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followed by days of headache and exhaustion,
when nothing seemed to matter at all, except to
feel well. Then would come days, and even
weeks, when she would fling herself into the life
of the passing moment, and almost forget ; but
always there seemed a blight over life — nothing,
not even music, had any meaning ; everything
passed her by and left her untouched, with a
sense of incompleteness. She recalled the old
days, when each event and each pleasure had
been, as it were, stamped with its meaning in
large surface letters, and wondered.

She had kept her promise to Giles. She wrote
once a month, giving him a bare chronicle of
her movements and doings, at a great cost to
herself ; and yet, perhaps for that very reason,
she would not willingly have given up writing.
She would think of him sometimes with pity,


often with longing, again with a wayward and
inconsistent anger.

Why did he not write ?

She had begged him in her first letter not to
answer ; and he had obeyed. The pessimism of
her native distrust always besieged her.

He could not care — no man would care for
so long ! She wanted him, and she did not
want him. For the last month she had not
written ; she had no longer those violent moods
of despair, but she had felt too profoundly

She had grown thinner and paler, and her
face was hardly ever without its look of defeat.
Her aunt's personality seemed altogether too
much for her in these days ; she had a feeling of
suffocation and of great loneliness.

She would sit at the window sometimes for
hours, watching the river, longing to get away
upon it to the sea, far away to the East, to
countries where no one knew her, where the sun
was bright, and she might begin her life again.
At other times she knew that even that could not
give her what she wanted, or fill the vague long-
ing within her. The winter months in London



had been dreary and terrible, but her heart had
never ached as now, when the spring wind
stirred, and the sap coursed in the budding
trees. . . .

Presently she lifted her face, flushed and tear-
stained. She went to the glass and arranged
her hair — she had a horror of public emotion.
Her aunt would be coming back ! She took up
a piece of work, and began passing the needle
mechanically in and out — it was almost too
dark to see.

The door was opened. She expected to hear
her aunt's smoothly offended voice, but the
servant announced —

" Mr. Nielsen ! "


JOCELYN rose from her seat, stretching out her
hands, as Nielsen came slowly forward from the
door. The two peered at each other in the dusk.
The servant, going out, turned up the light,
and it leaped suddenly forth from the twisted
brackets on the walls upon the man's square
figure, and the girl's flushed and smiling face.

Nielsen bowed low over her hand with his
elaborate courtesy. There was an air of pros-
perity about him. He was tightly buttoned into
a smart, grey overcoat, and wore an orchid in
his buttonhole. He carried in his hand a hat
of exceptional glossiness, to which a mourning
band only succeeded in giving an additional
air of festivity. His face was rather fatter, his
moustache seemed, if anything, tawnier. His
eyeglass was carefully screwed into his eye, and
he regarded Jocelyn through it with an expres-
sion of admiring benevolence.


*' I am verry fortunate ! verry fortunate," he
kept repeating, purring his r's and spitting his
t's. " What a prretty room ! How well you are
looking ! "

Her face was burning, and her eyes dark and
soft after the flow of tears.

" I'm very glad to see you again," she said.
" Come and sit down." She took the hat out of
his hand, put it on the table, and turned a chair
for him to the fire, talking all the time. In the
restless and excited state of her nerves, he was
a godsend to her.

" And how is the dear aunt ? " he said, with
his old pathetic emphasis. Jocelyn began to
laugh. She could not help it — she had been
waiting for the words. She struggled with her
laughter and laughed the more. Nielsen looked
at her rather puzzled, and then began to laugh
too. He had not the least idea why, except
that she looked so charming, with the bright
colour in her cheeks, with her brown eyes
dancing, and her white teeth showing as she
swayed gracefully backwards and forwards in
her chair.

" I am so sorry ! " she gasped. •' What is


the matter with me ? Auntie's very well, she
always is, you know. Now tell me all about
yourself, every little last thing."

" Place anx dames, my dear young lady ! You
will have a grreat deal of news to tell me, I am

" Oh no ! I've no news, except that I'm bored
— terribly bored with London. Now come,
begin ! First of all — how is the * system ' ? "

She leant forward, in an attitude of correct
listening with a perfectly grave face.

Nielsen spread his fingers, and then gave his
moustache a prolonged twist.

