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IV

OUR NEW TENANT

OF course we have our own little stereotyped code of honor and morality, laid by on the shelf, ready for use, and in it we read vaguely that one may not put one's name to another's work, or make money by another's success. Had any one offered to finish for me the story to which I should put my name, I had refused, though the offer had been made by Rudyard Kipling himself. But when a ghost finishes your story, what's to be done? As Chloe said, “What else did the ghost do it for?” She added that of course I must send it in. And indeed it seemed to me that the matter was at least arguable. Yet I could not bring myself to sign my name to the thing.

Chloe made horseshoes in her forehead, and professed herself unable to understand my hesitation.

“If the ghost chose to finish your silly old story,” she said, “you may be sure it wants to see itself in print.”

“Over my signature?”

“Perhaps the ghost is modest, and would rather not venture to face the public over its own signature till it's more sure of its talents. Yes—that must be it. It's a mutual benefit. The ghost wants to see itself printed. You wanted your story finished. There's no obligation either way.”

I bit the end of my fountain-pen till it cracked.

“Suppose we ask Yolande?” said I. Chloe laughed. And I wrote to Yolande that evening. Chloe wrote, too—about a pattern for a fichu, I believe—and we posted the letters in the village. When we came home we found an unattractive working-man slouching by our gate. As we approached, he touched his hat with a grudging gesture.

“You the governor?” he inquired.

I ventured a modest assent.

“About these 'ere cottages of yourn, now,” said he, “was you thinkin' of lettin' e'er a one of 'em?”

“Well, no,” said I, truthful in defiance of Chloe's finger-pressure on my arm.

“Because if you was,” said my visitor, rubbing a stubbly chin reflectively, “you and me might hit on a bargain betwixt us. My missus an' me we're a-lookin' out for a bit of a cottage, so I don't deceive you, governor.”

My tenant-aspirant inspired me with little admiration and less confidence, but Chloe pinched my arm again, and said,

“Can you do gardening?”

“I'm a bricklayer's laborer by trade, miss,” said he.

“But if we let you have the cottage we should expect you to keep the cottage garden tidy.”

“Gardening's all I care for, out of workin'-hours,” said the man, eagerly, “and my missus, she's the same. Dotes on flowers, lilies, and roses, and toolips, so she do.”

“I'll think of it,” said I, severely non-committal, and feigning insensibility as Chloe's fingers tightened almost painfully on my arm.

“What rent do you want to pay?” she asked.

At the word “want” a shadow of a grin passed under the reflective hand that stroked the stubble.

“Two shillings a week was about what we thought an honest rent,” was the answer.

“That wouldn't do at all,” said my wife. “Why, the smallest cottage has four rooms. We couldn't let it under four shillings.”

“Say three and six, lady. And that's a lot to a working-man.”

This alacritous acceptance of the raised figure should have warned us—I, indeed, did perceive that the man wanted the cottage enough to pay the four shillings for it. But Chloe said:

“Very well. Three and six a week—that's nine pounds two a year. When do you want to come in?”

“Our time's up next Saturday, miss,” said the man, “and we could get our bits of sticks moved then. It's a stiffish rent, miss, is nine pun two a year, but there's the garden. I am dead nuts on a bit of garden.”

“On Saturday, then,” said Chloe, and our new tenant left us. I was full of doubts and distrusts, which I turned to impart to Chloe; but as our gate slammed behind us she threw her arms round my neck in a transport of avaricious enthusiasm.

“Oh, Len! How splendid! Didn't I do the arithmetic beautifully? Why did we never think of letting the cottages before? We'll let all the others—three and sixpence each—and the big ones—ought to fetch more. Why, it's fourteen shillings a week. What a heap of money!”

“What do you propose to buy with it, Mrs. Midas?”

“Time!” she answered, promptly. “Now I sha'n't feel so wicked if I waste a whole day on pottering. Why don't you write an ode or a sonnet or something, about pottering? It's the most glorious thing in the world. And this man is going to pay me to potter while he lays bricks. Noble, splendid creature!”

This man,” I said, “exactly; we don't even know his name, we haven't a hint of his address. And who are we—land-owners, truly, but born potterers, and lacking the education accorded to those born to the purple of landlordism—who are we that we should ask a bricklayer's laborer for references?”

“Oh, dear!” said she. “I never thought of that! Never mind—we can ask him for them on Saturday.”

