Joseph Whitmore Barry
THE GIFT OF
OF Cornell University
Cornell University Library
Peter Homunculus, a "<|JC*;j',.
3 1924 013 593 714
The original of tliis book is in
tine Cornell University Library.
There are no known copyright restrictions in
the United States on the use of the text.
DUFFIELD AND COMPANY
Copyright, 1909, by
duffield and company
" Nemo repente optimus fit/'
The sKop was tHe shabbiest of the cluster of its kind at
the Oxford Street end of Shaftesbury Avenue; a tiny
shop between a French bakery and a second-hand clothes
store. Over the window was written in letters faded and
worn the name " X. Cooper " ; to one side of this the
word " Bookseller," and to the other on a scroll the
words " Libraries bought and valued." Outside the
shop on a low trestle was a series of boxes containing
dilapidated books, each box surmounted with a ticket
proclaiming the price of its contents. In the window
were prints, dirty most of them, hung in a row on a
string — Louis XV. in Coronation Robes, Nell Gwyn
much decoUetee in her very decent fashion, David Gar-
rick as Richard III., Kemble as Hamlet. Below these
again were " Vanity Fair " caricatures on a sort of rack,
attached with drawing pins. There were six of them —
Mr. Gladstone, Disraeli, Lord Russell of Killowen, the
Shah of Persia, Tod Sloan, and Dhuleep Singh. The
Shah of Persia was purchasable for sixpence, or it might
have been eightpence, for the figure was ill-made, but
Mr. Gladstone's market value was two shillings, in spite
of Gordon and Home Rule. These six were merely to
whet the appetite, for at the end of the rack stood two
enormous piles of celebrities and notorious persons.
Low in the corner of the window where it was dirtiest
and half hidden by the book-boxes outside, a scrap of
4 PETEK HOMUNCULUS
paper was attached by a gelatine lozenge. On this was
written "Boy Wanted" in blue pencil scrawled by a
hasty or a weary hand.
An old man in an overcoat rusty with age,"^and for so
long and so continuously worn as to cling to its owner's
meagre shape, hung over the book-boxes and fingered
the books, caressed those in calf with long, thin, dirty
fingers, fluttered the leaves of others and occasionally
with his forefinger cut the pages of a book uncut. It
was a hot day, but the old man shivered and shook. Of
the whole outside world he alone seemed to be alive to
the existence of the little shop. Others passed it by,
slouching Italians, provincials hurrying down from their
hotels and boarding-houses in Bloomsbury to Piccadilly
Circus, the centre of all things metropolitan; chauiFeurs
and mechanicians and men of the motor-car industry;
little sempstresses; Jews and Jewesses with black
bundles of clothes on their shoulder; loafers, touts;
smart women and women unfortunate; actresses; slat-
ternly women with babies in their arms; tourists with
red Baedekers in their hands, Germans, French, Ameri-
cans: boys whistling, shouting, running, hopping along
on one roller skate, making hideous noises with mouth
organs. Tradesmen's carts, motor cars, lorries, car-
riages, omnibuses rolled by. Over a roof opposite a
man suspended in mid-air was mending a telephone wire.
Some of the passers-by stopped to look at him, a crowd,
gaping, heads craned. It swelled and filled the path-
way. A pale melancholy-looking boy hurrying along,
pushing his way through the throng, jostled the old man
absorbed in the books and sent that in his hand flying.
The old man quailed and the boy tottered. He put out
a hand to steady himself, then stooped and picked up
PETEEi HOMUNCULUS 5
the book. He looked at it: a battered green book,
Lecky's "Map of Life." He restored it to the old man,
looked at the worn face for a moment and said:
" Does he tell you how to get a living?"
" How — ^how to live." The old man spoke in a reedy
voice and had a slight stutter. " It's — it's difficult —
Heuh ! — I've — I've t-tried and I — ^know."
The old man seemed to think he had made a joke, for
he shook all over and creaked, and his lips worked
quickly in and out, while the skin round his eyes drew
up into innumerable wrinkles. He returned to the study
of the gentle philosophy of William Edward Hartpold
Lecky. The boy gave a long, loud whistle. He was
depressed by the enormous age of the old man. A girl
in the crowd eyed him, and, as he turned his eyes up
towards the man on the roof, he fell to wondering why
it was possible for women to be ugly. The girl had
half smiled at him, and he had seen that three of her
front teeth were missing. There came a gentle touch on
the arm. He was a little afraid that it was the girl,
and a sort of shudder ran through him. Again the touch
and he turned.
A policeman arrived on the scene and dispersed the
crowd. The boy was left with the old man.
" Didn't you say you were wanting to earn a living ?"
" I didn't, but I do."
" There's a boy wanted." A long yellow finger like
a piece of wood indicated the notice in the window.
The boy surveyed the notice with some contempt. The
shop seemed to him impossibly dirty. He read the name
of its owner, however, and turned to the old man again.
He was gone and the boy saw him hobbling down to-
wards Cambridge Circus, thin and bent, one shoulder
higher than the other, his whole body twisted. In the
sunlight his overcoat was vividly green.
Once more he read that a boy was wanted, and once
more that the keeper of the shop called himself X.
Cooper, and that libraries were bought and valued. The
initial X. seemed preposterous in conjunction with
Cooper, and the shop was certainly uninviting. It had
a dilapidated and musty air. It was dark. The Shah
of Persia was certainly the brightest spot in the window.
Again he read " Boy Wanted " — ^moved a little
towards the door, then stopped. It was better than noth-
ing, and there could be no harm in trying. The window
was dark enough to serve as a mirror in places. Kemble
as Hamlet provided the best reflection. He straightened
his red bow-tie, set his straw hat right, wished that his
collar was a little less frayed, the elbows of his blue
coat less shiny and that his right boot were not cracked.
He entered the shop.
At £rst he could see nothing. It was so dark. He
could smell dust and a queer scent which he knew for
rotting calf. Oddly he was conscious of a presence in
the place, though he could see no one, even when his
eyes had grown accustomed to the dim light. He
coughed, but evoked no answer. He knocked against
a shelf timidly, but still no answer. He was for re-
treating when a heavy snore came from the darkest cor-
rier behind a dwarf bookcase. He knocked again, more
loudly, but made no impression. He felt rather foolish'
standing there, but was roused to obstinacy and would
A cat appeared and stood watching him with some
interest. He bent down and held out his hand, finger
and thumb together, towards the beast and said, " Pss—
PETER HOMUNCULUS 7
Pss — Pss/' advancing towards it. It cringed from
him, then fled out into the street and stood looking
at him contemptuously, swinging its tail and blinking.
More than ever he felt foolish and yet more roused to
obstinacy. He turned his attention to the shop. There
were books everywhere. On shelves up to the ceiling
on all sides, crowding dwarf bookcases that jutted
out from the walls, piled on the floor, on chairs, on the
counter. On a desk in the corner opposite the street
door stood a ledger, open, and covered with dust. There
were entries in a large round hand on its pages, but
none for three months past; and dust lay thick on the
paper. Above it on the desk was a thick manuscript
book open, and in the same condition. The boy looked
at it and saw written in the same round handwriting —
" An apology for the Life of CoUey Gibber, written by
himself, quarto, pp. " The entry was cut short
and the writer's pen had raced down the page in a
straggling spidery line and ended in a splutter. He
blew the dust from the paper and turned back to find
entered the titles of books that he knew, arranged in
no sort of order, without reference to subject, nation-
ality, or date — rMaster Humphrey's Clock, Moliere, The
Girl with the Golden Eyes, translated by Ernest Dow-
son, Lady Windermere's Fan, Jorrocks and Mr. Sponge's
Sporting Tour, Old St. Paul's, Sartor Resartus, The
Daisy Chain, London Stage, Pierre Egan, Herrick's
Poems, Rabelais, Rousseau, and names of writers and
books in a hideous jumble, books that he had read, and
books that, from familiarity with their titles, he had con-
sidered as read. He was interested and at the same time
astonished with the realisation of the extent and quantity
of his reading. He had a pleasing sensation of famil-
8 PETER HOMUNCULUS
iarity in perusing the names of these great ones and their
works. From the catalogue he turned to the books them-
selves and found many of the greatest — Shelley, Words-
Worth, Aristophanes (in translation), Corneille and
Racine, Ibsen and Shakespeare. He was thrilled by
their names. He had read none of them except a little
Shakespeare, absurdly annotated at school, and one or
two plays of Racine. With these two he felt himself
familiar. For the rest he was content that their names
should give him a thrill: that seemed to be their func-
tion. Among people whom he had met in the few years
of his life, since, that is, he had considered himself of an
intelligent age, he admitted none to be his superiors.
In the presence of these great ones whose names were
household words he allowed himself the luxury of humil-
ity. He sat on the counter, dangling his long legs, and
opened a volume of Shakespeare — a large quarto edi-
tion bound in green cloth and illustrated in colour by
Sir John Gilbert. The book opened upon the tragedy
of " Hamlet." The boy had read the play. At school,
bored with the etymology of the notes, he had one day
begun to read the text, and, struck by the extraordinary
resemblance between the melancholy Prince and himself
had read avidly, with the result that he was punished
for the complete ignorance he displayed subsequently
as to the meaning of the line "unhouseled, disappointed,
unaneled," which the learned editor explained at some
length. Reading the play now, he remembered with
great satisfaction the compliments paid him by the ex-
aminer, a great man from one of the universities, upon
his answer to the question: "Discuss briefly the char-
acter of Hamlet. Do you consider him mad or sane?"
For a boy of fifteen, the examiner had said in his report,
PETER HOMUNCULUS 9
the answer was very remarkable. That was a year ago.
They had been proud of him that day, and they gave
him the prize for literature— a copy bound in red half
morocco — of the works of Felicia Hemans. He had
brought it with him to London.
He sat there on the counter dangling his legs with the
volume of Shakespeare open on his knees, and was lost
in contemplation of himself. He forgot his surround-
ings, his presence in London, everything that was imme-
diately happening to him. Not presented, like Hamlet,
with any momentous problem for hugging, his imagina-
tion turned to the events of the last months, reconstruct-
ing them, seeing them vividly, photographically exact, and
imderstanding them, seeing through them far more than
at the moment of their happening. He was particularly
interested in the contemplation of his father, of course
in relation to himself. He remembered a time when he
had worshipped his father, as a glorious and splendid
being, large as a tree, and hairy, with a moustache de-
licious to pull. He remembered how he had wept bit-
terly because his mother had struck his father. She said
he was drunk and Tiad struck him. The horror of it was
with the boy still, the sacrilege; he gasped, and tears
gathered in his large grey eyes. His imagination raced,
leaping years to the moment when the idolised father,
more drunk than usual, had come in from the shop to
the living-room, where his mother was laying the table
for dinner. He saw it clearly. His mother had boxed
his ears because he had left a toy elephant on the floor
so that she stumbled over it. She laid the cloth on the
table, and because there was a stain, a brown stain on it,
she reversed it. She was a stout woman, and as she
heaved and the cloth bellied up into the air something
10 PETER HOMUNCULUS
in her inner garments cracked. That put her out, and
as she was fidgeting with herself her husband had
come into the room. The boy remembered vividly the
relief of his entry, for his mother never struck him in
his father's presence. She flung a taunt at the man as
he stood there flushed and sniggering, leaning against
the door. There was considerable heat on both sides,
and in the end his father leaned across the table, smiling
horribly, and said these words to his mother : " You to
talk. You're any man's woman." There was some con-
fusion in the boy's mind as to subsequent events, for it
seemed in his recollection that immediately upon these
words his mother died. He had never dwelt upon their
meaning. He remembered being taken to see her dead,
and following something to a graveyard where, because
everybody was weeping, he also wept. He enjoyed
weeping, and death was ever after associated in his mind
with freedom, for after his mother's death his freedom
was amazing. As he thought over it again, sitting there
on the counter of Mr. Cooper's shop, it seemed a good
theory of death, that people die to set others free. He
endorsed it solemnly, was pleased with it.
He flew back to wild excursions into forests, early
loves, love-tokens, baby kisses, thefts, burnings, plunder-
ings, gorgeous lies; school and the tedium of school;
books and the pride of books, new worlds revealed; the
first shamed consciousness of sex, awful colloquies in
dark corners with other boys; hanging on to the grating
of the slaughter-house with others to watch a sheep
killed : the persecution of an idiot in the town whom some
imp had christened " Yellow Belly." He saw clearly the
crowd of urchins racing down the main street of the
little country town on market day, past the market hall
PETER HOMUNCULUS 11
and stalls, past his father's shop, yelling after the fly-
ing idiot, " Yellow Belly, Yellow Belly. Who— stole—
the baby? "
Then his father again, more mysterious after his
mother's death, because less often seen; more drunk.
The explosion of his father's godhead, by his coming upon
him breaking open a little silver money-box, the property
of his elder brother, that held forty sixpence and then
burst — it never has burst, perhaps because forty six-
pence were never entrusted to it. He was j ust beginning
to enjoy again in retrospect the sensation of misery upon
the discovery of the paternal theft, when the absurdity
of his elder brother came upon him with such force as
to produce a chuckle. Ten years older than himself,
that brother, stupid at school, and a tailor now, master
of his father's business. Fools all of them, brother and
four sisters. Himself — another pair of shoes altogether.
Clever, they said of him at the Grammar school, whither
a scholarship from the board school had taken him.
Clever! Much they knew about it. He saw his master
again — fat, red-faced, red-moustached, bald, spectacled.
He used to come in after the mid-day interval with his
moustache matted with beer and food-droppings on his
waistcoat, sleepy, easy to bamboozle. And the sandy-
haired yotog man who used to try to make him learn
Algebra — a thin, timid young man who, as everyone in
the town knew, could not pass his intermediate examina-
tion in London, had tried four times: engaged to one of
the curate's six daughters. The boy snorted contemptu-
ously. He became indignant and waved his hands in
the air, twisted his upper lip in a sneer and twitched his
nose. He was thinking of how when his father died,—
he didn't die, but was found dead in a ditch — ^his brother
12 PETER HOMUNCULUS
had taken him away from school and insisted on his
going into the shops^ apprenticed to the tailoring. Two
months of it were too much. A violent scene with his
brother, during which all his sisters had wept^ a scene
of tender farewell with Elsie Atwood, the saddler's
daughter, and he had come to this great flaming London,
twenty pounds in his pocket, a Gladstone bag and his
few books done up in newspaper, and quartered himself
on an aunt — sister of his father, encountered for the
first time at the funeral, in her small house where she
took lodgers in a little street in Southwark. London
was very big, very expensive in the matter of travelling
and singularly little alive to the brilliant creature that
had come new to it. The vastness of London, the cruelty
of it, seized the boy, tugged at him, almost set him weep-
ing with rage. He had sought all sorts of employment
only to be rebuflPed. He scorned commerce and trade.
Of shops he had a horror. Shop! What tortures he
had suffered at school from issuing from a shop, birth
above a shop. With a jerk he realised that he was now
in a shop, but quickly consoled himself with the reflec-
tion that a bookshop was hardly in the category.
He turned to Shakespeare, and lighted on the scene
between Hamlet and Polonius.
Hamlet — ^Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is
to be one man picked out of ten thousand.
Polonius — That's very true, my lord.
Hamlet — For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog,
being a God kissing carrion, — Have you a daughter?
Polonius — I have, my lord.
Hamlet — Let her not walk i' the sun; conception is
a blessing; but not as your daughter may conceive: —
Friend, look to 't.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 13
He acted the scene, a querulous quavering voice for
Polonius and a voice deep as he could contrive for the
Prince simulating madness. He had seen players at
home, and once since his arrival in London had visited
the Surrey Theatre in the Waterloo Bridge Road, where
a drama with the alluring title, " Wine and Women,"
had presented the triumph of virtue to his devouring
eyes. As Hamlet he roared, ranted and rolled his r's,
made play with his eyes and swept his hands majes-
tically through the air. A hand to his brow, he became
suddenly conscious that he was observed, and, quickly
turning, he saw above the dwarf bookcase in the dark
corner a head that seemed to hang in air. Thick grey
hair surrounded it like a cap, and two long locks hung
down over the square forehead. The eyebrows were
shaggy, black, one much higher than the other, as one
eye was larger than the other. One eye was huge, star-
ing, the other a little twinkling, glittering thing. Be-
tween them jutted straight from the forehead a huge
nose, red and swollen at the end, under which sprouted
a long straggling moustache. The mouth was hidden
under this, and the chin under a stubble of white hairs,
clipped with scissors, not shaven. This head wagged to
and fro above the dwarf bookcase, the great eye stared
and the little eye winked and the mouth emitted strange
noises between a snore and a growl.
The boy, a little afraid, laid Shakespeare on the
counter and slid to his feet, snatched his hat from his
head and stood waiting. The head wagged faster and
faster, but made no other sound than its snore and growl.
The boy moved nervously from one foot to the other, and
began to think of going. Suddenly an arm in a dirty
blue shirt-sleeve was shot over the bookcase pointing a
14 PETER HOMUNCULUS
finger, and from the fierce wagging head came a sur-
prisingly mild, soft voice. It said:
" Homunculus ! "
The boy was unable to discover whether the remark
called for a reply, for the word was unknown to him. A
chuckle came from the head and the finger beckoned.
The boy stood rooted.
"You — ^you wanted a boy?" he managed to say at
"Heuh!" said the head.
" I'll come."
"Name?" said the head,
i " Peter Davies, sir."
" Peter Homunculus."
" Davies, sir."
"i^rist of Tuirro)?"
"Good. Where's Nicaragua?"
" Central America, sir."
" Spell Apopocatapetl."
Peter spelled it.
" Can you write? "
" Yes, sir."
" Yes, sir."
"Add forty-five and sixty-three."
" Hundred and eight, sir."
The head looked inquiringly round the shop.
" Seen Demophoon? "
" The cat; she was thrown into the fire when she was
" She ran out when I came in."
PETER HOMUNCULUS 15
A pause. Then:
" Do you want a boy, sir? "
" Do you want a boy? "
" The notice says so."
"Will I do, sir?"
" You'll do. Ten shillings a week."
" What's the work, sir? "
" Anything you can find to do. Where d'you live ? "
" Southwark, sir."
" You must live here."
" Here, in the shop, or behind it. I do. Ain't it good
enough for you? "
The boy had an almost incontroUable desire to giggle,
but he turned it off into a sneeze.
" Got a cold? " said the head ferociously.
" No, sir."
" How old are you? "
" Had measles ? Mustn't have measles here. Babies
on the top floor. You're not a Londoner by your
" No, sir. Leicestershire, sir."
" I'm Warwick. Ask anyone in Warwick about the
Coopers. They'll tell you. I'm the last Cooper." And
the head chuckled. " When can you come? "
" To-night, sir."
" Good boy."
The arm was withdrawn and the head disappeared.
The boy shook himself, pinched his leg. Then he
10 PETER HOMUNCULUS
There was no answer. He peered round the bootcase
and saw that X. Cooper was asleep. He dared not rouse
He returned to the counter and sat again, dangling
his legs, taking more interest in the shop. He seemed
to have become a part of it and dreamed of the improve-
ments he would make in it, the stir caused in the book
world by Peter Davies, Esq., and the fortune won by
the sale of books: of intimacy with great authors. He
noticed then for the first time that there was a glass-
panelled door leading into a parlour behind the shop with
a little window let into the wall for spying upon custo-
mers just as there was in the shop at home. He sup-
posed that the parlour would be much like that at home,
and took no immediate interest in it. He was interested
in the future : for him always the future was the present.
Just as without the slightest difficulty he had dropped
his brother and sisters at home, he was now prepared to
drop the aunt with whom he had lived since his arrival
The cat, Demophoon, returned to the shop, and finding
him still there, decided that as part of the establish-
ment it might be wise to conciliate him. She accordingly
jumped on to the counter and rubbed herself against
him, purring roundly. He stroked her, and noticed then
that she had only the crumpled remnant of an ear, and
that in patches her fur was thin. He had never before
heard of Demophoon, his reading of Greek authors being
confined to the Anabasis of Xenophon, and the fourth
book of the same author's wars. He was annoyed that
he had not heard of Demophoon, and repulsed the cat.
The cat leaped down. She showed no resentment,
being a wise animal, fully realising that her living de-
PETEH HOMUNCULUS IT
pended upon the favour of tHe two-legged animals wliose
power seemed infinite. She retired behind the bookcase
and choosing a warm corner in the small of the back of
X. Cooper, curled up and went to sleep.
Peter took no further interest in her. He was pleased
with himself. Already his extraordinary merits had won
for him a competence of ten shillings a week and board
and lodging, in the very centre of the Metropolis; no
very great amount of work to do, and, if X. Cooper were
always asleep, certainly much freedom. Decidedly he
might have done worse.
A little pale young man entered the shop and asked
the price of Mr. Gladstone.
Peter took down Mr. Gladstone, found him marked
two shillings, and sold him for that price. He was for
rolling him up, but the young man insisted on carrying
him flat. In his eyes Mr. Gladstone seemed to have a
" You're new here," he said to Peter.
" Just come."
" See you again. I often come." With that the
young man left the shop.
Peter hated him because he was well dressed, carried
himself with an air of confidence, and spoke with a re-
fined and almost mincing accent.
He discovered a till in the counter and placed the two
shillings therein. It had no other coins for company.
On consulting his watch, which he had bought for ten
shillings and sixpence out of his twenty pounds, Peter
discovered it to be nearly half-past five, and decided at
once to go down to Southwark, break the news to his
aunt and bring back his Gladstone bag and his books.
X. Cooper was still asleep. He left the shop quietly.
18 PETER HOMUNCULUS
shutting the door softly behind him, so that any customer
entering might waken the sleeping bookseller with the
jangling of the bell. In the glass of the door a hideous
Bunbury caricature mocked him. Glancing up to the
left he saw that the old man had returned to the study
of " The Map of Life."
He seemed to have grown older, his coat more green,
and he was bent lower over the book.
Peter walked away down towards Piccadilly Circus.
There was noticeably a swagger in his walk ; he was more
insolent and certainly more coxcombical than when he
had jostled against the old man in threading through
the crowd only an hour before.
Passing a boot shop near the theatres at the Piccadilly
end of the avenue, he observed that a sale was announced.
(He entered and bought himself a pair of brown boots for
eleven shillings and sixpence. When he came out he
wished that he had bought black, but was too timid to go
back to the gorgeous young Hebrew who had conde-
scended to sell them to him, and pursued his way
across the Circus to the Tube Railway station. He was
almost run down in crossing from the island by a smart
electric brougham, in which a beautiful actress was sit-
ting. The chauffeur yelled at him. He leaped forward
and turned. The actress, in alarm, had turned to look
at him. She was very beautiful. Peter thought he had
roused interest in her. In the station he stopped to
buy an evening paper, the serial story of which he had
followed with eagerness for a month. Among others
(he saw a picture postcard of the actress in the brougham.
She was in a stage costume, and the ingenious printer
had made her glitter with tinsel. Peter paid twopence
and became the owner of the card. At the foot of the
PETER HOMUNCULUS Id
picture he read her name — Miss Mary Dugdale. He
placed her in his right breast pocket, and then, upon
reflection that his heart was on the left side, transferred
her to the left breast pocket of his jacket.
He passed into the lift, and became absorbed in the
story of " The Mammon of Unrighteousness," by Alice
and Ethel Stubbs, a story cunningly concocted in ac-
cordance with the prescription of the controller of a
ring of such journals, passing from day to day through
violent events, each instalment concluding with a seem-
ingly irreparable catastrophe, after which the announce-
ment in italics " To be continued to-morrow " seemed to
be a concession to the unreasoning optimism and hopeful-
ness of the human race. Peter was duly thrilled with thd
day's catastrophe and properly relieved that the hero
and heroine were to enjoy a continued existence in spite
of it. He turned, between Waterloo and the Elephant, to
the other columns of the newspaper and read with languid
interest their combination of banality and picturesque
untruth, lies before which the inventions of Marco Polo
and Sir John Mandeville were pale. Under the heading
of " Plays and Players " he discovered a paragraph con-
cerning Miss Mary Dugdale. It ran : " Miss Mary
Dugdale, the charming young actress who took all Lon-
don by storm two years ago, and who, rumour says, is
engaged to be married to one of the richest of our gilded
youth, has been chosen by Mr. Bertram Bond to play
the lead in his new piece. This is this fortunate young
lady's first really fat part. Keep your eye on Mary."
The impertinence of the paragraphist roused Peter to
fury. He let the paper fall and trampled it underfoot.
A mechanic sitting next to him waited to see if hp had
really finished with it, then picked it up and became
20 PETER HOMUNCULUS
absorbed in the betting news and the predictions of
" Captain Spy." Peter meanwhile had remembered an
anecdote of a deceased and lamented actor who, in his
youth, upon witnessing a performance of Hamlet, had
there and then vowed that he would some day play the
role himself and would wed the lady who played Ophelia.
Both ambitions had been realised, the first successfully,
the second unhappily. However, Peter was unaware of
this, was indeed at an age to believe, in spite of all evi-
dence to the contrary, that marriage was inevitably a
state of happiness, and had entered upon a blissful
dream which was broken only by the grinding of the
brakes as the train drew into the Elephant and Castle
station. He descended and was conveyed in a crowded
lift, still dreaming, to the street. His jaw had dropped
and a vacant expression was in his eyes, the expression
which had provoked one of his sisters to implore him
upon a public occasion to try and look less like an
Passing the Elephant and Castle he was narrowly
missed by an intoxicated man, blubberittg, who lunged
out from the swing doors, stood for a moment on the
curb swaying, drew a revolver from his pocket and shot
himself. Peter swung round on the report, saw the man
crumple up and fall, and a crowd spring up, as crowds
do in London, from nowhere. A nausea seized him, and
a coldness. On the point of tears he ran from the scene,
the vision of the man falling before him, the report ring-
ing in his ears, to the right down Newington Causeway
and the Borough High Street, under the railway bridge,
through dark streets and alleys to Trinity Square and on
down a grim street to the house of his aunt, Mrs. Daltry,
He tugged furiously at the bell, and, the door being
PETEH HOMUNCULUS 21
opened, he plunged into the dimly lit hall, sent hats, walk-
ing-sticks, and umbrellas flying in his passage and stum-
bled down the dark stairs to the kitchen. There he sat
on a hard Windsor chair, the parcel containing his new
boots on his knees, and shivered, pale, uncanny, his lower
His aunt was engaged in the polite art of (Jrystoleum
painting, and at first paid no attention to him. When,
after five minutes, he had spoken no word, she looked up.
A glance at his face and she flew to him, shook him, felt
the iciness of his forehead, shook him again. Under-
standing nothing of his condition she instinctively put
her arms round him — she was a tiny, bird-like woman —
and held his head against her breast. The warmth of
human contact released feeling and the boy burst into a
passion of tears. She crooned over him, not much soft-
ness in her voice, dry withered woman as she was, and
pressed little pecking kisses with her thin lips on his
He wailed: " The man shot himself."
" What man, dearie ? "
"He — ^he came out of the — ^the public house. And,
and sh — shot himself."
" Yes. He was so near, and he crumpled up like —
like a doll when you — ^you make a hole in it and let the
— the sawdust out."
He was seeing it all again, feeling the shock of it.
His condition seemed not to improve, and for distrac-
tion she made him eat; fetched from a cupboard cold
meat, pickles, a Dutch cheese, round and red. He ate
and was comforted, but though she was curious, she
found him little inclined to tell her more and returned
22 PETER HOMUNCULUS
to her painting. It was for her a relief from the monot-
ony of attending to the domestic welfare of the two
commercial gentlemen and the ascetic young priest who
constituted her household. It was also a genteel occupa-
tion, not altogether without profit, for, in red or green
plush frames, they sometimes found a purchaser among
the newly married of the district. A childless woman,
she had welcomed the advent of the queer dreamy boy,
and according to her lights had been kind to him. She
was irritated by his inexplicable alternations of dark
misery, which was almost a stupor, and wild spirits. She
had no great opinion of his ability, and when he was
dismissed first from the insurance office and then from
the solicitor's office in which he had successively found
employment, she had begun seriously to be alarmed lest
he should rest permanently on her hands. He had given
fifteen of his twenty pounds into her keeping, and she
had used them to pay portions of long-standing accounts
with her butcher, and the little grocer at the street cor-
ner. She had sufi'ered pangs of conscience, but had
promised herself to refund the money at a time when
it should be more useful to the boy. Further, she con-
sidered herself entitled to some payment for his board
and lodging. He was acquiescent in all her suggestions
and found himself interesting as a " delicate " boy, who
had outgrown his strength. Thus she explained his un-
usual pallor to her lodgers. When reference was made
to the odd shape of his forehead she hinted darkly at
disease in infancy.
She looked up from her painting to the clock on the
mantelpiece. It was half-past six, time she began to
think of the curate's supper. She found the boy staring
PETER HOMUNCULUS 23
"Better?" she asked.
" Yes," he said.
" You're queer."
"I've got a place."
" Oh ! Hope you'll keep it this time."
" It's to live in."
She had a momentary panic. If he left, he might ask
for the money.
" In a bookshop in Shaftesbury Avenue. Cooper's
the name, and there's a cat with a crumpled ear. And
I'm to get ten shillings a week and my board and lodg-
"When— when do they want you?"
" There's only one — an old man. And I'm to go to-
night, I think. I don't know. He went to sleep again."
" Mr. Cooper. He was asleep when I went in." He
recounted the adventure, beginning with the man on the
telephone wires and the old man in the green coat, omit-
ting no detail.
" Humph," said his aunt. She was dubious. She
had a horror of anything out of the ordinary, like aU
people whose experience has run in a narrow circle. She
had not learned that nothing is irreparable. Accordingly
she considered it her duty to harangue her nephew, who
paid no attention to the sense of the torrent of words,
hearing them only as a man dreaming in a wood hears
the babbling of a mountain stream hard by. His inseir-
sibility roused her to vixenish fury, her voice rose to a
scream so shrill that he could not avoid hearing these
" You've made your bed. You must lie on it. If you
24 PETER HOMUNCULUS
go among these drunkards and thieves I'm done with
you. There ! "
'She folded her arms and held them tight under her
bosom, waiting for his rejoinder. He had grown accus-
tomed to these onslaughts. He looked up at her from
his plate on which he had been tracing designs with the
mustard spoon, wearily and with a heavy eye, and, ris-
ing slowly to his feet, said:
" It's getting late. I must go and pack."
" You're going then ? "
He left her and went up to the attic, which had been
his apartment since his residence in the house, brought
out his Gladstone bag from under the little folding bed
and laid out his belongings — a brown suit, half a dozea
collars, three red ties, two pairs of cuffs, a pair of red
felt slippers, a cap, two night gowns, three flannel shirts,
underwear, socks, hairbrush and comb, and his books —
the works of Felicia Hemans, Astronomy for Beginners,
Pickwick Papers, The Tower of London, Hamlet in a
school edition, Armadale, and an abridged edition of
Don Quixote. He stood for a moment surveying the pile,
surprised to find himself owner of so much, but taking
no pride in it. He had no instinct of possession, and
would quite contentedly have left everything behind. He
packed his bag, and leaving it in the hall on his way
went down to the kitchen to say good-bye to his aunt.
She received him uneasily, afraid lest he should ask for
his money. However, he held out his cheek to be kissed:
she rose on tiptoe and pecked at him. Without more he
turned and left her. As he reached the top of the stairs
conscience pricked her and she called to him. He did
not hear and she made no further effort in the direction
PETERI HOMUNCULUS 25
of honesty, except to tell herself that it was perhaps
better for her to keep the money until such time as he
should need it. She knew for the present where he was
to be found, and if he chose to leave the bookshop with-
out communicating with her — ^well, that would be his
fault and not hers.
She turned to the frying of a steak and onions for
the curate, for whom alone among human beings she had
a real tenderness. The ascetic young parson suffered
agonies from her persistent attentions.
Peter returned to the shop by the same route as that
by which he had come. He was very tired, and the
Gladstone bag was heavy for his small strength. The
shock of the suicide outside the Elephant had left him
in the depths of misery. When, therefore, on arriving
at the shop he found the book-boxes removed, the shutters
up and the door closed, no light in the shop nor sign of.
life, he was very near tears, and a lump rose in his
throat. No passer-by paid any attention to him. He
dropped the bag on to the pavement and knocked vio-
lently at the door, kicked it, found a bell and rang furi-
ously. All to no purpose. He rang again, and again.
At length from above there came the voice of a woman.
"HeUo! You there!"
Peter looked up and saw in the dim light (it was
September, lamps were lit, but the light of day, not yet
disappeared, made them ineffectual) the head of a young
woman in curl papers in the first floor window. As far
as he could see she was pretty, but she seemed to be very
inefficiently clothed, for with her right hand she was
holding a piece of cloth to her left shoulder. A jovial
young man passing saw her and threw up a familiar
greeting. She burst into a torrent of abuse, a flow ofi
26 PETER HOMUNCULUS
language which Peter only remembered to have been
equalled by his father in his worst moments. The young
man passed on singing, " I want you for my all-time
girl," and the young woman returned to Peter.
" What do you want? "
" He ain't in. What d'you want him for ? "
" I'm coming to live here — ^to work." The young
" The devil you are. Wait a minute and I'll let
Peter waited and presently she appeared at a little
door on the other side of the shop.
" This way," she said. " You can get • into old
Cooper's parlour, but that'll be dull for you. Better
come upstairs and talk to me while I dress."
Peter accepted this adventure as he accepted every-
thing, without surprise. She had a box of matches in
one hand and lighted the way for him along the narrow
passage. Just before the stairs she opened a little door
to the left.
" Put your bag in there. That's old Cooper's place."
He deposited his bag inside the door, which she shut
again, and they went upstairs, she in front striking
matches to light the way. Turning to talk to him the
flame of a match reached her thumb and burned her. She
threw it down with an oath and took to sucking her
thumb. She piit out her other hand and took Peter's
arm, guiding him to her room. Then the gas was lit and
Peter stood blinking. When his eyes had grown accus-
tomed tO/ the light he saw that the young woman was
dressed only in a light dressing gown.
" You're pretty," he said.
" Oh ! Come orf it," she laughed. Then she came
PETER HOMUNCULUS 27
running up to him, threw her arms around him and
" Kiss me."
Peter kissed her timidly. He did not like the taste
of the stuff she had on her lips.
" Now sit on the bed, dearie, and talk to me while I
do my toilette."
He sat on the bed, but, finding no topic of conversa-
tion, made no effort to talk. She did not seem to mind
his silence, and while she took the curl papers out of
her hair began to sing. She had a sweet voice and Peter
liked to hear her. One little verse she sang over and
over again, to a sad little tune:
There is a lady sweet and kind.
Was never a face so pleased my mind,
I did but see her passing by.
Yet will I love her till I die.
Peter liked the tune and whistled it.
When she had coiled her black hair into a preposter-
ous erection with a sort of knob hanging down over her
forehead, she removed her dressing gown and stood look-
ing coquettishly at him clad only in corset and pink silk
petticoat. Peter found himself admiring her shoulders
and wanting to touch them.
"What are you staring at, silly?" she said.
"Your shoulders," he said, and she laughed.
" You're a funny boy, but you've got beautiful eyes."
The remark gave Peter a queer little shrill. No one
had ever before spoken well of his appearance. He re-
lapsed into silence. She turned to her mirror again and
began to paint her face. She did it very clumsily, and
when she turned smiling again to Peter, he was appalled.
28 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Suddenly she said:
" Shall we be friends, funny boy? "
" Yes," said Peter.
" What's youT name, then ? "
" Mine's Tessa Myers. You can call me Tessa. How
old are you ? "
" I'm nineteen. Really friends I mean. Not — ^not "
Peter did not understand what not, but he agreed with
" He's a funny old thing, old Cooper. But he's kind.
He's beerf real kind to me, when I was iU."
Peter found considerable comfort in the idea that old
Cooper was kind. Tessa continued as she pimied her
hat, an enormous erection of plush, roses and feathers,
to the fat nest of her hair.
" He's my landlord, you know. An' the people up-
stairs, he took 'em in when the man was out o' work —
he's a printer. He's odd. A gentleman once, but— —
How you do stare at me ! "
Peter was not staring at her nor at anything in the
room. He was visualising the scene by the Elephant and
Castle, which had come back to him. He heard her
voice, but not her words. Politely he smiled ac-
When she was dressed, veiled and fully equipped she
came and sat by him on the bed, and made him tell her
about himself. He invented a romantic history — a bed-
ridden mother, a father who had died before his birth,
a rich uncle in Australia (he felt the banality of the in-
vention of the rich uncle, but it was out almost before
he was aware), adventures on the stage, wandering in
PETER H0MUNCULU9 29
France and a wild flight througK the Black Forest to
Baden-Baden, among pine trees. It was a breathless
narrative and Tessa was enthralled. She sat like a child,
her eyes watching Peter's lips, her own wide apart, her
hands in her lap, an attitude almost of adoration. Peter
had reached his flfteenth year and was on the point of
describing the arrest of a cousin for cattle-maiming
when they heard blundering steps below, a door slammed,
a crash and an oath. Tessa, brought suddenly back to
" He's fallen over your bag," she said. " Come
She turned down the gas and together, she holding his
arm, they crept down the dark stairs to the little door
leading into the parlour. There they found the old book-
seller, lighted match in hand, surveying the bag. He
turned, muttering, not seeing them, aird lit the gas. Tessa
greeted him and pushed Peter, suddenly abashed, for-
ward. Peter could iind nothing to say, he wanted to
giggle and had a tendency to turn like a shy child and
hide his face in Tessa's skirts. He felt small enough,
and iff the dim light old Cooper loomed ogreish.
Suddenly the old man chuckled. It seemed that he
had recognised Peter, for he held out a hand and
gripped the boy's arm, dragging him under the light.
With his other hand he pressed under Peter's chin and
lifted his face for scrutiny. He looked long into his
eyes and chuckled. Chuckling he ran his fingers over
the bumps in Peter's forehead, which had caused one of
his aunts to mutter ominously of water on the brain.
Then he said, turning to Tessa:
" There'll be a fine brew in a head like that."
He seemed delighted.
30 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" Homunculus ! " he said, holding Peter, now thor-
oughly alarmed, at arm's length. " Men are ridiculous,
but it is perhaps better not to know it."
The phrase beat upon Peter's brain, stamped itself,
and he saw it written in large blue letters, winking,
spelling itself out like one of the signs by the river.
" Homunculus," said old Cooper, " we who are worn
by life, crushed, hurried to death, we, about to die,
salute you. We who have lost faith in everything but
youth, salute you, the very type and figure of youth. We
to whom the world is a speck of scum wherein the sun
breeds men like maggots in a dead dog. . . . "
The curious echo in Peter shrieked "Maggots in a
dead dog, being a God kissing carrion — carrion — car-
rion — " and in a swelling cry — "Crow ! ! " The old
" Homunculus ! You are old as the world upon which
you' crawl, ant-like, burrowing in this heap which we
call London; and you are young as the dawn and the
dew. We salute you. Youth! The world is at your
feet. Not for kicking."
With that he gave Peter a little shove so that he stag-
gered and sat suddenly upon a horsehair chair in which
a curious spring made investigations into his anatomy.
He remained gaping at the bookseller, who had turned
" It's early for you yet, my girl. Stay and sup with
youth. I'll make an omelette."
Tessa stayed and laid the table. Almost in silence
they then fed upon the excellent omelette made by old
Cooper by the heat of a gas ring in the hearth. They
drank beer. Milk was provided for the cat, who sat on
the table by the old man's right hand. Through half-
PETEEJ H0MUNCULU9 31
closed lids she blinked at Peter, who occasionally
caressed her timidly. For the first time' in his life Peter
felt himself kin with an animal. He said so and tagged
— " More kin than kind,"
" From Demophoon and her mother," said old Cooper,
with his mouth full. " I thought at one time that I had
learned the art of life. Sleep, eat, eat, sleep. But,
being a man I learned that the pleasures of Demophoon
are not for me, a unit in the social order. Being a male,
I cannot make a profession of those pleasures. The art
of life is still unlearned. No man has ever mastered it:
Man's chief glory."
He drank deeply to Demophoon. Tessa, who was a
little shocked by his remarks, murmured something about
the time and stole away. Peter looked after her heavy-
eyed. At the door she turned and blew him a kiss.
The woman gone,Peter and his employer sat in silence,
eyeing each other furtively. The silence oppressed
Peter and by way of making conversation he narrated
the story of the suicide.
" You will observe," said the old man, " that it was
necessary for him to become drunk to accomplish it.
Some are drunk with sorrow, some with passion, and some
with emptiness and ache of the flesh. With sensibility
alive, men are proud that they can suffer so much.
. . . I came to it nearly, once. I could never be
Then he told Peter the story of the great and absurd
Goethe taking a knife to bed with him and, on the sub-
ject of Goethe, enlarged upon the poet's relations with
women, with special reference to Frau von Stein, who
was clever enough or stupid enough to make him un-
happy during ten years, before hig astounding relation
32 PETER HOMUNCULUS
with the heavy Christine von Vulpins. Lighting a pipe,
the old man said:
" It is curious how men preserve the memory of those
who have refused to regard or respect their institutions.
Men do not like their institutions, for they are all
When the pipe was finished he took Peter, now more
than half asleep, to a little cahin of a room that had
once been a scullery behind the parlour, introduced him
to his bed, and left him with strict injunctions to ex-
tinguish the light. Peter surveyed the apartment, which
contained only a bed, a cracked mirror, and a crazy
chest of drawers, at one corner of which three books
took the place of a missing leg. He was content with it,
had no anxiety because the window was shut, indeed
made no attempt to open it. He arranged his belong-
ings, his clothes in the several drawers and his books
on the little iron mantelpiece. He opened the works of
Felicia Hemans and read a few pious lines. He turned
to the cover and read under the crest of his school the
Pbize Awarded to
PETER DA VIES.
Subject — English Literature.
He felt himself a fine fellow and had a vision of him-
self returning some day to distribute the prizes like the
sheep-faced Archdeacon, the school's especial glory, who
had risen to his pinnacle through marriage with the
daughter of a bishop. Everyone knew that, but Thomas
PETER HOMUNCULUS 33
Bloomer had bowed low to the ornament of the Church.
So, thought the boy, Thomas Bloomer should some day
bow to Peter Davies, perhaps to Sir Peter or even Lord
— Lord . No matter, Thomas Bloomer should
bow. Without being really conscious of what he was
doing, Peter knelt and said his prayers. The God he
created for himself during the office bore a striking re-
semblance to X. Cooper, booming.
Hanging his coat up, Peter felt something rustle in
his pocket. It was the portrait of Miss Dugdale. He
pinned it to the wall above his head. Passing into sleep
he had a vision of X. Cooper, Godlike, saying:
" We, who breed maggots in a dead dog, which is a
God-kissing carrion, salute thee. Lord Davies, emblem
and type of youth ..."
Mary Dugdale appeared in the dress of Elsie Atwood,
the saddler's daughter, a dream — Mary, radiant.
In a few months it was for Peter as though he had
never known any other mode of living. He remembered
all experiences vividly, lost none of his power of visual-
ising past scenes, and like the rest of the world took a
delight in recollecting past hurts, hugging them, striv-
ing to make them as bitter as they had been at the mo-
ment of the event. Past joys it was for him, as for
others, impossible to recall. He was happy and more
than ever convinced that he was a iine feUow, for old
Cooper adored him, as he did the old gentleman in the
rusty green coat who had become intimate with them
and an habitual visitor. They chuckled at Peter's jokes,
repeated them to each other, reminded each other of his
exploits, proclaimed him a masterpiece, a poet, and their
eyes never left him when he was in the parlour or the shop
with them. Neither had other creature to care for,
though old Cooper loved Demophoon, and the green-
coated old man was attached quite sincerely to the filthy
woman who for nearly thirty years had " cleaned and
done for " him in his little room above the bird shop
near Covent Garden market. Peter liked the unques-
tioning appreciation of his remarks and used to ponder
witticisms and profound sayings as he worked in the
shop. Occasionally he was guilty of theft.
He was always in the shop, working, early morning
and late evening. He had made a wonderful difference
in the aspect of the place. He began by dividing the
books into the moderately clean and the dirty, without
PETER HOMUNCULUS 35
regard to quality, subject or price, and finding that the
casual loafing bibliophile liked to purchase a dirty book-
in a calf binding ancient in appearance, rather as a
sop to conscience than from any enthusiasm, he placed
such in the cheap boxes outside, raising the scale of
prices in the proportion of one penny to threepence. He
left the prints and the Vanity Fair cartoons iir the win-
dow, for they seemed to give a tone to the place. Just
Inside the door, as a bait, he had always the cleanest
books, and beyond them, for respectability, the works of
the great. He endeavoured to continue the catalogue
from the place where his predecessor's pen had sprawled
and spluttered down the page — a disaster explained by
old Cooper, who had discovered the dirty imp reading a
lurid tale in contravention of all orders and principles;
but, impotent in the face of its chaos, he bought a bulky
manuscript book and began a new one in his neatest
writing, adorning it with much red ink. He had the
shop thoroughly cleaned and the windows polished once
a week by the crone who did the rough work of the estab-
lishment. Truculent towards old Cooper, she was as
wax in the hands of the boy. The old man was fitfully
roused to energy by this new influence, and though he
maintained to all appearances his slothfulness, he was
subtle to suggest new operations to the adored boy, with-
out letting him know that the idea was not his own.
Their stock consisted of books unsalable elsewhere,
bought by the hundredweight, remainders from the great
booksellers, and the siftings of libraries bought by the
second-hand fraternity. Old Cooper kept the buying in
his own hands. With the shop clean and attractive, busi-
ness grew amazingly, and the victims of the book-poring
habit paid it an attention which it had never kirpwn b?^
36 PETER HOMUNCULUS
fore. Entrants to the shop became so frequent that
Demophoon in despair deserted it for the parlour. Old
Cooper's knowledge, wit and wisdom became known, and
men of all sorts would come to the shop to exchange
words with him. He was crusty with most of them. He
had for so long lain aside, like the most obscurely hidden
of his books, dusty and cobwebbed, that he came blink-
ing to the light of human relations. His bewilderment
was pathetic, but he steadfastly refused to wear more
than one clean collar a week, and adhered to his close
clipping of his beard as less trouble than shaving. To
tell the truth, Peter was a little ashamed of the old man,
and with the blindness of his age, often hurt him bit-
terly. Perhaps all the more for that old Cooper doted
on Peter. They throve, and, rarely moving from the
shop, Peter found his ten shillings mount to a consider-
able sum. At Tessa's suggestion he started an account
with the Post Office Savings Bank.
His aunt he had not seen again since the night of his
quitting her, and he had written an hubristic letter to
his brother announcing his circumstances and his deter-
mination to sever all connection with tailordom for ever.
For a short time he corresponded fervently with Elsie
Atwood, but his interest in the correspondence was
purely literary (he delighted in his own humour), and
finding soon that he was repeating himself, he fled from
the cardinal sin and ceased. From that moment his
world was the shop, conceived as the fertilising ground
of the germ of the greatness of Peter Davies. He read
jwith old Cooper, three nights a week, Greek, German,
and a little French. The old man taught him to recite
ballads of Goethe and Schiller, and little love poems of
Uhland^ took him through selected passages of Plato,
PETER HOMUNCULUS 37
Euripides, and play after play of Aristophanes; roared
and ranted Racine, bleating the long, heavy lines in the
manner of Mounet SuUy; minced the fables of La Fon-
taine; stuffed thoughts of Blaise Pascal into the boy's
brain; swept with him through the histories and trag-
edies of Shakespeare, they weeping together with Cor-
delia, raging with Othello, both acting for all they were
worth: Tom Jones they read together, Peregrine Pickle
and Pickwick ; Waverley and the Bride of Lammermoor.
Of modern writers old Cooper would have nothing ; tale-
makers he abhorred, and for the socialist writers, he
dismissed them jas cold vain fellows, swollen with rais-
ing a cloud of dust in a cul-de-sac, imable to view the
world for the dust they had made; parochial little fel-
lows embracing the parish pumps as the centre of the
world, their little intellect as the motive forces of that
same world, denying instinct. The old man could not
speak of them with moderation.
" Homunculus," he said — ^he never addressed Peter hy
any other title — " Homunculus, there has never been
any other faith for the social order and arrangement
of the affairs of men than this same socialism. It is
in the hearts of all good men. Since, however, there are
men who love power and money better than all other
of the prizes that this world has to offer, love them suf-
ficiently to gain them in spite of aU obstacles, in spite
of their own right feeling and love, the socialist dream
is slow in realisation. It is beneath all progressive
measures. ... It has taken man millions of years
to develop his brain. It must take him millions of years
to learn to use it properly. He is driven by hunger and
love, two instincts, the instinct of defence and preser-
vation, the instinct of creation: twp instincts so Jnex-
38 PETER HOMUNCULUS
tricably intertwined as to be almost one and the same.
[Having, perhaps foolishly — I do not know — developed
this brain, men have complicated their existence, for
their brain is not yet sufficiently strong to control these
instincts. It will be — perhaps, who knows! — not till
then I think will — ^to sever intellect from instinct is
sheer arrogance, the work only of a vain fool. — These
new men make of socialism a creed, so that their words
Then the vain old man was guilty of a tag. He said:
" Homo sum ; nil humanum a me alienvum puto ? "
Peter's mind was not strong enough to grasp all the
old man's philosophy, but it was presented to him fre-
quently in various guises, so that it sank, became part
of his own mind, and though his imagination could not
yet grasp the world, nor his youthful egotism allow ^
him sufficiently to lose sight of himself, he contracted
early the artist's habit of looking at men and women as
something remote and yet akin with himself, explicable
only through himself, part of a gigantic whole, a splen-
did world, a world which, in spite of all waverings and
all temptations to an easy cynicism, he felt desperately
to be good.
Once old Cooper said to him suddenly as he was
ruling lines in red ink in the catalogue:
" It is the privilege of genius to reveal the splendour
of the world."
Peter, as usual, took the words to himself, mused over
them, found them good, printed and emblazoned them
on a piece of white paper, which he pinned on to the
wall above the several photographs (he had begun a
collection) of Miss Mary Dugdale. He had seen her
upon the stage in the very successful play of Mr,
PETER HOMUNCULUS 39
Bertram Bond, and often sneaked to the theatre of an
evening without giving word of his intention. She was
to him ideal woman; her nose was so deliciously straight.
On one occasion, when the green-coated old man whom
old Cooper called " Adam " and Peter " Sir," was sup-
ping with them, shaking and shivering in his old green
coat, his fingers twitching, now pulling at his thin goat
beard, now stroking his sharp beak of a nose, red-
veined, they discussed London, its cruelty, its snobbery,
its preposterous arrogance, is parochialism, is irresist-
ible attraction, its romance, its life, its majesty, its cor-
ruption, its beauty, and its hideousness. Old Cooper
went into the shop, first filling his mouth with bloater
fried by Peter, to return with a tattered, much-read
volume in his hand. Peter recognised it as that which
lay always on the sofa where the old man slept in the
shop. He opened it and read :
Hell is a city much like London,
A populous and a smoky city;
There are all sorts of people undone.
And there is little or no fun done:
Small justice shewn and still less pity.
There is great talk of revolution
And a great chance of despotism,
German soldiers — camps — confusion —
Tumults — ^lotteries — rage — delusion —
Gin — suicide — and methodism.
Peter sat listening, his mind supplying instances of
each. German soldiers and lotteries puzzled him. The
man of the Elephant and Castle stood for suicide, the
crone who cleaned for them for gin, his aunt for meth-
odism. Old Cooper read on:
40 PETER HOMUNCULUS
There are mincing women mewing
(Like cats who amant misere)
Of their own virtue, and pursuing
Their gentler sisters to that ruin.
Without which — ^what were chastity?
Lawyers, judges — old hob-nobbers —
Are there — bailiffs, chancellors —
Bishops — great and little robbers —
Rhymsters — pamphleteers — stock-jobbers —
Men of glory in the wars.
A fine scorn came into the old man's voice as he read:
Things whose trade is, over ladies
To lean and ilirt, and stare and simper.
Till all that is divine in woman
Grows cruel, courteous, smooth, inhuman-
Crucified 'twixt a smile and whimper.
Thinking, toiling, wailing, moiling.
Frowning, preaching — such a riotl
Each with never-ceasing labour.
Whilst he thinks he cheats his neighbour
Cheating his own heart of quiet. . . .
And some few — ^like we know who.
Damned — ^but God alone knows why —
To believe their minds are given
To make this ugly Hell a Heaven,
In which faith they live and die. . . .
All are damned — ^they breathe an air
Thick, infected, joy-dispelling:
Each preserves what seems most fair.
Mining like moles through mind, and there
Scoop palace caverns vast, where Care
In throned state is ever dwelling.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 41
The book was shut and laid respectfully on the table,
the old man's hand caressing its cover.
"There/' he said, "that's London. It's true now."
" I think," said Adam, " that what a great man sees
is always true. Great men always see the same things.
The poet has the same vision as Christ."
"All the evil in the world," said Cooper; "all the
evil in the world, comes from the arrogance of men,
apes in clothes."
He cocked an eye at Peter to see if the remark had
shot home. Seeing the boy in a dream, he continued:
" The world is what we see in it. I cannot see that
we are any better than ants or bees."
" The beasts," said Adam, " die simply as they live.
We complicate life and we die in terror. I am afraid of
Old Cooper became arrogant at that.
" I should accept death as I have accepted life — as a
gift I have not asked for. . . ."
Peter was pale, wide-eyed. Thoughts too big for him
were thumping in his head.
"I think," he said in a faint little voice; "I think
dead things are horrible. We — ^we — die to set other
As soon as he had said it, he knew that the thought
was stale, no longer true for him, though splendid when
he had first roused it. He laughed nervously, and fell
to twisting a lock of hair upon his forehead. Old
Cooper saw that he was moved, and silenced Adam.
