« AnkstesnisTęsti »
Fyles would not have believed his senses had he not known that Topham was a public-school man and above the pretense of having returned from the grave when he had not. Presently Topham leaned back. "Rather a muddle," Topham smiled. Fyles could see Alice's eyes examine Topham, still without inquiry or doubt. She answered as a good wife always does, sympathetically, even if a little tired: "Yes, dear." Fyles walked out of the house, and they did not hear him.
Fyles paced up and down the grass, and meditated some ten or twelve pages of this print. Through the curtains he saw their game go on until Topham said "Check" and Alice acknowledged "Checkmate." Then, in the hall, he saw Topham shake hands with their wife, saw her pick up her blue skirts and mount the stairs, her long train picturesquely dragging behind her: that was the way Alice always parted from her husbands at this hour. A light came from her window; then presently a light from Fyles's own window, or Topham's window, or whichever window you think it rightly was. The butler locked up for the night, leaving Alice's second husband out on the damp grass. Men of less delicacy would have thrown a pebble at Alice's window in their anxiety for a word with her as to the future; and I suppose it will be impossible to prevent this story falling into hands which would have heaved a brick at the Topham window, if such a thing as a loose brick could have been found in those three hundred-odd acres. But Colonel Fyles was a publicschool man, and for some time he did nothing. Then he went around to see if the dogs would recognize him, a step involving no constraint upon the feelings of a delicate woman. The dogs did recognize him, though I do not know for what. They barked so that the butler opened a door through which the colonel strolled in as if he did not know that Topham now was sound asleep in the Topham-Fyles chamber.
Colonel Fyles paced the carpet in at room on the top floor in the wing farthest from the servants' quarters. On no account must the servants ever know; that is, must they ever know in such a way that they would seem officially to know. There is in this a most important distinction that runs all through English life:
things subtly are and subtly are not what they are called or seem on this island, whence foreigners have worked out a phrase, "British hypocrisy," a jealous term for that good form which all other peoples have something too bourgeois in their nature successfully to imitate. If you have a taste for these distinctions, consider the word "England." It is spelled "Eng"-land, it is pronounced "Ing"-land, and it means "Angle"-land. To remember this will help you to understand many English equations; and if you are ascended from the Mayflower, it may help you to understand yourself.
Colonel Fyles locked himself in and went to sleep on a lounge, hoping that somehow in the morning Topham, or the illusion, or whatever it is, would have vanished. He slept less well than usual; if he had been an overwrought American he would not have slept at all. In the morning he looked over the balusters and heard the swish of Alice's gown, heard her greeting to Topham, accompanied by nothing less than a kiss,-surely a legitimate one, and then heard their descent to the breakfast-room. Colonel Fyles made a dash, half-dressed, to the husband's room, to get into his riding-togs. They were gone. Topham had them on. Fyles sat on the bed and perspired until the up-stairs maid begged his pardon, explaining that she had thought she had seen him go down-stairs. He hurriedly dressed for town; the servants must not know. He stole out when no one saw him, went to the station on foot, and ate his breakfast at his club in Piccadilly at eleven o'clock.
Major Topham ate his bacon and eggs, or their bacon and eggs; in fact, the financial situation was such that the eggs and bacon really belonged to Alice. He smoked a pipe, read "The Times," and wrote a letter protesting against any reduction in the defenses of the empire. He lunched, napped, teaed, entertained the canon and his lady with as much lucidity as avoids seeming to wish to appear clever; and if there was the slightest sense of altered fact in the mind of Alice, be sure she was too well bred to betray it. Then Topham did a thing which you may think lies on debatable ground: he answered to the name of Fyles.
"Fyles," said the canon, standing in his
Christian gaiters and canonical outdoor head-gear, "times have changed since you and I were boys." The canon was thinking of religion, as he often did.
"Yes," said Topham, thinking of the army. "It's a great pity-a great pity. It 's these confounded foreigners."
