She got up and dressed for dinner
as if nothing had happened, or, rather, as if everything
were about to happen and she were going through with
it magnificently, with no sign that she was beaten.
She didn’t know yet what she would do; she didn’t
see clearly what there was to be done. She might
not have to do anything; and yet again, vaguely, half-fascinated,
half-frightened, she foresaw that she might be called
on to do something, something that was hard and terrible
and at the same time beautiful and supreme.
And downstairs in the hall, she found Eliot.
He told her that he had come down
to see Anne and that he had done his best to keep
her from going away and that it was all no good.
“We can’t stop her. She’s got
an unbreakable will.”
“Unbreakable,” she said. “And
yet she’s broken.”
“I know,” he said.
In her nervous exaltation she felt
that Eliot had been sent, that Eliot knew. Eliot
was wise. He would help her.
she said. “Will you see me in the library
after dinner? I want to ask you something.”
“If it’s about Anne, I
don’t know that there’s anything I can
“It’s about Jerrold,” she said.
After dinner he came to her in the library.
“In the drawing-room with Colin. He won’t
“Eliot, there’s something
awfully wrong with him. He can’t sleep.
He can’t eat. He’s sick if he tries.”
“He looks pretty ghastly.”
“Do you know what’s the matter with him?”
“How can I know? He doesn’t tell
“It’s ever since he heard
that Anne’s going.” “He’s
worried about her. So am I. So are you.”
“He isn’t worrying.
He’s fretting.... Eliot do you
think he cares for her?”
Eliot didn’t answer her.
He looked at her gravely, searchingly, as if he were
measuring her strength before he answered.
“Don’t be afraid to tell me. I’m
not a coward.”
“I haven’t anything to
tell you. It isn’t altogether this affair
of Anne’s. Jerrold hasn’t been fit
for a long time.”
“It’s been going on for a long time.”
“What makes you think so?”
“Oh,” said Maisie, “everything.”
“Then why don’t you ask him?”
“But if it is so would
he tell me?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps
he wants to tell you, only he’s afraid.
Anyhow, if it isn’t so he’ll tell you
and you’ll be happy.”
“Somehow I don’t think I’m going
to be happy.”
“Then,” he said, “you’re going
to be brave.”
She thought: He knows. He’s
known all the time, only he won’t give them
“Yes,” she said, “I’ll ask
“Maisie if it is so what will you
“Do? There’s only one thing I can
She turned to him, and her milk-white
face was grey-white, ashen; the skin had a slack,
pitted look, suddenly old. The soft flesh trembled.
But her mouth and eyes were still. In this moment
of her agony no base emotion defaced their sweetness,
so that she seemed to him utterly composed. She
had seen what she could do. Something hard and
“I can set him free.”
That was the end she had seen before
her, vaguely, as something not only hard and terrible,
but beautiful and supreme. To leave off clinging
to the illusion of her happiness. To let go.
And with that letting go she was aware that an obscure
horror had been hanging over her for three days and
three nights and was now gone. She stood free
of herself, in a great light and peace, so that presently
when Jerrold came to her she met him with an incomparable
The slight throbbing of her voice
startled him coming out of her stillness.
They stood up, facing each other,
in attitudes that had no permanence, as if what must
pass between them now would be sudden and soon over.
“Do you care for Anne?”
The words dropped clear through her
stillness, vibrating. His eyes went from her,
evading the issue. Her voice came with a sharper
“I must know. Do you care for
“And that’s why she’s going?”
“Yes. That’s why she’s going.
Did Eliot say anything?”
“No. He only told me to ask you. He
said you’d tell me the truth.”
“I have told you the truth. I’m sorry,
“I know you’re sorry. So am I.”
“But, you see, it isn’t
as if I’d begun after I married you. I’ve
cared for her all my life.”
“Then why didn’t you marry her?”
“Because, first of all, I didn’t
know I cared. And afterwards I thought she cared
“You never asked her?”
“No. I thought I thought they
“You thought that of her?”
“Well, yes. I thought it
would be just like her to give everything. I
knew if she cared enough she’d stick at nothing.
She wouldn’t do it for herself.”
“That was when?”
“The time I came home on leave three years ago.”
“The time you married me.
Why did you marry me, if you didn’t care for
“I would have cared for you if I hadn’t
cared for her.”
“But, when you cared for her ?”
“I thought we should find something
in it. I wanted you to be happy. More than
anything I wanted you to be happy. I thought I’d
be killed in my next action and that nothing would
“That you wouldn’t have to keep it up?”
“Oh, I’d have kept it
up all right if Anne hadn’t been there.
I cared enough for you to want you to be happy.
I wanted you to have a child. You’d have
liked that. That would have made you happy.”
“Poor Jerrold ”
“I’d have been all right if I hadn’t
seen Anne again.”
“When did you see her again?”
“Only last spring?”
“When I was away.”
She remembered. She remembered
how she had first come to Wyck and found Jerrold happy
and superbly well.
“But,” she said, “you were happy
He sighed, a long, tearing sigh that hurt her.
“Yes. We were happy then.”
