The summer of 1842 was, historians tell us, not much different from othe_ummers, yet to Flush it was so different that he must have doubted if th_orld itself were the same. It was a summer spent in a bedroom; a summer spen_ith Miss Barrett. It was a summer spent in London, spent in the heart o_ivilisation. At first he saw nothing but the bedroom and its furniture, bu_hat alone was surprising enough. To identify, distinguish and call by thei_ight names all the different articles he saw there was confusing enough. An_e had scarcely accustomed himself to the tables, to the busts, to th_ashing-stands—the smell of eau de cologne still lacerated his nostrils, whe_here came one of those rare days which are fine but not windy, warm but no_aking, dry but not dusty, when an invalid can take the air. The day came whe_iss Barrett could safely risk the huge adventure of going shopping with he_ister.
The carriage was ordered; Miss Barrett rose from her sofa; veiled and muffled,
she descended the stairs. Flush of course went with her. He leapt into th_arriage by her side. Couched on her lap, the whole pomp of London at its mos_plendid burst on his astonished eyes. They drove along Oxford Street. He sa_ouses made almost entirely of glass. He saw windows laced across wit_littering streamers; heaped with gleaming mounds of pink, purple, yellow,
rose. The carriage stopped. He entered mysterious arcades filmed with cloud_nd webs of tinted gauze. A million airs from China, from Arabia, wafted thei_rail incense into the remotest fibres of his senses. Swiftly over th_ounters flashed yards of gleaming silk; more darkly, more slowly rolled th_onderous bombazine. Scissors snipped; coins sparkled. Paper was folded;
string tied. What with nodding plumes, waving streamers, tossing horses,
yellow liveries, passing faces, leaping, dancing up, down, Flush, satiate_ith the multiplicity of his sensations, slept, drowsed, dreamt and knew n_ore until he was lifted out of the carriage and the door of Wimpole Stree_hut on him again.
And next day, as the fine weather continued, Miss Barrett ventured upon a_ven more daring exploit—she had herself drawn up Wimpole Street in a bath-
chair. Again Flush went with her. For the first time he heard his nails clic_pon the hard paving-stones of London. For the first time the whole battery o_ London street on a hot summer's day assaulted his nostrils. He smelt th_wooning smells that lie in the gutters; the bitter smells that corrode iro_ailings; the fuming, heady smells that rise from basements—smells mor_omplex, corrupt, violently contrasted and compounded than any he had smelt i_he fields near Reading; smells that lay far beyond the range of the huma_ose; so that while the chair went on, he stopped, amazed; smelling,
savouring, until a jerk at his collar dragged him on. And also, as he trotte_p Wimpole Street behind Miss Barrett's chair he was dazed by the passage o_uman bodies. Petticoats swished at his head; trousers brushed his flanks;
sometimes a wheel whizzed an inch from his nose; the wind of destructio_oared in his ears and fanned the feathers of his paws as a van passed. The_e plunged in terror. Mercifully the chain tugged at his collar; Miss Barret_eld him tight, or he would have rushed to destruction.
At last, with every nerve throbbing and every sense singing, he reache_egent's Park. And then when he saw once more, after years of absence i_eemed, grass, flowers and trees, the old hunting cry of the fields hallooe_n his ears and he dashed forward to run as he had run in the fields at home.
But now a heavy weight jerked at his throat; he was thrown back on hi_aunches. Were there not trees and grass? he asked. Were these not the signal_f freedom? Had he not always leapt forward directly Miss Mitford started o_er walk? Why was he a prisoner here? He paused. Here, he observed, th_lowers were massed far more thickly than at home; they stood, plant by plant,
rigidly in narrow plots. The plots were intersected by hard black paths. Me_n shiny top-hats marched ominously up and down the paths. At the sight o_hem he shuddered closer to the chair. He gladly accepted the protection o_he chain. Thus before many of these walks were over a new conception ha_ntered his brain. Setting one thing beside another, he had arrived at _onclusion. Where there are flower-beds there are asphalt paths; where ther_re flower-beds and asphalt paths, there are men in shiny top-hats; wher_here are flower-beds and asphalt paths and men in shiny top-hats, dogs mus_e led on chains. Without being able to decipher a word of the placard at th_ate, he had learnt his lesson—in Regent's Park dogs must be led on chains.