"I'm afraid it is, Fyles," the canon replied, thinking of the English estates bought up by flying monasteries since the end of the French Concordat. So they parted in full agreement. Major Topham, of course, had answered to the name of Fyles in order to avoiding explaining in the presence of a canon's wife.
But there was something on the mind of Alice. For all institutions have human imperfections, and it is not yet possible for British form, tradition, and education, which are three words for the same thing, to produce two men so precisely alike that the fine intuition of a gentlewoman cannot detect a difference. All that night Alice wondered, when she was not asleep, whether the servants had discovered anything and whether she would be compelled to get in an entire new lot.
Now, although the colonel had broken his habit by going to town on Wednesday instead of Thursday, which was extremely distasteful, his habit of going the round of his tenants on Friday morning and of giving them the best military advice on agriculture, he could not break, or perhaps would not, from his sense of duty. He automatically took the train down into Sussex early Friday morning, and against all that might happen to shock Alice and astound the servants, he walked straight to Glaston Angle. He was rather surprised at himself; but no one seemed surprised to see him. Alice was in the garden. She had on a tweed skirt which reached to various distances from the ground, and she was busy with a trowel, undoing what the gardener had done the day before. Fyles walked over to the stable. His cob was gone. Topham was off visiting the tenantry. At any moment he might return, or the stable-boy, seeing Fyles, might come and dumbly wonder where the cob was. Fyles caught Alice glancing at him. Her eyes fell, and he believed her color rose.
"You are early, dear," she said to the worm she had just bisected with her trowel.
Colonel Fyles had the English faculty, which Americans well might cultivate, of being unembarrassed by his own silence. He stood seeking the reply which might go down to history as a true, restrained, and accurate expression of an officer, a gentleman, and a public-school man in a painful dilemma. At last his answer
"Yes, dear," he said. And he went up and looked out of the attic window, through the curtain, at Topham galloping home in their riding-boots. Fyles heard her speak to Topham.
"You are early, dear," she said. Fyles saw the major look at her and guess that she was under some stress which called for some right answer. "Yes, dear," he presently said. He went up-stairs to put on their afternoon suit.
But even in the best society there is a limit to human endurance, and this limit came to Colonel Fyles at three minutes to ten that evening when, not having eaten for fourteen hours, he descended from the attic to Topham's room, put on their spare evening clothes, and marched down another flight to the drawing-room. If Major Topham's color had been a trifle heightened by his resumption of morning rides, Colonel Fyles's color had declined enough to match it. Fyles's face was not exactly white: it was the shade of a shirt that had been washed in London. This is where my story really begins; and you may be sure, as you see Colonel Fyles steadily marching down the broad staircase, that the end is approaching.
Observe him more closely for a moment -his immobile countenance; his excellent, square jaw and unobtrusive cranium; his hair, with its look of retirement on halfpay; his erect carriage, which spoke of a man of fifty-five in a physical condition you won't be able to match at forty unless you change your mode of life. If you are an average quick-luncher, he could have punched your head-punched it, without losing his wind or his temper, to a nicety suiting whatever mockery with which you might have treated this solemn occasion. And, after all, without reference to any particular head, perhaps that is the thing most worth being able to do in all the world at fifty-five. So Major Topham could have. And if you are still disinclined to view Colonel Fyles seriously,
which I hope is not the case, and if you are an average American, then let me tell you that in all his life he had accepted less insolence, less personal indignity, and less civic wrong than you put up with in a week of crowded travel in your daily trolley-car. So had Major Topham.
When you have recovered from this, do not imagine that Colonel Fyles paused an instant at the threshold, where the salmon Turkish rug stretched to receive his footfall. He strode to the middle of it. Alice and the major were bent over their chessboard. The butler was in the act of setting down a tray of whisky and soda-water close at hand. The butler let down the tray with a jingle that gave the true note of sound to the note of astonishment that tore his long-trained face. Alice rose to her feet. Major Topham of course must when a lady did. There was a pause of five heart-beats.