But on Saturday it was too late. We learned, indeed, during the course of the day, our tenant's name, and it was Prosser, than which no surname claims a larger share of my personal abhorrence; but where was the use of asking for references when the moving had been effected during the hours immediately following the dawn, when our after-breakfast expedition to the cottage showed us the “bits of sticks” already dumped down on the cottage-garden flower-beds, and a slatternly drab of a woman carrying them slowly in? The furniture looked very dirty.

“Not, I fear, the most desirable of tenants,” I murmured, as we delicately withdrew. “The furniture looks as if it had come out of the dustbin, and so does the lady.”

“Oh, don't be so harsh,” said my wife; “remember what our furniture looked like—all dusty and forlorn and friendless—when it sat outside the Bandbox waiting for the vans. And as for the woman, you wouldn't like any one to judge me by how I looked the day we moved.”

“I remember just how you looked,” I said. And indeed I did. “My dear, Yolande was absolutely right. We are perfect Babes in the Wood. We have let our cottage to the ideally undesirable tenant. I don't for a moment believe that he is a bricklayer's laborer! More likely a counterfeit-coiner's journeyman—or perhaps a master-thief. He is ideally undesirable, you are impetuous, and I am weakly yielding. You and I together deserve to be sat on by a Board. Why can't we turn ourselves into a limited company and be run, together with our little property, by competent directors?”

“We must try to arrange it,” she answered, gayly. “And now cheer up—the Prossers will be better when they get straight. That girl's coming to-day—I must get her room ready. You might just clean the front doorstep—it's done with hearth-stone, just like the kitchen hearth. It is enough to discourage any girl to come to a house wrapped in a mantle of decay, with green mould on the doorstep. Then afterwards we'll do the kitchen together.”

It was with but half a heart that I collected pail, hearth-stone, and house-flannel. I had to take a scrubbing-brush to the green mould, and I wondered why the favorite implement gave me so little joy as I wielded it. The sudden arrival of the new maid's box, by Carter Paterson, enlightened me. I found myself now working with vigor and enthusiasm. Since she really was coming! I knew then that I had never believed she would come, and it had seemed futile to spread milk-white over the doorstep, just for Chloe and me, whose eyes its blotted gray and moss green had always delighted. Now I finished the doorstep con amore, and hastened to the kitchen where Chloe and a hammer were busy together. I scrubbed the dressers and the table and the deal shelf that pulls out under the window. Chloe is always wise enough to feed energy with praise—a diet too often grudged it.

“You do scrub beautifully,” she said. “I believe you think the brush is nobler than the pen.”

“You see I am an able ‘performer on the instrument,’ as Jane Austen would say.”

“Dear Jane,” said Chloe. “There—there's glory for you!”

She had nailed up a deep flounce of green and red chintz along the chimney-piece, and another above the windows. A cushion to match nestled in the shabby Windsor arm-chair we had recently picked up for two and threepence in a back street in Deptford.

“Isn't it pretty? Isn't it cosey, and old-fashioned, and farm-housy? If this doesn't make her stay, nothing will! I'll get the hearth-rug out of our bedroom. You won't mind, will you? And do put your instrument away—there's no more scrubbing, and she'll be here directly. Do you think we could bear to let her have two of the brass candlesticks out of the white parlor for this mantel-piece?”

No,” I said, firmly; “there are limits. But put up the cake-tins—I polished them the other day.”

The cake-tins were a shining crown to the splendor of the chintz flounce. Our crockery, well spread out upon the two large dressers, made a brave show. Our bedroom hearth-rug, also woven of reds and greens, showed up the beauty of the chintz flounce, which in its turn, by its neat newness, added lustre and importance to the hearth-rug. It was indeed a beautiful picture—a poem, even, set to music by the singing of the new kitchen kettle, and I did not grudge the sacrifice of the parlor table-cloth to the completion of that radiant harmony.