Awkwardly they sat. Relief came when Tessa ran in,
hair down, scared. She was sobbing and her hand
clutched at her neck. Peter jumped to his feet, held
her for a moment, then aided her to his chair. She
42 PETER HOMUNCULUS
clung to his hand, and he felt an odd sort of pleasure
that she should.
"What is it, Tessa?"
Tessa turned to old Cooper, questioning her.
" Mrs. Beasley," she said. " She was — ^was in the
family way — and — and — he's been on the drink lately,
out of work again. I been paying their rent He
struck her two days ago, and to-day it's — she's — it's all
wrong. ... I been with her — it's awful."
She clutched Peter's hand tight, hurt him. He shook
free, seized his hat, and without a word ran out into
the street. There was a dense fog, and he had diffi-
culty in finding his way to a house in Endell Street,
where he found the young man who had purchased " Mr.
Gladstone," the son and partner of a Doctor Fildes,
well known in the district for his skill and charity. He
had become a friend of Peter, and in that house the
boy was always welcome, treated with respect, and per-
haps a little too much encouraged to think himself a rare
being. He had soon overcome his first dislike of the
young man, with his airs of the University and care-
fully elaborate professional manner. Together they re-
turned to the shop — old Adam had disappeared. Cooper
was in the parlour soothing, controlling the husband,
Beasley, wild, distracted with remorse, pacing fiercely to
and fro, abusing himself, the world, and the God of
generation who sent children to those who could least
tend them, Tessa, with money of old Cooper's, had
flown to make purchases of coals, blankets, comfortable
things. She had taken the four children to her room
and placed them all in her great bed, brass, with a
bright pink covering. They lay there huddled together,
frightened, whimpering like a litter of young puppies
PETER HOMUNCULUS 43
wanting their mother and the comfort of her milk.
Young Fildes went straight upstairs and saw the
woman. Her condition was terrible. He gave her mor-
phia, and recognising his incompetence in face of this
piece of twisted nature, called softly to Peter and sent
him with an urgent message to his father.
While Peter was gone, and until Doctor Fildes came,
Tessa and the young doctor straightened the room,
cleaned it, lit a fire, moving silently, afraid a little,
glad each of the other's company. There was no sleep
for any of them in the house that night. Peter and
old Cooper took turns with the wretched husband. Tessa
was flitting to and fro, upstairs and downstairs, fetch-
ing, carrying. She showed a marvellous competence, a
decision in the face of the small emergencies, difficulties
and obstacles cropping up through the long night, which
made the men feel ashamed a little, grateful to her.
Through the night father and son were watching over
the body of the wretched woman, twisting, turning,
sweating in agony. Life flickered in her, seemed at
dying point, flared up dangerously, then glowed in a
little spark. The dead thing taken from her, she might
live again, faintly at first, timidly. . . .
That night was great for Peter. The immense hap-
penings of it set him quivering, exhausted him. He
had come really into contact with human beings, all
veils torn asunder, and he entered upon real friendship.
(He saw old Cooper difi'erently. Too young to under-
stand or sympathise with the old man's attitude towards
life, the result of long, bitter experience and thought
almost equally bitter, yet there was in him ever after a
humility in his conduct towards the generous creature
which touched Cooper and gave a yet greater value to
44 PETER HOMUNCULUS
the precious boy who Had suddenly come to restore
interest in last days.
Peter, like the rest of us, was nicer for being brought
in contact with human suffering.
He knew, of course, that he was nicer, delighted in
all the new things which he found in himself, and with
his youthful sentimentality put it to the test by all
sorts of faked generosities. He found himself so beau-
tiful at this time, that in his bed at nights he would
cry with pleasure in the contemplation of himself.
However, he did not let it interfere with business, and
after provision had been made for the Beasley family,
who were shipped off to New Zealand as soon as the
woman was well enough, he threw out suggestions that
the shop front should be painted, and the name relet-
tered in White on an olive-green ground. Old Cooper
at first was obdurate, saw no good in it, was satisfied
with trade and did not want more. Peter was so im-
portunate, however, that consent was at length given,
and the painters camd".
Cooper was mysterious, went about chuckling, rubbing
his hands, jingling the money in his pockets, making
sudden wild onslaughts on Demophoon, and was alto-
gether in a high state of glee. Peter was very busy
with the catalogue, and also with a great literary work
at which he was working in secret, and hardly noticed
the eccentric behaviour of his employer. The smell of
paint was peculiarly distasteful to him, and he was not
well; for one day he retired to bed. Old Cooper was
alarmed and fussed until Peter snapped at him.
The sickness was gone next day, Peter's seventeenth
birthday, and old Cooper took the boy after breakfast
into the street. His hand on Peter's shoulder, he pointed
PETER HOMUNCULUS 45
to tHe name board above tfie window. In letters of
white on a green ground Peter read:
Cooper and DavieS. Booksellers
Libraries bought and valued
Old Adam came shuffling by on his way to the British
Museum, where it was his wont to speiid the morning.
He gave a shrill little cry of pleasure on reading the
inscription, shook Peter's hand up and down, up and
down, sniffed, patted his shoulder, said " Good boy, good
boy," and went as fast as he could in the direction of
Peter went into the shop bursting with pride. Old
Cooper followed him, and Demophoon appeared from
her night's wanderings, after which she had a craving
for notice, as though she wished to make sure that she
would be received back into a respectable household.
She rubbed against Peter's legs. He stooped and picked
her up. She hated it, broke loose, and fell, twisting
marvellously in the air, to land on her feet. With her
tail stiff in the air, bristling, she marched, treading
delicately, out into the street again.
" She is not irrterested in your affairs, Homunculus.
Why should she be? They do not visibly affect her
Peter made a joke, too bad for reproduction. It
convulsed the old man. With great solemnity he pro-
duced a large document, written in black, very black,
lettering on stiff paper — a deed of partnership. He
laid it on the table flat, and together they conned it,
the black hair against the grey. There was really no
need for such a document, but the old man, who had
begun life as a barrister, had taken a delight in draft-
46 PETER HOMUNCULUS
ing it and had had it engrossed at a legal stationer's.
He was proud of it, and Peter liked the references to
himself as " the said Peter Davies." It was adorned
with a superabundance of legal phrases, in the manner
of the old conveyancers of Lincoln's Inn, who were paid
by the folio of seventy-two words, and were in conse-
quence supreme masters of tautology. The old man
was vain, almost childish about it, and hovered, cluck-
ing like an old hen, while Peter signed it.
" Cooper and Davies," he chuckled. " Cooper and
Davies. An honest business if a small one; if there
can be an honest business which is not the direct delv-
ing of a living from the earth. Dealers in words —
words printed and bound. Words are quick and vain
things, Homunculus. Sounds for communion. I think
the beasts only commune by sounds in love. . . ."
Peter marked that for a fallacy, knowing something of
birds and beasts. He was a little ashamed of the old
man's childishness, and glad when he went upstairs to
shew the deed to Tessa,
Left alone, Peter had a horrible sinking in his stom-
ach. He felt terribly, terribly youthful. Under the
new arrangement he was to receive one pound a week
as a salaried partner in the firm of Cooper and Davies.
It was much money, more, he thought, than he could
know what to do with. It gave him no pleasure to
buy things. He bought clothes when he needed them,
adhering always to a suit of navy-blue serge. Already
at seventeen he was careful, having a horror of pov-
erty from the memory of the humiliations of his child-
hood, and knew already that the civilised human animal
secure of its living has a contempt for the insecure.
With that in his mind, he swelled continually the sum
PETER HOMUNCULUS '4^7.
which he deposited with His Majesty's Postmaster-Gen-
eral, and only when he needed a new suit or had some
other essential purchase to make was the blue author-
isation for withdrawal requested. With twenty shil-
lings a week he felt secure, and would have been proud
but for that dreadful feeling of youth. Helpless he
felt, and angry. He kicked the counter and felt better,
and soon work restored confidence.
By the mid-day post he received a letter of birthday
greetings from his brother, tendering the olive branch.
Glad to have it, he wrote a reply, narrating his new
circumstances and the luck which had befallen him.
The letter reminded him of his aunt, and he felt consid-
erable compunction when he realised that he had not
seen nor made any effort to see or communicate with
her since he had left her house. A saying of Cooper's
came back to him and he grew mournful. It was a sad
saying. The old man had broken an evening of silence
with it, an evening which he had spent sucking his pipe
and reading his everlasting Shelley.
" Come to think of it," he said, " we cannot reform
the world any more than we can change its face. We
throw up heaps of stone and mud and think them better
than an ant heap which is mud and straw, or a nest
which is moss and twig. We can do nothing. Each of
us is alone — ^terribly alone . . . splendidly alone.
I am the Earth,
Thy mothers she within whose stony veins
To the last fibre of the loftiest tree
Whose thin leaves trembled in the frozen air,
Joy ran, as blood within a living frame,
When thou didst from her bosom, like a cloud
Of glory, arise, a spirit of keen joy!
48 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Each of us is that, Homunculus, at birth ' a spirit
of keen joy ' — and slowly we kill joy as we move to
death, for we are perhaps afraid of life. , . .
Fear of life! — It is in all of us. That being so, we
can do nothing in this world, Homunculus, except to be
kind and strive always to be kinder . . . and
. . . and damn morality."
Peter remembered that, not word for word, but the
sense of it. He saw the old man, moved, waving his
pipe in the air, grunting out his thoughts as he found
words for them, his old heavy face lit up, the great eye
flashing and the little eye winking, winking until a tear
was squeezed out and rolled down the hard skin of his
cheek. He remembered that the tear had looked oddly
out of place on the hard skin; such a large tear from
such a little eye. To be kind and always strive to be
kinder was a touching and a good doctrine, and thought
flew to the little aunt in the dingy house in Southwark,
tending her curate and painting her crystoleum pictures.
With a fearful crudity the idea presented itself to
Peter that she was not happy. He had not before con-
sidered her as a person with emotions and sensibilities
like himself, a creature capable of grief and joy per-
haps. The idea shocked him. The shock blurred his
recollection of her, and he was unable to correlate the
details of her life as he knew it, but out of it all came
a vague and certain knowledge that she was lonely,
cramped and dried. So far as he could he felt sym-
pathy. He had felt more with the printer's wife, but
that had touched him nearly, had been a wild, sudden,
savage thing that had set him vibrating. This was more
subtle, a collection of a thousand details which he was
unable to gather. He knew, however, that he had been
PETER HOMUNCULUS 49
at fault, admitted it, and patted himself on the back for
this generous abnegation of self.
It was with a feeling almost of pietjr that he set out
that evening, refusing all blandishments of Cooper,
Tessa, and young Fildes, and suggestions of birthday
jollity. Coming to ground from the burrowing of the
train, he walked on the other side of the road to avoid
the place of the suicide. In his hand he carried a little
parcel done up in light tissue paper, containing a
woollen shawl which he had bought at a shop in Shaftes-
bury Avenue as a preserrt for his aunt, for he remem-
bered that she always wore a shawl or a scarf draped
round her thin shoulders, cased in their formidable
armour of jet beading. He was pleased with himself,
and in Newington Causeway, coming upon an old woman
crouching on a doorstep, her skirts trailing their ragged
edges iir the mud, matches in her hand, he gave her a
penny. She crooned, and, holding out a shivering hand
to grasp the coin, she said:
" God bless you, young gentleman, and pave your
way with gold."
The phrase "young gentleman" delighted Peter, and
he strutted until he came to the large window of a
grocer's shop, in which he saw himself reflected. The
reflection pricked the bubble of his pride. He saw
himself there, narrow-chested, bandy-legged, with large,
To tell the truth, our Peter was not at this time a
handsome youth. He was callow, a fledgeling, as gawky
and comic as a half-feathered bird. He did not realise
quite how humorously ugly he was, nor was he able to
find comfort in the thought that he was not alone in
that conditioir. It was his habit to regard all his attri-
50 PETER HOMUNCULUS
butes as peculiar to himself. The revelation of the
grocer's window was crushing. It had been only since
Tessa had remarked on the beauty of his eyes that he
had given thought to his personal appearance, but he
had given much.
His legs, obedient to his original intention, carried
him along through High Street to Trinity Square and
the little dingy house. Before the door his heart sank.
The house was occupied, but where his aunt's brass
plate had been was now only a clean patch of paint of
a different colour from the rest of the door, and adorned
at each ccwner with a hole where a screw had been.
With foreboding he rang the bell, which gave forth its
'cracked note dismally in the tomby depths of the house.
There came no answer. He rang again. There came
the clanking of the door chain unfastened, the clicking
of a latch drawn, and slowly the door was opened by a
few inches. The ghastly light of a worn fish-flame gas
jet flickering filled the crack and lighted from behind
a small head, frowsy-haired, face coarse, sharp, and
mouth all but toothless. Peter gaped at this apparition.
From the head came a shrill whistling sound that
presently took cognisable shape in words.
"What d'ye want.'"
Peter was silent.
" If yer wants money, there ain't none in the 'ouse,
an' if yer wants wittles, there's none neither. If yer
wants ter sell anythink, go to the 'alls o' the rich, and
don't worry the pore. . . ."
The whistling sounds flew, battering over Peter. He
bore up against them.
"Is Mrs. Daltry in?"
" Mrs. Watson is in, which is me. At 'ome, but not
PETER HOMUNCULUS 51
at 'ome seein' as 'ow it's 'arf-parst niire and me recep-
tion is from four to six in the afternoon, I don't think."
Peter took off his hat to her.
" I wanted to see Mrs. Daltry."
" Never 'eard of 'er, 'less she was the lidy as lived
'ere next but one afore me, an' 'ad the bums in. She's
Peter made inquiry, but could elicit no further infor-
mation. The owner of the head lost interest in him and
slammed the door. He waited to hear the chain restored
to its place. The light struggling through the grimy
fan light over the door died and the house became more
than ever forbidding.
Peter felt ridiculous standing there on the muddy
doorstep with the little white parcel in his hand. His
good intentions had come too late. His aunt was gone,
after years of struggle engulfed. To trace her seemed
impossible. He thought of the curate who had lodged
with her, but could not remember his name, nor had he
ever known his church.
On his way back, passing the church in the Square,
he stopped by the notice board by the gateway and read
the name of the rector in faded gilt lettering, and the
names of his two curates, one faded, and the other new
and glittering. Neither had a sense of familiarity.
Rev. David Barnes, the faded one — that was not he;
Rev. James Reid, not he, either. The name began with
a W. He made a note of the rector's address, but
thought it too late to worry him that night. If his aunt
:were lost, she would not be more so in a day or two.
It began to rain, and Peter turned up the velvet collar
of his thick navy-blue overcoat. He had been depressed,
but standing in the square in the rain, the place was so
52 PETER HOMUNCULUS
infinitely more dismal than his condition that he felt
cheerful by comparison. He stood for some minutes
surveying the House of God, not without respect, and
found it ugly. The windows of the belfry were lit, and
he saw figures moving. Tiny men they seemed at that
height, hauling ropes that looked like threads; a cluster
of these tiny men and thin threads swaying, throbbing.
The bells rang out slowly, clumsily beating out a tune,
Lead — kind-ly — flight
A-mid — ^the — en-cir-cling — glo-om.
Lead — thou — ^me — o-on.
1 — do — ^not — ask — to — see
The — dis-tant — scene.
One — step — e-nough — for — me-e
The — ^night — is — dark
And — I — am — far — from — ^ho-ome
Peter turned and fled.
He found the old match woman huddled into a door-
way out of the rain. On an impulse he gave her the
shawl, and stood by her while she opened the parcel.
She mumbled over it, took o£F her rusty old cape and
wrapped the warm white shawl round her shoulders, over
the thin black cotton of her blouse, torn in places,
wretched, ragged. It gave her warmth at once. She
donned her cape and held out her hand for him to
shake. He held out his; she took it and drew hins
down to her, while with her bleared, tired old eyes, red-
rimmed, she scanned his face.
" Warm it is," she said in a cracked voice, in which
there yet lingered an infinitely pathetic note of refine-
ment. " Warm, warm, in a cold world. Hold people
PETERi H0MUNCULU9 53
close to you, boy, hold 'em close. You'll be cold else —
I was a hard woman, cold, so there was none to warm
me. Hold 'em close — close — close."
She loosed his hand and fell to coughing. Tears
filled Peter's eyes, and he left her. Cooper's voice rang
in his ears ". . . £ind and strive always to be
kinder." The old woman's hand, cold and bony, had
chilled his. He blew on it. He felt glad and had a
warm interest in the motley throng of men and women
in the lift and in the train that took him back to the
so different and glittering world round Piccadilly Cir-
cus, so different and yet so much the same. He had to
pass the theatre which enshrined Miss Dugdale. In the
vestibule young men in evening dress were smoking, and
in the street were young men from the pit. All were
loud in praises of her. Mr. Bertram Bond's play was
an enormous success, and had been a triumph for the
young actress. From the pit and gallery Peter had
often adored her, her hair, bronze hair clustered round
her head; her brave walk, swift movements, gallant; her
soft, kind voice so tender and so thrilling in its lower
notes; her eyes, beyond words beautiful; her nose so
straight — and her mouth awry, with the little dimples
that chased upon her cheek as she spoke. He was proud
that others should so speak of her, his rarest posses-
sion. She was more real to him than any of the beings
with whom he came in contact. He never talked of her.
He stayed now under the shelter of the portico and lis-
tened to her praises. Some talked of her as Mary. The
In the theatre a bell rang. Cigarettes were cast aside,
pipes knocked out, and the young men hurried away to
miss no moment of the divinity.
54 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Peter returned to the establishment of Cooper and
He found his partner, with Adam and young Fildes,
■waiting for his return. They rose and saluted Mr.
DavieSj as they insisted on calling him. A magnificent
supper had been prepared. Cooper had bought a large
pork pie from Bellamy's, and made a joke about the
last words of Pitt, Earl of Chatham, concerning one of
these same pies. Adam from his small store had brought
three slices of cold ham, while Fildes had ransacked a
German delicatessen store and laid on the table a wealth
of sausages, honey cakes, black bread and bottles of
golden lager beer of Pilsen. A little parcel contained a
present from Tessa, with a message of love. She had
gone out early about her business. She was in luck's
way, having found a kind man who, as she said, was
being real good to her. She was shortly to leave her
room to take up her residence in apartments provided
for her by him. Her gift was a patent safety razor, as
a hint to our Peter, whom she had often teased about
the fluflfy down which disfigured his chin and upper lip.
Old Cooper slapped his thigh and roared with
Peter accepted all their homage and offerings as by
right. He was not insolent about it, but he had always
the dogged idea of being as good as the rest of the
world, if not better. If, therefore, they chose to give
him things, whether he wanted them or not, he was pre-
pared to please them by acceptance. He was gloomy a
little, and thoughtful. Old Cooper, ever watchful, de-
tected it, and softened his hilarity to meet the boy's
After supper, when they had drunk his health, he
PETER HOMUNCULUS 55
narrated his experiences, though from an odd shame he
omitted to mention the gift of the shawl to the old
match woman. He edited the story, gave it a touch of
romance, and even invented new figures. The central
point of it, however, the disappearance of his aunt,
stood out clearly. It was cleverly done.
" Poor woman," said Fildes.
" Poor woman," said Adam.
" We are all poor," said Cooper. " Her case is not
much worse than it had been for twenty years. When
the fight has been long and the decline of resisting
power slow, the crossing of the line is no great thing.
The difference between the edge of the volcano and the
crater is a matter of a few seconds dropping. The
scorching has been on the edge — the simile is not good.
— Homunculus. Your health. There is always some-
thing rotten in the state of Denmark, but Denmark is
a small speck on one of a million worlds. . . . We
cannot abolish Denmark nor its rottenness. Yes, boy,
hold men and women close to you. The ragged woman
knew her world. She knew herself for a manifestation
of life and a small thing, not more unhappy nor more
happy than the fine lady she had been. . . . We
think of happiness always as a thing possessed by others.
. . . Hug 'em to you, Homunculus; they are yours
for the asking. Your health, Homunculus ! "
To Fildes, who had just plighted his troth with a
young nurse in the hospital which he visited, and was
supremely happy, all this moralising and philosophy
seemed absurd. All the same, he drank Peter's health
again — " Mr. Davies and the firm of Cooper and
Old Adam said " Hear " then choked, and the
56 PETER HOMUNCULUS
other " Hear " whicH Ee sKould Have said was lost in a
rattling in his throat. Peter patted him on the back,
and Demophoon, who had been blinking contemptuously
at the four making such absurd ceremony, leaped in
alarm to the floor and hid in the darkest corner she
Eecovered, old Adam wheezed out that he must go.
His departure broke up the party, for Fildes soon fol-
lowed. Peter walked with him to Endell Street, what
time he listened to enraptured praises of the young
woman who was to become in six months' time Mrs.
Douglas Fildes. Peter had seen the young woman, and
found her a poor thing by the side of Miss Dugdale.
Fildes thanked him for listening so kindly to his va-
pourings, shook him warmly by the hand, patted his
shoulder; Peter wished him every happiness, and that
his seed, like that of Abraham, might be unnumbered as
the sands by the seashore. He expressed the wish sol-
emnly, so solemnly as to overcome Fildes' uneasiness in
the delicacy of the subject.
That night as Peter lay in his bed, musing, dreaming,
dull musings and glorious flashes of castle-building, his
door creaked open and old Cooper appeared shading
the light of a candle with his hand. He stood over the
bed, looking down at the boy. Peter pretended to be
asleep, and artfully blinked his eyes and gave a little
moan, as though the light had disturbed him. The old
man sniffed and a hot tear fell on Peter's neck.
As he went, the light of the candle cast his shadow
huge and grotesque over all the little room.
The firm of Cooper and Davies throve. Peter and
the shop grew ever smarter; the old man changed in
nothing. Peter clung to his Hue serge suit and red
tie, but after his promotion took more care of his ap-
pearance, shaved with Tessa's razor, making havoc with
his skin at first, often a slashed ruffian; took to a new
type of collar, very low linen, to reveal much of his
long neck, and for the first time in his life parted his
hair. Stiff hair over the forehead made a parting on
either side impossible. It was parted, therefore, down
the centre. He had his photograph taken and sent a
copy to his brother, with whom he became on friendly
terms in correspondence, but made no step to accept-
ance of often-repeated invitations to revisit his birth-
place. A sister had once visited London by a cheap
excursion for the purpose of some trade exhibition which
had brought her betrothed, and Peter had met them,
dined with them in some little restaurant in Old Comp-
ton Street. He disliked both. The sister had treated
him as a boy and wounded his vanity. The companion-
ship of men much older than himself had so far in-
juriously affected him: no great matter, a phase of
youth dazzled by its own brilliance.
He had a wide acquaintance among the men of his
own trade, booksellers in Charing Cross Road, pushing
young men, and old fellows who bemoaned the days of
Bookseller's Row in the Strand, before the old thor-
oughfare had been widened, Housmannised and flanked
58 PETER HOMUNCULUS
■with white, cliff-like buildings. From them, friendly
disposed, he learned many devices used for generations
and unknown to X. Cooper, who had entered the trade
indolently, as an amateur, with no thought but to eke
out a living with the least amount of trouble to himself.
The boy had two circles of friends, if a man before
twenty can be said to have friends; people at all events
who were kind to him, received him simply and without
ceremony, and listened with interest while he talked
about himself. One group was reached through young
Fildes, married, and the father of an abnormally fat
baby, settled in a little flat in Southampton Row, and
taking more and more of his father's work. Young
Mrs. Fildes was an enthusiastic amateur of music, knew
certain of the small fry of the profession: had tickets
sent her for their concerts, and sometimes for great
affairs at Queen's Hall or Albert Hall; talked glibly of
symphonies and concertos. Bach fugues, and suites of
Grieg and Tchaikowsky, derided Strauss, and adored
Brahms; knew the names and personal history of all
the famous pianists, violinists, 'cellists, singers, con-
ductors, composers; played herself, and gave little musi-
cal evenings in her little green drawing-room, where
the pictures, excluding photographs of her baby, were
all reproductions of Botticelli's work. Peter was always
present at these meetings, and often she would take him
to concerts when her husband, a busy person in the
evening, was unable to go. A dark, vivacious little
woman, with strange eyes, and dark coarse hair, brown
and black like a well-coloured meerschaum pipe, she
liked Peter and was kind to him. He liked her and
was glad always to be with her. He told her every-
thing, of his love-affairs, mimerous, little wild flashes
PETER HOMUNCULUS 59
(he never mentioned Miss Dugdale, still an enthroned
goddess), and of his writing and literary ambitions.
She praised his work. Old Cooper had damned it and
advised its destruction. Peter had torn the closely
written sheets at the edge, an inch, then glanced at a
purple patch of which he was inordinately proud, and
restored the precious child of his brain (so he thought
it, unconscious of plagiarism) to his drawer. He wrote
poems to Mrs. Fildes, who thought them charming and
her husband cruel to laugh at them. Peter wrote four
or five a week, sonnets, ballades, triolets, and sometimes,
with a sinking, sent them to the offices of newspapers
or magazines. One appeared in print in a journal
wherein it shone like a jewel against the banality of
the rest of its contents. Of the rest, some returned
with the editor's compliments and thanks, others were
lost for ever. Peter had fits of sickening rage, and for
weeks would send nothing. Hope would spring again,
and the verses be sent out like so many doves from the
ark. Old Cooper steadily advised their destruction;
Peter would snarl at the old man, and go off to be
soothed in Southampton Row. The soothing process
consisted either in playing with the baby or in music.
It was a nice baby, a girl, and liked with its fat hand
to clutch Peter's hair. Its blue eyes had not yet learned
to see properly, and it needed a very large object to
attract its attention. It liked Peter, and after inter-
course with the baby the boy was almost humble.
Mrs. Fildes' music was less good for him. He liked
it, but he had learned from her the phrases of an expert,
but no certain knowledge. He was priggish in this, and
annoyed Fildes, who blamed his wife. She, from Peter's
adoration of her baby, would find no fault in him,
60 PETER HOMUNCULUS
or, if pushed to excuse for hinij would declare him
She had round her a strange collection of young
men and women, artists, musicians, journalists, young
women engaged in the British Museum procuring infor-
mation for the writers of belles lettres, a few nurses and
young doctors, acquaintance of the hospital, who seemed
marvellously sane by comparison with the others. Peter
fell violently in and out of love with all the young
women, and in and out of intimacy with the young
men. They were all like himself (though they knew it
as little as he, and, like Peter, thought themselves at the
end of all discoveries, and possessed of all cosmic se-
crets), floundering, finding their feet, in love with ideas
and themselves, hazy, enthusiastic, sudden and thought-
less in action, in reflection disordered and illogical.
They were all suspicious of one another, so that they
could neither really love nor know real friendship.
Peter's relation with Fildes was a more solid aiFair in
truth than that with his wife, though he saw less and
less of him.
Peter let his hair grow long, thick at the back, and
brushed so as to cover just the tips of his ears. He
tried also to cultivate a little moustache, but old Cooper
teased him so about it that he cut it oif. He was almost
crying with mortification as he began to shave, but a
sudden access of humour coming to him, he shaved half,
and returned, after washing his face of the lather, to
ask the old man which side he liked best. Old Cooper
laughed till the tears ran, slapping his thigh. The
glimpse of the real, dear, unaff"ected Peter set him re-
joicing, and he told the story to old Adam that night.
They were glad, and sat — Peter had gone out — ^telling
each other stories of Peter's cleverness, how he had
PETER HOMUNCULUS 61
said this, and done that, bought this book at such a
price, and sold it at such another — a full Peter — Saga.
They were happy that evening as they had not been
since Peter fell into the hands of " that woman," as they
called her always. " So like Peter," they said.
In Janet Fildes' circle was a young man, hirsute, with
a wild eye, who gave Peter a copy of his execrable
poems. The volume had been the round of the pub-
lishers, and, in despair, the hirsute young man had had
the poems printed at his own expense and sent the
volume to carefully selected celebrities and rich folk,
with a request that if they liked it they would keep the
book and send the author three shillings. Many vol-
umes had returned, some had brought the desired three
shillings, and some had induced vain and minor celeb-
rities, greedy of patronage, to write letters of encour-
agement to the young poet. These letters he read aloud
to those assembled in the little green drawing-room,
setting Peter wild with envy, and he was only restrained
by old Cooper from following the example with his own
work. It was shown to be unworthy, and for a few
hours he knew himself for an ass, and sulked in the
shop, gnawing a pen and glaring at a blank sheet of
foolscap on the desk before him. Under his pen a
verse grew, another, and another; the pen raced, and
he returned to exaltation.
Later he took it to Janet Fildes. He found her with
a pasty-faced young man, for whom he conceived an
immediate dislike; a young man in a green suit, cut in
at the waist, slit up the back, the cuffs turned back
three inches. His hair was brushed back from his fore-
head and plastered into a shining block, parted, a little
to one side. He carried his elbows out, and stood at
present with one of his thin legs bent, left hand in
62 PETER HOMUNCULUS
pocket, the other gesticulating. It was a long, thin hand,
and Peter had a presentiment that he would find it
The young man was introduced with some awe as
Mr. Greenfield, the brother of Miss Mary Dugdale.
Peter was torn between dislike of the young man and
respect for his reflected glory. Respect won, and though
the young man was odiously patronising, scenting the
under world in Peter's boots and trousers bagged at
the knees, Peter thickened his skin and was the youth's
open-mouthed admirer, swallowed his preposterously fa-
miliar references to the great: Bertie Bond, Charlie
Vaughan, the actor, and Jamie Sugden, the theatre man-
ager. He addressed all his remarks to Jairet and ig-
nored Peter, who forgave him everything because he
told of the experiences of his sister.
Himself the son of a small watchmaker and jeweller
in a Devonshire village, he had risen to a small height
on the skirts of his sister — any higher and he would
turn dizzy and fall headlong. He was a journalist of
sorts, but lived upon subsidies from the actress, given
him with the proviso that he never came to see her unless
she asked him. As her brother he enjoyed a certain
reclame and was sought after in small circles; he was
dull, but had a large fund of stage-scandal of the type
which suggests but never states. Out of this store he
entertained Janet, who disliked it, but was the slave
of her lion-hunting instinct. She knew Greenfield for
a poor sort of lion, and was ashamed that Peter should
have met him; but he was in touch with glittering per-
sons, and therefore irresistible. He promised to bring
his sister to see her (he rarely left a drawing-room with-
PETEE HOMUNCULUS 163
out making such a promise), and with a curt nod
to Peter, an elaborate bow over Janet's hand, he
Both were relieved. Peter read his poem, drank his
meed of praise, and discussed with her the various
journals to which it might be sent. It went out, and
returned like so many others. By the side of one verse
some idle person in the office had written in pencil,
" Poor sloppy devil ! " Either the same harrd, or an-
other more kindly, had endeavoured to erase the ribald
phrase. It stood there, blastingly legible — Peter's gorge
rose. He showed it to old Cooper, who received it in
dead silence. Later, when Peter's face looked less long,
his eyes less desperate, the old man said:
" It is nothing "
" Nothing ? " said Peter, tortured by a recrudescence
" It is nothing. That an idle fool should hurt, even
through the vanity of a man, is wholesome — for it is
folly to allow the hurt. And yet — I don't know "
He sucked his pipe. It was difficult to talk to Peter,
and it could be little comfort to him to know his
thought — that so tiny a thing as the wounding of a
man's vanity is a mighty happening. He had meant that
in his cryptic utterance. The thought clothed in simple
language was comfortless. He was glad in a way that
Peter had been hurt, knowing that it might check him
in his headlong course. Therefore, when Peter asked
him, " Am I a poor sloppy devil ? " he sucked furiously
at his pipe until it gurgled, and then with an effort,
drawing the word out of his mouth like an obstinate
cork, he said:
64 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Peter sat dumbfounded, dismay in person. He
rubbed his hands together and then fell to twisting his
little front lock of hair, so long as, when stretched, to
reach down to his mouth. He hitched his shoulders.
His lips trembled and his palate ached so that he could
not speak. . . .
" Homunculus," said the old man, " it is a small
thing — both the literary accomplishment and the hurt-
He took his Shelley and read from " Queen Mab,"
read as he had never read before to Peter, finely thun-
"Thus do the generations of the earth
Go to the grave and issue from the womb.
Surviving still the imperishable change
That renovates the world; even as the leaves.
Which the keen frost wind of the waning year
Has scattered on the forest-soil, and heaped
For many seasons there, though long they choke.
Loading with loathsome rottenness the land.
All germs of promise."
" That also, Homunculus, is a small thing, though
in words there are few things finer done. . . .
Cacoethes scribendi — a ready hand, and an empty head
or a cold heart. But, to be arrogant, is to spoil the
world. . . ."
Peter sat dumb. Demophoon climbed to old Cooper's
shoulder, drew her claws through the cloth of his old
black coat, moved uneasily, and finally settled, purring.
The old man caressed her, and, after a silence, began
suddenly on a personal note, at first regarding Peter
keenly, then gazing out beyond him.
" J was arrogant — I came to I^ondon over sixty years
PETEBi HOMUNCULUS 65
ago, not like you, Homunculus, from a poor house,, un-
friended, alone, ignorant, or — ignorant in a different
way. I knew nothing of misery. You know nothing of
prosperity. My father was of yeoman stock in War-
wickshire, my mother the sister of a nobleman. There
had been passion, romance, an elopement. My mother,
a child, died at my birth. I ran wild. My father, as
I learned later, was a roaring fellow and took to base
courses. When I was twelve, already with a knowledge
of good ale and the points of a horse, a gentle lady,
faded and sweet of countenance, drove to the house,
and I was fetched from the stable, cleaned and placed
before her, an uncouth, sturdy boy. My boorish accent
shocked her, I remember, and she feigned not to under-
stand my words. . . . There was some discourse
between the lady, whom I was told to call Aunt, and
my father. In the end, my small belongings, linen
shirts and little pantaloons, were placed in the carriage,
a great affair with a crest upon the door, and I was
perched on the little seat that let down in front of her
ladyship, my feet upon my valise, which rolled in the
bottom of the barouche with its swaying. I lived there-
after in great houses, rich, cold places with rarely a
playmate. There was stern discipline. I had a tutor
. . . everything was given to me, but I longed for
my father, whom I never saw again. They sent me, for
my tutor testified to my brains, to a great school — I was
happy ther&:r-and to a college at Cambridge, where I
was idle, and yet did well. For a career I chose the
Bar, to the horror of my aunt, to whom the Army, Navy
or Church were alone the professions of a gentleman.
She was fond of me and met my whim, as she thought it
i — ^though she never would receive my greatest friend,
66 PETER HOMUNCULUS
George Townsend — son, out of wedlock, of a great law-
yer and a lady's maid. It was he set the law in my
wild head — a brilliant creature, whom this same Shelley
had set tingling in 'the cause of freedom. We were
ardent, he and I — ' Twin sisters of religion, selfishness.'
We bolted the stuff, had it ill-digested: wild we were,
and lived what we saw. George died young: shot like a
meteor to the top, soared, fell, and died in shame.
I think he never knew that arrogance had blinded
him. . . ."
The old man seemed to have forgotten Peter, who
sat there still, following the narrative, visualising each
event. He saw the unhappy Townsend as a hero with
a straight nose and auburn hair, dressed like the hair
of his own great-grandfather in a miniature there had
been at home. The old man continued in a voice scarcely
" I soared, too, though not so high — and when I fell
it was a slow descent — each fall giving time for thought,
bitter. I loved, was loved, and snatched wild happi-
ness. The man, who held my fortune, my fate, from
that moment cruelly ignored me. It was as though I
had never existed for him — ghastly. His eyes lighted
on me, but saw me not. My voice fell upon deaf ears;
my importunities were idle. I had made the woman
happy, where he had failed. No forgiveness. I ad-
mitted no fault, nor she. We had known the best, and,
for a space, lived vividly. I would not bow to prejudice,
. . . Unwisely, for prejudice is strong, and stronger
than the law. A great man, none more powerful, he
cast me out, and jackals yelped at my heels. I stayed
in London — again foolishly. Scandal buzzed — ^then
died. For a time I lived among outcasts^ in the between
PETER HOMUNCULUS 67
world, then sickened of it. Hollow. I drew more and
more into myself, and hid myself. Grew hideous, had
evil days, vile nights — I crawled. That passed, too, as
everything passes. To live, it is needful to sell some-
thing. Towns are markets. . . ."
He ceased suddenly, and seemed to become conscious
again of Peter sitting there, and to remember the object
with which he had set out upon his narrative. " Homun-
cnlus," he said, " it is an old tale, and I have missed
the thread. It seems a dream now. All life, I think, is
a dream. Sometimes it seems that we can do nothing
that does not produce evil. We can foresee nothing.
Dream pleasantly, Homunculus, dream pleasantly — but
run away from nothing. If life shatters dreams, it is
better so. Others come. It is better so "
Peter set his teeth.
" Am I a poor sloppy devil ? " he said between them.
" You are ignorant, untouched, know nothing. Few
men have more than one melody to sing. Your songs
are only faint echoes of old melodies "
" Am I a poor sloppy devil ^ "
" To one man at least you are — or were, when you
wrote. That moment is gone. What you are now I do
" Not that," said Peter, and he went out into the
shop, where he began to work on the catalogue, which
he kept up to date. He had allowed none of his va-
garies to interfere with his work. In his most careful
hand he had written:
" 87. Ansted (Prof.) Geology, introductory, descrip-
tive and practical, rvith hundreds of wood-cuts, 2 vols.,
8vo, cloth, 8s. 6d. (pub. 30s.), 1844.
".88. Bolton (J.) Geological Fragm^ents collected
68 PETER HOMUNCULUS
from Rambles among the Rocks of Furness and Cart-
mel, illustrated, Svo, cloth, 2s. 6d., 1869-
" 89. Cotta (Prof. B.) " when there came a
knock at the door. He ignored it for some minutes
while he concluded the entry of the learned Cotta's
work, a fat German volume, bound in half-calf and
containing " 189 in den Text gedruckten Abbildungen."
He pondered over its price, and put it at half-a-crown.
Then he remembered an address to which to send the
catalogue of Cooper and Davies, and entered that in a,
book. The knock came again, this time at the side
Peter werrt out through the parlour, taking no notice
of the old man, who was muttering to himself.
He opened the door to find his friend the rector of
the church in Southwark waiting admittance, a little
grey man who had been Peter's good friend ever since
the day when the strange boy had come to him upon
the quest of his aunt. He had heard of the disaster
through his curate, whom later he discovered to be a
rogue who had preyed upon the poor woman, as upon
others in the parish. All trace of Mrs. Daltry was
gone. Her belongings had gone, been sold. The little
shop where her crystoleum paintings were sold still con-
tained some of her work, but the proprietress, a plump
little Jewess, had neither seen nor heard of her for
over a year, when inquiries were made. That was two
years ago, and Peter's aunt had made no sign of life,
nor communicated either with himself or his brother in
The little grey parson had a whimsical humour which
was tickled by the idea of losing an auirt in London —
and h^d invented a whole fable of the adventure, which
PETEK HOMUNCULUS 69
had done good service at dinner-parties. He had the
reputation of being a delightful man, and was asked
out much to great houses north of the river, being also
a man of good connection. He accepted invitations,
and extorted money from his hosts for his poor in
Southwark. They adored him, for he worried them
little with religion, and made no attempt to drive them
to church. If they swore in his presence their oaths
were always carefully chosen for mildness, and there
were alleys, to which he could penetrate, where no
policeman would trust himself alone. He was a known
man and a popular.
At first tickled by Peter in search of his aunt, he
had become interested, found stuff in the boy, and
marked him down as a man not, if possible, to be
wasted. He knew the appalling difficulties of the time,
arrd that a thousand favouring circumstances are
needed to bring a man to maturity and the fulness of
his talents. There were qualities in Peter which puz-
zled him until he met old Cooper. The parson, David
Scott, and the old bookseller became friends. Scott
was old enough to have heard of Townsend, and Cooper
warmed to him. It was not often that he could visit
the little shop in Shaftesbury Avenue, but to-night he
had come in answer to a letter of the old man.
He greeted Peter, and Peter gave him a " Good-even-
ing, sir," conducting him to the parlour.
Peter returned to the shop and his catalogue, feeling
that he was not wanted. He was in one of those fear-
ful moments of crisis, when life seems to stop and
movement cease, while the mocking mannikin which is
a man's self stands pointing truth. Peter's mannikin
sat cross-legged on the back of the geological researches
70 PETER HOMUNCULUS
of the learned Cotta, and mocked. " Poor sloppy devil,"
rang in Peter's brain, whirling.
" Your hair's too long," shrilled the mannikin.
Peter tried to pretend that it was only because he
had postponed barbering too long.
" You're like all the rest," shrilled the mannikin.
"Fairly good and fairly bad — conceited, opinionated,
The word " young " resounded, rushed like the mighty
wind of the Epiphany, in Peter's head, and he felt as
if the top of it were being lifted, and the mannikin
tickling his brain with a straw. He strove to grapple
with his catalogue, but the mocking voice sounded
shriller and more shrill.
"You to write? What have you to say? A little
seller of dull books. . . . Not twenty. You don't
know even what it is you wish to do. Art and Beauty?
Bosh! The artist is a tradesman like any other, un-
happy in that he trades in a commodity which men care
little whether they have or not. Sell butcher's meat or
corn. Great, you to be great? Why should you be?
You do not know even what you mean by greatness.
You can't think, are muddle-headed. You haven't probed
behind words. Pooh ! pooh ! to you — sloppy's the word.
. . . You can't walk. Striding's the thing. . . .
A little prig — arrogant. . . . Arrogant — blind."
Worn out, Peter let the pen drop loose in his hand;
it scrawled down the page, stuck, and spluttered. Peter's
head dropped on to his arms and he fell asleep, to find
comfort in his dreams, wherein he figured as a golden
knight wrestling with a green dwarf who guarded the
well of truth and kept the lid shut down upon the
unhappy lady, who called to hiro in combat with the
PETER HOMUNCULUS 71
voice of Mary Dugdale, or Greendale, or Dalefield, or
whatever her name was. The green dwarf had the
face of Miss Dugdale's brother, and his hand, clutching
at Peter's throat, was clammy. . . .
In the parlour old Cooper and the Rev. David Scott
were in colloquy, the subject, Peter. Since the drafting
of the absurd deed of partnership for Peter's seven-
teenth birthday, the old man had amused himself much
with legal documents, conveying all kinds of imaginary
estates and properties from himself to Peter. For young
Fildes he had drawn up a marriage settlement of anti-
quated form. It did not make much matter, as there
was nothing to settle^ for the small private property
of the Fildes family was in the hands of the doctor of
Endell Street. It amused Cooper and looked vastly
Now he had drawn up a last will and testament, a
document in which at great length and in full detail
he had left everything to Peter, small bequests of
personal belongings to his circle of friends, all of
them since the advent of Peter, and ten pounds to the
old crone who had procured his personal discomfort
for so many years. Demophoon he recommended to the
care of the parson, for whom the cat had evinced an
affection. From the document it appeared that Peter
would be worth between seven and eight hundred
pounds, not including the business. That the old fel-
low should have hoarded so much astonished Scott.
Cooper explained that his aunt, who never admitted
him to her presence after his downfall, had left him
five hundred pounds. He had never troubled to set the
money breeding, but it had swollen in the bank, where
he left it, to twice and three times that amount. Before
72 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Peter's arrival he had employed all accretions in the
assistance of distressed families, generally to ship them
off with a small lump sum, as he had sent the Beasleys,
to the colonies. He now wished Scott to be his executor
and Peter's guardian, for he had elected that the boy
should not be given control of the capital until he was
twenty-five. Scott endorsed the wisdom of the provision,
consented, and took the old man's hand. He peeped
into the shop through the spy-window and saw Peter
" He's asleep," he said.
" Will you ask two of the people upstairs to come
down and witness my signature ? "
Scott groped his way up the narrow stairs, and after
search succeeded in producing a disreputable and untidy
journalist, of the kind that is useless without whiskey,
and a pretty young milliner. The journalist had Tessa's
room, and the girl lived with her mother and younger
sisters in the apartment vacated by the Beasleys. They
followed the parson, awed by the importance of the
ceremony in which they were called upon to share. Both
belonged to a class which settles that sort of affair
anyhow, avoids contact with the law, shuns it as ruin-
ous, and most often dies intestate. Cooper scrawled
his name, the journalist his. By way of airing legal
knowledge, he boomed as he laid down the pen. " I
deliver this as my act and deed." The girl signed,
bobbed, and disappeared. The journalist waited in the
hope that drink would be proffered him. He was given
beer, and drank to the good health of old Cooper. He
was a little afraid of Scott, and looked at him only
out of the corners of his eyes. Cooper might be a
gentleman, but he was a dirty one. The parson was
oppressively clean. He made vain efforts in conversa-
PETEBl H0MUNCULU9 73
tion. He was brought up against a blank wall of igno-
rance, and gave up the struggle. He invited both gentle-
men to a meeting of some society of good fellows in
Fleet Street. Both declined, and the journalist, having
finished his liquor, retired, abashed. The will, duly
signed in the presence of two witnesses as the law
requires, was folded up and committed by its author
to the desk in which he kept his personal treasures.
Returning to his chair, to which Demophoon had leaped
on the moment of his rising, he sat and, turning to his
friend, he said:
" You and I, sir, know the truth of the poet of Eccle-
siastes, which is the truth of all poets. It is in your
religion as in mine. There should be no church mili-
tant, against other churches. The fight is against
The parson nodded. Old Cooper filled his pipe.
" Out of the wreck and ruin of my life there is left
me nothing but this boy. I recommend him to you, that
you may help him to manhood. He is a rare soul, well
born. I know it struggling upwards to the light. More
light. Sustain him, and if he errs, as he must, be kind
to him. I know you. This homunculus in bottle — he is
wild. He will plunge hither and thither, drag you to
despair, set you weeping with joy — if you love him as
I have loved him. Give him the choice to continue here,
or to shake free and stretch his wings: but keep him
from too early flight — that will be your chief service to
him and to me. Too early flight — I have seen a young
bird fallen so, weak-winged — reaching the nest again
by little flights upwards from its mother's back. That
you must be to him. I am old and see too much. Any
fall is a fall from Heaven."
He told Scott all that he knew of Peter's history.
74 PETER HOMUNCULUS
The parson said: " You are the best Christian I have
" It is a question of simplicity. Time simplifies. A
man grows mountainous with years. When sight first
comes to us we see men as trees walking, thert as in-
sects; later, and best, as mountains."
Scott left him and went into the shop to wake Peter.
He shook him by the shoulder to rouse him. Peter
threw up his head suddenly and stared with wild eyes,
tossed his hair.
" Sloppy," he murmured.
The parson shook him again.
"Oh! Oh!" said Peter, and blinked. He had rec-
ognised his awakener, but theatrical instinct in him de-
manded a moment's simulation. He had a desire to
say, " Where am I ? " but discarded it as too banal.
Then he laughed at himself, stretched, yawned without
putting his hand to his mouth.
" When you yawn," said the EeV. David, " you should
cover your mouth."
"Oh," said Peter.
" It is considerate. I knew a great man once who
spoke always with his hand in front of his mouth be-
cause his teeth were bad."
" Manners is a poor thing," said Peter.
" Manners makyth man."
Peter set his chin. It seemed rude to break his sleep
thus to admonish him.
" I read in Pindar with Mr. Cooper that money makes
Scott declined to argue.
" I want you to dine with us to-morrow night."
"Dine?" Peter was alert.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 75
" Yes. My wife wants to know you."
Late dinner! Gosh. Then Peter was rueful.
"I've got no clothes."
"We don't dress."
" Thank you," said Peter, in as ordinary a voice as
possible. The prospect excited him.
He had had Sunday supper with people who dined
in the evening, but that was hardly the same thing, and
to dine with Scott, whom he knew to be welcomed in
grand houses, was like the opening of a door. Not a
very wide opening, but sufficient to allow the hearing
of gay sounds, soft voices of dazzling personages, the
clatter of the high world as he imagined it. In truth,
as old Cooper had said, Peter knew nothing of pros-
perity, and conceived this same high world as a place
where the wicked cease from troubling, and by the
magic of wealth and good breeding sorrow and conflict
are banished. Peter was never, even in his worst mo-
ments, deserted by his sense of greatness in store, and
every gift of life seemed a transitory thing, dead and
done with almost as soon as it was in his hands. He
used everything, and every day grew more adroit in
^tracting the good, and nearer every day to some sort
of sense of proportion. His mistakes came from the
clouding of his sense of humour by swollen egotism.
His extraordinary self-possession brought success in
business, but landed him in awful difficulties for the
He did not ask himself why the Rev. David Scott,
for whom he entertained a warm admiration, should
seek his further acquaintance. He accepted it as a
natural development in a romantic career.
He shook the parson's hand and let him out by the
76 PETER HOMUNCULUS
shop door, then applied himself to his catalogue with a
fury of energy. No mannikin now. Sloppy devil in-
deed! Doors opened almost without knocking, and
they'd be proud of him yet.
He had a moment of uneasiness, when he remem-
bered the supercilious glances which Miss Dugdale's
brother had directed upon his clothes. Room for im-
provement there. He took the catalogue down to item
140, then blotted it carefully, went back a few pages
and crossed the scrawling line his pen had made. He
closed the book and rejoined old Cooper for supper.
" Mr. Scott's invited me to dinner to-morrow night."
" Watch what forks the other people use, and don't
make bread piUs," was the old man's advice, and only
comment. For the rest he was silent, and watched
Peter so closely as to make him self-conscious and ill-
at-ease. He was not sorry to go to bed.
The matter of his personal appearance still worried
him, and before retiring, he made a careful study of his
face in the mirror. Looking at a certain angle, he
seemed to himself more than passable, even striking
with his pale face and jet black hair. Perhaps the hair
was too long, but with the light on his face it certainly
was interesting, the shadows under the bumps of his
forehead making a striking thing of it. There was a
smouldering fire in the eyes, a potential fine frenzy.
With his mouth and chin he was less satisfied. He
would have liked his mouth to be firmly tucked in at
the corners, and his chin, blue with shaving, to be like
the toe of a boot; but his mouth seemed loose, however
he might adjust his lips, and his chin pitifully small.
Full face, his head seemed pear-shaped. He knew per-
fectly well what he wished to look like, and sometimes
PETER HOMUNCULUS 77
• 1. . ^
m the mirror succeeded in approximating to it, but to-
night he looked — unfledged.
The matter of his clothes was easier of adjustment.
He brushed his coat, and pondering the creases in the
trousers of Mr. Greenfield, he hit upon the idea of
pressing his own under the mattress of his bed. He
folded his best pair, butted the mattress up with his
head, and thrust the trousers under it.
The experiment was not wholly a success. One leg
was perfectly creased, but the other he had folded
wrong, and the crease came out at the side. Peter al-
most wept with mortification when he put them on.
During the day he had his hair cut by a half-caste
who kept a little saloon in High Street. The man had
many other disreputable trades carried on under cover
of the hair-dressing and tobacco business, but Peter
knew nothing of these, and went there because it was
odd, and there was always a collection of strange men
in the place. Under the Fildes influence Peter had be-
gun the study of what he called " types." The half-
caste, moreover, was cheap, charging twopence for hair
cutting and a penny for a shave. He was nothing of an
artist. It gave him pleasure to cut hair, and Peter's
thick crop roused him to a frenzy of cutting, brushing
It was not a picturesque Peter who left the shop. He
felt cold about the head and curiously naked. Down-
at-heel actors and grubby painters used the shop, and the
room behind the shop for a sort of club, some of the
rottenest men in London.
Peter bought a new collar, new cuffs, and dickey of
white linen to make himself smart. Arrayed in all his
glory, perfect, except for the distorted crease in his
,78 PETER iHOMUNCULUS
right trouser-leg he exhibited himself to old Cooper,
"Head like a seal," he said. Peter put his hand
to his head and brought it away shiny with macassar
oil. His hand reeked.
" Wash," said the old man.
" There's no time/' said Peter, almost in tears.
"Walk with your hat oiF then. Good-bye." He
waved a hand and declaimed:
"Pitch thy behaviour low, they projects high;
So Shalt thou humble and magnanimous be;
Sink hot in spirit: who aimeth at the sky
Shoots higher much than he that means a tree.
The parson is your friend, Homunculus. It rests with
you to keep him so."
The old man had teased Peter about the creases in
his trousers, and the shearing of his hair — Samson
shorn, and genius dead by loss of hair. Peter, timid
and anxious on the threshold of great things, was not
in a mood for chaff.
" Some men," he said, hitching his shoulders, " are
independent of friendship."
" Most men," said the old man, "are unworthy of
" Ugh," said Peter, flushing, and ran out into the
street. It was half-past six and dinner was not until
seven. He went round to Southampton Row. Janet
Fildes was practising, but admitted him. She stared at
him in amazement, then burst into peals of incontrollable
" Like a — ^like a black — ^black — ^like a bull's eye ! "
she said. Then, for she was really a kind woman:
PETER HOMUNCULUS 79
" I'm sorry, Peter, but you shouldn't do these things
quite so — so suddenly."
Peter strode round to her side by the piano and
brought his fist down on the treble notes. They
shrieked, and she, careful of her instrument, swept him
Peter stood quivering, livid.
" I'm done with you," he said.
" Don't be absurd."
" Done with you. Laugh, go on. Laugh. Say I'm
a gaby. Laugh ! But— ^wait — you'll see."
"I— I— I ..."
Peter collapsed — and sat holding his unhappy oiled
head in his hands. Janet leaned over and touched him
on the shoulder.
" Don't be hurt, Peter. We're very fond of you,
and — and — ^you can't really laugh at a person until you
understand him — or her."
" No one understands me," said Peter. " I don't un-
" How should you? " said Janet.
"I'm an ass — ^but I'm going out to dinner."
