The Satyr by Barry Pain
Myra Larose was a good governess, capable, and highly certificated.
At Salston Hill School they rewarded her services with forty pounds per
annum, and board and lodging during term-time. She had often been
fortunate enough to secure private pupils for the holidays, and she knew
a stationer who bought hand-painted Christmas cards. At the end of four
years' work she had thirty-five pounds saved and in the Post Office. And
then Aunt Jane, the last of her relatives, died, and left her a fine two
hundred and fifty. This meant another ten pounds per annum.
Things were not so bad, but they did not, of course, justify the very
mad idea that came into her pretty head—a head that, so far, had proved
itself sane and practical.
The girls of the school considered that Miss Larose was strict but just,
and that she had nice eyes. The principal, Mrs Dewlop, when prostrate
from the horrible Davenant scandal, had declared that she would never
think highly of any human being again; but she did think highly of Myra,
even to the extent of considering the possibility of an increase of
salary. Myra's fellow-teachers thought her sensible, and chaffed her
mildly at times about her economies and her accumulation of wealth. No
one would have supposed her capable of anything wild and extravagant.
Possibly a book that she had been reading put the idea into her head.
Then there was the accident that nearly all her clothes were new
simultaneously. Her eyes fell on the advertisement which showed her the
advantages of hiring a petrol landaulet by the day in London. Thoughts
of the theatre swam into her head. She loved the theatre, and had not
been in one for years. She might lunch at the Ritz. She might deny
herself nothing—for one day. Grey routine and miserable economies
suddenly found her insurgent. Yes, she would have one great day—one day
during which she would live at the rate of two thousand a year.
So, on one splendid morning, at the station of her northern suburb, she
had occasion to be severe with the booking-clerk. ("I said first
return—not third. You should pay more attention.") She bought a
sixpenny periodical to read on the way up, and when she reached King's
Cross she deliberately left the valuable magazine in the carriage behind
her. That struck the high, reckless note. How often had she nursed a
halfpenny paper through the whole of a traffic-distracted day that she
might read the feuilleton at night!
"Taxi, miss?" suggested the porter when he had ascertained that she had
"I think not," said Myra. "I believe my car's waiting for me." She felt
that she had said it perfectly—without obvious pleasure, and without
that air of intense languor that is always accepted on the stage as
indicative of aristocracy, and never seen elsewhere.
She could tell the porter how to recognise the car—information supplied
to her by the company from whom she had hired it—and the porter brought
it up for her. Her first thought was that it looked splendid. Her second
thought was that beyond a doubt she had recognised the face of the
She gave the porter a shilling, and sent him away. (Her usual tips for
porters had varied from nothing to twopence, with a preference for the
former.) Then she turned to the driver, a young man, with a handsome,
clean-shaven face and dark, rebellious eyes.
"I know you," she said. "You are Mr Davenant."
"Quite true, Miss Larose. But that need make no difference. You have
bought my services for the day, you know. You will find me just as
attentive and respectful as any other servant. Where to, miss?"
"No, no. I want to talk to you. I must. Oh, it's too awful that you
should have come down to this. Mrs Dewlop must have been vindictive
"She was certainly angry." He smiled reminiscently—he had a charming
smile. "She had every right to be."
"Look here," she said impulsively, "what is to prevent you from lunching
"Your plans for the day—this car—and, for the matter of that, my
"I have no appointments, and no fixed plans. I was going to amuse myself
just anyhow. I shall like this far better. Oh, can't you arrange it for
"I should like it, too, and I can arrange it all very easily if you
don't mind waiting half an hour."
"Of course I'll wait—wait here, if you like."
"You would find the National Gallery more interesting, and I can take
you there in a few minutes."
"Yes, that's better. Thanks awfully. This is splendid."
At the National Gallery she looked at certain pictures with appreciative
intelligence. Then she sat down and half-closed her eyes, and saw a
picture from the gallery of her memory.
It was the big classroom at Salston Hill School. At one end of the room
Myra Larose took the elementary class in drawing. At the other end, much
older girls took the lesson in advanced drawing from a master who was,
as the prospectus stated, an exhibitor at the Royal Academy. His name
was Hilary Davenant, and in the bills he was charged extra. The older
girls were ten in number, and were provided with easels, charcoal, and
stumps. They formed the circumference of a circle of which the centre
was a life-size cast with a blackboard adjacent.
Myra watched as she saw Davenant going from one drawing-board to
another, and noted the waning of patience and the growth of irritation.
He went to the blackboard and addressed the entire class on the anatomy
of the hand, illustrating his remarks by rapid drawings on the
blackboard. They were admirable drawings in their way—swift, right,
certain, slick. And suddenly he flung the chalk to the floor and spake
with his tongue. He also used gesture—a foreign and reprehensible
"You poor, silly idiots! Not one of you will ever do it, except perhaps
Miss Stenson. And if you did, it wouldn't be the real thing." He checked
himself, and went on in a nice, suave schoolmaster's voice. "I was
joking, of course. As I said, this cast presents considerable
difficulties to some of you. But you must face your difficulties and
overcome them. You must not let yourselves be discouraged." And so on.
Dora Stenson, aged sixteen, blushed and put her hand over her eyes. The
other pupils smiled in a weak, wan way. They had been told that it was a
joke, and they believed everything they were told, and did their best.
At the other end of the room Myra Larose developed a good deal of
interest in Hilary Davenant.
An incident which occurred two days later formed another picture in the
memory-gallery. Myra, with other assistants, had been summoned with
every circumstance of solemnity to the principal's private study.
