BRIGID (AFTER THE
Do not marry, Breed, asthore!
That old man whose head is hoar
As the winter, but instead
Mate with some young curly-head;
He will give to you a child,
He will never leave your side,
And at morning when you wake
Kiss for kiss will give and take.
I wish that I had died, I do,
Before I gave my love to you;
Love so lasting that it will
While I live be with you still:
And for it what do I get?
Pain and trouble and regret,
The terrors of the aspen-tree
Which the wind shakes fearfully.
If this country could be seen
As it ought—then you had been
Living in a castle grand
With the ladies of the land:
The friend and foe, the gael and gall,
Would be cheering, one and all,
For yourself, and, this is true,
I would be along with you.
You promised, ‘twas a lie, I see,
When you said youd come to me
At the sheep-cote; I was there,
And I whistled on the air,
And I gave our settled call—
But you were not there at all!
There was nothing anywhere
But lambs and birds and sunny air
When it is dark you pass me by,
And when the sun is in the sky
You pass me also—night or day
You look away, you walk away!
But if you would come to me,
And say the word of courtesy,
I would close the door, and then
Id never let you out again.
But do not marry, Breed, asthore!
That old man; his heart is hoar
As his head is: you can see
Winter gripping at his knee:
His eyes and ears are blear and dim,
How can you expect of him
To see or hear or pleasure you
Half as well as I would do?
She was about to be a mother for the second time, and
the fear which is the portion of women was upon her. In a little
while she would be in the toils, and she hated and feared physical
pain with a great hatred and a great fear. But there was something
further which distressed her.
She was a soft, babyish creature, downy and clinging,
soft-eyed and gentle, the beggar folk had received gifts at
her hand, the dogs knew of her largesse. Men looked on her with
approval, and women liked her. Her husband belonged to the type
known as fine men, tall, generously-proportioned,
with the free and easy joviality which is so common in Ireland.
He was born a boy and he would never grow out of that state.
The colour of his hair or the wrinkles on his cheek would not
have anything to do with his age, for time was powerless against
the richness of his blood. He would still be a boy when he was
dying of old age; but if protestations, kisses and homage were
any criterion then the fact that he loved his wife was fixed
beyond any kind of doubt.
But he did not love her.—He was as changeable as the weather
of his country. Swift to love he was equally swift to forget.
His passions were of primitive intensity, but they were not
steadfast. He clutched with both hands at the present and was
surprised and irritated by the fact that he could in nowise
get away from the past: the future he did not care a rap about.
Nobody does: there is, indeed, no such thing as the future,
there is only the possibility of it, but the past and the present
are facts not to be gotten away from. What we have done and
what we are doing are things which stamp us, mould us, live
with us and after us: what we will do cannot be counted on,
has no part in us, has only a problematical existence, and can
be interfered with, hindered, nullified or amplified by the
thousand unmanageable accidents of futurity.
He had married thanking God from a full heart for His
goodness, and believing implicitly that he had plucked the very
Flower of Womanhood, and the Heart of the World, and, maybe,
he had.—There are many Flowers of Womanhood, all equally fragrant,
and the Heart of the World can beat against the breast of any
man who loves a woman.
Some time previously their little boy had contracted small-pox,
and his mother, nursing him, took it from him. When they recovered
her beauty was gone. The extraordinary bloom which had made
her cheek a shrine to worship and marvel at was destroyed for
ever, while, by a curious chance, the boy was unmarked.
Now the only love which he had to give was a physical
love. He did not love a woman, he loved the husk. Of the woman
herself he knew nothing and cared less. He had never sought
to know his wife, never tried to pierce beneath her beauty and
discover where the woman lived and what she was like at home.
Indeed, he knew less of his wife than his servants did, and
by little and little she had seen how the matter stood. She
had plucked the heart from his mystery and read him to the bones,
while remaining herself intact. But she held him still, although
by the most primitive and fragile of bonds, by the magnetism
of her body, the shining of her eyes, the soft beauty of her
cheeks; and, behold! she was undone. The disease had stamped
on her face, and, in the recoil, had stamped on her husbands
How many nights of solitary tears she had known! she alone
could count them, a heavy knowledge. How many slights, shrinkings,
coldnesses she had discerned! the tale of them was hot in her
brain, the index heavy on her heart.
