Beatrice Harraden.

Out of the wreck I rise online

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felt unequal to her task. The impersonality
which the subject demanded for its successful
exposition, had been stormed and beset by over-
whelming personal influences of the past. Tamar's
words echoed back to her : " The past is a
nuisance. What good has it done you ? Weakened
you. Wel^ Tm not going to be weakened"

Tamar was right in theory. Nevertheless
Tamar herself had not been able to withstand
the mysterious magic of the past. Nell saw her
now, weeping with unshed tears in that dimly
lit shop. She heard her voice charged with a
grim despair, murmuring : " Woe is me woe is
me." She saw her beat her breast. Yes, Tamar
still loved Adrian Steele. And she, Nell, still
loved him. Once again, after the lapse of many
years, she felt herself caught and entangled by
the old sensations of rivalry with and triumph


over Tamar. For Adrian had shown that even
now, after all these years, he had placed her on
the higher plane. He had asked for her spiritual
forgiveness, and he had paid back money to Tamar.
Here indeed was cause for triumph. But she was
soon ashamed of giving way to meanness, and
did her best to check herself. But this return
to past history brought stress and strain of spirit,
and serious disturbance of brain serenity ; and
Nell was alarmed at her emotional weakness, angry
over her mental instability, and indignant with
fate for thus forcing her back into a network from
which she believed she had for ever freed herself.

When Adrian Steele had lost interest in her
as a modern product, and had deliberately
ceased to lay his spell on her, she had escaped
with a true thankfulness from this servitude of
mind and temperament ; and had, with a fine and
determined courage, gathered her energies and
gifts together, and entered on a long and patient
apprenticeship for public service work. Adrian
Steele himself had first directed her attention to
the terrible sweating which went on in some
of the trades ; and she had never forgotten the
day when he took her, down to the East End, and
showed her the homes and the lives of some of
the sweated workers. The sights she saw, ate like
acid into her brain, and she had vowed to give


the best of her strength and mind towards helping
in the great task of trying to solve some of these
industrial problems.

Her marriage with Rupert Silberthwaite had
helped and not hindered her in her plan of life.
He had been an engineer of some repute ; and,
modern to his finger-tips, had ever been in the
vanguard of those who wished to give women
the justice of equal opportunity and scope for
their abilities and ambitions in all walks of life.
He wished to share generously, and not withhold
grudgingly. When others, less fine than himself,
had scoffed, he met their sneers with a quiet smile
of wonder. So Nell had in her husband a true
friend and a staunch comrade, who took the
deepest interest and pride in her work, and had
helped her in every respect to carry out her
schemes. He died suddenly, and she found that,
even in his will, he had not dissociated her from
her work. His will had contained this one
clause : <c / leave all my money and possessions to my
dear wife Net!, for her work and herself"

Thus, in his death also, he had, with a true
chivalry, paid her the tribute of recognizing that
her work was not a mere adjunct to her life, but its
very kernel. He had gone on his way, and she
had missed and mourned him increasingly. He
had known the history of her love for Adrian


Steele ; and had, with added tenderness and pity-
ing kindness, set himself to heal her spirit and
help her to pass on.

She missed him now. She could have laid
before him her distress of mind, her unworthy
jealousy of Tamar, yes, even her reawakening
love for Adrian Steele, and could have reckoned
as ever on his generous understanding and wise
guidance. Even as she mounted the platform that
evening, and saw that big audience before her, she
tried to strengthen herself by believing that she
could refer the whole matter to him, and free herself,
once again by his help, from the yoke of the past.

Perhaps this memory steadied her nerves ; and
probably also, knowing herself to be at such an
impasse of depression, she made some special un-
conscious effort to gather together her disinte-
grated wits and concentrate them on her lecture.
The result was that she gave one of her most
brilliant addresses. But because of her heaviness
of heart, she did not realize that she had done well ;
and the strain which she had put upon herself in-
duced an after condition of increased despondency.

But before she left the hall her gloom was
dispelled. John Noble, the famous playwright,
had been present, and he made his way into the
ante-room and came straight towards her, eagerly
holding out his hand.


