UP THE RIVER
Here is an extract from a letter written
by Julian Casti to Waymark in the month of May.
By this time they were living near to each other, but
something was about to happen which Julian preferred
to communicate in writing.
“This will be the beginning
of a new life for me. Already I have felt a growth
in my power of poetical production. Verse runs
together in my thoughts without effort; I feel ready
for some really great attempt. Have you not noticed
something of this in me these last few days? Come
and see me to-night, if you can, and rejoice with me.”
This meant that Julian was about to
be married. Honeymoon journey was out of the
question for him. He and his wife established
themselves in the lodgings which he was already occupying.
And the new life began.
Waymark had made Harriet’s acquaintance
a couple of weeks before; Julian had brought her with
him one Sunday to his friend’s room. She
was then living alone, having quitted Mrs. Ogle the
day after that decisive call upon Julian. There
was really no need for her to have done so, Mrs. Ogle’s
part in the comedy being an imaginary one of Harriet’s
devising. But Julian was led entirely by his cousin,
and, as she knew quite well, there was not the least
danger of his going on his own account to the shop
in Gray’s Inn Road; he dreaded the thought of
such an interview.
Waymark was not charmed with Miss
Smales; the more he thought of this marriage, the
more it amazed him; for, of course, he deemed it wholly
of his friend’s bringing about.
The marriage affected their intercourse.
Harriet did not like to be left alone in the evening,
so Julian could not go to Waymark’s, as he had
been accustomed to, and conversation in Mrs. Casti’s
presence was, of course, under restraint. Waymark
bore this with impatience, and even did his best to
alter it. One Sunday afternoon, about three weeks
after the marriage, he called and carried Julian off
to his room across the street. Harriet’s
face sufficiently indicated her opinion of this proceeding,
and Julian had difficulty in appearing at his case.
Waymark understood what was going on, and tried to
discuss the matter freely, but the other shrank from
“I am grievously impatient of
domestic arrangements,” Waymark said. “I
fancy it would never do for me to marry, unless I had
limitless cash, and my wife were as great a Bohemian
as myself. By the by, I have another letter from
Maud. Her pessimism is magnificent. This
intense religiousness is no doubt a mere phase; it
will pass, of course; I wonder how things would arrange
themselves if she came back to London. Why shouldn’t
she come here to sit and chat, like you do?”
“That would naturally lead to
something definite,” said Casti, smiling.
“Oh, I don’t know.
Why should it? I’m a believer in friendship
between men and women. Of course there is in
it the spice of the difference of sex, and why not
accept that as a pleasant thing? How much better
if, when we met a woman we liked, we could say frankly,
’Now let us amuse each other without any arrière
pensee. If I married you to-day, even though
I feel quite ready to, I should ten to one see some
one next week who would make me regret having bound
myself. So would you, my dear. Very well,
let us tantalise each other agreeably, and be at ease
in the sense that we are on the right side of the illusion.’
You laugh at the idea?”
Julian laughed, but not heartily.
They passed to other things.
“I’m making an article
out of Elm Court,” said Waymark. “Semi-descriptive,
semi-reflective, wholly cynical Maybe it will pay
for my summer holiday. And, apropos of the same
subject, I’ve got great ideas. This introduction
to such phases of life will prove endlessly advantageous
to me, artistically speaking. Let me get a little
more experience, and I will write a novel such as
no one has yet ventured to write, at all events in
England. I begin to see my way to magnificent
effects; ye gods, such light and shade! The fact
is, the novel of every-day life is getting worn out.
We must dig deeper, get to untouched social strata.
Dickens felt this, but he had not the courage to face
his subjects; his monthly numbers had to lie on the
family tea-table. Not virginibus puerisque
will be my book, I assure you, but for men and women
who like to look beneath the surface, and who understand
that only as artistic material has human life any
significance. Yes, that is the conclusion I am
working round to. The artist is the only sane
man. Life for its own sake? no; I would
drink a pint of laudanum to-night. But life as
the source of splendid pictures, inexhaustible material
for effects that can reconcile me
to existence, and that only. It is a delight followed
by no bitter after-taste, and the only such delight
Harriet was very quiet when Julian
returned. She went about getting the tea with
a sort of indifference; she let a cup fall and break,
but made no remark, and left her husband to pick up
“Waymark thinks I’m neglecting
him,” said Julian, with a laugh, as they sat
“It’s better to neglect
him than to neglect me, I should think,” was
Harriet’s reply, in a quiet ill-natured tone
which she was mistress of.
“But couldn’t we find
out some way of doing neither, dear?” went on
Julian, playing with his spoon. “Now suppose
I give him a couple of hours one evening every week?
You could spare that, couldn’t you? Say,
from eight to ten on Wednesdays?”
“I suppose you’ll go if
you want to.” said Harriet, rising from the
tea-table, and taking a seat sulkily by the window.
