He didn’t know what he was going to do about
On a fine, warm day in April Maisie
had come home. He had motored her up from the
station, and now the door of the drawing-room had closed
on them and they were alone together in there.
“Oh, Jerrold it is nice to
see you again.”
She panted a little, a way she had when she was excited.
“Awfully nice,” he said,
and wondered what on earth he was going to do next.
He had been all right on the station
platform where their greetings had been public and
perfunctory, but now he would have to do something
intimate and, above all, spontaneous, not to stand
there like a stick.
They looked at each other and he took
again the impression she had always given him of delicate
beauty and sweetness. She was tall and her neck
bent slightly forward as she walked; this gave her
the air of bowing prettily, of offering you something
with a charming grace. Her shoulders and her
hips had the same long, slenderly sloping curves.
Her hair was mole brown on the top and turned back
in an old-fashioned way that uncovered its hidden
gold. Her face was white; the thin bluish whiteness
of skim milk. Her mauve blue eyes looked larger
than they were because of their dark brows and lashes,
and the faint mauve smears about their lids.
The line of her little slender nose went low and straight
in the bridge, then curved under, delicately acquiline,
its nostrils were close and clean cut. Her small,
close upper lip had a flying droop; and her chin curved
slightly, ever so slightly, away to her throat.
When she talked Maisie’s mouth and the tip of
her nose kept up the same sensitive, quivering play.
But Maisie’s eyes were still; they had no sparkling
speech; they listened, deeply attentive to the person
who was there. They took up the smile her mouth
began and was too small to finish.
And now, as they looked at him, he
felt that he ought to take her in his arms, suddenly,
at once. In another instant it would be too late,
the action would have lost the grace of spontaneous
impulse. He wondered how you simulated a spontaneous
But Maisie made it all right for him.
As he stood waiting for his impulse she came to him
and laid her hands on his shoulders and kissed him,
gently, on each cheek. Her hands slid down; they
pressed hard against his arms above the elbow, as
if to keep back his too passionate embrace. It
was easy enough to return her kiss, to pass his arms
under hers and press her slight body, gently, with
his cramped hands. Did she know that his heart
was not in it?
No. She knew nothing.
“What have you been doing with yourself?”
she said. “You do look fit.”
“Do I? Oh, nothing much.”
He turned away from her sweet eyes that hurt him.
At least he could bring forward a
chair for her, and put cushions at her back, and pour
out her tea and wait on her. He tried by a number
of careful, deliberate attentions to make up for his
utter lack of spontaneity. And she sat there,
drinking her tea, contented; pleased to be back in
her happy home; serenely unaware that anything was
He took her over the house and showed
her her room, the long room with the two south windows,
one on each side of the square, cross-lighted bay
above the porch. It was full of the clear April
Maisie looked round, taking it all
in, the privet-white panels, the lovely faded Persian
rugs, the curtains of old rose damask. An armchair
and a round table with a bowl of pink tulips on it
stood in the centre of the bay.
“Is this mine, this heavenly room?”
“I thought so.”
He was glad that he had something beautiful to give
her, to make up.
She glanced at the inner door leading
to his father’s room. “Is that yours
“Mine? No. That door’s
locked. It... I’m on the other side
next to Colin.”
He took her into the gallery and showed her.
“It’s that door over there at the end.”
“What a long way off,” she said.
“Why? You’re not afraid, are you?”
“Dear me, no. Could anybody be afraid here?”
“Poor Colin’s pretty jumpy still.
That’s why I have to be near him.”
“You won’t mind having him with us, will
“I shall love having him. Always.
I hope he won’t mind me.”
“He’ll adore you, of course.”
“Now show me the garden.”
They went out on to the green terraces
where the peacocks spread their great tails of yew.
Maisie loved the peacocks and the clipped yew walls
and the goldfish pond and the flower garden.
He walked quickly, afraid to linger,
afraid of having to talk to her. He felt as if
the least thing she said would be charged with some
unendurable emotion and that at any minute he might
be called on to respond. To be sure this was
not like what he knew of Maisie; but, everything having
changed for him, he felt that at any minute Maisie
might begin to be unlike herself.
She was out of breath. She put her hand on his
arm. “Don’t go so fast,
Jerry. I want to look and look.”
They went up on to the west terrace
and stood there, looking. Brown-crimson velvet
wall-flowers grew in a thick hedge under the terrace
wall; their hot sweet smell came up to them.