" Mrs. Silberthwaite," he said, " you have stirred
me tremendously. I cannot tell you how you
have stirred me. I have been uneasy about all
these things for so long. But vaguely, you know.
Looking on. Doing nothing. Taking no part.
You have made me feel that I must take some
part, and at once."

His words brought a flush of pleasure into
Nell's face.

" You cannot imagine how you encourage me,"
she said. " I felt I had done so badly to-night.
No nerve in me. No go."

"No one else felt that, I'm positive," he said
earnestly. " It was a splendid address, and an
inspiring one. It is true that you deal with facts ;
and facts can easily be turned into dry bones.
But you present a living picture to the mind.
You are bound to succeed in your work, because
the presenting of a picture is the secret of all
successful appeals. Yes, you have stirred me
tremendously. I want to help with both hands.
Here they are ! "

All Nell's depression had died away. She
looked radiant with happiness and pride.

" I can't tell you what your kindness and praise
mean to me, Mr. Noble," she said. "We've so
wanted the help of your name."

"Well, you have it now," he answered, "and


I'm ashamed that you have not had it before.
But I assure you I should be still more ashamed
of myself if I held back after your lecture to-night.
I'll come to-morrow to the office, and if you can
spare the time, I should like to ask several ques-
tions of you, and find out how I could best begin
to serve."

"Present a picture," she suggested daringly.
" Write a play, Mr. Noble. You would do it
magnificently. You would take all the sordid-
ness and all the misery, and kindle it into a
great beacon which would reach even the blindest

"Ah," he said, smiling a little wistfully, "if I
only could. But I should soon find out that 1
knew nothing. For it is one matter to feel
strongly about a thing suddenly, and quite another
matter to attain to the power of making others
share that sudden enthusiasm. To do that, one
must first be saturated with the idea. I should
have to saturate myself as you have done, for
instance. You have given years of your life to
these subjects, haven't you ? "

" Years," she answered.

"Well, I envy you," he said. "My puppets
will die their natural death. They will fade out
of the picture of life ; but the picture which you
present, will not perish. It will undergo the


transfiguration for which you are finely and pa-
tiently working."

He stood for a moment silent, and then added
with a smile :

" All the same, I shall have to think about that
play. I should want a fearful deal of help."

"You should have it down to the very last
shred," she said, laughing.

She went home delighted with the unexpected
success of the evening. It was a splendid piece
of good luck to have secured the attention and
interest of this popular dramatist. His name
alone would carry weight with the public ; and even
if he did nothing else except join the Society and
pay in his subscription, he would be lending
powerful and far-reaching aid.

The next morning she hurried off to the office with
a light heart. Nothing but good news awaited
her : more money, more members, more offers of
active co-operation. She said to herself, laughingly,
that John Noble had already begun to work his spell.

But suddenly she picked up a postcard which
lay by itself on her desk. She glanced at it
heedlessly, for its meaning did not at once dawn
on her ; but when she read it again, she under-
stood. It ran thus :

" Have learnt something. Expecting you with-
out fail this afternoon. T. SCOTT."


The postcard fell from Nell's hand. A change
came over her spirit. The past leapt back. That
little figure rose up before her unwilling eyes.
He stood, with his old persistence, claiming her
attention and her interest. The old dreaded
disintegration set in. The old unworthy jealousy
sprang up. Tamar had learnt something. Tamar
had been working for him. And she, Nell, had
learnt nothing. She, Nell, had been doing nothing
for him. This was intolerable. She must do
something. And at once. What could she do ?
Dare she go to him direct and implore him to tell
her his difficulties ? No, no, that would be of no
use. That would only have the effect of sealing
his lips. Could she seek out any one who knew
him ? But who did know him in her present
world ? Their worlds were not the same. Still,
if Tamar had succeeded in learning something,
she too could succeed. She was not going to be
overshadowed by Tamar. If the past had to come
back to her, she would keep her place in the past.
No question about that.

Then her finer feelings prevailed, and she again
became ashamed of herself for taking up that
attitude towards Tamar. No, they must not be
rivals at their time of life, and after this long
interval of many years. They must be collabo-
rators, not rivals. Tamar, too, had been the one


to sound the generous note. She had heard
something, and at once sent for her.

