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Title:TheCalloftheBlood Author:RobertSmytheHichens ReleaseDate:December21,2006[eBook#20157] Language:English Charactersetencoding:ISO-8859-1 ***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE CALL OF THE BLOOD***
I On a dreary afternoon of November, when London was closely wrapped in a yellowfog,HermioneLesterwassittingbythefireinherhouseinEatonPlace reading a bundle of letters, which she had just taken out of her writing-table drawer. She was expecting a visit from the writer of the letters, Emile Artois, whohadwiredtoheronthepreviousdaythathewascomingoverfromParisby thenighttrainandboat. Miss Lester was a woman of thirty-four, five feet ten in height, flat, thin, but stronglybuilt,withalargewaistandlimbswhich,thoughvigorous,wererather unwieldy. Her face was plain: rather square and harsh in outline, with blunt, almost coarse features, but a good complexion, clear and healthy, and large, interesting,andslightlyprominentbrowneyes,fullofkindness,sympathy,and brightness,full,too,ofeagerintelligenceandofenergy,eyesofawomanwho wasintenselyalivebothinbodyandinmind.Thelookofswiftness,alookmost attractiveineitherhumanbeingorinanimal,wasabsentfromherbodybutwas present in her eyes, which showed forth the spirit in her with a glorious franknessandakeenintensity.Nevertheless,despitetheseeyesandherthickly growing,warm-colored,andwavybrownhair,shewasaplain,almostan ugly woman,whoseattractiveforceissuedfromwithin,invitinginquiryandadvance, astheflameofafiredoes,playingontheblurredglassofawindowwithmany flawsinit. Hermionewas,infact,foundveryattractivebyagreatmanypeopleofvarying temperamentsandabilities,whowerecapturedbyherspiritandbyherintellect, the soul of the woman and the brains, and who, while seeing clearly and acknowledging frankly the plainness of her face and the almost masculine ruggedness of her form, said, with a good deal of truth, that "somehow they didn't seem to matter in Hermione." Whether Hermione herself was of this opinion not many knew. Her general popularity, perhaps, made the world incuriousaboutthesubject. The room in which Hermione was reading the letters of Artois was small and crammedwithbooks.Therewerebooksincasesuncoveredbyglassfromfloor toceiling,someinbeautifulbindings,butmanyintatteredpapercovers,books that looked as if they had been very much read. On several tables, among
photographsandvasesofflowers,weremorebooksandmanymagazines,both Englishandforeign.Alargewriting-tablewaslitteredwithnotesandletters.An uprightgrand-pianostoodopen,withaquantityofmusicuponit.Onthethick PersiancarpetbeforethefirewasstretchedaverylargeSt.Bernarddog,withhis muzzle resting on his paws and his eyes blinking drowsily in serene contentment. As Hermione read the letters one by one her face showed a panorama of expressions, almost laughably indicative of her swiftly passing thoughts. Sometimesshesmiled.Onceortwiceshelaughedaloud,startlingthedog,who liftedhismassiveheadandgazedatherwithprofoundinquiry.Thensheshook herhead,lookedgrave,evensad,orearnestandfullofsympathy,whichseemed longingtoexpressitselfinatorrentofcomfortingwords.Presentlysheputthe letterstogether,tiedthemupcarelesslywithapieceoftwine,andputthemback intothedrawerfromwhichshehadtakenthem.Justasshehadfinisheddoing thisthedooroftheroom,whichwasajar,waspushedsoftlyopen,andadarkeyed,Eastern-lookingboydressedinliveryappeared. "Whatisit,Selim?"askedHermione,inFrench. "MonsieurArtois,madame." "Emile!" cried Hermione, getting up out of her chair with a sort of eager slowness."Whereishe?" "Heishere!"saidaloudvoice,alsospeakingFrench. Selimstoodgracefullyaside,andabigmansteppedintotheroomandtookthe twohandswhichHermionestretchedoutinhis. "Don'tletanyoneelsein,Selim,"saidHermionetotheboy. "EspeciallythelittleTownly,"saidArtois,menacingly. "Hush,Emile!NotevenMissTownlyifshecalls,Selim." Selim smiled with grave intelligence at the big man, said, "I understand, madame,"andglidedout. "Why, in Heaven's name, have you—you, pilgrim of the Orient—insulted the East by putting Selim into a coat with buttons and cloth trousers?" exclaimed Artois,stillholdingHermione'shands.
