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Full text of "Peter Homunculus, a novel"

PETER 

HOMUNCULU5 



GILBERT CANNAN 



CORNELL 

UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARY 




Joseph Whitmore Barry 
dramatic library 



THE GIFT OF 
TWO FRIENDS 

OF Cornell University 



1934 



Cornell University Library 
PR 6005.A61P4 

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. 



http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924013593714 



PETER HOMUNCULUS 



Peter Homunculus 



A Novel 



By 
Gilbert Caiman 




New York 

DUFFIELD AND COMPANY 

1909 



Copyright, 1909, by 
duffield and company 



" Nemo repente optimus fit/' 



PETER HOMUNCULUS 



Peter Homunculus 



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 



PETER HOMUNCULUS 

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 
not budge. 

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 
length. 

"Heuh!" said the head. 

" I'll come." 

"Name?" said the head, 
i " Peter Davies, sir." 

" Peter Homunculus." 

" Davies, sir." 

"i^rist of Tuirro)?" 

"ETv^«t, sir." 

"Good. Where's Nicaragua?" 

" Central America, sir." 

" Spell Apopocatapetl." 

Peter spelled it. 

" Can you write? " 

" Yes, sir." 

"Read? Add?" 

" Yes, sir." 

"Add forty-five and sixty-three." 

" Hundred and eight, sir." 

The head looked inquiringly round the shop. 

" Seen Demophoon? " 

"What, sir?" 

" The cat; she was thrown into the fire when she was 
a kitten." 

" She ran out when I came in." 



PETER HOMUNCULUS 15 

A pause. Then: 

" Do you want a boy, sir? " 

"Eh?" 

" 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." 

"Where, sir?" 

" 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? " 

" Sixteen." 

" Had measles ? Mustn't have measles here. Babies 
on the top floor. You're not a Londoner by your 
accent." 

" 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 
said: 
" Sir/' 



10 PETER HOMUNCULUS 

There was no answer. He peered round the bootcase 
and saw that X. Cooper was asleep. He dared not rouse 
him. 

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 
in London. 

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 
rare value. 

" 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 
idiot. 

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 
jaw working. 

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 
forehead. 

He wailed: " The man shot himself." 

" What man, dearie ? " 

"He — ^he came out of the — ^the public house. And, 
and sh — shot himself." 

"Oh!" 

" 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 
st her. 



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." 

"Eh?" 

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- 
ing." 

"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." 

"Who did?" 

" 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 
words : 

" 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 ? " 

" Yes." 

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? " 

"Mr. Cooper." 

" He ain't in. What d'you want him for ? " 

" I'm coming to live here — ^to work." The young 
woman whistled. 

" The devil you are. Wait a minute and I'll let 
you in." 

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 
said: 

" 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 ? " 

"Peter Davies." 

" Mine's Tessa Myers. You can call me Tessa. How 
old are you ? " 

" Sixteen." 

" I'm nineteen. Really friends I mean. Not — ^not " 

Peter did not understand what not, but he agreed with 
her. 

" 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- 
quiescence. 

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 
reality, laughed. 

" He's fallen over your bag," she said. " Come 
on." 

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 
man continued: 

" 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 
to Tessa. 

" 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 
drunk enough." 

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 
unjust." 

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 
inscription: 

Pbize Awarded to 

PETER DA VIES. 

Subject — English Literature. 

Open Prize. 

Midsummer 1906. 

Thomas Bloomeb, 

Head Master. 

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. 

Peter slept. 



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 

34 



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 
are barren." 

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 
death." 

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 
people free." 

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 
Oxford Street. 

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 
fortunes." 

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, 
large feet. 

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 
gone." 

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, 
a hymn. 

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 
familiarity jarred. 

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 
Davies. 

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 
laughter. 

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 
mood. 

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 
Davies." 

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 
could find. 

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. 



Ill 

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 

57 



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 
young. 

