During the fortnight that Alexander
was in London he drove himself
hard. He got through a great
deal of personal business and
saw a great many men who were
doing interesting things in his
own profession. He disliked to
think of his visits to London
as holidays, and when he was
there he worked even harder than
he did at home.
The day before his departure
for Liverpool was a singularly
fine one. The thick air had cleared
overnight in a strong wind which
brought in a golden dawn and
then fell off to a fresh breeze.
When Bartley looked out of his
windows from the Savoy, the river
was flashing silver and the gray
stone along the Embankment was
bathed in bright, clear sunshine.
London had wakened to life after
three weeks of cold and sodden
rain. Bartley breakfasted hurriedly
and went over his mail while
the hotel valet packed his trunks.
Then he paid his account and
walked rapidly down the Strand
past Charing Cross Station. His
spirits rose with every step,
and when he reached Trafalgar
Square, blazing in the sun, with
its fountains playing and its
column reaching up into the bright
air, he signaled to a hansom,
and, before he knew what he was
about, told the driver to go
to Bedford Square by way of the
When he reached Hilda's apartment
she met him, fresh as the morning
itself. Her rooms were flooded
with sunshine and full of the
flowers he had been sending her.
She would never let him give
her anything else.
"Are you busy this morning,
Hilda?" he asked as he sat down,
his hat and gloves in his hand.
been up and about three hours,
working at my part.
We open in February, you know."
you've worked enough. And so
have I. I've seen all
my men, my packing is done, and
I go up to Liverpool this evening.
But this morning we are going
to have a holiday. What do you
say to a drive out to Kew and
Richmond? You may not get another
day like this all winter. It's
like a fine April day at home.
May I use your telephone? I want
to order the carriage."
"Oh, how jolly!
There, sit down at the desk.
And while you
are telephoning I'll change my
dress. I shan't be long. All
the morning papers are on the
Hilda was back in a few moments
wearing a long gray squirrel
coat and a broad fur hat.
and inspected her. "Why don't you wear some
of those pink roses?" he asked.
"But they came only this morning,
and they have not even begun
to open. I was saving them. I
am so unconsciously thrifty!" She
laughed as she looked about the
room. "You've been sending me
far too many flowers, Bartley.
New ones every day. That's too
often; though I do love to open
the boxes, and I take good care
you let me send you any of
those jade or ivory
things you are so fond of? Or
pictures? I know a good deal
her large hat as she drew the
roses out of the
tall glass. "No, there are some
things you can't do. There's
the carriage. Will you button
my gloves for me?"
her wrist and began to button
the long gray
suede glove. "How gay your eyes
are this morning, Hilda."
I've been studying. It always
stirs me up a little."
He pushed the
top of the glove up slowly. "When
did you learn to take hold
of your parts like
"When I had
nothing else to think of. Come,
is waiting. What a shocking while
"I'm in no
hurry. We've plenty of time."
They found all London abroad.
Piccadilly was a stream of rapidly
moving carriages, from which
flashed furs and flowers and
bright winter costumes. The metal
trappings of the harnesses shone
dazzlingly, and the wheels were
revolving disks that threw off
rays of light. The parks were
full of children and nursemaids
and joyful dogs that leaped and
yelped and scratched up the brown
earth with their paws.
"I'm not going until to-morrow,
you know," Bartley announced
suddenly. "I'll cut off a day
in Liverpool. I haven't felt
so jolly this long while."
up with a smile which she tried
not to make too
glad. "I think people were meant
to be happy, a little," she said.
They had lunch at Richmond
and then walked to Twickenham,
where they had sent the carriage.
They drove back, with a glorious
sunset behind them, toward the
distant gold-washed city. It
was one of those rare afternoons
when all the thickness and shadow
of London are changed to a kind
of shining, pulsing, special
atmosphere; when the smoky vapors
become fluttering golden clouds,
nacreous veils of pink and amber;
when all that bleakness of gray
stone and dullness of dirty brick
trembles in aureate light, and
all the roofs and spires, and
one great dome, are floated in
golden haze. On such rare afternoons
the ugliest of cities becomes
the most poetic, and months of
sodden days are offset by a moment
"It's like that with us Londoners,
too," Hilda was saying. "Everything
is awfully grim and cheerless,
our weather and our houses and
our ways of amusing ourselves.
But we can be happier than anybody.
We can go mad with joy, as the
people do out in the fields on
a fine Whitsunday. We make the
most of our moment."
She thrust her little chin
out defiantly over her gray fur
collar, and Bartley looked down
at her and laughed.
"You are a plucky one, you." He
patted her glove with his hand. "Yes,
you are a plucky one."
Hilda sighed. "No, I'm not.
Not about some things, at any
rate. It doesn't take pluck to
fight for one's moment, but it
takes pluck to go without--a
lot. More than I have. I can't
help it," she added fiercely.
After miles of outlying streets
and little gloomy houses, they
reached London itself, red and
roaring and murky, with a thick
dampness coming up from the river,
that betokened fog again to-morrow.
The streets were full of people
who had worked indoors all through
the priceless day and had now
come hungrily out to drink the
muddy lees of it. They stood
in long black lines, waiting
before the pit entrances of the
theatres-- short-coated boys,
and girls in sailor hats, all
shivering and chatting gayly.
There was a blurred rhythm in
all the dull city noises-- in
the clatter of the cab horses
and the rumbling of the busses,
in the street calls, and in the
undulating tramp, tramp of the
crowd. It was like the deep vibration
of some vast underground machinery,
and like the muffled pulsations
of millions of human hearts.
[See "The Barrel
Organ by Alfred Noyes. Ed.]
[I have placed it
at the end for your convenience]
"Seems good to get back, doesn't
it?" Bartley whispered, as they
drove from Bayswater Road into
Oxford Street. "London always
makes me want to live more than
any other city in the world.
You remember our priestess mummy
over in the mummy-room, and how
we used to long to go and bring
her out on nights like this?
Three thousand years! Ugh!"
"All the same, I believe she
used to feel it when we stood
there and watched her and wished
her well. I believe she used
to remember," Hilda said thoughtfully.
"I hope so.
Now let's go to some awfully
jolly place for
dinner before we go home. I could
eat all the dinners there are
in London to-night. Where shall
I tell the driver? The Piccadilly
Restaurant? The music's good
too many people there whom
one knows. Why not
that little French place in Soho,
where we went so often when you
were here in the summer? I love
it, and I've never been there
with any one but you. Sometimes
I go by myself, when I am particularly
the sole's good there. How
many street pianos
there are about to-night! The
fine weather must have thawed
them out. We've had five miles
of `Il Trovatore' now. They always
make me feel jaunty. Are you
comfy, and not too tired?"
I'm not tired
at all. I was just wondering
how people can
ever die. Why did you remind
me of the mummy? Life seems the
strongest and most indestructible
thing in the world. Do you really
believe that all those people
rushing about down there, going
to good dinners and clubs and
theatres, will be dead some day,
and not care about anything?
I don't believe it, and I know
I shan't die, ever! You see,
I feel too--too powerful!"
stopped. Bartley sprang out
and swung her quickly
to the pavement. As he lifted
her in his two hands he whispered: "You