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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » I Walked in Arden » Chapter Fourteen WE FIND NEW LIFE AND NEW LOVE
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The new factory was at Willesden Junction, which I reached regularly every morning by the 8.10 from Earl's Court Road, returning home to the little house in Kensington about seven. It was a long day, made longer by the railway journey at each end. The present equipment was on a comparatively small scale, future expansion depending largely on what it was to be hoped our laboratory could accomplish. Two young English chemists, graduates of a technical school, were assigned to work with me. The rest of the research staff included a machinist and pipe fitter, a general utility girl, a glass blower to make special apparatus, and Chitty.

The latter I ruthlessly took from his duties as general house man to do odd jobs for me. He gloried in his new work, for he had a positive awe of chemistry. To him it was the last word in the mysterious achievements of the educated human intellect. With his awe was a wholesome fear of possible eventualities. There was not a day that it wasn't his secret belief that we should all be blown to atoms. Nevertheless, on the rare occasions when minor accidents did occur, he was the first person I found standing at my elbow. I sometimes amused myself by devising harmless bangs or unexpected puffs of smoke, to see Chitty come on the run to my side. The day I really spilt some acid on myself, I thought the man would get his hands badly burned before I could stop him from tearing my clothes off. He was, however, like a perfectly trained dog. A sharp word of command brought him up all standing. I saved his hands from serious burns and got out of my clothes without damage to myself.

"Chitty," I said another time, "if this place ever gets on fire you are to get out the first window without delay."

"Not until I see you going, sir, thank you," he replied. And he meant it.

On pleasant Saturday afternoons, during the early autumn, Helen came out to meet me. Chitty used to prepare my luncheons for me every day; on Saturdays he catered for two. His army training taught him to use any utensils handy, and Helen laughed until the tears came at finding his kitchen a series of Bunsen burners, his crockery mainly Meissen ware and Bohemian glass beakers. He could cook sausages and grill tomatoes fit for an epicure. It was true his range was strictly limited, being restricted to what might be put in a frying pan or plain boiled, but within its limits it was unexcelled.

Luncheon over, we would take the train back and prowl about for an hour or two before tea or see a matinee from the pit. Our finances made it necessary for us to keep to simple pleasures. Still, by saving all our pennies for Saturdays and Sundays we did ourselves surprisingly well. During the week the company paid for my railway ticket and luncheons. Thus the week-end found us with thirty or a few more shillings to spend. In those pre-war days two could do a lot in London on thirty shillings. For example, if we wished to be really extravagant and "go a bust" we lunched at Kettner's for 3/6 each, table d'h?te, total 7 shillings—a shilling for the waiter—eight; a bottle of table chianti, 3 bob; or eleven in all, leaving nineteen shillings over. Setting aside a half crown for tea, we still had 16/6. Suppose we went to a pit—half a crown apiece; total, 5 shillings—we yet were rich with eleven and six remaining. Plenty over for Sunday, especially if we took luncheon with us from home. We did not lack for clothes; Helen's trousseau would last a long time—and the next year the company was going to pay dividends.

Meanwhile there was one deep disappointment mixed with our improvident happiness. I had no time for writing or even for keeping in touch with my theatrical and literary friends. They had begun by dropping in at the house, never to find me at home, and in a few months a caller for us was rare. My absence in America had broken a good many threads, and there was no opportunity to spin new ones. The work and friendships we had planned to do and form together while riding over the hills of Deep Harbor could not be done and formed. I had to live and think chemistry. The evenings were rarely free, for laboratory reports of the day's work had to be prepared then. The week-ends were so precious that Helen and I could not spare them for anything but our own companionship.

Along with the first fogs, in November, I realized that the work at the laboratory was getting on slowly. I had not yet been able to begin quantity production. My father called one day to ask me to look over the special expenditures on behalf of research. He wanted to know if economies were not possible, and where I thought we were going. For many hours I reviewed the accounts and the results to date, as set down in the laboratory diary and reports. There was nothing to show on the side of practical accomplishments. The experiments gave evidence we were on the right track; it was equally clear we had not arrived. The German process worked well on a small scale with carefully selected chemicals; it did not work at all on a commercial scale.

