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a yarn of the good old days of broad trousers and high necked jumpers
"Do you know, I don't think I can read mine. It's rather unkind."
"Oh, Basil, you must."
This always happened when Basil played paper games.
"No, I can't, look it's all scrumbled up."
"Oh, Basil, dearest, do."
"Oh, Basil, please."
"Darling Basil, you must."
"No, I won't. Imogen will be in a rage with me."
"No, she won't, will you, Imogen?"
"Imogen, tell him you won't be in a rage with him."
"Basil, do read it please."
"Well, then, if you promise you won't hate me"and he smoothed out the piece of
"And AnimalBoa constrictor."
"Oh, Basil, how marvellous." "Poor Adam, I never thought of him as Dublin, of course
"So phallic, my dear, and prickly."
"And such vulgar flowers."
"Boa constrictor is brilliant."
"Yes, his digestion you know."
"And can't sting, only crush."
"And fascinates rabbits."
"I must draw a picture of Adam fascinating a rabbit," and then, "Imogen, you're not
"I must. I'm terribly sleepy. Don't get drunk and wake me up, will you?"
"Imogen, you are in a rage with me."
"My dear, I'm far too tired to be in a rage with anybody. Good night."
The door shut.
"My dear, she's furious."
"I knew she would be, you shouldn't have made me read it."
"She's been very odd allthe evening, I consider."
"She told me she lunched with Adam before she came down."
"I expect she ate too much. One does with Adam, don't you find?"
"But you know, I'm rather proud of that character all the same. I wonder why none of
us ever thought of Dublin before."
"Basil, do you think Imogen can have been having an affaire with Adam, really?"
note.No attempt, beyond the omission of some of the aspirates, has been made at a phonetic rendering of the speech of Gladys and Ada; they are the cook and house-parlourmaid from a small house in Earls Court, and it is to be supposed that they speak as such.
The conversations in the film are deduced by the experienced picture-goer from the gestures of the actors; only those parts which appear in capitals are actual "captions."
THE COCKATRICE CLUB 2.30 a.m. A CENTRE OF LONDON NIGHT LIFE.
The "Art title" shows a still life of a champagne bottle, glasses, and a comic maskor is it yawning?
"Oh, Gladys, it's begun; I knew we'd be late." "Never mind, dear, I can see the way. Oh, I sayI am sorry.
Thought the seat was emptyreally I did."
Erotic giggling and a slight struggle. "Give over, can't you, and let me get bysaucy kid." "'Ere you are, Gladys, there's two seats 'ere." "Well I nevertried to make me sit on 'is knee." "Go on. I say, Gladys, what sort of picture is thisis it comic?"
The screen is almost completely dark as though the film has been greatly over-exposed. Fitful but brilliant illumination reveals a large crowd dancing, talking and eating.
"No, Adathat's lightning. I dare say it's a desert storm. I see a picture like that the other day with Fred."
EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY.
Close up: the head of a girl.
"That's 'is baby. See if she ain't."
It is rather a lovely head, shingled and superbly poised on its neck. One is just beginning to appreciate its exquisite modellingthe film is too poor to give any clear impression of texturewhen it is flashed away and its place taken by a stout and elderly man playing a saxophone. The film becomes obscureafter the manner of the more modern Continental studios: the saxophonist has become the vortex of movement; faces flash out and disappear again; fragmentary captions will not wait until they are read.
"Well, I do call this soft."
A voice with a Cambridge accent from the more expensive seats says, "Expressionismus."
Gladys nudges Ada and says, "Foreigner."
After several shiftings of perspective, the focus becomes suddenly and stereoscopically clear. The girl is seated at a table leaning towards a young man who is lighting her cigarette for her. Three or four others join them at the table and sit down. They are all in evening dress. "No, it isn't comic, Adait's Society." "Society's sometimes comic. You see." The girl is protesting that she must go. "Adam, I must. Mother thinks I went out to a theatre with you and your mother. I don't know what will happen if she finds I'm not in."
There is a general leave-taking and paying of bills. "I say, Gladys, 'e's 'ad a drop too much, ain't 'e?" The hero and heroine drive away in a taxi. Halfway down Pont Street, the heroine stops the taxi. "Don't let him come any farther, Adam. Lady R. will hear." "Good night, Imogen dear." "Good night, Adam." She hesitates for a moment and then kisses him. Adam and the taxi drive away. Close up of Adam. He is a young man of about twenty-two, clean-shaven, with thick, very dark hair. He looks so infinitely sad that even Ada is shaken.
Can it be funny? "Buster Keaton looks sad like that sometimesdon't 'e?"
Ada is reassured.
Buster Keaton looks sad; Buster Keaton is funny. Adam looks sad; Adam is funny. What could be clearer?
The cab stops and Adam gives it all his money. It wishes him "Good-night" and disappears into the darkness. Adam unlocks the front door.
On his way upstairs he takes his letters from the hall table; they are two bills and an invitation to a dance.
He reaches his room, undresses and sits for some time wretchedly staring at himself in the glass. Then he gets into bed. He dare not turn out the light because he knows that if he does the room will start spinning round him; he must be there thinking of Imogen until he becomes sober.
The film becomes darker. The room begins to swim and then steadies itself. It is getting quite dark. The orchestra plays very softly the first bars of "Everybody loves my baby." It is quite dark.
Close up: the heroine. Close up: the hero asleep. Fade out.
NEXT MORNING 8.30 a.m.
The hero still asleep. The electric light is still burning. A disagreeable-looking maid enters, turns out the light and raises the blind.
Adam wakes up. "Good morning, Parsons." "Good morning, sir." "Is the bathroom empty?" "I think Miss Jane's just this minute gone along there." She picks up Adam's evening clothes from the floor. Adam lies back and ponders the question of whether he shall miss his bath or miss getting a place at the studio.
Miss Jane in her bath.
Adam deciding to get up.
Tired out but with no inclination to sleep, Adam dresses. He goes down to breakfast.
"It can't be Society, Gladys, they aren't eating grape fruit."
"It's such a small 'ouse too."
"And no butler."
"Look, there's 'is little old mother. She'll lead 'im straight in the end.
See if she don't."
"Well, that dress isn't at all what I call fashionable, if you ask me."
"Well, if it isn't funny and it isn't murder and it isn't Society, what is it?"
"P'r'aps there'll be a murder yet."
"Well, I calls it soft, that's what I calls it."
"Look now, 'e's got a invitation to a dance from a Countess."
"I don't understand this picture."
The Countess's invitation.
"Why, there isn't even a coronet on it, Ada."
The little old mother pours out tea for him and tells him about the death of a friend in the Times that morning; when he has drunk some tea and eaten some fish, she bustles him out of the house.
Adam walks to the corner of the road, where he gets on to a bus. The neighbourhood is revealed as being Regent's Park.
THE CENTRE OF LONDON'S QUARTIER LATIN THE MALTBY SCHOOL OF ART.
