That Five Hundred Pound Prize,
the Story of A Genius by Richard
Illustrated by John H. Bacon.
To him, the idea, from all points of view, suggested nothing but
objections. He told her so.
"You know, Philippa, I don't believe, as the cant of the day has it,
that a woman ought to earn for herself her daily bread; and that a woman
should earn her husband's daily bread as well—to me, the mere idea of
such a thing is nauseous. There may be men who are content to take the
good which their wives provide. Thank goodness, I am not one of them. In
this matter I am old-fashioned in my notions. I look at woman from a
point of view which is, perhaps, my own. To me, the woman who, urged
even by necessity, works for money, soils her womanhood, falls away from
her high estate. I pity her, but—not that woman, if you please, for
me. Necessity, Philippa, surely does not urge you. Am I not always at
your side? Believe me, my day will come—come shortly! Only wait!"
Putting his arm about her waist, he looked up into her face, with, in
his eyes, a certain light of laughter. "Besides, in the great army of
the workers, what work do you think there is for you? Do you think that
in you there is the making of a woman of letters, Philippa?"
So he kissed her, and she said nothing. She could say nothing. She could
only let him fondle her, as though they still were sweethearts. For she
loved him, and he loved her. But though she loved him, in her heart
there was a hot remonstrance, which she allowed to remain unspoken,
because she loved him. It was easy to say that there was no necessity to
prick her with a spur. But there were the tradesmen's bills unpaid, the
rent in arrear, and the children wanted things—not to speak of herself
and of him. And there was a drawer full of his unaccepted manuscripts.
They went hither and thither, from editor to editor, and then for the
most part they seemed to settle in the drawer.
She understood well enough what he meant when he asked if she thought
that she had in herself the making of a woman of letters. She had been a
nothing and a nobody. She had not even been very pretty. Certainly no
superfluity of money had been thrown away upon her education. It was not
at all as it is in the story books, but, quite by chance, he met her.
Before he knew it, he was wooing her. And, when things came to the worst
at home, he married her—she having nothing which she could call her own
except the things which she was wearing. And he had very little more. It
was not strange that he should doubt if in her there was the making of a
woman of letters—she, who, save in the way of love letters, had
scarcely ever written a line.
Geoffrey Ford was a genius. He had given her to understand that from the
very first—in the days when, in her ignorance, she scarcely understood
what a genius was. He gave her to understand it still, almost every day.
With him, to write was to live. To be a great writer was the dream of
his life. He strove to realise his dream with that dogged pertinacity
which is only to be seen in the case of a master passion. When they
first were married, he was struggling to be a dramatist. He was quite
conscious that, in the trade of the writer, wealth was only to be
achieved by the successful playwright. He believed that his was
essentially the playwright's instinct. Although his plays met with
abundance of good words, they did not attain production. It seemed as if
they never would. When they began to be actually starving, she
suggested that he should put aside playwriting for a time, and try to
earn money by other products of his pen. He had acted on her suggestion.
He had become that curiosity of modern civilisation—a writer for the
magazines. And, in a way, he had been successful. He was earning,
perhaps, an irregular hundred and fifty pounds a year. But what are an
irregular, a very irregular, hundred and fifty pounds a year, when there
are three babies? And yet he said that there was no spur of necessity to
urge her on.
The worst of it was, she was beginning to be a doubter. She would not
own it, even to herself, but she was beginning to fear that he might be
mistaking the desire to be, for the power to be. What he considered his
best work invariably came back. He said that this was because editors
were unable to appreciate strikingly original ideas when they were
presented to them by a wholly unknown man. What they desired was a
commonplace, and when he said this, she—well, she said nothing. From
the first she had insisted on his reading aloud to her everything he
wrote. Unconsciously to herself she had become a critic. She was
beginning to fear that he was only at home in the lower levels. When he
soared, he floundered. It was only among the hacks that he held his own.
Even then, at times, he lagged behind. So far from hinting to him her
fears, she would almost rather have died than have allowed him to know
she had them. Their love for each other had never faltered, even when
their cupboard was emptiest. It had seemed to grow stronger with the
coming of each child. And, what is more, it appeared to her that, but
for him, she would have dropped into a ditch.