She knew her loss on the day that her husband looked at
her after her recovery when all fear of infection had passed—the
stare, the flush, the angry disgust. Her eyes were cameras.
She had only to close them and she could see again in dismal
procession those dismal details.
And now, as she lay helpless on the bed, she watched him.
She was racked with pain, and he was mumbling that it would
be all right again in a little time. A week from now,
said he, and you will have forgotten all about it.
But she, looking at him with fearful eyes, traced this
sentence at the back of his brain, I hope that she will
die, and the life within her which had been sown in happiness
and love, and had grown great through misery and tears was now
beating at the gates of entrance... . She might die: so many
people die in labour, and she was not strong. With a new clairvoyant
gaze she saw Death standing by the bed, hooded, cloaked and
sombre; his eyes were fixed on her and they were peaceful and
kindly eyes. Had there been nothing else to care for she would
have gone gladly to the Dark One; but there remained her little
son. What heart was he to rest on when she was gone? Whose arms
could open so widely as the mothers when he fled from
the terrible things which haunt Babyland?—it was an arrow in
She knew well that her husband would marry again. He was
of those men who are inveterate husbands—and that new woman!—Who
was she? What was she like? What would be her attitude towards
a motherless child? towards her little one? She would be kindly
at first, little doubt of that, but afterwards, when her own
children came, what would become of the child of a husbands
first wife? ...
She stared down vistas of sorrow. She was a woman, and
she knew women. She saw the other little ones, strangers to
her, cared for and loved, all their childish troubles the centre
of maternal interest and debate, while her boy slunk through
a lonely, pathetic childhood, frightened, repressed, perhaps
beaten, because he was not of the brood... .
She saw these things as she lay looking at her husband,
and she believed they would come to pass if she died.
And in the night time, when the stars were hidden behind
the window curtains, by the light of a lamp that fell on toiling,
anxious people, in a hospital-like atmosphere of pain and clamour
she did die.
It was believed long ago in the ancient kingdom of Erinn
that it was death to be a poet, death to love a poet, and death
to mock a poet. So the Gael said, and, in that distant time,
the people of the Gael were a wise people, holding the ancient
knowledge, and they honoured the poet and feared him, for his
fostering was among the people of the Shee, and his curse was
quickened with the authority of the gods. Even lately the people
feared the poets and did them reverence, although the New Ignorance
(known humorously as Education) was gradually strangling the
life out of Wisdom, and was setting up a different and debased
standard of mental values. There was a lady once and she scorned
a poet, wittingly and with malice, and it was ill for her in
the sequel, for the gods saw to it.
She was very beautiful—The finest girl in three
counties, sir, said her father: but he might have been
prejudiced in favour of his own, and he had been known to speak
of himself as the finest man in Ireland, and you know
what that means, sir. Further, his dog was the greatest
dog that ever ratted in the universe. Whatever he owned
was not only good, it was great and unique, and whatever he
did not own had, in his opinion, very little to recommend it.
But his daughter was beautiful. When the male eye encountered
her it was in no haste to look away. When the female eye lit
on her it was, and the owner of the female eye, having sniffed
as was proper, went home and tried to do up her hair or her
complexion in the like manner—as was also proper. A great many
people believe (and who will quarrel with their verities) that
beauty is largely a matter of craft and adjustment.—Such women
are beautiful with a little difficulty—they pursue loveliness,
run it to earth in a shop, obtain it with a certain amount of
minted metal, and reincarnate themselves from a box.—They deserve
all the success which they undoubtedly obtain. There are other
women who are beautiful by accident—such as, the cunning disposition
of a dimple, the abilities of a certain kind of smile, the possession
of a charming voice—for, indeed, an ugly woman with a beautiful
voice is a beautiful woman. But some women are beautiful through
the spendthrift generosity of nature, and of this last was she.
Whatever of colour, line, or motion goes to the construction
of beauty that she was heiress to, and she knew it only too
A person who has something of his own making may properly
be proud of his possession, even if it is nothing more than
a stamp album, but a person who has been gifted by Providence
or Fairy Godmothers should not be conceited. A self-made man
may be proud of his money, but his son may not. Pride in what
has been given freely to you is an empty pride, and she was
prouder of her beauty than a poet is of his odes—it was her
undoing in the end.
