decent li f e that I v e met with I sha n t tell ’ ’ ’


.

m
the tale as the poo r beggar told it me There were .

an v halt and stops I ll tell it straight clean ’


'

t oo s .
,

through as yo u ll understand it best


,

.

It seems that his coming to this shop in the first


instance sa v oured o fromance He made a wild story .

o f a winter night a robbery and a pursuing crowd


, , ,

from which he was saved by the dau ghter o f the


house —a girl of sixteen The rescue itsel f pos .

sessed unusual elements The picture was so sharply .

impressed on the poo r chap s brain that it even


roused me to some enthusiasm at the time B ut .

the enthusi asm evaporated v ery soon A woman .

who shows up fine in a dramatic moment and can


be meanly selfish o n second thoughts is hardly rare .

You know the type ? ”

There was a pause .


Yes I know the type Anna answere d dully
, , .

Her eyes were o n the red circle o f the pipe .


Well they took him in — the girl and her
,

father an eccentric o ld R ussian Jew —


, and fo r a

m
bit thin gs went all right Then the inevita ble ca me . .

The li fe was lonely The rescu ed an was .


2 06 TH E CI R CL E
walk ed bac k into the shop The an ad m it . m s

to bei ng a physical coward — yet he turned and


walked back into the shop I would n t h ave been .

in his place for a thousand pounds He stopped ”


.

again .

Anna clasped her h ands With the ag onies o f .

bi rth the old li fe the old o bligations were goading


, ,

themsel v es in t o being ; her breath caught in her


throat ; the silent oppression o f the night hung
upon her held her pressed her down
, , .

Some men sort o f li e in a drea m Strode said


v ,

.

This old R u ssian had been li vin g in a dream He .

e sca ped the persecutions with his reason —j us t


grazed the narrow line that turns the brain B ut .

on that mornin g His pipe h ad died lo w

mm
again ; he paused to pull it to a glow On that
o ing
A wave of expectan cy sick and deadly shook , ,

Anna her fingers dropped nervelessly apa rt .

On that m orning the extra lin e was drawn It .

seems that behind an indi fferent exterior this one


child was the light o f his eyes It took a long .

time t o m ake hi m understand ; when he did under


stan d

His b rain gave way With sweepi ng certa in ty

.

the words le ft Anna s lips but so lo w so horror



, ,

stri cken that their intonation was almost l ost


, .


E xactly The shock turn ed his b rain He s ’

qui t e harm less I believe —quite like a child ; but


. .

he 11 never see his shop again and he has forgotte n


,
THE CI R CL E 2 07

how t o read He sits all day talkin g to his wi fe


.

and child S trode pau sed again and the silence


.

,

hung palpably o n the air .

Anna did not mo v e but the tension of her throat ,

ne ver relax ed The necessity o f coolness passed and


.

repassed through her mind with the method o f a


m achine and she clung to it with the desperate
,

p rimary instinct o f defence .

Did the girl leave no message ? she as ked at ”

len gth .


Oh yes she did ; to my mind that was her
,

worst ac t T w o days after she h ad gone when the


.
,

poor beggar I v e been telling you o f was trying to


patch thin gs to gether with the co mmon remedy o f


routine he found a message scrawled on the shop
,

s l ate Th ere you have the real woman o f the type ;


.

a fraid to strike a decent final blow she threw a ,

straw to a dro w ning man That was eight years .

a o
g .Incredible as it sounds that man is still cli ng ,

ing to the straw I can see his face as he turned in.

the glow of the fire and told me so .


Anna stirred B ut the girl Maurice . t he “


,

girl ? What could a child of sixtee n know — o r


uess — or drea m o f such re sults — P I think you
g
are unjust .

He looked up trying to see her face It is n t


, .
“ ’

the girl o f sixtee n that I blame he said but the ,



,

girl o f twenty o f t wenty one o f twenty two - - -


.

D you mean t o say that the facts o f li fe die out o f


their own accord ? that to a bright gi ft ed wom an


2 08 TH E CI R CL E
they would n t come bac k again and again in a ne w

guise with a new force ? Don t you thin k that the


,

poor souls she had deserte d would haunt her unless ,

o fher o wn deliberate will she shut them o ut ? He


laid down his pipe .

Anna s soul failed but she made a last stand


, .

