IO, by Oliver Onions
As the young man put his hand to the uppermost of the four brass
bell-knobs to the right of the fanlighted door he paused, withdrew the
hand again, and then pulled at the lowest knob. The sawing of bell-wire
answered him, and he waited for a moment, uncertain whether the bell had
rung, before pulling again. Then there came from the basement a single
cracked stroke; the head of a maid appeared in the whitewashed area
below; and the head was withdrawn as apparently the maid recognised him.
Steps were heard along the hall; the door was opened; and the maid stood
aside to let him enter, the apron with which she had slipped the latch
still crumpled in her greasy hand.
"Sorry, Daisy," the young man apologised, "but I didn't want to bring her
down all those stairs. How is she? Has she been out to-day?"
The maid replied that the person spoken of had been out; and the young
man walked along the wide carpeted passage.
It was cumbered like an antique-shop with alabaster busts on pedestals,
dusty palms in faience vases, and trophies of spears and shields and
assegais. At the foot of the stairs was a rustling portière of strung
beads, and beyond it the carpet was continued up the broad, easy flight,
secured at each step by a brass rod. Where the stairs made a turn, the
fading light of the December afternoon, made still dimmer by a window of
decalcomanied glass, shone on a cloudy green aquarium with sallow
goldfish, a number of cacti on a shabby console table, and a large and
dirty white sheepskin rug. Passing along a short landing, the young man
began the ascent of the second flight. This also was carpeted, but with a
carpet that had done duty in some dining- or bed-room before being cut up
into strips of the width of the narrow space between the wall and the
handrail. Then, as he still mounted, the young man's feet sounded loud on
oilcloth; and when he finally paused and knocked at a door it was on a
small landing of naked boards beneath the cold gleam of the skylight
above the well of the stairs.
"Come in," a girl's voice called.
The room he entered had a low sagging ceiling on which shone a low glow
of firelight, making colder still the patch of eastern sky beyond the
roofs and the cowls and hoods of chimneys framed by the square of the
single window. The glow on the ceiling was reflected dully in the old
dark mirror over the mantelpiece. An open door in the farther corner,
hampered with skirts and blouses, allowed a glimpse of the girl's
The young man set the paper bag he carried down on the littered round
table and advanced to the girl who sat in an old wicker chair before
the fire. The girl did not turn her head as he kissed her cheek, and he
looked down at something that had muffled the sound of his steps as
he had approached her.
"Hallo, that's new, isn't it, Bessie? Where did that come from?" he asked
The middle of the floor was covered with a common jute matting, but on
the hearth was a magnificent leopard-skin rug.
"Mrs. Hepburn sent it up. There was a draught from under the door. It's
much warmer for my feet."
"Very kind of Mrs. Hepburn. Well, how are you feeling to-day, old girl?"
"Better, thanks, Ed."
"That's the style. You'll be yourself again soon. Daisy says you've been
"Yes, I went for a walk. But not far; I went to the Museum and then sat
down. You're early, aren't you?"
He turned away to get a chair, from which he had to move a mass of
tissue-paper patterns and buckram linings. He brought it to the rug.
"Yes. I stopped last night late to cash up for Vedder, so he's staying
to-night. Turn and turn about. Well, tell us all about it, Bess."
Their faces were red in the firelight. Hers had the prettiness that the
first glance almost exhausts, the prettiness, amazing in its quantity,
that one sees for a moment under the light of the street lamps when shops
and offices close for the day. She was short-nosed, pulpy-mouthed and
faunish-eyed, and only the rather remarkable smallness of the head on the
splendid thick throat saved her from ordinariness. He, too, might have
been seen in his thousands at the close of any day, hurrying home to
Catford or Walham Green or Tufnell Park to tea and an evening with a
girl or in a billiard-room, or else dining cheaply "up West" preparatory
to smoking cigarettes from yellow packets in the upper circle of a
music-hall. Four inches of white up-and-down collar encased his neck; and
as he lifted his trousers at the knee to clear his purple socks, the pair
of paper covers showed, that had protected his cuffs during the day at
the office. He removed them, crumpled them up and threw them on the fire;
and the momentary addition to the light of the upper chamber showed how
curd-white was that superb neck of hers and how moody and tired her eyes.
From his face only one would have guessed, and guessed wrongly, that his
preferences were for billiard-rooms and music-halls. His conversation
showed them to be otherwise. It was of Polytechnic classes that he spoke,
and of the course of lectures in English literature that had just begun.