She was so accustomed to the homage of men that one who
failed to make instant and humble obeisance to her proved himself
to be either a very vulgar person or else a miracle. Such folk
were few, for the average man bends as readily to beauty as
a flower sways to the wind, or the sea to the touch of the moon.
Before she was twenty years of age she had loomed in the
eye of every male in her vicinity as the special female whom
nature had built to his exclusive measure. When she was twenty-one
she had withstood the matrimonial threats of half the male population
of Ireland, and she knew how every social grade (there are not
many of them) of Irish life made love, for that was the only
thing they were able to do while they were near her. From the
farmer with a spade in his fist to the landlord with a writ
in his agents pocket, all sang the same song, the sole
difference being a matter of grammar; and, although young women
have big appetites in these cases, and great recuperative powers,
she was as tired of love and love-lorn swains as a young and
healthy woman can be, and then, suddenly, and to her own delighted
consternation, she did fall in love.
The tantalising part of the whole matter was that she
was unable to formulate any good reason for falling in love
with this particular male. Her powers of observation (and they
were as sharp as a cats tooth) pointed out that although
he was a young man his head was beginning to push out through
his hair, and she had always considered that a bald man was
outside the pale of human interest. Furthermore, his trousers
bagged at the knees, perhaps the most lamentable mishap that
can descend on manly apparel.—They were often a little jagged
at the ends. She did not understand that trousers such as these
were the correct usage, they were in the tradition: he was wearing
the bearded breeches of the bard. He was a little
weak on his legs, and his hands sometimes got in his own way,
but she said to herself with a smile, How different he
is from other men!
What that difference consisted in got between her and
her rest, there was a crumb in her bed on the head of it.
Meanwhile, he had not told her that he loved her, and
she was strangely anxious for news to that effect. Indeed, she
sought confirmation of her hopes as often as maidenly modesty
permitted, which was pretty frequent, for maidenly modesty has
its diplomacy also; besides, has not a reigning beauty liberty
to pay court?—there are plenty of other queens who have done
He was a poet by profession, but his livelihood depended
upon his ability as a barrister. When she first saw him he was
crossing a street. Suddenly, in the centre of the road, he halted,
with his toes turned in, his fingers caressing his chin, and
an expression of rapt and abstracted melancholy on his visage,
while he sought for the missing, the transfiguring word. There
was a sonnet in his eye and it impeded his vision. Meanwhile,
the wheeled traffic of the street addressed language to him
which was so vigorous as almost to be poetical. She had pulled
him from beneath a horses head which a frantic driver
was endeavouring to pull the mouth from. The words of the driver
as he sailed away were—Go home and die, you moonstruck,
gibbering, wobbling omadhaun, and she had thought that
his description was apt and eloquent.
She saw him a second time, when her father took her for
a visit to the Four Courts. He was addressing the Court, and,
while his language was magnificent, the judge must have considered
that his law was on vacation, for he lost his cause.
They met again in her own home. Her father knew him very
well, and, although they seldom met, he had that strong admiration
for him which a vigorous and overbearing personality sometimes
extends to a shy and unworldly friend—
A perfect frost as a lawyer, he used to say,
but as a poet, sir, Shakespeare is an ass beside him,
and if any one asks you who said so, tell them that I did, sir.
He sat beside her at dinner and forgot her before the
first course was removed, and, later, when he knocked a glass
off the table, he looked at her as though she were responsible
for the debris.
He did not make love to her, a new and remarkable omission
in her experience of men, however bald, and while this was refreshing
for a time it became intolerable shortly. She challenged him,
as a woman can, with the flash of her eyes, the quick music
of her laugh, but he was marvelling at the width of the horizon,
rapt in contemplation of the distant mountains, observing how
a flower poised and nodded on its stalk, following the long,
swooping flight of a bird or watching how the moon tramped down
on the stars. So far as she could see he was unaware that her
charms were of other than average significance—
These poets are awful fools, said she angrily.
But the task of awakening this landlocked nature was one
which presented many interesting features to her. She was really
jealous that he paid her no attention, and, being accustomed
to the homage of every male thing over fifteen years of age,
she resented his negligence, became interested in him, as every
one is in the abnormal, and when a woman becomes interested
in a man she is unhappy until he becomes interested in her.