And in a flash of terrific clarity
she remembered her home-coming and the night that
followed it and Jerrold’s acquiescence in their
“Then,” she said, “if you were happy ”
“Do you want to know how far it went?”
“I want to know everything.
I want the truth. I think you owe me the truth.”
“It went just as far as it could go.”
“Do you mean ”
He stood silent and she found his words for him.
“You were Anne’s lover?”
Her face changed before him, as it
had changed an hour ago before Eliot, ashen-white
and slack, quivering, suddenly old.
Tears came into his eyes, tears of
remorse and pity. She saw them and her heart
ached for him.
“It didn’t last long,” he said.
“From March till till September.”
“Maisie I can’t
ask you to forgive me. But you must forgive Anne.
It wasn’t her fault. I made her do it.
And she’s been awfully unhappy about it, because
“Ah that was why ”
“Won’t you forgive her?”
“I forgive you both. I
don’t know how I should have felt if you’d
been happy. I can’t see anything but your
“We gave it up because of you.
That was Anne. She couldn’t bear going on
after she knew you, when you were such an angel.
It was your goodness and sweetness broke us down.”
“But if I’d been the most
disagreeable person it would have been just as wrong.”
“It wouldn’t, for in that
case we shouldn’t have deceived you. I should
have told you straight and left you.”
“Why didn’t you tell me,
Jerrold? Why didn’t you tell me in the
“We were afraid. We didn’t want to
“As if that mattered.”
“It did matter. We were
going to tell you. Then you were ill and we couldn’t.
We thought you’d die of it, with your poor little
heart in that state.”
“Oh, my dear, did you suppose I’d hurt
you that way?”
“That was what we couldn’t
bear. Not being straight about it. That was
why we gave each other up. It never happened again.
Anne’s going away so that it mayn’t happen....
Maisie you do believe me?”
“Yes, I believe you. I believe you did
all you knew.”
“We did. But it’s
my fault that Anne’s going. I lost my head,
and she was afraid.”
“If only you’d told me.
I shouldn’t have been hard on you, Jerry.
You knew that, didn’t you?”
“Yes. I knew.”
“And you went through all that agony rather
than hurt me.”
“The least I can do, then, is to let you go.”
“Would you, Maisie?”
“Of course. I married you
to make you happy. I must make you happy this
way, that’s all. But if I do you mustn’t
think I don’t care for you. I care for
you so much that nothing matters but your happiness.”
“Maisie, I’m not fit to live in the same
world with you.”
“You mustn’t say that.
You’re fit to live in the same world with Anne.
I suppose I could have made this all ugly and shameful
for you. But I want to keep it beautiful.
I want to give you all beautiful to Anne, so that
you’ll never go back on it, and never feel ashamed.”
“You made me ashamed every time we thought of
“Don’t think of me. Think of each
“Oh you’re adorable.”
“No, I’m doing this because
I love you both. But if I didn’t love you
I should do it for myself. I should hate myself
if I didn’t. I can’t think of anything
more disgusting and dishonourable than to keep a man
tied to you when he cares for somebody else.
I should feel as if I were living in sin.”
“Maisie will you be awfully unhappy?”
“Yes, Jerrold. But not so unhappy as if
I’d kept you.”
“We’ll go away somewhere where you won’t
have to see us.”
“No. It’s I who’ll go away.”
“But I want you to have the
Manor and and everything. Colin’ll
look after the estate for me.”
“Do you think I could stay here
after you’d gone?... No, Jerry, I can’t
do that for you. You can’t make it up that
“I wasn’t dreaming of
making it up. I simply owe you everything, everlastingly,
and there’s nothing I can do. I only remembered
that you liked the garden.”
“I couldn’t bear it.
I should hate the garden. I should hate the whole
“I’ve done that to you?”
“Yes, you’ve done that to me. It
can’t be helped.”
“But, what will you do, Maisie?”
“I shall go back to my own people. They
happen to care for me.”
That was her one reproach.
“Do you think I don’t?”
“Oh no. I’ve done
the only thing that would make you care. Perhaps
that’s what I did it for.”
He took the hand she gave him and bowed his head over
it and kissed it.
Maisie had a long talk with Eliot after Jerrold had
She was still tranquil and composed,
but Jerrold was worried. He was afraid lest the
emotion roused by his confession should bring on her
pain. That night Eliot slept in his father’s
room, so that he could go to her if the attack came.
But it did not come.
Late in the afternoon Jerrold went down to the Barrow
Farm and saw Anne.
He came back with a message from her. Anne wanted
to see Maisie, if
Maisie would let her.
“But she thinks you won’t,” he said.
“Why should I?”
“She’s desperately unhappy.”
She turned from him as if she would have left him,
and then stayed.
“You want me to see her?”
“If you wouldn’t hate it too much.”
“I shall hate it. But I’ll see her.
Go and bring her.”
She dreaded more than anything the
sight of Anne. Her new knowledge of her made
Anne strange and terrible. She felt that she would
be somehow different. She would see something
in her that she had never seen before, that she couldn’t
bear to see. Anne’s face would show her
that Jerrold was her lover.
