Susan Jones.

A Girl of the North. A Story of London and Canada





For always, he said, not answering her, only following the train of thought in his own mind.

No, not for always, she said sadly, Love me really for a week, a day, a year while the nightingales sing. I would rather have a mans whole love for one day, than his toleration for years, his agreeable acceptation of my presence.

A man usually loves his wife.

Does he? Does he? You know that is rubbish. You love me now, and you think you will always. A wife is associated with a mans disagreeable pleasures, his duty dinners, his dull breakfasts. When he goes to dine at his Colonels, or with the man who has influence, and runs the papers, she goes and bores him too. If you were compelled to take the other mans wife out to dinner you would appreciate the attributes of your own when you returned to her.

A man loves his future wife before matrimony. But, Lily, afterwards I think it is your own fault.

Mine? she exclaimed. Mine you forget you

Dearest, I did not mean you. I meant indefinite woman. It will never be your fault.

She looked at him.

You apologised in time I was haughty. Sit there, near, but not too near me.

He seated himself in a little chair.

That chair will break. Sit somewhere else.

To return to the subject of matrimony, she said.

Of breakfast.

A woman lets her husband see too much of her, and know too much about her. She frequently looks ugly. Oh, Dr. Jaegar, thou art answerable for much woe! Breakfast is a disturbing meal, for we sometimes are weary at breakfast and you may have yours alone.

I would like it better with you.

That is it, she exclaimed. Now you would. Soon you would not. You must make a man do without what he loves, to keep his love. Men are so unreasonable.

Do you believe in anyone, Lily?

No. Yes, I do.

Tell me, he asked eagerly, in whom do you believe?

In myself.

CHAPTER IX

Launa and Mr. Wainbridge drove to the concert a private one where Herr Donau was going to play the piano for his hostess Lady Blake, Launa, and a friend.

The day was hot, terribly so. The heat rose from the ground, the houses, and the pavement; it struck one like a fiery draught from a furnace. Launa and Mr. Wainbridge were silent; they knew each other well enough to be so. He was pondering. Though he found her interesting he did not agree with her at all about many things, but therein lay her power of attracting him, for she did not care whether she did or not. She did not pretend this as many women do, when men always are aware of it.

I am hot, she said.

And you look cool.

I am wishing to be where I could hear the river ripple, and hear the sound of the water as it curls over the rocks. I wish I could see the big lake where it widens, where the pines and the maples grow. Oh, the smell of the wind there!

Why wont you come and sit in the park instead of going to hear Donau?

Because I can imagine myself in that far-off land when Donau is playing, she answered.

I can shut my eyes and feel the wind; I see the water just rippled and then still. In the park it is civilised and hot; the trees are beautiful, but not like those I love. The grass is green, but the wind is parching, and it is town-laden; it is She stopped. Who is that?

He started at the tone of her voice. It was full of apprehension, of a sort of cold joy, as if she had fought, and was glad to be beaten.

He asked, Where?

I thought I saw someone someone I knew someone Oh, I want to stop, to get out. It is stifling here.

There are so many people, he replied. I did not notice anyone. Was it a woman? We are nearly there now. Do not get out.

No never mind. It was imagination. I thought I saw it could not have been really.

Ah, he said, imagination is deceiving and becoming. You have grown most beautifully flushed. You are very good to look at, Miss Archer.

You must talk to Lady Blake, said Launa. I am tired.

The room into which they were shown was dark, cool, and flower-scented. Lady Blake was dressed in black. She was a woman men loved for an hour, a dance, or a day. Sir Godfrey Blake had married her after a short acquaintance. Immediately afterwards he went into Parliament, and now sat out all the debates, and was seldom at home. Men pitied her, women shook their heads, while she loudly lamented a cold husband, and was consoled by other men.

We have been waiting for you, she said. Herr Donau is ready to begin.

She gloried in her riches, and she was musical, though in the days of her poverty she had not been. Shilling seats and deprivations did not suit her; but to be able to pay the most expensive successful pianist in London for a whole afternoon to play to her and one or two chosen ones, what a triumph! That was success. And if she did not enjoy the music she did derive great satisfaction from saying, Donau played for us on Sunday; he played marvellously. Of course we paid him.

Miss Archers imagination has been causing her to see people a person, said Mr. Wainbridge, as he shook hands with Lady Blake.

He wanted to see Launa grow red again, as well as to discover who she thought she had seen.

She laughed.

Was it a ghost? asked Lady Blake.

She looked uncomfortable. She had some ghosts behind her a brother and sister who were poor, and who lived at Clapham. They worked, and she ignored them.