We had our lunch in a very great hurry, so as to get the plates washed up before our new servant came. By two o'clock all was ready. Ever since the joyous day when in my well-ironed frock-coat I had gone forth and engaged a servant, Chloe had ventured, day by day, on more and more daring preparations for the maid's arrival, and Chloe had dragged me with her. We had cleaned the white parlor—when we had a servant we could afford to sit in a parlor. We had laid down a rug or two on the red-and-white marble of the hall, and hung two or three old prints on the dull brown of its walls. We sat out some oak chairs and the old elm kneading-trough in it by way of furniture. We had put up dimity curtains in the new maid's bedroom: Chloe insisted on these, not because she admired the material, but because “dimity” is such a nice word—the born sister of lavender, and tall presses, and well-scrubbed boards, and patch-work quilts. We had a patch-work quilt—the gift of a gaunt great-aunt of mine—and we sacrificed it to the fitness of things, and let it live with the dimity curtains. Chloe adorned the dimity-covered dressing-table with a smart, new pin-cushion with blue bows, and set a blue jug of pink roses on the broad window-sill. Our servant's bedroom was as pretty as paint. I said so, and Chloe said:

“Nonsense! it's only conventionally correct. All good girls' rooms in books are like this—if they're servants; if they're young ladies it is muslin instead of dimity. And the pin-cushion is sometimes pink—you put letters under it when you run away, you know.”

“I hope the roses aren't just the touch too much,” I said; “we mustn't spoil her.”

“Roses spoil nobody.”

“Or make her think us lunatics.”

“We are that,” said Chloe, “and it's better to recognize frankly that concealment is impossible. No one could live with us a month and not see how silly we are. It's better not to try to break things to people. Let her know the worst at once. If she doesn't have to waste her mental energies on finding out our follies, she may use them to perceive our virtues. I sometimes can't help thinking that we really are rather nice.”

No courtier expecting a visit from his sovereign ever waited the monarch's advent with half the anxious embarrassment that was ours as, I in flannels and Chloe in soft muslin, we sat in the wicker chairs by the front porch, with our books and our work-basket, in an atmosphere of elegant leisure, ayant l'air de rien, just as if we sat there idly every day of the week.

At half-past three the white smoke of the down train clouded the blue above our willow-trees. Chloe put her hand to her heart.

“If I faint, don't be surprised. But you must pretend to be! Don't let her think fainting's a habit of mine. All the other servants came to us and they went, and there it was. But this is a crisis—an epoch.”

“That's because you feel that she's going to stay,” I said; “her personality is influencing yours, as she comes down the lane.”

Breaking a silence full of emotion came the click of the front gate.

“Courage!” I murmured.

“My heart's in my mouth,” said she.

“I must have mislaid it. Give it back at once!”

“How can you talk nonsense at a solemn moment like this? No—don't come with me. I'll face the danger alone!”

I saw her meet the new servant and lead her into the house.

It was an anxious time. I could not read, and I was trying to go on with Chloe's duster- hemming when she came back, with bright eyes and no horseshoes on her brow.

“She's a dear,” said my wife, “and so are you. And I was quite right about the roses and the pin-cushion. When I took her into the bedroom she looked quite blank, and then she said:

“‘This is the spare room, I suppose, mum.’ And I said, ‘No, it's yours.’ And she just said, ‘Well’ and sniffed at the roses. And she came down almost directly. Oh, what beautiful things clean caps and aprons are! And she's getting the tea, Len. And she likes the kitchen. And she said it was like their kitchen at home. I do believe she's going to be nice!”

She was. Chloe and I had simplified our lives, as people always do when their own hands supply their wants. Mary accepted Chloe's assistance for two days, and then gently but firmly declined further help.

“Why,” she said, “I could do the work here with one hand behind me! You go along, mum, and play the pianna, and mess about with the flowers, or make your pretty pictures.”

The change in our lives was like the change from a stormy night in mid-ocean to the mid-summer calm of a daisied meadow. The house was always neat and clean, and yet there was time for everything. I wrote now, sometimes we went to town when we wanted to go, orders grew, and prosperity seemed, like the rainbow, to be waiting for us at the end of the next field. It was a happy breathing-space. Yolande wrote, fully endorsing Chloe's view, and insisting that the ghost would certainly not have been silly enough to write half a story unless it had wanted to see it in print, and recommending us to leave the galleys conveniently lying about in the more haunted-looking parts of the Red House, so that the ghost might, if it pleased, correct its own proofs. So we sent off the story, and the editor wrote to me. I got his letter at breakfast, and I threw it over to Chloe across the tea-tray.

“Fortune smiles at last,” said I. “Here's to the ghost!” and I drank its health in boiling tea.

The letter had all the beauty of simplicity.

“Dear sir,” it said, “your story, ‘The Return,’ to hand. It is quite satisfactory, and if you care to supply a series of six, in the same style, we could, I think, find room for them in the magazine during next year.” The editor said something vague but pleasant about terms, and added that he was faithfully mine, and the letter concluded with the name of a very lucky man.