You only know the man Maurice she said , ,


desperately You only think o fthe man ; you are


.

a man yoursel f You know nothin g o f the girl ;


.

she may hav e gone under long ago ; she may ha v e


died
Ah so I o ften thought ; so I thought till one
,

day three years ago when bein g in town I stroll e d


, , ,

into the shop and found the poor beggar there


curi ously disturbed He h ad obta ined news o f her
.

af ter five years ”


.

News
Yes — the oddest news In pas sing by a win .

dow where photog raphs are sold he had stopped


fo r a minute attrac ted by the crowd ; and there
, ,

in the place o f prominence was the picture o f a ,

v ery beauti ful and distin guished woman Of course .

you ve guessed The woman was the girl ; but



.

she was something more than j ust beauti ful


she was a celeb rity Who d yo u think she was ?
.
’ ”

He tur ned again eagerly “


Anna guess who she
.
,

w as

Anna s lips were so dry that they hardly mo ve d



.

How should I know Mauri c e ? How co uld I ,

know
2 10 THE CI R CL E
prominent thought —a great envelopin g reli ef that
her face could not be seen .

At her first movement Strode turned round ; h is


eyes n arrowed as he t ried to trace her features ; then
he s m iled Ha v e I tired you dear ?
. The hard ,

ness dropped o ut o f his voice ; he put out his hand


and touched her dress I have tired you and yo u
.
,

are cold What a b rute I ve been !


. He rose as ’ ”

well and took her hand Kiss m e and we 11 forget



.
,

it all . Here s your little coin ’


He felt in his ”
.

poc ket then held out his hand


, .

For a minute Anna peered through the gl oom ;


then the wa v e o f repulsion swept over her again ,

and she pushed his h and as ide “


N o she said .
,

su ddenly it s ill omened ill fated Maurice Take



,

-
,
-
, .

it aw ay ! ”

Very quietly he sli pped the coin back Forgive .

m e dear for tellin g such a tale in such a pla ce


, , .

With great gentlen e ss he m oved forward and took


her in his arm s Poor little girl ! he said
. Poor ”
.

little girl ! What inconsiderate beasts m en are !


Overhead the warm darkness h ad massed to clou ds ;


their faces were pale outlines to each other s eyes ’
.

For a space Anna remained m otionless her shoulder ,

restin g against his arm her head thrown back ; then


,

suddenly she stirred and clung to hi m .

Maurice she said tell me ex actly what I


see m to you —exactly We ve been wandering in


, ,

.

such a wilderness : I w ant to f eel love again ”


.

St rode held her to hi m for an instant You .


TH E CI R CL E 2 11

the and the loveliest woman God eve r


m ade he said
,
” “
The v ery lo veliest and the
.

m

A b,she said lin geringly

,

that w as v ery sweet


. No w let us go ho e .

PA R T T WO C HA P T E R X I

hall o fthe Cottage was di mly lighted


HE
when they returned The shadow of a .

smile wavered across Anna s li ps as she ’

realised the circumsta nce Fate is ne v er .

wi thout its oddly ironic compensations At the .

door oft h e dra wing room she held o ut her hand


'

-
.


I ll say good bye here Maurice Doc t or Pen

-
, .

rh yn s storm is in the air I must bathe m y head



.

be fore dinner ; it aches badly ”


.


Poor little girl ! Strode raised her face and

looked into it I don t quite belie v e all that ; it


.
’ ’
s

m y wretched s t ory tha t s got clean on your nerves ’


.

She tried to smile We ll call it nerves nerves


.

is such a use ful word B ut don t worry I ll be all


.

,

right once the storm b reaks Say good night for .


m e to Doctor Penrhyn .

It s hard to let you go



.

It s harder to go

Her voice so unded tired
.

.

He pas sed his fin g ers o v er her hair “


I feel a .

b rute to keep you here yet I can t say go When ,



.

shall I see you t o morrow ? -


Oh any time ; after brea k fast any time


, .

Good night-
She touched h is hand remindin gly .


You ll be glad to see me ?
’ ”
2 14 THE CI R CL E
For an instant their lips held each other then ,

Anna pushed him away You must get home .


,

she said quickly ; yo u must get home be fore the


rain breaks Good night ! Think always — always


.
-
,

Maurice that I love you a million times mo re than


,

mysel f IfI seem strange to night it s the electricity


.
-

in the air Good night


. Her voice broke of short ;
-

she freed hersel f and ran down the corridor


, .

Strode moved forward Anna ! he called so ftly .



.

