IN the first-floor sitting-room of a lodging-house in Great
College Street, Westminster, a young man—he was tall and
thin, with a good deal of rather longish light-coloured hair, some-
what tumbled about ; and he wore a pince-nez, and was in slippers
and the oldest of tattered coats—a man of thirty-something was
seated at a writing-table, diligently scribbling at what an accus-
tomed eye might have recognised as “copy,” and negligently
allowing the smoke from a cigarette to curl round and stain the
thumb and forefinger of his idle hand, when the lodging-house
maid-servant opened his door, and announced excitedly, “A lady
to see you, sir.”
With the air of one taken altogether by surprise, and at a cruel
disadvantage, the writer dropped his pen, and jumped up. He
was in slippers and a disgraceful coat, not to dwell upon the con-
dition of his hair. “You ought to have kept her downstairs
until—” he began, frowning upon the maid ; and at that point
his visitor entered the room.
She was a handsome, dashing-looking young woman, in a toilette
that breathed the very last and crispest savour of Parisian elegance :
a hat that was a tangle of geraniums, an embroidered jacket, white
gloves, a skirt that frou-froued breezily as she moved ; and she
carried an amazing silver-hiked sunshade, a thing like a folded
gonfalon, a thing of red silk gleaming through draperies of black
Poising lightly near the threshold, with a bright little smile of
interrogation, this bewildering vision said, “Have I the honour
of addressing Mr. William Stretton ?”
The young man bowed a vague plea of guilty to that name ;
but his gaze, through the lenses of his pince-nez, was all per-
plexity and question.
“I’m very fortunate in rinding you at home. I’ve called to
see you about a matter of business,” she informed him.
“Oh ?” he wondered. Then he added, with a pathetic shake
of the head, “I’m the last man in the world whom any one could
wisely choose to see about a matter of business ; but such as I am,
I’m all at your disposal.”
“So much the better,” she rejoined cheerily. “I infinitely
prefer to transact business with people who are unbusinesslike.
One has some chance of over-reaching them.”
“You’ll have every chance of over-reaching me,” sighed he.
“What a jolly quarter of the town you live in,” she com-
mented. “It’s so picturesque and Gothic and dilapidated,
with such an atmosphere of academic calm. It reminds me
“Yes,” assented he, “it is a bit like Oxford. Was your busi-
“Oh, it is like Oxford ?” she interrupted. “Then never
me again that there’s nothing in intuitions. I’ve never been in
Oxford, but directly I passed the gateway of Dean’s Yard, I felt
reminded of it.”
“There’s undoubtedly a lot in intuitions,” he agreed ; “and
for the future I shall carefully abstain from telling you there
“Those things are gardens, over the way, behind the wall,
aren’t they ? ” she asked, looking out of the window.
“Yes, those things are gardens, the gardens of the Abbey.
The canons and people have their houses there.”
“Very comfortable and nice,” said she. “Plenty of grass.
And the trees aren’t bad, either, for town trees. It must be rather
fun to be a canon. As I live,” she cried, turning back into the
room, “you’ve got a Pleyel. This is the first Pleyel I’ve seen in
England. Let me congratulate you on your taste in pianos.”
And with her gloved hands she struck a chord and made a run or
two. “You’ll need the tuner soon, though. It’s just the shadow
of a shadow out. I was brought up on Pleyels. Do you know,
I’ve half a mind to make you a confidence ?”
“Oh, do make it, I pray you,” he encouraged her.
“Well, then, I believe, if you were to offer me a chair, I believe
I could bring myself to sit down.”
“I beg your pardon,” he exclaimed ; and she sank rustling into
the chair that he pushed forward.
“Well, now for my business,” said she. “Would you just put
this thing somewhere ?” She offered him her sunshade, which
he took and handled somewhat gingerly. “Oh, you needn’t be
afraid. It’s quite tame,” she laughed, “though I admit it looks
a bit ferocious. What a sweet room you’ve got so manny, and
smoky, and booky. Are they all real books ?”
“More or less real,” he answered ; “as real as any books ever
are that a fellow gets for review.”
“Oh, you got them for review ? How terribly exciting.
I’ve never seen a book before that’s actually passed through a
reviewer’s hands. They don’t look much the worse for it. What-
ever else you said about them, I trust you didn’t deny that they
make nice domestic ornaments. But this isn’t business. You
wouldn’t call this business ?”
“No, I should call this pleasure,” he assured her, laughing.
“Would you ?” she questioned, raising her eyebrows.
but then you’re English.”
“Aren’t you ?” asked he.
“Do I look English ?”
“I’m not sure. You certainly don’t dress English.”
“Heaven forbid ! I’m a miserable sinner, but at least I’m
incapable of that. However, if you were really kind, you’d affect
just a little curiosity to know the errand to which you owe my
“I’m devoured by curiosity.”
“You are ? Then why don’t you show it ?”
“Perhaps because I have a sense of humour—amongst other
“Well, since you’re devoured by curiosity, you must know,”
she began ; but broke off suddenly—” Apropos, I wonder whether
you could be induced to tell me something.”
“I daresay I could, if it’s anything within my sphere of know-
“Then tell me, please, why you keep your Japanese fan in your
“Why shouldn’t I ? Doesn’t it strike you as a good place for
“Admirable. But my interest was psychological. I was
wondering by what mental process you came to hit upon it.”
“Well, then, to be frank, it wasn’t I who hit upon it ; it
isn’t my Japanese fan. It’s a conceit of my landlady’s. This
is an age of paradox, you know. Would you prefer silver
“Must one have one or the other ?”
“You’re making it painfully clear,” he cautioned her, “that
you’ve never lived in lodgings.”
“If you go on at this rate,” she retorted, laughing, “I shall
never get my task accomplished. Here are twenty times that I’ve
commenced it, and twenty times you’ve put me off. Shall we
now, at last, proceed seriously to business ?”
“Not on my account, I beg. I’m not in the slightest hurry.”
“You said you were devoured by curiosity.”
“Did I say that ?”
“Certainly you did.”
“It must have been aphasia. I meant contentment.”
“Devoured by contentment ?”
“Why not, as well as by curiosity ?”
“The phrase is novel.”
“It’s the occupation of my life to seek for novel phrases. I’m
what somebody or other has called a literary man.”
“And you enjoy what somebody or other has called beating
about the bush ?”
“Hugely—with such a fellow-beater.”
“You drive me to extremities. I see there’s nothing for it but
to plunge in medias res. You must know, then, that I have
been asked to call upon you by a friend—by my friend Miss
Johannah Rothe—I beg your pardon ; I never can remember
that she’s changed her name—my friend Miss Johannah Silver
—but Silver née Rothe—of Silver Towers, in the County of
“Ah ?” said he. “Ah, yes. Then never tell me again that
there’s nothing in intuitions. I ve never met Miss Silver, but
directly you crossed the threshold of this room, I began to feel
vaguely reminded of her.”
“Oh, there’s a lot in intuitions,” she agreed. “But don’t think
to disconcert me. My friend Miss Silver—”
“Considering the sacrifice I’m making on her behalf to-day,
it’s strange you should throw doubt upon my friendship for her.”
“You make your sacrifices with a cheerful countenance. I
should never have guessed that you weren’t entirely happy. But
forgive my interruption. You were about to say that your friend
“My occasional friend. Sometimes, I confess, we quarrel like
everything, and remain at daggers drawn for months. She’s such
a flighty creature, dear Johannah, she not infrequently gets me
into a perfect peck of trouble. But since she’s fallen heir to all
this money, you’d be surprised to behold the devotion her friends
have shown her. I couldn’t very well refuse to follow their
example. One’s human, you see ; and one can’t dress like this for
nothing, can one ?”
“Upon my word, I’m not in a position to answer you. I’ve
never tried,” laughed he.
“In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I think we may
safely assume one can’t,” said she. “However, here you are, beat-
ing about the bush again. I come to you as Johannah’s emissary.
She desires me to ask you several questions.”
“Yes ?” said he, a trifle uncomfortably.
“She would be glad to know,” his visitor declared, looking
straight into his eyes, and smiling a little gravely, “why you have
been so excessively nasty to her !”