" Ah ! rien tie va plus ! That is all over," he
said mournfully, with a little shake of his head.
" I am quite lost without it. Mais que voulez-
vous ? My uncle dies — I told you of him — my
uncle — did I not ? — ah ! the good old fellow !
He leaves me a little— but yes, a little fortune.
Can one go on playing a ' system ' ? One has
one's brread and butter." He spread his fingers
again. '' It is inconceivable, don't you know."

" That's very good news, I'm so glad ! "

Nielsen shrugged his shoulders gently, his
head a little on one side.


" It gives me the good fortune to see you
again," he said, " but for the rrest, I am not sure.
It was a verry good 'system' ; and now, you know,
I have nothing to do. I am not used to that."

Jocelyn smiled, the death of the " system "
amused her. " I don't think you will be idle
long," she said, " you are busy by nature."

Nielsen bowed.

*' And you ? " he said. " Where have you
been all this long time ? Mon Dieu ! Is it pos-
sible it is not yet a year ? "

" We came to London first. Then in August
we went to Whitby, and stayed six weeks, and
got shrivelled by the winds. Then we were
in Paris a month, and we've been here ever
since November. How long have you been
in England ? "

" I arrived yesterday. I have been in Stock-
holm. One of my cousins had got into a —
what do you call it — a hole, ime affaire de caur.
I had a grreat deal of trouble to extrract him."
He talked of his cousin as if he had been a
tooth, and soon found himself giving her an
account of delicate matters in which a woman
figured discreditably. Jocelyn was so sympa-


thetic a listener, and so devoid of prudery, that
insensibly one told her almost anything. She
inspired a sense of comradeship.

He finished, however, by saying : " I suppose
I should not have told you this yarrn. It has
been on my mind a grreat deal, you see, so you
must forgive me."

At this moment tea arrived, followed by Mrs.
Travis. She had changed her costume for a robe
having a breastplate of many colours, and came
in smiling affably above it. She greeted Niel-
sen with a smoothly dignified cordiality. She
managed at the same time, by refusing to look
at her niece above the waist, to convey to her a
sense of unforgiven injury. For a large lady
she was inimitably quick of expression — she
never wasted time. She began to talk to
Nielsen of old days and mutual friends ; no
allusion was made to the Legards, but in the
middle of the conversation Jocelyn rose, and,
on the pretence of drawing the blinds, went to
the window. She dreaded to hear Giles's name,
fearing for her self-command.

It was almost dark now. Through the dim
shapes of the tree branches the black water was


seen spangled with the reflections of Hghts. The
deep rumble of a heavy cart absorbed all other
sounds. The wind had dropped, and a soft
grey haze was creeping downwards from the

Nielsen came over presently, and stood beside

"That is verry interresting," he said. "No-
thing is plain except the black water beyond.
Ah ! it is like the attitude of our minds looking
out into life, don't you know."

Jocelyn was faintly surprised ; it was a
remark unlike what she knew of him, but
before she could answer he was saying good-

" Good night ! my dear young lady. It is
verry late. If you will permit me, I will say
au revoir. I shall be at your disposal whenever
you wish for an escort. I hope you will take
pity upon me now that I have lost my occupa-
tion. I should like to see some pictures, and
hear some music again ; it is so long since I
have heard any good music. Some day I trust
you will come with the dear aunt and dine with
me. I am staying at the Grrand, don't you


know — the cooking might be better, but then
in London ! "

He spread his fingers and departed.

During the weeks that followed they saw a
good deal of Nielsen. He generally contrived
to present himself, by arrangement or otherwise,
in the course of the day. He appeared to divide
his time between visiting them, and running all
over London in search of old acquaintances
whom he had known in the days when, as Bo-
hemian and journalist, he had maintained a
hand - to - mouth existence. He had lived in
London for several years ; he had shoals of these
acquaintances, and the larger number of them,
from the tales which he confided to Jocelyn,
seemed to have holes in their personalities which
required patching. He would get as far as the
holes in his confidences, indeed he would en-
large upon them pathetically, but it was only by
inference that she gathered the patches. The
patching, moreover, was not confined to money
transactions. He had a knack, in the service of
other people, of rushing in where angels feared
to tread.