" With the Rev. David Scott. He's a minister in
Southwark, and you can see his name in the papers any
Janet was interested at once. She knew all the per-
sons who figured in the papers, by name. She gave
Peter advice as to conduct, table manners, how not to
take too much of any thing, and how not to say thank
you to the servants. Peter was obliged to her, and
soothed by her interest in his excursion. She retied his
80 PETER HOMUNCULUS
tie for him, pulled his coat straight, brushed him, and
warned him to keep his boots out of sight as much as
possible. They were the brown pair he had bought
in Shaftesbury Avenue, entered upon a new life as
black, and there were yet brown patches shewing through
the polish. He told her of the fate of the poem, but
made no mention of the cruel comment.
" They're idiots," she said. " It'll come in time. It
will. They'll all come to you yet, Peter — in time.
" Crawling," said Peter, afire, " and — and — I'll put
my foot on their necks."
He was immediately ashamed of his over-emphasis.
He had onee seen a young man kiss Janet's hand on
leaving her. He stood now awkwardly, and kissed her
" My — ^my " He could not find the word.
" Mother," said Janet.
" I never had a mother," said Peter, untruthfully.
" That's what I will be," said Janet.
" Thank you," said Peter.
Both thoroughly enjoyed the sentimentality of the
scene. The light was dim, and the fire in the grate cast
a warm glow, the flames flickering were mirrored softly
in the shining mahogany of the piano. With good
dramatic instinct Peter left the situation at that, and
left without a word, only pressing Janet's hand warmly.
As he reached the door of the flat the strains of Schu-
bert's serenade reached his ears. The music was appro-
priate. He was pleased with Janet.
He took the train that dips down at the bottom of
Southampton Row into subterranean regions, passed un-
der Kingsway, the Strand, Wellington Street, and
PETEE HOMUNCULUS 81
bursts out to the light of day again by Waterloo Bridge
on the Embankment. He sat by an old gentleman
neatly dressed.' Remembering Cooper's injunctions —
the success of the scene with Janet had soothed his re-
sentment — ^he removed his hat. The old gentleman
sniffed, glared, sniffed again and moved away, Peter,
painfully conscious, looked down at his boots, saw on
the. left boot on the inner side of his ankle a round patch
bright yellow by contrast with the black polish, and
hastily covered it with his Other foot. At the halt at
the lower end of Kingsway a young woman entered the
tram and sat down beside him. He felt her eyes scrutin-
ising him: suddenly she gripped his arm.
" I'm blowed," she said.
It was Tessa, a wonderful new Tessa, and a happy.
She was quietly dressed, though she wore perhaps too
many little chains round her neck, and too many rings
on her fingers. Her face was not painted, but pow-
dered perhaps a little too thickly. He most remarked
the wondrous change in the expression of her eyes. The
bitterness had gone out of them, the hard strain, and
they looked at him all smiles and kindness.
Peter had not seen her for many months. She had
been twice to see old Cooper, oirce to repay the money
she owed him, and once again out of friendliness. Then
they had lost sight of her. She was glad to see Peter,
and kept tight hold of his arm.
The little neat old man, who had moved to the other
side of the car, scowled at them. He thought Tessa
brazen and a destroyer of young men. His lips pursed
until he looked like a prim old maid.
Tessa, glancing round the car, saw him and laughed.
Her laugh was so different that Peter turned to look at
82 PETER HOMUNCULUS
her. It had been silly, loud, harsh. Now it was musi-
cal, soft, refined, and good to hear.
"Where are you going?" said Tessa.
" Where are you ? "
" CamberweU, to see my sister."
" I'm going to the Elephant. I'm going out to din-
ner." He said it with an air to impress her, and suc-
ceeded. Her Curiosity was roused, and she endeavoured
to extract from him the name of his friends. He kept
her tantalised. She returned again and again to the
assault. He was invulnerable, and turned aside her
questions with others concerning her mode of living.
" My luck still holds. He's good to me — Mr. War-
rington, and he don't let me go to none of the old
places. He's a gentleman, an' treats me better than
most gentlemen treat their wives. I've a flat in Chelsea
on the Embankment, under the four chimneys. It's
lovely, by the river. You must come and see me. You'll
like Mr. Warrington."
Peter promised that he would.
He told her of the queer journalist, who now had her
room, and of the little miUiner who lived at top.
• " We don't really need to let the place now," he
said, " but we don't need the rooms."
Tessa scanned his face.
" You've changed," she said. " Older. But your
eyes don't change."
Peter remembered that she had said they were beau-
tiful eyes. He blinked at her.
The train stopped at the Elephant and Castle. He
rose, shook Tessa's hand, raised his hat and walked
out, having promised to see her again. He was glad
of the encounter, and to know that he had changed.
PETER H0MUNCULU9 83
Already he was able to view the dead Peter with dis-
favour. That early Peter seemed dwarfish. He had
learned more of Tessa's profession since those early
days, had had sundry encounters with its votaries, and
was always surprised when thought turned to her, to
find her in his recollection so gentle and so human. In
the car she had been more than ever so. He made a
note of her as a possible subject of conversation at
He walked slowly, for he had a full ten minutes, in
the direction of the Rectory, seeing himself at table
holding the attention of host and guests, dropping a
quiet remark of humour, to set a ripple moving to a
roar as the sally touched home. He could think of no
brilliant remark, but the effect of it was there real
enough, and himself the centre. He recalled some of
the witticisms which had so tickled Cooper and old
Adam, but found them clumsy, not polished enough
nor glittering for the present purpose. He could re-
member flashes from books of his reading, but away
from their context they were lifeless. Cooper had said:
" The occasion makes the wit."
Peter could create in his busy head the effect of wit,
but not wit itself. He had a slight consciousness of
failure. He was walking hatless to air his head, and
an urchin bawled:
" Fresh air fund."
Peter made a long arm, clutched the infant by his
jacket, too big for him, held him and smacked his close-
cropped head — ^then let him go.
" Gam," shrilled the snipe. " Wish I could 'ave yer
nose full o' gin for thruppence."
His nose! Peter put his hand up, fingering it.
84 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Large? Was it large? He closed an eye and squinted
down at it. There seemed to be much of it certainly,
but — " 'a nose full o' gin for thruppence ! " He could not
see nor feel its size. He walked faster, away from the
tormentor, who was hurling concise insult after him.
At intervals he fingered his nose, crooked his forefinger
along it, to test its shape. Large? Well, there were
the Duke of Wellington, Mr. Gladstone, Dickens
(Thackeray, in the matter of noses, would not beat
thinking on), Napoleon, and Goethe in the Weimar bust.
The mask of Keats in the National Portrait gallery
was encouraging. Fingering his nose, bareheaded, Peter
was an odd enough sight. He came to that window,
where he had seen himself on his first pilgrimage in
search of his aunt, on the night of his seventeenth birth-
day. Walking to meet him was a more robust Peter,
though still bandy-legged. He laughed to see himself,
and a pretty girl eyed him with favour.
Peter at nineteen was so far odd as never to have
passed through that phase of coxcombry which finds
pleasure in the glances of strange women, and reaches
its lowest in the courting of them. It came later, at a
time when he was most strenuously occupied with what
he called his career, and was never very serious.
He knew that the young woman had looked at him,
and knew her also for personable, but he put her in-
terest down to his hatlessness.
After testing his hair, to find it less greasy, dried a
little, he donned his hat, loitered no more, and swung
at his longest stride up to the Eectory, by two minutes
later than the appointed time.
The carpeted hall hung round with pictures, coloured
.prints of the Arundel Society, the arms of his host's
PETER HOMUNCULUS 85
University and College over a door, reduced Peter to a
state of awe very proper for entry into Mrs. Scott's
drawing-room. He surrendered his hat and overcoat to
the neatly dressed maid — ^black gown and white apron;
white cap — not without some misgiving that she would
look inside the hat and perceive the lowliness of the
neighbourhood in which he had bought it, and followed
her up the red-carpeted stairs. He felt awkward, and
as though he had grown too small for his clothes. Every-
thing about him seemed to be slipping. His dickey gave
a great crack, and his cuffs, dropping, he turned his
hands in to support them, wishing that he had suc-
ciunbed to the temptation to buy a pair of " sustainers "
The maid threw open the door of the drawing-room,
from over which a head of Velasquez seemed to leer
and jeer at him. He was announced as Mr. Davies,
the door shut behind him, and he was left standing
there, shrinking to pea-size in his clothes. Someone
came up to him, he bowed, and it seemed as if he were
a tiny, tiny thing imprisoned in the blue suit of a
giant, calling in a still, small voice, " Good-evening."
The stifiSing illusion was so real that he did in fact
shout, bawled in an enormous voice.
He blushed, and, seeing a hand stretched out, a thin,
very white hand, whiter than any he had seen before,
he lunged at it, and because his eyes were blurred with
the buzzing in his head, lunged badly and brought his
thumb with a crash against the thumb of the out-
stretched hand. A little cry:
" I'm sorry," he said, then came to himself. He saw
the face of a woman, a little less tall than himself, the
86 PETER HOMUNCULUS
soft eyes pained, but laughing behind the pain, and
teeth biting her lip.
" It's nothing," she said, and shook his hand.
" But " said Peter.
" It's nothing," she said again. He saw that she
touched her thumb with her other hand and winced, but
in obedience to her glances he made no more of it. She
led him further into the room, and presented him to her
son, David, to her daughter, Mattie, a pretty pale girl
of seventeen, thin, disdainful, hair tied at the back with
a ribbon, mischief in her eyes, green eyes put in with
a sooty finger under a wide brow. Peter was dazzled.
(He and Cooper had been reading much of Balzac to-
gether, and he was in a mood, borrowed from the great
writer, to adore the " jeune fille.") He was introduced
to her brother and forgot Mattie. Mrs. Scott's brother
was none other than Murray Wilson, the great Murray
Wilson, a man so great and well-beloved as to be almost
a myth, so exalted in Peter's view as to make it seem
absurd that he should eat, drink, or possess any of the
ordinary human attributes. He should have had the
meek detachment of a god, but here he was in the flesh
about to eat a dinner with Peter, breathe same air. He
shook Peter's hand, and turned to teasing Mattie, who,
always with am eye on the newcomer, coquetted with
her uncle. She desired Peter's interest in spite of his
Peter was takeir to a sofa by the fireplace and drawn
into conversation by Mrs. Scott. She thawed him
quickly, and had him soon talking about himself. Wil-.
son sat observing the boy.
He had detected at once the idealist eye; interest
was further roused by the lank black hair, and the
PETER H0MUNCULU9 87
dead -white pallor of the skin. In animation Peter's
face was arresting. In repose, as himself most admired
it, it was dull and rather stupid, from his mouth being
almost perpetually open.
Mrs. Scott tried him first with music, quickly discov-
ered his ignorance and let him talk. She liked him, and
the gentle manner which appeared under the uncouth-
ness. He had a queer bluntness which pleased her. He
seemed to be incapable of thoughtless words. Every-
thing he said, right or wrong, chance wisdom or blazing
folly, came out of him with an earnestness which com-
manded interest and begot ideas in the hearer. She
found it easy to strike sparks from him, and the game
amused her. Wilson watched it, and smiled across at
her from time to time.
The boy, David, scrutinised the guest, detected the
yellow spots on his boots and dismissed him as an " out-
The parson came bustling, greeted Peter, demanded
dinner immediately. They descended to the dining-
room, Peter with Mrs. Scott on his arm. He offered
her his left arm at first, but she took him by the right,
talked briskly to cover his confusion. Mattie took her
uncle's arm, and young David his father's, absurdly
mimicking a lady's walk, dainty, with picking steps.
The tabk gleamed white and silver; warm light from
the pink-shaded candles. The light softened Mattie's
hard little features, and Peter could, with difficulty, take
his eyes from her. Mrs. Scott was like her, too, but
softer, and her grey hair made her seem more tender.
Peter sat between Mrs. Scott and her brother, oppo-
site young David and Mattie, sitting at the corner by
her father. The maid waiting upon him oppressed Peter
88 PETER HOMUNCULUS
at first. There seemed to be a certain scorn in the way
in which she offered him potatoes, that was not in her
manner towards the others. He was soon at ease, how-
ever. There was an atmosphere in the place different
from anything he had known before, or imagined. It
confirmed almost his visions of the houses of the rich
as places whence care was banished, but that in Mrs.
Scott's face were marks of suffering. Sitting there, he
formed a theory that it is the woman makes the atmos-
phere of a home, but turning to his own to apply the
theory, was bafiBed. His father no more than his mother
had made the place hideous. Thinking of his father, he
glanced up the table at his host, then across at David
and Mattie. Melancholy thoughts troubled him. The
difference was so appalling — his own home and this.
From the parlour behind the tailor's shop to that be-
hind old Cooper's had been a stride, wide for the legs:
from Cooper's again to Mrs. Fildes or the house in En-
dell Street; but to this ! A ripple of laughter
came from the others. David had said something funny,
and was looking conscious, giggling nervously. Mrs.
Scott took the conversation to literary subjects. Wilson
struggled against it, turned to frivolity, was resolutely
pursued and finally landed. Peter was all ears. On
the subject of literary success the writer declared:
" Success is merely a question of hair." Hair ! Peter
was glad of his visit to the half-caste.
" The length of it ? " The question was from Mrs.
" Yes," said Wilson. " Many a talent has been ruined
by an inch of hair. The truth is that a man's imagina-
tion needs its proper food. Antics kill. The intoxication
of words is more dangerous to a writer than alcohol,"
PETER HOMUNCULUS 89
Peter was several times on the point of making a re-
mark, but fell to making bread-pills. Mrs. Scott was
alive to his nervousness, and in kindness turned to him.
" You must know young writers, Mr. Davies. What
do you think.'' "
Peter began " I — I ," looked up to find all eyes
turned upon him, Mattie's mocking, lost his thought and
could remember only old Cooper's instructions about
bread-piUs. He laid his hand over the crumbs, saw that
his finger-nails were dirty, and was left foolishly stam-
Mattie turned to David and whispered: "Isn't he
like a banana ? "
David exploded, and his father scowled at him. They
left Peter, and the parson and his wife discussed parish
afi'airs. Wilson teased his niece.
Peter, seeking their motive, misinterpreted, and raged
inwardly. He sat miserably eating and sipping his
claret, taking care to cock his little finger as he drank.
Venturing to look up, he found young David making
a hideous grimace at him. He responded with one more
hideous. The boy laughed and applauded, and awk-
wardness was dispelled.
" An extraordinary accomplishment," said Wilson.
"What.?" said Mattie.
" Old English — grinning through a horse-collar. I
have found it in western counties. You would be suc-
cessful in such competitions."
" Do it again ! " said Mattie. " I did not see it."
" Please do it again." Peter, always susceptible to
voices (and he knew none more sweet than this girl's
and her mother's), complied.
90 PETER HOMUNCULUS
She clapped her hands.
" I used to do it for babies at home," said Peter.
"Are you fond of babies, then? "
" They like me," said Peter.
The response found favour, and the rest of the dinner
passed happily. Murray Wilson chanced on a vein of
nonsense as they ate fruit and walnuts, and Peter was
roused to emulation. He told how he had shaved half
his early moustache, and invented preposterous anec-
dotes of the sagacity of Demophoon. He took the per-
sons of the Tildes circle, and gave them a grotesque
twist, unconsciously following Wilson's method, though
tinging his caricature youthfully with a spice of malice.
" Oh ! come, come," the Rev. David said, " not so
bad as that."
" I assure you — ^truly," said Peter.
All the same they laughed. Success warmed Peter.
When Mrs. Scott rose to leave them he plunged for
the door, bowing as Mattie and David went through.
Mattie tossed her head, as he looked for a smile from
Wilson and Scott drew together for port and tobacco.
Peter was offered a cigarette, but declined.
" Not smoke ? " said Wilson. " I remember burning
a hole in my pinafore with my first cigar."
Coffee was brought. Peter sipped, while they plied
him with questions. Wilson had heard the story of the
quest of the aunt, had used it comically, and was pleased
to find how nearly the young man of his invention re-
sembled Peter — exactly the swaggering, nervous man-
ner, and exactly the bullet-headed insistence on equality.
He dragged from Peter the confession of literary,
ambition, and Peter, in the heady confidence of port
PETER HOMUNCULUS 91
:wine, recited a little poem. Wilson made allowance and
was kind. Peter had amused and interested him. He
knew his type intimately, was not indeed without Peter
qualities himself. He was astounded by the boy's mem-
ory and knowledge of literature. He had sifted the
grain from the chaff, divided real knowledge from hear-
say. He nodded at his brother-in-law and smiled. Peter
mistook it for derision and became taciturn.
As he rose Wilson said:
" I was twenty-nine before there appeared in my
work the personal flavour which alone makes writing
worth while, and is its justification. I believe good
painters are like that, too."
He meant this for encouragement, but Peter was in
the air. The first approaching of a great man had its
painful side. He remembered a sentence in a French
exercise book at school.
" It is with great men as with mountains : the nearer
you approach them, the less formidable do they seem."
Wilson had been a glorious being, living on dizzy
heights: a gentle eagle, but all the same air eagle. The
levelling was sudden, quick, through Peter's ridiculous
intelligence. It was painful, perhaps, and certainly not
at all good for so hubristic a young man.
Peter stayed only a little time in the drawing-room.
Half-past ten seemed the moment for departure. He
had noticed on arriving in the drawing-room that Mrs.
Scott had her thumb bandaged. He was sorry, ashamed
of his clumsiness. He shook hands with her gingerly,
" Thank you," he said, " for a very pleasant "
He very nearly said "entertainment," jibbed at the
:word and dropped it into mumbling. Young David
92 PETER HOMUNCULUS
growled at him, and Mattie gave him a glance that
As he left the room with Mr. Scott, he heard Wil-
" An Achilles with brains. He will hurt himself."
All the same he trod the air, head high. He had been
in rare company, and the air of it had a little gone to
Near the Elephant a Happy drunkard approached
him, whistling, singing, insanely laughing. He trod del-
icately, his legs flew out queerly, and it seemed as
though he had no weight, were floating bubble-like near
the earth, floating: and how he sang! Laughter gurgled
from him like water.
Crowing with delight, he lurched to Peter, caught and
held him. Peter gulped down his first fear and crowed,
too, and, though the man was foul, off"ensive even, bent
to his whimsies.
They laughed and danced wildly together; when sud-
denly the man stopped, staring fixedly at the whiteness
of Peter's collar. He stretched a trembling hand to
" Goblimey," he said, " a toff," and burst into tears.
Peter stood for some moments in consternation, then
left him weeping.
His own condition was so similar, though of different
origin, that he was apt to sympathise. Happiness, warm
happiness. He also broke into snatches of song, and
once stretching his arms, standing on tiptoe, craning
to a star, he murmured : " Mattie," then gasped at the
audacity of it.
Wilson's voice mocked him:
"An Achilles with brains."
PETER HOMUNCULUS 93
He walked for miles through the streets that night —
in love with himself, and Mattie, and Miss Dugdale, and
Janet, and Janet's baby.
•Peter Davies! What a man* Striding with giant
" In the mountains the shortest way is from summit
to summit: but for that thou needest long legs."
That night Zaruthastra was a dwarf to Peter: he
strode from Mont Blanc to Caucasus, from Caucasus
Peter returned to Shaftesbury Avenue by way of Pic-
cadilly, the Park, Oxford Street and the dark streets
of Soho. It was very late and the streets had the lull
which comes when pleasure-seekers are disappeared and
night-workers are not yet abroad. He was still ex-
alted, but approbation of himself had given way to
amorous self -torturing, Hauton timorumenos; Peter
was, above all things, a self-tormentor. A moon shin-
ing over the Park, entirely from a desire to drown her
other self in the mysterious Serpentine, seemed to Peter
to be hanging in the sky, broad and yellow, compas-
sionate to all else, expressly to excite the stifling emo-
tions. He tried to get free of it by murmuring
" Mattie ! Mattie ! " then " Mary, Mary ! " then " Janet !
Janet ! " — all to no purpose. He still choked.
He certainly was amorous that night, but it is pos-
sible also that the large consumption of food at an
unaccustomed hour had something to do with it. That
explanation, if it had occurred to Peter, would have
been odious. He found ethereal reasons, and broke
into a lyric vein. The result in words was perilously like
Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart, or in the head
but the impulse was genuine; whatever its origin, the
rhythm of the lyric was charming, and Peter tripped
Nearing his shop, he heard a cat miaowing, and knew
PETER HOMUNCULUS 95
the note for that of Demophoon. The cry was not
amorous, but petitioning. As a rule, once she left the
house of a night, she disappeared until morning. He
bent down to caress her. She flattened her ears, or
ear, for the crumpled ear could do no more than
twitch, and rubbed herself against his leg. He stroked
her, then opened the door. She bolted in so soon as he
had pushed the door a few inches. Peter followed and
closed the 4oor-
He was astonished to find a light burning in the
passage and young Fildes coming towards him, on tip-
toe, finger on lips. Alarm seized Peter and he threw
out both hands awkwardly as though to ward off a
threatened rush. Fildes seized his wrists and said:
" Peter, Peter — he's going."
Peter opened his mouth, and tried to speak, but
could only produce a sort of dry rattling in his throat.
" It's a stroke, and at his age — ^they don't live
"When?" said Peter.
" To-night about half -past eight."
Peter tried to think of what he was doing at half-
past eight — making a face at young David, perhaps:
anything else would have been equally ridiculous. He
gripped Fildes' shoulder, and found pleasure in the
strong grip, had a desire to send his friend spinning.
"Will he know me?" he said.
Fildes looked sharply up at him.
" I must be with him. There is no one else."
Without more Fildes led Peter, sobered now and
humble, striding no more, to the bed-chamber,
90 PETER HOMUNCULUS
They had found him in this room on the floor in the
alley between the bed and the chest of drawers. He
had been among the treasures and relics of his desk,
for, when they found him, it lay open, the key in the
lock, and in his hand there lay a silver necklace of
pink stones, pink topaz, and tiny stars of paste, fash-
ioned in royal France.
The Fildeses, father and son, had loosed it from his
hand, restored it to the desk and locked the same.
The father had stayed, but being called away had
left his son until Peter should return. There was
nothing to be done : only to watch.
Peter stood by the side of the bed and looked down
upon the head of his stricken friend. One side of the
face, the side of the great eye, had fallen, dragging
the mouth awry. The eye glared most horribly, and
all the face was ashen, showing the hair of head and
beard silvery white. The skin drawn tight over the
brow showed it fine and noble. The body seemed to
be shrunk and the hands from chubby were thin, crook-
fingered and transparent almost. Peter took the right
hand: it was icy cold, hard, not answering to warmth.
He sat by the bedside, and twisted his fingers in the
thick white hair over the ear. There seemed to be life
in that and some comfort.
Two visions rose in Peter's mind — ^his mother lying
cold, filling him with horror of dead things: and the
Button-moulder at the cross-roads.
Ay. Everything's over.
The owl smells the daylight.
Owls, bats, moths, creatures of the night, filled Peter's
PETER H0MUNCULU9 07
For no reason he thrust his hand under the old man's
head^ so that the round skull lay in the cup of his
palm. He strove to lift, but the head was heavy, and
he fell to wondering. Does the brain die first, cease to
dream, or are the mysteries of death clear and vividly
seen? He remembered the horror of the living eye in
the dead head in the story of the elixir of life, and wove
queer fantasies, glimpses of horror seen and fading
almost as soon as seen. Without knowing that he
spoke, he framed the words:
"What is death?"
He spoke softly, but the words rang in the silent
room. He drew in his breath hissing. How if the
brain were alive in the skull, able stiU to perceive
sound? The idea of the brain grinding thought with-
out power to express sickened him, and he left his
question. He was startled :when young Fildes from the
other side said:
" I have seen so much of death. It just stops like
the ticking of a watch," and he laid his hand on the
old man's heart.
" Slow," he said. "Slow, dying away."
" The sadness of Lear's feather," said Peter and
Fildes looked across at him, wondering what he meant.
He rose quickly to his feet, fumbling in his pocket.
Peter was deadly pale, his eyes staring and his jaw
had dropped. He swayed, swinging to and fro over his
knees, then pitched forward in a swoon. His hand
dragged from under the old man's head, drew it side-
Eeturned to consciousness, he found himself in the
parlour watched over by the doctor and the old char-
woman. She was in tears. Among others she had the
98 PETER HOMUNCULUS
profession of layer-out of corpses, and had been sent
for earlier in the evening.
She had performed her office, and waited upon
Peter's recovery to wag her tongue. He silencdd the
ghoulish old woman and plunged again into the death-
Fildes was stern and ordered him to bed. Demoph-
oon followed him and lay all night upon his feet.
During the two days before the burial the cat avoided
the old man's room, though it had ever been her lair.
She clung to Peter, and clawed and purred about him
as she had done about the old bookseller.
The shop was kept closed and she retired thither,
Peter, too, and at his desk he wrote of love and death.
Poor pale corse.
Grave shall hoard
Let me win
Lay me in
Love, the foe.
Aids to death.
Ache of woe.
Sting of breath.
Death the friend
Comes too soon;
Makes the end
He read it to Demophoon, who blinked contemptuously,
curled up, and went to sleep on the sofa,
PETER H0MUNCULU9 99
Peter preserved the poem. He had changed his red
tie for a black bow, with a winged collar similar to
that worn by Murray Wilson at the dinner.
He wrote to his friends, and told them of the
bereavement, wrote to his brother, went to Janet Fildes
for sympathy, and found it. He wished to write to
Tessa, but could not remember her address, or if she
had given him any on their chance meeting in the car.
Fildes took charge of all the business of interment, and
was in all ways a good friend, even to listening pa--
tiently while Peter, who had suffered from some mis-
giving concerning the immediate future, talked about
himself and his prospects, and enlarged upon great
thoughts concerning death.
There were no discoverable relatives to bid to the
funeral, and the body of the old man was followed to
its grave by Peter as chief mourner, the two Fildeses
and Janet, Scott and his wife. Old Adam was sick
of a fever, and knew not even that his friend was
Scott returned with Peter to Shaftesbury Avenue.
He came bluntly to the point.
" Mr. Cooper," he said, " gave me your welfare as
a special charge."
" You ? " said Peter, incredulously, for the thing
seemed too dazzling for belief.
" He made a will leaving you, with the exception
of certain small legacies, everything whereof he might
die possessed. I am executor, and charged with you
and — and the cat."
" Demophoon ? "
The parson nodded and drew off his black kid gloves.
"How," said Peter, "bow i? Mrs. Scott'sf — thumb?"
100 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" It was nothing," said the parson. " Have you
■found the will?"
"Will?" said Peter. He had been flying ofi' into
(dreams, Mrs. Scott and Mattie, and always, always,
happiness like that of the evening of the dinner.
" He made his will — and signed it only the night
before he died. You were in the shop asleep."
" I remember," said Peter. " It will be in his desk."
He fetched the desk from the dead man's room with
the keys. It was in rose-wood chased with brass, in-
laid; brass cornered: hinges and lock of brass scrolled
and elaborate. A brass plate let into the lid bore
"X. Cooper, 1869."
He laid it on the table. A little difficulty with the
key and they had it open. A musty fragrance rose
from among the litter of its contents. The pink topaz
necklace lay atop, and broken fragments of a rose long
dead. Bare stones in rings peeped out, two fingers
of a glove, a chain, and all disordered. They found
the will. Odd sums were left to Peter, money in the
funds, the business, all property whatsoever. He was
charged to be a man and to remember this:
" Vere magnum, habere f ragilitatem hominis, se-
"It is from Bacon," said Mr. Scott to Peter puz-
zling, and he translated. " It is true greatness to have
the frailty of a man and the security of a God."
"I'U be great," said Peter sublimely.
"I don't know. But I'll be it."
" In all," said the parson, " I think you iwill have
jgerhaps eight hundred pounds."
PETEE HOMUNCULUS 101
"There's jewels here," said Peter. "Are they
" Yes, yours."
Peter foraged in the desk and laid all out in a row.
He came upon a great gold watch, from which a fob
with seals dangled.
" My," he said. " He's been a man."
" Yes," said Scott. " A known man," and he sighed
to look upon the little hoarded treasures that were all
that were left of the old man's sad romance.
" I'll leave the shop," said Peter.
" Education. Mr. Cooper used to say ' Be hanged
to education,' but he made me read for all that,
and there's some things that others know that a man
has to know if only to know them better. Isn't it so,
Peter had wild dreams of Cambridge, but Mr. Scott
drew him gently down to lesser London, on the ground
of economy. They argued, and Mr. Scott left Peter
to think it over, with promises to do all in his power
" My solicitors," he said, " will procure probate
for the will — you don't have control, you know, until
you are twenty-five."
That had escaped Peter. He was damped. His
wings flapped for flight, but he was chained to earth.
Mr. Scott could have laughed at the sudden rueful-
ness of Peter's face, but he forbore.
Peter timidly sent messages of greeting to Mrs. Scott
and Miss — Miss Mattie. Left alone he foraged more
among the old man's papers. There were old letters,
legal documents; plans and pictures of an ancient house
102 PETER HOMUNCULUS
in Warwickshire, -writings, poems, prose, fragments,
and an old diary, a note-book.
Peter set aside the diary and the note-book for read-
ing. Out of the diary fluttered a scrap of paper
yellow with age, worn at the corners, through at the
folds. There was a faint fragrance of heliotrope from
it. He held it together and deciphering the thin
cramped writing where the long s so much resembled f
as to be confusing, read under the date September 5,
" My dear, my dear. It is all done: you are gone
and I am like to die. I could not leave this place
with you; yet without you it is no better than a
tomb, so cold it is. It was so in the days when we were
closest, in the hours when you were gone. But then
the knowledge of a certain dawn made sweet the pain
of waiting through the night. The sun shines coldly
now. It never shone for me but through you, as all
that came to me of life could come through you alone.
You know, you know, you are so tender and you know
so well: there is no thought of bitterness in you, gener-
ous and big as you are, for the hurt that in my weak-
ness I have done to you. What could I do? . . ."
There were some words illegible here, others erased,
" Before you came to me I had been hurt, crushed
to numbness. We flashed together (the words are
yours) and knew great happiness. Cruelty and prej-
udice — ^you said 'prejudice is stronger than the law ' " — •
The words touched Peter's memory, and he saw again
the old man telling his pitiful narrative — ^he seemed
nearer to old Cooper now than be had ever been. Men
^o survive death,
PETER HOMUNCULUS 103
"Cruelty and prejudice," he read again, "divided
us. We might have gone together out to meet life,
but that I, in my folly, in the vanity of my heart,
deceived myself, believed the wprds whispered in my
ear. And — Heaven help me — ^judged you! I, a wo-
man, to judge a saint among men, almost a God! Nay,
we must not judge the lowliest. How much greater
then was my presumption and my wickedness in judg-
ing you, the highest, best and noblest of all? That is
my wrong. I am your penitent. But what is my peni-
tence to you.^ I gave you all: I gave you nothing —
I shall preserve your memory — or it may come to us
again. Vain hope! — But I am with you: you are al-
ways my beloved, more than myself "
The writing scrawled here and the pen had been
dug deep into the paper. Words ceased and the pen
had raced trailing a wavering line — ^then :
" How well I know you ! Clara."
The full meaning of the letter was not revealed to
Peter. His imagination created a young Cooper, but
not a handsome: and a Clara, dainty, elusive, bewitch-
ing; soft, adorable, like — ^like — like Miss Dugdale,
Mary. Peter's' imagiination "was strong enough, but
cold. It had not had its proper food of love. He
gorged it later.
Rummaging again amongst the papers in the desk
his hand came upon something hard and cold, a Dres-
den figure of Demeter, six inches high, red-sandalled,
cornucopia on arm, pink and white: a Demeter absurd
and sentimental, but dainty. She stood for Clara, there
on the table simpering.
He came upon another letter, in Cooper's hand,
but firm, rounded, young. The letter was of earlier
104 PETER HOMUNCULUS
date than hers — ^August, 1854 — ^the paper yellower, more
dilapidated. They had had two years then! Peter
made the calculation, but imagined not all that the
time had held for them. The letter moved him, roused
wildness, and keen sorrow. He leaned forward close
to Demeter and read?
" Darling, my dear. Dur babies ! Mon Dieu, but
I dreamed of them last night. We were on our hill
at sunset — sun going down behind the roUing woods
touching them to gold, and the woods, our woods, blue,
hazy, grey mists: the pines warm, red, glowing. The
light growing softer, paler, the trees made music in
their swaying, and from their crests our children
floated down, singing — circled us, and danced. You
came to me, close, my lips on yours; and we swayed
to the rhythm of life — ^the trees, children, we two ! lovers !
Divine ! Oh ! my dear, my dear, it cannot be for noth-
ing that we have this, so much. I thank you: but not
you. It is something more than you that loves me,
just as it is something more than I that loves you. If
it were only I, I should say, should I not? Heavens!
This woman whom I know to have loved before, worn
by the world, tried with unhappiness, this is not my
ideal of love. Where is my Juliet, my Heloise, my
young Beatrice? — For of such I had ever dreamed.
But, being in this, more than myself — I am you, be-
come you, merged in this you which is greater than
you, as you are merged in this me which is greater
than myself; a divine possession.
" I say ' I love you.' That is the human formula —
the simplest symbol. It is love both sacred and pro-
fane: love as the brutes know it and as the Gods
know it: Love triumphant, blazing, ranging over the
PETER] H0MUNCULU9 105
world to set it quivering. The discovery of it is sweet :
the first timid grasping sweet — timid because we are
afraid, so much have we been hurt in our tamperings
with divine things, in our clumsy searchings after this
truth which has come to us now unsought — and sweet
the going out to meet it in terror: but this possession,
this ever-growing knowledge of it — Darling, my dear,
we are ever at the beginning — You and I — Dream-
children! Only in dreams ours — Then — then — ^What
more? Only this: that I love you."
In the margin many years later the lover had writ-
ten — " Clara is dead. For a time God left the world; "
and later still: "What is my love in the infinite? To
men even it is less than a star."
Peter was shocked. It was as though He had happed
on the inmost life of a friend unbidden. Old Cooper
had had a knack of making him feel small, but this
young fiery Cooper! — There was something ridiculous
about it, perhaps because Peter's young Cooper would
not wholly detach himself from the old Cooper he had
known. The old man and the letter of babies and
trees, and dreams shrieked absurdity, and Peter was
He folded both letters carefully and placed them
in the desk. He had no taste for more, and restored
everything — deeds, the lease of the house, jewels,
watch, Demeter. Last of all he took the pink topaz
necklace in his hand. It shone softly, a piece of lov-
ing craftmanship. There were nine stones set in sil-
ver, each in a stud linked with a little chain. It had
been a bracelet of eight studs and a clasp, three large
stones, five small. In each stud were tiny winking
gems that Peter took for brilliants. They were French
loe PETER HOMUNCULUS
paste of the finest, and every stone was clasped in sil-
ver claws, backed with silver, fluted. Peter loved the
soft glow of the stones, and the dull tarnished silver
of the chains and studs. It was a fitting jewel for
the Demeter of the German artist, fitting for the
throat of the fair penitent.
Suddenly Peter had a ghastly sense of being in face
of something he did not understand. He dropped the
necklace into the desk, slammed it to and locked it,
then carried it into his own bedroom. He was afraid,
like a child of the dark. He lay shivering in his bed,
shrinking into himself, desiring only smallness. Quite
simply he framed his thought:
" If I am tiny. It will hurt me less."
The nature of It was not revealed to him, but he
knew well that it was inevitable, lurking in the world to
hurt him. He was sore afraid. And during these days
when there was confusion in his affairs, nothing but
consultations, palavers, arguments, and plans, and
he was much alone, he lived in terror. Often he would
open the desk and stand fingering the necklace. And
often he began to read Cooper's letter to Clara, but,
so soon as he began to read from the first words,
" Darling, my dear, our babies ! " its every phrase
leaped from the page to confound him. Later he re-
membered a saying, oft repeated of old Cooper's:
" There are sunbeams prisoned in the earth, striving'
upward to reach the sun. So all things grow. Love is
There was some peace in that and comfort, but Peter
went floundering in deep waters. The flow of words
from his pen was dammed, and he was miserable, cross
and listless: a sore trial to the friends who were busy
PETER H0MUNCULU9 107
making plans for his future and the day when he
should rise on strong wings.
He was so odious that when Mr. Scott proposed to
his wife that he should live with them she put her foot
" My dear," she said. " No. We could not do with
his moods: he would come crying to me for sympathy,
or to Mattie — and then! No, he is not fit yet to live
with women ! "
Scott marvelled at his wife's divination. He was
" What are we to do with him ? I am proud of my
charge and must hold to it."
" Give him a lodging in Bloomsbury or Netting Hill.
He must fight his own battles, and discover for him-
self the real aspect of the world. That old man with
his literary outlook has drawn a film over it for him."
" He is so sensitive. He will be hurt."
"Let him. He must be if he is to come to anything.
These violent and false moods."
Wilson said: " Throw him into deep water and let
him swim. He won't drown. It is the only way with
The upshot of it was that, when the good will of
the business and the remaining term of the lease of the
house had been sold, Peter being possessed of a thou-
sand and fifty pounds, aged nineteen years and nine
months (prodigiously old and weighted with the bur-
den of life), neither good-looking nor ugly, though in
animation striking, ill-dressed, ill-mannered and un-
couth, was lodged in a house of his own choosing in
Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, and entered at Kings Col-
lege in the Strand where he attended lectures in Latin,
108 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Greek, Mediaeval languages. History, Political Econ-
omy and English Literature.
He was keen and zealous in his attendance. His
greatest distress came from contact with boys and girls,
younger than himself, who appeared to have all sorts
of knowledge denied to himself. At first he was fool-
ish enough to regret the three years in the shop, never
made mention of it, was in terror of discovery: then
he made the mistake of despising this knowledge, called
it " Cockney lore." He swaggered among them, de-
veloped an irritating habit of literary quotation, be-
came a standing joke and was acutely miserable,
kicking peevishly. He bragged of his acquaintances,
hurling Scott and Murray Wilson, Miss Dugdale's
brother and the least of the long-haired in the Fildes
group, at the heads of his fellow-students.
On one occasion as he was coming out of the College
into the Strand, Murray Wilson shot by. Peter button-
holed him and held him in ridiculous conversation that
the little students might see with their own eyes.
Wilson divined the inner Peter, kindly stood with him,
but for months afterwards avoided meeting him, aban-
doning his practice of Sunday supper with the Scotts.
This produced unfortimate consequences, for it so
fell out that Peter was thrown mucli with Mattie.
David had gone to school, and both Mr. and Mrs.
Scott were occupied with parish afi'airs, for a cycle
of bad trade had brought great distress to the poor
in South London as everywhere else. Capital was
needed in Russia and America, and the ring of inter-
national financiers had directed it thither to the dis-
location of trade in England. So the bald little man
yrho propounded economic theory to Peter explained
PETEK H0MUNCULU9 109
the crisis. Other economists wrote letters of violent
ahuse to the papers, a petty war followed. Free Trade
V. Fair Trade, in which Peter, with the confidence of
small knowledge, joined. His letter appeared over
his full name. He reproduced in it almost word for
word the ideas of the bald-headed lecturer, who there-
after regarded him as his most promising pupil. Peter
cut out the letter and showed it to all his friends.
Mattie thought it a literary wonder, though she could
make neither head nor tail of it, and was bewildered
by the absurd diagram with which it was illustrated.
Her father chafi^ed him, and comically regretted his
ignorance of mathematical economics. Thick-headed
Peter swallowed everything, and for a week or so
dreamed seriously of abandoning his other studies and
migrating to the School of Economics in Claremarket.
Fortunately another and more real success in Latin
Literature, the winning of a special prize, carrying
with it a bursary of thirty pounds, defeated the insane
project. He devoted himself principally to that and
to English Literature, took himself most seriously, and
indeed lost all sense of humour with regard to them.
It was a gloomy and a Werther-Iike Peter who paid
little court to Mattie on Sunday evenings. He va-
poured woefully to her, heaved great sighs, and de-
veloped a peculiar dog-like expression of the eye for
her benefit. He wrought upon her, poured all his
floating ideas intp her mind, was teased, laughed at,
petted and comforted. She was proud of his successes,
and flattered that he would for her sake make changes
in his dress. He had clung to the black bow tie of
Murray Wilson ever after the funeral. Mattie tabooed
brown boots and long hair. Peter denied himself both
110 PETER HOMUNCULUS
these luxuries, and to the limit of his purse dressed
carefully to please her. She tired of his eternal blue
suits. He bought a grey and a brown.
Mrs. Scott had uneasy moments. And there was
some head-wagging. She liked Peter, was anxious for
his welfare, but in her eyes his welfare was not Mat-
tie's. She knew the danger of arbitrary suppression
with the girl, and forbore, though watching carefully.
She knew that if there was folly in the air the girl
would be unhappy: but Mattie was radiant, kind and
helpful in the conduct of the house and parish affairs.
There was then no cause for interference.
One Sunday Peter and Mattie were alone in the
drawing-room, she playing the piano idly, Schubert
and Sullivan by turn. Peter twisted the lock of hair
on his forehead and said: —
" How Sullivan has stolen from Schubert ! "
"Has he.?" said Mattie, "I like him."
" Play that again." Peter approached the piano,
stood in its curve, and she played the air from the
" Yeoman of the Guard."
Oh, the sighing and the suing!
Oh, the doing and undoing.
When a jester goes a-wooing, —
Jester wishes he were dead.
Mattie sang softly.
" That note," said Peter, " is like the note of
" Poor Demophoon," she said. Peter looked tragic.
The cat with the crumpled ear at the quitting of
the shop on its purchase by the half-caste barber,
PETER HOMUNCULUS 111
who being incommoded by the too close attention of the
police wished to extend his business to the compara-
tively greater respectability of the wide thoroughfare,
had been conveyed in a basket to the rectory. She
stayed for a day, numb, without interest even in the
milk which was offered her at every turn, then had
fled. They brought her back; again she fled to the
shop. Once more and she was lost, engulphed like
Peter's aunt in cruel London.
That is why Mattie said " Poor Demophoon."
A lamp with a pink shade stood behind her head.
A bright fire was burning, the curtains were drawn,
shutting out the world and bleak weather.
Perhaps the pink shade was responsible for what
happened. Mattie was pretty — those green eyes: but
on that night she looked prettier to Peter, older, for the
first time a woman. As she played, he leaned further
and further over the piano towards her, eyes on her
face. She knew what she was doing, enjoyed her
power. She raised her eyes once, so glad they were
and soft. Peter glared. She glanced down again at
her fingers, sighed — a little sigh.
Peter tugged at his hair and hitched his shoulders,
then hands together he leaned forward and whispered,
supplication in his voice:
She broke into a tender lullaby.
"Will you — listen to me.^ " said Peter.
Mattie let her hands fall into her lap, and hung her
head. Peter was silent for a moment, fearful lest he
had hurt her. She was so very stiU.
He was fearful also of It. Was It leaping upon
him.'' He wagged his head, shook himself.
113 PETER HOMUNCULUS
He knew at the bottom that this was not It, but
some hideous power drew him on to speak, to finish where
he had begun. He knew that there was no need for
more, that the first word had said all that need be said,
but the thin slip of a girl sat there silent, expectant,
dragging words out of him. They cut as they came,
and he was mocked by the memory of that prepos-
terous scene with Janet Pildes, and by the memory
of Tessa's shoulders that first day, Tessa painting her-
self, and Tessa demanding a kiss. No help for it,
he must go on.
"Mattie," he whispered again, and swept into the
thing, abandoning himself to the current of it. Her
bosom rose and fell. She stole a glance at him, and
laid her white hand where he might reach it. He
stretched to touch it. Her fingers closed on his.
" Do you remember the first night that I came here?."
" You were unkind to me — a little, but for all that
it was the first night of happiness in my life. The
tenderness, the softness of this house, good mother and
kind father, were things I had never known, and
never dreamed of, never! — Girls I had known — You,
by contrast, seemed beyond nature — and you were un-
kind to me."
He paused. Mattie seemed to wisK to speak, but
was silent — only her hand pressed his.
"We shall be friends, Mattie dear. I can help you.
And you — I am so terribly alone."
A cunning devil prompted Peter to plead loneli-
ness. The plea is irresistible, and the use of it here
was damnable. Peter wanted nothing of this pale girl,
so young. She wished to give to him, and he from
PETER H0MUNCULU9 113
kindness, magnanimity, or perhaps only from sheer
egoism took. More words would have plunged him
in falsity, a hideous welter. He had divined this,
and, taking his hand from hers, plunged his hand in
his pocket and drew forth the Dresden figure of
Demeter. He placed the little lady before her.
" She is the goddess of the corn," he said. " I give
her to you for a symbol."
"She is pretty," said Mattie.
," Will you keep her ? While we are friends, I mean.
I want you to grow into the splendid woman . . ."
Mattie turned eyes mocking and tender upon him.
She rose, left the piano and came round to him; she
was quiet, firm, decided. She took the lapels of his
coat, and turned her face up to him. He collapsed.
" You. silly boy," she said. " I like your goddess,
and you — I shall keep both."
She shook him fondly and left him. Bemused, Peter
followed her and, as she began to play again, seized
her right hand, bent low and kissed it. She twined
her fingers in his hair and laughed.
" Laugh — silly," she said. " You must laugh. Peter
laughs, but Mr. Davies may be solemn."
Peter was baffled. The masterful man bending to
frail woman had become impossible.
" You — ^you," he said, helpless.
" I-^I — " and she mocked again.
"I— I can't."
"Mr. Davies then."y
114 PETER HOMUNCULUS
It sounded so odd to hear her say solemnly " Peter "
that he gasped, then giggled, — ^broke at last into a
" Dear Peter/' said Mattie, and placed her hands on
his shoulders. " I will keep your pretty lady — until I
lose you. I shall break her then."
" Never," said Peter, become the heroic lover. Mattie
liked that and yielded to it. Peter was baffled. There
seemed to be so much purpose in this young girl, and
his conception of her character was based on the Bal-
zacian ' jeune fiUe.' He knew perfectly well that this
was not It, but the very baffling made the thing fasci-
nating, and he was held in thrall as in all his follies
he had never been. There was a curious warmth in his
bosom; Mattie shook him. His arms went round her;
she held back a moment, fell towards him, her arms
from his shoulders went round his neck dragging his
head down. Her breath tickled his lips curiously.
His throat tightened and for the thousandth part of
a second he struggled. In that time he thought that
he must not kiss her, for his own sake and hers, that
the law of salt forbade it, that it would be theft most
dishonourable, that prejudice was ridiculous, though
stronger than the law; that romance was ridiculous;
that Cooper had said " For love, Homunculus, never
forget that Goethe tapped out hexameters on his wife's
back," that Goethe was an ass, and that Cooper had
been a real lover, that a kiss more or less did not matter,
that one kiss led to another. Then the thread snapped,
and their lips came together.
One kiss led to another, to many. A hand on the
door sent them flying, and when Mrs. Scott entered
PETEKi H0MUNCULU9 115
the room Mattie was thumping out the wedding march
from "Lohengrin/' which Peter particularly detested,
and he was sitting low in a long chair by the fire-
place reading a volume of sermons. The large white
bow at the back of Mattie's head was sadly crushed.
That detail did not escape Mrs. Scott, whom the
long cessation in the piano-playing had brought. She
had marked the increasing politeness of Mattie's de-
meanour towards Peter. The girl had ceased to call
him " the banana," and gave him " Mr. Davies " always
in reference. So much of childishness she had dropped,
was soberer, mouse-quiet in the house, but of accesses
of wild humour and flashing caustic wit. " Cherchez
rhomme," said Wilson, and pitched on Peter, since both
Mr. Scott's curates were married, plain and dull, and
young men of an admirable class came rarely to the
house. Like a wise woman, in her perturbation Mrs.
Scott had gone, not to her husband, but to her brother.
He laughed, and told her of his earliest experiments
in the making of sparks.
" It is good for Peter," he said.
" No small benefit for her, Peter is a tender and a
"He will hurt her."
"Less than another."
" More, I think."
" She will be proud to have known him, and he must
"Oh! well "
" It is the boiling process for both."
lie PETER HOMUNCULUS
" ' Strange/ said Sancho Panza. ' Very strange hap-
penings are in the boiling of an egg.' "
" There is nothing to be done."
" I will dazzle Peter with my distinguished patron-
age — ^if you wish. It will be bad for him."
" He will swell — Cleave it. If there is need I can
Mrs. Scott left it at that. She had gleaned not
much comfort, but her sense of proportion was re-
stored. She could not approve of Peter. Peter or no
Peter, future or no future, he was the son of a tailor,
with, no doubt, hordes of impossible relations in the
country whence he had sprung. Without knowing it
her attitude towards him had changed. There was
just a spice of resentment in her. This, while it
chilled Peter, brought an ironical twist with it. He
was driven more towards the girl, whose reception of
him grew warmer, as that of her mother colder. Mrs.
Scott detected the process, but too late. She could notl
forbid Peter the house without worrying her husband,
who, she knew, would pooh pooh the whole matter.
He was fond of Peter, and ridiculously proud of his
success at King's College. Young David had shown no
signs of particular intelligence, indeed avowedly hated
books, and had early discovered the profession of his
choice — ^to be agent or steward to a nobleman of vast
estates. AU the pride that might have been in David
was centred in Peter. Youthful complications between
the boy and Mattie were food for wild laughter. Peter
was of ideas healthy, if half-digested. There could
be little harm in him. Mattie he knew for a person of
firm character, and for seventeen, of much :wisdom.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 117
She had left school, six months, and was waiting only
the decision of a moneyed aunt, interested in her, to
go abroad to Leipzig, Paris or perhaps Brussels for
the study of music. The choice of place rested with
the said aunt, who was making inquiries into Pensions,
and the quality of teaching in each place,
Mrs. Scott, therefore, had resigned herself to toler-
ance. None the less, when she entered the room, to
find disorder in her daughter's hair, and Peter en-
grossed in a pious work which no one since her hus-
band's grandfather had read, she felt a certain anger,
and the protective instinct enlarged Peter to a dread-
ful size, a bold and reckless marauder, saw Mattie as
weak, fragile, a thing easily destroyed. She had for
a moment a wish to hurl injurious words at the hypo-
critical Peter, who, on realising her entry (he gave her
a few moments in which to take in the scene) had
sprung to his feet, book in hand, and murmured words
of pleasure in the music of Miss Mattie. It was then
that Mrs. Scott most wished to upbraid him. All that
she said was:
" It is late, Mattie."
Mattie said " Oh ! " rose and closed the piano.
Glancing at herself in the mirror over the mantelpiece,
she perceived with some vexation that her cheeks were
flushed and her hair ribbon crumpled. She stood for
a moment fingering the simpering Demeter.
" Mr. Davies gave me this," she said. Peter ex-
plained the circumstance of the finding of the goddess.
" Charming," said Mrs. Scott, taking the figure. "I
wish I had met Mr. Cooper."
Peter was shy of talking of his former patron. He
could find nothing to say but:
118 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" He — ^he did not wash much."
Cleanliness was a new virtue with Peter, learned
from the Scotts. He had been brought up in the tra-
dition of the weekly bath, and was inclined to attach
too much importance to the new habit. It was with
some repugnance that he thought of old Cooper's ap-
parently invincible aversion from water.
He was uncomfortable in the presence of Mrs. Scott,
glad when she, hinting at bed for Mattie, gave him
the opportunity to escape. He said " Good-night "
and pressed Mattie's hand warmly. Her eyes followed
him to the door, he wondering why they did not see him
for the ass and knave that he was, for as ass and knave
he saw himself as he closed the door of the room. He
blamed himself, but had no suspicion that Mattie had
had anything to do with it. The thing was done, and
seemed fatal, a final disposition. He felt most uneasi-
ness from its refusal to sort with his theories of the
tender passion. He struggled manfully to do his duty
and to confine his thoughts, and the whirl roused in him
to Mattie — Mattie — Mattie — but there crowded in on
him all the young women with whom he had dallied,
was dallying, and clearest of all, the vision of Mary
Dugdale as he had last seen her in a new triumph, a
play in which she had shown herself, according to a
dramatic critic, "to possess the power of presenting
the whole gamut of human emotions." Even under
the spell of her magnetism Peter had known the critic
for a liar and a fool, but he had returned with fresh
ardour to the adoration of this first idol, who had been
dethroned by the shock of the tidings that she was
married to Mr. Bertram Bond, the author who had
given her her first real opportunitjr. Janet Fildes had
PETER HOMUNCULUS 119
occupied him and turned his interest from drama to
music, and the collection of Miss Dugdale's portraits
had been destroyed. The discovery of old Cooper's
romance, the fire and passion of it, had flung Peter
Mary-wards, and he had even written to her (though
the letter was never posted) in imitation. He ran wild,
and made violent love to a girl-student who bore a fan-
cied resemblance to the glorious Mary. Mattie was
worlds apart, a creature of another kind; none of the
goddess in her: the godhead of Mary, divine name, was
indisputable. And now this had happened. His blood
raced, his skin tingled.
All this turmoil of memory, thought, emotion and
physical sensation took place in Peter during the time
it took him to descend the stairs to the front-door. He
took his overcoat from its peg of the mahogany hat-
stand, struggled into it and was for going, with his
hand on the latch, when from the landing came a soft
voice calling " Peter ! " He desired to flee, but he was
" Good-night — dear," said the voice.
He became romantic on the instant, turned and
stalked so that he stood where, by craning his neck,
he could see her. She blew him a kiss, smiled, and fled
on tiptoe, with an anxious glance towards the drawing-
He heard her ascend the stairs, then she stopped,
and he heard her voice again.
"Write," she whispered.
That exasperated him. Already she had begun to
make demands upon him. He did not recognise that
source of exasperation, but ascribed it to his fine sense
of tact injured by an advance from the girl so pal-
120 PETER HOMUNCULUS
pable. Even then he did not consider that Mattie had
had anything to do yrith it.
Romance made Peter conceive the female of the
human race as waiting, like a female insect, for the
arrival of the male. His relations with young women
had all been based on that conception. The majority
of them, with great subtlety and cleverness, had bowed
to it and taken their Peter as they found him. One or
two had laughed at him, and Peter left the Scotts' house
with an uneasy feeling that at any moment Mattie also
might laugh at him. Then he ground his teeth sav-
agely, and mutfceired:
" I should deserve it."