“Have I been nasty to her ?” he asked, with an innocence that
was palpably counterfeit.
“Don’t you think you have ?”
“I don’t see how.”
“Don’t you think you ve responded somewhat ungraciously to
her overtures of friendship ? Do you think it was nice to answer
her letters with those curt little formal notes of yours ? Look.
Johannah sat down to write to you. And she began her letter
Dear Mr. Stretton. And then she simply couldn’t. So she tore
up the sheet and began another My dear Cousin Will. And what
did she receive in reply ? A note beginning Dear Miss Silver.
Do you think that was kind ? Don’t you think it was the least
bit mortifying ? And why have you refused in such a stiff-necked
way to go down and see her at Silver Towers ?”
“Oh,” he protested, “in all fairness, in all logic, your questions
ought to be put the other way round.”
“Bother logic ! But put them any way you like.”
“What right had Miss Silver to expect me to multiply the com-
plications of my life by rushing into an ecstatic friendship with
her ? And why, being very well as I am in town just now,
why should I disarrange myself by a journey into the
“Why, indeed ? I’m sure I can give no reason. Why should
one ever do any one else a kindness ? Your cousin has con-
ceived a great desire to meet you.”
“Oh, a great desire ! She’ll live it down. A man named
Burrell has been stuffing her up.”
“Stuffing her up ? The expression is new to me.”
“Greening her, filling her head with all sorts of nonsensical
delusions, painting my portrait for her in all the colours of the
rainbow. Oh, I know my Burrell. He’s tried to stuff me up,
too, about her.”
“Oh ? Has he ? What has he said ?”
“The usual rubbishy things one does say, when one wants to
stuff a fellow up.”
“For instance ?”
“Oh, that she’s tremendously good-looking, with hair and eyes
and things, and very charming.”
“What a dear good person the man named Burrell must be.”
“He’s not a bad chap, but you must remember that he’s her
“And so you weren’t to be stuffed ?”
“If she was charming and good-looking, it was a reason the
more for avoiding her.”
“There’s nothing on earth so tiresome as charming women.
They’re all exactly alike.”
“Thank you,” his guest exclaimed, bowing.
“Oh, nobody could pretend that you’re exactly alike,”
“I own at once that you’re delightfully different. But Burrell
has no knack for character drawing.”
“You’re extremely flattering. But aren’t you taking a
slightly one-sided point of view ? Let us grant, for the sake of
the argument, that it is Johannah’s bad luck to be charming and
good-looking. Nevertheless, she still has claims on you.”
“Has she ?”
“She’s your cousin.”
“Oh, by the left hand,” said he.
She stared for an instant, biting her lip. Then she laughed.
“And only my second or third cousin at that,” he went on
She looked at him with eyes that were half whimsical, half
pleading. “Would you mind being quite serious for a moment ?”
she asked. “Because Johannah’s situation, absurd as it seems,
really is terribly serious for Johannah, I should like to submit it
to your better judgment. We’ll drop the question of cousinship,
if you wish—though it’s the simple fact that you’re her only
blood-relation in this country, where she feels herself the forlornest
sort of alien. She’s passed her entire life in Italy and France, you
know, and this is the first visit she’s made to England since her
childhood. But we’ll drop the question of cousinship. At any
rate, Johannah is a human being. Well, consider her plight a
little. She finds herself in the most painful, the most humiliating
circumstances that can be imagined ; and you’re the only person
living who can make them easier for her. Involuntarily—in spite
of herself—she’s come into possession of a fortune that naturally,
morally, belongs to you. She can’t help it. It’s been left to her
by will—by the will of a man who never saw her, never had any
kind of relations with her, but chose her for his heir just because
her mother, who died when Johannah was a baby, had chanced to
be his cousin. And there the poor girl is. Can’t you see how
like a thief she must feel at the best ? Can’t you see how much
worse you make it for her, when she holds out her hand, and you
refuse to take it ? Is that magnanimous of you ? Isn’t it cruel ?
You couldn’t treat her with greater unkindness if she’d actually
designed, and schemed, and intrigued, to do you out of your inheri-
tance, instead of coming into it in the passive way she has. After
all, she’s a human being, she’s a woman. Think of her pride.”
“Think of mine,” said he.
“I can’t see that your pride is involved.”
“To put it plainly, I’m the late Sir William Silver’s illegitimate
“Well ? What of that ?”
“Do you fancy I should enjoy being taken up and patronised
by his legitimate heir ?”
“Oh !” she cried, starting to her feet. “You can’t think I
would be capable of anything so base as that.”
And her saw that her eyes had suddenly filled with tears.
“I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon a thousand times,” he
said. “You would be utterly incapable of anything that was not
generous and noble. But you must remember that I had never
seen you. How could I know ?”
“Well, now that you have seen me,” she responded, her
all smiles again, “now that I’ve put my pride in my pocket, and
bearded you in your den, I don’t mind confiding to you that it’s
nearly lunch-time, and also that I’m ravenously hungry. Could
you ring your bell, and order up something in the nature of meat
and drink ? And while you are about it, you might tell your
landlady or some one to pack your bag. We take,” she mentioned,
examining a tiny watch, that seemed nothing more than a frivolous
incrustation of little diamonds and rubies, “we take the three-
sixteen for Silver Towers.”
Seated opposite her in the railway-carriage, as their train bore
them through the pleasant dales and woods of Surrey, Will Stretton
fell to studying his cousin’s appearance. “Burrell was right,” he
told himself; “she really is tremendously good-looking,” and
that, in spite of a perfectly reckless irregularity of feature. Her
nose was too small, but it was a delicate, pert, pretty nose, not
withstanding. Her mouth was too large, but it was a beautiful
mouth, all the same, softly curved and red as scarlet, with sensitive,
humorous little quirks in its corners. Her eyes he could admire
without reservation, brown and pellucid, with the wittiest, teas-
ingest, mockingest lights dancing in them, yet at the same time a
deeper light that was pensive, tender, womanly. Her hair, too, he
decided, was quite lovely, abundant, undulating, black, blue-black
even, but fine, but silky, escaping in a flutter of small curls above
her brow, “It’s like black foam,” he said. And he would have
been ready to go to war for her complexion, though it was so un-
English a complexion that one might have mistaken her for a
native of the France or Italy she had inhabited : warm, dusky,
white, with an elusive shadow of rose glowing through it. Yes,
she was tremendously good-looking, he concluded. She looked
fresh and strong and real. She looked alert, alive, full of the spring
and the joy of life. She looked as if she could feel quick and
deep, as if her blood flowed swiftly, and was red. He liked her
face, and he liked her figure—it was supple and vigorous. He
liked the way she dressed—there was something daring and spirited
in the unabashed, whole-souled luxury of it. “Who ever saw
such a hat—or such a sunshade ?” he reflected.
“There’ll be no coach-and-four to meet us at the station,”
she warned him, as they neared their journey’s end, “because
I have no horses. But we’ll probably find Madame Dornaye
there, piaffer-ing in person. Can you resign yourself to the
prospect of driving up to your ancestral mansion in a hired
“I could even, at a pinch, resign myself to walking,” he
declared. “But who is Madame Dornaye ?”
“Madame Dornaye is my burnt-offering to that terrible sort of
fetich called the County. She’s what might be technically termed
“Oh, to be sure. I had forgotten. Of course, you’d have a
“By no means of course. Until the other day I’d never
thought of such a thing. But it’s all along o’ the man named
The Yellow Book—Vol. XII. E
Burrell. He insisted that I mustn’t live alone—that I was too
young. He has such violent hallucinations about people’s ages.
He said the County would be horrified. I must have an old
woman, a sound, reliable old woman, to live with me. I begged
and implored him to come and try it, but he protested with tears
in his eyes that he wasn’t an old woman. So I sent for Madame
Dornaye, who is, every inch of her. She’s the widow of a man
who used to be a professor at the Sorbonne, or something. I’ve
known her for at least a hundred years. She’s connected in some
roundabout way with the family of my father’s step-mother. She’s
like a little dry brown leaf ; and she plays Chopin comme pas un ;
and she lends me a false air of respectability, I suppose. She calls
me Jeanne ma fille, if you can believe it, as if my name weren’t
common Johannah. If you chance to please her, she’ll very likely
call you Jean mon fils. But see how things turn out. The man
named Burrell also insisted that I must put on mourning, as a symbol
of my grief for the late Sir William. That I positively refused
to think of. So the County’s horrified, all the same which
proves the futility of concessions.”