Lately there had been growing up within her a desire to add to the
family income. And, oddly enough, it had seemed to her that the best way
to do this would be by writing. She had hinted something of this desire
to Geoffrey. She had suggested, playfully, that she should join her pen
to his—that they should collaborate. He had received her playful
suggestion in such a way that she had not ventured to repeat it in
earnest. She knew him, through and through. She knew that he desired to
succeed, not only for himself, but, first of all, for her. He loved his
work for the work's sake. He cared nothing for fame in the sense of
popularity, or its equivalent, notoriety. In that respect he was a
clear-sighted man—he knew what the thing was worth. For himself he
cared nothing for the material products of success. His own tastes were
of the simplest kind. He desired to achieve success simply that he might
pour the fruits of success into her lap. He wished her to owe nothing to
anyone but to himself, to owe nothing even to her own self. He wanted to
be all in all to her, to have his love her beginning, and her end.
She knew this. Yet—the rent was overdue. Of late his manuscripts
seemed coming back worse than ever. He seemed to be out of the vein. And
the children wanted things so badly. And so——
Well, one day he came to her with an expression of countenance which she
knew so well. It meant that a new idea, some fresh project, either was
germinating, or else had germinated, in his mind. In his hand he held a
"'I AM GOING IN FOR A PRIZE COMPETITION.'"
"Philippa, I am going to do what I have told you I thought that I should
never do—I am going in for a prize competition. See here." He opened
the paper out in front of her. "The North British Telegraph is
offering £500 for the best story, £250 for the second best, and £100 for
the third best. I am going to win one of those prizes—mark my words,
and see if I don't."
"SHE BEGAN ATTENTIVELY TO STUDY THE ANNOUNCEMENT."
He was kneeling at the table by her chair. She had her hand upon his
shoulder. She smiled as he spoke. She knew his tone so well. He was
always going to do this, that, or the other. But somehow, after all, he
seldom did it.
"Are you? The money would be very useful."
"Useful! I should think it would. Why, to us, it would be a fortune. But
that's not the only thing. You know how ideas come to me in an instant.
Directly I saw that announcement I saw the story which will be the
"Did you?" Her heart grew faint. She was beginning to be a little afraid
of his sudden flashes of inspiration. "How long is the story to be?"
"It does not say exactly, but it says that it should not exceed a
hundred and fifty thousand words. It will give me elbow room. I shall
have a chance to let myself go—to get into my stride. I am sick of
dancing in fetters, with a limit of four thousand words or so."
"But it will take you a long time to write, won't it?"
"Oh, about six weeks. It will take me no time, when I am once well into
the story. You know how I do travel, when I once have got my grip. It is
half mapped out in my head already. Every line of it will practically be
written before I begin. There will only be the pen work to do." Putting
both his hands upon her shoulders, he stooped his eager face to hers.
"Philippa, you see if I don't do the trick this time."
"Geoffrey, if I were you, I wouldn't be so sanguine. You know how
disappointed you have been before."
Thrusting his hands into his trousers pockets, he began to stride about
"Yes, I know that is so, and I won't be sanguine. But, somehow, I feel
quite certain that, this time, I have the thing—however, I'll say
nothing. But don't you tell me not to be sanguine, or you'll put me
clean off—you know how funny I am, that way. You keep the children
quiet, and don't let me hear a sound, and you'll see—well, you'll see
what you will see." He laughed, and she laughed too. "Don't you laugh at
me! If I don't get the first prize, it'll be hard lines if I don't get
one of the three—even a hundred pounds is not to be despised."
"But, Geoffrey, what will become of your other work during those six
weeks? And you know, when you have finished a long story, you never feel
inclined to start again at once."
