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Title: A Mere Accident
Author: Moore, George (George Augustus), 1852-1933
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 "A Mere Accident" ***

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A MERE ACCIDENT.

BY

GEORGE MOORE

AUTHOR OF "A MUMMER'S WIFE," "A MODERN LOVER,"
"A DRAMA IN MUSLIN," "SPRING DAYS," ETC.

Fifth Edition



TO

My Friends at Buckingham.

Nearly twenty years have gone since first we met, dear friends; time has
but strengthened our early affections, so for love token, for sign of
the years, I bring you this book--these views of your beautiful house
and hills where I have spent so many happy days, these last perhaps the
happiest of all.

G. M.



CHAPTER I.


Three hundred yards of smooth, broad, white road leading from Henfield,
a small town in Sussex. The grasses are lush, and the hedges are tall
and luxuriant. Restless boys scramble to and fro, quiet nursemaids
loiter, and a vagrant has sat down to rest though the bank is dripping
with autumn rain. How fair a prospect of southern England! Land of
exquisite homeliness and order; land of town that is country, of country
that is town; land of a hundred classes all deftly interwoven and all
waxing to one class--England. Land encrowned with the gifts of peaceful
days--days that live in thy face and the faces of thy children.

See it. The outlying villas with their porches and laurels, the red
tiled farm houses, and the brown barns, clustering beneath the wings of
beautiful trees--elm trees; see the flat plots of ground of the market
gardens, with figures bending over baskets of roots; see the factory
chimney; there are trees and gables everywhere; see the end of the
terrace, the gleam of glass, the flower vase, the flitting white of the
tennis players; see the long fields with the long team ploughing, see
the parish church, see the embowering woods, see the squire's house, see
everything and love it, for everything here is England.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three hundred yards of smooth, broad, white road, leading from Henfield,
a small town in Sussex. It disappears in the woods which lean across the
fields towards the downs. The great bluff heights can be seen, and at
the point where the roads cross, where the tall trunks are listed with
golden light, stands a large wooden gate and a small box-like lodge. A
lonely place in a densely-populated county. The gatekeeper is blind, and
his flute sounds doleful and strange, and the leaves are falling.

The private road is short and stony. Apparently space was found for it
with difficulty, and it got wedged between an enormous holly hedge and a
stiff wooden paling. But overhead the great branches fight upwards
through a tortuous growth to the sky, and, as you advance, Thornby Place
continues to puzzle you with its medley of curious and contradictory
aspects. For as the second gate, which is in iron, is approached, your
thoughts of rural things are rudely scattered by sight of what seems a
London mews. Reason with yourself. This very urban feature is occasioned
by the high brick wall which runs parallel with the stables, and this,
as you pass round to the front of the house, is hidden in the clothing
foliage of a line of evergreen oaks; continuing along the lawn, the
trees bend about the house--a wash of Naples-yellow, a few sharp Italian
lines and angles. To complete the sketch, indicate the wings of the
blown rooks on the sullen sky.

But our purpose lies deeper than that which inspires a water-colour
sketch. We must learn when and why that house was built; we must see how
the facts reconcile its somewhat tawdry, its somewhat suburban aspect,
with the richer and more romantic aspects of the park. The park is even
now, though it be the middle of autumn, full of blowing green, and the
brown circling woods, full of England and English home life. That single
tree in the foreground is a lime; what a splendour of leafage it will be
in the summer! Those four on the right are chestnuts, and those far
away, lying between us and the imperial downs, are elms; through that
vista you can see the grand line, the abrupt hollows, and the bit of
chalk road cut zig-zag out of the steep side. Then why the anomaly of
Italian urns and pilasters; why not red Elizabethan gables and diamond
casements?

Why not? Because at the beginning of the century, when Brighton was
being built, fragments of architectural gossip were flying about Sussex,
and one of these had found its way to, and had rested in, the heart of
the grandfather of the present owner: in a simple and bucolic way he had
been seized by a desire for taste and style, and the present building
was the result. Therefore it will be well to examine in detail the house
which young John Norton of '86 was so fond of declaring he could never
see without becoming instantly conscious of a sense of dislike, a hatred
that he was fond of describing as a sort of constitutional complaint
which he was never quite free from, and which any view of the Rockery,
or the pilasters of the French bow-window, or indeed of anything
pertaining to Thornby Place, called at once into an active existence.

Thornby Place is but two stories high, and its spruce walls of Portland
stone and ashlar work rise sheer out of the green sward; in front, Doric
columns support a heavy entablature, and there are urns at the corners
of the building. The six windows on the ground floor are topped with
round arches, and coming up the drive the house seems a perfect square.
But this regularity of structure has on the east side been somewhat
interfered with by a projection of some thirty or forty feet--a billiard
room, in fine, which during John's minority Mrs Norton had thought
proper to add. But she had lived to rue her experiment, for to this
young man, with his fretful craving for beauty and exactness of
proportion, it is an ever present source of complaint; and he had once
in a half humorous, half serious way, gone so far as to avail himself of
the "eyesore," as he called it, to excuse his constant absence from
home, and as a pretence for shutting himself up in his dear college,
with his cherished Latin authors. It was partly for the sake of avenging
himself on his mother, whose decisive practicality jarred the delicate
music of a nature extravagantly ideal, that he so severely criticised
all that she held sacred; and his strictures fell heaviest on the bow
window, looking somewhat like a temple with its small pilasters
supporting the rich cornice from which the dwarf vaulting springs. The
loggia, he admitted, although painfully out of keeping with the
surrounding country, was not wholly wanting in design, and he admired
its columns of a Doric order, and likewise the cornice that like a crown
encompasses the house. The entrance is under the loggia; there are round
arched windows on either side, a square window under the roof, and the
hall door is in solid oak studded with ornamental nails.

On entering you find yourself in a common white-painted passage, and on
either side of the drawing-room and dining-room are four allegorical
female heads: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Further on is the
hall, with its short polished oak stairway sloping gently to a balcony;
and there are white painted pillars that support the low roof, and these
pillars make a kind of entrance to the passage which traverses the
house from end to end. England--England clear and spotless! Nowhere do
you find a trace of dust or disorder. The arrangement of things is
somewhat mechanical. The curtains and wall-paper in the bedrooms are
suggestive of trades people and housemaids; no hastily laid aside book
or shawl breaks the excessive orderliness. Every piece of furniture is
in its appointed place, and nothing testifies to the voluntariness of
the occupant, or the impulse prompted by the need of the moment. On the
presses at the ends of the passages, where is stored the house linen,
cards are hung bearing this inscription: "When washing the woodwork the
servants are requested to use no soda without first obtaining permission
from Mrs Norton." This detail was especially distasteful to John; he
often thought of it when away, and it was one of the many irritating
impressions which went to make up the sum of his dislike of Thornby
Place.

Mrs Norton is now crying her last orders to the servants; and although
dressed elaborately as if to receive visitors, she has not yet laid
aside her basket of keys. She is in her forty-fifth year. Her figure is
square and strong, and not devoid of matronly charm. It approves a
healthy mode of life, and her quick movements are indicative of her
sharp determined mind. Her face is somewhat small for her shoulders, the
temples are narrow and high, the nose is long and thin, the cheek bones
are prominent, the chin is small, but unsuggestive of weakness, the lips
are pinched, the complexion is flushed, and the eyes set close above the
long thin nose are an icy grey. Mrs Norton is a handsome woman. Her
fashionably-cut silk fits her perfectly; the skirt is draped with grace
and precision, and the glossy shawl with the long soft fringe is elegant
and delightfully mundane. She raises her double gold eyeglasses, and,
contracting her forehead, stares pryingly about her; and so fashionable
is she, and her modernity is so picturesque, that for a moment you think
of the entrance of a duchess in the first act of a piece by Augier
played on the stage of the Français.

Still holding her gold-rimmed glasses to her eyes, she descended the
broad stairs to the hall, and from thence she went into the library.
There are two small bookcases filled with sombre volumes, and the busts
of Molière and Shakespeare attempt to justify the appellation. But there
is in the character, I was almost going to say in the atmosphere of the
room, that same undefinable, easily recognizable something which
proclaims the presence of non-readers. The traces of three or four days,
at the most a week, which John occasionally spent at Thornby Place, were
necessarily ephemeral, and the weakness of Mrs Norton's sight rendered
continuous reading impossible. Sometimes Kitty Hare brought a novel from
the circulating library to read aloud, and sometimes John forgot one of
his books, and a volume of Browning still lay on the table. The room was
filled with shadow and mournfulness, and in a dusty grate the fire
smouldered.

Between this room and the drawing-room, in a recess formed by the bow
window, Mrs Norton kept her birds, and still peering through her
gold-rimmed glasses, she examined their seed-troughs and water-glasses,
and, having satisfied herself as to their state, she entered the
drawing-room. There is little in this room; no pictures relieve the
widths of grey colourless wall paper, and the sombre oak floor is spaced
with a few pieces of furniture--heavy furniture enshrouded in grey linen
cloths. Three French cabinets, gaudy with vile veneer and bright brass,
are nailed against the walls, and the empty room is reflected dismally
in the great gold mirror which faces the vivid green of the sward and
the duller green of the encircling elms of the park.

Mrs Norton let her eyes wander, and sighing she went into the
dining-room. The dining-room is always the most human of rooms, and the
dining-room in Thornby Place, although allied to the other rooms in an
absence of fancy in its arrangement, shows prettily in contrast to them
with its white cloth cheerful with flowers and ferns. The floor is
covered with a tightly stretched red cloth, the chairs are set in
symmetrical rows; with the exception of a black clock there is no
ornament on the chimney-piece, and a red cloth screen conceals the door
used by the servants.

Mrs Norton walked with her quiet decisive step to the window, and
holding the gold-rimmed glasses to her eyes, she looked into the
landscape as if she were expecting someone to appear. The day was grimy
with clouds; mist had risen, and it hung out of the branches of the elms
like a veil of white gauze. Withdrawing her eye from the vague prospect
before her, Mrs Norton played listlessly with the tassel of one of the
blinds. "Surely," she thought, "he cannot have been foolish enough to
have walked over the downs such a day as this;" then, raising her
glasses again she looked out at the smallest angle with the wall of the
house, so that she should get sight of a vista through which any one
coming from Shoreham would have to pass. Presently a silhouette
appeared on the sullen sky. Mrs Norton moved precipitately from the
window, and she rang the bell sharply.

"John," she said, "Mr Hare has been going in for one of his long walks.
I see him now coming across the park. I am sure he has walked over the
downs; if so he must be wet through. Have a fire lighted in Mr Norton's
room, put up a pair of slippers for him: here is the key of Mr Norton's
wardrobe; let Mr Hare have what he wants."

And having detached one from the many bunches which filled her basket,
she went herself to open the door to her visitor. He was however still
some distance away, and standing in the shelter of the loggia she waited
for him, watched the vague silhouette resolving itself into colour and
line. But it was not until he climbed the iron fence which separated
the park from the garden grounds that the figure grew into its
individuality. Then you saw a man of about forty, about the medium
height and inclined to stoutness. His face was round and florid, and it
was set with sandy whiskers. His white necktie proclaimed him a parson,
and the grey mud with which his boots were bespattered told of his long
walk. As is generally the case with those of his profession, he spoke
fluently, his voice was melodious, and his rapid answers and his bright
eyes saved him from appearing commonplace. In addressing Mrs Norton he
used her Christian name.

"You are quite right, Lizzie, you are quite right; I shouldn't have done
it: had I known what a state the roads were in, I wouldn't have
attempted it."

"What is the use of talking like that, as if you didn't know what these
roads were like! For twenty years you have been making use of them, and
if you don't know what they are like in winter by this time, all I can
say is that you never will."

"I never saw them in the state they are now; such a slush of chalk and
clay was never seen."

"What can you expect after a month of heavy rain? You are wringing wet."

"Yes, I was caught in a heavy shower as I was crossing over by
Fresh-Combe-bottom. I am certainly not in a fit state to come into your
dining-room."

"I should think not indeed! I really believe if I were to allow it,
you would sit the whole afternoon in your wet clothes. You'll find
everything ready for you in John's room. I'll give you ten minutes. I'll
tell them to bring up lunch in ten minutes. Stay, will you have a glass
of wine before going upstairs?"

"I am afraid of spoiling your carpet."

"Yes, indeed! not one step further! I'll fetch it for you."

When the parson had drunk the wine, and was following the butler
upstairs, Mrs Norton returned to the dining-room with the empty glass in
her hand. She placed it on the chimney piece; she stirred the fire, and
her thoughts flowed pleasantly as she dwelt on the kindness of her old
friend. "He only got my note this morning," she mused. "I wonder if he
will be able to persuade John to return home." Mrs Norton, in her own
hard, cold way, loved her son, but in truth she thought more of the
power of which he was the representative than of the man himself: the
power to take to himself a wife--a wife who would give an heir to
Thornby Place. This was to be the achievement of Mrs Norton's life, and
the difficulties that intervened were too absorbing for her to think
much whether her son would find happiness in marriage; nor was it
natural to her to set much store on the refining charm and the uniting
influences of mental sympathies. Had she not passed the age when the
sentimental emotions are liveliest? And the fibre was wanting in her to
take into much account the whispering or the silence of passion.

Mrs Norton saw in marriage nothing but the child, and in the child
nothing but an heir--that is to say, a male who would continue the name
and traditions of Thornby Place. This would seem to indicate a material
nature, but such a misapprehension arises from the common habit of
confusing pure thought--thought which proceeds direct from the brain
and lives uncoloured by the material wants of life--with instincts whose
complexity often causes them to appear as mental potentialities, whereas
they are but instincts, inherited promptings, and aversions more or less
modified by physical constitution and the material forces of the life in
which the constitution has grown up; and yet, though pure thought, that
is to say the power of detaching oneself from the webs of life and
viewing men and things from a height, is the rarest of gifts, many are
possessed of sufficient intellectuality to enjoy with the brain apart
from the senses. Mrs Norton was such an one. After five o'clock tea she
would ask Kitty to read to her, and drawing her shawl about her
shoulders, would readily abandon the intellectual side of her nature to
the seductive charm of the romantic story of James of Scotland; and
while to the girl the heroism and chivalry were a little clouded by the
quaint turns of Rossetti's verse, to the woman these were added
delights, which her quiet penetrating understanding followed and took
instant note of.

"Were mother and son ever so different?" was the common remark. The
artistic was the side of Mrs Norton's character that was unaffectedly
kept out of sight, just as young John Norton was careful to hide from
public knowledge his strict business habits, and to expose, perhaps a
little ostentatiously, the spiritual impulses in which he was so deeply
concerned: the subtle refinement of sacred places, from the mystery of
the great window with its mitres and croziers to the sunlit path between
the tombs where the children play, the curious and yet natural charm
that attendance in the sacristy had for him, the arrangement of the
large oak presses, wherein are stored the fine altar linen and the
chalices, the distributing of the wine and water that were not for
bodily need, and the wearing of the flowing surplices, the murmuring of
the Latin responses that helped so wonderfully to enforce the impression
of beautiful and refined life which was his, and which he lived beyond
the gross influences of the wholly temporal life which he knew was
raging almost but not quite out of hearing. But, however marked may be
the accidental variations of character, hereditary instincts are
irresistible, and in obedience to them John neglected nothing that
concerned his pecuniary instincts. He was in daily communication with
his agent, and the financial position of every farmer, and the state of
every farm on his property, were not only known to him but were
constantly borne in mind, and influenced him in that progressive
ordering of things which marked the administration of his property. He
was furnished quarterly with an account of all monies paid, to which
were joined descriptive notes of each farm, showing what alterations the
past three months had brought, and setting forth the agricultural
intentions and abilities of the occupier.

John Norton waited the arrival of these accounts with a keen interest:
they were a relish to his life; and without experiencing any revulsion
of feeling, he would lay down a portfolio filled with photographs of
drawings by Leonardo da Vinci--studies of drapery, studies of hands and
feet, realistic studies of thin-lipped women and ecstatic angels with
the light upon their high foreheads--and cheerfully, and even with a
sense of satisfaction, he would untie the bald, prosaic roll of paper,
and seating himself at his window overlooking the long terrace, he would
add up the figures submitted to him, detecting the smallest arithmetical
error, making note of the least delay in payment of any money due, and
questioning the slightest overpayment for work done. The morning hours
fled as he pursued his congenial task; and from time to time he would
let his thoughts wander from the teasing computation of the money that
would be required to make the repairs that a certain farmer had
demanded, to the unworldly quiet of the sacristy; he would think, and
his thoughts contained an evanescent sense of the paradox, of the altar
linen he would have to fold and put away, and of the altar breads he
would presently have to write to London for; and meanwhile his eyes
would follow in delight the black figures of the Jesuits, who, with
cassocks blowing and berrettas set firmly on their heads, walked up and
down the long gravel walks reading their breviaries.

And living thus, half in the persuasive charm of ceremonial, half in
the hard procession of account books, the last three years of John's
life had passed. On coming of age he had spent a few weeks at Thornby
Place, but the place, and especially the country, had appeared to
him so grossly protestant--so entirely occupied with the material
well-to-doness of life--that he declared he longed to breathe again the
breath of his beloved sacristy, that he must away from that close and
oppressive atmosphere of the flesh. Since then, with the exception of a
few visits of a few days he had lived at Stanton College, writing to his
mother not of the business which concerned his property, but of mental
problems and artistic impulses. On business matters he never consulted
her; but he thought it fortunate that she should choose to spend her
jointure on Thornby Place, and so save him a great deal of expense in
keeping up the house, which, although he disliked it with a dislike that
had grown inveterate, he was still unwilling to allow to fall to ruins.

Mrs Norton, as has been said, was capable of understanding much in the
abstract; so long as things, and ideas of things, did not come within
the circle of her practical life, they were judged from a liberal
standpoint, but so soon as they touched any personal consideration,
they were judged by a moral code that in no way corresponded to her
intellectual comprehension of the matter she so unhesitatingly
condemned. But by this it must by no means be understood that Mrs Norton
wore her conscience easily--that it was a garment that could be
shortened or lengthened to suit all weathers. Our diagnosis of Mrs
Norton's character involves no accusation of laxity of principle. Mrs
Norton was a woman with an intelligence, who had inherited in all its
primary force a code of morals that had grown up in the narrower minds
of less gifted generations. In talking to her you were conscious of two
active and opposing principles: reason and hereditary morality. I use
"opposing" as being descriptive of the state of soul that would
generally follow from such mental contradiction, but in Mrs Norton no
shocking conflict of thought was possible, her mind being always
strictly subservient to her instinctive standard of right and wrong.

And John had inherited the moral temperament of his mother's family, and
with it his mother's intelligence, nor had the equipoise been disturbed
in the transmitting; his father's delicate constitution in inflicting
germs of disease had merely determined the variation represented by the
marked artistic impulses which John presented to the normal type of
either his father's or his mother's family. It would therefore seem that
any too sudden corrective of defect will result in anomaly, and, in
the case under notice, direct mingling of perfect health with spinal
weakness had germinated into a marked yearning for the heroic ages, for
the supernatural as contrasted with the meanness of the routine of
existence. And now before closing this psychical investigation, and
picking up the thread of the story, which will of course be no more than
an experimental demonstration of the working of the brain into which we
are looking, we must take note of two curious mental traits both living
side by side, and both apparently negative of the other's existence: an
intense and ever pulsatory horror of death, a sullen contempt and often
a ferocious hatred of life. The stress of mind engendered by the
alternating of these themes of suffering would have rendered life an
unbearable burden to John, had he not found anchorage in an invincible
belief in God, a belief which set in stormily for the pomp and opulence
of Catholic ceremonial, for the solemn Gothic arch and the jewelled joy
of painted panes, for the grace and the elegance and the order of
hieratic life.

In a being whose soul is but the shadow of yours, a second soul looking
towards the same end as your soul, or in a being whose soul differs
radically, and is concerned with other satisfactions and other ideals,
you will most probably find some part of the happiness of your dreams,
but in intercourse with one who is grossly like you, but who is
absolutely different when the upper ways of character are taken into
account, there will be--no matter how inexorable are the ties that
bind--much fret and irritation and noisy clashing. It was so with John
Norton and his mother; even in the exercise of faculties that had been
directly transmitted from one to the other there had been angry
collision. For example:--their talents for business were identical; but
while she thought the admirable conduct of her affairs was a thing to be
proud of, he would affect an air of negligence, and would willingly
have it believed that he lived independent of such gross necessities.
Then his malady--for intense depression of the spirits was a malady with
him--offered an ever-recurring cause of misunderstanding. How irritating
it was when he lay shut up in his room, his soul looking down with
murderous eyes on the poor worm that writhed out its life in view of the
pitiless stars, and longing with a fierce wild longing to shake off the
burning garment of consciousness, and plunge into the black happiness of
the grave, to hear Mrs Norton on the threshold uttering from time to
time admonitory remarks.

"You should not give way to such feelings, sir; you should not allow
yourself to be unhappy. Look at me, am I unhappy? and I have more to
bear with than you, but I am not always thinking of myself.... I am in
fairly good health, and I am always cheerful! Why are you not the same?
You bring it all upon yourself; I have no pity for you.... You should
cease to think of yourself, and try to do your duty."

John groaned when he heard this last word. He knew very well what his
mother meant. He should buy three hunters, he should marry. These were
the anodynes that were offered to him in and out of season. "Bad enough
that I should exist! Why precipitate another into the gulf of being?"
"Consort with men whose ideal hovers between a stable boy and a
veterinary surgeon;" and then, amused by the paradox, John, to whom the
chase was evocative of forests, pageantry, spears, would quote some
stirring verses of an old ballad, and allude to certain pictures by
Rubens, Wouvermans, and Snyders. "Why do you talk in that way?" "Why do
you seek to make yourself ridiculous?" Mrs Norton would retort.

Smiling just a little sorrowfully, John would withdraw, and on the
following day he would leave for Stanton College. And it was thus that
Mrs Norton's temper scarred with deep wounds a nature so pale and
delicate, so exposed that it seemed as if wanting an outer skin; and as
Thornby Place appeared to him little more than a comprehensive symbol
of what he held mean, even obscene in life, his visits had grown shorter
and fewer, until now his absence extended to the verge of the second
year, and besieged by the belief that he was contemplating priesthood,
Mrs Norton had written to her old friend, saying that she wanted to
speak to him on matters of great importance. Now maturing her plans for
getting her boy back, she stood by the bare black mantel-piece, her head
leaning on her hand. She uttered an exclamation when Mr Hare entered.

"What," she said, "you haven't changed your things, and I told you you
would find a suit of John's clothes. I must insist--"

"My dear Lizzie, no amount of insistance would get me into a pair of
John's trousers. I am thirteen stone and a half, and he is not much over
ten."

"Ah! I had forgotten, but what are you to do? Something must be done,
you will catch your death of cold if you remain in your wet clothes....
You are wringing wet."

"No, I assure you I am not. My feet were a little wet, but I have
changed my stockings and shoes. And now, tell me, Lizzie, what there is
for lunch," he said, speaking rapidly to silence Mrs Norton, whom he saw
was going to protest again.

"Well, you know it is difficult to get much at this season of the year.
There are some chickens and some curried rabbit, but I am afraid you
will suffer for it if you remain the whole of the afternoon in those wet
clothes; I really cannot, I will not allow it."

"My dear Lizzie, my dear Lizzie," cried the parson, laughing all over
his rosy skinned and sandy whiskered face, "I must beg of you not
to excite yourself. I have no intention of committing any of the
imprudences you anticipate. I will trouble you for a wing of that
chicken. James, I'll take a glass of sherry,... and while I am eating it
you shall explain as succinctly as possible the matter you are minded
to consult me on, and when I have mastered the subject in all its
various details, I will advise you to the best of my power, and having
done so I will start on my walk across the hills."

"What! you mean to say you are going to walk home?... We shall have
another downpour presently."

"Even so. I cannot come to much harm so long as I am walking, whereas if
I drove home in your carriage I might catch a chill.... It is at least
ten miles to Shoreham by the road, while across the hills it is not more
than six."

"Six! it is eight if it is a yard!"

"Well, perhaps it is; but tell me, I am curious to hear what you want to
talk to me about.... Something about John, is it not?"

"Of course it is, what else have I to think about; what else concerns
middle-aged people like you and me but our children? Of course I want to
talk to you about John. Something must be done, things cannot go on as
they are. Why, it is nearly two years since he has been home. Oh, that
boy is breaking my heart, and none suspects it. If you knew how it
annoys me when the Gardiners and the Prestons congratulate me on having
a son so well behaved. They know he looks after his property sharp
enough, no drinking, no bad company, no debts. Ah! they little know....
I would much sooner he were wild and foolish: young men get over those
kind of faults, but he will never get over his."

Mr Hare felt these views to be of a doubtful orthodoxy, but he did not
press his opinion, and contented himself with murmuring gently that for
the moment he did not see that John's faults were of a particularly
aggravated character.

"You do not see that his faults should cause me any uneasiness! Perhaps
it is very lucky he is not here, or you might encourage him in them. I
suppose you think he is doing quite right in spending his life at
Stanton College, aping a priest and talking about Gothic arches. Is it a
proper thing to transact all his business through a solicitor, and
never to see his tenants? Why does he not come and live at his own
beautiful place? Why does he not take up his position in the county? He
is not a magistrate. Why does he not get married?... he is the last;
there is no one to follow him. But he never thinks of that--he is afraid
that a woman might prove a disturbing influence in his life ... he feels
that he must live in an atmosphere of higher emotions. That's the way he
talks, and he is meditating, I assure you, a book on the literature of
the Middle Ages, on the works of bishops and monks who wrote Latin in
the early centuries. His mind, he says, is full of the cadences of that
language. That's the way he writes. He never asks me about his property,
never consults me in anything. Here is a letter I received yesterday.
Listen:


"'The poverty of spiritual life amid the western pagans could not fail to
encourage the growth of new religious tendencies. An epoch of great
spiritual activity had been succeeded by one of complete stagnation. A
glance at the literary progress of Rome since Tiberius will show this
emancipation from national and political considerations, the influence
of cosmopolitanism gave to the best specimens of Latin prose of the
silver age such riches and variety of substance and such individuality
of expression, that Seneca and Tacitus and the letters of Pliny are
marked with many modern characteristics. Form and language appear in
these writers only as the instrument and the matter wherewith men of
genius would express their intimate personality. Here antique culture
rises above itself, but, mark you, at the expense of all that is proper
to the Roman nation. Cosmopolitan Hellenism forces and breaks down the
bars of classical traditions, and, weary of restrictions these writers
first sought personal satisfaction, and then addressed themselves to
scholars rather than the people.

"'But Hellenism found its medium in the Greek language, rich to
satiety, and possessing a syntax of such extraordinary flexibility, that
it could follow all evolutions without being shaken in its organism. It
was in vain that the Latin literature sought to maintain its position by
harking back to the writers anterior to Cicero, those that Hellenism had
not touched, and presenting them as models of style; and thus a new
school very fain of antiquity had sprung up, with Fronto for its
acknowledged chief--a school pre-occupied above all things by the form;
obsolete words set in a new setting, modern words introduced into old
cadences to freshen them with a bright and delightful varnish, in a
word, a language under visible sign of decay ... yet how full of dim idea
and evanescent music--a sort of Indian summer, a season of dependency
that looked back on the splendours of Augustan yesterdays--an autumn
forest.'

