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´╗┐Title: Inn of Tranquillity
Author: Galsworthy, John, 1867-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Inn of Tranquillity" ***

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STUDIES AND ESSAYS

By John Galsworthy


          "Je vous dirai que l'exces est toujours un mal."
                                        --ANATOLE FRANCE



                         CONCERNING LIFE



TABLE OF CONTENTS:
          INN OF TRANQUILITY
          MAGPIE OVER THE HILL
          SHEEP-SHEARING
          EVOLUTION
          RIDING IN THE MIST
          THE PROCESSION
          A CHRISTIAN
          WIND IN THE ROCKS
          MY DISTANT RELATIVE
          THE BLACK GODMOTHER



THE INN OF TRANQUILLITY

Under a burning blue sky, among the pine-trees and junipers, the
cypresses and olives of that Odyssean coast, we came one afternoon on a
pink house bearing the legend: "Osteria di Tranquillita,"; and, partly
because of the name, and partly because we did not expect to find a house
at all in those goat-haunted groves above the waves, we tarried for
contemplation.  To the familiar simplicity of that Italian building there
were not lacking signs of a certain spiritual change, for out of the
olive-grove which grew to its very doors a skittle-alley had been formed,
and two baby cypress-trees were cut into the effigies of a cock and hen.
The song of a gramophone, too, was breaking forth into the air, as it
were the presiding voice of a high and cosmopolitan mind.  And, lost in
admiration, we became conscious of the odour of a full-flavoured cigar.
Yes--in the skittle-alley a gentleman was standing who wore a bowler hat,
a bright brown suit, pink tie, and very yellow boots.  His head was
round, his cheeks fat and well-coloured, his lips red and full under a
black moustache, and he was regarding us through very thick and
half-closed eyelids.

Perceiving him to be the proprietor of the high and cosmopolitan mind, we
accosted him.

"Good-day!" he replied: "I spik English.  Been in Amurrica yes."

"You have a lovely place here."

Sweeping a glance over the skittle-alley, he sent forth a long puff of
smoke; then, turning to my companion (of the politer sex) with the air of
one who has made himself perfect master of a foreign tongue, he smiled,
and spoke.

"Too-quiet!"

"Precisely; the name of your inn, perhaps, suggests----"

"I change all that--soon I call it Anglo-American hotel."

"Ah! yes; you are very up-to-date already."

He closed one eye and smiled.

Having passed a few more compliments, we saluted and walked on; and,
coming presently to the edge of the cliff, lay down on the thyme and the
crumbled leaf-dust.  All the small singing birds had long been shot and
eaten; there came to us no sound but that of the waves swimming in on a
gentle south wind.  The wanton creatures seemed stretching out white arms
to the land, flying desperately from a sea of such stupendous serenity;
and over their bare shoulders their hair floated back, pale in the
sunshine.  If the air was void of sound, it was full of scent--that
delicious and enlivening perfume of mingled gum, and herbs, and sweet
wood being burned somewhere a long way off; and a silky, golden warmth
slanted on to us through the olives and umbrella pines.  Large wine-red
violets were growing near.  On such a cliff might Theocritus have lain,
spinning his songs; on that divine sea Odysseus should have passed.  And
we felt that presently the goat-god must put his head forth from behind a
rock.

It seemed a little queer that our friend in the bowler hat should move
and breathe within one short flight of a cuckoo from this home of Pan.
One could not but at first feelingly remember the old Boer saying: "O
God, what things man sees when he goes out without a gun!" But soon the
infinite incongruity of this juxtaposition began to produce within one a
curious eagerness, a sort of half-philosophical delight. It began to seem
too good, almost too romantic, to be true. To think of the gramophone
wedded to the thin sweet singing of the olive leaves in the evening wind;
to remember the scent of his rank cigar marrying with this wild incense;
to read that enchanted name, "Inn of Tranquillity," and hear the bland
and affable remark of the gentleman who owned it--such were, indeed,
phenomena to stimulate souls to speculation.  And all unconsciously one
began to justify them by thoughts of the other incongruities of
existence--the strange, the passionate incongruities of youth and age,
wealth and poverty, life and death; the wonderful odd bedfellows of this
world; all those lurid contrasts which haunt a man's spirit till
sometimes he is ready to cry out: "Rather than live where such things can
be, let me die!"

Like a wild bird tracking through the air, one's meditation wandered on,
following that trail of thought, till the chance encounter became
spiritually luminous.  That Italian gentleman of the world, with his
bowler hat, his skittle-alley, his gramophone, who had planted himself
down in this temple of wild harmony, was he not Progress itself--the
blind figure with the stomach full of new meats and the brain of raw
notions?  Was he not the very embodiment of the wonderful child,
Civilisation, so possessed by a new toy each day that she has no time to
master its use--naive creature lost amid her own discoveries!  Was he not
the very symbol of that which was making economists thin, thinkers pale,
artists haggard, statesmen bald--the symbol of Indigestion Incarnate!
Did he not, delicious, gross, unconscious man, personify beneath his
Americo-Italian polish all those rank and primitive instincts, whose
satisfaction necessitated the million miseries of his fellows; all those
thick rapacities which stir the hatred of the humane and thin-skinned!
And yet, one's meditation could not stop there--it was not convenient to
the heart!

A little above us, among the olive-trees, two blue-clothed peasants, man
and woman, were gathering the fruit--from some such couple, no doubt, our
friend in the bowler hat had sprung; more "virile" and adventurous than
his brothers, he had not stayed in the home groves, but had gone forth to
drink the waters of hustle and commerce, and come back--what he was.  And
he, in turn, would beget children, and having made his pile out of his
'Anglo-American hotel' would place those children beyond the coarser
influences of life, till they became, perhaps, even as our selves, the
salt of the earth, and despised him.  And I thought: "I do not despise
those peasants--far from it.  I do not despise myself--no more than
reason; why, then, despise my friend in the bowler hat, who is, after
all, but the necessary link between them and me?"  I did not despise the
olive-trees, the warm sun, the pine scent, all those material things
which had made him so thick and strong; I did not despise the golden,
tenuous imaginings which the trees and rocks and sea were starting in my
own spirit.  Why, then, despise the skittle-alley, the gramophone, those
expressions of the spirit of my friend in the billy-cock hat?  To despise
them was ridiculous!

And suddenly I was visited by a sensation only to be described as a sort
of smiling certainty, emanating from, and, as it were, still tingling
within every nerve of myself, but yet vibrating harmoniously with the
world around.  It was as if I had suddenly seen what was the truth of
things; not perhaps to anybody else, but at all events to me.  And I felt
at once tranquil and elated, as when something is met with which rouses
and fascinates in a man all his faculties.

"For," I thought, "if it is ridiculous in me to despise my friend--that
perfect marvel of disharmony--it is ridiculous in me to despise anything.
If he is a little bit of continuity, as perfectly logical an expression
of a necessary phase or mood of existence as I myself am, then, surely,
there is nothing in all the world that is not a little bit of continuity,
the expression of a little necessary mood. Yes," I thought, "he and I,
and those olive-trees, and this spider on my hand, and everything in the
Universe which has an individual shape, are all fit expressions of the
separate moods of a great underlying Mood or Principle, which must be
perfectly adjusted, volving and revolving on itself.  For if It did not
volve and revolve on Itself, It would peter out at one end or the other,
and the image of this petering out no man with his mental apparatus can
conceive. Therefore, one must conclude It to be perfectly adjusted and
everlasting.  But if It is perfectly adjusted and everlasting, we are all
little bits of continuity, and if we are all little bits of continuity it
is ridiculous for one of us to despise another.  So," I thought, "I have
now proved it from my friend in the billy-cock hat up to the Universe,
and from the Universe down, back again to my friend."

And I lay on my back and looked at the sky.  It seemed friendly to my
thought with its smile, and few white clouds, saffron-tinged like the
plumes of a white duck in sunlight.  "And yet," I wondered, "though my
friend and I may be equally necessary, I am certainly irritated by him,
and shall as certainly continue to be irritated, not only by him, but by
a thousand other men and so, with a light heart, you may go on being
irritated with your friend in the bowler hat, you may go on loving those
peasants and this sky and sea.  But, since you have this theory of life,
you may not despise any one or any thing, not even a skittle-alley, for
they are all threaded to you, and to despise them would be to blaspheme
against continuity, and to blaspheme against continuity would be to deny
Eternity.  Love you cannot help, and hate you cannot help; but contempt
is--for you--the sovereign idiocy, the irreligious fancy!"

There was a bee weighing down a blossom of thyme close by, and underneath
the stalk a very ugly little centipede.  The wild bee, with his little
dark body and his busy bear's legs, was lovely to me, and the creepy
centipede gave me shudderings; but it was a pleasant thing to feel so
sure that he, no less than the bee, was a little mood expressing himself
out in harmony with Designs tiny thread on the miraculous quilt.  And I
looked at him with a sudden zest and curiosity; it seemed to me that in
the mystery of his queer little creepings I was enjoying the Supreme
Mystery; and I thought: "If I knew all about that wriggling beast, then,
indeed, I might despise him; but, truly, if I knew all about him I should
know all about everything--Mystery would be gone, and I could not bear to
live!"

So I stirred him with my finger and he went away.

"But how"--I thought "about such as do not feel it ridiculous to despise;
how about those whose temperaments and religions show them all things so
plainly that they know they are right and others wrong?  They must be in a
bad way!"  And for some seconds I felt sorry for them, and was
discouraged.  But then I thought: "Not at all--obviously not!  For if
they do not find it ridiculous to feel contempt, they are perfectly right
to feel contempt, it being natural to them; and you have no business to
be sorry for them, for that is, after all, only your euphemism for
contempt.  They are all right, being the expressions of contemptuous
moods, having religions and so forth, suitable to these moods; and the
religion of your mood would be Greek to them, and probably a matter for
contempt.  But this only makes it the more interesting.  For though to
you, for instance, it may seem impossible to worship Mystery with one
lobe of the brain, and with the other to explain it, the thought that
this may not seem impossible to others should not discourage you; it is
but another little piece of that Mystery which makes life so wonderful
and sweet."

