Walking along a narrow muddy causeway by a little river overhung with willows, girls ahead of her in single file and girls in single file behind, Miriam drearily recognised that it was June. The month of roses, she thought, and looked out across the flat green fields. It was not easy to walk along the slippery pathway. On one side was the little grey river, on the other long wet grass repelling and depressing. Not far ahead was the roadway which led, she supposed to the farm where they were to drink new milk. She would have to walk with someone when they came to the road, and talk. She wondered whether this early morning walk would come, now, every day. Her heart sank at the thought. It had been too hot during the last few days for any going out at midday, and she had hoped that the strolling in the garden, sitting about under the chestnut tree and in the little wooden garden room off the Saal had taken the place of walks for the summer.

She had got up reluctantly, at the surprise of the very early gonging. Mademoiselle had guessed it would be a “milk walk.” Pausing in the bright light of the top landing as Mademoiselle ran downstairs she had seen through the landing window the deep peak of a distant gable casting an unfamiliar shadow⁠—a shadow sloping the wrong way, a morning shadow. She remembered the first time, the only time, she had noticed such a shadow⁠—getting up very early one morning while Harriett and all the household were still asleep⁠—and how she had stopped dressing and gazed at it as it stood there cool and quiet and alone across the mellow face of a neighbouring stone porch⁠—had suddenly been glad that she was alone and had wondered why that shadowed porch peak was more beautiful than all the summer things she knew and felt at that moment that nothing could touch or trouble her again.

She could not find anything of that feeling in the early day outside Hanover. She was hemmed in, and the fields were so sad she could not bear to look at them. The sun had disappeared since they came out. The sky was grey and low and it seemed warmer already than it had been in the midday sun during the last few days. One of the girls on ahead hummed the refrain of a student song:⁠—

“In der Ecke steht er
Seinen Schnurrbart dreht er
Siehst du wohl, da steht er schon
Der versoff’ne Schwiegersohn.”

Miriam felt very near the end of endurance.

Elsa Speier who was just behind her, became her inevitable companion when they reached the roadway. A farmhouse appeared about a quarter of a mile away.

Miriam’s sense of her duties closed in on her. Trying not to see Elsa’s elaborate clothes and the profile in which she could find no meaning, no hope, no rest, she spoke to her.

“Do you like milk, Elsa?” she said cheerfully.

Elsa began swinging her lace-covered parasol.

“If I like milk?” she repeated presently, and flashed mocking eyes in Miriam’s direction.

Despair touched Miriam’s heart.

“Some people don’t,” she said.

Elsa hummed and swung her parasol.

“Why should I like milk?” she stated.

The muddy farmyard, lying back from the roadway and below it, was steamy and choking with odours. Miriam who had imagined a cool dairy and cold milk frothing in pans, felt a loathing as warmth came to her fingers from the glass she held. Most of the girls were busily sipping. She raised her glass once towards her lips, snuffed a warm reek, and turned away towards the edge of the group, to pour out the contents of her glass, unseen, upon the filth-sodden earth.

Passing languidly up through the house after breakfast, unable to decide to spend her Saturday morning as usual at a piano in one of the bedrooms, Miriam went, wondering in response to a quiet call from Fräulein Pfaff into the large room shared by the Bergmanns and Ulrica Hesse. Explaining that Clara was now to take possession of the half of Elsa Speier’s room that had been left empty by Minna⁠—“poor Minna now with her good parents seeking health in the Swiss mountains, schooldays at an end, at an end, at an end,” she repeated mournfully. Fräulein indicated that Clara’s third of the large room would now be Miriam’s.

Miriam stood incredulous at her side as she indicated a large empty chest of drawers, a white covered bed in a deep corner away from the window, a small drawer in the dressing table and five pegs in a large French wardrobe. Emma was going very gravely about the room collecting her workbasket and things for raccommodage. She flung one ecstatic glance at Miriam as she went away with these.

“I shall hold you responsible here amongst these dear children, Miss Henderson,” fluted Fräulein, quietly gathering up a few last things of Minna’s collected on the bed, “our dear Ulrica and our little Emma,” she smiled, passing out, leaving Miriam standing in the wonderful room.

“My goodney,” she breathed, gathering gently clenched fists close to her person. She stood for a few moments; she felt like a visitor⁠ ⁠… embroidered toilet covers, polished furniture, gold and cream crockery, lace curtains, white beds, the large screen cutting off her third of the room⁠ ⁠… then she rushed headlong upstairs, a member of the downstairs landing, to collect her belongings.

On the landing just outside the door of the garret bedroom stood a huge wicker travelling basket; a clumsy umbrella with a large knobby handle, like a man’s umbrella, lay on the top of it partly covering a large pair of goloshes.

She was tired and very warm by the time everything was arranged in her new quarters.