And, as if somebody had asserted that the pursuit of such studies was not
compatible with a certain measure of physical development also, he
announced that he was not sure that he should not devote, say, half an
evening a week, on Wednesdays, to training in the gymnasium.
"Mens sana in corpore sano, Bessie," he said; "a sound mind in a sound
body, you know. That's tremendously important, especially when a fellow
spends the day in a stuffy office. Yes, I think I shall give it half
Wednesdays, from eight-thirty to nine-thirty; sends you home in a glow.
But I was going to tell you about the Literature Class. The second
lecture's to-night. The first was splendid, all about the languages of
Europe and Asia—what they call the Indo-Germanic languages, you know.
Aryans. I can't tell you exactly without my notes, but the Hindoos and
Persians, I think it was, they crossed the Himalaya Mountains and spread
westward somehow, as far as Europe. That was the way it all began. It
was splendid, the way the lecturer put it. English is a Germanic
language, you know. Then came the Celts. I wish I'd brought my notes. I
see you've been reading; let's look—"
A book lay on her knees, its back warped by the heat of the fire. He took
it and opened it.
"Ah, Keats! Glad you like Keats, Bessie. We needn't be great readers, but
it's important that what we do read should be all right. I don't know
him, not really know him, that is. But he's quite all right—A1 in
fact. And he's an example of what I've always maintained, that knowledge
should be brought within the reach of all. It just shows. He was the son
of a livery-stable keeper, you know, so what he'd have been if he'd
really had chances, been to universities and so on, there's no knowing.
But, of course, it's more from the historical standpoint that I'm
studying these things. Let's have a look—"
He opened the book where a hairpin between the leaves marked a place.
The firelight glowed on the page, and he read, monotonously and
"And as I sat, over the light blue hills
There came a noise of revellers; the rills
Into the wide stream came of purple hue—
'Twas Bacchus and his crew!
The earnest trumpet spake, and silver thrills
From kissing cymbals made a merry din—
'Twas Bacchus and his kin!
Like to a moving vintage down they came,
Crowned with green leaves, and faces all on flame
All madly dancing through the pleasant valley
To scare thee, Melancholy!"
It was the wondrous passage from Endymion, of the descent of the wild
inspired rabble into India. Ed plucked for a moment at his lower lip, and
then, with a "Hm! What's it all about, Bessie?" continued:
"Within his car, aloft, young Bacchus stood,
Trifling his ivy-dart, in dancing mood,
With sidelong laughing;
And little rills of crimson wine imbrued
His plump white arms and shoulders, enough white
For Venus' pearly bite;
And near him rode Silenus on his ass,
Pelted with flowers as he on did pass,
"Hm! I see. Mythology. That's made up of tales, and myths, you know. Like
Odin and Thor and those, only those were Scandinavian Mythology. So it
would be absurd to take it too seriously. But I think, in a way, things
like that do harm. You see," he explained, "the more beautiful they are
the more harm they might do. We ought always to show virtue and vice in
their true colours, and if you look at it from that point of view this is
just drunkenness. That's rotten; destroys your body and intellect; as I
heard a chap say once, it's an insult to the beasts to call it beastly. I
joined the Blue Ribbon when I was fourteen and I haven't been sorry for
it yet. No. Now there's Vedder; he 'went off on a bend,' as he calls it,
last night, and even he says this morning it wasn't worth it. But let's
Again he read, with unresilient movement:
"I saw Osirian Egypt kneel adown
Before the vine wreath crown!
I saw parched Abyssinia rouse and sing
To the silver cymbals' ring!
I saw the whelming vintage hotly pierce
Old Tartary the fierce!
Great Brahma from his mystic heaven groans …"
"Hm! He was a Buddhist god, Brahma was; mythology again. As I say, if you
take it seriously, it's just glorifying intoxication.—But I say; I can
hardly see. Better light the lamp. We'll have tea first, then read. No,
you sit still; I'll get it ready; I know where things are—"
He rose, crossed to a little cupboard with a sink in it, filled the
kettle at the tap, and brought it to the fire. Then he struck a match and
lighted the lamp.
The cheap glass shade was of a foolish corolla shape, clear glass below,
shading to pink, and deepening to red at the crimped edge. It gave a
false warmth to the spaces of the room above the level of the
mantelpiece, and Ed's figure, as he turned the regulator, looked from the
waist upwards as if he stood within that portion of a spectrum screen
that deepens to the band of red. The bright concentric circles that
spread in rings of red on the ceiling were more dimly reduplicated in the
old mirror over the mantelpiece; and the wintry eastern light beyond the
chimney-hoods seemed suddenly almost to die out.