And to this nucleus of knowledge, born from the strange experiences of th_ummer of 1842, soon adhered another: dogs are not equal, but different. A_hree Mile Cross Flush had mixed impartially with tap-room dogs and th_quire's greyhounds; he had known no difference between the tinker's dog an_imself. Indeed it is probable that the mother of his child, though b_ourtesy called Spaniel, was nothing but a mongrel, eared in one way, taile_n another. But the dogs of London, Flush soon discovered, are strictl_ivided into different classes. Some are chained dogs; some run wild. Som_ake their airings in carriages and drink from purple jars; others are unkemp_nd uncollared and pick up a living in the gutter. Dogs therefore, Flush bega_o suspect, differ; some are high, others low; and his suspicions wer_onfirmed by snatches of talk held in passing with the dogs of Wimpole Street.
"See that scallywag? A mere mongrel! … By gad, that's a fine Spaniel. One o_he best blood in Britain! … Pity his ears aren't a shade more curly… .
There's a topknot for you!"
From such phrases, from the accent of praise or derision in which they wer_poken, at the pillar-box or outside the public-house where the footmen wer_xchanging racing tips, Flush knew before the summer had passed that there i_o equality among dogs: there are high dogs and low dogs. Which, then, was he?
No sooner had Flush got home than he examined himself carefully in th_ooking-glass. Heaven be praised, he was a dog of birth and breeding! His hea_as smooth; his eyes were prominent but not gozzled; his feet were feathered;
he was the equal of the best-bred cocker in Wimpole Street. He noted wit_pproval the purple jar from which he drank—such are the privileges of rank;
he bent his head quietly to have the chain fixed to his collar—such are it_enalties. When about this time Miss Barrett observed him staring in th_lass, she was mistaken. He was a philosopher, she thought, meditating th_ifference between appearance and reality. On the contrary, he was a_ristocrat considering his points.
But the fine summer days were soon over; the autumn winds began to blow; an_iss Barrett settled down to a life of complete seclusion in her bedroom.
Flush's life was also changed. His outdoor education was supplemented by tha_f the bed-room, and this, to a dog of Flush's temperament, was the mos_rastic that could have been invented. His only airings, and these were brie_nd perfunctory, were taken in the company of Wilson, Miss Barrett's maid. Fo_he rest of the day he kept his station on the sofa at Miss Barrett's feet.
All his natural instincts were thwarted and contradicted. When the autum_inds had blown last year in Berkshire he had run in wild scampering acros_he stubble; now at the sound of the ivy tapping on the pane Miss Barret_sked Wilson to see to the fastenings of the window. When the leaves of th_carlet runners and nasturtiums in the window-box yellowed and fell she dre_er Indian shawl more closely round her. When the October rain lashed th_indow Wilson lit the fire and heaped up the coals. Autumn deepened int_inter and the first fogs jaundiced the air. Wilson and Flush could scarcel_rope their way to the pillar-box or to the chemist. When they came back,
nothing could be seen in the room but the pale busts glimmering wanly on th_ops of the wardrobes; the peasants and the castle had vanished on the blind;
blank yellow filled the pane. Flush felt that he and Miss Barrett lived alon_ogether in a cushioned and fire-lit cave. The traffic droned on perpetuall_utside with muffled reverberations; now and again a voice went callin_oarsely, "Old chairs and baskets to mend," down the street: sometimes ther_as a jangle of organ music, coming nearer and louder; going further an_ading away. But none of these sounds meant freedom, or action, or exercise.
The wind and the rain, the wild days of autumn and the cold days of mid-
winter, all alike meant nothing to Flush except warmth and stillness; th_ighting of lamps, the drawing of curtains and the poking of the fire.
At first the strain was too great to be borne. He could not help dancing roun_he room on a windy autumn day when the partridges must be scattering over th_tubble. He thought he heard guns on the breeze. He could not help running t_he door with his hackles raised when a dog barked outside. And yet when Mis_arrett called him back, when she laid her hand on his collar, he could no_eny that another feeling, urgent, contradictory, disagreeable—he did not kno_hat to call it or why he obeyed it—restrained him. He lay still at her feet.
To resign, to control, to suppress the most violent instincts of hi_ature—that was the prime lesson of the bedroom school, and it was one of suc_ortentous difficulty that many scholars have learnt Greek with less—man_attles have been won that cost their generals not half such pain. But then,
Miss Barrett was the teacher. Between them, Flush felt more and more strongly,
as the weeks wore on, was a bond, an uncomfortable yet thrilling tightness; s_hat if his pleasure was her pain, then his pleasure was pleasure no longe_ut three parts pain. The truth of this was proved every day. Somebody opene_he door and whistled him to come. Why should he not go out? He longed for ai_nd exercise; his limbs were cramped with lying on the sofa. He had neve_rown altogether used to the smell of eau de cologne. But no—though the doo_tood open, he would not leave Miss Barrett. He hesitated halfway to the doo_nd then went back to the sofa. "Flushie," wrote Miss Barrett, "is m_riend—my companion—and loves me better than he loves the sunshine without."
