Miriam left the gaslit hall and went slowly upstairs. The March twilight lay upon the landings, but the staircase was almost dark. The top landing was quite dark and silent. There was no one about. It would be quiet in her room. She could sit by the fire and be quiet and think things over until Eve and Harriett came back with the parcels. She would have time to think about the journey and decide what she was going to say to the Fräulein.

Her new Saratoga trunk stood solid and gleaming in the firelight. Tomorrow it would be taken away and she would be gone. The room would be altogether Harriett’s. It would never have its old look again. She evaded the thought and moved clumsily to the nearest window. The outline of the round bed and the shapes of the may trees on either side of the bend of the drive were just visible. There was no escape for her thoughts in this direction. The sense of all she was leaving stirred uncontrollably as she stood looking down into the well-known garden.

Out in the road beyond the invisible lime trees came the rumble of wheels. The gate creaked and the wheels crunched up the drive, slurring and stopping under the dining room window.

It was the Thursday afternoon piano-organ, the one that was always in tune. It was early today.

She drew back from the window as the bass chords began thumping gently in the darkness. It was better that it should come now than later on, at dinnertime. She could get over it alone up here.

She went down the length of the room and knelt by the fireside with one hand on the mantelshelf so that she could get up noiselessly and be lighting the gas if anyone came in.

The organ was playing “The Wearin’ o’ the Green.”

It had begun that tune during the last term at school, in the summer. It made her think of rounders in the hot school garden, singing classes in the large green room, all the class shouting “Gather roses while ye may,” hot afternoons in the shady north room, the sound of turning pages, the hum of the garden beyond the sunblinds, meetings in the sixth form study.⁠ ⁠… Lilla, with her black hair and the specks of bright amber in the brown of her eyes, talking about free will.

She stirred the fire. The windows were quite dark. The flames shot up and shadows darted.

That summer, which still seemed near to her, was going to fade and desert her, leaving nothing behind. Tomorrow it would belong to a world which would go on without her, taking no heed. There would still be blissful days. But she would not be in them.

There would be no more silent sunny mornings with all the day ahead and nothing to do and no end anywhere to anything; no more sitting at the open window in the dining room, reading Lecky and Darwin and bound Contemporary Reviews with roses waiting in the garden to be worn in the afternoon, and Eve and Harriett somewhere about, washing blouses or copying waltzes from the library packet⁠ ⁠… no more Harriett looking in at the end of the morning, rushing her off to the new grand piano to play the “Mikado” and the “Holy Family” duets. The tennis club would go on, but she would not be there. It would begin in May. Again there would be a white twinkling figure coming quickly along the pathway between the rows of hollyhocks every Saturday afternoon.

Why had he come to tea every Sunday⁠—never missing a single Sunday⁠—all the winter? Why did he say, “Play ‘Abide with Me,’ ” “Play ‘Abide with Me’ ” yesterday, if he didn’t care? What was the good of being so quiet and saying nothing? Why didn’t he say “Don’t go” or “When are you coming back?” Eve said he looked perfectly miserable.

There was nothing to look forward to now but governessing and old age. Perhaps Miss Gilkes was right.⁠ ⁠… Get rid of men and muddles and have things just ordinary and be happy. “Make up your mind to be happy. You can be perfectly happy without anyone to think about.⁠ ⁠…” Wearing that large cameo brooch⁠—long, white, flat-fingered hands and that quiet little laugh.⁠ ⁠… The piano-organ had reached its last tune. In the midst of the final flourish of notes the door flew open. Miriam got quickly to her feet and felt for matches.

Harriett came in waggling a thin brown paper parcel.

“Did you hear the Intermezzo? What a dim religious! We got your old collars.”

Miriam took the parcel and subsided on to the hearthrug, looking with a new curiosity at Harriett’s little, round, firelit face, smiling tightly between the rim of her hard felt hat and the bright silk bow beneath her chin.

A footstep sounded on the landing and there was a gentle tap on the open door.

“Oh, come in, Eve⁠—bring some matches. Are the collars piquet, Harry?”

“No, they hadn’t got piquet, but they’re the plain shape you like. You may thank us they didn’t send you things with little rujabiba frills.”

Eve came slenderly down the room and Miriam saw with relief that her outdoor things were off. As the gas flared up she drew comfort from her scarlet serge dress, and the soft crimson cheek and white brow of the profile raised towards the flaring jet.

“What are things like downstairs?” she said, staring into the fire.

“I don’t know,” said Eve. She sighed thoughtfully and sank into a carpet chair under the gas bracket. Miriam glanced at her troubled eyes.