Bessie, her white neck below the level of the lamp-shade, had taken up
the book again; but she was not reading. She was looking over it at the
upper part of the grate. Presently she spoke. "I was looking at some of
those things this afternoon, at the Museum."
He was clearing from the table more buckram linings and patterns of
paper, numbers of Myra's Journal and The Delineator. Already on his way
to the cupboard he had put aside a red-bodiced dressmaker's "shape" of
wood and wire. "What things?" he asked.
"Those you were reading about. Greek, aren't they?"
"Oh, the Greek room!… But those people, Bacchus and those, weren't
people in the ordinary sense. Gods and goddesses, most of 'em; Bacchus
was a god. That's what mythology means. I wish sometimes our course took
in Greek literature, but it's a dead language after all. German's more
good in modern life. It would be nice to know everything, but one has to
select, you know. Hallo, I clean forgot; I brought you some grapes,
Bessie; here they are, in this bag; we'll have 'em after tea, what?"
"But," she said again after a pause, still looking at the grate, "they
had their priests and priestesses, and followers and people, hadn't they?
It was their things I was looking at—combs and brooches and hairpins,
and things to cut their nails with. They're all in a glass case there.
And they had safety-pins, exactly like ours."
"Oh, they were a civilised people," said Ed cheerfully. "It all gives you
an idea. I only hope you didn't tire yourself out. You'll soon be all
right, of course, but you have to be careful yet. We'll have a clean
tablecloth, shall we?"
She had been seriously ill; her life had been despaired of; and somehow
the young Polytechnic student seemed anxious to assure her that she was
now all right again, or soon would be. They were to be married "as soon
as things brightened up a bit," and he was very much in love with her. He
watched her head and neck as he continued to lay the table, and then, as
he crossed once more to the cupboard, he put his hand lightly in passing
on her hair.
She gave so quick a start that he too started. She must have been very
deep in her reverie to have been so taken by surprise.
"I say, Bessie, don't jump like that!" he cried with involuntary
quickness. Indeed, had his hand been red-hot, or ice-cold, or taloned,
she could not have turned a more startled, even frightened, face to him.
"It was your touching me," she muttered, resuming her gazing into the
He stood looking anxiously down on her. It would have been better not to
discuss her state, and he knew it; but in his anxiety he forgot it.
"That jumpiness is the effect of your illness, you know. I shall be glad
when it's all over. It's made you so odd."
She was not pleased that he should speak of her "oddness." For that
matter, she, too, found him "odd"—at any rate, found it difficult to
realise that he was as he always had been. He had begun to irritate her a
little. His club-footed reading of the verses had irritated her, and she
had tried hard to hide from him that his cocksure opinions and the tone
in which they were pronounced jarred on her. It was not that she was
"better" than he, "knew" any more than he did, didn't (she supposed) love
him still the same; these moods, that dated from her illness, had nothing
to do with those things; she reproached herself sometimes that she was
subject to such doldrums.
"It's all right, Ed, but please don't touch me just now," she said.
He was in the act of leaning over her chair, but he saw her shrink, and
"Poor old girl!" he said sympathetically. "What's the matter?"
"I don't know. It's awfully stupid of me to be like this, but I can't
help it. I shall be better soon if you leave me alone."
"Nothing's happened, has it?"
"Only those silly dreams I told you about."
"Bother the dreams!" muttered the Polytechnic student.
During her illness she had had dreams, and had come to herself at
intervals to find Ed or the doctor, Mrs. Hepburn or her aunt, bending
over her. These kind, solicitous faces had been no more than a glimpse,
and then she had gone off into the dreams again. The curious thing had
been that the dreams had seemed to be her vivid waking life, and the
other things—the anxious faces, the details of her dingy bedroom, the
thermometer under her tongue—had been the dream. And, though she had
come back to actuality, the dreams had never quite vanished. She could
remember no more of them than that they had seemed to hold a high singing
and jocundity, issuing from some region of haze and golden light; and
they seemed to hover, ever on the point of being recaptured, yet ever
eluding all her mental efforts. She was living now between reality and a
She had fewer words than sensations, and it was a little pitiful to hear
her vainly striving to make clear what she meant.
"It's so queer," she said. "It's like being on the edge of something—a
sort of tiptoe—I can't describe it. Sometimes I could almost touch it
with my hand, and then it goes away, but never quite away. It's like
something just past the corner of my eye, over my shoulder, and I sit
very still sometimes, trying to take it off its guard. But the moment I
move my head it moves too—like this—"
Again he gave a quick start at the suddenness of her action. Very
stealthily her faunish eyes had stolen sideways, and then she had swiftly
turned her head.