The sun, fallen now almost to the level of the cliff, was slanting upward
on to the burnt-red pine boughs, which had taken to themselves a quaint
resemblance to the great brown limbs of the wild men Titian drew in his
pagan pictures, and down below us the sea-nymphs, still swimming to
shore, seemed eager to embrace them in the enchanted groves.  All was
fused in that golden glow of the sun going down-sea and land gathered
into one transcendent mood of light and colour, as if Mystery desired to
bless us by showing how perfect was that worshipful adjustment, whose
secret we could never know.  And I said to myself: "None of those
thoughts of yours are new, and in a vague way even you have thought them
before; but all the same, they have given you some little feeling of
tranquillity."

And at that word of fear I rose and invited my companion to return toward
the town.  But as we stealthy crept by the "Osteria di Tranquillita," our
friend in the bowler hat came out with a gun over his shoulder and waved
his hand toward the Inn.

"You come again in two week--I change all that!  And now," he added, "I
go to shoot little bird or two," and he disappeared into the golden haze
under the olive-trees.

A minute later we heard his gun go off, and returned homeward with a
prayer.

1910.



MAGPIE OVER THE HILL

I lay often that summer on a slope of sand and coarse grass, close to the
Cornish sea, trying to catch thoughts; and I was trying very hard when I
saw them coming hand in hand.

She was dressed in blue linen, and a little cloud of honey-coloured hair;
her small face had serious eyes the colour of the chicory flowers she was
holding up to sniff at--a clean sober little maid, with a very touching
upward look of trust.  Her companion was a strong, active boy of perhaps
fourteen, and he, too, was serious--his deep-set, blacklashed eyes looked
down at her with a queer protective wonder; the while he explained in a
soft voice broken up between two ages, that exact process which bees
adopt to draw honey out of flowers.  Once or twice this hoarse but
charming voice became quite fervent, when she had evidently failed to
follow; it was as if he would have been impatient, only he knew he must
not, because she was a lady and younger than himself, and he loved her.

They sat down just below my nook, and began to count the petals of a
chicory flower, and slowly she nestled in to him, and he put his arm
round her.  Never did I see such sedate, sweet lovering, so trusting on
her part, so guardianlike on his.  They were like, in miniature---though
more dewy,--those sober couples who have long lived together, yet whom
one still catches looking at each other with confidential tenderness, and
in whom, one feels, passion is atrophied from never having been in use.

Long I sat watching them in their cool communion, half-embraced, talking
a little, smiling a little, never once kissing.  They did not seem shy of
that; it was rather as if they were too much each other's to think of
such a thing.  And then her head slid lower and lower down his shoulder,
and sleep buttoned the lids over those chicory-blue eyes.  How careful he
was, then, not to wake her, though I could see his arm was getting stiff!
He still sat, good as gold, holding her, till it began quite to hurt me
to see his shoulder thus in chancery.  But presently I saw him draw his
arm away ever so carefully, lay her head down on the grass, and lean
forward to stare at something.  Straight in front of them was a magpie,
balancing itself on a stripped twig of thorn-tree.  The agitating bird,
painted of night and day, was making a queer noise and flirting one wing,
as if trying to attract attention.  Rising from the twig, it circled,
vivid and stealthy, twice round the tree, and flew to another a dozen
paces off.  The boy rose; he looked at his little mate, looked at the
bird, and began quietly to move toward it; but uttering again its queer
call, the bird glided on to a third thorn-tree.  The boy hesitated
then--but once more the bird flew on, and suddenly dipped over the hill.
I saw the boy break into a run; and getting up quickly, I ran too.

When I reached the crest there was the black and white bird flying low
into a dell, and there the boy, with hair streaming back, was rushing
helter-skelter down the hill.  He reached the bottom and vanished into
the dell.  I, too, ran down the hill.  For all that I was prying and must
not be seen by bird or boy, I crept warily in among the trees to the edge
of a pool that could know but little sunlight, so thickly arched was it
by willows, birch-trees, and wild hazel.  There, in a swing of boughs
above the water, was perched no pied bird, but a young, dark-haired girl
with, dangling, bare, brown legs.  And on the brink of the black water
goldened, with fallen leaves, the boy was crouching, gazing up at her
with all his soul. She swung just out of reach and looked down at him
across the pool. How old was she, with her brown limbs, and her gleaming,
slanting eyes?  Or was she only the spirit of the dell, this elf-thing
swinging there, entwined with boughs and the dark water, and covered with
a shift of wet birch leaves.  So strange a face she had, wild, almost
wicked, yet so tender; a face that I could not take my eyes from.  Her
bare toes just touched the pool, and flicked up drops of water that fell
on the boy's face.

From him all the sober steadfastness was gone; already he looked as wild
as she, and his arms were stretched out trying to reach her feet.  I
wanted to cry to him: "Go back, boy, go back!" but could not; her elf
eyes held me dumb-they looked so lost in their tender wildness.

And then my heart stood still, for he had slipped and was struggling in
deep water beneath her feet.  What a gaze was that he was turning up to
her--not frightened, but so longing, so desperate; and hers how
triumphant, and how happy!

And then he clutched her foot, and clung, and climbed; and bending down,
she drew him up to her, all wet, and clasped him in the swing of boughs.

I took a long breath then.  An orange gleam of sunlight had flamed in
among the shadows and fell round those two where they swung over the dark
water, with lips close together and spirits lost in one another's, and in
their eyes such drowning ecstasy!  And then they kissed!  All round me
pool, and leaves, and air seemed suddenly to swirl and melt--I could see
nothing plain! .  .  .   What time passed--I do not know--before their
faces slowly again became visible!  His face the sober boy's--was turned
away from her, and he was listening; for above the whispering of leaves a
sound of weeping came from over the hill.  It was to that he listened.

And even as I looked he slid down from out of her arms; back into the
pool, and began struggling to gain the edge.  What grief and longing in
her wild face then!  But she did not wail.  She did not try to pull him
back; that elfish heart of dignity could reach out to what was coming, it
could not drag at what was gone.  Unmoving as the boughs and water, she
watched him abandon her.

Slowly the struggling boy gained land, and lay there, breathless. And
still that sound of lonely weeping came from over the hill.

Listening, but looking at those wild, mourning eyes that never moved from
him, he lay.  Once he turned back toward the water, but fire had died
within him; his hands dropped, nerveless--his young face was all
bewilderment.

And the quiet darkness of the pool waited, and the trees, and those lost
eyes of hers, and my heart.  And ever from over the hill came the little
fair maiden's lonely weeping.

Then, slowly dragging his feet, stumbling, half-blinded, turning and
turning to look back, the boy groped his way out through the trees toward
that sound; and, as he went, that dark spirit-elf, abandoned, clasping
her own lithe body with her arms, never moved her gaze from him.

I, too, crept away, and when I was safe outside in the pale evening
sunlight, peered back into the dell.  There under the dark trees she was
no longer, but round and round that cage of passion, fluttering and
wailing through the leaves, over the black water, was the magpie,
flighting on its twilight wings.

I turned and ran and ran till I came over the hill and saw the boy and
the little fair, sober maiden sitting together once more on the open
slope, under the high blue heaven.  She was nestling her tear-stained
face against his shoulder and speaking already of indifferent things.
And he--he was holding her with his arm and watching over her with eyes
that seemed to see something else.

And so I lay, hearing their sober talk and gazing at their sober little
figures, till I awoke and knew I had dreamed all that little allegory of
sacred and profane love, and from it had returned to reason, knowing no
more than ever which was which.
1912.



SHEEP-SHEARING

From early morning there had been bleating of sheep in the yard, so that
one knew the creatures were being sheared, and toward evening I went
along to see.  Thirty or forty naked-looking ghosts of sheep were penned
against the barn, and perhaps a dozen still inhabiting their coats.  Into
the wool of one of these bulky ewes the farmer's small, yellow-haired
daughter was twisting her fist, hustling it toward Fate; though pulled
almost off her feet by the frightened, stubborn creature, she never let
go, till, with a despairing cough, the ewe had passed over the threshold
and was fast in the hands of a shearer.  At the far end of the barn,
close by the doors, I stood a minute or two before shifting up to watch
the shearing.  Into that dim, beautiful home of age, with its great
rafters and mellow stone archways, the June sunlight shone through
loopholes and chinks, in thin glamour, powdering with its very
strangeness the dark cathedraled air, where, high up, clung a fog of old
grey cobwebs so thick as ever were the stalactites of a huge cave.  At
this end the scent of sheep and wool and men had not yet routed that home
essence of the barn, like the savour of acorns and withering beech
leaves.

They were shearing by hand this year, nine of them, counting the postman,
who, though farm-bred, "did'n putt much to the shearin'," but had come to
round the sheep up and give general aid.

Sitting on the creatures, or with a leg firmly crooked over their heads,
each shearer, even the two boys, had an air of going at it in his own
way.  In their white canvas shearing suits they worked very steadily,
almost in silence, as if drowsed by the "click-clip, click-clip" of the
shears.  And the sheep, but for an occasional wriggle of legs or head,
lay quiet enough, having an inborn sense perhaps of the fitness of
things, even when, once in a way, they lost more than wool; glad too,
mayhap, to be rid of their matted vestments.  From time to time the
little damsel offered each shearer a jug and glass, but no man drank till
he had finished his sheep; then he would get up, stretch his cramped
muscles, drink deep, and almost instantly sit down again on a fresh
beast.  And always there was the buzz of flies swarming in the sunlight
of the open doorway, the dry rustle of the pollarded lime-trees in the
sharp wind outside, the bleating of some released ewe, upset at her own
nakedness, the scrape and shuffle of heels and sheep's limbs on the
floor, together with the "click-clip, click-clip" of the shears.

As each ewe, finished with, struggled up, helped by a friendly shove, and
bolted out dazedly into the pen, I could not help wondering what was
passing in her head--in the heads of all those unceremoniously treated
creatures; and, moving nearer to the postman, I said:

"They're really very good, on the whole."