"It's an outrage, I know. But I had to. He was stared at and followed, and he actually minded it. As soon as I found out that, I trampled on all my artistic prejudices,andbeholdhim—horriblebuthappy!Thankyouforcoming—thank you." Shelethishandsgo,andtheystoodforamomentlookingateachotherinthe firelight. Artoiswasatallmanofaboutforty-three,withlarge,almostHerculeanlimbs,a handsome face,withregularbutratherheavyfeatures,andverybiggray eyes, that always looked penetrating and often melancholy. His forehead was noble andmarkedlyintellectual,andhiswell-shaped,massiveheadwascoveredwith thick,short,mouse-coloredhair.Heworeamustacheandamagnificentbeard. Hisbarber,whowaspartlyresponsibleforthelatter,alwayssaidofitthatitwas the "most beautiful fan-shaped beard in Paris," and regarded it with a pride whichwasprobablysharedbyitsowner.Hishandsandfeetweregood,capablelooking,butnotclumsy,andhiswholeappearancegaveanimpressionofpower, both physical and intellectual, and of indomitable will combined with subtlety. Hewaswelldressed,fashionablynotartistically,yethesuggestedanartist,not necessarily a painter. As he looked at Hermione the smile which had played abouthislipswhenheenteredthelittleroomdiedaway. "I've come to hear about it all," he said, in his resonant voice—a voice which matchedhisappearance."Doyouknow"—andherehisaccentwasgrave,almost reproachful—"that in all your letters to me—I looked them over before I left Paris—thereisnoallusion,notone,tothisMonsieurDelarey." "Whyshouldtherebe?"sheanswered. Shesatdown,butArtoiscontinuedtostand. "We seldom wrote of persons, I think. We wrote of events, ideas, of work, of conditions of life; of man, woman, child—yes—but not often of special men, women,children.Iamalmostsure—infact,quitesure,forI'vejustbeenreading them—that in your letters to me there is very little discussion of our mutual friends,lessoffriendswhoweren'tcommontousboth." Asshespokeshestretchedoutalong,thinarm,andpulledopenthedrawerinto whichshehadputthebundletiedwithtwine. "They'reallinhere."
"Youdon'tlockthatdrawer?" "Never." Helookedatherwithasortofseverity. "Ilockthedooroftheroom,or,rather,itlocksitself.Youhaven'tnoticedit?" "No." "It'sthesameastheouterdoorofaflat.Ihavealatch-keytoit." Hesaidnothing,butsmiled.Allthesuddengrimnesshadgoneoutofhisface. Hermionewithdrewherhandfromthedrawerholdingtheletters. "Heretheyare!" "Mycomplaints,myegoism,my ambitions, myviews—Mon Dieu!Hermione, whatagoodfriendyou'vebeen!" "Andsomepeoplesayyou'renotmodest!" "I—modest!Whatismodesty?Iknowmyownvalueascomparedwiththatof others,andthatknowledgetoothersmustoftenseemconceit." Shebegantountiethepacket,buthestretchedouthishandandstoppedher. "No,Ididn'tcomefromParistoreadmyletters,oreventohearyoureadthem!I cametohearaboutthisMonsieurDelarey." Selimstoleinwithteaandstoleoutsilently,shuttingthedoorthistime.Assoon ashehadgone,Artoisdrewacasefromhispocket,tookoutofitapipe,filledit, and lit it. Meanwhile, Hermione poured out tea, and, putting three lumps of sugarintooneofthecups,handedittoArtois. "Ihaven'tcometoprotest.Youknowwebothworshipindividualfreedom.How often in those letters haven't we written it—our respect of the right of the individual to act for him or herself, without the interference of outsiders? No, I'vecometohearaboutitall,tohearhowyoumanagedtogetintothepleasant stateofmania." On the last words his deep voice sounded sarcastic, almost patronizing. Hermionefiredupatonce.
