George Gissing

"The Honeymoon"

THE decision was left to Phyllis, arid she chose Sark. Phyllis had 
been reading Swinburne; she dreamt of green seas roaring upon 
cliffs of granite - ideal music for the commencement of a wedded 
life which she was determined should at all hazards avoid the 
humdrum, the vulgar, and exhibit a union of souls preserving their 
vital freedom. Waldron secured a cottage for the month of May, a 
simple cottage. Phyllis's maid, long in her service, would go with 
them; for the rest, she preferred as small an establishment as 
possible. Waldron was exquisitely compliant; in every respect his 
views appeared to harmonise with hers. Occasionally she had 
thought him a trifle too modest, too self-effacing. Yet he occupied a 
delicate position, that of a mere journalist who woos the daughter of 
a substantial merchant. Doubtless he followed the line indicated by 
true taste. Coarser sensibilities would have erred either by 
affectation of independence, or by an obsequiousness humiliating to 
both. Waldron, it might be surmised, merely held himself in 
reserve, without disingenuous presentment. She knew him; oh, she 
knew him perfectly! She had read his articles; he had unrolled to 
her, with that fine lucidity which promised so much for his future 
in Parliament, what he really thought about the Home Rule 
question, about the problems of Socialism, about politics 
international - such large subjects were his choice. Why should he 
trouble to assert himself in trivial things? The time would come for 
that. As yet he was a lover, and suavely emphasised the graces of 
his attitude.
In the matter of her novel, for instance - how charming! He did not 
care much for fiction; she knew it. Yet how pleasant his jesting little 
comments as the proof-sheets (a secret from all others) passed 
through his hands. Of course the novel was clever; no need for him 
to announce that in so many words; his smile paid tribute sufficient. 
The last batch of proofs would probably reach her a few days after 
her arrival at Sark; the book would appear in mid-May. On the 
corrected title-page there stood "By Phyllis Waldron" - when as yet 
no such person existed; Charles remarked it with a gay laugh, 
perhaps a laugh of pride.
The wedding was over; the first week had passed. Phyllis watched 
eagerly for the arrival of each day's post, and at length the tight-
rolled little packet came into her hands. To Waldron, who sat 
smoking under a tree in the garden, she brought newspapers and 
"I'll correct these before lunch," she said, showing the proofs with a 
smile. "Then you shall run over them, and they can go off again by 
this afternoon's boat."
He nodded, and blew a great cloud from under his moustache. 
Charles Waldron did not abuse his gift of speech; whenever a nod 
could be substituted for a word he kept silence. But his nod was 
perfectly genial; Phyllis had been trying to imitate it.
Left alone, he first examined his letters, then cast his eye over the 
news. He had the air of a man who is enjoying his holidays. Only a 
year ago, it had seemed to him very probable that he would never 
marry; for, though fond of women, he dreaded the thought of 
matrimony which means an intensified struggle for bare livelihood. 
To support himself, with his strong distaste for everything that 
savoured of narrow means, cost him continuous effort; a wife and 
children amid the stucco of the suburbs represented his darkest 
dread. With a decidedly susceptible nature, he might some day run 
headlong into that horror; but he prayed for strength of mind. The 
peril was over. He had met a girl with money, a girl who fell in love 
with him, a pretty and healthy and - as things go - not ill-educated 
girl. Her companionship gave him no little pleasure; there was 
every likelihood that in future she would worthily play her part as 
his wife. A lucky man; undeniably a favourite of fortune.
On the whole, his experience of a honeymoon did not fall short of 
his imagination. It was the most delightful chapter, as yet, in a life 
which had not been unduly hard. Phyllis shone with many female 
virtues; personally, she was found to possess even more of charm 
than he had attributed to her; and her mind - well, she had a girl's 
mind, and it amused him to probe its secrets. Nothing ignoble jarred 
upon his observation. Three and twenty, her years; his, a decade in 
advance. That was quite as it should be; for Phyllis had a great deal 
to learn, and a younger man might, perchance, find obstacles in the 
way of tutorial activity.