A ghost! repeated Wainbridge. Do you believe in ghosts, Miss Archer?

Do I? Souls of the dead! I wish I could see them.

Dont! exclaimed Lady Blake. I believe in premonitory warnings. You did not see me walking, did you, Miss Archer? I hope not.

No, I only saw an old friend an old Canadian friend. But it was only in fancy, for the next moment it was gone.

There was a slight pause when she said it was gone. Mr. Wainbridge noticed she used it.

Lady Blake said Oh sadly, and then continued: Premonitory warnings are so interesting. Was the friend an old, I mean an ancient grey-headed friend, or only old as regards the time of friendship? Was it a woman?

It was a spirit, said Launa.

You will hear of a death, said Lady Blake with solemnity.

It is already dead, replied Launa.

To you? asked Mr. Wainbridge.

Are we not going to hear Herr Donau play? inquired Launa. You have not forgotten you are to play the Waldstein Sonata for me? she said to Herr Donau.

I have not forgotten. Shall I begin?

Do, said Lady Blake, seating herself in a chair covered with cream-coloured material.

Her black dress, yellow hair, and white skin had an ideal, an arranged background. Ideals have to be well arranged, otherwise they are deficient. Launa sat in a dim corner; Mr. Wainbridge chose a chair from which he could observe her.

She was listening intently; she had often played the Waldstein to Paul, and she wanted to see how Donau would play the octave run. Through it all she could think of Paul. Had she really seen him? No, he was not in England. Could he be dead?.. Donau played the run beautifully Could Paul be dead? Donau played the octaves with one hand gl?ssando. Wonderful! Launa glanced round her; no one appeared to have noticed. Lady Blake was keeping time with her head and her foot. Time in the Waldstein! Launa felt a great wave of longing, of desire for the woods, lakes, and the vastness of the real forest, and for the air. Oh! that air! Keen sometimes, sweet, full of the smell of wild flowers, of the pine woods and where was Paul?

The Waldstein went on and on. To her it meant spring days, movement, hope, but not in the overcrowded old land. To the others it meant different things music always does and Launas mind returned to the impression of the afternoon. It could not have been Paul alive that she had seen? Could it be that he was dead, and because she loved him, he came to her? Did she love him? She heard the wailing of the Indian child. But if Paul were dead, he was hers hers hers

Her thoughts were interrupted by the ceasing of the piano and the compliments of Lady Blake and Mr. Wainbridge.

You were asleep, said Mr. Wainbridge to Launa.

No. My thoughts were wandering.

With more spirits?

Mr. Wainbridge, come here, said Lady Blake. Come and see this; it is by Herr Donau. Play it, do, Herr Donau, and then Miss Archer has promised to play Warum.

There is a history in that, said Launa, when the great man had finished. There is an unravelled thread in it.

Ah, yes, he said, there is. You have understanding, Miss Archer.

And now, will you play Warum? asked Lady Blake.

To hear Miss Archer play Warum is one of the worlds desires, said Mr. Wainbridge, because you puzzle it the world, I mean.

She did not answer. Lady Blake rehearsed speeches to all her dear and jealous friends while the music lasted. She would say Donau and Miss Archer played for us during a whole afternoon. She had triumphed.

Launa drove home alone. Mr. Wainbridge to his regret had an engagement. He said good-bye to her with sorrow, while she was indifferent. There was something in the spirit theory after all.

Mrs. Phillips and Mr. Herbert were still sitting at Victoria Mansions. She had changed her dress for a tea-gown and invited him to dinner. The evening was hot. Launa dressed in white and went to the music-room. Conversation did not appeal to her. She began to play, to work hard at an impossible sonata. The hard work was taking away her weariness, the feeling of misery and longing when the door was opened and Captain Carden came in.

I did not let your maid announce me. I wanted to surprise you, Launa, he said, advancing with an air of expectation. She said you were not at home, but I heard the piano, and I knew you would see me.

He held out his hand.

I will finish this page, she said, not taking the hand thus affably extended, and playing on.

Captain Carden seated himself near and stared at her. She could feel his eyes taking her in, all over, gloating over her, but she finished and sat on the music-stool, turning herself round until she faced him.

Your mother was here to lunch.

Yes, Launa, she told me so.

Did you want to see me particularly? she asked. I suppose you did, because I said not at home. I am very tired and in a musical mood.

He smiled languidly and leaned back.

You dont mean that, Launa.

His detestable habit of repeating her name irritated her. She looked at him.

Why do you never call me Charlie? We are relations.

Are we? she asked.

