Maisie lay in bed, helpless and abandoned
to her illness. It was no good trying to cover
it up and hide it any more. Jerrold knew.
The night when he left Anne he had
gone up to Maisie in her room. He couldn’t
rest unless he knew that she was all right. He
had stooped over her to kiss her and she had sat up,
holding her face to him, her hands clasped round his
neck, drawing him close to her, when suddenly the pain
gripped her and she lay back in his arms, choking,
struggling for breath.
Jerrold thought she was dying.
He waited till the pain passed and she was quieted,
then he ran downstairs and telephoned for Ransome.
He looked on in agony while Ransome’s stethoscope
wandered over Maisie’s thin breast and back.
It seemed to him that Ransome was taking an unusually
long time about it, that he must be on the track of
some terrible discovery. And when Ransome took
the tubes from his ears and said, curtly, “Heart
quite sound; nothing wrong there,” he was convinced
that Ransome was an old fool who didn’t know
his business. Or else he was lying for Maisie’s
Downstairs in the library he turned on him.
“Look here; there’s no good lying to me.
I want truth.”
“My dear Fielding, I shouldn’t
dream of lying to you. There’s nothing
wrong with your wife’s heart. Nothing organically
“With that pain? She was
in agony, Ransome, agony. Why can’t you
tell me at once that it’s angina?”
“Because it isn’t.
Not the real thing. False angina’s a neurosis,
not a heart disease. Get the nervous condition
cured and she’ll be all right. Has she
had any worry? Any shock?”
“Not that I know.”
“Any cause for worry?”
He hesitated. Poor Maisie had
had cause enough if she had known. But she didn’t
know. It seemed to him that Ransome was looking
at him queerly.
“No,” he said. “None.”
“You’re quite certain? Has she ever
“Well, I suppose she was pretty jumpy all the
time I was at the front.”
“Before that? Years ago?”
“That I don’t know. I should say
“You won’t swear?”
“No. I won’t swear. It would
be years before we were married.”
“Try and find out,” said
Ransome. “And keep her quiet and happy.
She’d better stay in bed for a week or two.”
So Maisie stayed in bed, and Jerrold
and Anne sat with her, together or in turn. He
had a bed made up in her room and slept there when
he slept at all. But half the night he lay awake,
listening for the sound of her panting and the little
gasping cry that would come when the pain got her.
He kept on getting up to look at her and make sure
that she was sleeping.
He was changed from his old happy,
careless self, the self that used to turn from any
trouble, that refused to believe that the people it
loved could be ill and die. He was convinced
that Maisie’s state was dangerous. He sent
for Dr. Harper of Cheltenham and for a nerve specialist
and a heart specialist from London and they all told
him the same thing. And he wouldn’t believe
them. Because Maisie’s death was the most
unbearable thing that his remorse could imagine, he
felt that nothing short of Maisie’s death would
appease the powers that punished him. He was
the more certain that Maisie would die because he had
denied that she was ill. For Jerrold’s
mind remembered everything and anticipated nothing.
Like most men who refuse to see or foresee trouble,
he was crushed by it when it came.
The remorse he felt might have been
less intolerable if he had been alone in it; but,
day after day, his pain was intensified by the sight
of Anne’s pain. She was exquisitely vulnerable,
and for every pang that stabbed her he felt himself
responsible. What they had done they had done
together, and they suffered for it together, but in
the beginning she had done it for him, and he had
made her do it. Nobody, not even Maisie, could
have been more innocent than Anne. He had no doubt
that, left to herself, she would have hidden her passion
from him to the end of time. He, therefore, was
the cause of her suffering.
It was as if Anne’s consciousness
were transferred to him, day after day, when they
sat together in Maisie’s room, one on each side
of her bed, while Maisie lay between them, sleeping
her helpless and reproachful sleep, and he saw Anne’s
piteous face, white with pain. His pity for Maisie
and his pity for Anne, their pity for each other were
mixed together and held them, close as passion, in
an unbearable communion.
