The crossing was over. They were arriving. The movement of the little steamer that had collected the passengers from the packet boat drove the raw air against Miriam’s face. In her tired brain the grey river and the flat misty shores slid constantly into a vision of the gaslit dining room at home⁠ ⁠… the large clear glowing fire, the sounds of the family voices. Every effort to obliterate the picture brought back again the moment that had come at the dinner table as they all sat silent for an instant with downcast eyes and she had suddenly longed to go on forever just sitting there with them all.

Now, in the boat she wanted to be free for the strange grey river and the grey shores. But the home scenes recurred relentlessly. Again and again she went through the last moments⁠ ⁠… the goodbyes, the unexpected convulsive force of her mother’s arms, her own dreadful inability to give any answering embrace. She could not remember saying a single word. There had been a feeling that came like a tide carrying her away. Eager and dumb and remorseful she had gone out of the house and into the cab with Sarah, and then had come the long sitting in the loop-line train⁠ ⁠… “talk about something”⁠ ⁠… Sarah sitting opposite and her unchanged voice saying “What shall we talk about?” And then a long waiting, and the brown leather strap swinging against the yellow grained door, the smell of dust and the dirty wooden flooring, with the noise of the wheels underneath going to the swinging tune of one of Heller’s Sleepless Nights. The train had made her sway with its movements. How still Sarah seemed to sit, fixed in the old life. Nothing had come but strange cruel emotions.

After the suburban train nothing was distinct until the warm snowflakes were drifting against her face through the cold darkness on Harwich quay. Then, after what seemed like a great loop of time spent going helplessly up a gangway towards “the world” she had stood, face to face with the pale polite stewardess in her cabin. “I had better have a lemon, cut in two,” she had said, feeling suddenly stifled with fear. For hours she had lain despairing, watching the slowly swaying walls of her cabin or sinking with closed eyes through invertebrate dipping spaces. Before each releasing paroxysm she told herself “this is like death; one day I shall die, it will be like this.”

She supposed there would be breakfast soon on shore, a firm room and a teapot and cups and saucers. Cold and exhaustion would come to an end. She would be talking to her father.

He was standing near her with the Dutchman who had helped her off the boat and looked after her luggage. The Dutchman was listening, deferentially. Miriam saw the strong dark blue beam of his eyes.

“Very good, very good,” she heard him say, “fine education in German schools.”

Both men were smoking cigars.

She wanted to draw herself upright and shake out her clothes.

“Select,” she heard, “excellent staff of masters⁠ ⁠… daughters of gentlemen.”

“Pater is trying to make the Dutchman think I am being taken as a pupil to a finishing school in Germany.” She thought of her lonely pilgrimage to the West End agency, of her humiliating interview, of her heart-sinking acceptance of the post, the excitements and misgivings she had had, of her sudden challenge of them all that evening after dinner, and their dismay and remonstrance and reproaches⁠—of her fear and determination in insisting and carrying her point and making them begin to be interested in her plan.

But she shared her father’s satisfaction in impressing the Dutchman. She knew that she was at one with him in that. She glanced at him. There could be no doubt that he was playing the role of the English gentleman. Poor dear. It was what he had always wanted to be. He had sacrificed everything to the idea of being a “person of leisure and cultivation.” Well, after all, it was true in a way. He was⁠—and he had, she knew, always wanted her to be the same and she was going to finish her education abroad⁠ ⁠… in Germany.⁠ ⁠… They were nearing a little low quay backed by a tremendous saffron-coloured hoarding announcing in black letters “Sunlight Zeep.”

“Did you see, Pater; did you see?”

They were walking rapidly along the quay.

“Did you see? Sunlight Zeep!”

She listened to his slightly scuffling stride at her side.

Glancing up she saw his face excited and important. He was not listening. He was being an English gentleman, “emerging” from the Dutch railway station.

“Sunlight Zeep,” she shouted. “Zeep, Pater!”

He glanced down at her and smiled condescendingly.

“Ah, yes,” he admitted with a laugh.

There were Dutch faces for Miriam⁠—men, women and children coming towards her with sturdy gait.

“They’re talking Dutch! They’re all talking Dutch!”

The foreign voices, the echoes in the little narrow street, the flat waterside effect of the sounds, the bright clearness she had read of, brought tears to her eyes.

“The others must come here,” she told herself, pitying them all.

They had an English breakfast at the Victoria Hotel and went out and hurried about the little streets. They bought cigars and rode through the town on a little tramway. Presently they were in a train watching the Dutch landscape go by. One level stretch succeeded another. Miriam wanted to go out alone under the grey sky and walk over the flat fields shut in by poplars.