“Oh ?” questioned Will. What does the County do ?”
“It comes and calls on me, and walks round me, and stares,
with a funny little deprecating smile, as if I were some outlandish
and not very proper animal, cast up by the sea. To begin with,
there’s the vicar, with all his wives and daughters. Their emotions
are complicated by the fact that I’m a Papist. Then there’s old
Lord Belgard ; and there’s Mrs. Breckenbridge, with her marriage-
able sons ; and there’s the Bishop of Salchester, with his Bishopess,
Dean, and Chapter. The dear good people make up parties in
the afternoon, to come and have a look at me ; and they sip my
tea with an air of guilt, as if it smacked of profligacy ; and they
suppress demure little knowing glances among themselves. And
then at last they go away, shaking their heads, and talking me
over in awe-struck voices.”
“I can see them, I can hear them,” Will laughed.
“Haven’t you in English a somewhat homely proverbial expres-
sion about the fat and the fire ?” asked Johannah.
“About the fat getting into the fire ? Yes,” said Will.
“Well, then, to employ that somewhat homely proverbial ex-
pression,” she went on, ” the fat got into the fire at the Bishop’s
palace. Mrs. Rawley was kind enough to write and ask us to
dinner, and she added that she had heard I sang, and wouldn’t I
bring some music ? But nobody had ever told me that it’s bad
form in England to sing well. So, after dinner, when Mrs.
Rawley said, ‘Now, Miss Silver, do sing us something,’ I made
the incredible blunder of singing as well as I could. I sang the
Erlkönig, and Madame Dornaye played the accompaniment, and
we both did our very bestest, in our barefaced, Continental way.
We were a little surprised, and vastly enlightened, to perceive that
we’d shocked everybody. And by-and-by the Bishop’s daughters
consented to sing in their turn, and then we saw the correct
British style of doing it. If you don’t want to be considered
rowdyish and noisy in a British drawing-room, you must sing
under your breath, faintly, faintingly, as if you were afraid some
body might hear you.”
“My poor dear young lady,” her cousin commiserated her,
“fancy your only just discovering that. It’s one of the founda-
tion-stones of our social constitution. If you sing with any art
or with any feeling, you expose yourself to being mistaken for a
“Another thing that’s horrified the County,” pursued Johannah,
“is the circumstance that I keep no horses. I don’t like horses
—except in pictures. In pictures, I admit at once, they make a
very pleasant decorative motive. But in life—they’re too strong
and too unintelligent ; and they’re perpetually bolting. By-the-
bye, please choose a good feeble jaded one, when you engage our
fly. I’m devoted to donkeys, though. They’re every bit as
decorative as the horse, and they’re really wise—they only baulk.
I had a perfect love of a little donkey in Italy ; his name was
Angelo. If I decide to stay in England, I shall have a spanking
team of four donkeys, with scarlet trappings and silver bells. But
the County says, ‘Oh, you must have horses,’ and casts its eyes
appealingly to heaven when I say I won’t.”
“The County lacks a sense of situations. It’s really a deli-
ciously fresh one—a big country house, and not a horse in the
“Apropos of the house, that brings me to another point,” said
she. ” The County feels very strongly that I ought to put the
house in repair—that dear old wonderful, rambling, crumbling
house. They take it as the final crushing evidence of my
depravity, that I prefer to leave it in its present condition of
picturesque decay. I’m sure you agree with me, that it would be
high treason to allow a carpenter or mason to lay a hand on it.
By-the-bye, I hope you have no conscientious scruples against
speaking French ; for Madame Dornaye only knows two words
of English, and those she mispronounces. There she is—yes,
that little black and grey thing, in the frock. She’s come to meet
me, because we had a bet. You owe me five shillings,” she called
out to Madame Dornaye, as Will helped her from the carriage.
“You see, I’ve brought him.”
Madame Dornaye, who had a pair of humorous old French
eyes, responded, blinking them, “Oh, before I pay you, I shall
have to be convinced that it is really he.”
“I am afraid it’s really he,” laughed Will ; “but rather than let
so immaterial a detail cost you five shillings, I’m prepared to
maintain with my dying breath that there’s no such person.”
“Don’t mind him,” interposed Johannah. “He’s trying to
flatter you up, because he wants you to call him Jean mon fils, as
if his name weren’t common William.” Then, to him, “Go,”
she said, with an imperious gesture, “go and find a vehicle with
a good tired horse.”
And when the vehicle with the good tired horse had brought
them to their destination, and they stood before the hall-door of
Silver Towers, Johannah looked up at the escutcheon carved in
the pale-grey stone above it, and said pensively, “On a field azure,
a heart gules, crowned with an imperial crown or ; and the motto,
‘Qu’il régne !’ If, when you got my first letter, Cousin Will,
if you’d remembered the arms of our family, and the motto—if
you had ‘let it reign’—I should have been spared the trouble and
expense of a journey to town to-day.”
“But I should have missed a precious experience,” said he.
“You forget what I couldn t help being supremely conscious of
—that I bear those arms with a difference. I hope, though, that
you won’t begrudge the journey to town. I think there are
certain aspects of your character that I might never have dis-
covered if I’d met you in any other way.”
That evening Johannah wrote a letter :
“DEAR MR. BURRELL :
“Ce que femme veut, Dieu le vent.
The first part of my
rash little prophecy has already come true. Will Stretton is staying
in this house, a contented guest. At the present moment he’s hover-
ing about the piano, where Madame Dornaye is playing Chopin ; and
he’s just remarked that he never hears Chopin without thinking of
those lines of Browning’s :
Infinite passion, and the pain
Of finite hearts that yearn.’
I quite agree with you, he is a charming creature. So
now I repeat
the second part of my rash little prophecy : Before the summer’s
over he will have accepted at least a good half of his paternal fortune.
Ce que femme veut, le diable ne saurait pas l’empêcher. He will he
shall, even if I have to marry him to make him.
Will left his room somewhat early the next morning, and went
down into the garden. The sun was shining briskly, the dew
still sparkled on the grass, the air was heady with a hundred keen
earth-odours. A mile away, beyond the wide green levels of
Sumpter Meads, the sea glowed blue as the blue of larkspur, under
the blue June sky. And everywhere, everywhere, innumerable
birds piped and twittered, filling the world with a sense of gay
activity, of whole-hearted, high-hearted life.
“What ! up already ?” a voice called softly, from behind him.
He turned, and met Johannah.
“Why not, since you are ?” he responded.
She laughed, and gave him her hand, a warm, elastic hand, firm
of grasp. In a garden-hat and a white frock, her eyes beaming,
her cheeks faintly flushed, she seemed to him a sort of beautiful
incarnation of the spirit of the summer morning, its freshness, and
sweetness, and richness.
“Oh, we furriners,” she explained ; “we’re all shocking early
risers. In Italy we love the day when it is young, and deem it
middle-aged by eight o’clock. But in England I had heard it
was the fashion to lie late.”
“I woke, and couldn’t go to sleep again, so I tossed the fashion
to the winds. Perhaps it was a sort of dim presentiment that
I should surprise Aurora walking in the garden, that banished
“Flowery speeches are best met by flowery deeds,” said she.
“Come with me to the rosery, and I will give you a red, red
And in the rosery, as she stood close to him, pinning the red,
red rose in his coat, her smooth cheek and fragrant hair so near,
so near, he felt his heart all at once begin to throb, and he had to
control a sudden absurd longing to put his arms round her and
kiss her. “Good heavens,” he said to himself, “I must be on my
“There,” she cried, bestowing upon her task a gentle pat, by
way of finish, “that makes us quits.” And she raised her eyes to
his, and held them for an instant with a smile that did anything
but soothe the trouble in his heart, such a sly little teasing, cryptic
smile. Could it possibly be, he wondered wildly, that she had
divined his monstrous impulse, and was coquetting with it ?
