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Night And Day - Chapter 9 Post by :msingathi Category :Long Stories Author :Virginia Woolf Date :February 2011 Read :2306

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Night And Day - Chapter 9

Katharine disliked telling her mother about Cyril's misbehavior quite
as much as her father did, and for much the same reasons. They both
shrank, nervously, as people fear the report of a gun on the stage,
from all that would have to be said on this occasion. Katharine,
moreover, was unable to decide what she thought of Cyril's
misbehavior. As usual, she saw something which her father and mother
did not see, and the effect of that something was to suspend Cyril's
behavior in her mind without any qualification at all. They would
think whether it was good or bad; to her it was merely a thing that
had happened.

When Katharine reached the study, Mrs. Hilbery had already dipped her
pen in the ink.

"Katharine," she said, lifting it in the air, "I've just made out such
a queer, strange thing about your grandfather. I'm three years and six
months older than he was when he died. I couldn't very well have been
his mother, but I might have been his elder sister, and that seems to
me such a pleasant fancy. I'm going to start quite fresh this morning,
and get a lot done."

She began her sentence, at any rate, and Katharine sat down at her own
table, untied the bundle of old letters upon which she was working,
smoothed them out absent-mindedly, and began to decipher the faded
script. In a minute she looked across at her mother, to judge her
mood. Peace and happiness had relaxed every muscle in her face; her
lips were parted very slightly, and her breath came in smooth,
controlled inspirations like those of a child who is surrounding
itself with a building of bricks, and increasing in ecstasy as each
brick is placed in position. So Mrs. Hilbery was raising round her the
skies and trees of the past with every stroke of her pen, and
recalling the voices of the dead. Quiet as the room was, and
undisturbed by the sounds of the present moment, Katharine could fancy
that here was a deep pool of past time, and that she and her mother
were bathed in the light of sixty years ago. What could the present
give, she wondered, to compare with the rich crowd of gifts bestowed
by the past? Here was a Thursday morning in process of manufacture;
each second was minted fresh by the clock upon the mantelpiece. She
strained her ears and could just hear, far off, the hoot of a
motor-car and the rush of wheels coming nearer and dying away again,
and the voices of men crying old iron and vegetables in one of the
poorer streets at the back of the house. Rooms, of course, accumulate
their suggestions, and any room in which one has been used to carry on
any particular occupation gives off memories of moods, of ideas, of
postures that have been seen in it; so that to attempt any different
kind of work there is almost impossible.

Katharine was unconsciously affected, each time she entered her
mother's room, by all these influences, which had had their birth
years ago, when she was a child, and had something sweet and solemn
about them, and connected themselves with early memories of the
cavernous glooms and sonorous echoes of the Abbey where her
grandfather lay buried. All the books and pictures, even the chairs
and tables, had belonged to him, or had reference to him; even the
china dogs on the mantelpiece and the little shepherdesses with their
sheep had been bought by him for a penny a piece from a man who used
to stand with a tray of toys in Kensington High Street, as Katharine
had often heard her mother tell. Often she had sat in this room, with
her mind fixed so firmly on those vanished figures that she could
almost see the muscles round their eyes and lips, and had given to
each his own voice, with its tricks of accent, and his coat and his
cravat. Often she had seemed to herself to be moving among them, an
invisible ghost among the living, better acquainted with them than
with her own friends, because she knew their secrets and possessed a
divine foreknowledge of their destiny. They had been so unhappy, such
muddlers, so wrong-headed, it seemed to her. She could have told them
what to do, and what not to do. It was a melancholy fact that they
would pay no heed to her, and were bound to come to grief in their own
antiquated way. Their behavior was often grotesquely irrational; their
conventions monstrously absurd; and yet, as she brooded upon them, she
felt so closely attached to them that it was useless to try to pass
judgment upon them. She very nearly lost consciousness that she was a
separate being, with a future of her own. On a morning of slight
depression, such as this, she would try to find some sort of clue to
the muddle which their old letters presented; some reason which seemed
to make it worth while to them; some aim which they kept steadily in
view--but she was interrupted.

Mrs. Hilbery had risen from her table, and was standing looking out of
the window at a string of barges swimming up the river.

Katharine watched her. Suddenly Mrs. Hilbery turned abruptly, and

"I really believe I'm bewitched! I only want three sentences, you see,
something quite straightforward and commonplace, and I can't find

She began to pace up and down the room, snatching up her duster; but
she was too much annoyed to find any relief, as yet, in polishing the
backs of books.