He was pleased with the humility of this utterance,
and repeated it. A policeman thought Peter was salut-
ing him as he spoke aloud, and in the relief of hearing
a human voice directed towards him, said " Good-night,
sir." The " sir " delighted Peter, and he stayed to
speak. The constable spoke £rst, not an illuminating
remark, but an opening:
" Raw weather for the time of the year."
"February," said Peter.
" Cold for the poor out-o'-works. Ever seen 'em
washin' themselves on the Embankment in the 'orse
troughs? Washes an' combs their 'eads, they do."
" Poor devils," said Peter.
" We're all poor devils," said the policeman. " I
know. I seen all sorts. Dooks an' beggars is much the
same thing if you can see under their clothes — shiverin'
all of them."
" Shivering souls," said Peter, and thought of the
old woman near this spot who had given him the secret
of yrarmth. He had forgotten it these many months.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 121
Odd tHat the policeman should have recalled her! He
thought perhaps the policeman might know her. He de-
scribed her and asked.
" Oh! Her? " said the constable pleasantly. " She's
Peter had a desire to laugh. He had discovered this
desire in himself whenever he heard that any person
not connected with himself had gone the way of all flesh.
" Old actress/' she was. " They 'ad 'er in the papers
when she died. Much good it did 'er or anyone. Let
well alone, I say."
" Find it lonely standing about.? " '
" Well, sir, you get used to it. It's Ijad folks being
afraid of you, and children — ^but you get used to it,
sir." Each " sir " was a fresh delight to Peter. " It's
safe, sir, and a pension, and I think a lot."
" Good-night," said Peter, and shook hands.
The policeman was important by reason of his much
flesh. Peter did not know the vast wrappings of cloth
under the uniform, and suspected not that even a police
constable is a fraud. To him the man was immense,
solid, monumental, looming in the misty air as he drew
away from him.
The reality of this encounter braced Peter, but did
not long hold him from self-torment, or from resolving
the mystery of himself and conduct incompatible with
theory all the way back to the two rooms which he now
inhabited in a tall lodging-house in Gordon Square.
They were tiny rooms, but the possession of a sitting-
room all his own was luxury. The bedroom was an
attic under the roof illuminated by one small window.
It had no fireplace, but fortunately the Scotts had
taught him the necessity of sleeping with the window
122 PETER HOMUNCULUS
open, or his health must have suffered, for except the
■walk from his lodging to King's College he took no
exercise nor air. He avoided the society of his fellow-
lodgers, though he had sufficient curiosity to discover
their origin, occupation, and habits, and spent all his
time in working first for his Intermediate, in which,
unlike the little man who had taught him Algebra with
such ill-success — he passed easily, and later for his de-
gree in Arts. The examination was difficult, covering
much knowledge, more, they said, than either Oxford
or Cambridge, and Peter suffered qualms as he studied
the University Calendar. He slaved and won constant
approbation. He was conscientious, and though Janet
Fildes, anxious for his early celebrity, urged him to
poetic composition, he refrained, and in course of time
learned to view critically those unhappy little poems
which had so signally failed to stir the journalistic
world. None the less, he had no thought of other career
than the literacy, and in all that he wrote of answers
to propounded questions, or of contributions to debate
and discussion, he was fastidious in the use of words,
even meticulous. He was derided much, but whatever he
said was so clearly and so shiningly set forward as to
compel attention and sometimes keen interest. They
had a Parliament, in which Peter was Leader of the
Opposition, for a time, until he found that he was giv-
ing too much to it, and resigned to study. He ap-
proached his fellow-students as fools, and, therefore,
made few friends. He knew perfectly well that they
and he would at once part company in the future, and
with sure instinct, knowing already the pain of grow-
ing out of friendship, he avoided such. Some sort of
PETER HOMUNCULUS 123
contact he could not avoid, but so far as he could he
held his fellows at arm's length. Some there were in-
sistent, who forced their way to the inner Peter, won
kindness from him, but in the end came battering
against the hard wall of reserve he had erected round
himself, and were hurt. Peter was always sorry for
such interludes, a little sorry for the victim, but most
for himself, and the waste of himself. Yet he wished
for popularity. He counted the cost too dear. All that
he wished of more or less intelligent society, the Fildes
circle afforded him, and for tenderness there stood the
After his Intermediate examination, he took one or
two pupils by way of adding to the income sparingly
doled out in monthly sums by his guardian. His money
was securely invested to bring in forty pounds a year,
and another sixty was advanced to him on condition of
repayment out of the capital sum when it should be paid
over to him on his twenty-fifth birthday. Fees at the
University were paid in the same way.
Peter had read of Carlyle and Irving, and other
Scotch students in Edinburgh. He took them for his
model, and in Gordon Square cultivated austerity. It
was not in his nature to be so, and he suffered much.
He ate sparingly, smoked not at all, and often in the
most evil weather denied himself a fire and sat working
with his feet swathed in flannel shirts. He had made
himself in early days a time table, according to which
he should rise at six in the morning throughout the year,
work till nine, go to the college for the day, dine at
seven, think for an hour. Work again until twelve, and
" so to bed." The time table was pinned on the wall
124 PETER HOMUNCULUS
of his bedroom, written neatly on a foolscap sheet which
just covered one of the enormous yellow flowers of the
wall-paper, but he had observed it for barely a week.
On Sundays he never toiled until after the visit to
the Scotts, when he sat for an hour with his books.
This Sunday, after the scene with Mattie, and the
subsequent conversation with the policeman, recalling
the tattered woman, the fallen actress, he was aflame.
He lit the two candles, by which light he preferred to
read, for it was impossible to procure a good light from
the gas upon the plain deal table at which he workedj
and, taking down the Heauton Timoroumenos of Ter-
ence, a Latin Dictionary, and a manuscript book, he
began to translate and annotate. He forced himself to
read the words:
"Quam iniqui sunt patres in onmis adolescentis judices!
Qui aequous esse cement, nos jam a pueris illico nascl senes:
Neque illarum afflnes esse rerum, quas fert adolescentia.
Ex sua libidine moderantur, nunc quae est, non quae olim fuit.
Mihi si unquam filius erit, nae ille facili cur utetur patre:
Nam et cognoscendi et ignoscendi dubitur peccatis locus:"
but they danced under his eyes, the lines of printed let-
ters coiled like serpents, and if he took his eyes from
the page he saw always the image of the old match-
woman, with her ragged skirt draggled in mud, sitting
under the lamp-post, or again in the doorway out of
the rain. There lay the clean page of the book before
him. Pen in his hand, to escape from the old woman he
began to write verse, but though the words came easily
he knew it for doggerel, mechanical stuiF out of rela-
tion with the thoughts that were in him. He covered
two pages with such stuff, turned another: then almost
PETER HOMUNCULUS 125
without knowing what he was doing he wrote for bead'
line the words:
and drew a thick line under them. He paused, then
plunged into description of the adventure, inventing a
little, suppressing his errand, wrote of her as a thing
vomited from the depths, and laid at his feet for study.
Then in sheer inspiration he strode hack to the days
of her greatness and descrihed her, unconsciously tak-
ing for model Mary Dugdale, with perhaps a touch of
that Clara whom old Cooper Sad loved so well. He
wrote feverishly into the small hours, then rising, paced
the room, twisting the lock of hair on his forehead.
Four strides took him from one end of the room to an-
other. For greater space he took to walking round and
round, all the while observing carefully each feature of it.
He had brought some of the old prints from the shop,
and these, cheaply framed, hung on the walls — " Caro-
line, Lady Scarsdale and her son the Honble. Jno. Cur-
zon," hung over the mantelpiece; Michael and the Fiend
laid low were a gloomy patch on the wall above the
table ; Stothard's " John Gilpin," mounted on a rotund
horse galloping past the Bell Inn over the writing-table
in the recess to the left of the fireplace, and above the
books in the companion recess was a plate from Tur-
ner's Liber Studiorum. The single comfortable chair of
the apartment, a Victorian affair upholstered in red
plush, crouched into the empty fireplace, for when there
was a fire Peter made the most of it. He had brought
many books, jfor books were all that he really cared to
possess, and with his newly acquired text-books on vari-
ous subjects, he had enough to fill six shelves mounting
to the ceiling and seeming like to obscure the Turner
126 PETER HOMUNCULUS
plate. Of ornament or bric-a-brac, there was none. The
mantelpiece contained only photographs of acquaintance
and friends clustered round Murray Wilson in the
centre, and old Cooper's desk lay, always locked, on the
writing-table. Peter had tried to use it at first, but
found it uncomfortable for work. He stopped in his
pacing and handled it now for a moment, woirdering
what insane impulse had driven him to take the Dem-
eter to Southwark, the goddess of plenty, to the home
of the poor and wanting. He glanced down then to the
manuscript, and words leaped from the written page, to
send him pacing again, prose rhythms rolling in his
head. He knew he must write no more, and dared not
sit. Round and round the room he went, always hover-
ing for a moment by the writing-table, then tearing him-
self away. Ojice he stopped by the curtainless window
on which driving rain was now beating and looked out
over the grim prospect of roofs to the red glow in the
sky cast by the light of the near great thoroughfare.
The roar of London was dim, and in the house there
was no sound : a dismal prospect, and a sad moment sort-
ing well with Peter's mood, exhausted as he was With his
effort of writing. The melancholy of the hour — a
church clock had struck two — soothed him, indeed
brought him perilously near to an access of passionate
weeping for all the sorrows not his own, and griefs
wherein he had no share. He suffered the ghastly sen-
sation of impotence, which is perhaps the most dreadful
trial of the lonely in London ; yet only a moment before
he had been filled with a swaggering power and the
knowledge of words rightly written. He turned again
to his manuscript, sat down and read it slowly, as
slowly as excitement and pleasure would permit. He
found it good, and, altering very little, copied it fair
PETER HOMUNCULUS 127j
upon foolscap sheets. He was eager for approbation of
it, but sickened at the thought of criticism, and thought
of the "poor sloppy devil" of old days. Almost at
once he decided to send it to Murray Wilson. He folded
it carefully, and enclosed it in an envelope with a note
which began with modest apology, but ended with this
sentence: "I think it is damned good," a piece of
arrogance which gave Peter a feeling of equality with
the elder man and compensated for the forced humility
of the earlier sentences.
There and their he stamped the envelope, and stealing
down the four flights of stairs, which creaked and
groaned alarmingly, he opened the great front door,'
taking a piece out of the knuckle of his forefinger in
groping for the key, and ran to the post. He hesi-
tated for a little, then hurled the packet into the mouth
of the red pillar and returned, reflecting fearfully that
he knew Wilson really very little, and then, in a flash,
he saw that the great man had avoided him for months
It was a sick and sorry Peter that returned to the
house, and closed the door again. He struck a match to
avoid a second hurt, and on the table in the hall lay a
letter addressed to him, which he had not noticed on his
arrival. It was a funny, dirty little letter in a hand
that he did not recognise. It had been addressed first
to the shop, where it must have lain some time, for it
was stained and grimed, until the half-caste could
snatch time from his various business to re-address it.
Peter's correspondence was not extensive. He wrote
many letters, but received few, and liked the reception
,of them. This piqued his curiosity, and to read it then
and there he lit the gas. He opened the letter, and out
fell two pounds in postal orders, with the post-mark
128 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" Fulham," and a date of three weeks ago. TKere was
no address at the head of the letter, which ran:
" You will be surprised to hear from me agaiir, but I
have been ill, and am still coughing. When you left
me I tried to tell you that I had spent your money, but
you did not hear me call. We have been dreadfully
unfortunate since then, but I have now earned and saved
a little money, and accordingly send you two pounds
out of the fifteen I owe you. There are reasons why
you should not know where we are. With love,
" Your affectionate but unhappy Aunt,
Peter was puzzled by the letter. " We," and why
the change of name.'' He turned over a leaf and found
" P. S. — My husband's name was Wolverton, but we
are living under another name."
Husband! Wolverton! Peter drew a breath. The
name of the curate for whom he had left his aunt frying
a steak, was Wolverton, and Scott had denounced him
as a scoundrel and an impostor.
Peter turned out the gas and crept slowly upstairs,
pondering this new mystery of human folly and reck-
lessness. He was touched, too. The withered, dried lit-
tle woman rushing into what must have seemed a de-
liverance from slavery, and the picture of her misery
brought Peter nearer to understanding than he had
been before. He wondered, as he climbed the stairs,
M^hether she stilj wore her armour of jet beads.
Mrs. Scott struggled for long to contain herself, but
the unhappiness of the small enstrangement from Mattie,
who showed towards her a happy defiance and drew
away from her, became impossible to bear without un-
bosoming, and, fearful of dissension, however slight,
between the girl and her father, she went to her brother.
Neither she nor the girl had mentioned Peter's name
since that Sunday, and Peter did not visit them for
many days upon excuse of pressure of work and im-
minent examination. He, priding himself upon his
knowledge of women — ^what man does not? — imagined
fondly that she would write to him words of reproach;
but she had divined, her Peter and recognised the force
of silence. She went about her business, he about his,
while each thought of the other. They were like enemies,
ignorant of each other's locality, seeking a meeting
ground, and both were alive to the fun of the game. It
was the calm sense of purpose in Mattie that irritated'
and alarmed her mother. Had she taken it into her
head to be lackadaisical and full of humours, it would
have been easy to await the passing of the disease. The
symptoms were unusual, and, therefore, terrifying. Mrs.
Scott presented the case to her brother for diagnosis.
She found him just risen. It was two o'clock in the
afternoon, and he was lounging in a large chair, clothed
in a dressing suit and smoking his pipe. He had rooms
in Piccadilly, overlooking the Green Park, and only a
few doors from his club. He had very nearly quitted
the rooms when the Campanile of the new Westminster
130 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Cathedral had been erected; he disliked it and all that
it represented so cordially. He stayed, however, be-
cause he thought his dog would dislike a change of
neighbourhood. She was an Aberdeen terrier, the gift of
Miss Dugdale, and her name was Matilda. She had a
docked tail, and a hole punched in her right ear. When
Mrs. Scott entered her master's room she was pointing
at a piece of coal on the hearthrug — all the satisfac-
tion of her sporting instincts she ever had in London.
Wilson had his hands thrust deep into his pockets.
He had slid down in the great chair on to the small of
his back — the very picture of dejection. It was im-
possible to tell from his long melancholy face whether
he was idly watching the dog or thinking deeply, or
weaving dreams, or roving in memory. He had a long
inquisitive nose, which was now wrinkled up, and his
lips were moving in and out as though words [wished
to force their way out against his will.
His sister knew very little of him. They had been
almost of an age in a large family, and had held to-
gether agaiirst the rest. Their relationship had never
changed, and even after her marriage they held together
against the world. They had lived together in early
days in London. He owed much to her. He was used
to her panic visits, and, therefore, when she burst in
upon him now, he made no sign of greeting, except to
remove his hands from his pockets and raise himself in
his chair. She sat opposite him, and Matilda went up
to her to smell if she was the same. She waited for
him to give some indication that he had observed her,
for, during their residence together, she had been dis-
ciplined into never breaking in upon his thoughts. In
those days he attached much importance to tbeiQ.
PETEK HOMUNCULUS 131
At length he took his pipe from his mouth and said:
" Which is it? David or Mattie? "
"And young Davies? He's a remarkable young
" You — you said he'd hurt himself — ^that night. Do
you remember? Was — ^was this what you meant?"
" This or something like it. It won't hurt Mattie."
Mrs. Scott narrated the story of her discovery and
described the symptoms of the disease itr Mattie.
" Trying her strength/' said Wilson, " the first fish.
Too easily caught, too small ... no sport. She'll
throw him back into the water, or she may watch his
scales glitter in the sun for a moment."
" But "
The case was rightly diagnosed, and now that she
knew that only Peter would be hurt, all resentment
against him' vanished, and she was sorry and a little
sick at heart that Mattie should hurt him. WUson shot
at her thought, fairly accurately.
" They are all minxes," he said — " girls."
" I had better do nothing? "
"What can you do?"
" She has suddenly become so much a woman."
" It's a way girls have."
"But Mattie "
" She's much like other girls."
Wilson was already tired of the subject. She ex-
pected him to remain silent, and glanced about the
room to see if there were anjrthing new in it. She de-
tected a new portrait of Miss Dugdale.
132 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" I thought she was married," she said.
Wilson looked across at her a little resentfully. The
remark sounded like prohing.
" Wasn't she married to your friend Bond ? They
said it turned out badly."
Wilson's pipe was gurgling; an ominous sign. His
acquaintance with the actress had been long subsequent
to his sister's marriage, and she had known nothing of
it, had never met her. Curiosity had tortured her on
all her visits, but all efforts to bring conversation in
that direction had involved always the same ominous
silence and the gurgling of the pipe. Wilson had never
been known to talk of Miss Dugdale, except sometimes
to explain to his acquaintance that she had given Ma-
tilda to him.
The arrival of a new photograph tortured Mrs.
Scott. She threw discretion to the winds.
" It was four or five years ago, wasn't it ? Or
more? Just after she became known. A secret
She came up against the blank wall of silence.
" They say she's a nice woman."
She eyed her brother. He was unfathomable, and
sank deep into the chair again.
Seeing a new medallion hung on the oaken mantel-
piece, she diverged to that.
"Oh .'how sweet "
It was a Thorvaldsen, the design Pan teaching a
young Faun his notes upon the pipes.
Wilson said: " That's me teaching Peter Davies
how to sing."
She was puzzled by the remark and turned to him
for an explanation. There was a strange light of en-
PETEEI HOMUNCULUS 133
thusiasm in his eyes and a dancing humour, but he
She picked up the new portrait of Miss Dugdale and
studied the face.
" She is lovely/' she said.
" They say she's not had looking," said Wilson, and
that was all she had from him. She tried once again,
and again, but all effort was fruitless. She amused
She left him without word of farewell, as sfie had ap-
proached him without word of greeting, in accordance
with their habit.
Wilson knocked out his pipe and took another from
the row of ten upon the mantelpiece. Going over to his
desk on the other side of his study, he took from a
drawer the five pages of foolscap which Peter had sent
him some weeks ago. He sat in his chair again and
read " Shivering Souls." Peter's words held him en-
thralled, for when Matilda came to demand to have her
head scratched, he took no notice of her. She dropped
her head and slunk away out of sight. It was an ap-
palling catastrophe for her.
Wilson took from his pocket a pencil and marked
certain passages where violence had marred the expres-
sion. The psychology of it seemed to him wild. He
recognised the portrait of Miss Dugdale in the descrip-
tion of the triumphant actress, though not as the Mary
that he knew. He scented the passion of the auditorium,
and saw the fierce light of the stage in the description,
but in spite of that he recognised also a reality of emo-
tion underlying, which made the woman as seen by Peter
curiously living, more alive, as he generously admitted,
even in this slight sketch, than in any of his own more
134. PETER HOMUNCULUS
elaborate portraits. He wondered if Peter would recog-
nise the divinity in the heroine of his last book. He
reached out, took the volume down, and turned its
pages. Nowhere was a phrase so good, so illuminating,
as Peter's "A woman worn by flattery, hungering for
love." How the devil this boy, whom he knew to be in
the throes of calf-love, had divined that from his seat
in the pit or gallery was for Wilson an exciting prob-
lem. Chance. It must be that. He took the note-
book which was always to his hand and wrote:
" Every true word, and every work of art, is a fluke."
iThe word fluke offended him. He crossed it out, could
find no other, and restored it.
Then he took Matilda on his knee — at his call she
came timidly and humbly, fearful of deliberate rebuff.
When he lifted her, confidence was restored ; she wagged
her stump of a tail and plunged to reach his face to
" Oh, Matilda, are you ' worn by flattery, hungering
for love ' ? We were six months painting this lady's
portrait, botched it, and they gave us much money.
Here comes bracing Achilles, sweeps her into six words,
and they will let him starve — Plucky beasts, to have no
art. You're purblind, so you are, but none of you talk
as though beauty, with a capital B, were a little pre-
serve. Purblind — so are we, Matilda."
This came as a great discovery to Wilson. He nursed
it, hugged it.
"Havering creatures, we are. We know more about
each other than you people, Matilda, but less about the
world, because we have drawn a film of art over it.
It is enough to make a poor writer eat his pen. I should,
if I did not know that I should go out at once and buy
PETER H0MUNCULU9 135
a new one. We have not the good sense to use our
minds entirely to make ourselves comfortable in this
world. We torture ourselves with thought."
Sweetly reasonable as these conclusions were, Wilson
was unable to practise their moral. He gave himself up
to bitter reflection and contemplation of himself, and in
the end laughed.
" Twenty years, Matilda," he said. " Twenty years
and much shattering it took me to learn really and hon-
estly to laugh at myself."
He put Matilda gently from him and tried to read,
first one book, and then another, finally settling down to
Goethe's " Aus Meinem Leben, Wahrheit und Dichtung."
He read German with difficulty, was not in sympathy
with German thought or German humour or sentimen-
tality. Goethe was a refuge and a soporific.
With regard to Peter, his first impulse on reading
the sketch had been to write to him at once words of
congratulation and encouragement, but on reflection and
recollection of Peter's button-holing of him in the Strand
to exhibit him to his fellow-students, he refrained, from
a conviction that he would, in the present stage of the
boy's development and the crucial point in his career in
the University, probably do more harm than good.
Therefore he retained the manuscript, and did not even
acknowledge its receipt.
Peter had for some days after its despatch watched
the post eagerly for the letter of appreciation which
he felt sure would come, just as he was sure that a
letter of reproach would come from Mattie. When
neither expectation was realised, he raged. He pos-
sessed and had cultivated a divination of action conse-
quent upon his own. It piqued him always to find him-
130 PETER HOMUNCULUS
self in error. He took no step in the direction of Mattie,
but he did write a long, arrogant and reproachful letter
to her uncle. Upon reflection he burned it. For some
time he continued to expect word from him, but in the
end, finding the impulse to write had gone, he plunged
again into study and regarded himself as lost to the
world. As he expressed it in writing to Scott, who
had made inquiry, he had "thrown an ink-pot at his
For three weeks almost he lived into seclusion, and
was not tempted even by the promise of concerts by
Janet Fildes. He felt that he had grown out of her
circle. The baby was more than ever attractive, but
he had left Janet further and further behind, and had
almost definitely broken with her when he found her
occupied with the hirsute young poet who had found
his level in journalism and had a column in a weekly
paper, whose policy was to throw mud at the literary
great and high-perched. His paper enjoyed flashes of
notoriety when the great were exasperated into retort,
and the hirsute young man had been particularly suc-
cessful in this direction. A series of singularly base
articles on Murray Wilson had roused even Fleet
Street to disgust, but had met with rock-like silence in
the writer. The hirsute young man was known to be
the author of these, and enjoyed a certain fame. He
had made his mark, though a dirty one. Against his
better feelings Peter was jealous of this man, and in
the worst of his resentment against Wilson, sent him a
copy of the journal containing the most scandalous
article, wherein there were unmistakable references to
Miss Dugdale. Wilson recognised the handwriting of
the address, and, distressed that Peter should have so
PETERl HOMUNCULUS 137
much mistaken his silence, wrote and asked him to come
and see him. He made no reference to the boy's
His letter threw Peter into a ferment whicH made
work impossible. He read it again and again, carried
it about with him, and in a burst of confidence shewed
it to Janet. He had bragged much of his acquaintance
with the great man, and could not resist flourishing a
signed letter. She was sufficiently impressed. Peter
knew perfectly well that Wilson had avoided him, and
why. He knew also why the man had written to him
now. He gave Janet no hint that he was upon any-
thing but the friendliest terms with him. On the
strength of this second-hand acquaintance, Janet de-
fended Wilson against the hirsute young man, denied
that there was any truth in the Dugdale story — though
it was common tradition, known to every one but Peter
— and finally broke with him. There was in this way
something of a renewal of friendship between Peter
and herself, though they never regained their old foot-
ing. Fildes and Peter never met, or rarely, but there
was solid friendship between them.
Peter wrote that he would visit Wilson in the even^
ing of a certain day, but when it came, he was sent
for by old Adam, upon whom sickness had descended.
Peter accompanied the daughter of the bird-shop pro-
prietor, the messenger, an undersized girl with the body
of fourteen and the face of thirty, a pinched old face,
with shrewd glittering eyes. Peter did not remember to
have seen her before, though more than once he had vis-
ited the friendless old man upon such an errand of
charity as the present. He made inquiry as to her origin
138 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" I been in the 'ome," she said, " they cotched me
stealin' Bibles from the Sunday school^ an' sent me to
the 'ome. It's a nugly plice."
She entertained him with anecdotes, true aird untrue,
first-hand and traditional, of the disciplined and me-
chanical life of such a place. He, to whom freedom
was most precious, whose most wretched memory was
of the slavery of the tailoring shops, 'shuddered at the
vision of chilled life conjured up by the vivid cockney
phrases of this creature who ran by his side. In reac-
tion from the enforced cleanliness of the institutional
she was inconceivably dirty, so that Peter, who now had
his bath every day, shrank from her. It pained him to
contemplate old Cooper's habits, so fastidious had he
become in his new life of the student. He was not very
good company during the walk, for he was angry at
being deprived of his evening with Wilson, but old
Adam had so much insisted that Peter was his only
friend, that to desert him, whatever the inducement,
were inconceivable baseness.
Entering a post office, Peter sent a wire to Wilson to
say that he could not come, then pursued his way with
the bird-dealer's daughter. He asked her about Adam.
She professed ignorance. She had been given twopence
to run to Gordon Square, and beyond that had no in-
terest. Purely from curiosity Peter asked the girl what
calling she was going to pursue. Quite calmly she
" I'll go on the streets like Lizzie. It's that or a
. Peter was shocked. The idea of this gnomic creature
selling her attraction was comic certainly, but revolting.
She seemed to divine his thought, for she said naively:
PETER HOMUNCULUS 139
" I got pretty 'air when its growed and washed," and
she took off the battered straw hat she wore to show a
small headj well shaped, whereon dark auburn hair
grew in ragged, matted tails.
" It shines when it's washed," she said. " They
called me ' Evenin' Glory Jane ' at the 'ome, they did.
One of the Inspectors said it first."
This brought them to the bird-shop. Peter knew the
father of Evening Glory Jane, and thought it wise to
make inquiry after the state of his friend before he
plunged up the dark stairs to see him. His especial
trade was in singing canaries — he was famous as a
trainer of them — ^but his shop contained all manner of
beasts: dogs, cats, monkeys, marmosets, mice, rats, rab-
bits, parrots, snakes, chameleons, lizards, frogs, arma-
dilloes, tortoises, squirrels, — a raccoon. It was his boast
that he could procure anything from a flea to an ele-
phant, and always he had some rare beast for greatest
attraction to his shop. He was like some strange legen-
dary or heraldic animal himself. There was something
wild about him, and that he should have married and
bred children seemed to be wrong and an offence
against humanity. Certainly he tended his beasts more
lovingly than his children, and would have denied him-
self and them even bread that the " critters," as he
called the animals, might not suffer. His greatest pride
now lay in a blue frog from the south of France, and
he had a small army of boys of the neighbourhood
catchirrg flies that it might have its proper food. He
doted on this frog and carried it in its bowl of green
stuff, where it lay on a perch, quite still, only its pink
throat pulsing, about with him, so that he might gaze
on it whenever he might be in the shop or the store
140 PETER HOMUNCULUS
behind. All the shop was full of cages and tanks, and
all kept spotlessly clean, like himself. He eyed his
slatternly daughter with disapproval, almost with dis-
may, as she entered with Peter, and drove her out.
Then he turned to Peter with an amiable smile:
" No knowin' what the slut mightn't bring to the
critters, Mr. Davies."
He turned and whistled to a painted thrush, whistled
until the bird caught his note and held it: its first les-
son in canary music. It needed only to sing for sale.
Thereafter it might be dumb for all the dealer cared.
He became suddenly mysterious:
" Seen my frog, Mr. Davies? "
"No," said Peter.
" Oh, a pretty critter. Feeds on flies. See his long
tongue flicker out and strike 'em; lovely. They must
be alive, for the critter won't touch 'em dead."
The frog was exhibited and properly admired by
" It's wonderful how clever the critters are — almost
human, some on 'em; an' don't their bellies pinch 'em,
too. Worse than human, then. Hunger only makes us
sick and silent, but they cry out, and some beats against
the bars when they see me. I'm food to them, and
The man said it with sucH pride that Peter, in one
of his flashes, saw the whole secret of him revealed.
It was power that he loved and found in this strange
trade of his. In any other he must have been ground
Peter tried to put questions to the man, but found
that he did not heed them. He knew Peter, but seemed
to have forgotten what it was that brought him there,
PETER HOMUNCULUS 141
and insisted on exhibiting all new treasures. Peter was
making friends with an amiable retriever puppy with
a ludicrously large head, when the door was darkened
and two ladies entered. The dealer bustled up to them
to ask their wants, but Peter did not stir. The dealer
seemed to know them and they him, for the elder of the
two asked after the frog.
" Oh, marm, he's well and beautiful." There was
some murmured confabulation; then the elder said:
" You're not to buy it, Mary."
Mary! Peter pricked his ears. Sure enough, there
came Mary Dugdale's voice:
" If you will not let me have it — I came to buy a
cat — a Persian with orange eyes and silver coat."
There were three such in the shop, for the dealer
was in touch with a lady who bred them. Peter wished
that he might buy them all and give them to Miss Dug-
dale. Peter crept on tiptoe, and peeped round the
pile of cages that concealed her from him. She was
most dazzlingly clad, though it was near full spring,
in furs, a coat of mole-skin and a muff, and though
her face was veiled, he could see the flash of her teeth
as she spoke, and, silhouetted against the light of the
doorway, her straight nose. The cats were brought for
her inspection, and she caressed them all. One scratched
her arm — ^the brute ! She laughed adorably, and sweetly
"Oh, bad, bad Peter!"
Peter darted back upon the utterance of his name.
It startled him. Peter I The cat.
She chose the friendliest, and, with some words in
praise of the frog, she turned to go. Peter had seen
that upon soothing the smart of the cat's claw she had
142 PETER HOMUNCULUS
dropped her handkerchief, and when the dealer bowed
the ladies to the door he stole and stooped and picked
it up, a tiny square of cambric, edged with lace, the
letter M embroidered in a corner.
Like Clara's letter to old Cooper, it had the scent
All innocence, he asked the dealer who the ladies
" That's Miss Dugdale, Mr. Davies, sir, the actress.
She's kind to critters."
"Where does she live?"
"Mount Street. Flat."
" And — and — and is she married ? "
" I dunno. They sometimes is an' sometimes not,
these actresses; you never know — I never seed her act,
not holding with stage-plays. I'd sooner watch the
He returned to his work, and Peter could glean no
more from him.
To reach old Adam's room he had to go out into the
street again. A barrel-organ was grinding out a brazen
ditty, and on the pavement in an admiring crowd the
dealer's daughter was dancing, nimblfe-footed, making
play with her scanty skirts. As she saw Peter she
came dancing to him.
"Did yer see 'er?"
"Who.?" said Peter.
" The actress. I'll be that; she's pretty, but my 'air's
prettier than 'ers."
To Peter it was like comparing a branch of rhubarb
to a tree: this gnome and the divine woman. He almost
laughed, but was arrested by the face. Under its muddy
covering there was an impish fire, and the eyes gleamed.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 143
Something arresting she had, a queer spark of person-
ality to draw all eyes, for the crowd was all agog.
Peter, was stirred. He knew something of this rare
gift of magnetism, the greatest gift of all, perhaps, and
irresistible. It had made lowly women the mistresses
of kings, and it only could carry poets to success. Since
the discovery of its power — a lecture on Pompadour had
revealed it to him — he had sought it everywhere and
in himself. The question whether or not he had it had
given him much occasion for self -torment. To find it
here in this gutter-creature, blazing through squalor,
through dirt, foul clothes and wretched living, stag-
gered him. " Evening Glory Jane " — the name was not
inapt. The word came to him. " Elfin," he said, and
tucked her away in his mind as a thing disposed of.
She flew dancing back to fresh applause. The rude
skill of her steps and rhythmic movements amazed
He turned and passed round the corner to the street-
door of the house where Adam lodged. He had been in
no mood to see the old man. His bookish life of the
last days had produced in him a feeling of remoteness,
of being outside the affairs of mankind. He could not
shake it off, painful though it was. Here and now, as
by a miracle, by the vision of Miss Dugdale, close at
hand, the hearing of her voice, the purloining of her
handkerchief, and by the elfin dancer, he had been set
glowing again, filled with kindness to satisfy all the
Cooperian maxims and precepts. He kept these ever
in his mind, but found them difiicult to observe always.
He had found in the desk much of Cooper's writing,
which he had devoured, more especially a long " Essay
on Human Folly," wherein he had found words that he
144 PETER HOMUNCULUS
knew for truth, though the author's science and observa-
tion of animals were often at fault. Some day Peter
had the intention of publishing these fragments as a
monument to his friend, and a reproach to the country
whose " crazy morality," as it was called in the essay,
had wasted him. Under discipline Peter's mind had
become stronger, more certain, while losing none of its
swiftness, and he had lost almost all his untidiness of
thought. Cooper became more and more real to him,
and he approached even to a truer conception of the
man as he really was. The wreck of him was appalling,
and to find consolation Peter had evolved a saying,
" No wasted Cooper, no Peter Davies." He had fur-
ther observed that the more bookish and inhuman he
became, the further he was from Cooper and Cooper-
teaching, and this was to him the worst pain of that
As he ascended the stairs to Adam's room his mind
was flooded with maxims from the essay, not words
merely, but the full sense and great feeling of them.
The Peter of two years ago would have been maudlin -
about it, but then the Peter of two years ago, just
entered at King's College, would have comprehended
only the half of it. He was learning to take the busi-
ness in hand firmly by the scruff of the neck and keep
thought and egoism in their place.
The business of the moment. Miss Dugdale or no
Miss Dugdale, handkerchief or no handkerchief, was
the comforting of the old man through whom he had
come in contact with the bookseller. His amazing for-
tunes might be said to have begun in the chance colli-
sion with this old man, studying Lecky's "Map of
PETER HOMUNCULUS 145
Life " outside the shop. Chance though it was, it was
not a thing to be forgotten.
He found the old man in bed in the dim room which
had been his home since long before Peter's birth. He
was more than ever frail and shrunk, and his eyes
" purged thick amber and plum-tree gum." The reedy
voice that Peter remembered to have said, " How —
how to live. It's difficult. I've tried and I know," had
faded to a whistling shrill sound. To Peter, from the
crowded street, thronged with strong, vital creatures,
there was something appalling in coming upon this
scarcely living thing in which cells and organs were
almost exhausted. A thin hand was raised with diffi-
culty from the coverlet, and Peter was requested to
The old man was cheerful, and though from confu-
sion of memory he had difficulty at times in bringing
Peter clearly out of the throng of young men of so
many generations that he had known, yet he contrived
to say what wish it was that had impelled him to send
so urgent a message.
" It is twenty years," he said, " since I was out of
London. There is a place in Surrey under Blackdown
Hill. I was happy there once. There was an oak tree
and a beech coppice — ^no; the coppice was by Fern-
hurst on — on a hill. There's a mild soft air blows south-
west from the sea — and I who am nothing, have noth-
ing, I am going there again. I have had little: neither
love, nor wealth, nor health; but I have had that place
— I — I am going — ^there "
It took him long to say these words, and his voice then
dropped into a murmur so low that Peter could not
140 PETER HOMUNCULUS
catch what he was saying. The old man made an effort
to become audible. He coughed to clear his throat.
" Peter," he said, " Peter Davies, even I have not
found the world evil. I wished to see you before I go
to tell you that, and to give you this ring: it — ^it was
my mother's — I — ^broke her heart."
He tried to draw a ring, a plain gold band set with
one pink pearl, from his finger, but because it was so
loose, he dropped it into the bed-clothes. Peter re-
trieved it, and was ordered to place it on his finger.
It fitted best the little finger of his right hand, and
there he left it. The old man was content, and patted
Peter's hand. He seemed to have much to say, but to
be best pleased to say it so.
" Good-bye," he said. " Call the woman — I am go-
ing to-morrow. There is no place sweeter, even in
Devon, where I was born. Good boy, good boy —
Cooper and Davies — ^heh! — ^partners."
Peter called the bird-dealer's wife, and gave her
money for old Adam. He asked her if it was true that
the old man was going to Blackdown Hill.
" He's been a-goin' there these ten years, Mr. Davies.
Always when he has been ill he's babbled of trees, and
" Like Falstaff," thought Peter. " A babble of green
He bade the bird-dealer's wife good-day, not without
a wonder that she should be the mother of the dancing
girl, she was so' essentially a drab woman.
He liked the ring upon his finger, and he was pleased
to think that the old man had thought so much of him,
and so well.
He walked through the market to the Strand to the
PETER HOMUNCULUS 147
College. In the students* common-room he found a
group of young men and women heatedly discussing
the question, then much in the boiling-pot, of the taxa-
tion of site values. Such words as " Socialism," " Spoli-
ation," " Landlord tyranny," flew.
One young man with deep-set eyes and the narrow
forehead of a fanatic cried, clapping his hands together :
" I tell you the whole thing is based on fallacy."
" Explain the fallacy," said an earnest young woman
with a preposterously small head perched on a long thin
The fanatical young man plunged into a whirl of
Peter left in disgust.
" Science," he thought, remembering the ass's skin,
" is only giving names to things. All the same, private
ownership of land is an evil thing,"
Then he remembered that Cooper had said, " What
they call socialism is at the hearts of all good men,"
and from that made a mot which pleased him:
" Socialism will out."
" Decidedly," he thought, " the gods are good to
Peter Davies. He will die young: say at twenty-nine."
Twenty-nine seemed far ahead to twenty-two, or no
doubt he would have . fixed his death later. In the early
twenties it seems that life must begin to lose its interest
at thirty. Wilson at forty-four did rrot seem to Peter
much less old than old Adam at eighty-three. He did
not know Mary Dugdale's age, but to think of her as
anything but young had never occurred to Peter.
When Wilson received Peter's telegram he mistook
the motive of defection, and wrote: "Do not be more
of an ass than you can help. I want to see you."
148 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Peter received this next day, and neglected his after-
noon lectures to go to Piccadilly. He found Wilson in
much the same attitude as Mrs. Scott had found him in.
No one had ever found the writer in any other, and it
was a mystery how and when he worked.
Peter was abashed, and for some moments they 'were
silent: the boy awed at being in the room where known
books had been written.
Matilda betrayed the keenest interest in Peter, smell-
ing all round the ends of his trousers and over his boots.
Then she rose and sniffed at his knees. He stooped
and scratched her head. She ran from him and stood
wagging her stumpy tail and looking inquiringly up at
her master, as if she were wondering that he did not
greet with enthusiasm this exceUent-smelling young man.
He sat, however, puffing great clouds of smoke, and
Peter gazed round the room. Nearly the whole of two
walls were covered with books. There were no pictures
to give aesthetic satisfaction, only sketches by humor-
ous artists, photographs of writers, actors and actresses,
among whom Peter recognised, with a leap in the heart,
Matilda, oppressed by the long silence, barked. Wil-
son lazily put out a hand — Peter saw that it was long
and powerful, sensitive — and clutched her by the muzzle.
She drew back and yelped.
"I'm glad Matilda likes you," said Wilson. "Sit
Peter sat down, prepared, if Wilson would let him,
to lay bare his soul. Poor Peter was sadly in need of
a real intimacy. In the matter of soul-baring he had
suffered agony from want of discrimination. For some
months he had resigned himself to receive confidence.
PETEBJ HOMUNCULUS 149
but to give none. Janet Fildes had hurt him terribly,
young men at the College even more, and even Mr.
Scott had shewn himself dense. There had been no
one to understand like old Cooper.
Wilson recognised this desire in the boy, and drew
into his shell.
"Do you smoke yet?"
"A year ago," said Peter.
Wilson rose, and from a cabinet brought a box of
cigarettes. Peter took and smoked.
" When do you finish at the University ? " said Wil-
" Ih November," said Peter. (It was then April.)
"What is it that you want to do.'' Make books?"
" As for books," said Peter, " I have bought them
for fifteen shillings a ton."
" That's a ghastly thought," said Wilson, and
" Not so bad as the pulping pot."
" They've served their turn then. It is awful, the
power of print.
" Yes," said Peter. " Caxton-bred vanity."
The little swagger with which Peter paraded his poor
little piece of pedantry killed the conversation, and for
a time they were silent.
Matilda, however, seemed to be confident that friendly
relations were established, for she turned from both
men to her own comfort, and crept to the hearth, where
she lay until the heat was past bearing, when she
crawled into the coolest corner of the room and lay,
tongue out, panting.
" That," said Wilson, " is her Turkish bath."
iThe remark did not call for comment, and Peter sat
150 PETER HOMUNCULUS
silent^ impatient for Wilson to come to the business in
hand, yet not daring himself to plimge. The photo-
graphs of Miss Dugdale had engaged Peter's attention.
With full knowledge that he was committing a stupidity,
but unable to control his tongue, he said:
" She's prettier than that. She bought a cat and she
called it Peter. It was a Persian and it had orange
eyes. I saw them in the dark shop. The light struck
them and they glowed. She was with another woman.
She looked happy and then unhappy — bitterly. She
seemed to me to be a woman worn by flattery, and
He looked in Wilson's direction and found eyes
staring fiercely, almost menacingly. The words died
on his lips, and he shifted uneasily, then took a ciga-
" I— I— would— I— wanted "
Wilson's face was inscrutable. Peter was decidedly
uncomfortable. He had a ridiculous desire to weep,
and an even more absurd desire to rise and hit Wilson
between the eyes. He found himself carefully selecting
the spot just above the vertical furrow over the nose;
found himself doubling his fist and even rising from
his chair, while tears blurred his vision. Blind rage
held him for a moment, then he took it firmly, gulped
it down, and sat giggling nervously.
He looked again at Wilson, and saw that he was
lighting another pipe. He saw that a few specks of
hot tobacco fell down on to the writer's trousers, that
he flicked the specks away, and then with his fore-
finger, stained a deep brown, he thrust down the tobacco
into the bowl of his pipe. Peter looked up from the
hand to the face, and had a queer sense of having
PETER HOMUNCULUS 151
dreamed that the eyes had ever looked out from vmder
the heavy forehead so fiercely, and almost evilly.
" But," said Peter to himself, " they did, and they-
were very fierce, and the pupils of them swelled: they
bulged and shone, and mine, too. Queer. But he's
gentle, gentle and kind. I hurt him, I did, I did, I
did — I hurt him She . . . Mary, Mary, Mary
Then in the thoughts of Peter Davies there was a
sort of clot. On the point of understanding the whole
thing, he shrivelled. Sympathy was clogged. Phrases
from old Cooper's letter of triumphant love buzzed in
his head, and he had again that dreadful sense of being
faced with something incomprehensible, and therefore
intangible, which yet, all the more for that, did exist,
and existed vitally, immensely, looming. It!
The words forced themselves from him:
"What is It?"
He dared not look at Wilson. He waited for an
answer. Matilda snorted, and the sound, breaking in
on the silence, was ludicrous and trivial. There was
silence again, and Peter hitched his shoulders. His
hand stole up to twist his forelock. They had teased
him out of the habit at the College. He returned to it
now and leaned forward, straining to catch any whisper.
The answer came cryptically.
" It is the aversion and the god of humanity. They
run from it, but run in circles. It engulfs them, and
they drown gladly. In the running is human comedy,
and in the surrender is human tragedy. It is the fire in
the world and all good things. — It has a pale sister
called Romance "
152 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" Some there are who deny it, from cowardice. So
they remove all warmth and atmosphere: for what else
Peter shrank, chilled. The definition had not aided
him in the direction of understanding, and in a queer
way it had removed him further from Wilson.
He came to the surface to find Wilson already there
waiting for him. He gasped, smiled, and both put their
unhappy experiment in probing behind them.
" Have you read the life of Goethe ? " said Wilson.
" No," said Peter. " But I know about Frau von
Stein and Christiane, and — and I know about Byron
and Lady Caroline Lamb, and — ^and I know about Keats
and F — Fanny Brawne. They — ^they use women, the
" And women offer themselves for their use."
" Do they know the real from the sham .'' "
" No — ^never." This came emphatically. Thus they
discussed the problem which has provided subject mat-
ter and a living for countless generation of speculative
writers and artists, who have sat before woman as trav-
ellers and sages before the Sphinx.
Something of this occurred to Wilson, for he said:
" The Sphinx is hermaphrodite. Woman is not more
puzzling than man."
The thought was too swift for Peter, who could not
follow it, but succeeded only in creating a mental picture
of the Sphinx, which, from a cartoon in Punch, he
associated always with Lord Beaconsfield. The states-
man occurred to him with the features of the Vanity
Fair cartoon, and Peter remembered now the words of
the commentator. He spoke them aloud:
" He educated the Tories and dished the Whigs to
PETER HOMUNCULUS 153
pass Reform, but to have become what he is from what
he was is the greatest Reform of all."
" Who did? " said Wilson.
"Disraeli," returned Peter. "I sold him for one
"The greatest Jew. The Jew is the braiir behind
England's beef — I liked your story."
At last he had come to it ! Peter sat squarely, gaping
for praise. He wished to pin his man down, but dared
not speak. Wilson smoked his pipe, curled up his right
leg, and when he opened his lips again it was, seem-
ingly, to fly off at a tangent.
He said : " The English do not like wit, any more
than they like art. In the time of Charles II. a French
Ambassador on leaving the Court of St. James implored
his Sovereign to send the dullest of his courtiers as his
successor, for the English so mistrusted wit; and yet
the gaiety of the Court of Charles II. is a source of
national pride. Are you English? "
" My father was Welsh," said Peter with some pride.
This tickled Wilson.
" No inhabitant of this country," said Wilson, " will
confess to being pure English. The Englishman is an
abstraction. There is no such person."
Peter took the bull by the horns. This shilly-shally-
ing was intolerable.
" Do you think anyone would take it? "
" No," said Wilson. " The English have no sense of
humour, or they would not let themselves be exploited
by Scotchmen, and Irish and German Jews."
Peter clung to his point.
" But you liked it."
" I have liked the work of a great many men who
154 PETER HOMUNCULUS
could not find their public until they ceased to do good
This was discouraging. Peter squeezed the palms
of his hands together until they squeaked. Matilda
scampered up, suspecting a mouse of iirtrusion.
" Your imagination's remarkable, and your power of
" I saw the old woman," said Peter. " It was some
years ago. I saw her like that. I had to write."
Wilson did not seem to be much interested in the
process of creation in Peter.
" Why don't you think any one'll take it ? "
" It's new, and you're new. I've sent it to a friend
Peter waited for a moment, then murmured thanks.
The name of the friend was not disclosed, nor from
all the signs would it be.
In despair of gaining more, Peter rose to go.
" I'll be glad," said Wilson, not rising, " if you'll
send me any other thing you may write."
" I'll write no more until my examination's done."
"What shall you do then.? Teach?"
" Teach ! " Peter snorted. " No. I'll write and write
"How will yon live?"
" I've several hundred pounds with Mr. Scott."
" No profession ? They'll keep you hungry for long
years. They did me."
" All professions are bad," said Peter.
To this Wilson rejoined:
" When it comes to bread and butter, one form of
prostitution is as good as another."
PETER HOMUNCULUS 155
There was no bitterness in his voice, only sadness.
He added : " It is queer, but a man climbs the higher
for it, if he climb at all."
Peter said good-bye and had reached the door when
Wilson called to him. He turned, patted Matilda, who,
under a mistaken impression that he was going to take
her for a walk, was leaping and fawning upon him, and
"Will you take this and read it?" This was a
book, Lewes' "Life of Goethe." Peter took it, saw
that Wilson had scrawled his name in it, and was
" I shall be glad," said Wilson, " if you'll not lose
touch with me."
He took Matilda in his arms to keep her from fol-
lowing Peter, who heard him addressing her as he
closed the door:
" He smeUed good, Matilda ? Your nose is surer
than the eyes of a man."
" It is the fire in the world and all good things. — It
has a pale sister called Romance." Those last seven
itrords and the tone of them !
Peter thought himself into a fine whirl, lost all logic
and connection, and out of it all only retained clearly
for long enough those words, " Pale sister," and they
were ghastly, freezing. They bred in him a wholesome
horror of romance and sentimentality, which only waxed
the greater when, as he often did, he found himself
plunged in both, and plunged the deeper from the care
and elaborate precautions he had taken to avoid them.
Flat ignorance was his undoing, and inability to force
even an approximately accurate idea of the real char-
156 PETER HOMUNCULUS
acter of his two bugbears. From much cogitation he
evolved a theory of sex, and on that based all his rela-
tions with women. He flattered himself that he faced
motherhood and fatherhood squarely, and took a delight
in forcing upon the innocent youth of his acquaintance
the vital fact, so fatal in his idea, to sentimentality, that
women also have legs. He spoke to Mattie with a
frankness which would have appalled her mother had
she known of it. He justified himself. Once after a
long harangue, during which he strode about the room,
inveighing against fathers and mothers who shirked their
responsibility, and would not see that the first duty of
a parent is to see that his child is a better thing than
himself, he stopped suddenly by the girl, stroked his
head and said:
" You see, dear, I think " — (there was a fine ring in
the I, and he stopped, as he always did, after saying
" I think," to convey the impression of profound and
solid thought) — " I think that every honest word be-
tween a man and a woman helps the world along."
And Mattie, flattered by the reference to herself as
a woman, though she knew that she was no more woman
than he man, both fledgelings, caressed his hand and
" Yes, dear. How you do understand ! "
Peter looked modest and wise.
" Without you I should understand nothing. The
minds of men are warmed to understanding by the love
of good women. What glorious women Shakespeare
must have had to love him ! "
" Many women must have loved you, Peter, dear."
As for that — Peter demurred and smiled conceitedly,
then called her dear. They enjoyed calling each other
PETER HOMUNCULUS 157
Wilson had bungled. In giving Peter Goethe's life
to readj he had hoped that the boy would read and re-
read the episode of Friedricke, with its quotations from
the Autobiography, and applying it to his own case,
would leave Mattie as the poet had left his early love.
His hopes were realised, and Peter read, re-read and
read again the episode, in Lewes' and in Goethe's own
words, was set aflame, and grew hot with indignation.
He certainly did write a letter to Mattie telling her
that he must ride away, leave her, and be the shadow,
the pale shadow, of a man in her life, the man who had
first touched her with life's treasure, romance; but the
word romance mocked him and he burned the letter.
iWilson's words tormented him. If there had been
folly, he would make it wisdom.
" In solchem Drang und Verwirrung," he read in the
poet's frank exposition, " Konnte ich doch nicht unter-
lassen Friederiken noch eimnal zu sehen. Es waren
peinliche.^ Tage, deren Erinnerung mir nicht geblieben
ist. Als ich ihr die Hand noch vom Pferde reichte,
standen ihr die Thranen in dem Augen, und mir war
sehr libel zu Muthe."
Tears were in Friederike's eyes. Such tears should
not be in Mattie's. Goethe was an ass: had not Car-
lyle said of him, " Goethe is the greatest genius that has
lived for a century, and the greatest ass that has lived
for three." Such an ass he would not be, and returned
to Mattie, as she had known he would, after an absence
of over a month. Mrs. Scott welcomed him with some
show of warmth when he put in an appearance on
Sunday. Mattie was icy, and exacted new courtship.
Peter was hard put to it to find time for all that she
demanded of him, but in the end she was kind to him,
and helpful when he needed it most. He suffered a
158 PETER HOMUNCULUS
terrible panic as his examination drew nearer, and wrote
to her explaining that he must not see her, as he found
she was interfering with his work. To this she replied
that of course he must know best — ^that she made no
demands upon him, and prayed him to take no account
of her in the development of the great career that
awaited him. Her letter brought Peter flying to her,
full to overflowing of great vows and heated protesta-
tions; incidentally also to exhibit himself to her in his
new tail-coat, his first, and top hat. He had bought
them upon an imagined necessity for some function to
which he had been invited through Janet Fildes. Mat-
tie vowed that she knew no man more distinguished
looking, and said that they made him look twenty-eight
at least. Peter was delighted with her approbation and
tactful comment, and at the earliest available moment
Mattie took his face in her hands, and cooing over
" You're getting quite good-looking." Peter exam-
ined himself in the mirror. Certainly he had improved.
His face was fuller, firmer, and the mouth and chin
"Vain Peter," said Mattie.
"I want to make it as presentable as possible — for
Though he had not meant this for a joke, Mattie
took it so and laughed. Peter was most adorable when
he jested. Altogether serious, he was more than a little
heavy. Whatever else Mattie did for him, she certainly
did help to keep his sense of humour alive by never
taking him, even in his profoundest and, as he thought
PETER H0MUNCULU9 159
then, his sublimest moments, quite seriously. As for the
poems he wrote for her, she laughed at them so openly,
and so provokingly made them public, that presently he
abandoned the practice, and, to his credit, sought no
other and more appreciative Amaryllis or Julia.
All the same, Mattie was a little hurt when, teasing
him upon the subject, he rejoined in his most dogmatic
" I think men do not make poems for the women that
they really love."
Mrs. Scott let the affair go on, confident that it
would go the way of all its kind, and finding comfort
in the thought that in a few months' time Mattie would
be safe abroad, and that Peter would have ended his
easy days of study and be engaged upon the engrossing
task of earning a livelihood. Mr. Scott had at length
become alive to the attachment that had sprung up be-
tween the girl and his charge, and amused himself with
a mild jest at their expense. David received Peter with
scord, and developed a pronounced misogyny, the re-
sult of tedious hours spent with Mattie and Peter in
picture galleries and museums, for though Peter dis-
liked stolen meetings, he generously met Mattie in her
desire for them, and never failed to meet her at the
appointed hour before the " Nativity " of della Fran-
cesca, or the Velasquez " Venus," or in the Watts room
at the Tate Gallery, or in the Sloane Museum or the
gallery at Dulwich.