"Don't talk to me like that, or you'll drive me off my head. Philippa,
I've set my heart upon doing this thing—do let me do it. You don't want
me to be a penny-a-liner all my life, sweetheart, do you? By the way, I
saw The Leviathan at the library. There's a first-rate story in it, by
a new man—Philip Ayre. I know good work when I see it, and that is good
work. And, do you know, it might almost be a story about us—you should
read it. It is called 'Two in One.'" Wandering hither and thither about
the room, he did not notice that his wife's face had suddenly been bent
low over her mending, and that her cheeks had paled. "Another thing, I
met old Briggs." Mr. Briggs was their landlord. "I assure you, when I
saw him coming, I was half inclined, Dick Swiveller fashion, to dodge
down some side street. I made sure he was going to dun, and that I
should have to shuffle. But, to my surprise, he was quite friendly. He
asked how you were, and how the children were, and never said a word
about the rent. So, of course, I said nothing either. I'm just going for
a stroll, and a smoke, and a think. Mind, when you go to the library,
that you don't forget to read that thing in The Leviathan."
When he had gone, spreading out the paper which he had brought in front
of her she began attentively to study the announcement of the North
British Telegraph prize story competition. Putting down the
figures—150,000—upon a scrap of paper, she began to divide and to
sub-divide them, as if she were trying to find out exactly what they
meant. When she had finished her calculations, she continued to sit in a
brown study, quite oblivious of the heap of mending which still lay
unfinished on her knee.
"If I could only help him to win it—if I only could! Poor Geoff! The
day on which he gave me five hundred pounds, as the product of his own
work, would be the happiest day that he had ever known. My own, own
"I wonder if he will win it? Oh, if he only would! But supposing that he
does not win it, it would be just as well that—that someone else should
win it—someone in—in his own home. Oh, what a wicked wretch I am!
What's that? It's baby! I do hope she won't wake up. There's all this
mending, and I've only milk enough for one more bottle. There! She is
waking up! You naughty, naughty, darling child!"
"UPSTAIRS THE WIFE SAT WITH THE CHILDREN."
The next day Geoffrey Ford began his story. He began to pour it out upon
the paper, white-hot from the furnace of his brain. Seldom had he seen
his way so clearly. It had come, as he said, in an instant. It possessed
him, as it were, body and soul and mind, as his work was wont to possess
him when, as he thought, he saw his way. His ideas would come to him
with the force of a mighty rushing river. He could not dam them back. He
felt that he was obliged to give them instant utterance or they would
overflow the banks, and so be lost. He worked best, or he thought that
he worked best, at high pressure. He believed in striking the iron when
the force of the fire had almost made it liquid. Not for him was the
journeyman labour of hammering out tediously, and with infinite care,
The story was to be called "The Beggar." He had even got the title! It
was one of those half-psychological, half-transcendental stories, in the
turnings and twistings of which he liked to give his fancy scope. His
fault was not too little imagination, but too much. The task of keeping
it within due bounds was not only a task which he hated, but possibly it
was a task which was beyond his strength. There are impressionists in
painting. He was an impressionist in literature. He was fond of large
effects—effects which were dashed in by a single movement of the brush.
To descend to details was, he thought, a descent indeed. He was
conscious that there was a public which would read a volume which, from
first to last, only dealt with the minutest particularity, with a couple
of days in the life of a single individual. That was a public he
despised. He preferred to deal with a whole life in the course of a
couple of pages.
He was, in short, a genius. And when I say a genius, I mean, in this
connection, a wholly unmanageable person. As you read his work, you felt
that you were in the presence of an exceptional mind—in the presence of
a man who saw things, great things, things worth seeing, which were
hidden from other men—who saw them, as it were, by flashes of
lightning. That was just how he did see them—by flashes of lightning.
He saw them for an instant, then no more. Partially, and not the whole.
In a lurid light, which almost blinded the beholder. So, when you read a
work of his, you were startled, first by the light, then by the
darkness. It seemed strange that a man who one moment could be so light,
the next could be so dull. Soon you began to be irritated. Then you were
bored. When you reached the end—if you ever reached the end—you
wondered if the man was mad, or if he was merely stupid. But he was
neither mad nor stupid. He was a genius, who, so far, declined to allow
himself to be managed. When he became manageable, he would cease to be a
genius—in the sense in which the word is here being used. Then, if he
wrote at all, he would write what the plainest of plain men could
The idea of his story was not an unattractive one—to a certain sort of
writer. It was to be the story of a beggar, of a man who asked for alms
in the streets, and who, by the exercise of certain arts, which verged
upon the marvellous, amassed a fortune. Geoffrey Ford proposed to follow
the beggar, as he amassed his fortune, and to show what he did with his
fortune, when he once had gained it. And in the little room upstairs,
the wife sat with the children, watching over their every movement to
see that they made no unnecessary sound. They were good children. When
papa was writing, even the baby seemed to do her best to keep the peace.