Taking a last look round she caught the eye of Eve’s photograph gazing steadily at her from the chest of drawers.⁠ ⁠… It would be quite easy now that this had happened to write and tell them that the Pomerania plan had come to nothing.

Evidently Fräulein approved of her, after all.

In the schoolroom she found the raccommodage party gathered round the table. At its head sat Mademoiselle, her arms flung out upon the table and her face buried against them.

“Cheer up, Mademoiselle,” said Jimmie as Miriam took an empty chair between Gertrude and the Martins.

Timidly meeting Gertrude’s eye Miriam received her half smile, watched her eyebrows flicker faintly up and the little despairing shrug she gave as she went on with her mending.

Ah, mammazellchen c’est pas mal, ne soyez triste, mein Gott mammazellchen es ist aber nichts!” chided Emma consolingly from her place near the window.

Oh! je ne veux pas, je ne veux pas,” sobbed Mademoiselle.

No one spoke; Mademoiselle lay snuffling and shuddering. Solomon’s scissors fell on to the floor. “Mais pourquoi pas, Mademoiselle?” she interrogated as she recovered them.

Pourquoi, pourquoi!” choked Mademoiselle. Her suffused little face came up for a moment towards Solomon. She met Miriam’s gaze as if she did not see her. “Vous me demandez pourquoi je ne veux pas partager ma chambre avec une femme mariée?” Her head sank again and her little grey form jerked sharply as she sobbed.

“Probably a widder, Mademoiselle,” ventured Bertha Martin, “oon voove.”

Verve, Bertha,” came Millie’s correcting voice and Miriam’s interest changed to excited thoughts of Fräulein⁠—not hating her, and choosing Mademoiselle to sleep with the servant, a new servant⁠—the things on the landing⁠—Mademoiselle refusing to share a room with a married woman⁠ ⁠… she felt about round this idea as Millie’s prim, clear voice went on⁠ ⁠… her eyes clutched at Mademoiselle, begging to understand⁠ ⁠… she gazed at the little down-flung head, fine little tendrils frilling along the edge of her hair, her little hard grey shape, all miserable and ashamed. It was dreadful. Miriam felt she could not bear it. She turned away. It was a strange new thought that anyone should object to being with a married woman⁠ ⁠… would she object? or Harriett? Not unless it were suggested to them.⁠ ⁠… Was there some special refinement in this French girl that none of them understood? Why should it be refined to object to share a room with a married woman? A cold shadow closed in on Miriam’s mind.

“I don’t care,” said Millie almost quickly, with a crimson face. “It’s a special occasion. I think Mademoiselle ought to complain. If I were in her place I should write home. It’s not right. Fräulein has no right to make her sleep with a servant.”

“Why can’t the servant sleep in one of the back attics?” asked Solomon.

“Not furnished, my sweetheart,” said Gertrude, “and you know Kinder you’re all running on very fast about servants⁠—the good Frau is our housekeeper.”

“Will she have meals with us?”

Gewiss Jimmie, meals.”

Mon Dieu, vous êtes terribles, toutes!” came Mademoiselle’s voice. It seemed to bite into the table. “Oh, c’est grossière!” She gathered herself up and escaped into the little schoolroom.

Armes, armes, Momzell,” wailed Ulrica gently gazing out of the window.

“Som one should go, go you, Henchen,” urged Emma.

“Don’t, for goodness’ sake, Hendy,” begged Jimmie, “not you, she’s wild about you going downstairs,” she whispered.

Miriam struggled with her gratification. “Oh go, som one; go you, Clara!”

“Better leave her alone,” ruled Gertrude.

“We miss old Minna, don’t we?” concluded Bertha.

The heat grew intense.

The air was more and more oppressive as the day went on.

Clara fainted suddenly just after dinner, and Fräulein, holding a little discourse on clothing and an enquiry into wardrobes, gave a general permission for the reduction of garments to the minimum and sent everyone to rest uncorseted until teatime, promising a walk to the woods in the cool of the evening. There was a sense of adventure in the house. It was as if it were being besieged. It gave Miriam confidence to approach Fräulein for permission to rearrange her trunk in the basement. She let Fräulein understand that her removal was not complete, that there were things to do before she could be properly settled in her new room.

“Certainly, Miss Henderson, you are quite free,” said Fräulein instantly as the girls trooped upstairs.

Miriam knew she wanted to avoid an afternoon shut up with Emma and Ulrica and she did not in the least want to lie down. It seemed to her a very extraordinary thing to do. It surprised and disturbed her. It suggested illness and weakness. She could not remember having lain down in the daytime. There had been that fortnight in the old room at home with Harriett⁠ ⁠… chickenpox and new books coming and games, and Sarah reading the Song of Hiawatha and their being allowed to choose their pudding. She could not remember feeling ill. Had she ever felt ill?⁠ ⁠… Colds and bilious attacks.⁠ ⁠…

She remembered with triumph a group of days of pain two years ago. She had forgotten.⁠ ⁠… Bewilderment and pain⁠ ⁠… her mother’s constant presence⁠ ⁠… everything, the light everywhere, the leaves standing out along the tops of hedgerows as she drove with her mother, telling her of pain and she alone in the midst of it⁠ ⁠… for always⁠ ⁠… pride, long moments of deep pride.⁠ ⁠… Eve and Sarah congratulating her, Eve stupid and laughing⁠ ⁠… the new bearing of the servants⁠ ⁠… Lilla Belton’s horrible talks fading away to nothing.