Upon one occasion, when they had been
lunching with him at a distinguished restaurant,
they were mildly astounded by the waiter, who
brought them coffee, touching their host gently
upon the shoulder. Nielsen had stared at the
man for a short time in a gradually dissolv-
ing indignation, risen abruptly from his seat,
shaken him warmly by the hand, and retired
with him into a corner of the room, where an
animated conversation had ensued. He had
presently come back to them, to say with his
customary smooth languor —

" I am so sorry, don't you know. A dear old
frriend of mine — poor fellow ! — he has had grreat
misfortunes ; and here figurez vous ? — here ! he
is verry badly trreated. If you will excuse me
a minute ? "

A few seconds later, they had a glimpse of
him in perspective through the open door,
twirling his moustache, while he held a button
of the proprietor's coat and talked to him evi-
dently for his good. The only words that faintly
reached their ears sounded suspiciously like —
" damned scoundrrel, don't you know ? "

He rejoined them, perfectly suave and apolo-


getic, finished his coffee with an air of exhaus-
tion, and paid the bill. As they left the room
the proprietor bowed before them low and obse-
quious. And yet, if a cabman drove over his
toes, or a crossing-sweeper bespattered him with
mud, the chances were that he would apologise
to them for being in the way.

Jocelyn had a much kindlier feeling for him
than she had had in the old days. His com-
panionship took her out of herself. She brooded
less, regained much of her spirits. She could
not shake off the feeling of being alone, of being
lost in a forest of uncompanionable trees, but the
fear became more shadowy — less substantial.

They went about a good deal by themselves.
Jocelyn had always been, both by nature and
education, unconventional in such matters, and
now a kind of recklessness possessed her. Mrs.
Travis indeed had a high sense of the proprieties,
but she had a higher sense of comfort ; she did
not care at all for music or pictures, not much
for theatres, so she contented herself and salved
her conscience with those entertainments where
one ate.

As for Nielsen, he had expanded with pros-


perity. In his relations with Jocelyn, he seemed
to have more time, no longer any reason to
cramp his emotions into a small space. He
found it pleasant to play with the sensation of
being alone in the field — with a newly-born
feeling of comradeship. Also, he was always
beset with a sense of enigma, of something in
the girl which had not formerly been there — in
an impersonal sort of way he felt he would like
to find out what it was ; just as, when he was a
small boy, he had cut open his toys to see what
was inside. It would have been wrong to say
he was not in love with her, he was — but the
attitude of his mind was leisurely.

One day they were driving down Sloane Street
on their way to a theatre. At the edge of the
pavement, as they passed, a shop assistant in an
apron and grey flannel shirt sleeves was twirling
a red-bristled mop. If his life had depended on
it, his puckered visage could not have expressed
a more concentrated emotion. Jocelyn plucked
Nielsen's sleeve : " Look what a limited thing
the human face is ! " she said, with a sudden
little shiver. " If that man had committed a
murder he couldn't look more dreadful, and he's


only twisting a mop ! " The hansom whirled
close past the man with the sound of frequent
hoofs and jingled bell, and Nielsen only had a
glimpse of a momentarily suspended mop, and
a pale, expressionless visage. Having missed
the effect, he looked at his companion's face in-
stead as she leaned forward in the cab. It was
very white, and the brows were drawn together
as if she were in sudden pain. He had a gleam
of recollection, and for the first time since seeing
her again, all the old, painful sense of a barrier
between them.

Jocelyn looked at him.

" Ah ! " she said, with sudden inspiration,
" you are thinking you would like to read my
thoughts, to know what's behind the mask, but
you never will, you see. We're all alone — al-
ways alone — aren't we ? "

She spoke quietly enough, rather like a child
asking for information, but somehow he had the
impression that she was frightened. He put
one of his gloved hands soothingly upon hers.
It was the first time he had touched her except
in the exchange of ordinary greeting, and he was
surprised and confused by the sudden vehemence


with which she snatched her hand away, and
folding her arms, leant back in her corner of the
cab, almost as if he had struck her.

He said nothing — he had nothing to say. She
was as gentle and friendly to him as usual all the
rest of the afternoon.