The little ones seemed willing to give up the birthright of the
child—the right to enter into the heritage of life with a rush of happy
noise. And, below, the husband, and the father, wrote, and wrote, and
wrote, and rushed about the room, chasing his dreams, so that he might
imprison them, with ink, on paper.
"HE FELT THAT SHE WAS TREMBLING."
The days went by, and the story grew. And so wrapped up was the writer
in its growth, that he failed to notice that about his wife there was
something unusual, and even a little strange. She was interested in his
work, there could be no doubt of that. But she did not, as he was
inclined to think that she was apt to do, worry him with continual
questions as to how it was getting on, and inquiries into this, or that.
She let him go his own way, without making so much as even one
suggestion. She was wont to be a little too free with her suggestions,
he sometimes fancied. For her suggestions hampered him. And—but this he
did not notice—she went her own way too. Rather an odd way it seemed to
be. For one thing, she seemed to be unusually busy. She did not come
into the room in which he was working even after the children had gone
to bed. She seemed to have something on her mind. She became distinctly
paler. It might have been illness, or it might have been anxiety, or it
might have been overwork. A queer look came into her eyes. Sometimes it
was almost like a look of apprehension. Then there would come a timidity
in all her movements, as if she were even afraid of him. Then it would
be like a look of vacancy, as if her thoughts were far away. When that
vacant look was there, she seemed to be unconscious of her husband's
presence—just as he had a trick, in his meditative moods, when he was
thinking of his work, of becoming unconscious of her. Then again, as one
looked into her eyes, one would have thought that she was possessed by
some mastering excitement—a flaming fire which glowed within.
One afternoon her husband came in from his daily visit to the Library
Reading Room. He was not in his happiest mood. He was a man of moods.
When the black mood was upon him, all the world was black.
"On my word, I do not know what things are coming to. There's Graham, of
The Leviathan, sends back everything I send him. That MS. which came
back this morning, he has had two months, and it's a first-rate thing.
Then he goes and fills his pages with stuff which I wouldn't put my name
to. The new number's out, and there's another story in it by that man
Philip Ayre. I never read such rubbish in my life."
His wife had looked up at him, as he came in, with a smile of welcome.
When he began to speak of The Leviathan, her face dropped again. It
went paler than even it was wont to do. There was a tremor in her voice.
"I thought you said that that other story of his was rather good."
"It was good enough—of its kind. But it's a kind I hate. There's a
craze about for sickly pathos, which, to me, is simply disgusting. In
that man Ayre there's the making of a popular writer. Mark my words, and
see if he doesn't make a hit. In a few months he will be all the
rage—you see. And it is to make room for such men as Ayre that I shall
be condemned to eat my heart out till I die."
Putting down her work, his wife came to him from the other side of the
"Geoffrey, don't say that!"
Tears were actually in her eyes.
"Philippa, what's the matter?" As he put his arms about her and drew her
on to his knee, he felt that she was trembling. "Sweetheart, what is
"Don't speak like that of Philip Ayre!"
"Not speak like that of Philip Ayre! Why, lady, do you hold a brief for
him? You silly child! It's only a foolish way I have. But if you could
only realise how I long, and long, and strive, and strive, to stand up
with the best of them, you would understand how it galls me to find how
I am thrust aside by men whose work seems to me to be so poor a thing.
For their work's sake, I almost begin to hate the man."
"Geoffrey! Geoffrey! Not that! not that!"
Flinging both her arms about his neck, she burst into an hysterical
flood of weeping—she who never cried.
"Dear heart!—tell me!—what is wrong!—Philippa! Philippa!—my wife."