B ut the only answer that came t o hi m was the sharp


closing o fa door and the turning o fa key in a lock
, .

m
He wai t ed for a minute un certainly then with a ,

ove m ent o f pu zzled di sappointment he turned an d


walked back to the drawing roo m door -
.

M
The dinner gon g h ad sounded through the house
-
.

Mrs ax t ead waiting in the dining room loo ked


.
,
-
,

about her uneasily then glanced at her w atch The , .

French windows were closed and the air in the room ,

was stifling She rose w alked to the window then


.
, ,

bac k to the table lastly out into the hall The c o r


, .

ridor was di m ; she traversed it has tily and sto pped

at Anna s door There she knocked



. .

Who is it ? The answer ca me aft er a pau se


I —Jeanne Won t you have any dinner ?


.


.

I don t need dinner thanks ; I ll have so m e t ea



,

la ter My head aches


.

.

MM
There was silence then the thunder crackled
acro ss the sky rs ax t ead knocked
. ag i n . a
TH E CIR CL E 2 15

L et me in Maurice and Doctor Penrhyn ha ve


.

gone ; it s uncanny gettin g through t h is storm


a lone

.

There w as a faint m ove m ent inside the roo m then


the sound o f a key being turn ed Mrs ax tead s
hand w as o n the handle she turned it instantly ;
. . M ,

then immedi ately the door yielded she drew back


, , .

Good hea vens child ! ,


T he roo m was dark except fo r the occasion al fl ash es


,
-

that spu n across it fro m the open window ; the cur


tains were drawn back and beyond the lawn and ,

cli ff the oily sea and rent sky were plainly to be


seen in the intervals of weird li ght B oth inside .

and o ut the excessive w ar m th hun g p ulselessly on

MM rs. moved forward


ax t ea d This is like the .

Inferno she said only more gruesome Where


,

, .

do you keep your matches ? I ca n t go anot he r ’

second without a li ght .



On the dressing ta ble Anna h ad returned t o ”
-
.

the window and stood lookin g out Another t wist .

M
mM
o f light shot though the room

ax te ad walked to the tab le and picked up


.
.

the matches Y o u re perfectly abominable


. she ’
,

began ; but her words were drowned in a swee p o f


soun d “
Anna ! Shut that window and draw the
.

curtains She lighted the can dles hastily then


.

,

walked across to the girl and ca ug ht her hand .

She drew her into the centre o f the room ; but


there she paused Why my dear ch ild ! sh e said
.
,

.
2 16 THE C I R CL E
My dea r child ! She turned swi ftly to the mantel ”

piece and rang the bell ; then she walked t o the


window let down the blind and drew the c urtains
, .

As the maid entered she tu rned round , .

B ring some co ffee and my bo x o fci garettes We .

sha n t dine to night


’ ’
She turned to A nna as the -
.

girl w ithdrew Now you e got to rise above this ,



v

storm You e been frightenin g yoursel f to dea th


.

v

your eyes are absolutely scared ”


.

Anna pushed the hair from her forehead ; her face


was very white and there were black circles under ,

her eyes .

You ve been lookin g out o f that window for


h al f an hour ”
.

There was no reply .

Anna

m
The girl moved to t h e dressing table There was -
.

a ri g idity in her actions that was ne w Her co .

panion s eyes took on their critical look



.

Anna she said is it really the storm at all ?



,

,

I have a lingerin g feeling that it s not ’


.

A nna stood very still N o Jeanne it s not ’


.
, ,

storm
M

.

Mrs ax t ead sat down quietly


. Yo u ve told .

Maurice she said directly and M auri ce h as n t


,
” “
,

taken it w ell .

Anna shi vered in spite o f the heat “


Oh no I .
,

have n t told him


’ ”
.

Then what is it I rather feel as ifI d dropped ’

a li nk Oh h o w detestable that noise is


.
,
2 18 THE C I R CL E
rom
f Mrs axt ead s hand . M Thunder to a wo man

.

is like a bo gie to a child it suggests the horri ble


potency o f the unsee n She picked up the ci gar .

ette and held it to a candle fl ame Anna do you ,

think you could possibly sit still ?


A nna loo ked round N o I ll sit still for all ’
. .

the rest o f m y li fe if you like but not t o night I


, ,
- .

feel as if I h ad been immovable fo r hours and ho urs


an d hours

M

.