No trouble has been spared by the producers to obtain the right atmosphere. The top studio at Maltby's is already half full of young students when Adam enters. Work has not yet started, but the room is alive with busy preparation. A young woman in an overalllooking rather more like a chorus girl than a painteris making herself very dirty cleaning her palette; another near by is setting up an easel; a third is sharpening a pencil; a fourth is smoking a cigarette in a long holder. A young man, also in an overall, is holding a drawing and appraising it at arm's length, his head slightly on one side; a young man with untidy hair is disagreeing with him. Old Mr. Maltby, an inspiring figure in a shabby silk dressing gown, is telling a tearful student that if she misses another composition class, she will be asked to leave the school. Miss Philbrick, the secretary, interrupts the argument between the two young men to remind them that neither of them has paid his fee for the month. The girl who was setting up the easel is trying to borrow some "fixative"; the girl with the cigarette holder lends her some. Mr. Maltby is complaining of the grittiness of the charcoal they make nowadays. Surely this is the Quartier Latin itself?
The "set," too, has been conscientiously planned. The walls are hung with pots, pans and paintingsthese last mainly a series of rather fleshly nudes which young Mr. Maltby has been unable to sell. A very brown skeleton hangs over the dais at the far end
. "I say, Gladys, do you think we shall see 'is models?" "Coo, Ada, you are a one."
Adam comes in and goes towards the board on which hangs a plan of the easel places; the girl who was lending the "fixative" comes over to him, still smoking.
"THERE'S A PLACE EMPTY NEXT TO ME, DOURE, DO COME THERE."
Close up of the girl. "She's in love with 'im." Close up of Adam. "'E's not in love with 'er, though, is 'e, Ada?"
The place the girl points out is an excellent one in the second row; the only other one besides the very front and the very back is round at the side, next to the stove. Adam signs his initials opposite this place.
"I'M SORRYI'M AFRAID THAT I FIND THE LIGHT WORRIES ME FROM WHERE YOU AREONE GETS SO FEW SHADOWS - DON'T YOU FIND?"
The girl is not to be discouraged; she lights another cigarette. "I SAW YOU LAST NIGHT AT THE COCKATRICEYOU DIDN'T SEE ME THOUGH."
"THE COCKATRICELAST NIGHTOH YESWHAT A PITY!"
"WHO WERE ALL THOSE PEOPLE YOU WERE WITH?" "OH, I DON'T KNOW, JUST SOME PEOPLE, YOU KNOW." He makes a movement as if to go away.
"WHO WAS THAT GIRL YOU WERE DANCING WITH SO MUCHTHE PRETTY ONE WITH FAIR HAIRIN BLACK?"
"OH, DON'T YOU KNOW HER? YOU MUST MEET HER ONE DAYI SAY, I'M AWFULLY SORRY, BUT I MUST GO DOWN AND GET SOME PAPER FROM MISS PHILBRICK."
"I CAN LEND YOU SOME." But he is gone.
Ada says, "Too much talk in this picture, eh, Gladys?" and the voice with the Cambridge accent is heard saying something about the "elimination of the caption."
ONE OF LIFE'S UNFORTUNATES.
Enter a young woman huddled in a dressing-gown, preceded by young Mr. Maltby.
"The modelcooI say."
She has a slight cold and sniffles into a tiny ball of handkerchief; she mounts the dais and sits down ungracefully. Young Mr. Maltby nods good morning to those of the pupils who catch his eye; the girl who was talking to Adam catches his eye; he smiles. "'E's in love with 'er."
She returns his smile with warmth.
Young Mr. Maltby rattles the stove, opens the skylight a little and then turns to the model, who slips off her dressing gown and puts it over the back of the chair.
"CooI say. Adamy!" "Well I never."
The young man from Cambridge goes on talking about Matisse unfalteringly as though he were well accustomed to this sort of thing. Actually he is much intrigued.
She has disclosed a dull pink body with rather short legs and red elbows; like most professional models her toes are covered with bunions and malformed. Young Mr. Maltby sets her on the chair in an established Art School pose. The class settles to work.
Adam returns with some sheets of paper and proceeds to arrange them on his board. Then he stands for some time glaring at the model without drawing a line.
"'E's in love with 'er." But for once Ada's explanation is wrongand then begins sketching in the main lines of the pose.
He works on for five or six minutes, during which time the heat of the stove becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Old Mr. Maltby, breathing smoke, comes up behind him.
"Now have you placed it? What is your centre? Where is the foot going to come? Where is the top of the head coming?"
Adam has not placed it; he rubs it out angrily and starts again.
Meanwhile a vivid flirtation is in progress between young Mr. Maltby and the girl who was in love with Adam. He is leaning over and pointing out mistakes to her; his hand rests on her shoulder; she is wearing a low-necked jumper; his thumb strays over the skin of her neck; she wriggles appreciatively. He takes the charcoal from her and begins drawing in the corner of her paper; her hair touches his cheek; neither of them heed the least what he is drawing.
"These Bo'emians don't 'alf carry on, eh, Gladys?"
In half an hour Adam has rubbed out his drawing three times. Whenever he is beginning to interest himself in some particular combination of shapes, the model raises her ball of handkerchief to her nose, and after each sniff relapses into a slightly different position. The anthracite stove glows with heat; he works on for another half hour.
THE ELEVEN O'CLOCK REST.
Most of the girls light cigarettes; the men, who have increased in number with many late arrivals, begin to congregate away from them in the corner. One of them is reading The Studio. Adam lights a pipe, and standing back, surveys his drawing with detestation.
Close up; Adam's drawing. It is not really at all bad. In fact it is by far the best in the room; there is one which will be better at the end of the week, but at present there is nothing of it except some measurements and geometrical figures. Its author is unaware that the model is resting; he is engaged in calculating the medial section of her height in the corner of the paper.
Adam goes out on to the stairs, which are lined with women from the lower studio eating buns out of bags. He returns to the studio.
The girl who has been instructed by young Mr. Maltby comes up to him and looks at his drawing.
"Rather Monday morningish." That was exactly what young Mr. Maltby had said about hers.
The model resumes her pose with slight differences; the paper bags are put away, pipes are knocked out; the promising pupil is calculating the area of a rectangle
. The scene changes to
158 PONT STREET. THE LONDON HOUSE OF MR. CHARLES AND LADY ROSEMARY QUEST.
An interior is revealed in which the producers have at last made some attempt to satisfy the social expectations of Gladys and Ada. It is true that there is very little marble and no footmen in powder and breeches, but there is nevertheless an undoubted air of grandeur about the high rooms and Louis Seize furniture, and there is a foot-man. The young man from Cambridge estimates the household at six thousand a year, and though somewhat overgenerous, it is a reason-able guess. Lady Rosemary's collection of Limoges can be seen in the background.
Upstairs in her bedroom Imogen Quest is telephoning. "What a lovely Kimony, Ada."
Miss Philbrick comes into the upper studio at Maltby's, where Adam is at last beginning to take some interest in his drawing.
"MISS QUEST WANTS TO SPEAK TO YOU ON THE TELEPHONE, MR. DOURE. I told her that it was against the rules for students to use the telephone except in the luncheon hour" (there is always a pathetic game of make-believe at Maltby's played endlessly by Miss Philbrick and old Mr. Maltby, in which they pre-tend that somewhere there is a code of rules which all must observe), "but she says that it is most important. I do wish you would ask your friends not to ring you up in the mornings."
