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   Chapter 15 No.15

This Freedom By A. S. M. Hutchinson Characters: 34211

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

But this was not to continue. Keggo began to lapse; Rosalie began to weary of helping Keggo. She had herself to think of. Those who go down in life, whether by age or by misfortune, are prone, engulfed, to cry to those ascending, "You could help me!" There is a correct answer to this. It is, "I have done (or I do) a great deal for you. I cannot do more. It is not fair to ask me to do more. I have a duty to myself. I have myself to think of." Our generation endorses this.

Rosalie had herself to think of. By stages that need not be detailed, they are the common facts of life, the thing passes from that picture of those two with Rosalie's strong young arms about the other to a new picture, the last, between them.

The stages show Rosalie's enormous, ardent plans for the rescue and rehabilitation of Keggo, and they show the projection and the failure of the plans. They show work found for Keggo (through Simcox's scholastic side) and lost and found again and again lost and still again. They show Keggo's remorse and they show Rosalie's forgiveness. They show it repeated and repeated. They show by degrees the gradual, and then the rapid, staling of Rosalie's fond sympathies. They show her finally, immersed in her own purposeful interests, discovering to herself feelings in regard to Keggo on a plane with feelings discovered to herself in regard to her mother. It has been written: "Her mother was ageing rapidly. Rosalie could have wept to see the ageing signs; but somehow, seeing them, did not weep; was not moved; received the impression but was not sensitive to it; felt the tug but did not respond to the pull. Rather, indeed, was apt to be a little impatient." It is not necessary to expand. Keggo was fast going downhill. Rosalie could have wept to see the downhill signs; but somehow, seeing them, did not weep; was not moved... rather, indeed... impatient. She had herself to think of.

Youth's an excuse for youth as childhood's an excuse for childishness. Youth, still, like childhood, but unlike maturity, can be lost in its emotions, absorbed in them to the exclusion of all else, abandoned to them with all else pitched away as a swimmer discards his every stitch and joyously plunges in the stream. Youth is not accountable for its actions then: it is too happy or it is too sad. One oughtn't to blame youth, immersed.

There was outstandingly one such day of absorption in delight, of abandonment to ecstasy for Rosalie, and it was the day on which she made her third advance in the social grade of Miss Kentish's boarding house and moved into the two rooms en suite, furnished and decorated by herself to her own taste. She awoke to this great day, long anticipated; and with the vigorous action of throwing off the clothes and jumping out of bed, she plunged into it and was lost in it. The excitement and the elation of taking possession of that enchanting, that significant apartment of her own! She was excited; she was elated. Moving in was the cumulative excitement of all the long-drawn, anxious excitements of peering round the antique dealers and picking up the bits of furniture and of placing them and moving them a shade to this side and then a shade to that till was found the one and only exact position that suited them and that they suited; and the terrible excitements of watching the decorators at work, her scheme developing beneath their hands, and the awful knowledge that now it was being done it was done for good or bad-no altering it now!-and the agonizing excitements of putting down the carpets-how can you tell exactly how a carpet is going to look until you see it actually down upon its floor and between its walls?-and the increasing excitement all the time of the knowledge that everything was harmonising and was looking just as in dreams of the ideal it had been made to look; and now all ready! The bed-sitting-room slept in last night for the last time; the two utterly perfect rooms and all that their possession connoted, to be occupied that evening for the first time! Yes, in all the tumultuous pride and engrossment of that, there was no place-how could there be place?-for tiresome things of other people's worlds, if such should offer.

And in this tremendous day there was stuff more tremendous yet. This also was the day on whose evening was made the tremendous tribute to her work and to her talent, the evening of the dazzling offer that, like a door swung open on a treasure house, disclosed to her new fields to which her career had brought her, new triumphs that her career, in its stride, might make her own-the evening when Mr. Sturgiss of Field's Bank leant across the dinner table in his house (at his request only she and himself left in the room) and said in his quiet voice, "Well, look here-to come to the point-the reason I've got you up here to-night-it's this: we want you, Field and Company, the Bank, we want you to join us. We want you in Lombard Street."