In half an hour, she came out with her proofs corrected. 

"I'm not quite satisfied with the final chapter, Carlos mios. But it 
might be worse. There's time before lunch; will you read it?"
He nodded, and took the sheets. Phyllis sat down in a basket chair 
at a little distance, and affected to read a newspaper; with woman's 
skill in oblique regard, she lost no expression of his features, and 
her own became just a little clouded.
"Your opinion ----?" when with a smile he finished the perusal.
"Well, there are certainly one or two points. Suppose you let it wait 
till to-morrow, and we'll talk it over this afternoon, down by the 
"Yes, - if you like. I didn't want to lose another day ----"
"What is the date fixed for publication?"
"No date, yet. In a fortnight, or so, I should think."
"It hasn't been announced yet?"
"Ah, well; we'll talk about it this afternoon."
The novel, a first production, had found acceptance by a firm of 
some respectability, who were to publish on the terms of profits 
shared. This after two refusals in other quarters. Phyllis revelled in 
the thought of suddenly bursting upon all her friends as a full-
blown novelist. There were three volumes; the title seemed alluring. 
Not impossibly she might achieve reputation, and be the admired of 
intellectual dinner-parties.
Over their luncheon, a rustic meal, Waldron talked with unusual 
animation, but did not mention the novel. His wife kept silence 
more frequently than was her wont, and showed little appetite. 
When they rose, it took them but a few minutes to prepare for the 
walk seawards. By tacit consent, they sauntered down to the little 
bay which is called Grève de la Vile, their favourite lounging place 
when indisposed to explore the isle. Here, save at high tide, they 
could lie on sand, about and above them the curve of a bold shore 
thickly overgrown with shrubs and herbage, and dotted with spring 
flowers. In front, rising out of the blue, stood riven rocks of 
exquisite colour, and each end of the inlet was guarded by a noble 
headland, whereon the breakers dashed themselves into brilliant 
foam. With the scent of ocean blended that of leaf and blossom. 
Sound there was none save from the sea, and the intrusion of a 
human figure need hardly be feared.
"Well now, Phyllis, this fiction of yours."
She was on a big boulder; Waldron had stretched himself at her 
feet. His tone started her. For the last few days he had not called 
her "Phyllis," but by a foolish lover's-name; the change struck an 
ominous note. And "this fiction of yours," was all but flatly 
"Well, Charley, what about it?"
"It won't do, my dear girl."
She gazed, first at him, then at the sea, stricken with astonishment, 
doubting whether she understood.
"It won't do at all. The book mustn't be published. You will 
dedommager the publishers, and there's an end on't."
This was not her husband. The transformation frightened her.
"Charley! What are you talking about?"
"About my wife's credit - and my own. An escapade of this sort 
would shame us. I have a serious career before me, and can't afford 
to be made ridiculous. The novel is as good as five thousand others 
that will see the light this year; but it isn't the kind of thing that 
you must have anything to do with."
"Then you mean to say that you have deliberately deceived me, 
pretending all along that you liked and admired it?"
"I pretended no such thing. I was most careful not to commit 
myself. I smiled and smiled - yet was not a villain. When you told 
me that we should be married before the thing came out, I knew 
what to do."
"You amaze me. What am I to think?"
"Well, that I foresaw how much easier such little discussions would 
be after we had become man and wife. It wasn't worth while - 
"I never thought to say such a thing, but - were you afraid that to 
tell the truth might - cause you to lose me?"
The implication here could not be disregarded. Waldron looked 
steadily into his wife's face, and saw how it was changed by anger. 
A spirit of resistance had awoke in her, and she would not spare to 
use dangerous weapons.
It was not a face of pure refinement. Rude ancestry might still be 
discovered in certain of the lines which, in their unison, tended to a 
noble type of beauty; and stress of harsh feeling naturally gave 
prominence to this impress. Moreover, the features announced a 
character yet unripe - a girlishness which lingered too long - a 
pretty waywardness that called for the restraint of circumstance. 
Waldron, who had never seen her in anything but radiant humour, 
studied this expression before continuing the dialogue; it did not 
perturb him.
"Let us put it in this way," he said at length, as he raised himself to 
a sitting position. "At that time I preferred you just as you were. 
My idea of love-making calls for a certain irrationality on both 
sides. You were delightful, and I couldn't spoil my pleasure by 
entering upon arguments."
"And now all love is at an end?"
"I didn't say so, I spoke of 'love-making,' which is quite a different 
These were strange novelties to Phyllis. She kept her lips close, and 
sat with eyes averted, aiming at cold dignity.
"First of all," he continued, "let us understand each other on one 
She interrupted him, saying bitterly:
"I had supposed we understood each other on all."