"Did you ever hear such rubbish, or affectation, whichever you like to
call it? I should like to know what all that's to do with mediaeval
Latin. And then he goes on to complain of the architecture of Stanton
College.... It is, he says, base Tudor of the vilest kind. 'Practical
cookery' he calls it, 'antique sauce, sold by all chemists and grocers.'
Do you know what he means? I don't. And worst news of all, he is, would
you believe it? putting a magnificent thirteen century window into the
chapel, and he wants me to go up to London to make enquiries about
organs. He is prepared to go as far as a thousand pounds. Did you ever
hear of such a thing? Those Jesuits are encouraging him. Of course it
would just suit them if he became a priest; nothing would suit them
better; the whole property would fall into their hands. Now, what I want
you to do, my dear friend, is to go to Stanton College to-morrow, or
next day, as soon as you possibly can, and to talk to John. You must
tell him how unwise it is to spend fifteen hundred pounds in one year,
building organs and putting up windows. His intentions are excellent,
but his estate won't bear such extravagances: and everybody here thinks
he is such a miser. I want you to tell him that he should marry. Just
fancy what a terrible thing it would be if the estate passed away to
distant relatives--to those terrible cousins of ours."

"Very well, Lizzie, I will do what I can. I will go to-morrow. I have
not seen him for five years. The last time he was here I was away. I
don't think it would be a bad notion to suggest that the Jesuits are
after his money, that they are endeavouring to inveigle him into the
priesthood in order that they may get hold of his property."

"No, no; you must not say such a thing. I will not have you say anything
against his religion. I was very wrong to suggest such a thing. I am
sure no such idea ever entered the Jesuits' heads. Perhaps I am wrong to
send you to them.... Now I depend on you not to speak to him on
religious subjects."



CHAPTER II.


Mrs Norton had known William Hare all her life. She was the youngest
daughter, he the youngest son of equal Yorkshire families. Separated by
about a mile of pasture and woodland, these families had for generations
lived unanimous lives. In England the hunting field, the grouse moor,
the croquet and tennis lawn, with its charming adjunct the five-o'clock
tea-table, have made life in certain classes almost communal; and Mrs
Norton and William Hare had stood in white frocks under Christmas trees
and shared sweetmeats. He often thought of the first time he saw her,
wearing a skirt that fell below her ankles, with her hair done up. And
she remembered his first appearance in evening clothes, and how
surprised and delighted she was to hear him ask her if he might have the
pleasure of a waltz.

He went to Oxford to take his degree; she was taken to London for the
season, and towards the end of the third year she married Mr Norton, and
went to live at Thornby Place. Through the excitement of the marriage
arrangements, and the rapid impressions of her honeymoon, the thought of
having for neighbour the playmate of her youth had flitted across, but
had not rested in, her mind, and she did not realize the charm that it
was for her until one afternoon, now more than twenty years ago, a young
curate, bespattered with the grey mud of the downs, had startled her and
her husband by addressing her as Lizzie. Lizzie she had remained to him,
he was William to her, and henceforth their lives had been indissolubly
linked. Not a week had passed without their seeing each other. There
were visits to pay, there was hunting, and then habit intervened; and
for many years, in suffering, in joy, in hope, their thoughts had
instinctively looked to each other for reflective sympathy, and every
remembrable event was full of mutual associations. He had sat by her
when, after the birth of her first and only child, she lay pale,
beautiful, and weak on a sofa by a window blown by the tide of summer
scent; and the autumn of that same year he had walked with her in the
garden, where the leaves fell like the last illusion of youth under the
tears of an incurable grief; and staying in their walk they looked on
the house which was to be for evermore one of widowhood.

Had she ever loved him? Had he ever loved her? In moments of passionate
loneliness she had yearned for his protection; in moments of deep
dejection he had dreamed of the happiness he might have found with her;
but in the broad day of their lives they had ever thought of each other
as friends. He had advised her on the management of her estate, on the
education of her son; and in his afflictions--in his widowerhood--when
his children quickly followed their mother to the grave, Mrs Norton's
form, face, and words had steadied him, and had helped him to bear with
a life of crumbling ruin. Kitty was now the only one that remained to
him.

Mrs Norton had had projects of wealth and title for her son, but his
continued disdain of women and the love of women had long since forced
her to abandon her hopes, and now any one he might select she would
gladly welcome; but she whom Mrs Norton would have preferred to all
others was the daughter of her old friend. Her son had deserted her, and
now all her affections were centred in Kitty. Kitty was as much at
Thornby Place as at the Rectory, and in the gaiety of her bright eyes,
and in the shine of her gold-brown hair--for ever slipping from the gold
hair-pins in frizzed masses--Mrs Norton continued her dreams of her
son's marriage.

Mr Hare thought it harsh that his daughter should be so constantly taken
from him, but the parsonage was so lonely for Kitty, and there were
luncheon and tennis parties at Thornby Place, and Mrs Norton took the
girl out for drives, and together they visited all the county families.
A suspicion of matchmaking sometimes crossed Mr Hare's mind, but it
faded in the knowledge that John was always at Stanton College; and to
send this fair flower to his great--to his only--friend, was a joy, and
the bitterness of temporary loss was forgotten in the sweetness of the
sharing. He had suffered much; but these last years had been quiet, free
from despair at least, and he wished to drift a little longer with the
tide of this time. Why strive to hasten events? If this thing was to be,
it would be. So he had thought of his daughter's marriage. Fancies had
long hung about the confines of his mind, but nothing had struck him
with the full force of a thought until suddenly he understood the exact
purport of his mission to Stanton College. He leaned forward as if he
were going to tell the driver to return, but before he could do so the
lodge-keeper opened the great gate, and the hansom cab rattled under the
archway.

Then he viewed the scheme in general outline and in remote detail. It
was very simple. Lizzie had been to Shoreham, and had taken Kitty away
with her; he had been sent to Stanton College to beg John Norton to
return to Thornby Place, and to say what he could in favour of marriage
generally. This was very compromising. He had been deceived; Lizzie had
deceived him. She had no right to do such a thing; and, striving to
determine on a line of conduct, Mr Hare examined abstractedly the place
he was passing through.

In large and serpentine curves the road wound through a wood of small
beech trees--so small that in the November dishevelment the plantations
were like so much brushwood; and, lying behind the wind-swept opening,
gravel walks appeared in grey fragments, and the green spaces of the
cricket field with a solitary divine reading his breviary. The drive
turned and turned again in great sloping curves; more divines were
passed, and then there came a long terrace with a balustrade and a view
of the open country, now full of mist. And to see the sharp spire of
the distant church you had to look closely, and slanting slowly upwards
the great plain drew a long and melancholy line across the sky. The
lower terrace was approached by an imposing flight of steps, there were
myriads of leaves in the air, and the college bell rang in its high red
tower.

The high red walls of the college faced the dismal terraces, and the
triple line of diamond-paned and iron-barred windows stared upon the
ugly Staffordshire landscape. A square tower squatted in the middle of
the building, and out of it rose the octagon of the bell tower, and in
the tower wall was the great oak door studded with great nails.

"How Birmingham the whole place does look," thought Mr Hare, as he laid
his hand on an imitation mediaeval bell-pull.

"Is Mr John Norton at home?" he asked when the servant came. "Will you
give him my card, and say that I should like to see him."

On entering, Mr Hare found himself in a tiled hall, around which was
built a staircase in varnished oak. There was a quadrangle, and from
three sides the interminable latticed windows looked down on the green
sward; on the fourth there was an open corridor, with arches to imitate
a cloister. All was strong and barren, and only about the varnished
staircase was there any sign of comfort. There a virgin in bright blue
stood on a crescent moon; above her the ceiling was panelled in oak, and
the banisters, the cocoa nut matting, the bit of stained glass, and the
religious prints, suggested a mock air of hieratic dignity. And the room
Mr Hare was shown into continued this impression. Cabinets in carved oak
harmonised with high-backed chairs glowing with red Utrecht velvet, and
a massive table, on which lay a folio edition of St Augustine's "City of
God" and the "Epistolae Consolitoriae" of St Jerome.

The bell continued to clang, and through the latticed windows Mr Hare
watched the divines hurrying along the windy terrace, and the tramp of
the boys going to their class-rooms could be heard in passages below.

Then a young man entered. He was thin, and he was dressed in black. His
face was very Roman, the profile especially was what you might expect to
find on a Roman coin--a high nose, a high cheek-bone, a strong chin, and
a large ear. The eyes were prominent and luminous, and the lower part of
the face was expressive of resolution and intelligence, but above the
eyes there were many indications of cerebral distortions. The forehead
was broad, but the temples retreated rapidly to the brown hair which
grew luxuriantly on the top of the head, leaving what the phrenologists
call the bumps of ideality curiously exposed, and this, taken in
conjunction with the yearning of the large prominent eyes, suggested at
once a clear, delightful intelligence,--a mind timid, fearing, and
doubting, such a one as would seek support in mysticism and dogma, that
would rise instantly to a certain point, but to drop as suddenly as if
sickened by the too intense light of the cold, pure heaven of reason to
the gloom of the sanctuary and the consolations of Faith. Let us turn to
the mouth for a further indication of character. It was large, the lips
were thick, but without a trace of sensuality. They were dim in colour,
they were undefined in shape, they were a little meaningless--no, not
meaningless, for they confirmed the psychological revelations of the
receding temples. The hands were large, powerful, and grasping; they
were earthly hands; they were hands that could take and could hold, and
their materialism was curiously opposed to the ideality of the eyes--an
ideality that touched the confines of frenzy. The shoulders were square
and carried well back, the head was round, with close-cut hair, the
straight-falling coat was buttoned high, and the fashionable collar,
with a black satin cravat, beautifully tied and relieved with a rich
pearl pin, set another unexpected but singularly charmful detail to an
aggregate of apparently irreconcilable characteristics.

"And how do you do, my dear Mr Hare? and who would have expected to see
you here? I am so glad to see you."

These words were spoken frankly and cordially, and there was a note of
mundane cheerfulness in the voice which did not quite correspond with
the sacerdotal elegance of this young man. Then he added quickly, as if
to save himself from asking the reason of this very unexpected visit--

"But you have never been here before; this is the first time you have
seen our college. And seeing it as it now is, you would not believe all
the delightful detail that a ray of sunlight awakens in that hideous
brown monotony, soaked with rain and bedimmed with mist."

"Yes, I can quite understand that the college is not looking its best on
a day like this. We have had very wet weather lately."

"No doubt, and I am afraid these late rains have interfered with the
harvest. The accounts from the North are very alarming, but in Sussex, I
suppose, everything was over at least two months ago. Still even there
the farmers have been losing money for some time back. I have had to
make some very heavy reductions. Pearson declared he could not possibly
continue at the present rent with corn as low as eight pounds a load.
This is very serious, but it is very difficult to arrive at the truth. I
want to talk to you; but we shall have plenty of time presently; you'll
stay and dine? And I'll show you over the college: you have never been
here before, and now I come to reckon it up, I find I have not seen you
for nearly five years."

"It must be very nearly that; I missed you the last time you were at
Thornby Place, and that was three years ago."

"Three years! It sounds very shocking, doesn't it? to have a beautiful
place in Sussex and not to live there: to prefer an ugly red-brick
college--Birmingham Tudor; my mother invented the expression. When she
is in a passion she hits on the very happiest concurrence of words; and
I must say she is right,--the architecture here is appallingly ugly;
and I don't think anything could be done to improve it, do you?"

"I can't say that I can suggest anything for the moment, but I thought
it was for the sake of the architecture, which I frankly confess I don't
in the least admire, that you lived here."

"You thought it was for the sake of the architecture...."

"Then why do you not come home and spend Christmas with your mother!"

"Christmas! Well, I suppose I ought to. But it will be hard to bear with
the plain Protestantism, the smug materialism of Sussex at such a
season; and when one thinks what the day is commemorative of--"

"You surely do not mean that you would prefer to see the people
starving? If your dislike of Protestantism rests only on roast beef and
plum pudding...."

"No, you don't understand. But I beg your pardon--I had really
forgotten...."

"Never mind," said Mr Hare smiling; "continue: we were talking of roast
beef and plum pudding--"

"Well, roast beef and plum pudding, say what you like, is a very
complete figuration of the Protestant ideal. Now let us think of
Sussex.... The villas with their gables, and railings, and laurels, the
snug farm-houses, the market-gardening, but especially the villas, so
representative of a sleepy smug materialism.... Oh, it is horrible; I
cannot think of Sussex without a revulsion of feeling. Sussex is utterly
opposed to the monastic spirit. Why, even the downs are easy, yes, easy
as one of the upholsterer's armchairs of the villa residences. And the
aspect of the county tallies exactly with the state of soul of its
people. In that southern county all is soft and lascivious; there is no
wildness, none of that scenical grandeur which we find in Scotland and
Ireland, and which is emblematic of the yearning of man's soul for
something higher than this mean and temporal life."

There was rapture in John's eyes. With a quick movement of his hands he
seemed to spurn the entire materialism of Sussex. After a pause, he
continued:

"There is no asceticism in Sussex, there is no yearning for anything
higher or better. You--yes, you and the whole place are, in every sense
of the word, Conservative--that is to say, brutally satisfied with the
present ordering of things."

"Now, now, my dear John, by your own account Pearson is not by any means
so satisfied with the present condition of things as you yourself would
wish him to be."

John laughed loudly, and it was clear that the paradox in no way
displeased him.

"But we were speaking," he continued, "not of temporal, but of spiritual
pains and penalties. Now, anyone who did not know me--and none will ever
know me--would think that I had not a care in the world. Well, I have
suffered as horribly, I have been tortured as cruelly, as ever poor
mortal was.... I have lain on the floor of my room, my heart dead
within me, and moaned and shrieked with horror."

"Horror of what?"

"Horror of death and a worse horror of life. Few amongst men ever
realise the truth of things, but there are rare occasions, moments of
supernatural understanding or suffering (which are two words for one and
the same thing), when we see life in all its worm-like meanness, and
death in its plain, stupid loathsomeness. Two days out of this year live
like fire in my mind. I went to my uncle Richard's funeral. There was
cold meat and sherry on the table; a dreadful servant asked me if I
would go up to the corpse-room. (Mark the expression.) I went. It lay
swollen and featureless, and two busy hags lifted it up and packed it
tight with wisps of hay, and mechanically uttered shrieks and moans.

"But, though the funeral was painfully obscene, it was not so obscene as
the view of life I was treated to last week....

"Last week I was in London; I went to a place they call the 'Colonies.'
Till then I had never realised the foulness of the human animal, but
there even his foulness was overshadowed by his stupidity. The masses,
yes, I saw the masses, and I fed with them in their huge intellectual
stye. The air was filled with lines of the most inconceivable flags,
lines upon lines of pale yellow, and there were glass cases filled with
pickle bottles, and there were piles of ropes and a machine in motion,
and in nooks there were some dreadful lay figures, and written
underneath them, 'Indian corn-seller,' 'Indian fish-seller.' And there
was the Prince of Wales on horseback, three times larger than life; and
there were stuffed deer upon a rock, and a Polar bear, and the Marquis
of Lome underneath. In another room there were Indian houses, things in
carved wood, and over each large placards announcing the popular dinner,
the _buffet_, the _table d'hôte_, at half-a-crown; and there were oceans
of tea, and thousands of rolls of butter, and in the gardens the band
played 'Thine alone' and 'Mine again.'

"It seemed as if all the back-kitchens and staircases in England had
that day been emptied out--life-tattered housewives, girls grown stout
on porter, pretty-faced babies, heavy-handed fathers, whistling boys in
their sloppy clothes, and attitudes curiously evidencing an odious
domesticity....

"In the Greek and Roman life there was an ideal, and there was a great
ideal in the monastic life of the Middle Ages; but an ideal is wholly
wanting in nineteenth century life. I am not of these later days. I am
striving to come to terms with life."

"And you think you can do that best by folding vestments and reviling
humanity. I do not see how you reconcile these opinions with the
teaching of Christ--with the life of Christ."

"Oh, of course, if you are going to use those arguments against me, I
have done; I can say no more."

Mr Hare did not answer, and at the end of a long silence John said:

"But, what do you say, supposing I show you over the college now, and
when that's done you will come up to my room and we'll have a smoke
before dinner?"

Mr Hare raised no objection, and the two men descended the staircase
into the long stony corridor. The quadrangle filled the diamond panes
of the latticed windows with green, and the divine walking to and fro
was a spot of black. There were pictures along the walls of the
corridor--pictures of upturned faces and clasped hands--and these drew
words of commiseration for the artistic ignorance of the College
authorities from John's lips.

"And they actually believe that that dreadful monk with the skull is a
real Ribera.... The chapel is on the right, the refectory on the left.
Come, let us see the chapel; I am anxious to hear what you think of my
window."

"It ought to be very handsome; it cost five hundred, did it not?"

"No, not quite so much as that," John answered abruptly; and then,
passing through the communion rails, they stood under the multi-coloured
glory of three bishops. Mr Hare felt that a good deal of rapture was
expected of him; but in his efforts to praise, he felt he was exposing
his ignorance. John called attention to the transparency of the
green-watered skies; and turning their backs on the bishops, the blue
ceiling with the gold stars was declared, all things considered, to be
in excellent taste. The benches in the body of the church were for boys;
the carved chairs set along both walls between the communion rails and
the first steps of the altar were for the divines. The president and
vice-president knelt facing each other. The priests, deacons, and
sub-deacons followed according to their rank. There were slenderer
benches, and these were for the choir; and from a music-book placed on
wings of the great golden eagle, the leader conducted the singing.

The side altar, with the rich Turkey carpet spread over the steps, was
St George's, and further on, in an addition made lately, there were two
more altars, dedicated respectively to the Virgin and St Joseph.

"The maid-servants kneel in that corner. I have often suggested
that they should be moved out of sight. You do not understand me.
Protestantism has always been more reconciled to the presence of women
in sacred places than we. We would wish them beyond the precincts. And
it is easy to imagine how the unspeakable feminality of those
maid-servants jars a beautiful impression--the altar towering white with
wax candles, the benedictive odour of incense, the richness of the
vestments, treble voices of boys floating, and the sweetness of a long
day spent about the sanctuary with flowers and chalices in my hands,
fade in a sense of sullen disgust, in a revulsion of feeling which I
will not attempt to justify."

Then his thoughts, straying back to sudden recollections of monastic
usages and habits, he said:

"I should like to scourge them out of this place." And then, half
playfully, half seriously, and wholly conscious of the grotesqueness,
he added:

"Yes, I am not at all sure that a good whipping would not do them good.
They should be well whipped. I believe that there is much to be said in
favour of whipping."

Mr Hare did not answer. He listened like one in a dark and unknown
place. But, as if unconscious of the embarrassment he was creating, John
told of the number of masses that were said daily, and of the eagerness
shown by the boys to obtain an altar. Altar service was rewarded by a
large piece of toast for breakfast. Handsome lads of sixteen were chosen
for acolytes, the torch-bearers were selected from the smallest boys,
the office of censer was filled by John Norton, and he was also the
chief sacristan, and had charge of the altar plate and linen and the
vestments. He spoke of the organ, and he depreciated the present
instrument, and enlarged upon some technical details anent the latest
modern improvements in keys and stops.

They went up to the organ loft. John would play his setting of St
Ambrose's hymn, "Veni redemptor gentium," if Mr Hare would go to the
bellows, and feeling as if he were being turned into ridicule, Mr Hare
took his place at the handle; and he found it even more embarrassing
to give an opinion on the religiosity of the music, than on the
archaeological colouration of the bishops in the window. But John did
not court any very detailed criticism on his hymn, and alluding to the
fact that even in the fourth century accent was beginning to replace
quantity, he led the way to the sacristy.

And it was impossible to avoid noticing that the opening of the carved
oaken presses, smelling sweet and benignly of orris root and lavender,
acted on John almost as a physical pleasure, and also that his hands
seemed nervous with delight as he unfolded the jewelled embroideries,
and smoothed out the fine linen of the under vestments; and his voice,
too, seemed to gain a sharp tenderness and emotive force, as he told how
these were the gold vestments worn by the bishop, and only on certain
great feast-days, and that these were the white vestments worn on days
especially commemorative of the Virgin. The consideration of the
censers, candlesticks, chalices, and albs took some time, and John was a
little aggressive in his explanation of Catholic ceremonial, and its
grace and comeliness compared with the stiffness and materialism of the
Protestant service.

From the sacristy they went to the boys' library. John pointed out the
excellent supply of light literature that the bookcases contained.

"We take travels, history, fairy-tales--romances of all kinds, so long
as sensual passion is not touched upon at any length. Of course we
don't object to a book in which just towards the end the young man falls
in love and proposes; but there must not be much of that sort of thing.
Here are Robert Louis Stevenson's works, 'Treasure Island,' 'Kidnapped,'
&c., charming writer--a neat pretty style, with a pleasant souvenir of
Edgar Poe running through it all. You have no idea how the boys enjoy
his books."

"And don't you?"

"Oh no; I have just glanced at him: for my own reading, I can admit none
who does not write in the first instance for scholars, and then to the
scholarly instincts in readers generally. Here is Walter Pater. We have
his Renaissance; studies in art and poetry--I gave it myself to the
library. We were so sorry we could not include that most beautiful book,
'Marius the Epicurean.' We have some young men here of twenty and three
and twenty, and it would be delightful to see them reading it, so
exquisite is its hopeful idealism; but we were obliged to bar it on
account of the story of Psyche, sweetly though it be told, and sweetly
though it be removed from any taint of realistic suggestion. Do you know
the book?"

"I can't say I do."

"Then read it at once. It is a breath of delicious fragrance blown back
to us from the antique world; nothing is lost or faded, the bloom of
that glad bright world is upon every page; the wide temples, the lustral
water--the youths apportioned out for divine service, and already happy
with a sense of dedication, the altars gay with garlands of wool and the
more sumptuous sort of flowers, the colour of the open air, with the
scent of the beanfields, mingling with the cloud of incense."

"But I thought you denied any value to the external world, that the
spirit alone was worth considering."

"The antique world knew how to idealise, and if they delighted in the
outward form, they did not leave it gross and vile as we do when we
touch it; they raised it, they invested it with a sense of aloofness
that we know not of. Flesh or spirit, idealise one or both, and I will
accept them. But you do not know the book. You must read it. Never did I
read with such rapture of being, of growing to spiritual birth. It
seemed to me that for the first time I was made known to myself; for the
first time the false veil of my grosser nature was withdrawn, and I
looked into the true ethereal eyes, pale as wan water and sunset skies,
of my higher self. Marius was to me an awakening; the rapture of
knowledge came upon me that even our temporal life might be beautiful;
that, in a word, it was possible to somehow come to terms with life....
You must read it. For instance, can anyone conceive anything more
perfectly beautiful than the death of Flavian, and all that youthful
companionship, and Marius' admiration for his friend's poetry?... that
delightful language of the third century--a new Latin, a season of
dependency, an Indian summer full of strange and varied cadences, so
different from the monotonous sing-song of the Augustan age; the school
of which Fronto was the head. Indeed, it was Pater's book that first
suggested to me the idea of the book I am writing. But perhaps you do
not know I am writing a book.... Did my mother tell you anything about
it?"

"Yes; she told me you were writing the history of Christian Latin."

"Yes; that is to say, of the language that was the literary, the
scientific, and the theological language of Europe for more than a
thousand years."

And talking of his book rapidly, and with much boyish enthusiasm, John
opened the doors of the refectory. The long, oaken tables, the great
fireplace, and the stained glass seemed to delight him, and he alluded
to the art classes of monastic life. The class-rooms were peeped into,
the playground was viewed through the lattice windows, and they went to
John's room, up a staircase curiously carpeted with lead.

John's rooms! a wide, bright space of green painted wood and straw
matting. The walls were panelled from floor to ceiling. In the centre of
the floor there was an oak table--a table made of sharp slabs of oak
laid upon a frame that was evidently of ancient design, probably early
German, a great, gold screen sheltered a high canonical chair with
elaborate carvings, and on a reading-stand close by lay the manuscript
of a Latin poem.

"And what is this?" said Mr Hare.

"Oh! that is a poem by Milo, his 'De Sobricate.' I heard that the
manuscript was still preserved in the convent of Saint Amand, near
Tournai, and I sent and had a copy made for me. That was the simplest
way. You have no idea how difficult it is to buy the works of any Latin
authors except those of the Augustan age. Milo was a monk, and he lived
in the eighth century. He was a man of very considerable attainments,
if he were not a very great poet. He was a contemporary of Floras, who,
by the way, was a real poet. Some of his verses are delightful, full of
delicate cadence and colour. The MS. under your hand is a poem by him--

    "'Montes et colles, silvaeque et flumina, fontes,
    Praeruptaeque rupes, pariter vallesque profondae
    Francorum lugete genus: quod munere christi,
    Imperio celsum jacet ecce in pulvere mersum.'

"That was written in the eighth century when the language was becoming
terribly corrupt; when it was hideous with popular idiom barbarously and
recklessly employed. But even in that time of autumnal decay and pallid
bloom, a real poet such as Walahfrid Strabat could weave a garland of
grace and beauty; one, indeed, that lived through the chance of
centuries in the minds of men. It found numberless imitators and favour
even with the Humanists, and it was reprinted eight times in the
seventeenth century. This poem is of especial interest to me on account
of the illustration it affords of a theory of my own concerning the
unconsciousness of the true artist. For breaking away from the literary
habitudes of his time, which were to do the gospels or the life of
a  favourite saint into hexameters, he wrote a poem, 'Hortulus,'
descriptive of the garden of the monastery. The garden was all the world
to the monks; it furnished them at once with the pleasures and the
necessaries of their lives. Walahfrid felt this; he described his
feelings, and he produced a chef d'oeuvre." Going over to the bookcase,
John took down a volume. He read:--

    "'Hoc nemus umbriferum pingit viridissima Rutae
    Silvula coeruleae, foliis quae praedita parvis,
    Umbellas jaculata brevis, spiramina venti
    Et radios Phoebi caules transmittit ad imos,
    Attactuque graves leni dispergit odores,
    Haec cum multiplici vigeat virtute medelae,
    Dicitur occultis apprime obstare venenis,
    Toxicaque invasis incommoda pellere fibris.'

"Now, can anything be more charming? True it is that pingit in the first
line does not seem to construe satisfactorily, and I am not certain that
the poet may not have written _fingit_. Fingit would not be pure Latin,
but that is beside the question."

"Indeed it is. I must say I prefer the Georgics. I have known many
strange tastes, but your fancy for bad Latin is the strangest of all."

"Classical Latin, with the exception of Tacitus, is cold-blooded and
self-satisfied. There is no agitation, no fever; to me it is utterly
without interest."