There had arrived, with the express intention of asking
her to marry him, another young gentleman. He had a light moustache
and a fancy waistcoat, both of which looked new. He was young,
rich, handsome, and sufficiently silly to make any woman wish
to take charge of him, and her father had told him to go
in and win, my boy, theres no one Id like better,
sir, a very good heartener for a slightly dubious youth,
even though he may consider that the lady of his choice is watching
another man more intently than is pleasant.
The young gentleman gripped, with careful frenzy, at his
light, new moustache, and growled as he watched the stalking.
But the poet was occupied and careless, and then, suddenly,
it happened. What movement, conscious or unconscious, opened
his eyes one cannot say: the thing seemed to be done without
any preliminaries, and he was awakened and in the toils.
They had been reading poetry together, his poetry, and
he was expressing, more to himself than to her, how difficult
and how delightful it was to work with entire satisfaction within
the scanty plot of a sonnet. She was listening with
bated breath, and answering with an animation more than slightly
tinged with ignorance, for she was as little interested in the
making of sonnets as in the making of shoes.—Nobody is interested
in the making of sonnets, not even poets.
He fell silent after a space and sat gazing at the moon
where it globed out on the stillness, and she also became silent.
Her nerves, she told herself, were out of order. She was more
used to dismissing than to being dismissed and yet she seemed
beaten. There was nothing further that a girl could do. He cared
no more about her than he did about whatever woman cleaned his
rooms. She was not angry, but a feeling of weariness came upon
her. (It is odd that one can be so in earnest when one is in
jest.) Once or twice she shook her head at the moon, and as
she stared, moody and quiet, it seemed that the moon had slid
beyond her vision and she was looking into great caverns of
space, bursting with blackness. Some horror of emptiness was
reaching to roll her in pits of murk, where her screams would
be battered back on her tongue soundless.
With an effort she drew her eyes into focus again and
turned them, smiling bitterly, on her companion, and, lo, he
was looking at her with timid eyes, amazed eyes, and they spoke,
for all their timidity, louder than trumpets. She knew that
look, who could mistake it? Here was flame from the authentic
fire. He was silent, but his breath came and went hurriedly,
and he was bending towards her, little by little he was bending,
his eyes, his whole body and soul yearning.
Then she arose——
It is getting a little cold, said she: we
had better go in.
They went indoors silently. He was walking like a man
just awakened from a dream. While she!—her head was high. Where
was her equal! She frowned in the face of the moon and stars.
She beat her small feet upon the earth and called it slave.
She had torn victory from nowhere. A mans head swung at
her girdle and she owned the blood that dripped, and her heart
tossed rapture and anthem, carol and paean to the air around.—She
had her hour.
That night the other young gentleman whom any woman would
like to take charge of asked her to be his wife, and she consented
gracefully, slightly disarranging his nice, new moustache in
the act of surrender.
The next day the poet left the house pleading urgent briefs
as an excuse—
Youll come to the wedding, cried her
father, or, laughing, maybe, youll help
us with the settlements, thats more in your line,
and he put an arm fondly about his daughter. She, regarding
their visitor, nestled to him and laughingly said—
It would not be like my wedding at all if you stayed
away. You must write me an ode, and her eyes mocked him.
He stood, looking at her for a moment, and his eyes mocked
also, for the poet knew by his gift what she had done, and he
replied with careless scorn—
I will come with pleasure, and, with an emphasis
she noted, I will dance at your wedding. So he laughed
and marched away heart-whole.
Then, disengaging her arm from her fathers, she
smiled and walked slowly indoors, and as she walked there spread
over her body a fierce coldness, and when her husband sought
her afterwards that wintry breast chilled him, and he died:
but the poet danced at her wedding, when her eyes were timid
and pleading, and frightened.
She read the letter through twice, and then she stood
for a few minutes looking in front of her, with her arms hanging
loosely by her sides, and her foot tapping on the carpet. She
was looking into the future with the thoughtful gaze of one
who has cut off all communication with the past, and, with a
strange feeling of detachment, she was wondering how that future
would reveal itself, and whether he...? She crossed to the fireplace,
sat down, and read the letter over again.