Fräulein had left her and gone to her room. Every door and window on the ground floor stood wide excepting that leading to Fräulein’s little double rooms. She wondered what the rooms were like and felt sorry for Fräulein, tall and gaunt, moving about in them alone, alone with her own dark eyes, curtains hanging motionless at the windows⁠ ⁠… was it really bad to tight-lace? The English girls, except Millie and Solomon all had small waists. She wished she knew. She placed her large hands round her waist. Drawing in her breath she could almost make them meet. It was easier to play tennis with stays⁠ ⁠… how dusty the garden looked, baked. She wanted to go out with two heavy watering cans, to feel them pulling her arms from their sockets, dragging her shoulders down, throwing out her chest, to spray canful after canful through a great wide rose, sprinkling her ankles sometimes, and to grow so warm that she would not feel the heat. Bella Lyndon had never worn stays; playing rounders so splendidly, lying on the grass between the games with her arms under her head⁠ ⁠… simply disgusting, someone had said⁠ ⁠… who⁠ ⁠… a disgusted face⁠ ⁠… nearly all the girls detested Bella.

Going through the hall on her way down to the basement she heard the English voices sounding quietly out into the afternoon from the rooms above. Flat and tranquil they sounded, Bertha and Jimmie she heard, Gertrude’s undertones, quiet words from Millie. She felt she would like a corner in the English room for the afternoon, a book and an occasional remark⁠—“Mr. Barnes of New York”⁠—she would not be able to read her three yellowbacks in the German bedroom. She felt at the moment glad to be robbed of them. It would be much better, of course. There was no sound from the German rooms. She pictured sleeping faces. It was cooler in the basement⁠—but even there the air seemed stiff and dusty with the heat.

Why did the hanging garments remind her of All Saints’ Church and Mr. Brough?⁠ ⁠… she must tell Harriett that in her letter⁠ ⁠… that day they suddenly decided to help in the church decorations⁠ ⁠… she remembered the smell of the soot on the holly as they had cut and hacked at it in the cold garden, and Harriett overturning the heavy wheelbarrow on the way to church, and how they had not laughed because they both felt solemn, and then there had just been the three Anwyl girls and Mrs. Anwyl and Mrs. Scarr and Mr. Brough in the church room all being silly about Birdy Anwyl roasting chestnuts, and how silly and affected they were when a piece of holly stuck in her skirt.

Coming up the basement stairs in response to the tea gong, Miriam thought there were visitors in the hall and hesitated; then there was Pastor Lahmann’s profile disappearing towards the door and Fräulein patting and dismissing two of his boys. His face looked white and clear and firm and undisturbed, Miriam wanted to arrest him and ask him something⁠—what he thought of the weather⁠—he looked so different from her memory of him in the Saal two Saturdays ago⁠—two weeks⁠—four classes she must have missed. Why? Why was she missing Pastor Lahmann’s classes? How had it happened? Perhaps she would see him in class again. Perhaps next week.⁠ ⁠…

The other visitors proved to be the Bergmanns in new dresses. Miriam gazed at Clara as she went down the schoolroom to her corner of the table. She looked like⁠ ⁠… a hostess. It seemed absurd to see her sit down to tea as a schoolgirl. The dress was a fine black muslin stamped all over with tiny fish-shaped patches of mauve. It was cut to the base of the neck and came to a point in front where the soft white ruching was fastened with a large cameo brooch. Clara’s pallid worried face had grown more placid during the hot inactive days, and today her hard mouth looked patient and determined and responsible. She seemed quite independent of her surroundings. Miriam found herself again and again consulting her calm face. Her presence haunted Miriam throughout teatime. Emma was sweet, pink and bright after her rest in a bright light brown muslin dress dotted with white spots.⁠ ⁠…

Funny German dresses, thought Miriam, funny⁠ ⁠… and old. Her mind hovered and wondered over these German dresses⁠—did she like them or not⁠—something about them⁠—she glanced at Elsa, sitting opposite in the dull faint electric blue with black lace sleeves she had worn since the warm weather set in. Even Ulrica, thin and straight now⁠ ⁠… like a pole⁠ ⁠… in a tight flat dress of saffron muslin sprigged with brown leaves, seemed to be included in something that made all these German dresses utterly different from anything the English girls could have worn. What was it? It was crowned by the Bergmanns’ dresses. It had begun in a summer dress of Minna’s, black with a tiny sky-blue spot and a heavy ruche round the hem. She thought she liked it. It seemed to set the full tide of summer round the table more than the things of the English girls⁠—and yet the dresses were ugly⁠—and the English girls’ dresses were not that⁠ ⁠… they were nothing⁠ ⁠… plain cottons and zephyrs with lace tuckers⁠—no ruches. It was something⁠ ⁠… somehow in the ruches⁠—the ruches and the little peaks of neck.