To the books and manuscripts the pictures on the walls afforded an
abrupt contrast. No. 1. "A Japanese Girl," by Monet. A poppy in the pale
green walls; a wonderful macaw! Why does it not speak in strange
dialect? It trails lengths of red silk. Such red! The pigment is twirled
and heaped with quaint device, until it seems to be beautiful embroidery
rather than painting; and the straw-coloured hair, and the blond light
on the face, and the unimaginable coquetting of that fan....

No. 2. "The Drop Curtain," by Degas. The drop curtain is fast
descending; only a yard of space remains. What a yardful of curious
comment, what satirical note on the preposterousness of human
existence! what life there is in every line; and the painter has made
meaning with every blot of colour! Look at the two principal dancers!
They are down on their knees, arms raised, bosoms advanced, skirts
extended, a hundred coryphées are clustered about them. Leaning hands,
uplifted necks, painted eyes, scarlet mouths, a piece of thigh, arched
insteps, and all is blurred; vanity, animalism, indecency, absurdity,
and all to be whelmed into oblivion in a moment. Wonderful life;
wonderful Degas!

No. 3. "A Suburb," by Monet. Snow! the world is white. The furry fluff
has ceased to fall, and the sky is darkling and the night advances,
dragging the horizon up with it like a heavy, deadly curtain. But the
roof of the villa is white, and the green of the laurels shaken free of
the snow shines through the railings, and the shadows that lie across
the road leading to town are blue--yes, as blue as the slates under the
immaculate snow.

No. 4. "The Cliff's Edge," by Monet. Blue? purple the sea is; no, it is
violet; 'tis striped with violet and flooded with purple; there are
living greens, it is full of fading blues. The dazzling sky deepens as
it rises to breathless azure, and the soul pines for and is fain of God.
White sails show aloft; a line of dissolving horizon; a fragment of
overhanging cliff wild with coarse grass and bright with poppies, and
musical with the lapsing of the summer waves.

There were in all six pictures--a tall glass filled with pale roses, by
Renoir; a girl tying up her garter, by Monet.

Through the bedroom door Mr Hare saw a narrow iron bed, an iron
washhand-stand, and a prie-dieu. A curious three-cornered wardrobe stood
in one corner, and facing it, in front of the prie-dieu, a life-size
Christ hung with outstretched arms. The parson looked round for a seat,
but the chairs were like cottage stools on high legs, and the angular
backs looked terribly knife-like.

"Sit in the arm-chair. Shall I get you a pillow from the next room?
Personally I cannot bear upholstery; I cannot conceive anything more
hideous than a padded arm-chair. All design is lost in that infamous
stuffing. Stuffing is a vicious excuse for the absence of design. If
upholstery was forbidden by law to-morrow, in ten years we should have
a school of design. Then the necessity of composition would be
imperative."

"I daresay there is a good deal in what you say; but tell me, don't you
find these chairs very uncomfortable. Don't you think that you would
find a good comfortable arm-chair very useful for reading purposes?"

"No, I should feel far more uncomfortable on a cushion than I do on this
bit of hard oak. Our ancestors had an innate sense of form that we have
not. Look at these chairs, nothing can be plainer; a cottage stool is
hardly more simple, and yet they are not offensive to the eye. I had
them made from a picture by Albert Durer. But tell me, what will you
take to drink? Will you have a glass of champagne, or a brandy and
soda, or what do you say to an absinthe?"

"'Pon my word, you seem to look after yourself. You don't forget the
inner man."

"I always keep a good supply of liquor; have a cigar?" And John passed
to him a box of fragrant and richly coloured Havanas.... Mr Hare took a
cigar, and glanced at the table on which John was mixing the drinks. It
was a slip of marble, rested, café fashion, on iron supports.

"But that table is modern, surely?--quite modern!"

"Quite; it is a café table, but it does not offend my eye. You surely
would not have me collect a lot of old-fashioned furniture and pile it
up in my rooms, Turkey carpets and Japaneseries of all sorts; a room
such as Sir Fred. Leighton would declare was intended to be merely
beautiful."

Striving vainly to understand, Mr Hare drank his brandy and soda in
silence. Presently he walked over to the bookcases. There were two: one
was filled with learned-looking volumes bearing the names of Latin
authors; and the parson, who prided himself on his Latinity, was
surprised, and a little nettled, to find so much ignorance proved upon
him. With Tertullian, St Jerome, and St Augustine he was of course
acquainted, but of Lactantius, Prudentius, Sedulius, St Fortunatus, Duns
Scotus, Hibernicus exul, Angilbert, Milo, &c., he was obliged to admit
he knew nothing--even the names were unknown to him.

In the bookcase on the opposite side of the room there were complete
editions of Landor and Swift, then came two large volumes on Leonardo da
Vinci. Raising his eyes, the parson read through the titles of Mr
Browning's work. Tennyson was in a cheap seven-and-six edition; then
came Swinburne, Pater, Rossetti, Morris, two novels by Rhoda Broughton,
Dickens, Thackeray, Fielding, and Smollett; the complete works of
Balzac, Gautier's Emaux et Camées, Salammbo, L'Assommoir; add to this
Carlyle, Byron, Shelley, Keats, &c.

At the end of a long silence, Mr Hare said, glancing once again at the
Latin authors, and walking towards the fire:

"Tell me, John, are those the books you are writing about? Supposing you
explain to me in a few words the line you are taking. Your mother tells
me that you intend to call your book the History of Christian Latin."

"Yes, I had thought of using that title, but I am afraid it is a little
too ambitious. To write the history of a literature extending over at
least eight centuries would entail an appalling amount of reading; and
besides only a few, say a couple of dozen writers out of some hundreds,
are of the slightest literary interest, and very few indeed of any real
aesthetic value. I have been hard at work lately, and I think I know
enough of the literature of the Middle Ages to enable me to make a
selection that will comprise everything of interest to ordinary
scholarship, and enough to form a sound basis to rest my own literary
theories upon. I begin by stating that there existed in the Middle Ages
a universal language such as Goethe predicted the future would again
bring to us....

"Before the formation of the limbs, that is to say before the German and
Roman languages were developed up to the point of literary usage, the
Latin language was the language of all nations of the western world.
But the day came, in some countries a little earlier, in some a little
later, when it was replaced by the national idioms. The different
literatures of the West had therefore been preceded by a Latin
literature that had for a long time held out a supporting hand to each.
The language of this literature was not a dead language, It was the
language of government, of science, of religion; and a little
dislocated, a little barbarised, it had penetrated to the minds of the
people, and found expression in drinking songs and street ditties.

"Such is the theme of my book; and it seems to me that a language that
has played so important a part in the world's history is well worthy of
serious study.

"I show how Christianity, coming as it did with a new philosophy, and a
new motive for life, invigorated and saved the Latin language in a time
of decline and decrepitude. For centuries it had given expression, even
to satiety, to a naive joy in the present; on this theme, all that
could be said had been said, all that could be sung had been sung,
and the Rhetoricians were at work with alliteration and refrain when
Christianity came, and impetuously forced the language to speak the
desire of the soul. In a word, I want to trace the effect that such a
radical alteration in the music, if I may so speak, had upon the
instrument--the Latin language."

"And with whom do you begin?"

"With Tertullian, of course."

"And what do you think of him?"

"Tertullian, one of the most fascinating characters of ancient or modern
times. In my study of his writings I have worked out a psychological
study of the man himself as revealed through them. His realism, I might
say materialism, is entirely foreign to my own nature, but I cannot
help being attracted by that wild African spirit, so full of savage
contradictions, so full of energy that it never knew repose: in him you
find all the imperialism of ancient times. When you consider that he
lived in a time when the church was struggling for utterance amid the
horrors of persecution, his mad Christianity becomes singularly
attractive; a passionate fear of beauty for reason of its temptations, a
fear that turned to hatred, and forced him at last into the belief that
Christ was an ugly man."

"I know nothing of the monks of the eighth century and their poetry,
but I do know something of Tertullian, and you mean to tell me that
you admire his style--those harsh chopped-up phrases and strained
antitheses."

"I should think I did. Phrases set boldly one against the other; quaint,
curious, and full of colour, the reader supplies with delight the
connecting link, though the passion and the force of the description
lives and reels along. Listen:

"'Quae tunc spectaculi latitudo! quid admirer? quid rideam? ubi gaudeam?
ubi exultem, spectans tot ac tantos reges, qui in coelum recepti
nuntiabantur, cum ipso Jove et ipsis suis testibus in imis tenebris
congemiscentes!--Tunc magis tragoedi audiendi, magis scilicet vocales in
sua propria calamitate; tunc histriones cognoscendi, solutiores multo
per ignem; tunc spectandus auriga, in flammea rota totus rubens, &c.'

"Show me a passage in Livy equal to that for sheer force and glittering
colour. The phrases are not all dove-tailed one into the other and
smoothed away; they stand out."

"Indeed they do. And whom do you speak of next?"

"I pass on to St Cyprian and Lactantius; to the latter I attribute the
beautiful poem of the Phoenix."

"What! Claudian's poem?"

"No, but one infinitely superior. After Lactantius comes St Ambrose, St
Jerome, and St Augustine. The second does not interest me, and my notice
of him is brief; but I make special studies of the first and last. It
was St Ambrose who introduced singing into the Catholic service. He took
the idea from the Arians. He saw the effect it had upon the vulgar mind,
and he resolved to combat the heresy with its own weapons. He composed a
vast number of hymns. Only four have come down to us, and they are as
perfect in form as in matter. You will scarcely find anywhere a false
quantity or a hiatus. The Ambrosian hymns remained the type of all the
hymnic poetry of succeeding centuries. Even Prudentius, great poet as he
was, was manifestly influenced in the choice of metre and the
composition of the strophe by the Deus Creator omnium....

"St Ambrose did more than any other writer of his time to establish
certain latent tendencies as characteristics of the Catholic spirit.
His pleading in favour of ascetic life and of virginity, that entirely
Christian virtue, was very influential. He lauds the virgin above the
wife, and, indeed, he goes so far as to tell parents that they can
obtain pardon of their sins by offering their daughters to God. His
teaching in this respect was productive of very serious rebellion
against what some are pleased to term the laws of Nature. But St Ambrose
did not hesitate to uphold the repugnance of girls to marriage as not
only lawful but praiseworthy."

"I am afraid you let your thoughts dwell very much on such subjects."

"Really, do you think I do?" John's eyes brightened for a moment, and he
lapsed into what seemed an examination of conscience. Then he said,
somewhat abruptly, "St Jerome I speak of, or rather I allude to him, and
pass on at once to the study of St Augustine--the great prose writer, as
Prudentius was the great poet, of the Middle Ages.

"Now, talking of style, I will admit that the eternal apostrophising of
God and the incessant quoting from the New Testament is tiresome to the
last degree, and seriously prejudices the value of the 'Confessions' as
considered from the artistic standpoint. But when he bemoans the loss of
the friend of his youth, when he tells of his resolution to embrace an
ascetic life, he is nervously animated, and is as psychologically
dramatic as Balzac."

"I have taken great pains with my study of St Augustine, because in him
the special genius of Christianity for the first time found a voice. All
that had gone before was a scanty flowerage--he was the perfect fruit. I
am speaking from a purely artistic standpoint: all that could be done
for the life of the senses had been done, but heretofore the life of the
soul had been lived in silence--none had come to speak of its suffering,
its uses, its tribulation. In the time of Horace it was enough to sit in
Lalage's bower and weave roses; of the communion of souls none had ever
thought. Let us speak of the soul! This is the great dividing line
between the pagan and Christian world, and St Augustine is the great
landmark. In literature he discovered that man had a soul, and that man
had grown interested in its story, had grown tired of the exquisite
externality of the nymph-haunted forest and the waves where the Triton
blows his plaintive blast.

"The whole theory and practice of modern literature is found in the
'Confessions of St Augustine;' and from hence flows the great current of
psychological analysis which, with the development of the modern novel,
grows daily greater in volume and more penetrating in essence.... Is not
the fretful desire of the Balzac novel to tell of the soul's anguish an
obvious development of the 'Confessions'?"

"In like manner I trace the origin of the ballad, most particularly the
English ballad, to Prudentius, a contemporary of Claudian."

"You don't mean to say that you trace back our north-country ballads
to, what do you call him?"

"Prudentius. I show that there is much in his hymns that recalls the
English ballads."

"In his hymns?"

"Yes; in the poems that come under such denomination. I confess it is
not a little puzzling to find a narrative poem of some five hundred
lines or more included under the heading of hymns; it would seem that
nearly all lyric poetry of an essentially Christian character was so
designated, to separate it from secular or pagan poetry. In Prudentius'
first published work, 'Liber Cathemerinon,' we find hymns composed
absolutely after the manner of St Ambrose, in the same or in similar
metres, but with this difference, the hymns of Prudentius are three,
four, and sometimes seven times longer than those of St Ambrose. The
Spanish poet did not consider, or he lost sight of, the practical usages
of poetry. He sang more from an artistic than a religious impulse. That
he delighted in the song for the song's own sake is manifest; and this
is shown in the variety of his treatment, and the delicate sense of
music which determined his choice of metre. His descriptive writing is
full of picturesque expression. The fifth hymn, 'Ad Incensum Lucernae,'
is glorious with passionate colour and felicitous cadence, be he
describing with precious solicitude for Christian archaeology the
different means of artistic lighting, flambeaux, candles, lamps, or
dreaming with all the rapture of a southern dream of the balmy garden
of Paradise.

"But his best book to my thinking is by far, 'Peristephanon,' that is
to say, the hymns celebrating the glory of the martyrs.

"I was saying just now that the hymns of Prudentius, by the dramatic
rapidity of the narrative, by the composition of the strophe, and by
their wit, remind me very forcibly of our English ballads. Let us take
the story of St Laurence, written in iambics, in verses of four lines
each. In the time of the persecutions of Valerian, the Roman prefect,
devoured by greed, summoned St Laurence, the treasurer of the church,
before him, and on the plea that parents were making away with their
fortunes to the detriment of their children, demanded that the sacred
vessels should be given up to him. 'Upon all coins is found the head of
the Emperor and not that of Christ, therefore obey the order of the
latter, and give to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor.'

"To this speech, peppered with irony and sarcasm, St Laurence replies
that the church is very rich, even richer than the Emperor, and that he
will have much pleasure in offering its wealth to the prefect, and he
asks for three days to classify the treasures. Transported with joy, the
prefect grants the required delay. Laurence collects the infirm who have
been receiving charity from the church; and in picturesque grouping the
poet shows us the blind, the paralytic, the lame, the lepers, advancing
with trembling and hesitating steps. Those are the treasures, the
golden vases and so forth, that the saint has catalogued and is going to
exhibit to the prefect, who is waiting in the sanctuary. The prefect is
dumb with rage; the saint observes that gold is found in dross; that the
disease of the body is to be less feared than that of the soul; and he
developes this idea with a good deal of wit. The boasters suffer from
dropsy, the miser from cramp in the wrist, the ambitious from febrile
heat, the gossipers, who delight in tale-bearing, from the itch; but
you, he says, addressing the prefect, you who govern Rome,[1] suffer
from the _morbus regius_ (you see the pun). In revenge for thus
slighting his dignity, the prefect condemns St Laurence to be roasted on
a slow fire, adding, 'and deny there, if you will, the existence of my
Vulcan.' Even on the gridiron Laurence does not lose his good humour,
and he gets himself turned as a cook would a chop.

"Now, do you not understand what I mean when I say that the hymns of
Prudentius are an anticipation of the form of the English ballad?... And
in the fifth hymn the story of St Vincent is given with that peculiar
dramatic terseness that you find nowhere except in the English ballad.
But the most beautiful poem of all is certainly the fourteenth and last
hymn. In a hundred and thirty-three hendecasyllabic verses the story of
a young virgin condemned to a house of ill-fame is sung with exquisite
sense of grace and melody. She is exposed naked at the corner of a
street. The crowd piously turns away; only one young man looks upon her
with lust in his heart. He is instantly struck blind by lightning, but
at the request of the virgin his sight is restored to him. Then follows
the account of how she suffered martyrdom by the sword--a martyrdom
which the girl salutes with a transport of joy. The poet describes her
ascending to Heaven, and casting one last look upon this miserable
earth, whose miseries seem without end, and whose joys are of such short
duration.

"Then his great poem 'Psychomachia' is the first example in mediaeval
literature of allegorical poetry, the most Christian of all forms of
art.

"Faith, her shoulders bare, her hair free, advances, eager for the
fight. The 'cult of the ancient gods,' with forehead chapleted after the
fashion of the pagan priests, dares to attack her, and is overthrown.
The legion of martyrs that Faith has called together cry in triumphant
unison.... Modesty (Pudicitia), a young virgin with brilliant arms, is
attacked by 'the most horrible of the Furies' (Sodomita Libido), who,
with a torch burning with pitch and sulphur, seeks to strike her eyes,
but Modesty disarms him and pierces him with her sword. 'Since the
Virgin without stain gave birth to the Man-God, Lust is without rights
in the world.' Patience watches the fight; she is presently attacked
by Anger, first with violent words, and then with darts, which fall
harmlessly from her armour. Accompanied by Job, Patience retires
triumphant. But at that moment, mounted on a wild and unbridled steed,
and covered with a lionskin, Pride (Superbia), her hair built up like a
tower, menaces Humility (Mens humilis). Under the banner of Humility are
ranged Justice, Frugality, Modesty, pale of face, and likewise
Simplicity. Pride mocks at this miserable army, and would crush it under
the feet of her steed. But she falls in a ditch dug by Fraud. Humility
hesitates to take advantage of her victory; but Hope draws her sword,
cuts off the head of the enemy, and flies away on golden wings to
Heaven.

"Then Lust (Luxuria), the new enemy, appears. She comes from the extreme
East, this wild dancer, with odorous hair, provocative glance and
effeminate voice; she stands in a magnificent chariot drawn by four
horses; she scatters violet and rose leaves; they are her weapons; their
insidious perfumes destroy courage and will, and the army, headed by the
virtues, speaks of surrender. But suddenly Sobriety (Sobrietas) lifts
the standard of the Cross towards the sky. Lust falls from her chariot,
and Sobriety fells her with a stone. Then all her saturnalian army is
scattered. Love casts away his quiver. Pomp strips herself of her
garments, and Voluptuousness (Voluptas) fears not to tread upon thorns,
&c. But Avarice disguises herself in the mask of Economy, and succeeds
in deceiving all hearts until she is overthrown finally by Mercy
(Operatica). All sorts of things happen, but eventually the poem winds
up with a prayer to Christ, in which we learn that the soul shall fall
again and again in the battle, and that this shall continue until the
coming of Christ."

"'Tis very curious, very curious indeed. I know nothing of this
literature."

"Very few do."

"And you have, I suppose, translated some of these poems?"

"I give a complete translation of the second hymn, the story of St
Laurence, and I give long extracts from the poem we have been speaking
about, and likewise from 'Hamartigenia,' which, by the way, some
consider as his greatest work. And I show more completely, I think, than
any other commentator, the analogy between it and the 'Divine Comedy,'
and how much Dante owed to it.... Then the 'terza rima' was undoubtedly
borrowed from the fourth hymn of the 'Cathemerinon.'"...

"You said, I think, that Prudentius was a contemporary of Claudian.
Which do you think the greater poet?"

"Prudentius by far. Claudian's Latin was no doubt purer and his verse
was better, that is to say, from the classical standpoint it was more
correct."

"Is there any other standpoint?"

"Of course. There is pagan Latin and Christian Latin: Burns' poems are
beautiful, and they are not written in Southern English; Chaucer's
verse is exquisitely melodious, although it will not scan to modern
pronunciation. In the earliest Christian poetry there is a tendency to
write by accent rather than by quantity, but that does not say that
the hymns have not a quaint Gothic music of their own. This is very
noticeable in Sedulius, a poet of the fifth century. His hymn to Christ
is not only full of assonance, but of all kinds of rhyme and even
double rhymes. We find the same thing in Sedonius, and likewise in
Fortunatus--a gay prelate, the morality of whose life is, I am afraid,
open to doubt...

"He had all the qualities of a great poet, but he wasted his genius
writing love verses to Radegonde. The story is a curious one. Radegonde
was the daughter of the King of Thuringia; she was made prisoner by
Clotaire I., son of Clovis, who forced her to become his wife. On the
murder of her father by her husband, she fled and founded a convent at
Poictiers. There she met Fortunatus, who, it appears, loved her. It is
of course humanly possible that their love was not a guilty one, but it
is certain that the poet wasted the greater part of his life writing
verses to her and her adopted daughter Agnes. In a beautiful poem in
praise of virginity, composed in honour of Agnes, he speaks in a very
disgusting way of the love with which nuns regard our Redeemer, and the
recompence that awaits them in Heaven for their chastity. If it had not
been for the great interest attaching to his verse as an example of the
radical alteration that had been effected in the language, I do not
think I should have spoken of this poet. Up to his time rhyme had
slipped only occasionally into the verse, it had been noticed and had
been allowed to remain by poets too idle to remove it, a strange
something not quite understood, and yet not a wholly unwelcome intruder;
but in St Fortunatus we find for the first time rhyme cognate with the
metre, and used with certainty and brilliancy. In the opening lines of
the hymn, 'Vexilla Regis,' rhyme is used with superb effect....

"But for signs of the approaching dissolution of the language, of its
absorption by the national idiom, we must turn to St Gregory of Tours.
He was a man of defective education, and the _lingua rustica_ of France
as it was spoken by the people makes itself felt throughout his
writings. His use of _iscere_ for _escere_, of the accusative for the
ablative, one of St Gregory's favourite forms of speech, _pro or quod_
for _quoniam_, conformable to old French _porceque_, so common for
_parceque_. And while national idiom was oozing through grammatical
construction, national forms of verse were replacing the classical
metres which, so far as syllables were concerned, had hitherto been
adhered to. As we advance into the sixth and seventh centuries, we find
English monks attempting to reproduce the characteristics of Anglo-Saxon
alliterative verse in Latin; and at the Court of Charlemagne we find an
Irish monk writing Latin verse in a long trochaic line, which is native
in Irish poetry.

"Poets were plentiful at the court of Charlemagne. Now, Angilbert was a
poet of exquisite grace, and surprisingly modern is his music, which is
indeed a wonderful anticipation of the lilt of Edgar Poe. I compare it
to Poe. Just listen:--

    "'Surge meo Domno dulces fac, fistula versus:
    David amat versus, surge et fac fistula versus.
    David amat vates, vatorum est gloria David
    Qua propter vates cuncti concurrite in unum
    Atque meo David dulces cantate camoenas.
    David amat vates, vatorum est gloria David.
    Dulcis amor David inspirat corda canentum,
    Cordibus in nostris faciat amor ipsius odas:
    Vates Homerus amat David, fac, fistula, versus.
    David amat vates, vatorum est gloria David.'"

"I should have flogged that monk--'ipsius,' oh, oh!--'vatorum.'... It
really is too terrible."

John laughed, and was about to reply, when the clanging of the college
bell was heard.

"I am afraid that is dinner-time."

"Afraid, I am delighted; you don't suppose that every one can live,
chameleon-like, on air, or worse still, on false quantities. Ha, ha, ha!
And those pictures too. That snow is more violet than white."

When dinner was over, John and Mr Hare walked out on the terrace. The
carriage waited in the wet in front of the great oak portal; the grey,
stormy evening descended on the high roofs, smearing the red out of the
walls and buttresses, and melancholy and tall the red college seemed
amid its dwarf plantation, now filled with night wind and drifting
leaves. Shadow and mist had floated out of the shallows above the crests
of the valley, and the lamps of the farm-houses gleamed into a pale
existence.

"And now tell me what I am to say to your mother. Will you come home for
Christmas?"

"I suppose I must. I suppose it would seem so unkind if I didn't. I
cannot account even to myself for my dislike to the place. I cannot
think of it without a revulsion of feeling that is strangely personal."

"I won't argue that point with you, but I think you ought to come home."

"Why? Why ought I to come to Sussex, and marry my neighbour's daughter?"

"There is no reason that you should marry your neighbour's daughter,
but I take it that you do not propose to pass your life here."

"For the present I am concerned mainly with the problem of how I may
make advances, how I may meet life, as it were, half-way; for if
possible I would not quite lose touch of the world. I would love to live
in its shadow, a spectator whose duty it is to watch and encourage, and
pity the hurrying throng on the stage. The church would approve this
attitude, whereas hate and loathing of humanity are not to be justified.
But I can do nothing to hurry the state of feeling I desire, except of
course to pray. I have passed through some terrible moments of despair
and gloom, but these are now wearing themselves away, and I am feeling
more at rest."

Then, as if from a sudden fear of ridicule, John said, laughing:
"Besides, looking at the question from a purely practical side, it must
be hardly wise for me to return to society for the present. I like
neither fox-hunting, marriage, Robert Louis Stevenson's stories, nor Sir
Frederick Leighton's pictures; I prefer monkish Latin to Virgil, and I
adore Degas, Monet, Manet, and Renoir, and since this is so, and alas, I
am afraid irrevocably so, do you not think that I should do well to keep
outside a world in which I should be the only wrong and vicious being?
Why spoil that charming thing called society by my unlovely presence?

"Selfishness! I know what you are going to say--here is my answer. I
assure you I administer to the best of my ability the fortune God gave
me--I spare myself no trouble. I know the financial position of every
farmer on my estate, the property does not owe fifty pounds;--I keep the
tenants up to the mark; I do not approve of waste and idleness, but when
a little help is wanted I am ready to give it. And then, well, I don't
mind telling you, but it must not go any further. I have made a will
leaving something to all my tenants; I give away a fixed amount in
charity yearly."

"I know, my dear John, I know your life is not a dissolute one; but your
mother is very anxious, remember you are the last. Is there no chance
of your ever marrying?"

"I don't think I could live with a woman; there is something very
degrading, something very gross in such relations. There is a better and
a purer life to lead ... an inner life, coloured and permeated with
feelings and tones that are, oh, how intensely our own, and he who may
have this life, shrinks from any adventitious presence that might jar or
destroy it. To keep oneself unspotted, to feel conscious of no sense of
stain, to know, yes, to hear the heart repeat that this self--hands,
face, mouth and skin--is free from all befouling touch, is all one's
own. I have always been strongly attracted to the colour white, and I
can so well and so acutely understand the legend that tells that the
ermine dies of gentle loathing of its own self, should a stain come upon
its immaculate fur.... I should not say a legend, for that implies that
the story is untrue, and it is not untrue--so beautiful a thought could
not be untrue."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Qui Romam regis.]



CHAPTER III.


"Urns on corner walls, pilasters, circular windows, flowerage and
loggia. What horrible taste, and quite out of keeping with the
landscape!" He rang the bell.

"How do you do, Master John!" cried the tottering old butler who had
known him since babyhood. "Very glad, indeed, we all are to see you home
again, sir!"