He looked at me, I thought, queerly.

"Yaas," he answered; "Mr. Molton's the best of them."

I looked askance at Mr. Molton; but, with his knee crooked round a young
ewe, he was shearing calmly.

"Yes," I admitted, "he is certainly good."

"Yaas," replied the postman.

Edging back into the darkness, away from that uncomprehending youth, I
escaped into the air, and passing the remains of last year's stacks under
the tall, toppling elms, sat down in a field under the bank. It seemed to
me that I had food for thought.  In that little misunderstanding between
me and the postman was all the essence of the difference between that
state of civilisation in which sheep could prompt a sentiment, and that
state in which sheep could not.

The heat from the dropping sun, not far now above the moorline, struck
full into the ferns and long grass of the bank where I was sitting, and
the midges rioted on me in this last warmth.  The wind was barred out, so
that one had the full sweetness of the clover, fast becoming hay, over
which the swallows were wheeling and swooping after flies.  And far up,
as it were the crown of Nature's beautiful devouring circle, a buzzard
hawk, almost stationary on the air, floated, intent on something pleasant
below him.  A number of little hens crept through the gate one by one,
and came round me.  It seemed to them that I was there to feed them; and
they held their neat red or yellow heads to one side and the other,
inquiring with their beady eyes, surprised at my stillness.  They were
pretty with their speckled feathers, and as it seemed to me, plump and
young, so that I wondered how many of them would in time feed me.
Finding, however, that I gave them nothing to eat, they went away, and
there arose, in place of their clucking, the thin singing of air passing
through some long tube.  I knew it for the whining of my dog, who had
nosed me out, but could not get through the padlocked gate.  And as I
lifted him over, I was glad the postman could not see me--for I felt that
to lift a dog over a gate would be against the principles of one for whom
the connection of sheep with good behaviour had been too strange a
thought. And it suddenly rushed into my mind that the time would no doubt
come when the conduct of apples, being plucked from the mother tree,
would inspire us, and we should say: "They're really very good!"  And I
wondered, were those future watchers of apple-gathering farther from me
than I, watching sheep-shearing, from the postman?  I thought, too, of the
pretty dreams being dreamt about the land, and of the people who dreamed
them.  And I looked at that land, covered with the sweet pinkish-green of
the clover, and considered how much of it, through the medium of sheep,
would find its way into me, to enable me to come out here and be eaten by
midges, and speculate about things, and conceive the sentiment of how
good the sheep were. And it all seemed queer.  I thought, too, of a world
entirely composed of people who could see the sheen rippling on that
clover, and feel a sort of sweet elation at the scent of it, and I
wondered how much clover would be sown then?  Many things I thought of,
sitting there, till the sun sank below the moor line, the wind died off
the clover, and the midges slept.  Here and there in the iris-coloured
sky a star crept out; the soft-hooting owls awoke.  But still I lingered,
watching how, one after another, shapes and colours died into twilight;
and I wondered what the postman thought of twilight, that inconvenient
state, when things were neither dark nor light; and I wondered what the
sheep were thinking this first night without their coats.  Then, slinking
along the hedge, noiseless, unheard by my sleeping spaniel, I saw a tawny
dog stealing by.  He passed without seeing us, licking his lean chops.

"Yes, friend," I thought, "you have been after something very unholy; you
have been digging up buried lamb, or some desirable person of that kind!"

Sneaking past, in this sweet night, which stirred in one such sentiment,
that ghoulish cur was like the omnivorousness of Nature. And it came to
me, how wonderful and queer was a world which embraced within it, not
only this red gloating dog, fresh from his feast on the decaying flesh of
lamb, but all those hundreds of beings in whom the sight of a fly with
one leg shortened produced a quiver of compassion.  For in this savage,
slinking shadow, I knew that I had beheld a manifestation of divinity no
less than in the smile of the sky, each minute growing more starry.  With
what Harmony--I thought--can these two be enwrapped in this round world
so fast that it cannot be moved!  What secret, marvellous, all-pervading
Principle can harmonise these things!  And the old words 'good' and
'evil' seemed to me more than ever quaint.

It was almost dark, and the dew falling fast; I roused my spaniel to go
in.

Over the high-walled yard, the barns, the moon-white porch, dusk had
brushed its velvet.  Through an open window came a roaring sound. Mr.
Molton was singing "The Happy Warrior," to celebrate the finish of the
shearing.  The big doors into the garden, passed through, cut off the
full sweetness of that song; for there the owls were already masters of
night with their music.

On the dew-whitened grass of the lawn, we came on a little dark beast.
My spaniel, liking its savour, stood with his nose at point; but, being
called off, I could feel him obedient, still quivering, under my hand.

In the field, a wan huddle in the blackness, the dismantled sheep lay
under a holly hedge.  The wind had died; it was mist-warm.
1910



EVOLUTION

Coming out of the theatre, we found it utterly impossible to get a
taxicab; and, though it was raining slightly, walked through Leicester
Square in the hope of picking one up as it returned down Piccadilly.
Numbers of hansoms and four-wheelers passed, or stood by the curb,
hailing us feebly, or not even attempting to attract our attention, but
every taxi seemed to have its load.  At Piccadilly Circus, losing
patience, we beckoned to a four-wheeler and resigned ourselves to a long,
slow journey.  A sou'-westerly air blew through the open windows, and
there was in it the scent of change, that wet scent which visits even the
hearts of towns and inspires the watcher of their myriad activities with
thought of the restless Force that forever cries: "On, on!"  But
gradually the steady patter of the horse's hoofs, the rattling of the
windows, the slow thudding of the wheels, pressed on us so drowsily that
when, at last, we reached home we were more than half asleep.  The fare
was two shillings, and, standing in the lamplight to make sure the coin
was a half-crown before handing it to the driver, we happened to look up.
This cabman appeared to be a man of about sixty, with a long, thin face,
whose chin and drooping grey moustaches seemed in permanent repose on the
up-turned collar of his old blue overcoat.  But the remarkable features
of his face were the two furrows down his cheeks, so deep and hollow that
it seemed as though that face were a collection of bones without coherent
flesh, among which the eyes were sunk back so far that they had lost
their lustre.  He sat quite motionless, gazing at the tail of his horse.
And, almost unconsciously, one added the rest of one's silver to that
half-crown.  He took the coins without speaking; but, as we were turning
into the garden gate, we heard him say:

"Thank you; you've saved my life."

Not knowing, either of us, what to reply to such a curious speech, we
closed the gate again and came back to the cab.

"Are things so very bad?"

"They are," replied the cabman.  "It's done with--is this job.  We're not
wanted now."  And, taking up his whip, he prepared to drive away.

"How long have they been as bad as this?"

The cabman dropped his hand again, as though glad to rest it, and
answered incoherently:

"Thirty-five year I've been drivin' a cab."

And, sunk again in contemplation of his horse's tail, he could only be
roused by many questions to express himself, having, as it seemed, no
knowledge of the habit.

"I don't blame the taxis, I don't blame nobody.  It's come on us, that's
what it has.  I left the wife this morning with nothing in the house.
She was saying to me only yesterday: 'What have you brought home the last
four months?'  'Put it at six shillings a week,' I said.  'No,' she said,
'seven.'  Well, that's right--she enters it all down in her book."

"You are really going short of food?"

The cabman smiled; and that smile between those two deep hollows was
surely as strange as ever shone on a human face.

"You may say that," he said.  "Well, what does it amount to?  Before I
picked you up, I had one eighteen-penny fare to-day; and yesterday I took
five shillings.  And I've got seven bob a day to pay for the cab, and
that's low, too.  There's many and many a proprietor that's broke and
gone--every bit as bad as us.  They let us down as easy as ever they can;
you can't get blood from a stone, can you?"  Once again he smiled.  "I'm
sorry for them, too, and I'm sorry for the horses, though they come out
best of the three of us, I do believe."

One of us muttered something about the Public.

The cabman turned his face and stared down through the darkness.

"The Public?" he said, and his voice had in it a faint surprise. "Well,
they all want the taxis.  It's natural.  They get about faster in them,
and time's money.  I was seven hours before I picked you up. And then you
was lookin' for a taxi.  Them as take us because they can't get better,
they're not in a good temper, as a rule.  And there's a few old ladies
that's frightened of the motors, but old ladies aren't never very free
with their money--can't afford to be, the most of them, I expect."

"Everybody's sorry for you; one would have thought that----"

He interrupted quietly: "Sorrow don't buy bread .  .  .  .  I never had
nobody ask me about things before."  And, slowly moving his long face
from side to side, he added: "Besides, what could people do?  They can't
be expected to support you; and if they started askin' you questions
they'd feel it very awkward.  They know that, I suspect. Of course,
there's such a lot of us; the hansoms are pretty nigh as bad off as we
are.  Well, we're gettin' fewer every day, that's one thing."

Not knowing whether or no to manifest sympathy with this extinction, we
approached the horse.  It was a horse that "stood over" a good deal at
the knee, and in the darkness seemed to have innumerable ribs.  And
suddenly one of us said: "Many people want to see nothing but taxis on
the streets, if only for the sake of the horses."

The cabman nodded.

"This old fellow," he said, "never carried a deal of flesh.  His grub
don't put spirit into him nowadays; it's not up to much in quality, but
he gets enough of it."

"And you don't?"

The cabman again took up his whip.

"I don't suppose," he said without emotion, "any one could ever find
another job for me now.  I've been at this too long.  It'll be the
workhouse, if it's not the other thing."

And hearing us mutter that it seemed cruel, he smiled for the third time.

"Yes," he said slowly, "it's a bit 'ard on us, because we've done nothing
to deserve it.  But things are like that, so far as I can see.  One thing
comes pushin' out another, and so you go on.  I've thought about it--you
get to thinkin' and worryin' about the rights o' things, sittin' up here
all day.  No, I don't see anything for it. It'll soon be the end of us
now--can't last much longer.  And I don't know that I'll be sorry to have
done with it.  It's pretty well broke my spirit."

"There was a fund got up."