Her husband had gone out that evening with a friend. In
his usual hit-or-miss fashion, he kissed his wife and asked
her to settle his tie. He was always asking her to do something,
but he never did anything for her.—It was, Will you hand
me the paper, like a good girl? and, I say, dear,
my pipe is stuffed, you might stick a hairpin through it,
or, You might see, old lady, if there is a match anywhere.
Before their marriage she had been accustomed to men who did
things for her, and the change was sudden: likeable enough at
... How red the fire is to-night! They must be sending
better coal than we usually get—there is not a single dark spot
in it, and how the shape continually changes! Now it is a deep
cave with stalactites hanging from the roof, and little swelling
hillocks on the floor, and, over all, a delicate, golden glow
surging and fading. The blue flame on the top that flits and
flickers like a will-o-the-wisp is gas, I suppose—I wonder
how they extract it. ... I wonder will he be sorry when he comes
home, and finds... . Perhaps his friend will be sufficient for
him then... . It is curious to think of oneself as a piece of
animated furniture, a dumb waiter, always ready when required,
and decently out of sight when not wanted—not dumb, though!
He cannot say I failed to talk about it: but, of course, that
is nagging and bad temper, and making yourself ridiculous
for nothing, my dear. Nothing! I warned him over and over
again; but he must have company. He would be stifled unless
he went among men now and again—Male company is a physical
necessity for men, my dear. I suppose women do not need
any other company than that of their husbands, and they must
not ask too much of that... . What strange, careless, hopeful
creatures they are, and how they cease to value what they have
got! Does the value rise again when it is gone, I wonder? ...
Out all day, and he cannot understand why I ask him to stay
with me at night. A man wants air, sweetheart. A
woman does not, of course—she would not have the cheek to want
anything: there is something not nice about a woman
wanting anything. Do all men stifle in the air their wives have
breathed? If I ask him do you love me still? he
replies, of course, do you mind if I run out for an hour
or two, dear. One will ask questions, of course... . A
kiss in the morning, another at night, and, for Heavens
sake, dont bother me in the interval: that is marriage
from a mans point of view. Do they really believe that
women are alive? Is matrimony always a bondage to them? Are
all womens lives so lonely? Are their wishes neglected,
their attempts to think laughed at, their pride stricken?—I
wonder... . And he did love me, I know that: but if he has forgotten
I must not remember it. He could not see enough of me then:
and the things he said, and does not remember—I was a wonder
that the world could not equal—it is laughable.—A look from
me was joy, a word delight, a touch ecstasy. He would run to
the ends of the earth to gratify a whim of mine, and life without
me was not worth living... . If I would only love him! If I
could only bring myself to care for him a little—he was too
humble, too unworthy to imagine—and so forth, and so forth;
and it was all true then. Now I am some one who waits upon him.
He wants this and that, and asks me for it. He has cut his finger
and shouts for me to bind it up, and I must be terribly concerned
about it; somehow, he will even manage to blame me for his cut
finger. He cannot sleep in the night, so I must awaken also
and listen to his complaint. He is sick, and the medicine tastes
nasty; I am to understand that if the medicine tastes nasty
I am responsible for it—I should not have given him anything
nasty: he is surprised: he trusted me not to do such a thing
to him. He turns to me like a child when he has any ... he turns
to me like a child and trusts ... he turns to me ... like a
The sound of a horses hooves came to her, and she
arose from her chair with frightened haste. She looked swiftly
at the clock, and then stood listening in a rigid attitude,
with a face that grew white and peaked, and flushed and paled
again. The car came swiftly nearer and stopped a little way
from the house. Then a foot crunched the gravel, and her desperate
eyes went roving quickly about the room as though she were looking
for a place to hide in. Next, after a little interval of silence,
a pebble struck the window. She stood for a moment staring at
the window and then ran to it, swung open a pane of glass, and,
leaning out, she called in a high, strained voice, I will
not go. Then, closing the window again, she ran back to
the fireplace, crouched down on the rug and pushed her fingers
into her ears.
Her husband came home before eleven oclock, brushed
the wraith of a kiss half an inch from her lips, and asked was
there anything nice for supper? The supper things were already
on the table, and, after tasting a mouthful—
Who cooked this? said he.
She was watching him intently—
The girl did, she replied.
I knew it, said he angrily, its
beastly: you might have done it yourself when you were not busy;
a lot you care about what I like.