They looked at each other, and their
wounded eyes said, day after day, the same thing:
“Yes, it hurts. But I could bear it if it
were not for you.” Their pity took the
place of passion. It was as if a part of each
other passed into them with their suffering as it had
passed into them with their joy.
And through it all their passion itself
still lived its inextinguishable and tortured life.
Pity, so far from destroying it, only made it stronger,
pouring in its own emotion, wave after wave, swelling
the flood that carried them towards the warm darkness
where will and thought would cease.
And as Jerrold’s soul had once
stirred in the warm darkness under the first stinging
of remorse, so now it pushed and struggled to be born;
all his will fought against the darkness to deliver
his soul. His soul knew that Anne saved it.
If her will had been weaker his would not have been
so strong. At this moment an unscrupulous Anne
might have damned him to the sensual hell by clinging
to his pity. He would have sinned because he
was sorry for her.
But Anne’s will refused his
pity. When he showed it she was angry. Yet
it was there, waiting for her always, against her will.
One day in October (Maisie’s
illness lasting on into the autumn) they had gone
out into the garden to breathe the cold, clean air
while Maisie slept.
“Jerrold,” she said, suddenly, “do
you think she knows?”
“No. I’m certain she doesn’t.”
“I’m not. I’ve
an awful feeling that she knows and that’s why
she doesn’t get better.”
“I don’t think so.
If she knew she’d have said something or done
“She mightn’t. She
mightn’t do anything. Perhaps she’s
just being angelically good to us.”
“She is angelically good.
But she doesn’t know. You forget her illness
began before there was anything to know.
It isn’t the sort of thing she’d think
of. If somebody told her she wouldn’t believe
it. She trusts us absolutely.... That’s
bad enough, Anne, without her knowing.”
“Yes. It’s bad enough. It’s
“I know it is.... Anne I’m
awfully sorry to have let you in for all this misery.”
“You mustn’t be sorry.
You haven’t let me in for it. Nobody could
have known it would have happened. It wouldn’t,
if Maisie had been different. We wouldn’t
have bothered then. Nothing would have mattered.
Think how gloriously happy we were. All my life
all my happiness has come through you or because of
you. We’d be happy still if it wasn’t
“I don’t see how we’re
to go on like this. I can’t stand it when
you’re not happy. And nothing makes any
difference, really. I want you so awfully all
“That’s one of the things we mustn’t
say to each other.”
“I know we mustn’t. Only I didn’t
want you to think I didn’t.”
“I don’t think it.
I know you’ll care for me as long as you live.
Only you mustn’t say so. You mustn’t
be sorry for me. It makes me feel all weak and
soft when I want to be strong and hard.”
“You are strong, Anne.”
“So are you. I shouldn’t
love you if you weren’t. But we mustn’t
make it too hard for each other. You know what’ll
happen if we do?”
“What? You mean we’d crumple up and
“No. But we couldn’t
ever see each other alone again. Never see each
other again at all, perhaps. I’d have to
“You shan’t have to. I swear I won’t
say another word.”
“Sometimes I think it would be easier for you
if I went.”
“It wouldn’t. It
would be simply damnable. You can’t go,
Anne. That would make Maisie think.”
After weeks of rest Maisie passed
into a period of painless tranquillity. She had
no longer any fear of her illness because she had
no longer any fear of Jerrold’s knowing about
it. He did know, and yet her world stood firm
round her, firmer than when he had not known.
For she had now in Jerrold’s ceaseless devotion
what seemed to her the absolute proof that he cared
for her, if she had ever doubted it. And if he
had doubted her, hadn’t he the absolute proof
that she cared, desperately? Would she have so
hidden the truth from him, would she have borne her
pain and the fear of it, in that awful lonely secrecy,
if she had not cared for him more than for anything
on earth? She had been more afraid to sleep alone
than poor Colin who had waked them with his screaming.