"Well, Ted, what are we going to do about it?" my father inquired at the end of my survey. "My associates are getting restless; we have spent a great deal of money. What have we to show for it?"

I turned over my notes again, as one does in such cases, hoping some overlooked solution will leap from the pages.

"I am certain I can do it," I said.

"When? And how much will it cost?"

"That I can't say. It may be tomorrow—it may be next month. The answer perhaps is filtering now in the next room, or it may be a question of several weeks' experiment."

"Not good enough, Ted."

"You told me it would be a year before you expected results."

"A year before we paid dividends. If you can't begin manufacture, how can you expect to make a profit? Your experiments have eaten a deep hole in our resources, and we are where we were at the beginning. In short, Ted, if you don't tell me you are ready to manufacture before the next three months are up, we'll have to close down."

"We might get one of the Germans over and let him have a look at what I'm doing." I went into the next room and came back with a sample. "Here is the stuff—I make it every day in there. But when it goes through in quantity downstairs, I can't get it."

"What are you doing about it?"

"Analyzing all our raw materials to see if I can trace the probable impurity that is blocking us. The apparatus downstairs has been tested and examined a dozen times. I can find nothing the matter there. I thought, at first, lubricating oil might be leaking into the mixers."

"Suppose you can't find the cause?"

I shrugged. "If the world comes to an end, there's not much good planning what you will do. There is a cause, and I've got to find it. There's nothing mysterious about it. Such matters are a problem of elimination. You must be careful not to overlook any possibility. In the end you run it down—corner it. But it may take time."

"Is there any possibility our German friends have done us?"

"I've thought of that. Yet if that is the case, why the devil does the stuff come out all right on a small scale? Here it is in my hand. There is such a thing. They haven't faked it—there it is."

"Will you write a special report tonight for me to show the board of directors tomorrow?"

"Yes. You still own the controlling interest, don't you?"

"Up till now I do," my father replied. "I may have to let that go, Ted, if you don't find the answer soon."

I gave up my Saturday afternoons and often my Sundays. The answer did not appear. All this was hard on Helen. The family tension did not tend to relax in the face of our difficulties at the factory. My own nerves were being stretched taut, and I had to fight to keep Helen from noticing too much the strain I was under. I laid off my two assistant chemists, to reduce expenses. Their help had never been valuable except for doing routine things. Occasionally, when there was an experiment on that couldn't be left unfinished, I worked at Willesden until late at night. It was Helen's calm faith in me that kept me at it and gave me self-control. I talked little with her—or with any one—about this damned problem, preferring, with her, to read and dream as we had always done; and I kept my mouth shut as far as possible before my father, to prevent his noting that I was badly frightened. Chitty realized that I had a facer. His anxiety was pathetic; I would look up from an experiment and find him watching my face eagerly, to see if now I had a ray of hope. Of course, Helen knew why I did not come home on Saturday afternoons, but her confidence kept her so optimistic she scarcely worried at all. I cursed German chemistry from A to Z before Chitty; elsewhere I was grimly silent on the subject.

My mother in no wise changed her attitude; Helen was treated with the formality of a guest, and I should have worried more than I did about this if I had not discovered by accident that she was closeted with Sims a great part of each day in her own room making baby clothes. Poor mother, how happy she could have made Helen by letting her know this! But she didn't. Helen sat all day working in her room on little things, and my mother in hers, and neither woman spoke to the other of what she was doing. "While I'm seeking answers to chemical riddles, I wish some one would explain to me the riddle of human nature," I thought to myself. One night I decided to act on this idea and seek the latter answer for myself. I went to my mother's room.

"What do you wish, Ted?" she asked as I sat down. It had been a great many years since we had exchanged any confidences face to face. Her devotion to me had always alarmed me—it put me off when I came near her. I knew I didn't think as she thought, and I was afraid a misunderstanding hopeless to reconcile would come. It sounds paradoxical, I know—that I should fear her love to the point that I believed it dangerous—but so it was. "If we ever really quarrel," I had said to myself, "nothing on earth will patch it up." So it came about that for years I had avoided intimacy with her, preferring a queer aloofness to any attempt at understanding, since by nature we were such opposites.