"Noneofthatfromyou,Emile!"sheexclaimed. Artoisstirredhistearathermorethanwasnecessary,butdidnotbegintodrink it. "Youmustn'tlookdownonmefromaheight,"shecontinued."Iwon'thaveit. We're all on a level when we're doing certain things, when we're truly living, simply,frankly,followingourfates,andwhenwe'redying.Youfeelthat.Drop theanalyst,dearEmile,droptheprofessionalpointofview.Iseerightthroughit intoyourwarmoldheart.Ineverwasafraidofyou,althoughIplaceyouhigh, higherthanyourcritics,higherthanyourpublic,higherthanyouplaceyourself. Every woman ought to be able to love, and every man. There's nothing at all absurdinthefact,thoughtheremaybeinfiniteabsurditiesinthemanifestation of it. But those you haven't yet had an opportunity of seeing in me, so you've nothingyettolaughatorlabel.Nowdrinkyourtea." Helaughedaloud,roaringlaugh,dranksomeofhistea,puffedoutacloudof smoke,andsaid: "Whomwillyoueverrespect?" "Everyonewhoissincere—myselfincluded." "Besincerewithmenow,andI'llgobacktoParisto-morrowlikeashornlamb. BesincereaboutMonsieurDelarey." Hermionesatquitestillforamomentwiththebundleoflettersinherlap.Atlast shesaid: "It'sdifficultsometimestotellthetruthaboutafeeling,isn'tit?" "Ah,youdon'tknowyourselfwhatthetruthis." "I'm not sure that I do. The history of the growth of a feeling may be almost morecomplicatedthanthehistoryofFrance." Artois,whowasanovelist,noddedhisheadwiththeairofamanwhoknewall aboutthat. "Maurice—MauriceDelareyhascaredforme,inthatway,foralongtime.Iwas verymuchsurprisedwhenIfirstfounditout." "Why,inthenameofHeaven?"
"Well,he'swonderfullygood-looking." "Noexplanationofyourastonishment." "Isn'tit?Ithink,though,itwasthatfactwhichastonishedme,thefactofavery handsomemanlovingme." "Now,what'syourtheory?" Hebentdownhisheadalittletowardsher,andfixedhisgreat,grayeyesonher face. "Theory! Look here, Emile, I dare say it's difficult for a man like you, genius, insight,andall,thoroughlytounderstandhowanuglywomanregardsbeauty,an ugly woman like me, who's got intellect and passion and intense feeling for form, color, every manifestation of beauty. When I look at beauty I feel rather likeadirtylittlebeggarstaringatanangel.Myintellectdoesn'tseemtohelpme at all. In me, perhaps, the sensation arises from an inward conviction that humanitywasmeantoriginallytobebeautiful,andthattheuglyonesamongus are—well,likesinsamongvirtues.Yourememberthatbookofyourswhichwas and deserved to be your one artistic failure, because you hadn't put yourself reallyintoit?" Artoismadeawryface. "Eventually you paid a lot of money to prevent it from being published any more. You withdrew it from circulation. I sometimes feel that we ugly ones ought to be withdrawn from circulation. It's silly, perhaps, and I hope I never showit,buttherethefeelingis.SowhenthehandsomestmanIhadeverseen lovedme,Iwassimplyamazed.Itseemedtomeridiculousandimpossible.And then,whenIwasconvinceditwaspossible,verywonderful,and,Iconfessitto you, very splendid. It seemed to help to reconcile me with myself in a way in whichIhadneverbeenreconciledbefore." "Andthatwasthebeginning?" "Idaresay.Therewereotherthings,too.MauriceDelareyisn'tatallstupid,but he'snotnearlysointelligentasIam." "Thatdoesn'tsurpriseme." "The fact of this physical perfection being humble with me, looking up to me,
seemedtomeanagreatdeal.IthinkMauricefeelsaboutintellectratherasIdo aboutbeauty.Hemademeunderstandthathemust.Andthatseemedtoopenmy hearttohiminanextraordinaryway.Canyouunderstand?" "Yes.Givemesomemoretea,please." He held out his cup. She filled it, talking while she did so. She had become absorbedinwhatshewassaying,andspokewithoutanyself-consciousness. "I knew my gift, such as it is, the gift of brains, could do something for him, thoughhisgiftofbeautycoulddonothingforme—inthewayofdevelopment. Andthat,too,seemedtoleadmeasteptowardshim.Finally—well,onedayI