She did not tell him what was wrong. It seemed as if she could not tell
him what was wrong. Perhaps, as he told himself, it was because, after
all, there was nothing wrong. She was only out of sorts that
day-unusually out of sorts for Philippa.
After a while he began upon another theme.
"HIS WIFE WENT WHITE TO THE LIPS."
"Sweetheart, if something doesn't come in soon—and I don't know where
it's going to come from—I can't see what we shall do for money. I don't
know if you are acquainted with the state of the family finances. What
we must owe the people I am afraid to think. Why they don't worry us
more than they do is a mystery to me. I see you've been getting new
boots for the children. They wanted them. But they'll have to be paid
for, I suppose. Never mind! All things come to those who wait, and luck
will come to me. I'm sure I've waited. Let's hope that an unexpected
cheque will come along. Anyhow, wait until the 'The Beggar' is finished.
It'll be a splendid thing-you see! I'm putting some of the best work
into it I ever did. If it doesn't win the first prize, it's bound to win
the third. Why, Philippa, your eyes are red. The idea of your crying
because I was pushed against the wall to make room for an unknown ass
like Mr. Philip Ayre!"
"The Beggar" was finished. It was sent in. Then came the weeks of
waiting. Geoffrey Ford did scarcely any work. The larger proportion of
the work he did came back again. He seemed to be in a curious frame of
mind—as though he took it for granted that that five hundred pounds was
already on its way to him.
"If I get that five hundred pounds," he would say, "I will do this, or
His wife grew sick at heart.
"Geoffrey, I wish you wouldn't think of it so much. You make me think
about it, too. And then, if you don't get it, you know what a bitter
disappointment it will be."
"I suppose you take it for granted that I shan't get it?"
"I don't take anything for granted. I never do. I wish you wouldn't
"There's one thing, I don't believe that these competitions are ever
conducted fairly. I don't see how they can be. I don't see how any man,
or any set of men, can wade through a cartload of MSS. in such a manner
as to be able to judge, with critical nicety, which is the best one in
the truckful. But I'm sure of this, I don't believe that any man sent in
a better story than 'The Beggar'—a more original one, I mean. I know
the sort of people who enter for these competitions-a lot of wretched
She said nothing in reply. What could she say? She knew that it was not
only conceit which prompted him to talk like that. She understood quite
well the almost anguished longing which filled his heart. Her own heart
throbbed pulse for pulse with his.
Returned MSS. seemed to annoy him more than usual. He was case-hardened,
as a rule. When they reappeared, he simply packed them up again, and
sent them off upon another journey. Especially was he irritated by the
return of a MS. which he had sent to The Monthly Magazine.
"I knew that would come back. I see that Philip Ayre has something in
this month's number. I don't know who he is. So far as I know, he is the
very last discovery. But I believe that that man is destined to be my
His wife went white to the lips.
"Geoffrey! I wish you wouldn't talk like that. It doesn't sound like you
"I suppose they're quite right in preferring his work to mine, only—"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Philippa, I sometimes wish that you were a
writer. Then you would understand me better. You would understand what I
feel when I see the dream of my life growing dimmer and dimmer, and more
dream-like, every day."
Philippa was still.
The day approached on which the conductors of the North British Herald
had stated that they would announce the winners in their competition for
stories. Geoffrey Ford's anxiety increased to fever heat. His heart
stood still every time he heard the postman's knock. His wife knew that
it was so, although he did his best to hide how it was with him.
"To-morrow," he said, "I shall know if I have won."
"Or," his wife suggested faintly, "if you have lost."
"HE BEGAN TO UNFASTEN IT WITH HANDS WHICH TREMBLED."
"Or, as you say, if I have lost. But we won't speak of losing. I have
never put my heart into anything as I have put it into this. I am sure
that 'The Beggar' is the best work I have ever done—I am sure of it. I
will go further, and say I believe it is as good work as I shall ever
do. Upon my honour, Philippa, something tells me I shall win—it does!
Oh, if I could only win!"
