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under cover of the work, and that I had not fully recognised till now.

How intensely the sight of these wonderful lines moved me! I felt that
I could worship her, literally. That she had become to me as a
religion is to the enthusiast.

I must be the possessor, the sole owner of her. I felt she was mine
already. The agony and the loss, if she ever gave herself to another,
would be unendurable. If that happened I should let a revolver end
everything for me. I did not believe even the thought of my work would
save me.

Yet how curious this same passion is, I reflected, gazing at the
exquisite image on the paper before me. If one of these lines were
bent out of shape, twisted, or crooked, this same passion would cease
to be. The love and affection and esteem I had for her would remain,
but this intense desire and longing for her to be my own property,
which shook me now to the very depths of my system, would utterly
vanish.

Yet it would be wrong to say that these lines alone had captured me,
for had they enclosed a stupid or commonplace mind they would have
stirred me as little as if they themselves had been imperfect.

No it is when we meet a Spirit that calls to us from within a form of
outward beauty, and only then, that the greatest passion is born
within us.

And that I felt for Viola now, and I knew - looking back through a
vista of other and lighter loves - I had never known yet its equal. She
loved me, too, that great fact was like a chord of triumphant music
ringing through my heart. Then why this fancy that she would not marry
me? How could I possibly break it down? persuade her of its folly?

I walked up and down the studio all that evening, unable to go out to
dinner, unable to think of anything but her, and all through the night
I tossed about, restless and sleepless, longing for the hour on the
following day which should bring her to me again.

Yet how those hours tried me now! It would be impossible to continue.
She must and should marry me. It was only for me she held back from it
apparently, yet for me it would be everything.

One afternoon, after a long sitting, the power to work seemed to
desert me suddenly. My throat closed nervously, my mouth grew dry,
the whole room seemed swimming round me, and the faultless, dazzling
figure before me seemed receding into a darkening mist. I flung away
my brush and rose suddenly. I felt I must move, walk about, and I
started to pace the room then suddenly reeled, and saved myself by
clutching at the mantelpiece.

"What is it? What is the matter?" came Viola's voice, sharp with
anxiety, across the room. "Are you ill? Shall I come to you?"

"No, no," I answered, and put my head down on the mantelpiece. "Go and
dress. I can't work any more."

I heard her soft slight movements as she left the dais. I did not
turn, but sank into the armchair beside me, my face covered by my
hands.

Screens of colour passed before my eyes, my ears sang.

I had not moved when I felt her come over to me. I looked up, she was
pale with anxiety.

"You are ill, Trevor! I am so sorry."

"I have worked a little too much, that's all," I said constrainedly,
turning from her lovely anxious eyes.

"Have you time to stay with me this evening? We could go out and get
some dinner, if you have, and then go on to a theatre. Would they miss
you?"

"Not if I sent them a wire. I should like to stay with you. Are you
better?"

I looked up and caught one of her hands between my own burning and
trembling ones.

"I shall never be any better till I have you for my own, till we are
married. Why are you so cruel to me?"

"Cruel to you? Is that possible?" Her face had crimsoned violently,
then it paled again to stone colour.

"Well, don't let's discuss that. The picture's done. I can't work on
it any more. It can't be helped. Let's go out and get some dinner,
anyway."

Viola was silent, but I felt her glance of dismay at the only
half-finished figure on the easel.

She put on her hat and coat in silence, and we went out. After we had
ordered dinner and were seated before it at the restaurant table we
found we could not eat it. We sat staring at one another across it,
doing nothing.

"Did you really mean that ... that you wouldn't finish the picture?"
she said, after a long silence.

I looked back at her; the pale transparency of her skin, the blue of
the eyes, the bright curls of her hair in the glow of the electric
lamp, looked wonderfully delicate, entrancing, and held my gaze.

"I don't think I can. I have got to a point where I must get away from
it and from you."

"But it is dreadful to leave it unfinished."

"It's better than going mad. Let's have some champagne. Perhaps that
will give us an appetite."

Viola did not decline, and the wine had a good effect upon us.