knewIwantedtomarryhim.Andso,Emile,I'mgoingtomarryhim.Here!" Sheheldouttohimhiscupfulloftea. "There'snosugar,"hesaid. "Oh—thefirsttimeI'veforgotten." "Yes." Thetoneofhisvoicemadeherlookupathimquicklyandexclaim: "No,itwon'tmakeanydifference!" "Butithas.You'veforgottenforthefirsttime.Cursedbetheegotismofman." Hesatdowninanarm-chairontheothersideofthetea-table. "Itoughttomakeadifference.MauriceDelarey,ifheisaman—andifyouare goingtomarryhimhemustbe—willnotallowyoutobetheEgeriaofafellow whohasshockedevenParisbytellingitthenakedtruth." "Yes,hewill.Ishalldropnofriendshipforhim,andheknowsit.Thereisnot onethatisnothonestandinnocent.ThankGodIcansaythat.Ifyoucareforit, Emile,wecanbothaddtothesizeoftheletterbundles." Helookedathermeditatively,evenrathersadly. "You are capable of everything in the way of friendship, I believe," he said. "Even of making the bundle bigger with a husband's consent. A husband's—I supposethelittleTownly'supset?Butshealwaysis."
"Whenyou'rethere.Youdon'tknowEvelyn.Youneverwill.She'satherworst withyoubecauseyouterrifyher.Yourtalentfrightensher,butyourappearance frightensherevenmore." "IamasGodmademe." "Withthehelpofthebarber.It'syourbeardasmuchasanythingelse." "Whatdoesshesayofthisaffair?Whatdoallyourinnumerableadorerssay?" "Whatshouldtheysay?Whyshouldanybodybesurprised?It'ssurelythemost natural thing in the world for a woman, even a very plain woman, to marry. I have always heard that marriage is woman's destiny, and though I don't altogetherbelievethat,stillIseenospecialreasonwhyIshouldnevermarryifI wishto.AndIdowishto." "That'swhatwillsurprisethelittleTownlyandthegapingcrowd." "IshallbegintothinkI'veseemedunwomanlyalltheseyears." "No.You'reanextraordinarywomanwhoastonishesbecausesheisgoingtodoa veryimportantthingthatisveryordinary." "Itdoesn'tseematallordinarytome." EmileArtoisbegantostrokehisbeard.Hewasdeterminednottofeeljealous. HehadneverwishedtomarryHermione,anddidnotwishtomarryhernow,but hehadcomeoverfromParissecretlyamanofwrath. "You needn't tell me that," he said. "Of course it is the great event to you. Otherwiseyouwouldneverhavethoughtofdoingit." "Exactly.Areyouastonished?" "IsupposeIam.Yes,Iam." "Ishouldhavethoughtyouwerefartooclevertobeso." "ExactlywhatIshouldhavethought.Butwhatlivingmanistooclevertobean idiot?Inevermetthegentlemanandneverhopeto." "Youlookeduponmeastheeternalspinster?" "I looked upon you as Hermione Lester, a great creature, an extraordinary
creature, free from the prejudices of your sex and from its pettinesses, unconventional, big brained, generous hearted, free as the wind in a world of monkey slaves, careless of all opinion save your own, but humbly obedient to thetruththatisinyou,humanasveryfewhumanbeingsare,onewhooughtto havebeenanartistbutwhoapparentlypreferredtobesimplyawoman." Hermionelaughed,winkingawaytwotears. "Well,Emiledear,I'mbeingverysimplyawomannow,Iassureyou." "AndwhyshouldIbesurprised?You'reright.Whatisitmakesmesurprised?" Hesatconsidering. "Perhapsitisthatyouaresounusual,soindividual,thatmyimaginationrefuses toprojectthemanonwhomyourchoicecouldfall.Iprojectthesnuffyprofessor —Impossible!IprojecttheGreekgod—againmymindcries,'Impossible!'Yet, behold,itisinverytruththeGreekgod,theidealoftheordinarywoman." "Youknownothingaboutit.You'reshootingarrowsintotheair." "Tellmemorethen.Holdupatorchinthedarkness." "Ican't.Youpretendtoknowawoman,andyouaskhercoldlytoexplaintoyou theattractionofthemansheloves,todissectit.Iwon'ttryto." "But,"hesaid,withnowasortofjokingpersistence,whichwasonlyamaskfor analmostirritablecuriosity,"Iwanttoknow." "Andyoushall.MauriceandIarediningto-nightatCaminiti'sinPeathillStreet, just off Regent Street. Come and meet us there, and we'll all three spend the evening together. Half-past eight, of course no evening dress, and the most deliciousTurkishcoffeeinLondon." "DoesMonsieurDelareylikeTurkishcoffee?" "Lovesit." "Intelligently?" "Howdoyoumean?" "Doesheloveitinherently,orbecauseyoudo?"