Mrs ax t ead moved round sharply


. Stop she .

said . Did you hear that ? ”

They both stayed motionless for a second ; then


they each drew breath The sky seemed to tear .

asunder then tumble headlong to the earth in a


,

torrent o f sound .

Th e rain
The rain at last ! Mrs ax t ead w alked to

the window and held back the blind Th e wate r



. M .

was falling in a sheet across the lawn ; the li ght


n ing played f itfully at the ho ri zon ; but already
the note o f the thunder w as lowered and a breath ,

o f cooler air ca me f r om the sea .

Anna w alked to the window as well .

M
J e anne I ha v e a fa v our to as k ”
.
,

Mrs ax t ead raised her brows


. .


I ve been wanting t o ask it ever since you

came but somehow it would n t get said


, , She ,

.

paused and caught her b re ath Take me bac k .


to town t o morrow Jea nne instead of Thursday


-
, , .

I don t want to stay here another day


’ “

The

.
THE CI R CL E 2 19

w ords were lo w and rapid her voice sounded


,

lips parted ; she tu rned



To morrow ! B ut my d ear child
-
, Then sh e
stoppe d “
. V ery well To m orrow at any ho ur
.
-

you like S he let the



.
PA R T TWO C H A P TE R X II

TR OD E sat in h i study The windows were s .

wide open and the cool breeze blew in


,

re freshingly from the sea ; the rain h ad


ceased as abruptly as it began and except ,

for an occasional distant growl the thunder h ad died ,

away On the desk before him was an array of


.

papers b ut his hands rested o n them idly and his


, ,

eyes h ad an abstracted look ; it w as only when a


knock fell cautiously on the door and an instant ,

later the door itsel f opened that his glance co n ,

c en t rat e d to li f
e .

The old serv ant who h ad been his father s valet ’

entered deprecatingly Sorry to disturb you sir


.
, .

but there s a lady to see you



.

A lady Straker Strode unconsciously glanced


,

at the clock .

Yes sir Shall I ask her to ste p in here sir o r


, .
, ,

t o wait in the drawingro om -


In here Strode rose and pushed his papers
.

aside . Never mind Straker ; o n second thou ghts


, ,

I ll see to it myse l f

.

The old man stepped aside and S t rode walked ,

quickly into the hall His m an ner under unusual .

c ircu m stances w as always cal m ; whate ve r su rprise


222 THE C I R CL E
It is very late S he looked at the clock

. .

m
Only twelve

.

How lon g ay I st ay
Fi ft ee n minutes ; I 11ta ke you back then W e ’
.

kn ows that you came


No one I slipped a way
.

.

G ood ! Penrhyn d rove off half an hour ago ,

and S traker is as discreet as the g rave So your sin .

won t find you out



.

Sh e looked up suddenly You don t think it ’


.

hat e ful of m e to h ave co m e ? ”

S trode s fingers were busy ; when he answered hi



,

v oi ce came rath e r lo w If I were to be honest



.
,

A nn a I d say that I e seldom felt q u ite so proud


,
’ ’
v .

It s yo ur first ad m i ssion o f reliance



He stopped .

.

She rose suddenly and stood behind him We .

are le avin g to m orrow Maurice ; w e g o to to wn by


-
,

the first train .


He turned with a j erk “


Wh at do you say ? .

T o morro w
-

Sh e gazed fixedly at the desk Jean ne h as b usi .

ness t h at ca n t wait
’ ”
.

M
Th e pe rple xity le f t his eyes and he s m iled .

Quite absurd my de ar child ! I saw Mrs


, ax .

tead at eight ; she never said a word of such a


thing ”l
.

m
Sh e did n t kno w at ei ght
’ ”
.

Oh a telegra
,

Anna bent her h ead .

St rode s m ooth ed his hair Th at s very h at e .



THE CI R CL E 223

ful, he said aft er a pause very hate ful But you



, .

must ch ee r up ! You must cheer up ! It is n t ’

so bad af t er all He looked at her and smiled



. .
,

You 11 lose the poppies and the sea for a bit ; but

you ll still have me You don t think I m going



.
’ ’

to be left behind ? He smoothed his hair afresh


and laughed re assurin gly “


I w as loo king i nto .

thin gs as you came in ; I find I can be spared fr o m


,

here I ll be in town a day or two afte r you


.

.

Anna s head remained bent He put out his



.

hand and to uched her arm Dearest we 11 have a .


,

jolly time in town ? ”

She raised her head with an e ffort You know .

it was n t to say silly things th at I ca m e



.


