A Broken Journey by Logan Pearsall Smith
The air tasted fresh; through the sunshiny mist the London houses shone
beautiful and vague; the passers-by seemed to be whistling and singing
as they went to their morning work. Already at Paddington cabs were
arriving; they drove down under the clock in an endless procession; the
family luggage was unloaded, and the passengers, muffled for winter
journeys, hurried into the station.
Then a hansom pulled up sharply, and a young man got out, whose air of
fashion and slim figure, as he stood there paying his driver, drew for a
moment the notice of the other travellers.
On the platform within, by the waiting trains, all was movement; the
great adventurous station was full of grey light, and a confusion of
sounds and echoes. Arthur Lestrange, as he walked across, looked about
with quick eyes on the orderly tumult, the heaps of moving luggage, the
hurrying people. They were all starting off on pleasant holiday
journeys, he fancied; indeed, everything seemed eager and gay that
He chose an empty first-class carriage in the train going northwards;
but in a moment he hurried out back to the bookstall to get a paper, and
returned with several novels in his hands. On the top of one was
pictured, in bright tragic colours, a young man suspended over the edge
of a perilous cliff.
"Why did I buy them?" Arthur wondered, looking at the books with
Settling himself again, he watched through his window the anxious
procession of people who came peering by, looking for corner seats. Then
he saw his own luggage passing.
"Oh, you can put those things in here with me," he called out to the
"I've labelled them, sir," the porter said, looking up with a stupid
"Put them in, put them in, don't you see there's plenty of room," Arthur
said with a certain sharpness and nervous agitation.
There were two young men standing on the platform near his window.
"Well, good-bye," one of them said, as he looked at the other with
friendly eyes, "you mustn't wait, and you'll come up and see us, won't
They were Oxford men, young Lestrange thought, as he watched them,
feeling envious, and almost lonely for a moment as he remembered the
times when he had travelled down so often with friends from Paddington
But surely it was time for the train to start! The movement on the
platform seemed to be increasing; the tumult and screaming whistles
sounded louder and louder in his ears, as he waited, leaning
At last all the doors were shut; the platform grew more vacant; a few
belated people hurried up; a green flag was waved; a whistle blown;
everything about him seemed to glide backwards, and then, with the
shaking and noise of travel, the train drew itself slowly out of the
station. Arthur leaned back with a sensation of immense relief. He was
really away at last. Away from everybody! He had been almost afraid that
they might come to the station and try to stop him. But it was absurd,
he told himself, as he opened the morning paper, it was absurd to make
so much trouble; for what was there to bother about? He could take care
of himself; and anyhow his relations had better mind their own business.
As for talking about ruin! He thought of his pompous uncle and dull pale
cousins, and then of the people with whom he was going to stay.
"Good old ruin," he said half aloud, running down the news of the day
with eyes that hardly noticed what he read. In a moment he turned to
look out of the window.
After making its way through the suburbs, the train had begun at last to
travel more quickly through the open country. The trees and earth and
houses near at hand drifted backwards; the more distant fields moved
back with a slower motion, while the horizon seemed to glide forward
with the train. The sun shone on the brown earth and mist and leafless
trees; a young horse galloped the length of his field in a playful race
with the moving carriages.
Young Lestrange changed his seat restlessly. Then he began to rearrange
his luggage on the rack; he looked at himself in the mirror, caressing
his slight moustache. His hair was smooth and dark over his handsome
young face. Only his straight eyebrows, twitching nervously now and
then, would give him rather a harassed, anxious look for a moment.
What was the use of bothering, he said to himself, smiling as he turned
carelessly away. If one was young! Men sowed their wild oats; he would
settle down soon enough, but in the meantime he would enjoy himself. You
have only one life to live....
The winter morning seemed unusually bright and clear; the train went
swiftly; its wheels beat on the rails an unquiet and delicious measure,
answering and echoing his thoughts. Restless and excited, he again threw
down the paper, for the bright images of desire, that floated before his
eyes, made the printed words seem almost meaningless.