"Youcanfindthatoutto-night." "Ishallcome." Hegotup,puthispipeintoacase,andthecaseintohispocket,andsaid: "Hermione,iftheanalystmayhaveaword—" "Yes—now." "Don't let Monsieur Delarey, whatever his character, see now, or in the future, thedirtylittlebeggarstaringattheangel.Iuseyourownpreposterouslyinflated phrase. Men can't stand certain things and remain true to the good in their characters. Humble adoration from a woman like you would be destructive of blessedvirtuesinAntinous.Thinkwellofyourself,myfriend,thinkwellofyour sphinxlikeeyes.Haven'ttheybeauty?Doesn'tintellectshootitsfiresfromthem? MonDieu!Don'tletmeseeanyprostrationto-night,orIshallputthreegrainsof somethingIknow—IalwayscallitTurkishdelight—intotheTurkishcoffeeof MonsieurDelarey,andsendhimtosleepwithhisfathers." Hermionegotupandheldoutherhandstohimimpulsively. "Blessyou,Emile!"shesaid."You'rea—" There was a gentle tap on the door. Hermione went to it and opened it. Selim stoodoutsidewithapencilnoteonasalver. "Ha!ThelittleTownlyhasbeen!"saidArtois. "Yes,it'sfromher.Youtoldher,Selim,thatIwaswithMonsieurArtois?" "Yes,madame." "Didshesayanything?" "She said, 'Very well,' madame, and then she wrote this. Then she said again, 'Verywell,'andthenshewentaway." "Allright,Selim." Selimdeparted. "Delicious!" said Artois. "I can hear her speaking and see her drifting away consumedbyjealousy,inthefog."
"Hush,Emile,don'tbesomalicious." "P'f!Imustbeto-day,forItooam—" "Nonsense.Begoodthisevening,beverygood." "Iwilltry." Hekissedherhand,bendinghisgreatformdownwithaslightlyburlesqueair, andstrodeoutwithoutanotherword.HermionesatdowntoreadMissTownly's note: "Dearest,nevermind.IknowthatImustnowaccustommyselftobe nothinginyourlife.Itisdifficultatfirst,butwhatisexistencebuta struggle? I feel that I am going to have another of my neuralgic seizures.Iwonderwhatitallmeans?—Your,EVELYN." Hermionelaidthenotedown,withasighandalittlelaugh. "Iwonderwhatitallmeans?Poor,dearEvelyn!ThankGod,itsometimesmeans —"Shedidnotfinishthesentence,butkneltdownonthecarpetandtooktheSt. Bernard'sgreatheadinherhands. "You don't bother, do you, old boy, as long as you have your bone. Ah, I'm a selfishwretch.ButIamgoingtohavemybone,andIcan'thelpfeelinghappy— gloriously,supremelyhappy!" Andshekissedthedog'scoldnoseandrepeated: "Supremely—supremelyhappy!"