"Besides," she said, giving the sheet she had written to Katharine, "I
don't believe this'll do. Did your grandfather ever visit the
Hebrides, Katharine?" She looked in a strangely beseeching way at her
daughter. "My mind got running on the Hebrides, and I couldn't help
writing a little description of them. Perhaps it would do at the
beginning of a chapter. Chapters often begin quite differently from
the way they go on, you know." Katharine read what her mother had
written. She might have been a schoolmaster criticizing a child's
essay. Her face gave Mrs. Hilbery, who watched it anxiously, no ground
for hope.

"It's very beautiful," she stated, "but, you see, mother, we ought to
go from point to point--"

"Oh, I know," Mrs. Hilbery exclaimed. "And that's just what I can't
do. Things keep coming into my head. It isn't that I don't know
everything and feel everything (who did know him, if I didn't?), but I
can't put it down, you see. There's a kind of blind spot," she said,
touching her forehead, "there. And when I can't sleep o' nights, I
fancy I shall die without having done it."

From exultation she had passed to the depths of depression which the
imagination of her death aroused. The depression communicated itself
to Katharine. How impotent they were, fiddling about all day long with
papers! And the clock was striking eleven and nothing done! She
watched her mother, now rummaging in a great brass-bound box which
stood by her table, but she did not go to her help. Of course,
Katharine reflected, her mother had now lost some paper, and they
would waste the rest of the morning looking for it. She cast her eyes
down in irritation, and read again her mother's musical sentences
about the silver gulls, and the roots of little pink flowers washed by
pellucid streams, and the blue mists of hyacinths, until she was
struck by her mother's silence. She raised her eyes. Mrs. Hilbery had
emptied a portfolio containing old photographs over her table, and was
looking from one to another.

"Surely, Katharine," she said, "the men were far handsomer in those
days than they are now, in spite of their odious whiskers? Look at old
John Graham, in his white waistcoat--look at Uncle Harley. That's
Peter the manservant, I suppose. Uncle John brought him back from

Katharine looked at her mother, but did not stir or answer. She had
suddenly become very angry, with a rage which their relationship made
silent, and therefore doubly powerful and critical. She felt all the
unfairness of the claim which her mother tacitly made to her time and
sympathy, and what Mrs. Hilbery took, Katharine thought bitterly, she
wasted. Then, in a flash, she remembered that she had still to tell
her about Cyril's misbehavior. Her anger immediately dissipated
itself; it broke like some wave that has gathered itself high above
the rest; the waters were resumed into the sea again, and Katharine
felt once more full of peace and solicitude, and anxious only that her
mother should be protected from pain. She crossed the room
instinctively, and sat on the arm of her mother's chair. Mrs. Hilbery
leant her head against her daughter's body.

"What is nobler," she mused, turning over the photographs, "than to be
a woman to whom every one turns, in sorrow or difficulty? How have the
young women of your generation improved upon that, Katharine? I can
see them now, sweeping over the lawns at Melbury House, in their
flounces and furbelows, so calm and stately and imperial (and the
monkey and the little black dwarf following behind), as if nothing
mattered in the world but to be beautiful and kind. But they did more
than we do, I sometimes think. They WERE, and that's better than
doing. They seem to me like ships, like majestic ships, holding on
their way, not shoving or pushing, not fretted by little things, as we
are, but taking their way, like ships with white sails."

Katharine tried to interrupt this discourse, but the opportunity did
not come, and she could not forbear to turn over the pages of the
album in which the old photographs were stored. The faces of these men
and women shone forth wonderfully after the hubbub of living faces,
and seemed, as her mother had said, to wear a marvelous dignity and
calm, as if they had ruled their kingdoms justly and deserved great
love. Some were of almost incredible beauty, others were ugly enough
in a forcible way, but none were dull or bored or insignificant. The
superb stiff folds of the crinolines suited the women; the cloaks and
hats of the gentlemen seemed full of character. Once more Katharine
felt the serene air all round her, and seemed far off to hear the
solemn beating of the sea upon the shore. But she knew that she must
join the present on to this past.

Mrs. Hilbery was rambling on, from story to story.

"That's Janie Mannering," she said, pointing to a superb, white-haired
dame, whose satin robes seemed strung with pearls. "I must have told
you how she found her cook drunk under the kitchen table when the
Empress was coming to dinner, and tucked up her velvet sleeves (she
always dressed like an Empress herself), cooked the whole meal, and
appeared in the drawing-room as if she'd been sleeping on a bank of
roses all day. She could do anything with her hands--they all could--
make a cottage or embroider a petticoat.

