"There Are Heroisms All Round Us"
Mr. Hungerton, her father, really was the most tactless
person upon earth
, feathery, untidy cockatoo of a man, perfectly good-natured, but absolutely
centered upon his own silly self. If anything could have driven me from Gladys, it would have been the thought
of such a father-in-law. I am convinced
that he really believed in his heart
that I came round to the Chestnuts three days a week for the pleasure of his company, and very especially to hear his views upon bimetallism, a subject
upon which he was by way of being an authority
She sat with that proud
, delicate profile
of hers outlined against the red curtain. How beautiful she was! And yet how aloof
! We had been friends, quite good friends; but never could I get beyond the same comradeship which I might
with one of my fellow-reporters upon the Gazette,-perfectly frank
, perfectly kindly, and perfectly unsexual. My instincts are all against a woman being too frank
and at her ease
with me. It is no compliment
to a man. Where the real sex feeling begins, timidity
and distrust are its companions, heritage
from old wicked
days when love and violence
went often hand in hand. The bent
head, the averted eye, the faltering voice, the wincing figure-these, and not the unshrinking gaze
reply, are the true signals of passion
. Even in my short life I had learned
as much as that-or had inherited
it in that race memory
which we call instinct
Gladys was full of every womanly quality
. Some judged her to be cold and hard; but such a thought
. That delicately bronzed skin, almost oriental in its coloring, that raven hair, the large liquid
eyes, the full but exquisite
lips,-all the stigmata of passion
were there. But I was sadly conscious
that up to now I had never found the secret of drawing it forth. However, come what might
, I should have done with suspense
and bring matters to a head to-night. She could but refuse
me, and better be a repulsed lover than an accepted brother.
So far my thoughts had carried me, and I was about to break the long and uneasy silence
, when two critical
, dark eyes looked round at me, and the proud
head was shaken in smiling reproof
. "I have a presentiment
that you are going to propose
, Ned. I do wish you wouldn't; for things are so much nicer as they are."
I drew my chair a little nearer. "Now, how did you know that I was going to propose
?" I asked in genuine wonder
"Don't women always know? Do you suppose
any woman in the world was ever taken unawares? But-oh, Ned, our friendship
has been so good and so pleasant
! What a pity
it! Don't you feel how splendid
it is that a young man and a young woman should be able
to talk face to face as we have talked?"
"I don't know, Gladys. You see, I can talk face to face with-with the station-master." I can't imagine
how that official
came into the matter
; but in he trotted, and set us both laughing. "That does not satisfy
me in the least. I want my arms round you, and your head on my breast, and-oh, Gladys, I want--"
She had sprung from her chair, as she saw signs that I proposed to demonstrate
some of my wants. "You've spoiled
everything, Ned," she said. "It's all so beautiful and natural
until this kind of thing comes in! It is such a pity
! Why can't you control
"I didn't invent
it," I pleaded. "It's nature
. It's love."
"Well, perhaps if both love, it may be different
. I have never felt it."
"But you must-you, with your beauty, with your soul
! Oh, Gladys, you were made for love! You must love!"
"One must wait till
"But why can't you love me, Gladys? Is it my appearance
, or what?"
She did unbend a little. She put forward
a hand-such a gracious
, stooping attitude
it was-and she pressed back my head. Then she looked into my upturned face with a very wistful
"No it isn't that," she said at last. "You're not a conceited
boy by nature
, and so I can safely
tell you it is not that. It's deeper."
She nodded severely.
"What can I do to mend
it? Do sit down and talk it over. No, really, I won't if you'll only sit down!"
She looked at me with a wondering distrust which was much more to my mind
than her whole-hearted confidence
. How primitive
it looks when you put it down in black and white!-and perhaps after all it is only a feeling peculiar
to myself. Anyhow, she sat down.
"Now tell me what's amiss
"I'm in love with somebody else," said she.
It was my turn to jump out of my chair.
"It's nobody in particular
," she explained, laughing at the expression
of my face: "only an ideal
. I've never met the kind of man I mean
"Tell me about him. What does he look like?"
"Oh, he might
look very much like you."
"How dear of you to say that! Well, what is it that he does that I don't do? Just say the word,-teetotal, vegetarian
, theosophist, superman. I'll have a try at it, Gladys, if you will only give me an idea what would please you."