Nell smiled, and not unkindly. She had always
liked Tamar, and it was so exactly like Tamar to
order her to come. Tamar had always taken it
for granted that no one except herself had any
affairs to transact. So far as she was concerned,
nothing of any importance was happening in the
great world outside her dimly-lit shop. Kings
might die or be crowned, revolutions might be
making headway, the Church might be perishing,
Ireland might be having Home Rule, women
enjoying their hardly-won citizenship, comets
might be losing their tails. Tamar, amidst all
these events, remained unchanged, dateless, be-
longing, even as the jewels which she worshipped,
to all and any time.

Well, Tamar had sent for her, and Nell would
go. She would hurry off as soon as she could,
and meantime she would try to think how she
could best reach Adrian Steele. She longed to
reach him. She saw him again, as she had seen
him in her dream, on that mountain side, cut off
from help, inaccessible. She turned instinctively
to the mountain picture which he had given her,
and which was the only one of all his gifts she had
kept. Why had she kept it ? Ah, she knew.
Because of the mountain gloom, and the mountain


glory which had been dear to them both. Because
of the snow peaks of pure white loveliness which
they had both loved, and which towered calmly
and majestically above that low-lying valley where
love and comradeship lay wrecked.

She was still absorbed in these thoughts when a
knock came at her door, and the little Suffragette
secretary, whose merry eyes were dancing with
excitement, announced Mr. John Noble.

John Noble never knew from what a far-off
distance, and with what a painful effort, Nell's
mind travelled to meet him. But his very first
action helped her back to practical life. With a
pleased and a charmingly self-conscious little smile
he handed her a cheque for .250.

"Laggards should pay the heaviest toll, Mrs.
Silberthwaite," he said. " But I'm not going to
be only a name. I'm going to be a reality.
And I've been thinking about that play you've
ordered. Upon my word, I believe I shall be
able to write it if you will help me with your

" Yes, yes, indeed I will. Let's begin at once,"
she said, all her enthusiasm returning to her with
a bound.

She threw herself heart and soul into her
task, answering his questions about the Trade
Boards Act, clearing away his difficulties, and


showing him the exact point to which the work
of her Society had progressed. She dwelt now on
the chainmakers, now on the lace trade, now the
tailoring trade, now on the box-making, and now
on the very worst feature of underpaid labour, the
wage-earning of very young children ; and when
at times she stopped, fearing to tire him, he
always said :

"Don't leave off, if you still have leisure. I
want to learn all I can. I want to make up for
lost time."

At last she ceased, and John Noble rose to go.

"This must be a mighty interest in your life,
Mrs. Silberthwaite," he said. " You care tremen-
dously, don't you ? "

" Yes, tremendously," she answered.

"Ah, the impersonality of it," he said half
dreamily. "The losing of the selfhood. That
alone is a thing to be envied."

" Alas ! one does not lose that, Mr. Noble,"
Nell said, shaking her head sorrowfully. As she
spoke, her thoughts leapt back to Adrian Steele, and
she glanced again at the snow-mountain picture.

His eyes followed hers, and he gave a sudden

" Well, that's a curious thing," he said. " This
is the second time to-day I've seen this identical
picture. The Bernese Oberland range, isn't it ? "


" Yes," she answered.

" I saw it in my business manager's office," he
continued. " I had an appointment with him,
which he had forgotten, oddly enough. I
waited for him in vain half an hour or so, and
meantime studied the mountains. Then I came
straight on here. And here's the same picture.
Now isn't that queer ? "

For a moment she did not answer, and then, as a
thought darted to her brain, she said impulsively :

" Mr. Noble, is your business manager Adrian
Steele ? "

"Yes," he replied.

"Adrian Steele gave me that picture," she said.
" It was a duplicate of his own."

" Then you know him ? " Noble asked, rather

" I knew him very well many years ago," Nell
replied. " I had not seen him for nearly twelve
years until the other day, when he called on me."

Noble stood twirling his hat nervously in his
hands. He seemed to be keeping back something
that he wanted to say. At last he spoke.

" He has managed my affairs for a very long
time," he said. " I shall always own frankly that
1 should have been nowhere without him, abso-
lutely nowhere."