On the whole they were happy days, and Peter cer-
tainly enjoyed writing long, long letters to Mattie dur-
ing this period Ti'hen be denied himself all other forms
160 PETER HOMUNCULUS
They were happiest out of doors, wandering the
streets north of the river, the great wide streets of
splendid shops. Chelsea, too, they loved, and had bliss-
fid, foolish moments in selecting, and, in imagination,
furnishing various houses for their home, for they
doubted not that in a few years Peter would be cele-
brated and they two married and living in great state
as Mr. Davies and his charming wife. Indeed, Peter
drew up announcements of their betrothal and their
marriage, and descriptions of their wedding in a style
carefully imitated from the accounts with which the
press had been lately inundated of the wedding of a
popular young politician. Left alone together, they be-
came uneasy, distrustful of each other, and Peter was
haunted by old Cooper's tragic affair, and saw with
fearful clarity that however delightful this might be,
it was not It, not the strange thing that he did not
understand; but he loyally gave Mattie all that she
asked, confided much to her of fears, ambitions and
aspirations, denied her nothing that she seemed to ex-
pect of him. That he should make her unhappy, leave
'her like another Friederike at Sesenheim, was unthink-
able. He called it " damnable " in emphatic moments,
and found great pleasure in condemning so great a man
as the God-like man of Weimar. The insolent Peter
was not altogether dead, but rather waxed strong in
the sun of Mattie's favour. It mattered not much, and
she did give him a much-needed confidence. He had
resolutely refrained from any trial of his wings, " strid-;
ing," as he called it, and the recognition of his incom-
petence in much of the drudgery and pedantic work
demanded of him by the Senate of the University of
[London was a sad undermining of confidence in him-
PETEH H0MUNCULU9 161
self. Perhaps it was this more than anything which
made him turn to Mattie.
Peter toiled and brought himself to sleeplessness.
Mr. Scott, who saw that he was haggard and pale, ad-
vised a cessation of all work and a week in the country.
Murray Wilson's cottage was suggested, but the writer
had disappeared, as was his habit, and no man knew
his place of sojourn.
Just then there came an invitation to the wedding
of the second of his sisters, who was to be married to
a young plumber named Newhall, whom he remembered
as a large freckled youth at school, known as Podge.
Peter had offended his family by refusing to attend the
wedding of his eldest sister, that sister with whom and
whose fiance he had dined in Soho in old days in Shaftes-
bury Avenue, and correspondence had ceased. This new
invitation came opportunely, and Peter accepted it. He
packed carefully the tail-coat, borrowed a hat box from
the Scotts to convey the treasured silk hat, took a ten-
der farewell of Mattie in a corner of the balcony of
the New Gallery in Regent Street, while David amused
himself with dropping shot on the goldfish in the pool
of the foimtain in the hall, and took train for his
He spent a miserable week. He expected them to
make much of him. His family, however, took a purely
commercial view and wished only to know how much a
year he was making. Upon his confession that he had
for three years earned not a penny, they refused to
treat him with any respect and rated him for abandoning
the bookselling business. They were really unkind to
him, and he soon abandoned all attempt to describe his
mode of life to them.
162 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Curiously enough, his only sympathetic auditor was
Podge Newhall, who confessed to an admiration for
Peter dating from early days.
" You were never like the rest of us chaps. You
Peter was grateful, and took long walks with Podge
out into the country, while he stuffed the poor fellow
with ideas and theories of marriage which perfectly be-
wildered him. The responsibilities of husband and
father were driven in upon him with such heat and ter-
rifying vehemence that he cast a wistful eye upon the
dwindling moments of his bachelorhood.
" Not, I think," thundered Peter, " not till man per-
ceives himself as sacredly a father, as woman sees her-
self sacredly as a mother, will marriage be the holy
blessed state that it is claimed to be in the marriage
service drawn up in the time of Edward VI. Think,
just think. Podge, of the state of mind, of the attitude
towards divine things, of the men who could solemnly
and in all reverence write of marriage as a state for
' such as have not the gift of continence.' If that
spirit is preserved, then marriage wUl go — bust —
Podge had not the least idea of what Peter was talk-
ing about, but was ashamed to say so. Peter tried to
approach his sister in the same way, but she rose ma-
jestically and left the room, muttering indignantly about
the filthiiress of Peter's mind.
The happy pair were joined together in holy matri-
mony, no one having responded to the parson's invita-
tion to declare any just cause or impediment why they
should not be so joined (though Peter had arr insane
desire to make a dramatic protest), and were driven off
PETERi H0MUNCULU9 163
to the station, shaking rice and confetti from their hair
They were to spend their honeymoon at Llandudno,
a place which Peter rememhered from early experience
as a grisly resort much frequented by the middle classes
of South Lancashire. He was angry with his sister,
and took a spiteful pleasure in writing her a long letter
of advice and philosophic comment with quotations from
pagan authors. He had had no money to buy her a
wedding present, and now on an inspiration he sent her
the ring which old Adam had given him.
She returned it without a word. Peter spent three
unhappy days after the wedding. His relatives' slip-
shod mode of living depressed and angered him: there
was no Podge now to admire him and to talk to: and,
worse than all, by a reaction from the excitement of
preparation for the wedding, the whole family was de-
pressed and irritable, and over all the house was an air
Peter wandered in the woods of the countryside, try-
ing to escape from the terror of the approaching ordeal.
He wrote long letters to Mattie, full of sarcastic witti-
cisms at the expense of his family and of the narrow-
ness of provincial persons in general.
He visited old schoolfellows and friends of his father
and mother who had been kind to him; but they all
stood rather in awe of him. His old headmaster thought
he needed taking down, and snubbed him remorselessly.
After Podge's departure he found a really friendly re-
ception only with the young assistant master who had
vainly tried to teach him Algebra, now through all his
examinations, married to his Alison, daughter of the
curate, and the proud father of a baby larger and better
164 PETER HOMUNCULUS
tempered even than Janet Fildes'. Peter made great
friends with the baby and promised to be godfather
to the next. He was surprised to find the little school-
master rather intelligent and tremendously impressed
when Peter mentioned his friendship with Murray Wil-
son. It was from him that for the first time Peter
heard a full account^ garbled, it is true, of the relation
of the writer with Miss Dugdale. The schoolmaster
was full of such scandal and told Peter all that he knew
of the actress — all the talk that there had been of her
connection with Wilson, of her subsequent marriage with
Mr. Bertram Bond, its unhappiness, and the separation.
It had been kept out of the papers, and the school-
master would have it that she had virtually retired from
the stage, and was on the point of entering a convent.
Peter said that he knew she was living in Mount
It was odd that by a little provincial pedagogue's
taste for scandal Peter's mind should be filled with
thoughts of Miss Dugdale, for hers at this time was
much occupied with Peter.
When Wilson had said that he had sent Peter's story
to a friend, he refrained from divulging that the friend
was none other than Miss Dugdale herself. He had
scrawled at the head of Peter's manuscript " How like
you the portrait?" and had sent it to her, thinking
that the youthful adoration of the writer might amuse
her, even interest her, for he knew that she was suffer-
ing much. She was touched first by Wilson's thought
for her, divining all that lay behind, and then by the
little narrative, the truth of the description of herself.
She shed many tears over it, and meeting Wilson at
some great house made him tell her all that he knew
PETER HOMUNCULUS 165
of Peter, describe his personal appearance, the tones
of his voice, and all that was most individual in him.
She hugged the imagined boy to herself and longed to
know him, for, as she told Wilson, she wished to play
with his black hair.
" We'll make him write a play for me," she said.
Wilson said nothing, but gave her a look which she
took rightly for a warning. Presently he said: "He
saw you in a bird shop purchasing a cat with orange
" I called it Peter," said Mary. " How odd! "
"All your cats have been called Peter."
" What does he know of me ? "
" Only common talk," said Wilson, and at the mo-
ment of his saying it, Peter was listening open-mouthed
to the schoolmaster expounding the same common talk.
" Perhaps you j^ill meet her some day," said the
" I daresay," said Peter carelessly. He had not di-
vulged that Wilson possessed several portraits of the
"How old is she?"
" Oh, anything between twenty-five and thirty-five."
They took down " Who's Who " and found that she
confessed to twenty-nine.
Peter returned a day earlier than he had intended.
He did not let Mattie know that he was back in Gordon
The evening of that day he spent in fingering the
pink topaz necklace and in reading old Cooper's literary
The idea came to him to send these to Wilson. The
writer had asked him not to lose touch with him, and
166 PETER HOMUNCULUS
the manuscript might be of use to him, would certainly
be of interest.
In turning over the pages of the " Essay on Human
Folly " Peter came upon these words :
True marriage is possible only where there is truth bet\veen
man and woman. To begin with, truth is to forestall the crisis.
Love reveals truth, but the eyes of most men are blinded to
it, for the lie promises ease. In love it is for the woman to
ask, for the man to give. There is no more blazing folly than
for the man to dictate: for in all matters of love the instinct
of the woman is true. The idea of possession is a taint.
Truth starts from it, and Nature.
Peter copied these out and sent them to his sister by
way of Podge, to whom also, by a happy thought, he
sent the large gold watch that he had found in Cooper's
desk. It did not occur to him that to neither bridegroom
nor bride would the passage be intelligible, or, indeed,
that its full import was lost upon himself.
YouNQ David was taken ill of a quinzy during the days
when Peter was taking final instructions before vacation
for his examination in October. When he recovered,
Mrs. Scott took him and Mattie to Eastbourne and es-
tablished them in lodgings at Meads, in an ugly little
house looking out over the sea.
When, therefor^, Peter called on the first Sunday of
his freedom, he found Mr. Scott alone and inclined to
be taciturn. However, he managed to evince some inter-
est in Peter's doings, though the interview was made
awkward for both by the boy's insane desire to improve
the occasion by asking for his daughter's hand in mar-
riage. The parson turned the conversation in the di-
rection of finance, and Peter saw his own absurdity.
"My brother-in-law tells me that you have a desire
Peter gasped at this touching of his tenderest am-
bitions, and the parson pushed the flagon of port in hia
"Ye — ^yes. I — I used to write a good d-deal,"
Peter managed to say, and could have kicked himself
gladly for the fatuity of the remark.
Scott scrutinised Peter's face and seemed carefully
to weigh his next words. Peter had a horrid fear that
he was going to say something about Mattie, and it was
with immense relief that he caught the words:
"When Mr. Cooper asked me to be your guardian
he said to me of you, 'Give him the choice to continue
168 PETER HOMUNCULUS
here or to shake free and stretch his wings.' He was a
good man, old Cooper."
Peter was humbled.
" He was kind to me," he said.
" How will it be with you in your examination ? "
" Fairly well," said Peter modestly, though he had
a feeling of exultation when he thought of how he would
pour out knowledge to confound the learned.
" We all want you to do well. You have this advan-
tage for a writer: that you have known and can sympa-
thise with poverty. It is the earliest years that really
form a man."
This was a new idea to Peter, and he was inclined
to flout it. His visit to his famly had confirmed his
impression that nothing but harm could have come to
him from contact with such base things.
" My brother-in-law," said the parson, " always pro-
fesses gratitude for a childhood of penury and suffer-
ing. It has certainly informed all that he has written."
"Beauty," said Peter, "is truth."
" There is the sort of truth you mean beneath even
vice and wickedness."
" The business of the artist," said Peter, " is with
the kingly and the saintly."
" Neither is extra-human."
Peter wondered what he meant.
" I am your guardian until you are twenty-five. It
should be possible for you to gain some sort of living
Again Peter had the insane impulse to drag Mattie
into the conversation: and again he suppressed it.
" Did you ever," said the parson, " light upon traces
of your lost aunt?" He chuckled at the recollection.
PETER! H0MUNCULU9 169
"Demophoon we must suppose dead. Seven years for
a human, three for a eat."
Peter told him of the letter he had received.
"She married Mr. iWolverton, the curate."
" The scoundrel. A disgrace to the cloth." They
agreed as to the rascality of the curate and very soon
Peter departed, having gleaned Mattie's address at
He was engaged to study with a young contemporary
until the second week in August, but except for those
hours was content with gentle revision, and otherwise
he was very much in want of occupation. He tried to
write, but the term's work had exhausted him and he
could produce little or nothing. It was tragic and he
was driven in upon himself. He wished very much
to see Wilson, but felt that he must wait until an ac-
knowledgment of the receipt of the Cooper papers
should come. He wrote letters to Mattie and worked
himself into a fine amorous frenzy concerning her, be-
wailing the day that should take her to a foreign coun-
try, professing an undying aifection and a determina-
tion to do great things for her sake. He took himself
very seriously and was offended more than a little at
the light tone of her letters wherein she thought it
proper to tease him, and. to give him full and attractive
descriptions of the boys and young men who had sought
her acquaintance. David was better and sent insulting
Peter chose to think himself despised and neglected,
and mooned miserably. The summer air of London,
together with fearful contemplation of the unknown
future, was responsible for his condition. The heat was
oppressive and the great city had taken on that air of
170 PETER HOMUNCULUS
lassitude which is so distressing to the workers in it.
"London," wrote Peter in his notebook, "is most hid-
eous when she ceases to be a productive machine and
becomes a city of pleasure."
He wandered miserably in the hot evenings about the
West End, and often sat in the park by the bandstand
watching the young men and maidens walking up and
down, all predatory, seeking illicit sweets of tentative
and shy love-making. Watching them, Peter remem-
bered with disgust his own exploits in this direction as
a schoolboy. All the same it gave him great pleasure
to come upon real lovers locked in fond embrace, lost
to the world, so that one might stand and gaze and gaze
upon them for all they cared. Somehow when they
kissed, Peter had a desire to laugh and a desire also to
cry. In the end also he was disgusted with the park.
He haunted the pits and galleries of the theatres and
occasionally patronised a music-hall, though he found
these places of amusement dreary in the extreme.
For the first time in his life Peter was bored, and
Peter bored was twenty times as offensive as Peter
By chance he discovered a comfortable element in
The first excursion he had taken on his arrival in
Southwark was to look at the Thames, and the river
had ever been a favourite haunt. In these dull days
there was seldom an evening that he did not walk along
some part of the Embankment, but he had never had
the temerity to enter the precincts of the Temple, which
for some mysterious reason he regarded as sacro-ianct.
One night, however, that he had walked down from
Westminster almost to Blackfriars, exalted and drunk
PETEBI H0MUNCULU9 171
with the beauty of the broad stream and the drowning
lights in the depths, boldness came to him and he turned
up Middle Temple Lane. The place fascinated him;
Brick Court, where Goldsmith had lived and Coleridge
and Thackeray; Fountain Court, across which Ruth
Pinch had tripped; Lamb Building, where Pendennis
and Warrington had had their rooms; Dr. Johnson's
buildings and King's Bench Walk; the Middle Temple
Hall, where Shakespeare's tragedy of Julius Csesar had
been performed before Queen Elizabeth; and often on
the boards at the bottom of the stairs Peter came upon
the names of men who shone as literary lights, or were
known as journalists, and Peter was jealous of them,
they seemed so confoundedly important with their
names writ large.
At the bottom of a stair in Crown Office Row he
came upon a name which gave him to pause — Mr. Law-
rence Greenfield. For a few moments he could not
assign the name to its owner. Then his thoughts flew
to Janet Fildes and from her to the young man in the
green suit who had been so odiously patronising upon
their first encounter, but had latterly been more civil,
and indeed had seemed to wish to cultivate Peter's bet-
ter acquaintance. Peter disliked the young man, but as
Miss Dugdale's brother, tolerated his attentions, and
had even promised to visit him in his chambers.
Peter decided to mount, and ascended to the third floor
to a door whereover he found the name of the young
man and that of another gentleman, Mr. Beaumont
Scholes, whom Peter after a moment remembered to be
the hirsute young poet who had gained notoriety by his
attack on Murray Wilson.
Peter remembered with shame that he had sent the
172 PETER HOMUNCULUS
offending article to Wilson; also ttat the writer had
ignored the sending.
The outer door of the chambers stood open, and the
door of the sitting-room just inside to the left was
slightly ajar, so that Peter could see one end of the
room, red-papered, and the walls profusely decorated
with photographs of actresses and professional beauties.
The room was untidy and littered with papers, and the
table bore the fragments of a supper and an empty
champagne bottle. There was an air of luxury about
the apartment as Peter saw it which contrasted vividly
with his own chaste abode in Gordon Squi9.re. He
could see one end of a red sofa covered with a jackal-
skin rug, which jutted out into the room from where
he judged the fireplace would be. Though the room
was brilliantly lit it was not occupied. Impelled by
curiosity, Peter pushed the door open and peered in.
Something crashed to the floor, and he stood waiting.
Presently a door at the other end of the room opened
and Mr. Greenfield's head peered out. His jaw
dropped as he saw Peter, and he jabbed :with his thumb
in the direction of the door.
" You left it open," said Peter. " I did not know
you were in."
"Get out," said Mr. Greenfield.
" Can't I stay and talk to you? "
Mr. Greenfield glared. " You young ass. Go ! "
He advanced into the room, switched off the light
and pushed Peter out.
As he closed the outer door Peter heard a woman's
voice raised in a giggle proceeding from another
He leaned against the balustrade of the stone stairs
PETEK HOMUNCULUS 173
and lauglied and laughed until the tears ran down his
cheeks and his sides ached.
Gasping to regain his breath, he descended the stairs
slowly. He heard a light foot on the flight below him
andj looking down the well, saw an elegantly gowned
young woman, tripping. At the angle they met. He
started and cried:
She stopped upon his cry and stood wondering who
the strange young man might be. In that moment
Peter hated Mr. Lawrence Greenfield; and his dislike
for the unpleasant young man from passive grew active.
He decided that he must lie, for, at all costs. Miss Dug-
dale must go no higher.
" He's not at home — ^your brother."
"But he said Are you a friend of his?"
" No. I know him."
"We have not met?"
" We do not know eacK other."
" You know my name ? "
"Who does not?"
" I know Peter. He Has orange eyes."
"Oh! Then you are "
" My name is Davies — Peter Davies."
On that she laughed so merrily, like water over peb-
bles, that Peter must laugh too. She gave him her
gloved hand. He took it and they turned to make the
Peter waited for her to dismiss him, though he was
hungry for words from her.
She laid her hand on his arm.
" I have wanted to know you for long."
1741 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Peter bridled with pleasure, but wondered uncom-
fortably what and how much she knew of him. Wilson
was no doubt her informant, and there was no clue to
the extent of Wilson's knowledge of him.
" Your little story," she said, " the old match-
woman, shivering in the rain. Shall we not walk and
we can learn to know each other ? "
"I— I " said Peter.
Responding to her pressure, Peter turned and walked
with her, stealing shy glances at her as they walked
out into Fleet Street.
" You don't live in the Temple ? " she said.
" No. I had never been there before to-night. I
Shyness overtook Peter. The charm of the unex-
pected encounter had carried him so far, but left him
stranded. He was wordless and shrank from her, gaz-
ing at her with frightened eyes. She was watching
the marching throng in the Strand, and Peter wondered
what was in her thoughts, wondered also whether he
should ever learn what was inside her pretty head.
Something in the street pleased her. She laughed, leap-
ing from a deep note to her middle voice. She seemed
exultant. She laid her hand on Peter's arm and turned
dazzling eyes upon him.
" Don^t you love it all?" she said, with a sweeping
"Yes," said Peter. "But what?"
" But — ^but everjjiihing — all these n^llions of dear
stupid people, all thinking themselves so clever, and the
lights, and the noise of them, and — and the "
" Oh ! yes," said Peter. " But I love best in London
PETER HOMUNCULUS 175
the thump of machines that seem to he making some-
" They make shoddy, most of them."
" I'm thinking of the machines in Bouverie Street."
" They spread lies." She frowned, and Peter thought
absurdly enough of Alice and Ethel Stubbs, purveyors
of fiction by the yard.
Again she laughed, and Peter laughed, too. He was
thinking of her brother and the service he had done
the young man. She was thinking of Wilson's wrath
should he ever know of this escapade.
"Oh! oh! oh!" she said, "I'm glad— I'm glad you
can laugh like that. So few people can."
" I dreamed of you once," said Peter, " as the spirit
of truth prisoned in your well by a green dwarf with
whom I waged battle. His hand on my throat was
clammy. Also the first time I saw you you nearly ran
over me. I returned good for evil by purchasing a
portrait of you for a penny."
" I used to make two hundred a year from being
photographed," said Miss Dugdale. "Enough to pay
for my frocks."
To Peter who had never in his life had so much
money in a year, and who knew of whole families bred
upon the half, the sum seemed appalling.
They talked much together and Peter was busy dis-
entangling the reality of the woman from his vision
of her. Her voice jarred upon him, yet he knew it
for beautiful and musical. It was a different voice
from that of the theatre, more caressing even, but all
the same disturbing by reason of the hardness of cer-
tain of its notes. The contrasts and contradictions in
170 PETER HOMUNCULUS
the woman made her only the more adorable^ and pres-
ently Peter had surrendered.
When they parted she said:
"You will come to see me?"
" May I ? " said Peter, and for some time they saw
much of each other.
Peter called upon her in her flat, or they would meet
to walk, and once they supped together at a glittering
place. It was on this occasion that Peter had his first
taste of champagne. He was disposed to regard the
sipping of it as a fall from grace. He did not like it
at first, the taste of it being reminiscent of brandy,
which had always been peculiarly repugnant to him,
but soon he found in himself a keen sensation of en-
joyment, and his tongue loosed. He leaned across the
table and harangued Miss Dugdale, who found him
sufficiently amusing, though his dogmatic tendency was
occasionally irritating. She had been afraid at first
that he would prove to be impossibly young and callow,
and was relieved to find in him a really startling knowl-
edge of reality. She held her glass up and drank to
Peter gulped and remonstrated only feebly when the
attentive waiter filled his glass again.
" You see," he said. " You see. I know myself and
I know exactly where I shall go wrong."
" I wonder," said Miss Dugdale.
"Why do you laugh?"
" So many men have said that to me. They have all
been rudely surprised. You see, men do not understand
" Love is a strange beast that leaps out on you, out
of the dark. It bears you down and down . . ."
PETER HOMUNCULUS 177,
" And up and np." Her lip quivered and her eyes
looked piteously at Peter for the tiniest moment. They
smiled again, and she turned to trivialities. Peter
frolicked and his mind skipped; he buffooned suc-
cessfully for her amusement, surprised at his own
powers. He told her about old Cooper and old days,
about his family and Podge, and altogether indulged
in a very intimate confession, though all amorous ad-
ventures were carefully expunged. She warmed to him
and seemed to be more interested in Tessa than in any
other person of Peter's history.
" I think I know Mr. Warrington. He is a writer,
a poor one, though very successful. His wife is an
"Does Mr. Wilson know him.^"
Peter thought this very adroit. He had been long-
ing to bring the conversation round to that point. She
broke away and was not to be led back, but took him
among the great, gorging him with celebrities. There
seemed to be no one whom she did not know in London,
from the mighty Hebrew financier in Park Lane,
whom she described as the only man with any real
power in England, and the detested newspaper pro-
prietor, greedy of power an3 abusing that which he
had, to the tiniest poet of Maida Vale or smallest artist
They sat for long talking so over the coffee and
She made Peter tell her more of Tessa.
She sighed. " I might have been that but for the
grace of God: and might as well have been."
Peter in his deepest tones said to herj
"Do you believe in God?/'
178 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" In nothing," she replied, scared a little, and on the
aefensive. "Don't, boy. Don't."
She put out her left hand and Peter saw that she
■wore no wedding ring. She marked old Adam's ring
upon his little finger.
"I like your ring," she said.
"Do let me give it you," and he told her how he
had come by it and the story of its rejection by his
sister. Podge's wife, together with her criticism of the
quality of his thoughts. Miss Dugdale laughed.
" I like Podge," she said.
" Podge is right enough," said Peter, and took the
ring from his hand.
"Shall we be friends?" she said. "Really friends,
" Tessa said that."
" I am another Tessa, then."
She slipped the ring upon the third finger of her
left hand, and held it out for him to see.
He nodded smiling approval.
" You shall call me Mary."
" Friends — really friends," and she rose to go.
Peter drove with her in her little brougham. She
was silent, but clasped his hand, clutching him to her.
At length. — " I so sorely need a friend. So bitterly.
Your match woman was right — so right. Hold them
close to you — for warmth — I too have been a hard
" I am your friend," said Peter.
"Thank you," she said, and both were silent, nor
looked at each other, so glad they were of these days
which had brought them together.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 179
Peter felt a certain relief when the car stopped and
she, after a nodded farewell that she might have given
to her most slight acquaintance, tripped into the bright
hall of the mansions in which she lived.
Peter wandered home in a dream, the blood in his
head throbbing with the tinaccustomed stimulant of
Without quite realising what he was doing, he sat
down at his writing-table, took pen and paper and wrote
an absurd story with the title: "The Purple Sor-
When Peter rose from the composition of this mas-
terpiece he! staggered and thought 'himself very
Peter was not really drunk, but he was drunk enough
to forget his remedy for sleeping with his mouth open,
which he imagined gave his mouth its loose indecisive
character. With a view to repairing this he had in-
vented a system of going to sleep with his fists under
his jaw. To-night he forgot this.
He woke the next morning with a blinding head-
ache and his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth.
He rose with a sense of loss, and, looking down at his
hand, missed his ring.
Then he remembered and swore with a nice choice of
words for the space of thirty seconds. Sitting on the
edge of the bath holding his head in his hands, he
vowed that he would never, never more see the woman,
that if she wrote to him, as of course she would, he
would burn her letter unopened, and that if ever by any
chance he met her again he would — he would He
was not sure what he would, but it was surely some-
thing awful, something to wither and blight.
180 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" T fie airs of a Princess, clay-footed," he said
fiercely, as he shaved. The phrase did not altogether
satisfy, but it served.
" Grabbed," he muttered. " She grabbed me."
Masculine vanity was hurt. There had been no bat-
tle, not even with a green dwarf, and, as for wooing,
there should surely have been some wildness. She had
taken him as she had taken the cat Peter, and here he
was possessed by a woman whom he disliked, really
disliked — or so he told himself.
He strove to recall her appearance, but could not
exactly remember even her costume. It was blue and
suited her marvellously. He knew that. Her face
eluded him until he went down to breakfast in the com-
mon dining-room of the establishment.
He postponed descent as long as possible, partly be-
cause his appearance was so lamentable, and his condi-
tion melancholy, partly because he was certain that he
should iind a letter from Miss Dugdale. He did not
feel equal to the company of his fellow-boarders,
whose humour, never particularly congenial, would
this morning have reduced him to angry tears.
A lukewarm breakfast and a scowling reception from
his landlady. Miss Bastable, a woman who reminded
him of his aunt, though she was a more prosperous
specimen of the same type, possessing more dignity,
did not better his condition. He snapped a " Good-
morning " in response to her greeting, accompanied with
a meaning glance in the direction of the clock.
There were three letters by his plate, bearing thumb-
marks as evidence that they had been passed from hand
to hand. A blue envelope gave out a scent of heliotrope.
On the flap it bore the stamped initials in elegant type.
PETEBI HOMUNCULUS 181
M. D. Peter thrust it into his pocket unopened. Miss
Bastable marked that and smiled grimly. The blue
envelope had been the subject of conversation at meals
these many days.
Peter's career during the three years of his sojourn
under her roof had been so blameless, so unlike that of
all the other young men, that it was with an unholy joy
that she now scented a downfall. She knew the power
Peter shifted uneasily imder her scrutiny and opened
the two other letters. One was from Wilson, thanking
him for the Cooper papers and suggesting that as soon
as possible he should come down to his cottage near
The other was from Mattie, in high spirits at the
prospect of a contineirtal tour with the beneficent aunt.
Lady Chapman, widow of a Sheriff of the City of
London, embracing the Loire, with its chateaux and ca-
thedrals, Provenge, High Savoy, and the Italian Lakes.
She bade Peter good-bye in a manner which, in his
maudlin state, seemed to him callous, promised to write
to him, and urged him not wholly to forget her. Deme-
tcr, she said, should accompany her everywhere, to re-
mind her of the intellectual treasures he had poured
upon her. Herein the fool Peter chose to detect sar-
casm, and was filled with bitter resentment. He made
an imaginary Aunt Sally of Woman and shied her
" Liars and web-spinners," he said aloud. " Webs to
catch worthless flies."
The remark in its vehemence startled Miss Bastable,
enthroned behind the silver coffee pot.
" I apologise to your sex, Miss Bastable/' said Peter^
182 PETER HOMUNCULUS
rising. " It is my fate to be devoured. So be it." He
left the room.
" Mr. Davies is touched," the august lady said to her
slave. " Balmy."
" It's them books," said the slave, and Miss Bastable,
correcting her English, she added : " My mother 'ad
used to say as how books was printed madness."
Miss Bastable, who never encouraged loquacity, did
not pursue the conversation, and left the slave mut-
Upstairs Peter had thrown himself into the Victorian
chair, and because it hurt his head to think, sought pre-
vention, babbling verses from the Anti- Jacobin :
The same of Plants — Potatoes, 'tatoes breed,
Unworthy cabbage springs from cabbage seed;
Lettuce to Lettuce, Leeks to Leeks succeed;
Nor e're did cooling Cucumber presume
To flow'r like Myrtle, or like Violets bloom.
Man only — rash, refin'd, presumptuous Man —
Starts from his rank, and mars Creation's plan.
Even the effort of memory was painful, and in despair
he took up the closely written pages of the story he
had written in enthusiasm. Coldly viewed, the story
seemed a poor thing — " Words, words, words," and the
ridiculous phrase " purple sorrow " mortified him, yet
he knew that it was not altogether bad. It had been at
least a sincere expression, if vague and woolly. With
the simple presumption so characteristic of him, Peter
felt a jealousy of mad Swift, who could say on re-
reading " The Tale of a Tub "— " What a genius I had
yfheti I wrote that book ! "
Taking up the halfpenny newspaper which he shared
PETER H0MUNCULU9 183
with a fellow-lodger, a young German serving as a
volunteer clerk in a city office, he came upon a prelim-
inary puff of a new comedy in which Miss Dugdale
was to appear. No escape from the woman. He threw
the paper down into the hearth, where it caught fire
and gave him the relief of action in stamping out the
blaze. He sat for a time watching charred pieces of
paper float up the chimney. He thrust his hand into
his pocket and fingered Miss Dugdale's letter. Then
paced up and down the room. He tried to smoke, but
tobacco made his head swim, and that, too, was aban-
doned. He made an effort to read, but words mocked
him. He remembered: "Words are quick and vain."
Words ! What words would the woman use; what words
could she use?
The -whole world was detestable, yellow, and despite-
Peter took the letter from his pocket, snuffed the
scent of it. Heliotrope. He marked the writing of the
address, hurried, untidy, dashing. Daughter of a
watchmaker, Mary Greenfield: a Devon girl, of rich red
earth and green lanes. Dugdale ! The fresh girl aping
the fine lady, of the town towny; tired, restless, discon-
tented, vaguely wanting. " A woman worn by flattery,
hungering for love." Peter returned to that early divi-
nation of her and knew pity. He was sorry — and to
condemn her, upon what he knew of her story, because
— because — for the life of him he could find no reason
for his resentment. She had been kind, and she had
said that she lay in sore need of a friend. Well, then —
well, then But she had said also that she resem-
bled Tessa, a cramped woman, a wasted woman, and in
her face, as he saw it now clearly, holding her letter in
184 PETER HOMUNCULUS
his tand, there was nracH that there Ead been in the face
of the early Tessa — ^that strained hardness. It angered
Peter to find himself so unreasonably resentful, and he
fell to probing in himself. The blood throbbed in his
head, and his under lip quivered. He inflicted exquisite
torture upon himself, like an Eastern mystic undergo-
ing starving and flagellation to gain the moment of crys-
talline clairvoyance — ^the lucid vision of thought — and
Peter's mannikin, perched on the little French clock
on the mantelpiece, leered down at him in his torpor.
He pointed a long thin finger, like a wax taper, it was
so long, and mocked:
" Fear ; that is it. Fear. You are afraid, terrified,
craven at the first contact with woman. Only half a
man! Not only wine brought drunkenness, but new
things striving in you, new great things . , . Terror.
Scarcely a man at all. Threatens you? Does she? Does
she? Does she? Threatens what — You? What are you?
Homunculus, a little man in a bottle, snug and warm,
curled in your glass. Embryonic. What are you?
Nothing. Nothing without this: a cold clot. Threatens
you, does she? Your career? The fico for your career.
Your brain? What's the good of it without blood, warm
blood? What's blood for, if not to race? It? Afraid
of it? Tiny man, tiny man, tiny man. Take it. Take
it. Both hands, tiny man. Be grabbed — gobbled, eaten.
Share the common lot. Tiny man, grow big."
A sob gathered in Peter's throat, but being forced up
into his nose, came out as a snort. His hands waved
in the air as though he were brushing away stinging
flies. A tiny voice near his ear, a voice no bigger than
the chirping of a cricket and as shrill, shrieked:
PETER HOMUNCULUS 185
Peter in terror sprang to his feet and stood. Pres-
ently he laughed nervously, and pulled his forelock.
He was surprised to find Miss Dugdale's letter still
in his hand. He hurled it into the fire, hut rescued it
immediately, hefore it had begun even to scorch. Set-
ting his teeth, he opened it. She asked that if he would
walk with her they should meet by the Round Pond in
Peter, like many of his betters, brought suddenly to
proximity with " It," resented the being deprived of the
sweets of courtship.
" Twenty-nine ! " His mind leaped suddenly to the
root of the matter. Her age killed Romance, and hu-
miliated him in the killing by forcing him to acknowl-
edge himself no more sliperior to the " pale sister," but
himgry for her.
Youthful prejudice also had much to do with Peter's
state. He had suffered a milder form of the disease
with his first contemplated plunge into matrimony. This
had been at the age of nine, the object of his young
affections a tom-boy cousin of fourteen, whose thick
pig-tail of brown hair and skill in finding the nests of
gold-crested wrens in spruce trees — ^lovely mossy ham-
mock nests with tiny eggs — ^had wrought the havoc The
alliance had been long pondered, but in the end the
great difference in their ages hali proved an insuper-
Miss Dugdale had confessed to twenty-nine. In face
of the notorious mendacity of women it might well be
that she were thirty-five, or, ghastly thought, forty.
These speculations were wild, but they sufficed to
make Peter acutely wretched. He spent a morning of
miserable idleness, and after lunch, vowing that if he
180 PETER HOMUNCULUS
went out at all, it should be to visit the Fildeses in
Southampton Row, he went up to his bedroom to don
his tail-coat and silk hat.
He sat down on his bed and cursed. He cursed the
day that he had come to London, the day that he had
entered Cooper's shop, the day that he had matriculated
in the University, the day that he had met Wilson, and
most the ironic chance that had taken him up to Green-
field's chambers in the Temple. He cursed all his mode
of living, his boarding-house existence and all the in-
mates of the house, the German volunteer clerk, the
French musician; the two quadroon ladies from Port
Royal; the two old gentlemen who shared apartments
and had lived from their youth together, possessing in
their united incomes just enough for subsistence; the evil
German-Swiss butler, who bullied Miss Bastable and was
an over-lord; the coarse young man from Manchester,
and the elderly young woman from Leeds.
The real object of his vituperation was the bi-sexual
ordering of life, which, having survived the onslaught
of Arthur Schopenhauer, was likely also to survive that
of Peter Davies.
Peter set forth immaculately dressed; trousers most
correctly creased — hat newly ironed and bright yellow
gloves upon his hands.
He strode sturdily and turned in the direction of
Southampton Row. He strove to force himself to enter
the door of Russell Mansions, but shot past it and down
into Oxford Street, where he boarded an omnibus.
Two lovers occupied the seat in front of him. Their
talk sickened him, maudlin folly.
A slightly drunken man behind him had had an alter-
cation with a Commissionaire, and was hurling obscen-
PETERi H0MUNCULU9 IST
ities at tie bashfully smiling head of the uniformed
creature. The conductor mounting to collect fares, an
ofiScious spotty-faced young man complained, and there
was altercation, as the upshot of which the offender
promised to talk only to himself and to avoid the utter-
ance of obscene terms. All the way to Marble Arch he
talked aloud and volubly.
" HeU ! " he said. " One man's as good 's 'nother.
Mayn't talk to 'im, mayn't I? Ol' rip. I asks 'im
wot 'e did in India for them medals. Preserved the
Hempire, did 'e? I don't think — Black beauties an'
dusky brides: that's Hempire buildin' fur 'im. Bally
ol' rip. Straight I tells yer. I been there. S'good as
'im. I spends more money on beer in a mornin' than
'e'U make in a week. Arst anyone rahnd Coven' Gard-
Here the conductor remonstrated again, and the man
" I c'n breathe, cawn't I ? An' if I likes to breathe
in words — I ain't usin' no bad words. I can, cawn't I ?
The hatmosphere don't belong to nobody, though there's
some as'd like to buy it."
He rose grumbling and growling and stumbled down
the staircase at Marble Arch, Peter following him. He
wandered crookedly across to the Edgeware Road, and
Peter watched him until he was lost, then turned into
He stopped for a moment, and made a resolution to
walk straight through to St. James Park and West-
minster to avoid the Gardens.
All the same it was not long before he found himself
under the statue of Physical Energy, peering to see and
not be seen.
188 PETER HOMUNCULUS
He saw Miss Dugdale, a brave solitary little figure
in blue, a gallant blue feather in her hat, her parasol of
scarlet — flaming, flaunting woman. Peter fled and passed
down to the Serpentine: then up again and out to spy
upon her. He saw lovers meet and gladly smile and
slowly walk away to some known spot for quiet, poor
fools and blind: and mated birds he saw, and bees pay
loving visit to the flowers. He strode out into the street
by one gate, glad to escape, but by the next he turned in
again and walked furiously down towards the meeting
place. This time she saw him, and suspecting nothing
of unwillingness in him, came tripping, crying greeting,
gladness in her eyes.
They met, and Peter warmly pressed her hand, then
held aloof and was silent. She took that for a sign of
too great joy in him, and laughed, touching the silver
notes that had most entranced the boy in the days of
They stood, he not looking at her, not daring, raging
and yet near surrender, torn, while she, the red light
from her sunshade tinging all to warmth, looked side-
long at him, pursing lips, noting the details of his care-
ful dress. For her? She thought it so, and laughed
again; and Peter laughed.
" I'm glad I came."
" Glad? Oh! yes. The sun, blue water: green leaves
and smoky trunks. Such weather."
She moved and Peter followed, caught her up and
walked by her side, peeping under the sunshade at the
bewitching nose, the smiling eyes, the chin in air. She
walked divinely, pure Princess, and Peter said aloud:
" The airs of a Princess, clay-footed."
She thrust out a foot neatly booted.
PETERi H0MUNCULU9 189
"Oh!— I can walk."
" On hills and over downs ? "
" Twelve miles if you wish it, sir."
To student Peter twelve miles was great striding. He
" Do you swim? "
" I meet Leander half way in his passage — and drown
"Leander is drowned?"
" Leander never came."
She brought him to a tiny dell close by the Serpen-
tine, and there they sat.
"How is Peter?"
" Well," she said, and scanned the water. Then :
" Will you swim for me ? "
" Bathing," said Peter, " is not allowed before seven
"Tell me more."
" More? "
" You have told me nothing of yourself."
" With you I escape from myself."
" Do you — do you also possess a mannikin ? "
She pondered this, and quickly perceived his meaning.
" A waspish little lady. Yes."
" Mine came to me to-day."
Peter looked up to find tender eyes upon him; they
demanded confidence, extorted it.
" Mine said ' Tiny man,' "
" And mine, ferociously, ' Be yourself.' "
" Mine too. ' Grow big,' it said."
" I think they say that always."
190 PETER HOMUNCULUS
"Can we be?"
" You and I ? With honesty."
" Then why ? "
Peter stopped abruptly. He was on the point of
demanding fuller confidence from her. He dared not.
His youth forbade it. She divined something of his
thought — and a filmy unhappiness of the moment came
" Dear Peter," she said, and " Mary," said Peter,
lashing himself for the lack of temerity to say " Dear."
Behind them a boy and a girl lay on the grass read-
" We have invaded their Eden, Peter." The intru-
sion was soon forgotten. There were childish caresses
" You, too, are young," she sighed.
" I am remarkably old," he said.
" And wonderfully young."
" Old," he said, and to show his knowledge and the
depth of his thoughts he recited what he could remem-
ber of the story of the King's son, and his quest of the
purple sorrow. Here in the sun, and with this kind and
splendid lady, the story took life again and seemed a
fine thing. Of the recurrent phrase she said:
"Why purple? Surely grey? "
" Grey," said Peter. " Grey as the sorrow of a child-
The scarlet sunshade was lowered to hide her face
from him. Peter babbled on imtil he felt that she was
not listening, then turned and saw her face covered. He
was hurt, and ceased. At once she raised her sun-
The situation was saved by the arrival of a shabby
PETER' HOMUNCULUS 191
man demanding pence for the hire of the little green
chairs on which they sat.
" His Majesty's Commissioner of Works," said Mary.
" This is Royal ground," and she wished to refund the
twopence that Peter had paid. They wrangled deli-
cioqsly, and in the end she slipped the two pieces of
copper into his pocket when he was looking the other
way. In silence presently they walked to High Street,
Kensington, Peter pondering, she troubled, yet forcing
laughter, and turning over two questions that she wished
to ask him.
In the pleasant tea shop she opened fire.
" Why were you laughing on my brother's stairs ? "
Peter put down the cup from which he was about to
drink and gaped at her, then plunged into a lame ex-
planation of this tenor, that he had been amused at the
thought of climbing so many stairs to see a man not a
friend, and — and He broke off and plimged into
his meeting with her in the bird shop.
" When you left," he said, " your handkerchief lay
on the ground. I picked it up and have it still."
" You must give it me again."
"May I not keep it?"
" I will give you something of more worth." Then
ifor a second question she braced herself.
"What do you know of me, Peter?"
" What they say."
"And what say they?"
" You know I am a wife? '
" No, no."
192 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" I could not keep my husband."
" I could not blame you.''
" He has left you."
" I him. The best has been withheld from me."
" Poor "
" Where is my handkerchief ? "
" With all my treasures."
" Not mine. Old Cooper's."
"A romance.^ "
" He loved, was loved^ and snatched wild happiness,
I have his letters."
"May I read?"
" Mr. Wilson has them. I think we shall publish all
his papers. A strange old man."
" I am going to stay near Mr. Wilson."
"I with him."
" Then we shall meet."
" I'U read you all the history. When do you go? "
" To-morrow. For months, until the autumn."
" I must lose you then ? "
" We have to-night."
The " we " from her lips thrilled Peter.
"What shall we do?"
"Then walk. The river, Westminster: perhaps
Chelsea; St. James Park at night is a place for splen-
" We will dream then."
They appointed a meeting place, and Peter walked
across to Mount Street with her. At the door he said:
" One thing only."
PETER H0MUNCULU9 193
" No champagne to-night, I beg."
She turned laughing and Peter left her, bearing in
his mind a vision of Mary, young, happy, contented, at
rest. The consciousness of power with her set him exult"
ing and kept him in a state of exaltation such as he had
not known for long enough, all the sweeter for the noble
melancholy that tinged it.
In twenty-four hours Peter had grown apace, not
without self-torture, but without growing pains. It was
a calm transition, a floating and a blissful state.
They dined, not magnificently, at the little French
restaurant in Soho, where Peter had dined once with
his sister and her fiance. Miss Dugdale's entry in the
modest place caused sensation, and Peter found himself
the mark of envious eyes.
They walked as they had planned, first by the river
until darkness came, for, as Peter said, the gentle
spirits of St. James Park hide under water until the
lights of men, sinking to their abode, drive them forth.
" They live," he said, " like swallows, under water
for the winter."
Mary scouted the idea.
" It is an old wives' notion," said Peter.
The sky was pale and starry, sullen with the glare
of the city, red and lemon tinted. At Westminster
the great river, swollen with strong tides, smote both
" We have hemmed him in," said Peter, " but water
is kind, always kind."
They leaned on the parapet, and their arms touched.
" Water kind? Yes, even in the drowning."
194 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" Drowning," said Peter, " is altogether a. pleasant
sensation. See, the moon drowns herself, the mirrored
" The mirrored moon," soft echo in Mary's voice
brought to the words the notes that Peter loved.
" Oh ! Mary," he said, and took her hand and
" No, boy. Oh ! no, no, no."
They walked then to the bridge over St. James' lake.
" They close the gates," said Peter, " at sunset, that
the Saint may walk abroad unmocked. He is followed
in his march by pelicans and drakes, and kingfishers
and herons, the male of all the water fowl. Poor soli-
tary, that never had a — a Mary."
And Mary cried, "Delicious boy."
"One Mary," said Peter in sepulchral tones, "is of
more worth to human kind than all the saints. I'll give
you Anthony of Padua, and Francis of Assisi, Polycarp
and Xenobia, and Catherine, and Matthew, Mark and
Luke and John, and all the Josephs, Henrys, Peters;
I'll give you Barnabas and Jude, and Andrew, Paul,
Simon, Anne and Benedict, Thomas, Ambrose, Martin,
"Stop, stop, stop."
"Alban, Stephen, Joan of Arc, all martyrs."
They came upon the bridge, and Mary sounded,
" Oh ! " and stood, and laid her hand where the boy's
might close on it.
" It is a place of fauns, and nymphs and reed-pipe
"With saints? Oh! no."
" The saints are blind to them."
PETER H0MUNCULU9 195
They stood there hand in hand.
" The rhythm of the place," said Peter.
"Let us go."
Her eyes sought his and her lips parted. Peter
From behind them came a cry, a sob. A woman
stood, crouching, cowering on the bridge, wrenched
by grief. She moved, and the moon lighting on her
revealed a woman's face, drawn, drawn and white,
blank, staring with tear-clouded eyes. Her hair streamed
over her face, her hat was awry, but even in her great
distress she was comely. She strove to walk, but an-
guish would not be controlled. She reeled and Peter
leaped to stay her.
She turned and saw him, strained away.
" Tessa ! " he cried, and caught her. Mary came, and
together they two comforted the girl.
"What is it, Tessa?"
?' Oh, tell me."
Still she sobbed, then wildly caught at Mary.
" Have you loved? " she said, " loved, loved and been
cast aside? "
" Tell me," said Mary, and held the girl to her
" He loved me: yes he did. He took me out of "
" Yes, yes," said Mary.
" I was good to him, I was, I was. For years, three
years, I was good to him, a plain man — Stanley War-
rington. Then there came another, called himself his
friend, and took me. I never wanted him — never —
never — never. A bad man — Bond."
That word — Bond, struck fire. Mary's basbaad!
196 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Peter turned to her — she caught her breath and swayed,
then laughed, and laughed again, while Tessa babbled
Mary's face grew hard: she set her teeth and won
to calmness. Peter gloried in her then.
Then Tessa fiercely. " I won't, I won't, I can't — go
back to it. He's turned me out — out, and me so good to
" I think," said Peter, " I think the fauns have played
Mary flashed: " To spite the saints," and Peter, feel-
ing in the face of the lamentable condition of Tessa
that at all costs he must say something, borrowed from
" If Cleopatra s nose had been shorter, the whole
face of the world would have been changed."
" Rubbish," said Mary. " What are we to do with
" Oh, Peter— not I, but she."
They returned to Tessa and drew from her the con-
fession that she had flown from the little fiat in Chelsea
by the four chimneys, just as she was, without thought
of destination, housing, money or food. She had ranged
over London, running, sobbing, striving to quell her
grief, to penetrate the blackness that was upon her.
" I can take her to-night," Mary said.
"To your home?"
" I am alone, but for Peter."
" What will you do with her? "
" I shall think of that to-morrow. She must rest,
sleep, be fed."
They led Tessa across to Pall Mall and hailed a cab.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 197
Peter assisted the two women, and gave the address.
"Will you come, Peter?"
" There is nothing that I can do."
" Then good-bye."
" Good-bye, we shall meet again."
" In S'urrey."
" Yes. Good-bye. My handkerchief."
" I will bring it, and you will give me .'' "
" Many things. Good-bye, and bless St. James."
" And damn the fauns."
The cab rolled away as Mary waved a hand. Tessa,
exhausted, had sunk into a corner. Peter stood watch-
ing. Mary had been admirable, glorious in the tender
fooling J a heroine and great woman iir the moment
when the misfortunes of Tessa had touched home and
And Peter cursed the name of Mr. Bertram Bond, the
destroyer of Mary's peace and Tessa's home.
" A simpering fool-villain. Bond ! " The reitera-
tion of the gentleman's monosyllabic name brought com-
fort until there came the thwacking truth that Mary
shared it. Greenfield — Dugdale — Bond! Bond! Mary
B ; lips would not frame it.
The whole thing was misty, intricate. Out of the
steaminess of it came Wilson's tragic face. How was
he woven into the tangle? And himself, he, Peter
Davies, tiny man no more, what was he to be in the
" Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos." The names re-
peated themselves again and again, and Peter was serin
ously disturbed because he could not remember whicl)
of the three held the shears.
198 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Then: " Mary, Mary, Mary." Tiny man no more. He
squared his shoulders and strode. There was that in
his face that made many turn to gaze after him in the
street, and as he strode, he composed a letter:
" Love is not for hugging. It is rather a giving out
and out and out. It is a treasure inexhaustible, to be
had for the delving; a cruse to pour milk and honey
over all the world — a divine possession."
Oh, damn old Cooper. He had said that to his silly
Clara, simpering Demeter of Dresden.
Peter could invent no more phrases. " Mary, Mary,
Mary," was sufficient. Xavier Cooper, over three years
dead, overwhelmed Peter, swamped him, even in this
Peter never once gave thought to Mattie. A letter
came from her next day to say that for two days she
should be in London before setting out upon her travels,
that she was anxious to see his dear silly face, and that
she was ever his.
Another letter came from Mary, saying that she had
decided to take Tessa to be her dresser in the theatre,
and was going to send her to the sea to recover from
the effects, more serious than she had conceived, of the
calamity. There was no word of her own trouble, noth-
ing of sickness at heart.
"Do not scold me out of this dear foolishness, boy
dear; I never will demand of you more than you can
give me, never, never, never. M."
" Everything, everything," cried Peter. " The whole
world, stars, and the sun, all the worlds. Oh — fool ! "
and lovesick Peter kissed the letter.
He took the handkerchief from the desk and kissed
that too; the necklace in his hands and held it lonj,
PETEH HOMUNCULUS 199
dreaming how he would one day clasp it about Mary'a
He exulted to have kissed her hand. " St. James. St.
James. St. James ! Blind saint, never to see the fauns
and numphs, the goat-legged creatures, the reed-pipe
dances. Wretched saint, most truly martyr. Pan ! Pan !
Pan! — Pan teaching a young faun his notes upon the
Miss Bastable gravely discussed the condition of her
lodger with her slave.
" It's a scented woman," she said with a sniff of
Tessa, so Peter heard from Mary, was lodged at
Barnstaple, where the gentle air of Devon would restore
Miss Dugdale paid visits in Surrey, Sussex, Kent,
and Peter followed her with rhaspody, and glowing
words. He soared so in these days of trembling happi-
ness, and sped so swiftly through the, air at dizzy height
that he must sort with common things, or touch stars
and be consumed. He would come quivering to the
pen, and never read what he had written before he sent
it to her.
A poem ran:
Ride in the air, winged horses, ride with me.
Souls leaping to the sun.
Swim in kind water. Me in grey green arms of sea
Learn all the spaciousness of Earth's humility.
Resolving two in one.
Sing, let your body sing, your soul chant with the earth.
Make music with the moon. *
Sun drawing life through you, create, create, give birth;
I, I, the instrument, bring flashings of God's mirth, —
Laughter, the child's boon.
She divined his condition, and fed him with idle talk
and gossip in her letters. She told him of horses she
had ridden, or beasts befriended; of sick persons visited
and children won from shyness ; of odd characters among
fellow-guests; of small adventures; of boys enamoured
and old men enslaved by Diana.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 201
" It has always been," sKe wrote, " that I am nicer
out of London; as who is not? I wish so much to share
green things with you. Already you have made me
sweeter, delicious boy. I heard Sir John Defries, the
judge, you know, and the kindest soul, ' Miss Dugdale
is a girl again.' They know my story. I hugged you
to me then. Sir John has been so good to me. He is
Some word she had written here, but had crossed out
again, crossed and re-crossed. Peter was hungry for
more tender words, and curiosity was roused only for a
In all the houses where she was there seemed to be
great persons, Swain, the lawyer, and Bankes, the young
Under Secretary, of so great promise; Barclay Coke,
the socialist writer and wit; Sam Barker, the editor of
the only respectable newspaper left in England; New-
ton, the publisher; Sir Isaac Moss, the financier; all
controlling men. She seemed to move so easily among
them all, and Peter, healthily a snob, was properly
impressed, though she had never given thought to that.
There was good physic in it, too, for it brought home
to Peter the awful daring of his love, that he, a little
student with no place to serve his kind, no ground as-
sured, of small achievement, should look so high and
not be blinded. He knew that she had raised him, and
" in this dear foolishness," as she had called it, had
taken him for her own, had stripped herself of armour
for him. In that strange and dreadful time, with Tessa,
they had been marvellously close together. And yet —
and yet — -■ — ; there was so much she had he must not
share, could not, by circumstance, enjoy, with her, from
sheer unfitness. His life had but begun with her, while
202 PETER HOMUNCULUS
she, with this, and this, and this, was formed, a creature
to give delight to thousands and bring sorrow to a few.
