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THE ROLL-CALL


BY


ARNOLD BENNETT


THIRD EDITION


BY THE SAME AUTHOR

NOVELS

A Man from the North
Anna of the Five Towns
Leonora
A Great Man
Sacred and Profane Love
Whom God hath Joined
Buried Alive
The Old Wives' Tale
The Glimpse
Helen with the High Hand
Clayhanger
Hilda Lessways
These Twain
The Card
The Regent
The Price of Love
The Lion's Share
The Pretty Lady

FANTASIAS

The Ghost
The Grand Babylon Hotel
The Gates of Wrath
Teresa of Watling Street
The Loot of Cities
The City of Pleasure

SHORT STORIES

Tales of the Five Towns
The Grim Smile of the Five Towns
The Matador of the Five Towns

BELLES-LETTRES

Journalism for Women
Fame and Fiction
How to become an Author
The Truth about an Author
How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day
Mental Efficiency
The Human Machine
Literary Taste
Those United States
Paris Nights
Friendship and Happiness
Married Life
Liberty
Over There
The Author's Craft
Books and Persons
Self and Self-Management

DRAMA

Polite Farces
Cupid and Common Sense
What the Public Wants
The Honeymoon
The Great Adventure
The Title
Judith
Milestones (in collaboration with EDWARD KNOBLOCK)

(In collaboration with EDEN PHILLPOTTS)
The Sinews of War: A Romance
The Statue: A Romance




THE ROLL-CALL


BY


ARNOLD BENNETT


THIRD EDITION


_LONDON: HUTCHINSON & CO.
PATERNOSTER ROW_

NOTE
This novel was written before "The Pretty Lady", and is the first of the
author's war-novels.
A.B.


CONTENTS


PART I

CHAP.
I. THE NEW LODGING
II. MARGUERITE
III. THE CHARWOMAN
IV. THE LUNCHEON
V. THE TEA
VI. THE DINNER
VII. THE RUPTURE
VIII. INSPIRATION
IX. COMPETITION


PART II

I. THE TRIUMPH
II. THE ROLL-CALL
III. IN THE MACHINE




THE ROLL-CALL

PART I

CHAPTER I

THE NEW LODGING

I


In the pupils' room of the offices of Lucas & Enwright, architects,
Russell Square, Bloomsbury, George Edwin Cannon, an articled pupil,
leaned over a large drawing-board and looked up at Mr. Enwright, the
head of the firm, who with cigarette and stick was on his way out after
what he called a good day's work. It was past six o'clock on an evening
in early July 1901. To George's right was an open door leading to the
principals' room, and to his left another open door leading to more
rooms and to the staircase. The lofty chambers were full of lassitude;
but round about George, who was working late, there floated the tonic
vapour of conscious virtue. Haim, the factotum, could be seen and heard
moving in his cubicle which guarded the offices from the stairs. In the
rooms shortly to be deserted and locked up, and in the decline of the
day, the three men were drawn together like survivors.

"I gather you're going to change your abode," said Mr. Enwright, having
stopped.

"Did Mr. Orgreave tell you, then?" George asked.

"Well, he didn't exactly tell me...."

John Orgreave was Mr. Enwright's junior partner; and for nearly two
years, since his advent in London from the Five Towns, George had lived
with Mr. and Mrs. Orgreave at Bedford Park. The Orgreaves, too, sprang
from the Five Towns. John's people and George's people were closely
entwined in the local annals.

Pupil and principal glanced discreetly at one another, exchanging in
silence vague, malicious, unutterable critical verdicts upon both John
Orgreave and his wife.

"Well, I am!" said George at length.

"Where are you going to?"

"Haven't settled a bit," said George. "I wish I could live in Paris."

"Paris wouldn't be much good to you yet," Mr. Enwright laughed
benevolently.