" I am glad to hear you say that," Nell said


earnestly. " I always knew he was brilliantly

tc Yes, brilliantly able/' Noble repeated. " That's
the word. If anything, too able."

He did not stir. He appeared to be caught in
a network of distressing thought. All the bright
eagerness with which he had been listening to
Nell's lesson, had now faded into a sorrowful

Some secret prompting impelled her to speak in
praise of Adrian Steele.

" I assure you," she said, " that, looking back
now, I know that 1, too, should have been no-
where without Adrian Steele. It has taken me
years to recognize the debt I owe him. If I have
reached even one of the most distant outposts of
my goal, it is because he originally gave a clear
indication of the way. He taught me how to
work on modern lines. He was the first to plead
with my brain for the cause of the poor. I hear
him now telling me in his scornful way to use my
academic brain,' as he called it, for the problems
of the great world outside the scholar's study. I
admired his splendid doggedness. I have tried
hard to imitate it. I admired still more the
driving force in him, the memory of which has
many a time spurred me on to fresh effort and
action. And I admired, above all, the generous,


ungrudging way in which he gave himself out,
sparing neither his mental nor his physical strength
in the fulfilment of his task. The debt '

She broke off and turned to her desk abruptly,
wishing to remind herself that she was a business

"You must really forgive me," she said.
"There is no reason why I should trouble you
with all this."

" There is every reason why you should," he
said in a low voice. "You are doing both me
and Adrian Steele a greater service than you know
by reminding me of the debt which I, too, owe to
him. I won't forget it. And you're right. It is
only when one looks back, that one knows the
true value of the whole debt."

He took his leave with a grave, preoccupied
manner. When he reached the door, he paused.

" Can you perhaps tell me one thing," he said.
It is-

He broke off.

Whatever the question was, he suppressed it,
and passed out of the room. But his powerless-
ness to speak, and his sadness had told Nell more
than words. Something had gone wrong between
him and Adrian Steele, and that something
had struck this kind man hard. What was it?
What was it that had prompted her to record to


this stranger her debt of gratitude to Adrian
Steele ? Why, as she spoke, had all remembrance
of former injury been swept away in a wave of
appreciation ? She knew now. Instinct had told
her that here was danger, and she had sprung up
intuitively to ward it off. If she could do
nothing else for Adrian Steele, it was at least
something to have had the chance of ranging
herself on his side. And there might be other
chances too. This might be only the beginning.

She would be seeing John Noble again, and
perhaps he, of his own accord, would reopen
the subject of Adrian Steele. Meantime she was
in the proud position of being able to report to
Tamar that her day's work had, in its natural
course, brought her in direct contact with some
one who knew Adrian Steele, and had business
dealings with him. Tamar might have something
to tell her. But she also had something to tell

A few hours afterwards Nell stood in Tamar's
shop, examining a beautiful plaque of Limoges
enamel, while Tamar was transacting some busi-
ness with a fashionably dressed woman, rather
closely veiled.

" No,'* Tamar said, with a bored expression on
her face. " I have stated my offer. Eleven pounds
twelve and sixpence for the four rings."


"Very well," the woman said, shrugging her
shoulders. " But 1 cannot help saying that you
drive a very hard bargain."

"Possibly," Tamar answered grimly, counting
out the money. " But why come ? "

The veiled lady received the money with an
impatient gesture, and hastened away.

" These rich women lead one a dreadful life,"
Tamar remarked as she turned over the rings and
held them up to the light. " They fight for their
last farthing with their backs to the wall. Most
annoying. That woman has been here for quite
half an hour. However, the rings are rather good.
This emerald isn't at all bad."

" Tamar, have you ever seen the inside of a large
bell gentian a blue one ? " Nell questioned, still
examining the Limoges enamel plaque.

" Flowers never interest me," Tamar replied

" The blue and green of Limoges enamel always
reminds me of blue gentians," Nell said. " What
a splendid little plaque this one is, Tamar. If I
were rich, I should want to buy it."

" I intend to sell that to-morrow," Tamar said
slowly. " I've quite made up my mind to that. And
moreover, to one of Adrian Steele's acquaintances."

" To one of Adrian Steele's acquaintances ? "
Nell asked in surprise.


Tamar nodded.