T was never to tell me the famous se cret ?
That secret that you did m e out o f on the cli ff .

He lau ghed again with an eager attempt to a m use


her ; then suddenly his face clouded over and he ,

caught both her han ds Anna he said in a .


,

di fferent vo ice wh at s the m atter w th you to


i

,

m
ni ght ? ”

She e t his ey es steadily She had brac ed herself .

to the ordeal as she crossed the cli ff I m not .


“ ’

well that s all H eaps o f women would be li mp


,

.

after such a storm .



Poor little girl ! S it down again and let me
take ca re o f you ? ”

She shook h er head “


It s easier t o talk sta nd .

m
in g I m ust say what I ca m e t o sa ”

y
.
.

He ade a resi ne d
g ge st ure.
2 24 THE CI R CL E ‘

It is n t very easy to say Maurice



, .

His eyes n arrowed It is n t that you think .


you v e cea sed t o care or or any rubbish o f that



,

sort
She smiled faintl y N o it is n t rubbish o fthat
.

sort.

Then what else counts ?


Nothing and a lot o fthings .

L e t s ha v e it out
’ ”
.

Her lips parted twice be fore she spo ke ; then she


straightened hersel f I ha v e thought about your
.

coming t o town Maurice ; I e thought that you


,

v

woul d want to come and I came to night to tell you -

that you must n t that you must stay here that



,

you must promise me t o stay he re She freed her .


hands and clasped them tightly behind her back .

Strode stared at her in silence .

It w as to say that that I came I did n t want .


to go without seeing yo u I didn t want to put it in ’

a letter I know it sounds irrational but women


.
,

are f ull o f whims



.

He still stared incredulously What exact ly .

does it mean ? I suppose I ha v e some ri ght t o


ask
Maurice ! ”

He turned and walked to the open wi ndo w .

Maurice you are an gry


,

N ot an gry ”
.

Hurt
Possibly ; I don t quite kn o w ’ ”
.
226 THE CI R CL E
drew her b ack to the desk There will be no .

battl es for you while I am here to fight them .

Whatever this th ing is that has risen up to both er


you it must be le ft to me to me you u nderstand
, , .

She touched her lips with her handkerchie f and ,

slowly gathered u p her strength A fter this .


,

Mau ri ce she correct ed gently after this things


,


, ,

will be left to you ; but in this one cas e I must


act for m ysel f I m afraid there s no drawin g
.
’ ’

bac k .

Which implies He searched her face .

Her lips were cold but she met his gaze staunchly
, .

Which implies Maurice that somethin g has hap


, ,

p ened that I ne v er counted on never looked for ; ,

something that involves other people besides mysel f .

And I want you to give m e the greatest help it s in ’

your po wer to gi v e ; I want you to let me think of


ou he re — away f rom the h at e firl h aras sing world
y
—t hinkin g of me and believing in me till I can ,

sen d for you You know that I ll send the firs t


.

m oment that I can ? ”


My dear child the harassing world is a m an s
,

The finer o fhi m to relinquish it for a lit tle .


Str ode s eyes were puzzled and perplexed



Wo .

m en are inco m prehensi ble ! he said at last First ”


.

a m ysterious secret now a myste ri ous m ission ; it


,

so unds like the l as t century Ho w m any days will .

t his thin g ta ke provided I do c onsent ?



,

Four weeks fro m t o day -



.
TH E CI R CL E 2 27

He took a step backward Wee ks ! Do you .

know what you are saying ? ”


Perfectly to an hour .

B ut a month — a whole month ! Wha t does it


mea n What under heaven am I to do with mysel f
for a month He look ed blank .


As you have done every other year Sail and .

fish and read ”


. She stopped checked by the look in
,

his eyes.

He came quite close to her and took her hands .


That is a v ery easy programme to m ake out he ,

sa id ; but you don t know what you say Sailin g



.

and fishing are poor spo rt when one has tried love .

You can tell me t o stay away from you b ut yo u ,

can t do more than tell



.

Her fingers showed white against his ; she look ed


unsteadily round the roo m then slowly reluctantly
, , ,

he r glance returned to his .

Maurice you said to night that you were


,
-

p roud o f my relying on you Have I relied t oo .

m uch ?”

His hand tightened o n hers, then relaxed ; he


dropped her fingers and turned again t o the

m
window .

There w as a long wait Anna m ade no ovement


. ,

b ut her face looked very tired .