He had arranged that a copy of the issue of the paper containing the
announcement should be sent to him by post. That morning the postman
brought him two enclosures. One was a bulky parcel. When he saw it, his
heart, all at once, ceased beating. He had to gasp for breath. Without a
word, he began to unfasten it, with hands which trembled. Philippa
bustled about the breakfast table, as if her own heart was not working
like a wheezy pair of bellows.
"'BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY! I AM PHILIP AYRE.'"
"Philippa! it's 'The Beggar'! the manuscript—come back again!"
"Never mind." How she tried to speak in the most commonplace of voices.
"You can send it somewhere else. It's sure to get accepted."
"Send it somewhere else?" She saw that his lips were twitching, that
his face seemed bloodless. "But—I don't understand. Not a word of
explanation is enclosed. I don't know what it means. Perhaps there's
some mistake. Let's—let's see who's won."
The other enclosure which had come for him was obviously a copy of the
paper. He tore it open-still with hands which trembled. He searched its
columns for the announcement.
"Geoffrey! what's the matter? Who has won? Oh, Geoffrey, have you won?"
"Me! me!" He rose to his feet, as it were, inch by inch. "It's Philip
Falling on her knees beside the table, Mrs. Ford covered her face with
"It's Philip Ayre! Didn't I tell you he was destined to be my evil star?
Mrs. Ford rose up in front of him.
"Geoffrey, be careful what you say! I am Philip Ayre."
"You? What do you mean?"
She advanced to him, on tottering feet, with outstretched hands.
"Geoffrey, I am Philip Ayre!"
"You are Philip Ayre? What on earth do you mean?"
"Oh, Geoffrey, don't you understand? Philippa—Philip Ayre!"
There was a moment's pause—a pause which, probably, neither of them
ever would forget.
"You—you are Philip Ayre! How dull I must have been not to have seen
the pretty play upon your name before. Philippa—Philip Ayre. Of course!
So you have been my rival. My wife—the mother of my children—the woman
I loved better than all the world."
"Geoffrey, don't say that I have been your rival!"
"No? Not my rival? What then?"
"I did it all for you!"
"For me? I see. I am beginning, for the first time, to understand the
meaning of words. You did it for me? This is not a foreign language
which you are speaking—I suppose it is English?"
"Geoffrey, will you listen to me for a moment?"
"Certainly; and I shall understand that I am listening to you, to your
own self, for the first time. It is someone else I have listened to
before. Proceed, Mr. Philip Ayre."
She seemed to find some difficulty in proceeding. Very soon she was to
give another child unto the world. Perhaps it was that which made her
seem so weak. She never had been very pretty. She had not grown prettier
with the passage of the years. Now, as she stood trembling so that she
had to clutch at the table to keep her stand, she seemed an
insignificant, pale-faced, ill-shaped woman—not a thing of beauty to
the eye. She seemed, also, to be in mortal terror.
"Geoffrey, I would have told you all along, only I was afraid."
"Afraid to tell me that you had set up as a rival in the business? I
see. Go on."
"I wouldn't have done it at all if we hadn't been so short of money."
"Which was because you had a blundering fool for a husband. That is
"The children wanted things, and—and there were the bills, and—and the
"Which you paid. Now I understand Mr. Briggs' civility, the tradesmen's
reticence. I have been living on my wife. What a blind worm a man who
has the use of his eyes can be!"
"I—I never meant to be your rival—never, Geoffrey, never."
"Mr. Philip Ayre——"
"Don't call me Mr. Philip Ayre!"
"Why not? Aren't you Mr. Philip Ayre?"
"Oh, Geoffrey! Geoffrey!"
She knelt down before him, so that her hands fell on his knees as he was
seated on his chair. He moved her hands and rose.