I will do it to-morrow, she replied quietly.
Yes do, said he, there is no one can
cook like you.
And she, still watching him intently, suddenly began to
He leaped up from the table and, after a stare of indignant
astonishment, he stalked off to bed—
You are always giggling about nothing, said
he, and he banged the door.
He was tall and she was short. He was bulky, promising
to be fat. She was thin, and, with a paring here and there,
would have been skinny. His face was sternly resolute, solemn
indeed, hers was prim, and primness is the most everlasting,
indestructible trait of humanity. It can outface the Sphinx.
It is destructible only by death. Whoever has married a prim
woman must hand over his breeches and his purse, he will collect
postage stamps in his old age, he will twiddle his thumbs and
smile when the visitor asks him a question, he will grow to
dislike beer, and will admit and assert that a mans place
is the home—these things come to pass as surely as the procession
of the seasons.
It may be asked why he had married her, and it would be
difficult to find an answer to that question. The same query
might be put to almost any couple, for (and it is possibly right
that it should be so) we do not marry by mathematics, but by
some extraordinary attraction which is neither entirely sexual
nor mental. Something other than these, something as yet uncharted
by psychology, is the determining factor. It may be that the
universal, strange chemistry of nature, planning granite and
twig, ant and onion, is also ordering us more imperatively and
more secretly than we are aware.
He had always been a hasty creature. He never had any
brains, and had never felt the lack of them. He was one of those
men who are called strong, because of their imperfect
control over themselves. His appetites and his mental states
ruled him. He was impatient of any restraint; whatever he wanted
to do he wanted urgently to do and would touch no alternatives.
He had the robust good humour which will cheerfully forgive
you to-morrow for the wrongs he has done you to-day. He bore
no malice to any one on earth except those who took their medicine
badly. Meek people got on very well with him because they behaved
themselves, but he did not like them to believe they would inherit
Some people marry because other people have done so. It
is in the air, like clothing and art and not eating with a knife.
He, of course, got married because he wanted to, and the singular
part of it was that he did not mate with a meek woman. Perhaps
he thought she was meek, for before marriage there is a habit
of deference on both sides which is misleading and sometimes
From the beginning of their marriage he had fought against
his wife with steadiness and even ferocity. Scarcely had they
been wed when her gently-repressive hand was laid upon him,
and, like a startled horse, he bounded at the touch into freedom—that
is, as far as the limits of the matrimonial rope would permit.
Of course he came back again—there was the rope, and the unfailing,
untiring hand easing him to the way he was wanted to go.
There was no fighting against that. Or, at least, it did
not seem that fighting was any use. One may punch a bag, but
the bag does not mind, and at last one grows weary of unproductive
quarrelling. One shrugs ones shoulders, settles to the
collar, and accepts whatever destiny the gods, in their wisdom,
have ordained. Is life the anvil upon which the gods beat out
their will? It is not so. The anvil is matter, the will of the
gods is life itself, urging through whatever torment to some
identity which it can only surmise or hope for; and the one
order to life is that it shall not cease to rebel until it has
ceased to live; when, perhaps, it can take up the shaping struggle
in some other form or some other place.
But he had almost given in. Practically he had bowed to
the new order. Domestic habits were settling about him thick
as cobwebs, and as clinging. His feet were wiped on the mat
when he came in. His hat was hung on the orthodox projection.
His kiss was given at the stated time, and lasted for the regulation
period. The chimney-corner claimed him and got him. The window
was his outlook on life. Beyond the hall door were foreign lands
inhabited by people who were no longer of his kind. The cat
and the canary, these were his familiars, and his wife was rapidly
becoming his friend.
Once a day he trod solemnly forth on the designated walk—
Be back before one oclock, said the
voice of kind authority, lunch will be ready.
Wont you be back before two? said that
voice, the lawn has to be rolled.
Dont stay out after three, the voice
entreated, we are going to visit Aunt Kate.
And at one and two and three oclock he paced urgently
wifeward. He ate the lunch that was punctually ready. He rolled
the inevitable lawn. He trod sturdily to meet the Aunt Kate
and did not quail, and then he went home again. One climbed
to bed at ten oclock, one was gently spoken to until eleven
oclock, and then one went to sleep.