Yes. That is one reason why I came, and then my mother asked me to come and see you. She and I are both worried. Mother thinks

Do think yourself; you remind me of Uriah Heep.

My mother thinks, he continued with a sort of leer, that you are lonely. She fears the friends you have, the contamination of their talk about no morals she says

Launa got up.

You will either go away or else you will talk of something else. Speak for yourself, pray. I do not care what your mother thinks.

Captain Carden looked at her.

Dont get cross. You know I am in love with you, and I want to marry you. It will be such an advantage to you, an unknown Canadian, to marry into a good old English family, and to be well looked after.

She was silent, first from surprise, then from anger. It was as if the words would not come rapidly enough.

Thank you, she said. I decline your insulting offer. Now will you go?

Now, Launa, you know it is the best thing you can do. I am really in love with you. You will have some of your own money settled on you, of course, and you will have an excellent position and be thought a great deal of as my wife.

I will never be your wife, she answered. Never.

All girls want to marry; you do. They all do. I like a girl who pretends to be backward, but this is enough, Launa. Give in now, you know how I love you, you

Launas cheeks were blazing, she got up and rang the bell violently. He followed, unseen by her, until she felt his arm on her waist; his face was detestably close, his eyes staring into hers, glaring like an animals, and his breath was hot against her face. She gave him one firm push; she had not paddled so much in vain; her arms were very strong, and he did not expect it. He staggered across the room, upsetting a little table and breaking some china ornaments which fell with a crash as he sprawled on the floor. Just then the maid opened the door, and Mr. Wainbridge walked in.

Curtis, show Captain Carden out, said Launa, apparently with calm indifference.

She looked very tall, slight, and angry, as she stood waiting. Captain Carden gathered himself together with a sheepish look, and advanced towards her.

Good-bye, Launa.

Go, she said.

Launa, say good-bye.

And as the door closed she threw herself into a big chair and laughed. Captain Carden heard it as he left the flat and detected nothing but ridicule in it. Mr. Wainbridge went over to her; he saw she would have cried had she not laughed, and that her nerves were all unstrung.

Why didnt you tell me to kick him out? He deserved it.

Why didnt you do it?

She put her hands over her face, and began to sob. He stroked her hair gently, tenderly, and she liked it.

I am an idiot! I am an idiot! she said at last.

What did he do?

How did you come? You were dining at the Grays, I thought you said?

I came because I wanted to see you.

She dried her eyes and leaned back in her chair and looked out at the night, feeling the curious rest of exhaustion. The greyness of twilight crept into the room, it was peaceful though still sultry. He took her hand and said:

I am glad I came.

So am I, she said, cheerfully. Her mood had changed. You saved me from unknown bother. He was most impertinent.

In the other room Mrs. Phillips was becoming impatient. She was hungry. At tea-time Herberts conversation engrossed her, and now where was dinner?

She was also anxious to create a sensation, to surprise Launa and everyone by telling of her speedy marriage, which was to take place in one month exactly. And so she went into the music-room.

Has that awful Carden man gone? I am so hungry, Launa dear. Do say you are hungry too, Mr. Wainbridge. I am going to be married in a month.

She sighed.

No wonder, then, that you are hungry, said Mr. Wainbridge, with that awful prospect you need restoratives of all sorts.

Lucky Mr. Herbert, said Launa. I congratulate him.

How nice of you, said Mrs. Phillips. I feared you might be small minded enough to congratulate me. He is in the drawing-room starving too.

Let us go, then, to dinner, said Launa. Mr. Herbert, you are so lucky.

That is good of you, he answered.

Merely decent of her, said Mrs. Phillips. She knows my worth.

How are the spirits? asked Wainbridge, as Launa and he followed the other two into the dining-room.

Good. Look at my eyes. Are they red?

They are beautiful.

He took her hand for one moment; it was an involuntary caress.

And they drank to the perfect happiness of Mrs. Phillips and Mr. Herbert.

CHAPTER X

The wedding was over. Mrs. Phillips had become Mrs. Herbert. The accounts were in all the papers, the guests were mentioned, and the brides attire was described. She wore mauve, a bonnet, and what was not mentioned, a nervous air. The known dangers of matrimony are worse in anticipation, and more true, than the maiden brides assurance of eternal bliss.

Miss Archer, an American beauty, said the Chronicler, accompanied her to the altar, and handed her a smelling-bottle.

Mr. and Mrs. Herbert departed amid no rice and no old slippers. Lily would not have them. They went to hear the nightingales, and to remember Rubinsteins song:


The nightingale with fervent song
Doth woo the rose the whole night long.

For one whole week the weather was glorious and unchangeable.