Lombard Street!

Cumulative also was this thrill, for it had begun some few days previously when Mr. Sturgiss, calling at Simcox's for a chat with Mr. Simcox, an old friend, had come into her room and after mysteriously fidgetting with business and conversational trifles, had issued the invitation to dinner at his house at Cricklewood in language mysteriously couched. "My wife would like to meet you," said Mr. Sturgiss. "She's heard a lot from me, and from Field, of what an astonishingly clever young person we think you and she'd-she'd like to meet you. And more than that." Mr. Sturgiss's halting speech suddenly became direct and definitive like a flag that had been fluttering suddenly streaming upon the breeze. "And more than that. The fact is, there's a proposition I want to put up to you. A proposition. We could go into it quietly and discuss it. I rather think it would interest you. I'm sure it will. You'll come? Good. I'm very glad. Very glad."

A proposition! From Mr. Sturgiss! Of Field and Company! What could it be?

But Rosalie was not of the sort to tread the succeeding days on the enchanted air of fond surmises. She told herself that the mysterious proposition might be everything or might be nothing: the fact that outstood was that she had brought her aspirations to this-that a partner in a London bank recognised in her stuff sufficient to invite her to a confidential meeting, there to go into something with her "quietly together," to meet together over something and "discuss it." She had determined to establish herself and she was establishing herself. And was it not an omen propitious and significant that this recognition of her parts was to fall on the very day on which the exercise of those parts brought her into the dignity and comfort of that delicious, that significant apartment of her own?

This solid stuff, and no mere daydreams, was the delight absorbing her and the ecstasy to which she was abandoned when that great day came. In the morning she put the last of her possessions, the equipment of her dressing table, into the new apartment; after the day spent at Simcox's, she returned to dress for the first time before the noble cheval glass purchased for the bedroom. She decided to go up in a hat; it could be removed or not for dinner as Mrs. Sturgiss might seem to indicate. She put on an evening bodice of black silk and net with a simple skirt in keeping. She gave last approving glances about the delightful rooms and set out, immersed in eager happiness, for Cricklewood.

One of those old red buses that vied with the white Putney buses as being the best horsed on the London routes took her there. Up the Edgware Road; past the junction with the Harrow Road that led to Keggo's street-she only had for it the thought that it was weeks since she had seen Keggo, almost months; along broad Maida Vale and past the turning that led to the Sultana's with the corner where often the crocodile had huddled-and she was so engrossed in her happy achievements that she passed it without thinking of it. The bus terminated its journey at the foot of Shoot Up Hill. Rosalie, called upon to alight, came out of her thoughts into her surroundings. She realised that she must have passed Crocodile Corner without noticing and the realisation caused her to give a little note of amused indifference. The indifference was not directed precisely at the Sultana's; it was at the idea, which came to her, that, normally to human predilections, she ought to have given-ought now to give-a sentimental thought to memories of the Sultana years. Well, she did not. Funny! Yes, it was funny. As she sometimes thought of her mother and of all her home ties; of Miss Salmon and that cry of hers of never being able to find another lover; of Keggo now so seldom seen and known to be going from bad to worse,-so with memories of Crocodile Corner and the Sultana's, she could see and appreciate the call of all these attachments, but somehow, seeing and appreciating, did not respond to them. What a very curious attitude! It was not unfeeling for she could feel. It was not insensibility for she was sensitive to such things. Sensitive! No, a better word than that. She was in such matters sensible. She saw, as one should see, these things in their right perspective. They were touching (as of her mother) or they were sad (as of Keggo) or they were appealing (as the happy schoolgirl memories) but they must not touch or sadden or appeal too closely. They must be estimated in their degree and in their place; they must not be assumed, be shouldered, be permitted to cumber. No good could be done to them by encumbrance with them. That was the point. What good could it do them? No good. Yes, that was sensible.