"And that's Queenie Colquhoun," she went on, turning the pages, "who
took her coffin out with her to Jamaica, packed with lovely shawls and
bonnets, because you couldn't get coffins in Jamaica, and she had a
horror of dying there (as she did), and being devoured by the white
ants. And there's Sabine, the loveliest of them all; ah! it was like a
star rising when she came into the room. And that's Miriam, in her
coachman's cloak, with all the little capes on, and she wore great
top-boots underneath. You young people may say you're unconventional,
but you're nothing compared with her."

Turning the page, she came upon the picture of a very masculine,
handsome lady, whose head the photographer had adorned with an
imperial crown.

"Ah, you wretch!" Mrs. Hilbery exclaimed, "what a wicked old despot
you were, in your day! How we all bowed down before you! 'Maggie,' she
used to say, 'if it hadn't been for me, where would you be now?' And
it was true; she brought them together, you know. She said to my
father, 'Marry her,' and he did; and she said to poor little Clara,
'Fall down and worship him,' and she did; but she got up again, of
course. What else could one expect? She was a mere child--eighteen--
and half dead with fright, too. But that old tyrant never repented.
She used to say that she had given them three perfect months, and no
one had a right to more; and I sometimes think, Katharine, that's
true, you know. It's more than most of us have, only we have to
pretend, which was a thing neither of them could ever do. I fancy,"
Mrs. Hilbery mused, "that there was a kind of sincerity in those days
between men and women which, with all your outspokenness, you haven't

Katharine again tried to interrupt. But Mrs. Hilbery had been
gathering impetus from her recollections, and was now in high spirits.

"They must have been good friends at heart," she resumed, "because she
used to sing his songs. Ah, how did it go?" and Mrs. Hilbery, who had
a very sweet voice, trolled out a famous lyric of her father's which
had been set to an absurdly and charmingly sentimental air by some
early Victorian composer.

"It's the vitality of them!" she concluded, striking her fist against
the table. "That's what we haven't got! We're virtuous, we're earnest,
we go to meetings, we pay the poor their wages, but we don't live as
they lived. As often as not, my father wasn't in bed three nights out
of the seven, but always fresh as paint in the morning. I hear him
now, come singing up the stairs to the nursery, and tossing the loaf
for breakfast on his sword-stick, and then off we went for a day's
pleasuring--Richmond, Hampton Court, the Surrey Hills. Why shouldn't
we go, Katharine? It's going to be a fine day."

At this moment, just as Mrs. Hilbery was examining the weather from
the window, there was a knock at the door. A slight, elderly lady came
in, and was saluted by Katharine, with very evident dismay, as "Aunt
Celia!" She was dismayed because she guessed why Aunt Celia had come.
It was certainly in order to discuss the case of Cyril and the woman
who was not his wife, and owing to her procrastination Mrs. Hilbery
was quite unprepared. Who could be more unprepared? Here she was,
suggesting that all three of them should go on a jaunt to Blackfriars
to inspect the site of Shakespeare's theater, for the weather was
hardly settled enough for the country.

To this proposal Mrs. Milvain listened with a patient smile, which
indicated that for many years she had accepted such eccentricities in
her sister-in-law with bland philosophy. Katharine took up her
position at some distance, standing with her foot on the fender, as
though by so doing she could get a better view of the matter. But, in
spite of her aunt's presence, how unreal the whole question of Cyril
and his morality appeared! The difficulty, it now seemed, was not to
break the news gently to Mrs. Hilbery, but to make her understand it.
How was one to lasso her mind, and tether it to this minute,
unimportant spot? A matter-of-fact statement seemed best.

"I think Aunt Celia has come to talk about Cyril, mother," she said
rather brutally. "Aunt Celia has discovered that Cyril is married. He
has a wife and children."

"No, he is NOT married," Mrs. Milvain interposed, in low tones,
addressing herself to Mrs. Hilbery. "He has two children, and another
on the way."

Mrs. Hilbery looked from one to the other in bewilderment.

"We thought it better to wait until it was proved before we told you,"
Katharine added.

"But I met Cyril only a fortnight ago at the National Gallery!" Mrs.
Hilbery exclaimed. "I don't believe a word of it," and she tossed her
head with a smile on her lips at Mrs. Milvain, as though she could
quite understand her mistake, which was a very natural mistake, in the
case of a childless woman, whose husband was something very dull in
the Board of Trade.

