Tales of Unrest HTML version

The Return
The inner circle train from the City rushed impetuously out of a black hole and
pulled up with a discordant, grinding racket in the smirched twilight of a West-End
station. A line of doors flew open and a lot of men stepped out headlong. They
had high hats, healthy pale faces, dark overcoats and shiny boots; they held in
their gloved hands thin umbrellas and hastily folded evening papers that
resembled stiff, dirty rags of greenish, pinkish, or whitish colour. Alvan Hervey
stepped out with the rest, a smouldering cigar between his teeth. A disregarded
little woman in rusty black, with both arms full of parcels, ran along in distress,
bolted suddenly into a third-class compartment and the train went on. The
slamming of carriage doors burst out sharp and spiteful like a fusillade; an icy
draught mingled with acrid fumes swept the whole length of the platform and
made a tottering old man, wrapped up to his ears in a woollen comforter, stop
short in the moving throng to cough violently over his stick. No one spared him a
Alvan Hervey passed through the ticket gate. Between the bare walls of a sordid
staircase men clambered rapidly; their backs appeared alike--almost as if they
had been wearing a uniform; their indifferent faces were varied but somehow
suggested kinship, like the faces of a band of brothers who through prudence,
dignity, disgust, or foresight would resolutely ignore each other; and their eyes,
quick or slow; their eyes gazing up the dusty steps; their eyes brown, black, gray,
blue, had all the same stare, concentrated and empty, satisfied and unthinking.
Outside the big doorway of the street they scattered in all directions, walking
away fast from one another with the hurried air of men fleeing from something
compromising; from familiarity or confidences; from something suspected and
concealed--like truth or pestilence. Alvan Hervey hesitated, standing alone in the
doorway for a moment; then decided to walk home.
He strode firmly. A misty rain settled like silvery dust on clothes, on moustaches;
wetted the faces, varnished the flagstones, darkened the walls, dripped from
umbrellas. And he moved on in the rain with careless serenity, with the tranquil
ease of someone successful and disdainful, very sure of himself--a man with lots
of money and friends. He was tall, well set-up, good-looking and healthy; and his
clear pale face had under its commonplace refinement that slight tinge of
overbearing brutality which is given by the possession of only partly difficult
accomplishments; by excelling in games, or in the art of making money; by the
easy mastery over animals and over needy men.
He was going home much earlier than usual, straight from the City and without
calling at his club. He considered himself well connected, well educated and
intelligent. Who doesn't? But his connections, education and intelligence were
strictly on a par with those of the men with whom he did business or amused
himself. He had married five years ago. At the time all his acquaintances had
said he was very much in love; and he had said so himself, frankly, because it is
very well understood that every man falls in love once in his life--unless his wife
dies, when it may be quite praiseworthy to fall in love again. The girl was healthy,