"Yes, it helped a few of us to learn the motor-drivin'; but what's the
good of that to me, at my time of life?  Sixty, that's my age; I'm not
the only one--there's hundreds like me.  We're not fit for it, that's the
fact; we haven't got the nerve now.  It'd want a mint of money to help
us.  And what you say's the truth--people want to see the end of us.
They want the taxis--our day's over.  I'm not complaining; you asked me
about it yourself."

And for the third time he raised his whip.

"Tell me what you would have done if you had been given your fare and
just sixpence over?"

The cabman stared downward, as though puzzled by that question.

"Done?  Why, nothing.  What could I have done?"

"But you said that it had saved your life."

"Yes, I said that," he answered slowly; "I was feelin' a bit low. You
can't help it sometimes; it's the thing comin' on you, and no way out of
it--that's what gets over you.  We try not to think about it, as a rule."

And this time, with a "Thank you, kindly!" he touched his horse's flank
with the whip.  Like a thing aroused from sleep the forgotten creature
started and began to draw the cabman away from us.  Very slowly they
travelled down the road among the shadows of the trees broken by
lamplight.  Above us, white ships of cloud were sailing rapidly across
the dark river of sky on the wind which smelled of change.  And, after
the cab was lost to sight, that wind still brought to us the dying sound
of the slow wheels.
1910.



RIDING IN MIST

Wet and hot, having her winter coat, the mare exactly matched the
drenched fox-coloured beech-leaf drifts.  As was her wont on such misty
days, she danced along with head held high, her neck a little arched, her
ears pricked, pretending that things were not what they seemed, and now
and then vigorously trying to leave me planted on the air.  Stones which
had rolled out of the lane banks were her especial goblins, for one such
had maltreated her nerves before she came into this ball-room world, and
she had not forgotten.

There was no wind that day.  On the beech-trees were still just enough of
coppery leaves to look like fires lighted high-up to air the eeriness;
but most of the twigs, pearled with water, were patterned very naked
against universal grey.  Berries were few, except the pink spindle one,
so far the most beautiful, of which there were more than Earth generally
vouchsafes.  There was no sound in the deep lanes, none of that sweet,
overhead sighing of yesterday at the same hour, but there was a quality
of silence--a dumb mist murmuration.  We passed a tree with a proud
pigeon sitting on its top spire, quite too heavy for the twig delicacy
below; undisturbed by the mare's hoofs or the creaking of saddle leather,
he let us pass, absorbed in his world of tranquil turtledoves.  The mist
had thickened to a white, infinitesimal rain-dust, and in it the trees
began to look strange, as though they had lost one another.  The world
seemed inhabited only by quick, soundless wraiths as one trotted past.

Close to a farm-house the mare stood still with that extreme suddenness
peculiar to her at times, and four black pigs scuttled by and at once
became white air.  By now we were both hot and inclined to cling closely
together and take liberties with each other; I telling her about her
nature, name, and appearance, together with comments on her manners; and
she giving forth that sterterous, sweet snuffle, which begins under the
star on her forehead.  On such days she did not sneeze, reserving those
expressions of her joy for sunny days and the crisp winds.  At a forking
of the ways we came suddenly on one grey and three brown ponies, who
shied round and flung away in front of us, a vision of pretty heads and
haunches tangled in the thin lane, till, conscious that they were beyond
their beat, they faced the bank and, one by one, scrambled over to join
the other ghosts out on the dim common.

Dipping down now over the road, we passed hounds going home.  Pied,
dumb-footed shapes, padding along in that soft-eyed, remote world of
theirs, with a tall riding splash of red in front, and a tall splash of
riding red behind.  Then through a gate we came on to the moor, amongst
whitened furze.  The mist thickened.  A curlew was whistling on its
invisible way, far up; and that wistful, wild calling seemed the very
voice of the day.  Keeping in view the glint of the road, we galloped;
rejoicing, both of us, to be free of the jog jog of the lanes.

And first the voice of the curlew died; then the glint of the road
vanished; and we were quite alone.  Even the furze was gone; no shape of
anything left, only the black, peaty ground, and the thickening mist.  We
might as well have been that lonely bird crossing up there in the blind
white nothingness, like a human spirit wandering on the undiscovered moor
of its own future.

The mare jumped a pile of stones, which appeared, as it were, after we
had passed over; and it came into my mind that, if we happened to strike
one of the old quarry pits, we should infallibly be killed. Somehow,
there was pleasure in this thought, that we might, or might not, strike
that old quarry pit.  The blood in us being hot, we had pure joy in
charging its white, impalpable solidity, which made way, and at once
closed in behind us.  There was great fun in this yard-by-yard discovery
that we were not yet dead, this flying, shelterless challenge to whatever
might lie out there, five yards in front.  We felt supremely above the
wish to know that our necks were safe; we were happy, panting in the
vapour that beat against our faces from the sheer speed of our galloping.
Suddenly the ground grew lumpy and made up-hill.  The mare slackened
pace; we stopped.  Before us, behind, to right and left, white vapour.
No sky, no distance, barely the earth.  No wind in our faces, no wind
anywhere. At first we just got our breath, thought nothing, talked a
little.  Then came a chillness, a faint clutching over the heart.  The
mare snuffled; we turned and made down-hill.  And still the mist
thickened, and seemed to darken ever so little; we went slowly, suddenly
doubtful of all that was in front.  There came into our minds visions, so
distant in that darkening vapour, of a warm stall and manger of oats; of
tea and a log fire.  The mist seemed to have fingers now, long, dark
white, crawling fingers; it seemed, too, to have in its sheer silence a
sort of muttered menace, a shuddery lurkingness, as if from out of it
that spirit of the unknown, which in hot blood we had just now so
gleefully mocked, were creeping up at us, intent on its vengeance. Since
the ground no longer sloped, we could not go down-hill; there were no
means left of telling in what direction we were moving, and we stopped to
listen.  There was no sound, not one tiny noise of water, wind in trees,
or man; not even of birds or the moor ponies. And the mist darkened.  The
mare reached her head down and walked on, smelling at the heather; every
time she sniffed, one's heart quivered, hoping she had found the way.
She threw up her head, snorted, and stood still; and there passed just in
front of us a pony and her foal, shapes of scampering dusk, whisked like
blurred shadows across a sheet.  Hoof-silent in the long heather--as ever
were visiting ghosts--they were gone in a flash.  The mare plunged
forward, following.  But, in the feel of her gallop, and the feel of my
heart, there was no more that ecstasy of facing the unknown; there was
only the cold, hasty dread of loneliness.  Far asunder as the poles were
those two sensations, evoked by this same motion.  The mare swerved
violently and stopped.  There, passing within three yards, from the same
direction as before, the soundless shapes of the pony and her foal flew
by again, more intangible, less dusky now against the darker screen.
Were we, then, to be haunted by those bewildering uncanny ones, flitting
past ever from the same direction?  This time the mare did not follow, but
stood still; knowing as well as I that direction was quite lost.  Soon,
with a whimper, she picked her way on again, smelling at the heather.
And the mist darkened!

Then, out of the heart of that dusky whiteness, came a tiny sound; we
stood, not breathing, turning our heads.  I could see the mare's eye
fixed and straining at the vapour.  The tiny sound grew till it became
the muttering of wheels.  The mare dashed forward.  The muttering ceased
untimely; but she did not stop; turning abruptly to the left, she slid,
scrambled, and dropped into a trot.  The mist seemed whiter below us; we
were on the road.  And involuntarily there came from me a sound, not
quite a shout, not quite an oath.  I saw the mare's eye turn back,
faintly derisive, as who should say: Alone I did it!  Then slowly,
comfortably, a little ashamed, we jogged on, in the mood of men and
horses when danger is over.  So pleasant it seemed now, in one short
half-hour, to have passed through the circle-swing of the emotions, from
the ecstasy of hot recklessness to the clutching of chill fear.  But the
meeting-point of those two sensations we had left out there on the
mysterious moor!  Why, at one moment, had we thought it finer than
anything on earth to risk the breaking of our necks; and the next,
shuddered at being lost in the darkening mist with winter night fast
coming on?

And very luxuriously we turned once more into the lanes, enjoying the
past, scenting the future.  Close to home, the first little eddy of wind
stirred, and the song of dripping twigs began; an owl hooted, honey-soft,
in the fog.  We came on two farm hands mending the lane at the turn of
the avenue, and, curled on the top of the bank, their cosy red collie
pup, waiting for them to finish work for the day. He raised his sharp
nose and looked at us dewily.  We turned down, padding softly in the wet
fox-red drifts under the beechtrees, whereon the last leaves still
flickered out in the darkening whiteness, that now seemed so little
eerie.  We passed the grey-green skeleton of the farm-yard gate.  A hen
ran across us, clucking, into the dusk.  The maze drew her long,
home-coming snuffle, and stood still.
1910.



THE PROCESSION

In one of those corners of our land canopied by the fumes of blind
industry, there was, on that day, a lull in darkness.  A fresh wind had
split the customary heaven, or roof of hell; was sweeping long drifts of
creamy clouds across a blue still pallid with reek.  The sun even
shone--a sun whose face seemed white and wondering.  And under that rare
sun all the little town, among its slag heaps and few tall chimneys, had
an air of living faster.  In those continuous courts and alleys, where
the women worked, smoke from each little forge rose and dispersed into
the wind with strange alacrity; amongst the women, too, there was that
same eagerness, for the sunshine had crept in and was making pale all
those dark-raftered, sooted ceilings which covered them in, together with
their immortal comrades, the small open furnaces.  About their work they
had been busy since seven o'clock; their feet pressing the leather lungs
which fanned the conical heaps of glowing fuel, their hands poking into
the glow a thin iron rod till the end could be curved into a fiery hook;
snapping it with a mallet; threading it with tongs on to the chain;
hammering, closing the link; and; without a second's pause, thrusting the
iron rod again into the glow.  And while they worked they chattered,
laughed sometimes, now and then sighed.  They seemed of all ages and all
types; from her who looked like a peasant of Provence, broad, brown, and
strong, to the weariest white consumptive wisp; from old women of
seventy, with straggling grey hair, to fifteen-year-old girls.  In the
cottage forges there would be but one worker, or two at most; in the shop
forges four, or even five, little glowing heaps; four or five of the
grimy, pale lung-bellows; and never a moment without a fiery hook about
to take its place on the growing chains, never a second when the thin
smoke of the forges, and of those lives consuming slowly in front of
them, did not escape from out of the dingy, whitewashed spaces past the
dark rafters, away to freedom.