"I suppose it wouldn't. Besides, of course - - "

George spoke in a tone of candid deferential acceptance, which flattered
Mr. Enwright very much, for it was the final proof of the prestige which
the grizzled and wrinkled and peculiar Fellow and Member of the Council
of the Royal Institute of British Architects had acquired in the
estimation of that extremely independent, tossing sprig, George Edwin
Cannon. Mr. Enwright had recently been paying a visit to Paris, and
George had been sitting for the Intermediate Examination. "You can join
me here for a few days after the exam., if you care to," Mr. Enwright
had sent over. It was George's introduction to the Continent, and the
circumstances of it were almost ideal. For a week the deeply experienced
connoisseur of all the arts had had the fine, eager, responsive virgin
mind hi his power. Day after day he had watched and guided it amid
entirely new sensations. Never had Mr. Enwright enjoyed himself more
purely, and at the close he knew with satisfaction that he had put Paris
in a proper perspective for George, and perhaps saved the youth from
years of groping misapprehension. As for George, all his preconceived
notions about Paris had been destroyed or shaken. In the quadrangles of
the Louvre, for example, Mr. Enwright, pointing to the under part of the
stone bench that foots so much of the walls, had said: "Look at that
curve." Nothing else. No ecstasies about the sculptures of Jean Goujon
and Carpeaux, or about the marvellous harmony of the East facade! But a
flick of the cane towards the half-hidden moulding! And George had felt
with a thrill what an exquisite curve and what an original curve and
what a modest curve that curve was. Suddenly and magically his eyes had
been opened. Or it might have been that a deceitful mist had rolled away
and the real Louvre been revealed in its esoteric and sole authentic
beauty....

"Why don't you try Chelsea?" said Mr. Enwright over his shoulder,
proceeding towards the stairs.

"I was thinking of Chelsea."

"You were!" Mr. Enwright halted again for an instant. "It's the only
place in London where the structure of society is anything like Paris.
Why, dash it, in the King's Road the grocers know each other's
business!" Mr. Enwright made the last strange remark to the outer door,
and vanished.

"Funny cove!" George commented tolerantly to Mr. Haim, who passed
through the room immediately afterwards to his nightly task of
collecting and inspecting the scattered instruments on the principal's
august drawing-board.

But Mr. Haim, though possibly he smiled ever so little, would not
compromise himself by an endorsement of the criticism of his employer.
George was a mere incident in the eternal career of Mr. Haim at Lucas &
Enwright's.

When the factotum came back into the pupils' room, George stood up
straight and smoothed his trousers and gazed admiringly at his elegant
bright socks.

"Let me see," said George in a very friendly manner. "_You_ live
somewhere in Chelsea, don't you?"

"Yes," answered Mr. Haim.

"Whereabouts, if it isn't a rude question?"

"Well," said Mr. Haim, confidentially and benignantly, captivated by
George's youthful charm, "it's near the Redcliffe Arms." He mentioned
the Redcliffe Arms as he might have mentioned the Bank, Piccadilly
Circus, or Gibraltar. "Alexandra Grove. No. 8. To tell you the truth, I
own the house."

"The deuce you do!"

"Yes. The leasehold, that is, of course. No freeholds knocking about
loose in that district!"

George saw a new and unsuspected Mr. Haim. He was impressed. And he was
glad that he had never broken the office tradition of treating Mr. Haim
with a respect not usually accorded to factotums. He saw a,
property-owner, a tax-payer, and a human being behind the spectacles of
the shuffling, rather shabby, ceremonious familiar that pervaded those
rooms daily from before ten till after six. He grew curious about a
living phenomenon that hitherto had never awakened his curiosity.

"Were you really looking for accommodation?" demanded Mr. Haim suavely.

George hesitated. "Yes."

"Perhaps I have something that might suit you."

Events, disguised as mere words, seemed to George to be pushing him
forward.

"I should like to have a look at it," he said. He had to say it; there
was no alternative.

Mr. Haim raised a hand. "Any evening that happens to be convenient."

"What about to-night, then?"

"Certainly," Mr. Haim agreed. For a moment George apprehended that Mr.
Haim was going to invite him to dinner. But Mr. Haim was not going to
invite him to dinner. "About nine, shall we say?" he suggested, with a
courtliness softer even than usual.

Later, George said that he would lock up the office himself and leave
the key with the housekeeper.

"You can't miss the place," said Mr. Haim on leaving. "It's between the
Workhouse and the Redcliffe."


II


At the corner dominated by the Queen's Elm, which on the great route
from Piccadilly Circus to Putney was a public-house and halt second only
in importance to the Redcliffe Arms, night fell earlier than it ought to
have done, owing to a vast rain-cloud over Chelsea. A few drops
descended, but so warm and so gently that they were not like real rain,
and sentimentalists could not believe that they would wet. People,
arriving mysteriously out of darkness, gathered sparsely on the
pavements, lingered a few moments, and were swallowed by omnibuses that
bore them obscurely away. At intervals an individual got out of an
omnibus and adventured hurriedly forth and was lost in the gloom. The
omnibuses, all white, trotted on an inward curve to the pavement,
stopped while the conductor, with hand raised to the bell-string,
murmured apathetically the names of streets and of public-houses, and
then they jerked off again on an outward curve to the impatient double
ting of the bell. To the east was a high defile of hospitals, and to the
west the Workhouse tower faintly imprinted itself on the sombre sky.