“Pater’s only just come in. I think things are pretty rotten,” declared Harriett from the hearthrug.

“Isn’t it ghastly⁠—for all of us?” Miriam felt treacherously outspoken. It was a relief to be going away. She knew that this sense of relief made her able to speak. “It’s never knowing that’s so awful. Perhaps he’ll get some more money presently and things’ll go on again. Fancy mother having it always, ever since we were babies.”

“Don’t, Mim.”

“All right. I won’t tell you the words he said, how he put it about the difficulty of getting the money for my things.”

Don’t, Mim.”

Miriam’s mind went back to the phrase and her mother’s agonised face. She felt utterly desolate in the warm room.

“I wish I’d got brains,” chirped Harriett, poking the fire with the toe of her boot.

“So you have⁠—more than me.”


“You know, I know girls, that things are as absolutely ghastly this time as they can possibly be and that something must be done.⁠ ⁠… But you know it’s perfectly fearful to face that old school when it comes to the point.”

“Oh, my dear, it’ll be lovely,” said Eve; “all new and jolly, and think how you will enjoy those lectures, you’ll simply love them.”

“It’s all very well to say that. You know you’d feel ill with fright.”

“It’ll be all right⁠—for you⁠—once you’re there.”

Miriam stared into the fire and began to murmur shamefacedly.

“No more all day bézique.⁠ ⁠… No more days in the West End.⁠ ⁠… No more matinées⁠ ⁠… no more exhibitions⁠ ⁠… no more A.B.C. teas⁠ ⁠… no more insane times⁠ ⁠… no more anything.”

“What about holidays? You’ll enjoy them all the more.”

“I shall be staid and governessy.”

“You mustn’t. You must be frivolous.”

Two deeply-burrowing dimples fastened the clean skin tightly over the bulge of Miriam’s smile.

“And marry a German professor,” she intoned blithely.

“Don’t⁠—don’t for goodney say that before mother, Miriam.”

“D’you mean she minds me going?”

“My dear!”

Why did Eve use her cross voice?⁠—stupid⁠ ⁠… “for goodness’ sake,” not “for goodney.” Silly of Eve to talk slang.⁠ ⁠…

“All right. I won’t.”

“Won’t marry a German professor, or won’t tell mother, do you mean?⁠ ⁠… Oo⁠—Crumbs! My old cake in the oven!” Harriett hopped to the door.

“Funny Harriett taking to cookery. It doesn’t seem a bit like her.”

“She’ll have to do something⁠—so shall I, I s’pose.”

“It seems awful.”

“We shall simply have to.”

“It’s awful,” said Miriam, shivering.

“Poor old girl. I expect you feel horrid because you’re tired with all the packing and excitement.”

“Oh well, anyhow, it’s simply ghastly.”

“You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

“D’you think I shall?”

“Yes⁠—you’re so strong,” said Eve, flushing and examining her nails.

“How d’you mean?”

“Oh⁠—all sorts of ways.”

“What way?”

“Oh⁠—well⁠—you arranging all this⁠—I mean answering the advertisement and settling it all.”

“Oh well, you know you backed me up.”

“Oh yes, but other things.⁠ ⁠…”


“Oh, I was thinking about you having no religion.”


“You must have such splendid principles to keep you straight,” said Eve, and cleared her throat, “I mean, you must have such a lot in you.”


“Yes, of course.”

“I don’t know where it comes in. What have I done?”

“Oh, well, it isn’t so much what you’ve done⁠—you have such a good time.⁠ ⁠… Everybody admires you and all that⁠ ⁠… you know what I mean⁠—you’re so clever.⁠ ⁠… You’re always in the right.”

“That’s just what everybody hates!”

“Well, my dear, I wish I had your mind.”

“You needn’t,” said Miriam.

“You’re all right⁠—you’ll come out all right. You’re one of those strong-minded people who have to go through a period of doubt.”

“But, my dear,” said Miriam grateful and proud, “I feel such a humbug. You know when I wrote that letter to the Fräulein I said I was a member of the Church. I know what it will be, I shall have to take the English girls to church.”

“Oh, well, you won’t mind that.”

“It will make me simply ill⁠—I could never describe to you,” said Miriam, with her face aglow, “what it is to me to hear some silly man drone away with an undistributed middle term.”

“They’re not all like that.”

“Oh, well, then it will be ignoratio elenchi or argumentum ad hominem⁠—”

“Oh, yes, but they’re not the service.”

“The service I can’t make head or tail of⁠—think of the Athanasian.”