Neither the appellation of Master John, nor the sight of the four
paintings, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, which decorated the walls
of the passage, found favour with John, and the effusiveness of Mrs
Norton, who rushed out of the drawing-room, followed by Kitty, and
embraced her son, at once set on edge all his curious antipathies. Why
this kissing, this approachment of flesh? Of course she was his
mother.... Then this smiling girl in the background! He would have to
amuse her and talk to her; what infinite boredom it would be! He trusted
fervently that her visit would not be a long one.

Then through what seemed to him the pollution of triumph, he was led
into the library; and he noticed, notwithstanding the presiding busts of
Shakespeare and Milton, that there was but one wretched stand full of
books in the room, and that in the gloom of a far corner. His mother sat
down, and there was a resoluteness in her look and attitude that seemed
to proclaim, "Now I hold you captive;" but she said:

"I was very much alarmed, my dear John, about your not sleeping. Mr Hare
told me you said that you went two and three nights without closing your
eyes, and that you had to have recourse to sleeping draughts."

"Not at all, mother, I never took a sleeping draught but twice in my
life."

"Well, you don't sleep well, and I am sure it is those college beds.
But you will be far more comfortable here. You are in the best bedroom
in the house, the one in front of the staircase, the bridal chamber; and
I have selected the largest and softest feather-bed in the house."

"My dear mother, if there is one thing more than another I dislike, it
is a feather-bed. I should not be able to close my eyes; I beg of you to
have it taken away."

Mrs Norton's face flushed. "I cannot understand, John; it is absurd to
say that you cannot sleep on a feather-bed. Mr Hare told me you
complained of insomnia, and there is no surer way of losing your health.
It is owing to the hardness of those college mattresses, whereas in a
feather-bed--"

"There is no use in our arguing that point, mother, I say I cannot sleep
on a feather-bed...."

"But you have not tried one; I don't believe you ever slept on a
feather-bed in your life."

"Well, I am not going to begin now."

"We haven't another bed aired in the house, and it is really too late
to ask the servants to change your room."

"Well, then, I shall be obliged to sleep at the hotel in Henfield."

"You should not speak to your mother in that way; I will not have it."

"There! you see we are quarrelling already; I did wrong to come home."

"I am speaking to you for your own good, my dear John, and I think it is
very stubborn of you to refuse to sleep on a feather-bed; if you don't
like it, you can change it to-morrow."

The conversation fell, and in silence the speakers strove to master
their irritation. Then John, for politeness' sake, spoke of when he had
last seen Kitty. It was about five years ago. She had ridden her pony
over to see them.

Mrs Norton talked of some people who had left the county, of a marriage,
of an engagement, of a mooted engagement; and she jerked in a
suggestion that if John were to apply at once, he would be placed
on the list of deputy-lieutenants. Enumeration of the family
influence--Lord So-and-so, the cousin, was the Lord Lieutenant's most
intimate friend.

"You are not even a J.P., but there will be no difficulty about that;
and you have not seen any of the county people for years. We will have
the carriage out some day this week, and we'll pay a round of visits."

"We'll do nothing of the kind. I have no time for visiting; I must get
on with my book. I hope to finish my study of St Augustine before I
leave here. I have my books to unpack, and a great deal of reading to
get through. I have done no more than glance at the Anglo-Latin.
Literature died in France with Gregory of Tours at the end of the sixth
century; with St Gregory the Great, in Italy, at the commencement of the
seventh century; in Spain about the same time. And then the Anglo-Saxons
became the representatives of the universal literature. All this is
most important. I must re-read St Aldhelm and the Venerable Bede....
Now, I ask, do you expect me--me, with my head full of Aldhelm's
alliterative verses--

    "'Turbo terram teretibus
    Quae catervatim coelitus
    Neque coelorum culmina
    ......
    ......
    Grassabatur turbinibus
    Crebrantur nigris nubibus
    Carent nocturna nebula--'

"a letter descriptive of a great storm which he was caught in as he was
returning home one night...."

"Now, sir, we have had quite enough of that, and I would advise you not
to go on with any of that nonsense here; you will be turned into
dreadful ridicule."

"That's just why I wish to avoid them ... but you have no pity for me.
Just fancy my having to listen to them! How I have suffered.... What is
the use of growing wheat when we are only getting eight pounds ten a
load?... But we must grow something, and there is nothing else but
wheat. We must procure a certain amount of straw, or we'd have no
manure, and you can't work a farm without manure. I don't believe in the
fish manure. But there is market gardening, and if we kept shops in
Brighton, we could grow our own stuff and sell it at retail price....
And then there is a great deal to be done with flowers."

"Now, sir, that will do, that will do.... How dare you speak to me so! I
will not allow it." And then relapsing into an angry silence, Mrs Norton
drew her shawl about her shoulders.

One of a thousand quarrels. The basis of each nature was common
sense--shrewd common sense--but such similarity of structure is in
itself apt to lead to much violent shocking of opinion; and to this end
an adjuvant was found in the dose of fantasy, mysticism, idealism which
was inherent in John's character. "Why is he not like other people? Why
will he waste his time with a lot of rubbishy Latin authors? Why will he
not take up his position in the county?" Mrs Norton asked herself these
questions as she fumed on the sofa.

"I wonder why she will continue to try to impose her will upon mine. I
wonder why she has not found out by this time the uselessness of her
effort. But no; she still keeps on hoping at last to wear me down. She
wants me to live the life she has marked out for me to live--to take up
my position in the county, and, above all, to marry and give an heir to
the property. I see it all; that is why she wanted me to spend Christmas
with her; that is why she has Kitty Hare here to meet me. How cunning,
how mean women are: a man would not do that. Had I known it.... I have a
mind to leave to-morrow. I wonder if the girl is in the little
conspiracy." And turning his head he looked at her.

Tall and slight, a grey dress, pale as the wet sky, fell from her waist
outward in the manner of a child's frock, and there was a lightness,
there was brightness in the clear eyes. The intense youth of her heart
was evanescent; it seemed constantly rising upwards like the breath of
a spring morning--a morning when the birds are trilling. The face
sharpened to a tiny chin, and the face was pale, although there was
bloom on the cheeks. The forehead was shadowed by a sparkling cloud of
brown hair, the nose was straight, and each little nostril was pink
tinted. The ears were like shells. There was a rigidity in her attitude.
She laughed abruptly, perhaps a little nervously, and the abrupt laugh
revealed the line of tiny white teeth. Thin arms fell straight to the
translucent hands, and there was a recollection of puritan England in
look and in gesture.

Her picturesqueness calmed John's ebullient discontent; he decided that
she knew nothing of, and was not an accomplice in, his mother's scheme:
For the sake of his guest he strove to make himself agreeable during
dinner, but it was clear that he missed the hierarchy of the college
table. The conversation fell repeatedly. Mrs Norton and Kitty spoke of
making syrup for the bees; and their discussion of the illness of poor
Dr ----, who would no longer be able to get through the work of the
parish single-handed, and would require a curate, was continued till the
ladies rose from table. Nor did matters mend in the library. John's
thoughts went back to his book; the room seemed to him intolerably
uncomfortable and ugly. He went to the billiard-room to smoke a cigar.
It was not clear to him if he would be able to spend two months in this
odious place. He might offer them to God as penance for his sins; if
every evening passed like the present, it were a modern martyrdom.
But had they removed that horrid feather-bed? He went upstairs. The
feather-bed had been removed.

The room was large and ample, and it was draped with many curtains--pale
curtains covered with walking birds and falling petals, a sort of Indian
pattern. There was a sofa at the foot of the bed, and the toilette-table
hung out its skirts in the wavering light of the fire. John tossed to
and fro staring at the birds and petals. He thought of his ascetic
college bed, of the great Christ upon the wall, of the prie-dieu with
the great rosary hanging, but in vain; he could not rid his mind of the
distasteful feminine influences which had filled the day, and which now
haunted the night.

After breakfast next morning Mrs Norton stopped John as he was going
upstairs to unpack his books. "Now," she said, "you must go out for a
walk with Kitty Hare, and I hope you will make yourself agreeable. I
want you to see the new greenhouse I have put up; she'll show it to you.
And I told the bailiff to meet you in the yard. I thought you might like
to see him."

"I wish, mother, you would not interfere in my business; had I wanted to
see Burnes I should have sent for him."

"If you don't want to see him, he wants to see you. There are some
cottages on the farm that must be put into repair at once. As for
interfering in your business, I don't know how you can talk like that;
were it not for me the whole place would be falling to pieces."

"Quite true; I know you save me a great deal of expense; but really ..."

"Really what? You won't go out to walk with Kitty Hare?"

"I did not say I wouldn't, but I must say that I am very busy just now.
I had thought of doing a little reading, for I have an appointment with
my solicitor in the afternoon."

"That man charges you £200 a-year for collecting the rents; now, if you
were to do it yourself, you would save the money, and it would give you
something to do."

"Something to do! I have too much to do as it is.... But if I am going
out with Kitty.... Where is she?"

"I saw her go into the library a moment ago."

And as it was preferable to go for a walk with Kitty than to continue
the interview with his mother, John seized his hat and called Kitty,
Kitty, Kitty! Presently she appeared, and they walked towards the
garden, talking. She told him she had been at Thornby Place the whole
time the greenhouse was being built, and when they opened the door they
were greeted by Sammy. He sprang instantly on her shoulder.

"This is my cat," she said. "I've fed him since he was a little kitten;
isn't he sweet?"

The girl was beautiful on the brilliant flower background; she stroked
the great caressing creature, and when she put him down he mewed
reproachfully. Further on her two tame rooks cawed joyously, and
alighted on her shoulder.

"I wonder they don't fly away, and join the others in the trees."

"One did go away, and he came back nearly dead with hunger. But he is
all right now, aren't you, dear?" And the bird cawed, and rubbed its
black head against its mistress' cheek. "Poor little things, they fell
out of the nest before they could fly, and I brought them up. But you
don't care for pets, do you, John?"

"I don't like birds!"

"Don't like birds! Why, that seems as strange as if you said that you
didn't like flowers."

"Mrs Norton told me, sir, that you would like to speak to me about them
cottages on the Erringham Farm," said the bailiff.

"Yes, yes, I must go over and see them to-morrow morning at ten o'clock.
I intend to go thoroughly into everything. How are they getting on with
the cottages that were burnt down?"

"Rather slow, sir, the weather is so bad."

"But talking of fire, Burnes, I find that I can insure at a much cheaper
rate at Lloyds' than at most of the offices. I find that I shall make a
saving of £20 a-year."

"That's worth thinking about, sir."

While the young squire talked to his bailiff Kitty fed her rooks. They
cawed, and flew to her hand for the scraps of meat. The coachman came
to speak about oats and straw. They went to the stables. Kitty adored
horses, it amused John to see her pat them, and her vivacity and
light-heartedness rather pleased him than otherwise.

Nevertheless, during the whole of the following week the ladies held
little communication with John. He lived apart from them. In the
mornings he went out with his bailiffs to inspect farms and consult
about possible improvement and necessary repairs. He had appointments
with his solicitor. There were accounts to be gone through. He never
paid a bill without verifying every item. It was difficult to say what
should be done with a farm for which a tenant could not be found even
at a reduced rent. At four o'clock he came into tea, his head full of
calculations of such a complex character that even his mother could not
follow the different statements to his satisfaction. When she disagreed
with him, he took up the "Epistles of St Columban of Bangor," the
"Epistola ad Sethum," or the celebrated poem, "Epistola ad Fedolium,"
written when the saint was seventy-two, and continued his reading,
making copious notes in a pocket-book. To do so he drew his chair close
to the library fire, and when Kitty came quickly into the room with a
flutter of skirts and a sound of laughter, he awoke from contemplation,
and her singing as she ascended the stairs jarred the dreams of cloister
and choir which mounted from the pages to his brain in clear and
intoxicating rhapsody.

On the third of November Mrs Norton announced that the meet of the
hounds had been fixed for the fifteenth, and that there would be a hunt
breakfast.

"Oh, my dear mother! you don't mean that they are coming here to lunch!"

"For the last twenty years all our side of the county has been in the
habit of coming here to lunch, but of course you can shut your doors to
all your friends and acquaintances. No doubt they will think you have
come down here on purpose to insult them."

"Insult them! why should I insult them? I haven't seen them since I was
a boy. I remember that the hunt breakfast used to go on all day long.
Every woman in the county used to come, and they used to stay to tea,
and you used to insist on a great number remaining to supper."

"Well, you can put a stop to all that now that you have consented to
come to Thornby Place, only I hope you don't expect me to remain here to
see my friends insulted."

"But just think of the expense! and in these bad times. You know I
cannot find a tenant for the Woreington farm. I am afraid I shall have
to provide the capital and farm it myself. Now, in the face of such
losses, don't you think that we should retrench?"

"Retrench! A few fowls and rounds of beef! You don't think of retrenching
when you present Stanton College with a stained glass window that costs
five hundred pounds."

"Of course, if you like it, mother..."

"I like nothing but what you like, but I really think that for you to
put down the hunt breakfast the first time you honour us with a visit,
would look very much as if you intended to insult the whole county."

"It will be a day of misery for me!" replied John, laughing; "but I
daresay I shall live through it."

"I think you will like it very much," said Kitty. "There will be a lot
of pretty girls here: the Misses Green are coming from Worthing; the
eldest is such a pretty girl, you are sure to admire her. And the hounds
and horses look so beautiful."

Mrs Norton and Kitty spoke daily of invitations, and later on of cooking
and the various things that were wanted. John continued to go through
his accounts in the morning, and to read monkish Latin in the evening;
but he was secretly nervous, and he dreaded the approaching day.

He was called an hour earlier--eight o'clock; he drank a cup of cold tea
and ate a piece of dry toast in a back room. The dining-room was full
of servants, who laid out a long table rich with comestibles and
glittering with glass. Mrs Norton and Kitty were upstairs dressing.

He wandered into the drawing-room and viewed the dead, cumbrous
furniture; the two cabinets bright with brass and veneer. He stood at
the window staring. It was raining. The yellow of the falling leaves was
hidden in the grey mist. It ceased to rain. "This weather will keep many
away; so much the better; there will be too many as it is. I wonder who
this can be." A melancholy brougham passed up the drive. There were
three old maids, all looking sweetly alike; one was a cripple who walked
with crutches, and her smile was the best and the gayest imaginable
smile.

"How little material welfare has to do with our happiness," thought
John. "There is one whose path is the narrowest, and she is happier and
better than I." And then the three sweet old maids talked with their
cousin of the weather; and they all wondered--a sweet feminine
wonderment--if he would see a girl that day whom he would marry.

Presently the house was full of people. The passage was full of girls; a
few men sat at breakfast at the end of the long table. Some red coats
passed across the green glare of the park, and the hounds trotted about
a single horseman. Voices. "Oh! how sweet they look! oh, the dear dogs!"
The huntsman stopped in front of the house, the hounds sniffed here
and there, the whips trotted their horses and drove them back. "Get
together, get together; get back there; Woodland, Beauty, come up here."
The hounds rolled on the grass, and leaned their fore-paws on the
railings, willing to be caressed.

"How sweet they are, look at their soft eyes," cried an old lady whose
deity was a pug, and whose back garden reeked of the tropics. "Look how
good and kind they are; they would not hurt anything; it is only wicked
men who teach them to be ..." The old lady hesitated before the word
"bad," and murmured something about killing.

There was a lady with melting eyes, many children, and a long sealskin,
and she availed herself of the excuse of seeing the hounds to rejoin a
young man in whom she was interested. There was an old sportsman of
seventy winters, as hale and as hearty as an oak, standing on the
door-step, and he made John promise to come over and see him. The girls
strolled about in groups. As usual young men were lacking. Looking at
his watch, the huntsman pressed the sides of his horse, and rode to draw
the covers at the end of the park. The ladies followed to see the start,
although the mud was inches deep under foot. "Hu in, hu in," cried the
huntsman. The whips trotted round cracking their long whips. Not a sound
was heard. Suddenly there was a whimper, "Hark to Woodland," cried the
huntsman. The hounds rallied to the point, but nothing came of it.
Apparently the old bitch was at fault. The huntsman muttered something
inaudible. But some few hundred yards further on, in an outlying clump
where no one would expect to find, a fox broke clean away.

The country is as flat as a smooth sea. Chanctonbury Ring stands up like
a mighty cliff on a northern shore; its crown of trees is grim. The
abrupt ascents of Toddington Mount bear away to the left, and tide-like
the fields flow up into the great gulf between.

"He's making for the furze, but he'll never reach them; he got no start,
and the ground is heavy."

Then the watchers saw the horsemen making their way up the chalky roads
cut in the precipitous side of the downs. Rain began to fall, umbrellas
were put up, and all hurried home to lunch.

"Now John, try and make yourself agreeable, go over and talk to some of
the young ladies. Why do you dress yourself in that way? Have you no
other coat? You look like a young priest. Look at that young man over
there! how nicely dressed he is! I wish you would let your moustache
grow; it would improve you immensely." With these and similar remarks
whispered to him, Mrs Norton continued to exasperate her son until the
servants announced that lunch was ready. "Take in Mrs So-and-so," she
said to John, who would fain have escaped from the melting glances of
the lady in the long sealskin. He offered her his arm with an air of
resignation, and set to work valiantly to carve a huge turkey.

As soon as the servants had cleared away after one set another came, and
although the meet was a small one, John took six ladies in to lunch.
About half-past three the men adjourned to the billiard-room to smoke.
The girls, mighty in numbers, followed, and, with their arms round each
other's waists, and interlacing fingers, they grouped themselves about
the room. Two huntsmen returned dripping wet, and much to his annoyance,
John had to furnish them with a change of clothes. There was tea in the
drawing-room about five o'clock, and soon after the visitors began to
take their leave.

The wind blew very coldly, the roosting rooks rose out of the branches,
and the carriages rolled into the night; but still a remnant of visitors
stood on the steps talking to John. His cold was worse; he felt very
ill, and now a long sharp pain had grown through his left side, and
momentarily it became more and more difficult to exchange polite words
and smiles. The footmen stood waiting by the open door, the horses
champed their bits, the green of the park was dark, and a group of
kissing girls moved about the loggia, wheels grated on the gravel ...
all were gone! The butler shut the door, and John went to the library
fire.

There his mother found him. She saw that something was seriously the
matter. He was helped up to bed, and the doctor was sent for. A bad
attack of pleurisy. John was rolled up in an enormous mustard
plaster--mustard and cayenne pepper; it bit into the flesh. He roared
with pain; he was slightly delirious; he cursed those around him, using
blasphemous language.

For more than a week he suffered. He lay bent over, unable to
straighten himself, as if a nerve had been wound up too tightly in the
left side. He was fed on gruel and beef-tea, the room was kept very
warm; it was not until the twelfth day that he was taken out of bed.

"You have had a narrow escape," the doctor said to John, who, well
wrapped up, lay back, looking very weak and pale, before a blazing fire.
"It was very lucky I was sent for. Twenty-four hours later I would not
have answered for your life."

"I was delirious, was I not?"

"Yes, slightly; you cursed and swore fearfully at us when we rolled you
up in the mustard plaster.... Well, it was very hot, and must have burnt
you."

"Yes, it was; it has scarcely left a bit of skin on me. But did I use
very bad language? I suppose I could not help it.... I was delirious,
was I not?"

"Yes, slightly."

"Yes; but I remember, and if I remember right, I used very bad
language; and people when they are really delirious do not know what
they say. Is not that so, doctor?"

"If they are really delirious they do not remember, but you were only
slightly delirious ... you were maddened by the pain occasioned by the
pungency of the plaster."

"Yes; but do you think I knew what I was saying?"

"You must have known what you were saying, because you remember what you
said."

"But could I be held accountable for what I said?"

"Accountable.... Well, I hardly know what you mean. You were certainly
not in the full possession of your senses. Your mother (Mrs Norton) was
very much shocked, but I told her that you were not accountable for what
you said."

"Then I could not be held accountable, I did not know what I was
saying."

"I don't think you did exactly; people in a passion don't know what
they say!"

"Ah! yes, but we are answerable for sins committed in the heat of
passion: we should restrain our passion; we were wrong in the first
instance in giving way to passion.... But I was ill, it was not exactly
passion. And I was very near death; I had a narrow escape, doctor?"

"Yes, I think I can call it a narrow escape."

The voices ceased,--five o'clock,--the curtains were rosy with lamp
light, and conscience awoke in the langours of convalescent hours. "I
stood on the verge of death!" The whisper died away. John was still very
weak, and he had not strength to think with much insistance, but now and
then remembrance surprised him suddenly like pain; it came unexpectedly,
he knew not whence nor how, but he could not choose but listen. Each
interval of thought grew longer; the scabs of forgetfulness were picked
away, the red sore was exposed bleeding and bare. Was he responsible
for those words? He could remember them all now; each like a burning
arrow lacerated his bosom, and he pulled them to and fro. Remembrance
in the watches of the night, dawn fills the dark spaces of a window,
meditations grow more and more lucid. He could now distinguish the
instantaneous sensation of wrong that had flashed on his excited mind in
the moment of his sinning.... Then he could think no more, and in the
twilight of contrition he dreamed vaguely of God's great goodness, of
penance, of ideal atonements. Christ hung on the cross, and far away the
darkness was seared with flames and demons.

And as strength returned, remembrance of his blasphemies grew stronger
and fiercer, and often as he lay on his pillow, his thoughts passing in
long procession, his soul would leap into intense suffering. "I stood on
the verge of death with blasphemies on my tongue. I might have been
called to confront my Maker with horrible blasphemies in my heart and on
my tongue; but He in His Divine goodness spared me: He gave me time to
repent. Am I answerable, O my God, for those dreadful words that I
uttered against Thee, because I suffered a little pain, against Thee Who
once died on the cross to save me! O God, Lord, in Thine infinite mercy
look down on me, on me! Vouchsafe me Thy mercy, O my God, for I was
weak! My sin is loathsome; I prostrate myself before Thee, I cry aloud
for mercy!"

Then seeing Christ amid His white million of youths, beautiful singing
saints, gold curls and gold aureoles, lifted throats, and form of harp
and dulcimer, he fell prone in great bitterness on the misery of earthly
life. His happinesses and ambitions appeared to him less than the
scattering of a little sand on the sea-shore. Joy is passion, passion
is suffering; we cannot desire what we possess, therefore desire is
rebellion prolonged indefinitely against the realities of existence;
when we attain the object of our desire, we must perforce neglect it in
favour of something still unknown, and so we progress from illusion to
illusion. The winds of folly and desolation howl about us; the sorrows
of happiness are the worst to bear, and the wise soon learn that there
is nothing to dream of but the end of desire.... God is the one ideal,
the Church the one shelter from the misery and meanness of life. Peace
is inherent in lofty arches, rapture in painted panes.... See the mitres
and crosiers, the blood-stained heavenly breasts, the loin-linen hanging
over orbs of light.... Listen! ah! the voices of chanting boys, and out
of the cloud of incense come Latin terminations, and the organ still is
swelling.

In such religious aestheticisms the soul of John Norton had long
slumbered, but now it awoke in remorse and pain, and, repulsing its
habitual exaltations even as if they were sins, he turned to the primal
idea of the vileness of this life, and its sole utility in enabling man
to gain heaven. Beauty, what was it but temptation? He winced before a
conclusion so repugnant to him, but the terrors of the verge on which
he had so lately stood were still upon him in all their force, and he
crushed his natural feelings....

The manifestation of modern pessimism in John Norton has been described,
and how its influence was checked by constitutional mysticity has
also been shown. Schopenhauer, when he overstepped the line ruled by
the Church, was instantly rejected. From him John Norton's faith
had suffered nothing; the severest and most violent shocks had come
from another side--a side which none would guess, so complex and
contradictory are the involutions of the human brain. Hellenism, Greek
culture and ideal; academic groves; young disciples, Plato and Socrates,
the august nakedness of the Gods were equal, or almost equal, in his
mind with the lacerated bodies of meagre saints; and his heart wavered
between the temple of simple lines and the cathedral of a thousand
arches. Once there had been a sharp struggle, but Christ, not Apollo,
had been the victor, and the great cross in the bedroom of Stanton
College overshadowed the beautiful slim body in which Divinity seemed to
circulate like blood; and this photograph was all that now remained of
much youthful anguish and much temptation.

A fact to note is that his sense of reality had always remained in a
rudimentary state; it was, as it were, diffused over the world and
mankind. For instance, his belief in the misery and degradation of
earthly life, and the natural bestiality of man, was incurable; but of
this or that individual he had no opinion; he was to John Norton a blank
sheet of paper, to which he could not affix even a title. His childhood
had been one of bitter tumult and passionate sorrow; the different and
dissident ideals growing up in his heart and striving for the mastery,
had torn and tortured him, and he had long lain as upon a mental rack.
Ignorance of the material laws of existence had extended even into his
sixteenth year, and when, bit by bit, the veil fell, and he understood,
he was filled with loathing of life and mad desire to wash himself
free of its stain; and it was this very hatred of natural flesh that
precipitated a perilous worship of the deified flesh of the God. But
mysticity saved him from plain paganism, and the art of the Gothic
cathedral grew dear to him. It was nearer akin to him, and he assuaged
his wounded soul in the ecstacies of incense and the great charms of
Gregorian chant.

But fear now for the first time took possession of him, and he
realised--if not in all its truth, at least in part--that his love of
God had only taken the form of a gratification of the senses, a
sensuality higher but as intense as those which he so much reproved.
Fear smouldered in his very entrails, and doubt fumed and went out like
steam--long lines and falling shadows and slowly dispersing clouds. His
life had been but a sin, an abomination, and the fairest places darkened
as the examination of conscience proceeded. His thought whirled in
dreadful night, soul-torturing contradictions came suddenly under his
eyes, like images in a night-mare; and in horror and despair, as a woman
rising from a bed of small-pox drops the mirror after the first glance,
and shrinks from destroying the fair remembrance of her face by pursuing
the traces of the disease through every feature, he hid his face in his
hands and called for forgiveness--for escape from the endless record of
his conscience. With staring eyes and contracted brows he saw the flames
which await him who blasphemes. To the verge of those flames he had
drifted. If God in His infinite mercy had not withheld him?... He
pictured himself lost in fires and furies. Then looking up he saw the
face of Christ, grown pitiless in final time--Christ standing immutable
amid His white million of youths....

And the worthlessness and the abjectness of earthly life struck him with
awful and all-convincing power, and this vision of the worthlessness of
existence was clearer than any previous vision. He paused. There was but
one conclusion ... it looked down upon him like a star--he would become a
priest. All darkness, all madness, all fear faded, and with sure and
certain breath he breathed happiness; the sense of consecration nestled
in its heart, and its light shone upon his face.