We got through some part of our dinner and then took a hansom to the
theatre. As we sat close, side by side, in one of the dark streets, I
bent over her and whispered:

"If we had been married this morning, and you were coming back to the
studio with me after the theatre I should be quite happy and I could
finish the picture."

She said nothing, only seemed to quiver in silence, and looked away
from me out of the window.

We took stalls and had very good seats, but what that play was like I
never knew. I tried to keep my eyes on the stage, but it floated away
from me in waves of light and colour. I was lost in wondering where I
had better go to get fresh inspiration, to escape from the picture,
from Viola, from myself. Away, I must get away. _Coelum, non animum,
mutant qui trans mare current_ is not always true. Our mind is but a
chameleon and takes its hues from many skies.

In the vestibule at the end I said:

"It's early yet. Come and have supper somewhere with me, you had a
wretched dinner."

Anything to keep her with me for an hour longer! Any excuse to put
off, to delay that frightful wrench that seems to tear out the inside
of both body and soul which parting from her to-night would mean.

"Do you want me to come to the studio with you afterwards?" she asked.

I looked back at her with my heart beating violently. Her face was
very pale, and the pupils in her eyes dilated.

We had moved through the throng and passed outside.

The night was fine. We walked on, looking out for a disengaged hansom.
I could hardly breathe: my heart seemed stifling me. What was in her
mind? What would the next few minutes mean for us both?

My brain swam. My thoughts went round in dizzying circles.

"We shan't have time for supper and to go to the studio as well," I
answered quietly.

"I don't think I want any supper," she replied.

A sudden joy like a great flame leapt through me as I caught the
words.

A crawling hansom came up. I hailed it and put her in and sprang in
beside her, full of that delight that touches in its intensity upon
agony. "Westbourne Street," I called to the man. "No. 2, The Studio."




CHAPTER V

THE CALL OF THE CUCKOO


I stood looking through the window of my studio thinking.

The worst had happened, or the best, whichever it was. Viola had
become my mistress. She had resolutely refused to be my wife, and the
alternative had followed of necessity. The picture had brought us
together, it held us together. I could not separate from her without
sacrificing the picture, and so destroying her happiness, as she said,
and rendering useless all that she had done for me so far.

The picture forced us into an intimacy from which I could not escape
and which, now that the devastating clutch of passion had seized me, I
could not endure unless she became my own. Viola had seen this and
given me herself as unhesitatingly as she had at first given me her
beauty for the picture.

In her relations with me she seemed to reach the highest point of
unselfishness possible to the human character. For I felt that it was
to me and for me she had surrendered herself, not to her own passion
nor for her own pleasure.

She would have come day after day and sat to me, shewed me herself and
delighted in that self's-reproduction on the canvas, talked to me,
delighted in our common worship of beauty, accepted my caresses
and - for herself - wanted nothing more.

I had worked well in the past fortnight since the night of the
theatre, not so well perhaps as in that first clear period of
inspiration, of purely artistic life when Viola was to me nothing but
the beautiful Greek I was creating on my canvas, but still, well.

Some may think I naturally should from a sense of gratitude, a sense
of duty, - that I should be spurred to do my best, since avowedly Viola
had sacrificed all that the work should be good.

But ah, how little has the Will to do with Art!

How well has the German said, "The Will in morals is everything; in
Art, nothing. In Art, nothing avails but the being able."

The most intense desire, the most fervid wish, in Art, helps us
nothing. On the contrary, a great desire to do well in Art, more often
blinds the eye and clogs the brain and causes our hand to lose its
cunning. Unbidden, unasked for, unsought, often in our lightest, most
careless moments, the Divine Afflatus descends upon us.

We had arranged to have a week-end together out of town. Fate had
favoured us, for Viola's aunt had gone to visit her sister for a few
weeks, and the girl was left alone in the town house, mistress of all
her time and free to do as she pleased. The short interviews at the
studio, delightful as they were, seemed to fail to satisfy us any
longer. We craved for that deeper intimacy of "living together."

This is supposed to be fatal to passion in the end, but whether this
is so or not, it is what passion always demands and longs for in the
beginning.

So we had planned for four days together in the country, four days of
May, with a delicious sense of delight and secret joy and warm
heart-beatings.