Jerrold knew that she was not a brave woman like Anne
or Colin’s wife, Queenie; it was out of her
love for him that she had drawn the courage that made
her face, night after night, the horror of her torment
alone. If he had wanted proof, what better proof
could he have than that?
So Maisie remained tranquil, secure
in her love for Jerrold, and in his love for her,
while Anne and Jerrold were tortured by their love
for each other. They were no longer sustained
in their renunciation by the sight of Maisie’s
illness and the fear of it which more than anything
had held back their passion. Without that warning
fear they were exposed at every turn. It might
be there, waiting for them in the background, but,
with Maisie going about as if nothing had happened,
even remorse had lost its protective poignancy.
They suffered the strain of perpetual frustration.
They were never alone together now. They had passed
from each other, beyond all contact of spirit with
spirit and flesh with flesh, beyond all words and
looks of longing; they had nothing of each other but
sight, sight that had all the violence of touch without
its satisfaction, that served only to excite them,
to torture them with desire. They might be held
at arm’s length, at a room’s length, at
a field’s length apart, but their eyes drew
them together, set their hearts beating; in one moment
of seeing they were joined and put asunder.
And, day after day, their minds desired
each other with a subtle, incessant, intensely conscious
longing, and were utterly cut off from all communion.
They met now at longer and longer intervals, for their
work separated them. Colin had come home in October,
perfectly recovered, and he and Jerrold managed the
Manor estate together while Anne looked after her
own farm. Jerrold never saw her, he never tried
to see her unless Colin or Maisie or some of the farm
people were present; he was afraid and Anne knew that
he was afraid. Her sense of his danger made her
feel herself fragile and unstable. She, too, avoided
every occasion of seeing him alone.
And this separation, so far from saving
them, defeated its own end. Every day it brought
them nearer to the breaking point. It was against
all nature and all nature was against it. They
had always before them that vision of the point at
which they would give in. Always there was one
thought that drew them to the edge of surrender:
“I can bear it for myself, but I can’t
bear it for him,” “I can bear it for myself,
but I can’t bear it for her.”
And to both of them had come another
fear, greater than their dread of Maisie’s pain,
the fear of each other’s illness. Their
splendid physical health was beginning to break down.
They worked harder than ever on the land; but hard
work exhausted them at the end of the day. They
went on from a sense of duty, dull and implacable,
but they had no more pleasure in it. Anne became
every night more restless, every day more tired and
anæmic. Jerrold ate less and slept less.
They grew thin, and their faces took on the same look
of fatigue and anxiety and wonder, as if, more than
anything, they were amazed at a world whose being connived
at and tolerated their pain.
Maisie saw it and felt the first vague
disturbance of her peace. Her illness had worried
everybody while it lasted, but she couldn’t think
why, when she was well again, Anne and Jerrold should
go on looking like that. Maisie thought it was
physical; the poor dears worked too hard.
The change had been so gradual that
she saw it without consternation, but when Eliot came
down in November he couldn’t hide his distress.
To Eliot the significant thing was not Anne’s
illness or Jerrold’s illness but the likeness
in their illnesses, the likeness in their faces.
It was clear that they suffered together, with the
same suffering, from the same cause. And when
on his last evening Jerrold took him into the library
to consult him about Maisie’s case, Eliot had
a hard, straight talk with him about his own.
“My dear Jerrold,” he
said, “there’s nothing seriously wrong
with Maisie. I’ve examined her heart.
It isn’t a particularly strong heart, but there’s
no disease in it. If you took her to all the specialists
in Europe they’d tell you the same thing.”
“I know, but I keep on worrying.”
“That, my dear chap, is because
you’re ill yourself. I don’t like
it. I’m not bothered about Maisie, but
I am bothered about you and Anne.”
“Anne? Do you think Anne’s
“I think she will be, and so will you if...
What have you been doing?”
“We’ve been doing nothing.”