M At last S trode spoke without lookin g round


an makes a poor sort o f lover a f t er all Anna ; , ,
.

he nee ds a lot of reminding .


She too k a step forw ard Mauri ce ? ”


.
228 THE CI R CL E
He was silent.

Mauri ce ?
He wheeled round and looked at her . Have n t

you kn own all alon g that a saint would give you any
thin g you asked if you only put it to hi m
,

I don t know what you want to do ; but I trust you


like myself Ofcourse I ll w ait



.

THE C I R CL E
M M
230

eye sparkled
rs. A ept d W t
axt ead s

s . cc e ha
a word They h ve gone mad it s the s l on
! a ;

ea

your success Y o u were m agnificent I have never


. .

see n anythin g so fine Y ou have m ore grit than I .

ever thought .

An na was silent ; then she smiled very faintly and


looked up I think it s you who have the grit ’

Do you think I ha v e n t seen —all this


.
,

Jeanne

.

terrible week ? Se en you watchin g me seen the ,

dou bt in your mind though you ne ver as ked a ,

m
question never hinte d by a word that I was not
,

not quite the same ? I a not so dense Her .


papers
rsMM
voice w as very lo w
ax t e ad be gan f
.
.

oldin g and so rt in g t h e
It h as been the m ost aw ful week o f my
.

li fe There were ti m es but that does n t count


.

m
no w Las t night com pensate d for everything Las t
. .

ni ght was like the li f tin g of a coffin lid to a an -

who is bu ried alive I don t belie v e I stirre d a .


ha ir s breadth durin g the whole first ac t



- .

Ann a drew a lon g breath “


I knew l as t ni ght
'

would be all right It w as the waiting for l as t .

night ; it was the reception — your receptio n on


Thursday She shi v ered and closed her eyes
.

I .

shall never forget that reception Jeann e never , ,

ne v er The coldness o fmy hands and fee t ; the feel


.

in g o f being outside mysel f; the crowds and c rowds


o ff aces all inquisiti ve all on tiptoe as it were all , ,

bl ankly candidly disappo inted I shall never forget


,
.

it . It was a ni ghtm are She covered her face .



.
THE CI R CL E
M
23 1

Mrs axt ead was s ilent fo r a moment her fin gers


.
,

stirring an d rustling amon gst the papers ; at las t


her eyelids drooped .

m
We won t talk a bout the reception she said

,

shortly it s burned into v brain B ut there is


,
“ ’
.

som ethin g that I want to say She paused then .



,

went o n agai n E ver since we le ft T rescar I ha v e


.

thought o f no body b ut you ; I have shown m ore

m
patience than I e v er dreamt I possessed ; I have been
inhu an — nothin g less Now that the ordeal o f .

the fi rs t night is o v er the actual crisis got thro ugh


I want you to consider me a little —to consider
, ,

what it costs a woman to be silent for ei ght days .

Y ou talk o fnightmares every nightm are must ha v e


a cause Tell me frankly what happen ed at T rescar
.

the ni ght be fore we left Till that night you were


perfectly happy I ne ver saw you so buoyant so full
, ,

o f li f
e ; then all in an hour everythin g collapsed .

S ince then you have been the m ere sh ado w o f your


sel f; yo u go about with your eyes open see in g !

nothin g ; you are intereste d in nothing ; you scarcely

hear when you are spoken to E xcept for l as t .

ni ght, you have been livin g in a trance F or .

heaven s sake rouse yoursel f! Shake it o ff!


,
She ”

to uched the girl s arm ’


.

Anna mo v ed languidly and turned her face away


Anna you rose above it las t n igh t R ise abo v e


,
.

it now .

m
Anna s m iled a lit t le Ah that was the dramatic
.
,

situati on I a not t o be prai se d for t h at


. It is .
232 TH E CI R CL E
in m y blood I suppo se ; I act as a dog hunts by
,

instinct She moved her face restlessly against the


.

M
pillows .

Mrs. ax t ead still held her arm



It is not a .

quarrel between you and Maurice ; I know that .

With your temperaments you would hav e made it


up in twel v e hours ; it is something more las ting .

than a quarrel Can t you confide in me ? .


Anna drew her arm away I can t ; I have n t “ ’ ’

put it to mysel fas yet She pushed back her hair


.

with her habitual gesture At present I am an .

automaton ; I know that I have to play every night


fo r three weeks — and play well
.

A fter the three .