Adam puts down his charcoal and follows her to the office. There over the telephone is poor Miss Philbrick's notice written in the script writing she learned at night classes in Southampton Row.
"Students are forbidden to use the telephone during working hours."
"Good morning, Imogen." "Yes, quite safelyvery tired though." "I can't, Imogenfor one thing I haven't the money." "No, you can't afford it either. Anyway, I'm dining with Lady R. tonight. You can tell me then, surely?"
"Why not?" "Who lives there?" "Not that awful Basil Hay?" "Well, perhaps he is." "I used to meet him at Oxford sometimes." "WELL, IF YOU'RE SURE YOU CAN PAY I'LL COME TO LUNCHEON WITH YOU." "WHY THERE? IT'S FRIGHTFULLY EXPENSIVE." "STEAK TARTAREWHAT'S THAT?" The Cambridge voice explains, "Quite raw, you know, with olives and capers and vinegar and things." "My dear, you'll turn into a werewolf." "I should love it if you did." "Yes, I'm afraid I am getting a little morbid." "One-ish. Please don't be too lateI've only three-quarters of an hour." "Good-bye, Imogen."
So much of the forbidden conversation is audible to Miss Philbrick.
Adam returns to the studio and draws a few heavy and insensitive lines.
He rubs at them but they still show up grubbily in the pores of the paper. He tears up his drawing; old Mr. Maltby remonstrates; young Mr. Maltby is explaining the construction of the foot and does not look up.
Adam attempts another drawing. Close up of Adam's drawing. "'E's thinking of 'er." Unerring Ada! "These films would be so much more convincing if they would only employ decent draughtsmen to do the hero's drawings for himdon't you think?" Bravo, the cultured bourgeoisie!
There is a repetition of all the excursions of eleven o'clock.
The promising pupil is working out the ratio of two cubes. The girl who has been learning the construction of the foot comes over to him and looks over his shoulder; he starts violently and loses count.
Ad am takes his hat and stick and goes out.
Adam on a bus.
Adam studying Poussin at the National Gallery.
Close up of Adam studying Poussin.
"'E's thinking of 'er."
The clock of St. Martin-in-the-Fields strikes one. Adam leaves the National Gallery.
TEN MINUTES PAST ONE. THE DINING ROOM OF THE RESTAURANT DE LA TOUR DE FORCE.
Enter Adam; he looks round but as he had expected, Imogen has not yet arrived. He sits down at a table laid for two and waits.
Though not actually in Soho, the Tour de Force gives unmistakably an impression half cosmopolitan, half theatrical, which Ada would sum up in the word "Bo'emian." The tables are well spaced and the wines are excellent though extremely costly.
Adam orders some sherry and waits, dividing his attention between the door through which Imogen will enter and the contemplation of a middle-aged political lawyer of repute who at the next table is trying to keep amused a bored and exquisitely beautiful youth of eighteen.
QUARTER TO TWO.
The people at the other tables say, "Look, there's Imogen Quest. I can't see what people find in her, can you?" or else, "I wonder who that is. Isn't she attractive?"
"My dear, I'm terribly late. I am sorry. I've had the most awful morning shopping with Lady R."
She sits down at the table.
"You haven't got to rush back to your school, have you? Because I'm never going to see you again. The most awful thing has happened - you order lunch, Adam. I'm very hungry. I want to eat a steak tartare and I don't want to drink anything."
Adam orders lunch.
"LADY R. SAYS I'M SEEING TOO MUCH OF YOU. ISN'T IT TOO AWFUL?"
Gladys at last is quite at home. The film has been classified. Young love is being thwarted by purse-proud parents.
Imogen waves aside a wagon of hors d'oeuvre.
"We had quite a scene. She came into my room before I was up and wanted to know all about last night. Apparently she heard me come in. And, oh Adam, I can't tell you what dreadful things she's been saying about you. My dear, what an odd luncheonyou've ordered everything I most detest."
Adam drinks soup.
"THAT'S WHY I'M BEING SENT OFF TO THATCH THIS AFTERNOON. And Lady R. is going to talk to you seriously tonight. She's put Mary and Andrew off so that she can get you alone. Adam, how can you expect me to eat all this? and you haven't ordered your-self anything to drink."
Adam eats an omelette alone. Imogen crumbles bread and talks to him.
"But, my dear, you mustn't say anything against Basil because I simply adore him, and he's got the loveliest, vulgarest mother - you'd simply love her."
The steak tartare is wheeled up and made before them.
Close up; a dish of pulverized and bleeding meat: hands pouring in immoderate condiments.
"Do you know, Adam, I don't think I do want this after all. It reminds me so of Henry."
HALF PAST TWO.
Adam has finished luncheon.
"SO YOU SEE, DEAR, WE SHALL NEVER, NEVER MEET AGAINPROPERLY I MEAN. Isn't it just too like Lady R. for words."
Imogen stretches out her hand across the table and touches Adam's.
Close up; Adam's hand, a signet ring on the little finger and a smudge of paint on the inside of the thumb. Imogen's handvery white and manicuredmoves across the screen and touches it.
Gladys gives a slight sob.
"YOU DON'T MIND TOO DREADFULLYDO YOU, ADAM?" Adam does mindvery much indeed. He has eaten enough to be thoroughly sentimental.
The Restaurant de la Tour de Force is nearly empty. The political barrister has gone his unregenerate way; the waiters stand about restlessly.
Imogen pays the bill and they rise to go.
"Adam, you must come to Euston and see me off. We can't part just like thisfor always, can we? Hodges is meeting me there with the luggage."
They get into a taxi.
Imogen puts her hand in his and they sit like this for a few minutes without speaking.
Then Adam leans towards her and they kiss
. Close up: Adam and Imogen kissing. There is a tear (which finds a ready response in Ada and Gladys, who sob uncontrollably) in Adam's eye; Imogen's lips luxuriously disposed by the pressure. "Like the Bronzino Venus."
"IMOGEN, YOU NEVER REALLY CARED, DID YOU? IF YOU HAD YOU WOULDN'T GO AWAY LIKE THIS. IMOGEN, DID YOU EVER CAREREALLY?"
"HAVEN'T I GIVEN PROOF THAT I DID. Adam dear, why will you always ask such tiresome questions. Don't you see how impossible it all is? We've only about five minutes before we reach Euston."
They kiss again.
Adam says, "Damn Lady R."
They reach Euston.
Hodges is waiting for them. She has seen about the luggage; she has seen about tickets; she has even bought magazines; there is nothing to be done.
Adam stands beside Imogen waiting for the train to start; she looks at a weekly paper.
"Do look at this picture of Sybil. Isn't it odd? I wonder when she had it taken."
The train is about to start. She gets into the carriage and holds out her hand
. "Good-bye, darling. You will come to mother's dance in June, won't you? I shall be miserable if you don't. Perhaps we shall meet before then. Good-bye."
The train moves out of the station.
Close up. Imogen in the carriage studying the odd photograph of Sybil.
Adam on the platform watching the train disappear.
"Well, Ada, what d'you think of it?"