"Here, I say, don't, Bessie!" he cried nervously. "You look awfully
uncanny when you do that! You're brooding," he continued, "that's what
you're doing, brooding. You're getting into a low state. You want bucking
up. I don't think I shall go to the Polytec. to-night; I shall stay and
cheer you up. You know, I really don't think you're making an effort,
His last words seemed to strike her. They seemed to fit in with something
of which she too was conscious. "Not making an effort …" she wondered
how he knew that. She felt in some vague way that it was important that
she should make an effort.
For, while her dream ever evaded her, and yet never ceased to call her
with such a voice as he who reads on a magic page of the calling of elves
hears stilly in his brain, yet somehow behind the seduction was another
and a sterner voice. There was warning as well as fascination. Beyond
that edge at which she strained on tiptoe, mingled with the jocund calls
to Hasten, Hasten, were deeper calls that bade her Beware. They puzzled
her. Beware of what? Of what danger? And to whom?…
"How do you mean, I'm not making an effort, Ed?" she asked slowly, again
looking into the fire, where the kettle now made a gnat-like singing.
"Why, an effort to get all right again. To be as you used to be—as, of
course, you will be soon."
"As I used to be?" The words came with a little check in her breathing.
"Yes, before all this. To be yourself, you know."
"All jolly, and without these jerks and jumps. I wish you could get away.
A fortnight by the sea would do you all the good in the world."
She knew not what it was in the words "the sea" that caused her suddenly
to breathe more deeply. The sea!… It was as if, by the mere uttering of
them, he had touched some secret spring, brought to fulfilment some
spell. What had he meant by speaking of the sea?… A fortnight before,
had somebody spoken to her of the sea it would have been the sea of
Margate, of Brighton, of Southend, that, supplying the image that a word
calls up as if by conjuration, she would have seen before her; and what
other image could she supply, could she possibly supply, now?… Yet she
did, or almost did, supply one. What new experience had she had, or what
old, old one had been released in her? With that confused, joyous dinning
just beyond the range of physical hearing there had suddenly mingled
a new illusion of sound—a vague, vast pash and rustle, silky and harsh
both at once, its tireless voice holding meanings of stillness and
solitude compared with which the silence that is mere absence of sound
was vacancy. It was part of her dream, invisible, intangible, inaudible,
yet there. As if he had been an enchanter, it had come into being at the
word upon his lips. Had he other such words? Had he the Master Word
that—(ah, she knew what the Master Word would do!)—would make the
Vision the Reality and the Reality the Vision? Deep within her she felt
something—her soul, herself, she knew not what—thrill and turn over and
"The sea," she repeated in a low voice.
"Yes, that's what you want to set you up—rather! Do you remember that
fortnight at Littlehampton, you and me and your Aunt? Jolly that was! I
like Littlehampton. It isn't flash like Brighton, and Margate's always so
beastly crowded. And do you remember that afternoon by the windmill? I
did love you that afternoon, Bessie!"…
He continued to talk, but she was not listening. She was wondering why
the words "the sea" were somehow part of it all—the pins and brooches
of the Museum, the book on her knees, the dream. She remembered a game of
hide-and-seek she had played as a child, in which cries of "Warm, warm,
warmer!" had announced the approach to the hidden object. Oh, she was
getting warm—positively hot….
He had ceased to talk, and was watching her. Perhaps it was the thought
of how he had loved her that afternoon by the windmill that had brought
him close to her chair again. She was aware of his nearness, and closed
her eyes for a moment as if she dreaded something. Then she said quickly,
"Is tea nearly ready, Ed?" and, as he turned to the table, took up the
She felt that even to touch that book brought her "warmer." It fell open
at a page. She did not hear the clatter Ed made at the table, nor yet the
babble his words had evoked, of the pierrots and banjos and minstrels of
Margate and Littlehampton. It was to hear a gladder, wilder tumult that
she sat once more so still, so achingly listening….
"The earnest trumpet spake, and silver thrills
From kissing cymbals made a merry din—"
The words seemed to move on the page. In her eyes another light than the
firelight seemed to play. Her breast rose, and in her thick white throat
a little inarticulate sound twanged.
"Eh? Did you speak, Bessie?" Ed asked, stopping in his buttering of
In answering, her head had turned for a moment, and she had seen him.
Suddenly it struck her with force: what a shaving of a man he was!