The drops of rain grew very large and heavy, and the travellers, instead
of waiting on the kerb, withdrew to the shelter of the wall of the
Queen's Elm. George was now among the group, precipitated like the rest,
as it were, out of the solution of London. George was of the age which
does not admit rain or which believes that it is immune from the usual
consequences of exposure to rain. When advised, especially by women, to
defend himself against the treacheries of the weather, he always
protested confidently that he would 'be all right.' Thus with a stick
and a straw hat he would affront terrible dangers. It was a species of
valour which the event often justified. Indeed he generally was all
right. But to-night, afoot on the way from South Kensington Station in a
region quite unfamiliar to him, he was intimidated by the slapping
menace of the big drops. Reality faced him. His scared thought ran:
"Unless I do something at once I shall get wet through." Impossible to
appear drenched at old Haim's! So he had abandoned all his pretensions
to a magical invulnerability, and rushed under the eave of the Queen's
Elm to join the omnibus group.

He did not harmonize with the omnibus group, being both too elegant and
too high-spirited. His proper rĂ´le in the circumstances would have been
to 'jump into a hansom'; but there were no empty hansoms, and moreover,
for certain reasons of finance, he had sworn off hansoms until a given
date. He regarded the situation as 'rather a lark,' and he somehow knew
that the group understood and appreciated and perhaps resented his
superior and tolerant attitude. An omnibus rolled palely into the
radiance of the Queen's Elm lamp, the horses' flanks and the lofty
driver's apron gleaming with rain. He sprang towards the vehicle; the
whole group sprang. "Full inside!" snapped the conductor inexorably.
Ting, ting! It was gone, glimmering with its enigmatic load into the
distance. George turned again to the wall, humiliated. It seemed wrong
that the conductor should have included him with the knot of common
omnibus-travellers and late workers. The conductor ought to have
differentiated.... He put out a hand. The rain had capriciously ceased!
He departed gaily and triumphantly. He was re-endowed with the magical
invulnerability.

The background of his mind was variegated. The incidents of the
tremendous motor-car race from Paris to Berlin, which had finished
nearly a week earlier, still glowed on it. And the fact that King Edward
VII had driven in a car from Pall Mall to Windsor Castle in sixty
minutes was beautifully present. Then, he was slightly worried
concerning the Mediterranean Fleet. He knew nothing about it, but as a
good citizen he suspected in idle moments, like a number of other good
citizens, that all was not quite well with the Mediterranean Fleet. As
for the war, he had only begun to be interested in the war within the
last six months, and already he was sick of it. He knew that the Boers
had just wrecked a British military train, and his attitude towards such
methods of fighting was rather severe and scornful; he did not regard
them as 'war.' However, the apparent permanence of the war was
splendidly compensated by the victory of the brothers Doherty over the
American lawn-tennis champions in the Gentlemen's Doubles at Wimbledon.
Who could have expected the brothers to win after the defeat of R.H. by
Mr. Gore in the Singles? George had most painfully feared that the
Americans would conquer, and their overthrowing by the twin brothers
indicated to George, who took himself for a serious student of affairs,
that Britain was continuing to exist, and that the new national
self-depreciative, yearning for efficiency might possibly be rather
absurd after all.

In the midst of these and similar thoughts, and of innumerable minor
thoughts about himself, in the very centre of his mind and occupying
nearly the whole of it, was the vast thought, the obsession, of his own
potential power and its fulfilment. George's egotism was terrific, and
as right as any other natural phenomenon. He had to get on. Much money
was included in his scheme, but simply as a by-product. He had to be a
great architect, and - equally important - he had to be publicly
recognized as a great architect, and recognition could not come without
money. For him, the entire created universe was the means to his end. He
would not use it unlawfully, but he would use it. He was using it, as
well as he yet knew how, and with an independence that was as complete
as it was unconscious. In regard to matters upon which his instinct had
not suggested a course of action, George was always ready enough to be
taught; indeed his respect for an expert was truly deferential. But when
his instinct had begun to operate he would consult nobody and consider
nobody, being deeply sure that infallible wisdom had been granted to
him. (Nor did experience seem to teach him.) Thus, in the affair of a
London lodging, though he was still two years from his majority and had
no resources save the purse of his stepfather, Edwin Clayhanger, he had
decided to leave the Orgreaves without asking or even informing his
parents. In his next letter home he would no doubt inform them,
casually, of what he meant to do or actually had done, and if objections
followed he would honestly resent them.