She abated, in these thoughts, nothing of the eagerness with which she was living this great day-the day whose points of suspension (on which it tumultuously revolved) were the taking over of the significant apartment from which she had just come and the entering upon the significant invitation to which now her feet were taking her. These thoughts, this analysis of her attitude to sentimental appeals, she tossed upon her eager happiness that was her being as an airball tossed upon laughing breath that yet is used, breathing, to support life. And she was aware that this was so. And she enjoyed a flash of approval of herself that it could be so; it was admirable, it was sensible, thus to be able to detach and look upon a portion of her mind while her main mind deflected not a shade from its occupation with the main chance. That faculty was perhaps the secret of her success, the quality, that, in exercise, had brought her to the significant apartment and to the significant invitation.

She was at the gate of Mr. Sturgiss's house and she most happily passed up the short drive, ascended the steps and rang the bell.

Mr. Sturgiss's house was almost on the summit of Shoot Up Hill. It was one of those houses standing a few miles along the main thoroughfares out of London that, now in decay or displaced by busy shops, packed villas, or monstrous flats, were then the distinctly impressive residences of distinctly well-to-do business people. Mr. Sturgiss was a distinctly well-to-do business person. The house, double-fronted, had that third sitting-room which confers such an immense superiority over houses of but two sitting-rooms-"Such a convenience in so many ways" as those newly promoted from two to three nowadays remark with languid triumph to visitors still immured in two. Houses-new, two sitting-roomed houses-extended beyond it and around it, and now stretch miles beyond and about, but Mrs. Sturgiss told Rosalie that when they first came there they actually had cows grazing and horses ploughing in fields adjoining their garden.

Mrs. Sturgiss told Rosalie this while personally attending Rosalie's removal of her hat (it was "no hat"; Rosalie felt so glad she had come dressed for either indication) and Mrs. Sturgiss sighed pleasantly as she said it. "Things are going ahead at such a pace now!" said Mrs. Sturgiss. "It's all very different from what it used to be. Why, the very fact of your coming here, not as my guest but as my husband's, 'on business!' The idea of women being in business, or even knowing anything about business, when I was a girl, why, I can't tell you how, how positively shocking it would have been considered."

Rosalie laughed. She liked Mrs. Sturgiss, who was motherly and seemed to have her own dear mother's gentle ways-this personally attending her in her bedroom, for instance. "Oh, there are getting to be heaps of women in business now, Mrs. Sturgiss," she smiled.

Mrs. Sturgiss returned brightly, "Oh, I know it. I know it well." She paused and her voice had a thoughtful note. "But even then.... Use the long mirror, my dear; the light is better. Even then, there can be few as,-as much in it as you. You know, my husband has an immense idea of your abilities. He has spoken of you so much. Do you know, you are a great surprise to me, now I see you. I could only imagine from all John's idea of you a rather terrible looking blue-stocking, as we used to call the clever women." She came and stood by Rosalie, regarding the image in the glass that Rosalie regarded. She said simply, "But you are beautiful."

A very odd feeling, akin to tears-but for what on earth tears?-quickened in Rosalie. She turned sharply from the mirror. "I am quite ready now." She pretended she had not heard.

Mrs. Sturgiss said, "My dear, do you like it, being what you are?"

It was a great rescue for Rosalie to be able to spring away from that odd feeling (in her bosom and in her throat) by swift animation. "Oh, I love it. I simply love it. It is everything to me, everything in the world!"

Mrs. Sturgiss opened the door. "No, you go first, my dear. But if I had had a dear girl, such as you, I would have wished her to stay with me at home."

She had made with her hand the gesture of her wish that Rosalie should precede her from the room. Rosalie impulsively touched the extended fingers. "But, Mrs. Sturgiss, don't you see, that's just it, the idea there is now. If you had had a daughter and she had stayed at home-well, let that go, while you were with her. But when you died and left her, what would there be-don't you see it?-what would there be for her then?"

Mrs. Sturgiss pressed the warm young hand. "But I would have left her married, a dear wife and a dear mother."