I had dined at her house last night when all the final details had
been arranged in a palm-shaded corner by the piano, our conversation
covered by the chatter of the other guests. No one knew of our plan,
it was a dear secret between us, but it would not have mattered very
much if others had known that we were going into the country. I was
always supposed to be able to look after Viola, and everybody assumed
that it was only a question of time when we should marry each other.
We had grown up together, we were obviously very much attached to each
other, and we were cousins. And with that amazing inconsistency that
is the chief feature of the British public, while it would be shocked
at the idea of your marrying your sister, it always loves the idea of
your marrying your cousin, the person who in all the world is most
like your sister.

However, all we as hapless individuals of this idiotic community have
to do is to secretly evade its ridiculous conventions when they don't
suit us, and to make the most of them when they do.

And as I was more anxious to marry Viola than about anything else in
the world, I welcomed the convention that assigned her to me and made
the most of it.

For all that, we kept the matter of our four days to ourselves and
planned out its details with careful secrecy.

I was to meet her at Charing-Cross station, and we were going to take
an afternoon train down into Kent where Viola declared she knew of a
lovely village of the real romantic kind. I had thought we ought to
write or wire for rooms at a hotel beforehand, but Viola had been sure
she would find what she wanted when we arrived, and she wished to
choose a place herself.

So there was nothing more to do. My suit-case was packed, and when the
time came to a quarter past two I got into a hansom and drove to the
station.

Almost as soon as I got there, Viola drove up, punctual to the minute.

She knew her own value to men too well to try and enhance it by always
being late for an appointment as so many women do.

She looked fresh and lovely in palest grey, her rose-tinted face
radiant with excitement.

"I haven't kept you waiting, have I?" was her first exclamation after
our greeting.

"I had so much work to do for Aunt Mary all the morning, I thought I
should not have time to really get off myself."

"No, you haven't kept me waiting," I answered; "and, if you had, it
would not have mattered. You know I would wait all day for you."

She glanced up with a wonderful light-filled smile that set every cell
in my body singing with delight, and we went down the platform to
choose our carriage.

When the train started from Charing Cross the day was dull and
heavy-looking; warm, without sunshine. But after an hour's run from
town we got into an atmosphere of crystal and gold and the Kentish
fruit trees stretched round us a sea of pink and white foam under a
cloudless sky.

When we stepped out at our destination, a little sleepy country
station, the air seemed like nectar to us. It was the breath of May,
real merry, joyous English May at the height of her wayward, uncertain
beauty.

We left our light luggage at the station, and walked out from it,
choosing at random the first white, undulating road that opened before
us.

The little village clustered round the station, but Viola did not want
to lodge in the village.

"We can come back to it if we are obliged, but we shall be sure to
find a cottage or a wayside inn."

So we went on slowly in the transparent light of a perfect May
afternoon.

There are periods when England both in climate and landscape is
perfect, when her delicate, elusive loveliness can compare favourably
with the barbaric glory, the wild magnificence of other countries.

On this afternoon a sort of rapture fell upon us both as we went down
that winding road. The call of the cuckoo resounded from side to side,
clear and sonorous like a bell, it echoed and re-echoed across our
path under the luminous dome of the tranquil sky and over the hedges
of flowering thorn, snow-white and laden with fragrance.

Everywhere the fruit trees were in bloom: delicate masses of white and
pink rose against the smiling innocent blue of the sky.

"Now here is the very place," exclaimed Viola suddenly, and following
her eyes I saw behind the high, green hedge bordering the road on
which we were walking some red roofs rising, half hidden by the masses
of white cherry blossom which hung over them. A cottage was there
boasting a garden in front, a garden that was filled with lilac and
laburnum not yet in bloom; filled to overflowing, for the lilac bulged
all over the hedge in purple bunches and the laburnum poured its young
leaves down on it. A tiny lawn, rather long-grassed and not innocent
of daisies, took up the centre of the garden, and on to this two open
casements looked; above again, two open windows, half-lost in the
white clouds of cherry bloom.

"But how do you know they've any rooms?" I expostulated.

Viola looked at me with jesting scorn in her eyes.

"I don't know yet, but I'm going to find out."