A characteristic example of his independence had happened when at the
unripe age of seventeen he left the Five Towns for London. Upon his
mother's marriage to Edwin Clayhanger his own name had been informally
changed for him to Clayhanger. But a few days before the day of
departure he had announced that, as Clayhanger was not his own name and
that he preferred his own name, he should henceforth be known as
'Cannon,' his father's name. He did not invite discussion. Mr.
Clayhanger had thereupon said to him privately and as one man of the
world to another: "But you aren't really entitled to the name Cannon,
sonny." "Why?" "Because your father was what's commonly known as a
bigamist, and his marriage with your mother was not legal. I thought I'd
take this opportunity of telling you. You needn't say anything to your
mother - unless of course you feel you must." To which George had
replied: "No, I won't. But if Cannon was my father's name I think I'll
have it all the same." And he did have it. The bigamy of his father did
not apparently affect him. Upon further inquiry he learnt that his
father might be alive or might be dead, but that if alive he was in
America.

The few words from Mr. Enwright about Chelsea had sufficed to turn
Chelsea into Elysium, Paradise, almost into Paris. No other quarter of
London was inhabitable by a rising architect. As soon as Haim had gone
George had begun to look up Chelsea in the office library, and as Mr.
Enwright happened to be an active member of the Society for the Survey
of the Memorials of Greater London, the library served him well. In an
hour and a half he had absorbed something of the historical topography
of Chelsea. He knew that the Fulham Road upon which he was now walking
was a boundary of Chelsea. He knew that the Queen's Elm public-house had
its name from the tradition that Elizabeth had once sheltered from a
shower beneath an elm tree which stood at that very corner. He knew that
Chelsea had been a 'village of palaces,' and what was the function of
the Thames in the magnificent life of that village. The secret residence
of Turner in Chelsea, under the strange _alias_ of Admiral Booth,
excited George's admiration; he liked the idea of hidden retreats and
splendid, fanciful pseudonyms. But the master-figure of Chelsea for
George was Sir Thomas More. He could see Sir Thomas More walking in his
majestic garden by the river with the King's arm round his neck, and
Holbein close by, and respectful august prelates and a nagging wife in
the background. And he could see Sir Thomas More taking his barge for
the last journey to the Tower, and Sir Thomas More's daughter coming
back in the same barge with her father's head on board. Curious! He
envied Sir Thomas More.

"Darned bad tower for a village of palaces!" he thought, not of the
Tower of London, but of the tower of the Workhouse which he was now
approaching. He thought he could design an incomparably better tower
than that. And he saw himself in the future, the architect of vast
monuments, strolling in a grand garden of his own at evening with other
distinguished and witty persons.

But there were high-sounding names in the history of Chelsea besides
those of More and Turner. Not names of people! Cremorne and Ranelagh!
Cremorne to the west and Ranelagh to the east. The legend of these
vanished resorts of pleasure and vice stirred his longings and his
sense of romantic beauty - especially Ranelagh with its Rotunda. (He
wanted, when the time came, to be finely vicious, as he wanted to be
everything. An architect could not be great without being everything.)
He projected himself into the Rotunda, with its sixty windows, its
countless refreshment-boxes, its huge paintings, and the orchestra in
the middle, and the expensive and naughty crowd walking round and round
and round on the matting, and the muffled footsteps and the swish of
trains on the matting, and the specious smiles and whispers, and the
blare of the band and the smell of the lamps and candles.... Earl's
Court was a poor, tawdry, unsightly thing after that.