"Oh, that!" cried Rosalie and her stronger personality carried off the exchanges in a laugh. Mrs. Sturgiss thought the expression and the tone meant, happily, that marriage might happen to any one, in the market as much as in the home. Rosalie, with all the fierce contempt that her "Oh, that!" conveyed to her secret self, was ridden strongly away from emotionalism in the conversation. Her thought as they went downstairs was, "If I were to instruct her in the cat-men! Her horror!"

There was downstairs a surprise that was very annoying, but that was made to produce compensations. An unexpected fourth person, presuming-so Rosalie was given to understand-on a long standing, indefinite invitation, had dropped in to dinner. She recognised him directly they entered the drawing-room and could not stop the emblem of a swift vexation about her mouth and in her eyes. He caught it, she was sure; and she hoped he did. It was Harry Occleve-Laetitia's futile slave! He had already informed his host that he knew her. She greeted him with a mere touch of her hand, a touch made cold by intent, and with "With a free evening off one would have expected you would spend it with Laetitia," said disdainfully. It was a rude and inept thing to say (in the tone she said it) for the feeble creature, as she stigmatised him, had not yet screwed his fatuous idolatry to the point of proposal of marriage. But she intended it to be rude and to discomfort him and she was glad to see some twinge at the flick pass across his face. She hated his presence there. The presence of any man, in the capacity of a monkey to entertain and to be entertained, was always, not to put too fine a point upon it, repulsive to her. This man was of all men obnoxious to her. When he approached her for their brief greeting (she turned instantly away at its conclusion) she savoured immediately that odd, nice smell there was about him, of mingled soap and peat and fresh tobacco smoke and tweed; and that annoyed her. It was a reminder, emanated from him and therefore not to be escaped, of a distinction he had different from, and above common men. She always granted him his distinction of looks, of air, of talent. It was why she so much disdained him. To be dowered so well and so fatuously to betray his dowry! Tame cat!

But she made him, through the meal, pay compensations for his presence. At the table of Aunt Belle, in his presence she was accustomed to sit largely silent. Beautiful Laetitia was there the star; and while he mouthed and languished in that star's rays Aunt Belle and Uncle Pyke, (stealing about him to capture h

im as a farmer and his wife with mincing steps and tempting morsel towards a fatted calf) fawned, flattered and deferred to him, he returning it. There was no place for her, and she would have shuddered to have held a place, in that society for mutual admiration. She sat apart. She was very much the poor relation (Aunt Belle could not comprehend her business success and Uncle Pyke would not admit it) and especially odious to her was the Occleve's polite interest in her direction when Aunt Belle, poor-relationing her, would turn to her from coquettish raillery of him with, "Dear child, you're eating nothing." He would smile towards her and, fatuously anxious to please, offer some remark that might draw her into the conversation. She never would be so drawn. She scarcely ever exchanged words with him. She made herself to be unconscious of his presence. He was so occupied with his adoration of Laetitia that to be insensible of his presence was easy. When sometimes she glanced towards him it was with the thought, "Fancy being one of the rising young men at the Bar, being the rising young man-the Bar, with silk and ermine and, why not? the Woolsack before you-and being that, doing that! Fatted calf; dilly, dilly, come and be killed, goose; tame cat!"

Here, at the table of Mr. Sturgiss, it was very different. Intolerable that he should be here, but she was able to make him provide her compensation for his presumption. For the first time in her life, she found herself with sufficient interest in a man to enjoy, nay, to seek, a triumph over him. And she had that triumph. She was as certain as that she sat there that Mr. Sturgiss, in the period before her arrival in the drawing-room, had been telling him of her abilities and of his high regard for her. There was an interest in his look at her across the table that assured her he had been informed. There was, much more, a conviction within her, from Mr. Sturgiss's manner and from his choice of subjects-confined almost entirely and to the absolute exclusion of Mrs. Sturgiss to the political situation and to markets, exchanges and the general tendency in the City-and particularly from the openings in these subjects with which continuously he presented her-a conviction arising out of these that Mr. Sturgiss, proud of her, of his discovery of her, was bent upon showing her off to his second guest, bent upon proving to his second guest what unquestionably he had said to him about her.