"I didn't WISH to believe it, Maggie," said Mrs. Milvain. "For a long
time I COULDN'T believe it. But now I've seen, and I HAVE to believe

"Katharine," Mrs. Hilbery demanded, "does your father know of this?"

Katharine nodded.

"Cyril married!" Mrs. Hilbery repeated. "And never telling us a word,
though we've had him in our house since he was a child--noble
William's son! I can't believe my ears!"

Feeling that the burden of proof was laid upon her, Mrs. Milvain now
proceeded with her story. She was elderly and fragile, but her
childlessness seemed always to impose these painful duties on her, and
to revere the family, and to keep it in repair, had now become the
chief object of her life. She told her story in a low, spasmodic, and
somewhat broken voice.

"I have suspected for some time that he was not happy. There were new
lines on his face. So I went to his rooms, when I knew he was engaged
at the poor men's college. He lectures there--Roman law, you know, or
it may be Greek. The landlady said Mr. Alardyce only slept there about
once a fortnight now. He looked so ill, she said. She had seen him
with a young person. I suspected something directly. I went to his
room, and there was an envelope on the mantelpiece, and a letter with
an address in Seton Street, off the Kennington Road."

Mrs. Hilbery fidgeted rather restlessly, and hummed fragments of her
tune, as if to interrupt.

"I went to Seton Street," Aunt Celia continued firmly. "A very low
place--lodging-houses, you know, with canaries in the window. Number
seven just like all the others. I rang, I knocked; no one came. I went
down the area. I am certain I saw some one inside--children--a cradle.
But no reply--no reply." She sighed, and looked straight in front of
her with a glazed expression in her half-veiled blue eyes.

"I stood in the street," she resumed, "in case I could catch a sight
of one of them. It seemed a very long time. There were rough men
singing in the public-house round the corner. At last the door opened,
and some one--it must have been the woman herself--came right past me.
There was only the pillar-box between us."

"And what did she look like?" Mrs. Hilbery demanded.

"One could see how the poor boy had been deluded," was all that Mrs.
Milvain vouchsafed by way of description.

"Poor thing!" Mrs. Hilbery exclaimed.

"Poor Cyril!" Mrs. Milvain said, laying a slight emphasis upon Cyril.

"But they've got nothing to live upon," Mrs. Hilbery continued. "If
he'd come to us like a man," she went on, "and said, 'I've been a
fool,' one would have pitied him; one would have tried to help him.
There's nothing so disgraceful after all-- But he's been going about
all these years, pretending, letting one take it for granted, that he
was single. And the poor deserted little wife--"

"She is NOT his wife," Aunt Celia interrupted.

"I've never heard anything so detestable!" Mrs. Hilbery wound up,
striking her fist on the arm of her chair. As she realized the facts
she became thoroughly disgusted, although, perhaps, she was more hurt
by the concealment of the sin than by the sin itself. She looked
splendidly roused and indignant; and Katharine felt an immense relief
and pride in her mother. It was plain that her indignation was very
genuine, and that her mind was as perfectly focused upon the facts as
any one could wish--more so, by a long way, than Aunt Celia's mind,
which seemed to be timidly circling, with a morbid pleasure, in these
unpleasant shades. She and her mother together would take the
situation in hand, visit Cyril, and see the whole thing through.

"We must realize Cyril's point of view first," she said, speaking
directly to her mother, as if to a contemporary, but before the words
were out of her mouth, there was more confusion outside, and Cousin
Caroline, Mrs. Hilbery's maiden cousin, entered the room. Although she
was by birth an Alardyce, and Aunt Celia a Hilbery, the complexities
of the family relationship were such that each was at once first and
second cousin to the other, and thus aunt and cousin to the culprit
Cyril, so that his misbehavior was almost as much Cousin Caroline's
affair as Aunt Celia's. Cousin Caroline was a lady of very imposing
height and circumference, but in spite of her size and her handsome
trappings, there was something exposed and unsheltered in her
expression, as if for many summers her thin red skin and hooked nose
and reduplication of chins, so much resembling the profile of a
cockatoo, had been bared to the weather; she was, indeed, a single
lady; but she had, it was the habit to say, "made a life for herself,"
and was thus entitled to be heard with respect.

"This unhappy business," she began, out of breath as she was. "If the
train had not gone out of the station just as I arrived, I should have
been with you before. Celia has doubtless told you. You will agree
with me, Maggie. He must be made to marry her at once for the sake of
the children--"

"But does he refuse to marry her?" Mrs. Hilbery inquired, with a
return of her bewilderment.