She looked at the dykes and the windmills with indifferent eyes, but her desire for the flat meadows grew.

Late at night, seated wide-awake opposite her sleeping companion, rushing towards the German city, she began to think.

It was a fool’s errand.⁠ ⁠… To undertake to go to the German school and teach⁠ ⁠… to be going there⁠ ⁠… with nothing to give. The moment would come when there would be a class sitting round a table waiting for her to speak. She imagined one of the rooms at the old school, full of scornful girls.⁠ ⁠… How was English taught? How did you begin? English grammar⁠ ⁠… in German? Her heart beat in her throat. She had never thought of that⁠ ⁠… the rules of English grammar? Parsing and analysis.⁠ ⁠… Anglo-Saxon prefixes and suffixes⁠ ⁠… gerundial infinitive.⁠ ⁠… It was too late to look anything up. Perhaps there would be a class tomorrow.⁠ ⁠… The German lessons at school had been dreadfully good.⁠ ⁠… Fräulein’s grave face⁠ ⁠… her perfect knowledge of every rule⁠ ⁠… her clear explanations in English⁠ ⁠… her examples.⁠ ⁠… All these things were there, in English grammar.⁠ ⁠… And she had undertaken to teach them and could not even speak German.

Monsieur⁠ ⁠… had talked French all the time⁠ ⁠… dictées⁠ ⁠… lectures⁠ ⁠… Le Conscrit⁠ ⁠… Waterloo⁠ ⁠… “La Maison déserte”⁠ ⁠… his careful voice reading on and on⁠ ⁠… until the room disappeared.⁠ ⁠… She must do that for her German girls. Read English to them and make them happy.⁠ ⁠… But first there must be verbs⁠ ⁠… there had been cahiers of them⁠ ⁠… first, second, third conjugation.⁠ ⁠… It was impudence, an impudent invasion⁠ ⁠… the dreadful clever, foreign school.⁠ ⁠… They would laugh at her.⁠ ⁠… She began to repeat the English alphabet.⁠ ⁠… She doubted whether, faced with a class, she could reach the end without a mistake.⁠ ⁠… She reached z and went on to the parts of speech.

There would be a moment when she must have an explanation with the Fräulein. Perhaps she could tell her that she found the teaching was beyond her scope and then find a place somewhere as a servant. She remembered things she had heard about German servants⁠—that whenever they even dusted a room they cleaned the windows and on Sundays they waited at lunch in muslin dresses and afterwards went to balls. She feared even the German servants would despise her. They had never been allowed into the kitchen at home except when there was jam-making⁠ ⁠… she had never made a bed in her life.⁠ ⁠… A shop? But that would mean knowing German and being quick at giving change. Impossible. Perhaps she could find some English people in Hanover who would help her. There was an English colony she knew, and an English church. But that would be like going back. That must not happen. She would rather stay abroad on any terms⁠—away from England⁠—English people. She had scented something, a sort of confidence, everywhere, in her hours in Holland, the brisk manner of the German railway officials and the serene assurance of the travelling Germans she had seen, confirmed her impression. Away out here, the sense of imminent catastrophe that had shadowed all her life so far, had disappeared. Even here in this dim carriage, with disgrace ahead she felt that there was freedom somewhere at hand. Whatever happened she would hold to that.

She glanced up at her small leather handbag lying in the rack and thought of the solid money in her purse. Twenty-five shillings. It was a large sum and she was to have more as she needed.

She glanced across at the pale face with its point of reddish beard, the long white hands laid one upon the other on the crossed knees. He had given her twenty-five shillings and there was her fare and his, and his return fare and her new trunk and all the things she had needed. It must be the end of taking money from him. She was grown up. She was the strong-minded one. She must manage. With a false position ahead and after a short space, disaster, she must get along.

The peaceful Dutch fields came to her mind. They looked so secure. They had passed by too soon. We have always been in a false position, she pondered. Always lying and pretending and keeping up a show⁠—never daring to tell anybody.⁠ ⁠… Did she want to tell anybody? To come out into the open and be helped and have things arranged for her and do things like other people? No.⁠ ⁠… No.⁠ ⁠… “Miriam always likes to be different”⁠—“Society is no boon to those not sociable.” Dreadful things⁠ ⁠… and the girls laughing together about them. What did they really mean?