“Come, come, we won’t
say any more about it, if it’s so disagreeable
to you,” said Julian, going up to her, and coaxing
her back to her place. “You don’t
feel well to-day, do you? I oughtn’t to
have left you this afternoon, but it was difficult
to refuse, wasn’t it?”
“He had no business to ask you
to go. He could see I didn’t like it.”
Waymark grew so accustomed to receiving
Ida’s note each Monday morning, that when for
the first time it failed to conic he was troubled
seriously. It happened, too, that he was able
to attach a particular significance to the omission.
When they had last parted, instead of just pressing
her hand as usual, he had raised it to his lips.
She frowned and turned quickly away, saying no word.
He had offended her by this infringement of the conditions
of their friendship; for once before, when he had
uttered a word which implied more than she was willing
to allow, Ida had engaged him in the distinct agreement
that he should never do or say anything that approached
love-making. As, moreover, it was distinctly
understood that he should never visit her save at
times previously appointed, he could not see her till
she chose to write. After waiting in the vain
expectation of some later post bringing news, he himself
wrote, simply asking the cause of her silence.
The reply came speedily.
“I have no spare time in the
week. I thought you would understand this.
It was her custom to write without
any formal beginning or ending; yet Waymark felt that
this note was briefer than it would have been, had
all been as usual between them. The jealousy which
now often tortured him awoke with intolerable vehemence.
He spent a week of misery.
But late on Saturday evening came
a letter addressed in the well-known hand. It
“Sally and I are going up the
river to-morrow, if it is fine. Do you care to
meet us on the boat which reaches Chelsea Pier at 10.30?
It seemed he did care; at all events
he was half an hour too soon at the pier. As
the boat approached his eye soon singled out two very
quietly-dressed girls, who sat with their backs to
him, and neither turned nor made any sign of expecting
any addition to their party. With like undemonstrativeness
he took a seat at Ida’s side, and returned Sally’s
nod and smile. Ida merely said “Good morning;”
there was nothing of displeasure on her face, however,
and when he began to speak of indifferent things she
replied with the usual easy friendliness.
It was the first time he had seen
her by daylight. He had been uncertain whether
she used any artificial colour on her cheeks; seemingly
she did, for now she looked much paler than usual.
But the perfect clearness of her complexion, the lustre
of her eyes, appeared to indicate complete health.
She breathed the fresh sun-lit air with frank enjoyment,
and smiled to herself at objects on either side of
“By the by,” Waymark said,
when no words had been exchanged for some minutes,
“you didn’t tell me where you were going;
so I took no ticket, and left matters to fate.”
“Are you a good walker?” Ida asked.
“Fairly good, I flatter myself.”
“Then this is what I propose.
It’s a plan I carried out two or three times
by myself last summer, and enjoyed. We get off
at Putney, walk through Roehampton, then over the
park into Richmond. By that time we shall be
ready for dinner, and I know a place where we can have
it in comfort.”
There was little thought of weariness
throughout the delightful walk. All three gave
themselves up for the time to simple enjoyment; their
intercourse became that of children; the troubles of
passion, the miseries of self-consciousness, the strain
of mutual observation fell from them as the city dropped
behind; they were once more creatures for whom the
external world alone had reality. There was a
glorious June sky; there were country roads scented
with flower and tree; the wide-gleaming common with
its furze and bramble; then the great park, with felled
trunks to rest upon, and prospects of endlessly-varied
green to soothe the eye. The girls exhibited their
pleasure each in her own way. Sally threw off
restraint, and sprang about in free happiness, like
one of the young roes, the sight of which made her
utter cries like a delighted child. She remembered
scenes of home, and chattered in her dialect of people
and places strange enough to both her companions.
She was in constant expectation of catching a glimpse
of the sea; in spite of all warnings it was a great
surprise and disappointment to her that Richmond Hill
did not end in cliffs and breakers. Ida talked
less, but every now and then laughed in her deep enjoyment.
She had no reminiscence of country life it was enough
that all about her was new and fresh and pure; nothing
to remind her of Regent Street and the Strand.
Waymark talked of he knew not what, cheerful things
that came by chance to his tongue, trifling stories,
descriptions of places, ideal plans for spending of
ideal holidays; but nothing of London, nothing of
what at other times his thoughts most ran upon.
He came back to himself now and then, and smiled as
he looked at the girls, but this happened seldom.
The appetites of all three were beyond
denying when they had passed the “Star and Garter”
and began to walk down into the town. Waymark
wondered whither their guide would lead them, but asked
no questions. To his surprise, Ida stopped at
a small inn half way down the hill.
“You are to go straight in,”
she said, with a smile, to Waymark, “and are
to tell the first person you meet that three people
want dinner. There’s no choice roast
beef and vegetables, and some pudding or other afterwards.
Then you are to walk straight upstairs, as if you knew
your way, and we will follow.”