“Now let’s be serious,” she said, leading the way back to the
lawn. “It’s like a hanging-garden, high up here, with the meads
and the sea below, isn’t it ? And apropos of the sea, I would beg
you to observe its colour. Is it blue ? I would also ask you
kindly to cast an eye on that line of cliffs, there to the eastward,
as it goes winding in and out away to the vanishing-point. Are
the cliffs white ?”
“Oh, yes, the cliffs are white,” asserted Will.
“How can you tell such dreadful fibs ?” she reproached him.
“The cliffs are prismatic. White, indeed ! when they gleam
with every transparent tint from rose to violet, as if the light that
falls on them had passed through rubies and amethysts, and all
sorts of precious stones. That is an optical effect due doubtless to
reflection or refraction or something—no ?”
“I should say it was almost certainly due to something,” he
“And now,” she continued, “will you obligingly turn your
attention to the birds ? Tweet-weet-willow-will-weet. I don’t
know what it means, but they repeat it so often and so earnestly,
I’m sure it must be true.”
“It’s relatively true,” said he. ” It means that it’s a fine
morning, and their digestion’s good, and their affairs are prosper-
ing—nothing more than that. They’re material-minded little
beasts, you know.”
“All truth is relative,” said she, “and one’s relatively a material-
minded little beast oneself. Is the greensward beyond there (rela-
tively) spangled with buttercups and daisies ? Is the park leafy,
and shadowy, and mysterious, and (relatively) delightful ? Is the
may in bloom ? Voyons donc ! you ll never be denying that the
may’s in bloom. And is the air like an elixir ? I vow, it goes to
one’s head like some ethereal elixir ? And yet you have the
effrontery to tell me that you’re pining for the flesh-pots of Great
College Street, Westminster, S.W.”
“Oh, did I tell you that ? Ah, well, it must have been with
intent to deceive, for nothing could be farther from the truth.”
“The relative truth ? Then you re not homesick ?”
“Neither am I,” said she.
“Why should you be ?” said he.
“This is positively the first day since my arrival in England
that I haven’t been, more or less,” she answered.
“Oh ?” he questioned sympathetically.
“You can’t think how dépaysée I’ve felt. After having
all one’s life in Prague, suddenly to find oneself translated to the
mistress-ship of an English country house.”
“In Prague ? I thought you had lived in Rome and Paris,
“Prague is a figure of rhetoric. I mean the capital of Bohemia.
Wasn’t my father a sculptor ? And wasn’t I born in a studio ?
And haven’t my playmates and companions always been of Flori-
zel the loyal subjects ? So whether you call it Rome or Paris or
Florence or Naples, it was Prague, none the less.”
“At that rate, I live in Prague myself, and we’re compatriots,”
“That’s no doubt why I don’t feel homesick any more.
Where two of the faithful are gathered together they can form a
miniature Prague of their own. If I decide to stay in England,
I shall send for a lot of my Prague friends to come and visit me,
and you can send for an equal number of yours ; and then we’ll
turn this bright particular corner of the British Empire into a
province of Bohemia, and the County may be horrified with
reason. But meanwhile, let’s be Pragueians in practice as well as
theory. Let’s go to the strawberry beds, and steal some straw-
She walked a little in front of him. Her garden-hat had come
off, and she was swinging it at her side, by its ribbons. Will
noticed the strong, lithe sway and rhythm of her body, as she
moved. “What a woman she is,” he thought ; “how one feels
her sex.” And with that, he all at once became aware of a
singular depression. “Surely,” a malevolent little voice within him
argued, “woman that she is, and having passed all her life with
the subjects of Florizel, surely, surely, she must have had . . .
experiences. She must have loved—she must have been loved.”
And (as if it was any of his business !) a kind of vague jealousy
of her past, a kind of suspiciousness and irrelevant resentment,
began to burn dully, a small spot of pain, somewhere in his
She, apparently, was in the highest spirits. There was some-
thing expressive of joyousness in the mere way she tripped over
the grass, swinging her garden-hat like a basket ; and presently she
fell to singing, merrily, in a light voice, that prettiest of old
French songs, Les Trois Princesses, dancing forward to its
“Derrièr’ chez mon père,
(Vole, vole, mon coeur, vole !)
Derrièr’ chez mon père,
Ya un pommier doux,
Tout doux, et iou,
Ya un pommier doux.”
“Don’t you like that song ?” she asked. “The tune of it is
like the smell of faded rose-leaves, isn’t it ?”
And suddenly she began to sing a different one, possibly an
“And so they set forth for the strawberry beds,
The strawberry beds, the strawberry beds,
And so they set forth for the strawberry beds,
On Christmas day in the morning.”
And when they had reached the strawberry beds, she knelt, and
plucked a great red berry, and then leapt up again, and held it to
her cousin’s lips, saying, “Bite—but spare my fingers.” And so,
laughing, she fed it to him, while he, laughing too, consumed it.
But when her pink finger-tips all but touched his lips, his heart
had a convulsion, and it was only by main-force that he restrained
his kisses. And he said to himself, “I must go back to town
to-morrow. This will never do. It would be the devil to pay if
I should let myself fall in love with her.”
“Oh, yes, I’ve felt terribly dépaysée,” she told him
self nibbling a berry. “I’ve felt like the traditional cat in the
strange garret. And then, besides, there was my change of name.
I can’t reconcile myself to being called Miss Silver. I can’t
realise the character. It’s like an affectation, like making-believe.
Directly I relax my vigilance, I forget, and sink back into
Johannah Rothe. I’m always Johannah Rothe when I m alone.
Directly I’m alone, I push a big ouf, and send Miss Silver to
Cracklimboo. Then somebody comes, and, with a weary sigh, I
don my sheep’s clothing again. Of course, there’s nothing in a
name, and yet there’s everything. There’s a furious amount of
mental discomfort when the name doesn’t fit.”
“It’s a discomfort that will pass,” he said consolingly. “The
change of name is a mere formality—a condition attached to com-
ing into a property. In England, you know, it’s a rather frequent
“I’m aware of that. But to me it seems symbolic—symbolic
of my whole situation, which is false, abnormal. Silver ? Silver ?
It’s a name meant for a fair person, with light hair and a white
skin. And here I am, as black as any Gipsy. And then ! It’s
a condition attached to coming into a property. Well, I come
into a property to which I have no more moral right than I have
to the coat on your back ; and I’m obliged to do it under an
alias, like a thief in the night.”
“Oh, my dear young lady,” he cried out, “you’ve the very
best of rights, moral as well as legal. You come into a property
that is left to you by will, and you’re the last representative of the
family in whose hands it has been for I forget how many hun-
dreds of years.”
“That,” said she, “is a question I shall not refuse to discuss
with you upon some more fitting occasion. For the present I
am tempted to perpetrate a simply villainous pun, but I forbear.
Suffice it to say that I consider the property that I’ve come into
as nothing more nor less than a present made me by my cousin,
William Stretton. No—don’t interrupt ! I happen to know
my facts. I happen to know that if Will Stretton hadn’t, for
reasons in the highest degree honourable to himself, quarrelled
and broken with his father, and refused to receive a penny from
him, I happen to know, I say, that Sir William Silver would have
left Will Stretton everything he possessed in the world. So, you
see, I’m indebted to my Quixotic cousin for something in the
neighbourhood, I’m told, of eight thousand a year. Rather a
handsome little present, isn’t it ? Furthermore, let me add in
passing, I absolutely forbid my cousin to call me his dear young
lady, as if he were seven hundred years my senior and only a
casual acquaintance. A really nice cousin would take the liberty
of calling me by my Christian name.”
“I’ll take the liberty of calling you by some exceedingly un–
Christian name, if you don’t leave off talking that impossible rot
about my making you a present.”
“I wasn’t talking impossible rot about your making me a
present. I was merely telling you how dépaysée I’d felt. The
rest was parenthetic. So now, then, keep your promise, call me
“Johannah,” he called submissively.
“Will,” said she. “And when you feel, Will, that on the
whole, Will, you’ve had strawberries enough, Will, quite to
destroy your appetite, perhaps it would be as well if we should go
in to breakfast, Willie.”