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 
clammy. 

It was. 

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 
left 

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 
of feeling. 

" 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: 

" Yes." 



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- 
small things." 

He took his Shelley and read from " Queen Mab," 
read as he had never read before to Peter, finely thun- 
dering: 

"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 
audible : 

" 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 know." 

" 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 
door. 

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 country. 

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, 
obstinate, young." 

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 
important. 

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 
asleep. 

" 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 
vanity." 

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 
known." 

" 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 
the man." 

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 
inner Peter. 

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 
and oiling. 

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, 
:vho chuckled. 

"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 
friendship." 

" 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 
laughter. 

" 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 
aside. 

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." 

"What?" 

"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- 
derstand myself." 

" How should you? " said Janet. 

"I'm an ass — ^but I'm going out to dinner." 

"Where?" 

" With the Rev. David Scott. He's a minister in 
Southwark, and you can see his name in the papers any 
day." 

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. 
They'll come." 

" 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 
hand. 

" 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 
dinner. 

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 " 
for them. 

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: 

"Oh!" 

" 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 
clothes. 

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- 
sider." 

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. 
Scott. 

" 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- 
mering. 

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." 

Peter demurred. 

" 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 
her. 

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, 
and bowed. 

" 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 
lifted him. 

As he left the room with Mr. Scott, he heard Wil- 
son's voice: 

" 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 
his head. 

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 
touch it. 

" 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 
legs. 

" 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 
to Everest. 



IV 

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 
to it. 

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 
through it." 

"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. 

Then: 

"Will he know me?" he said. 

Fildes looked sharply up at him. 

" N;o." 

" 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 
thoughts. 



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- 
:ways. 

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- 
chamber. 

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. 

Coffin board. 
Poor pale corse. 
Grave shall hoard 
Love's remorse. 

Let me win 
Happiness ; 
Lay me in 
Sad cypress. 

Love, the foe. 
Aids to death. 
Ache of woe. 
Sting of breath. 

Death the friend 
Comes too soon; 
Makes the end 
Sweet atune. 

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 
dead. 

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 
the inscription: 

"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- 
curitatem Dei." 

"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. 

"How?" 

"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 
mine?" 

" 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. 

"For what?" 

" 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, 
sir?" 

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 
to help. 

" 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, 
1856: 

" 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, 
blotted out. 

" 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 
sorry. 

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 
growth." 

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 
down, 

" 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 
puzzled. 

" 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 
puppies." 

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 
Demophoon, caressing." 

Mattie laughed. 

" 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: 

" Mattie." 

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?." 

Mattie nodded. 

" 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. 

"What now?" 

" Laugh." 

"I— I can't." 

"Mr. Davies then."y 

"No— Peter." 

" Peter." 



114 PETER HOMUNCULUS 

It sounded so odd to hear her say solemnly " Peter " 
that he gasped, then giggled, — ^broke at last into a 
laugh. 

" 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. 

"But Mattie.?" 

" No small benefit for her, Peter is a tender and a 
kind soul." 

"He will hurt her." 

"Less than another." 

" More, I think." 

" She will be proud to have known him, and he must 
learn." 

"Oh! well " 

" It is the boiling process for both." 

"Eh?" 



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." 

"How bad.?" 

" He will swell — Cleave it. If there is need I can 
take him." 

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 
held. 

" 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- 
room door. 

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 
dead." 

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 
Scotts. 

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: 

"Shivering Souls," 

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 
past. 

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: 

"Dear Peter, 

" 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, 

"Anne Wolverton," 

Peter was puzzled by the letter. " We," and why 
the change of name.'' He turned over a leaf and found 
this: 

" 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 

139 



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? " 

" Mattie." 

"And young Davies? He's a remarkable young 
man." 

" You — you said he'd hurt himself — ^that night. Do 
you remember? Was — ^was this what you meant?" 

Wilson chuckled. 

" 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." 