But there had been in the air that morning something more than the white
sunlight.  There had been anticipation.  And at two o'clock began
fulfilment.  The forges were stilled, and from court and alley forth came
the women.  In their ragged working clothes, in their best clothes--so
little different; in bonnets, in hats, bareheaded; with babies born and
unborn, they swarmed into the high street and formed across it behind the
band.  A strange, magpie, jay-like flock; black, white, patched with
brown and green and blue, shifting, chattering, laughing, seeming
unconscious of any purpose.  A thousand and more of them, with faces
twisted and scored by those myriad deformings which a desperate
town-toiling and little food fasten on human visages; yet with hardly a
single evil or brutal face.  Seemingly it was not easy to be evil or
brutal on a wage that scarcely bound soul and body.  A thousand and more
of the poorest-paid and hardest-worked human beings in the world.

On the pavement alongside this strange, acquiescing assembly of revolt,
about to march in protest against the conditions of their lives, stood a
young woman without a hat and in poor clothes, but with a sort of beauty
in her rough-haired, high cheek-boned, dark-eyed face.  She was not one
of them; yet, by a stroke of Nature's irony, there was graven on her face
alone of all those faces, the true look of rebellion; a haughty, almost
fierce, uneasy look--an untamed look.  On all the other thousand faces
one could see no bitterness, no fierceness, not even enthusiasm; only a
half-stolid, half-vivacious patience and eagerness as of children going
to a party.

The band played; and they began to march.

Laughing, talking, waving flags, trying to keep step; with the same
expression slowly but surely coming over every face; the future was not;
only the present--this happy present of marching behind the discordance
of a brass band; this strange present of crowded movement and laughter in
open air.

We others--some dozen accidentals like myself, and the tall, grey-haired
lady interested in "the people," together with those few kind spirits in
charge of "the show"--marched too, a little self-conscious, desiring with
a vague military sensation to hold our heads up, but not too much, under
the eyes of the curious bystanders. These--nearly all men--were
well-wishers, it was said, though their faces, pale from their own work
in shop or furnace, expressed nothing but apathy.  They wished well, very
dumbly, in the presence of this new thing, as if they found it queer that
women should be doing something for themselves; queer and rather
dangerous.  A few, indeed, shuffled along between the column and the
little hopeless shops and grimy factory sheds, and one or two accompanied
their women, carrying the baby.  Now and then there passed us some
better-to-do citizen-a housewife, or lawyer's clerk, or ironmonger, with
lips pressed rather tightly together and an air of taking no notice of
this disturbance of traffic, as though the whole thing were a rather poor
joke which they had already heard too often.

So, with laughter and a continual crack of voices our jay-like crew swung
on, swaying and thumping in the strange ecstasy of irreflection, happy to
be moving they knew not where, nor greatly why, under the visiting sun,
to the sound of murdered music. Whenever the band stopped playing,
discipline became as tatterdemalion as the very flags and garments; but
never once did they lose that look of essential order, as if indeed they
knew that, being the worst-served creatures in the Christian world, they
were the chief guardians of the inherent dignity of man.

Hatless, in the very front row, marched a tall slip of a girl,
arrow-straight, and so thin, with dirty fair hair, in a blouse and skirt
gaping behind, ever turning her pretty face on its pretty slim neck from
side to side, so that one could see her blue eyes sweeping here, there,
everywhere, with a sort of flower-like wildness, as if a secret embracing
of each moment forbade her to let them rest on anything and break this
pleasure of just marching.  It seemed that in the never-still eyes of
that anaemic, happy girl the spirit of our march had elected to enshrine
itself and to make thence its little excursions to each ecstatic
follower.  Just behind her marched a little old woman--a maker of chains,
they said, for forty years--whose black slits of eyes were sparkling,
who fluttered a bit of ribbon, and reeled with her sense of the exquisite
humour of the world.  Every now and then she would make a rush at one of
her leaders to demonstrate how immoderately glorious was life.  And each
time she spoke the woman next to her, laden with a heavy baby, went off
into squeals of laughter.  Behind her, again, marched one who beat time
with her head and waved a little bit of stick, intoxicated by this noble
music.

For an hour the pageant wound through the dejected street, pursuing
neither method nor set route, till it came to a deserted slag-heap,
selected for the speech-making.  Slowly the motley regiment swung into
that grim amphitheatre under the pale sunshine; and, as I watched, a
strange fancy visited my brain.  I seemed to see over every ragged head
of those marching women a little yellow flame, a thin, flickering gleam,
spiring upward and blown back by the wind.  A trick of the sunlight,
maybe?  Or was it that the life in their hearts, the inextinguishable
breath of happiness, had for a moment escaped prison, and was fluttering
at the pleasure of the breeze?

Silent now, just enjoying the sound of the words thrown down to them,
they stood, unimaginably patient, with that happiness of they knew not
what gilding the air above them between the patchwork ribands of their
poor flags.  If they could not tell very much why they had come, nor
believe very much that they would gain anything by coming; if their
demonstration did not mean to the world quite all that oratory would have
them think; if they themselves were but the poorest, humblest, least
learned women in the land--for all that, it seemed to me that in those
tattered, wistful figures, so still, so trustful, I was looking on such
beauty as I had never beheld.  All the elaborated glory of things made,
the perfected dreams of aesthetes, the embroideries of romance, seemed as
nothing beside this sudden vision of the wild goodness native in humble
hearts.
1910.



A CHRISTIAN

One day that summer, I came away from a luncheon in company of an old
College chum.  Always exciting to meet those one hasn't seen for years;
and as we walked across the Park together I kept looking at him askance.
He had altered a good deal.  Lean he always was, but now very lean, and
so upright that his parson's coat was overhung by the back of his long
and narrow head, with its dark grizzled hair, which thought had not yet
loosened on his forehead.  His clean-shorn face, so thin and oblong, was
remarkable only for the eyes: dark-browed and lashed, and coloured like
bright steel, they had a fixity in them, a sort of absence, on one
couldn't tell what business.  They made me think of torture.  And his
mouth always gently smiling, as if its pinched curly sweetness had been
commanded, was the mouth of a man crucified--yes, crucified!

Tramping silently over the parched grass, I felt that if we talked, we
must infallibly disagree; his straight-up, narrow forehead so suggested a
nature divided within itself into compartments of iron.

It was hot that day, and we rested presently beside the Serpentine. On
its bright waters were the usual young men, sculling themselves to and
fro with their usual sad energy, the usual promenaders loitering and
watching them, the usual dog that swam when it did not bark, and barked
when it did not swim; and my friend sat smiling, twisting between his
thin fingers the little gold cross on his silk vest.

Then all of a sudden we did begin to talk; and not of those matters of
which the well-bred naturally converse--the habits of the rarer kinds of
ducks, and the careers of our College friends, but of something never
mentioned in polite society.

At lunch our hostess had told me the sad story of an unhappy marriage,
and I had itched spiritually to find out what my friend, who seemed so
far away from me, felt about such things.  And now I determined to find
out.

"Tell me," I asked him, "which do you consider most important--the letter
or the spirit of Christ's teachings?"

"My dear fellow," he answered gently, "what a question!  How can you
separate them?"

"Well, is it not the essence of His doctrine that the spirit is all
important, and the forms of little value?  Does not that run through all
the Sermon on the Mount?"

"Certainly."

"If, then," I said, "Christ's teaching is concerned with the spirit, do
you consider that Christians are justified in holding others bound by
formal rules of conduct, without reference to what is passing in their
spirits?"

"If it is for their good."

"What enables you to decide what is for their good?"

"Surely, we are told."

"Not to judge, that ye be not judged."

"Oh! but we do not, ourselves, judge; we are but impersonal ministers of
the rules of God."

"Ah!  Do general rules of conduct take account of the variations of the
individual spirit?"

He looked at me hard, as if he began to scent heresy.

"You had better explain yourself more fully," he said.  "I really don't
follow."

"Well, let us take a concrete instance.  We know Christ's saying of the
married that they are one flesh!  But we know also that there are wives
who continue to live the married life with dreadful feelings of spiritual
revolt wives who have found out that, in spite of all their efforts, they
have no spiritual affinity with their husbands.  Is that in accordance
with the spirit of Christ's teaching, or is it not?"

"We are told----" he began.

"I have admitted the definite commandment: 'They twain shall be one
flesh.'  There could not be, seemingly, any more rigid law laid down; how
do you reconcile it with the essence of Christ's teaching?  Frankly, I
want to know: Is there or is there not a spiritual coherence in
Christianity, or is it only a gathering of laws and precepts, with no
inherent connected spiritual philosophy?"

"Of course," he said, in his long-suffering voice, "we don't look at
things like that--for us there is no questioning."

"But how do you reconcile such marriages as I speak of, with the spirit
of Christ's teaching?  I think you ought to answer me."

"Oh!  I can, perfectly," he answered; "the reconciliation is through
suffering.  What a poor woman in such a case must suffer makes for the
salvation of her spirit.  That is the spiritual fulfilment, and in such a
case the justification of the law."

"So then," I said, "sacrifice or suffering is the coherent thread of
Christian philosophy?"

"Suffering cheerfully borne," he answered.

"You do not think," I said, "that there is a touch of extravagance in
that?  Would you say, for example, that an unhappy marriage is a more
Christian thing than a happy one, where there is no suffering, but only
love?"

A line came between his brows.  "Well!" he said at last, "I would say, I
think, that a woman who crucifies her flesh with a cheerful spirit in
obedience to God's law, stands higher in the eyes of God than one who
undergoes no such sacrifice in her married life."  And I had the feeling
that his stare was passing through me, on its way to an unseen goal.