II Miss Townly, gracefully turned away from Hermione's door by Selim, did, as Artois had surmised, drift away in the fog to the house of her friend Mrs. Creswick, who lived in Sloane Street. She felt she must unburden herself to somebody, and Mrs. Creswick's tea, a blend of China tea with another whose originwasacloselyguardedsecret,wasthemostdeliciousinLondon.Thereare mercifuldispensationsofProvidenceevenforMissTownlys,andMrs.Creswick wasathomewithablazingfire.WhenshesawMissTownlycomingsideways intotheroomwithaslightlydroopinghead,shesaid,briskly: "Comfortmewithcrumpets,forIamsickwithlove!Cheerup,mydearEvelyn. Fogs will pass and even neuralgia has its limits. I don't ask you what is the matter,becauseIknowperfectlywell." Miss Townly went into a very large arm-chair and waveringly selected a crumpet. "What does it all mean?" she murmured, looking obliquely at her friend's parquet. "Ask the baker, No. 5 Allitch Street. I always get them from there. And he's a remarkablywell-informedman." "No,Imeanlifewithitsextraordinarychanges,thingsyouneverexpected,never dreamedof—andallcomingsoabruptly.Idon'tthinkI'mastupidperson,butI certainlyneverlookedforthis." "Forwhat?" "ThismostextraordinaryengagementofHermione's." Mrs. Creswick, who was a short woman who looked tall, with a briskly conceitedbutnotunkindmanner,andadecisiveandveryEnglishnose,rejoined: "I don't know why we should call it extraordinary. Everybody gets engaged at sometimeorother,andHermione'sawomanliketherestofusandsubjectto aberration.ButIconfessIneverthoughtshewouldmarryMauriceDelarey.He neverseemedtomeanmoretoherthananyoneelse,sofarasIcouldsee."
"EverybodyseemstomeansomuchtoHermionethatitmakesthingsdifficultto outsiders,"repliedMissTownly,plaintively."Sheissowide-mindedandhasso many interests that she dwarfs everybody else. I always feel quite squeezed when I compare my poor little life with hers. But then she has such physical endurance.Shebreakstheice,youknow,inherbathinthewinter—ofcourseI meanwhenthereisice." "Itisn'tonlyinherbaththatshebreakstheice,"saidMrs.Creswick. "I perfectly understand," Miss Townly said, vaguely. "You mean—yes, you're right.Well,Iprefermybathwarmedforme,butmycirculationwasneverofthe best." "Hermioneisextraordinary,"saidMrs.Creswick,tryingtolookatherprofilein theglassandmakingherfaceasRomanasshecould,"IknowallLondon,butI nevermetanotherHermione.Shecandothingsthatotherwomencan'tdreamof even,andnobodyminds." "Well,nowsheisgoingtodoathingwealldreamofandagreatmanyofusdo. Willitanswer?He'stenyearsyoungerthansheis.Canitanswer?" "Onecannevertellwhetheraunionoftwohumanmysterieswillanswer,"said Mrs.Creswick,judicially."MauriceDelareyiswonderfullygood-looking." "Yes,andHermioneisn't." "Thathasnevermatteredintheleast." "Iknow.Ididn'tsayithad.Butwillitnow?" "Whyshouldit?" "Men care so much for looks. Do you think Hermione loves Mr. Delarey for his?" "Shedivesdeep." "Yes,asarule." "Whynotnow?Sheoughttohavediveddeeperthaneverthistime." "Sheought,ofcourse.Iperfectlyunderstandthat.Butit'sveryodd,Ithinkwe oftenmarrythemanweunderstandlessthananyoneelseintheworld.Mystery issoveryattractive."