A faint scent of camphor came from the Martins across the way, sitting in their cool creased black-and-white check cotton dresses. They still kept to their hard white collars and cuffs. As tea went on Miriam found her eyes drawn back and back again to these newly unpacked camphor-scented dresses⁠ ⁠… and when conversation broke after moments of stillness⁠ ⁠… shadowy foliage⁠ ⁠… the still hot garden⁠ ⁠… the sunbaked wooden room beyond the sunny Saal, the light pouring through three rooms and bright along the table⁠ ⁠… it was to the Martins’ check dresses that she glanced.

It was intensely hot, but the strain had gone out of the day; the feeling of just bearing up against the heat and getting through the day had gone; they all sat round⁠ ⁠… which was which?⁠ ⁠… Miriam met eye after eye⁠—how beautiful they all were looking out from faces and meeting hers⁠—and her eyes came back unembarrassed to her cup, her solid Butterbrot and the sunlit angle of the garden wall and the bit of tree just over Fräulein Pfaff’s shoulder. She tried to meet Mademoiselle’s eyes, she felt sure their eyes could meet. She wondered intensely what was in Elsa’s mind behind her faint hard blue dress. She wanted to hear Mademoiselle’s voice; Mademoiselle was almost invisible in her corner near the door, the new housekeeper was sitting at her side very upright and close to the table. Once or twice she felt Fräulein’s look; she sustained it, and glowed happily under it without meeting it; she referred back contentedly to it after hearing herself laugh out once⁠—just as she would do at home; once or twice she forgot for a moment where she was. The way the light shone on the housekeeper’s hair, bright brown and plastered flatly down on either side of her bright white-and-crimson face, and the curves of her chocolate and white striped cotton bodice, reminded her sharply of something she had seen once, something that had charmed her⁠ ⁠… it was in the hair against the hard white of the forehead and the flat broad cheeks with the hard, clear crimson colouring nearly covering them⁠ ⁠… something in the way she sat, standing out against the others.⁠ ⁠… Judy on her left hand with almost the same colouring looked small and gentle and refined.

Tea was over. Fräulein decided against a walk and they all trooped into the Saal. No programme was suggested; they all sat about unoccupied. There was no centre; Fräulein Pfaff was one of them. The little group near her in the shady half of the sunlit summerhouse was as quietly easy as those who sat far back in the Saal. Miriam had got into a low chair near the Saal doors whence she could see across the room through the summerhouse window through the gap between the houses across the way to the far-off afternoon country. Its colours gleamed, a soft confusion of tones, under the heat haze. For a while she sat with her eyes on Fräulein’s thin profile, clean and cool and dry in the intense heat⁠ ⁠… “she must be looking out towards the lime trees.”⁠ ⁠… Ulrica sat drooped on a low chair near her knees⁠ ⁠… “sweet beautiful head”⁠ ⁠… the weight of her soft curved mouth seemed too much for the delicate angles of her face and it drooped faintly, breaking their sharp lines. Miriam wished all the world could see her.⁠ ⁠… Presently Ulrica raised her head, as Elsa and Clara broke into words and laughter near her, and her drooping lips flattened gently back into their place in the curve of her face. She gazed out through the doorway of the summerhouse with her great despairing eyes⁠ ⁠… the housekeeper was rather like a Dutch doll⁠ ⁠… but that was not it.

The sun had set. Miriam had found a little thin volume of German poetry in her pocket. She sat fumbling the leaves. She felt the touch of her limp straightening hair upon her forehead. It did not matter. Twilight would soon come, and bedtime. But it must have been beginning to get like that at teatime. Perhaps the weather would get even hotter. She must do something about her hair⁠ ⁠… if only she could wear it turned straight back.

There was a stirring in the room; beautiful forms rose and stood and spoke and moved about. Someone went to the door. It opened gently with a peaceful sound on to the quiet hall and footsteps ran upstairs. Two figures going out from the Saal passed in front of the two still sitting quietly grouped in the light of the summerhouse. They were challenged as they passed and turned soft profiles and stood talking. Behind the voices⁠—flutings, single notes, broken phrases, long undisturbed warblings came from the garden.

Clara was at the piano. Tall behind her stood Millie’s gracious shapeless baby form.