“It is my name at the foot,” I said. “This piece of luck has happened to me! It ought to have been addressed to Messrs. Ghost & Co., oughtn't it? Aid me, ye powers! Six stories!”

“In the same style,” said Chloe, getting up from the tea-tray and coming behind me to pull my ears in sheer gladness of heart. “Are you going to imitate the ghost's style, Len?”

I did not answer.

She rested her chin on my shoulder.

“Of course you write much better than the ghost,” she said, hastily; “but he does say the same style.”

“I have written stories before—and I can do it again, I suppose,” said I. “I only happened to get stuck with that story. I should have finished it all right if the ghost hadn't interfered. I wish to goodness she'd let it alone!”

Chloe took her chin from my shoulder and went back to the tea-tray.

“Will you have another cup?” she said, coldly.

“What's the matter?”

She did not answer.

Then I caught at my lost temper and secured it. I laughed.

“What!” I said, “take part with a nasty, stuck-up ghost against your own husband—so talented, yet so modest? If I am to have a rival, let it be flesh and blood, and not a ghost whose head I cannot punch, whose back I cannot horsewhip!”

“Well, then,” she said, trying to balance a teaspoon on the milk-jug, “I think the ghost only meant to be kind, and I don't like to hear you speak as if you thought it had no business to interfere.”

“I see,” I said, slowly.

She flashed a quick glance at me. “Yes,” she said, “I see you see. Here's luck to the six stories!”

It was in the morning after one of Mary's evenings out that she came to Chloe and said:

“Please, mum, are those your cottages along by the garden wall?”

Chloe smiled, scenting another tenant.

“Yes,” she said. “Do you know any one—”

“Well, mum,” said Mary, “I think it's no more but right that you should know it.”

Chloe said, “What?”

Mary replied: “Why, their goings-on! I see him last night, as I come in, as drunk as drunk, lying all over the front garden, and I went down this morning to have another look.”

“And was he still there—all over the front garden?” I asked.

“No, sir, not him, but everything else you can think of. But I won't say not a word more, sir; but it's not respectable, and I thought you ought to know, sir. You're that innocent, sir, if you'll excuse me saying so. I know you won't believe no harm of any one till you have caught 'em at it. You just go and look, sir, that's all.”

Chloe and I walked down the garden path, hand in hand, in agitated silence. Not till we were safe hidden under the twisted quince-tree did we dare to look at each other. Then we sat down in the long grass expressly to laugh at our ease.

“And the worst of it is it's true,” Chloe said. “You are innocent. No—don't be offended. I'm afraid I am, too. We are Babes in the Wood, Len, just as Yolande said, and Mary has the sense to see it.”

I murmured something about references.

“Yes, I know you said so, and I know it's my fault; but other things are yours. You are innocent. Don't deny it. Oh, Len, we ought to be living in a villa, and paying proper little calls, and giving proper little dinners, and decorating our dinner-table with proper little cut flowers in proper little cut-glass vases; and when we dined alone the fishmonger would send in two proper little whitings with their proper little tails in their mouths; and we should have roast chicken, and it would be minced the next day, and everything would go by dull, beautiful, proper little clock-work; and you would say what a good manager I was, because we neither of us should have any idea what good management really meant. We're failures, Len. We haven't the wit to run a great estate.”

“In fact,” I said, “we've bitten off a larger chunk than we can chew.”

“Don't be vulgar!”

“I'm not—I'm trying to be American.”

“You're not succeeding. They don't talk like that. I knew an American once. He was the nicest—”

“I know. He thought you were the nicest. Why didn't you marry him?”

“Because he was rich, and it's my destiny to ruin a poor man. Len, I wish I wasn't such an idiot!”

“Or that I wasn't. That would do just as well. But don't let's weep about it yet. Perhaps Mary exaggerated. Our tenant may merely have been in a fit. No known system of manorial management can avert fits among the tenantry.”

“But she said, ‘You go and look, that's all!’”

“Well,” said I, rising, “I will go and look. Will you come?”

“No,” said she. “I'm frightened. Yes, I will, of course.”

And we went.