"I shan't pretend, mother. It's about Helen," I said in answer to her question.

"What about Helen?" my mother replied coldly.

I wondered what to say. She sat there looking at me calmly, but there was a hardness in her expression which indicated that all defences were fully manned. "I'll make a mess of it—get the worst of it, I know, and go out of here thoroughly in the wrong," I said to myself. "But, damn it all, I ought to be able to think of the right thing."

"You wished to speak to me about Helen?"

"Helen likes you," I blurted out, at the same time realizing I had made the worst of all possible starts.

"She has only to tell me this herself." My mother's voice was level.

"Would it do any good?" I blundered on.

"I am sure I have not the least idea what you mean, Ted. I think it would be much better if you went up to your own room."

I began to be desperate. There ought to be some facial flag of truce, indicating unconditional surrender, that one could wave with a look. At that moment I would have given anything, except Helen's love, to have my mother relent. Instead, she picked up a book and made an elaborate show of reading. I meditated flying into a childish rage, thus forcing the issue, but I was so truly hurt and angry I didn't dare. I knew I should probably say something I should afterwards regret. I got upon my feet.

"I am sorry you do not approve of my marriage, mother"—adding mistake number three to the two I was certain I had made.

"It is not for me to approve or disapprove of your marriage, Edward. I was not consulted. It is no affair of mine."

"Of course, you don't mean it," I said. "That remark is silly enough to have been made by me." I was quite appalled at my boldness, but anger was fast mastering me.

"I do not wish to have any further discussion with you on this subject, either now or in the future. Whatever else you learned in Deep Harbor, it wasn't manners."

"Rot!" I exclaimed. She lifted her eyebrows and turned a page. I stood a second irresolute. "I mean I didn't intend to be rude—you know what I mean—only you won't admit it."

"I don't expect an apology. Good night, Edward."

"Now you've done it, you blithering idiot," I said as I clumped upstairs to Helen. "I knew I'd end in the wrong." Helen gently told me, at the conclusion of my story, words to the same effect.

"Am I a blithering idiot, Helen dear?"

"No, sweetheart, you are just a boy," was Helen's exit line for this episode.

Our second Christmas together was drawing near, and it promised to be far different from the one we had looked forward to the year before. The factory problem was still unsolved; the building which my father had anticipated would be humming with prosperous activity stood silent. Only in the laboratory upstairs was there any work being done, labour which still seemed but a beating of the air. I had called in more than one consulting chemist; they merely suggested that I do the things I had been doing. The advice from Germany was to the same effect. Analyze and search for the cause among the raw materials. I had outside analyses made on these, to check my own by, and no clue developed. The board of directors called upon me collectively and singly to offer the inane suggestions which non-technical men always make when they wish to be helpful over a technical matter.

A week before Christmas I sat staring at samples of my raw materials spread over the laboratory table. Chitty was rinsing test tubes at the sink.

"It does beat the devil, Chitty," I said, "to think that the answer to all our trouble is staring right at us from one of these heaps of samples, and we can't find it."

"Yessir," Chitty agreed. "Don't give up, sir; 'ave another try."

I looked at my watch. It was three o'clock; the short winter day was already dusk without. A London and Northwestern express screeched past our windows.

"I'd like my overcoat, please, Chitty. I'm going home." A queer, startled look came into his face.

"You're not giving up, Mister Edward? You won't tell them you're beaten? 'Ave another shot at your last experiment. I don't mind working late tonight, sir."

"Chitty," I said, "sometimes it pays to cut your losses and start afresh. We're up a blind passage. Let's turn round and walk out of it."

He helped me into my great coat with a doubtful air.

"Don't let them say it's done you in, sir," he said. "Come back tomorrow morning. You never know your luck, sir."

"I'll be here at the usual time, Chitty." And with this I left him.