M
weeks
Mrs. ax t ead moved nearer by a step A fter .

the three weeks there is your big rest your six ,

months rest ; then the contract with P olo t ski if


o u consent and the terms tempt us A ft er l as t


y ,
.

m
night we should control the m arket B ut fi rst the .

rest ; I a set o n that no w more than ever We .

m ust burn back the co lour in to this She touched ”


.

the girl s cheek



You know the proverb of the
.

w i lling horse

.

Anna smiled again wearily .

Co me you ll enjoy the rest ?


,
’ ”

The girl sta red straight be fore her .


Weeks and weeks o f no responsibility — no
study —no rehear sals .

Ann a s eyelids quivered otherwi se she was abso



,

l ntaly still .
2 34 THE CI R CL E
papers do not get to T rescar ; I know Mauri ce cares
nothin g for the m ; still —st ill one can never tell , .

There are no herm ita ges nowadays .


An n a s fingers parted limply Sometimes Jeanne



.
, ,

I wish that Maurice would find out It w ould sim .

li a lot
M
o fthings

p y f .

Mrs axt ead m ade no co m ment but she ceased


.
,

to twist her rin g .

Anna she said so ftly you have not by any


,
” “
, ,

chance hea rd from your own people ? Her voice


,

was ver y lo w but as keen as a nee dle point


,
-
.

A flood ofcolour su ffus ed the girl s face then died ’

p ain fully away Her eyelids opened slowly and she


.

looked up N o Jeanne on m y word of honour !


.
, ,

Her lashes drooped ag ain


For a while Mrs ax t ead stayed m otionless Then
. M
she walked across the ro om There w as an unw ant ed
.

.
.

shadow in her eyes a perplexed line between her ,

b rows She stopped by the mantelpi ec e and lean


.
, ,

in g agai nst it looked down at the white lilac in t h e


,


You h ave never told me a lie, An na ! A nd

I have told you the truth no w Ho w could I .

ha ve heard fro m them ? They know nothing o f me


—nothing of where I am Her voice was monoto .

n ous and tired .


Of course not and yet Oh I ad m it myse lf
, ,

bea ten She li fted her head A gainst a doggedly .

i ndiffere nt wom an there is no weapon under th e sun ”


.
TH E CIR CL E 235

m
She walked quickly towards the door then in the ,

centre o f the roo she paused Her hands were .

hanging by her sides and her eyes gleamed , .

Anna she sa id suddenly for h ea v en s sake cry !


,

,

Lose your t emper or cry Do something do an y .

thing only don t l ie there like that You look as i f


,

.

you were seeing ghost s She laid her hands on the


foot rail o f the bed and leant forward
-
.

Anna remained unmo v ed I ha v e n t cried sin c e .


that morning at T resc ar when I told you about ,

Maurice I don t know that I shall ever cry


.

again ! ”

Then tell me what it is ? There s nothing that ’

two people —t w o determined people — cannot do .

I am as ca pable o f helping you as a man — more


capable Anna ? .

There was a note in the last word that Anna had


not heard be fore Its appea l cut through her ; she
.

suddenly raised herself .

Oh Jeanne ! she said brokenly


,

I m doing .

my best Indeed indeed I m doing my best ! If


,


.
, ,

you care for me the littlest bit don t question me ,


M
any more Her voice rose
.

.

Mrs axt ead walk ed round to her former posi


.

tion be ide t h e bed and laid her hand on the girl s


s

shoulder B ut Anna pushed it excitedly as ide


. .


No ! Let me say what I can say n o w while
I want to say it Something h as happened : it
.

does n t mat t er what When there is a fire at sea



.

and peo ple are killed it doe n t much matter ’


,
s
236 THE CI R CL E
whether they are burnt or drowned They are .

dea d and that is enough Something h as fallen o n


, .

m e and left me stunned as yet I am neither rec on


ciled nor beaten — only stunned I ca n t talk to .

you about it because I have n t talked about it to ,


mysel f Some day soon when my courage begins


.
,

t o shake itsel f o u t I will f ace it and see where ,

I stand Then for the first time in my whole


.
,

li fe Jeanne I will really know mysel f Whate v er


, , .

is trongest — the best o r the worst will co me


s

to the top B ut now —now I am nothin g j ust


.

a shuttlecock tossed between two bats ; a feather


blown o n the wind ; anyt hin g you like to think
o f that has neither grip nor wei ght nor hold

that j ust exists Her eyes looked fixedly in front .


o f her her hands were clasped about her knees


, .