Upon one Sunday afternoon a few weeks later,
Jocelyn made an expedition with Nielsen to
Watts's Studio in the Melbury Road. It was
one of the last days of April. There was a soft
grey sky, lit every now and then with watery
gleams of sun. They walked across Kensington
Gardens, where the trees were full of young,
green foliage, and the earth damp with the last
of April showers. The birds were calling all
round them,

Jocelyn was in one of her most vivid moods.
As was usual with her when in high spirits,
words rippled from her lips in a way quite
irresponsible and very charming. She walked
briskly with a springing step, as straight as a
dart, her small head thrown slightly back be-
tween her shoulders, her eyes dancing and a
smile on her lips. She always dressed in a
manner peculiar to her own desires, yet she


never seemed behind the times — a problem for
analytical dressmakers. To-day she had had
the whim to put on a black dress, with some
creamy lace round the neck and in the front of
the bodice. Thus attired and with a black hat,
she appealed irresistibly to Nielsen's sense of
the fitness of things. Her small face seemed
to gleam out of its black and white setting like
a jewel. He squared his figure as he walked,
and held his head up with a feeling of pride.

In the Studio groups of people stood, in a
subdued light, discussing the pictures in low
tones. The spirit of allegory stared out upon
them from the walls. Imagination laid a spell
upon the eye, and upon the tongue. Jocelyn's
face had become suddenly grave and earnest.
The brilliancy went out of her brown eyes,
they grew profound, dark, and reverent ; her
impressionable, artistic nature was at once under
the master's influence. She did not, indeed,
lose her sense of criticism, her discrimination,
but she seemed to have become in immediate
sympathy with the painter's views and aims,
judging him, as it were, from his own stand-
point. Nielsen, on the other hand, though by


no means unimpressed, retained his own point
of view. With his head a little upon one side,
and his hand caressing his moustache, he
appeared to discuss with himself the merits of
each picture in an adjusted see-saw of pr'o and
con. For a few minutes they became sepa-
rated, and when Nielsen came back to her side,
he found her standing before the wonderful
picture of Paolo and Francesca. Her hands
were clasped in front of her, her face was very
still, and there were tears in her eyes.

Nielsen said nothing, but stood and looked at
the picture too.

He had never seen it before. The tragedy
in it arrested him — the measureless tragedy of
that man and woman whirled through space in
the resistless rush of a linked unrest — the un-
speakable, compassionate anguish on the man's
lips, the undying love in his shadowed eyes, the
suffering, and the eternal, wistful faith of the
woman's face. If ever the truth of life has
been revealed in art, surely it is in that picture.
There, is all the joy of life, and all its suffering,
endless motion, and triumphant love.

Nielsen experienced a kind of indignation —



it was unpleasantly disturbing. He swallowed
a lump in his throat and turned away abruptly,
he did not care to look at it too long. It was a
relief to hear a man behind him remark to a
woman that the " glass " was going down.
After all, those were the things that mattered,
luckily, more than a hundred dismal pictures.
The " glass " was going down ! That was
infinitely satisfactory. He put his hands into
the pockets of his overcoat, and worked them
gently up and down. He felt much better.
Then he wiped his eyeglass, and looked at

She was still standing in front of the picture,
looking as if she were going to faint. All his
indignation returned. He went and got her a
chair, put it down with its back to the picture,
and made her sit in it. His eyes glowed
angrily, and he twisted his moustache fiercely.
Then he expressed his feelings —

" I should like to get that Monsieur Watts,
and hang him on the walls of his own studio as
a — a — pr-recept." When he had caught the
word, he hissed it from under his moustache.

" 1 consider it is quite indecent, don't you


know — the — the — confounded picture has made
you ill."

A rush of colour had come into Jocelyn's
cheeks, and, as she got up from her chair,
she said —

" It's very stupid of me ! Don't abuse the
picture, please, I love it. It's only coming into
this hot room after the walk. I'm all right
now." She insisted on going round the studio
again, and even upon discussing the merits of
the various pictures, but they both avoided the
" Paolo and Francesca," and Nielsen knew by the
tone of her voice that she was not herself.

On the way home in a cab, she hardly spoke
at all, and leant back gazing straight in front of
her. Nielsen became garrulous ; he did not
in the least understand what was the matter,
but he considerately wished by chatter to divert
her thoughts.