Outside the red wall of our garden is a strip of ground bounded by a hawthorn hedge, and at the end of this stand the two cottages. We passed along the winding shrubbery-walk—by reason of its darkness the only path of our garden whereon the weeds were not breast-high—and so, pushing through the tall-standing weeds, dock and nettle, sow-thistle and cow-parsley, of the cottage garden, to the square of ground that stands between our two cottages and the road. Here were no juicy, green, upstanding weeds, graceful in their arrogant victory over flowers and fruits. The green weeds were trampled down to a damp, yellow, sodden mass, sordid and evilsmelling. Old meat-cans, sardine-tins, broken boots, decayed brooms, and battered saucepans were strewn around, “like flowers at a festival.” Dirty rags festooned the faded blue of the railings; the family linen, wetted but not washed, hung on the elder-bushes, whose white blossoms drooped degraded under the foul burden. A very dirty blanket hung out of the bedroom window, and on the doorstep, among dust and flue, bones, crusts, and the miscellaneous sweepings of a filthy floor, three indescribably unengaging children, with dirty noses, were playing moodily and without smiles. Their playthings were a blade-bone of mutton, two muddy clothes-pegs, and a dead mouse.

Chloe is absurdly fond of children, but—or, perhaps, therefore—she turned away with a shudder. We went home boiling with indignation, but in the crucible of our thought our rage, as it cooled, left as precipitate the unmistakable consciousness of our own incompetence. True, as Chloe said, it was she who had accepted a tenant so manifestly undesirable—lured by a bait of fourteen shillings a month. She had done it, but I had stood by and let it be done. Now, however, I must act. I would act. Was it, I wonder, an inexcusable cowardice or a wise discretion which led me to refrain from giving Mr. Prosser notice in a personal interview? I wrote to him, and bade him leave my cottage at the end of the week. But at the end of the week he was still there, and on the Monday evening, as Chloe and I wandered in the green forest of weeds and flowers that was our garden, the spell of its silence was broken for us by the sound of Mr. Prosser's voice, uplifted in one of the less agreeable comic songs of the year before the year before last.

I went down at once to give him, personally, that notice to quit which I found him in no fit state to receive. Another call, in the morning, found my tenant conscious, indeed, but little amenable.

“I gave you written notice to quit last week,” said I. “How is it you've not gone?”

Mr. Prosser, unshaved, without tie, collar, or boots, settled his head between his shoulders, and said he didn't know anything about no notice.

“Well, anyhow,” said I, “you've got to clear out now. I want the cottage.”

“Right you are, sir,” said he, “but there must be proper notice give an' took.”

“I give you notice now,” said I, “and, while I am here, suppose you hand over the rent.”

Then my tenant drew himself up and uttered these memorable words:

“I'm a yearly tenant, I am, and I pays on quarter-day, and six months' notice is what I'm entitled to. ‘Nine pun two a year,’ your missus said.”

“Very well. I shall consult my solicitor,” I said, and turned away helpless. I didn't know—how should I, though I had kicked my heels, briefless, in the Inner Temple for at least two years—whether he was entitled to that or anything else.

I wrote to my solicitor. I had never had a solicitor before, but I acquired one at once—an old chum. He wrote me three pages of advice, in which a writ of ejectment loomed large. But his private opinion, as I read it between the lines, seemed to be that I had got myself into a tight place by my own folly, and had better trust to time to get me out of it.

Our garden's peace was broken. We never knew now when the hoarse, raucous voice of our tenant might desecrate the moonlit stillness with coarse echoes of transpontine music-halls. The knowledge of Mr. Prosser's nearness seemed to smirch the clean sweetness of life. The very jasmine stars seemed less white for the presence of our tenant's sordid ménage on the other side of our red wall. And Mary, day by day, tormented us with fresh tales of what was being said in the village of our tenant's antecedents and character, and, by implication, of ours. And all the time my inability to set steadfastly to work was fretting at my self-control. It is like a mouse gnawing at the cord of life—the longing to work, and the inability to conquer the thousand tiny obstacles that fate erects—fate, backed by one's own folly in having “bitten off a larger chunk than one can chew”;—I still think that a most excellent phrase, and not vulgar, only homely, going straight to the mark as the homely expression of a great truth may be permitted to do. Chloe was worried also—her editors were clamoring for the illustrations which she was now incapable of working at. And Mr. Prosser was a live blister, and, like a blister, he hurt more and more the longer we had to bear with him.