They were seated on the turf, under a great tree, in the park,
amid a multitude of bright-coloured cushions, Johannah, Will, and
Madame Dornaye. It was three weeks later—whence it may be
inferred that he had abandoned his resolution to “go back to town
to-morrow.” He was smoking a cigarette ; Madame Dornaye
was knitting ; Johannah, hatless, in an indescribable confection of
cream-coloured muslin, her head pillowed in a scarlet cushion
against the body of the tree, was gazing off towards the sea with
“Will,” she called languidly, by-and-by.
“Yes?” he responded.
“Do you happen by any chance to belong to that sect of
philosophers who regard gold as a precious metal ?”
“From the little I’ve seen of it, I am inclined to regard it as
precious—yes,” he answered.
“Well, then, I wouldn’t be so lavish of it, if I were you,” said
“If you don’t take care,” said he, “you’ll force me to admit
that I haven’t an idea of what you re driving at.”
“I’m driving at your silence. You’re as silent as a statue.
Please talk a little.”
“What shall I talk about?”
“Anything. Nothing. Tell us a story.”
“I don’t know any stories.”
“Then the least you can do is to invent one.”
“What sort of story would you like ?”
“There’s only one sort of story a woman ever sincerely likes—
especially on a hot summer’s afternoon, in the country.”
“Oh, I couldn’t possibly invent a love-story.”
“Then tell us a true one. You needn’t be afraid of shocking
Madame Dornaye. She’s a realist herself.”
“Jeanne ma fille !” murmured Madame Dornaye, reprovingly.
“The only true love-story I could tell has a somewhat singular
defect,” said he. “There’s no heroine.”
“That’s like the story of what’s-his-name—Narcissus.”
“With the vastest difference. The hero of my story wasn’t
in love with his own image. He was in love with a beautiful
“Then how can you have the face to say that there’s no
“There isn’t any heroine. At the same time, there’s nothing
else. The story’s all about her. You see, she never existed.”
“You said it was a true love-story.”
“So it is—literally true.”
“I asked for a story, and you give me a riddle.”
“Oh, no, it s a story all the same. Its title is Much Ado
“Oh ? It runs in my head that I’ve met with something or
other with a similar title before.”
“Precisely. Something or other by one of the Elizabethans.
That’s how it came to occur to me. I take my goods where I
find them. However, do you want to hear the story ?”
“Oh, if you’re determined to tell it, I daresay I can steel myself
“On second thoughts, I’m determined not to tell it.”
“Bother ! Don’t be disagreeable. Tell it at once.”
“Well,By Henry Harland
“Well, then, there isn’t any story. It’s simply an absurd little
freak of child psychology. It’s the story of a boy who fell in
love with a girl—a girl that never was, on sea or land. It
happened in Regent Street, of all romantic places, ‘one day still
fierce, ‘mid many a day struck calm.’ I had gone with my mother
to her milliner’s. I think I was ten or eleven. And while my
mother was transacting her business with the milliner, I devoted
my attention to the various hats and bonnets that were displayed
about the shop. And presently I hit on one that gave me a sen-
sation. It was a straw hat, with brown ribbons, and cherries,
great glossy red and purple cherries. I looked at it—and suddenly
I got a vision, a vision of a girl. Oh, the loveliest, loveliest girl !
She was about eighteen (a self-respecting boy of eleven, you
know, always chooses a girl of about eighteen to fall in love with),
and she had the brightest brown eyes, and the rosiest cheeks, and
the curlingest hair, and a smile and a laugh that made one’s heart
thrill and thrill with unutterable blisses. And there hung her
hat, as if she had just come in, and taken it off, and passed into
another room. There hung her hat, suggestive of her as only
people’s hats know how to be suggestive ; and there sat I, my eyes
devouring it, my soul transported. The very air of the shop
seemed all at once to have become fragrant—with the fragrance
that had been shaken from her garments as she passed. I went
home, hopelessly, frantically in love. I loved that non-existent
young woman, with a passion past expressing, for at least half a
year. I was always thinking of her, she was always with me,
everywhere. How I used to talk to her, and tell her all my childish
fancies, desires, questionings ; how I used to sit at her feet and
listen ! She never laughed at me. Sometimes she would let me
kiss her—I declare, my heart still jumps at the memory of it.
Sometimes I would hold her hand or play with her hair. And
all the real girls I met seemed so tame and commonplace by con-
trast with her. And then, little by little, I suppose, her image
faded away.—Rather an odd experience, wasn’t it ?”
“Very, very odd ; very strange, and very pretty. It seems
as if it ought to have some allegorical significance, though I can’t
perceive one. It would be interesting to know what sort of real
girl, if any, ended by becoming the owner of that hat. You
weren’t shocked, were you ?” Johannah inquired of Madame
“Not by the story. But the heat is too much for me,” said
that lady, gathering up her knitting. “I am going to the house
to make a siesta.”
Will rose, as she did, and stood looking vaguely after her, as
she moved away. Johannah nestled her head deeper in her cushion,
and half closed her eyes. And for a while neither she nor her
cousin spoke. A faint, faint breeze whispered in the tree-tops ;
now a twig snapped ; now a bird dropped a solitary liquid note.
For the rest, all was still summer heat and woodland perfume.
Here and there the greensward round them, dark in the shadow of
dense foliage, was diapered with vivid yellow by sunbeams that
“Oh, dear me,” Johannah sighed at last.
“What is it ?” Will demanded.
“Here you are, silent as eternity again. Come and sit down—
here—near to me.”
She indicated a position with a lazy movement of her hand.
He obediently sank upon the grass.
“You’re always silent nowadays, when we’re alone,” she
“Am I ? I hadn’t noticed that.”
“Then you’re extremely unobservant. Directly we’re alone,
you appear to lose the power of speech. You mope and moon,
and gaze off at things beyond the horizon, and never open your
mouth. One might suppose you had something on your mind.
Have you ? What is it ? Confide it to me, and you can’t think
how relieved you’ll feel.”
“I haven’t anything on my mind,” said he.
“Oh ? Ah, then you’re silent with me because I bore you ?
You find me an uninspiring talk-mate ! Thank you.”
“You know perfectly well that that’s preposterous nonsense.”
“Well, then, what is it ? Why do you never talk to me when
we’re alone ?”
“But I do talk to you. I talk too much. Perhaps I’m
of boring you.”
“You know perfectly well that that’s a preposterous subterfuge.
You’ve got something on your mind. You’re keeping something
back.” She paused for a second ; then, softly, wistfully, “Tell
me what it is, Will, please” And she looked eagerly, pleadingly,
into his eyes.
He looked away from her. “Upon my word, there’s nothing
to tell,” he said, but his tone was a little forced.
She broke into a merry peal of laughter, looking at him now
with eyes that were derisive.
“What are you laughing at ?” he asked.
“At you, Will,” said she. “What else could you imagine ?”
“I’m flattered to think you find me so amusing.”
“Oh, you’re supremely amusing. ‘Refrain thou shalt ; thou
shalt refrain !’ Is that your motto, Will ? If I were a man I’d
choose another. ‘Be bold, be bold, and everywhere be bold !’
That should be my motto if I were a man.”
“But as you’re a woman—”
“It’s my motto, all the same,” she interrupted. “Do you
The Yellow Book—Vol. XII. F
mean to say you’ve not discovered that yet ? Oh, Will, if I were
you, and you were I, how differently we should be employing this
heaven-sent summer’s afternoon.”
“What should we be doing ?”
“That’s a secret. Pray the fairies to-night to transpose our
souls, and you ll know by to-morrow morning—if the fairies grant
your prayer. But in the meanwhile you must try to entertain
me. Tell me another story.”
“I can’t think of any more stories till I’ve had my tea.”
“You shan’t have any tea unless you earn it. Now that
Madame Dornaye’s no longer present, you can tell me of some of
your grown-up love affairs, some of your flesh-and-blood ones.”
“I’ve never had a grown-up love affair.”
“Oh, come ! you can’t expect me to believe that.”
“It’s the truth, all the same.”
“Well, then, it’s high time you should have one. How
you say you were ?”