There was nothing in the past, but there is the sweetness of meditation
in the present, and in the future there is God. Like a fountain flowing
amid a summer of leaves and song, the sweet hours came with quiet and
melodious murmur. In the great arm-chair of his ancestors he sits thin
and tall. Thin and tall. The great flames decorate the darkness, and the
twilight sheds upon the rose curtains, walking birds and falling petals.
But his thoughts are dreaming through long aisle and solemn arch, clouds
of incense and painted panes.... The palms rise in great curls like the
sky; and amid the opulence of gold vestments, the whiteness of the
choir, the Latin terminations and the long abstinences, the holy oil
comes like a kiss that never dies ... and in full glory of symbol and
chant, the very savour of God descends upon him ... and then he awakes,
surprised to find such dreams out of sleep.

His resolve did not alter; he longed for health because it would bring
the realisation of his desire, and time appeared to him cruelly long.
Nor could he think of the pain he inflicted on his mother, so centred
was he in this thought; he was blind to her sorrowing face, he was deaf
to her entreaty; he could neither feel nor see beyond the immediate
object he had in mind, and he spoke to her in despair of the length of
months that separated him from consecration; he speculated on the
possibility of expediting that happy day by a dispensation from the
Pope. The moment he could obtain permission from the doctor he ordered
his trunks to be packed, and when he bid Mrs Norton and Kitty Hare
good-bye, he exacted a promise from the former to be present at Stanton
College on Palm Sunday. He wished her to be present when he embraced
Holy Orders.



CHAPTER IV.


Every morning Mrs Norton flung her black shawl over her shoulders,
rattled her keys, and scolded the servants at the end of the long
passage. Kitty, as she watered the flowers in the greenhouse, often
wondered why John had chosen to become a priest and grieve his mother.
Three times out of five when the women met at lunch, Mrs Norton said:

"Kitty, would you like to come out for a drive?"

Kitty answered, "I don't mind; just as you like, Mrs Norton."

After tea at five Kitty read for an hour, and in the evening she played
the piano; and she sometimes endeavoured to console her hostess by
suggesting that people did change their minds, and that John might not
become a priest after all. Mrs Norton looked at the girl, and it was
often on her lips to say, "If you had only flirted, if you had only paid
him some attentions, all might have been different." But heart-broken
though she was, Mrs Norton could not speak the words. The girl looked so
candid, so flowerlike in her guilelessness, that the thought seemed a
pollution. And in a few days Mr Hare sent for Kitty; and with her
departed the last ray of sunlight, and Thornby Place grew too sad and
solitary for Mrs Norton.

She went to visit some friends; she spent Christmas at the Rectory; and
in the long evenings when Kitty had gone to bed, she opened her heart
to her old friend. The last hope was gone; there was nothing for her to
look for now. John did not even write to her; she had not heard from him
since he left. It was very wrong of the Jesuits to encourage him in such
conduct, and she thought of laying the whole matter before the Pope. The
order had once been suppressed; she did not remember by what Pope; but
a Pope had grown tired of their intrigues, and had suppressed the order.
She made these accusations in moments of passion, and immediately after
came deep regret.... How wrong of her to speak ill of her religion, and
to a Protestant! If John did become a priest it would be a punishment
for her sins. But what was she saying? If John became a priest, she
should thank God for His great goodness. What greater honour could he
bestow upon her? Next day she took the train to Brighton, and went to
confession; and that very same evening she pleadingly suggested to Mr
Hare that he should go to Stanton College, and endeavour to persuade
John to return home. The parson was of course obliged to decline. He
advised her to leave the matter in the hands of God, and Mrs Norton went
to bed a prey to scruples of conscience of all kinds.

She even began to think it wrong to remain any longer in an essentially
Protestant atmosphere. But to return to Thornby Place alone was
impossible, and she begged for Kitty. The parson was loth to part with
his daughter, but he felt there was much suffering beneath the calm
exterior that Mrs Norton preserved. He could refuse her nothing, and he
let Kitty go.

"There is no reason why you should not come and dine with us every day;
but I shall not let you have her back for the next two months."

"What day will you come and see us, father dear?" said Kitty, leaning
out of the carriage window.

"On Thursday," cried the parson.

"Very well, we shall expect you," replied Mrs Norton; and with a sigh
she sank back on the cushions, and fell to thinking of her son.

At Thornby Place everything was soon discovered to be in a sad state of
neglect. There was much work to be done in the greenhouse, the azaleas
were being devoured by insects, and the leaves required a thorough
washing. It was easy to see that the cats had not been regularly fed,
and one of the tame rooks had flown away. Remedying these disasters,
Mrs Norton and Kitty hurried to and fro. There was a ball at Steyning,
and Mrs Norton consented to do the chaperon for once; and the girl's
dress was a subject of gossip for a month--for a fortnight an absorbing
occupation. Most of the people who had been at the hunt breakfast were
at the ball, and Kitty had plenty of partners. These suggested husbands
to Mrs Norton, and she questioned Kitty; but she did not seem to have
thought of the ball except in the light of a toy which she had been
allowed to play with one evening. The young men she had met there had
apparently interested her no more than if they had been girls, and she
regretted John only because of Mrs Norton. Every morning she ran to see
if there was a letter, so that it might be she who brought the good
news. But no letter came. Since Christmas John had written two short
notes, and now they were well on in April. But one morning as she stood
watching the springtide, Kitty saw him walking up the drive; the sky
was growing bright with blue, and the beds were catching flower beneath
the evergreen oaks. She ran to Mrs Norton, who was attending to the
canaries in the bow-window.

"Look, look, Mrs Norton, John is coming up the drive; it is he; look!"

"John!" said Mrs Norton, seeking for her glasses nervously; "yes, so it
is; let's run and meet him. But no; let's take him rather coolly. I
believe half his eccentricity is only put on because he wishes to
astonish us. We won't ask him any questions; we'll just wait and let him
tell his own story...."

"How do you do, mother?" said the young man, kissing Mrs Norton with
less reluctance than usual. "You must forgive me for not having answered
your letters. It really was not my fault; I have been passing through a
very terrible state of mind lately.... And how do you do, Kitty? Have
you been keeping my mother company ever since? It is very good in you;
I am afraid you must think me a very undutiful son. But what is the
news?"

"One of the rooks is gone."

"Is that all?... What about the ball at Steyning? I hear it was a great
success."

"Oh, it was delightful."

"You must tell me about it after dinner. Now I must go round to the
stables and tell Walls to take the trap round to the station to fetch my
things."

"Are you going to be here some time?" said Mrs Norton, assuming an
indifferent air.

"Yes, I think so; that is to say, for a couple of months--six weeks. I
have some arrangements to make, but I will speak to you about all that
after dinner."

With these words John left the room, and he left his mother agitated and
frightened.

"What can he mean by having arrangements to make?" she asked. Kitty
could of course suggest no explanation, and the women waited the
pleasure of the young man to speak his mind. He seemed, however, in
no hurry to do so; and the manner in which he avoided the subject
aggravated his mother's uneasiness. At last she said, unable to bear the
suspense any longer:

"Are you going to be a priest, John, dear?"

"Of course, but not a Jesuit...."

"And why? have you had a quarrel with the Jesuits?"

"Oh, no; never mind; I don't like to talk about it; not exactly a
quarrel, but I have seen a great deal of them lately, and I have found
them out. I don't mean in anything wrong, but the order is so entirely
opposed to the monastic spirit. It is difficult to explain; I really
can't.... What I mean is ... well, that their worldliness is repugnant to
me--fashionable friends, confidences, meddling in family affairs, dining
out, letters from ladies who need consolation.... I don't mean anything
wrong; pray don't misunderstand me. I merely mean to say that I hate
their meddling in family affairs. Their confessional is a kind of
marriage bureau; they have always got some plan on for marrying this
person to that, and I must say I hate all that sort of thing.... If I
were a priest I would disdain to ... but perhaps I am wrong to speak like
that. Yes, it is very wrong of me, and before ... Kitty, you must not
think I am speaking against the principles of my religion, I am only
speaking of matters of--"

"And have you given up your rooms in Stanton College?"

"Not yet; that is to say, nothing is settled definitely, but I do not
think I shall go back there; at least not to live."

"And you still are determined on becoming a priest?"

"Certainly, but not a Jesuit."

"What then?"

"A Carmelite. I have seen a great deal of these monks lately, and it is
only they who preserve some of the old spirit of the old ideal. To enter
the Carmelite Chapel in Kensington is to step out of the mean
atmosphere of to-day into the lofty charm of the Middle Ages. The long
straight folds of habits falling over sandalled feet, the great rosaries
hanging down from the girdles, the smell of burning wax, the large
tonsures, the music of the choir; I know nothing like it. Last Sunday I
heard them sing St Fortunatus' hymn,... the _Vexilla regis_ heard in the
cloud of incense, and the wrath of the organ!... splendid are the rhymes!
the first stanza in U and O, the second in A, and the third in E;
passing over the closed vowels, the hymn ascends the scale of sound--"

"Now, John, none of that nonsense; how dare you, sir? Don't attempt to
laugh at your mother."

"My dear mother, you must not think I am sneering because I speak of
what is uppermost in my mind. I have determined to become a Carmelite
monk, and that is why I came down here."

Mrs Norton was very angry; her temper fumed, and she would have burst
into violent words had not the last words, "and that is why I came down
here," frightened her into calmness.

"What do you mean?" she said, turning round in her chair. "You came down
here to become a Carmelite monk; what do you mean?"

John hesitated. He was clearly a little frightened, but having gone so
far he felt he must proceed. Besides, to-day, or to-morrow, sooner or
later the truth would have to be told. He said:

"I intend altering the house a little here and there; you know how
repugnant this mock Italian architecture is to my feelings.... I am
coming to live here with some monks--"

"You must be mad, sir; you mean to say that you intend to pull down the
house of your ancestors and turn it into a monastery?"

John drew a breath of relief, the worst was over now; she had spoken the
fulness of his thought. Yes, he was going to turn Thornby Place into a
monastery.

"Yes," he said, "if you like to put it in that way. Yes, I am going to
turn Thornby Place into a monastery. Why shouldn't I? I am resolved
never to marry; and I have no one except those dreadful cousins to leave
the place to. Why shouldn't I turn it into a monastery and become a
monk? I wish to save my soul."

Mrs Norton groaned.

"But you make me say more than I mean. To turn the place into a Gothic
monastery, such a monastery as I dreamed would not be possible, unless
indeed I pulled the whole place down, and I have not sufficient money to
do that, and I do not wish to mortgage the property. For the present I
am determined only on a few alterations. I have them all in my head. The
billiard room, that addition of yours, can be turned into a chapel. And
the casements of the dreadful bow-window might be removed, and mullions
and tracery fixed on, and, instead of the present flat roof, a sloping
tiled roof might be carried up against the wall of the house. The
cloisters would come at the back of the chapel."

John stopped aghast at the sorrow he was causing, and he looked at his
mother. She did not speak. Her ears were full of merciless ruins; hope
vanished in the white dust; and the house with its memories sacred and
sweet fell pitilessly: beams lying this way and that, the piece of
exposed wall with the well-known wall paper, the crashing of slates. How
they fall! John's heart was rent with grief, but he could not stay his
determination any more than his breath. Youth is a season of suffering,
we cannot surrender our desire, and it lies heavy and burning on our
hearts. It is so easy for age, so hard for youth to make sacrifices.
Youth is and must be wholly, madly selfish; it is not until we have
learnt the folly of our aims that we may forget them, that we may pity
the sufferings of others, that we may rejoice in the triumphs of our
friends. To the superficial therefore, John Norton will appear but the
incarnation of egotism and priggishness, but those who see deeper will
have recognised that he is one who has suffered bitterly, as bitterly
as the outcast who lies dead in his rags beneath the light of the
policeman's lantern. Mental and physical wants!--he who may know one may
not know the other: is not the absence of one the reason of the other?
Mental and physical wants! the two planes of suffering whence the great
divisions of mankind view and envy the other's destinies, as we view a
passing pageant, as those who stand on the decks of crossing ships gaze
regretfully back.

Those who have suffered much physical want will never understand John
Norton; he will find commiseration only from those who have realised _à
priori_ the worthlessness of existence, the vileness of life; above all,
from those who, conscious of a sense of life's degradation, impetuously
desire their ideal--the immeasurable ideal which lies before them,
clear, heavenly, and crystalline; the sea into which they would plunge
their souls, but in whose benedictive waters they may only dip their
fingertips, and crossing themselves, pass up the aisle of human
tribulation. We suffer in proportion to our passions. But John Norton
had no passion, say they who see passion only in carnal dissipation. Yet
the passions of the spirit are more terrible than those of the flesh;
the passion for God, the passion of revolt against the humbleness of
life; and there is no peace until passion of whatever kind has wailed
itself out.

Foolish are they who describe youth as a time of happiness; it is one of
fever and anguish.

Beneath its apparent calm, there was never a stormier youth than John's.
The boy's heart that grieves to death for a chorus-girl, the little
clerk who mourns to madness for the bright life that flashes from the
point of sight of his high office stool, never felt more keenly the
nervous pain of desire and the lassitudes of resistance. You think John
Norton did not suffer in his imperious desire to pull down the home of
his fathers and build a monastery! Mrs Norton's grief was his grief, but
to stem the impulse that bore him along was too keen a pain to be
endured. His desire whelmed him like a wave; it filled his soul like a
perfume, and against his will it rose to his lips in words. Even when
the servants were present he could not help discussing the architectural
changes he had determined upon, and as the vision of the cloister, with
its reading and chanting monks, rose to his head, he talked, blinded by
strange enthusiasm, of latticed windows, and sandals.

His mother bit her thin lips, and her face tightened in an expression of
settled grief. Kitty was sorry for Mrs Norton, but Kitty was too young
to understand, and her sorrow evaporated in laughter. She listened to
John's explanations of the future as to a fairy tale suddenly touched
with the magic of realism. That the old could not exist in conjunction
with the new order of things never grew into the painful precision of
thought in her mind. She saw but the show side; she listened as to an
account of private theatricals, and in spite of Mrs Norton's visible
grief, she was amused when John described himself walking at the head
of his monks with tonsured head and a great rosary hanging from a
leather girdle. Her innocent gaiety attracted her to him. As they walked
about the grounds after breakfast, he spoke to her about pictures and
statues, of a trip he intended to take to Italy and Spain, and he did
not seem to care to be reminded that this jarred with his project for
immediate realisation of Thornby Priory.

Leaning their backs against the iron railing which divided the green
sward from the park, John and Kitty looked at the house.

"From this view it really is not so bad, though the urns and the loggia
are so intolerably out of keeping with the landscape. But when I have
made my alterations it will harmonise with the downs and the
flat-flowing country, so English with its barns and cottages and rich
agriculture, and there will be then a charming recollection of old
England, the England of the monastic ages, before the--but I forgot, I
must not speak to you on that subject."

"Do you think the house will look prettier than it does now? Mrs Norton
says that it will be impossible to alter Italian architecture into
Gothic.... Of course I don't understand."

"Mother does not know what she is talking about. I have it all down in
my pocket-book. I have various plans.... I admit it is not easy, but
last night I fancy I hit on an idea. I shall of course consult an
architect, although really I don't see there is any necessity for so
doing, but just to be on the safe side; for in architecture there are
many practical difficulties, and to be on the safe side I will consult
an experienced man regarding the practical working out of my design. I
made this drawing last night." John produced a large pocket-book.

"But, oh, how pretty; will it be really like that?"

"Yes," exclaimed John, delighted; "it will be exactly like that; but I
will read you my notes, and then you will understand it better.

"_Alter and add to the front to represent the façade of a small
cathedral. This can be done by building out a projection the entire
width of the building, and one storey in height. This will be divided
into three arched divisions, topped with small gables_."

"What are gables, John?"

"Those are the gables. _The centre one (forming entrance) being rather
higher than the other gables. The entrance would be formed with
clustered columns and richly moulded pointed arches, the door being
solid, heavy oak, with large scroll and hammered iron hinges_.

"_The centre front and back would be carried up to form steep gables,
the roof being heightened to match. The large gable in front to have a
large cross at apex_."

"What is an apex? What words you do use."

John explained, Kitty laughed.

"The top I have indicated in the drawing. _And to have a rose window_.
You see the rose window in the drawing," said John, anticipating the
question which was on Kitty's lips.

"Yes," said she, "but why don't you say a round window?"

Without answering John continued:

"_The first floor fronts would be arcaded round with small columns with
carved capitals and pointed arches.

"At either corner of front, in lieu of present Ionic columns, carry up
octagonal turrets with pinnacles at top_.

"You see them in the drawing. These are the octagonal turrets."

"And which are the pinnacles?"

"The ornaments at the top.

"_From the centre of the roof carry up a square tower with battlemented
parapets and pinnacles at all corners, and flying buttresses from the
turrets of the main buildings_.

"_The bow window at side will have the old casements removed, and have
mullions and tracery fixed and filled with cathedral glazings, and,
instead of the present flat, a sloping roof will be carried up and
finished against the outer wall of the house. At either side of bay
window buttresses with moulded water-tables, plinths, &c._

"_From these roofs and the front projections at intersection of small
gables, carved gargoyles to carry off water_.

"_The billiard-room to be converted into a chapel, by building a new
high-pitched roof_."

"Oh, John, why should you do away with the billiard-room; why shouldn't
the monks play billiards? You played billiards on the day of the meet."

"Yes, but I am not a monk yet. No one ever heard of monks playing
billiards; besides, that dreadful addition of my mother's could not
remain in its present form, it would be ludicrous to a degree, whereas
it can be converted very easily into a chapel. We must have a
chapel--_building a high-pitched timber roof, throwing out an apse at
the end, and putting in mullioned and traceried windows filled with
stained glass_."

"And the cloister you are always speaking about, where will that be?"

"The cloister will come at the back of the chapel, and an arched and
vaulted ambulatory will be laid round the house. Later on I shall add a
refectory, and put a lavatory at one end of the ambulatory."

"But don't you think, John, you may get tired of being a monk, and then
the house will have to be built back again."

"Never, the house will be from every point of view, a better house when
my alterations are carried into effect. Beside, why should I be tired of
being a monk? Your father does not get tired of being a parson."

This reply, although singularly unconvincing, was difficult to answer,
and the conversation fell. And day by day, John's schemes strengthened
and took shape, and he seemed to look upon himself already as a
Carmelite. He had even gone so far as to order a habit, it had arrived
a few days ago; and an architect, too, had come down from London. He
was the ray of hope in Mrs Norton's life. For although he had loudly
commended the artistic taste exhibited in the drawing, and expressed
great wonderment at John's architectural skill, he had, nevertheless,
when questioned as to their practicability, declared the scheme to be
wholly impossible. And the reasons he advanced in support of his
opinions were so conclusive that John was fain to beg of him to draw up
a more possible plan for the conversion of an Italian house into a
Gothic monastery.

Mr ---- seemed to think the idea a wild one, but he promised to see what
could be done to overcome the difficulties he foresaw, and in a week
he forwarded John several drawings for his consideration. Judged by
comparison with John's dreams, the practical architecture of the
experienced man seemed altogether lacking in expression and in poetry
of proportion; and comparing them with his own cherished project, John
hung over the billiard-table, where the drawings were laid out, hour
after hour, only to rise more bitterly fretful, more utterly unable than
usual to reconcile himself to natural limitation, more hopelessly
longing for the unattainable.

He could think of nothing but his monastery; his Latin authors were
forgotten; he drew façades and turrets on the cloth during dinner, and
he went up to his room, not to bed, but to reconsider the difficulties
that rendered the construction of a central tower an impossibility.

Midnight: the house seems alive in the silence: night is on the world.
The twilight sheds on the walking birds, on the falling petals, and in
the rich shadow the candle burns brightly. The great bridal bed yawns,
the lace pillows lie wide, the curtains hang dreamily in the hallowed
light. John leans over his drawings. Once again he takes up the
architect's notes.

"_The interior would be so constructed as to make it impossible to
carry up the central tower. The outer walls would not be strong enough
to take the large gables and roof. Although the chapel could be done
easily, the ambulatory would be of no use, as it would lead probably
from the kitchen offices._

"_Would have to reduce work on front façade to putting in new arched
entrance. Buttresses would take the place of columns_.

"_The bow-window could remain_.

"_The roof to be heightened somewhat. The front projection would throw
the front rooms into almost total darkness_."

"But why not a light timber lantern tower?" thought John. "Yes, that
would get over the difficulty. Now if we could only manage to keep my
front ... if my design for the front cannot be preserved, I might as well
abandon the whole thing! And then?"

And then life seemed to him void of meaning and light. He might as well
settle down and marry....

His face contracted in an expression of anger. He rose from the table,
and he looked round the room. Its appearance was singularly jarring,
shattering as it did his dream of the cloister, and up-building in fancy
the horrid fabric of marriage and domesticity. The room seemed to him a
symbol--with the great bed, voluptuous, the corpulent arm-chair, the
toilet-table shapeless with muslin--of the hideous laws of the world
and the flesh, ever at variance and at war, and ever defeating the
indomitable aspirations of the soul. John ordered his room to be
changed; and, in the face of much opposition from his mother, who
declared that he would never be able to sleep there, and would lose his
health, he selected a narrow room at the end of the passage. He would
have no carpet. He placed a small iron bed against the wall; two plain
chairs, a screen to keep off the draught from the door, a basin-stand
such as you might find in a ship's cabin, and a prie-dieu, were all the
furniture he permitted himself.

"Oh, what a relief!" he murmured. "Now there is line, there is definite
shape. That formless upholstery frets my eye as false notes grate on my
ear;" and, becoming suddenly conscious of the presence of God, he fell
on his knees and prayed. He prayed that he might be guided aright in his
undertaking, and that, if it were conducive to the greater honour and
glory of God, he might be permitted to found a monastery, and that he
might be given strength to surmount all difficulties.

Next morning, calm in mind, and happier, he went downstairs to the
drawing-room, a small book in his hand, an historical work of great
importance by the Venerable Bede, intitled _Vita beatorum abbatum
Wiremuthensium, et Girvensiuem, Benedicti Ceolfridi, Easteriwini,
Sigfridi atque Hoetberti_. But he could not keep his attention fixed on
the book, it appeared to him dreary and stupid. His thoughts wandered.
He thought of Kitty--of how beautiful she looked on the background of
red geraniums, with the soft yellow cat on her shoulder, and he wondered
which of the four great painters, Manet, Degas, Monet, or Renoir would
have best rendered the brightness and lightness, the intense colour
vitality of that motive for a picture. He thought of her young eyes, of
the pale hands, of the sudden, sharp laugh; and finally he took up one
of her novels, "Red as a Rose is She." He read it, and found it very
entertaining.

But the evening post brought him a letter from the architect's head
clerk, saying that Mr ---- was ill, had not been to the office for the
last three or four days, and would not be able to go down to Sussex
again before the end of the month. Very much annoyed, John spent the
evening thinking whom he could consult on the practicability of his last
design for the front, and next, morning he was surprised at not seeing
Kitty at breakfast.

"Where is Kitty?" he asked abruptly.

"She is not feeling well; she has a headache, and will not be down
to-day."

At the end of a long silence, John said:

"I think I will go into Brighton.... I must really see an architect."

"Oh, John, dear, you are not really determined to pull the house down?"

"There is no use, mother dear, in our discussing that subject; each and
all of us must do the best we can with life. And the best we can do is
to try and gain heaven."

"Breaking your mother's heart, and making yourself ridiculous before the
whole county, is not the way to gain heaven."

"Oh, if you are going to talk like that...."

John went into the drawing-room to continue his reading, but the Latin
bored him even more than it had done yesterday. He took up the novel,
but its enchantment was gone, and it appeared to him in its tawdry,
original vulgarity. He got on a horse and rode towards the downs, and
went up the steep ascents at a gallop. He stood amid the gorse at the
top and viewed the great girdle of blue encircling sea, and the long
string of coast towns lying below him, and far away. Lunch was on the
table when he returned. After lunch, harassed by an obsession of
architectural plans, he went out to sketch. But it rained, and resisting
his mother's invitation to change his clothes, he sat down before the
fire, damp without, and feverishly irritable within. He vacillated an
hour between his translation of St Fortunatus' hymn, _Quem terra, pontus
aethera_, and "Red as a Rose is She," which, although he thought it as
reprehensible for moral as for literary reasons, he was fain to follow
out to the vulgar end. But he could interest himself in neither hymn nor
novel. For the authenticity of the former he now cared not a jot, and he
threw the book aside vowing that its hoydenish heroine was unbearable
and he would read no more.

"I never knew a more horrible place to live in than Sussex. Either of
two things: I must alter the architecture of this house, or I must
return to Stanton College."

"Don't talk nonsense, do you think I don't know you? you are boring
yourself because Kitty is upstairs in bed, and cannot walk about with
you."

"I do not know how you contrive, mother, always to say the most
disagreeable possible things; the marvellous way in which you pick out
what will, at the moment, wound me most is truly wonderful. I compliment
you on your skill, but I confess I am at a loss to understand why you
should, as if by right, expect me to remain here to serve continuously
as a target for the arrows of your scorn."

John walked out of the room. During dinner mother and son spoke very
little, and he retired early, about ten o'clock, to his room. He was in
high dudgeon, but the white walls, the prie-dieu, the straight, narrow
bed were pleasant to see. His room was the first agreeable impression
of the day. He picked up a drawing from the table, it seemed to him
awkward and slovenly. He sharpened his pencil, cleared his crow-quill
pens, got out his tracing-paper, and sat down to execute a better. But
he had not finished his outline sketch before he leaned back in his
chair, and as if overcome by the insidious warmth of the fire, lapsed
into fire-light attitudes and meditations.

He looked a little backwards into the blaze; he nibbled his pencil
point. Wavering light and wavering shade followed fast over the Roman
profile, followed and flowed fitfully--fitfully as his thoughts. Now his
thought followed out architectural dreams, and now he thought of
himself, of his unhappy youth, of how he had been misunderstood, of his
solitary life; a bitter, unsatisfactory life, and yet a life not wanting
in an ideal--a glorious ideal. He thought how his projects had always
met with failure, with disapproval, above all failure ... and yet, and
yet he felt, he almost knew there was something great and noble in him.
His eyes brightened; he slipped into thinking of schemes for a monastic
life; and then he thought of his mother's hard disposition and how she
misunderstood him,--everyone misunderstood him. What would the end be?
Would he succeed in creating the monastery he dreamed of so fondly? To
reconstruct the ascetic life of the Middle Ages, that would be something
worth doing, that would be a great ideal--that would make meaning in his
life. If he failed ... what should he do then? His life as it was, was
unbearable ... he must come to terms with life....

That central tower! how could he manage it! and that built-out front.
Was it true, as the architect said, that it would throw all the front
rooms into darkness? Without this front his design would be worthless.
What a difference it made!

Kitty liked it. She had thought it charming. How young she was, how
glad and how innocent, and how clever, her age being taken into
consideration. She understood all you said. It would not surprise him if
she developed into something: but she would marry....

But why was he thinking of her? What concern had she in his life? A
little slip of a girl--a girl--a girl more or less pretty, that was all.
And yet it was pleasant to hear her laugh. That low, sudden laugh--she
was pleasanter company than his mother, she was pleasant to have in the
house, she interrupted many an unpleasant scene. Then he remembered what
his mother had said. She had said that he was disappointed that she was
ill, that he had missed her, that ... that it was because she was not
there that he had found the day so intolerably wearisome.