"A mistake, dear girl. That was impossible. If we bring about such a 
state of things in a quarter of a century, we shall have done very 
well indeed."
"You have misled me grievously."
"Postpone that for a little. The point was: are you prepared to accept 
my advice in this matter of the novel?"
"Advice?" She laughed with disdain. "It didn't sound like advice."
"Good. Then let us say: are you willing to obey me?"
Their eyes met.
"This is extraordinary," said Phyllis, in a low tone. "I feel as if I 
were talking with a total stranger. I feel as if we were guilty of 
immorality in being here together."
"Oh, I have no such feeling! In some respects, you are a stranger to 
me, but on the moral question I feel deliciously at ease. You may 
give me a kiss, Phyl, if you like."
Her answer was to rise and walk slowly away. For five minutes 
Waldron gazed after her, deeply meditative. When she reached the 
edge of the tide, he tumbled lazily to his feet, and followed.
She neither turned nor spoke.
"I must have an answer, if you please."
"Must you? Shall I say just what is in my mind?"
"Precisely that."
"Then I can see that you don't love me, and have never loved me; 
that you have deceived me very shamefully; that - it is difficult to 
think of you with the least respect."
"Good. But all that is no reply to my distinct question."
She turned passionately.
"Is this a joke? Are you trying whether I have any sense of 
"No. You are quite right in taking it seriously. And I seriously want 
an answer."
"I can give you none just now. I shall have to think very carefully 
over my position. Who knows what step I may find it necessary to 
"You shall have time to think." He looked at his watch. "We want 
several things, you know. I will go over to Guernsey, and come back 
by the boat tomorrow morning. In the meantime you will do 
nothing, merely reflect; that's understood."
"I give no promise," she answered, after a moment of 
"All the same, you will respect my wish. There's no time to lose; I 
must be off. Good-bye till to-morrow, dear."
He offered his hand, but Phyllis disregarded it. And so, without 
another word, he walked up the beach. He climbed by the cliff 
pathway, and disappeared above.
Not for half an hour did Phyllis take the same direction. She had red 
eyes, and lips of stern resentment. On reaching the cottage, she sat 
alone for some time, then summoned her maid - a woman of thirty 
or more, with an amiable look and an excessively confidential 
"Mr. Waldron has gone by the boat to Guernsey - did he tell you?"
"No, Miss Phyllis - Oh, dear, oh, dear! when shall I learn it? - No, 
ma'am he didn't say anything."
"He will be away over night. I don't think I shall dine."
The woman stood in an attitude of respectful sympathy.
"You don't feel quite well, I'm afraid, ma'am."
"Oh, yes! One begins to feel the change of air, you know, after the 
first few days. Let me have some tea."
Before sundown, she strayed a little about the sweet-smelling 
roads; but their solitude oppressed her. After spending a gloomy 
hour in the cottage parlour, with the proofs of her novel - which she 
no longer dared to read - lying on the table, she summoned the 
confidential maid, merely for companionship. Their talk was long; 
Phyllis, who felt as though she had dreamt of a voyage on summer 
seas and had awoke to find herself shipwrecked, fell gradually into 
the tones of girlhood, of childhood, and spoke at length of her 
situation almost without reserve. The well-meaning, but fussy and 
effusive listener, poured forth sympathy and counsel; much study 
of penny fiction provided her with unctuous phraseology, soothing 
to the ears of one whose literary erotics had just been so rudely 
Phyllis had little sleep that night, for she was scheming a test of her 
husband's actual mind towards her. The immediate topic of their 
difference no longer seemed important, for, with more modesty 
than she recognised in herself, she had virtually condemned the 
novel as soon as Waldron's opinion of it was declared. The question 
which tormented her was, whether she had been wooed and 
wedded out of mere interest, with mockery of love. Twelve hours 
ago she had imagined herself a potentate, infinitely beloved, 
profoundly admired. Sheer shock of astonishment left her 
indifferent to the loss of admiration; the poignancy of that disaster 
was still to be tasted; but if not even love remained to her" Why, 
that meant an exchange of boundless rule for lowest servitude, and 
all the instincts of a long courted heiress rose in revolt.
The next morning was rainy, but when the hour for the arrival of 
the Guernsey boat drew near, she went out with waterproof and 
umbrella. From a cliff-summit she could look down upon the close 
sheltered little harbour, and watch the passengers as they landed. 
She saw Waldron; he was carrying parcels in the most business-like 
way. Perhaps he had hardly given a thought to her since they 
parted. A cold, deceitful, tyrannous man! And, on that account, 
doubtless the very man to succeed brilliantly.
Sunshine was breaking through the clouds; the thin rain would 
presently cease. She took a roundabout way homewards, and on 
reaching the cottage found her husband busy with a newspaper and 
smoking his perpetual pipe. He greeted her merrily from a distance.