On a day she entrusted him with a sum of money, and requested
that he should go down to the town and pay at certain shops
certain bills, the details whereof she furnished to him on paper.
Be back before three oclock, said the
good lady, for the Fegans are coming to tea. You need
not take your umbrella, it wont rain, and you ought to
leave your pipe behind, it doesnt look nice. Bring some
cigarettes instead, and your walking-stick if you like, and
be sure to be back before three.
He pressed his pipe into a thing on the wall which was
meant for pipes, put his cigarette-case into his pocket, and
took his walking-stick in his hand.
You did not kiss me good-bye, said she gently.
So he returned and did that, and then he went out.
It was a delicious day. The sun was shining with all its
might. One could see that it liked shining, and hoped everybody
enjoyed its art. If there were birds about anywhere it is certain
they were singing. In this suburb, however, there were only
sparrows, but they hopped and flew, and flew and hopped, and
cocked their heads sideways and chirped something cheerful,
but possibly rude, as one passed. They were busy to the full
extent of their beings, playing innocent games with happy little
flies, and there was not one worry among a thousand of them.
There was a cat lying on a hot window-ledge. She was looking
drowsily at the sparrows, and any one could see that she loved
them and wished them well.
There was a dog stretched across a doorway. He was very
quiet, but he was not in the least bored. He was taking a sun-bath,
and he was watching the cat. So steadily did he observe her
that one discerned at a glance he was her friend, and would
protect her at any cost.
There was a small boy who held in his left hand a tin
can and a piece of string. With his right hand he was making
affectionate gestures to the dog. He loved playing with animals,
and he always rewarded their trust in him.
Our traveller paced slowly onwards, looking at his feet
as he went. He noticed with a little dismay that he could not
see as much of his legs as he thought he should see. There was
a slight but nicely-shaped curve between him and his past—
I am getting fat, said he to himself, and
the reflection carried him back to the morning mirror—
I am getting a bit bald, too, said he, and
a quiet sadness took possession of him.
But he reassured himself. One does get fat. Every
one gets fat, said he, after he gets married.
He reviewed his friends and acquaintances, and found that this
was true, and he bowed before an immutable decree.
One does get bald, quoth he. Everybody
gets bald. The wisest people in the world lose their hair. Kings
and generals, rich people and poor people, they are all bald!
It is not a disgrace, said he; and he trod soberly forward
in the sunshine.
A young man caught up on him from behind, and strode past.
He was whistling. His coat-tails were lifted and his hands were
thrust in his pockets. His elbows jerked to left and right as
A fellow oughtnt to swagger about like that,
said our traveller. What does he want to tuck up his coat
for, anyhow? Its not decent, said he in a low voice.
It makes people laugh, said he.
A girl came out of a shop near by and paced down in their
direction. She looked at the young man as they passed, and then
she turned again, a glance, no more, and looked after him without
stopping her pace. She came on. She had no pockets to stick
her hands in, but she also was swaggering. There was a left
and right movement of her shoulders, an impetus and retreat
of her hips. Something very strong and yet reticent about her
surging body. She passed the traveller and went down the road.
She did not look at me, said he, and his mind
folded its hand across its stomach, and sat down, while he went
forward in the sunlight to do his errands.
He stopped to light a cigarette, and stood for a few minutes
watching the blue smoke drifting and thinning away on the air.
While he stood a man drove up with a horse and car. The car
was laden with groceries—packets of somebodys tea, boxes
of somebodys chocolate, bottles of beer and of mineral
water, tins of boot blacking, and parcels of soap; confectionery,
and tinned fish, cheese, macaroni, and jam.
The man was beating the horse as he approached, and the
traveller looked at them both through a wreath of smoke.
I wonder, said he, why that man beats
The driver was sitting at ease. He was not angry. He was
not impatient. There was nothing the matter with him at all.
But he was steadily beating the horse; not harshly, gently in
truth. He beat the horse without ill-will, almost without knowing
he was doing it. It was a sort of wrist exercise. A quick, delicate
twitch of the whip that caught the animal under the belly, always
in the same place. It was very skilful, but the driver was so
proficient in his art that one wondered why he had to practice
at it any longer. And the horse did not make any objection!