She laughed at the elasticity
of my character
. "Well, in the first place, I don't think my ideal
would speak like that," said she. "He would be a harder, sterner man, not so ready to adapt
himself to a silly girl's whim
. But, above all, he must be a man who could do, who could act, who could look Death in the face and have no fear of him, a man of great deeds and strange
experiences. It is never a man that I should love, but always the glories he had won; for they would be reflected upon me. Think of Richard Burton! When I read his wife's life of him I could so understand
her love! And Lady Stanley! Did you ever read the wonderful
of that book about her husband
? These are the sort of men that a woman could worship
with all her soul
, and yet be the greater, not the less, on account
of her love, honored by all the world as the inspirer of noble
She looked so beautiful in her enthusiasm
that I nearly brought down the whole level
of the interview
. I gripped myself hard, and went on with the argument
"We can't all be Stanleys and Burtons," said I; "besides, we don't get the chance,-at least, I never had the chance. If I did, I should try to take it."
"But chances are all around you. It is the mark of the kind of man I mean
that he makes his own chances. You can't hold him back. I've never met him, and yet I seem to know him so well. There are heroisms all round us waiting to be done. It's for men to do them, and for women to reserve
their love as a reward
for such men. Look at that young Frenchman who went up last week in a balloon. It was blowing a gale
of wind; but because he was announced to go he insisted on starting. The wind blew him fifteen hundred miles in twenty-four hours, and he fell in the middle of Russia. That was the kind of man I mean
. Think of the woman he loved, and how other women must have envied her! That's what I should like to be,-envied for my man."
"I'd have done it to please you."
"But you shouldn't do it merely
to please me. You should do it because you can't help yourself, because it's natural
to you, because the man in you is crying out for heroic expression
. Now, when you described the Wigan coal explosion last month, could you not have gone down and helped those people, in spite
of the choke-damp?"
"You never said so."
"There was nothing worth bucking about."
"I didn't know." She looked at me with rather more interest
. "That was brave
"I had to. If you want to write good copy, you must be where the things are."
"What a prosaic motive
! It seems to take all the romance
out of it. But, still, whatever your motive
, I am glad that you went down that mine
." She gave me her hand; but with such sweetness and dignity
that I could only stoop
and kiss it. "I dare
say I am merely
woman with a young girl's fancies. And yet it is so real with me, so entirely part of my very self, that I cannot help acting upon it. If I marry, I do want to marry a famous
"Why should you not?" I cried. "It is women like you who brace
men up. Give me a chance, and see if I will take it! Besides, as you say, men ought to MAKE their own chances, and not wait until they are given. Look at Clive-just a clerk
, and he conquered India! By George! I'll do something in the world yet!"
She laughed at my sudden Irish effervescence
. "Why not?" she said. "You have everything a man could have,-youth, health
. I was sorry you spoke
. And now I am glad-so glad-if it wakens these thoughts in you!"
"And if I do--"
Her dear hand rested like warm velvet
upon my lips. "Not another word, Sir! You should have been at the office
for evening duty
half an hour ago; only I hadn't the heart
you. Some day, perhaps, when you have won your place in the world, we shall talk it over again."
And so it was that I found myself that foggy November evening pursuing the Camberwell tram
with my heart
glowing within me, and with the eager determination
that not another day should elapse
before I should find some deed
which was worthy
of my lady. But who-who in all this wide world could ever have imagined the incredible shape
which that deed
was to take, or the strange
steps by which I was led to the doing of it?
And, after all, this opening chapter
will seem to the reader to have nothing to do with my narrative
; and yet there would have been no narrative
without it, for it is only when a man goes out into the world with the thought
that there are heroisms all round him, and with the desire
all alive in his heart
to follow any which may come within sight
of him, that he breaks away as I did from the life he knows, and ventures forth into the wonderful mystic twilight
land where lie the great adventures and the great rewards. Behold me, then, at the office
of the Daily Gazette, on the staff
of which I was a most insignificant unit
, with the settled determination
that very night, if possible
, to find the quest
which should be worthy
of my Gladys! Was it hardness, was it selfishness, that she should ask me to risk
my life for her own glorification? Such thoughts may come to middle age; but never to ardent
three-and-twenty in the fever
of his first love.