"Let us understand each other, quietly. Philippa, I told you, before we
were married, that I objected to a woman who worked for money. I had no
objection to women who worked for money. That was no affair of mine. I
simply objected to make such an one my wife. I imagined, when you became
my wife, that you would make my hopes and my ambitions yours. Indeed,
you told me that you would. I was poor, and you were poor. You knew that
I would work for you with all my strength. And so I have done. When, a
little time ago, you suggested that you, too, should become a labourer
for hire, I told you, with such courtesy as I could command, that, to
me, the idea was nauseous. Perhaps I should have told you then, what,
indeed, I had told you before, and what I tell you now again, that
rather than have a wife who worked for money, I would have no wife. You
were perfectly aware of this. You were well acquainted with what I
thought and felt upon the matter. I do not say that my thoughts and
feelings were correct. Still, they were mine. You said you loved me. You
swore it every day. I never dreamed that, to you, my wishes were
nothing, and less than nothing. And that you should deliberately set
yourself to cheat me out of the fruits of what you well knew was the
labour and the longing of my life—"
"Not cheat you, Geoffrey—no, not cheat you!"
"Yes, cheat me! cheat me! I suppose that you sat upstairs and pretended
to keep the children quiet, while I sat down here and wrote. And for
every page I wrote, you wrote another, the object of which was to rob me
of the life-blood with which I had written mine. But far be it from me
to reproach you, Mr. Philip Ayre. You have won, and I—poor devil!—I
have lost. It is the fortune of war. I am without a penny. You have your
five hundred pounds. And, as it is quite impossible that I can consent
to be the recipient of charity from the woman who calls herself my wife,
I have the pleasure, Mr. Philip Ayre, of wishing you good day."
She sprang between the door and him.
"Geoffrey! What are you going to do?"
"I am going to live my own life. I am going to earn my own living under
the shelter of a roof for which I myself have paid. I am going to meet
you with the gloves off, in fair and open fight, not behind a hedgerow,
with a gun in my hand, Mr. Philip Ayre."
"Geoffrey, any—any hour I may be taken ill."
"What do you wish me to do? I will stay here until you are well, but
only until then, on the understanding that not a penny of your money is
to be used for me."
"The children are upstairs. Won't you—won't you let them in?"
"Let them stay upstairs. Philippa! What is the matter?"
Her time was come—that was the matter. By noon their fourth child was
When the nurse came to the sitting-room door, she found Geoffrey pacing
round and round like some wild creature in a cage.
"Mr. Ford, sir?"
He looked round with a start.
"Mrs. Ford would like to see you, sir."
"To see me? Oh! Is she well enough?"
"Well, sir, she's not so well as she might be. But she says that it
would do her good to see you. Only you musn't let her talk too much, nor
yet you musn't stay too long."
"I won't stay too long."
He went upstairs. He paused for a moment outside the bedroom door. Then
he entered the room.
"Geoff, I'm going to die!"
Her words so frightened him that, in the suddenness of his fear, he
"All along I knew that I should. I knew it when I was writing that
wicked book—the book which has won the prize, I mean. Perhaps that was
why I wrote it. It is the best way out of the trouble. I should never
have been the same wife to you again. I know you so well. But, Geoffrey,
you won't refuse to accept a legacy from me when I am dead. It is the
only thing I have ever had to give you. For the children's sake, and the
little baby's sake, and mine."
He sat on a chair by the bedside, trying to hold himself in, as it were,
with every muscle of his body.
"Philippa, you musn't talk like that."
"If you'll forgive me, Geoff, I'll be content—only promise that you'll
accept my legacy."
"Not if you die, I won't."
"I'll accept it if you live."
Holding the baby in his arms, he knelt beside the bed. She turned to
him. They were face to face. As he began to perceive how she had wasted
to a shadow, it did not seem as if he could read enough of the story
which was told upon her face. She, in her turn, did not seem as if she
could gaze long enough at him.
"Geoffrey, do you really mean that if I live, and get well, really and
truly well, you will take me for your wife again—that I shall be to you
the same wife that I have always been?"
"Philippa, if one of us is to die for the other, let me be the one to
"Geoff, I do believe that if there is anything which must be done, you
must be the one to do it. Can't you understand, that if you love to do
great things for me, I, also, love to do great things for you. I can't
help it. It was that which made me Philip Ayre."
"Be Philippa—or Philip Ayre. Only—stay with baby and with me."
She was silent for some moments as she lay and looked at him with a
singular intensity of gaze.
"I think, Geoffrey, I shall live."
"'BE PHILIPPA—OR PHILIP AYRE. ONLY—STAY WITH BABY AND