"You must be very proud of your family, Miss Hilbery."
"Yes, I am," Katharine answered, and she added, "Do you think there's anything wrong in that?"
"Wrong? How should it be wrong? It must be a bore, though, showing your things to visitors," he added reflectively.
"Not if the visitors like them."
"Isn't it difficult to live up to your ancestors?" he proceeded.
"I dare say I shouldn't try to write poetry," Katharine replied.
"No. And that's what I should hate. I couldn't bear my grandfather to cut me out. And, after all," Denham went on, glancing round him satirically, as Katharine thought, "it's not your grandfather only. You're cut out all the way round. I suppose you come of one of the most distinguished families in England. There are the Warburtons and the Mannings--and you're related to the Otways, aren't you? I read it all in some magazine," he added.
"The Otways are my cousins," Katharine replied.
NIGHT AND DAY
BY VIRGINIA WOOLF
BUT, LOOKING FOR A PHRASE,
I FOUND NONE TO STAND
BESIDE YOUR NAME
NIGHT AND DAY
It was a Sunday evening in October, and in common with many other
young ladies of her class, Katharine Hilbery was pouring out tea.
Perhaps a fifth part of her mind was thus occupied, and the remaining
parts leapt over the little barrier of day which interposed between
Monday morning and this rather subdued moment, and played with the
things one does voluntarily and normally in the daylight. But although
she was silent, she was evidently mistress of a situation which was
familiar enough to her, and inclined to let it take its way for the
six hundredth time, perhaps, without bringing into play any of her
unoccupied faculties. A single glance was enough to show that Mrs.
Hilbery was so rich in the gifts which make tea-parties of elderly
distinguished people successful, that she scarcely needed any help
from her daughter, provided that the tiresome business of teacups and
bread and butter was discharged for her.
Considering that the little party had been seated round the tea-table
for less than twenty minutes, the animation observable on their
faces, and the amount of sound they were producing collectively, were
very creditable to the hostess. It suddenly came into Katharine’s mind
that if some one opened the door at this moment he would think that
they were enjoying themselves; he would think, “What an extremely nice
house to come into!” and instinctively she laughed, and said something
to increase the noise, for the credit of the house presumably, since
she herself had not been feeling exhilarated. At the very same moment,
rather to her amusement, the door was flung open, and a young man
entered the room. Katharine, as she shook hands with him, asked him,
in her own mind, “Now, do you think we’re enjoying ourselves
enormously?” … “Mr. Denham, mother,” she said aloud, for she saw
that her mother had forgotten his name.
That fact was perceptible to Mr. Denham also, and increased the
awkwardness which inevitably attends the entrance of a stranger into a
room full of people much at their ease, and all launched upon
sentences. At the same time, it seemed to Mr. Denham as if a thousand
softly padded doors had closed between him and the street outside. A
fine mist, the etherealized essence of the fog, hung visibly in the
wide and rather empty space of the drawing-room, all silver where the
candles were grouped on the tea-table, and ruddy again in the
firelight. With the omnibuses and cabs still running in his head, and
his body still tingling with his quick walk along the streets and in
and out of traffic and foot-passengers, this drawing-room seemed very
remote and still; and the faces of the elderly people were mellowed,
at some distance from each other, and had a bloom on them owing to the
fact that the air in the drawing-room was thickened by blue grains of
mist. Mr. Denham had come in as Mr. Fortescue, the eminent novelist,
reached the middle of a very long sentence. He kept this suspended
while the newcomer sat down, and Mrs. Hilbery deftly joined the
severed parts by leaning towards him and remarking:
“Now, what would you do if you were married to an engineer, and had to
live in Manchester, Mr. Denham?”
“Surely she could learn Persian,” broke in a thin, elderly gentleman.
“Is there no retired schoolmaster or man of letters in Manchester with
whom she could read Persian?”
“A cousin of ours has married and gone to live in Manchester,”
Katharine explained. Mr. Denham muttered something, which was indeed
all that was required of him, and the novelist went on where he had
left off. Privately, Mr. Denham cursed himself very sharply for having
exchanged the freedom of the street for this sophisticated drawing-room, where, among other disagreeables, he certainly would not appear
at his best. He glanced round him, and saw that, save for Katharine,
they were all over forty, the only consolation being that Mr.
Fortescue was a considerable celebrity, so that tomorrow one might be
glad to have met him.
“Have you ever been to Manchester?” he asked Katharine.
“Never,” she replied.
“Why do you object to it, then?”
Katharine stirred her tea, and seemed to speculate, so Denham thought,
upon the duty of filling somebody else’s cup, but she was really
wondering how she was going to keep this strange young man in harmony
with the rest. She observed that he was compressing his teacup, so
that there was danger lest the thin china might cave inwards. She
could see that he was nervous; one would expect a bony young man with
his face slightly reddened by the wind, and his hair not altogether
smooth, to be nervous in such a party. Further, he probably disliked
this kind of thing, and had come out of curiosity, or because her
father had invited him—anyhow, he would not be easily combined with
“I should think there would be no one to talk to in Manchester,” she
replied at random. Mr. Fortescue had been observing her for a moment
or two, as novelists are inclined to observe, and at this remark he
smiled, and made it the text for a little further speculation.