"Brought a lot of things for you. You shall have the pleasure of 
unpacking them."
He offered a kiss, but it was disregarded. Phyllis had not quite 
made tip her mind to this course; with a feeling of surprise at 
herself she passed straight on, and went upstairs.
They met again only at luncheon. Waldron behaved as if nothing 
whatever had happened, chatting gaily about his night at St. Peter 
"The weather's all right again," he said. "Barometer rising. Shall we 
do the Gouliot cave this afternoon?"
"I have letters to write," Phyllis answered. 

"Oh, very well. Then I think I'll go alone." 

He seemed as far as possible from taking offence; but when he set 
forth his customary caress was omitted.
They did not see each other again till dinner. Phyllis had the 
countenance of tragedy, and scarcely spoke; he, the cold, the 
tyrannical, ate with vast appetite, laughed his merriest, affected 
that no slightest shadow had fallen between them. The meal over, 
he took a novel and a cigar. But Phyllis was standing before him, 
and when her silent attitude compelled his attention, she spoke 
"I have written to the publishers."
"Ah? That's right, Phyl."
He nodded with a kind look. 

"It doesn't matter."
"Not a bit. We'll talk no more of it. Like to go out?"
"No, thank you. I - I may go out by myself - later -----"
He barely glanced at her, as she spoke with a dreamy sort of 
"Yes, yes. Just as you like."
There was a short silence. He puffed smoke and Phyllis stood 
"I ought to have written to father," she said at length in a lowered 
voice. "But you will be letting him hear - I dare say."
Again he glanced, and again answered cheerfully.
"Oh yes! I'll send a line to-morrow."
"To-morrow - yes."
She lingered, turned slowly, and left the room. Alone, Waldron let 
his book fall; for half an hour he mused, with many changes of 
countenance. Something like misgiving appeared now and then, but 
on the whole he preserved his equanimity.
A ramble under the clear, soft sky, a full moon gloriously rising, and 
he returned in readiness for more talk with Phyllis. But she was not 
in the house. He called her maid.
"Mrs. Waldron went out not long ago, Sir."
"Back soon, I suppose?"