"It is curious the way that they can never make their heroes and heroines talk like ladies and gentlemenparticularly in moments of emotion."
A QUARTER OF AN HOUR LATER.
Adam is still at Euston, gazing aimlessly at a bookstall. The various prospects before him appear on the screen.
Maltby's. The anthracite stove, the model, the amorous student - ("the Vamp"), the mathematical student, his own drawing.
Dinner at home. His father, his mother, Parsons, his sister with her stupid, pimply face and her dull jealousy of all Imogen said and did and wore.
Dinner at Pont Street, head to head with Lady Rosemary.
Dinner by himself at some very cheap restaurant in Soho. And always at the end of it, Solitude and the thought of Imogen.
Close up: Adam registering despair gradually turning to resolution.
Adam on a bus going to Hanover Gate.
He walks to his home.
Parsons. Parsons opens the door. Mrs. Doure is out; Miss Jane is out; no, Adam does not want any tea.
Adam's room. It is a rather charming one, high at the top of the house, looking over the trees. At full moon the animals in the Zoo-logical Gardens can be heard from there. Adam comes in and locks the door
. Gladys is there already.
"Yes, but she'll come in time to stop 'im. See if she don't."
"Don't you be too sure. This is a queer picture, this is."
He goes to his desk and takes a small blue bottle from one of the pigeon holes.
"What did I tell yer? Poison."
"The ease with which persons in films contrive to provide themselves with the instruments of death . . ."
He puts it down, and taking out a sheet of paper writes.
"Last message to 'er. Gives 'er time to come and save 'im. You see."
"AVE IMPERATRIX IMMORTALIS, MORITURUS TE SALUTANT."
He folds it, puts it in an envelope and addresses it.
Then he pauses, uncertain.
A vision appears:
? The door of Adam's room. Mrs. Doure, changed for dinner, comes up to it and knocks; she knocks repeatedly, and in dismay calls for her husband. Professor Doure tries the door and shakes it. Parsons arrives and Jane. After some time the door is forced open; all the time Professor Doure is struggling with it, Mrs. Doure's agitation increases. Jane makes futile attempts to calm her. At last they all burst into the room. Adam is revealed lying dead on the floor. Scene of unspeakable vulgarity involving tears, hysteria, the telephone, the police. Fade out.
Close up. Adam registering disgust.
A native village in Africa on the edge of the jungle; from one of the low thatch huts creeps a man naked and sick to death, his wives lamenting behind him. He drags himself into the jungle to die alone.
"Lor, Gladys. Instruction."
Rome in the time of Petronius. A young patrician reclines in the centre of his guests. The producers have spared no effort in creating an atmosphere of superb luxury. The hall, as if in some fevered imagining of Alma Tadema, is built of marble, richly illumined by burning Christians. From right and left barbarian slave boys bring in a course of roasted peacocks. In the centre of the room a slave girl dances to a puma. Exit several of the guests to the vomitorium. Unborn pigs stewed in honey and stuffed with truffles and nightingales' tongues succeed the peacocks. The puma, inflamed to sudden passion, springs at the girl and bears her to the ground; he stands over her, one paw planted upon her breast from which ooze tiny drops of blood. She lies there on the Alma Tadema marble, her eyes fixed upon the host in terrified appeal. But he is toying with one of the serving boys and does not notice her. More guests depart to the vomitorium. The puma devours the girl. At length, when the feast is at its height, a basin of green marble is borne in. Water, steaming and scented, is poured into it. The host immerses his hand, and a Negro woman who, throughout the banquet has crouched like some angel of death beside his couch, draws a knife from her loin cloth and buries it deep in his wrist. The water becomes red in the green marble. The guests rise to go, and with grave courtesy, though without lifting himself from the couch, he bids them each farewell. Soon he is left alone. The slave boys huddle together in the corners, their bare shoulders pressed against each other. Moved by savage desire, the Negress begins suddenly to kiss and gnaw the deadening arm. He motions her listlessly aside. The martyrs burn lower until there is only a faint glimmer of light in the great hall. The smell of cooking drifts out into the terrace and is lost on the night air. The puma can just be discerned licking its paws in the gloom.
Adam lights a pipe and taps restlessly with the corner of the envelope on the writing table. Then he puts the bottle in his pocket and unlocks the door.
He turns and walks over to his bookshelves and looks through them. Adam's bookshelves; it is rather a remarkable library for a man of his age and means. Most of the books have a certain rarity and many are elaborately bound; there are also old books of considerable value given him from time to time by his father.
He makes a heap on the floor of the best of them.
MR. MACASSOR'S BOOKSHOP.
There is about Mr. Macassor's bookshop the appearance of the private library of an ancient and unmethodical scholar. Books are every-where, on walls, floor and furniture, as though laid down at some interruption and straightway forgotten. First editions and early illustrated books lie hidden among Sermons and Blue Books for the earnest adventurer to find. Mr. Macassor hides his treasures with care.
An elderly man is at the moment engaged in investigating a heap of dusty volumes while Mr. Macassor bends longingly over the table engrossed in a treatise on Alchemy. Suddenly the adventurer's back straightens; his search has been rewarded and he emerges into the light, bearing a tattered but unquestionably genuine copy of the first edition of "Hydrotaphia." He asks Mr. Macassor the price. Mr. Macassor adjusts his spectacles and brushes some snuff from his waistcoat and, bearing the book to the door, examines it as if for the first time.
"Ah, yes, a delightful work. Yes, yes, marvellous style," and he turns the pages fondly, "The large stations of the dead," what a noble phrase. He looks at the cover and wipes it with his sleeve. "Why, I had forgotten I had this copy. It used to belong to Horace Walpole, only someone has stolen the bookplatethe rascal. Still, it was only the Oxford onethe armorial one, you know. Well, well, sir, since you have found it I suppose you have the right to claim it. Five guineas, shall I say. But I hate to part with it."
The purchaser is a discerning man. Had he seen this same book baldly described in a catalogue he would not have paid half this price for it in its present condition, but the excitement of pursuit and the pride of discovery more even than the legends of Strawberry Hill have distorted his sense of values. One cannot haggle with Mr. Macassor as with some mere tradesman in Charing Cross Road. The purchaser pays and goes away triumphant. It is thus that Mr. Macassor's son at Magdalen is able to keep his rooms full of flowers and, during the sea-son, to hunt two days a week.
Enter Adam from a taxi laden with books. Mr. Macassor offers him snuff from an old tortoiseshell box.
"IT'S A SAD THING TO HAVE TO SELL BOOKS, MR. DOURE. Very sad. I remember as if it was yesterday, Mr. Stevenson coming in to me to sell his books, and will you believe it, Mr. Doure, when it came to the point, after we had arranged everything, his heart failed him and he took them all away again. A great book-lover, Mr. Stevenson."
Mr. Macassor adjusts his spectacles and examines, caressingly, but like some morbid lover fastening ghoulishly upon every imperfection.
"Well, and how much were you expecting for these?"
Adam hazards, "Seventeen pounds," but Mr. Macassor shakes his head sadly.
Five minutes later he leaves the shop with ten pounds and gets into his taxi.
Adam in the train to Oxford; smoking, his hands deep in his over-coat pockets.
