Sally Bishop, who could not say the Apostles’ Creed with unswerving conscience—to whom the story of the Resurrection was fogged, blurred with a thousand inconsistencies—even she could not dispense with that moment in each day, that moment of abandonment—the flinging of one’s burden of questions at the feet of a deity whose identity it would be impossible to define.
For many minutes she stayed there on her knees, her arms wound round about her head, her shoulders rising wearily with each breath that she took.
Long after Janet had fallen asleep, and when the cold was numbing in her limbs, she stayed there, pouring forth her importunate questions—the woman begging guidance, when she knows full well what course she is going to adopt.
The life of the Bohemian in London is no brilliantly coloured affair. The most that can be said for it is that it has its moments. The first flush of a full purse and the last despair of an empty pocket are always sensations that are worth while. With the one you can gauge the shallow depth of pleasure and find the world full of friends; with the other you can learn how superfluous are the things you called necessities and you may count upon the fingers of your hand the number of friends whom really you possess. In their way, these moments are true values—both of them.
But the life of the Bohemian, wherever it may be, has one advantage that no other life possesses. It is a series of contrasts. With his last sovereign, he may have supper at the Savoy, rubbing shoulders with the best and with the worst; the next night, he may be dining off a maquereau grille in a Greek Street restaurant, jogging elbows with the worst and with the best. It is only the steady possession of wealth that makes a groove; but steady possession is an unknown condition in the life of the Bohemian. And so, drifting in this sporadic way through the wild journeys of existence, he comes truly to learn the definite, certain uncertainty of human things. This he learns; but it is no sure guarantee that he will follow the teaching of the lesson.
For in the heart of human nature is a common need of bondage. To this, no matter what movement may be afoot, a woman still yields herself willingly. To this, in deep reluctance, with dragging steps, but none the less inevitably, man yields as well. The desire for companionship, the desire to give, albeit there may be no giving in return, the shuddering sense of the empty room and the silent night come to all of us, however much we may wish for the former conditions of solitude when once they are ours.
It was this common need of bondage, this hatred of the silent emptiness of life that caught the mind of Jack Traill, arrested and held it in the interest of Sally Bishop.
You are never really to know why a man, passing through life, meeting this woman, meeting that, some intimately, some in the vapid chance of acquaintanceship, will in one moment be held by the sight of a certain face. The table of affinities is the only attempt at regulating the matter, and in these changing times one cannot look even upon that with confidence.