He pictured to himself the end of his journey—the trap that would
probably meet him—a dog-cart, with shining bay horse and man in livery,
standing in the gravel sweep of a country station. The drive up, and
then at tea, or just before dinner, he and she would meet in the drawing
room, greeting each other with pretended indifference. How he hated and
After a while the train, going more slowly now, began to draw into
Reading. With the beginnings of weariness and headache Arthur looked at
the waste of railway trucks, the heaps of coal and blackened snow, the
red factory buildings, and the dreary streets beyond. Biscuit
factories—who could eat all the biscuits they made? he wondered;
"Clapper's Restaurant"—suppose you should dine there, they would give
you nothing but biscuits, probably. Did the train stop at Reading?—he
could get some spirits at the refreshment room.
At the bar, Lestrange saw the figure and long grey coat of a man he
thought he recognized; and then, getting sight of Boyle's smooth-shaven
face, and remembering his supercilious manners and reputation, he felt
with sudden repulsion how much he hated men of that kind—men of
pleasure, who were no longer young. When you were young it was
different—but to go on always....
But when Boyle turned and greeted him in an indifferent, half-friendly
way, and then walked up and down with him on the platform, Arthur could
not help feeling, in spite of himself, somewhat flattered and pleased.
After all, Boyle knew most of the best people, and went everywhere.
"I have an empty carriage; you might as well come in with me, if you are
by yourself." Boyle seemed not unwilling, and soon appeared at Arthur's
"I'm just on my way to Marcham," Arthur said, as if casually; "the
Vallences', you know." There was a slight lisp in his pleasant musical
Boyle was putting his golf clubs in the rack, but turned round at this
and glanced at Arthur oddly. However he said nothing, and after a
moment he sat down, and, lighting a cigarette, began looking at the
As the train went out of Reading they began to talk, or rather Arthur
talked. Soon he was discussing horses and actresses and gambling debts.
It was a good game, baccarat, Arthur said, but you had to pay for it
sometimes. He had just dropped a cool thousand or two, which was rather
a bore. There was a music hall singer to whom Arthur referred more than
once as "Mamie."
"And how about Lulu, hey?" Boyle asked, with his disagreeable laugh.
"Oh, Lulu—good old Lulu!" Arthur said, but he really had no idea of
what Boyle meant.
Boyle told a story in his short, indifferent way, and Arthur exclaimed,
"Capital! capital!" and laughed loudly in the fashion of a popular man
Had he ever been to the Vallences' before? Boyle asked.
No, he had never gone before. Did Boyle know them?—Boyle had been
there; was going there now, in fact, he said.
"Really, are you going there now? How odd we should meet like this!"
They talked a little about the place and people. It would be rather a
lively set, wouldn't it? Arthur asked; and he boasted that his uncle,
Lord Seabury, had warned him against them. But, good God! what did he
care if people were amusing. "Do you know who else will be there?"
"Oh, a lot of people. Mrs. Stair (Arthur blushed at this), and that
"Glass?" Arthur exclaimed; "oh, not really that man! They can't like
"They like his money."
"You don't mean they ask a man—a stupid boy like that—to get his
"They don't say they do," and Boyle looked up from his paper with an
expression that seemed to say, "You young fool, you don't know much."
("Is that what I'm asked for?" Arthur wondered for a second.)
"I say, did you read about that young Hughes?" Boyle was saying. "It
seems he's gone and played the fool—shot himself; wrote to his mamma he
was ruined. So he won't be there."
"Used he to go to Marcham?"
"Oh, always there."
"Well, it's the pace that kills," Arthur said sententiously, though his
hand, as he lighted another cigarette, shook a little. "It isn't
everyone that can stand the racket."
"If they weren't all such sickening young fools," Boyle replied in a
short contemptuous way, as if the talk bored him.