“It’s too beautiful for words,”
“I’m glad you like it. It is rather
a jolly old place.”
“It’s the most adorable
place I’ve ever been in. It looks so good
and happy. As if everybody who ever lived in
it had been good and happy.”
“I don’t know about that.
It was a hospital for four years. And it hasn’t
quite recovered yet. It’s all a bit worn
and shabby, I’m afraid.”
“I don’t care. I
love its shabbiness. I don’t want to forget
what it’s been.... To think that I’ve
missed seven weeks of it.”
“You haven’t missed much.
We’ve had beastly weather all March.”
“I’ve missed you. Seven weeks
“I think you’ll get over that,”
he said, perversely.
“I shan’t. It’s
left a horrid empty space. But I couldn’t
help it. I really couldn’t, Jerry.”
“All right, Maisie, I’m sure you couldn’t.”
“Torquay was simply horrible.
And this is heaven. Oh, Jerry dear, I’m
going to be so awfully happy.”
He looked at her with a sudden tenderness
of pity. She was visibly happy. He remembered
that her charm for him had been her habit of enjoyment.
And as he looked at her he saw nothing but sadness
in her happiness and in her sweetness and her beauty.
But the sadness was not in her, it was in his own
soul. Women like Maisie were made for men to
be faithful to them. And he had not been faithful
to her. She was made for love and he had not
loved her. She was nothing to him. Looking
at her he was filled with pity for the beauty and
sweetness that were nothing to him. And in that
pity and that sadness he felt for the first time the
uneasy stirring of his soul.
If only he could have broken the physical
tie that had bound him to her until now; if only they
could give it all up and fall back on some innocent,
immaterial relationship that meant no unfaithfulness
When he thought of Anne he didn’t
know for the life of him how he was going through
Maisie had been talking to him for
some seconds before he understood. At last he
saw that, for reasons which she was unable to make
clear to him, she was letting him off. He wouldn’t
have to go through with it.
As Jerrold’s mind never foresaw
anything he didn’t want to see, so in this matter
of Maisie he had had no plan. Not that he trusted
to the inspiration of the moment; in its very nature
the moment wouldn’t have an inspiration.
He had simply refused to think about it at all.
It was too unpleasant. But Maisie’s presence
forced the problem on him with some violence.
He had given himself to Anne without a scruple, but
when it came to giving himself to Maisie his conscience
developed a sudden sense of guiltiness. For Jerrold
was essentially faithful; only his fidelity was all
for Anne. His marrying Maisie had been a sin against
Anne, its sinfulness disguised because he had had no
pleasure in it. The thought of going back to
Maisie after Anne revolted him; the thought of Anne
having to share him with Maisie revolted him.
Nobody, he said to himself, was ever less polygamous
At the same time he was sorry for
Maisie. He didn’t want her to suffer, and
if she was not to suffer she must not know, and if
she was not to know they must go on as they had begun.
He was haunted by the fear of Maisie’s knowing
and suffering. The pity he felt for her was poignant
and accusing, as if somehow she did know and suffer.
She must at least be aware that something was wanting.
He would have to make up to her somehow for what she
had missed; he would have to give her all the other
things she wanted for that one thing. Maisie’s
coldness might have made it easy for him. Nothing
could move Jerrold from his conviction that Maisie
was cold, that she was incapable of caring for him
as Anne cared. His peace of mind and the freedom
of his conscience depended on this belief. But,
in spite of her coldness, Maisie wanted children.
He knew that.
According to Jerrold’s code
Maisie’s children would be an injury to Anne,
a perpetual insult. But Anne would forgive him;
she would understand; she wouldn’t want to hurt
So he went through with it.
And now he made out that mercifully, incredibly, he
was being let off.
He wouldn’t have to go on.
He stood by Maisie’s bed looking
down at her as she lay there. She had grasped
his hands by the wrists, as if to hold back their possible
caress. And her little breathless voice went on,
catching itself up and tripping.
“You won’t mind if I don’t
let you come to me?”
“I’m sorry, Maisie. I didn’t
know you felt like that about it.”
“I don’t. It isn’t
because I don’t love you. It’s just
my silly nerves. I get frightened.”
“I know. I know. It’ll be all
right. I won’t bother you.”
“Mother said I oughtn’t
to ask you. She said you wouldn’t understand
and it would be too hard for you. Will it?”
“No, of course it won’t. I understand
He tried to sound like one affectionately
resigned, decently renouncing, not as though he felt
this blessedness of relief, absolved from dread, mercifully
and incredibly let off.