That s all I have to say — except o ne thing



.

Her hands relaxed and she turned her eyes o n her


companion s face Long ago you won m e o v er

.

by a trick — by a subterfuge ; but tha t s past ’

no w We are all honest or dishonest according


. ,

to o ur lights Acc ording to your s you meant mag


.

nifice n t ly by me — and you have done magnifice ntly .

I hav e n t forgotten and I sha n t forget I 11 play


,
’ ’
.

for you loyally e v ery night o f the thre e weeks .

You may count on that Whatever my days are .

like my nights will be all ri ght


, Her v oice sud ”
.

de nly dropped ; she smiled wearily and put out

M
her hand Loyally Jeanne R emember


. . .
,

Mrs ax tead took the hand and held it in silence


. .
PA R T T W O —C HA P T ER X IV

T was late
ernoon on the las t day in May
af
t .

Ra in h ad fallen heavily in the morning but ,

with the drying ca pacity o fthe London streets


the pavements were clean again though the ,

M
h eat that had prevailed for a fortnight was allayed .

Mrs ax t e ad stepped out o f her brougham and


.

paused o n the doorstep o f her house be fo re inse rting


her latch key She turned round and her glance
- .
,

m
m oved restlessly from the trees to the sky was hed ,

free o fclouds ; fro the skyback again She loo ked .

older than w as custom ary as she st ood in the full


flood o f li ght ; the faint lines about her mouth
se emed deepe r the set o f her lips harder than w as
,

u su al
. She looked a wom an who was bearing a

m
mental st rain the weight o f which she hardly ad
,

it t e d to hersel f Presently she si ghed then caught


.
,

hers el fup impatiently and opened the door .

The hall was empty She threw her parasol on a


.

table and mounted the stair The first door o n the s.

corridor was Anna s ; she stopped outside it and


tapped . Getting no answer she shrugged her ,

shoulders walked away and pushed her o wn door


, ,

ope n with a j erk Then she ra ised her eyeb rows


. .


A nna ! I ve j u t been lookin g for you

s

.
THE CI R CL E 239

Anna rose from the desk a bundle of letters in ,

her hand She wore no hat but her arms were


.
,

M
slipped loosely through the slee ves o f her fur travel
ling wrap Mrs axt e ad noted the point
- . . .

Fur in May ! Ho w nu E nglish She drew -

of f her gloves .

The other laughed a little ner v ously I felt cold . .

I hav e been wri ting business letters ; you see I u sed

M
your desk to gi ve me inspiration .

Mrs axt ead nodded


. Business is rather petri .

fying Who were the letters to


.

No o ne o f acc ount I was writin g cheques and .

paying bills I was seein g how I stand


.

.

My dear Anna what a waste o ftime The glory


,

o fb eing rich is the fact o fbeing able to ign ore money ;


to be really Arcadian one should be a millionaire ”
.

Anna stood silent She w as toying with the letters.

in her hand ; occasionally she li fted her hand and


pushed back her hair I wrote one letter that w as
.

MM
not about business she said at len gth ”
.
,

r s. ax t ead care fully remo v ed her hat and veil ,

then w ith elaborate in di fference look ed into the


, ,

glass. You are inde fatigable sh e said ,



.

A nna stirred a little Don t be flippant Jeanne ’


.
, ,

MM
the letter was to Maurice
r s. ax t ead s hand almost trembled

controlled the impulse ; she adjusted a hairpin and


bu t sh e
.

studied the effect B ut you write to Maurice


.

every other day I wish you would be m ore casual


.

about tri vial things ”


.
2 40 THE CI R CL E
This letter w as di fferent from the others ”
.

Ho w ori gin al It s qui t e hard to get variety in ’

love letters ; they are like one strin ged instruments -



.

Anna w alked back to the desk her fac e w as


flushed but she shivered with nervous cold
,

Do .

ta ke it se riously Jeanne ; I want you to understand


, .

Well say on ,
.

M
I ha ve decided that Maurice must know ”
.

Mrs ax t ead turned from the gl ass


. I am so .

gl ad she said quickly


,

So very gl ad I h 0 pe . .

you ha v e used all your tact ! Tact is more essential


to life than brea d .

Anna touched t h e t op o f the desk tentati v ely .


I m a fraid I have not u sed any t act

.

What

m
Oh don t bla m e me Jeanne ; don t blame me
,