She most admirably responded. If she were indeed the subject of a challenge she most admirably flattered her backer. She is not to be imagined as a pundit excavating from within herself slabs of profound wisdom, nor yet as a pupil astoundingly instructing her masters, nor even as one of Mrs. Sturgiss's blue stockings, packed with surprising lore. Rosalie was nothing so foolishly impossible, but she displayed herself knowledgeable. She was profoundly interested in the matters under notice and therefore (for it follows) she was interesting in her contributions to them; she was fascinated-the old fascination of "Lombard Street" and of "The English Constitution" now intensified as desire intensifies by gratification-and therefore she fascinated; she was never silly-Rosalie could not be silly-but she was frequently in her remarks ingenuous, but her ingenuousness, causing Mr. Sturgiss more than once to laugh delightedly (Occleve, curiously grave, no doubt because surprised, did not laugh) was born out of a shrewd touch towards the heart of the matter, as the best schoolboy howlers are never the work of the dullard but of him that has perceptions. Of her in her childhood it has been said that she was never the wonder-child of fiction who at ten has read all that its author probably had not read at thirty. So now of her budding maturity she was not the wonder-woman of fiction, causing by her brilliance her hearers, like Cortez's men, to stare at each other with a wild surmise. No, nothing so unlikely. But she was intelligent and she was ardent; and there are not boundaries to the distance one may go with that equipment. She was admirable and she felt that she was effective. She had a consciousness of confidence amounting almost to a feeling of being tuned up and now let go; to a feeling of power, as of inspiration. And this strange animation that she had, came, she knew, from the triumph over that man, from the feeling, stated grimly, that she was giving him one.

It is much more important, all that, than, when it came, the great reason of the great invitation that had brought Rosalie to take part in it. The great reason already has been disclosed-Mr. Sturgiss, bending across the tablecloth, they two left alone, "Well, look here-to come to the point-the reason why I've got you up here tonight-it's this: we want you-Field and Company, the Bank,-we want you to come to us-we want you in Lombard Street."

She was beautiful to see in her proud happiness at that. Startled and tremulous, she was; like some lovely fawn burst from thicket and at breathless poise upon the crest of unsuspected pastures; within her eyes the cloud of dreams passing like veils upon the gleam of her first ecstasy; upon her face, shadowed as she sinks somewhat back, the tide of colour (her rosy joy) flooding above her sudden pallor; her lips slightly parted; her hand that had been plucking at the cloth caught to her bosom where her heart had leapt.

It may be left at that. It is enough; too much. What, in the reconstruction of a life, are, in retrospect, its triumphs but empty shards, drained and discarded, the litter of a picnic party that has fed and passed along?

Mr. Sturgiss bent farther across the tablecloth, expanding his proposal: She knew, said he, what he represented, what the firm was. Field and Company. A private bank. Well, the days of private banks were drawing in. These huge joint-stock leviathans swallowing them up like pike among the troutlings. But not swallowing up Field and Company! Not much! If the old private houses were tumbling into the joint-stock maw, the greater the chances for those that stood out and remained. The private banks were tumbling in because they stood rooted in the old, solid, stolid banking business and the leviathans came along and pounced while they dozed. There was no dozing at Field's. They were very much awake. They were enterprising.