"He has written an absurd perverted letter, all quotations," Cousin
Caroline puffed. "He thinks he's doing a very fine thing, where we
only see the folly of it. . . . The girl's every bit as infatuated as
he is--for which I blame him."

"She entangled him," Aunt Celia intervened, with a very curious
smoothness of intonation, which seemed to convey a vision of threads
weaving and interweaving a close, white mesh round their victim.

"It's no use going into the rights and wrongs of the affair now,
Celia," said Cousin Caroline with some acerbity, for she believed
herself the only practical one of the family, and regretted that,
owing to the slowness of the kitchen clock, Mrs. Milvain had already
confused poor dear Maggie with her own incomplete version of the
facts. "The mischief's done, and very ugly mischief too. Are we to
allow the third child to be born out of wedlock? (I am sorry to have
to say these things before you, Katharine.) He will bear your name,
Maggie--your father's name, remember."

"But let us hope it will be a girl," said Mrs. Hilbery.

Katharine, who had been looking at her mother constantly, while the
chatter of tongues held sway, perceived that the look of
straightforward indignation had already vanished; her mother was
evidently casting about in her mind for some method of escape, or
bright spot, or sudden illumination which should show to the
satisfaction of everybody that all had happened, miraculously but
incontestably, for the best.

"It's detestable--quite detestable!" she repeated, but in tones of no
great assurance; and then her face lit up with a smile which,
tentative at first, soon became almost assured. "Nowadays, people
don't think so badly of these things as they used to do," she began.
"It will be horribly uncomfortable for them sometimes, but if they are
brave, clever children, as they will be, I dare say it'll make
remarkable people of them in the end. Robert Browning used to say that
every great man has Jewish blood in him, and we must try to look at it
in that light. And, after all, Cyril has acted on principle. One may
disagree with his principle, but, at least, one can respect it--like
the French Revolution, or Cromwell cutting the King's head off. Some
of the most terrible things in history have been done on principle,"
she concluded.

"I'm afraid I take a very different view of principle," Cousin
Caroline remarked tartly.

"Principle!" Aunt Celia repeated, with an air of deprecating such a
word in such a connection. "I will go to-morrow and see him," she

"But why should you take these disagreeable things upon yourself,
Celia?" Mrs. Hilbery interposed, and Cousin Caroline thereupon
protested with some further plan involving sacrifice of herself.

Growing weary of it all, Katharine turned to the window, and stood
among the folds of the curtain, pressing close to the window-pane, and
gazing disconsolately at the river much in the attitude of a child
depressed by the meaningless talk of its elders. She was much
disappointed in her mother--and in herself too. The little tug which
she gave to the blind, letting it fly up to the top with a snap,
signified her annoyance. She was very angry, and yet impotent to give
expression to her anger, or know with whom she was angry. How they
talked and moralized and made up stories to suit their own version of
the becoming, and secretly praised their own devotion and tact! No;
they had their dwelling in a mist, she decided; hundreds of miles away
--away from what? "Perhaps it would be better if I married William,"
she thought suddenly, and the thought appeared to loom through the
mist like solid ground. She stood there, thinking of her own destiny,
and the elder ladies talked on, until they had talked themselves into
a decision to ask the young woman to luncheon, and tell her, very
friendlily, how such behavior appeared to women like themselves, who
knew the world. And then Mrs. Hilbery was struck by a better idea.

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Night And Day - Chapter 10 Night And Day - Chapter 10

Night And Day - Chapter 10
Messrs. Grateley and Hooper, the solicitors in whose firm Ralph Denhamwas clerk, had their office in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and there RalphDenham appeared every morning very punctually at ten o'clock. Hispunctuality, together with other qualities, marked him out among theclerks for success, and indeed it would have been safe to wager thatin ten years' time or so one would find him at the head of hisprofession, had it not been for a peculiarity which sometimes seemedto make everything about him uncertain and perilous. His sister Joanhad already been disturbed by his love of gambling with his savings.Scrutinizing him constantly with the

Night And Day - Chapter 8 Night And Day - Chapter 8

Night And Day - Chapter 8
She took her letters up to her room with her, having persuaded hermother to go to bed directly Mr. Hilbery left them, for so long as shesat in the same room as her mother, Mrs. Hilbery might, at any moment,ask for a sight of the post. A very hasty glance through many sheetshad shown Katharine that, by some coincidence, her attention had to bedirected to many different anxieties simultaneously. In the firstplace, Rodney had written a very full account of his state of mind,which was illustrated by a sonnet, and he demanded a reconsiderationof their position, which agitated Katharine more than