My father, luckily, was in when I got back to Kensington. I saw him studying me carefully as I came into the library and sat down. He laid aside his pipe and waited. I was in no hurry to begin speaking.

"Discouraged, Ted?" my father at last inquired.

"No. I'm through."

"That sounds rather tragic, Ted. Just what do you mean?"

"I have been thinking this thing over. We've reached an absolutely blank wall. I can neither climb over it, tunnel under it, nor walk around it."

"Facts, please," my father interrupted. "Cut your rhetoric." I gave him a brief recapitulation of my failure, together with my reasons for believing that it was no use going on doing the same useless experiments over and over again. He listened patiently, without giving any sign of emotion.

"It doesn't make pleasant telling," I ended, "to confess one has failed."

"Have you your laboratory notebooks and diary here?"

"Yes," I admitted, "but they won't mean anything to you—they are mainly full of chemical formulae and abbreviated notes."

"Nevertheless, I wish to see them."

I went out to my bag in the passage and brought them in.

"I'm not a scientist, Ted, but it isn't common sense that an experiment which you can do on a small scale should fail on a large scale. You have overlooked something."

"Shall I stay and explain my notes to you?"

"No, go upstairs and talk to Helen."

I came down to dinner very glum. Helen had done her best to buck me up; this time, however, even she had failed to restore my confidence. To my surprise, my father was all smiles, hinting the while at mysterious delights to come. I thought he was trying to cheer me up—an annoying thing to have any one do when one has resolved to be miserable.

"How would you and Helen like to have a little trip all by yourselves at Christmas—say to Winchester? It will do Helen good, if you are careful not to let her get tired." This he had saved up for dessert. Helen and I stared at each other, not entirely certain he wasn't having a joke at our expense.

"I'm serious, children," he added. "Your mother and I—with Frances, of course—are going down to Hayling Island. I want to get in some golf."

"I thought we were hard up," I growled, not rid of my suspicions.

"Well, we've enough for that, I think, Ted. The plant will be running full blast in January."

I sat up. "What have found out from my notes? Don't deceive yourself, father."

He laughed uproariously. "Thanks for the advice. But, Ted, I'm an old newspaper man, and I spent a good many years finding out things I was not supposed to know about. When I went over your notes I observed something I think you have missed."

My face burned. If true, of course it meant I was a damned incompetent person to trust with a responsible job. I felt Helen's hand on my knee.

"It isn't your fault, Ted—don't look so melodramatic. Now listen to me. You have tested and analyzed all your raw materials—and have bought different lots of them from various sources?"

"Yes—I have been all over the market for them."

"But you have bought your most important reagent—a commercial acid—from only one particular firm. Did you analyze that acid?"


"I thought not. There was no record of it in your books."

The sensation of feeling an utter fool is not comfortable. It was the even pressure of Helen's hand on my knee that kept me from an outburst. The instant my father had asked me the question about the acid, I knew he had found the only untested link. But why in the name of all that is intelligent had I missed it? Simply because I had been working on the set idea that the raw materials furnished contained somewhere an impurity, and I had taken the reagent on faith.

"Well," my father called out gaily, "is the old man right?"

"You are right, and I have been wrong."

"Damn it, Ted, don't be so ridiculous with that long jaw. It's all in the family. Take a week off with Helen and come back fresh to your job. You went a bit stale, that's all."

"My going stale has cost you a lot of money," I muttered.

"Experience always costs money, Ted. I don't grudge paying for it, if one really learns from it. You told me something about the process of elimination once. The next time you eliminate, go all the way."

"The consulting chemists we called in didn't find the trouble."

"No, they were experts, like you."

I smiled at this, because I knew I deserved it.

"That's better, Ted," my father said when he saw me smile. "The whole trouble has been that you lost your sense of humour over this job. Don't lose it again."

"Suppose," I said at bed-time that evening, "that we find nothing the matter with the acid?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Now you and Helen pack up in the morning, clear out for a week, and I'll have the acid examined while you are away."