"'E's thinking of 'er."
KNOW YOU HER SECRET NONE CAN UTTER; HERS OF THE BOOK, THE TRIPLE CROWN? Art title showing Book and Triple Crown; also Ox in ford.
General prospect of Oxford from the train showing reservoir, gas works and part of the prison. It is raining.
The station; two Indian students have lost their luggage. Resisting the romantic appeal of several hansom cabdriverseven of one in a grey billycock hat, Adam gets into a Ford taxi. Queen Street, Carfax, the High Street, Radcliffe Camera in the distance.
"Look, Ada, St. Paul's Cathedral."
King Edward Street. The cab stops and Adam gets out.
LORD BASINGSTOKE'S ROOMS. KING EDWARD STREET.
Interior of Lord Basingstoke's rooms. On the chimneypiece are photographs of Lord Basingstoke's mother and two of Lord Basingstoke's friends, wearing that peculiarly inane and serene smile only found during the last year at Eton and then only in photographs. Some massive glass paper weights and cards of invitation.
On the walls are large coloured caricatures of Basil Hay drawn by himself at Eton, an early nineteenth-century engraving of Lord Basingstoke's home; two unfinished drawings by Ernest Vaughan of the Rape of the Sabines and a wool picture of two dogs and a cat.
Lord Basingstoke, contrary to all expectation, is neither drinking, gaming, nor struggling with his riding boots; he is engaged on writing a Collections Paper for his tutor.
Lord Basingstoke's paper in a pleasant, childish handwriting.
"BRADLAUGH v. GOSSETT. THIS FAMOUS TEST CASE FINALLY ESTABLISHED THE DECISION THAT MARSHAL LAW IS UNKNOWN IN ENGLAND."
He crosses out "marshal" and puts "martial"; then sits biting his pen sadly.
"Adam, how lovely; I had no idea you were in Oxford."
They talk for a little while.
"RICHARD, CAN YOU DINE WITH ME TONIGHT. YOU MUST. I'M HAVING A FAREWELL BLIND." Richard looks sadly at his Collections Paper and shakes his head.
"My dear, I simply can't. I've got to get this finished by tonight. I'm probably going to be sent down as it is."
Adam returns to his taxi.
MR. SAYLE'S ROOMS IN MERTON.
Flowers, Medici prints and Nonesuch Press editions. Mr. Sayle is playing "L'Apr?s midi d'un Faun" on the gramophone to an American aunt. He cannot dine with Adam.
MR. HENRY QUEST'S ROOMS IN THE UGLIER PART OF MAGDALEN.
The furniture provided by the College has been little changed except for the addition of some rather repulsive cushions. There are photographs of Imogen, Lady Rosemary and Mr. Macassor's son winning the Magdalen Grind. Mr. Henry Quest has just given tea to two freshmen; he is secretary of the J.C.R. His face, through the disability of the camera, looks nearly black, actually it forms a patriotic combination with his Bullingdon tie; he has a fair moustache.
Adam enters and invites him to dinner. Henry Quest does not approve of his sister's friends; Adam cannot stand Imogen's brother; they are always scrupulously polite to each other.
"I'M SORRY, ADAM, THERE'S A MEETING OF THE CHATHAM HERE TONIGHT. I SHOULD HAVE LOVED TO, OTHERWISE. Stay and have a cigarette, won't you? Do you know Mr. Trehearne and Mr. Bickerton-Gibbs?"
Adam cannot stop, he has a taxi waiting.
Henry Quest excuses his intrusion to Messrs. Trehearne and Bickerton-Gibbs.
MR. EGERTON-VERSCHOYLE'S ROOMS IN PECKWATER.
Mr. Egerton-Verschoyle has been entertaining to luncheon. Adam stirs him with his foot; he turns over and says:
"There's another in the cupboardcorkscrew's behind the thing, you know . . ." and trails off into incoherence.
MR. FURNESS'S ROOMS IN THE NEXT STAIRCASE.
They are empty and dark. Mr. Furness has been sent down.
MR. SWITHIN LANG'S ROOMS IN BEAUMONT STREET.
Furnished in white and green. Water colours by Mr. Lang of Wembley, Mentone and Thatch. Some valuable china and a large number of magazines. A coloured and ornamented decanter of Cointreau on the chimneypiece and some gold-beaded glasses. The remains of a tea party are scattered about the room, and the air is heavy with cigarette smoke.
Swithin, all in grey, is reading the Tatler.
Enter Adam; effusive greetin
gs. "Adam, do look at this photograph of Sybil Anderson. Isn't it too funny?"
Adam has seen it.
They sit and talk for some time.
"Swithin, you must come and dine with me tonightplease."
"Adam, I can't. Gabriel's giving a party in Balliol. Won't you be there? Oh no, of coursex, you don't know him, do you? He came up last termsuch a dear, and so rich. I'm giving some people dinner first at the Crown. I'd ask you to join us, only I don't honestly think you'd like them. It is a pity. What about tomorrow? Come over to dinner at Thame tomorrow."
Adam shakes his head. "I'm afraid I shan't be here," and goes out.
AN HOUR LATER.
Still alone, Adam is walking down the High Street. It has stopped raining and the lights shine on the wet road. His hand in his pocket fingers the bottle of poison.
There appears again the vision of the African village and the lamenting wives.
St. Mary's clock strikes seven.
Suddenly Adam's step quickens as he is struck by an idea.
MR. ERNEST VAUGHAN'S ROOMS.
They stand in the front quadrangle of one of the uglier and less renowned colleges midway between the lavatories and the chapel. The window blind has become stuck halfway up the window so that by day they are shrouded in a twilight as though of the Nether world, and by night Ernest's light blazes across the quad, revealing interiors of unsurpassed debauchery. Swithin once said that, like Ernest, Ernest's rooms were a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The walls are devoid of pictures except for a half-finished drawing of Sir Beelzebub calling for his rum, which, pinned there a term ago, has begun to droop at the corners, and, spattered with drink and leant against by innumerable shoulders, has begun to take on much the same patina as the walls. Inscriptions and drawings, ranging from almost inspired caricature to meaningless or obscene scrawlings, attest Ernest's various stages of drunkenness.
"Who is this Bach? I have not so much as heard of the man. E. V." runs across the bedroom door in an unsteady band of red chalk, "ut exultat in coitu elephas, sic ricardus," surmounting an able drawing of the benign Basingstoke.
A large composition of the Birth of Queen Victoria can be traced over the fireplace. There are broken bottles and dirty glasses and uncorrected galley proofs on the table; on the corner of the chimney-piece a beautiful decanter, the broken stopper of which has been replaced by a cork. Ernest is sitting in the broken wicker chair mending the feathers of some darts with unexpected dexterity. He is a short, sturdy young man, with fierce little eyes and a well-formed forehead. His tweeds, stained with drink and paint, have once been well-made, and still preserve a certain distinction. Women under-graduates, on the rare occasions of his appearance at lectures, not infrequently fall in love with him.
"Bolshevist." It is a reasonable mistake, but a mistake. Until his expulsion for overdue subscriptions, Ernest was a prominent member of the Canning.