"He thinks a damned lot of himself," Arthur thought, looking with a
sidelong glance at Boyle. His head began to ache again; a sudden disgust
came over him; he felt he hated Boyle. And he hated himself too, for
talking and boasting as he had talked and boasted but a few minutes
before. And they were all like Boyle, all those people; they cared only
for his name and money. "Name and money, name and money," the wheels
beat on the rails. Well, soon he would lose them, most likely—his name
and money—like the young suicide, who had lost them both and his life
Still he made an effort to ward off the mood that was settling down on
him—the mood he knew so well! He was not ruined, he told himself, and
there was nothing ruinous in an ordinary visit. He could take care of
himself. The chief of his debts were gambling debts, and he was going to
stop playing soon; would settle down quietly; he would make a
resolution, and keep to it.
But what was he doing now in that rattling train? Only the day before he
had resolved not to come; had promised solemnly that he would not come;
had made a resolution to break with all that set, and not yield to the
passion which people said would ruin him. Yet here he was, going on to
it all! There seemed to him something sinister in his journey, something
fatal in the swiftness of the rattling train, as if he were being
carried on to a dreadful place, and into misfortune, against his will.
He leaned away from Boyle, and touched his cheek to the cool pane of the
window. Masses of steam enveloped the train, but Arthur saw the quiet
landscape now and then, glimpses of faded green fields with snow, and,
over the hedges, the shining river, and bluish hills beyond. He saw a
boat on the river; recognized a bit of wood, a church tower. Those were
the hills that he had ridden over; the lanes through which he had so
often walked; the river down which he had floated in the summer
sunshine, pulling up refreshed and strong after bathing. With an eager,
almost childish interest he waited for the green visions, through the
shifting steam, of these familiar places.
He opened the window; the singing air tasted pleasantly cool and fresh.
Over the flooded fields and the moving trees he saw the spires and
towers of Oxford. He could well remember the quiet streets there; seemed
to see himself, indeed, moving through them; and he almost believed that
in a few minutes he would be driving up, as he had driven up so often
before, in that procession of racing cabs to the old College, and to all
The steam blew again about the train, wrapped his face in its warm
breath, and blotted out the view. Inside the shaking carriage was the
tobacco smoke, and his luggage. "Where am I going with that man?" he
asked himself suddenly, for the picture of Oxford had filled his mind
entirely for a moment. The buildings and towers were so near now, the
water of the reservoir gleamed slowly past. Arthur took down his luggage
from the rack. At the bottom of his mind he had been wanting for a long
time to go back to Oxford, and see it all, and see an old friend there;
and so, eagerly, almost before the train had stopped, he hailed a porter
and got out of the carriage.
"I must stay over here a few hours," he said to Boyle, with apparent
calmness. "There is something I have just thought of, and must attend
to. I'll telegraph, but you'd better tell them, though, not to meet me."
He turned and walked away.
But as he drove up to Oxford, "What a fool I am," he kept saying to
himself. Indeed Boyle's surprise, the commonplace platform, the
ticket-collector's questions, the sight outside of his own luggage being
lifted up on a hansom, had soon made his foolish, helpless impulse fade,
like the flame of a candle, taken out into the daylight and windy air.
But to go back to the train would have seemed doubly foolish, so, borne
on by the impetus of his dead desire, he drove away. The next train was
not till half-past six. He would get luncheon, and, after all, it might
be pleasant to see the old place. But he was resolved that never again
would he act on those stupid, sudden ideas—they made him seem like a
After luncheon Arthur went out—the time had to be spent somehow—and
walked idly along the High Street. It was all so familiar: the shops,
the windows of the club to which he had belonged, the rooms where his
friends had lived. But he knew no one now. The streets were wet with
winter mud, there was a commonplace light on the houses, and Arthur
looked about him with very little interest and emotion. Walking past the
Colleges, he loitered for a little on Magdalen Bridge, and then turned
back again. It was still early, and he began to meet now the young men
who were starting out of Oxford for the open air and country. Some were
dressed for football; three or four in brown coats rode by on horses,
talking and laughing as they passed; but the greater number were in
flannels, and moving towards the river. These Arthur followed—he had
nothing else to do—through the streets and meadows, coming at last to
the barges and windy river. Men were calling to each other, boats were
pushing out, and the turbid current of the Thames ran swiftly with the
But for him there was too much sound about the wind and water, the cold
sunshine was too bright and harsh, and he felt doubly weary, as he
looked at all that life and activity and health. And yet once he would
have delighted in it.