"I have to inform you, ladies," said Mrs Dewlop, "that owing to
circumstances which have come to my knowledge, I have been compelled to
dismiss Mr H. Davenant at a moment's notice." She readjusted her
pince-nez, and her refined face squirmed. "Mr Davenant is not a man: he
is a satyr. I have sufficiently indicated the nature of his offence,
which he admitted; and I do not care to dwell upon the subject further.
This has been a great shock to me. One can only hope in time to live it
down. That," she added tragically, "is all."
It had happened six months before, and at the time had filled Myra with
curiosity and also with a touch of horror. Was it wise of her to make
appointments with a man who had been so described? Had not her feeling
of compassion for an old colleague—one, moreover, whom she had found
sympathetic—carried her too far? This was not at all the kind of thing
she had come out to do. But—well, she had done it. And if the satyr
added punctuality to his other vices, he would be waiting outside for
He was there. He had changed his car as well as his clothes. He did not
look poor. He looked as if he owned that car and a good deal of the rest
of the earth.
"I hope you don't mind," he said. "I thought this open car might be
useful. If you would be kind enough to take the seat beside me we could
talk as we go. I thought, as it was such a ripping morning, you might
like to drive into the country somewhere for lunch. But that must be
just as you like, of course."
"It is exactly what I like. Let's see. We've got lots of time before
lunch. You shall choose where we go."
"If you don't mind lunching a little late, we might do Brighton."
"Yes, we lunch at Brighton," she said decisively. The spirit of
adventure was hot within her. She had meant the day to be rather
exciting. It was more than fulfilling expectations.
As they crawled through the traffic she asked him how he had persuaded
his firm to let her have the open car instead of the other. She was told
that it was the policy of his people to oblige a customer in every
possible way, and that they had made no trouble. Then she spoke of
things she had seen at the National Gallery, and found him just as
enthusiastic about art as she had done once in the old days at the
school, when chance gave them a few minutes' talk together. But it was
not till they sat at lunch in a good little hotel overlooking the sea
that they became confidential.
"I gather," he said, "that you knew that Mrs Dewlop sacked me."
"She told all of us."
"Did she say why?"
"Not exactly. She said that you were a satyr. I—I didn't believe that."
"Well, I'll tell you exactly what I did. I kissed Dora Stenson."
This was a blow. "I don't think I want to hear about it," said Myra
"It's all very well," said Davenant mournfully, "but I'd had very little
experience as a teacher. What do you do yourself when a girl begins to
"If she's quite a child, I try to comfort her. If it's one of the older
girls, I tell her that I dislike hysteria, and that she had better go
away until she has recovered. But it rarely happens with the older
girls. What made Dora Stenson cry?"
"All my own fault—the whole thing. You know the beauties I had to
teach. Dora was the only one that had any gift. As for the rest, you
might as well have tried to teach blind pigs to draw. What was the
consequence? I gave Dora most of the teaching, and I was harder on her
than I was on the others. I judged her by a different standard, and I
drove her as hard as I could. Well, one day, at the end of the hour, she
brought me up some bad work. She'd taken no trouble. It was rotten. All
the same, if any of the others had shown me anything nearly as good, I
should have been more than satisfied. As it was Dora, I lost my wool and
told her what I thought. Classes were dismissed. You went out. I was
left alone in the room. Back came Dora to pick up some truck she'd left
behind, and she was crying—crying like anything. Well, I couldn't stand
it. I'd never meant to be a brute, and there was that girl—very pretty
she is, too—crying like anything. I began to talk to her, and, before I
knew where I was, I had kissed her. I'm making a clean breast of the
whole thing—I kissed her two or three times."
Miss Myra Larose, who had not wanted to hear about it, had listened with
breathless interest, and now put in a shrewd question.
"And did Dora kiss you?"
"As I was saying, where I was wrong was in—"
"All right, I know. If she had not kissed you, you would have said so.
But, seeing that she did kiss you, why on earth did she complain to Mrs
"She never did. She wrote a letter to a girl friend of hers, and left it
lying about. Mrs Dewlop read it. Now, what do you think?"
Myra considered a moment. "I think," she said deliberately, "that Dora
was a braggart, and that Mrs Dewlop was a sneak, and—er—not very wise,
and that you——"
"Do you also think me a satyr?"
"Of course not. You were all wrong, but you were just a baby."
He gave a sigh of relief.
"It makes me angry," said Myra impulsively. "What right had that woman
to ruin you, and turn you into a cab-driver?"
"I must explain further. It is true that she refused me any kind of a
character, and that my teaching career was closed. But I am not exactly
a cab-driver. When I was turned out I had to give up the idea of making
a living by art. I could no longer teach, and modern pictures sell
seldom and badly. But I had another string to my bow. I understand
motors, and I had had plenty of driving experience. An uncle of mine is
in the motor business to some considerable extent. Amongst other things,
he is a director and principal share-holder in the company from which
you hired your car. He has often asked me to join him, and now I did so.
He is a thorough sort of man, and he insisted that I should go through
every side. I've washed cars; for three months I was an ordinary
mechanic; I've been in the office; the last few weeks I've been driving
these privately let cars, and picking up some interesting information as
to the amount of tips that the drivers get. Next week I shall be a
manager. Well, now, I saw your order when it came in. I remembered you
very well—very well, indeed. I determined to drive you myself—to be
your good servant, if that was all that was possible, but to be as much
more as you would let me be."
As the car purred smoothly through the dusk in the direction of the
northern suburb where Myra had her inexpensive lodging, Davenant said:
"Then you will give notice that you leave at the end of next term,
And she said: "Yes, dearest."