" Prrogress, civilisation ! " he said, spreading
his fingers out of the cab into an inattentive
space, and bending forward with puckered eyes,
" Ah ! The * artist ! ' He is nowhere. It is all
* the man of action,' don't you know. He leads
the way — he is the cause. The other fellow


is only the effect, you see ; he exists because
there is somebody there already to hold him out
his brread and butter. Look at the Romans !
Ah ! There you have the rreal Philistine. But
look at his civilisation ; look at his rroads, look
at his baths, he — washed ! They were men of
action, and they held the brread and butter in
their hands, don't you know, for the other
fellows to come and eat. Look at this country !
Here you have more frreedom, more comfort,
more justice than anywhere else that I have
been ; and yet you are barbarous men of action,
don't you know. Not one in a hundred of you
has any sense of form or colour, but you manage
to have as much art and as much music and
literature, on the whole, as any other country.
It is all a case of brread and butter, you see.
You can pay the — how do you say it — the
piper, so you call the tune."

Jocelyn shook her head gently and said,
" There are two sides to that."

" Certainly, my dear young lady, there are
two sides to every question. I am quite willing
to hear the other side — but to me music — pic-
tures — books, they are all frrills, charrming


frrills. They don't begin till the garment is
completed. They rrise out of leisure, and there
is not any leisure, don't you see, until there is
alrready a civilisation. After all, a man must
eat — that comes first." He nodded his head
mournfully, as if the fact were painful to

But all his efforts to draw her into argument
were of no avail ; the drive ended silently, and
he left her at the door of the Mansions. He
walked away slowly eastwards, looking absently
at the grey water running through the dark
arches of the bridge, and every now and then
shaking his head gravely.

Jocelyn climbed the two flights of stairs to
the flat, and let herself in with her key. She
went straight to her bedroom, the thought of
her aunt's society at that moment was intolerable
to her, and she mufHed her footsteps as she
passed the drawing-room.

She took ofif her hat and gloves, and flung
herself into a chair in front of the empty fire-
place. She sat there for some minutes, rocking
herself to and fro, with her hands crossed in
her lap.


She was haunted by that picture, its endless
whirlwind of motion, its anguish. In the face
of Paolo something reminded her of Giles. It
seemed to her that she read in the picture,
for herself and for him, the cruel denial of rest,
the resistless decree of an eternal punishment
through immeasurable space.

She sprang to her feet, and paced to and fro
the length of her room, pressing her hands to
her throbbing temples. After a time, the soft
monotony of her own footsteps on the carpet
soothed her ; she paused in front of the window,
and flung it open. The air was sweet and warm,
and there was a faint sound of raindrops plash-
ing gently on the young leaves of the trees.
The church clock was striking " five." She
shut her eyes and listened — another and another
echoed the refrain, till the world seemed full of
a wistful chiming. It ceased. She reached her
hand out along the window, leaning against the
half-opened casement. Some drops of rain fell
upon her face.

The paroxysm of her pain had passed away,
she only felt alone — very tired, and alone.

Presently she bathed her face with cold water.


changed her dress, and went to the drawing-
room pale and quite cahn.

Mrs. Travis, upright in her chair, with watch-
ful green eyes and a silver-grey dress, was
playing " Patience." Jocelyn shivered a little.


Upon the same Sunday afternoon, in a small
port on the eastern Spanish seaboard, Giles
Legard leant over the rail of a long, forlorn-
looking, wooden jetty. Against the black piles
which upheld it the sea heaved inwards in smooth
ripples. Every now and then wisps of dark
seaweed floated by, and up the sides of the piles
the green slime gleamed in the hot sunshine.
Keeping a precarious foothold on the slippery
cross-beams with his bare, brown feet, a red-
capped fisher boy plucked mussels, dropping
them into a basket slung on his arm. The sea,
hushed and bright, stretched past the jetty to
the town, which rose in compact white tiers
under the lee of a sandy waste of hills ; on the
hard line of the eastern horizon the dim haze of
an island was visible.

A brig, with sails set, was sidling out of the

harbour against a head wind. A row of fisher-



men and loafers, barelegged or booted, with
swarthy faces, and blue clothing, came running
down the jetty, stretching a tow-rope hove to

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Online LibraryJohn GalsworthyJocelyn → online text (page 10 of 14)