Miss Townly sighed. She was emaciated, dark, and always dressed to look mysterious. "MauriceDelareyisscarcelymyideaofamystery,"saidMrs.Creswick,taking joyously a marron glacé. "In my opinion he's an ordinarily intelligent but an extraordinarilyhandsomeman.Hermioneisexactlythereverse,extraordinarily intelligentandalmostugly." "Ohno,notugly!"saidMissTownly,withunexpectedwarmth. Thoughofatepidpersonality,shewasaworshipperatHermione'sshrine. "Hereyesarebeautiful,"sheadded. "Good eyes don't make a beauty," said Mrs. Creswick again, looking at her three-quarters face in the glass. "Hermione is too large, and her face is too square, and—but as I said before, it doesn't matter the least. Hermione's got a temperamentthatcarriesallbeforeit." "IdowishIhadatemperament,"saidMissTownly."Itrytocultivateone." "You might as well try to cultivate a mustache," Mrs. Creswick rather brutally rejoined."Ifit'sthere,it'sthere,butifitisn'tonepraysinvain." "I used to think Hermione would do something," continued Miss Townly, finishinghersecondcupofteawiththirstylanguor. "Dosomething?" "Something important, great, something that would make her famous, but of course now"—she paused—"now it's too late," she concluded. "Marriage destroys, not creates talent. Some celebrated man—I forget which—has said somethinglikethat." "Perhapshe'ddestroyedhiswife's.IthinkHermionemightbeagreatmother." MissTownlyblushedfaintly.Shedidnearlyeverythingfaintly.Thatwaspartly whysheadmiredHermione. "And a great mother is rare," continued Mrs. Creswick. "Good mothers are, thankGod,quitecommoneveninLondon,whateverthosefoolishpeoplewho railatthesocietytheycan'tgetintomaysay.Butgreatmothersareseldommet with.Idon'tknowone."
"Whatdoyoumeanbyagreatmother?"inquiredMissTownly. "Amotherwhomakesseedsgrow.Hermionehasageniusforfriendshipanda special gift for inspiring others. If she ever has a child, I can imagine that she willmakeofthatchildsomethingwonderful." "Doyoumeananinfantprodigy?"askedMissTownly,innocently. "No, dear, I don't!" said Mrs. Creswick; "I mean nothing of the sort. Never mind!" WhenMrs.Creswicksaid"Nevermind!"MissTownlyusuallygotuptogo.She got up to go now, and went forth into Sloane Street meditating, as she would haveexpressedit,"profoundly." Meanwhile Artois went back to the Hans Crescent Hotel on foot. He walked slowlyalongthegreasypavementthroughtheyellow Novemberfog,trying to combat a sensation of dreariness which had floated round his spirit, as the fog floatedroundhisbody,directlyhesteppedintothestreet.Heoftenfeltdepressed without a special cause, but this afternoon there was a special cause for his melancholy.Hermionewasgoingtobemarried. SheoftencametoParis,whereshehadmanyfriends,andsomeyearsagothey hadmetatadinnergivenbyabrilliantJewess,whodelightedincleverpeople, not because she was stupid, but for the opposite reason. Artois was already famous,thoughnotloved,asanovelist.Hehadpublishedtwobooks;worksof art, cruel, piercing, brutal, true. Hermione had read them. Her intellect had revelled in them, but they had set ice about her heart, and when Madame Enthoventoldherwhowasgoingtotakeherintodinner,sheverynearlybegged tobegivenanotherpartner.Shefeltthathernaturemustbeinoppositiontothis man's. Artoiswasnoteagerforthehonorofhercompany.Hewasacarefuldissecterof women, and, therefore, understood how mysterious women are; but in his intimate life they counted for little. He regarded them there rather as the EuropeantravellerregardstheMousmésofJapan,asplaythings,andinsistedon one thing only—that they must be pretty. A Frenchman, despite his unusual intellectual power, he was not wholly emancipated from the la petite femme tradition,whichwillneverbeoutmodedinPariswhileParishumswithlife,and, therefore,whenhewasinformedthathewastotakeintodinnerthetall,solidly