"You would desire, then, I suppose, suffering as the greatest blessing
for yourself?"

"Humbly," he said, "I would try to."

"And naturally, for others?"

"God forbid!"

"But surely that is inconsistent."

He murmured: "You see, I have suffered."

We were silent.  At last I said: "Yes, that makes much which was dark
quite clear to me."

"Oh?" he asked.

I answered slowly: "Not many men, you know, even in your profession, have
really suffered.  That is why they do not feel the difficulty which you
feel in desiring suffering for others."

He threw up his head exactly as if I had hit him on the jaw: "It's
weakness in me, I know," he said.

"I should have rather called it weakness in them.  But suppose you are
right, and that it's weakness not to be able to desire promiscuous
suffering for others, would you go further and say that it is Christian
for those, who have not experienced a certain kind of suffering, to force
that particular kind on others?"

He sat silent for a full minute, trying evidently to reach to the bottom
of my thought.

"Surely not," he said at last, "except as ministers of God's laws."

"You do not then think that it is Christian for the husband of such a
woman to keep her in that state of suffering--not being, of course, a
minister of God?"

He began stammering at that: "I--I----" he said.  "No; that is, I think
not-not Christian.  No, certainly."

"Then, such a marriage, if persisted in, makes of the wife indeed a
Christian, but of the husband--the reverse."

"The answer to that is clear," he said quietly: "The husband must
abstain."

"Yes, that is, perhaps, coherently Christian, on your theory: They would
then both suffer.  But the marriage, of course, has become no marriage.
They are no longer one flesh."

He looked at me, almost impatiently as if to say: Do not compel me to
enforce silence on you!

"But, suppose," I went on, "and this, you know; is the more frequent
case, the man refuses to abstain.  Would you then say it was more
Christian to allow him to become daily less Christian through his
unchristian conduct, than to relieve the woman of her suffering at the
expense of the spiritual benefit she thence derives?  Why, in fact, do
you favour one case more than the other?"

"All question of relief," he replied, "is a matter for Caesar; it cannot
concern me."

There had come into his face a rigidity--as if I might hit it with my
questions till my tongue was tired, and it be no more moved than the
bench on which we were sitting.

"One more question," I said, "and I have done.  Since the Christian
teaching is concerned with the spirit and not forms, and the thread in it
which binds all together and makes it coherent, is that of suffering----"

"Redemption by suffering," he put in.

"If you will--in one word, self-crucifixion--I must ask you, and don't
take it personally, because of what you told me of yourself: In life
generally, one does not accept from people any teaching that is not the
result of firsthand experience on their parts.  Do you believe that this
Christian teaching of yours is valid from the mouths of those who have
not themselves suffered--who have not themselves, as it were, been
crucified?"

He did not answer for a minute; then he said, with painful slowness:
"Christ laid hands on his apostles and sent them forth; and they in turn,
and so on, to our day."

"Do you say, then, that this guarantees that they have themselves
suffered, so that in spirit they are identified with their teaching?"

He answered bravely: "No--I do not--I cannot say that in fact it is
always so."

"Is not then their teaching born of forms, and not of the spirit?"

He rose; and with a sort of deep sorrow at my stubbornness said: "We are
not permitted to know the way of this; it is so ordained; we must have
faith."

As he stood there, turned from me, with his hat off, and his neck
painfully flushed under the sharp outcurve of his dark head, a feeling of
pity surged up in me, as if I had taken an unfair advantage.

"Reason--coherence--philosophy," he said suddenly.  "You don't
understand.  All that is nothing to me--nothing--nothing!"
1911



WIND IN THE ROCKS

Though dew-dark when we set forth, there was stealing into the frozen air
an invisible white host of the wan-winged light--born beyond the
mountains, and already, like a drift of doves, harbouring grey-white high
up on the snowy skycaves of Monte Cristallo; and within us, tramping over
the valley meadows, was the incredible elation of those who set out
before the sun has risen; every minute of the precious day before us--we
had not lost one!

At the mouth of that enchanted chine, across which for a million years
the howdahed rock elephant has marched, but never yet passed from sight,
we crossed the stream, and among the trees began our ascent.  Very far
away the first cowbells chimed; and, over the dark heights, we saw the
thin, sinking moon, looking like the white horns of some devotional beast
watching and waiting up there for the god of light.  That god came
slowly, stalking across far over our heads from top to top; then, of a
sudden, his flame-white form was seen standing in a gap of the valley
walls; the trees flung themselves along the ground before him, and
censers of pine gum began swinging in the dark aisles, releasing their
perfumed steam.  Throughout these happy ravines where no man lives, he
shows himself naked and unashamed, the colour of pale honey; on his
golden hair such shining as one has not elsewhere seen; his eyes like old
wine on fire.  And already he had swept his hand across the invisible
strings, for there had arisen, the music of uncurling leaves and flitting
things.

A legend runs, that, driven from land to land by Christians, Apollo hid
himself in Lower Austria, but those who ever they saw him there in the
thirteenth century were wrong; it was to these enchanted chines,
frequented only by the mountain shepherds, that he certainly came.

And as we were lying on the grass, of the first alp, with the star
gentians--those fallen drops of the sky--and the burnt-brown dandelions,
and scattered shrubs of alpen-rose round us, we were visited by one of
these very shepherds, passing with his flock--the fiercest-looking man
who ever, spoke in a gentle voice; six feet high, with an orange cloak,
bare knees; burnt as the very dandelions, a beard blacker than black, and
eyes more glorious than if sun and night had dived and were lying
imprisoned in their depths.  He spoke in an unknown tongue, and could
certainly not understand any word of ours; but he smelled of the good
earth, and only through interminable watches under sun and stars could so
great a gentleman have been perfected.

Presently, while we rested outside that Alpine hut which faces the three
sphinx-like mountains, there came back, from climbing the smallest and
most dangerous of those peaks, one, pale from heat, and trembling with
fatigue; a tall man, with long brown hands, and a long, thin, bearded
face.  And, as he sipped cautiously of red wine and water, he looked at
his little conquered mountain.  His kindly, screwed-up eyes, his kindly,
bearded lips, even his limbs seemed smiling; and not for the world would
we have jarred with words that rapt, smiling man, enjoying the sacred
hour of him who has just proved himself.  In silence we watched, in
silence left him smiling, knowing somehow that we should remember him all
our days.  For there was in his smile the glamour of adventure just for
the sake of danger; all that high instinct which takes a man out of his
chair to brave what he need not.

Between that hut and the three mountains lies a saddle--astride of all
beauty and all colour, master of a titanic chaos of deep clefts, tawny
heights, red domes, far snow, and the purple of long shadows; and,
standing there, we comprehended a little of what Earth had been through
in her time, to have made this playground for most glorious demons.
Mother Earth!  What travail undergone, what long heroic throes, had
brought on her face such majesty!

Hereabout edelweiss was clinging to smoothed-out rubble; but a little
higher, even the everlasting plant was lost, there was no more life. And
presently we lay down on the mountain side, rather far apart.  Up here
above trees and pasture the wind had a strange, bare voice, free from all
outer influence, sweeping along with a cold, whiffing sound. On the warm
stones, in full sunlight, uplifted over all the beauty of Italy, one felt
at first only delight in space and wild loveliness, in the unknown
valleys, and the strength of the sun.  It was so good to be alive; so
ineffably good to be living in this most wonderful world, drinking air
nectar.

Behind us, from the three mountains, came the frequent thud and scuffle
of falling rocks, loosened by rains.  The wind, mist, and winter snow had
ground the powdery stones on which we lay to a pleasant bed, but once on
a time they, too, had clung up there.  And very slowly, one could not say
how or when, the sense of joy began changing to a sense of fear.  The
awful impersonality of those great rock-creatures, the terrible
impartiality of that cold, clinging wind which swept by, never an inch
lifted above ground!  Not one tiny soul, the size of a midge or rock
flower, lived here.  Not one little "I" breathed here, and loved!

And we, too, some day would no longer love, having become part of this
monstrous, lovely earth, of that cold, whiffling air.  To be no longer
able to love!  It seemed incredible, too grim to bear; yet it was true!
To become powder, and the wind; no more to feel the sunlight; to be loved
no more!  To become a whiffling noise, cold, without one's self!  To
drift on the breath of that noise, homeless!  Up here, there were not even
those little velvet, grey-white flower-comrades we had plucked.  No life!
Nothing but the creeping wind, and those great rocky heights, whence came
the sound of falling-symbols of that cold, untimely state into which we,
too, must pass. Never more to love, nor to be loved!  One could but turn
to the earth, and press one's face to it, away from the wild loveliness.
Of what use loveliness that must be lost; of what use loveliness when one
could not love?  The earth was warm and firm beneath the palms of the
hands; but there still came the sound of the impartial wind, and the
careless roar of the stories falling.

Below, in those valleys amongst the living trees and grass, was the
comradeship of unnumbered life, so that to pass out into Peace, to step
beyond, to die, seemed but a brotherly act, amongst all those others; but
up here, where no creature breathed, we saw the heart of the desert that
stretches before each little human soul.  Up here, it froze the spirit;
even Peace seemed mocking--hard as a stone.  Yet, to try and hide, to
tuck one's head under one's own wing, was not possible in this air so
crystal clear, so far above incense and the narcotics of set creeds, and
the fevered breath of prayers and protestations.  Even to know that
between organic and inorganic matter there is no gulf fixed, was of no
peculiar comfort.  The jealous wind came creeping over the lifeless
limestone, removing even the poor solace of its warmth; one turned from
it, desperate, to look up at the sky, the blue, burning, wide, ineffable,
far sky.

Then slowly, without reason, that icy fear passed into a feeling, not of
joy, not of peace, but as if Life and Death were exalted into what was
neither life nor death, a strange and motionless vibration, in which one
had been merged, and rested, utterly content, equipoised, divested of
desire, endowed with life and death.

But since this moment had come before its time, we got up, and, close
together, marched on rather silently, in the hot sun.
1910.