When he had passed under the Workhouse tower he came to a side street
which, according to Haim's description of the neighbourhood, ought to
have been Alexandra Grove. The large lamp on the corner, however, gave
no indication, nor in the darkness could any sign be seen on the blind
wall of either of the corner houses in Fulham Road. Doubtless in daytime
the street had a visible label, but the borough authorities evidently
believed that night endowed the stranger with powers of divination.
George turned hesitant down the mysterious gorge, which had two dim
lamps of its own, and which ended in a high wall, whereat could be
descried unattainable trees - possibly the grove of Alexandra. Silence
and a charmed stillness held the gorge, while in Fulham Road not a
hundred yards away omnibuses and an occasional hansom rattled along in
an ordinary world. George soon decided that he was not in Alexandra
Grove, on account of the size of the houses. He could not conceive Mr.
Haim owning one of them. They stood lofty in the gloom, in pairs,
secluded from the pavement by a stucco garden-wall and low bushes. They
were double-fronted, and their doors were at the summits of flights of
blanched steps that showed through the bars of iron gates. They had
three stories above a basement. Still, he looked for No. 8. But just as
the street had no name, so the houses had no numbers. No. 16 alone could
be distinguished; it had figures on its faintly illuminated fanlight. He
walked back, idly counting.

Then, amid the curtained and shuttered facades, he saw, across the road,
a bright beam from a basement. He crossed and peeped through a gate, and
an interior was suddenly revealed to him. Near the window of a room sat
a young woman bending over a table. A gas-jet on a bracket in the wall,
a few inches higher than her head and a foot distant from it, threw a
strong radiance on her face and hair. The luminous living picture,
framed by the window in blackness, instantly entranced him. All the
splendid images of the past faded and were confuted and invalidated and
destroyed by this intense reality so present and so near to him.
(Nevertheless, for a moment he thought of her as the daughter of Sir
Thomas More.) She was drawing. She was drawing with her whole mind and
heart. At intervals, scarcely moving her head, she would glance aside at
a paper to her left on the table.... She seemed to search it, to drag
some secret out of it, and then she would resume her drawing. She was
neither dark nor fair; she was comely, perhaps beautiful; she had
beautiful lips, and her nose, behind the nostrils, joined the cheek in a
lovely contour, like a tiny bulb. Yes, she was superb. But what mastered
him was less her fresh physical charm than the rapt and extreme vitality
of her existing.... He knew from her gestures and the tools on the table
that she could be no amateur. She was a professional. He thought:
Chelsea!... Marvellous place, Chelsea! He ought to have found that out
long ago. He imagined Chelsea full of such pictures - the only true home
of beauty and romance.

Then the impact of a single idea startled his blood. He went hot. He
flushed. He had tingling sensations all down his back, and in his legs
and in his arms. It was as though he had been caught in a dubious
situation. Though he was utterly innocent, he felt as though he had
something to be ashamed of. The idea was: she resembled old Haim,
facially! Ridiculous idea! But she did resemble old Haim, particularly
in the lobal termination of the nose. And in the lips too. And there was
a vague, general resemblance. Absurd! It was a fancy.... He would not
have cared for anybody to be watching him then, to surprise him watching
her. He heard unmistakable footsteps on the pavement. A policeman darkly
approached. Policemen at times can be very apposite. George moved his
gaze and looked with admirable casualness around.

"Officer, is this Alexandra Grove?" (His stepfather had taught him to
address all policemen as 'officer.')

"It is, sir."

"Oh! Well, which is No. 8? There're no numbers."

"You couldn't be much nearer to it, sir," said the policeman dryly, and
pointed to a large number, fairly visible, on the wide gate-post. George
had not inspected the gate-post.

"Oh! Thanks!"

He mounted the steps, and in the thick gloom of the portico fumbled for
the bell and rang it. He was tremendously excited and expectant and
apprehensive and puzzled. He heard rain flatly spitting in big drops on
the steps. He had not noticed till then that it had begun again. The
bell jangled below. The light in the basement went out. He flushed anew.
He thought, trembling: "She's coming to the door herself!"


III


"It had occurred to me some time ago," said Mr. Haim, "that if ever you
should be wanting rooms I might be able to suit you."

"Really!" George murmured. After having been shown into the room by the
young woman, who had at once disappeared, he was now recovering from the
nervousness of that agitating entry and resuming his normal demeanour of
an experienced and well-balanced man of the world. He felt relieved that
she had gone, and yet he regretted her departure extremely, and hoped
against fear that she would soon return.

"Yes!" said Mr. Haim, as it were triumphantly, like one who had
whispered to himself during long years: "The hour will come." The hour
had come.

Mr. Haim was surprising to George. The man seemed much older in his own
parlour than at the office - his hair thinner and greyer, and his face



Online LibraryArnold BennettThe Roll-Call → online text (page 1 of 28)