Struck as with a dagger, the pain of the wound flowed through him
piercingly; and as a horse stops and stands trembling, for there is
something in the darkness beyond, John shrank back, his nerves
vibrating like highly-strung chords; and ideas--notes of regret and
lamentation died in great vague spaces. Ideas fell.... Was this all; was
this all he had struggled for; was he in love? A girl, a girl ... was a
girl to soil the ideal he had in view? No; he smiled painfully. The sea
of his thoughts grew calmer, the air grew dim and wan, a tall foundered
wreck rose pale and spectral, memories drifted. The long walks, the
talks of the monastery, the neighbours, the pet rooks, and Sammy the
great yellow cat, and the green-houses ... he remembered the pleasure he
had taken in those conversations!

What must all this lead to? To a coarse affection, to marriage, to
children, to general domesticity.

And contrasted with this....

The dignified and grave life of the cloister, the constant sensation of
lofty and elevating thought, a high ideal, the communion of learned men,
the charm of headship.

Could he abandon this? No, a thousand times no; but there was a melting
sweetness in the other cup. The anticipation filled his veins with
fever.

And trembling and pale with passion, John fell on his knees and prayed
for grace. But prayer was sour and thin upon his lips, and he could only
beg that the temptation might pass from him....

"In the morning," he said, "I shall be strong."



CHAPTER V.


But if in the morning he were strong, Kitty was more beautiful than
ever, and they walked out in the sunlight. They walked out on the green
sward, under the evergreen oaks where the young rooks are swinging; out
on the mundane swards into the pleasure ground; a rosery and a rockery;
the pleasure ground divided from the park by iron railings, the park
encircled by the rich elms, the elms shutting out the view of the lofty
downs.

The meadows are yellow with buttercups, and the birds fly out of the
gold. And the golden note is prolonged through the pleasure grounds by
the pale yellow of the laburnums, by the great yellow of the berberis,
by the cadmium yellow of the gorse, by the golden wallflowers growing
amid rhododendrons and laurels.

And the transparent greenery of the limes shivers, and the young rooks
swinging on the branches caw feebly.

And about the rockery there are purple bunches of lilac, and the striped
awning of the tennis seat touches with red the paleness of the English
spring.

Pansies, pale yellow pansies!

The sun glinting on the foliage of the elms spreads a napery of vivid
green, and the trunks come out black upon the cloth of gold, and the
larks fly out of the gold, and the sky is a single sapphire, and two
white clouds are floating. It is May time.

They walked toward the tennis seat with its red striped awning. They
listened to the feeble cawing of young rooks swinging on the branches.
They watched the larks nestle in, and fly out of the gold. It was May
time, and the air was bright with buds and summer bees. She was dressed
in white, and the shadow of the straw hat fell across her eyes when she
raised her face. He was dressed in black, and the clerical frock coat
buttoned by one button at the throat fell straight.

They sat under the red striped awning of the tennis seat. The large
grasping hands holding the polished cane contrasted with the reedy
translucent hands laid upon the white folds. The low sweet breath of the
May time breathed within them, and their hearts were light; hers was
conscious only of the May time, but his was awake with unconscious love,
and he yielded to her, to the perfume of the garden, to the absorbing
sweetness of the moment. He was no longer John Norton. His being was
part of the May time; it had gone forth and had mingled with the colour
of the fields and sky; with the life of the flowers, with all vague
scents and sounds; with the joy of the birds that flew out of and
nestled with amorous wings in the gold. Enraptured and in complete
forgetfulness of his vows, he looked at her, he felt his being
quickening, and the dark dawn of a late nubility radiated into manhood.

"How beautiful the day is," he said, speaking slowly. "Is it not all
light and colour, and you in your white dress with the sunlight on your
hair seem more blossom-like than any flower. I wonder what flower I
should compare you to.... Shall I say a rose? No, not a rose, nor a
lily, nor a violet; you remind me rather of a tall delicate pale
carnation...."

"Why, John, I never heard you speak like that before; I thought you
never paid compliments."

The transparent green of the limes shivers, the young rooks caw feebly,
and the birds nestle with amorous wings in the blossoming gold. Kitty
has taken off her straw hat, the sunlight caresses the delicate
plenitudes of the bent neck, the delicate plenitudes bound with white
cambric, cambric swelling gently over the bosom into the narrow circle
of the waist, cambric fluted to the little wrist, reedy translucid
hands; cambric falling outwards and flowing like a great white flower
over the green sward, over the mauve stocking, and the little shoe set
firmly. The ear is as a rose leaf, a fluff of light hair trembles on the
curving nape, and the head is crowned with thick brown gold. "O to bathe
my face in those perfumed waves! O to kiss with a deep kiss the hollow
of that cool neck!..." The thought came he know not whence nor how, as
lightning falls from a clear sky, as desert horsemen come with a glitter
of spears out of the cloud; there is a shock, a passing anguish, and
they are gone.

He left her. So frightened was he at this sudden and singular obsession
of his spiritual nature by a lower and grosser nature, whose existence
in himself was till now unsuspected, and of whose life and wants in
others he had felt, and still felt, so much scorn, that in the tumult of
his loathing he could not gain the calm of mind necessary for an
examination of conscience. He could not look into his mind with any
present hope of obtaining a truthful reply to the very eminent and vital
question, how far his will had participated in that burning but wholly
inexcusable desire by which he had been so shockingly assailed.

That inner life, so strangely personal and pure, and of which he was so
proud, seemed to him now to be befouled, and all its mystery and inner
grace, and the perfect possession which was his sanctuary, lost to him
for ever. For he could never quite forget the defiling thought; it would
always remain with him, and the consciousness of the stain would
preclude all possibility of that refining happiness, that attribute of
cleanliness, which he now knew had long been his. In his anger and
self-loathing his rage turned against Kitty. It was always the same
story--the charm and ideality of man's life always soiled by woman's
influence; so it was in the beginning, so it shall be....

He stopped before the injustice of the accusation; he remembered her
candour and her gracious innocence, and he was sorry; and he remembered
her youth and her beauty, and he let his thoughts dwell upon her.
Turning over his papers he came across the old monk's song to David:

    "Surge meo domno dulces fac, fistula versus:
    David amat versus, surge fac fistula versus,
    David amat vates vatorum est gloria David...."

The verses seemed meaningless and tame, but they awoke vague impulses in
him, and, his mind filled by a dim dream of King David and Bathsheba, he
opened his Bible and turned over the pages, reading a phrase here and
there until he had passed from story and psalm to the Song of songs, and
was finally stopped by--"I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye
find my beloved, that ye tell him that I am sick of love."

He laid the book down and leaned back in his chair, and holding his
temple with one hand (this was his favourite attitude) he looked in the
fire fixedly. He was ravaged by emotion. The magical fervour of the
words he had just read had revealed to him the depth of his passion.

But he would tear the temptation out of his heart. The conduct of his
life had been long ago determined upon. He had known the truth as if by
instinct from the first; no life was possible except an ascetic life, at
least for him. And in this hour of weakness he summoned to his aid all
his ancient ideals: the solemnity and twilight of the arches, the
massive Gregorian chant which seems to be at once their voice and their
soul, the cloud of incense melting upon the mitres and sunsets, and the
boys' treble hovering over an ocean of harmony. But although the picture
of his future life rose at his invocation it did not move him as
heretofore, nor did the scenes he evoked of conjugal grossness and
platitude shock him to the extent he had expected. The moral rebellion
he succeeded in exciting was tepid, heartless, and ineffective, and he
was not moved by hate or fear until he remembered that God in His
infinite goodness had placed him for ever out of the temptation which he
so earnestly sought to escape from. Kitty was a Protestant. In a pang
of despair, windows and organ collapsed like cardboard; incense and
arches vanished, and then rose again with the light of a more gracious
vision upon them. For if the dignity and desire of mere self-salvation
had departed, all the lighter colours and livelier joys of the
conversion of others filled the sky of faith with morning tones and
harmonies. And then?... Salvation before all things, he answered in his
enthusiasm;--something of the missionary spirit of old time was upon
him, and forgetful of his aisles, his arches, his Latin authors, he went
down stairs and asked Kitty to play a game of billiards.

"We play billiards here on Sunday, but you would think it wrong to do
so."

"But to-day is not Sunday."

"No, I was only speaking in a general way. Yet I often wonder how you
can feel satisfied with the protection your Church affords you against
the miseries and trials of the world. A Protestant, you know, may
believe pretty nearly as little or as much as he likes, whereas in our
church everything is defined; we know what we must believe to be saved.
There is a sense of security in the Catholic Church which the Protestant
has not."

"Do you think so? That is because you do not know our Church," replied
Kitty, who was a little astonished at this sudden outburst. "I feel
quite happy and safe. I know that our Lord Jesus Christ died on the
Cross to save us, and we have the Bible to guide us."

"Yes, but the Bible without the interpretation of the Church is ... may
lead to error. For instance..."

John stopped abruptly. Seized with a sudden scruple of conscience he
asked himself if he, in his own house, had a right to strive to
undermine the faith of the daughter of his own friend.

"Go on," cried Kitty, laughing, "I know the Bible better than you,
and if I break down I will ask father." And as if to emphasise her
intention, she hit her ball which was close under the cushion as hard as
she could.

John hailed the rent in the cloth as a deliverance, for in the
discussion as to how it could be repaired, the religious question was
forgotten.

But if he were her lover, if she were going to be his wife, he would
have the right to offer her every facility and encouragement to enter
the Catholic Church--the true faith. Darkness passes, and the birds are
carolling the sun, flowers and trees are pranked with aerial jewellery,
the fragrance of the warm earth flows in your veins, your eyes are fain
of the light above and your heart of the light within. He would not jar
his happiness by the presence of Mrs Norton, even Kitty's presence was
too actual a joy to be home. She drew him out of himself too completely,
interrupted the exquisite sense of personal enchantment which seemed to
permeate and flow through him with the sweetness of health returning to
a convalescent on a spring day. He closed his eyes, and his thoughts
came and went like soft light and shade in a garden close; his happiness
was a part of himself, as fragrance is inherent in the summer time.
The evil of the last days had fallen from him, and the reaction was
equivalently violent. Nor was he conscious of the formal resignation he
was now making of his dream, nor did he think of the distasteful load of
marital duties with which he was going to burden himself; all was lost
in the vision of beautiful companionship, a sort of heavenly journeying,
a bright earthly way with flowers and starlight--he a little in advance
pointing, she following, with her eyes lifted to the celestial gates
shining in the distance. Sometimes his arms would be thrown about her.
Sometimes he would press a kiss upon her face. She was his, his, and he
was her saviour. The evening died, the room darkened, and John's dream
continued in the twilight, and the ringing of the dinner bell and the
disturbance of dressing did not destroy his thoughts. Like fumes of
wine they hung about him during the evening, and from time to time he
looked at Kitty.

But although he had so far surrendered himself, he did not escape
without another revulsion of feeling. A sudden realisation of what his
life would be under the new conditions did not fail to frighten him, and
he looked back with passionate regret on his abandoned dreams. But his
nature was changed, abstention he knew was beyond his strength, and
after many struggles, each of which was feebler than the last, he
determined to propose to Kitty on the first suitable occasion.

Then came the fear of refusal. Often he was paralysed with pain,
sometimes he would morbidly allow his thoughts to dwell on the moment
when he would hear her say, it was impossible, that she did not and
could not love him. The young grey light of the eyes would be fixed upon
him; she would speak her sorrow, and her thin hands would hang by her
side in the simple attitude that was so peculiar to her. And he mused
willingly on the long meek life of grief that would then await him. He
would belong to God; his friar's frock would hide all; it would be the
habitation, and the Gothic walls he would raise, the sepulchre of his
love....

"But no, no, she shall be mine," he cried out, moved in his very
entrails. Why should she refuse him? What reason had he to believe that
she would not have him? He thought of how she had answered his questions
on this and that occasion, how she had looked at him; he recalled every
gesture and every movement with wonderful precision, and then he lapsed
into a passionate consideration of the general attitude of mind she
evinced towards him. He arrived at no conclusion, but these meditations
were full of penetrating delight. Sometimes he was afflicted with an
intense shyness, and he avoided her; and when Mrs Norton, divining his
trouble, sent them to walk in the garden, his heart warmed to his
mother, and he regretted his past harshness.

And this idyll was lived about the beautiful Italian house, with its
urns and pilasters; through the beautiful English park, with its elms
now with the splendour of summer upon them; in the pleasure grounds with
their rosary, and the fountain where the rose leaves float, and the
wood-pigeons come at eventide to drink; in the greenhouse with its live
glare of geraniums, where the great yellow cat, so soft and beautiful,
springs on Kitty's shoulder, rounds its back, and purring, insists on
caresses; in the large clean stables where the horses munch the corn
lazily, and look round with round inquiring eyes, and the rooks croak
and flutter, and strut about Kitty's feet. It was Kitty; yes, it was
Kitty everywhere; even the blackbird darting through the laurels seemed
to cry Kitty.

To propose! Time, place, and the words he should use had been carefully
considered. After each deliberation, a new decision had been taken:
but when he came to the point, John found himself unable to speak
any one of the different versions he had prepared. Still he was very
happy. The days were full of sunshine and Kitty, and he mistook her
light-heartedness for affection. He had begun to look upon her as his
certain wife, although no words had been spoken that would suggest such
a possibility. Outside of his imagination nothing was changed; he stood
in exactly the same relation to her as he had done when he returned from
Stanton College, determined to build a Gothic monastery upon the ruins
of Thornby Place, and yet somehow he found it difficult to realise that
this was so.

One morning he said, as they went into the garden, "You must sometimes
feel a little lonely here ... when I am away ... all alone here with
mother."

"Oh dear no! we have lots to do. I look after the pets in the morning.
I feed the cats and the rooks, and I see that the canaries have fresh
water and seed. And then the bees take up a lot of our time. We have
twenty-two hives. Mrs Norton says she ought to make five pounds a year
on each. Sometimes we lose a swarm or two, and then Mrs Norton is so
cross. We were out for hours with the gardener the other day, but we
could do no good; we could not get them out of that elm tree. You see
that long branch leaning right over the wall; well it was on that branch
that they settled, and no ladder was tall enough to reach them; and when
Bill climbed the tree and shook them out they flew right away."

"Shall I, shall I propose to her now?" thought John. But Kitty continued
talking, and it was difficult to interrupt her. The gravel grated under
their feet; the rooks were flying about the elms. At the end of the
garden there was a circle of fig trees. A silent place, and John vowed
he would say the word there. But as they approached his courage died
within him, and he was obliged to defer his vows until they reached the
green-house.

"So your time is fully occupied here."

"And in the afternoon we go out for drives; we pay visits. You never
pay visits; you never go and call on your neighbours."

"Oh, yes I do; I went the other day to see your father."

"Ah yes, but that is only because he talks to you about Latin authors."

"No, I assure you it isn't. Once I have finished my book I shall never
look at them again."

"Well, what will you do?"

"Next winter I intend to go in for hunting. I have told a dealer to look
out for a couple of nice horses for me."

Kitty looked up, her grey eyes wide open. If John had told her that he
had given the order for a couple of crocodiles she could not have been
more surprised.

"But hunting is over now; it won't begin again till next November. You
will have to play lawn tennis this summer."

"I have sent to London for a racquet and shoes, and a suit of flannels."

"Goodness me.... Well, that is a surprise! But you won't want the
flannels; you might play in the Carmelite's habit which came down the
other day. How you do change your mind about things!"

"Do you never change your mind, Kitty?"

"Well, I don't know, but not so suddenly as you. Then you are not going
to become a monk?"

"I don't know, it depends on circumstances."

"What circumstances?" said Kitty, innocently.

The words "_whether you will or will not have me_" rose to John's lips,
but all power to speak them seemed to desert him; he had grown suddenly
as weak as melting snow, and in an instant the occasion had passed. He
hated himself for his weakness. The weary burden of his love lay still
upon him, and the torture of utterance still menaced him from afar. The
conversation had fallen. They were approaching the greenhouse, and the
cats ran to meet their patron. Sammy sprang on Kitty's shoulder.

"Oh, isn't he a beauty? stroke him, do."

John passed his hand along the beautiful yellow fur. Sammy rubbed his
head against his mistress' face, her raised eyes were as full of light
as the pale sky, and the rich brown head and the thin hands made a
picture in the exquisite clarity of the English morning,--in the
homeliness of the English garden, with tall hollyhocks, espalier apple
trees, and one labourer digging amid the cabbages. Joy crystal as the
morning itself illumined John's mind for a moment, and then faded, and
he was left lonely with the remembrance that his fate had still to be
decided, that it still hung in the scale.

One evening as they were walking in the park, shadowy in the twilight of
an approaching storm, Kitty said:

"I never would have believed, John, that you could care to go out for a
walk with me."

"And why, Kitty?"

Kitty laughed--her short sudden laugh was strange and sweet. John's
heart was beating. "Well," she said, without the faintest hesitation or
shyness, "we always thought you hated girls. I know I used to tease you,
when you came home for the first time; when you used to think of nothing
but the Latin authors."

"What do you mean?"

Kitty laughed again.

"You promise not to tell?"

"I promise."

This was their first confidence.

"You told your mother when I came, when you were sitting by the fire
reading, that the flutter of my skirts disturbed you."

"No, Kitty, I'm sure you never disturbed me, or at least not for a long
time. I wish my mother would not repeat conversations, it is most
unfair."

"Mind you, you promised not to repeat what I have told you. If you do,
you will get me into an awful scrape."

"I promise."

The conversation came to a pause. Presently Kitty said, "But you seem to
have got over your dislike to girls. I saw you talking a long while with
Miss Orme the other day; and at the Meet you seemed to admire her. She
was the prettiest girl we had here."

"No, indeed she wasn't!"

"Who was, then?"

"You were."

Kitty looked up; and there was so much astonishment in her face that
John in a sudden access of fear said, "We had better make haste, the
storm is coming on; we shall get wet through."

They ran towards the house. John reproached himself bitterly, but
he made no further attempt to screw his courage up to the point
of proposing. His disappointment was followed by doubts. Was his
powerlessness a sign from God that he was abandoning his true vocation
for a false one? and a little shaken, he attempted to interest himself
in the re-building of his house; but the project had grown impossible to
him, and he felt he could not embrace it again, with any of the old
enthusiasm at least, until he had been refused by Kitty. There were
moments when he almost yearned to hear her say that she could never love
him. But in his love and religious suffering the thought of bringing a
soul home to the true fold remained a fixed light; he often looked to it
with happy eyes, and then if he were alone he fell on his knees and
prayed. Prayer like an opiate calmed his querulous spirit, and having
told his beads--the great beads which hung on his prie-dieu--he would go
down stairs with peace in his heart, and finding Kitty, he would ask her
to walk with him in the garden, or they would stroll out on the tennis
lawn, racquet in hand.

One afternoon it was decided that they should go for a long walk. John
suggested that they should climb to the top of Toddington Mount, and
view the immense plain which stretches away in dim blue vapour and a
thousand fields.

You see John and Kitty as they cross the wide park towards the vista in
the circling elms,--she swinging her parasol, he carrying stiffly his
grave canonical cane. He still wears the long black coat buttoned at the
throat, but the air of hieratic dignity is now replaced by, or rather it
is glossed with, the ordinary passion of life. Both are like children,
infinitely amused by the colour of the grass and sky, by the hurry of
the startled rabbit, by the prospect of the long walk; and they taste
already the wild charm of the downs, seeing and hearing in imagination
its many sights and sounds, the wild heather, the yellow savage gorse,
the solitary winding flock, the tinkling of the bell-wether, the
cliff-like sides, the crowns of trees, the mighty distance spread out
like a sea below them with its faint and constantly dissolving horizon
of the Epsom Hills.

"I never can cross this plain, Kitty, without thinking of the Dover
cliffs as seen in mid Channel; this is a mere inland imitation of them."

"I have never seen the Dover cliffs; I have never been out of England,
but the Brighton cliffs give me an idea of what you mean."

"On your side--the Shoreham side--the downs rise in a gently sloping
ascent from the sea."

"Yes, we often walk up there. You can see Brighton and Southwick and
Worthing. Oh! it is beautiful! I often go for a walk there with my
friends, the Austen girls--you saw them here at the Meet."

"Yes, Mr Austen has a very nice property; it extends right into the town
of Shoreham, does it not?"

"Yes, and right up to Toddington Mount, where we are going. But aren't
you a little tired, John? These roads are very steep."

"Out of breath, Kitty; let's stop for a minute or two." The country lay
below them. They had walked three miles, and Thornby Place and its elms
were now vague in the blue evening. "We must see one of these days if we
cannot do the whole distance."

"What? right across the downs from Shoreham to Henfield?"

"Well, it is not more than eight miles; you don't think you could manage
it?"

"I don't know, it is more than eight miles, and walking on the downs is
not like walking on the highroad. Father thinks nothing of it."

"We must really try it."

"What would you do if I were to get so tired that I could not go back or
forward?"

"I would carry you."

They continued their climb. Speaking of the Devil's Dyke, Kitty said--

"What! you mean to say you never heard the legend? You, a Sussex man!"

"I have lived very little in Sussex, and I used to hate the place; I am
only just beginning to like it."

"And you don't like the Jesuits any more, because they go in for
matchmaking."

"They are too sly for me, I confess; I don't approve of priests meddling
in family affairs. But tell me the legend."

"Oh, how steep these roads are. At last, at last. Now let's try and find
a place where we can sit down. The grass is full of that horrid prickly
gorse."

"Here's a nice soft place; there is no gorse here. Now tell me the
legend."

"Well, I never!" said Kitty, sitting herself on the spot that had been
chosen for her, "you do astonish me. You never heard of the legend of St
Cuthman."

"No, do tell it to me."

"Well, I scarcely know how to tell it in ordinary words, for I learnt it
in poetry."

"In poetry! In whose poetry?"

"Evy Austen put it into poetry, the eldest of the girls, and they made
me recite it at the harvest supper."

"Oh, that's awfully jolly--I never should have thought she was so
clever. Evy is the dark-haired one."

"Yes, Evy is awfully clever; but she doesn't talk much about it."

"Do recite it."

"I don't know that I can remember it all. You won't laugh if I break
down."

"I promise."

    THE LEGEND OF ST CUTHMAN.

    "St Cuthman stood on a point which crowns
    The entire range of the grand South Downs;
    Beneath his feet, like a giant field,
    Was stretched the expanse of the Sussex Weald.
    'Suppose,' said the Saint,''twas the will of Heaven
    To cause this range of hills to be riven,
    And what were the use of prayers and whinings,
    Were the sea to flood the village of Poynings:
    'Twould be fine, no doubt, these Downs to level,
    But to do such a thing I defy the Devil!'
    St Cuthman, tho' saint, was a human creature,
    And his eye, a bland and benevolent feature,
    Remarked the approach of the close of day,
    And he thought of his supper, and turned away.
      Walking fast, he
    Had scarcely passed the
    First steps of his way, when he saw something nasty;
      'Twas tall and big,
      And he saw from its rig
    'Twas the Devil in full diabolical fig.
      There were wanting no proofs,
      For the horns and the hoofs
    And the tail were a fully convincing sight;
      But the heart of the Saint
      Ne'er once turned faint,
    And his halo shone with redoubled light.
      'Hallo, I fear
      You're trespassing here!'
    Said St Cuthman, 'To me it is perfectly clear,
    If you talk of the devil, he's sure to appear!'
      'With my spade and my pick
      I am come,' said old Nick,
    'To prove you've no power o'er a demon like me.
      I'll show you my power--
      Ere the first morning hour
    Thro' the Downs, over Poynings, shall roll in the sea.'
      'I'll give you long odds,'
      Cried the Saint, 'by the gods!
    I'll stake what you please, only say what your wish is.'
      Said the devil, 'By Jove!
      You're a sporting old cove!
      My pick to your soul,
      I'll make such a hole,
    That where Poynings now stands, shall be swimming the fishes.'
      'Done!' cried the Saint, 'but I must away
        I have a penitent to confess;
      In an hour I'll come to see fair play--
        In truth I cannot return in less.
    My bet will be won ere the first bright ray
    Heralds the ascension of the day.
    If I lose!--there will be _the devil to pay!_'
    He descended the hill with a firm quick stride,
    Till he reached a cell which stood on the side;
    He knocked at the door, and it opened wide,--
    He murmured a blessing and walked inside.
    Before him he saw a tear-stained face
    Of an elderly maiden of elderly grace;
    Who, when she beheld him, turned deadly pale,
    And drew o'er her features a nun's black veil.
    'Holy father!' she said, 'I have one sin more,
    Which I should have confessed sixty years before!
    I have broken my vows--'tis a terrible crime!
    I have loved _you_, oh father, for all that time!
    My passion I cannot subdue, tho' I try!
    Shrive me, oh father! and let me die!'
    'Alas, my daughter,' replied the Saint,
    'One's desire is ever to do what one mayn't,
    There was once a time when I loved you, too,
    I have conquered my passion, and why shouldn't you?
      For penance I say,
      You must kneel and pray
    For hours which will number seven;
      Fifty times say the rosary,
      (Fifty, 'twill be a poser, eh?)
    But by it you'll enter heaven;
      As each hour doth pass,
      Turn the hour glass,
    Till the time of midnight's near;
      On the stroke of midnight
      This taper light,
    Your conscience will then be clear.'
    He left the cell, and he walked until
    He joined Old Nick on the top of the hill.
    It was five o'clock, and the setting sun
    Showed the work of the Devil already begun.
    St Cuthman was rather fatigued by his walk,
    And caring but little for brimstone talk,
    He watched the pick crash through layers of chalk.
    And huge blocks went over and splitting asunder
    Broke o'er the Weald like the crashing of thunder.
    St Cuthman wished the first hour would pass,
    When St Ursula, praying, reversed the glass.
    'Ye legions of hell!' the Old Gentleman cried,
    'I have such a terrible stitch in the side!'
    'Don't work so hard,' said the Saint, 'only see,
    The sides of your dyke a heap smoother might be.'
    'Just so,' said the Devil, 'I've had a sharp fit,
    So, resting, I'll trim up my crevice a bit.'
    St Cuthman was looking prodigiously sly,
    He knew that the hours were slipping by.
      'Another attack!
      I've cramp at my back!
      I've needles and pins
      From my hair to my shins!
      I tremble and quail
      From my horns to my tail!
    I will not be vanquished, I'll work, I say,
    This dyke shall be finished ere break of day!'
    'If you win your bet, 'twill be fairly earned,'
    Said the Saint, and again was the hour-glass turned.
    And then with a most unearthly din
    The farther end of the dyke fell in;
    But in spite of an awful rheumatic pain
    The Devil began his work again.
    'I'll not be vanquished!' exclaimed the old bloke.
    'By breathing torrents of flame and smoke,
    Your dyke,' said the Saint, 'is hindered each minute,
    What can one expect when the Devil is in it?'
    Then an accident happened, which caused Nick at last
    To rage, fume, and swear; when the fourth hour had passed,
    On his hoof there came rolling a huge mass of quartz.
      Then quite out of sorts
      The bad tempered old cove
    Sent the huge mass of stone whizzing over to Hove.
    He worked on again, till a howl and a cry
    Told the Saint one more hour--the fifth--had gone by.
    'What's the row?' asked the Saint, 'A cramp in the wrist,
    I think for a while I had better desist.'
    Having rested a bit he worked at his chasm,
    Till, the hour having passed, he was seized with a spasm.
      He raged and he cursed,
      'I bore this at first,
    The rheumatics were awful, but this is the worst.'
      With awful rage heated,
      The demon defeated,
    In his passion used words that can't be repeated.
      Feeling shaken and queer,
      In spite of his fear,
    At the dyke he worked on until midnight drew near.
    But when the glass turned for the last time, he found
    That the head of his pick was stuck fast in the ground.
    'Cease now!' cried St Cuthman, 'vain is your toil!
    Come forth from the dyke! Leave your pick in the soil!
    You agreed to work 'tween sunset and morn,
    And lo! the glimmer of day is born!
      In vain was your fag,
      And your senseless brag.'
    Dizzy and dazed with sulphureous vapour,
    Old Nick was deceived by St Ursula's taper.
    'The dawn!' yelled the Devil, 'in vain was my boast,
    That I'd have your soul, for I've lost it, I've lost!'
    'Away!' cried St Cuthman, 'Foul fiend! away!
    See yonder approaches the dawn of day!
    Return to the flames where you were before,
    And molest these peaceful South Downs no more!'
    The old gentleman scowled but dared not stay,
    And the prints of his hoofs remain to this day,
    Where he spread his dark pinions and soared away.
      At St Ursula's cell
      Was tolling the bell,
    And St Cuthman in sorrow, stood there by her side.
      'Twas over at last,
      Her sorrows were past,
    In the moment of triumph St Ursula died.
      Tho' this was the ground,
      There never were found
    The tools of the Devil, his spade and his pick;
      But if you want proof
      Of the Legend, the hoof-
      Marks are still in the hillock last trod by Old Nick."