“And you’ve never had a love affair ! Fi donc ! I’m
twenty-eight, and I’ve had a hundred.”
“Have you ?” he asked, a little ruefully.
“No, I haven’t. But everybody’s had at least one. So tell me
“Upon my word, I’ve not had even one.”
“It seems incredible. How have you contrived it ?”
“The circumstances of my birth contrived it for me. It
would be impossible for me to have a love affair with a woman I
“Impossible ? For goodness’ sake, why ?”
“What woman would accept the addresses of a man without a
“Haven’t you a name ? Methought I’d heard your name was
“You know what I mean.”
“Then permit me to remark that what you mean is quite
superlatively silly. If you loved a woman, wouldn’t you tell her
“Not if I could help it.”
“But suppose the woman loved you ?”
“Oh, it wouldn’t come to that.”
“But suppose it had come to that ? Suppose she’d set
heart upon you ? Would it be fair to her not to tell her ?”
“What would be the good of my telling her, since I couldn’t
possibly ask her to marry me ?”
“The fact might interest her, apart from the question of its
consequences. But suppose she told you ? Suppose she asked you
to marry her ?”
“All hypotheses are admissible. Suppose she should ?”
“I couldn’t marry her.”
“You’d find it rather an awkward job refusing, wouldn’t you ?
And what reasons could you give ?”
“Ten thousand reasons. I’m a bastard. That begins and ends
it. It would dishonour her, and it would dishonour me ; and,
worst of all, it would dishonour my mother.”
“It would certainly not dishonour you, nor the woman
married. That’s the sheerest, antiquated, exploded rubbish. And
how on earth could it dishonour your mother ?”
“For me to take as my wife a woman who could not respect
her ? My mother’s memory is for me the sacredest of sacred
things. You know something of her history. You know that
she was in every sense but a legal sense my father’s wife. You
know why they couldn’t be married legally. You know, too, how
he treated her—and how she died. Do you suppose I could
marry a woman who would always think of my mother as of one
who had done something shameful ?”
“Oh, but no woman with a spark of nobility in her soul would
or could do that,” Johannah cried.
“Every woman brought up in the usual way, with the usual
prejudices, the usual traditions, thinks evil of the woman who has
had an illegitimate child.”
“Not every woman. I, for instance. Do you imagine that I
could think evil of your mother, Will ?”
“Oh, you’re entirely different from other women. You’re—”
But he stopped at that.
“Then—just for the sake of a case in point—if I were the
woman you chanced to be in love with, and if I simultaneously
chanced to be in love with you, you could see your way to marrying
“What’s the use of discussing that ?”
“For its metaphysical interest. Answer me.”
“There are other reasons why I couldn’t marry you.”
“I’m not good-looking enough ?”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Not young enough ?”
“Oh, I say ! Let’s talk of something reasonable.”
“Not old enough, perhaps ?”
He was silent.
“Not wise enough ? Not foolish enough ?” she persisted.
“You’re foolish enough, in all conscience,” said he.
“Well, then, why ? What are the reasons why you couldn’t
marry me ?”
“What is the good of talking about this !”
“I want to know. A man has the hardihood to inform me to
my face that he’d spurn my hand, even if I offered it to him. I
insist upon knowing why.”
“You know why. And you know that ‘spurn’ is very far
from the right word.”
“I don’t know why. I insist upon your telling me.”
“You know that you’re Sir William Silver’s heiress, I sup-
“Oh, come ! that’s not my fault. How could that matter ?”
“Look here, I’m not going to make an ass of myself by
explaining the obvious.”
“I daresay I’m very stupid, but it isn’t obvious to me.”
“Well, then, let’s drop the subject,” he suggested.
“I’ll not drop the subject till you’ve elucidated it. If you
were in love with me, Will, and I were in love with you, how on
earth could it matter, my being Sir William Silver’s heiress ?”
“Wouldn’t I seem a bit mercenary if I asked you to marry
“Oh, Will !” she cried. “Don’t tell me you’re such a prig
as that. What ! if you loved me, if I loved you, you’d give me
up, you’d break my heart, just for fear lest idiotic people, whose
opinions don’t matter any more than the opinions of so many
deep-sea fish, might think you mercenary ! When you and I both
knew in our own two souls that you really weren’t mercenary in
the least ! You’d pay me a poor compliment, Will. Isn’t it
conceivable that a man might love me for myself ?”
“You state the case too simply. You make no allowances for
the shades and complexities of a man’s feelings.”
“Bother shades and complexities. Love burns them up.
Your shades and complexities are nothing but priggishness and
vanity. But there ! I’m actually getting angry over a purely
supposititious question. For, of course, we don’t really love each
other the least bit, do we, Will ?”
He appeared to be giving his whole attention to the rolling of a
cigarette ; he did not answer. But his ringers trembled, and
presently he tore his paper, spilling half the tobacco in his lap.
Johannah watched him from eyes full of languid, half mocking,
half pensive laughter.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear,” she sighed again, by-and-by.
He looked at her ; and he had to catch his breath. Lying
there on the turf, the skirts of her frock flowing round her in a
sort of little billowy white pool, her head deep in the scarlet
cushion, her black hair straying wantonly where it would about
her face and brow, her eyes lambent with that lazy, pensive
laughter, one of her hands, pink and white, warm and soft, fallen
open on the grass between her and her cousin, her whole person
seeming to breathe a subtle scent of womanhood, and the luxury
and mystery of womanhood oh, the sight of her, the sense of
her, there in the wide green stillness of the summer day, set his
heart burning and beating poignantly.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear,” she sighed, “I wish the man I am in love
with were only here.”
“Oh ! You are in love with some one ?” he questioned,
a little start.
“Rather !” said she. “In love ! I should think so. Oh, I
love him, love him, love him. Ah, if he were here ! He
wouldn’t waste this golden afternoon, as you’re doing. He’d
take my hand he’d hold it, and press it, and kiss it; and he’d
pour his soul out in tumultuous celebration of my charms, in fiery
avowals of his passion. If he were here ! Ah, me !”
“Where is he ?” Will asked, in a dry voice.
“Ah, where indeed ? I wish I knew.”
“I’ve never heard you speak of him before.”
“There’s none so deaf as he that will not hear. I’ve
him to you at least a thousand times. He forms the staple of my
“I must be very deaf indeed. I swear this is absolutely news
“Oh, Will, you are such a goose—or such a
she. “But it’s tea-time. Help me up.”
She held out her hand, and he took it and helped her up. But
she tottered a little before she got her balance (or made, at least, a
feint of doing so), and grasped his hand tight as if to save herself,
and all but fell into his arms.
He drew back a step.
She looked straight into his eyes. “You’re a goose, and a
hypocrite, and a prig, and—a dear,” she said.
Their tea was served in the garden, and whilst they were
dallying over it, a footman brought Johannah a visiting-card.
She glanced at the card ; and Will, watching her, noticed that
a look of annoyance—it might even have been a look of distress—
came into her face.
Then she threw the card on the tea-table, and rose. “I shan’t
be gone long,” she said, and set out for the house.
The card lay plainly legible under the eyes of Will and
Madame Dornaye. “Mr. George Aymer, 36 Boulevard
Rochechouart ” was the legend inscribed upon it.
“Tiens,” said Madame Dornaye ; “Jeanne told me she had
ceased to see him.”
Will suppressed a desire to ask, “Who is he ?”
But Madame Dornaye answered him all the same.
“You have heard of him ? He is a known personage in Paris,
although English. He is a painter, a painter of great talent ; very
young, but already decorated. And of a surprising beauty—the
face of an angel. With that, a thorough-paced rascal. Oh, yes,
whatever is vilest, whatever is basest. Even in Montmartre, even
in the corruptest world of Paris, among the lowest journalists and
painters, he is notorious for his corruption. Johannah used to see
a great deal of him. She would not believe the evil stories that
were told about him. And with his rare talent and his beautiful
face, he has the most plausible manners, the most winning address.
We were afraid that she might end by marrying him. But at
last she found him out for herself, and gave him up. She told me
she had altogether ceased to see him. I wonder what ill wind
blows him here.”
Johannah entered the drawing-room.