“Yes.” Eve stirred uneasily and began to execute a gentle scale with her tiny tightly-knit blue and white hand upon her knee.

“It’ll be ghastly,” continued Miriam, “not having anyone to pour out to⁠—I’ve told you such a lot these last few days.”

“Yes, hasn’t it been funny? I seem to know you all at once so much better.”

“Well⁠—don’t you think I’m perfectly hateful?”

“No. I admire you more than ever. I think you’re simply splendid.”

“Then you simply don’t know me.”

“Yes I do. And you’ll be able to write to me.”

Eve, easily weeping, hugged her and whispered, “You mustn’t. I can’t see you break down⁠—don’t⁠—don’t⁠—don’t. We can’t be blue your last night.⁠ ⁠… Think of nice things.⁠ ⁠… There will be nice things again⁠ ⁠… there will, will, will, will.”

Miriam pursed her lips to a tight bunch and sat twisting her long thickish fingers. Eve stood up in her tears. Her smile and the curves of her mouth were unchanged by her weeping, and the crimson had spread and deepened a little in the long oval of her face. Miriam watched the changing crimson. Her eyes went to and fro between it and the neatly pinned masses of brown hair.

“I’m going to get some hot water,” said Eve, “and we’ll make ourselves glorious.”

Miriam watched her as she went down the long room⁠—the great oval of dark hair, the narrow neck, the narrow back, tight, plump little hands hanging in profile, white, with a purple pad near the wrist.

When Miriam woke the next morning she lay still with closed eyes. She had dreamed that she had been standing in a room in the German school and the staff had crowded round her, looking at her. They had dreadful eyes⁠—eyes like the eyes of hostesses she remembered, eyes she had seen in trains and ’buses, eyes from the old school. They came and stood and looked at her, and saw her as she was, without courage, without funds or good clothes or beauty, without charm or interest, without even the skill to play a part. They looked at her with loathing. “Board and lodging⁠—privilege to attend Masters’ lectures and laundry (body linen only).” That was all she had thought of and clutched at⁠—all along, since first she read the Fräulein’s letter. Her keep and the chance of learning⁠ ⁠… and Germany⁠—Germany, das deutsche Vaterland⁠—Germany, all woods and mountains and tenderness⁠—Hermann and Dorothea in the dusk of a happy village.

And it would really be those women, expecting things of her. They would be so affable at first. She had been through it a million times⁠—all her life⁠—all eternity. They would smile those hateful women’s smiles⁠—smirks⁠—self-satisfied smiles as if everybody were agreed about everything. She loathed women. They always smiled. All the teachers had at school, all the girls, but Lilla. Eve did⁠ ⁠… maddeningly sometimes⁠ ⁠… Mother⁠ ⁠… it was the only funny horrid thing about her. Harriett didn’t.⁠ ⁠… Harriett laughed. She was strong and hard somehow.⁠ ⁠…

Pater knew how hateful all the world of women were and despised them.

He never included her with them; or only sometimes when she pretended, or he didn’t understand.⁠ ⁠…

Someone was saying “Hi!” a gurgling muffled shout, a long way off.

She opened her eyes. It was bright morning. She saw the twist of Harriett’s body lying across the edge of the bed. With a gasp she flung herself over her own side. Harry, old Harry, jolly old Harry had remembered the Grand Ceremonial. In a moment her own head hung, her long hair flinging back on to the floor, her eyes gazing across under the bed at the reversed snub of Harriett’s face. It was flushed in the midst of the wiry hair which stuck out all round it but did not reach the floor. “Hi!” they gurgled solemnly, “Hi.⁠ ⁠… Hi!” shaking their heads from side to side. Then their four frilled hands came down and they flumped out of the high bed.

They performed an uproarious toilet. It seemed so safe up there in the bright bare room. Miriam’s luggage had been removed. It was away somewhere in the house; far away and unreal and unfelt as her parents somewhere downstairs, and the servants away in the basement getting breakfast and Sarah and Eve always incredible, getting quietly up in the next room. Nothing was real but getting up with old Harriett in this old room.

She revelled in Harriett’s delicate buffoonery (“voluntary incongruity” she quoted to herself as she watched her)⁠—the titles of some of the books on Harriett’s shelf, Ungava; A Tale of the North, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, John Halifax, Swiss Family Robinson made her laugh. The curtained recesses of the long room stretched away into space.

She went about dimpling and responding, singing and masquerading as her large hands did their work.