But Maisie’s sweetness hated
to refuse and frustrate; it couldn’t bear to
hurt him. She held him tighter. “Jerrold if
it is if you can’t stand it,
you mustn’t mind about me. You must forget
I ever said anything. It’s nothing but
“I shall be all right. Don’t worry.”
“You are a darling.”
Her grasp slackened. “Please please
go. At once. Quick.”
As he went she put her hand to her
heart. She could feel the pain coming. It
filled her with an indescribable dread. Every
time it came she thought she should die of it.
If only she didn’t get so excited; excitement
always brought it on. She held her breath tight
to keep it back.
Ah, it had come. Splinters of
glass, sharp splinters of glass, first pricking, then
piercing, then tearing her heart. Her heart closed
down on the splinters of glass, cutting itself at
She looked under the pillow for the
little silver box that held her pearls of nitrate
of amyl. She always had it with her, ready.
She crushed a pearl in her pocket handkerchief and
held it to her nostrils. The pain left her.
She lay still.
And every Sunday at six in the evening,
or nine (he varied the hour to escape suspicion),
Jerrold came to Anne.
In the weeks before Maisie’s
coming and after, Anne’s happiness was perfect,
intense and secret like the bliss of a saint in ecstasy,
of genius contemplating its finished work. In
giving herself to Jerrold she had found reality.
She gave herself without shame and without remorse,
or any fear of the dangerous risks they ran. Their
passion was too clean for fear or remorse or shame.
She thought love was a finer thing going free and
in danger than sheltered and safe and bound. The
game of love should be played with a high, defiant
courage; you were not fit to play it if you fretted
and cowered. Both she and Jerrold came to it with
an extreme simplicity, taking it for granted.
They never vowed or protested or swore not to go back
on it or on each other. It was inconceivable
that they should go back on it. And as Anne saw
no beginning to it, she saw no end. All her past
was in her love for Jerrold; there never had been
a time when she had ceased to love him. This moment
when they embraced was only the meeting point between
what had been and what would be. Nothing could
have disturbed Anne’s conscience but the sense
that Jerrold didn’t belong to her, that he had
no right to love her; and she had never had that sense.
They had belonged to each other, always, from the
time when they were children playing together.
Maisie was the intruder, who had no right, who had
taken what didn’t belong to her. And Anne
could have forgiven even that if Maisie had had the
excuse of a great passion; but Maisie didn’t
So Anne, unlike Jerrold, was not troubled
by thinking about Maisie. She had never seen
Jerrold’s wife; she didn’t want to see
her. So long as she didn’t see her it was
as if Maisie were not there.
And yet she was there.
Next to Jerrold she was more there for Anne than the
people she saw every day. Maisie’s presence
made itself felt in all the risks they ran. She
was the hindrance, not to perfect bliss, but to a
continuous happiness. She was the reason why they
could only meet at intervals for one difficult and
dangerous hour. Because of Maisie, Jerrold, instead
of behaving like himself with a reckless disregard
of consequences, had to think out the least revolting
ways by which they might evade them. He had to
set up some sort of screen for his Sunday visits to
the Manor Farm. Thus he made a habit of long walks
after dark on week-days and of unpunctuality at meals.
To avoid being seen by the cottagers he approached
the house from behind, by the bridge over the mill-water
and through the orchard to the back door. Luckily
the estate provided him with an irreproachable and
permanent pretext for seeing Anne.
For Jerrold, going about with Anne
over the Manor Farm, had conceived a profound passion
for his seven hundred acres. At last he had come
into his inheritance; and if it was Anne Severn who
showed him how to use it, so that he could never separate
his love of it from his love of her, the land had
an interest of its own that soon excited and absorbed
him. He determined to take up farming seriously
and look after his estate himself when Anne had Sutton’s
farm. Anne would teach him all she knew, and
he could finish up with a year or two at the Agricultural
College in Cirencester. He had found the work
he most wanted to do, the work he believed he could
do best. All the better if it brought him every
day this irreproachable companionship with Anne.
His conscience was appeased by Maisie’s coldness,
and Jerrold told himself that the life he led now
was the best possible life for a sane man. His
mind was clear and keen; his body was splendidly fit;
his love for Anne was perfect, his companionship with
her was perfect, their understanding of each other
was perfect. They would never be tired of each
other and never bored. He rode with her over
the hills and tramped with her through the furrows
in all weathers.