“That’s it. You’ve
got to do something and do it pretty quick if it’s
to be any good.”
Jerrold started and looked up.
He wondered whether Eliot knew. He had a way
of getting at things, you couldn’t tell how.
“What d’you mean?
What are you talking about?” His words came with
a sudden sharp rapidity.
“You know what I mean.”
“I don’t know how you
know anything. And, as a matter of fact, you
“I don’t know much.
But I know enough to see that you two can’t go
on like this.”
“Maisie and me?”
“No. You and Anne.
It’s Anne I’m talking about. I suppose
you can make a mess of your own life if you like.
You’ve no business to make a mess of hers.”
“My God! as if I didn’t
know it. What the devil am I to do?”
“Leave her alone, Jerrold, if you can’t
“Leave her alone? I am
leaving her alone. I’ve got to leave her
alone, if we both die of it.”
“She ought to go away,” Eliot said.
“She shan’t go away unless I go with her.
And I can’t."’
“Well, then, it’s an impossible situation.”
“It’s a damnable situation,
but it’s the only decent one. You forget
“No, I don’t. Maisie doesn’t
“Oh Lord, no. And she never will.”
“You ought to tell her.”
Jerrold was silent.
“My dear Jerrold, it’s
the only sensible thing. Tell her straight and
get her to divorce you.”
“I was going to. Then she got ill and I
“She isn’t ill now.”
“She will be if I tell her. It’ll
simply kill her.”
“It won’t. It may even cure
“It’ll make her frightfully
unhappy. And it’ll bring back that infernal
pain. If you’d seen her, Eliot, you’d
know how impossible it is. We simply can’t
be swine. And if I could, Anne couldn’t....
No. We’ve got to stick it somehow, Anne
“It’s all wrong, Jerrold.”
“I know it’s all wrong.
But it’s the best we can do. You don’t
suppose Anne would be happy if we did Maisie down.”
“No. No. She wouldn’t.
You’re right there. But it’s a damnable
“Oh, damnable, yes.”
Jerrold laughed in his agony.
Yet he saw, as if he had never seen it before, Eliot’s
goodness and the sadness and beauty of his love for
Anne. He had borne for years what Jerrold was
bearing now, and Anne had not loved him. He had
never known for one moment the bliss of love or any
joy. He had had nothing. And Jerrold remembered
with a pang of contrition that he had never cared
enough for Eliot. It had always been Colin, the
young, breakable Colin, who had clung to him and followed
him. Eliot had always gone his own queer way,
keeping himself apart.
And now Eliot was nearer to him than anything in the
world, except Anne.
“I’m sorry, Jerrold.”
“You’re pretty decent,
Eliot, to be sorry I believe you honestly
want me to have Anne.”
“I wouldn’t go so far
as that, old man. But I believe I honestly want
Anne to have you.... I say, she hasn’t gone
yet, has she?”
“No. Maisie’s keeping
her for dinner in your honour. You’ll probably
find her in the drawing-room now.”
“She won’t worry you. She’s
gone to lie down.”
Eliot went into the drawing-room and found Anne there.
She looked at him. “You’ve been talking
to Jerrold,” she said.
“Yes, Anne. I’m worried about him.”
“So am I.”
“And I’m worried about you.”
“And he’s worried about Maisie.”
“Yes. I suppose he began
by not seeing she was ill, and now he does see it
he thinks she’s going to die. I’ve
been trying to explain to him that she isn’t.”
“Can you explain why she’s
got into this state? It’s not as if she
wasn’t happy. She is happy.”
“She wasn’t always happy. Jerrold
must have made her suffer damnably.”
“Oh, long before he married her.”
“But how did he make her suffer?”
“Oh, by just not marrying her.
She found out he didn’t care for her. Her
people took her out to India, I believe, with the idea
that he would marry her. And when they saw that
Jerry wasn’t on in that act they sent her back
again. Poor Maisie got it well rammed into her
then that he didn’t care for her, and the idea’s
stuck. It’s left a sort of wound in her
“But she must have thought he
cared for her when he did marry her. She thinks
he cares now.”