Upstairs, I sat before our study fire without daring to look at Helen. She stopped brushing out her hair and perched on the arm of my chair, putting her cheek against mine.

"What do you want me to say, Ted?"

"If you speak the truth you'll say that you have married an incompetent fool who messes up everything he tries to do."

"Don't let it hurt you so, Ted, darling."

"It was my job to find out, and I didn't. You can't get away from that."

Helen rumpled my hair pensively. Each of us had several things to say; the difficulty was to say them. Helen went on silently stroking my head.

"I try to think—why the devil does it always seem afterwards as if I hadn't thought at all?"

I proposed this conundrum to her. Helen gave me her hand to kiss.

"I won't be so stupid as to try to make excuses for you," said Helen, tucking up snugly against my shoulder. "Let's own up honestly we made a mistake, Ted. For I must be to blame somewhere, too. Yes, Ted dear—I know it. Don't go on shaking your head. It isn't comfy. We mustn't make a mistake like this again—that's all. It isn't like us."

"It wasn't just a case of putting my foot in it, sweetheart. I went and sat down in the spilt milk."

Helen laughed gently. "Poor old boy, your pride has had a nasty knock, hasn't it? So has mine, dear."

I thought this over in silence. We were young enough to take each other tragically. But I had my first doubt as to whether I was of heroic stuff—I mean that for the first time I wondered if success were inevitably mine. Suppose I was only a commonplace person who got along amiably enough, yet never pulled off anything big? In that case all the hopes Helen had in me would prove to be vain dreams. Then what would happen? Would she love me then—or didn't love demand the heroic? It was Knowlton who had made Deep Harbor a success, and now my father had stepped in and saved me again. Where was the missing cog in my mechanism? What could I do—what ought I to do—how could I find out?

"It isn't your fault, hubby-boy," Helen said, her face against mine. "You aren't meant to be a chemist. Your father has had you learn a profession which at best is no more than a secret anxiety to you. It haunts you with a never-ending fear, because it is not really your work. It's only a part you are trying to play to please him."

I sat up straight and stared at her.

"I've watched you every day, Ted, sweetheart, during these months we have been together—and I have seen you struggling to fight down that fear of failure in you. You've tried to hide it from me, dearest"—she smiled and shook a finger at me—"you can't fool me, because I love you. I've wanted to tell you I knew, and I was afraid, if I did, you couldn't work at all."

"Well," I said slowly, "it's true. I hate chemistry—and I have always hated it—or is it only work I hate?"

Helen shook her head: "We must get to your real work, Ted, as soon as we can. There is your toy-theatre all ready for you on top of the bookcase. We'll begin writing for it, dear. When the company is all right, we'll give up chemistry forever and begin for ourselves."

I stood up and drew her to me under the light. I took her face in both my hands, turned it toward mine, and looked into her grey eyes.

"Do you still love me, Helen?"

She closed her eyes. "So much, Ted, it hurts and hurts clear down in me." Her hands clutched my shoulders until the skin grew white over her finger knuckles....

It is not possible that two persons could have been any happier than Helen and I were during Christmas week at Winchester. Others may have equalled our happiness; no couple have surpassed it. Not only was it the first time we had been by ourselves since on board the steamer, but also Winchester itself, as that very Camelot we had made up stories about in the woods back of Deep Harbor, was to us a speechless delight. I had not been there before, and thus its quaintness was as new to me as to Helen. We ate and slept in a hotel somewhere off the High Street. The rest of the time (despite the oncoming event of Edward Jevons, Junior) we wandered about or sat in the nave of the long bare cathedral. Helen actually got as far afoot as the summit of St. Catherine's hill. We took a fly and drove out to St. Cross, where we designed a new dream cottage from its mediaeval gables and timbers. The same faithful fly conducted us to other delights when I thought Helen had walked enough. There are more things in Winchester than can be set down, save in the book of memory. Jane Austen's house, the cathedral, the school, the river Itchen where old Izaak Walton fished—one can go on for a long time wandering among mysteries and dreaming. We grew technical over architecture and had an argument about it with a verger in the cathedral. On the High Street we likewise discovered a satisfactory second-hand bookshop containing a lot of theatrical memoirs. Joys of joys, we bought ourselves as a Christmas present Bell's British Theatre, complete with all the plates! To be sure, it was but a shilling a volume; yet no collector ever walked out of Christie's more proud than we. Forty shillings had been set aside for Christmas recklessness. Bell and his collection of plays made quite a hole in this, even at only a shilling a volume.