She could not go out. She was chained to the sofa. "A bird in a cage woul_ave as good a story," she wrote, as she had. And Flush, to whom the whol_orld was free, chose to forfeit all the smells of Wimpole Street in order t_ie by her side.
And yet sometimes the tie would almost break; there were vast gaps in thei_nderstanding. Sometimes they would lie and stare at each other in blan_ewilderment. Why, Miss Barrett wondered, did Flush tremble suddenly, an_himper and start and listen? She could hear nothing; she could see nothing;
there was nobody in the room with them. She could not guess that Folly, he_ister's little King Charles, had passed the door; or that Catiline, the Cub_loodhound, had been given a mutton-bone by a footman in the basement. Bu_lush knew; he heard; he was ravaged by the alternate rages of lust and greed.
Then with all her poet's imagination Miss Barrett could not divine wha_ilson's wet umbrella meant to Flush; what memories it recalled, of forest_nd parrots and wild trumpeting elephants; nor did she know, when Mr. Kenyo_tumbled over the bell-pull, that Flush heard dark men cursing in th_ountains; the cry, "Span! Span!" rang in his ears, and it was in som_uffled, ancestral rage that he bit him.
Flush was equally at a loss to account for Miss Barrett's emotions. There sh_ould lie hour after hour passing her hand over a white page with a blac_tick; and her eyes would suddenly fill with tears; but why? "Ah, my dear Mr.
Horne," she was writing. "And then came the failure in my health … and the_he enforced exile to Torquay … which gave a nightmare to my life for ever,
and robbed it of more than I can speak of here; do not speak of that anywhere.
_Do not speak of that,_ dear Mr. Horne." But there was no sound in the room,
no smell to make Miss Barrett cry. Then again Miss Barrett, still agitatin_er stick, burst out laughing. She had drawn "a very neat and characteristi_ortrait of Flush, humorously made rather like myself," and she had writte_nder it that it "only fails of being an excellent substitute for mine throug_eing more worthy than I can be counted." What was there to laugh at in th_lack smudge that she held out for Flush to look at? He could smell nothing;
he could hear nothing. There was nobody in the room with them. The fact wa_hat they could not communicate with words, and it was a fact that le_ndoubtedly to much misunderstanding. Yet did it not lead also to a peculia_ntimacy? "Writing,"—Miss Barrett once exclaimed after a morning's toil,
"writing, writing … " After all, she may have thought, do words sa_verything? Can words say anything? Do not words destroy the symbol that lie_eyond the reach of words? Once at least Miss Barrett seems to have found i_o. She was lying, thinking; she had forgotten Flush altogether, and he_houghts were so sad that the tears fell upon the pillow. Then suddenly _airy head was pressed against her; large bright eyes shone in hers; and sh_tarted. Was it Flush, or was it Pan? Was she no longer an invalid in Wimpol_treet, but a Greek nymph in some dim grove in Arcady? And did the bearded go_imself press his lips to hers? For a moment she was transformed; she was _ymph and Flush was Pan. The sun burnt and love blazed. But suppose Flush ha_een able to speak—would he not have said something sensible about the potat_isease in Ireland?
So, too, Flush felt strange stirrings at work within him. When he saw Mis_arrett's thin hands delicately lifting some silver box or pearl ornament fro_he ringed table, his own furry paws seemed to contract and he longed tha_hey should fine themselves to ten separate fingers. When he heard her lo_oice syllabling innumerable sounds, he longed for the day when his own roug_oar would issue like hers in the little simple sounds that had suc_ysterious meaning. And when he watched the same fingers for ever crossing _hite page with a straight stick, he longed for the time when he too shoul_lacken paper as she did.
And yet, had he been able to write as she did?—The question is superfluou_appily, for truth compels us to say that in the year 1842-43 Miss Barrett wa_ot a nymph but an invalid; Flush was not a poet but a red cocker spaniel; an_impole Street was not Arcady but Wimpole Street.
So the long hours went by in the back bedroom with nothing to mark them bu_he sound of steps passing on the stairs; and the distant sound of the fron_oor shutting, and the sound of a broom tapping, and the sound of the postma_nocking. In the room coals clicked; the lights and shadows shifted themselve_ver the brows of the five pale busts, over the bookcase and its red merino.
But sometimes the step on the stair did not pass the door; it stopped outside.
The handle was seen to spin round; the door actually opened; somebody came in.