"Oh! that is jolly. Well, I never thought the girl was clever enough to
write that. And there are some excellent rhymes in it, 'passed he'
rhyming with 'nasty,' and 'rosary' with 'poser, eh;' and how well you
recite it."

"Oh, I recited it better at the harvest supper; and you have no idea how
the farmers enjoyed it. They know the place so well, and it interested
them on that account. They understood it all."

John sat as if enchanted,--by Kitty's almost childish grace, her
enthusiasm for her friend's poem, and her genuine enjoyment of it; by
the abrupt hills, mysterious now in sunset and legend; by the vast
plains so blue and so boundless: out of the thought of the littleness
of life, of which they were a symbol, there came the thought of the
greatness of love.

"Won't you cross the poor gipsy's palm with a bit of silver, my pretty
gentleman, and she will tell you your fortune and that of your pretty
lady?"

Kitty uttered a startled cry, and turning they found themselves facing a
strong, black-eyed girl. She repeated her question.

"What do you think, Kitty, would you like to have your fortune told?"

Kitty laughed. "It would be rather fun," she said.

She did not know what was coming, and she listened to the usual story,
full by the way of references to John--of a handsome young man who would
woo her, win her, and give her happiness, children, and wealth.

John threw the girl a shilling. She withdrew. They watched her passing
through the furze. The silence about them was immense. Then John spoke:

"What the gipsy said is quite true; I did not dare to tell you so
before."

"What do you mean, John?"

"I mean that I am in love with you, will you love me?"

"You in love with me, John; it is quite absurd--I thought you hated
girls."

"Never mind that, Kitty, say you will have me; make the gipsy's words
come true."

"Gipsies' words always come true."

"Then you will marry me?"

"I never thought about marriage. When do you want me to marry you? I am
only seventeen?"

"Oh! when you like, later on, only say you will be mine, that you will
be mistress of Thornby Place one day, that is all I want."

"Then you don't want to pull the house down any more."

"No, no; a thousand times no! Say you will be my wife one of these
days."

"Very well then, one of these days...."  "And I may tell my mother of
your promise to-night?... It will make her so happy."

"Of course you may tell her, John, but I don't think she will believe
it."

"Why should she not believe it?"

"I don't know," said Kitty, laughing, "but how funny, was it not, that
the gipsy girl should guess right?"

"Yes, it was indeed. I wanted to tell you before, but I hadn't the
courage; and I might never have found the courage if it had not been for
that gipsy."

In his abundant happiness John did not notice that Kitty was scarcely
sensible of the importance of the promise she had given. And in silence
he gazed on the landscape, letting it sink into and fix itself for ever
in his mind. Below them lay the great green plain, wonderfully level,
and so distinct were its hedges that it looked like a chessboard.
Thornby Place was hidden in vapour, and further away all was lost in
darkness that was almost night.

"I am sorry we cannot see the house--your house," said John as they
descended the chalk road.

"It seems so funny to hear you say that, John."

"Why? It will be your house some day."

"But supposing your Church will not let you marry me, what then...."

"There is no danger of that; a dispensation can always be obtained. But
who knows.... You have never considered the question.... You know
nothing of our Church; if you did, you might become a convert. I wish
you would consider the question. It is so simple; we surrender our own
wretched understanding, and are content to accept the Church as wiser
than we. Once man throws off restraint there is no happiness, there is
only misery. One step leads to another; if he would be logical he must
go on, and before long, for the descent is very rapid indeed, he finds
himself in an abyss of darkness and doubt, a terrible abyss indeed,
where nothing exists, and life has lost all meaning. The Reformation was
the thin end of the wedge, it was the first denial of authority, and you
see what it has led to--modern scepticism and modern pessimism."

"I don't know what it means, but I heard Mrs Norton say you were a
pessimist."

"I was; but I saw in time where it was leading me, and I crushed it out.
I used to be a Republican too, but I saw what liberty meant, and what
were its results, and I gave it up."

"So you gave up all your ideas for Catholicism...."

John hesitated, he seemed a little startled, but he answered, "I would
give up anything for my Church..."

"What! Me?"

"That is not required."

"And did it cost you much to give up your ideas?"

John raised his eyes--it was a look that Balzac would have understood
and would have known how to interpret in some admirable pages of human
suffering. "None will ever know how I have suffered," he said sadly.
"But now I am happy, oh! so happy, and my happiness would be complete
if.... Oh! if God would grant you grace to believe...."

"But I do believe. I believe in our Lord Christ who died to save us. Is
not that enough?"



CHAPTER VI.


Like Juggernaut's car, Catholicism had passed over John's mind, crushing
all individualism, and leaving it but a wreck of quaking mysticism.
Twenty times a day the spectre of his conscience rose and with menacing
finger threatened him with flames and demons. And his love was a source
of continual suffering. How often did he ask himself if he were
surrendering his true vocation? How often did he beg of God to guide him
aright? But these mental agitations were visible to no one. He preserved
his calm exterior and the keenest eye detected in him only an ordinary
young man with more than usually strict business habits. He had
appointments with his solicitor. He consulted with him, he went into
complex calculations concerning necessary repairs, and he laid plans for
the more advantageous letting of the farms.

His mother encouraged him to attend to his business. Her head was full
of other matters. A dispensation had to be obtained; it was said that
the Pope was more than ever opposed to mixed marriages. But no objection
would be made to this one. It would be madness to object.... A rich
Catholic family at Henfield--nearly four thousand a-year--must not be
allowed to become extinct. Thornby Place was the link between the Duke
of Norfolk and the So and So's. If those dreadful cousins came in for
the property, Protestantism would again be established at Thornby Place.
And what a pity that would be; and just at a time when Catholicism was
beginning to make headway in Sussex. And if John did not marry now he
would never marry; of that she was quite sure.

As may be imagined, these were not the arguments with which Mrs Norton
sought to convince the Rev. William Hare; they were those with which she
besieged the Brompton Oratory, Farm Street, and the Pro-Cathedral. She
played one off against the other. The Jesuits were nettled at having
lost him, but it was agreeable to learn that the Carmelites had been no
less unfortunate than they. The Oratorians on the whole thought he was
not in their "line"; and as their chance of securing him was remote,
they agreed that John would prove more useful to the Church as a married
man than as a priest. A few weeks later the Papal sanction was obtained.

The clause concerning the children affected Mr Hare deeply, but he was
told that he must not stand in the way of the happiness of two young
people. He considered the question from many points of view, but in the
meantime Mrs Norton continued to deluge Kitty with presents, and to talk
to everybody of her son's marriage. The parson's difficulties were
thereby increased, and eventually he found he could not withhold his
consent.

And as time went on, John seemed to take a more personal delight in
life than he had done before. He forgot his ancient prejudices if not
his ancient ideals, and, as was characteristic of him, he avoided
thinking with any definiteness on the nature of the new life into which
he was to enter soon. His neighbours declared he was very much improved;
and there were dinner parties at Thornby Place. One of his great
pleasures was to start early in the morning, and having spent a long
day with Kitty, to return home across the downs. The lofty, lonely
landscape, with its lengthy hills defined upon the flushes of July, came
in happy contrast with the noisy hours of tennis and girls; and standing
on the gently ascending slopes, rising almost from the wicket gate of
the rectory, he would wave farewells to Kitty and the Austins. And in
the glittering morning, grey and dewy, when he descended these slopes to
the strip of land that lies between them and the sea, he would pause on
the last verge where the barn stands. Squire Austin's woods are in
front, and they stretch by the town to the sleepy river with its
spiderlike bridge crossing the sandy marshes. The church spire and roofs
show through each break in the elm trees, and higher still the horizon
of the sea is shimmering.

The rectory is rich brown brick and tiles. About it there is an ample
farmyard. Mr Hare has but the house and an adjoining field, the three
great ricks are Mr Austin's; the sunlight is upon them, and through the
long shadows the cart horses are moving with the drays; and now a
hundred pigeons rise and are seen against the green velvet of the elms,
and one bird's wings are white upon the white sea.

Mr Hare is sitting in the verandah smoking, Kitty is attending to her
birds.

"Good morning, John," she cried, "but I can't shake hands with you, my
hands are dirty. Do you talk to father, I haven't a moment. There is
such a lot to do. You know the Miss Austins are coming here to early
dinner, and we have two young men coming from Worthing to play tennis.
The court isn't marked yet."

"I will help you to mark it."

"Very well, but I am not ready yet."

John lit a cigar, and he spoke of books to Mr Hare, whom he considered a
gross Philistine, although a worthy man. The shadows of the Virginia
creeper fell on the red pavement, and Kitty's light voice was heard on
the staircase. Presently she appeared, and lifting the trailing foliage,
she spoke to him. She took him away, and the parson watched the white
lines being marked on the sward. He watched them walk by the iron
railing that separated Little Leywood from Leywood, the Squire's house.
They passed through a small wooden gate into a bit of thick wood, and so
gained the drive. Mr Austin took John to see the horses, Kitty ran to
see the girls who were in their room dressing. How they chattered as
they came down stairs, and with what lightness and laughter they went to
Little Leywood. Their interests were centred in John, and Kitty took
the foremost place as an engaged girl. After dinner young men arrived,
and tennis was played unceasingly. At six o'clock, tired and hot with
air and exercise, all went in to tea--a high tea. At seven John said he
must be thinking of getting home; and happy and glad with all the
pleasant influences of the day upon them, Kitty and the Miss Austins
accompanied him as far as the farm gate.

"What a beautiful walk you will have, Mr Norton; but aren't you tired?
Seven miles in the morning and seven in the evening!"

"But I have had the whole day to rest in."

"What a lovely evening! Let's all walk a little way with him," said
Kitty.

"I should like to," said the elder Miss Austin, "but we promised father
to be home for dinner. The one sure way of getting into his black books
is to keep his dinner waiting, and he wouldn't dine without us."

"Well, good-bye, dear," said Kitty, "I shall walk as far as the burgh."

The Miss Austins turned into the rich trees that encircle Leywood, Kitty
and John faced the hill. They were soon silhouettes, and ascending, they
stood, tiny specks upon the pink evening hours. The table-land swept
about them in multitudinous waves; it was silent and solitary as the
sea. Lancing College, some miles distant, stood lonely as a lighthouse,
and beneath it the Ada flowed white and sluggish through the marshes,
the long spine of the skeleton bridge was black, and there, by that low
shore, the sea was full of mist, and sea and shore and sky were lost in
opal and grey. Old Shoreham, with its air of commerce, of stagnant
commerce, stood by the sea. The tide was out, the sea gates were dry,
only a few pools flashed silver amid the ooze; and the masts of the tall
vessels,--tall vessels aground in that strange canal or rather dyke
which runs parallel with and within a few yards of the sea for so many
miles,--tapered and leaned out over the sea banks, and the points of the
top masts could be counted. Then on the left hand towards Brighton, the
sea streamed with purple, it was striped with green, and it hung like a
blue veil behind the rich trees of Leywood and Little Leywood, and the
trees and the fields were full of golden rays.

The lovers stood on a grassy plain; sheep were travelling over the great
expanses of the valleys; rooks were flying about. Looking over the plain
you saw Southwick,--a gleam of gables, a gleam of walls,--skirting a
plantation; and further away still, Brighton lay like a pile of rocks
heaped about a low shore.

To the lovers life was now as an assortment of simple but beautiful
flowers; and they passed the blossoms to and fro and bound them into
a bouquet. They talked of the Miss Austins, of their flirtations, of
the Rectory, of Thornby Place, of Italy, for there they were going
next month on their honeymoon. The turnip and corn lands were as
inconceivable widths of green and yellow satin rolling through the rich
light of the crests into the richer shadow of the valleys. And there
there was a farm-house surrounded by buildings, surrounded by trees,--it
looked like a nest in its snug hollow; the smoke ascended blue and
peacefully. It was the last habitation. Beyond it the downs extend, in
almost illimitable ranges ascending to the wild golden gorse, to the
purple heather.

We are on the burgh. The hills tumble this way and that; below is the
great weald of Sussex, blue with vapour, spotted with gold fields, level
as a landscape by Hobbema; Chanctonbury Ring stands up like a gaunt
watcher; its crown of trees is pressed upon its brow, a dark and
imperial crown.

Overhead the sky is full of dark grey clouds; through them the sun
breaks and sheds silver dust over the landscape; in the passing gleams
the green of the furze grows vivid. If you listen you hear the tinkling
of the bell-wether; if you look you see a solitary rabbit. A stunted
hawthorn stands by the circle of stone, and by it the lovers were
sitting. He was talking to her of Italy, of cathedrals and statues,
for although he now loves her as a man should love, he still saw his
honeymoon in a haze of Botticellis, cardinals, and chants. They stood
up and bid each other good-bye, and waving hands they parted.

Night was coming on apace, a long way lay still before him, and he
walked hastily; she being nearer home, sauntered leisurely, swinging her
parasol. The sweetness of the evening was in her blood and brain, and
the architectural beauty of the landscape--the elliptical arches of the
hills--swam before her. But she had not walked many minutes before a
tramp, like a rabbit out of a bush, sprang out of the furze where he had
been sleeping. He was a gaunt hulking fellow, six feet high.

"Now 'aven't you a copper or two for a poor fellow, Missie?"

Kitty started from him frightened. "No, I haven't, I have nothing ... go
away."

He laughed hoarsely, she ran from him. "Now, don't run so fast, Missie,
won't you give a poor fellow something?"

"I have nothing."

"Oh, yes you 'ave; what about those pretty lips?"

A few strides brought him again to her side. He laid his hand upon her
arm. She broke her parasol across his face, he laughed hoarsely. She saw
his savage beast-like eyes fixed hungrily upon her. She fainted for fear
of his look of dull tigerish cruelty. She fell....

When shaken and stunned and terrified she rose from the ground, she saw
the tall gaunt figure passing away like a shadow. The wild solitary
landscape was pale and dim. In the fading light it was a drawing made on
blue paper with a hard pencil. The long undulating lines were defined
on the dead sky, the girdle of blue encircling sea was an image of
eternity. All now was the past, there did not seem to be a present. Her
mind was rocked to and fro, and on its surface words and phrases floated
like sea weed.... To throw her down and ill-treat her. Her frock is
spoilt; they will ask her where she has been to, and how she got herself
into such a state. Mechanically she brushed herself, and mechanically,
very mechanically she picked bits of furze from her dress. She held each
away from her and let it drop in a silly vacant way, all the while
running the phrases over in her mind: "What a horrible man ... he threw me
down and ill-treated me; my frock is ruined, utterly ruined, what a
state it is in! I had a narrow escape of being murdered. I will tell
them that ... that will explain ... I had a narrow escape of being
murdered." But presently she grew conscious that these thoughts were
fictitious thoughts, and that there was a thought, a real thought,
lying in the background of her mind, which she dared not face, which she
could not think of, for she did not think as she desired to; her
thoughts came and went at their own wild will, they flitted lightly,
touching with their wings but ever avoiding this deep and formless
thought which lay in darkness, almost undiscoverable, like a monster in
a nightmare.

She rose to her feet, she staggered, her sight seemed to fail her. There
was a darkness in the summer evening which she could not account for;
the ground seemed to slide beneath her feet, the landscape seemed to be
in motion and to be rolling in great waves towards the sea. Would it
precipitate itself into the sea, and would she be engulphed in the
universal ruin? O! the sea, how implacably serene, how remorselessly
beautiful; green along the shore, purple along the horizon! But the land
was rolling to it. By Lancing College it broke seaward in a soft lapsing
tide, in front of her it rose in angry billows; and Leywood hill,
green, and grand, and voluted, stood up a great green wave against the
waveless sea.

"What a horrible man ... he attacked me, ill-treated me ... what for?" Her
thoughts turned aside. "He should be put in prison.... If father knew
it, or John knew it, he would be put in prison, and for a very long
time.... Why did he attack me?... Perhaps to rob me; yes, to rob me, of
course to rob me." The evening seemed to brighten, the tumultuous
landscape to grow still, To rob her, and of what?... of her watch; where
was it? It was gone. The happiness of a dying saint when he opens arms
to heaven descended upon her. The watch was gone ... but, had she lost it?
Should she go back and see if she could find it? Oh! impossible; see the
place again--impossible! search among the gorse--impossible! Horror! She
would die. O to die on the lonely hills, to lie stark and cold beneath
the stars! But no, she would not be found upon these hills. She would
die and be seen no more. O to die, to sink in that beautiful sea, so
still, so calm, so calm--why would it not take her to its bosom and hide
her away? She would go to it, but she could not get to it; there were
thousands of men between her and it.... An icy shiver passed through
her.

Then as her thoughts broke away, she thought of how she had escaped
being murdered. How thankful she ought to be--but somehow she is not
thankful. And she was above all things conscious of a horror of
returning, of returning to where she would see men and women's faces ...
men's faces. And now with her eyes fixed on the world that awaited her,
she stood on the hillside. There was Brighton far away, sparkling in the
dying light; nearer, Southwick showed amid woods, winding about the foot
of the hills; in front Shoreham rose out of the massy trees of Leywood,
the trees slanted down to the lawn and foliage and walls, made spots of
white and dark green upon a background of blue sea; further to the
right there was a sluggish silver river, the spine of the skeleton
bridge, a spur of Lancing hill, and then mist, pale mist, pale grey
mist.

"I cannot go home", thought the girl, and acting in direct contradiction
to her thoughts, she walked forward. Her parasol--where was it? It was
broken. The sheep, how sweet and quiet they looked, and the clover, how
deliciously it smelt.... This is Mr Austin's farm, and how well kept it
is. There is the barn. And Evy and Mary, when would they be married? Not
so soon as she, she was going to be married in a month. In a month. She
repeated the words over to herself; she strove to collect her thoughts,
and failing to do so, she walked on hurriedly, she almost ran as if in
the motion to force out of sight the thoughts that for a moment
threatened to define themselves in her mind. Suddenly she stopped; there
were some children playing by the farm gate. They did not know that she
was by, and she listened to their childish prattle unsuspected. To
listen was an infinite assuagement, one that was overpoweringly sweet,
and for some moments she almost forgot. But she woke from her ecstacy in
deadly fear and great pain, for coming along the hedgerow the voice of a
man was heard, and the children ran away. And she ran too, like a
terrified fawn, trembling in every limb, and sick with fear she sped
across the meadows. The front door was open; she heard her father
calling. To see him she felt would be more than she could bear; she must
hide from his sight for ever, and dashing upstairs she double locked her
door.



CHAPTER VII.


The sky was still flushed, there was light upon the sea, but the room
was dim and quiet. The room! Kitty had seen it under all aspects, she
had lived in it many years: then why does she look with strained eyes?
Why does she shrink? Nothing has been changed. There is her little
narrow bed, and her little bookcase full of novels and prayer-books;
there is her work-basket by the fireplace, by the fireplace closed in
with curtains that she herself embroidered; above her pillow there is a
crucifix; there are photographs of the Miss Austins, and pictures of
pretty children cut from the Christmas Numbers on the walls. She starts
at the sight of these familiar objects! She trembles in the room which
she thought of as a haven of refuge. Why does she grasp the rail of the
bed--why? She scarcely knows: something that is at once remembrance and
suspicion fills her mind. Is this her room?

The thought ended. She walked hurriedly to and fro, and as she passed
the fuchsia in the window a blossom fell.

She sat down and stared into dark space. She walked languidly and
purposelessly to the wardrobe. She stopped to pick a petal from the
carpet. The sound of the last door was over, the retiring footfall had
died away in the distance, the last voice was hushed; the moon was
shining on the sea. A lovely scene, silver and blue; but how the girl's
heart was beating! She sighed.

She sighed as if she had forgotten, and approaching her bedside she
raised her hands to her neck. It was the instinctive movement of
undressing. Her hands dropped, she did not even unbutton her collar. She
could not. She resumed her walk, she picked up a blossom that had
fallen, she looked out on the pale white sea. There was moonlight now in
the room, a ghastly white spot was on the pillow. She was tired. The
moonlight called her. She lay down with her profile in the light.

But there were smell and features in the glare--the odour was that of
the tramp's skin, the features--a long thin nose, pressed lips, small
eyes, a look of dull liquorish cruelty. And this presence was beside
her; she could not rid herself of it, she repulsed it with cries, but it
came again, and mocking, lay on the pillow.

Horrible, too horrible! She sprang from the bed. Was there anyone in her
room? How still it was! The mysterious moonlight, the sea white as a
shroud, the sward so chill and death-like. What! Did it move? Was it he?
That fearsome shadow! Was she safe? Had they forgotten to bar up the
house? Her father's house! Horrible, too horrible, she must shut out
this treacherous light--darkness were better....

       *       *       *       *        *

The curtains are closed, but a ray glinting between the wall and curtain
shows her face convulsed. Something follows her: she knows not what, her
thoughts are monstrous and obtuse. She dares not look round, she would
turn to see if her pursuer is gaining upon her, but some invincible
power restrains her.... Agony! Her feet catch in, and she falls over
great leaves. She falls into the clefts of ruined tombs, and her hands
as she attempts to rise are laid on sleeping snakes--rattlesnakes: they
turn to attack her, and they glide away and disappear in moss and
inscriptions. O, the calm horror of this region! Before her the trees
extend in complex colonnades, silent ruins are grown through with giant
roots, and about the mysterious entrances of the crypts there lingers
yet the odour of ancient sacrifices. The stem of a rare column rises
amid the branches, the fragment of an arch hangs over and is supported
by a dismantled tree trunk. Ages ago the leaves fell, and withered; ages
ago; and now the skeleton arms, lifted in fantastic frenzy against the
desert skies, are as weird and symbolic as the hieroglyphics on the
tombs below.

And through the torrid twilight of the approaching storm the cry of the
hyena is heard.

Flowers hang on every side,--flowers as strange and as gorgeous as
Byzantine chalices; flowers narrow and fluted and transparent as long
Venetian glasses; opaque flowers bulging and coloured with gold devices
like Chinese vases, flowers striped with cinnamon and veined with azure;
a million flower-cups and flower chalices, and in these as in censers
strange and deadly perfumes are melting, and the heavy fumes descend
upon the girl, and they mix with the polluting odour of the ancient
sacrifices. She sinks, her arms are raised like those of a victim; she
sinks overcome, done to death or worse in some horrible asphyxiation.

And through the torrid twilight of the approaching storm the cry of the
hyena is heard. His claws are upon the crumbling tombs.

The suffocating girl utters a thin wail. The vulture pauses, and is
stationary on the white and desert skies. She strives with her last
strength to free herself from the thrall of the great lianas, and she
falls into fresh meshes.... The claws are heard amid the ruins, there is
a hirsute smell; she turns with terrified eyes to plead, but she meets
only the dull liquorish eyes, and the breath of the obscene animal is on
her face.

Then she finds herself in the pleasure grounds of Thornby Place. There
are the evergreen oaks, there is the rosary flaring all its wealth of
red, purple, and white flowers, there is the park encircled by elms,
there is the vista filled in with the line of the lofty downs. For a
moment she is surprised, and fails to understand. Then she forgets the
change of place in new sensations of terror. For across the park
something is coming, she knows not what; it will pass her by. She
watches a brown and yellow serpent, cubits high. Cubits high. It rears
aloft its tawny hide, scenting its prey. The great coiling body, the
small head, small as a man's hand, the black beadlike eyes shine out
upon the intoxicating blue of the sky. The narrow long head, the fixed
black eyes are dull, inexorable desire, conscious of nothing beyond, and
only dimly conscious of itself. Will the snake pass by the hiding girl?
She rushes to meet it. What folly! She turns and flies.

She takes refuge in the rosary. It follows her, gathering its immense
body into horrible and hideous heights. How will she save herself? She
will pluck roses, and build a wall between her and it. She collects huge
bouquets, armfuls of beautiful flowers, garlands and wreaths. The
flower-wall rises, and hoping to combat the fury of the beast with
purity, she goes to where beautiful and snowy blossoms grow in
clustering millions. She gathers them in haste; her arms and hands are
streaming with blood, but she pays no heed, and as the snake surmounts
one barricade, she builds another. But in vain. The reptile leans over
them all, and the sour dirty smell of the scaly hide befouls the odorous
breath of the roses. The long thin neck is upon her; she feels the
horrid strength of the coils as they curl and slip about her, drawing
her whole life into one knotted and loathsome embrace. And all the while
the roses fall in a red and white rain about her. And through the ruin
of the roses she escapes from the stench and the coils, and all the
while the snake pursues her even into the fountain. The waves and the
snake close about her.

