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The call of the blood


The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Call of the Blood, by Robert Smythe
Hichens,IllustratedbyOrsonLowell
ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwith
almostnorestrictionswhatsoever.Youmaycopyit,giveitawayor
re-useitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincluded
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Title:TheCalloftheBlood
Author:RobertSmytheHichens
ReleaseDate:December21,2006[eBook#20157]
Language:English
Charactersetencoding:ISO-8859-1
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BLOOD***

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Transcriber'sNotes:

Some minor changes have been made to correct typographical errors and
inconsistencies.
Theoriginalbookhasnotableofcontents.InthisversionIhaveaddedoneto
allowthereadertojumptoaparticularchapter.





Seep.399"HESTOODSTILL,GAZINGATTHEMASTHEYPRAYED"See
p.399"HESTOODSTILL,GAZINGATTHEMASTHEYPRAYED"


THECALL


OFTHE

BLOOD


ROBERTHICHENS
AUTHOROF
"THEGARDENOFALLAH"ETC.

ILLUSTRATEDBY
ORSONLOWELL


NEWYORKANDLONDON

HARPER&BROTHERSPUBLISHERS
MCMVI

Titlepage.Titlepage.

Copyright,1905,1906,byHARPER&BROTHERS.
Allrightsreserved.
PublishedOctober,1906.



ILLUSTRATIONS
"HESTOODSTILL,GAZINGATTHEMASTHEYPRAYED" Frontispiece
"'SPACESEEMSTOLIBERATETHESOUL,'SHESAID"
Facingp.38
"HE...LOOKEDDOWNATTHELIGHTSHININGIN
"78
THEHOUSEOFTHESIRENS"
"HERHEADWASTHROWNBACK,ASIFSHEWERE
"120
DRINKINGINTHEBREEZE"
"'IAMCONTENTWITHOUTANYTHING,SIGNORINO,'
"280
SHESAID"
"HEKEPTHISHANDONHERSANDHELDITONTHE
"302
WARMGROUND"
"'BUTISOONLEARNEDTODELIGHTIN—INMY
"366
SICILIAN,'SHESAID,TENDERLY"
"SHECOULDSEEVAGUELYTHESHOREBYTHE
CAVESWHERETHEFISHERMENHADSLEPTIN
"420
THEDAWN"


THE
CALLOFTHEBLOOD
Gotochapter.

ChapterI
ChapterII
ChapterIII
ChapterIV
ChapterV
ChapterVI ChapterVII ChapterVIII
ChapterIX
ChapterX
ChapterXI ChapterXII ChapterXIII ChapterXIV ChapterXV
ChapterXVI ChapterXVII ChapterXVIII ChapterXIX ChapterXX
ChapterXXI ChapterXXII ChapterXXIII ChapterXXIV ChapterXXV

THECALLOFTHEBLOOD


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.


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