"Then nothing?" 

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 
marriage " 



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 
vouchsafed nothing. 

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 
him. 

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 
lick it. 

" 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 
devil." 

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 
work. 

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 
and habits. 



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 
said: 

" I'll go on the streets like Lizzie. It's that or a 
factory." 

. 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 
Peter. 

" 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 
Providence." 

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 
down. 

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 
admonished : 

"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 
of heliotrope. 

All innocence, he asked the dealer who the ladies 
were. 

" 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 
critters." 

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 
Peter. 

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 
state. 

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 
sit down. 

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 
fields." 

" Like Falstaff," thought Peter. " A babble of green 
fields." 

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 
neck. 

The fanatical young man plunged into a whirl of 
economic jargon. 

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, 
Miss Dugdale. 

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 
down." 

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- 
son. 

" 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 
chuckled. 

" 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 
hung " 

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- 
rette. 

" 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 

Dugdale." 

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 " 

Wilson laughed. 



152 PETER HOMUNCULUS 

" Some there are who deny it, from cowardice. So 
they remove all warmth and atmosphere: for what else 
is there?" 

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 
big fellows." 

" 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 
and threepence." 

"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 
work." 

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 
simple expression." 

" I saw the old woman," said Peter. " It was some 
years ago. I saw her like that. I had to write." 

" Yes." 

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 
of mine." 

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 
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 
waited. 

"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 
proud. 

" 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." 

Peter glowed. 

" 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 
said: 

" 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 
" dear." 



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 
kissed her. 

Mattie took his face in her hands, and cooing over 
him, said: 

" 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 
were better. 

"Vain Peter," said Mattie. 

"I want to make it as presentable as possible — for 
your sake." 

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 
manner : 

" 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 
pf writing. 



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 
native town. 

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 
weren't." 

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 — 
scrapped." 

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 
and clothing. 

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 
of staleness. 

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 
Street. 

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 
eyes." 

" 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 
schoolmaster. 

" I daresay," said Peter carelessly. He had not di- 
vulged that Wilson possessed several portraits of the 
lady. 

"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 
Square. 

The evening of that day he spent in fingering the 
pink topaz necklace and in reading old Cooper's literary 
remains. 

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. 



VI 

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 
to write." 

Peter gasped at this touching of his tenderest am- 
bitions, and the parson pushed the flagon of port in hia 
direction. 

"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 

16T 



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 
before that." 

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 
Eastbourne. 

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 
messages. 

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 
cock-arhoop. 

By chance he discovered a comfortable element in 
distressful London. 

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 
room. 

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: 

"Miss Dugdale!" 

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?" 

"Oh!— That." 

" 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 
descent. 

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 
love it." 

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 
gesture. 

"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- 
thing, mightily." 

" 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 
him. 

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." 

" 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 
invalid." 

"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 
of Chelsea. 

They sat for long talking so over the coffee and 
liqueurs. 

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, 
I mean." 

" 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." 

"Splendid 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 
woman." 

" 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 
,wine. 

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- 
row." 

When Peter rose from the composition of this mas- 
terpiece he! staggered and thought 'himself very 
drunk. 

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 
of heliotrope. 

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 
Haslemere. 

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 
down. 

" 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- 
tering. 

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- 
ful. 

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: 

"Tiny man!" 



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 
Kensington Gardens. 

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- 
able bar. 

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- 
mg. 

Here the conductor remonstrated again, and the man 
protested. 

" 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 
the Park. 

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 
distairt adoration. 

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 
applauded. 

" Do you swim? " 

" I meet Leander half way in his passage — and drown 
with him." 

"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 
o'clock." 

"Tell me more." 

" More? " 

"About yourself." 

" 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." 

"And mine." 

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 
between them. 

" 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- 
ing. 

" We have invaded their Eden, Peter." The intru- 
sion was soon forgotten. There were childish caresses 
and embraces. 