At times he would approach her through
some sense, sharper than sight or touch, that gave
him her inmost immaterial essence. She would be
sitting quietly in a room or standing in a field when
suddenly he would be thus aware of her. These
moments had a reality and certainty more poignant
even than the moment of his passion.
At last they ceased to think about
their danger. They felt, ironically, that they
were protected by the legend that made Anne and Colin
lovers. In the eyes of the Kimbers and Nanny
Sutton and the vicar’s wife, and the Corbetts
and Hawtreys and Markhams, Jerrold was the stern guardian
of his brother’s morals. They were saying
now that Captain Fielding had put a stop to the whole
disgraceful affair; he had forced Colin to leave the
Manor Farm house; and he had taken over the estate
in order to keep an eye on his brother and Anne Severn.
Anne was not concerned with what they
said. She felt that Jerrold and she were safe
so long as she didn’t know Maisie. It never
struck her that Maisie would want to know her,
since nobody else did.
But Maisie did want to know Anne and
for that reason. One day she came to Jerrold
with the visiting cards.
“The Corbetts and Hawtreys have
called. Shall I like them?”
“I don’t know. I won’t have
anything to do with them.”
“Because of the beastly way they’ve behaved
to Anne Severn.”
“What have they done?”
“Done? They’ve been
perfect swine. They’ve cut her for five
years because she looked after Colin. They’ve
said the filthiest things about her.”
“What sort of things?”
“Why, that Colin was her lover.”
“Oh Jerrold, how abominable. Just because
she was a saint.”
“Anne wouldn’t care what
anybody said about her. My mother left her all
by herself here to take care of him and she wouldn’t
leave him. She thought of nothing but him.”
“She must be a perfect angel.”
“But about these horrible people what
do you want me to do?”
“Do what you like.”
“I don’t want to
know them. I’m thinking what would be best
“You needn’t worry about Anne. It
isn’t as if she was your friend.”
“But she is if she’s
yours and Colin’s. I mean I want her to
be.... I think I’d better call on these
Corbett and Hawtrey people and just show them how
we care about her. Then cut them dead afterwards
if they aren’t decent to her. It’ll
be far more telling than if I began by being rude....
Only, Jerrold, how absurd I don’t
know Anne. She hasn’t called yet.”
“She probably thinks you wouldn’t want
to know her.”
“Do you mean because of what
they’ve said? That’s the very reason.
Why, she’s the only person here I do want to
know. I think I fell in love with the sound of
her when you first told me about her and how she took
care of Colin. We must do everything we can to
make up. We must have her here a lot and give
her a jolly time.”
He looked at her.
“Maisie, you really are rather a darling.”
“I’m not. But I think
Anne Severn must be.... Shall I go and see her
or will you bring her?”
“I think perhaps I’d
better bring her, first.”
He spoke slowly, considering it.
Tomorrow was Sunday. He would
bring her to tea, and in the evening he would walk
back with her.
On Sunday afternoon he went down to
the Manor Farm. He found Anne upstairs in the
“Oh Jerrold, darling, I didn’t think you’d
come so soon.”
“Maisie sent me.”
For the first time in his knowledge of her Anne looked
“Yes. She wants to know you. I’m
to bring you to tea.”
“But it’s impossible.
I can’t know her. I don’t want to.
Can’t you see how impossible it is?”
“No, I can’t. It’s perfectly
natural. She’s heard a lot about you.”
“I’ve no doubt she has. Jerrold do
you think she guesses?”
“About you and me? Never.
It’s the last thing she’d think of.
She’s absolutely guileless.”
“That makes it worse.”
“You don’t know,”
he said, “how she feels about you. She’s
furious with these brutes here because they’ve
cut you. She says she’ll cut them
if they won’t be decent to you.”
“Oh, worse and worse!”
“You’re afraid of her?”
“I didn’t know I was. But I am.
“Really, Anne dear, there’s
nothing to be afraid of. She’s not a bit
“Don’t you see that that
makes her dangerous, her not being? You’ve
told me a hundred times how sweet she is. Well I
don’t want to see how sweet she is.”
“Her sweetness doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to me. If I
once see her, Jerrold, nothing’ll ever be the
“Darling, really it’s
the only thing you can do. Think. If you
don’t, can’t you see how it’ll give
the show away? She’d wonder what on earth
you meant by it. We’ve got to behave as
if nothing had happened. This isn’t behaving
as if nothing had happened, is it?”
“No. You see, it has happened.