MY DISTANT RELATIVE

Though I had not seen my distant relative for years--not, in fact, since
he was obliged to give Vancouver Island up as a bad job--I knew him at
once, when, with head a little on one side, and tea-cup held high, as if,
to confer a blessing, he said: "Hallo!" across the Club smoking-room.

Thin as a lath--not one ounce heavier--tall, and very upright, with his
pale forehead, and pale eyes, and pale beard, he had the air of a ghost
of a man.  He had always had that air.  And his voice--that
matter-of-fact and slightly nasal voice, with its thin, pragmatical
tone--was like a wraith of optimism, issuing between pale lips.  I
noticed; too, that his town habiliments still had their unspeakable pale
neatness, as if, poor things, they were trying to stare the daylight out
of countenance.

He brought his tea across to my bay window, with that wistful sociability
of his, as of a man who cannot always find a listener.

"But what are you doing in town?" I said.  "I thought you were in
Yorkshire with your aunt."

Over his round, light eyes, fixed on something in the street, the lids
fell quickly twice, as the film falls over the eyes of a parrot.

"I'm after a job," he answered.  "Must be on the spot just now."

And it seemed to me that I had heard those words from him before.

"Ah, yes," I said, "and do you think you'll get it?"

But even as I spoke I felt sorry, remembering how many jobs he had been
after in his time, and how soon they ended when he had got them.

He answered:

"Oh, yes!  They ought to give it me," then added rather suddenly: "You
never know, though.  People are so funny!"

And crossing his thin legs, he went on to tell me, with quaint
impersonality, a number of instances of how people had been funny in
connection with jobs he had not been given.

"You see," he ended, "the country's in such a state--capital going out of
it every day.  Enterprise being killed all over the place. There's
practically nothing to be had!"

"Ah!" I said, "you think it's worse, then, than it used to be?"

He smiled; in that smile there was a shade of patronage.

"We're going down-hill as fast as ever we can.  National character's
losing all its backbone.  No wonder, with all this molly-coddling going
on!"

"Oh!" I murmured, "molly-coddling?  Isn't that excessive?"

"Well!  Look at the way everything's being done for them!  The working
classes are losing their self-respect as fast as ever they can.  Their
independence is gone already!"

"You think?"

"Sure of it!  I'll give you an instance----" and he went on to describe
to me the degeneracy of certain working men employed by his aunt and his
eldest brother Claud and his youngest brother Alan.

"They don't do a stroke more than they're obliged," he ended; "they know
jolly well they've got their Unions, and their pensions, and this
Insurance, to fall back on."

It was evidently a subject on which he felt strongly.

"Yes," he muttered, "the nation is being rotted down."

And a faint thrill of surprise passed through me.  For the affairs of the
nation moved him so much more strongly than his own.  His voice already
had a different ring, his eyes a different look.  He eagerly leaned
forward, and his long, straight backbone looked longer and straighter
than ever.  He was less the ghost of a man.  A faint flush even had come
into his pale cheeks, and he moved his well-kept hands emphatically.

"Oh, yes!" he said: "The country is going to the dogs, right enough; but
you can't get them to see it.  They go on sapping and sapping the
independence of the people.  If the working man's to be looked after,
whatever he does--what on earth's to become of his go, and foresight, and
perseverance?"

In his rising voice a certain piquancy was left to its accent of the
ruling class by that faint twang, which came, I remembered, from some
slight defect in his tonsils.

"Mark my words!  So long as we're on these lines, we shall do nothing.
It's going against evolution.  They say Darwin's getting old-fashioned;
all I know is, he's good enough for me.  Competition is the only thing."

"But competition," I said, "is bitter cruel, and some people can't stand
against it!"  And I looked at him rather hard: "Do you object to putting
any sort of floor under the feet of people like that?"

He let his voice drop a little, as if in deference to my scruples.

"Ah!" he said; "but if you once begin this sort of thing, there's no end
to it.  It's so insidious.  The more they have, the more they want; and
all the time they're losing fighting power.  I've thought pretty deeply
about this.  It's shortsighted; it really doesn't do!"

"But," I said, "surely you're not against saving people from being
knocked out of time by old age, and accidents like illness, and the
fluctuations of trade?"

"Oh!" he said, "I'm not a bit against charity.  Aunt Emma's splendid
about that.  And Claud's awfully good.  I do what I can, myself."  He
looked at me, so queerly deprecating, that I quite liked him at that
moment.  At heart--I felt he was a good fellow.  "All I think is," he
went on, "that to give them something that they can rely on as a matter
of course, apart from their own exertions, is the wrong principle
altogether," and suddenly his voice began to rise again, and his eyes to
stare.  "I'm convinced that all this doing things for other people, and
bolstering up the weak, is rotten.  It stands to reason that it must be."

He had risen to his feet, so preoccupied with the wrongness of that
principle that he seemed to have forgotten my presence.  And as he stood
there in the window the light was too strong for him.  All the thin
incapacity of that shadowy figure was pitilessly displayed; the desperate
narrowness in that long, pale face; the wambling look of those pale,
well-kept hands--all that made him such a ghost of a man. But his nasal,
dogmatic voice rose and rose.

"There's nothing for it but bracing up!  We must cut away all this State
support; we must teach them to rely on themselves.  It's all sheer
pauperisation."

And suddenly there shot through me the fear that he might burst one of
those little blue veins in his pale forehead, so vehement had he become;
and hastily I changed the subject.

"Do you like living up there with your aunt?" I asked: "Isn't it a bit
quiet?"

He turned, as if I had awakened him from a dream.

"Oh, well!" he said, "it's only till I get this job."

"Let me see--how long is it since you----?"

"Four years.  She's very glad to have me, of course."

"And how's your brother Claud?"

"Oh!  All right, thanks; a bit worried with the estate.  The poor old
gov'nor left it in rather a mess, you know."

"Ah!  Yes.  Does he do other work?"

"Oh!  Always busy in the parish."

"And your brother Richard?"

"He's all right.  Came home this year.  Got just enough to live on, with
his pension--hasn't saved a rap, of course."

"And Willie?  Is he still delicate?"

"Yes."

"I'm sorry."

"Easy job, his, you know.  And even if his health does give out, his
college pals will always find him some sort of sinecure.  So jolly
popular, old Willie!"

"And Alan?  I haven't heard anything of him since his Peruvian thing came
to grief.  He married, didn't he?"

"Rather!  One of the Burleys.  Nice girl--heiress; lot of property in
Hampshire.  He looks after it for her now."

"Doesn't do anything else, I suppose?"

"Keeps up his antiquarianism."

I had exhausted the members of his family.

Then, as though by eliciting the good fortunes of his brothers I had cast
some slur upon himself, he said suddenly: "If the railway had come, as it
ought to have, while I was out there, I should have done quite well with
my fruit farm."

"Of course," I agreed; "it was bad luck.  But after all, you're sure to
get a job soon, and--so long as you can live up there with your aunt--you
can afford to wait, and not bother."

"Yes," he murmured.  And I got up.

"Well, it's been very jolly to hear about you all!"

He followed me out.

"Awfully glad, old man," he said, "to have seen you, and had this talk.
I was feeling rather low.  Waiting to know whether I get that job--it's
not lively."

He came down the Club steps with me.  By the door of my cab a loafer was
standing; a tall tatterdemalion with a pale, bearded face.  My distant
relative fended him away, and leaning through the window, murmured:
"Awful lot of these chaps about now!"

For the life of me I could not help looking at him very straight. But no
flicker of apprehension crossed his face.

"Well, good-by again!" he said: "You've cheered me up a lot!"

I glanced back from my moving cab.  Some monetary transaction was passing
between him and the loafer, but, short-sighted as I am, I found it
difficult to decide which of those tall, pale, bearded figures was giving
the other one a penny. And by some strange freak an awful vision shot up
before me--of myself, and my distant relative, and Claud, and Richard,
and Willie, and Alan, all suddenly relying on ourselves.  I took out my
handkerchief to mop my brow; but a thought struck me, and I put it back.
Was it possible for me, and my distant relatives, and their distant
relatives, and so on to infinity of those who be longed to a class
provided by birth with a certain position, raised by Providence on to a
platform made up of money inherited, of interest, of education fitting us
for certain privileged pursuits, of friends similarly endowed, of
substantial homes, and substantial relatives of some sort or other, on
whom we could fall back--was it possible for any of us ever to be in the
position of having to rely absolutely on ourselves?  For several minutes
I pondered that question; and slowly I came to the conclusion that, short
of crime, or that unlikely event, marooning, it was not possible.  Never,
never--try as we might--could any single one of us be quite in the
position of one of those whose approaching pauperisation my distant
relative had so vehemently deplored.  We were already pauperised.  If we
served our country, we were pensioned....  If we inherited land, it could
not be taken from us. If we went into the Church, we were there for life,
whether we were suitable or no.  If we attempted the more hazardous
occupations of the law, medicine, the arts, or business, there were
always those homes, those relations, those friends of ours to fall back
on, if we failed.  No!  We could never have to rely entirely on
ourselves; we could never be pauperised more than we were already!  And a
light burst in on me.  That explained why my distant relative felt so
keenly.  It bit him, for he saw, of course, how dreadful it would be for
these poor people of the working classes when legislation had succeeded
in placing them in the humiliating position in which we already were--the
dreadful position of having something to depend on apart from our own
exertions, some sort of security in our lives. I saw it now.  It was his
secret pride, gnawing at him all the time, that made him so rabid on the
point.  He was longing, doubtless, day and night, not to have had a
father who had land, and had left a sister well enough off to keep him
while he was waiting for his job. He must be feeling how horribly
degrading was the position of Claud--inheriting that land; and of
Richard, who, just because he had served in the Indian Civil Service, had
got to live on a pension all the rest of his days; and of Willie, who was
in danger at any moment, if his health--always delicate--gave out, of
having a sinecure found for him by his college friends; and of Alan,
whose educated charm had enabled him to marry an heiress and live by
managing her estates. All, all sapped of go and foresight and
perseverance by a cruel Providence!  That was what he was really feeling,
and concealing, be cause he was too well-bred to show his secret grief.
And I felt suddenly quite warm toward him, now that I saw how he was
suffering. I understood how bound he felt in honour to combat with all
his force this attempt to place others in his own distressing situation.
At the same time I was honest enough to confess to myself sitting there
in the cab--that I did not personally share that pride of his, or feel
that I was being rotted by my own position; I even felt some dim
gratitude that if my powers gave out at any time, and I had not saved
anything, I should still not be left destitute to face the prospect of a
bleak and impoverished old age; and I could not help a weak pleasure in
the thought that a certain relative security was being guaranteed to
those people of the working classes who had never had it before.  At the
same moment I quite saw that to a prouder and stronger heart it must
indeed be bitter to have to sit still under your own security, and even
more bitter to have to watch that pauperising security coming closer and
closer to others--for the generous soul is always more concerned for
others than for himself. No doubt, I thought, if truth were known, my
distant relative is consumed with longing to change places with that
loafer who tried to open the door of my cab--for surely he must see, as I
do, that that is just what he himself--having failed to stand the
pressure of competition in his life--would be doing if it were not for
the accident of his birth, which has so lamentably insured him against
coming to that.