" 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- 
less woman." 

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- 
shade. 

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?" 

"Things odious." 

" You know I am a wife? ' 

"I know." 

" Unworthy." 

" No, no." 



192 PETER HOMUNCULUS 

" I could not keep my husband." 

" I could not blame you.'' 

"Dear Peter." 

" He has left you." 

" I him. The best has been withheld from me." 

" Poor " 

" Where is my handkerchief ? " 

" With all my treasures." 

"Others'?" 

" 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?" 

" Dine." 

"Then walk. The river, Westminster: perhaps 
Chelsea; St. James Park at night is a place for splen- 
did dreams." 

" 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 

"And that?" 

" 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 
to awe. 

" We have hemmed him in," said Peter, " but water 
is kind, always kind." 

They leaned on the parapet, and their arms touched. 
Mary sighed. 

" 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 
moon." 

" 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 
kissed it. 

" 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, 
Xavier." 

"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 
dances." 

"With saints? Oh! no." 

" The saints are blind to them." 

"Poor saints." 



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 
stooped. 

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?" 

Tessa sobbed. 

?' 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 
breast. 

" 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 
on unheeded. 

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 
him." 

" I think," said Peter, " I think the fauns have played 
us tricks." 

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 
Blaise Pascal. 

" 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 
her.?" 

"And you?" 

" 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." 

" No." 

" 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 
shamed her. 

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 
weaving ? 

" 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 
great happening. 

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 
white throat. 

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 
pipes ..." 

Miss Bastable gravely discussed the condition of her 
lodger with her slave. 

" It's a scented woman," she said with a sniff of 
righteousness. 



VII 

Tessa, so Peter heard from Mary, was lodged at 
Barnstaple, where the gentle air of Devon would restore 
her strength. 

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. 

800 



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 
the " 

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 
moment. 

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 
themselves. 

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 
praises. 

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 
muttering : 

" 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, 
and German." 

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 
Wilson. 

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 
walked " 

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- 
tered inarticulately. 

" 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." 

«I?_No— No." 

"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 
to me?" 

" I must not see him ? " 

"Why sweep him into our coil? " 

" A son to me." 

" H'm. He has written to you? " 

" Much." 

"Son-like letters?" 

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 
from him. 

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 
sons. 

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, 
shall 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 
change. 

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 
Aryan roots. 

" 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 
hated. 

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- 
sent. 

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 
innocence. 

Peter expressed great admiration, and Mr. Green- 
field said: 

" 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 
character. 

" 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- 
scope. 

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 
it." 

Peter did not heed the protest. It is doubtful, indeed, 
if he heard it, so intent was he in his harangue. He 
continued: 

" 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 
Glory Jane! 

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 
that performer. 

" Like to know her? " said Mr. Greenfield. 

" I do," said Peter. " I have seen her do a greater 
thing than that." 

" Bosh." 

"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 
stage again. 

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 
antics. 

" 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 
came. 

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 
white handkerchief. 

" 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 
pallor. 

Looking round, Peter could see neither Greenfield 
nor Bond. 

" 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, 
sir?" 

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. 

Peter laughed. 

" 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 
adventure. 

"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 
floor. 

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 
heroine : 

"She was a great huntress and she bore many 
children." 

He kept the thought locked and, turning to Bond, 
said only: 

" 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 



Peter winced. 
" 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: 

"Not Silenus." 

" No," said Bond, " full-blooded Narcissus. Worse." 

" I," said Peter, " have been called an Achilles with 
brains, and that is worse than either." 

"Only youth." 

"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 
sound. 

" 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- 
pened " 

He brought his hands down from his face and 
Peter saw them clench and the whole body of the man 
shake. 

"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 
no friends." 

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 
simply: 

" 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 

"You lie." 

" 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. 
He stopped. 

" Queer," he said. " I do not know why . ,. 
Good-night." 

Peter moved slowly to the door. The man was again 
detestable. 