She intoned the titles on her own shelf⁠—as a response to the quiet swearing and jesting accompanying Harriett’s occupations. “The Voyage of the Beeeeeeagle,” she sang “Scott’s Poetical Works.” Villette⁠—Longfellow⁠—Holy Bible with Apocrypha⁠—Egmont⁠—

“Binks!” squealed Harriett daintily. “Yink grink binks.”

“Books!” she responded in a low tone, and flushed as if she had given Harriett an affectionate hug. “My rotten books.⁠ ⁠…” She would come back, and read all her books more carefully. She had packed some. She could not remember which and why.

“Binks,” she said, and it was quite easy for them to crowd together at the little dressing table. Harriett was standing in her little faded red moirette petticoat and a blue flannelette dressing jacket brushing her wiry hair. Miriam reflected that she need no longer hate her for the set of her clothes round her hips. She caught sight of her own faded jersey and stiff, shapeless black petticoat in the mirror. Harriett’s “Hinde’s” lay on the dressing table, her own still lifted the skin of her forehead in suffused puckerings against the shank of each pin.

Unperceived, she eyed the tiny stiff plait of hair which stuck out almost horizontally from the nape of Harriett’s neck, and watched her combing out the tightly-curled fringe standing stubbily out along her forehead and extending like a thickset hedge midway across the crown of her head, where it stopped abruptly against the sleekly-brushed longer strands which strained over her poll and disappeared into the plait.

“Your old wool’ll be just right in Germany,” remarked Harriett.


“You ought to do it in basket plaits like Sarah.”

“I wish I could. I can’t think how she does it.”

“Ike spect it’s easy enough.”


“But you’re all right, anyhow.”

“Anyhow, it’s no good bothering when you’re plain.”

“You’re not plain.”

Miriam looked sharply round.

“Go on, Gooby.”

“You’re not. You don’t know. Granny said you’ll be a bonny woman, and Sarah thinks you’ve got the best shape face and the best complexion of any of us, and cook was simply crying her eyes out last night and said you were the light of the house with your happy, pretty face, and mother said you’re much too attractive to go about alone, and that’s partly why Pater’s going with you to Hanover, silly.⁠ ⁠… You’re not plain,” she gasped.

Miriam’s amazement silenced her. She stood back from the mirror. She could not look into it until Harriett had gone. The phrases she had just heard rang in her head without meaning. But she knew she would remember all of them. She went on doing her hair with downcast eyes. She had seen Harriett vividly, and had longed to crush her in her arms and kiss her little round cheeks and the snub of her nose. Then she wanted her to be gone.

Presently Harriett took up a brooch and skated down the room, “Ta‑ra‑ra‑la‑eee‑tee!” she carolled, “don’t be long,” and disappeared.

“I’m pretty,” murmured Miriam, planting herself in front of the dressing table. “I’m pretty⁠—they like me⁠—they like me. Why didn’t I know?” She did not look into the mirror. “They all like me, me.”

The sound of the breakfast bell came clanging up through the house. She hurried to her side of the curtained recess. Hanging there were her old red stockinette jersey and her blue skirt⁠ ⁠… never again⁠ ⁠… just once more⁠ ⁠… she could change afterwards. Her brown, heavy best dress with puffed and gauged sleeves and thick gauged and gathered boned bodice was in her hand. She hung it once more on its peg and quickly put on her old things. The jersey was shiny with wear. “You darling old things,” she muttered as her arms slipped down the sleeves.

The door of the next room opened quietly and she heard Sarah and Eve go decorously downstairs. She waited until their footsteps had died away and then went very slowly down the first flight, fastening her belt. She stopped at the landing window, tucking the frayed end of the petersham under the frame of the buckle⁠ ⁠… they were all downstairs, liking her. She could not face them. She was too excited and too shy.⁠ ⁠… She had never once thought of their “feeling” her going away⁠ ⁠… saying goodbye to each one⁠ ⁠… all minding and sorry⁠—even the servants. She glanced fearfully out into the garden, seeing nothing. Someone called up from the breakfast room doorway, “Mim‑my!” How surprised Mr. Bart had been when he discovered that they themselves never knew whose voice it was of all four of them unless you saw the person, “but yours is really richer”⁠ ⁠… it was cheek to say that.


Suddenly she longed to be gone⁠—to have it all over and be gone.

She heard the kak-kak of Harriett’s wooden heeled slippers across the tiled hall. She glanced down the well of the staircase. Harriett was mightily swinging the bell, scattering a little spray of notes at each end of her swing.

With a frightened face Miriam crept back up the stairs. Violently slamming the bedroom door, “I’m a-comin’⁠—I’m a-comin’,” she shouted and ran downstairs.