Then the butler's face swallowed the gleam of his intelligence, and he retired without breaking anything and in the most faultless form. There was a longer silence until the three heard the door close that led from the dining-room across the wide hall to the pantry beyond. Her husbands turned to their wife. She gasped what any well-bred woman would.
"Before the servants!" she said, accusing Fyles. She turned away to hide her feelings from the men and thus to throw them into confusion.
Here followed a silence so long that I could give you the impression of it only by several paragraphs of irrelevant matter. If you like, picture Major Topham meanwhile, his face betraying no emotion, his strong jaw and retreating brow; his irongray hair, with its look of half-retirement; his soldierly bearing, which spoke of a physical life never relinquished since the playing-fields of Eton. And be careful to distinguish him from my portrait of Colonel Fyles, for now both their faces were quite pink.
Then occurred something which never can be cleared up. Alice suddenly went and flung open the drawing-room door, and her husbands for a moment wilted as one man-at what this might forbode for both of them. But she wished only to be certain that the butler had not come back and found something to do in the hall. Her husbands watched her close it and sit
down near it, as if on guard until the scene was over through which she knew she had to pass. They watched her with such intentness that please read carefully-they forgot to note which of the chairs they then chose for themselves. One of them took the Hepplewhite occasional chair, and one of them took the Chippendale occasional chair, and both seated themselves to show how well in control their emotions were. But which was which-which of them took the Hepplewhite and which the Chippendale I do not know. For convenience I attach some of the subsequent speeches to Fyles and others to Topham, but I cannot vouch for which was actually the speech of either one. After an appropriate silence, during which I wish to say that Alice had slightly protuberant teeth, her nurse having neglected to keep Alice's mouth closed when not engaged in its proper offices-and that Alice's feet were capable of supporting her without discomfort on a plowed fieldafter a silence which would have caused any three underbred people to burst to atoms, Fyles said that which he had come down-stairs to say. He looked at Major Topham, who looked back at him as if Fyles was looking in a mirror, and then Fyles turned his gaze steadily upon Alice, whose face showed unmistakable suffering now, as if she could not forget the butler. And Fyles came out with it:
"There are more than two of us in this room!"
I think it was Fyles who said this, because it sounds so much like Topham. Anyway, it was an accusation to their wife. It was good, blunt English, without irony or indirection-English such as Richard Cœur de Lion might have used on the battle-field, or brave Anne Boleyn in her boudoir. Alice could make no denial either as a good wife or with regard to fact. And yet how flat the accusation
fell to a woman who could wave two marriage-certificates, both from the Established Church! But she did not grow vulgarly superb. She only bowed her head to the suffering which she felt it is a woman's duty to discover.
"I have suspected this," she began to quiver. She turned away from them for the purpose hereinbefore described. What brought her back was the assertion made by her other husband.
Trust their cruel masculine insistence to pounce upon the question she did not wish to answer, could not answer! She stayed for moments grasping the back of the chair from which she rose. Then her shuddering eyes went out in blue appeal to both of them.
"Which of you"-her voice broke"which of you is Topham?".
At once their faces shadowed with a new dismay. What had happened since just now both men for the first time had looked each other fully in the face? The man on the Hepplewhite turned to the Iman on the Chippendale: each saw in the other the perfect representative of his class. Each saw the man of birth, the public-school man, the soldier retired on half-pay, the pink English gentleman with half-retired hair, the product of a tradition which only the destruction of an empire can change. Each found himself staring at a Major-Colonel-TophamFyles, sitting in a Chipplewhite chair. Intensely they rose; they even gestured to the one woman in all the world they might expect to help them-their wife!
"Can't you tell?" they jointly quavered.
She stared from one to the other again and again, the words of her marriage-services ringing in her ears. With each look their hearts sank farther.