A man in grey tweeds, the red ribbon of the Legion of Honour
gleaming in his buttonhole, was standing near a window : a man,
indeed, as Madame Dornaye had described him, with a face of
surprising beauty—a fine, clear, open-air complexion, a clean-cut,
even profile, a sensitive, soft mouth, big, frank, innocent blue
eyes, and waving hair of the palest Saxon yellow. He could
scarcely have been thirty ; and the exceeding beauty of his face,
its beauty and its sweetness, made one overlook his figure, which
was a trifle below the medium height, and thick-set, with remark-
ably square, broad shoulders, and long arms.
Johannah greeted him with some succinctness. “What do you
want ?” she asked, remaining close to the door.
“I want to have a talk with you,” he answered, moving towards
her. He drawled slightly ; his voice was low and soft, conciliatory,
caressing almost. And his big blue eyes shone with a faint,
sweet, appealing smile.
“Would you mind staying where you are ?” said she. You
can make yourself audible from across the room.”
“What are you afraid of?” he asked, his smile brightening
with innocent wonder.
“Afraid ? You do yourself too much honour. One does not
like to find oneself in close proximity with objects that disgust one.”
He laughed ; but instead of moving further towards her, he
dropped into a chair. “You were always brutally outspoken,” he
“Yes ; and with advancing years I’ve become even more so,”
said Johannah, who continued to stand.
“You’re quite sure, though, that you’re not afraid of me ?” he
“Oh, for that, as sure as sure can be. If you’ve based any sort
of calculations upon the theory that I would be afraid of you, you’ll
have to throw them over.”
He flushed a little, as if with anger ; but in a moment he
answered calmly, “I always base my calculations upon certainties.
You’ve come into a perfect pot of money since I last had the
pleasure of meeting you.”
“Yes, into something like eight thousand a year, if the figures
“I never had any head for figures. But eight thousand sounds
stupendous. And a lovely place, into the bargain. The park, or
so much of it as one sees from the avenue, could not be better.
And I permitted myself to admire the façade of the house and the
view of the sea.”
“They’re not bad,” Johannah assented.
“It’s heart-rending, the way things are shared in this world.
Here are you, rich beyond the dreams of avarice, you who have
done nothing all your life but take your pleasure ; and I, who’ve
toiled like a galley-slave, I remain as poor as any church-mouse.
Johannah did not answer.
“And now,” he went on, “I suppose you’ve settled down and
become respectable ? No more Bohemia ? No more cakes and
ale ? Only champagne and truffles ? A County Family ! Fancy
your being a County Family, all by yourself, as it were ! You
must feel rather like the reformed rake of tradition—don’t you !”
“I mentioned that I am not afraid of you,” she reminded him,
“but that doesn’t in the least imply that I find you amusing.
The plain truth is, I find you deadly tiresome. If you have any-
thing special to say to me, may I ask you to say it quickly ?”
Again he flushed a little ; then, again, in a moment, answered
smoothly, “I’ll say it in a sentence. I’ve come all the way to
England, for the purpose of offering you my hand in marriage.”
And he raised his bright blue eyes to her face with a look that
really was seraphic.
“I decline the offer. If you’ve nothing further to keep you
here, I’ll ring to have you shown out.”
Still again he flushed, yet once more controlled himself. “You
decline the offer ! Allons donc ! When I’m prepared to do the
right thing, and make an honest woman of you.”
“I decline the offer,” Johannah repeated.
“That’s foolish of you,” said he.
“If you could dream how remotely your opinion interests me,
you wouldn’t trouble to express it,” said she.
His anger this time got the better of him. He scowled, and
looked at her from the corners of his eyes. “You had better not
trifle with me,” he said in a suppressed voice.
“Oh,” said she, “you must suffer me to be the mistress of my
own actions in my own house. Now—if you are quite ready to
go ?” she suggested, putting her hand upon the bell-cord.
“I’m not ready to go yet. I want to talk with you. To cut
a long business short, you re rich. I’m pitiably poor. You know
how poor I am. You know how I have to live, the hardships,
the privations I’m obliged to put up with.”
“Have you come here to beg ?” Johannah asked.
“No, I’ve come to appeal to your better nature. You refuse
to marry me. That’s absurd of you, but—tant pis ! Whether
you marry me or not, you haven’t the heart to leave me to rot in
poverty, while you luxuriate in plenty. Considering our old-time
relations, the thing’s impossible on the face of it.”
“Ah, I understand. You have come here to beg,” she said.
“No—to demand,” said he. “One begs when one has no
power to enforce. When one has the power to enforce, one
“What is the use of these glittering aphorisms ?” she asked
“If you are ready to behave well to me, I’ll behave handsomely
to you. But if you refuse to recognise my claims upon you, I’m
in a position to take reprisals,” he said very quietly.
Johannah did not answer.
“I’m miserably, tragically poor ; you’re rich. At this moment
I’ve not got ten pounds in the world ; and I owe hundreds. I’ve
not sold a picture since March. You have eight thousand a year.
You can’t expect me to sit down under it in silence. As the
French attorneys phrase it, cet état de choses ne peut pas durer.”
Still Johannah answered nothing.
“You must come to my relief,” said he. “You must make it
possible for me to go on. If you have any right feeling, you ll do
it spontaneously. If not—you know I can compel you.”
“Oh, then, for goodness sake, compel me, and so make an end
of this entirely tedious visit.”
“I’d immensely rather not compel you. If you will lend me
a helping hand from time to time, I ll promise never to take a
step to harm you. I shall be moderate. You ve got eight
thousand a year. You d never miss a hundred now and then.
You might simply occasionally buy a picture. That would be
the best way. You might buy my pictures.”
“I should be glad to know definitely,” remarked Johannah,
“whether I have to deal with a blackmailer or a bagman.”
“Damn you,” he broke out, with sudden savagery, flushing
very red indeed.
Johannah was silent.
After a pause, he said, “I’m staying at the inn in the village—
at the Silver Arms.”
Johannah did not speak.
“I’ve already scraped acquaintance with the parson,” he went
on. Then, as she still was silent, “I wonder what would become
of your social position in this County if I should have a good long
talk about you with the parson.”
“To a man of your intelligence, the solution of that problem
can present no serious difficulty.”
“You admit that your-social position would be smashed up ?”
“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put it
“I’m glad to find at least that you acknowledge my power.”
“You have it in your power to tell people that I was once
inconceivably simple enough to believe that you were an honour-
able man, that I once had the inconceivable bad taste to be fond
of you. What woman’s character could survive that revelation ?”
“And I could add—couldn’t I ?—that you once had the incon-
ceivable weakness to become my mistress ?”
“Oh, you could add no end of details.”
“Well, then ?” he questioned.
“Well, then ?” questioned she.
“It comes to this, that if you don’t want your social position,
your reputation, to be utterly smashed up, you must make terms
“It’s a little unfortunate, from that point of view, that I
shouldn’t happen to care a rush about my social position—as you
“I think I’ll have a good long talk with the parson.”
“Do by all means.”
“You’d better be careful. I may take you at your word.”
“I wish you would. Take me at my word—and go.”
“You mean to say you seriously don’t care ?”
“Not a rush, not a button.”
“Oh, come ! You’ll never try to brazen the thing out.”
“I wish you’d go and have your long talk with the parson.”
“I don’t understand you.”
“I do understand you—perfectly.”
“It would be so easy for you to give me a little help.”
“It would be so easy for you to ‘smash up’ my reputation
with the parson.”
“You never used to be close-fisted. It’s incomprehensible that
you should refuse me a little help. Look. I’m willing to be
more than fair. Give me a hundred pounds, a bare little hundred
pounds, and I’ll send you a lovely picture.”
“Thank you, I don’t want a picture.”
“You won’t give me a hundred pounds—a beggarly hundred
“I won’t give you a farthing.”
“Well, then, by God, you damned, infernal jade,” he cried,
springing to his feet, his face crimson, “by God, Til make you.
I swear I’ll ruin you. Look out !”
“Are you really going at last ?” she asked quietly.
“No, I’m not going till it suits my pleasure. You’ve got a
sort of bastard cousin staying here with you, I’m told.”