Adam goes through the gateway into Ernest's College where two or three youths are standing about staring vacantly at the notice-boards. As Adam goes by, they turn round and scowl at him.
"Another of Vaughan's friends."
Their eyes follow him across the quad, to Ernest's rooms. Ernest is somewhat surprised at Adam's visit, who, indeed, has never shown any very warm affection for him. However, he pours out whisky.
HALF AN HOUR LATER.
It has begun to rain again. Dinner is about to be served in Ernest's College and the porch is crowded by a shabby array of gowned young men vacantly staring at the notice-boards. Here and there a glaring suit of "plus fours" proclaims the generosity of the Rhodes Trust. Adam and Ernest make their way through the cluster of men who mutter their disapproval like peasants at the passage of some black magician.
"IT'S NO GOOD TAKING ME TO ANY CLUB, DOURE, I'VE BEEN BLACK-BALLED FOR THE LOT."
"I should imagine that would have happenedeven in Oxford."
AN HOUR LATER. AT THE CROWN.
Adam and Ernest are just finishing dinner; both show marked signs of intoxication.
The dining room at the Crown bears little resemblance to Adam's epicurean dream. The walls, pathetically frescoed with views of Oxford, resound with the clattering of dirty plates. Swithin's dinner party has just left, leaving the room immeasurably more quiet. The three women who up till now have been playing selections from Gilbert and Sullivan in the corner have finished work and begun eating their dinner. An undergraduate who has very grandly signed the bill is engaged in an argument with the manager. At a table near Adam's three young men with gowns wound round their throats have settled themselves and ordered coffee and cream cakes; while they are waiting they discuss the Union elections.
Adam orders more double whiskies.
Ernest insists on sending a bottle of gin over to the party at the next table. It is rejected with some resentment, and soon they rise and go away.
Adam orders more double whiskies.
Ernest begins drawing a portrait of Adam on the tablecloth.
He entitles it "Le vin triste," and, indeed, throughout dinner, Adam has been growing sadder and sadder as his guest has grown more happy. He drinks and orders more with a mechanical weariness.
At length, very unsteadily, they rise to go.
From now onwards the film becomes a series of fragmentary scenes interspersed among hundreds of feet of confusion.
"It's going queer again, Ada. D'you think it's meant to be like this?"
A public-house in the slums. Adam leans against the settee and pays for innumerable pints of beer for armies of ragged men. Ernest is engrossed in a heated altercation about birth control with a beggar whom he has just defeated at "darts."
Another public house: Ernest, beset by two panders, is loudly maintaining the abnormality of his tastes. Adam finds a bottle of gin in his pocket and attempts to give it to a man; his wife interposes; eventually the bottle falls to the floor and is broken.
Adam and Ernest in a taxi; they drive from college to college, being refused admission. Fade out.
GABRIEL'S PARTY in Balliol is being an enormous success. It is a decorous assembly mostly sober. There are bottles of champagne and decanters of whisky and brandy, but most of Gabriel's guests prefer dancing. Others sit about and talk. They are large, well-furnished rooms, and the effect is picturesque and agreeable. There are a few people in fancy dressa Queen Victoria, a Sapphist and two Generals Gordon. A musical comedy actor, who is staying the weekend with Gabriel, stands by the gramophone looking through the records; as becomes a guest of honour he is terribly bored.
Henry Quest has escaped from the Chatham and is talking about diplomatic appointments, drinking whisky and regarding everyone with disapproval. Lord Basingstoke stands talking to him, with his mind still worrying about the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. Swithin is making himself quite delightful to the guest of honour. Mr. Egerton-Verschoyle sits very white, complaining of the cold.
Enter Mr. Sayle of Merton.
"GABRIEL, DO LOOK WHO I'VE FOUND IN THE QUAD. MAY I BRING HIM IN?" He pulls in Adam, who stands with a broken gin bottle in one hand staring stupidly about the room.
Someone pours him out a glass of champagne.
The party goes on.
A voice is heard roaring "ADAM" outside the window, and suddenly there bursts in Ernest, looking incredibly drunk. His hair is disordered, his eyes glazed, his neck and face crimson and greasy. He sits down in a chair immobile; someone gives him a drink; he takes it mechanically and then pours it into the carpet and continues to stare before him.
"ADAM, IS THIS IMPOSSIBLE PERSON A FRIEND OF YOURS? DO FOR GOODNESS' SAKE TAKE HIM AWAY. GABRIEL WILL BE FURIOUS."
"HE'S THE MOST MARVELLOUS MAN, HENRY. YOU JUST DON'T KNOW HIM. COME AND TALK TO HIM."
And to his intense disgust Henry is led across the room and introduced to Ernest. Ernest at first does not seem to hear, and then slowly raises his eyes until they are gazing at Henry; by a further effort he continues to focus them.
"QUEST? ANY RELATION TO ADAM'S WOMAN?"
There is about to be a scene. The musical comedy actor feels that only this was needed to complete the melancholy of the evening. Henry is all indignation and contempt. "IMOGEN QUEST IS MY SISTER IF THAT'S WHAT YOU MEAN. WHO THE DEVIL ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY SPEAKING ABOUT HER LIKE THAT?"
Gabriel flutters ineffectually in the background. Richard Basingstoke interposes with a genial, "Come on, Henry, can't you see the frightful man's blind drunk?" Swithin begs Adam to take Ernest away. Everybody is thrown into the utmost agitation.
But Ernest, in his own way, saves everyone from further anxiety.
"DO YOU KNOW, I THINK I'M GOING TO BE SICK?"
And makes his way unmolested and with perfect dignity to the quad. The gramophone starts playing "Everybody loves my baby." Fade out.
THE OXFORD CITY LIBERAL ASSOCIATION DANCE AT THE TOWN HALL.
Tickets are being sold at the door for 1s. 6d.
Upstairs there is a table with jugs of lemonade and plates of plum cake. In the main hall a band is playing and the younger liberals ? are dancing. One of the waitresses from the Crown sits by the door fanning her face with a handkerchief.
Ernest, with a radiant smile, is slowly walking round the room offering plum cake to the couples sitting about. Some giggle and take it; some giggle and refuse; some refuse and look exceedingly haughty. Adam leans against the side of the door watching him.
Close up; Adam bears on his face the same expression of blind misery that he wore in the taxi the night before.
LE VIN TRISTE.
Ernest has asked the waitress from the Crown to dance with him. It is an ungainly performance; still sublimely contented he collides with several couples, misses his footing and, but for his partner, would have fallen. An M.C. in evening dress asks Adam to take him away
. Broad stone steps.
Several motors are drawn up outside the Town Hall. Ernest climbs into the first of thema decrepit Fordand starts the engine. Adam attempts to stop him. A policeman hurries up. There is a wrenching of gears and the car starts.
The policeman blows his whistle.
Halfway down St. Aldates the car runs into the kerb, mounts the pavement and runs into a shop window. The inhabitants of St. Aldates converge from all sides; heads appear at every window; policemen assemble. There is a movement in the crowd to make way for something being carried out.
Adam turns and wanders aimlessly towards Carfax.
St. Mary's clock strikes twelve.
It is raining again.
Adam is alone.