built, big-waisted, rugged-faced woman, whom he had been observing from a distance ever since he came into the drawing-room, he felt that he was being badlytreatedbyhishostess. Yethehadbeenobservingthiswomanclosely. Somethingunusual,somethingvitalinherhaddrawnhisattention,fixedit,held it.Heknewthat,butsaidtohimselfthatitwastheattentionofthenovelistthat had been grasped by an uncommon human specimen, and that the man of the world, the diner-out, did not want to eat in company with a specimen, but to throw off professional cares with a gay little chatterbox of the Mousmé type. ThereforehecameovertobepresentedtoHermionewithratherabadgrace. Andthatintroductionwasthebeginningofthegreatfriendshipwhichwasnow troublinghiminthefog. BytheendofthateveningHermioneandhehadentirelyridthemselvesoftheir preconceived notions of each other. She had ceased from imagining him a walking intellect devoid of sympathies, he from considering her a possibly interesting specimen, but not the type of woman who could be agreeable in a man'slife.Hernaturalnessamountedalmosttogenius.Shewasgenerallyunable tobeanythingbutnatural,unablenottospeakasshewasfeeling,unabletofeel unsympathetic. She always showed keen interest when she felt it, and, with transparentsincerity,sheatoncebegantoshowtoArtoishowmuchinterested shewasinhim.Bydoingsoshecaptivatedhimatonce.Hewouldnot,perhaps, havebeencaptivatedbytheheartwithoutthebrains,butthetwoincombination tookpossessionofhimwithaneasewhich,whentheeveningwasover,butonly then,causedhimsomeastonishment. Hermionehadadivining-rodtodiscovertheheartinanother,andshefoundout atoncethatArtoishadabigheartaswellasafineintellect.Hewasdeceptive becausehewasalwaysreadytoshowthelatter,andalmostalwaysdeterminedto concealtheformer.Eventohimselfhewasnotquitefrankabouthisheart,but often strove to minimize its influence upon him, if not to ignore totally its promptings and its utterances. Why this was so he could not perhaps have explainedeventohimself.Itwasoneofthemysteriesofhistemperament.From the first moment of their intercourse Hermione showed to him her conviction that he had a warm heart, and that it could be relied upon without hesitation. This piqued but presently delighted, and also soothed Artois, who was accustomed to be misunderstood, and had often thought he liked to be
misunderstood, but who now found out how pleasant a brilliant woman's intuition may be, even at a Parisian dinner. Before the evening was over they knewthattheywerefriends;andfriendstheyhadremainedeversince. Artois was a reserved man, but, like many reserved people, if once he showed himself as he really was, he could continue to be singularly frank. He was singularlyfrankwithHermione.Shebecamehisconfidante,oftenatadistance. HescarcelyevercametoLondon,whichhedislikedexceedingly,butfromParis or from the many lands in which he wandered—he was no pavement lounger, althoughhelovedParisratherasamanmayloveaverychiccocotte—hewrote toHermionelongletters,intowhichheputhismindandheart,hisaspirations, struggles,failures,triumphs.Theywerehumandocuments,andcontainedmuch ofhissecrethistory. It was of this history that he was now thinking, and of Hermione's comments upon it, tied up with a ribbon in Paris. The news of her approaching marriage withamanwhomhehadneverseenhadgivenhimarudeshock,hadawakened in him a strange feeling of jealousy. He had grown accustomed to the thought that Hermione was in a certain sense his property. He realized thoroughly the egotism, the dog-in-the-manger spirit which was alive in him, and hated but couldnotbanishit.AsafriendhecertainlylovedHermione.Sheknewthat.But hedidnotloveherasamanlovesthewomanhewishestomakehiswife.She mustknowthat,too.Helovedherbutwasnotinlovewithher,andsheloved butwasnotinlovewithhim.Why,then,shouldthismarriagemakeadifference intheirfriendship?Shesaidthatitwouldnot,buthefeltthatitmust.Hethought ofherasawife,thenasamother.Thelatterthoughtmadehisegotismshudder. She would be involved in the happy turmoil of a family existence, while he would remain without in that loneliness which is the artist's breath of life and martyrdom.Yes,hisegotismshuddered,andhewasangryattheweakness.He chastisedthefrailtiesofothers,butmustbethevictimofhisown.Afeelingof helplessnesscametohim,ofbeinggoverned,lashed,driven.Howunworthywas his sensation of hostility against Delarey, his sensation that Hermione was wronging him by entering into this alliance, and how powerless he was to rid himselfofeithersensation!Therewasgoodcauseforhismelancholy—hisown folly.Hemusttrytoconquerit,and,ifthatwereimpossible,toreinitinbefore theevening. Whenhereachedthehotelhewentintohissitting-roomandworkedforanhour andahalf,producingashortparagraph,whichdidnotpleasehim.Thenhetook ahansomanddrovetoPeathillStreet.