“Of course she thinks it. I don’t
suppose he’s ever let her see.”
“I know he hasn’t.”
“But the wound’s there,
all the same. She’s never got over it, though
she isn’t conscious of it now. The fact
remains that Maisie’s marriage is incomplete
because Jerry doesn’t care for her. Part
of Maisie, the adorable part we know, isn’t
aware of any incompleteness; it lives in a perpetual
illusion. But the part we don’t know, the
hidden, secret part of her, is aware of nothing else....
Well, her illness is simply camouflage for that.
Maisie’s mind couldn’t bear the reality,
so it escaped into a neurosis. Maisie’s
behaving as though she wasn’t married, so that
her mind can say to itself that her marriage is incomplete
because she’s ill, not because Jerry doesn’t
care for her. It’s substituted a bearable
situation for an unbearable one.”
“Then, you don’t think she knows?”
“That Jerrold doesn’t
care for her? No. Only in that unconscious
way. Her mind remembers and she doesn’t.”
“I mean, she doesn’t know about Jerrold
“I’m sure she doesn’t. If she
did she’d do something.”
“That’s what Jerrold said. What would
“Oh something beautiful, or
it wouldn’t be Maisie. She’d let Jerrold
“Yes. She’d let him go. And
she’d die of it.”
“Oh no, she wouldn’t. I told Jerrold
just now it might cure her.”
“How could it cure her?”
“By making her face reality.
By making her see that her illness simply means that
she hasn’t faced it. All our neuroses come
because we daren’t live with the truth.”
“It’s no good making Maisie
well if we make her unhappy. Besides, I don’t
believe it. If Maisie’s unhappy she’ll
be worse, not better.”
“There is just that risk,”
he said. “But it’s you I’m thinking
about, not Maisie. You see, I don’t know
“Jerrold didn’t tell you?”
“He only told me what I know already.”
“After all, what do you know?”
“I know you were all right,
you and he, when I saw you together here in the spring.
So I suppose you were happy then. Jerrold looked
wretchedly ill all the time he was at Taormina.
So I suppose he was unhappy then because he was away
from you. He looks wretchedly ill now. So
do you. So I suppose you’re both unhappy.”
“Yes, we’re both unhappy.”
“Do you want to tell me about it, Anne?”
“No. I don’t want
to tell you about it. Only, if I thought you still
wanted to marry me ”
“I do want to marry you.
I shall always want to marry you. I told you
long ago nothing would ever make any difference.
“Even if ?”
“Even if Whatever
you did or didn’t do I’d still want you.
But I told you don’t you remember? that
you could never do anything dishonourable or cruel.”
“And I told you I wasn’t sure.”
“And I am sure. That’s
enough for me. I don’t want to know anything
more. I don’t want to know anything you’d
rather I didn’t know.”
“Oh, Eliot, you are so
good. You’re good like Maisie. Don’t
worry about Jerry and me. We’ll see it
“And if you can’t stand the strain of
“But I can.”
“And if he can’t? If you want
to be safe ”
“I told you I should never want to be safe.”
“If you want him to be safe, then, would
you marry me?”
“That’s different. I don’t
know, Eliot, but I don’t think so.”
He went away with a faint hope.
She had said it would be different; what she would
never do for him she might do for Jerrold.
She might, after all, marry him to keep Jerrold safe.
Nothing made any difference.
Whatever Anne did she would still be Anne. And
it was Anne he loved. And, after all, what did
he know about her and Jerrold? Only that if they
had been lovers that would account for their strange
happiness seven months ago; if they had given each
other up this would account for their unhappiness
now. He thought: How they must have struggled.
Perhaps, some day, when the whole
story was told and Anne was tired of struggling, she
would come to him and he would marry her.