On the night before Christmas there was a telegram from my father. The trouble had been successfully located in the commercial acid; there was no doubt that with pure acid the trouble of manufacturing would be cleared up. More good news was to come next morning. There was a letter from Deep Harbor containing a present of one hundred dollars for Helen, as well as the announcement that her father purposed, from this time forth, to give his daughter one hundred dollars a month pocket money.

"Ted, Ted!" she cried, pouring her letter and its contents into my lap, her eyes dancing, "we can get all the books we want! See here! And we'll have five more pounds of our own to spend on our week-ends."

Curiously enough, it did not cross the mind of either of us that we could possibly have any other use for that money. Perhaps we had been badly brought up, both of us—I don't know. At any rate we always had a lot of fun out of our extravagance. And on this morning, as soon as we could get there, we furiously rang the doorbell of the bookshop, in spite of the closed shutters. We knew we could rout the old codger, the owner, out, if we made noise enough, for he lived over his shop. He grumbled at first; then, when he found us equipped to buy, cheerfully let us in. No, we did not spend all of the twenty pounds, but we made a good hole in that, too. He had a rather good Memoirs of Charles Matthews, extra-illustrated. It was a new kind of pleasure for us to own such a wanton luxury as that.

A day or two after Boxing Day we returned to London. Going up in the train, I said: "Well, Lady Grey Eyes, the second Christmas didn't turn out so black as we'd painted it, did it?" Helen simply looked things at me.

"They'll all be as wonderful as this one, dear," I added, Helen's eyes clouded. "Don't say it, Ted! Don't!" and she touched the wood of the railway carriage beside her. We were alone in the compartment, so my reply may be imagined.

It was some time in the spring that a trained nurse came to live with us in the little house in Kensington. Her advent set the whole household bustling over the preparations for the expected arrival of Edward Jevons, Jr. It was my mother who insisted upon Helen's having a nurse, long before the day was due, although she still maintained her attitude of being officially polite to Helen and almost ignoring my existence. I had not yet atoned for my fatal attempt at setting matters right. Things were going swimmingly at the factory. I was naturally busy enough, for I had to train the whole staff, with the result that production was not yet on a large scale. But what we were making was right, orders were coming in, and every week I was able to report increased production. Chitty was one smile as he watched me whistling at my work.

Helen and I were now under no worry or anxiety concerning the event to befall her. The doctor was cheery, Helen's health and physique were splendid; the trained nurse kept a sharp look-out. Our only regrets were over the interruptions of our week-ends and the presence of the confounded nurse always under foot. A stranger in one's household, on an intimate footing, is a supreme test of one's forbearance. It must also be quite a test for the stranger. This nurse was willing, capable, and good-humoured; yet there were times when Helen and I wished her elsewhere. She packed Helen off to bed at nine; Helen and I were accustomed to sitting up till all hours, talking or reading in the study. She frowned upon the theatre and forbade the pit altogether, although, now Helen and I were in funds, that prohibition did not worry us so much. We were not permitted to dine of a Saturday night at the Café Royal or have luncheon at Kettner's. Indeed, Helen's diet was prescribed for her—a great hardship, as neither of us liked "wholesome" food and things that "were good" for you. I had to feed Helen chocolates on the sly. My own movements were curtailed, because it was no fun doing things without Helen. Not for worlds would I have bought an old book unless Helen were along to share in the joy of the purchase.

About Edward Jevons, Junior, and his future we talked very little. We were, ridiculous as it sounds, a little shy about him and, again, we thought the whole idea of our having a baby of our own the biggest joke imaginable. It did seem too absurd.