HALF AN HOUR LATER. AN HOTEL BEDROOM.
Adam is lying on his face across the bed, fully clothed. He turns over and sits up. Again the vision of the native village; the savage has dragged himself very near to the edge of the jungle. His back glistens in the evening sun with his last exertion. He raises himself to his feet, and with quick unsteady steps reaches the first bushes; soon he is lost to view.
Adam steadies himself at the foot of the bed and walks to the dressing table; he leans for a long time looking at himself in the glass.
He walks to the window and looks out into the rain.
Finally he takes the blue bottle from his pocket, uncorks it, smells it, and then without more ado drinks its contents. He makes a wry face at its bitterness and stands for a minute uncertain. Then moved by some odd instinct he turns out the light and curls himself up under the coverlet.
At the foot of a low banyan tree the savage lies very still. A large fly settles on his shoulder; two birds of prey perch on the branch above him, waiting. The tropical sun begins to set, and in the brief twilight animals begin to prowl upon their obscene questings. Soon it is quite dark.
A photograph of H.M. the King in naval uniform flashes out into the night.
GOD SAVE THE KING.
The cinema quickly empties.
The young man from Cambridge goes his way to drink a glass of Pilsen at Odenino's.
Ada and Gladys pass out through ranks of liveried attendants.
For perhaps the fiftieth time in the course of the evening Gladys says, "Well, I do call it a soft film."
"Fancy 'er not coming in again."
There is quite a crowd outside, all waiting to go to Earls Court. Ada and Gladys fight manfully and secure places on the top of the bus.
"Ere, 'oo are yer pushing? Mind out, can't yer?"
When they arrive home they will no doubt have some cocoa before going to bed, and perhaps some bread and bloater paste. It has been rather a disappointing evening on the whole. Still, as Ada says, with the pictures you has to take the bad with the g
ood. Next week there may be something really funny.
Larry Semon or Buster Keatonwho knows?
The tea grew cold upon the chamber cupboard and Adam Doure stared out into the void.
The rain of yesterday had cleared away and the sun streamed into the small bedroom, lighting it up with amiable and unwelcome radiance. The distressing sound of a self-starter grappling in vain with a cold engine rang up from the yard below the window. Otherwise everything was quiet.
He cogitated: therefore he was.
From the dismal array of ills that confronted him and the confused memories that lay behind, this one proposition obtruded itself with devastating insistence. Each of his clearing perceptions advanced fresh evidence of his existence; he stretched out his limbs fully clothed under the counterpane and gazed at the ceiling with uncomprehending despair, while memories of the preceding evening, of Ernest Vaughan with swollen neck and staring eye, of the slum bar and the eager faces of the two pimps, of Henry, crimson and self-righteous, of shop girls in silk blouses eating plum cake, of the Ford wrecked in the broken window, fought for precedence in his awakening consciousness until they were established in some fairly coherent chronological order; but always at the end there remained the blue bottle and the sense of finality rudely frustrated. It stood upon the dressing table now, emptied of all its power of reprieve, while the tea grew cold upon the chamber cupboard.
After all the chaotic impressions which he had thus painfully and imperfectly set in order, the last minutes before he had turned out the light stood out perfectly clearly. He could see the white, inconsolable face that had stared out at him from the looking glass; he could feel at the back of his tongue the salt and bitter taste of the poison. And then as the image of the taste began to bulk larger in his field of consciousness, as though with the sudden breaking down of some intervening barrier another memory swept in on him blotting out all else with its intensity. He remembered as in a nightmare, remote, yet infinitely clear, his awakening in the darkness with the coldness of death about his heart; he had raised himself from the bed and stumbled to the window and leant there, he did not know how long, with the cold air in his face and the steady monotone of the rain fighting with the drumming of blood in his head. Gradually, as he stood there motionless, nausea had come upon him; he had fought it back, his whole will struggling in the effort; it had come again; his drunken senses relaxed their resistance, and with complete abandonment of purpose and restraint, he vomited into the yard below.
Slowly and imperceptibly the tea grew cold on the chamber cup-board.
Centuries ago, in his dateless childhood, Ozymandias had sprung to the top of the toy cupboard tired of Adam's game. It was a game peculiar to himself and Ozymandias which Adam had evolved, and which was only played on the rare occasions of his being left alone. First, Ozymandias had to be sought from room to room, and when at last he was found, borne up to the nursery and shut in. He would watch him for some minutes as he paced the floor and surveyed the room with just the extreme tip of his tail expressing his unfathomable contempt for European civilization. Then armed with a sword, gun, battledore, or an armful of bricks to throw, and uttering sadistic cries, Adam would pursue him round and round the room, driving him from refuge to refuge, until almost beside himself with rage and terror, he crouched jungle-like with ears flattened back and porpentine hair. Here Adam would rest, and after some slight pause the real business of the game began. Ozymandias had to be won back to complacency and affection. Adam would sit down on the floor some little way from him and begin calling to him softly and endearingly. He would lie on his stomach with his face as near Ozymandias as he would allow and whisper extravagant eulogies of his beauty and grace; mother-like he would comfort him, evoking some fictitious tormentor to be reproached, assuring him that he was powerless to hurt him any more; Adam would protect him; Adam would see that the horrible little boy did not come near him again. Slowly Ozymandias' ears would begin to come forward and his eyes begin to close, and the delectable exercise invariably ended with caresses of passionate reconciliation.
On this particular afternoon, however, Ozymandias had refused to play, and the moment Adam brought him into the nursery, had established himself in unassailable sanctuary at the top of the toy cup-board. He sat there among the dust and broken toys, and Adam, foiled in his purpose, sat gloomily beneath calling to him. But Adamat the age of sevenwas not easily discouraged, and soon he began pushing up the nursery table towards the cupboard. This done he lifted the soldier box into it, and above this planted a chair. There was not room, turn it how he might, for all four legs to rest on the box, but content with an unstable equilibrium, Adam poised it upon three and mounted. When his hands were within a few inches of Ozymandias' soft fur an unwary step on to the unsupported part of the chair precipitated him and it, first on to the table and then with a clatter and cry on to the floor.
Adam had been too well brought up to remember very much of his life in the days before he went to his private school, but this incident survived in his memory with a clearness, which increased as he became farther removed from it, as the first occasion on which he became conscious of ill as a subjective entity. His life up till this time had been so much bounded with warnings of danger that it seemed for a moment inconceivable that he could so easily have broken through into the realm of positive bodily harm. Indeed, so incompatible did it seem with all previous experience that it was some appreciable time before he could convince himself of the continuity of his existence; but for the wealth of Hebraic and mediaeval imagery with which the idea of life outside the body had become symbolized, he could in that moment easily have believed in his own bodily extinction and the unreality of all the sensible objects about him. Later he learned to regard these periods between his fall and the dismayed advent of help from below, as the first promptings towards that struggle for detachment in which he had, not without almost frantic endeavour, finally acknowledged defeat in the bedroom of the Oxford hotel.