Desk-chested, weak-necked, conscious of his little "important" lip
and chin—yes, he needed a Polytechnic gymnastic course! Then she
remarked how once, at Margate, she had seen him in the distance, as
in a hired baggy bathing-dress he had bathed from a machine, in muddy
water, one of a hundred others, all rather cold, flinging a polo-ball
about and shouting stridently. "A sound mind in a sound body!"… He
was rather vain of his neat shoes, too, and doubtless stunted his
feet; and she had seen the little spot on his neck caused by the
chafing of his collar-stud…. No, she did not want him to touch her,
just now at any rate. His touch would be too like a betrayal of another
touch … somewhere, sometime, somehow … in that tantalising dream
that refused to allow itself either to be fully remembered or quite
forgotten. What was that dream? What was it?…
She continued to gaze into the fire.
Of a sudden she sprang to her feet with a choked cry of almost animal
fury. The fool had touched her. Carried away doubtless by the memory of
that afternoon by the windmill, he had, in passing once more to the
kettle, crept softly behind her and put a swift burning kiss on the side
of her neck.
Then he had retreated before her, stumbling against the table and causing
the cups and saucers to jingle.
The basket-chair tilted up, but righted itself again.
"I told you—I told you—" she choked, her stockish figure shaking with
rage, "I told you—you—"
He put up his elbow as if to ward off a blow.
"You touch me—you!—you!" the words broke from her.
He had put himself farther round the table. He stammered.
"Here—dash it all, Bessie—what is the matter?"
"You touch me!"
"All right," he said sullenly. "I won't touch you again—no fear. I
didn't know you were such a firebrand. All right, drop it now. I won't
again. Good Lord!"
Slowly the white fist she had drawn back sank to her side again.
"All right now," he continued to grumble resentfully. "You needn't take
on so. It's said—I won't touch you again." Then, as if he remembered
that after all she was ill and must be humoured, he began, while her
bosom still rose and fell rapidly, to talk with an assumption that
nothing much had happened. "Come, sit down again, Bessie. The tea's in
the pot and I'll have it ready in a couple of jiffs. What a ridiculous
little girl you are, to take on like that!… And I say, listen! That's a
muffin-bell, and there's a grand fire for toast! You sit down while I run
out and get 'em. Give me your key, so I can let myself in again—"
He took her key from her bag, caught up his hat, and hastened out.
But she did not sit down again. She was no calmer for his quick
disappearance. In that moment when he had recoiled from her she had had
the expression of some handsome and angered snake, its hood puffed, ready
to strike. She stood dazed; one would have supposed that that ill-advised
kiss of his had indeed been the Master Word she sought, the Word she felt
approaching, the Word to which the objects of the Museum, the book, that
rustle of a sea she had never seen, had been but the ever "warming"
stages. Some merest trifle stood between her and those elfin cries,
between her and that thin golden mist in which faintly seen shapes seemed
to move—shapes almost of tossed arms, waving, brandishing objects
strangely all but familiar. That roaring of the sea was not the rushing
of her own blood in her ears, that rosy flush not the artificial glow of
the cheap red lampshade. The shapes were almost as plain as if she saw
them in some clear but black mirror, the sounds almost as audible as if
she heard them through some not very thick muffling….
"Quick—the book," she muttered.
But even as she stretched out her hand for it, again came that solemn
sound of warning. As if something sought to stay it, she had deliberately
to thrust her hand forward. Again the high dinning calls of "Hasten!
Hasten!" were mingled with that deeper "Beware!" She knew in her soul
that, once over that terrible edge, the Dream would become the Reality
and the Reality the Dream. She knew nothing of the fluidity of the thing
called Personality—not a thing at all, but a state, a balance, a
relation, a resultant of forces so delicately in equilibrium that a
touch, and—pff!—the horror of Formlessness rushed over all.
As she hesitated a new light appeared in the chamber. Within the frame of
the small square window, beyond the ragged line of the chimney-cowls,
an edge of orange brightness showed. She leaned forward. It was the full
moon, rusty and bloated and flattened by the earth-mist.
The next moment her hand had clutched at the book.
"Whence came ye, merry Damsels! Whence came ye
So many, and so many, and such glee?
Why have ye left your bowers desolate,
Your lutes, and gentler fate?
'We follow Bacchus, Bacchus on the wing A-conquering!
Bacchus, young Bacchus! Good or ill betide
We dance before him thorough kingdoms wide!
Come hither, Lady fair, and joined be
To our wild minstrelsy!'"