When Arthur Lestrange had come first from school to Oxford, he had
entered with eagerness and youthful ambition into the pleasures and
activities of university life, wishing to do everything well that he
tried to do, and with distinction if he could. And all these ambitions
and activities he came to share, in the pleasant, intimate Oxford way,
with a friend, slightly older than himself.
But after a while he began to grow discontented; success was not so
easy;—and what was the good of it after all? he asked himself, with
impatient lassitude. Finding new friends and more exciting pleasures, he
gradually drifted away from his old companions. What was the harm? he
said impatiently to Austen, resenting his friend's affectionate advice.
He would enjoy life as other people enjoyed it; he only wanted to be
left alone. So they grew less intimate; and when Lestrange found himself
in trouble, serious enough to make him leave Oxford, he had been too
angry and proud to see Austen, or answer his friendly letter. "How
stupid it has all been," he said to himself, the memory of all this
coming over him rather drearily, as he walked back towards Oxford.
But his feeble attempts to make some change in his life—these were the
stupidest of all his memories; how, when his father died abroad, he was
really frightened, fearing for himself a death like that, and going back
to the half-neglected place that was now his own, he remembered his old
plans of life, and tried to do his duty there, and be a good landlord
and neighbour. But in a few months he grew weary of it all; it was too
lonely, too depressing....
And then a year after, when he hoped for a while that a nice girl he
knew might care for him; and this last time, when his losses at play
had made him mortgage his property still more heavily. Then, sobered for
a moment by his uncle's warnings, and by the ruin that seemed not far
off, he suddenly resolved to change, to give up playing, to keep away
from all those people.
But he had started for Marcham after all. It was no good trying, and no
one cared. Of course no one cared—why should they? With worldly
derision he remembered now the foolish, tattered hope he had cherished
all along—the hope that some day, coming back to Oxford, he would find
the old life, the old friend, who had cared once. And without stopping
he walked past his College, the place where Austen was still living. He
did not want to see any of them, nor would they want to see him.
Oppressed by the slowness of the time, the afternoon quiet of the
streets, he resolved to go back to the station and wait there, watching
the railway clock slowly eat up the hours. But passing by chance the
livery stable where he had always kept his horses, with an aimless
impulse he sauntered into the open court. One of the stable grooms
coming up, addressed him by name, and asked him if he wanted to order a
"It's a long while since we've seen you in Oxford, sir."
This recognition and friendly look in the man's face, touched Arthur,
and, with a revival of eagerness, he felt that a ride would be just the
thing to kill the time. So, ordering a horse to be sent to the hotel
where he had left his luggage, he hurried back to get ready.
As he rode back towards Oxford, two hours afterwards, the light was
already fading from the winter sky. Sleepily and quietly he jogged along
now, his horse tired at last after the quick gallop through grass lanes
and over the wet fields and commons. The young man, too, was tired; but
with a healthy, physical fatigue, pleasant in all his body. He felt
almost happy after the motion, the wide light, the freshness of the air.
And when he rode into the old city, walking his horse through the
darkening streets, it seemed to him as if he were riding home now, as
often he had ridden home into Oxford before, at just this hour of the
twilight. The groups in the doorways, the lighted windows in the dim
buildings, the sounds about him of bells and footsteps and friendly
voices, brought back to him confusedly, mixed with the memory of this
and that, the charm and comfort of that old life—that life of order and
disciplined ways, and high old-fashioned purposes. How quietly the days
had gone by: the mornings of work, the rides with friends, or afternoons
on the river, between the yellowing autumn willows; the evenings with
the white lamplight and pleasant talk and books. He had quarrelled with
the restraint, the subordination, sometimes; had thought it too severe,
too painful, to go out on the river in the wind and rain, to get up so
early in the cold of winter mornings. But now, after the stale
dissipation of his life, it was only the friendly warmth, the
lazily-wasted hours he remembered, the pleasant fatigue after exercise,
and the taste of the winter air when he had hurried out to chapel
through the earliest sunlight.