As Millie’s voice climbing carefully up and down the even stages of Solveig’s song reached the second verse, Miriam tried to separate the music from the words. The words were wrong. She half saw a fair woman with a great crown of plaited hair and very broad shoulders singing the song in the Hanover concert room in Norwegian. She remembered the moment of taking her eyes away from the singer and the platform, and feeling the crowded room and the airlessness, and then the song going steadily on from note to note as she listened⁠ ⁠… no trills and no tune⁠ ⁠… saying something. It stood in the air. All the audience were saying it. And then the fair-haired woman had sung the second verse as though it was something about herself⁠—tragically⁠ ⁠… tragic muse.⁠ ⁠… It was not her song, standing there in the velvet dress.⁠ ⁠… She stopped it from going on. There was nothing but the movement of the lace round her shoulders and chest, her expanded neck, quivering, and the pressure in her voice.⁠ ⁠… And then there had been Herr Bossenberger, hammering and shouting it out in the Saal with Millie, and everything in the schoolroom, even the dust on the paper rack, standing out clearer and clearer as he bellowed slowly along. And then she had got to know that everybody knew about it; it was a famous song. There were people singing it everywhere in German and French and English⁠—a girl singing about her lover.⁠ ⁠… It was not that; even if people sang it like that, if a real girl had ever sung something like that, that was not what she meant⁠ ⁠… “the winter may pass”⁠ ⁠… yes, that was all right⁠—and mountains with green slopes and narrow torrents⁠—and a voice going strongly out and ceasing, and all the sky filled with the sound⁠—and the song going on, walking along, thinking to itself.⁠ ⁠… She looked about as Millie’s voice ceased trembling on the last high note. She hoped no one would hum the refrain. There was no one there who knew anything about it.⁠ ⁠… Judy? Judy knew, perhaps. Judy would never hum or sing anything. If she did, it would be terrible. She knew so much. Perhaps Judy knew everything. She was sitting on the low sill of the window behind the piano sewing steel beads on to a shot silk waistband held very close to her eyes. Minna could. Minna might be sitting in her plaid dress on the window seat with her embroidery, her smooth hair polished with bay rum humming Solveig’s song.

The housekeeper brought in the milk and rolls and went away downstairs again. The cold milk was very refreshing but the room grew stifling as they all sat round near the little centre table with the French window nearly closed, shutting off the summerhouse and garden. Everybody in turn seemed to be saying “Ik kenne meine Tasse sie ist svatz.” Bertha had begun it, holding up her white glass of milk as she took it from the tray and exactly imitating the housekeeper’s voice.

Platt Deutsch spricht sie, ja?” Clara had said. It seemed as if there were no more to be said about the housekeeper. At prayers when they were all saying “Vater unser,” she heard Jimmie murmur, “Ik kenne meine Tasse.

Fräulein Pfaff came upstairs behind the girls and ordered silence as they went to their rooms. “Hear, all, children,” she said in German in the quiet clear even tone with which she had just read prayers, “no one to speak to her neighbour, no one to whisper or bustle, nor tonight to brush her hair, but each to compose her mind and go quietly to her rest. Thus acting the so great heat shall injure none of us and peaceful sleep will come. Do you hear, children?”

Answering voices came from the bedrooms. She entered each room, shifting screens, opening each window for a few moments, leaving each door wide.

“Each her little corner,” she said in Miriam’s room, “fresh water set for the morning. The heavens are all round us, my little ones; have no fear.”

Gently sighing and moaning Ulrica moved about in her corner. Emma dropped a slipper and muttered consolingly. Thankfully Miriam listened to Fräulein’s short, deprecating footsteps pacing up and down the landing. She was safe from the dreadful challenge of conversation with her pupils. She felt hemmed in in the stifling room with the landing full of girls all round her. She wanted to push away her screen, push up the hot white ceiling. She wished she could be safely upstairs with Mademoiselle and the height of the candle-lit garret above her head. It could not possibly be hotter up there than in this stifling room with its draperies and furniture and gas.

Fräulein came in very soon and turned out the light with a formal good night greeting. For a while after all the lights were out, she continued pacing up and down.

Across the landing someone began to sneeze rapidly sneeze after sneeze. “Ach, die Millie!” muttered Emma sleepily. For several minutes the sneezing went on. Sighs and impatient movements sounded here and there. “Ruhig, Kinder, ruhig. Millie shall soon sleep peacefully as all.”

Miriam could not remember hearing Fräulein Pfaff go away when she woke in the darkness feeling unendurably oppressed. She flung her sheet aside and turned her pillow over and pushed her frilled sleeves to her elbows. How energetic I am, she thought and lay tranquil. There was not a sound. “I shall never be able to sleep down here, it’s too awful,” she murmured, and puffed and shifted her head on the pillow.