The first phase of detachment had passed and had been succeeded by one of methodical investigation. Almost simultaneously with his acceptance of his continued existence had come the conception of painvaguely at first as of a melody played by another to which his senses were only fitfully attentive, but gradually taking shape as the tangible objects about him gained in reality, until at length it appeared as a concrete thing, external but intimately attached to himself. Like the pursuit of quicksilver with a spoon, Adam was able to chase it about the walls of his consciousness until at length he drove it into a corner in which he could examine it at his leisure. Still lying perfectly still, just as he had fallen, with his limbs half embracing the wooden legs of the chair, Adam was able, by concentrating his attention upon each part of his body in turn, to exclude the disordered sensations to which his fall had given rise and trace the several constituents of the bulk of pain down their vibrating channels to their sources in his various physical injuries. The process was nearly complete when the arrival of his nurse dissolved him into tears and scattered his bewildered ratiocinations.
It was in some such mood as this that, an hour or so after his awakening, Adam strode along the towing path away from Oxford. He still wore the clothes in which he had slept, but in his intellectual dishevelment he had little concern for his appearance. All about him the shadows were beginning to dissipate and give place to clearer images. He had breakfasted in a world of phantoms, in a great room full of uncomprehending eyes, protruding grotesquely from monstrous heads that lolled over steaming porridge; marionette waiters had pirouetted about him with uncouth gestures. All round him a macabre dance of shadows had reeled and flickered, and in and out of it Adam had picked his way, conscious only of one insistent need, percolating through to him from the world outside, of immediate escape from the scene upon which the bodiless harlequinade was played, into a third dimension beyond it.
And at length, as he walked by the river, the shapes of the design began to advance and recede, and the pattern about him and the shadows of the night before became planes and masses and arranged themselves into a perspective, and like the child in the nursery Adam began feeling his bruises. Somewhere among the red roofs across the water bells were ringing discordantly.
Two men were fishing on the bank. They looked curiously at him and returned their attention to their barren sport.
A small child passed him sucking her thumb in Freudian ecstasy.
And after a time Adam left the footpath and lay down under a bank and by the Grace of God fell asleep.
It was not a long or an unbroken sleep, but Adam rose from it refreshed and after a little while resumed his journey.
On a white footbridge he paused, and lighting his pipe, gazed down into his ruffled image. A great swan swept beneath him with Spenserian grace, and as the scattered particles of his reflection began to reassemble, looking more than ever grotesque in contrast with the impeccable excellence of the bird, he began half-consciously to speak aloud:
"So, you see, you are after all come to the beginning of another day." And as he spoke, he took from his pocket the envelope addressed to Imogen and tore it into small pieces. Like wounded birds they tumbled and fluttered, until reaching the water they became caught up in its movement and were swept out of sight round the bend of the river towards the city, which Adam had just left.
The reflection answered: "Yes, I think that that was well done. After all, 'imperatrix' is not a particularly happy epithet to apply to Imogen, is it?and, by the way, are you certain that she can under-stand Latin? Suppose that she had had to ask Henry to translate it to her!
"But, tell me, does this rather picturesque gesture mean that you have decided to go on living? You seemed so immovably resolved on instant death yesterday, that I find it hard to believe you can have changed your mind."
Adam: I find it hard to believe that it was I who yesterday was so immovably resolved. I cannot explain but it seems to me as though the being who survives, I must admit, with very great clearness in my memory, was born of a dream, drank and died in a dream. The Reflection: And loved in a dream, too?
Adam: There you confound me, for it seems to me that that love of his alone does partake of reality. But perhaps I am merely yielding to the intensity of the memory. Indeed I think that I am. For the rest that being had no more substance than you yourself, whom the passage of a bird can dissolve.
Reflection: That is a sorry conclusion, for I am afraid that you are trying to dismiss as a shadow a being in every way as real as yourself. But in your present mood it would be useless to persuade you. Tell me instead, what was the secret which you learned, asleep there in the grass?
Adam: I found no secretonly a little bodily strength.
Reflection: Is of life and death so easily swayed?
Adam: It is the balance of appetite and reason. The reason remains constantthe appetite varies.
Reflection: And is there no appetite for death?
Adam: None which cannot be appeased by sleep or change or the mere passing of time.
Reflection: And in the other scale no reason? Adam: None. None.
Reflection: No honour to be observed to friends? No interpenetration, so that you cannot depart without bearing away with you some-thing that is part of another?
Reflection: Your art?
Adam: Again the appetite to liveto preserve in the shapes of things the personality whose dissolution you foresee inevitably.
Reflection: That is the balance thenand in the end circumstance decides.
Adam: Yes, in the end circumstance.
They have all come over to Thatch for the day; nine of them, three in Henry Quest's Morris and the others in a huge and shabby car belonging to Richard Basingstoke. Mrs. Hay had only expected Henry Quest and Swithin, but she waves a plump hand benignly and the servants busy themselves in finding more food. It is so nice living near Oxford, and Basil's friends always look so charming about the place even if they are rather odd in their manners sometimes. They all talk so quickly that she can never hear what they are saying and they never finish their sentences eitherbut it doesn't matter, because they always talk about people she doesn't know. Dear boys, of course they ? don't mean to be rude reallythey are so well bred, and it is nice to see them making themselves really at home. Who are they talking about now?
"No, Imogen, really, he's getti
ng rather impossible."
"I can't tell you what he was like the other night."
"The night you came down here."
"Gabriel was giving a party."
"And he didn't know Gabriel and he hadn't been asked."
"And Gabriel didn't want himdid you, Gabriel?"
"Because you never know what he is going to do next."
"And he brought in the most dreadful person."
"Quite, quite drunk."
"Called Ernest Vaughan, you wouldn't have met him. Just the most awful person in the world. Gabriel was perfectly sweet to him."
Dear boys, so young, so intolerant.
Still, if they must smoke between courses, they might be a little more careful with the ash. The dark boy at the endBasil always forgot to introduce his friends to herwas quite ruining the table.
"Edwards, give the gentleman next to Lord Basingstoke another ash-tray."
What were they saying?
"D'you know, Henry, I think that that was rather silly of you? Why should I mind what some poor drunk says about me?" What a sweet girl Imogen Quest was. So much easier than her father. Mrs. Hay was always rather afraid of Imogen's father. She was afraid Henry was going to be like him. How charming she looks now. She cannot understand why all the boys aren't in love with her. When Mrs. Hay was young, they would have been. None of Basil's friends seemed quite the "marrying sort" somehow. Now if only Basil would marry someone like Imogen Quest.
. . . "But do you know, I think I've met Ernest Vaughan? Or at least someone pointed him out to me once. Didn't you, Swithin?"
"Yes. You said you thought he was rather attractive."
"I think he is. Isn't he short and dirty with masses of hair?"
"Yes, I remember. I think he looked very charming. I want to meet him properly."
"Imogen, you can't, really. He is too awful."
"Didn't he do those pictures in Richard's room? Richard, will you invite me to meet him one day?"
"No, Imogen, really I couldn't."
"Then someone mustGabriel, you will, please. I insist on meeting him."
Dear children, so young, so chic.
"Well, I think it's perfectly beastly of you all. But I will meet him all the same. I'll get Adam to arrange it."
The table was ruined.
"Edwards, I think it's almost fine enough to have coffee outside."