As dispassionately as he could, by an heroic effort he
viewed the situation and achieved a humility that he had
never known before, and never approached again save
once. He knew and so confessed to her that there could
have been nothing, no moment of that marvellous day
and night without the Cooper wisdom in which he was
saturated. In this mood he wrote out for her from
memory the letters, Clara's and young Cooper's, and
Mary wept for joy over the budget which she found
waiting for her at the Bassett-Crewes, her greatest
friends, and cousins of poor Warrington, whom she
found there melancholy and mood-stricken, with his frail
and gentle wife, another Mary.
She came to Peter's Mary with her woes and clung
about her, feeling her strong and sure. She loved her
Warrington, and, for he shed no light upon his doings,
being by nature secret and by adversity more, sought
the reason of his distraction and moroseness in herself.
She was very wretched, and Miss Dugdale could do no
more than listen. It had been long since she had been
a confidant, and, though she thought comically of the
Confidante of Tilburina in The Critic, she ascribed
her new warmth and power to attract to Peter, told him
so and set him greatly rejoicing.
More than ever alone, now that she was gone he
roamed through London, but no longer despondently.
He was full of charity to all men and keenly interested
in all that they did and were. He began to plume
himself on his perception, and in omnibuses and in res-
taurants, in streets or in the parks, would mark down
men and women and weave a history for them. Most
PETER HOMUNCULUS 203
often he was wildly in error in translating to them all
his own emotions and experience. A great thought came
to him as a result of these peregrinations.
" My emotions^ thoughts, and experiences are the sum
of all human emotions, thoughts, and experience."
Another thought thrilled him,
" There are millions of forms of life which I can
not see, nor feel, nor hear. How, then, if the whole
human fabric is erected on primaeval error ? "
This, of course, was only Cooper's Shelley cropping
up in him. He took it for a great new thought, and
enlarged upon it to Mary, to whom it was altogether
novel and shattering. In truth it was a ghastly idea,
and, chuckling over his own wit, he found the refuta-
tion of it.
" Impossible: for the human fabric is built on Mary.'^
To this she wrote:
" True, Mary is crushed."
This interchange of letters was great fun and kept
Peter happy and in a conciliatory mood, so that for the
first time he won a sort of popularity in the house in
Gordon Square. Since the momentous interview with
Wilson, the foolish boy had been practising inscruta-
bility on his fellow-boarders with disastrous results to
the peaceful air of the place. The remark of Mary's
" waspish little lady " had sunk home, and Peter strug-
gled to be himself, though most often he succeeded only
in presenting Cooper, Wilson, Scott, but made them all
charming. A cynical person might say that the whole
secret of it was that Peter made the boarders talk about
Cynics rarely do more than scratch the surface: they
are so lazy.
204 PETER HOMUNCULUS
While Peter roamed and loafed, and made new friends
and told it all to Mary, she in the country sang his
The Bassett-Crewe house was only five miles from
Wilson's cottage, and he joined their party more than
once. She never spoke to him of Peter, nor let him
know that she had met the boy: but Bassett-Crewe, a
solid man with mines and railways and whole king-
doms in America, to whom she had given what she could
of Peter's charm and gentleness, had come to Wilson to
ask him what he knew of Mary's friend.
" A brainy shop-walker," said Wilson.
" Miss Dugdale finds more in him."
Wilson sat on the parapet of the terrace looking out
over water to blue hills pine-clad. He smoked his pipe
" So do I. The phrase was spiteful. He is to stay
with me shortly."
" You must bring the marvel to visit us."
" Yes," said Wilson, and drew away from the topic.
He did not care for Crewe, because he had red ears.
They fell to discussing the theatre in England.
" Kemble, retired to Lausanne, was jealous of the
homage paid Mount Blanc," said Wilson.
Crewe laughed at this. Wilson was contemptuous,
for he saw that the good man had no conception of the
relation of men and mountains.
" This Davies. Can he write? "
" Very fast, I should say." Crewe stuck to his guns.
He was not to be repulsed by Wilson's humour.
" Could he write to order ? "
" The sort of stufi" that is written to order. Good
of its kind. He has an extraordinary memory, and can
PETER HOMUNCULUS 205
tag you with the best of them in Latin, Greek, French,
Mary joined them, and Peter was dropped in favour
of discussion of the new comedy wherein she was to
appear, an adaptation of Wilson's story of which she
had stood for heroine. Wilson grew animated, but,
Crewe prying, became irritable, bit at his pipe, wrinkled
his nose and tugged at his moustache.
Mary knew the danger signals, and steered a clear
course. Crewe left them, puzzled by odd Wilson.
" So rude," he said to his wife.
"I adore the man," she said.
" So do I."
Crewe was mystified and scratched his head.
" Shall I take you out on the water, Mary ? " said
He brought cushions, and together they went down to
the lake where was a Canadian canoe. He held it for
her, and she stepped in. Then slowly he paddled until
they came to where the water lilies grew thick, floating
cups, silver and gold. She gathered some and laid
them at her feet. They dripped water on her pink
linen. With her left hand she brushed the drops away,
and caught Wilson staring at the ring upon her finger.
He said nothing, but when she had enough of pluck-
ing, took her to where a beech grew low over the water,
trailing leaves and spreading, arbour-like.
" The gentleman among trees," said Mary.
" That's Peter."
"Yes," said Mary, startled into confession.
" The ring is Peter's, too."
" Yes, the ring is Peter's. An old man gave it him: an
old man who — who loved this country. I — I had great
20a PETER HOMUNCULUS
days with Peter: one evening when — when he gave me
this, and then again an evening when— when we
It was odious to have to justify herself with Wilson;
— if he should condemn — ^that could not alter Peter.
She looked across at the man, but nothing in his aspect
told her his thought, or if he took the matter to himself
at all. This ignoring cut deeply, opened old wounds.
He knew the pain in her, but could not help: only main-
tained cruel silence. She drummed with her fingers on
the canoe's edge. This irritated him.
"Why can't you be my friend? " she said. He mut-
" Peter says water is kind."
" Old Cooper said it."
" Mr. Crewe is starting a paper — a weekly. Will
you speak for Peter? "
" I have," said Wilson.
"Why are you angry?"
" I called him once an Achilles with brains. Who
^dits the paper?"
"Mr. Sandilands in all probability; it is Liberal."
Wilson filled his pipe again.
"You have hurt poor Warrington."
"What is it then?"
" I— I cannot tell you."
"Where is— he?"
" He ! I do not know. I think in London."
" Urging the wretched Scholes to libel."
"That is his trade."
" Hard words, Mary."
"I must be bitter."
PETER! HOMUNCULUa 207.
They were silent again.
" Will you go from here, Mary, before Peter comes
" I must not see him ? "
"Why sweep him into our coil? "
" A son to me."
" H'm. He has written to you? "
She gave wild Peter's verses.
" It is a betrayal."
" A boy " This contemptuously, and Wilson
took the paddle, and they returned in silence.
Near the house he touched her arm. She shrank
He said, " You must go, Mary, or I'll not let him
come." She was defiant for a moment, then caught her
breath and ran into the house.
Wilson took his bicycle, and to avoid the Bassett-
Crewes, walked across the park and out by the farm gate.
All that evening he sat and smoked. Not once did
Matilda receive a caress from him.
Mary pleaded a headache, and did not come to din-
ner, but by the window of her room read a new letter
from Peter in which he told her every affair of the heart
through which he had passed; such a touching simple
confession that Mary laughed and cried together over it.
She sat brooding on all that she had been, turning and
turning over in her mind the hard facts — ^her miserable
love for Wilson, the bitter hurt, the wild despairing
search for remedy; her disastrous marriage entered into
without thought, with no knowledge of her husband nor
intimacy with him, no spiritual life with him or sharing:
208 PETER HOMUNCULUS
hideous discovery, and the frightful moment when he
had struck her: a cruel man at his basest, but nothing
that he had done was fully known to her, until Tessa
came: he had tortured her, twisted her, must have with-
ered her, had she not left him for a sort of freedom,
but great loneliness. Peter had come, kind Peter, with
such understanding and sympathy, to give her warmth,
and now — and now — she must go — ^not right for Peter:
not fair for Peter. Just? — ^yes. She knew it to be just,
but cruel for her, who had done no harm nor wrong, but
in the blind squandering of tenderness. Peter too
young? But — ^but Peter had such words
The sadness of the moonless night came over her.
She wept: and presently she slept, head on her arm,
there by the window. So her friend, Cynthia Crewe, com-
ing to oflfer sympathy, found her and aided her to bed.
A large, kind woman, this Cynthia, a mother of fine
Mary stole away and hid herself by the sea, first by
Beaulieu River, and then at Mudeford on Christchurch
Bay. She did not write to Peter. She lay often in the
warm grass of the seashore, watching the light changing
in the water and on the sandbank at the Avon's mouth.
They said the bank would grow and grow, house mar-
tins and sea birds, put forth rough grass, until there
came a storm, whereon the sea would devour the Whole.
" I am so builded, and so I shall be engulphed,"
thought Mary, and sought comfort in the reflection that
Peter would not see the swallowing. " He must not,
The sea bred in her a savage humility, which,- sweet
enough in itself, was foreign to her nature and not
tolerable for long. She moved then to a small hotel by
PETEBl HOMUNCULUS 209
Lyndhurst, and sought the comradeship of trees. They
were comfortable, but in the end tormented her with
memories of old Cooper's letter of trees and babies, and
for her in the glimmer of the woods cherubic creatures
floated like bubbles.
Again she fled, and went far north to a homely sister
wedded to a farmer on the moors by Pickering. Here
she found strength: the great air of this place and rude
living fortified her, but did not altogether cast out
weakness, for when the time was come for Peter's visit
she wrote to Wilson.
He answered, but did not even say whether the boy
,was with him.
Peter, in fact, was not.
Two things had held in London — a letter from Bas-
sett-Crewe concerning the new journal, and asking him
to see Sandilands (the name was imposing for Peter),
and the desire also to discover the state of Mattie con-
cerning himself. Her letter showed that she scented
Peter had struggled manfully to act in accordance
with the accepted code, and had written at some length,
but, conscious that the phrasing was stilted, the expres-
sion insincere he tore it up. He seemed in his own view
to cut a poor figure.
And then — and then — no word came from Mary. The
last had been just before the flight from the Bassett-
Crewes, had spoken of Wilson, and the possibility of
the new journal providing work, but nothing of her
movements. Peter would have journeyed post haste to
Wilson but that he was still engaged with^ his fellow-
Student, and also busy with his professor upon research.
This man had shewn Peter some tenderness and special
210 PETER HOMUNCULUS
favour, and having an etymological theory was hungry
for disciples. Peter promised well, and worked absorb-
edly until the Bassett-Crewe letter came to send him
flying. Until it could become definite, however, he stood
loyally to his man, and grubbed with energy after
" Man first spoke in Asia," said the Professor.
" And the Himalayas grew the taller for it," said
Peter. The Professor scented no irony, was indeed im-
pervious to all such barbs, and said: "I dare say,"
absently, for he was intent upon an extraordinary use
of a dental in the song of a trouvere. Peter had read
many of these songs, and in the light of Mary-truth
found all troubadours and knights rather shoddy people.
He went to see the great Sandilands in a little office
in the newspaper regions. The man was known as an
" intransigeant," and Peter found him rather swollen
with importance, and on the perception of Peter's
youth he took on a patronising air. He sounded Peter,
and talked vaguely of the literary staflf, could promise
nothing, sent him away disheartened. The Professor
at least thought him worthy of courtesy.
Bassett-Crewe's letter, coming when it did, was not a
little unfortunate for Peter, since in the march towards
greatness it spurred impatience of the preparation for it:
and while Peter found it amusing enough to earn a
few pounds with the Professor in the root-grubbing,
the more dazzling prospect of an entry into good jour-
nalism made Peter realise horribly, and with too sud-
den an insight, that his examination was no great thing.
Too early he learned to despise the University and its
methods, and developed a vein of diluted Cooper irony
for the derision and contemning of education in general.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 211
Altogether Peter was in a lamentable condition.
Tender alarm had been the first result of Mary's defec-
tion from correspondencej then wrath, then sulkiness
and vanity injured. The role of blighted lover was one
that he enjoyed for a short period; he courted loneli-
ness, and in an asinine plunge into sentimentality he
revisited the scenes of wonder, heaving great sighs, and
in the end worked himself into a condition so stupid,
so dull and insensible as to destroy not only all his new
popularity in the boarding-house, and the almost awe
with which the little fellow-student with whom he
worked regarded him, but his own self-respect. He rec-
ognised the fall, but gloated over the wounds, and
drifted into slovenliness. He made no attempt to write,
dressed deliberately in his oldest and shabbiest, and be-
came careless in the matter of shaving, which, as his
beard was black, was a matter of importance.
If Sandilands had been kinder the worst might have
been avoided. Peter knew this and hated Sandilands.
Wilson did not write, and Peter hated Wilson. No fur-
ther word came from Bassett-Crewe, and him also Peter
But most Peter was filled with loathing for himself,
and so thoroughly enjoyed the loathing that he expended
such energy of mind as was left him in thinking out
new depths to which he might descend. He was so nicely
constituted, however, that he could think of nothing
worse than to visit Mr. Lawrence Greenfield.
He was hailed by the young gentleman as heaven-
Mr. Greenfield was not a pleasant sight when he
opened the door to Peter. He was towsled and un-
shaven, though it was half -past six in the evening. His
212 PETER HOMUNCULUS
face was puffy and mottled, and little eyes were sunk
and blinked in his head. He thought Peter unsightly,
and after some moments smoking of his pipe, nodded
his head and said so.
" Better not let Scholes see you," he said. " He'll
put you in his book. It's about drunk — drunkards."
" As to drink," said Peter, " let me refer you to the
remarks of Sir Toby Belch."
Mr. Greenfield stood blinking. He seemed to be
amazed by the literary allusion.
' Queer little — ^little devil," he said at length.
Peter, a little weary of waiting, said pointedly:
" Are you alone to-night? "
" Come in," said Mr. Greenfield, and Peter accepted
the invitation. He declined the whiskey and soda prof-
fered as soon as he had found a seat, and Mr. Green-
field drank it for him.
In a burst of confidence he explained to Peter that
his lady had cruelly deserted him, and Peter expressed
sympathy. Mr. Greenfield was touched and shewed
Peter a portrait of her successor, a young lady with
masses of hair and eyes turned heavenwards in mincing
Peter expressed great admiration, and Mr. Green-
" Like to go to see her? She dances."
Peter accepted the diversion, as he would have ac-
cepted a suggestion that they should, like Solomon Eagle,
set London in fiame, or stand on the steps of St. Paul's
hurling imprecations. He found Mr. Greenfield a bore,
but took him for a castigation of the flesh proper to
his mood and pose of martyr. Besides, having delib-
erately sought him out for the express purpose of deg-
PETER HOMUNCULUS 213
radation, he must pursue the creature whithersoever he
led, as Faust did Mephistopheles.
This comparison pleased Peter. Himself as Faust,
weary and sated with books, and poetic living, was cer-
tainly good casting, Greenfield was a sorry Mephisto,
however, in nothing clever, vicious only from lack of
" A silhouette of a man," said Peter. " I prefer men
in the round."
Determined to play the Faust game, he took this in-
ferior Mephisto and waited while he retired to his cham-
ber to array himself in gentlemanly garb.
In the room were two photographs of Miss Dugdale
placed in the centre of the mantelpiece on either side
of the picture of a faded old lady, obviously her mother,
the wife of the Devon watchmaker. It seemed then that
Mr. Greenfield, whatever his faults, had some sort of
feeling for the womenkind of his family, and Peter, who
had none, was set wondering.
Mary, in the earlier photograph, at the age of
eighteen, was a pretty fool, hardly pretty indeed, so
empty was her face. The later portrait showed the
Mary that he knew, splendid, tender, with wonder in
her eyes and sorrow. Peter' compared the two — his
Mary and the other who had no doubt been someone
else's Mary. Not the same woman ! His Mary was his
alone, his creation.
That thought struck him as profound, and true. He
noted it thus:
" Our friends are curiously the children of our souls :
so that in all real friendship, deep-rooted, there is some-
thing of the passion of creation."
It is to be observed that here Peter used the word
214 PETEBi HOMUNCULUS
friendship^ not love. He was so ashamed of himself,
and would not consider himself at the moment in the
more blessed relation with the woman. He had been
childish in his conduct, ridiculous and small in judging
her without word from her, and knowledge of the in-
ward happenings which had produced her silence.
He admitted this as he scrutinised her portrait, and
for four seconds was for stealing away without her
brother. The Faust prospect repelled him, but the hurt
to his vanity came suddenly, twinging, and he sat obsti-
nately to face the worst. She had exalted him only to
send him empty away, dashing him to the ground. Her
fault or his, the result was the same, and the greater
the descent the more interesting himself under the micro-
Besides, and this was the poorest excuse put forward,
be wished to study the habits of the genus Greenfield.
Peter had never been either borrower or lender, and
had not developed a nose for the predatory. An expert
would have marked Mr. Greenfield in a moment, and
would have avoided the proposed dinner at an expensive
eating-house. Peter, however, having committed him-
self to the guidance of Mr. Greenfield, complied in all
his suggestions, and, first diving into a bar (every en-
trance to the Temple has at least one tavern in its im-
mediate vicinity), they partook at Peter's expense of
sherry and bitters, a beverage new to him and rather
distasteful. They dined solidly, and in gloomy silence,
and when Mr. Greenfield shamefacedly confessed his
penniless state, Peter paid without a murmur out of the
five pounds he had drawn from the post office savings
bank for the purchase of a new suit, hat and boots,
prior to his visit to Wilson.
PETEB HOMUNCULUS 215
Mr. Greenfield's eyes gleamed hopefully as Peter
shook the pieces of gold out of his pigskin purse into
the palm of his hand.
" Money," he said, " is the root of all evil."
" No," said Peter, in his most fiercely dogmatic man-
ner. " Jealousy."
"I have never," said Mr. Greenfield, "been jealous
of anybody, man, woman or child."
" You lie." Peter was already weary of his com-
panion with his trick of swallowing a remark, pro-
found or otherwise, without applying it to any sort of
test either of theory or experience.
" I," said Peter, " I am jealous of your fund of
small talk: jealous of your appearance: jealous of the
assurance with which you accost a barmaid: jealous of
the insolence with which, without a penny in your
pocket, you bully a waiter: jealous of your capacity to
drink and lie and grumble: jealous of your easy con-
science: jealous of your mode of living because it is
so diflferent from my own: of your clothes: of your ac-
quaintance: of your work, because you are paid for it,
and I am not : of your untroubled relations with women."
" Untroubled ! " said Mr. Greenfield in protest. " Try
Peter did not heed the protest. It is doubtful, indeed,
if he heard it, so intent was he in his harangue. He
" Why, I am jealous even of the qualities in you
which I should most dislike to possess — of those per-
haps most of all."
" One of the first rules of modern play-writing is
to avoid the tirade."
Peter had not thought Mr. Greenfield, green dwarf
210 PETER HOMUNCULUS
with the clammy hand, metropolitan of unpleasant hab-
its, one-half so Subtle. The adroitly administered re-
buke staggered him, and silenced him. He allowed him-
self to be led without a word, after paying the bill, out
into the crowded Strand and away to a music-hall,
where, upon payment of five shillings, they were admitted
to a glittering promenade, where flashing women hov-
ered, leering, and men of all conditions lounged and
loafed. Peter quailed, and Mr. Greenfield, sensible to
his companion's innocence, donned the Mephistic char-
acter, and leeringly took charge. He seemed to be
known in the place, for uniformed o£Bcials, and the
vendors of tobacco and alcohol, had all a greeting for
him, while they looked askance at owlish Peter, blink-
ing. There were many young men of the Same kidney,
all smoking large cigars, all a little loud in their dress,
all a little fantastically affected in their mien, a night-
mare of Greenfields. There were tiny Orientals,
Siamese, and Japanese, paying attention to the largest
of the leering women. The whole place reeked with the
musky scent which was associated in Peter's mind with
that first encounter with poor Tessa.
Applausie drew their attention to the stage, and push-
ing their way through the throng they leaned over the
brass rail and gazed at the ballet, a beautiful spectacu-
lar effect which had roused enthusiasm. The scene
was a valley in France, a field near the ruins of a castle
of the old regime. The tree of Liberty stood sur-
mounted with its red cap, while in the new light of the
dawn peasants danced and sang and rioted. The ballet
was called "Revolution," and, after a Watteau scene
disturbed in its peace by the rude entry of wild boors
inflamed by the new ideal, shewed in its last tableau
PETEB HOMUNCULUS 217
that period in Frencfi history when the sun shone, and
the whole nation^ divining that the millenirium had come
and not suspecting that the tyranny of kings was to be
succeed by that of the army and the mob, went crazy, and
wine ran free. " Not the minds and small aims of gov-
ernors, but vines and corn are the life of the people " —
and " The truth of politics is that nations are governed
ill spite of them " ; these sentences the author of the
ballet had printed on the programme for motto, and by
way of text. Peter remembered reading the newspaper
criticisms of the production, and that the "ballet with
a purpose " had been flouted.
He found himself with all the multitude in the place
enthralled, and yet with an uncomfortable sense that
such sincerity in such a form for such people as he
saw around him — heavy faces, low in forehead, fatted
men, and women of small purpose, and no achievement
— was near the grotesque.
Out of the wild leaping throng on the stage came a
tricksy figure, tripping lightly, careless, gay, clad in
tri-color, and on her head the scarlet cap of liberty,
while round her shoulders tossed and flew long flaming
locks. All the house was silent save for a silly murmur
and the clink of glasses from one of the bars. On the
stage the little figure flew, speeding round with great
strides, feet pointing yet scarcely touching the boards,
hither, thither, in and out; urging, teasing, mocking,
crying out and swelling tumult, while strange music fol-
lowed her and mounted higher, higher, to a crashing
close, whereon she stood on tiptoe and threw garlands
to the mob and ribbons, red, white, and blue; touched
glasses with a few, then tossed her cap in air, and stood
with arms akimbo, head back, to drink the sun while
218 PETER HOMUNCULUS
the music from low bird-like twitterings swelled and
grew into the hymn of the Marseillaise. Silence then,
and the curtain descended. Peter, with the rest shouted,
stamped and roared and hurled his hat. A lackey held
the curtain back while the little creature came simpering.
Peter caught his breath and leaned forward. Evening
She tripped away just as he had seen her dance back
to the admiring crowd outside the bird-shop.
"Gosh!" and "Gosh!" again.
The curtain rose seven times for the little dancer to
appear, but each time she drew with her now this, now
" Like to know her? " said Mr. Greenfield.
" I do," said Peter. " I have seen her do a greater
thing than that."
"What is she called?"
" Mignon. I call her Mignonette."
" I knew her once as Evening Glory Jane. That
name is better: her hair, you know."
" She is going to America."
" The richest nation," said Peter, " buys always the
best of all the others."
" Yes," said Mr. Greenfield, fatuously. " I had an
offer to go there."
This met only with a disconcerting silence.
" She's quite new. Straight out of the gutter. Tubby
Haines, the ballet-master, saw her in the street dancing
like a mad thing, and took her into the corps for train-
ing. In this she was just one of the mob until the first
full rehearsal, when she burst out like that, and down
the stage she rushed. Haines cursed her, and would
PETER HOMUNCULUS 219
have sacked her, but Cantagalli, the author, was wild
about her, made her do it again and again, and there
she is, the success of the thing. All London comes to
see her, and they give her no more than if she were just
in the corps."
"A glorious gnome," said Peter, and no more. Of
his first acquaintance with the amazing creature he could
not speak with Greenfield. He was quivering still with
the pleasure she had given him. It had been so keen
that tears had gathered in his eyes, and she had, by the
perfection of her art, and the joyousness of her per-
formance, called forth all the best in him, so that he
was not a little ashamed of his recent self, ashamed of
his seeking out of Greenfield, and ashamed that he could
not now be more gracious to the hapless youth. He
strove manfully, but in vain. Intercourse with Green-
field was too heavy going. He was relieved when a
large florid man, fascinating in his loudness, wearing a
shirt with many tucks and frills, beringed and be-mon-
ocled, shiny in hat and boots, accosted his companion and
led him in the direction of a bar. Peter turned to the
After the whirling brilliance of Mignon, Evening
Glory Jane so marvellously translated from grime to
glitter, the other performances were flat, stale and un-
profitable: performing dogs, and acrobats, and young
women balanced upon wires, voiceless singers and
humourless comedians. Much the most entertaining
were the beasts, though they were pathetic, too — noble
brutes trained to perform fool tricks.
The grim irony of it seized Peter, so that he could
not bear to watch the poor women labouring to amuse.
iThe cruelty of it: Peter recalled all the old stories of
220 PETER HOMUNCULUS
clowns cracking jokes while their nearest lay dying, and
singers giving delight while all that was best for them
was lost; and he wondered to how many of the hundreds
in the auditorium did the thought come that these painted
creatures also were men and women with wives, children,
cherished creatures and belongings. Puppets, poor
wretches: with tradition to pull the strings for their
" Helots and slaves," thought Peter, "sold to please.
Mary is that, Mary a puppet, a helot and a slave.
Slaves: yet divine things, too, like the rest of them.
Painted dolls: but — but — ^what of the Empress The-
odora, and Mary Dugdale, and Evening Glory Jane?
These justify the thing — old Cooper's right. In all
trade there is the lie, and there is cruelty: but even from
the lowest truth peeps out."
Oddly the face of Greenfield's friend came back to
him, a large face, handsome enough and clever, but
by a certain thickness and puffiness distasteful. There
was a certain fineness in the head but that it was held
at too low an angle, as if for goat-like butting. Dark
it was, hair close-cropped and thin, bald a little on
the crown, and bald about the temples. Something
about it made Peter shrink and shiver.
" Either," he thought, " because the ears are too low,
or because the lips are "
Peter knew then that it was the man's lips.
He looked up and saw him towering above the throng
where the women admired him and seemed pleased that
he should throw them a jest. There was strength in
the man and among these people he seemed eminent.
A little man next to Peter seemed to admire the
pan, for he was gazing open-mouthed in his direction.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 221
He turned t» Peter and asked him if lie knew what
man he was.
" That," said Peter a little spitefully, " is a man
after God's own heart."
The little man withdrew before this acerbity, and
Peter was sorry.
To his amazement he found the hero bearing down
upon him, followed by Greenfield, who by contrast looked
little and mean. They stopped, and Mephisto said:
" This is my brother-in-law, Gertram Gond."
" You know my wife," said Bond.
Peter turned and without a word was walking from
the place when he felt himself gripped by the neck,
lifted clean into the air and sent flying. In his flight
he had a glimpse of a dark face grinning savagely,
with swollen veins about the temples and one thick
vein standing out in the middle of the forehead. His
foot crashed into a mirror, and glass fell to the floor,
reaching it at the same moment as himself, so that he
cut his right hand and wrist. Women shrieked and
there seemed to be innumerable faces peering at him
as he lay. They seemed to mock him. Then darkness
Later he found himself in the arms of a large
official being carried through a curious crowd. Men
and women whispered to each other the history of the
incident, and Peter heard one woman say:
" It's that Bond. He's got the hell of a temper.
They say she's going to divorce him."
" But why did he go for the little man ? "
"They say he spat at him."
This explanation seemed so comic to Peter that he
chuckled, and writhed in the strong arms that held
222 PETER HOMUNCULUS
him. There was a twinge in his hand and, holding it
up, he saw that it was roughly bound with strips of
" I can walk," he said.
" What there's left of you," said his bearer, and
Peter could feel his voice rumbling up inside his great
chest. Just so he remembered his father's voice.
They took him to the vestibule and laid him in a
chair while a doctor who happened to be of the com-
pany rebound his hand, and dosed him with brandy.
This made Peter cough and then feel sick, but it re-
stored the blood to his cheeks and dispelled his ghastly
Looking round, Peter could see neither Greenfield
" Neither Mephisto nor Silenus," he said.
" Gentleman's name is Bond, sir. We know 'im.
Half Moon Street. You 'ad ought to get a new
suit out o' this night's work. Where do you live,
Peter gave the address in Gordon Square, but see-
ing that they meant to call a cab for him, protested that
he coidd walk, rose to his feet and reeled.
Out in the air he felt stronger, but allowed them to
place him in the cab. He gave the kindly official half-
a-crown, and the cab was just moving when a man
leaped from the pavement and sat beside him.
It was Bond.
" Thank you, sir," said Bond.
The cab turned up Wardour Street.
" Romance and pasteboard," said Peter.
" Leather and prunella," corrected Bond, and throw-
PETER HOMUNCULUS 223
ing up an ann, he lifted the trap and told the cabman
to drive to 42 Half -Moon Street.
Peter turned to expostulate, but he felt such misery
in the man that he said nothing. The cab swung
down Shaftesbury Avenue into Piccadilly Circus, where
they were held in the traffic.
"Over there," said Peter, "your wife nearly ran
over me. It was my first glimpse of her."
He was afraid for a moment that the remark was
wanting in tact, but it seemed not to prick at all.
" Over there," said Bond, indicating a theatre, " I
saw her first six years ago; a supper on the stage. I
was just famous and flushed with it. We were pre-
sented to each other and she asked me what I did."
He laughed at the memory of it, but said no more.
They drove along Piccadilly by the Green Park, and
Peter for the first time noticed what a hill there was
in the great street.
" Does your hand hurt you ? " said Bond.
"How did you get away?"
"They know me."
" They said I spat at you."
Bond laid his great hand on Peter's knee and shook
it. The strength of it pleased Peter.
" It might have been someone more — more brittle."
The cab drew up at the given house and Bond de-
scended and paid the fare and more.
"Come in," he said.
Peter demurred. Sympathy with the man had gone,
and he was confronted with the fool-villain of his
conception on the night of the St. James Park
"What is it?" said Bond,
224 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" Silenus," said Peter, and on the instant was sorry,
for the man's face in the light of the lamp so plainly
showed a hurt.
" I beg you to come," said Bond^ " for company."
"Greenfield," said Peter.
"A cub. I beg you to come."
Peter descended and followed Mary's husband into
the dark passage and up the stairs to the second
An electric light switched on exhibited a careless,
comfortable room, in many of its details womanish.
There were flowers, glowing banks of them: books
and dainty pictures: a desk: large chairs.
In the centre of the room Peter stood riveted.
Over the mantelpiece hung a portrait of Mary, be-
witching, elusive, not happy, and for that all the more
attractive from the subtle smile behind sad eyes, the
marvellous eyes. Her chin was in the air as always,
and her mouth was soft, pouted a little. There was
no hardness in it, none.
Bond turned the light upon the picture so that all
the glory of the woman divined by the painter shone
forth, and Peter remembered words to describe a
"She was a great huntress and she bore many
He kept the thought locked and, turning to Bond,
" Thank yon."
" I saw you walking with her one night, by the river.
It is long since I have had word with her."
" I am sorry," said Peter.
" I struck her once."
PETER HOMUNCULUS 225
" She left me-
" To-night, also, you struck me."
" It was the same."
The huge man rocked suddenly, sat, stared hollow-
eyed at Peter, smouldering eyes; then buried his face
in his hands and sobbed.
Peter sat waiting while his brain throbbed in the
effort to grasp all that there had been.
Of all his adventures this seemed to Peter the
strangest, to be first assaulted by a man, and then to
come so near as to bring sympathy in the most in-
timate grief. The man was raw, quivering to a touch,
and for the very bigness of him and the strength, his
state was the more pitiable.
Peter could not find right words. He tried phrase
after phrase, but rejected all. In a flash came:
" No," said Bond, " full-blooded Narcissus. Worse."
" I," said Peter, " have been called an Achilles with
brains, and that is worse than either."
"What am I to say?"
" Nothing." The head was not raised and the voice
came thick with wretchedness. " There is nothing.
You understand marvellously."
Peter leaped at that. Old Cooper had called hiro
a rare soul, well-born. Understanding was surely the
mark of that.
" Let me tell you," came the voice scarcely audible.
" It is not for you to judge, but from sheer necessity,
to keep myself from judging — from thinking and —
you know the woman."
220 PETER HOMUNCULUS
"Yes," said Peter with eyes on the portrait. "I
know the woman."
" I knew she did not love me."
Peter wished to steal away. He dared not look at
the man for fear of meeting his gaze. He dared not
move for fear of hurting him. He sat motionless,
breathing noiselessly. His wounded hand throbbed,
but he set his teeth lest the pain of it should force a
" I knew that she had been hurt. I knew that she
was rushing for distraction. I knew that she was worn
and weary, almost in terror. I watched and watched,
and watched, saw her try this and that: I saw her wan-
dering among young things, among the helpless and
weak: I saw her always turn away uncomforted: I saw
her face grow thin, tired, almost hard: I heard new
bitter notes come into her voice, and all the while I loved
her. In the end she came to me, blinded and numbed,
not knowing and not caring what I had to offer her. It
was the best I knew: there. needed more for her. I
could not kindle her. Cold she was — cold, and I dense,
vain, hurt that she should be cold. I had been spoiled
by women — so many I had had unsought. She asked
nothing of me and gave nothing. I knew nothing
then — so much now. There was misery for both: she
cold, I stormy, gusty words, violence, and that hap-
He brought his hands down from his face and
Peter saw them clench and the whole body of the man
"She had seemed scarcely alive^ but then all veils
were torn asunder. She shrank in horror from me —
PETER HOMUNCULUS 227
something she saw in mie for the first time. She
■was great in that moment when I found and lost her.
I think in that moment of losing her I saw her for the
first time as she really was — but even then I knew
nothing at all of her — ^nothing, nothing, nothing."
Peter, out of his queer store of knowledge, could have
told him that even in the greatest moments all that is
not shared is hidden, and he remembered Clara's " How
well I know you ! " and that Cooper had never laid
claim to such possession of her.
" She left me. She left me. With her I had been
miserably alone, but without her the world was frozen.
I sank: drugs, wine, women, anything, until I am what
you see, a wretched thing, broken, clouded in mind,
uncontrolled and uncontrollable: a vain-stricken fool,
with wretched creatures for my comrades: for I have
To Peter this was the bitterest cry of all, for he
thought of Warrington, Tessa's man, a stout friend from
all accounts untU the betrayal. He had great pity for
the stricken man, and because words seemed to be ex-
pected of him and he could find none comfortable in
his impotence in the face of this tangle, he said
" From what I knew I judged you. I called you
fool — villain. I could not bear that — ^that she should
bear your name."
"You love her, then?"
" I do not think," said Peter, " that you and I love
the same woman. There is no absolute M — Mary."
"Where is she now?"
" I do not know."
22g PETER HOMUNCULUS
" I do not know. I have not had word from her
for long enough. Her brother does not know."
"Oh! Lawrence . . ."
Bond rose from his seat and took to pacing the room.
" Queer," he said. " I do not know why . ,.
Peter moved slowly to the door. The man was again
" Tessa," said Peter, " is in Devon by the sea."
The stroke was cruel. Bond stood menacingly with
his head low, moving from side to side, his face grin-
Peter stole away and walked home, turning over and
over in his mind the problem. Whatever the thing was
it had the virtue of immensity: Mary, Wilson, Bond,
Tessa, Warrington, Peiter, and through himself it
touched all those with whom he came in contact, even
the Professor grubbing for his roots. It had even
changed the destiny of Peter, the cat, for without it
Mary would not in probability have visited the bird-
A letter from Mattie awaited his arrival at Gordon
Square. It announced her presence in London, and
a desire to meet him by the della Francesca to
say farewell before departure to the Continent, since,
as she was to journey with her aunt, he might not
come to see her go. Peter scented womanish love of
intrigue and was a little repelled by it in conjunction
with the round unformed handwriting. With his new
knowledge of men and women he dubbed the letter
childish, and despised it. Youth had become a dread-
PETEBi HOMUNCULUS 229
ful thing to him, for late events had made him resent-
fully conscious of his own.
The next day, after a morning spent between his
fellow-students and the prayers of certain mediaeval
saints, he entered the National Gallery at the appointed
time, and sat opposite the " Nativity with Angels Ador-
ing." He was never tired of the study of the picture, and
found fantastic reasons for the elevation into the air
of the brown ox pressing forward to sniff the quality
of this new child before whom the pale kind woman
knelt and the throng of singing creatures made such
unpleasant sounds with strange instruments.
" The brown ox," thought Peter, " like the rest,
knows the quality of the divinity. The son of the
brown ox will know the same of every child, since
from generation to generation the beasts do not breed
error. What the sons of men have made of this same
child will not bear thinking on."
He turned and gazed at a Raphael Sanzio.
" O pretty liar>" he said, and would have harangued
the Italian master but that there came a touch on his
shoulder, and, turning, he saw Mattie standing above
him, a new, brown Mattie, with her hair almost turned
up and a frock that almost swept the floor.
Peter rose to his feet and she saw then his swathed
"Oh! Peter. How?"
" Mattie," said Peter, " I have been living a dread-
" It is true, I broke a mirror in a music-hall, and
am no more worthy to be called thy son."
"Qh! Peter — ^were you — ^were you ?"
230 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" I was not."
" To tell you I should need to return to the tempta-
tion and the fall of Man. I am not sure but King
David has a good deal to do with it, and I am certain
the apostle Paul is directly responsible."
Mattie looked puzzled.
"Ask no questions and you'll be told no lies."
"Does it hurt you?"
" It is rapidly recovering."
" You look ill and tired."
"I am going away soon."
" To your uncle's at Fernhurst."
"Adorable place. How did you cut your hand? "
" You will observe how marvellously Titian under-
stood the use of blue."
" That for Titian." She snapped finger and thumb
and walked away in the direction of the very early
masters. She walked well and Peter admired, though
more than ever he was conscious of her childishness.
She stopped and waited for him to approach. He
walked stealthily into the next room and gazed gloomily
at a dead Christ.
She had observed the manoeuvre reflected in the
glass of a picture, and waited for him to return, as
presently with rueful countenance he did.
Mattie hung her head, then with a sidelong glance
"Who is she?"
" She? "
" You are changeid."
Peter was silent. She was disarmed. He knew it
PETER HOMUNCULUS 231
and dared not speak. He was irritated by thie small-
ness of the thing contrasted with the explosive other,
but struggling to approach her he found that for her
there was great bitterness, not less real for its origin
in smallness. Peter had power, and knew that she
had not. He was aware also where priggishness had
landed him before, and fought against it now.
Simple Mattie's thoughts flew to matrimony.
" Are you going to marry her ? "
Peter choked in the efi'ort to suppress laughter.
" No," he said.
" If she loves you. She should not have let you love
her if — if she would not marry you. You see — ^you
see, I do understand."
This was too much for laughter. Peter mourned.
" My dear child," he said, and then found himself on
the brink of the abyss of priggishness. He started
back, and giggled from the strain of the mental gym-
nastic. His words had stung to fury, and Mattie very
properly turned and rent him.
"Child!" she said. "Girls of fourteen are older
than any man ever is. Child ! and yours ! "
Her scorn abashed Peter. He apologised for mala-
droitness, then was awkwardly dumb. He could tell
this girl nothing except — except what she had already
"I am going away," she said. "Perhaps for two
years. Will you write to me?"
" You wish it? "
"I should like it. I am your — ^^friend."
The crushing of Peter was complete, for in her tone
there was conveyed the recollection of tailordom, the
shop, and kindness conferred. She soared above him,
232 PETER HOMUNCULUS
and though he raged against it, he knew himself for
an upstart aping foreign manners. Yet for the gener-
ous sweeping away of all follies he was grateful, and
accepted humiliation at her hands.
She stood mockingly in front of him, surveying
" Do you know," she said, " I think you are nicer
than you used to be."
" I am much nicer," said Peter.
" There is also more of you."
" I am certainly stouter."
" Let us go into the Dutch room."
They went and sat before a courtyard of Peter de
" Tell me a story about it," said Mattie.
" I am so dwarfed that you will not hear my voice."
Mattie pondered that saying. She patted Peter's
"Great ladies," said Peter, "used always to have
dwarfs and antic creatures for their sport."
" If you are small enough, you may climb to my
shoulder and whisper in my ear."
" I am the tiniest of tiny men," said Peter, and
" Tiny man ! Tiny man ! Tiny man ! " rang in his ears.
His next remark was quite unintelligible to Mattie.
" His finger is so long that it is like a wax taper,"
The girl sought the explanation of it in the Peter
" There is no mannikin in any picture that I can
" He is the creator of all real pictures. I will tell
PETER HOMUNCULUS 233
you about him some day when you have a waspish
little lady of your own."
"Is this the story?"
" No story to-day. My voice is too thin for you to
" How queer you are."
" How queer we all are."
"But to-day, Peter: why? "
"Last night a very strange thing happened to me.
I saw the good reality of an odious man."
"Was that how you cut your hand?"
" No. That was before."
" Peter, I don't understand you ... I shall not
lose you, Peter. Some day I shall ask and you will
She was playing now with the buttons on his sleeve.
Peter looked tragically and remorsefully at Peter
de Hooch's picture as though it were at fault.
Suddenly Mattie's hand slid down to his: she leaned
forward and in a voice scarcely above a whisper
" Peter, we're both too young to know what it is.
Some day you'll know, and then I think you will come
to me. I am glad to go away ..." Peter did not
"Good-bye, dear," she said.
A large tear welled out of Peter's left eye and
trickled down his nose into his mouth, where the salt
savour of it was not altogether unpleasant.
She rose and sped away.
Peter sat gloomily staring, intent upon the process
of the formation of a tear.
" A muscle relaxes, I suppose," he thought, " when
234 PETER HOMUNCULUS
there is keen emotion. Bond last night, and to-day
He wondered then why people are ashamed of tears.
Bond had wept, and Peter remembered the feeling
of shame that had come over him, the curious tugging
it had given him to hear.
" Tears," he said, " are too intimate."
The idea came to him that he must go away out of
London. It was a place of too great excitement and
he was growing bewildered.
He wandered round the galleries and found relief
in the pictures, but he could not cease from thinking.
Angry with himself, he accosted a janitor and addressed
him in these words :
" Thinking is an unhealthy thing. You move in
circles and circles and in the end you know no more
than — ^than Podge Newhall."
The janitor, who was used to eccentric persons, said
He scarcely emerged from his stupor, only stirred
upon his stool and settled again.
Peter moved away and came upon two sailors sur-
veying the Venus of Velasquez. One said:
"D'you think she turns round at night, BiU?"
" These," thought Peter, " are men : strong men and
never tiny. What strong necks they have."
He pursued the sailors out into Trafalgar Square
in order to gaze at their necks. They gave them-
selves the delight of a drive in a motor-cab and were
lost to him.
Peter betook himself to the house of his Professor
PETER HOMUNCULUS 235
and plunged into more holy utterances in the langue
A week later he went to Murray Wilson's and was
warmly welcomed by Matilda. Wilson threw him a
curt greeting. Peter, as he drove into the garden, found
him lying in a deck chair sucking his pipe and lost
in thought. Matilda came tearing from the woods on
the sound of wheels on the gravel, and leaped joyfully
as Peter descended. Wilson had been remiss in the
matter of attention of late, and at the cottage Matilda
was accustomed to great games. It had been her first
home with Wilson, for Miss Dugdale had brought hel
as a little black puppy small enough to be carried ill
her muff one Eastertide before her marriage.
Matilda grew fat in London, and in the countr/"
worked a cure by the chase of rabbits.
" This is her Homburg or Spa," Wilson had said.
She accepted Peter as a possible playmate, and in
fact kept him busy all afternoon throwing tennis ball?
for her delight.
Beyond shewing him the room consigned to him, Wil-
son paid no attention to Peter until nearly dinner
time, when he said:
" We dine at Crosslands to-night."
Peter remembered that Crosslands was the name of
the Bassett-Crewes' house whence Mary had addressed
her last letter to him.
They drove in a gorgeous motor-car that came for
them and flew through winding lanes. Wilson swore
in a voice of profound melancholy with every jolt.
He became suddenly communicative.
" Crewe has red ears. One is hairy and one is not."
"How — ^how did he make his money?"
236 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" He caught hold of the right coat-tails."
Peter waited for an elucidation of this remark, but
" He does not wish to ente^ Parliament; he will
finance the journal for party service."
"I went to see Mr. Sandilands."
"A clever lout. He wrote to me. 'Young Davies
seemed very bright.' "
Wrathful, Peter drummed with his fingers on his
knee. He still wore a small bandage round his wrist
where he had been most cut.
" How did you hurt your hand? "
"I— I met Mr. Bertram Bond."
Wilson froze again and not another word was spoken
until they reached the door of Crosslands, where they
were received by a Butler and a Footman, august
creatures who inspired Peter with great awe. He had
once seen a butler, and knew something of rank and
etiquette below-stairs, for his father had had some
trade in liveries with the great houses in Leicester-
shire. The butler took Wilson's coat, the footman
They were led through the thickly-carpeted hall with
its trophies of sport (a great brown bear supported an
electric lamp at the bottom of the stairs) up to the
drawing-room. As they went Wilson muttered: '
" Don't be too clever. Crewe is slow of digestion."
Peter thus started the evening with a handicap.
Bassett-Crewe stood by the fireplace, hands flap-
ping coat-taUs, booming to two men of enormous age
who stood by him. The room seemed to be full of
charming and beautiful women.
PETER H0MUNCULU9 287
Mrs. Bassett-Crewe, moving to greet them with hand
outstretched, seemed to Peter so gloriously a woman,
so great that he could have knelt to worship her. This
goddess detected fright in Peter and took him under
her wing that he might gain confidence before the
plunge into new acquaintance. Wilson knew every-
one in the room and wandered from group to group
cracking the jokes that were expected of him.
Peter, unused to dinner-parties, was oppressed by
the atmosphere and the desultory attitude of host and
guests. He remembered no gathering more chilling
except that of his relations at his father's funeral.
" The first time I saw Cooper, he said to me, ' The
world is at your feet, but not for kicking.' "
" The bookseller in Shaftesbury Avenue."
" I remember. You must tell me about him."
Wilson here looked so comically woe-begone that
she laughed aloud — a laugh so like Mary's, though with
deeper notes, that Peter was thrilled. He found also
that Mrs. Crewe pronounced certain words with the
same odd inflections.
He spoke his thought.
" You are so like Miss Dugdale."
" We are friends. Poor Mary."
Peter longed to question, but Wilson escaped and
came to protest.
" I came to be fed. I will not roar."
" A very mild growl will satisfy that child."
" She will watch me feed. I told her Davies was
the coming man. She insists on presentation."
" Too bad," said Mrs. Crewe, and turned to Peter
to find him scanning the young lady who was absurdly
288 PETER HOMUNCULUS
conscious of his scrutiny and gave him her best pro-
Peter was led away a sacrifice^ and Wilson returned
to Mrs. Crewe.
" That is so like you." There was affectionate chid-
ing in her voice.
" I can't do with her."
" So Peter must? I was beginning to like my Peter.
It is extraordinary what he has done for Mary. She
came here almost — happy."
Wilson looked utterly blank and Mrs. Crewe stroked
his hand with her fan.
" I am glad she is to be in your play in the autumn."
This provoked Wilson to a remark.
" It is not like you to be so stupid."
" No. I beg your pardon."
Dinner was announced^ and they filed downstairs,
Peter with the interested young lady who had begun
at once to pay subtle tribute to his intellect. Half
way downstairs she said:
"Do you prefer comedy or tragedy?"
Peter heard Mrs. Crewe just behind them give a de-
lighted chuckle, and he floundered.
Through dinner the young lady pursued him re-
morselessly until Peter, astounded at the depth of his
knowledge ^nd the brilliance of his remarks, became
resigned. He was placed within reach of Bassett-
Crewe for study. Mrs. Crewe seemed miles away at
the end of the table, almost hidden behind little orange
trees and candles.
Peter knew that she was making Wilson talk about
him, and a remark floated up the table which he knew
to be a mot from the Cooper papers.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 239
The remorseless young lady turned from Greek
tragedy, whereon she discoursed of the relation of the
Bacchae of Euripides to the Licensing Bill of 1908,
to the newest comedies and from them to Miss Dugdale.
A fervent young attache, a cousin of the Bassett-
Crewes, desirous of breaking ground with the young
lady, caught at the name and plunged.
Mrs. Crewe strove to divert the stream and made
signals to her husband, but Mary was a common topic,
and the conversation became general. The unhappy
woman's history was enlarged upon, distorted, twisted
and coloured. Neither Wilson, nor Peter, nor Mrs.
Crewe, who knew the facts, made contribution. Mrs.
Crewe marked Peter's silence, and was firmly his friend
from that moment.
" Bond," said the young attache. " Someone told
me an extraordinary story about him the other day.
He's a great roaring fellow, they say. In some music-
hall he picked up a man who insulted him and threw
him through a sheet of glass right over the counter of
one of the bars. The fellow was cut about a bit."
Peter thrust his hand under the table, and another
voice took up the tale.
" Warrington and he were thick as thieves, you know.
There has been a row: some woman, they say, and now
old Stanley is going about calling down, or up. Hell-
fire on old Bertram's head. She doesn't live with him."
" I never could stand the man."
There the matter stayed, and Peter, much relieved,
plunged into a discussion of the influences of the Abbey
of Port Royal and the Jansenists, on Racine.
" I write a little," said the young lady.
240 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" That is very interesting," said Peter.
Peter gulped champagne and was immensely relieved
when Mrs. Crewe rose to his salvation.
The young lady dropped her fan, as Peter thought,
that he might bring it to her later in the drawing-
room. He gave it to the young attache, who seemed
Bassett-Crewe invited them to close up and made
room for Peter by his side. While port, coffee and
cigars were discussed, fire was opened, and Peter found
himself examined and cross-examined as to every de-
tail of his past life. He confessed to the tailor father,
and succeeded in finding an audience for the tale of
his early adventures. There came an explosion from
an old soldier:-
"God bless my soul, George Davies in the High
Street your father? Made breeches: never was such a
hand for breeches, though he could only cut them when
he was "
" I remember my father as most often drunk," said
" God bless my soul. There used to be swarms of
children in the shop."
" There were six of us."
" I have a pair still that he made for me fifteen
" You went to see Sandilands ? We start in Novem-
ber." This from Bassett-Crewe, who thought the remi-
niscences had gone far enough.
" Sandilands," said Wilson, " thought Davies bright.
The word is very like Sandilands."
" My examination is in October," said Peter. " The
results are published in November."
"What are you doing now?/'
PETER! HOMUNCULUS 241
" I'm helping one of the professors with his book
on the Romance languages."
"Somids dull/' said Bassett-Crewe.
" It's better than selling books : to make them, I
"People do write books on extraordinary subjects,"
said the old soldier.
" I remember cataloguing once," said Peter, " a
large volume called The Heralding of Fish, Notices
of the principal Families bearing Fish in their Arms,
with 205 charming engravings from stained glass, tombs,
sculpture, carving, medals, coins, pedigrees, etc., and
I remember adding an attractive note to the effect
that nearly 600 families were noticed in the work.
And besides the several descriptions of fish, fishing-nets
and baits, were mermaids, tritons, and shell-fish."
Peter stopped and confidence left him. He looked
across at Wilson and was comforted to find no dis-
" The mermaids, at least/' said the attache, " sound
" They were/' said Peter.
Bassett-Crewe looked round to see that cigars and
cigarettes were finished.
" Shall we go up ? " he said.
Peter felt considerable elation. Not since old days
in the shop bad he been so central a figure.
They found the ladies in the hall assembled to gaze
at a surprising moon behind trees, great beeches that
grew within a few yards of the house. An expedition
was proposed. Bassett-Crewe and Wilson excused
themselves and retired to the chamber called by courtesy
the library. It was the one place in the house not
pervaded with the Cynthia atmosphere.
242 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Mrs. Crewe turned to Peter as they passed into the
"Do you swim?" she said.
"We have a bathing-pool. You must come over
iand use it."
" I will bring Matilda."
" I once rode into a river on horseback/' said Mrs.
Crewe, and the vision of this great lady riding so
from a golden meadow into gleaming water entranced
Peter, and he gaped at her.
" Let me show you the pool." She started to walk
over to the beech trees, he following, away from the
" It is wicked to escape."
"I am glad of it," said Peter with tremendous gal-
lantry. She took it, laughing.
" I bring my babies to swim almost before they can
"Babies: like the world of them in Titian's picture
of • Fecundity.' "
" I do not know it," said she, and Peter described
it to her.
They came to a hedge of privet clipped into an
arch through which was only blackness.
" It is here," she said. " Oh ! with this moon
You must close your eyes and I will lead you. Close
Peter screwed his eyelids and she took his arm, and,
tiptoeing mysteriously, led him stumbling and totter-
ing; then held and turned him.
" Now," she said, and Peter gasped
PETER HOMUNCULUS 243
She held his arm and crooned delightedly.
They stood upon a rock whence rongh-hewn steps
led to the water's brim: such water, a soft still pool
of it, wherein were mirrored willows swooning and dark
firs, sweet dangling ferns and clematis, jasmine and
wild rose: the hill whence sprang the feeding stream:
long fleecy clouds, and, silvering all to tenderness, the
moon, not shewing all her splendour, crescent still. The
tiny stream rang tinkling notes and the soft warm wind
bore whispered melody from the trees.
" Such a night," Said Peter. " And such a place."
"Mary loves this place."
" Yes," said Peter. " She loves water. I took her
to St. James Park. It is the best in London. If I
could bring her here -"
In that place he felt brave: St. George for courage.
" Yes. If you could," said Cynthia. " Shall we
They turned to a little white temple built for a bath-
ing-house, and on a stone bench, brought from Italy,
they sat. They were silent for some minutes. Both
thought of Mary Dugdale.
At length Peter broke the silence, reciting from
" St. George, a ICnight of Cappadocia, came over into
a place called Lybia, where lived a King and people in
much terror of a huge Dragon which demanded tribute.
