Septimus, Warren Smith
of Septimus, Warren Smith:
But he remembered Bradshaw said, "The people we are
most fond of are not good for us when we are ill." Bradshaw said, he
must be taught to rest. Bradshaw said they must be separated.
"Must," "must," why "must"? What power had Bradshaw
over him? What right has Bradshaw to say ‘must’ to me?" he demanded.
"It is because you talked of killing yourself," said
Rezia. (Mercifully, she could now say anything to Septimus.)
So he was in their power! Holmes and Bradshaw were
on him! The brute with the red nostrils was snuffing into every
secret place! "Must" it could say! Where were his papers! The things
he had written?
She brought him his papers, the things he had
written, things she had written for him. She tumbled them out on to
the sofa. They looked at them together. Diagrams, designs, little
men and women brandishing sticks for arms, with wings — were they? —
on their backs: circles traced round shillings and sixpences — the
sun and stars; zigzagging precipices with mountaineers ascending
roped together, exactly like knives and forks; sea pieces with
little faces laughing out of what might perhaps be waves: the maps
of the world. Burn them! He cried. Now for his writings; how the
dead sing behind rhododendron bushes; odes to Time; conversations
with Shakespeare; Evans, Evans, Evans — his messages from the dead;
do not cut down trees; tell the Prime Minister. Universal love: the
meaning of the world, Burn them! He cried.
But Rezia laid her hands on them. Some were very
beautiful, she thought. She would tie them up (for she had no
envelope) with a piece of silk.
Even if they took him, she said, she would go with
him. They could not separate them against their wills, she said.
Shuffling the edges straight, she did up the papers,
and tied the parcel almost without looking, sitting beside him, he
thought, as if all her petals were about her. She was a flowering
tree; and through her branches looked out the face of a lawgiver,
who had reached a sanctuary where she feared no one; not Holmes; not
Bradshaw; a miracle, a triumph, the last and greatest. Staggering he
saw her mount the appalling staircase, laden with Holmes and
Bradshaw, men who never weighed less than eleven stone six, who sent
their wives to Court, men who made ten thousand a year and talked of
proportion; who different in their verdicts (for Holmes said one
thing, Bradshaw another), yet judges they were; who mixed the vision
and the sideboard; saw nothing clear, yet ruled, yet inflicted.
"Must" they said. Over them she triumphed.
"There!" she said. The papers were all tied up. No
one should get at them. She would put them away.
And, she said, nothing should separate them. She sat
down beside him and called him by the name of that hawk or crow
which being malicious and a great destroyer of crops was precisely
like him. No one could separate them, she said.
Then she got up to go to the bedroom to pack their
things, but hearing voices downstairs and thinking that Dr. Holmes
had perhaps called, ran down to prevent him coming up.
Septimus could hear her talking to Holmes on the
"My dear lady, I have come as a friend," Holmes was
"No, I will not allow you to see my husband," she
He could see her, like a little hen, with her wings
spread barring any passage. But Holmes persevered.
"My dear lady, allow me . . ." Holmes said, putting
her aside (Holmes was a powerfully built man).
Holmes was coming upstairs. Holmes would burst open
the door. Holmes would say "In a funk, eh?" Holmes would get him.
But no; not Holmes; not Bradshaw. Getting up rather unsteadily,
hopping indeed from foot to foot, he considered Mrs. Filmer’s nice
clean bread knife with "Bread" carved on the handle. Ah, but one
mustn’t spoil that. The gas fire? But it was too late now. Holmes
was coming. Razors he might have got, but Rezia, who always did that
sort of thing, had packed them. There remained only the window, the
large Bloomsbury-lodging house window, the tiresome, the
troublesome, and rather melodramatic business of opening the window
and throwing himself out. It was their idea of tragedy, not him or
Rezia’s (for she was with him). Holmes and Bradshaw like that sort
of thing. (He sat on the sill.) But he would wait till the very last
moment. He did not want to die. Life was good. The sun was hot. Only
human beings — what did
want? Coming down the staircase opposite an old man stopped and
stared at him. Holmes was at the door. "I’ll give it you!" he cried,
and flung himself vigorously, violently down on Mrs. Filmer’s area
"The coward!" cried Dr. Holmes, busting the door
open. Rezia ran to the window, she saw; she understood. Dr. Holmes
and Mrs. Filmer collided with each other. Mrs. Filmer flapped her
apron and made her hid her eyes in the bedroom. There was a great
deal of running up and down stairs. Dr. Holmes came in — white as a
sheet, shaking all over, with a glass in his hand. She must be brave
and drink something, he said (What was it? Something sweet), for her
husband was horribly mangled, would not recover consciousness, she
must not see him, must be spared as much as possible, would have the
inquest to go through, poor young woman. Who could have foretold it?
A sudden impulse, no one was in the least to blame (he told Mrs.
Filmer). And why the devil he did it, Dr. Holmes could not conceive.
It seemed to her as she drank the sweet stuff that
she was opening long windows, stepping out into some garden. But
where? The clock was striking — one, two, three: how sensible the
sound was; compared with all this thumping and whispering; like
Septimus himself. She was falling asleep. But the clock went on
striking, four, five, six and Mrs. Filmer was waving her apron.
(they wouldn’t bring the body in here, would they?)
part of that garden; or a flag. She had once seen a flag slowly
rippling out from a mast when she stayed with her aunt at Venice.
Men killed in battle were thus saluted, and Septimus had been
through the War. Of her memories, most were happy.
She put on her hat, and ran through cornfields —
where could it have been? — on to some hill, somewhere near the sea.
For there were ships, gulls, butterflies, they sat on a cliff. In
London too, there they sat, and, half dreaming, came to her through
the bedroom door, rain falling, whispering, stirrings among dry
corn, the caress of the sea, as it seemed to her, hollowing them in
its arched shell and murmuring to her laid on shore, strewn she
felt, like flying flowers over some tomb.
"He is dead," she said, smiling at the poor old
woman who guarded her with honest light-blue eyes fixed on the door.
(They wouldn’t bring him in here, would they?)
But Mrs. Filmer pooh-poohed. Oh no, oh no! They were
carrying him away now. Ought she not to be told? Married people ought
to be together, Mrs. Filmer thought. But they must do as the doctor
"Let her sleep," said Dr. Holmes, feeling her pulse. She saw the
large outline of his body standing dark against the window. So that
was Dr. Holmes.