“In spite of a slight tendency to exaggeration, Katharine decidedly
hits the mark,” he said, and lying back in his chair, with his opaque
contemplative eyes fixed on the ceiling, and the tips of his fingers
pressed together, he depicted, first the horrors of the streets of
Manchester, and then the bare, immense moors on the outskirts of the
town, and then the scrubby little house in which the girl would live,
and then the professors and the miserable young students devoted to
the more strenuous works of our younger dramatists, who would visit
her, and how her appearance would change by degrees, and how she would
fly to London, and how Katharine would have to lead her about, as one
leads an eager dog on a chain, past rows of clamorous butchers’ shops,
poor dear creature.
“Oh, Mr. Fortescue,” exclaimed Mrs. Hilbery, as he finished, “I had
just written to say how I envied her! I was thinking of the big
gardens and the dear old ladies in mittens, who read nothing but the
“Spectator,” and snuff the candles. Have they ALL disappeared? I told
her she would find the nice things of London without the horrid
streets that depress one so.”
“There is the University,” said the thin gentleman, who had previously
insisted upon the existence of people knowing Persian.
“I know there are moors there, because I read about them in a book the
other day,” said Katharine.
“I am grieved and amazed at the ignorance of my family,” Mr. Hilbery
remarked. He was an elderly man, with a pair of oval, hazel eyes which
were rather bright for his time of life, and relieved the heaviness of
his face. He played constantly with a little green stone attached to
his watch-chain, thus displaying long and very sensitive fingers, and
had a habit of moving his head hither and thither very quickly without
altering the position of his large and rather corpulent body, so that
he seemed to be providing himself incessantly with food for amusement
and reflection with the least possible expenditure of energy. One
might suppose that he had passed the time of life when his ambitions
were personal, or that he had gratified them as far as he was likely
to do, and now employed his considerable acuteness rather to observe
and reflect than to attain any result.
Katharine, so Denham decided, while Mr. Fortescue built up another
rounded structure of words, had a likeness to each of her parents, but
these elements were rather oddly blended. She had the quick, impulsive
movements of her mother, the lips parting often to speak, and closing
again; and the dark oval eyes of her father brimming with light upon a
basis of sadness, or, since she was too young to have acquired a
sorrowful point of view, one might say that the basis was not sadness
so much as a spirit given to contemplation and self-control. Judging
by her hair, her coloring, and the shape of her features, she was
striking, if not actually beautiful. Decision and composure stamped
her, a combination of qualities that produced a very marked character,
and one that was not calculated to put a young man, who scarcely knew
her, at his ease. For the rest, she was tall; her dress was of some
quiet color, with old yellow-tinted lace for ornament, to which the
spark of an ancient jewel gave its one red gleam. Denham noticed that,
although silent, she kept sufficient control of the situation to
answer immediately her mother appealed to her for help, and yet it was
obvious to him that she attended only with the surface skin of her
mind. It struck him that her position at the tea-table, among all
these elderly people, was not without its difficulties, and he checked
his inclination to find her, or her attitude, generally antipathetic
to him. The talk had passed over Manchester, after dealing with it
“Would it be the Battle of Trafalgar or the Spanish Armada,
Katharine?” her mother demanded.
“Trafalgar, of course! How stupid of me! Another cup of tea, with a
thin slice of lemon in it, and then, dear Mr. Fortescue, please
explain my absurd little puzzle. One can’t help believing gentlemen
with Roman noses, even if one meets them in omnibuses.”
Mr. Hilbery here interposed so far as Denham was concerned, and talked
a great deal of sense about the solicitors’ profession, and the
changes which he had seen in his lifetime. Indeed, Denham properly
fell to his lot, owing to the fact that an article by Denham upon some
legal matter, published by Mr. Hilbery in his Review, had brought them
acquainted. But when a moment later Mrs. Sutton Bailey was announced,
he turned to her, and Mr. Denham found himself sitting silent,
rejecting possible things to say, beside Katharine, who was silent
too. Being much about the same age and both under thirty, they were
prohibited from the use of a great many convenient phrases which
launch conversation into smooth waters. They were further silenced by
Katharine’s rather malicious determination not to help this young man,
in whose upright and resolute bearing she detected something hostile
to her surroundings, by any of the usual feminine amenities. They
therefore sat silent, Denham controlling his desire to say something
abrupt and explosive, which should shock her into life. But Mrs.
Hilbery was immediately sensitive to any silence in the drawing-room,
as of a dumb note in a sonorous scale, and leaning across the table
she observed, in the curiously tentative detached manner which always
gave her phrases the likeness of butterflies flaunting from one sunny
spot to another, “D’you know, Mr. Denham, you remind me so much of
dear Mr. Ruskin… . Is it his tie, Katharine, or his hair, or the
way he sits in his chair? Do tell me, Mr. Denham, are you an admirer
of Ruskin? Some one, the other day, said to me, ‘Oh, no, we