All things were offered to the worm, but he asked only
the King's daughter. When the King saw he might
no more do, he began to weep and said to his daughter,
' Now, I shall never see thine espousals.' Then re-
turned he to his people and demanded eight days'
24i PETER HOMUNCULUS
respite and they granted it him. And when the eight
days' respite were passed they came to him and said>
' Thou seest the city perisheth ! ' Then did he so
array his daughter like as she should be wedded and
embraced her, kissed her and gave her his benedic-
tion and after led her to the place where the Dragon
was. When she was there George passed by, and when
he saw the lady he demanded the lady what she made
there, and she said, ' Go your way, you fair young man,
that ye perish not also.' Then said he, ' Tell to me
what have ye. And why weep ye and doubt ye of noth-
ing.' When she saw that he would know she said to
him how she was delivered to the Dragon. Then said
George, ' Fair daughter, doubt ye nothing hereof, for
I shall help thee in the name of Jesus Christ.' She
said, ' For God's love, good knight, abide not with
me, for ye may not deliver me.' Thus as they spake
together the Dragon appeared and came ruiming to
them. St. George was upon his horse and drew out
his sword, and garnished him with the sign of the
cross and rode hai'd against the Dragon, which came
towards him: and smote him with his spear, hurt him
sore, and after threw him to the ground. And after he
said to the maid, ' Deliver to me your girdle and bind it
about the neck of the Dragon, and be not afraid.' And
when she had done so the Dragon followed her as it
had been a meek beast and debonair."
Peter ceased, and at that moment the moon was
hid behind a cloud, and the place where, they sat was
Mrs. Crewe echoed:-
" ' Go your way, you fair young man, that you perish
PETERI HOMUNCULUS 245
Then she rose and they walked to the house. Peter
" Do you know where she is ? "
" No more than you: but I suspect the Arun valley:
always a refuge for her. You will come and see us
" I will come to swim in the pool."
" I want my husband to like you — as I do."
"Thank you," said Peter, astonished at his own
Wilson was ready to go when they reached the house.
Peter went in to be assisted into his coat by the foot-
man, in whose demeanour he imagined greater respect.
Mrs. Crewe turned to Wilson:
" Such a dear boy."
" You women," said Wilson, " are an infernal
nuisance. But without you nothing is done."
That was all she had from him, but, knowing him,
she found in the words all that she wished.
Peter wished her good-night, and they plunged for-
ward into the darkness of the drive. The moon shone
again and Peter enjoyed sweet melancholy while Wil-
son grumbled because the car went too fast for him
Matilda was delighted on their return, partly because
she knew biscuits would be forthcoming and partly
because she had resented being deprived of her Peter.
They sat far into the night, Peter sipping a very
mild whiskey and soda and throwing biscuits to clamour-
ing Matilda, while Wilson walked up and down and
round and round the room, occasionally throwing out
a remark or an anecdote.
" Do you know John Levens I " he said.
240 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" No — o," said Peter, fearful of displaying ig-
" I'd like you to know him," and Wilson turned and
Bvent upstairs, where Peter heard him in his study.
He returned with an old book in his hand and gave
it to Peter.
" John Levens lives inside it."
Peter opened the book and found it to be a copy
of Legenda Aurea, the Golden Legend, of Jacob de
Voragine. Inside was written : " From all evill and
mischief good Lord deliver us John Levens citizen
Draper of London John Levens." On another leaf,
whereon was engraven a woodcut of a horse, there was
written in the same hand: " This booke doth lye as
fast as a horse can trott."
" John Levens," said Wilson, " first taught me the
value and place of literature."
"Yes," said Peter. "I am beginning to understand
some of the things Mr. Cooper used to say."
" We'll publish some of his papers. I'll write an
Wilson resumed his meditation, pacing, and Peter
rose to go' to bed.
" Bassett-Crewe is willing to try you in November.
He'll give you two hundred a year."
"Gosh," said Peter, and ran upstairs two at a time,
Matilda after him.
She slept at his feet all night.
For long hours Peter lay awake building gorgeous
palaces in Spain.
When Wilson had to return to town for the rehearsals
of his comedy, Peter was transferred to Crosslands,
for Mrs. Crewe thought that he should stay in the
country as long as possible.
Peter, therefore, wrote to his Professor to explain
his defection, and announced his projects for the
autumn. The gentle philologist applauded the spirit
of adventure and deplored the loss to science. He
warmly commended Peter's work. Because he was, in his
province, a very distinguished man, Peter was proud,
and shewed the letter to Cynthia Crewe^ who forth-
with took it to her husband. He sent it to the cur-
mudgeonly Sandilands, who had grumbled much at
having a tyro thrust upon him, and had offended Mrs.
Crewe by referring to her prot6g6 as a " raw little
Under the onslaughts of Sandilands, Bassett-Crewe
had wavered until Cynthia, defending, had said:
" Of course, I suppose it is natural for the sandy
ogre to wish to provide for that nephew of his, but
the paper is yours."
Nepotism was odious to Bassett-Crewe, and he had
When, therefore, Peter took up his residence at
Crosslands, by way of testing his worth and capacity he
gave him secretarial work to do; and Peter was com^
pletely happy in feeling that he was doing something
to justify his position in the house.
248 PETER HOMUNCULUS
He had said to Wilson : " It is so comfortable," but
living in the place he found the atmosphere good in its
ease and security, and in the smooth running of its ma-
chinery. His admiration for Mrs. Crewe knew no
bounds : her house, her gardens, her clothes, her children,
her horses, her dogs, all were perfect. Here and there
he learned what she had been to Mary Dugdale, and
how much her friendship had done for the dear woman,
and in a very sort time she had procured' from him a
Thrilling to the fresh romance, Mrs. Crewe wrote to
ask her friend to Crosslands to recuperate after the
fatigue of long rehearsals. She made no mention of
Peter's presence, and guessed rightly that secretive Wil-
son would not have uttered his name to her.
Mary came late on the Saturday evening when it
chanced that Peter was away at the other end of the
Mrs. Crewe was romping with her children in the nur-
sery. Hob, Patch, and Jane, all Mary-worshippers.
They were Indians bringing tribute of flesh, skins and
beads to Great White Squaw, impersonated by their
mother sitting in a wigwam of a clothes-horse covered
with a blanket, under a real totem pole. She smoked
and muttered gibberish and sniffed at all their offerings.
The Indians brought these with lamentable howls to
express humility, and grovelled with " wallah- wallah-
wallahs " of terror, while they waited upon the mood
of the chieftainess. Did she scowl and raise her hand
in menace, back flew the fierce hunters, Long-Eye, Sil-
ver-Birch, and Hugging Bear: yells upon yells of terror,
then hysterical laughter and the game began again.
When Mary entered the room war had been declared
PETER HOMUNCULUS 249
upon the cruel tyrant, and three redskins on the warpath,
fully armed, and knife in mouth, were crawling on their
bellies like serpents through the waving grasses of the
limitless prairie, while Great White Squaw olFered
prayer and sacrifice to the Totem, bowing in abasement.
For miles and miles the redskins crawled and Mary
dropped on hands and knees, a scout to spy upon them.
She smelt their tracks, and wrinkling her nose, ^aid:
" Pah. Dogs of Cherokees."
There was scouting, skirmishing, discovery, a despair-
ing charge, the palissade scaled, death to the Great
White Squaw, death to the slinking spy, capture of the
token, pow-wow, dancing, and ofi'ering of bear steaks,
bloody, to the War God. The camp was razed, then off
again on the track of honey-bears.
Mary, as a honey-bear, was captured, killed, flayed
and robbed of her claws for ornament: her corpse was
searched for honey.
She protested through laughter, and tears of laughter
that bears have no honey-bag.
" Peter says they has. And Peter knows."
The dead bear rose to her knees and looked reproach
" He is here," said Mrs. Crewe.
" Oh ! Cynthia ! " The mood for frolic was gone, and
the children, sensitive to the destruction of atmosphere,
stood anxiously and a little afraid. It was not like their
Mary to spoil sport.
She knew what she had done, was sorry, and left the
Out into the garden she went and past beeches to
the bathing-pool. She sat there in the little temple and
250 PETER HOMUNCULUS
blamed herself and foolish Cyirthia. Yet she rejoiced
that Peter was a personage to Patch.
That " Peter knows " rang splendidly, for, though to
Patch it might mean only the lore of honey-bears, to her,
clutching at sympathy, Peter had knowledge direct from
earth. He had written words for her so ridiculously true
as to provoke tears, and tears of late came not too easily
to Mary's eyes, not after the first wild shedding of them
in this very place where now she sat.
On the stone seat she had fiung herself and cried
aloud, sending birds whirling and water fowl scuttering
over the water's face. She remembered where a moorhen
had flown, touching the water to arrowy streaks, to hurl
itself into comfortable reeds far from the wailing
creature: and where a tit had cocked a comic eye at her.
The memory of the tit brought a smile to her face,
and she knew that that Mary was dead, and that her
sorrows were dead with her.
The new Mary so far as she was known, the mystery
of her unravelled, was whimsical, ironic, puzzled, wait-
ing upon the event; more generous, more appreciative,
glad of her friends as the old Mary had never been,
glad of Cynthia, glad of the new kind Wilson, more
silent and diffident than the old, glad of new-found
Tessa, and very glad of Peter, who had seemed at first
inevitable and then so easy to avoid.
After she had said to herself, " That was a girl — this
is a woman," and again, at Mudeford and Beaulieu and
Birpham in solitary days of pondering by gentle sea
and river. " For Peter's sake. It is not fair to Peter."
And now — Peter ! Fond Cynthia with her " Two
and two make four " and easy plunging into romance
had brought about this meeting desired, yet undesired of
PETEBI HOMUNCULUS 251
both. She knew her Peter and vowed that he knew
nothing of her coming, and so — and so — should she
"Peter does not know?"
" That you are here ? The boy is wild for you."
" Then I must go."
"You are happy, Mary?"
"^ow can I say? "
" You have so much."
" All that you have I covet."
" Peter wrote to me. I did not write to him. He
says you brought him to the pool."
" Yes. I said you loved it."
" The hill."
" I did not tell him."
"He calls it ours. May I tell you? These are his
words, dear words."
Mary spoke them softly.
" ' I am still by the wonder of you dazzled, and yet
80 sure of foot on these heights of ours. Do you know
that the hill, our hill, touches the farthest sky? It is
dangerously near the sun, and at night we shall touch
the stars. I have done it, and I thrust a finger into the
moon, so that it came away all love-sweet. Oh! All
this place cries aloud of you. Have you not made it?
Am I good soil for seeds of kindness? I can be for
the tending: there is at least that merit in youth.' "
She was silent.
" He is so young."
"Oh! . . . Mary," and Cynthia laid her hand
on Mary's, for she saw that her eyes were filled witli
252 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" Poor Bertram came to see me."
" He had met Peter."
Cynthia smiled. " Peter told me."
" He asks now what I have never given him. If you
could know the misery of it . . . "
" It has been so twisted for you."
"If Peter had come earlier ..."
" I could have played the woman."
" There might have been. But Buntie says "
(Buntie was an unexplained nickname given to Wil-
son and used by both women, all his friends and many
" Buntie says that if we Had the second chance we
should do precisely the same. I should."
The thoughts of both flew to Cynthia's period of re-
voltj and the splendid lover long since dead.
" I am happy now," said Mrs. Crewe.
" Perhaps I shall be," said Miss Dugdale, and sighed.
The rushing motor came up to the house and they
" The children adore Peter," said Cynthia.
" They must."
" He swims with them."
" I asked him once if he would swim for me."
" Your frock is charming."
Peter, knowing that he would be too late to romp
with the children, had gone upstairs to see them in their
beds and give them peppermint-creams, strictly contra-
From his bed Hob cried:
" Give the countersign."
PETER HOMUNCULUS 253
" A dark night and a heavy swell."
" All's well. Have you got the stuff? "
" A near squeaky touch and go, with the excise," said
" Give Jane some."
Peter filled opened mouths and sat upon Hob's bed.
'A story was demanded, and " Little Robert and the
Owl " was received with favour.
" Did you make that story? "
Jane was indignant.
" Buntie makes all his stories."
" Buntie is four hundred years old," said Peter. " I
am only fifty."
Hob was too old for kissing, and Patch from emula-
tion was beyond it.
Peter kissed Jane and went down to the library to
deal with- the evening letters, arranging them in their
piles of the important, the unimportant, and the silly.
He found one for himself from Mattie, re-addressed
by Miss Bastable to him " At Crosslands," though he
had given his address as care of William Bassett-Crewe,
Esq. Miss Bastable was above all things genteel.
The letter was long, written from an hotel at Aries,
where Mattie and her aunt had stayed entranced with
the place. They had journeyed first through Normandy,
Rouen, Falaise, Bayeux, St. Lo, Countances, Chartres.
" We saw the Cathedral at Chartres by moonlight.
Auntie cried, and I was troubled. Oh! Peter, how you
would love it! There is a kink in the aisle, and the
windows ! Of course, they have ugly statues and
pictures. I gave fifty centimes to St. Anthony and
wished. They say he always gives, and there are tablets
254 PETER HOMUNCULUS
on his pedestal, " Merci, Merci," and the date, mostly;
I think, for the gift of children. There are always
women. Auntie says, kneeling before him, and he has
hundreds of candles."
All her letter was in this vein, some rapture, queer
little stories, praise of her aunt, delight in new things,
strange people, unpleasant English. From Normandy
she jumped to the Loire: Angers with its dark towers.
Tours, Blois, Chinon, Chenonceau, darling places. Then
Provenje and the sun: Nimes, Aries.
Mattie was curiously aloof, only in her postscript did
she come near to old relations.
" Demei>er is with me, but in travelling her head has
broken off. What does it mean? Perhaps I shall be
able to mend her."
Peter put the letter in his pocket, and went upstairs
as the dressing-gong sounded. He met Crayes the foot-
" Is Mr. Crewe come back? "
" No^ sir. Not till Monday."
" Thank you, Crayes."
Crayes bowed respectfully, to Peter's delight. It was
a great joy to him to mark the growing deference of
these mighty beings, though he never dared remonstrate
with the second footman, who always spirited away his
clothes for cleaning just when he wanted them.
He was surprised to see a light under the door of a
bedroom near his own, and to account for it invented
an absurd ghost.
" The ghost," he said, " of dead Demeter." He pur-
sued the ghost through wild -adventures, weaving them
into lurid form for Cynthia's children on the morrow.
He found Mary seated in a low chair in the drawing-
PETERI HOMUNCULUa 255
room staring into the fire. Her back was towards him,
and without turning she said:
" How do you do, Peter? "
In three strides Peter was across the room and by her
side. He took her hand and kissed it, then knelt and
she tugged at his hair.
"A brown Peter."
"I am fat."
"I am a little younger than Jane."
" Here it is impossible to be old."
" I love it — Crosslands. I had not dreamed of such
places — and Cynthia."
Mary was silent.
" Did she tell you I was here.? "
" No, or I should not have come. Not so close to
"Must I not?"
" No — over there."
Peter in obedience moved to the other side of the
^replace, then he leaned forward.
"Have you heard of Nehemias Grew?
"A gardener. He was before Linnaeus. Flowers
have honey guides, spots of bright colour, heavy vein-
ing for the visitor. I watched them first that day when
I met you in the Gardens. I had not then heard of
Nehemias Grew, and did not know that the commonest
flower is adjusted to the length of a butterfly's leg or
a bee's tongue. I know. This is for you. Truth,
Mary — ^truth. There is an elder-bush, Mary, where on
midsummer night the king of the fairies holds his
eourt, and they sport upon wild thyme. There was such
25G PETER HOMUNCULUS
a moon three nights ago that they took it for midsum-
mer, and I saw them. They drove me out because I
was not with you. They "
"Oh! Peter. You have said it all."
"Again, then. Why did you go? "
"I should go now. I must, unless you promise."
" I have your handkerchief."
"Give it me."
" It is in my room."
He raced to fetch it, and with it brought the pink
topaz necklace that had been Clara's. He tumbled both
into Mary's lap and gave a shout of glee as she took the
pretty thing in her hands. She looked troubled.
"Oh! Peter. This for me?"
" Yes. Did I not tell you ? It was old Cooper's, in
his desk. It was his Clara's."
" It is so pretty."
Mrs. Crewe, coming into the room, was called to ad-
mire, and Peter, as he had dreamed, clasped it about
Mary's white throat.
" Some dreams are realised," he said.
Romantic Cynthia divined his meaning and laughed
They were merry at dinner, but Peter was disturbed a
little, for he had found yet another Mary — Mary with
Cjoithia: not less adorable than the others, but strange.
A great lady, precious indeed, but remote: and though
she smiled across at Peter sitting opposite to her, she
Peter entertained them with reminiscences.
" We expect great things of you, Peter."
" I am an egg," he said, " which will prove addled
from too much sitting."
PETEB HOMUNCULUS 257
" You think we are broody hens."
" It is to be observed that I have no single friend of
my own age."
To Mary this was calamitous, and this egoistic Peter
was to her a new thing and a deplorable.
He added : " You see, I grow too fast/' and was at
once sorry, for Mary was so palpably hurt. She turned
to Cynthia. Peter shrivelled and sat miserably making
bread pills. It seemed that he had no concern with
them, save that the nine pink topazes winked mockingly
at him. He had counted to gain so much by the gift,
but here he was beggared, and he thought:
" I have climbed into a class which is not my own. I
cannot go back, and if they will not let me forward,
then — if they ignore me, then — ^if it is certain that I
am unworthy, then "
What then was not quite clear — there was no leaping
the obstacle — gloomier and gloomier in his thoughts he
arrived finally at death, and with almost a sob in his
voice he said:
" Demeter is dead."
" My dear Peter."
In the most tragic voice Peter said:
" There is a legend of the myosotis of a lover who,
jgathering flowers for his lady, fell into a deep pool
and threw a bunch at her feet, crying as he sank for
ever from her sight ' Forget-me-not.' "
" She should have saved him," said Mary.
" Perhaps she did not love him," said Cynthia.
" I expect she could not swim," said Peter, who from
hearing himself talk was beginning to emerge from his
gloom. Mary, who had been seeking in herself the
258 PETER HOMUNCULUS
cause of it, brightened, and for the rest of the meal
they talked engaging nonsense.
" If only Buntie were here/' cried Cynthia, and, at
once leaping to the tactlessness of the remark, she rose
and to atone ran and left them.
" To the hill," said Peter, and wrapped his Mary in
a blue shawl, round her shoulders, over her hair and
under her chin. He was near her and stared very hard
at her lips.
" I have never kissed you."
"You must not."
" This night is ours."
'"Say rather yours and mine."
" Together— ours."
"Yours and mine."
" In my letter I said ' Ours.' "
*' For that I did not answer it."
"My arm," he said.
She took it and they scaled the hill where tall beeches
" It is so dark," she said, and he led her to the edge
[where they looked across the valley and a sea of rising
mists. Trees loomed and the chimneys of the house*
From another hill there signalled comfortable lights.
" The glow worm's light is a signal to her lord — ^the
lamp of Hero."
" I said — do you remember? Leander never came."
" There was a new Mary to-night."
" There are so many that you do not know."
"'I will know them all."
"'You may not."
"Oh. Let us go." She clutched his arm, and sfie
iwas trembling. She was peering through the darkness
PETER HOMUNCULUS 259
up at Peter. He stooped and gazed into frightened
"What is it?"
" This place — ^this place."
" What then ? What then ?. "
" I am cold ..."
Peter threw an arm round her.
"Warm, warm in a cold world," he whispered.
" Yes, yes. It is that. Cold, cold for love."
" Mine ! " cried Peter, and enfolded her, stooped and
met lips seeking his.
She beat with clenched fists on his breast, and ran
from him. He spun round and flung himself on the soft
beech mould and plunged his arms into the cool stuff
and snuffed the scent of it. Then up he sprang, and
after her to find her hugging a tree, crying, crying,
crying . . . He leaped to her and embraced Mary
and tree together.
Then " Hush," he said, and Mary feigned terror.
" They are there," he said. " The little people by the
elder tree. See, see, secj glow-worm torches, silver
lights dancing. How they dance, in and out and round
about: elfin music, tiny elves. They dance to the
rhythm of Mary's name. Mary, Mary, Mary. See the
KiiTg there on a toad-stool, over there that great red
toad-stool, and the Queen reclining in the spider's web
in the heather clump."
" I see them. Oh ! I see them."
Peter stooped, and held his closed hand to Mary. She
"A small goat-footed boy — an envoy. What does he
260 PETER HOMUNCULUS
"Just music." •'"
" I cannot speak."
She was pale and swaying. Peter held her and for-
got the game. He laid his cheek on hers and chafed her
hands and came upon his ring.
"You wear it still?"
" It never leaves me."
" You are cold. Let us walk."
Out of the woods they walked and down a lane until
they came to the brow of a hill whereunder a great iire
blazed, shewing by its light a hut, a smoking heap, and
a black figure moving.
" A charcoal burner," said Peter. " Shall we ask his
blessing also ? "
" The first human thing," said Mary, and so delighted
Peter that he took her in his arms again and kissed her.
" You are warm again."
" I have hugged you close." They ran hand in hand
until they came to the charcoal burner, who stayed in
his work and stood scowling, blinking, filthy of face
and uncouth of manner, at this strange casting forth of
the night, a lady and a gentleman in fine raiment,
washed and washed to unimagined cleanliness. He
turned and slaked his heap.
" Have you a name? " said Peter.
" Smoky Wootten's what they call me. Christened
" You Uve here?"
" In the woods. Wood's my living, and Bessie's and
" A baby ? " Mary hugged Peter's arm. Smoky
Wootten jabbed with bis thumb in the direction of the
PETEE HOMUNCULUS 261
hut. And on the instant Mary fleWj her skirts gathered
up. Smoky Wootten's eyes followed her.
" That's a fine wench," he said, and spat on his heap.
Mary called to Peter, and he went. She had found
the mother suckling the baby, and, when it was fed, had
taken it in her arms while the little woman hovered
anxiously. The baby slumbered in Mary's arms, who,
on Peter appearing, cried to him:
" Its feet, Peter. Its dear feet, the toes of it and
the little dimpled heel."
" I like the creases where its ankles ought to be.
Does it know yet whether it is a girl or a boy? "
" A boy, sir," said the woman.
" Liberal or Conservative ? "
Mary laughed. Her face was radiant as she held
the tiny creature, and with her hand caressed its feet.
" A real, real, real wild baby, born in the woods."
" AU babies," said Peter, " are wild. They grow on
Mary kissed the baby and restored it to its mother.
" Has it a name yet? "
" We thought of Thomas."
" Call it Peter." -
Mary flung out her hands to him, and he kissed them.
He had half a sovereign in his pocket, and gave it to
the woman as they left. They bade Smoky Wootten
good-night as they passed, and he swore at them. As
they climbed the slope fhey heard the woman come
" Tom, Tom. It's gold. He gave me gold. They're
lovers." Smoky Wootten took the piece and bit it, then
thrust it in his pocket.
262 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" They're mad, them gentlefolk. Mad. Twins next,
old girl: and let the old heap look to herself."
Peter and Mary wandered further through meadows.
He burst into song.
" I have seen Mary, real golden Mother-Mary."
From her there came only the sound of a sob stifled^
and while Peter sang softly she spoke no word.
They turned presently, and found the road that
should take them to the gate of Crosslands. A heavy
shambling figure passed them and growled " Good-
night." Peter put out a hand to hold him for the
exchange of philosophy, but the man thrust him off
with an oath, and plunged into the darkness at a trot.
It was Smoky Wootten hurrying to the village and
" Are you wearied, Mary? "
Such a mournful voice came:
" It has been too much."
"Oh! I am sorry."
He held her so that he bore much of her weight.
At the house, she said:
"Good-night, dear, dear Peter."
" I will not see Cynthia."
" Cynthia will be glad."
" You must not tell her."
" Then you "
" Yes. What there is to tell."
" Demeter's ghost. I told you Demeter was dead.
She has lost her head* I think she must have found
" The cat? "
" No. The baby that she nursed,"
PETER HOMUNCULUS 268
" I do not understand."
" Neither do I. Some day I will explain for you — >
and for myself."
"Good-night. Is Cynthia to know nothing? She
made it possible."
" No— nothing."
" Then I shall tell Jane."
" Her you may. Good-night."
He held her hand.
" Really good-night now."
He released her. Then would have held her but she
Peter entered the drawing-room, and without a word
sat at the piano. With one finger he played the air of
"A freezing melody," said Cynthia.
"That," said Peter, "is the Litany of tfie Virgin
Mary. I heard it once in the Cathedral at Westminster.
It is very pleasing and almost induced me to take an
"What is an eremite? "
" An eremite," said Peter, " is a person who has never
seen the King of the Fairies sitting on a toad-stool."
" Have you seen him to-night? "
" I may not tell you/' said Peter, and Cynthia smiled
as she poked the fire.
" Mary has gone to her room," said Peter, and Cyn-
thia smiled again. She thrust at a bubble of tar in a
" My husband is very pleased withi you, Peter."
Peter endeavoured to look modest.
264 PETER HOMUNCULUS
"He talks of having you for secretary."
" I would rather write for his journal."
" You can do both. You will earn more. If you
will do that you must live near us."
" Leave Gordon Square.'' " Peter was up and stand-
ing over her in a moment.
"It is out of the way, and if you are going to belong
to us "
"If? I do."
This sudden hoisting to security almost took Peter's
breath away. The interview with Sandilands had dis-
couraged him, and he had not dared to contemplate the
future. These weeks of happiness at Crosslands had
made the survey of it more than ever bitter. It had
opened up new ground, new lands of rich promise, and
though he was not lacking in confidence in himself, yet
he had been led in these great days to insist in self-dis-
section on those qualities which he lacked rather than
on those which he had.
" Perhaps," said Cynthia, " I should have said noth-
ing to you until my husband made you an actual pro-
posal, but I am so grateful to you."
This embarrassed Peter, who thought that gratitude
must be from his side. He picked up a bluebird from
the mantelpiece, and reading the inscription, said:
" What is a griinspecht? "
" You are delightfully irrelevant. You have made
Mary happier than I have known her for years. She is
almost as I first knew her."
Peter took refuge in sarcasm.
" It is an earth-shaking event."
" Every event is earth-shaking."
" Yes," said Peter. " There was once a widow-woman
PETER HOMUNCULUS 265
of great cleanliness and unimpeachable respectability,
for she was of the middle class. Being poor, her chil-
dren must attend the public elementary school. One day
she found a louse in her daughter's hair, and the whole
world burst into flames, and was consumed."
"Oh!" said Cynthia, shocked.
"It is a parable," said Peter. "An earthly story,
with a heavenly meaning."
Then he sat down, and because Mrs. Crewe looked so
kind he plunged into confidence, and told her all the
Mattie story. When it was finished, with the recounting
of the breaking of Demeter, because she was silent, he
"How old is Mary?"
She, startled into truth, said, " Thirty-one."
Peter, at his most whimsical, rejoined:
" She is not old enough to be my mother."
He waited still for comment.
All she said was as she stroked his head — ^he was
sitting at her feet — " There is yet no practical issue to
discuss. It is time for bed."
" If only," said Peter, " I had had a mother like
" If only," said she, " my Hob may grow a little like
As Peter reached the door she said :
" Mr. Wilson is forty-four."
The remark filled Peter with dismay. Passing the
door of Miss Dugdale's room, he saw that she was not yet
asleep, and he had an insane desire to call to her:
"Mr. Wilson is forty-four."
He controlled the impulse, and as he traversed the
few yards of the corridor to his own little room he
266 PETER HOMUNCULUS
thought: " He is forty-four. Just twice my age. That
he will never be again."
This reflection struck him as enormously clever, and
he chuckled. As he turned the handle of his door he
heard a door open, and looking up he saw Mary emerge
fully dressed in morning costume, and pass along in the
direction of the great room where Mrs. Crewe slept. He
would have cried out to her, but words would not come.
He found that he was trembling, and, putting his hand
to his forehead, that a cold sweat had broken out upon it.
He passed into his room, but did not turn up the
lights. The moon had risen and pale beams streamed
in through the window. The night was insufferably
hot, and he lay fully dressed on his bed cogitating the
events of the evening. He conjured up an image of
Mary, first Mary young as in the early portrait in
Greenfield's room: then Mary as she had been in the
little brougham more than five years ago; then the Mary
of the stage: the Mary as he had first known her: tha
Mary of the bridge in St. James Park: the Mary of the
hill when for the first time he had kissed her: and last
the Mary he had just seen walking along the corridor.
How bravely she walked! Gallant! He had the com-
fort of finding the right word. He turned to all that
he knew of her, all that scandal had said of her, and all
that he had discovered. That she had been unhappy was
easily dismissed: that she was still the wife of the
wretched man in Half Moon Street mattered not at all:
but beyond that lay a region unexplored, mysterious,
baflJing, terrifying. Peter's brain whirled, and his
breathing came heavily. He thrust and thrust at the
thing. It was like walking into a myriad of spiders'
webs. He tore away and perceived this one word:
PETER H0MUNCULU9 267
Oyer and over again there buzzed to the air of the
Litany of the Virgin Mary:
" Wilson is forty-four. Good Lord deliver ns ! "
Peter remembered the occasion when he had wished
to strike the man, and had carefully chosen the spot
between the eyes. He clenched his fist now and struck
out at the visualised face hanging in the air, as old
Cooper's face had hung that first day in the shop. His
fist smashed right through it, and Peter dashed his
knuckles against the wall.
" This will never do," he said, and strove to bring
himself to ecstasy by murmuring " Mary ! Mary !
Mary ! " In vain. His lips were parched, and he
moistened them with his tongue. Slowly these words
framed themselves in his mind:
" Do I really want the woman ? "
He shrank from the question, and refused to find the
answer to it. He evaded it by framing another more
" Do I really want any woman ? " This again was
avoided by a further question, and yet more and more
" Does any man want any woman, or any woman any
man.^ Are these wild flashes more than things of a
moment? Why? Why? Why? Does Podge Newhall
really want my sister? How long would Bond want his
— ^his wife if he could have her? Why do men and
women live hideously together? "
There came back to his mind that memorable utter-
ance of his father's in the parlour behind the shop.
" You to talk. You're any man's woman." Then the
questions buzzed again.
268 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" Is not every woman any man's -woman? Is not
every man any woman's man? Why property? Why
impossible pledges? Why pretend so much that is
obviously false? Why build upon a lie and call it
sacred? Why do lies kill loving kindness? Why?
Why? Why? and why again? What does she want of
me? What can I give her that she has not alreadj
tasted bitterly? What am I to her, or she to me? "
Peter groaned and rolled from his bed. A cool, moist
wind came in at the window, heavy clouds were in the
sky, and over beyond the hills was black menace. In
the thick air the little wind seemed a thin stream.
He lit his candle and caught sight of himself in a
" Damned ugly I am," he said.
The wind shrieked suddenly and blew his candle out.
The curtains bellied up into the room. He undressed
and dressed again in his blue-serge suit, then tottering
and afraid he crept downstairs and out at the door.
He looked up and saw a light in the window of Mrs.
Crewe's room, but in none other. There was a crack in
the sky like the tearing of cloth — lightning flickered,
then thunder rolled. A heavy drop of water spattered
on to his forehead.
Mary appeared at the window to look out and up at
the sky. She made some remark which Peter could not
catch. A flash of lightning illumined her face. She
looked marvellously beautiful.
Peter sobbed, and, stooping, he picked up a clod of
earth and threw it at her. It struck the tiles of the
wall ten feet below the window, was shattered, and
tinkled down into a gutter and on to the ground.
The rain came, swooping, and in a trice Peter's
PETER H0MUNCULU9 269
clothes were soaked and heavy. A glorious warmtH
filled him, and he turned and ran, ran blindly througK
the park up through heavy lanes, past farms and cot-
tages, stumbling, slipping, falling, blundering into
thorny bushes, spattering mud, tearing his clothes, up
and up to Blackdown Hill, where at the summit he came
to a little temple of pine trees growing at the edge.
Here he fell and lay in the wild weather, sobbing, sob-
bing, because he was so miserably alone.
Presently he stood on the height looking down over
the wide valley, over the downs towards the sea, butting
with his head against the tearing wind. He blotted
Mary and all questions from his mind and fell back
upon low oaths and pothouse words. He climbed to the
tall crest of a tree and hung there swaying to the wind.
Two trees hard by had grown together, and they
screeched. The wide rhythm of the swaying and the
storm soothed him, and he shouted greeting to each flash
and hail to every crashing thunder, and the wind swept
the tiny notes from his lips as he uttered them. Branches
were wrenched from his tree, but he clung there crying
aloud. He saw great trees fall to the ground and
stones, wood, and earth hurled through the air.
The storm passed and stars shone again. Peter
clambered from his tree, and down the hill he leaped,
great flights, until he came to the pool. Here he stripped
and bathed, and after ran naked through the park.
He stole up to his room again as dawn was peeping;
He slept heavily.
It was a wretched and sorry Peter who crept down
to breakfast at a late hour. Near the door of the dining-
room he sneezed violently and realised that he had a
very severe cold. When he opened his mouth to pro-.
270 PETER HOMUNCULUS
nounce tlie morning greeting there issued only a
grotesque rattling noise which brought tears to his
Mrs. Crewe prescribed quinine before breakfast and
He noticed that breakfast was only laid for two, and
that Mrs. Crewe had already come to the end. He was
more than usually taciturn and munched in silence.
Her first thought was for his cold, then only for the
hurt she had to deal him. She watched him until he
became conscious of her scrutiny and fidgeted irritably.
Decidedly he was unwell, and she was solicitous for
him. She observed that he tasted his food, then thrust
it away, sipped his coffee and left that too. Without
his usual polite request, he began to smoke, and that she
took for the worst sign of all. He rose and stood look-
ing gloomily out the window at the glorious day, then
came and stood by the empty fireplace as though he
hoped to gain warmth. She noticed, too, that he had cut
himself in shaving. He sneezed again, so that his whole
body shook, and he clutched the mantelpiece to steady
himself again, and, his right hand sawing the air, he
swept a photograph of Mary to the hearth. The glass
of its frame was shattered, and it lay there face down-
wards. Cynthia could bear it no longer. She went to
him and laid a hand on his shoulder.
" Mary has gone," she said.
" I'm not going to cry about it," growled Peter, and
sneezed again. " I threw a clod at her last night."
The whole thing was so ridiculous, Mary's second
fiight from a boyish lover, his cold and sneezing only
made matters worse, and Cynthia, desiring to offer sym-
pathy, was hard put to it not to laugh.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 271
"You may," said Peter.
" You may laugh. I'm too young, and youth is food
for laughter. It is so — so fluffy."
He stroked his chin as though to reassure himself
that his beard grew in strong stiff bristles. Then he
sneezed again, and after blinking away the tears his
eyes looked up into Cynthia's and found such kindness
there that the bitterness in him died.
" Did she say anything about — about me ? "
" Shall we go out into the sun ? " They went out,
she seeing that Peter donned a hat — a Homburg of Bas-
sett-Crewe's that nearly extinguished him — and while
they walked up and down on the eastern terrace she
told him how Mary had come to her happy and unhappy,
— Slaughter bubbling through tears — ^how she told her of
their wonderful walk together and their coming upon
the charcoal burner and his baby.
" It was that, then ? " said Peter.
" It was because of what you said. You are so
" I understand that."
" It is because you understand so much, and yet not
enough that she has gone."
"When did she go?"
" Early this morning. I lent her the car."
" I am not — ^not to see her again."
" She will not forget you."
"Ha! Ha!" The bitterness swelled in Peter, but
was gone on the instant.
" It is better so. You have to grow."
" I am still tiny man, then ? "
This puzzled Cynthia. Peter offered no explanation.
272 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" You have given her, Peter, a knowledge of herself
and — oh! wonderful things."
" To me," said Peter, " she is Woman. If she is
cruel I must accept as I would the cruelty of the earth, '
or the wind on the sea. The gift I bring to her is tiny,
by the acceptance of it alone she makes it and me great.
She is "
He sneezed here, and when he groped for the thread
of poetry it was gone.
" I am your friend, Peter," said Cynthia.
" In your eyes I am an ass."
" No, no."
" You know everything. I must seem an ass. I must
She protested further, but he clung doggedly to his
point, insisted on the sulky wearing of long ears, and in
the end she let him go, upon a promise that he would
write to her, and would be careful to avoid serious con-
sequences of his chill, and, when in the autumn she re-
turned to town, he would let her find a residence for
him near their house in Park Street.
There were loud lamentations in the nursery, for the
children saw at once the non-fulfillment of certain
dazzling promises of adventure that Peter had rashly
Peter wired to Miss Bastable, and, coming from the
houses of the rich (Crosslands was a " stately home of
England " for the purposes of popular magazines), he
received a welcome and a subsequent consideration from
her, which he found embarrassing and made him post-
pone till the last possible moment the announcement of
his departure from her hospitable roof.
He made no attempt to see Miss Dugdale, and wrote
PETEBl H0MUNCULU9 273
to her only a few words to let her know that he had dis-
cussed the matter of themselves with kind Cynthia. To
this she replied with three words :
" Thank you, dear."
He was glad then that he had given her the necklace,
and that she had old Adam's ring.
He thought much ahout these trinkets in the intervals
of the very thorough revision for his examination, to
which he applied himself in his little room at the top
of the house, and he decided one day to go to visit the
old man and incidentally the bird-dealer, the father of
the now more than ever celebrated dancer.
He foimd an enormous crowd outside the shop-win-
dows, and the bird-dealer, fat and bursting with pride
and pleasure. His daughter had definitely broken with
him, and had given him a sum of money with which
he had bought a large ape in a specially constructed
glass box. This he had in the window, where the ani-
mal lay under a sack gibbering at the curious crowd.
"All but talk, he can," said the enthusiastic man.
" Eat ! He can eat like a human. Tuck a napkin round
his neck and you wouldn't know him from the Lord
Mayor o' London."
He took Peter inside and whispered confidentially in
" I'm teaching him to go to bed. "
Then he exhibited the tiny bed he had made, a bed
in the fineness of its detail more magnificent than any
at Crosslands, more splendid even than that on which
Peter had sat while Tessa went through her elaborate
" Get 'im to do that, an' we'll go on the 'Alls. Fifty
a week they'll give 'im, that's more than any of the fools
274 PETER HOMUNCULUS
out there gapin' at 'im '11 git, not if they lives to be as
old as Methoosalem."
" The comment on humanity," said Peter, " is need-
" Jane's only gittin' twenty," said the bird-dealer, and
Peter, as he marked the glitter in his little eye, remem-
bered the day when the same man had driven his daugh-
ter from the shop.
To avoid further unpleasant reflection, Peter explained
the purpose of his visit.
" Old Adam," said the bird-dealer mournfully.
" Not ? " said Peter.
" Not 'im. 'E'U never die. That sort o' stringy old
man never does, just to spite their relations. No. 'E's
■in the country, like 'e was always talkin' about."
Peter was glad to hear this.
" It was Miss Dugdale, sir."
" 'Er what was 'ere when you come that last time.
Bought a cat, she did. In she walked fresh as a new
lily, Mr. Davies, sir, an' with 'er Mr. Murray Wilson.
They asks arter the old chap, an' up they goes to
see 'im, an' off they takes 'un to an almshouse near
Guildford. Thought the old chap would 'a died wi' the
excitement of it. Not 'im — ^they don't die — ^not that
. " How long ago? " said Peter.
" Matter p' five months."
" Much obliged," said Peter, and declined to be shown
the other new treasures of the place.
He rejoiced in his friends, his Mary and Wilson.
Wandering vaguely, he found himself standing in
PETEBl HOMUNCULUS 275
ShaflesBury Avenue in front of the shop over which he
had once been so proud to see in white letters on a green
ground the legend: Cooper and Davies. Memories
thronged in him, and as he stood there he could clearly
see old Adam shivering and shaking in his old green
overcoat over the book-boxes as the boy Peter had jostled
against him. He remembered the pride in him that the
old man had shared with Cooper, X. Cooper of the large
red nose, the great eye and little eye, and the enormous
" No wasted Cooper, no Peter Davies," he said again,
though with a humility that was impossible for him at
the time when he had coined the saying.
He wondered how the Beasley family were progress-
ing in the colonies; and Tessa — Tessa must be happy:
was she not with Mary? — and the journalist, and the
little milliner who had signed old Cooper's will: and
Demophoon — alas, long since presumed dead.
There were signs that the rooms above the shop were
occupied as business premises; possibly, Peter thought,
they housed the various nefarious concerns which
brought profit to the half-caste barber.
Putting his hand up to his hair at the thought of the
barber, Peter found that it needed cutting, and went into
The half-caste was there, no feature of his villainous
face perceptibly altered. He had assistants no less vil-
It was as Peter had thought. The rooms upstairs
were occupied by the half-caste, for they communicated
with the shop (enlarged by the removal of the parlour
wall) by a circular iron staircase up which now a lean
dark man, with eyes too close toother, went with a nod
270 PETER HOMUNCULUS
and a smile to the barber. He •was a famished-looking
creature, out at elbows, wolfish, and his smile was not
pleasant. He had one tooth at the side, just showing
in the grin, crowned with gold. The gleam of it was
oddly familiar to Peter, who stood staring up at his
back, whereon the seams of the coat were worn, its el-
bows shiniirg. The back also was familiar. He disap-
peared, and Peter demanded to have his hair cut.
The half-caste did not recognise him, and was servile
in his attentions to so elegant a gentleman. He left
the little shop-boy on whom he was operating to the
mercies of an apprentice, and himself attended to this
distinguished head of hair. Without much encourage-
ment from Peter, who was busily endeavouring to place
the man with the gleaming tooth, he ran through the
range of tonsorial conversation, the weather, horse-rac-
ing, the last music-hall sensation, the doings of the col-
onial cricketers then making the tour of the country,
and the advisability of a singe and shampoo. Peter was
hot on the scent of the tooth man, and because he could
not locate him, except vaguely in South London, where
hfe might have been seen in the street or in the train, he
at length asked the half-caste. The barber looked anx-
iously at Peter's boots, then said:
" Oh, that ! that's Parson George. He works here
Parson ! That was it. Peter had him now. — ^Wolver-
ton, the scoundrelly curate who had lodged with his
aunt and finally had married and disappeared with
He asked no more, but decided to wait until the man
should descend again. To that end he had himself shaved,
shampooed, singed, manicured — ^though the half-caste
PETEB H0MUNCULU9 277i
was no adept in this last. At length, at the end of all
the operations, the man appeared again and sneaked
out of the shop. Peter flung the harber half-a-crown,
and ran after him. He touched his arm, and the man
swung round, raising his arm as if to ward off a blow.
Then, with his little red-rimmed eyes, he stared at Peter,
and seemed to be taking stock of the quality of his
clothes. He grinned nervously, and the tooth gleamed.
Peter was beginning to find that he had nothing to say
to the man, and a sort of nervousness seized him. They
stood on the edge of the pavement grinning absurdly at
Peter put out a hand, which the other took with a
a dirty paw. Presently Peter found words:
" You are Mr. Wolverton? "
Peter's hand was dropped and the man was for sham-
bling off. This angered Peter and roused obstinacy in
him. He hitched his shoulders in his old way, and said
" You are Mr. Wolverton."
" My name is Kelly."
" Parson George," said Peter.
The man cringed.
" When I knew you," said Peter, " your name was
" I was born Wolverton," said the man, and seemed
to be searching in his memory.
"You — ^you're not young Scott?"
"David?" said Peter. "No. You — ^you are my
Peter nodded, and the man seemed dumbfounded.
He took Peter's arm and led him ,to a bar which bore
278 PETER HOMUNCULUS
the homely title of " Aunty's." Wolverton would not
hear of Peter's paying for drinks^ but borrowed half-
a-crown of him to do so. There was cheese and biscuits
on the counter, and these the wretched man ate as though
he were hungry. He drank to Peter's good health, as is
the custom in such places, and then launched into a tale
of woe. He seemed to be trying to justify himself in
Peter's eyes. He had retained a certain amount of self-
respect, for he was shaved and his linen, though frayed,
was clean. What Peter found most pitiful in the man
was that his voice had not altogether lost its parsonic
tone, and in his bearing there was the subtle swagger
which is in all ministers of all sorts of religion. Finally
he asked Peter point blank if he could not iSnd him
work, since the post of jackal or racing tout to the
half-caste was both distasteful and unremunerative.
On this Peter made inquiry for his aunt. Mr. Wolver-
ton adjusted his black tie, and in a melancholy tone
proclaimed her death three months ago.
" We went down and down," said Mr. Wolverton. " I
was glad that she died."
He said this with such sincerity in pity for the
woman whom he had ruined that Peter was sorry for
him, too. He gave him what money he had, and left
him murmuring thanks and thanks, and wishes for the
best of luck.
Peter came away from this encounter with a bad
taste in his mouth. It was an unpleasant reminder of the
world from which he had escaped, all the more unpleas-
ant from the thought that there must have been a time
when this same degenerate parson had known life as
sweet as that at Crosslands. It came as a contrast and
reminded him of that which once had been ever present
PETER H0MUNCULU9 27«
in his thoughts — ^the insecurity of livelihood of the
greater part of humanity.
In writing of the adventure to Mrs. Crewe, he said:
" To understand humanity it is necessary to know
the diflFerence between five shillings and half-a-crowil."
He was pleased with this phrase, and used it on
more than one occasion. He presented it to Mr. Scott,
whom he visited in order to tell him of the letter he
had received from Mr. Bassett-Crewe offering him the
post of secretary at a salary of two hundred and fifty
pounds a year, with opportunity to write as much as
Sandilands would take for the new journal. This was
a fortune, and Peter went to his friend as much to
crow as to render account of himself.
David was better, and was soon to be sent into the
country to spend two years in studying for the Indian
Woods and Forests Service, which had been pitched on
as providing a suitable career for a healthy and not
over-studious young man. They had had good accounts
of Peter from Wilson. He was warmly greeted, and
Mrs. Scott showed him various photographs and trifles
which Mattie had sent home from her travels.
Peter was irritated to discover that he found the
Scotts rather dull and narrow. He disliked himself for
it, but could not make headway. He seemed to have
developed a new sense of humour which was unintel-
ligible to them. He made several remarks which had
been very successful with the Bassett-Crewes and their
circle, but here they fell absolutely dead. He strug-
gled manfully, however, and Mrs. Sbott was charmed
"My dear," she said, when Peter was gone, "how
he has improved ! "
280 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Peter, away in his room, was thinking the matter out,
and leaped suddenly on the discovery that Wilson in
that house was entirely different from the Wilson who
was called " Buntie " by innumerable friends and ad-
mirers. He remembered also that much the same thing
had happened in him with regard to Janet Fildes when
he had first been drawn into the Scott circle. He hated
that it should happen, but he recognised the inevit-
ability of it, and he devoutly hoped that the thing
might not happen with regard to Crosslands. The pros-
pect of developing a sense of humour which should cut
him off from that was too ghastly to contemplate.
He took down a Latin text and a note-book, but he
found himself thinking hazily of Mattie, and Nehe-
mias Grew, and bees.
"Decidedly," he thought, "I have not left Mat-
tie behind. Odd ! Nehemias Grew said that it was
necessary for pollen to reach the stigma of a flower in
order that it might set fertile seed. Fertile .'' — do we only
live for fertility? — Bees kill the drones — Bees^Bees —
Bees — Buzzing — Mattie and Bees. What has she to
do with bees .f" Mattie is in France : besides, . I'm in
love with Mary Am I not in love with Mary? I
am. I swear I am — she's married: married to a bee —
ha ! ha ! Bee in my bonnet. . . ."
He rose chuckling at his little joke, and thinking that
any joke is good enough for oneself. From his book-
shelf he took a book on bees and bee-keeping that had
been in the shop and he had kept without quite knowing
why, , for he had never yet read a page of it.
He opened it now haphazard and read: "All vari-
ations which render the blossoms more attractive, either
by scent, colour, size of corolla or quantity of nectar,
PETER H0MUNCULU9 281
make the insect visit more sure and therefore the pro-
duction of seed more likely. Thus the conspicuous blos-
soms secure descendants which inherit the special varia-
tions of their parents, and so, generation after genera-
tion, we have selections in favour of conspicuous flowers,
where insects are at work. Their appreciation of colour,
because it has brought the blossoms possessing it more
immediately into their view, and more surely under their
attention, has enabled them, through the ages, to be pre-
paring the specimens upon which man now operates: he
taking up the work where they have left it, according
to his own rules of taste and developing a beauty
which insects alone could never have evolved. His are
the finishing touches, his the apparent effects: yet no
less is it true that the results of his floriculture would
never have been attainable without insect-helpers. It
is equally certain that the beautiful perfume and the
nectar also are, in their present development, the out-
come of repeated insect selection: and here, it seems to
me, we get an inkling of a deep mystery: Why is life,
in all its forms, so dependent upon the fusion of two
individual elements.'' Is it not that thus the door of
progress has been opened.'' If each alone had repro-
duced itself all-in-all, advance would have been impos-
sible; the insect and human florists and pomologists,
like the improvers of animal races, would have had no
platform for their operation, and not only the forms of
life, but life itself would have been stereotyped unal-
terably, ever mechanically giving repetition to identical
Peter shut the book and said aloud:
" A dull writer."
Then he plunged again into his reverie.
282 PETER HOMUNCULUS
"What is a pomologist? Two hundred and fifty
pounds a year. . . . Health, wealth, what more for
happiness? Mary, Mattie — odd! Strange. I cannot
call to mind Mattie's face: but for Mary, I can see her
in every moment in which I have known her: her atti-
tude, her gestures, the fold of her dress, the expression
of her eyes, almost I can reconstruct the thoughts she
had at such and such a time in such and such a place;
almost, but not quite, for there is always the inmost
holy unattainable, even for the most beloved. And yet,
and yet, she ran from me — I am what."* Too young —
too little experienced — ' Go your way, you fair young
man ! ' Heuh ! It's true : young and too clever. Rub-
bish! One can't be too clever, but one can have the
wrong sort of cleverness. When — ^when — ^when — she is
marvellous, but she is not great like — like Jane, Even-
ing Glory Jane — she is what I choose to make her, and
— and if I am big enough I can make her more and
more glorious. She's afraid — that's it: she's afraid.
. . . Not the end of it: only the beginning — there
is never an end to anything — and — and death is only
This reflection so startled him, coming as it did in
the midst of his muddled thoughts, that it effectually
woke him up, and he found himself having bitten his
thumb until it bled. Up went his hand to his forelock,
and he paced up and down the room, turning the phrase
this way and that for scrutiny and to see it in all lights.
It was so ridiculously simple as to appear almost pre-
posterous — and certainly appalling.
" I don't know," said Peter aloud, and those three
words struck him as really the most comfortable that
bad ever occurred to him.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 283
He turned to a mass of papers on his writing-table
and began to peruse them.
Wilson had been iaetively engaged with the prepara-
tion of the Cooper papers for publication. It had been
impossible to discover any relation of the old man, and
he had applied to the Townsend family, who, searching
among their archives, had found a number of documents
relating to the unhappy George. It was proposed that
Wilson should write a preface and Peter a personal
memoir of the old man, and the Townsend material had
been handed over to him. He had resolved not to touch
them until his examination was over, but now that his
mind was full of old Cooper, Peter found the tempta-
The papers were docketed and indexed. They cov-
ered several years. There were letters exchanged by
the two men: letters from great personages and men in
high places; from women; from artists and men of let-
ters; newspaper articles of a political character, and a
draft scheme for a society which was to procure liberty
and equality, universal franchise, and the remodelling
of the social order.
Peter read this very carefully and was startled to
find it so unlike the Cooper he had known; for it had
the tendency of modern socialism to ignore the human
factor. It was bureaucratic.
The discovery of Cooper the ridiculous reformer was
almost as startling as the discovery of Cooper the im-
passioned lover. Peter took it very sensibly as a warn-
ing, and all his life he had a horror of upstart intellect.
Peter had just happened upon a letter from a great
actor to George Townsend when there came a knock at
284. PETER HOMUNCULUS
He invited entry, and was more than surprised when
there rushed into the room Mr. Lawrence Greenfield and
Mr. Beaumont Scholes. Mr. Greenfield was his suave
smooth self, but the poet had a wild eye and his hair
was tossed and tangled. He stood nervously, shifting
from one foot to another, until Peter could bear it no
longer, and insisted on their sitting. They sat, Green-
field in the velvet chair, Scholes in the farthest corner
of the room. Peter offered them cigarettes and apol-
ogised for the absence of alcohol. Then he waited for
them to explain the visitation.
" He won't see us," said Greenfield, " and my sister
refuses to do anything."
" I am in the dark," said Peter.
Mr. Scholes took from his pocket a copy of the
journal to which he was a weekly contributor and gave
it to Greenfield, who handed it to Peter. They watched
him narrowly as he read it.
" Am I to applaud the style or the taste of it.'' " Said
" It was — was just a joke," said Greenfield with a
little nervous laugh.
Peter was too angry to say anything. The article
was an attack on Wilson's forthcoming comedy, written
obviously without knowledge of its character, and con-
tained a brief and subtly warped history of Miss Dug-
dale's marriage, based on information which Scholes
could only have obtained from Greenfield.
"Well?" said Peter.
" He has instituted proceedings. The paper can't
" It is undoubtedly libellous."
" We will apologise."
PETER HOMUNCULUS 285
" The mischief is done."
" It was just a joke," said Scholes.
"You will see him?" said Green^eld.
"What can I do?"
" It will do no one any good to take it into open
Peter turned to his papers again and refused either
to hear or speak more. The unhappy young men looked
at each other uneasily, tried argument, threats, flattery,
but all to no purpose. In the end they went.
Peter waited until they had gone, and then went to
Wilson's rooms, found him out, and stayed talking to
Matilda until he came in. He had not seen Matilda
since his return from Crosslands and had a good deal
to say to her. She listened with most sympathetic in-
terest, more especially, it seemed to Peter, to the infor-
mation concerning Mary.
Wilson greeted Peter more warmly than he had ever
done, and Peter was glad.
" I have never taken any notice of such things," said
Wilson, when Peter told him of his visitation.
" I suppose the thing sold."
" Oh, yes J The public is greedy of scandal.