"I think so, Sir."
He eyed the woman, who spoke not quite naturally.
"Take some wraps, and go to meet her. It's turning rather chilly."
The attendant obeyed, and Waldron paced up and down before the 
cottage. It drew on to ten o'clock. After a long absence, the woman 
came back; she had failed to find her mistress.
"You don't know in which direction she went?"

"I - I hope ----"
The moonlight allowed him to see her face distinctly; he met her 
eyes, and smiled, but not in his usual way.
"What do you hope?"

"It's getting rather late, Sir, for Mrs. Waldron to be out alone. She 
was saying she would like to see the Coupée by moonlight."
"Ah, then she'll be back directly, no doubt."
He entered, and sat in the parlour, reading. Half an hour elapsed; he 
began to fidget, and to walk about. Then he rang the hand-bell that 
stood on the mantelpiece. Phyllis's maid came immediately.
"Mrs. Waldron hasn't returned yet?"
"No, Sir. I - I begin to feel uneasy - don't you, Sir?"
"Uneasy!" He laughed. "Oh nonsense! Why should one feel uneasy?" 
He stood with his hands in his pockets, and hummed an air. The 
woman looked searchingly at him, and of a sudden, with quick step, 
he came close to her.
"Why should you feel uneasy?"
She reddened and was disconcerted. The quiet authoritative voice, 
the eyes of rather scornful command completely overawed her; her 
tongue could make no reply.
"Go out once more," he said, after watching her features. "You're 
sure to meet Mrs. Waldron."
Without a word, she obeyed, and was absent some twenty minutes. 
Waldron timed her, consulting his watch, when her tap sounded at 
the room door again.
"I can see nothing of her, Sir. It's - it's getting very late. Don't you 
think ----"
"It's strange, certainly. I'll go out myself."
"Hadn't we better get other people to - to go different ways, Sir?"
"Oh, I don't think we need raise an alarm," he replied carelessly. "I'll 
stroll about."