Oh Jerrold, I wouldn’t mind if only we could
be straight about it. But it’ll mean lying
and lying, and I can’t bear it. I’d
rather go out and tell everybody and face the music.”
“So would I. But we can’t....
Look here, Anne. We don’t care a damn what
people think. You wouldn’t care if we were
found out to-morrow ”
“I wouldn’t. It would
be the best thing that could happen to us.”
“To us, yes. If Maisie
divorced me. Then we could marry. It would
be all right for us. Not for Maisie. You
do care about hurting Maisie, don’t you?”
“Yes. I couldn’t
bear her to be hurt. If only I needn’t see
“Darling, you must see her.
You can’t not. I want you to.”
“Well, if you want it so awfully,
I will. But I tell you it won’t be the
same thing, afterwards, ever.”
“I shall be the same, Anne. And you.”
“Me? I wonder.”
He rose, smiling down at her.
“Come,” he said. “Don’t
let’s be late.”
In the garden with Maisie, the long
innocent conversation coming back and back; Maisie’s
sweetness haunting her, known now and remembered.
Maisie walking in the garden among the wall flowers
and tulips, between the clipped walls of yew, showing
Anne her flowers. She stooped to lift their faces,
to caress them with her little thin white fingers.
“I don’t know why I’m
showing you round,” she said; “you know
it all much better than I do.”
“Oh, well, I used to come here
a lot when I was little. I sort of lived here.”
Maisie’s eyes listened, utterly attentive.
“You knew Jerrold, then, when he was little,
“Yes. He was eight when I was five.”
“Do you remember what he was like?”
Maisie waited to see whether Anne
were going on or not, but as Anne stopped dead she
went on herself.
“I wish I’d known
Jerry all the time like that. I wish I remembered
running about and playing with him.... You were
Jerrold’s friend, weren’t you?”
“And Elliot’s and Colin’s.”
The lying had begun. Falsehood
by implication. And to this creature of palpable
“Somehow, I’ve always
thought of you as Jerrold’s most. That’s
what makes me feel as if you were mine, as if I’d
known you quite a long time. You see, he’s
told me things about you.”
Anne’s voice was as dull and
flat as she could make it. If only Maisie would
leave off talking about Jerrold, making her lie.
“I’ve wanted to know you
more than anybody I’ve ever heard of. There
are heaps of things I want to say to you.”
She stooped to pick the last tulip of the bunch she
was gathering for Anne. “I think it was
perfectly splendid of you the way you looked after
Colin. And the way you’ve looked after
Jerry’s land for him.”
“That was nothing. I was
very glad to do it for Jerrold, but it was my job,
“Well, you’ve saved Colin.
And you’ve saved the land. What’s
more, I believe you’ve saved Jerrold.”
“How do you mean, ‘saved’
him? I didn’t know he wanted saving.”
“He did, rather. I mean
you’ve made him care about the estate. He
didn’t care a rap about it till he came down
here this last time. You’ve found his job
“He’d have found it himself all right
“I’m not so sure.
We were awfully worried about him after the war.
He was all at a loose end without anything to do.
And dreadfully restless. We thought he’d
never settle to anything again. And I was afraid
he’d want to live in London.”
“I don’t think he’d ever do that.”
“He won’t now. But, you see, he used
to be afraid of this place.”
“I know. After his father’s death.”
“And he simply loves it now.
I think it’s because he’s seen what you’ve
done with it. I know he hadn’t the smallest
idea of farming it before. It’s what he
ought to have been doing all his life. And when
you think how seedy he was when he came down here,
and how fit he is now.”
“I think,” Anne said, “I’d
better be going.”
Maisie’s innocence was more than she could bear.
“Jerry’ll see you home.
And you’ll come again, won’t you?
Soon.... Will you take them? I gathered
them for you.”
“Thanks. Thanks awfully.”
Anne’s voice came with a jerk. Her breath
Jerrold was coming down the garden
walk, looking for her. She said good-bye to Maisie
and turned to go with him home.
“Well,” he said, “how did you and
Maisie get on?”
“It was exactly what I thought it would be,
He laughed. “Worse?”
“I mean she was sweeter....
Jerrold, she makes me feel such a brute. Such
an awful brute. And if she ever knows ”
“She won’t know.”
When he had left her Anne flung herself down on the
couch and cried.
All evening Maisie’s tulips
stood up in the blue-and-white Chinese bowl on the
table. They had childlike, innocent faces that
reproached her. Nothing would ever be the same