The win‑ter may⁠—pass.⁠ ⁠… The win‑ter⁠ ⁠… may pass. The winter may⁠ ⁠… pass. The Academy⁠ ⁠… a picture in very bright colours⁠ ⁠… a woman sitting by the roadside with a shawl round her shoulders and a red skirt and red cheeks and bright green country behind her⁠ ⁠… people moving about on the shiny floor, someone just behind saying, “that is plein-air, these are the plein-airistes”⁠—the woman in the picture was like the housekeeper.⁠ ⁠…

A brilliant light flashed into the room⁠ ⁠… lightning⁠—how strange the room looked⁠—the screens had been moved⁠—the walls and corners and little beds had looked like daylight. Someone was talking across the landing. Emma was awake. Another flash came and movements and cries. Emma screamed aloud, sitting up in bed. “Ach Gott! Clara! Clara!” she screamed. Cries came from the next room. A match was struck across the landing and voices sounded. Gertrude was in the room lighting the gas and Clara tugging down the blind. Emma was sitting with her hands pressed to her eyes, quickly gasping, “Ach Clara! Mein Gott! Ach Gott!” On Ulrica’s bed nothing was visible but a mound of bedclothes. The whole landing was astir. Fräulein’s voice called up urgently from below.

Miriam was the last to reach the schoolroom. The girls were drawn up on either side of the gaslit room⁠—leaving the shuttered windows clear. She moved to take a chair at the end of the table in front of the Saal doors. “Na!” said Fräulein sharply from the sofa corner. “Not there! In full current!” Her voice shook. Miriam drew the chair to the end of the row of figures and sat down next to Solomon Martin. The wind rushed through the garden, the thunder rattled across the sky. “Oh, Clara! Fräulein! Nein!” gasped Emma. She was sitting opposite, between Clara and Jimmie with flushed face and eyes strained wide, twisting her linked hands against her knees. Jimmie patted her wrist, “It’s all right, Emmchen,” she muttered cheerfully. “Nein, Christina!” jerked Fräulein sharply. “I will not have that! To touch the flesh! You understand, all! That you know. All! Such immodesty!”

Miriam leaned forward and glanced. Fräulein was sitting very upright on the sofa in a shapeless black cloak with her hands clasped on her breast. Near her was Ulrica in her trailing white dressing gown, her face pressed against the back of the sofa. In the far corner, the other side of Fräulein sat Gertrude in her grey ulster, her knees comfortably crossed, a quilted scarlet silk bedroom slipper sticking out under the hem of her ulster.

The thunder crashed and pounded just above them. Everyone started and exclaimed. Emma flung her arms up across her face and sat back in her chair with a hooting cry. From the sofa came a hidden sobbing and gasping. “Ach Himmel! Ach Herr -sus! Ach du lie-ber, lie-ber Gott!

Miriam wished they could see the lightning and be prepared for the crashes. If she were alone she would watch for the flashes and put her fingers in her ears after each flash. The shock of the sound was intolerable to her. Once it had broken, she drank in the tumult joyfully. She sat tense and miserable longing to get to bed. She wondered whether it would be of any use to explain to Fräulein that they would be safer in their iron bedsteads than anywhere in the house. She tried to distract her thoughts.⁠ ⁠… Fancy Jimmie’s name being Christina.⁠ ⁠… It suited her exactly sitting there in her little striped dressing gown with its “toby” frill. How Harriett would scream if she could see them all sitting round. But she and Harriett had once lain very quiet and frightened in a storm by the sea⁠—the thunder and lightning had come together and someone had looked in and said, “There won’t be another like that, children.” “My boots, I should hope not,” Harriett had said.

For a while it seemed as though cannon balls were being thumped down and rumbled about on the floor above; then came another deafening crash. Jimmie laughed and put up her hand to her loosely-pinned topknot as if to see whether it was still there. Outcries came from all over the room. After the first shock which had made her sit up sharply and draw herself convulsively together, Miriam found herself turning towards Solomon Martin who had also stirred and sat forward. Their eyes met full and consulted. Solomon’s lips were compressed, her perspiring face was alight and determined. Miriam felt that she looked for long into those steady, oily half-smiling brown eyes. When they both relaxed she sat back, catching a sympathetic challenging flash from Gertrude. She drew a deep breath and felt proud and easy. Let it bang, she said to herself. I must think of doors suddenly banging⁠—that never makes me jumpy⁠—and she sat easily breathing.

Fräulein had said something in German in a panting voice, and Bertha had stood up and said, “I’ll get the Bible, Fräulein.”

Ei! Bewahre! Bertha!” shouted Clara. “Stay only here! Stay only here!”

Nein, Bertha, nein, mein Kind,” moaned Fräulein sadly.

“It’s really perfectly all right, Fräulein,” said Bertha, getting quietly to the door.

As Fräulein opened the great book on her knees the rain hissed down into the garden.

Gott sei Dank,” she said, in a clear childlike voice. “It dot besser wenn da regnet?” enquired the housekeeper, looking round the room. She began vigorously wiping her face and neck with the skirt of the short cotton jacket she wore over her red petticoat.