" What an odious period we live in ! "
" Vulgarity is not a special quality of this that we
call the age of commerce. There was a gentleman
called Catullus who declaimed against his contempo-
raries in these words:
" ' O saeculum insipien et inficetum ! ' "
"An age without judgment and without taste," Peter
translated. " They are counting on the publicity of it
" I think," said Wilson, " they jvill not go on with
286 PETEH HOMUNCULUS
it. The process of the law is too costly. They will
settle out of court, but I shall carry it on until there is
a thumping bill of costs. That sort of muck-rake man
will always find a living."
"But Greenfield! . . ."
" That sort of man either marries a woman with
money or the capacity of earning it, or he drifts to the
The subject was distasteful, and they turned to the
Townsend papers, while Peter narrated all that he had
Peter rose to go.
" I am glad that Crewe is to take you — free-lancing
is deadly work."
" Yes," said Peter, " I am glad."
" That is a nice j ewel you gave Miss Dugdale. She
is to wear it in my play."
On that Peter left, after condoling with Matilda, who
had been cherishing a hope that he had come to take
her for a walk.
As he walked home, turning over this desultory con-
versation, Wilson's last remark struck fire. It occurred
to Peter that this was the first time he had ever volun-
teered a remark concerning Miss Dugdale, and the cir-
cumstance seemed unaccountably ominous.
He went back over the whole afi'air, remembering
scenes, actions, snatches of letters, conversations, and
everything converged in the most ridiculous fashion on
that remark of Mrs. Crewe's:
" Mr. Wilson is forty-four."
That was impassable. Peter tried to scale it, but it
rose the higher: to circumvent it, it ran endlessly. He
knew that on the other side of it lafy solution, but the
PETER HOMUNCULUS 287
character of the hidden thing defied imagination. " The
age of a man is a hard fact/' said Peter. " It bafiBes
In Piccadilly he saw a match-seller with a nose larger
than his own. For that he gave the man threepence.
He was sensitive about his nose ever since the Crewe
children, drawing his portrait, had each given him a nose
like that of the celebrated idiot of the early nineteenth
century. He had never told man or woman the story
of the urchin in Southwark who had first drawn his
attention to its dimensions.
The new Wilson comedy was produced with triumpliant
Peter was present at the production in Mrs. Crewe's
box. He dirred with her first in the delightful house
in Park Street.
They both thoroughly enjoyed the play, and Peter
succeeded in forgetting Mary the woman in Miss Dug-
dale the delicious actress, so much so that it seemed
odd to see her wearing his necklace. She was certainly
a delightful artist, though she had not the compelling
force of Evening Glory Jane, but she was so neat in
her method and so sure and tactful, that to watch her
was sheer pleasure. The evening was a triumph for
her, and as she appeared for the sixth time in answer
to vociferous calls, Peter saw that there were tears in
her eyes, and she was trembling and overwrought. He
shouted with the best, but was struck dumb when she
looked up at him and bobbed a curtsey in his direction.
The illusion was shattered and he was left only with
the desire to catch the elusive woman.
As Peter helped Mrs. Crewe into her motor-car she
said to him:
" I have found your rooms, but you are not to see
them until they are furnished."
With that she drove off, and Peter was left with mur-
mured protestations and thanks on his lips.
He stayed lurking in the little knot of people by the
Stftge door, and saw Mary come out on Wilson's arm<
PETEH HOMUNCULUS 289
He saw Wilson help Her into the little brougham, then
follow her, and as they drove away he saw Mary lay
her hand on Wilson's, and his close on it.
He turned to rush away, jostled roughly through the
crowd, cursing, and walked for hours in the streets, in-
sane with jealousy. He strode in blind fury, hands
clenched, teeth set, and the muscles of his throat drawn
so tight that it ached. His blood raced, and at his
teniples it throbbed, while he recounted to himself every
scene with the woman, every word of tenderness that
she had uttered, and he recreated the first kiss of her
hand, the first kiss of her lips: he muttered all the wild
words that he had written for her, and dragged into
words the crazy emotions which at the time had been
inexpressible. In the end he suddenly realised that he
was modelling his behaviour on that of Bond, on the
strange night of the visit to the music-hall. With
that he burst into a shout of laughter and was sane
again, to find himself in an unknown and unexpected
region of London — a region of long terraces of stucco
houses, dreadful in their similarity. It seemed that all
the inhabitants had retired, for of all the windows
there were here and there only those on the first and
second floor illuminated. The roar of a great thorough-
fare was audible, but to ascertain the direction of it was
Peter found the Great Bear, and by that turned his
face to the east. Eventually, without seeing a creature
other than an occasional cat, he came upon a place
which he thought must be the Regent's Park, and from
that he bore south and east. Arrived in Portman Square,
a name which had for him the ritiging sound of opu-
lence, he stopped in bis career to gaze appreciatively
290 PETER HOMUNCULUS
after a woman who had accosted him after running
quite a hundred yards to place herself in his way. He
made no response to her greeting, but after she had
passed he stood and shivered.
" To wander through so much of London and see
never a soul, that is the strangest adverrture that has
The woman, thinking he had stayed for her, advanced
a little, then stopped, advanced again and up to him,
smiling fixedly. Peter saw that she was quite old, forty-
four perhaps, but not without comeliness aird a certain
air of good-fellowship.
In a voice of complete disinterest she gave him her
stereotyped invitation and waited. Peter took off his
hat to her and said:
" Thank you."
" It's not far from here," she said, and jerked her
thumb over in the direction from whence he had come.
" Into those streets again ? " said Peter. " No."
" Are you tired, dearie ? "
" I have emerged, good woman, from a fit of the crazi-
est passion known to man."
The strangeness of this address took the woman
aback, but, accustomed to all manner of odd whimsies,
and because it was late, she gave polite attention to this
Delighting in the freakishness of this encounter and
in the absurdity of discharging subtlety upon this fatu-
ous countenance, he continued impressivejy.
" Jealousy, good woman, is the root of all evil. How
shall a man possess a woman? Yet to be jealous he
must have the desire ^to possess, and I tell you that
in nothing is a man so mocked as in this desire, for it
PETEH HOMUNCULUS 291
is of a piece with the rest of his arrogance, the desire to
possess the infinite. You are a woman, and therefore
He clutched her shoulder and wagged a forefinger in
" From the first dawn you are the mother of all
children, and the wife of all men. You are this world
and all eternity. The secrets of the earth are yours
and the profoundest depths of the sea. For the hrief
moment of his life a man is yours, a moment in your
march to new triumphs of creation. Somewhere in
Egypt there is a strange effigy called the Sphinx, erected
by men of ancient days to the glory of woman. What
man is there would dare to possess the Sphinx? Yet
just so eternal is each woman, all-embracing. . . .
A man jealous is a child crying because he may not
have the moon. Woman is sun, moon and stars, day
The woman edged away from him. ^
"Hell," she said, "but you are drunk!"
She shook free and moved away. There was in her
a sort of horror.
Peter ran after her.
" I beg your pardon. I am not a man, but an ass
laden with books."
He thrust money into her hand and she took to her
A cabman soliciting his custom, Peter complied. In
the cab he felt curiously shrunken. He shook like a
man sick of a palsy, and suddenly burst into tears, and
knew that this was the salvation of him. As he held up
his hand with the fare he looked at the cabman.
" You look ill, cabby."
292 PETER HOMUNCULUS
"Well, sir, I do feel a bit queer. It's these misty
nights," and he fell to coughing, and coughed still as
he drove round the corner out of the square.
Peter knew again that by this sudden sympathy he
had atoned for the dreadful madness of the night.
Hereafter he spent sober weeks of study, and was not
sorry when the early days of October brought his exam-
ination and release.
He succeeded in satisfying the academic gentlemen
who were appointed to test the extent and quality of
his knowledge, and the University of London in due
course gave him the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and
he shook the dust of King's College in the Strand from
off his feet, resisting all blandishments to the pursuit
of a thing called the Doctorate.
He reported himself to Mr. S'cott, and then to Bas-
sett-Crewe, who was anxious for him at once to take
up his work with him.
Sandilands also was interviewed, and appeared to be
resigned to the inevitable, for he took more interest in
Peter than he had done on the first occasion. He was
even conciliatory and threw out suggestions for articles.
Mattie wrote from Paris, where she was settled en-
pension with a Madame Vignon, expressing congratula-
tions and pleasure that fortune was so favouring her
friend — ^this word was underlined. She expressed a
hope that Peter would find time to write to her, and
that it might be even that he would come to Paris. There
was a bantering tone in the letter which Peter answered
in his most whimsical vein. He signed himself " P.
Davies, Baccalaureus Artium, and none the wiser for
PETEK H0MUNCULU9 293
He gave notice of his departure to Miss Bastable
and made the august lady umbrageous.
Mrs. Crewe made no further mention of his rooms on
their locality, but that there was something brewing he
gathered from the mystery of her, and the archness of
the children's manner. All this unsettled him, and he
found that he could not apply himself to any sort of
work except the clerical.
At length relief came in the shape of an invitation
from Hob, which ran :
" Mr. Henry Bassett-Crewe requests the pleasure of
Mr. Peter Davies' company to tea at four o'clock on the
afternoon of Friday the tenth December. R. S. V. P.
to the above address."
The above address was 4 Waverton Street, Mayfair,
W., printed in green, while at the opposite corner of
the paper was printed " Telephone No. 5432 Mayfair."
The invitation was accepted, and at the very first
opportunity Peter went in search of number 4 Waver-
ton Street. He urrfortunately chose the most foggy
day of the year and had great diflSculty in finding the
place. He knew that it was somewhere off Berkeley
Square and groped his way thither. Once in the square
he found it no easy matter to escape. How many times
he circled it he never knew, but he grew to loathe the
gates of Devonshire House, which apparently possessed
an irresistible attraction for him. At length he hit upon
the happy idea of hugging the wall and so reaching the
street which, according to his idea, ran west from the
middle of Berkeley Square. In this way he escaped
from circumambulation and plunged along until he came
to the wajl pf a howsc. Through the murk be saw s.
294 PETER HOMUNCULUS
gigantic figure looming. He rushed towards it, miscal-
culated the distance, collided with it, apologised to it,
and asked it the way to Waverton Street.
" This is Waverton Street," said an indignant and
" I want number 4."
" Over there by the mews, where the light is."
Peter thanked the owner of the voice and took the
direction indicated. He walked into some railings,
struck a match, and found that they belonged to num-
He could see nothing of the house but that it pos-
sessed an attractive door and a fascinating bay-window
with many panes.
" George I.," said Peter, and hoped that his room
might be that with the fascinating window.
A fine smell came from the mews, but Peter extended
the proprietory glow which had come over him to the
smell and found no fault with it. He patted the rail-
ings and stroked the door. Then he returned by the
iway he had come.
In Berkeley S^quare the fog had lifted, and on a
house on the east side he saw a tablet bearing this
Lived and died here
and he gleefully invented an inscription for a tablet to
be erected on the wall of number 4 Waverton Street.
He whistled suddenly, and repeated to himself,
George Townsend had lived at number 12, and old
Cooper must often have visited therC; if not also lodged
PETEH HOMUNCULUS 295
in the neighbourhood. There was certainly in those
streets and houses the flavour of old days. Peter won-
dered where it was that Clara had lived, Clara of the
pink topaz necklace, the simpering Demeter: and which
of the great houses of this region was the cold palace
of which old Cooper had spoken in his strange and
On the appointed day Peter returned to number 4
Waverton Street. The little door was opened by a
igrave, elderly man, who, bending as though he Tiirere
hinged at the middle, inquired Peter's name.
" Will you step this way, sir? "
The grave man turned and slowly ascended onel
flight of stairs. Peter heard a scampering of feet and
an excited giggle. The grave man led the way up to
the second floor. Here he opened a door, stood inside a
tiny hall to take Peter's hat, coat and umbrella (Peter
had donned his most fashionable for the occasion), and
then, throwing open another door, announced in a thun-
" Mr. Peter Davies."
There was a clapping of hands and shriU cries of
delight. Hob rushed to him and Jumped about him.
Jane came and clutched his leg while Patch shouted
" Hurrah ! " Hob tugged this way to show him this,
Jane that way to show that. Peter saw nothing. His
eyes were filled with tears, and he could only gurgle
He blew his nose.
" Look Peter," said Hob, and pointed above the man-
telpiece. " I did that."
Peter saw pinned to the wall a long strip of white
206 PETER HOMUNCULUS
paper on which, in large ragged letters, in everj con-
ceivable colour, was written:
" Peter Davies lives here."
To save himself from breaking down and incurring
the contempt of Hob and Patch, Peter stooped, picked
Jane up, and hugged and kissed her. When he released
her he found Mrs. Crewe standing with a kettle in one
hand and the lid of the teapot in the other.
" Can't shake hands," she said. " How do you do? "
"Oh, Mrs. Crewe . . ." said Peter.
" We will have mirsery tea round the table."
As they devoured the good things on the table the
children shouted to draw Peter's attention to this and
that, each clamouring for approbation of his or her de-
vice. Mrs. Crewe controlled them gently but firmly,
and smilingly she watched Peter as he surveyed his new
It was a tiny room, the ceiling only seven or eight
feet from the floor, the walls panelled and painted
white. The whole of one wall was taken up with book-
shelves, filled magnificently with the finest. These drew
Peter's eyes, and he longed to handle them.
The inaugural meal over, he went straight and took
down Florio's translation of the essays of Michael, Lord
of Montaigne, the first volume, and read in the preface:
" Reader, loe here a well meaning Booke. It doth
at the first entrance forewarne thee, that iir contriving
the same I have proposed unto myselfe no other than
a familiar and private end: I have no respect or con-
sideration at all, either to thy service, or to any glory:
my forces are not capable of any such dessigne. . . .
Had my intention beene to forestal and purchase the
world's opinion and favour, I would surely have adorned
PETER HOMUNCULUS 297
myselfe more quaintly, or kept a more grave and solemn
march. . . . Thus, gentle Reader, myselfe am the
groundworke of my booke: It is then no reason thou
shouldest employ thy time about so frivolous and vaine
a Subject. Therefore farewell. From Montaigne, the
first of March. 1580."
Peter turned to Mrs. Crewe.
" Shakespeare borrowed wisdom from this gentleman."
He returned the volume to its place, and Mrs. Crewe
drew his attention to Wilson's eight volumes. On the
fly-leaf of the first was inscribed:
" To Peter Davies, these small things in a great com-
pany whereof they are unworthy, except that they also
are written by a man."
Hob cried for attention to the writing-desk, which
was fuUy equipped with every material. Hob's especial
pride was in the note-paper. The whole room was per-
fect, and on the mantelpiece in silver frames were
photographs — Mrs. Crewe, the children, Mary
" Has she been here ? " cried Peter.
Mysterious glances were exchanged, and Peter was
led to his bedroom.
The door was opened, and out rushed a little dog,
the image of Matilda, and sniffed at Peter, The chil-
dren clapped their hands. Peter lifted the little beast,
and they baptised him then and there under the name of
" Mary's gift," said Mrs. Crewe.
The bedroom was charming, modelled in its decora-
tion on the little room that Peter had occupied at Cross-
lands, and down one step from it was a tiny bathroom.
That was the extent of the place, and Peter could
have wished no better.
298 PETER HOMUNCULUS
Back to the sitting-room they went and tested every-
thing, the electric light, the telephone, the speaking
tube down to the regions where the grave man lived with
his wife, the deep cupboards filled with china, the
drawers of the desk, the windows.
" You like it? "
"Oh! , . ."
"Wicksteed and his wife will look after you well.
He was my father's valet. When will you come? "
Mrs. Crewe smiled at his eagerness.
" We must leave you now."
Wicksteed appeared and embraced the charge of
Peter, gave him a key to the house door, and was alto-
Peter was left alone, and once more he took down
Wilson's book with its generous inscription. He was
almost intolerably happy as he sat in the great leather
chair nursing Herbertson, and mumbling to the fire.
He was troubled by the thought that his brothers and
sisters were still living in the old shiftless existence
behind the shop. The chances by which he had escaped
to this were little short of miraculous.
Then he remembered that his sister, the wife of Podge
Newhall, had rated him for the filthiness of his mind.
Therein he seemed to probe deep into the mystery.
The first letter that he wrote on Hob's magnificent
note-paper was to his brother, the tailor; the second
was to Miss Dugdale, to thank her for the dog.
" It is like you," he wrote, '* to have given me a living
thing: all that you have given me has been that."
Then he laid down his pen, picked up, cleaned it,
swung round in the swivel chair, and leaned towards
PETER H0MUNCULU9 299
her portrait. He hitched his shoulders and tugged at
his forelock. The portrait was in profile, the left and
most perfect side of her face.
Peter allowed himself the luxury of a romantic sigh,
then laughed at himself, and rubhed his nose with the
now wet end of his pen.
" Her nose and mine," he said, and on his blotting
paper drew his own profile in caricature over and over
He returned to his letter and read it through, then
traced the Y of yours, but scratched it out. He rose
and wandered round the room, and for distraction
planned where he would hang his pictures, and where
in the bookcase place those books which he had at Gor-
He wandered into his bedroom for a second survey,
and into the bathroom, where he turned the taps on and
ofi", and lifted up and down the knob labelled " Waste,"
which somehow seemed to be a much grander aflfair than
the brass plug which had been in the bath at home.
In the bedroom again he noticed for the first time
that on the dressing-table were new brushes, combs,
and little boxes for studs and the like fugitive belong-
ings. There was a label attached to the buckle of the
brush case. On this was written, " With love from
Back he flew to his letter.
" Many, many thanks to Tessa also for her gift. It
seems to be her special charge to provide me with what
barbers call ' toilet requisites.' "
He hesitated for a moment, then plunged:
"Am I not to see you again? Is it only a question
of youth and age? Oh, these divisions! There are
300 PETER HOMUNCULUS
neither young nor old, more than there are sheep and
goats. It is all one. The world is round and embraces
everything. There is neither good nor bad, nor right nor
■wrong. Half-way is the only course, and the ibis walks
safest in the middle. There is so much given to me,
only you withhold yourself. I have made you happy.
I know that, and Mrs. Crewe has said it. I ask of you
nothing that you cannot give me; only let me see you."
He did not read what he had written, but sealed and
Then he summoned the grave Wicksteed, gave Her-
bertson iirto his custody, informed him as to the day of
his arrival, was given a key, and went stumbling down
the stairs. Near the front door there hung on the wall
a Vanity Fair cartoon of Wilson with his pipe, and his
legs outstretched, as Peter had seen him on the first
occasion in the rooms overlooking the Green Park.
" I expect," said Peter, with some vehemence, remem-
bering old days, " I expect you are worth twopence over
By the pillar box he debated for some moments
whether to post his letter to Mary, slipped it into the
mouth, and then wished he had torn it up.
On the receipt of it, a few hours later, Mary con-
sulted her friend Mrs. Crewe.
" It is of him that I am thinking. He must not
" He has occupation in plenty."
Mary was relieved and said:
" For the present then I shall not see him."
She had other affairs to discuss with her friend, the
most pressing the sum to be given to her brother, who,
reduced to odium through his unfortunate connection
PETEBI HOMUNCULUS 801
with tHe journalistic exploit of his friend Mr, Beau-
mont Scholes, had announced his intention of emigrat-
ing to Canada to farm. Mary was perfectly prepared
to buy him a whole country, but she was restrained by
her more sagacious and far-seeing friends.
" Two hundred pounds for the present."
" There are his debts."
" They must be paid for him."
" Poor Lawrence."
Peter saw the young gentleman just before his de-
parture. They met by accident iir Regent Street, out-
side a restaurant where Greenfield was to meet a young
woman in order in a fitting manner to say farewell to
"dear old London."
He shook Peter's hand warmly and talked expansively
of a " life in the open."
" Cork," said Peter, and left him without more.
It was the eve of his departure from Gordon Square,
and he was hurrying home to collect his chattels.
As before in his aunt's house, and in the little room
behind the shop, he laid out all that was his own on
the floor and on his bed, but now he was a person of
considerable property, things that from association he
treasured and things that were worthless.
He presented a quantity of old boots and clothes to
the German Swiss butler, and for the first time won.
courtesy from him. To Miss Bastable he gave sundry
pieces of the heavy old jewellery which he had found
in old Cooper's desk, and she rewarded him with em-
barrassing lamentations and undue praises of his vir-
tues in the presence of her other lodgers.
He sought out a bookseller in Charing Cross Road;
302 PETER HOMUNCULUS
whom he remembered as a boy like himself, and sold him
the majority of the text-books and amiotated editions
which he had collected during his three years at King's
College. He drove in a four-wheeled cab with two
trunks and a packing case to 4 Waverton S'treet, and
when he had eaten his first dinner there, a plain meal
cooked by Mrs. Wicksteed and served by her husband
with oppressive solemnity, he felt that he really had
entered upon the career of which he had fondly dreamed,
and that the world did now lie at his , feet, if only . . .
He plunged into sentimental abstraction, in which he
created a filmy being whom he labelled Woman — for
she was certainly not Mary, nor Mattie, nor any female
creature that he had ever known. He could not clearly
see her face, but he knew that she was fair. He made
no attempt to draw her into conversation, but only occa-
sionally blew a cloud of smoke in the direction where
she hovered. He had an idea that the time — it was
nearly eleven o'clock when she first appeared — and to-
bacco and the warmth of the fire had something to do
with her hovering: also that he shared her with many
thousand other lonely young men. He could only define
her — the word woman proving inadequate — as a com-
fortable presence. About ten minutes to twelve, find-
ing that she was still there, he evolved the pretty fancy
that she was the ghost of some woman who had loved a
former occupant of the rooms. He found names for
her and for her lover, Esther Vernon and Evan Withing-
ton, and began to weave their romance. On that she
disappeared, the room was cold without her, and Peter
took refuge in bed, where also Herbertson slept, curled
up against his new master's stomach.
Thus Peter lived and worked, eating, sleeping, mak-
PETER HOMUNCULUS 303
ing an ever wider circle of acquaintances, and here and
there finding new friends, though never, for many
years, a man of his own age.
The preparation of the Cooper papers for publica-
tion proved to be the work of months, since the greater
part of his time which was not given to Bassett-Crewe
was occupied with turning out short leaders, reviews,
notes on current events, occasional verse, and occasional
stories for the new journal, which was everywhere well
received. Peter loved his work and delighted to meet
the men who had rejected those unhappy little effusions
which he had written in Shaftesbury Avenue. He was
especially anxious to discover the author of the phrase
" Poor sloppy devil " that had so tormented him, but
that seemed hopeless.
Twice a week he used to go down to the office where
Sandilands presided and either write there or come
away armed with review copies of books, to occupy bare
He corresponded fitfully with Mattie, but seemed to
lose touch with her, though he found the study of her
development interesting enough. Occasionally he vis-
ited the theatre where Miss Dugdale was playing, but
she was most skilful in avoiding him, and though he
heard of her at various houses, and from Mrs. Crewe
and the children, he never once met her, and she never
replied to his letter. He did not write again, but was
content to wait, having an unreasoiring conviction that
she would come to him.
At times he had fits of despair and wild panics; mo-
ments when he saw himself as worthless, useless, a para-
site, an upstart, without talent and without character,
and, worst of all, with none of the qualities that make
304 PETER HOMUNCULUS
for success; a creature who ate and should eat always
of bread unearned. Sometimes in these moods he would
write to Wilson fevered letters of enormous length, full
of abuse, self -recrimination, despondency, attacks on in-
stitutions, persons and tendencies, self -analysis and dis-
content. Wilson at first had some alarm, and used to
come in the evening to sit and smoke and talk over their
joint work, and though Peter found some solace in the
flattery of these visits, he was most often reduced to
greater depths. Injured vanity throbbed, and Peter's
outlook took on a more and more bilious complexion.
He grew to conceive that Sandilands disliked him — be-
cause the poor harassed man had reduced an over-long
article by a paragraph; that Bassett-Crewe was disap-
pointed with him; that the Scotts regretted ever having
befriended him, and, most preposterous of all, that Wil-
son patronised him. After each attack he fully recog-
nised the physiological origin of the disease — ^the
weather and too much tobacco acting on his liver; but at
the worst he descended to further depths, and sighed for
the condition of his relatives, whom he imagined to be
happy. After a time Wilson grew hardened and learned
to leave the disaffection to take its course, though, if
Peter wrote him a more than usually outrageous letter,
accusing him of ruining a young life or blighting the
career of a promising bookseller, he would reply with a
curt postcard bearing these words:
" Growing pains."
The mischief and unhealthiness of the thing was that
Peter rather enjoyed these fits of despondency, and
just as in old days he used to weep to find himself so
beautiful, he now wept to find himself so unworthy pf
all the kindness that had been heaped upon him. He
PETER HOMUNCULUS 305
took a fierce delight in explaining to Herbertson, who
in course of time became an understanding beast (for,
as Peter expounded to him, animals, like human beings,
depend for their intelligence and character upon the
persons with whom they come in contact), the fraud of
" Such a fraud, Herbertson, and only you seem to
know it. A large watery eye, Herbertson, and they
will have it that behind there is a mighty brain. . . ."
(These addresses were only made when the turning
point had been reached and recovery had set in. Peter
then chanced upon a satiric vein.)
" This brain; Herbertson, which is in you, so far as
I know, only a nerve centre most easily reached through
your little black nose, is in me a wild whirling thing
perpetually busy in the distortion of facts, and the
propagation of lies, since by the ironic force of circum-
stances I am to be a maker of books instead of a sellec
of them, and though I were to speak so truthfully and
with such force as the Angel Gabriel himself, there
would come one after me to be my apostle and to con-i
found me, to turn my clear-running message to a pois-
onous stream; for, mark this well, Herbertson, after
the real man there is always your ass, and there is no
lie so palatable as that which is merely dead truth.
I have no message. I am a fraud like the rest. It is
all a buying and a selling. I have that to sell which
it is not easy to sell, for the best of a man is not mar-
ketable. I trade, therefore, upon the opinion that good
people form of me, and, though I know it to be errone-
ous, make no effort to correct it while I find them more
profitable. I am a cheat and a liar, and some day, per-
haps, I shall be a fatted man and care for no cleverness
306 PETER HOMUNCULUS
other than that which can cheat and brag, and overreach,
and undersell; perhaps I also shall care nothing how the
people of these islands hear of me, so only that they
hear of me and talk. Perhaps I also shall write para-
graphs and whole columns of words about myself in
the newspapers. Oh ! Herbertson,. I think there is more
of truth in you than in all humanity, for you have no
books, no priests, no law, and no prophets, no St. Paul,
no Voltaire, no Shelley, no Wycliffe, no Wesley, no
Spencer, no Karl Marx, no Descartes, no Comte, no
Darwin ; you have such food as I give you, and as many
iwives as you care to woo. . . . Oh! damn it, Her-
bertson, damn, and damn, and damn. . . . And yet,
and yet I would rather be a man, for even dogs are
eaten. ... On the whole, it is better to eat than
to be eaten. . . ."
After such a harangue Peter would take Herbertson
for a walk, out into Mount Street, where it was a
nightly duty to salute the windows of Mary's flat, and
to the house in Charles Street, which, because it had a
charming doorway, with rings for the torches of link-
men, had been pitched on as Clara's dwelling. This
also was saluted, and the promenade was continued down
into Piccadilly to the house where Wilson had his rooms.
Here Herbertson sniffed at the door to discover if an
entry were possible to the shrine of the entrancing Ma-
tilda, and if Peter continued, he would stand in protest.
One night, very late, close upon twelve, it chanced
that there was a light in Wilson's room, and Peter, in-
flamed with a bright idea for the Cooper book, rang the
bell, and because a sort of madness came over Her-
bertson, he picked him up and carried him in his arms.
The door was opened by a man of Wicksteed's breed.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 307
though even graver, and knowing Peter, he admitted
him and suffered him to go upstairs unannounced. To
keep Herbertson from barking he held a hand upon
his nose and stole quietly upstairs.
The door of Wilson's sitting-room was open. Though
no sound came out of the room, Peter could see a shadow
moving. Wilson was pacing rapidly round the room.
He stopped, and a pipe was knocked against the bar of
the grate, then laid on the marble mantelshelf with a
click. Then silence, and the shadow moved again,
stopped, and a sound half sob, half wild laughter, came
from the man — ^then a woman's voice:
" Oh ! Buntie — Buntie — dear." Mary's voice !
Peter squeezed Herbertson tight, and for the life of
him could move neither forward nor back. Wilson gave
the queer sound again, and Mary laughed, proudly, ex-
Miserably, Wilson cried:
" Ay, you can laugh and you can laugh . . ."
And Mary laughed the more. Furiously Wilson turned
on her :
" I'm just a man like the rest. . . ."
Mary laughed no more.
"Oh! Buntie . . . does it hurt?"
" No," said Wilson, a sort of flinging triumph in his
voice. " No — no— but I'm — I'm so — so glad of it."
They laughed together, and Peter, hugging Herbert-
son yet tighter, and yet tighter clutching his muzzle,
stole downstairs and out into the street.
He walked so fast that Herbertson's little crooked
legs were hard put to it to keep the pace. Peter made
straight for St. James Park and the bridge over the
308 PETER HOMUNCULUS
He stood there, and Herbertson, with his tongue well
out, squatted on his haunches, panting. Peter wanted
to think, but it hurt him to think. He could not pass
" I kissed the woman. I kissed, kissed, kissed the
He remembered the night of the play, when he had
seen Wilson's hand close on hers. Out of the marvel-
lous evening when he had stood with her here above
the water he could recall only the moment when, stooping
to kiss her, they had heard the wretched Tessa sobbing.
Tessa, Warrington, and — Bond. That brought him back
to Bond, and Bond and Bond again. Bond sobbing in
his room in Half Moon Street, and Bond, as flying ru-
mours now painted him, degenerate, wretched, poor, liv-
ing dreadfully. Bond somehow seemed to be linked
with those words of Wilson's:
" I am just a man like the rest of them," wherein,
was confessed the whole silly story. " Silly," was
Peter's word for it, for here, in his panting state of
jealousy and disappointment and wounded vanity, the
whole matter seemed small, tiny as himself at his tini-
est. Silly it might be, small it might be, but yet Peter
found it to be beyond his reach, blurred, and out of
Two things seemed to explain it a little. He remem-
bered once seeing a small whirlwind, a spout of air into
which scraps of paper, dung and skins of fruit were
swept and kept twirling, to be dropped suddenly.
This was perhaps a little like that. Lately he had
heard of a young man — the story was current scandal —
who had attempted to live by theory, and had come to
PETER HOMUNCULUS 309
the idea that life was vulgar. In this state he had taken
unto himself a wife from among the many young women
importuning him, had journeyed with her to Tyrol on
their honeymoon, and thrown himself from s^ great
height into a torrent.
That also seemed to bear some relation to this.
Peter stooped and picked up a pebble. Waiting until
the moon shone forth — a thin sickle of a moon — he
dropped the pebble into the water and watched the rings
spread and spread.
" A man," he thought, " drops like that, and the rings
that he makes spread and spread; for the pool into
which he falls is boundless. ... If only . . .
if only I were not so infernally young."
He walked home slowly, and, because he saw that
Herbertson was exhausted, carried him the greater part
of the way. He walked especially to salute the house
which he had chosen for Clara's happiness and old
Cooper's. In case the ghost of Clara might be floating
by, he recited for her benefit a passage from the letter,
and it seemed that he was nearer to understanding of
the lover than ever before.
A spirit of divination came upon him. He bent down
to Herbertson and said:
" She will write now and ask to see me."
The prophecy was not altogether accurate. She did
not write, but the next occasion upon which, by invita-
tion, he had tea in the nursery in Park Street she waa
there. They met as though only the day before they
" So the dead also greet those who die," said Peter,
the which funereal utterance so upset Mrs. Crewe, who
310 PETER HOMUNCULUS
■was repapering the drawing-room of Jane's doll's house,
that she thrust the handle of the brush through the win-
dow and occasioned tears.
Mary looked with admiration at the well-groomed
He expatiated on the virtues as a valet of grave Wick-
steed. He noticed that his ring was transferred to her
right hand, and that on the third finger of her left she
now wore a ring set with a single sapphire.
Hob insisted on their playing a game called " Char-
Its origin was so palpable that Mary smiled, and
Peter was disgusted to find himself blushing.
" Do you remember," he said, " Smoky Wootten
trotting along the road for beer ? "
"Oh, Peter: yes — and the baby."
The game was exhausting. Hob had corrupted it, and
made of it a sort of Hellish drama wherein Smoky
Wootten had become the fiend who shovelled lost souls on
to his heap. Peter was shovelled in due course, but
Mary insisted on an apotheosis, and was properly sent
to Heaven. They emerged presently, he from the ever-
lasting fire, she from celestial regions, and together they
quitted the house.
They walked in silence into the Park, and across into
Kensington Gardens until they came to the spot :where
they had sat looking on to the Serpentine.
Neither had spoken.
Then, as they sat, " How do you know? " she said.
" How do you know that I know.^ "
She tapped his arm.
" How well I know you." . >
" Clara said that."
PETER HOMUNCULUS 3111
" I am another Clara."
" I have never seen you so happy; nor known your
voice to be so soft."
" But for you, Peter, it would not have been. It is
" You make the whole world wonderful."
Mary cast a shy little glance at him and fell to trac-
ing a head on the ground with the spike of her parasol,
not the famous red, but a soft blue. Peter watched the
tracing. The head was the head of Wilson, but the nose
was certainly his own.
Peter hitched his shoulders, removed his hat and
twisted his forelock. Then, while Mary traced, he ap-
plied himself to the critical study of her physical at-
tractions. As the result of it he said:
" After all, you are not so very beautiful."
" You are just a woman, like the rest of them."
Mary stopped in her tracing, and, turning, looked
full into his eyeSk
" Your eyes are glorious," he said. Then, though he
would gladly have had her ascribe his knowledge to
perfect sympathy, he must teU her how he had come
She was silent. Almost at random Peter quoted :
" ' There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Hora-
tio, than your philosophy can wot of.' "
This was followed by a remark uttered scarcely above
a whisper, and something of his awe reached Mary aa
she saw that his eyes were glittering and starting from
" There are more things in this world, Mary, than
812 PETER HOMUNCULUS
ever entered even Shakespeare's head. That is truth,
Mary, glorious inspiring truth. . . . Gosh ! "
Then he laughed a little wearily, for he saw that the
words had not at all touched Mary's imagination, while
his own was whirling.
That was the end of the woman's glory. He was now
only sorry for her, sorry for himself, and everybody.
Foolishly he decided that, because it had become impos-
sible to share with this woman rare things, there was
nothing more in store for him.
" I'm done with such things," he said, and almost as
soon as the words were spoken he knew that he was in
the most parlous state, without defence. Desperately he
strove to clothe the woman again in her glory, and
poured forth a torrent of words.
"I beg your pardon," he said; "they are all cold.
. . . Fake. But — ^but I know now why men and
women play with fire, and toy with faked emotions.
. . . I can't — I can't make you beautiful again."
He restored his hat to his head and rose to go. She,
" We are always friends, Peter."
" Really friends now — for the first time."
She took his arm and they walked back to Mount
Here he was for leaving her, but she said:
" I should like you to see my new room."
Peter mounted with her.
Tessa opened the outer door for them, and Tessa lin-
gered, smiling upon Peter's bright greeting in hope of
" Tessa born again this morning."
" Such a fine gentleman, Mr. — Mr. Peter." That was
PETER HOMUNCULUS 318
all; she opened the inner door, and Peter entered and
was closeted with Mary, to find that he had nothing to
say to her.
He prowled about the room smoking the cigarette
that she had offered him.
The room charmed him.
" If I did not know you," he said, " I should love you
already through your possessions."
" Knowing me," she said, " you are done with such
" How odd that you should possess a Bible." He took
the book down, and found it to be a gift from the Vicar
of the Parish of Topsham in Devonshire to Mary Green-
field on the occasion of her confirmation.
" I never knew Mary Greenfield."
" You would not have liked her, Peter."
" Shall I like the new Mary? "
" I wonder."
She sighed. Peter restored the book to its place by
the side of the plays of Tom Robertson. He turned
on her suddenly:
" You have always been his."
Mary held out her hand as though to shield herself.
Peter was quivering with excitement. He pursued this
discovery hot foot, leaped upon it, hugged it to his own
hurt, and because of the hurt spared her nothing. Every-
thing that he knew of her he laid before her, raw facts,
and traced them back and back to their origin in the
first and only real tenderness. She sat miserably silent.
It was detestable what he did, but spurred on by the
memory of Bond with his hands clenched in front of
him, by the recollection also of his strange wanderings
through unknown and dreadful streets, he rushed ham-
314 PETER HOMUNCULUS
mering at the poor woman, who hung her head, and at
the last burst into tears.
Peter was then all tenderness, and knelt by her side
to soothe her. Wildly she clung to him, held him to her
breast and sobbed.
" How could I .'' How could I hurt you so, my boy —
The strange noises that they made roused Peter the
cat from his slumbers on the cushioned window seat. He
advanced cautiously to investigate the character of this
" He is the ram caught in the thicket," said Peter, as
the cat was caught up and dandled. " One Peter is as
good as another. A cat has little sympathy — even a cat
with orange eyes."
He was talking to gain time and possession of him-
self — for he found himself again worshipping the woman
whom he had been battering. She was glorious again,
more than ever before — splendid, admirable, generous.
He had found in Cynthia Crewe great warm qualities
which he had never looked for in Mary: his relations
with the two women had been so different. Yet here
they were in this new Mary, blazing, shining forth. He
remembered then that in Cynthia they had been most
apparent with her children, and Peter had shared with
them. Here in Mary's eyes was the great thing all for
himself, and he felt himself growing and growing,
swelling until it seemed that he enveloped her, and from
somewhere in the heart of him came Mary's voice:
" I said once — a son to me."
With that Peter was at her feet to give thanks, and to
adore. She kissed his forehead.
" But— but " he said.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 315
She stroked his hair.
" Such a brother for my babies."
Peter leaped to his feet so suddenly that the other
Peter arched his back and swore at him, then with tail
bristling with indignation marched back to the cushioned
" Now," said Peter, " now I can work."
He squared himself and looked brave.
" I could eat dragons," he said. He chuckled and
" ' Go your way, you fair young man.' Mrs. Crewe
said that, long ago, at Crosslands. You have found the
.way for me, Mary dear."
" I stumbled on it."
" We have all been groping. How blind we were ! "
" St. James is not altogether wrong, Peter."
" Nor are the fauns, Mary — ^the great thing is that
you are happy."
" Yes. Oh ! yes. I am happy."
" Then nothing else matters."
With that he left her.
How much of all this she told to Wilson he never
knew. They contrived to have the Cooper book ready
for the autumn season. It bore for title : " The Lit-
erary Remains of Xavier Cooper, sometime of Book-
sellers' Row and of Shaftesbury Avenue, with an
introduction by D. Murray Wilson and a memoir
by P. D."
It was curiously received. It was reviewed as fiction,
as history, as biography, as a Christmas book (in this
notice Cooper was compared with Scrooge), by a curi-
ous mistake, as Archaology, and in one case it was con-
temptuously dismissed as mere book-making. Though
316 PETER HOMUNCULUS
one or two important journals took it up, it made no
great stir, but sold sfieadily and well.
The grave Wicksteed, to whom Peter proudly pre-
sented a copy, read it and was scornful.
" Them sort of men," he said, " what are always
waggin' their tongues about life in general, nearly al-
ways come to grief. Talk about human nature, no one
knows anything about it, as hasn't lived below stairs.
I never knew a gentleman as had the faintest glimmer.
I back Mrs. Wicksteed agin all the writers and talkers
in the world, I do — she'll give you any of the ladies
she's been with in six words so as to make you shiver in
your shoes at 'em: six words more and she'll make you
go down on your knees an' worship "em. That's what I
calls bein' in love, when you're grovellin' to the woman
one moment, an' spittin' in 'er face the next. In the
books it's all grovellin' ! "
" I knew a man once," said Peter, " :who threw a
clod at the woman he loved."
" Did he 'it 'er? " asked Wicksteed.
" No-o-o," said Peter. " It was a poor shot."
Mr. Wicksteed, who by this time had cleared the table,
snorted and left the room.
There and then Peter began to write the story of a
man who threw a clod at his lady-love and hit her. The
name of the man was Evan Withington, of the woman
One night Peter visited Wilson at half -past eleven and
stayed with him until after three, propounding new
discoveries. He had been reading a scientific work on
morals. Wilson listened with an attention which Peter
had never before obtained from him to the tirade of
protest, denunciation, confused explanation, conjecture,
statement and misstatement, argument, and theory.
Peter talked and talked, until his voice grew hoarse, and
as he talked he became more enthusiastic, wilder. He
strode up and down the room, biting at his thumb and
tugging at his forelock. He rushed at the elemental
facts of humanity and plunged into the most intricate
" Woman, infinite glorious woman," he said, " they
regard as a chattel. Sub potestate, they say, and for-
sooth she must cosset the man who is unfaithful to her,
while if he is kind and forgiving he is plunged in dis-
honour. Dishonour! Under such a law marriage itself
There was much more in the same strain.
At ten minutes past three Wilson knocked his pipe
out on the bar of the grate.
" The relation of a man and a woman is too great a
thing to be influenced by the Law," he said. " Each
man and woman can make the thing the noblest in the
world or the basest. What is wrong with your court is
that it can conceive only the base."
He sucked his empty pipe, which, because it was foul,
318 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" I believe that the wrong will right itself, when the
collective intelligence of the world has grasped at the
truth. This is the very heart and centre of society, and
I believe that the collective intelligence is moving to-
wards a nobler conception: slow it is, but the surer for
being slow. Drastic reform in so vital a matter would
plunge the world into even more disastrous error, oh!
yes, the thing will right itself. ..."
" But to do something to help — ^to do something."
" No man can do more than live nobly, decently, and
in accordance with the truth as he knows it: no man
stands alone, as, praise be to God, nothing in this world
stands alone, not even the mind of a man. Purity in
one mind breeds purity in ten thousand others. . . . "
They sat for some moments in silence. Peter could
say nothing. He knew that at last he had touched the
reality of the man, was behind the veil of inscrutability,
and though the moment was glorious, it was almost in-
He wished to creep away, and, Wilson staring into
the grate where the fire was long since dead, he rose
stealthily to his feet.
Wilson shivered, turned, and looked up at him.
" Dulcinea del Toboso," he said, " is the most beauti-
ful lady in the world, and I am the most unfortunate
The same thought was in the minds of both, the
image of the same woman.
"I — I know," said Peter, and stole away. There
were long hours before he sought his bed, long hours of
brooding, of snatching at elusive visions. His thoughts
:went in a maddening circle. To escape he took down
book after book from his shelves, but in none could he
PETER HOMUNCULUS 319
find comfort; couplets, epigrams, phrases that he had
once thought to be the last word, now seemed to him no
more than to touch the fringe of this problem. None
of the great vision-men had seen, or if they had seen,
had projected that which could be of use to him or to
any other man. Peter could achieve nothing more than
" For each man the solution is in himself; no thought
nor reason can clear the way, but only — only the brave
and simple going out to meet truth."
Fear seized him as he seemed to understand, and
where it was that Wilson had failed.
Grasping at the truth, Peter was filled with horror of
himself, and a curious fear of all womankind came upon
him. Human effort, human striving, human words writ-
ten and recorded were useless, for in the one real charge
laid upon man, all must be rediscovered by each. The
only true knowledge must be learned through bitter,
bitter experience, and even when the thing was grasped,
there was no telling where joy begins and pain ends — -
and — and — marvellous things had been written, but
there was no understanding them until — until there came
the illumination of the encounter. Without that light
nothing was true. . . . The — the — the source of all
error. Human striving.
He collapsed, limp, his hands to his face. He was
cold, bitterly cold.
" Oh ! " he said. " I know nothing — nothing — ^noth-
All the same this discovery of ignorance did not keep
him from working on the story of Esther Vernon, who
lived in Clara's house and loved her Evan; nor did it
keep him from making notes of phrases and great
320 PETER HOMUNCULUS
thoughts in a little book which he kept for that purpose.
A whole page was devoted to this sentence:
" Nothing stands alone : least of all the mind of a
Many years later when he was a person of conse-
quence^ as he turned over the leaves of this book con-
temptuous of his youthful ardours and impressions, he
added in pencil:
" With these words I became a man and put away
The comment was hardly at all true, but to the stu-
dent of Peter's career it is interesting: so characteristic
of his absurd introspective habit was the determination
of the day and hour when he emerged from adolescence.
It was true to this extent that his outlook became wider.
There were anxious times for both Peter and Wilson,
as the time approached for the hearing of Mary's peti-
tion for divorce. Peter haunted the court and sat
through the dreary hearing of many a sordid case, more
and more repelled by the atmosphere, tortured with the
idea that Mary should come to such a place, Mary whom
he had seen in the woods, Mary who had held in her
arms the charcoal burner's baby on that most wonderful
of nights. That she should come to tell of her most
sacred life to the singularly ugly old gentleman who
sat under the anchor, and the coarse-grained men who
made their trade the asking of vile questions, was an
Peter came raging to Wilson one day to report a re-
mark that he had heard from the Leader of the court.
The man — a well-fed gentleman with a shiny pink face,
whereon a child-like smile sat ill, — ^had expressed weari-
ness of his profession.
PETER HOMUNCULUS 321
" No law in it," he said, " never any law. Always the
eternal question. Did she or did she not?"
The juniors fawning upon him had taken up the joke,
and it flew from mouth to mouth.
Peter was livid with rage. Wilson was more sensible.
" It is their business," he said.
Very curiously just at this time Peter received a dis-
reputable-looking letter from New Zealand. It was
bulky, and the envelope was addressed in a handwriting
he did not remember to have seen before. The envelope
contained this document:
Care of Box 771, Wellington, N. Z.
My Dear Petee:
I daresay you remember your Aunt Jennie, although
it is nearly nine years ago since she saw you. I have
often thought of you and the talk we had when we
walked to the Five Oaks Common. At that time you
were then only a boy. I could not speak to you as I
can now. You are a man, and know good and evil. You
know, of course, my unhappy life — but you do not know
everything. I am telling you now because I do not think
I shall live very long, and I want you to set me right
with my children, whose minds have been poisoned
against me by your Aunt Anne Daltry. I had not a fair
trial. As Lawson Jones remarked to the President, " It
is a prejudged case, my Lord," to which the Judge re-
plied, " I think that is rather a hard term." " Not at all,
my Lord, my client's witnesses have not been heard."
The foreman of the jury just heard me, and then sent up
a note to the Judge to say he was satisfied I had done
wrong, and the case had better not go on. Of course,
had my witnesses been heard I should have had my chil-
322 PETER HOMUNCULUS
dren and my character cleared, for I never did what they
said I did. I was imprudent, but I know you will be-
lieve me. I did not do wrong, and it has been the
only consolation I have had since in knowing that.
You do not know what it was to have had the
children taken from me. The foreman of the jury, old
Pardee, who kept the Hotel at the corner of Tot-
tenham Court Road, was a great friend of Anne
and the odious Daltry man. I did not know until after
the trial what the foreman was, who he was, or else we
should not have allowed him to be in the case at all.
. • . Do try and get the children's photos for me.
The detective will tell you how cruel the trial was against
me. As he said to me when I saw him last, " Everyone
who swore falsely against you has been punished some-
how," and so they have, but that is no satisfaction to me.
It does not give me back my character nor my children.
Well, I shall not be here long. The climate is so cold
and damp, and both my lungs were never strong, and
they are worse now. We are just battling along — as
we can. Write to me and tell me about my children.
Your affectionate Aunt,
Peter remembered the unhappy woman, a beautiful
creature she had been, his father's sister, and how, after
her catastrophe, she had come to his house to receive
kindness from his father, and cruelty from his mother,
so that there was no refuge for her there. He remem-
bered, too, the walk when she had begun to tell him
something of her history, and then had stopped abruptly
in the telling and turned to a mood of wild and desperate
PETER HOMUNCULUS 323
gaiety of a few moments only, for then she sobbed and
clung to him. Now at the other end of the world she
had remembered him and sought the comfort of confes-
It was ridiculous that it should come at such a time,
this pathetic letter with its dreadful picture of the
Court, Judge, Counsel, Jury — Peter's vision of the pub-
lican foreman was dreadful — all interested in nothing
but the sordid question. Did she or did she not " do
wrong " ?
Peter's thought was for Mary rather than for poor
Jennie, though her letter had moved him to pity.
He was present in court when Mary obtained her de-
cree nisi. Bond did not defend. The case did not
occupy the court more than twenty minutes. Five other
undefended petitions were disposed of that morning.
Mary told her story quite simply. Tessa gave evi-
dence of her share in the matter, and a former maid
proved cruelty. There were few people present besides
the parties and witnesses in the other cases and their
friends. Of the idle and curious there were none, for
the hearing of undefended petitions is a cut-and-dried
During the hearing Wilson was pacing up and down
the great Central Hall, the dreariest place in London,
sucking at an empty pipe. Occasionally he so far for-
got himself as to make a face at any man in wig and
gown, so acutely did he detest the Law and all its ma-
chinery. A legal acquaintance recognised and came to
speak with him. All that Wilson said was :
" In a little church in Cornwall there is an epitaph
which records as the chief est virtue of a sailor man that
never in all his life was he engaged in a law-suit."
324 PETER HOMUNCULUS
" It would be pleasanter," said the barrister, " if
honest men more often came to us."
Wilson looked round the vast hall.
" It costs the country a pretty penny to adjust the
quarrels of scoundrels."
His friend noticed a solicitor whom he thought it wise
to conciliate. He walked away and disappeared up one
of the dark staircases with a greasy little man, red-eyed
like a ferret.
Bassett-Crewe and Sandilands had made valiant
efforts to keep the case out of the papers, but the celeb-
rity of the parties (Bond was not yet sunk from notice)
proved too tempting for the evening journals, and al-
ready as they emerged into the Strand they were con-
fronted with placards on which in enormous letters was
printed: "Famous actress obtains Divorce."
" Damw," said Wilson between his teeth.
They were married as soon as the decree was made
absolute, and, after a grand tour, settled in a little house
in Queen Anne's Gate, overlooking St. James Park.
Here Tessa was parlour-maid, and very handsome in her
gown of purple cloth, frilled apron and mob cap, in
which Mary dressed her: and here Peter was welcome
as often as he chose to visit.
He made great efforts during their absence to have
his book ready for their wedding-gift: but though he
finished the writing of it, he found greater difficulty in
coming upon the Town than he had anticipated. Pub-
lishers told him that though they personally preferred
the class of work upon which he was engaged, they must
consider the interests of their partners or their share-
holders, and that such a book would not sell, though if
Mr. Davies could see his way to sharing the cost of pro-
PETER HOMUNCULUS 325
duction Peter remembered Mr. Beaumont Scholes,
and his method of publication^ and regularly replied
that his work must be taken on its merits or not at all.
In the end he sent it to a firm who had announced a
prize of £100 for the best first novel. The prize was
awarded to Peter and two others, the publisher thus
obtaining three novels for the poor price of one.
The book was published on very poor paper, and in
a hideous cover, a few days before Peter's twenty-fifth
birthday. He sent copies to his family, to Janet Fildes
(whom he had not seen for many months), to the Scott?,
to Mary, to Mattie in Paris, to Thomas Bloomer, that
pedagogue who had so cruelly snubbed him on his only
visit to his birthplace. Wicksteed also received a copy.
On his birthday Peter was invited to dine with the
Scotts, and his guardian gave an account of his steward-
ship. Peter was possessed of a fortune of nearly five
Of these he sent two hundred to be divided among his
brothers and sisters, who one and all wrote to him with
awe and respect, for they had not thought so much money
was to be made by the practice of literature as a pro-
fession. They sent Peter their love, but by postscript,
and as though they doubted whether so fine and opulent
a gentleman could have need of such a poor commodity,
and herein Peter first tasted the bitterness of the ad-
vance to greatness, and first began to perceive the
isolation to which a man is brought in mounting to a
Though his accomplishment was small, he found that
the " promise " that he was said to show and the
" future " predicted for him did stand almost irritatingly
between himself and those who had been his friends.
326 PETER HOMUNCULUS
He suffered considerably, and began to loathe the word
He approached Wilson on the subject.
" It is a poor thing that should not stand in the way
of all that is really worth doing in this world."
" To be kind and strive always to be kinder," quoted
" That old Cooper "
They laughed, and Mary, entering at that moment,
asked the reason of their merriment. Neither could ex-
plain, though they gave Mary the subject of their con-
She took the chair that her husband brought forward
for her, and sat so with the glow of the fire upon her
face. Then she sighed, and, turning to Peter with a
slow smile (softer than it had ever been in the old
days), she said:
" Peter dear, if you never in all your life did anything
more than you have done, you would still be to me most
" You are more glorious now than you have ever been."
Her eyes turned to her husband, and Peter knew her
thought, that every word he had written or might write,
could add nothing to the understanding of himself, which
had been his great gift to her. As she gazed at her hus'
band all the tenderness in the world was in her eyes, and
Peter knew that he had had his share in bringing it.
He reminded her of old Cooper's dream-children de-
scending from the trees to circle the lovers and dance.
" Yes," she said. " It is true. That is creation no
less than the other; each baby has a dream-baby
for brother or sister."
PETER HOMUNCULUS 327,
" I am inclined to think," said Wilson, " that dream-
babies have no sex."
All three laughed on this.
As he took his leave Peter kissed Mary's hand. He
saw that she still wore old Adam's ring, plain gold set
with one pink pearl.
In Waverton Street he asked Wicksteed his opinion
of the book.
" Personally," said the grave man, " I like something
with a little more of a story. Oh, Esther's all right,
but she'd ha' been sick o' that Withington fellow in a
week and off with another. But I suppose there's books
no worse than that makes a heap o' money."
" After deducting the cost of typewriting, I have
made exactly twenty-seven pounds, twelve shillings and
sixpence," said Peter, settling into a chair by the fire
and lighting a pipe. " After all, it is a trade; and the
most celebrated and widely read author in Europe is —