There was an instant in which darkness seemed to blot out all else; then
it rolled aside, and in a blaze of brightness was gone. It was gone, and
she stood face to face with her Dream, that for two thousand years had
slumbered in the blood of her and her line. She stood, with mouth agape
and eyes that hailed, her thick throat full of suppressed clamour. The
other was the Dream now, and these!… they came down, mad and noisy
and bright—Maenades, Thyades, satyrs, fauns—naked, in hides of beasts,
ungirded, dishevelled, wreathed and garlanded, dancing, singing,
shouting. The thudding of their hooves shook the ground, and the clash of
their timbrels and the rustling of their thyrsi filled the air. They
brandished frontal bones, the dismembered quarters of kids and goats;
they struck the bronze cantharus, they tossed the silver obba up aloft.
Down a cleft of rocks and woods they came, trooping to a wide seashore
with the red of the sunset behind them. She saw the evening light on the
sleek and dappled hides, the gilded ivory and rich brown of their legs
and shoulders, the white of inner arms held up on high, their wide red
mouths, the quivering of the twin flesh-gouts on the necks of the leaping
fauns. And, shutting out the glimpse of sky at the head of the deep
ravine, the god himself descended, with his car full of drunken girls who
slept with the serpents coiled about them.
Shouting and moaning and frenzied, leaping upon one another with
libidinous laughter and beating one another with the half-stripped
thyrsi, they poured down to the yellow sands and the anemonied pools of
the shore. They raced to the water, that gleamed pale as nacre in the
deepening twilight in the eye of the evening star. They ran along its
edge over their images in the wet sands, calling their lost companion.
"Hasten, hasten!" they cried; and one of them, a young man with a torso
noble as the dawn and shoulder-lines strong as those of the eternal
hills, ran here and there calling her name.
"Louder, louder!" she called back in an ecstasy.
Something dropped and tinkled against the fender. It was one of her
hairpins. One side of her hair was in a loose tumble; she threw up the
small head on the superb thick neck.
"Louder!—I cannot hear! Once more—"
The throwing up of her head that had brought down the rest of her hair
had given her a glimpse of herself in the glass over the mantelpiece. For
the last time that formidable "Beware!" sounded like thunder in her ears;
the next moment she had snapped with her fingers the ribbon that was
cutting into her throbbing throat. He with the torso and those shoulders
was seeking her … how should he know her in that dreary garret, in
those joyless habiliments? He would as soon known his Own in that
crimson-bodiced, wire-framed dummy by the window yonder!…
Her fingers clutched at the tawdry mercerised silk of her blouse. There
was a rip, and her arms and throat were free. She panted as she tugged
at something that gave with a short "click-click," as of steel
fastenings; something fell against the fender…. These also…. She tore
at them, and kicked them as they lay about her feet as leaves lie about
the trunk of a tree in autumn….
And as she stood there, as if within the screen of a spectrum that
deepened to the band of red, her eyes fell on the leopard-skin at her
feet. She caught it up, and in doing so saw purple grapes—purple
grapes that issued from the mouth of a paper bag on the table. With the
dappled pelt about her she sprang forward. The juice spurted through them
into the mass of her loosened hair. Down her body there was a spilth of
seeds and pulp. She cried hoarsely aloud.
"Once more—oh, answer me! Tell me my name!"
Ed's steps were heard on the oilclothed portion of the staircase.
"My name—oh, my name!" she cried in an agony of suspense…. "Oh, they
will not wait for me! They have lighted the torches—they run up and down
the shore with torches—oh, cannot you see me?…"
Suddenly she dashed to the chair on which the litter of linings and
tissue-paper lay. She caught up a double handful and crammed them on the
fire. They caught and flared. There was a call upon the stairs, and the
sound of somebody mounting in haste.
"Once—once only—my name!"
The soul of the Bacchante rioted, struggled to escape from her eyes. Then
as the door was flung open, she heard, and gave a terrifying shout of
"I hear—I almost hear—but once more…. IO! Io, Io, Io!"
Ed, in the doorway, stood for one moment agape; the next, ignorant of the
full purport of his own words—ignorant that though man may come
westwards he may yet bring his worship with him—ignorant that to make
the Dream the Reality and the Reality the Dream is Heaven's dreadfullest
favour—and ignorant that, that Edge once crossed, there is no return to
the sanity and sweetness and light that are only seen clearly in the
moment when they are lost for ever—he had dashed down the stairs crying
in a voice hoarse and high with terror:
"She's mad! She's mad!"