" 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- 
ning horridly. 

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- 
shop. 

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 
hand. 

"Oh! Peter. How?" 

" Mattie," said Peter, " I have been living a dread- 
ful life" 

She protested. 

" 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." 

"Then how?" 

" 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." 

"Where?" 

" 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 
she said: 

"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 
divined. 

"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 
him. 

" 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 
Hooch. 

" 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 
arm. 

"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 
de Hooch. 

"Whose?" 

"The mannikin's." 

" There is no mannikin in any picture that I can 
see." 

" 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 
hear." 

" 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 
come ..." 

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 
said: 

" 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 
stir. 

"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 
Mattie." 

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 
readily enough: 

" Yessir." 

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?" 

Bill laughed. 

" 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 
d'oc. 

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 
none came. 

" 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.' " 

"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 
Peter's. 

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.' " 

"Mr. Cooper?" 

" 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- 
file. 

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." 

Bassett-Crewe said: 

" 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 
grateful. 

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 
Peter. 

" 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 
years ago." 

" 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 
mean." 

"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- 
approval. 

" The mermaids, at least/' said the attache, " sound 
attractive." 

" 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 
air. 

"Do you swim?" she said. 

" Lovingly." 

"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 
rest. 

" 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 
walk." 

"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. 

" Beautiful." 

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 
them honestly." 

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 

"Oh!" 

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 
sit?" 

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 
memory: 

" 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 
dark. 

Mrs. Crewe echoed:- 

" ' Go your way, you fair young man, that you perish 
not also.'" 



PETERI HOMUNCULUS 245 

Then she rose and they walked to the house. Peter 
asked her: 

" 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 
agamr 

" 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 
simplicity. 

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 
to smoke. 

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- 
norance. 

" 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. 

"A Caxton." 

" 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 
introduction." 

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. 



VIII 

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 
prig." 

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 
insisted. 

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. 

847 



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 
complete tmbosoming. 

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 
county. 

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. 

Said Silver-Birch: 

" Peter says they has. And Peter knows." 

The dead bear rose to her knees and looked reproach 
at Cynthia. 

" 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 
room. 

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 
not go? 

Cynthia came. 

"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 
tears. 



252 PETER HOMUNCULUS 

" Poor Bertram came to see me." 

"He dared." 

" 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 ..." 

"What then?" 

" 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 
impertinent acquaintances.) 

" 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 
returned. 

" 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- 
band. 

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 
Peter. 

" 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? " 

" No." 

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- 
man. 

" 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." 

" Young/' 

"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 
me, Peter." 

"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? 

" No." 

"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 
aloud. 

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 
was intangible. 

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." 

Cynthia protested. 

" 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 
grew. 

" 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 
eyes. 

"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 
listened. 

"Oh! w:hatisit?" 

"A small goat-footed boy — an envoy. What does he 
Bay? " 



260 PETER HOMUNCULUS 

t 

"Just music." •'" 

"Well?" 

" 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 
Thomas." 

" You Uve here?" 

" In the woods. Wood's my living, and Bessie's and 
the baby's." 

" 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 
tree tops." 

Mary kissed the baby and restored it to its mother. 

" Has it a name yet? " 

" We thought of Thomas." 

" Call it Peter." - 

"My godchild?" 

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 
crying: 

" 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 
beer. 

" 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." 

"So early?" 

" 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 
Demophoon dead." 

" 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, then." 

"Good-night. Is Cynthia to know nothing? She 
made it possible." 

" No— nothing." 

" Then I shall tell Jane." 

" Her you may. Good-night." 

" Good-night." 

He held her hand. 

" Really good-night now." 

He released her. Then would have held her but she 
fled laughing. 

Peter entered the drawing-room, and without a word 
sat at the piano. With one finger he played the air of 
a chant. 

"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 
eremite's vow." 

"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 
great coal. 

" 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 
said suddenly: 

"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 
you." 