If he could only go back to it all; if, putting up his horse, he could
walk to his rooms through the twilight, and find his books, and the fire
burning there, and friends not far off! But things had been against him
somehow. And yet he had meant it all to be so different. And with half a
sigh he remembered the summer evenings when he and Austen had walked in
the old garden, talking of their plans in life—of all they meant to
do—together! if they could. But then, people never did remain friends
When he gave up his horse, however, he looked at his watch, and, after
standing in hesitation for a moment, he turned with a sudden impulse,
and walked quickly towards his old College.
In the porch stood a group of undergraduates, just up from the river,
and vaguely gossiping before they separated. But they were all strangers
to Arthur, and the porter, who answered his questions, was a stranger
too. Crossing the darker quadrangle, the young man went into a staircase
and up two flights of steps. Then he stopped, and stood breathing
quickly for a moment. There was the door, and the name over it, but he
had grown suddenly ashamed of his errand. Austen might have forgotten
him, or might not want to see him.... But, bah! what did he care? and
his footsteps must have been heard....
"I'm afraid you don't recognize me," Arthur said, in his assured voice,
as he went forward into the room. "I was in Oxford; I thought I'd look
Austen, who was sitting by a lamp, turned round with a puzzled
expression on his staid, pleasant face. Then, pushing aside a heap of
papers, he got up and said: "Oh, Lestrange, I didn't recognize you at
first, it's so dark there. But I'm glad to see you—do sit down; you'll
have tea, won't you?"
He was passing through Oxford, Arthur said; and having a few hours on
his hands after riding over Shotover, he had come back, and happened to
look in at the old College. The plausibility of this explanation, and
Austen's voice as he said politely, "That's right, that's right, I'm
delighted to see you again," soon overcame most of the shyness behind
Arthur's easy, unembarrassed manner. They still talked to each other
rather formally, however, as men do who have not met for years.
"It's a long time since you've been in Oxford, isn't it?" Austen asked.
"Yes, it is; I've been at home, in London. But I suppose it hasn't
No, there wasn't much change, Austen said; old people went and new
What had become of all the men who had been with them in College, Arthur
asked; he had lost sight of them somehow.
Austen said that some were at the Bar; some in the government offices;
one or two in Parliament already; the most of them seemed to be getting
on pretty well, he thought, though he had lost sight of many of them, as
"And you've been living on here ever since? I heard you had been made a
Fellow. You like it, I suppose?"
Yes, Austen said, he liked it well enough, the work was tiring
sometimes; that afternoon he had been going through papers. Arthur
noticed that he looked fatigued, and a good deal older. It was dry, hard
work no doubt, but still it was not the kind of thing that changed you.
"I say, you have jolly rooms here, Austen; I envy you living in a place
like this. Do you remember your old rooms over the garden? I think I
used to live in them almost."
As the old memories revived they seemed to grow less shy of each other.
Arthur leaned forward, talking in a vague, intermittent way as he stared
into the fire. Sometimes he would gaze at nothing, with a vacant, dazed
look, for minutes together; or he would take the fire-irons and break up
the coals. Once the tongs slipped and fell with a sudden clatter; he
"Well," he said at last, rousing himself from a reverie in which he
seemed conscious of nothing but the warmth and comfort and pleasant,
physical fatigue, "Well, it seems very jolly here, like old times; I
almost wish I had never gone away. But then, of course, I couldn't help
it," he added; "I wasn't asked."
"You had hard luck," Austen said; "I hope it hasn't made any
The words sounded friendly and sympathetic to Arthur. Hard luck, yes,
that was it; he had always had hard luck.
"What have you been doing since?" Austen said politely.