These directions were obeyed, with
the result that all reached an upper chamber, wherein
a table was cleanly and comfortably laid, as if expecting
them. French windows led out on to a quaint little
verandah at the back of the house, and the view thence
was perfect. The river below, winding between
wooded banks, and everywhere the same splendour of
varied green which had delighted their eyes all the
morning. Just below the verandah was the tiled
roof of an outhouse, whereon lay a fine black and
white cat, basking in the hot sun. Ida clapped
“He’s like poor old Grim,”
she cried. Then, turning to Waymark: “If
you are good, you may bring out a chair and smoke
a cigar here after dinner.”
They had just began to eat, when footsteps
were heard coining up the stairs.
“Oh bother!” exclaimed
Sally. “There’s some one else a-comin’,
There was. The door opened, and
two gentlemen walked in. Waymark looked up, and
to his astonishment recognised his old friends O’Gree
and Egger. Mr. O’Gree was mopping his face
with a handkerchief, and looked red and hungry; Mr.
Egger was resplendent in a very broad-brimmed straw
hat, the glistening newness of which contrasted with
the rest of his attire, which had known no variation
since his first arrival at Dr. Tootle’s.
He, too, was perspiring profusely, and, as he entered,
was just in the act of taking out the great yellow
handkerchief which Waymark had seen him chewing so
often in the bitterness of his spirit.
“Hollo, Waymark, is it you?”
cried Mr. O’Gree, forgetting the presence of
the strangers in his astonishment. “Sure,
and they told us we’d find a gentleman
“And I was the last person you
would have thought of as answering that description?”
“Well, no, I didn’t mean
that. I meant there was no mention of the ladies.”
Waymark flashed a question at Ida
with his eyes, and understood her assent in the smile
and slight motion of the head.
“Then let me introduce you to the ladies.”
The new-comers accordingly made the
acquaintance of Miss Starr and Miss Fisher (that was
Sally’s name), and took seats at the table, to
await the arrival of their dinners. Both were
on their good behaviour. Mr. O’Gree managed
to place himself at Sally’s left hand, and led
the conversation with the natural ease of an Irishman,
especially delighted if Sally herself seemed to appreciate
his efforts to be entertaining.
“Now, who’d have thought
of the like of this.” he exclaimed. “And
we came in here by the merest chance; sure, there’s
a fatality in these things. We’ve walked
all the way from Hammersmith.”
“And we from Putney,” said Waymark.
“You don’t mean it? It’s been
a warm undertaking.”
“How did you find the walk, Mr. Egger?”
“Bedad,” replied that
gentleman, who had got hold of his friend’s
exclamation, and used it with killing effect; “I
made my possible, but, bedad, I could not much more.”
“You both look warm,”
Waymark observed, smiling. “I fear you hurried.
You should have been leisurely, as we were.”
“Now that’s cruel, Waymark.
You needn’t have reflected upon our solitariness.
If we’d been blessed with society such as you
had, we’d have come slow enough. As it
was, we thought a good deal of our dinners.”
No fresh guests appeared to disturb
the party. When all had appeased their hunger,
Waymark took a chair out on to the verandah for Ida.
He was spared the trouble of providing in the same
way for Sally by Mr. O’Gree’s ready offices.
Poor Egger, finding himself deserted, opened a piano
there was in the room, and began to run his finger
over the keys.
“Let us have one of your German
songs, my boy,” cried O’Gree.
“But it is the Sunday, and we
arc still in England,” said the Swiss, hesitating.
“Pooh, never mind,” said
Waymark. “We’ll shut the door.
Sing my favourite, Mr. Egger, ’Wenn’s
When they left the inn, Waymark walked
first with Ida, and Mr. O’Gree followed with
Sally. Egger brought up the rear; he had relapsed
into a dreamy mood, and his mind seemed occupied with
With no little amusement Waymark had
noted Sally’s demeanour under Mr. O’Gree’s
attentions. The girl had evidently made up her
mind to be absolutely proper. The Irishman’s
respectful delicacy was something so new to her and
so pleasant, and the question with her was how she
could sufficiently show her appreciation without at
the same time forfeiting his good opinion for becoming
modesty. All so new to her, accustomed to make
an art of forwardness, and to school herself in the
endurance of brutality. She was constantly blushing
in the most unfeigned way at his neatly-turned little
compliments, and, when she spoke, did so with a pretty
air of self-distrust which sat quite charmingly on
her. Fain, fain would O’Gree have proposed
to journey back to London by the same train, but good
taste and good sense prevailed with him. At the
ticket-barrier there was a parting.
“How delightful it would be,
Miss Fisher,” said Mr. O’Gree, in something
like a whisper, “if this lucky chance happened
again. If I only knew when you were coming again,
there’s no telling but it might.”
Sally gave her hand, smiled, evidently
wished to say something, but ended by turning away
and running after her companions.