" Yes," she said. " I met him at a sale in the
country. He is coming here to-morrow on some
other business. We made friends over a Battersea
snuff- box, and we are going to become still
greater friends over a Limoges enamel. I shall
let him have it cheap."

Then in a few dry words Tamar narrated the
history of what she had herself seen and heard at
Meyntoun Moat, and the duel of the two men
over the Dutch ship. Nell listened with mingled
feelings of jealousy and concern.

" So you see," Tamar said, " there's no doubt
I've got an important clue to the situation. Adrian,
like a fool, has landed himself into some sort of
trouble with this playwright man, Hailsham.
Probably been cheating him. Been found out.
Well, I always feared he would be found out.
He was curiously reckless at times. However,
I shall learn more to-morrow. This Hailsham
loses his temper, and talks. I shall know how
to lead him on. The Limoges enamel and the
Dutch ship will help."

" I too have a clue," Nell said.

" You ? " asked Tamar crossly. " How could
you have it, pray ? "

Nell told her of her first meeting with John
Noble at the Grey Friars' Hall, and of their


subsequent interview at the office, when the name
of Adrian Steele at once aroused in him feelings
of great distress.

" I am sure something has gone wrong between
them," Nell said. "There could be no doubt
about that. And I could see that when Mr.
Noble learnt that I knew Adrian Steele, he wanted
to ask me some questions. But he is not a man
who speaks easily."

" Well, I don't see that your precious acquaint-
ance with him will be of the least use," Tamar

"At least I was able to defend him," Nell
answered, with a proud little smile.

" What's the good of defending him ? " Tamar
asked scornfully. "That's no good to anybody.
And probably he can't be defended."

"Well, I can only tell you that Mr. Noble
thanked me for reminding him of his debt to
Adrian Steele, and said I'd done both him and
Adrian Steele a greater service than I knew," Nell
said with spirit.

Tamar was silent. She too was suffering from
an acute attack of jealousy. She tossed the new
rings impatiently into a small box, and locked it
fiercely. Nell noticed her irritation, but pretended
to ignore it.

" Curiously enough," she continued, " it never


struck me at first to connect the two men in my
mind. I was so taken up with the delight of
having secured a new and powerful friend for
the work of our Society, that all other thoughts
were in abeyance."

Tamar grunted.

"I've no sympathy with public service," she
said. " None. Why do you want to mix yourself
up with these silly sweated labour questions ? It's
a ridiculous waste of time and strength. No one
need expect it from me."

" No one would, in his wildest dreams," Nell
said good-naturedly.

A grim smile came over Tamar's face, and part
of her sulkiness passed from her.

" I don't mind owning," she said in a mumbling
voice, "that your meeting with this other play-
wright man may have something in it after all. I
suppose I was jealous."

" I was jealous of you, too," Nell said. " When
your postcard came saying that you had learnt
something, I could have well, I won't tell you
what I could have done to you."

Tamar chuckled. She liked to hear Nell's
confession, and understood it.

"A couple of fools that's what we are," she
said. " Fools to concern ourselves about his wel-
fare, and fools to be jealous of each other "


" Fools to be jealous of each other," Nell
returned. " I admit that with all my heart."

"Yes; and, don't you mistake it, fools to
concern ourselves about him," Tamar said. " It's
obvious we haven't any sense. If we had, we
wouldn't let Adrian Steele come between ourselves
and our own affairs public service, precious stones,
or anything."

There was a moment's silence between the two
women. The little figure rose before them. Some
of the happiness of the past and some of the old
longing held them. It was Nell who spoke first.

" Nevertheless, we must save him if we can,
Tamar," she said in a low voice.

Tamar gave an almost imperceptible nod.

<c If we work together, we may be able to save
him," Nell said. " Jealousy will cause loss of
time and opportunity."

Tamar made no sign.

" We must try and not be jealous of each other
again,'* Nell persisted. " I promise you I'll try,

There was a pause.

" Yes, I suppose we must try,'' Tamar said

She leaned over the counter, closed her eyes,
and very slowly, with a painful effort, stretched
out her hand towards Nell.


A BRIAN STEELE travelled up from Meyn-

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Online LibraryBeatrice HarradenOut of the wreck I rise → online text (page 6 of 19)