" If only," said she, " my Hob may grow a little like 
you." 

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 

"WilaoDl" 

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 
general. 

" Do I really want any woman ? " This again was 
avoided by a further question, and yet more and 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 
mirror. 

" 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 
eyes. 

Mrs. Crewe prescribed quinine before breakfast and 
dosed him. 

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. 

"What?" 

" 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 
young." 

" 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 

go." 

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 
made. 

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 
his ear. 

" 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 
toilette. 

" 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- 
lessly cruel." 

" 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. 
" Gone." 

" 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." 

Peter started. 

" '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 
stringy sort." 
. " 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 
kindness. 

" 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 shop. 

The half-caste was there, no feature of his villainous 
face perceptibly altered. He had assistants no less vil- 
lainous. 

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 
upstairs." 

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 
her. 

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 
each other. 

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 
again: 

" You are Mr. Wolverton." 

" My name is Kelly." 

" Parson George," said Peter. 

The man cringed. 

" When I knew you," said Peter, " your name was 
Wolverton." 

" 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 
uncle." 

"Young Davies?" 

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 
with him. 

"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 
phenomena." 

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 
another beginning." 

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- 
tion irresistible. 

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 
the door. 



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 
Peter. 

" 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 
afl!"ord it." 

" 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 
court." 

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 
for advertisement." 

" 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 
colonies." 

The subject was distasteful, and they turned to the 
Townsend papers, while Peter narrated all that he had 
discovered. 

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 
thought." 

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. 



IX 



The new Wilson comedy was produced with triumpliant 
success. 

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 
impossible. 

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 
befallen me." 

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 
possible client. 

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 
infinite." 

He clutched her shoulder and wagged a forefinger in 
her face. 

" 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 
and night." 

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 
heels. 

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 

it," 



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 
Iiusky voice. 

" 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- 
ber 4. 

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 
inscription: 

Horace Walpole 
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, 
"Waverton Street!" 

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 
melancholy narrative. 

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. 

"Mr. Davies." 

" 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- 
derous voice: 

" 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 
inarticulately. 

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 
home. 

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 
Herbertson. 

" 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? " 

" To-morrow." 

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- 
gether amiable. 

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 
again. 

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- 
don Square. 

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 
Tessa." 

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 
stamped it. 

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 
the counter." 

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 
brood." 

" 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. 

Cynthia said: 

" 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 
evenings. 

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 
himself. 

" 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- 
ultingly. 

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 
water. 



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 
beyond. 

" I kissed the woman. I kissed, kissed, kissed the 
woman." 

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 
focus. 

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 
had parted. 

" 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 
Peter. 

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- 
coal-burner." 

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." 

She laughed. 

" But for you, Peter, it would not have been. It is 
very wonderful." 

" 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." 

"Oh, Peter!" 

" 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 
by it. 

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 
his head. 

" 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, 
too. 

" We are always friends, Peter." 

" Really friends now — for the first time." 

She took his arm and they walked back to Mount 
Street. 

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 
(words. 

" 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 
things." 

" 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 — 
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 
new invader. 

" 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 
window seat. 

" Now," said Peter, " now I can work." 

He squared himself and looked brave. 

" I could eat dragons," he said. He chuckled and 
quoted : 

" ' 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 
Esther Vernon. 



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 
disquisitions. 

" 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 
is dishonourable." 

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, 
gurgled. 

317 



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- 
tolerable. 

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 
knight." 

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 
this: 

" 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- 
mg. 

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 
man." 

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 
childish things." 

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 
odious humiliation. 

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. 
With love. 

Your affectionate Aunt, 

Jexnie. 

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- 
sion. 

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 
business. 

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 
hundred pounds. 

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 
pinnacle. 

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 
success. 

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 
Peter. 

" 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- 
versation. 

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 
M'onderful." 

" 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 — 
Karl Baedeker." 



THE END