She put her hand unhesitatingly on the latch of this apparently sacred
domain of a private house, opened the gate, and passed in; I followed
her inwardly fearful of what our reception might be.

"Men have no moral courage," she remarked superbly as we reached the
porch and rang the bell.

A clean-looking woman came to the door after some seconds.

"Apartments? Yes, miss, we have a sitting-room and two bedrooms
vacant," she answered to Viola's query. "Shall I show them to you?"

We passed through a narrow, little hall smelling of new oilcloth into
a fair-sized room which possessed one of the casements we had seen
from outside and through which came the white glow and scent of the
cherry bloom and the song of a thrush.

"This will do," remarked Viola with a glance round; "and what bedrooms
have you? We only want a sitting-room and one bedroom now."

"Well, ma'am, the room over this is the drawing-room. That's let from
next Monday. Then I have a nice double-room, however, I could let with
this."

"We will go and see it," said Viola. And we went upstairs.

It seemed a long way up, and when we reached it and the door was
thrown open we saw a large room, it was true but the ceiling sloped
downwards at all sorts of unexpected angles like that of an attic, and
the casements were small, opening almost into the branches of the
cherry-tree.

"What do you want for these two?" Viola enquired.

"Five guineas a week, ma'am," returned the woman, placidly folding her
hands together in front of her.

I saw a momentary look of surprise flash across Viola's face. Even
she, the young person of independent wealth, and who commanded far
more by her talents, was taken aback at the figure.

"Surely that's a good deal," she said after a second.

"Well, ma'am, I had an artist here last summer and he had these two
rooms, and he said as he was leaving: 'Mrs. Jevons, you can't ask too
much for these rooms. The view from that window and the cherry-tree
alone is worth all the money.'"

We glanced through the window as she spoke. It was certainly very
lovely. A veil of star-like jasmine hung at one side, and without,
through the white bloom of the cherry, one caught glimpses of the
turquoise-blue of the sky. Beneath, the garden with the wandering
thrushes and its masses of lilac; beyond, the soft outline of the
winding country road leading to indefinite distance of low blue hills.

"We'll take them for the sake of the cherry-tree," Viola said smiling.

"Will you send to the station for our light luggage and let us have
some tea presently?"

The woman promised to do both at once and ambled out of the room,
leaving us there and closing the door behind her.

I looked round, a sense of delight, of spontaneous joy, filling slowly
every vein, welling up irresistibly all through my being.

For the first time I stood in a room with Viola which we were going to
share. No other form of possession, of intimacy, is quite the same as
this, nor speaks to a lover in quite the same way.

I looked at her. She stood in the centre of the rather poorly
furnished and bare-looking room, in her travelling dress of a soft
grey cloth. Her figure that always woke all my senses to rapture,
shewed well in the clear, simple lines of the dress. Over the perfect
bosom passed little silver cords, drawing the coat to meet.

Beneath her grey straw summer hat, wide-brimmed, a pink rose nestled
against the light masses of her hair. Her eyes looked out at me with a
curious, tender smile.

She threw herself into a low cane chair by the window, I crossed the
room suddenly and knelt beside it.

"Darling, you are pleased to be here with me, are you not?"

"Pleased! I am absolutely happy. I have the sensation that whatever
happened I could not possibly be more happy than I am."

She put one arm round my neck and went on softly in a meditative
voice:

"I can't think how some girls go on living year after year all through
their youth never knowing this sort of pleasure and happiness, for
which they are made, can you?"

"They don't dare to do the things, I suppose," I answered.

"Perhaps they wouldn't give them any pleasure, ... but it seems
extraordinary." Her voice died away. Her blue eyes fixed themselves on
me in a soft, dreaming gaze.

I locked both my arms round her waist and kissed her lips into
silence. A knock at the door made me spring to my feet. Viola remained
where she was, unmoved, and said, "Come in."

A trim-looking maid came in with rather round eyes fixed open to see
all she could. She had a can of hot water in her hand.

"Please, mum, I thought you'd like some hot water."

"Very much," returned Viola calmly. "Thank you."

The maid very slowly crossed the room to the washing-stand and set the
can in the basin, covering it with a towel with elaborate care and
deliberateness, looking at Viola out of the corners of her eyes as she
did so.