"Look at this very matter between us. The idea of bringing a woman into a bank! Even old Field himself was startled at first. Why? In America, women are entering banking seriously and successfully. They're going to in England. At Field's. You." He wasn't proposing to bring her in for fun or for a chance that might turn up, like the man who picked up a dog biscuit from the road on the chance that some one would give him a dog before it got mildewed; no, he was bringing her in to develop an enterprise that should be the parent of other and greater enterprises. Her knowledge of insurance, her knowledge of schools, these, with her sex, on the one side of the counter and all their clients-the Anglo-Indian crowd who were the backbone of the business-on the other side of the counter. Field's, for cash, and, while it was drawing, for advice, was always the first port of call of the wives and the mothers home from India, to say nothing of the husbands and the fathers,-"well, Field's, you, shall be the fount of all that domestic advice that is just what all those people, cut off from home, are constantly and distractingly in need of." She didn't suppose, as it was, that Field's did no more, for them than bank their money? Field's were their agents. Field's saw that they booked their passages, and that their baggage got aboard; and when they arrived this end or the other, or when they broke their journeys coming or going, Field's representatives were there to meet them and take over all their baggage troubles for them. "Very well. Now Field's-you-are going to look after their domestic troubles for them-find them rooms, find them houses, find them schools for their children. When people know what we can do for them, people will come to us to bank with us because we can do it. When people come to us to bank with us-we go ahead."

Mr. Sturgiss ended and drew back and looked at her. He lit a cigarette and took a sip at his coffee. "We thought of offering you three-" he set down his cup and looked at her again-"four hundred a year."

She declined the post. She was girlish, and delighted him, in her expression of her enormous sense of the compliment he paid her; she was a woman of uncommon purposefulness, and increased his admiration for her by the directness and decision with which uncompromisingly she said him no. She owed a loyalty which she could never fully pay to Simcox's, to Mr. Simcox; that was the beginning and the end of her refusal. Simcox's was her own, her idea, her child that daily she saw growing and that daily absorbed her more: that was the material that filled in and stiffened out the joints of her refusal. "But if you knew how proud I am, Mr. Sturgiss! You don't mind my refusing?"

He laughed and rose to take her to the drawing-room. "I don't mind a bit. This is only what they call preliminary overtures. I shall ask you again. We mean to have you."

Between the two rooms he said, "Yes, mean to. It's a big thing. I'm certain of it. We shall keep it open for you. We shan't fill it." He put his hand on the drawing-room door and opened it. "We can't."

She went in radiant.

She was on the red bus again, going home. She had stayed but the briefest time after dinner. She was too elevated, too buoyant, too possessed possibly to remain in company; excitedly desirous to be alone with her excited thoughts,-especially to be alone with them in that significant apartment of hers. Significant! Why upon the very day of entering it had come this most triumphant sign of its significance! Significant!...

She had a front seat on the outside of the omnibus. She gazed before her along a path of night that the lamps jewelled in chains of gold, and streamed along it her tumultuous thoughts, terrible as an army with banners. It was very strange, and it vexed her, robbing her of her proud consciousness of them, that there obtruded among them, as one plucking at her skirt-as captain of them she rode before them-the figure of Laetitia's Harry. Similarly he had obtruded and been like to spoil the pleasure of her visit; but he had been made to provide compensations and he obtruded now only in rebirth of a passage with him that, rehearsed again, much pleased her even while, annoyed, she cut him down.

Taking her leave, she had been seen from the threshold by Mr. Sturgiss and by Laetitia's Harry. It was pitchy dark, emerging from the brightness of the interior, and he had stepped with her to conduct her to the gate. "It was an extraordinary coincidence, meeting you here," he had said.

She did not reply. His voice was most strangely grave for an observation so trite; he might have been speaking some deeply meditated thing, profound, heavy with meaning, charged with fate. Fatuous! It was extraordinary that there was not an action of his but aroused her animosity. This vibrant gravity of tone-an organ used for a jig, just as his gifts were used for his Laetitia moon-calfings-caused newly a disturbance within her against him. She would have liked to whistle or in some equal way to express indifference to his presence.

They were at the gate and he stooped to the latch and appeared to have some trouble with it. "Sturgiss has been telling me what a wonderful person you are."

Again that immense gravity of tone. She was astonished at the sudden surge of her animosity that it caused within her. She had desired to express indifference. She desired now to assail. She made a sneer of her voice. "I should have thought you had ears for the wonder of no one but Laetitia."

"Why do you say that?"

She felt her lip curl with her malevolence. "To see you raise your eyes and hear you breathe 'Ah, Laetitia!'"

He opened the gate and she passed out, tingling.