Then how strangely the furniture changed its look! What extraordinary eddie_f sound and smell were at once set in circulation! How they washed round th_egs of tables and impinged on the sharp edges of the wardrobe! Probably i_as Wilson, with a tray of food or a glass of medicine; or it might be one o_iss Barrett's two sisters—Arabel or Henrietta; or it might be one of Mis_arrett's seven brothers—Charles, Samuel, George, Henry, Alfred, Septimus o_ctavius. But once or twice a week Flush was aware that something mor_mportant was about to happen. The bed would be carefully disguised as a sofa.
The armchair would be drawn up beside it; Miss Barrett herself would b_rapped becomingly in Indian shawls; the toilet things would be scrupulousl_idden under the busts of Chaucer and Homer; Flush himself would be combed an_rushed. At about two or three in the afternoon there was a peculiar, distinc_nd different tap at the door. Miss Barrett flushed, smiled and stretched ou_er hand. Then in would come—perhaps dear Miss Mitford, rosy and shiny an_hattering, with a bunch of geraniums. Or it might be Mr. Kenyon, a stout,
well-groomed elderly gentleman, radiating benevolence, provided with a book.
Or it might be Mrs. Jameson, a lady who was the very opposite of Mr. Kenyon t_ook at—a lady with "a very light complexion—pale, lucid, eyes; thi_olourless lips … a nose and chin projective without breadth." Each had his o_er own manner, smell, tone and accent. Miss Mitford burbled and chattered,
was fly-away yet substantial; Mr. Kenyon was urbane and cultured and mumble_lightly because he had lost two front teeth;[](footnotes.xml#footnote_2)
Mrs. Jameson had lost none of her teeth, and moved as sharply and precisely a_he spoke.
Lying couched at Miss Barrett's feet, Flush let the voices ripple over him,
hour by hour. On and on they went. Miss Barrett laughed, expostulated,
exclaimed, sighed too, and laughed again. At last, greatly to Flush's relief,
little silences came—even in the flow of Miss Mitford's conversation. Could i_e seven already? She had been there since midday! She must really run t_atch her train. Mr. Kenyon shut his book—he had been reading aloud—and stoo_ith his back to the fire; Mrs. Jameson with a sharp, angular movement presse_ach finger of her glove sharp down. And Flush was patted by this one and ha_is ear pulled by another. The routine of leave-taking was intolerabl_rolonged; but at last Mrs. Jameson, Mr. Kenyon, and even Miss Mitford ha_isen, had said good-bye, had remembered something, had lost something, ha_ound something, had reached the door, had opened it, and were—Heaven b_raised—gone at last.
Miss Barrett sank back very white, very tired on her pillows. Flush crep_loser to her. Mercifully they were alone again. But the visitor had stayed s_ong that it was almost dinner-time. Smells began to rise from the basement.
Wilson was at the door with Miss Barrett's dinner on a tray. It was set dow_n the table beside her and the covers lifted. But what with the dressing an_he talking, what with the heat of the room and the agitation of th_arewells, Miss Barrett was too tired to eat. She gave a little sigh when sh_aw the plump mutton chop, or the wing of partridge or chicken that had bee_ent up for her dinner. So long as Wilson was in the room she fiddled abou_ith her knife and fork. But directly the door was shut and they were alone,
she made a sign. She held up her fork. A whole chicken's wing was impaled upo_t. Flush advanced. Miss Barrett nodded. Very gently, very cleverly, withou_pilling a crumb, Flush removed the wing; swallowed it down and left no trac_ehind. Half a rice pudding clotted with thick cream went the same way.
Nothing could have been neater, more effective than Flush's co-operation. H_as lying couched as usual at Miss Barrett's feet, apparently asleep, Mis_arrett was lying rested and restored, apparently having made an excellen_inner, when once more a step that was heavier, more deliberate and firme_han any other, stopped on the stair; solemnly a knock sounded that was no ta_f enquiry but a demand for admittance; the door opened and in came th_lackest, the most formidable of elderly men—Mr. Barrett himself. His eye a_nce sought the tray. Had the meal been eaten? Had his commands been obeyed?
Yes, the plates were empty. Signifying his approval of his daughter'_bedience, Mr. Barrett lowered himself heavily into the chair by her side. A_hat dark body approached him, shivers of terror and horror ran down Flush'_pine. So a savage couched in flowers shudders when the thunder growls and h_ears the voice of God. Then Wilson whistled; and Flush, slinking guiltily, a_f Mr. Barrett could read his thoughts and those thoughts were evil, crept ou_f the room and rushed downstairs. A force had entered the bedroom which h_readed; a force that he was powerless to withstand. Once he burst i_nexpectedly. Mr. Barrett was on his knees praying by his daughter's side.