“I would advise you to moderate your tone or your language.
If my sort of bastard cousin should by any chance happen to hear
you referring to him in those terms, he might not be pleased.”
“I want to see him.”
“I would advise you not to see him.”
“I want to see him.”
“If you really wish to see him, I’ll send for him. But it’s only
right to warn you that he’s not at all a patient sort of man. If I
send for him, he will quite certainly make things extremely dis-
agreeable for you.”
“I am not afraid of him. You know well enough that I’m
not a coward.”
“My cousin is more than a head taller than you are. He
would be perfectly able and perfectly sure to kick you. If there’s
any other possible way of getting rid of you, I’d rather not trouble
“I think I had better have a talk with your cousin, as well as
with the parson.”
“I think you had better confine your attentions to the parson.
My cousin wouldn’t listen to a word.”
“I am going to make a concession,” said Aymer. “I’m going
to give you a night in which to think this thing over. If you
care to send me a note, with a cheque in it, so that I shall receive
it at the inn by to-morrow at ten o’clock, I’ll take the next earliest
train back to town, and I’ll send you a picture in return. If no
note comes by ten o’clock, I’ll call on the parson, and tell him all
I know about you ; and I’ll write a letter to your cousin. Now,
Johannah rang, and Aymer was shown out.
“I shan’t be gone long,” Johannah had said, when she left
Madame Dornaye and Will at tea in the garden ; but time
passed and she did not come back. Will, mounting through
various stages and degrees of nervousness, restlessness, anxiety, at
last said, “What on earth can be keeping her?” and Madame
Dornaye replied, “That is precisely what I am asking myself.”
They waited a little longer, and then, “Shall we go back to the
house ?” he suggested. But when they reached the house, they
found the drawing-room empty, and—no trace of Johannah.
“She may be in her room. I’ll go and see,” said Madame
More time passed, and still no Johannah. Nor did Madame
Dornaye return to explain her absence.
Will walked about in a state of acute misery. What could it
be ? What could have happened ? What could this painter,
this George Aymer, this thorough-paced rascal with the beautiful
face, this man of whom Johannah, in days gone by, “had seen a
great deal,” so that her friends had feared “she might end by
marrying him”—what could he have called upon her for ? What
could have passed between them ? Why had she disappeared ?
Where was she now ? Where was he ? Where was Madame
Dornaye, who had gone to look for her ? Could—could it pos-
sibly be—that he—this man notorious for his corruption even in
the corruptest world of Paris—could it be that he was the man
Johannah meant when she had talked of the man she was in love
with ? And Will, fatuous imbecile, had vainly allowed himself
to imagine. . . . Oh, why did she not come back ? What could
be keeping her away from him all this time? … “I have had
a hundred, I have had a hundred.” The phrase echoed and
echoed in his memory. She had said, “I have had a hundred
love affairs.” Oh, to be sure, in the next breath, she had contra-
dicted herself, she had said, “No, I haven’t.” But she had added,
“Everybody has had at least one.” So she had had at least one.
With this man, George Aymer ? Madame Dornaye said she
had broken with him, ceased to see him. But—it was certain
she had seen him to-day. But—lovers’ quarrels are made up ;
lovers break with each other, and then come together again, are
reunited. . . . Perhaps . . . Perhaps . . . Oh, where was she ?
Why did she remain away in this mysterious fashion ? What
could she be doing ? What could she be doing ?
The dressing-bell rang, and he went to dress for dinner.
“Anyhow, I shall see her now, I shall see her at dinner,” he
kept telling himself, as he dressed.
But when he came downstairs the drawing-room was still
empty. He walked backwards and forwards.
“We shall have to dine without our hostess,” Madame Dor-
naye said, entering presently. “Jeanne has a bad headache, and
will stay in her room,”
Will left the house early the next morning, and went out into
the garden. The sun was shining, the dew sparkled on the grass,
the air was keen and sweet with the odours of the earth. A mile
away the sea glowed blue as larkspur ; and overhead innumerable
birds gaily piped and twittered. But oh, the difference, the
difference ! His eyes could see no colour, his ears could hear no
music. His brain felt as if it had been stretched and strained, like
a thing of india-rubber ; a lump ached in his throat ; his heart was
abject and sick with the suspense of waiting, with the futile
questionings, the fears, suspicions, the dreading hopes, that had
beset and tortured it throughout the night.
“Will !” Johannah’s voice called behind him.
“Thank God !” the words came without conscious volition on
his part. “I thought I was never going to see you again.”
“I have been waiting for you,” said she.
She wore her garden-hat and her white frock ; but her face was
pale, and her eyes looked dark and anxious.
He had taken her hand, and was clinging to it, pressing it, hard,
so hard that it must have hurt her, in the violence of his emotion.
“Oh, wait, Will, wait,” she said, trying to draw her hand
away ; and her eyes filled with sudden tears.
He let go her hand, and looked into her tearful eyes, helpless,
speechless, longing to speak, unable, in the confusion of his
thoughts and feelings, to find a word.
“I must tell you something, Will. Come with me somewhere
—where we can be alone. I must tell you something.”
She moved off, away from the house, he keeping beside her.
The Yellow Book—Vol. XII. G
They passed out of the garden, into the deep shade of the
“Do you remember,” she began, all at once, “do you remember
what I said yesterday, about my motto ? That my motto was
‘Be bold, be bold, and everywhere be bold’ ?”
“Yes,” he said.
“I am going to be very bold indeed now, Will. I am going
to tell you something—something that will make you hate me
perhaps—that will make you despise me perhaps.”
“You could not possibly tell me anything that could make me
hate you or despise you. But you must not tell me anything at
all, unless it is something you are perfectly sure you will be happier
for having told me.”
“It is something I wish to tell you, something I must tell you,”
said she. Then, after a little pause, “Oh, how shall I begin it ?”
But before he could have spoken, “Do you think that a woman—
do you think that a girl, when she is very young, when she is
very immature and impressionable, and very impulsive, and
ignorant, and when she is alone in the world, without a father or
mother—do you think that if she makes some terrible mistake, if
she is terribly deceived, if somebody whom she believes to be good
and noble and unhappy and misunderstood, somebody whom she
whom she loves—do you think that if she makes some terrible
mistake—if she—if she—oh, my God !—if—” She held her
breath for a second, then suddenly, “Can’t you understand what I
mean ?” she broke down in a sort of wail, and hid her face in
her hands, and sobbed.
Will stood beside her, holding his arms out towards her.
“Johannah ! Johannah !” was all he could say.
She dropped her hands, and looked at him with great painful
eyes. “Tell me—do you think that a woman can never be for-
given ? Do you think that she is soiled, degraded, changed
utterly ? Do you think that when she—that when she did what
she did—it was a sin, a crime, not only a terrible mistake, and
that her whole nature is changed by it ? Most people think so.
They think that a mark has been left upon her, branded upon her ;
that she can never, never be the same again. Do you think so,
Will ? Oh, it is not true ; I know it is not true. A woman
can leave that mistake, that terror, that horror—she can leave it
behind her as completely as she can leave any other dreadful thing.
She can blot it out of her life, like a nightmare. She isn’t changed—
she remains the same woman. She isn’t utterly changed, and soiled,
and defiled. In her own conscience, no matter what other people
think, she knows, she knows she isn’t. When she wakes up to find
that the man she had believed in, the man she had loved, when she
wakes up to find that he isn’t in any way what she had thought
him, that he is base and evil and ignoble, and when all her love
for him dies in horror and misery—oh, do you think that she must
never, never, as long as she lives, hold up her head again, never be
happy again, never love any one again ? Look at me, Will. I
am myself. I am what God made me. Do you think that I am
utterly vile because—because—” But her voice failed again,
and her eyes again filled with tears.
“Oh, Johannah, don’t ask me what I think of you. I could
not tell you what I think of you. You are as God made you.
God never made—never made any one else so splendid.”
And in a moment his arms were round her, and she was weeping
her heart out on his shoulder.
Harland, Henry. “Flower o’ the Clove.” The Yellow Book, vol. 12, January 1897, pp. 65-109. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020. https://1890s.ca/YBV12_harland_flower/