Not even with his ears; they lay back to his mane as he jogged
steadily forward in the sunlight. His hooves were shod with
iron, but they moved with an unfaltering, humble regularity.
His mouth was filled with great, yellow teeth, but he kept his
mouth shut, and one could not see them. He did not increase
or diminish his pace under the lash; he jogged onwards, and
did not seem to mind it.
The reins were jerked suddenly, and the horse turned into
the path and stopped, and when he stood he was not any quieter
than when he had been moving. He did not raise his head or whisk
his tail. He did not move his ears to the sounds behind and
on either side of him. He did not paw and fumble with his feet.
There was a swarm of flies about his head; they moved along
from the point of his nose to the top of his forehead, but mostly
they clustered in black, obscene patches about his eyes, and
through these patches his eyes looked out with a strange patience,
a strange mildness. He was stating a fact over and over to himself,
and he could not think of anything else—
There are no longer any meadows in the world,
said he. They came in the night and took away the green
meadows, and the horses do not know what to do. ... Horse!
Horse! Little horse! ... You do not believe me. There are those
who have no whips. There are children who would love to lift
you in their arms and stroke your head... .
The driver came again, he mounted to his seat, and the
horse turned carefully and trotted away.
The man with the cigarette looked after them for a few
minutes, and then he also turned carefully, to do his errands.
He reached the Railway Station and peered in at the clock.
There were some men in uniform striding busily about. Three
or four people were moving up the steps towards the ticket office.
A raggedy man shook a newspaper in his face, paused for half
a second, and fled away bawling his news. A red-faced woman
pushed hastily past him. She was carrying a big basket and a
big baby. She was terribly engrossed by both, and he wondered
if she had to drop one which of them it would be. A short, stout,
elderly man was hoisting himself and a great leather portmanteau
by easy stages up the steps. He was very determined. He bristled
at everybody as at an enemy. He regarded inanimate nature as
if he was daring it to move. It would not be easy to make that
man miss a train. A young lady trod softly up the steps. She
draped snowy garments about her, but her ankles rebelled: whoever
looked quickly saw them once, and then she spoke very severely
to them, and they hid themselves. It was plain that she could
scarcely control them, and that they would escape again when
she wasnt looking. A young man bounded up the steps; he
was too late to see them, and he looked as if he knew it. He
stared angrily at the girl, but she lifted her chin slightly
and refused to admit that he was alive. A very small boy was
trying to push a large india-rubber ball into his mouth, but
his mouth was not big enough to hold it, and he wept because
of his limitations. He was towed along by his sister, a girl
so tall that one might say her legs reached to heaven, and maybe
He looked again at the hour. It was one minute to two
oclock; and then something happened. The whole white world
became red. The oldest seas in the world went suddenly lashing
into storm. An ocean of blood thundered into his head, and the
noise of that primitive flood, roaring from what prehistoric
gulfs, deafened him at an instant. The waves whirled his feet
from under him. He went foaming up the steps, was swept violently
into the ticket office, and was swirled away like a bobbing
cork into the train. A guard tried to stop him, for the train
was already taking its pace, but one cannot keep out the tide
with a ticket-puncher. The guard was overwhelmed, caught in
the backwash, and swirled somewhere, anywhere, out of sight
and knowledge. The train gathered speed, went flying out of
the station into the blazing sunlight, picked up its heels and
ran, and ran, and ran; the wind leaped by the carriage window,
shrieking with laughter; the wide fields danced with each other,
The horses are coming again to the green meadows.
Make way, make way for the great, wild horses!
And the trees went leaping from horizon to horizon shrieking
and shrieking the news.
While I sit beside the window
I can hear the pigeons coo,
That the air is warm and blue,
And how well the young bird flew—
Then I fold my arms and scold the heart
That thought the pigeons knew.
While I sit beside the window
I can watch the flowers grow
Till the seeds are ripe and blow
To the fruitful earth below—
Then I shut my eyes and tell my heart
The flowers cannot know.
While I sit beside the window
I am growing old and drear;
Does it matter what I hear,
What I see, or what I fear?
I can fold my hands and hush my heart
That is straining to a tear.
The earth is gay with leaf and flower,
The fruit is ripe upon the tree,
The pigeons coo in the swinging bower,
But I sit wearily
Watching a beggar-woman nurse
A baby on her knee.