Yet, if she had never seen that look,
if she had never seen anything in Anne’s face
that was not beautiful, what did that mean but that
Anne’s love for him was beautiful? Before
it had touched her body it had lived a long time in
her soul. Either Anne’s soul was beautiful
because of it, or it was beautiful because of Anne’s
soul; and Maisie knew that if she too was to be beautiful
she must keep safe the beauty of their passion as
she had kept safe the beauty of their friendship.
It was clear and hard, unbreakable as crystal. She
had been the one flaw in it, the thing that had damaged
its perfection. Now that she had let Jerrold go
it would be perfect.
Anne stood in the doorway of the library,
looking at her and not speaking. She was the
same that she had been yesterday, and before that,
and before that; dressed in the farm clothes that were
the queer rough setting of her charm. The same,
except that she was still more broken, still more
beaten, and still more beautiful in her defeat.
Maisie got up and waited, as Anne
shut the door and stood there with her back to it.
“Maisie I don’t
know why I’ve come. There were things I
wanted to say to you, but I can’t say them.”
“You want to say you’re sorry you took
Jerrold from me.”
“I’m bitterly sorry.”
She came forward with a slender, awkward
grace. Her eyes were fixed on Maisie, thrown
open, expecting pain; but she didn’t shrink or
Maisie’s voice came with its old sweetness.
“You didn’t take him from me. You
couldn’t take what I haven’t got.”
“I gave him up, Maisie. I couldn’t
“And I’ve given him up.
I couldn’t bear it, either. But,”
she said, “it was harder for you. You had
him. I’m only giving up what I’ve
never really had. Don’t be too unhappy
“I shall always be unhappy when
I think of you. You’ve been such an angel
to me. If we could only have told you.”
“Yes. If only you’d told me.
That was where you went wrong, Anne.”
“I couldn’t tell you. You were so
ill. I thought it would kill you.”
“Well, what if it had?
You shouldn’t have thought of me, you should
have thought of Jerrold.”
“I did think of him. I
didn’t want him to have agonies of remorse.
It’s been bad enough as it is.”
“I know what it’s been, Anne.”
“That’s what I really
came for now. To see if you’d had that pain
“You needn’t be afraid.
I shall never have that pain again. Eliot told
me all about it last night.”
“What did he say?”
“He showed me how it all happened.
I was ill because I couldn’t face the truth.
The truth was that Jerrold didn’t care for me.
It seems my mind knew it all the time when I didn’t.
I did know it once, and part of me went on feeling
the shock of it, while the other part was living like
a fool in an illusion, thinking he cared. And
now I’ve been dragged out of it into reality.
I’m facing it. This is real. And
whatever I may be I shan’t be ill again, not
with that illness. I couldn’t help it, but
in a way it was as false as if I’d made it up
on purpose to hide the truth. And the truth’s
“Eliot told me it might. And I wouldn’t
“You can believe him now.
He said you and Jerrold were all right because you’d
faced the truth about yourselves and each other.
You held on to reality.”
“Eliot said that?”
“Yes. He said it was the
test of everybody, how they took reality, and that
Jerrold had had to learn how, but that you had always
known. You were so true that your worst punishment
was not being able to tell me the truth. I was
to think of you like that.”
“How can you bear to think of me at all?”
“How can I bear to live? But I shall live.”
Maisie’s voice dropped, note
by note, like clear, rounded tears, pressed out and
shaped by pain.
Anne’s voice came thick and
quivering out of her dark secret anguish, like a voice
from behind shut doors.
“Jerrold said you’d forgiven me.
“It would be easier for you
if I didn’t. But I can’t help forgiving
you when you’re so unhappy. I wouldn’t
have forgiven you if you hadn’t told me the
truth, if I’d had to find it out that time when
you were happy. Then I’d have hated you.”
“You don’t now?”
“No. I don’t want
to see you again, or Jerrold, either, for a long time.
But that’s because I love you.”
“Yes, you too, Anne.”
“How can you love me?”
“Because I’m like you, Anne; I’m
“I wasn’t faithful to you, Maisie.”
“You were to Jerrold.”
Anne still stood there, silent, taking
in silence the pain of Maisie’s goodness, Maisie’s
Then Maisie ended it.
“He’s waiting for you,” she said,
“to take you home.”
Anne went to him where he stood by
the terrace steps, illuminated by the light from the
windows. In there she could hear Colin playing,
a loud, tempestuous music. Jerrold waited.
She went past him down the steps without
a word, and he followed her through the garden.
“Anne ” he said.
Under the blackness of the yew hedge
she turned to him, and their hands met.
“Don’t be afraid,”
he said. “Next week I’ll take you
away somewhere till it’s over.”
“Oh, somewhere a long way off, where you’ll
Somewhere a long way off, beyond this
pain, beyond this day and this night, their joy waited.
“And Maisie?” she said.
“Maisie wants you to be happy.”
He held her by the hand as he used
to hold her when they were children, to keep her safe.
And hand in hand, like children, they went down through
the twilight of the fields, together.