"Ted, I simply can't imagine a baby! I'm not sure I want one interfering with us, dear. Isn't it dreadful?"

I couldn't imagine one, either, looking at Helen sitting there before the fire in a dressing gown with her hair down, to please me. She looked almost like a baby herself. Her face was still, with all its grave and tender beauty, the face of a school-girl. I think the nurse was shocked at our behaviour. She used to lecture us on the care and rearing of infants. I gathered from her that it was a task of more complexity than we had realized.

"I suppose they will get colic?" I ventured, as a contribution to the discussion one day. I had loosed the flood. The nurse insisted upon showing me a medical book full of disgusting pictures, containing an absolutely terrifying account of the things that could, would, and did happen to babies. Helen had to rescue me. It had been in vain for me to protest that I should always send for a doctor. My protests went unheeded until Helen spared me further details.

There came a day when the doctor remained after his morning call, and I found myself banished from Helen's bedside. Nor could I get at my study, because that opened off Helen's room. I had time only to kiss Helen hurriedly, tell her to be game, and glance at a bassinette which had been placed in the room. The nurse was moving about in her room, and Frances had been sent away to visit some friends. The house was impossible; and yet I couldn't go out to the factory at Willesden. I was driven to reading a political leader in The Times. The country appeared to be in a bad way, judging from what I read, so that didn't cheer me up. I felt somehow that I ought to have profound emotions. Instead, I was worried fearfully about Helen and wanted her. I could not bear to think of pain.

Once or twice the doctor came downstairs. He seemed, however, to consider brusqueness the proper professional attitude. The nurse was worse, for she told me not to "bother" her, when I asked her about Helen. She refused to take a note up to Helen, although all I had written was "love—Ted" on a slip of paper. There was only Sims, my mother's maid, to sympathize with me, and I strongly suspected her sympathy was tinged with dislike for the nurse. Sims had refused one morning to carry up hot water for the nurse. My mother had promptly squelched that incipient revolt.

"I 'ates them as gives themselves airs in other people's 'ouses," had been Sims' verdict on the nurse. "Fancy 'er speakin' like that to you, Master Ted, when it's you givin' 'er employment! Stuck up, I calls it. That's wot it is."

"You mustn't quarrel with the nurse, Sims. It would make trouble for Mrs. Ted and the baby," I felt it my duty to say.

"Quarrel!" exclaimed Sims; "not likely! Not with 'er. I wouldn't stoop to give 'er that much satisfaction"—and Sims reported elsewhere in answer to a bell.

The nurse and I faced each other alone at luncheon; my mother ate in her room, ministered to by Sims. It was a painful meal. I was not hungry, and I could think of nothing at all appropriate to say to my companion. She ate copiously—three glasses of milk I saw her swallow with my own eyes. I must have been staring at her noticeably, for she said: "I shan't get much sleep tonight, I expect. I need to save my strength." I could not explain to her that drinking milk always set up a barrier between me and the person who did it. She would not understand. It was the nurse who gave me the knockout blow, upon leaving the table.

"It's no good worrying about your wife, Mr. Jevons. They all do it over the first child. You'll soon get used to it, after a few more," and she hurried upstairs. I was tempted to pursue her to argue this. What sort of programme did she imagine that Helen and I were embarked upon? "At least, now I come to think of it," I said to myself, "Helen and I have never discussed this." More than one baby?—the thought followed me about the room. How utterly preposterous. H'm. I sat down in a chair by the window. The idea was overwhelming. I had always thought of Helen and me as two persons going through life together. We had accepted, without yet realizing at all what it meant, one amendment to our original plan. But the nurse had conjured up the image of an indefinite sequence. Clearly, it was unthinkable. Yet I was startled to consider how many persons in this world had more than one baby. There was my sister—making two in this very house. Chitty had six. Examples multiplied themselves before me. "Helen, of course, shall decide this," was the rather unexpectedly sensible conclusion I finally arrived at. It was, nevertheless, a disturbing thought that the nurse had suggested.