I was sitting in our little work-room one morning, pen in hand, hardly able to meet with a confident eye the white paper that, as I stared at it, seemed to stare at me in return—to stare rudely, contemptuously, in the confident superiority of its fulfilment of its destiny, as opposed to my manifest inability to fulfil mine. It was waiting to be written on, and no one could ask more of it. And I was waiting to write on it; and a good deal more than mere waiting was obviously demanded of me by our financial circumstances and my own self-respect. The six stories—“in the style of the ghost”—I longed to get them written with a longing more desperate than the longing of the lover for his mistress, the mother for her child. Though more desperate, it had not, however, the force of these natural desires, because it was not a desire for the thing in itself—not a desire to achieve, to attain—but depended for its vitality on a secondary motive. I longed to write the stories because I wanted the money they would bring to me. The longing was keen enough to be painful, not strong enough to get itself satisfied. So I sat idle, and drew fancy portraits of Chloe on the blotting-paper. I turned it over hastily as I heard her footstep on the kitchen floor, and I was bending over a virgin quarto page rimmed with unsoiled pink when she came in.

I drew my breath in sharply. Her face, her eyes, her whole bearing announced disaster unspeakable.

“What is it?” I cried, and I am sure I must have turned pale.

“Len, do you love me?” she asked, clasping her hands with a charming dramatic movement.

“Better than my life, of course,” I said, hurriedly, “but I'm just starting on this story, and if it's some domestic detail—”

“No, it can't wait,” said she, sitting down on the edge of the table, “and it's not a variation on the domestic theme. It's the theme itself. Len—it's all over!”

What's all over?”

“Everything. She's going to leave.”

“Why?”

“I don't know. I was too upset to ask her. I just came to you.”

I resisted an impulse to put aside the six remunerative stories and spend the rest of the day in consoling my wife.

“I don't know what it is. We've been nice to her, I'm sure! She likes us—at least I thought she did. It's Destiny—it's like Maeterlinck—whatever we do turns out all anyhow. There's a curse upon us!”

“Speak for yourself,” I said, cheerfully. “You may be cursed, though it's barely polite of you to say so, but I am blessed above all that live, I'm blessed if I'm not—since you—”

She stamped her foot. “Don't you see,” she said, “it's serious, horribly serious? I wish I had never come here. I wish we were back in the Bandbox—there! Now crow over me, and tell me you told me so all the time!”

I told her something quite different, and presently, when we were calmer, I said,

“At least we may as well know why she's going.”

“I'll ask her,” said Chloe, drying her eyes. “It's probably Prosser. If I were you I should just take him by the shoulders and turn him out. You're quite strong enough.”

“Yes, and have an action for assault and a hundred pounds' damages,” said I, wise with the wisdom of my solicitor. “Go and ask her. Perhaps it's not Prosser. Even he, fiend without references as he is, can't be responsible for everything. Perhaps she's seen the ghost.”

I had completed a fancy sketch of Mary giving notice, and alleging her reasons by unmistakable gestures indicating the ghost, in the background, when Chloe returned.

“Well?” said I.

“Well?” said she.

“Have you found out?”

“It's all right,” said Chloe, with a sigh of deep relief. “We haven't done anything. She is awfully fond of us—but she must go.”

“Why?”

“She's going to marry the baker.”

“Lucky man!”

“It's a love-affair,” said Chloe—“the prettiest story. They couldn't marry before because he wasn't well enough off, and now an uncle has left him some money, and he's bought a partnership.”

“And how long have they been waiting for each other? How many long years of priceless constancy, tried like gold in the furnace?”

“That's the worst of it,” said Chloe, blushing, as I live; “she's only known him for a month. But servants are expeditious as the wind in matters of the heart.”

“Charles Reade: Hard Cash—yes. Well, it's hard on us.”

“But it's very nice for them,” said my wife. “You ought to feel ever so much sympathy with lovers!”

“I do,” said I, “especially when they are married and live in a house miles too big for them.”

“Oh, Len,” she said, “are you really so very sorry for yourself?”

“I am just as sorry for myself as you are for me.”

“And I'm just as sorry for you as you can possibly be for yourself. Where had we got to?”

“We had got to Mary's marrying the baker, and your not minding being left without a servant because of your admiration for the beauty of constant love.”

“Let's go into the garden and finish talking about it.”

“I could talk all day about love and constancy,” said I, “but my story—”

“Bother the story!” said she, “and it's not love I want to talk about, unless you can't keep off the subject. It's advertisements, and registry-offices, and Prosser.”

So we went into the garden and talked.

The garden chooses one's subjects for one, and it would not listen to any of Chloe's subjects. It was more tolerant of mine.