“Society is no boon to those not sociable”⁠—on her birthday page in Ellen Sharpe’s birthday book. Ellen handed it to her going upstairs and had chanted the words out to the others and smiled her smile⁠ ⁠… she had not asked her to write her name⁠ ⁠… was it unsociable to dislike so many of the girls.⁠ ⁠… Ellen’s people were in the Indian⁠ ⁠… her thoughts hesitated.⁠ ⁠… Sivvle⁠ ⁠… something grand⁠—All the grand girls were horrid⁠ ⁠… somehow mean and sly⁠ ⁠… Sivvle⁠ ⁠… Sivvle⁠ ⁠… Civil! Of course! Civil what?

Miriam groaned. She was a governess now. Someone would ask her that question. She would ask Pater before he went.⁠ ⁠… No, she would not.⁠ ⁠… If only he would answer a question simply, and not with a superior air as if he had invented the thing he was telling about. She felt she had a right to all the knowledge there was, without fuss⁠ ⁠… oh, without fuss⁠—without fuss and⁠—emotion.⁠ ⁠… I am unsociable, I suppose⁠—she mused. She could not think of anyone who did not offend her. I don’t like men and I loathe women. I am a misanthrope. So’s Pater. He despises women and can’t get on with men. We are different⁠—it’s us, him and me. He’s failed us because he’s different and if he weren’t we should be like other people. Everything in the railway responded and agreed. Like other people⁠ ⁠… horrible.⁠ ⁠… She thought of the fathers of girls she knew⁠—the Poole girls, for instance, they were to be “independent” trained and certificated⁠—she envied that⁠—but her envy vanished when she remembered how heartily she had agreed when Sarah called them “sharp” and “knowing.”

Mr. Poole was a business man⁠ ⁠… common⁠ ⁠… trade.⁠ ⁠… If Pater had kept to Grandpa’s business they would be trade, too⁠—well-off, now⁠—all married. Perhaps as it was he had thought they would marry.

She thought sleepily of her Wesleyan grandparents, gravely reading the Wesleyan Methodist Recorder, the shop at Babington, her father’s discontent, his solitary fishing and reading, his discovery of music⁠ ⁠… science⁠ ⁠… classical music in the first Novello editions⁠ ⁠… Faraday⁠ ⁠… speaking to Faraday after lectures. Marriage⁠ ⁠… the new house⁠ ⁠… the red brick wall at the end of the garden where young peach trees were planted⁠ ⁠… running up and downstairs and singing⁠ ⁠… both of them singing in the rooms and the garden⁠ ⁠… she sometimes with her hair down and then when visitors were expected pinned in coils under a little cap and wearing a small hoop⁠ ⁠… the garden and lawns and shrubbery and the long kitchen garden and the summerhouse under the oaks beyond and the pretty old gabled “town” on the river and the woods all along the river valley and the hills shining up out of the mist. The snow man they both made in the winter⁠—the birth of Sarah and then Eve⁠ ⁠… his studies and book-buying⁠—and after five years her own disappointing birth as the third girl, and the coming of Harriett just over a year later⁠ ⁠… her mother’s illness, money troubles⁠—their two years at the sea to retrieve⁠ ⁠… the disappearance of the sunlit red-walled garden always in full summer sunshine with the sound of bees in it or dark from windows⁠ ⁠… the narrowing of the house life down to the Marine Villa⁠—with the sea creeping in⁠—wading out through the green shallows, out and out till you were more than waist-deep⁠—shrimping and prawning hour after hour for weeks together⁠ ⁠… poking in the rock pools, watching the sun and the colours in the strange afternoons⁠ ⁠… then the sudden large house at Barnes with the “drive” winding to the door.⁠ ⁠… He used to come home from the City and the Constitutional Club and sometimes instead of reading The Times or the Globe or the Proceedings of the British Association or Herbert Spencer, play Pope Joan or Jacoby with them all, or Table Billiards and laugh and be “silly” and take his turn at being “bumped” by Timmy going the round of the long dining room table, tail in the air; he had taken Sarah and Eve to see Don Giovanni and Winter’s Tale and the new piece, Lohengrin. No one at the tennis club had seen that. He had good taste. No one else had been to Madame Schumann’s Farewell⁠ ⁠… sitting at the piano with her curtains of hair and her dreamy smile⁠ ⁠… and the Philharmonic Concerts. No one else knew about the lectures at the Royal Institution, beginning at nine on Fridays.⁠ ⁠… No one else’s father went with a party of scientific men “for the advancement of science” to Norway or America, seeing the Falls and the Yosemite Valley. No one else took his children as far as Dawlish for the holidays, travelling all day, from eight until seven⁠ ⁠… no esplanade, the old stone jetty and coves and cowrie shells.⁠ ⁠…