"Please, m'm, when your luggage comes shall I bring it up?"

"Yes, do please, bring it up at once," replied Viola, and the girl
slowly withdrew, shutting the door in the same lengthy manner after
her.

Viola got up and crossed to the glass. She took off her hat and
smoothed back her hair with her hand. Each time she did so, the light
rippled exquisitely over its shining waves.

"I wonder if I ought to wash my face?" she remarked, looking in the
glass; "does it look dusty?"

"Not in the least," I said, studying the pink and white reflection in
the glass over her shoulder.

"Don't waste the time washing your face. Come and look out of the
window."

We went over to the little casement, and leant our arms side by side
on the sill.

The glorious afternoon sunlight was ripening and deepening into
orange, a burnished sheen lay over everything, the blue hills were
changing into violet, the trees along the road stood motionless, soft,
and feathery-looking in the sleepy heat. As we looked out we saw a
light cart coming leisurely along and recognised our luggage in it.

Some fifteen minutes later the round-eyed maid reappeared, with a man
following her carrying our luggage.

"If you please, m'm, Mrs. Jevons says would the gentleman go down and
give what orders he likes for dinner for to-day and to-morrow as the
tradesmen are here now and would like to know."

"Do you mind going down, Trevor?" Viola asked me. "I want just to get
a few of my things out?"

"Certainly not," I answered, "I'll go." And I followed the maid out
and downstairs.

When I returned to the room about half-an-hour later, it was empty,
and as I looked round it seemed transformed, now that her possessions
were scattered about. I walked across it, a curious sense of pleasure
seeming to clasp my heart and rock it in a cradle of joy.

I glanced at the toilet table. On the white cloth lay now two
gold-backed brushes, a gold-backed mirror and a gold button-hook, a
little clock in silver and a framed photograph of me; over the chair
by the dressing-table was thrown what seemed a mass of mauve silk and
piles of lace. I lifted it very gently, fearing it would almost fall
to pieces, it seemed so fragile, and discovered it was her
dressing-gown. How the touch of its folds stirred me since it was
_hers_!

I replaced it carefully, wondering at the keen sensation of pleasure
that invaded me as the soft laces touched my hands.

I turned to my own suit-case, unstrapped it, opened it, and then
pulled out the top drawer of the chest, intending to lay my things in,
but I stopped short as I drew it out.

A sheet of tissue paper lay on the top, and underneath this was her
dinner-dress - a delicate white cloud of shimmering stuff told me it
was that - and at the end of the drawer I saw two little white shoes
and white silk stockings.

I paused, looking down at the contents of the drawer, wondering at the
wave of emotion they sent through me. Why, when I possessed the girl
herself, should these things of hers have any power to move me?

It was perhaps partly because this form of possession, of intimacy,
was so new to me, and partly because I was young and still keenly
sensitive to all the delights of life and not yet even on the edge of
satiety. I lifted one little shoe out and sat down with it in my hand,
gazing at its delicate, perfect shape, my heart beating quickly and
the blood mounting joyously to my brain.

What a wonderful thing it is, this life in youth when even the sight
of a girl's shoe can bring one such keen, passionate pleasure!

Yet what pain, what agony it would be if by chance I had come across
this shoe and held it in my hand as now, and there was no violet night
to follow, no white arms going to be stretched out through its deep
mauve-tinted shadows!

I was still sitting with the shoe in my hand when Viola reappeared,
her arms full of lilac.

"I went down to the garden to get some of this," she said. "It looked
so lovely. What are you doing, Trevor, sitting there? The woman has
made the tea, and it will be much too strong if you don't come down."

She came up behind me and I saw her flush and smile in the glass as
she caught sight of her shoe. I looked up, and she coloured still more
at my glance.

"I am thinking about this and other things," I said smiling up at her.

She bent over and kissed me and took the shoe out of my hand.

"I am glad you like my little shoe," she said gently with a tender
edge to her tone, replacing the shoe in the drawer.

"Now do come down."

She put all the lilac in a great mass in the jug and basin, and we
went downstairs.

After tea we went out to explore our new and temporarily acquired
territory, and found there was another flower garden at the side of


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