"What have I been doing, Charles? Oh, nothing much; seeing about things
at home a little. There were some cottages I had rebuilt. You remember
we used to talk about it. It isn't so easy though, or I suppose I'm not
so clever at it. But of course you know a great deal more about those
"No, oh no! I've been so busy. That sort of thing is good in moderation,
and I'm glad you keep it up."
"Oh yes, in a way ... but no, what am I saying? I don't really keep it
up. It was all two years ago. I haven't done much of anything
since—anything good. Things, you know," he went on, as he stared into
the fire, "haven't gone just—I mean, it's been rather stupid—stupid,
and worse, I'm afraid; I don't seem good for much somehow."
The familiar Oxford room, with its order, and books, and shaded light,
seemed so shut in, so far from the friendless world in which he lived,
that for the moment Arthur almost forgot the lonely distrust, the
derision of everything, which his life had taught him. "I suppose it's
fate," he added, staring into the fire, as if he were half-ashamed of
what he was saying. "I suppose it is fate—but still, I
wonder—sometimes it seems if—that if I had had a chance, if anybody—"
He waited a minute indecisively. But Austen said nothing. Arthur
glanced at him, and then, flushing slightly, he got up. "But I must be
going now," he said, with a curious change and coldness in his voice; "I
have a train to catch."
"Oh, don't go," Austen replied awkwardly, "don't go just yet. I'm sorry
to hear what you say; but don't you think, if you will allow me to say
so, don't you think it is a mistake to blame fate for such things? If
you would tell me more—"
"Oh, thanks," Arthur said, "I think I must be going."
"But you were going to say something," Austen urged, "and if you would
tell me more, I might be able to help you, or give you advice at least."
Arthur glanced at him quickly. Then suddenly the idea seemed to amuse
him, and coming back a step or two he said, with a smile, "Tell you
more, Austen? Oh, I was only going to tell you what everyone knows,
that I've turned out a bad lot, that's all."
"I'm sorry to hear that," said Austen, in a rather shocked voice; "I
hope it's not so bad."
Arthur smiled pleasantly. "Oh well, you know, it is pretty bad, I'm
"But what do you mean, Lestrange?"
"What do I mean? Oh, all the usual things—bad company, gambling, and
Austen looked still more shocked. "But surely you could change if you
"I suppose I might, if I wanted to," Arthur said, playing with his
riding whip. "But I'm afraid I don't want to. What's the good?"
"What's the good?" Austen repeated. "I don't see how you can ask such a
question; if what you say is true, you ought to want to change."
Arthur mused a moment. Then looking up, with apparent candour, he said,
"Well, I suppose it is odd; but honestly, you know, I don't want to
change in the least. You see, your respectable people, they don't want
to have anything to do with me; and anyhow, the things they care for
bore me to death, really they do. You only have one life, so why not be
happy in your own way? that's my principle."
"But surely, Lestrange, you can't go on—"
"No, I suppose I can't for ever; but you try to enjoy it while it lasts;
and anyhow, my father, you know how he died—I suppose it's fate;
heredity you call those things, don't you?"
"Really, I'm shocked to hear you talk so recklessly, as if you didn't
care. You seem very much changed."
"Am I changed? I don't know; I suppose I am. We've both changed a
little, don't you think? At least, things seem different. I wonder where
I put my gloves,—I really must be going."
"Well, of course, I can't keep you, Lestrange; I can only give you my
advice. But I can't believe you're happy."
For a moment Arthur looked at him sullenly.
"Well, what if I ain't?" he asked. "What's that to you?"
"I was only going to say," Austen went on, "I was only going to say that
it seems to me that if you would try—"
"Try! Good Lord, I've tried enough, but what's the good?" Arthur said,
with his old calmness and indifference, as he turned away towards the
door. "I don't care, and no one else does, either. But I must be off.
He went down the steps quickly, whistling as he walked away through the
darkness. He was angry at himself, and bitterly ashamed of his visit to
Austen. They were all like that—he ought to have known. And yet it was
a pity, too!