My father and mother went out to dinner by themselves, after asking me for news. None had come. The doctor urged me to "clear out for a bit." The house was really intolerable. "Come back about ten, if you like," he said. I tried to walk to Piccadilly. The task was impossible; my knees were too shaky. I took a hansom to the Café Royal and sat there drinking coffee and Benedictine. The waiter brought me a French comic paper. My sense of humour was not equal to it. At half past nine I bought Helen some violets at the expensive little flower stall on the way out. Its flowers were probably intended for demi-mondaines—at least, the price indicated that fact—but the violets had as yet suffered no contamination. "It will make Helen smile," I thought, "when I tell her where I got them and with what a knowing air the yellow-haired vulture behind the counter sold them to me." At the bookstall I got Helen some French papers and the Paris New York Herald. I hesitated over chocolates—there was no likelihood, I reflected, of running the night's blockade with them. Instead, I went back into the café and had the waiter wrap me up a bottle of green Chartreuse. Helen loved it. "C'est pour une malade," I told the waiter. He grew sympathetic at once, suggesting jellied bouillon in glass. I took a pint of it, as well as a truffled paté of chicken, "en aspic." The waiter scratched his head, but could think of nothing more. I gave him half a crown for himself, while the dignified doorman called me a hansom.

It was after ten when I arrived at Kensington. Still no news. I did not dare ask the nurse to take my gifts up to Helen. Besides, Helen preferred to have me give her things with my own hands. My mother had retired; soon after, my father went. I sat down to wait. I smoked many pipes, striving to keep awake. Sims, faithful soul, brought me a bottle of stout with a plate of biscuits on her way to bed. Twelve, one, two o'clock came. The house was quiet. Two or three times I dozed off, to awake with a start. My pipe failed me at last, and I fell asleep in my father's favourite armchair.

I was aware that some one was shaking me violently by the shoulder. I opened my eyes, blinking, wondering what had happened. I saw the nurse standing over me. Realization returned with a rush. I started to my feet, terrified.

"Mr. Jevons, you have a daughter," she said. "Mrs. Jevons is all right and can see you presently."

"A d-daughter?" I stammered, not able to assimilate this statement in my dazed condition.

"Yes, Mr. Jevons, it's a girl. Eight pounds—a normal baby."

The nurse immediately left the room, not pausing to answer any further questions. "A daughter," I thought—"but we haven't got a name for a girl! What will we call it?" Helen had been so confident it would be Edward Jevons, Junior! I paced up and down the room. A few minutes more brought the doctor, all smiles, his brusqueness vanished. He warmly shook my hand, telling me I could go upstairs for a short visit. I hastily gathered together my presents for Helen and dashed for her room. The nurse intercepted me at the door to slow me down. I entered on tiptoe. There lay Helen in bed, looking more beautiful than I had ever dreamed, a little smile of welcome on her lips. I laid the violets on her, but the nurse snatched the other things away from me. She had, however, the tact to leave us. I kneeled beside the bed and held Helen's hand. We looked at each other. I kissed her gently on the mouth.

"Ted," she whispered, "it's a girl."

I nodded. "I ought to feel sorry, Ted, but I don't." I nodded again.

"Our baby, Ted. Ours. Just think!"

I kissed her, and then she put my hand against her cheek. I leaned close and whispered things that made her smile.

"What shall we call it, Ted?"

"There is only one name for our baby—and that is Helen."

She looked wonderfully at me, her eyes shining.

"You want to call it that, Ted darling?"

I nodded and kissed her. The nurse entered.

"Time's up, Mr. Jevons. You can look in again after breakfast. I do believe you haven't seen the baby!"

Helen and I looked guiltily at each other. The nurse brought a tiny bundled-up object for my inspection.

"It doesn't look like either of us," I said, rather taken aback by its appearance.

"Did you ever see such a red creature!" Helen giggled.

The nurse was deeply shocked. I winked at Helen. The nurse laid the baby at her mother's breast. I stood for a moment, a queer feeling inside me at this sight. Then I bent over Helen again.

"I love you both, sweetheart."

The nurse drove me from the room.


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