Ulrica broke into steady weeping.

Fräulein read Psalms, ejaculating the short phrases as if they were petitions, with a pause between each. When the thunder came she raised her voice against it and read more rapidly.

As the storm began to abate a little party of English went to the kitchen and brought back milk and biscuits and jam.

“You will be asleep, Miss Hendershon.” Miriam started at the sound of Ulrica’s wailing whisper. Fräulein had only just gone. She had been sitting on the end of Emma’s bed talking quietly of self-control and now Emma was asleep. Ulrica’s corner had been perfectly quiet. Miriam had been lying listening to the steady swishing of the rain against the chestnut leaves.

“No; what is it?”

“Oh, most wonderful. Ich bin so empfindlich. I am so sensible.”


“Oh, it was most wonderful. Only hear and I shall tell you. This evening when the storm leave himself down it was exactly as my Konfirmation.”


“It was as my Konfirmation. I think of that wonderful day, my white dress, the flower bouquet and how I weeped always. Oh, it was all of most beautifullest. I am so sensible.”

“Oh, yes,” whispered Miriam.

“I weeped so! All day I have weeped! The all whole day! And my mozzer she console me I shall not weep. And I weep. Ach! It was of most beautifullest.”

Miriam felt as if she were being robbed.⁠ ⁠… This was Ulrica.⁠ ⁠… “You remember the Konfirmation, miss?”

“Oh, yes, I remember.”

“Have you weeped?”

“We say cry, not weep, except in poetry⁠—weinen, to cry.”

“Have you cry?”

“No, I didn’t cry. But we mustn’t talk. We must go to sleep. Good night.”

Gute Nacht. Ach, wie empfindlich bin ich, wie empfindlich.⁠ ⁠…”

Miriam lay thinking of how she and Harriett on their confirmation morning had met the vicar in the Upper Richmond Road, having gone out, contrary to the desire expressed by him at his last preparation class, and how he had stopped and greeted them. She had tried to look vague and sad and to murmur something in spite of the bull’s-eye in her cheek and had suddenly noticed as they stood grouped that Harriett’s little sugar-loaf hat was askew and her brown eye underneath it was glaring fixedly at the vicar above the little knob in her cheek⁠—and how they somehow got away and went, gently reeling and colliding, moaning and gasping down the road out of hearing.

Early next morning Judy came in to tell Emma and Ulrica to get up at once and come and help the housekeeper make the rooms tidy and prepare breakfast. Miriam lay motionless while Emma unfolded and arranged the screens. Then she gazed at the ceiling. It was pleasant to lie tranquil, open-eyed and unchallenged while others moved busily about. Two separate, sudden and resounding garglings almost startled her to thought, but she resisted, and presently she was alone in the strange room. She supposed it must be cooler after the storm. She felt strong and languid. She could feel the shape and weight of each limb; sounds came to her with perfect distinctness; the sounds downstairs and a low-voiced conversation across the landing, little faint marks that human beings were making on the great wide stillness, the stillness that brooded along her white ceiling and all round her and right out through the world; the faint scent of her soap tablet reached her from the distant washstand. She felt that her short sleep must have been perfect, that it had carried her down and down into the heart of tranquillity where she still lay awake, and drinking as if at a source. Cool streams seemed to be flowing in her brain, through her heart, through every vein, her breath was like a live cool stream flowing through her.

She remembered that she had dreamed her favourite dream⁠—floating through clouds and above treetops and villages. She had almost brushed the treetops, that had been the happiest moment, and had caught sight of a circular seat round the trunk of a large old tree and a group of white cottages.

She stirred; her hands seemed warm on her cool chest and the warmth of her body sent up a faint pleasant sense of personality. “It’s me,” she said, and smiled.

“Look here, you’d better get up, my dear,” she murmured.

She wanted to have the whole world in and be reconciled. But she knew that if anyone came, she would contract and the expression of her face would change and they would hate her or be indifferent. She knew that if she even moved she would be changed.

“Get up.”

She listened for a while to two voices across the landing. Millie’s thick and plaintive with her hay fever and Bertha’s thin and cold and level and reassuring.⁠ ⁠… Bertha’s voice was like the morning, clean and cool.⁠ ⁠… Then she got up and shut the door.

The sky was a vivid grey⁠—against its dark background the top of heavy masses of cloud were standing up just above the roofline of the houses beyond the neighbouring gardens. The trees and the grey roofs and the faces of the houses were staringly bright. They were absolutely stiff, nothing was moving, there were no shadows.