"Yes," I thought, "you have learnt something to-day; it does not do, you
see, hastily to despise those distant relatives of yours, who talk about
pauperising and molly-coddling the lower classes.  No, no!  One must look
deeper than that!  One must have generosity!"

And with that I stopped the cab and got out for I wanted a breath of air.
1911



THE BLACK GODMOTHER

Sitting out on the lawn at tea with our friend and his retriever, we had
been discussing those massacres of the helpless which had of late
occurred, and wondering that they should have been committed by the
soldiery of so civilised a State, when, in a momentary pause of our
astonishment, our friend, who had been listening in silence, crumpling
the drooping soft ear of his dog, looked up and said, "The cause of
atrocities is generally the violence of Fear.  Panic's at the back of
most crimes and follies."

Knowing that his philosophical statements were always the result of
concrete instance, and that he would not tell us what that instance was
if we asked him--such being his nature--we were careful not to agree.

He gave us a look out of those eyes of his, so like the eyes of a mild
eagle, and said abruptly: "What do you say to this then? . . . I was out
in the dog-days last year with this fellow of mine, looking for Osmunda,
and stayed some days in a village--never mind the name. Coming back one
evening from my tramp, I saw some boys stoning a mealy-coloured dog.  I
went up and told the young devils to stop it.  They only looked at me in
the injured way boys do, and one of them called out, 'It's mad, guv'nor!'
I told them to clear off, and they took to their heels.  The dog followed
me.  It was a young, leggy, mild looking mongrel, cross--I should
say--between a brown retriever and an Irish terrier.  There was froth
about its lips, and its eyes were watery; it looked indeed as if it might
be in distemper.  I was afraid of infection for this fellow of mine, and
whenever it came too close shooed it away, till at last it slunk off
altogether.  Well, about nine o'clock, when I was settling down to write
by the open window of my sitting-room--still daylight, and very quiet and
warm--there began that most maddening sound, the barking of an unhappy
dog.  I could do nothing with that continual 'Yap yap!' going on, and it
was too hot to shut the window; so I went out to see if I could stop it.
The men were all at the pub, and the women just finished with their
gossip; there was no sound at all but the continual barking of this dog,
somewhere away out in the fields.  I travelled by ear across three
meadows, till I came on a hay-stack by a pool of water.  There was the
dog sure enough--the same mealy-coloured mongrel, tied to a stake,
yapping, and making frantic little runs on a bit of rusty chain; whirling
round and round the stake, then standing quite still, and shivering.  I
went up and spoke to it, but it backed into the hay-stack, and there it
stayed shrinking away from me, with its tongue hanging out.  It had been
heavily struck by something on the head; the cheek was cut, one eye
half-closed, and an ear badly swollen.  I tried to get hold of it, but
the poor thing was beside itself with fear.  It snapped and flew round so
that I had to give it up, and sit down with this fellow here beside me,
to try and quiet it--a strange dog, you know, will generally form his
estimate of you from the way it sees you treat another dog.  I had to sit
there quite half an hour before it would let me go up to it, pull the
stake out, and lead it away.  The poor beast, though it was so feeble
from the blows it had received, was still half-frantic, and I didn't dare
to touch it; and all the time I took good care that this fellow here
didn't come too near.  Then came the question what was to be done.  There
was no vet, of course, and I'd no place to put it except my sitting-room,
which didn't belong to me.  But, looking at its battered head, and its
half-mad eyes, I thought: 'No trusting you with these bumpkins; you'll
have to come in here for the night!' Well, I got it in, and heaped two or
three of those hairy little red rugs landladies are so fond of, up in a
corner; and got it on to them, and put down my bread and milk.  But it
wouldn't eat--its sense of proportion was all gone, fairly destroyed by
terror.  It lay there moaning, and every now and then it raised its head
with a 'yap' of sheer fright, dreadful to hear, and bit the air, as if
its enemies were on it again; and this fellow of mine lay in the opposite
corner, with his head on his paw, watching it.  I sat up for a long time
with that poor beast, sick enough, and wondering how it had come to be
stoned and kicked and battered into this state; and next day I made it my
business to find out."

Our friend paused, scanned us a little angrily, and then went on: "It had
made its first appearance, it seems, following a bicyclist. There are
men, you know--save the mark--who, when their beasts get ill or too
expensive, jump on their bicycles and take them for a quick run, taking
care never to look behind them.  When they get back home they say:
'Hallo! where's Fido?'  Fido is nowhere, and there's an end!  Well, this
poor puppy gave up just as it got to our village; and, roaming shout in
search of water, attached itself to a farm labourer.  The man with
excellent intentions--as he told me himself--tried to take hold of it,
but too abruptly, so that it was startled, and snapped at him.  Whereon
he kicked it for a dangerous cur, and it went drifting back toward the
village, and fell in with the boys coming home from school.  It thought,
no doubt, that they were going to kick it too, and nipped one of them who
took it by the collar. Thereupon they hullabalooed and stoned it down the
road to where I found them.  Then I put in my little bit of torture, and
drove it away, through fear of infection to my own dog.  After that it
seems to have fallen in with a man who told me: 'Well, you see, he came
sneakin' round my house, with the children playin', and snapped at them
when they went to stroke him, so that they came running in to their
mother, an' she' called to me in a fine takin' about a mad dog. I ran out
with a shovel and gave 'im one, and drove him out.  I'm sorry if he
wasn't mad, he looked it right enough; you can't be too careful with
strange dogs.'  Its next acquaintance was an old stone-breaker, a very
decent sort.  'Well! you see,' the old man explained to me, 'the dog came
smellin' round my stones, an' it wouldn' come near, an' it wouldn' go
away; it was all froth and blood about the jaw, and its eyes glared green
at me.  I thought to meself, bein' the dog-days--I don't like the look o'
you, you look funny!  So I took a stone, an' got it here, just on the
ear; an' it fell over.  And I thought to meself: Well, you've got to
finish it, or it'll go bitin' somebody, for sure!  But when I come to it
with my hammer, the dog it got up--an' you know how it is when there's
somethin' you've 'alf killed, and you feel sorry, and yet you feel you
must finish it, an' you hit at it blind, you hit at it agen an' agen.
The poor thing, it wriggled and snapped, an' I was terrified it'd bite
me, an' some'ow it got away."'  Again our friend paused, and this time we
dared not look at him.

"The next hospitality it was shown," he went on presently, "was by a
farmer, who, seeing it all bloody, drove it off, thinking it had been
digging up a lamb that he'd just buried.  The poor homeless beast came
sneaking back, so he told his men to get rid of it.  Well, they got hold
of it somehow--there was a hole in its neck that looked as if they'd used
a pitchfork--and, mortally afraid of its biting them, but not liking, as
they told me, to drown it, for fear the owner might come on them, they
got a stake and a chain, and fastened it up, and left it in the water by
the hay-stack where I found it.  I had some conversation with that
farmer.  'That's right,' he said, 'but who was to know?  I couldn't have
my sheep worried.  The brute had blood on his muzzle.  These curs do a
lot of harm when they've once been blooded.  You can't run risks."'  Our
friend cut viciously at a dandelion with his stick.  "Run risks!" he
broke out suddenly: "That was it from beginning to end of that poor
beast's sufferings, fear!  From that fellow on the bicycle, afraid of the
worry and expense, as soon as it showed signs of distemper, to myself and
the man with the pitch fork--not one of us, I daresay, would have gone
out of our way to do it--a harm.  But we felt fear, and so by the law of
self-preservation, or what ever you like--it all began, till there the
poor thing was, with a battered head and a hole in its neck, ravenous
with hunger, and too distraught even to lap my bread and milk.  Yes, and
there's something uncanny about a suffering animal--we sat watching it,
and again we were afraid, looking at its eyes and the way it bit the air.
Fear!  It's the black godmother of all damnable things!"

Our friend bent down, crumpling and crumpling at his dog's ears.  We,
too, gazed at the ground, thinking of, that poor lost puppy, and the
horrible inevitability of all that happens, seeing men are what they are;
thinking of all the foul doings in the world, whose black godmother is
Fear.

"And what became of the poor dog?" one of us asked at last.

"When," said our friend slowly, "I'd had my fill of watching, I covered
it with a rug, took this fellow away with me, and went to bed.  There was
nothing else to do.  At dawn I was awakened by three dreadful cries--not
like a dog's at all.  I hurried down.  There was the poor beast--wriggled
out from under the rug-stretched on its side, dead.  This fellow of mine
had followed me in, and he went and sat down by the body.  When I spoke
to him he just looked round, and wagged his tail along the ground, but
would not come away; and there he sat till it was buried, very
interested, but not sorry at all."

Our friend was silent, looking angrily at something in the distance.

And we, too, were silent, seeing in spirit that vigil of early morning:
The thin, lifeless, sandy-coloured body, stretched on those red mats; and
this black creature--now lying at our feet--propped on its haunches like
the dog in "The Death of Procris," patient, curious, ungrieved, staring
down at it with his bright, interested eyes.
1912.





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