Launa was alone in Victoria Mansions. Mr. George visited her with frequency, and so did Mr. Wainbridge.

Mr. George often came in the morning.

I am at my worst early, Launa, he said, and then I long for strong measures. You are a strong measure. Your name is so perfect, I could not spoil it with a Miss, he added apologetically.

All the old women would have called her a bold Canadian had they not remembered her money and success. England conquered and annexed her Colonies; do not their maidens annex her young men?

Launa missed her father; between them there was a perfect relationship; their minds were in tune; she was so certain of his love and care that she feared no diminution thereof. He wrote to her often, and she thought of shutting up the flat and going to join him.

On Lilys wedding day, Mr. Wainbridge told her he was obliged to travel with his uncle for six weeks. The uncle, Lord Wainbridge, had just constructed a novel; it contained a pinch of all the crazes of the day, and was clever, but not moral. Lord Wainbridge became uneasy, and Lady Wainbridge rampant with rage (designated in this case Christian solicitude about his fall) when she read it. She said the want of morals was his own. She said many things which he did not mind when she only gave utterance to them; but he feared ridicule as he feared nothing else; she said he would be laughed at, so he fled to his nephew, who always had sympathy for him.

Launa received the tidings of Mr. Wainbridges departure with indifference, though she did feel it. And he decided that her lack of vanity was her one fault. She really appeared as if she did not care whether she attracted him or not. But she thought very much about him. His interest in her was pleasant. It was more. It was necessary to her, as much as anything can be necessary over which we have no control, and without which we must live if it is withdrawn.

The day of his last visit they spent in reading, when he would have much rather talked. But she had a new book.

How queer it is that the charm of so few poems lasts, she said. What I loved at sixteen I loathe now, and I suppose what I love now I shall hate at thirty-five.

We change. You do not love a comic song when your heart aches.

I have no heart.

Because I said that, you think I meant your heart, he replied. I did not.

Your own then?

Perhaps. Do you believe we are responsible for evil?

I do not know. Are we responsible for what we cannot help? I could not condemn any one but myself. The existence of evil is true, but how horrible! And how it spoils our lives.

Spoils our lives, he repeated. You are quite right! Tell me, can a man or a woman love two people at once? Is it possible to love evil and good?

Launa grew pale.

No one can love evil.

You are right, he said, with triumph. It is not love then. To do right, one should love something, someone.

Yes, she half whispered, love someone, even if they are beyond ones reach.

You have comforted me. I must say good-bye, now. No, I will see you once again, to-night. In six weeks I shall come back, and I shall be glad glad. What shall you be?

She did not answer, but stood up and walked across the room to look at a photograph. She would never go back to Canada, never.

Where did you get that photograph? he asked. Is it new? Who is it?

It was Paul. She had kept it locked up until now.

It is no one you know. It is only a picture which reminds me of evil.

Take it down shall I?

No, no, she said sharply. We are terribly in earnest, she added, and gave a little laugh.

She went to the window and looked out. The lights were flashing, and the roar of the city came up to her.

Good-bye, he said, taking her hand. Good-bye Beh?t dich Gott.

That night Launa went to a dance, which lasted until three in the morning. She wore pink, and looked beautiful. The lust for slaughter, for conquest, for admiration entered into her. She could not love any man, she assured herself, while she knew that she thought only of Paul. But she possessed power. She could hurt, and for that one night she gloried in it. This was what the man on the steamer had meant; this was deadening; this was life and din; there was no time to think.

Mr. Wainbridge was there; she gave him one dance only, and he was angry, though he rejoiced when Mr. George said to him:

Launa is miserable. Her eyes are unhappy; she is feeling something.

She had expressed herself as yearning for Norway, and that was all; but Mr. Wainbridge thought she wanted him.

The next morning she slept until it was late; she was very tired; When her letters were brought to her she did not open them. She lazily drank her tea and looked at the post-marks, wondering from whom they were. She sent a wire to her father, saying she would like to join him at once.

While she was dressing her maid brought her a telegram. It might be about her new dress, or Lady Blakes picnic, or the concert at which she was to play.

This was what she read:

Your father accidentally shot. Dying.

Come.

Stevens.

Stevens was a friend who had joined her father.

Launa looked at it; dying not dead. She drank her tea. It was, it must be some detestable, horrible dream.

By twelve oclock her boxes were packed; and Launa and her maid started on their long, almost useless, journey. To sit still and wait was impossible, it was like watching for someone who never came. The train tore along, and the trees seemed to wave their branches like hungry, relentless demons, as if they would clutch all men; the sea was cruel, and the steamer outrageously slow.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14