"Can't you tell?" she limply said. Chipplewhite turned to Heppendale. The two froze palely to each other's faces. They tried with all their might to remember which of them had sat in which chair at that forgetful moment which seemed so long ago. Their faces went through movements which can be good form only for gentlemen who are drowning. They were drowning; but Alice was not. And the scene began to annoy her; their putting it on her, a weak woman-all on her. They could see her so straightening up that Burne-Jones would not have recognized her.
"No!" they agonized, both in answer and in vague new protest. But before her pale-blue eyes their heads could only droop upon their shoulders. She could endure it
no longer they only stood dazed, like the two halves of the worm she had bisected that morning.
"I cannot discharge the butler," she said from the height of her womanhood. "I can only retain him and insist upon his drinking less. One of you must go now — before he sees you again."
They waited, bowed, as if to try to force the choice on her. But how could Alice make it and be true to all her marriage-vows? Death had not parted her from either of these men. At length they heard her slipper tapping on the rug impatiently. She glanced commandingly at the clock, and it began to strike ten.
What followed is susceptible of so many different explanations that I shall offer only one. Chippendale slowly turned toward the door. He opened it and glanced toward the dining-room, which was vacant. Then without a word he let himself out of the house. Alice and Hepplewhite watched him through the French window down the path and out of the gate that led most easily to the churchyard where Major Topham's headstone was. Chippendale had never turned back. He was gone.
I think it was Fyles who went. I think he did it under the impression that he was Topham and that this was a good way to get even with Topham. If you call it strange that Fyles should go into Topham's grave, I answer that it is no stranger than that Topham should have left it. But perhaps you think it was Topham who went, and that Topham had lost his temper. But if you think Topham would lose his temper, you don't understand— you quite don't understand.
Alice took a mild, fresh breath and sank again to the chess-table. It was Hepplewhite's move. He pondered a long time. He really was not thinking of the game just yet. He seemed to have something on his mind. Finally the words
"My dear," he said, "which of us really was it that went?"
Alice turned up her pale-blue eyes to him. All that was forgiving, all that was pure and wifely, all that was anchored in her marriage-vows, stood in her eyes.
"Does it really matter, dear?" she softly said.
WHILE making a tour over New native dwellings are enriched with care
Zealand, spent some time among the natives, and took great interest in their beautiful carving. From time immemorial carving has been the chief accomplishment of the Maoris. It is not now followed so extensively as at an earlier period in their history. Originally it was more the favorite diversion of the tribal elders, who were too slow for the chase or too feeble for war expeditions. The notable activity of the Maori temperament then found expression in the practice of this art. The carving was done with crude tools,-flint knives and stone axes, -and on seasoned wood almost as hard as metal. For a long period the enthusiasm for this type of decoration was general.
Stone, coral, pearl, and ivory are also patterned by the Malay imagination. Indomitable industry, skill, and ingenuity produce designs so symmetrical as to appear to be executed by mechanical means. The ancient teachers of this tracery were men of tribal circumstance, rewarded by the chiefs and holding positions of honor under the kings.
On North Island, New Zealand, I found the best examples of native handicraft. The doorways and windows of
ings, gateways are sentineled with carved figures. The streets of every village exhibit a unique array of images.
The more prominent families boast imposing collections of carved and chiseled work. Some noted Maoris have household accumulations-ancestral legaciesof carved curiosities of many decades. The best work has been given to the royal families for the decoration of their palaces, and to official buildings and sacred structures. Maori council-houses are museums of weird and grotesque woodcraft.
Special carvers have designed the wardecorations that ornament the Maori Pas. Their primitive forts are made hideous with bellicose images, and their weapons also are carved. The prows of the Maori war-boats and sides of their great canoes, hewn from giant trees, are enriched with handsome decoration.
Other of these Malay artists have traced the gods and goddesses of their mythology in wood and stone, and have covered their altars with carved symbols. Maori theology has been preached in rocks and trees by statues of their deities of war, peace, wind, rain, land, sea, day, and night.