He threw on a light overcoat, took a cane, and left the cottage. His 
footfall on the hard road sounded with a strange distinctness, so 
silent was all the air. The wave-voices were, indeed, audible, but 
only as a continuous murmuring which seemed to charm the ear 
and render it more subtle than by daylight. Waldron walked at first 
slowly, often stopping to look about him; presently he increased his 
pace, and went straight forward, as with definite object. A couple of 
peasants, conversing together in the French of Sark, issued from a 
byway into the main road which he was following; he let them pass, 
but, a moment after, called out to ask them whether they had seen 
a lady. No; they had not.
Walking rapidly, he came at length to where the narrowing road 
sloped downwards between lofty banks: a few steps further, and 
the rock on either side abruptly broke away; he passed from dense 
gloom into broad moonlight, and stood on the Coupée. It is a short 
isthmus, which connects two portions of the island - but a few feet 
in breadth, suspended above precipices. Turning first to that side 
upon which the moon shone, Waldron leaned over the protecting 
bar, and looked down. A stretch of white sand lay between the foot 
of the cliff and the ebb-like breakers; his eye searched for a few 
moments among the tumbled fragments far beneath. Then he 
crossed to the side of the shadow, and gazed for a longer time into 
the depth that was almost featureless. At length, with a movement 
of impatience, he turned to walk in the direction whence he had 
A minute or two after passing the end of the byway, where he had 
met the peasants, something prompted him to stop and look round, 
and immediately his eye fell upon a female figure, standing clear in 
moonlight, in the middle of the road, some fifty yards away. He 
approached; the form became distinctly that of Phyllis. As though 
the hour was noon, instead of midnight, he sauntered towards 
where she stood motionless.
"Ah, I thought I should meet you. Fine night, isn't it?"
The reply was a burst of passionate weeping.
"Halo!" he cried, as in astonishment. "What's the matter, Phyl?"
She drew aside from the bare roadway into the shadow of the trees 
embowering the deep lane whence she seemed to have issued. Her 
tears and sobs lasted for several minutes, Waldron standing by in 
"You did a wicked thing when you married me," were her first 
"How so?"
"You haven't the slightest love for me."
"Pray, how do you know that?"
"You couldn't speak and look like this."
"You expected me to lose my senses because you took an evening 
walk alone?"
"For all you could tell, you might never have seen me again alive."
Waldron made the still air tremble with a masculine laugh. A 
silence followed; then Phyllis, speaking coldly:
"I believe you hoped it."
"Why no; I didn't." He drew nearer, and leaned upon his stick. "The 
possibility just crossed my mind; which is as much as saying that I 
felt uncertain of the measure of your folly. Had such a thing 
happened, I should very soon have congratulated myself on release 
from a crazy person. As you are merely a simpleton, I am for better 
"Is it possible for a man of your intellect to speak - to think - so 
"Evidently. You must be getting cold. Let us walk on."
"You may walk alone," she replied, haughtily.
"Follow, then."
He proceeded slowly, and in a few seconds Phyllis was moving after 
him. At a turning of the road he stopped, looked back, and waited 
for her.
"Phyllis, I'll show you something."
Before she could understand his purpose, he had caught hold of her, 
lifted her in his arms, and was carrying her quickly along. A cry of 
alarm, a useless struggle, and Phyllis surrendered herself. When she 
had become perfectly quiet, he carried her for a few yards further, 
then set her down.
"Now answer me: which of us two is the stronger?"
"In brute force?" she returned bitterly.
"In human force. As much as I excel you in bodily strength, so 
much, and more, am I your superior in every other quality. When 
you have learnt that, we shall get on admirably."
"Oh, I deny it - a thousand times!"
"Continue to do so, dear girl, till you have learnt the truth of what I 
"How dare you call me 'dear'?"
"Why, because I like you very much, and wouldn't lose you for a 
good deal."
"You love no one but yourself."
"I didn't say 'love.' I don't love you."
"Now - now you are speaking the dreadful truth! Oh, what a man 
have I married!"
"A very good sort of man. A capital fellow, in his way."
"A hypocrite - a base ----" her tongue checked itself. "Nothing of the 
kind. When did I say that I loved you? I have often said that I was 
in love with you, and words to that effect; and truly enough. Quite a 
different thing."
Phyllis stood speechless, looking upwards as though appealing to 
immortal powers. In the moonlight her face was very beautiful.
"And you," he continued, "do you love me?"
"Then we start on equal terms. In love with me you certainly were; 
as I was with you."
"Because you deceived - entrapped me."
"Oh no. For quite a different reason." Waldron smiled. "It is more 
than likely that some day we shall love each other; in five years' 
time, say. Love is slow in growing. I want to love you, if possible, 
and I hope you will love me. But I can't love a girl who hasn't got 
over her girlish conceit and silliness."
"Nor I a man who is heartless."
"Heaven forbid! Will you walk on with me now?"
She hesitated, but did at length walk by his side. After a minute or 
two, he again broke silence.
"I don't like that maid of yours. She must go."
"Go? Oh, that she shall not!"
"She will leave us to-morrow," said Waldron quietly.
"Because she entered into a silly plot with her silly mistress. It was 
your fault, of course; but she must suffer for it. I decided that point 
when she went out and reported to you that I was utterly 
indifferent about your disappearance."
Phyllis stopped, and gazed wonderingly at him.
"How could you know that?" she whispered.
"I happen to have pretty good eyes, and a fair share of brains. 
Come, little girl, take my arm, and let's get ahead sharply. You'll 
take cold over this business."
He drew her towards him, and she was passive. So without further 
speech they walked homewards through the divine night.


Provided by Mitsuharu Matsuoka, Nagoya University, Japan,
on 18 July 2002.

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