It astounded her to find herself a hundred yards gone from the house, nay, now upon the bus a mile and more away, recalling it, trembling and with her breath quickened. It was as if she had been engaged in a contest of wills, very fierce; nay, in a contest physical, a wrestling. She had not known, she told herself, that it was possible to hate so. That man! These men! She put her eye upon the bus driver, strapped on his perch so near to her that she could have touched him, and absurdly in her repugnance of his sex hated him and shrank farther away from him.

It was enormously, sickeningly real to her, her repugnance. Even on detached consideration of her ridiculous shrinking from the bus driver she could not have laughed at it. People who had an uncontrollable antipathy to cats did not laugh at the grotesque puerilities to which it carried them. Nor she at her antipathy. "Of course they're beasts." Yes, the right word! It was the beastliness of sex that bottomed her loathing.

She could not have laughed; but she could and did with a conscious intention of her will put that intruder on her animation finally out of her mind. This very joyous uplifting of her spirit, was it not because, in this world dominated by men, based for its fundamental principle upon play of sex as commerce is based upon the principle of barter, she was assured of position, of privilege, and of power that raised her independent of such conventions and such laws?

She was her own! All her proud joys, her glad imaginings, her delighted hopes, arose amain and anew, tuned to this cumulative paean as a nourish of trumpets at the climax of a proclamation. She was intoxicated on her happiness.

They were come to the lighted shops and the crowded pavements. The bus drew up at the thronged corner adjacent to the divigation of the Harrow Road and she leaned over and watched the scene, smilingly (for sheer happiness) looking down upon it, as smilingly (for her triumphant altitude) she felt that she looked down upon the world. She would not have changed place with any life living or that could be lived; she was so much abandoned to her happiness that she made the intention she would sit up in her significant apartment all that night, not to lose a moment of it. She grudged that even sleep upon her happiness should intrude.

There came one in the traffic beneath her that caught her attention: a woman whom people stood aside to let pass and turned to look upon with grins; two or three urchins danced about the woman, pointing at her and calling at her. Her dress was disordered, muddy all up one side as if she had fallen; her face flushed; her hat awry; her hair escaped and wisped about her eyes and on her shoulders. She was drunk. An obscene and horrible spectacle, the mock of her beholders. A horrible woman.

It was Keggo.

Rosalie caught her breath. She made to rise but did not rise. Keggo stopped and lifted all around a vacant gaze. Her eyes met Rosalie's straight above her. She lurched a step and stopped and swayed and looked again, battling perhaps with hints within her fumy brain of recognition. Rosalie made again to rise to go to her and again did not rise. The bus moved forward. That wretched woman, making as if to pursue her aroused be-fuddlement, turned about to follow and came a few steps, lurching like a ship that foundered. The light blazed down upon her upturned face. She lurched into some shadow and, as wreckage swallowed up in the trough of the sea, her face was gone.

Lurching... as a ship... that foundered. There was in Rosalie's mind some dim memory struggling. Lurching... as a ship... in the darkness... in the night. And her face... seen and gone... as a ship... labouring... as a ship...


Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing; Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness.

It came to Rosalie complete and word for word; and with perfect clearness, as though she saw and sensed them, all its attendant circumstances: the attic room at the Sultana's, the strange smell mingled with the smell of the oil lamp, Keggo in the wicker chair, she beside her, her head against Keggo's knee; and Keggo's voice reciting the lines and her young, protesting, loving cry, "O Keggo!"

She saw it, sensed it, heard it-and stonily regarded it. A thing to weep at, she knew it; but did not weep. A thing to stab her, it ought to; but did not stab. What good could she do? Suppose she had got up and gone down; suppose she now got up and went down and went back? What good? All sentimentality that. Be sensible! If a thousand pounds would do Keggo any good, and if she had a thousand pounds, freely and gladly she would give the last penny of it. But to get down, to have got down, what could she have done? Why should she worry about her? Keggo had had her chance. Everybody had their chance. She now had hers. Why should she...

She never saw Keggo again.

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