A soft distant rumble of thunder came as she was dressing.⁠ ⁠… The storm was still going on⁠ ⁠… what an extraordinary time of day for thunder⁠ ⁠… the excitement was not over⁠ ⁠… they were still a besieged party⁠ ⁠… all staying at the Bienenkorb together.⁠ ⁠… How beautiful it sounded rumbling away over the country in the morning. When she had finished struggling with her long thick hair and put the hairpins into the solid coil on the top of her head and tied the stout doubled doorknocker plait at her neck, she put on the rose-madder blouse. The mirror was lower and twice as large as the one in the garret, larger than the one she had shared with Harriett. “How jolly I look,” she thought, “jolly and big somehow. Mother would like me this morning. I am German-looking today, pinky red and yellow hair. But I haven’t got a German expression and I don’t smile like a German.⁠ ⁠… She smiled.⁠ ⁠… Silly, baby-face! Doll! Never mind. I look jolly. She looked gravely into her eyes.⁠ ⁠… There’s something about my expression.” Her face grew wistful. “It isn’t vain to like it. It’s something. It isn’t me. It’s something I am, somehow. Oh, do stay,” she said, “do be like that always.” She sighed and turned away saying in Harriett’s voice, “Oo⁠—crumbs! This is no place for me.”

The sky seen from the summerhouse was darker still. There were no massed clouds, nothing but a hard even dark copper-grey, and away through the gap the distant country was bright like a little painted scene. On the horizon the hard dark sky shut down. At intervals thunder rumbled evenly, far away. Miriam stood still in the middle of the summerhouse floor. It was half-dark; the morning Saal lay in a hot sultry twilight. The air in the summerhouse was heavy and damp. She stood with her half-closed hands gathered against her. “How perfectly magnificent,” she murmured, gazing out through the hard half-darkness to where the brightly coloured world lay in a strip and ended on the hard sky.

“Yes⁠ ⁠… yes,” came a sad low voice at her side.

For a second Miriam did not turn. She drank in the quiet “yes, yes,” the hard fixed scene seemed to move. Who loved it too, the dark sky and the storm? Then she focused her companion who was standing a little behind her, and gazed at Fräulein; she hardly saw her, she seemed still to see the outdoor picture. Fräulein made a movement towards her; and then she saw for a moment the strange grave young look in her eyes. Fräulein had looked at her in that moment as an equal. It was as if they had embraced each other.

Then Fräulein said sadly, “You like the storm weather, Miss Henderson.”


Fräulein sighed, looking out across the country. “We are in the hollow of His hand,” she murmured. “Come to your breakfast, my child,” she chided, smiling.

There was no church. Late in the afternoon when the sky lifted they all went to the woods in their summer dresses and hats. They had permission to carry their gloves and Elsa Speier’s parasol and lace scarf hung from her wrist. The sky was growing higher and lighter, but there was no sun. They entered the dark woods by a little well-swept pathway and for a while there was a strip of sky above their heads; but presently the trees grew tall and dense, the sky was shut out and their footsteps and voices began to echo about them as they straggled along, grouping and regrouping as the pathway widened and narrowed, gathering their skirts clear of the wet undergrowth. They crossed a roadway and two carriage loads of men and women talking and laughing and shouting with shining red faces passed swiftly by, one close behind the other. Beyond the roadway the great trees towered up in a sort of twilight. There were no flowers here, but bright fungi shone here and there about the roots of the trees and they all stood for a moment to listen to the tinkling of a little stream.

Pathways led away in all directions. It was growing lighter. There were faint chequers of light and shade about them as they walked. The forest was growing golden all round them, lifting and opening, gold and green, clearer and clearer. There were bright jewelled patches in amongst the trees; the boles of the trees shone out sharp grey and silver and flaked with sharp green leaves away and away until they melted into a mist of leafage. Singing sounded suddenly away in the wood; a sudden strong shouting of men’s voices singing together like one voice in four parts, four shouts in one sound.

“O Sonnenschein! O Sonnenschein!”

Between the two exclamatory shouts, the echo rang through the woods and the listening girls heard the sharp drip, drip and murmur of the little stream near by, then the voices swung on into the song, strongly interwoven, swelling and lifting; dropping to a soft even staccato and swelling strongly out again.

“Wie scheinst du mir in’s Herz hinein,
Weck’st drinnen lauter Liebeslust,
Dass mir so enge wird die Brust
O Sonnenschein! O Sonn‑enschein!”

When the voices ceased there was a faint distant sound of crackling twigs and the echo of talking and laughter.

Ach Studenten!

Irgendein Männergesangverein.

“I think we ought to get back, Gertrude. Fräulein said only an hour altogether and it’s church tonight.”

“We’ll get back, Millenium mine⁠—never fear.”

As they began to retrace their steps Clara softly sang the last line of the song, the highest note ringing, faint and clear, away into the wood.

“Ho‑lah!” A mighty answering shout rang through the wood. It was like a word of command.

“Oh, come along home; Clara, what are you dreaming of?”

Taisez-vous, taisez-vous, Clarah! C’est honteux mon Dieu!