Then without any transition in place or time, she finds herself
listening to the sound of rippling water. There is an iron drinking cup
close to her hand. She seems to recognise the spot. It is Shoreham.
There are the streets she knows so well, the masts of the vessels, the
downs. But suddenly something darkens the sunlight, the tawny body of
the snake oscillates, the people cry to her to escape. She flies along
the streets, like the wind she seems to pass. She calls for help.
Sometimes the crowds are stationary as if frozen into stone, sometimes
they follow the snake and attack it with sticks and knives. One man with
colossal shoulders wields a great sabre; it flashes about him like
lightning. Will he kill it? He turns and chases a dog, and disappears.
The people too have disappeared. She is flying now along a wild plain
covered with coarse grass and wild poppies. When she glances behind her
she sees the outline of the little coast town, the snake is near her,
and there is no one to whom she can call for help. But the sea is in
front of her, bound like a blue sash about the cliff's edge. She will
escape down the rocks--there is still a chance! The descent is sheer,
but somehow she retains foothold. Then the snake drops, she feels his
weight upon her, and both fall, fall, fall, and the sea is below
them....

       *       *       *       *       *

With a shriek she sprang from the bed, and still under the influence of
the dream, rushed to the window. The moon hung over the sea, the sea
flowed with silver, the world was as chill as an icicle.

"The roses, the snake, the cliff's edge, was it then only a dream?" the
girl thought. "It was only a dream, a terrible dream, but after all only
a dream!" In her hope breathes again, and she smiles like one who thinks
he is going to hear that he will not die, but as the old pain returns
when the last portion of the deceptive sentence is spoken, so despair
came back to her when remembrance pierced the cloud of hallucination,
and told her that all was not a dream--there was something that was
worse than a dream.

She uttered a low cry, and she moaned. Centuries seemed to have passed,
and yet the evil deed remained. It was still night, but what would the
day bring to her? There was no hope. Abstract hope from life, and what
blank agony you create!

She drew herself up on her bed, and lay with her face buried in the
pillow. For the face was beside her: the foul smell was in her nostrils,
and the dull, liquorish look of the eyes shone through the darkness.
Then sleep came again, and she lay stark and straight as if she were
dead, with the light of the moon upon her face. And she sees herself
dead. And all her friends are about her crowning her with flowers,
beautiful garlands of white roses, and dressing her in a long white
robe, white as the snowiest cloud in heaven, and it lies in long
straight plaits about her limbs like the robes of those who lie in
marble in cathedral aisles. And it falls over her feet, and her hands
are crossed over her breast, and all praise in low but ardent words the
excessive whiteness of the garment. For none sees but she that there is
a black spot upon the robe which they believe to be immaculate. And she
would warn them of their error, but she cannot; and when they avert
their faces to wipe away their tears, the stain might be easily seen,
but when they turn to continue the last offices, folds or flowers have
mysteriously fallen over the stain, and hide it from view.

And it is great pain to her to feel herself thus unable to tell them of
their error, for she well knows that when she is placed in the tomb, and
the angels come, that they will not fail to perceive the stain, and
seeing it they will not fail to be shocked and sorrowful,--and seeing it
they will turn away weeping, saying, "She is not for us, alas, she is
not for us!"

And Kitty, who is conscious of this fatal oversight, the results of
which she so clearly foresees, is grievously afflicted, and she makes
every effort to warn her friends of their error: but in vain, for there
appears to be one amid the mourners who knows that she is endeavouring
to announce to them the black stain, and this one whose face she cannot
readily distinguish, maliciously and with diabolical ingenuity withdraws
attention at the moment when it should fall upon it.

And so it comes that she is buried in the stained robe, and she is
carried amid flowers and white cloths to a white marble tomb, where
incense is burning, and where the walls are hung with votive wreaths and
things commemorative of virginal life and its many lovelinesses. But,
strange to say, upon all these, upon the flowers and images alike there
is some small stain which none sees but she and the one in shadow, the
one whose face she cannot recognise. And although she is nailed fast in
her coffin, she sees these stains vividly, and the one whose face she
cannot recognise sees them too. And this is certain, for the shadow of
the face is sometimes stirred by a horrible laugh.

The mourners go, the evening falls, and the wild sunset floats for a
while through the western Heavens; and the cemetery becomes a deep
green, and in the wind that blows out of Heaven, the cypresses rock like
things sad and mute.

And the blue night comes with stars in her tresses, and out of those
stars a legion of angels float softly; their white feet hang out of the
blown folds, their wings are pointed to the stars. And from out of the
earth, out of the mist, but whence and how it is impossible to say,
there come other angels dark of hue and foul smelling. But the white
angels carry swords, and they wave these swords, and the scene is
reflected in them as in a mirror; and the dark angels cower in a corner
of the cemetery, but they do not utterly retire.

And then the tomb is opened, and the white angels enter the tomb. And
the coffin is opened, and the girl trembles lest the angels should
discover the stain she knew of. But lo! to her great joy they do not see
it, and they bear her away through the blue night, past the sacred
stars, even within the glory of Paradise. And it is not until one whose
face she cannot recognize, and whose presence among the angels of
Heaven she cannot comprehend, steals away one of the garlands of white
with which she was entwined, that the fatal stain becomes visible. The
angels are overcome with a mighty sorrow, and relinquishing their
burden, they break into song, and the song they sing is one of grief;
and above an accompaniment of spheral music it travels through the
spaces of Heaven; and she listens to its wailing echoes as she falls,
falls,--falls past the sacred stars to the darkness of terrestrial
skies,--falls towards the sea where the dark angels are waiting for her;
and as she falls she leans with reverted neck and strives to see their
faces, and as she nears them she distinguishes one into whose arms she
is going; it is, it is--the...

       *       *       *       *       *

"Save me, save me!" she cried; and bewildered and dazed with the dream,
she stared on the room, now chill with summer dawn; the pale light broke
over the Shoreham sea, over the lordly downs and rich plantations of
Leywood. Again she murmured, it was only a dream, it was only a dream;
again a sort of presentiment of happiness spread like light through her
mind, and again remembrance came with its cruel truths--there was
something that was not a dream, but that was worse than the dream. And
then with despair in her heart she sat watching the cold sky turn to
blue, the delicate bright blue of morning, and the garden grow into
yellow and purple and red. There lay the sea, joyous and sparkling in
the light of the mounting sun, and the masts of the vessels at anchor in
the long water way. The tapering masts were faint on the shiny sky, and
now between them and about them a face seemed to be. Sometimes it was
fixed on one, sometimes it flashed like a will o' the wisp, and appeared
a little to the right or left of where she had last seen it. It was the
face that was now buried in her very soul, and sometimes it passed out
of the sky into the morning mist, which still heaved about the edges of
the woods; and there she saw something grovelling, crouching,
crawling,--a wild beast, or was it a man?

She did not weep, nor did she moan. She sat thinking. She dwelt on the
remembrance of the hills and the tramp with strange persistency, and yet
no more now than before did she attempt to come to conclusions with her
thought; it was vague, she would not define it; she brooded over it
sullenly and obtusely. Sometimes her thoughts slipped away from it, but
with each returning, a fresh stage was marked in the progress of her
nervous despair.

So the hours went by. At eight o'clock the maid knocked at the door.
Kitty opened it mechanically, and she fell into the woman's arms,
weeping and sobbing passionately. The sight of the female face brought
infinite relief; it interrupted the jarred and strained sense of the
horrible; the secret affinities of sex quickened within her. The woman's
presence filled Kitty with the feelings that the harmlessness of a lamb
or a soft bird inspires.



CHAPTER VIII.


"But what is it, Miss, what is it? Are you ill? Why, Miss, you haven't
taken your things off; you haven't been to bed."

"No, I lay down.... I have had frightful dreams--that is all."

"But you must be ill, Miss; you look dreadful, Miss. Shall I tell Mr
Hare? Perhaps the doctor had better be sent for."

"No, no; pray say nothing about me. Tell my father that I did not sleep,
that I am going to lie down for a little while, that he is not to expect
me down for breakfast."

"I really think, Miss, that it would be as well for you to see the
doctor."

"No, no, no. I am going to lie down, and I am not to be disturbed."

"Shall I fill the bath, Miss? Shall I leave hot water here, Miss?"

"Bath.... Hot water...." Kitty repeated the words over as if she were
striving to grasp a meaning which was suggested, but which eluded her.
Then her face relaxed, the expression was one of pitiful despair, and
that expression gave way to a sense of nausea, expressed by a quick
contraction of the eyes.

She listened to the splashing of the water, and its echoes were repeated
indefinably through her soul.

The maid left the room. Kitty's attention was attracted to her dress. It
was torn, it was muddy, there were bits of furze sticking to it. She
picked these off, and slowly she commenced settling it: but as she did
so, remembrance, accurate and simple recollection of facts, returned to
her, and the succession was so complete that the effect was equivalent
to a re-enduring of the crime, and with a foreknowledge of it, as if to
sharpen its horror and increase the sense of the pollution. The lovely
hills, the engirdling sea, the sweet glow of evening--she saw it all
again. And as if afraid that her brain, now strained like a body on the
rack, would suddenly snap, she threw up her arms, and began to take off
her dress, as violently as if she would hush thought in abrupt
movements. In a moment she was in stays and petticoat. The delicate and
almost girlish arms were disfigured by great bruises. Great black and
blue stains were spreading through the skin.

Kitty lifted up her arm: she looked at it in surprise; then in horror
she rushed to the door where her dressing gown was hanging, and wrapped
herself in it tightly, hid herself in it so that no bit of her flesh
could be seen.

She threw herself madly on the bed. She moved, pressing herself against
the mattress as if she would rub away, free herself from her loathed
self. The sight of her hand was horrible to her, and she covered it over
hurriedly.

The maid came up with a tray. The trivial jingle of the cups and plates
was another suffering added to the ever increasing stress of mind, and
now each memory was accompanied by sensations of physical sickness, of
nausea.

She slipped from the bed and locked the door. Again she was alone. An
hour passed.

Her father came up. His footsteps on the stairs caused her intolerable
anguish. On entering the house she had hated to hear his voice, and now
that hatred was intensified a thousandfold. His voice sounded in her
ears false, ominous, abominable. She could not have opened the door to
him, and the effort required to speak a few words, to say she was tired
and wished to be left alone, was so great that it almost cost her her
reason. It was a great relief to hear him go. She asked herself why she
hated to hear his voice, but before she could answer a sudden
recollection of the tramp sprang upon her. Her nostrils recalled the
smell, and her eyes saw the long, thin nose and the dull liquorish eyes
beside her on the pillow.

She got up and walked about the room, and its appearance contrasted
with and aggravated the fierceness of the fever of passion and horror
that raged within her. The homeliness of the teacups and the plates, the
tin bath, painted yellow and white, so grotesque and so trim.

But not its water nor even the waves of the great sea would wash away
remembrance. She pressed her face against the pane. The wide sea, so
peaceful, so serene! Oblivion, oblivion, O for the waters of oblivion!

Then for an hour she almost forgot; sometimes she listened, and the
shrill singing of the canary was mixed with thoughts of her dead
brothers and sisters, of her mother. She was waked from her reveries by
the farm bell ringing the labourers' dinner hour.

Night had been fearsome with darkness and dreams, but the genial
sunlight and the continuous externality of the daytime acted on her
mind, and turned vague thoughts, as it were, into sentences, printed in
clear type. She often thought she was dead, and she favoured this idea,
but she was never wholly dead. She was a lost soul wandering on those
desolate hills, the gloom descending, and Brighton and Southwick and
Shoreham and Worthing gleaming along the sea banks of a purple sea.
There were phantoms--there were two phantoms. One turned to reality, and
she walked by her lover's side, talking of Italy. Then he disappeared,
and she shrank from the horrible tramp; then both men grew confused in
her mind, and in despair she threw herself on her bed. Raising her eyes
she caught sight of her prayer-book, but she turned from it moaning, for
her misery was too deep for prayer.

The lunch bell rang. She listened to the footsteps on the staircase; she
begged to be excused, and she refused to open the door.

The day grew into afternoon. She awoke from a dreamless sleep of about
an hour, and still under its soothing influence, she pinned up her
hair, settled the ribbons of her dressing gown, and went downstairs. She
found her father and John in the drawing-room.

"Oh, here is Kitty!" they exclaimed.

"But what is the matter, dear? Why are you not dressed?" said Mr Hare.
"But what is the matter.... Are you ill?" said John, and he extended his
hand.

"No, no, 'tis nothing," she replied, and avoiding the outstretched hand
with a shudder, she took the seat furthest away from her father and
lover.

They looked at her in amazement, and she at them in fear and trembling.
She was conscious of two very distinct sensations--one the result of
reason, the other of madness. She was not ignorant of the causes of
each, although she was powerless to repress one in favour of the other.
Both struggled for mastery and for the moment without disturbing the
equipoise. On the side of reason she knew very well she was looking at
and talking to her dear, kind father, and that the young man sitting
next him was John Norton, the son of her dear friend, Mrs Norton; she
knew he was the young man who loved her, and whom she was going to
marry, marry, marry. On the other side she saw that her father's kind
benign countenance was not a real face, but a mask which he wore over
another face, and which, should the mask slip--and she prayed that it
might not--would prove as horrible and revolting as--

But the mask John wore was as nothing, it was the veriest make believe.
And she could not but doubt now but that the face she had known him so
long by was a fictitious face, and as the hallucination strengthened,
she saw his large mild eyes grow small, and that vague dreamy look
turn to the dull liquorish look, the chin came forward, the brows
contracted ... the large sinewy hands were, oh, so like! Then reason
asserted itself; the vision vanished, and she saw John Norton as she
had always seen him.

But was she sure that she did? Yes, yes--she must not give way. But her
head seemed to be growing lighter, and she did not appear to be able to
judge things exactly as she should; a sort of new world seemed to be
slipping like a painted veil between her and the old. She must resist.

John and Mr Hare looked at her.

John at length rose, and advancing to her, said, "My dear Kitty, I am
afraid you are not well...."

She strove to allow him to take her hand, but she could not overcome the
instinctive feeling which, against her will, caused her to shrink from
him.

"Oh, don't come near me, I cannot bear it!" she cried, "don't come near
me, I beg of you."

More than this she could not do, and giving way utterly, she shrieked
and rushed from the room. She rushed upstairs. She stood in the middle
of the floor listening to the silence, her thoughts falling about her
like shaken leaves. It was as if a thunderbolt had destroyed the world,
and left her alone in a desert. The furniture of the room, the bed, the
chairs, the books she loved, seemed to have become as grains of sand,
and she forgot all connection between them and herself. She pressed her
hands to her forehead, and strove to separate the horror that crowded
upon her. But all was now one horror--the lonely hills were in the room,
the grey sky, the green furze, the tramp; she was again fighting
furiously with him; and her lover and her father and all sense of the
world's life grew dark in the storm of madness. Suddenly she felt
something on her neck. She put her hand up ...

And now with madness on her face she caught up a pair of scissors and
cut off her hair: one after the other the great tresses of gold and
brown fell, until the floor was strewn with them.

A step was heard on the stairs; her quick ears caught the sound, and she
rushed to the door to lock it. But she was too late. John held it fast.

"Kitty, Kitty," he cried, "for God's sake, tell me what is the matter!"

"Save me! save me!" she cried, and she forced the door against him with
her whole strength. He was, however, determined on questioning her, on
seeing her, and he passed his head and shoulders into the room. His
heart quailed at the face he saw.

For now had gone that imperceptible something which divides the life of
the sane from that of the insane, and he who had so long feared lest a
woman might soil the elegant sanctity of his life, disappeared forever
from the mind of her whom he had learned to love, and existed to her
only as the foul dull brute who had outraged her on the hills.

"Save me, save me! help, help!" she cried, retreating from him.

"Kitty, Kitty, what do you mean? Say, say--"

"Save me; oh mercy, mercy! Let me go, and I will never say I saw you, I
will not tell anything. Let me go!" she cried, retreating towards the
window.

"For Heaven's sake, Kitty, take care--the window, the window!"

But Kitty heard nothing, knew nothing, was conscious of nothing but a
mad desire to escape. The window was lifted high--high above her head,
and her face distorted with fear, she stood amid the soft greenery of
the Virginia creeper.

"Save me," she cried, "mercy, mercy!"

"Kitty, Kitty darling!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The white dress passed through the green leaves. John heard a dull thud.



CHAPTER IX.


And the pity of it! The poor white thing lying like a shot dove,
bleeding, and the dreadful blood flowing over the red tiles....

Mr Hare was kneeling by his daughter when John, rushing forth, stopped
and stood aghast.

"What is this? Say--speak, speak man, speak; how did this happen?"

"I cannot say, I do not know; she did not seem to know me; she ran away.
Oh my God, I do not understand; she seemed as if afraid of me, and she
threw herself out of the window. But she is not dead ..."

The word rang out in the silence, ruthlessly brutal in its significance.
Mr Hare looked up, his face a symbol of agony. "Oh, dead, how can you
speak so ..."

John felt his being sink and fade like a breath, and then, conscious of
nothing, he helped to lift Kitty from the tiles. But it was her father
who carried her upstairs. The blood flowed from the terrible wound in
the head. Dripped. The walls were stained. When she was laid upon the
bed, the pillow was crimson; and the maid-servant coming in, strove to
staunch the wound with towels. Kitty did not move.

Both men knew there was no hope. The maid-servant retired, and she did
not close the door, nor did she ask if the doctor should be sent for.
One man held the bed rail, looking at his dead daughter; the other sat
by the window. That one was John Norton. His brain was empty, everything
was far away. He saw things moving, moving, but they were all so far
away. He could not re-knit himself with the weft of life; the thread
that had made him part of it had been snapped, and he was left
struggling in space. He knew that Kitty had thrown herself out of the
window and was dead. The word shocked him a little, but there was no
sense of realisation to meet it. She had walked with him on the hills,
she had accompanied him as far as the burgh; she had waved her hand to
him before they walked quite out of each other's sight. They had been
speaking of Italy ... of Italy where they would have spent their
honeymoon. Now she was dead! There would be no honeymoon, no wife. How
unreal, how impossible it all did seem, and yet it was real, yes, real
enough. There she lay dead; here is her room, and there is her
book-case; there are the photographs of the Miss Austins, here is the
fuchsia with the pendent blossoms falling, and her canary is singing.
John glanced at the cage, and the song went to his brain, and he was
horrified, for there was no grief in his heart.

Had he not loved her? Yes, he was sure of that; then why was there no
burning grief nor any tears? He envied the hard-sobbing father's grief,
the father who, prostrate by the bedside, held his dead daughter's hand,
and showed a face wild with fear--a face on which was printed so deeply
the terror of the soul's emotion, that John felt a supernatural awe
creep upon him; felt that his presence was a sort of sacrilege. He crept
downstairs. He went into the drawing-room, and looked about for the
place he had last seen her in. There it was.... There. But his eyes
wandered from the place, for it was there he had seen the startled face,
the half mad face which he had seen afterwards at the window, quite mad.

On that sofa she usually sat; how often had he seen her sitting there!
And now he would not see her any more. And only three days ago she had
been sitting in the basket chair. How well he remembered her words, her
laughter, and now ... now; was it possible he never would hear her laugh
again? How frail a thing is human life, how shadow-like; one moment it
is here, the next it is gone. Here is her work-basket; and here the very
ball of wool which he had held for her to wind; and here is a novel
which she had lent to him, and which he had forgotten to take away. He
would never read it now; or perhaps he should read it in memory of her,
of her whom yesterday he parted with on the hills,--her little puritan
look, her external girlishness, her golden brown hair and the sudden
laugh so characteristic of her.... She had lent him this book--she who
was now but clay; she who was to have been his wife. His wife! The
thought struck him. Now he would never have a wife. What was there for
him to do? To turn his house into a Gothic monastery, and himself into a
monk. Very horrible and very bitter in its sheer grotesqueness was the
thought. It was as if in one moment he saw the whole of his life
summarised in a single symbol, and understood its vanity and its folly.
Ah, there was nothing for him, no wife, no life.... The tears welled up
in his eyes; the shock which in its suddenness had frozen his heart,
began to thaw, and grief fell like a penetrating rain.

We learn to suffer as we learn to love, and it is not to-day, nor yet
to-morrow, but in weeks and months to come, and by slow degrees, that
John Norton will understand the irreparableness of his loss. There is a
man upstairs who crouches like stone by his dead daughter's side; he is
motionless and pale as the dead, he is as great in his grief as an
expression of grief by Michael Angelo. The hours pass, he is unconscious
of them; he sees not the light dying on the sea, he hears not the
trilling of the canary. He knows of nothing but his dead child, and
that the world would be nothing to give to have her speak to him once
again. His is the humblest and the worthiest sorrow, but such sorrow
cannot affect John Norton. He has dreamed too much and reflected too
much on the meaning of life; his suffering is too original in himself,
too self-centred, and at the same time too much, based on the inherent
misery of existence, to allow him to project himself into and suffer
with any individual grief, no matter how nearly it might be allied
to him and to his personal interest. He knew his weakness in this
direction, and now he gladly welcomed the coming of grief, for indeed
he had felt not a little shocked at the aridness of his heart, and
frightened lest his eyes should remain dry even to the end.

Suddenly he remembered that the Miss Austins had said that they would
call to-morrow early for Kitty, to take her to Leywood to lunch.... They
were going to have some tennis in the afternoon. He too was expected
there. They must be told what had occurred. It would be terrible if they
came calling for Kitty under her window, and she lying dead! This slight
incident in the tragedy wrung his heart, and the effort of putting the
facts upon paper brought the truth home to him, and lured and led him to
see down the lifelong range of consequences. The doctor too, he thought,
must be warned of what had happened. And with the letter telling the sad
story in his hand, and illimitable sorrow in his soul, he went out in
the evening air. It was just such an evening as yester evening--a little
softer, a little lovelier, perhaps; earth, sea, and sky appeared like an
exquisite vision upon whose lips there is fragrance, yet in whose eyes a
glow of passion still survives.

The beauty of the last hour of light is upon that crescent of sea, and
the ships loll upon the long strand, the tapering masts and slacking
ropes vanish upon the pallid sky. There is the old town, dusty, and
dreamy, and brown, with neglected wharfs and quays; there is the new
town, vulgar and fresh with green paint and trees, and looking hungrily
on the broad lands of the Squire, the broad lands and the rich woods
which rise up the hill side to the barn on the limit of the downs. How
beautiful the great green woods look as they sweep up a small expanse of
the downs, like a wave over a slope of sand. And there is a house with
red gables where the girls are still on the tennis lawn. John walked
through the town; he told the doctor he must go at once to the rectory.
He walked to Leywood and left his letter with the lodge-keeper; and
then, as if led by a strange fascination, he passed through the farm
gate and set out to return home across the hills.

"She was here with me yesterday; how beautiful she looked, and how
graceful were her laughter and speech," he said, turning suddenly and
looking down on the landscape; on the massy trees contrasting with the
walls of the town, the spine-like bridge crossing the marshy shore, the
sails of the mill turning over the crest of the hill. The night was
falling fast, as a blue veil it hung down over the sea, but the deep
pure sky seemed in one spot to grow clear, and suddenly the pale moon
shone and shimmered upon the sea. The landscape gained in loveliness,
the sheep seemed like phantoms, the solitary barns like monsters of the
night. And the hills were like giants sleeping, and the long outlines
were prolonged far away into the depths and mistiness of space. Turning
again and looking through a vista in the hills, John could see Brighton,
a pale cloud of fire, set by the moon-illumined sea, and nearer was
Southwick, grown into separate lines of light, that wandered into and
lost themselves among the outlying hollows of the hills; and below him
and in front of him Shoreham lay, a blaze of living fire, a thousand
lights; lights everywhere save in one gloomy spot, and there John knew
that his beloved was lying dead. And further away, past the shadowy
marshy shores, was Worthing, the palest of nebulae in these earthly
constellations; and overhead the stars of heaven shone as if in pitiless
disdain. The blown hawthorn bush that stands by the burgh leaned out, a
ship sailed slowly across the rays of the moon. Yesterday they parted
here in the glad golden sunlight, parted for ever, for ever.

"Yesterday I had all things--a sweet wife and happy youthful days to
look forward to. To-day I have nothing; all my hopes are shattered, all
my illusions have fallen. So is it always with him who places his trust
in life. Ah, life, life, what hast thou for giving save cruel deceptions
and miserable wrongs? Ah, why did I leave my life of contemplation and
prayer to enter into that of desire.... Ah, I knew, well I knew there
was no happiness save in calm and contemplation. Ah, well I knew; and
she is gone, gone, gone!"

We suffer differently indeed, but we suffer equally. The death of his
sweetheart forces one man to reflect anew on the slightness of life's
pleasures and the depth of life's griefs. In the peaceful valley of
natural instincts and affections he had slept for a while, now he awoke
on one of the high peaks lit with the rays of intense consciousness,
and he cried aloud, and withdrew in terror at a too vivid realisation of
self. The other man wept for the daughter that had gone out of his life,
wept for her pretty face and cheerful laughter, wept for her love, wept
for the years he would live without her. We know which sorrow is the
manliest, which appeals to our sympathy, but who can measure the depth
of John Norton's suffering? It was as vast as the night, cold as the
stream of moonlit sea.

He did not arrive home till late, and having told his mother what had
happened, he instantly retired to his room. Dreams followed him. The
hills were in his dreams. There were enemies there; he was often pursued
by savages, and he often saw Kitty captured; nor could he ever evade
their wandering vigilance and release her. Again and again he awoke, and
remembered that she was dead.

Next morning John and Mrs Norton drove to the rectory, and without
asking for Mr Hare, they went up to _her_ room. The windows were open,
and Annie and Mary Austin sat by the bedside watching. The blood had
been washed out of the beautiful hair, and she lay very white and fair
amid the roses her friends had brought her. She lay as she had lain in
one of her terrible dreams--quite still, the slender body covered by a
sheet, moulding it with sculptured delight and love. From the feet the
linen curved and marked the inflections of the knees; there were long
flowing folds, low-lying like the wash of retiring water; the rounded
shoulders, the neck, the calm and bloodless face, the little nose, and
the beautiful drawing of the nostrils, the extraordinary waxen pallor,
the eyelids laid like rose leaves upon the eyes that death has closed
for ever. Within the arm, in the pale hand extended, a great Eucharis
lily had been laid, its carved blossoms bloomed in unchanging stillness,
and the whole scene was like a sad dream in the whitest marble.

Candles were burning, and the soft smell of wax mixed with the perfume
of the roses. For there were roses everywhere--great snowy bouquets, and
long lines of scattered blossoms, and single roses there and here, and
petals fallen and falling were as tears shed for the beautiful dead, and
the white flowerage vied with the pallor and the immaculate stillness of
the dead.

The calm chastity, the lonely loveliness, so sweetly removed from taint
of passion, struck John with all the emotion of art. He reproached
himself for having dreamed of her rather as a wife than as a sister, and
then all art and all conscience went down as a broken wreck in the wild
washing sea of deep human love: he knelt by her bedside, and sobbed
piteously, a man whose life is broken.

When they next saw her she was in her coffin. It was almost full of
white blossoms--jasmine, Eucharis lilies, white roses, and in the midst
of the flowers you saw the hands folded, and the face was veiled with
some delicate filmy handkerchief.

For the funeral there were crosses and wreaths of white flowers, roses
and stephanotis. And the Austin girls and their cousins who had come
from Brighton and Worthing carried loose flowers. How black and sad, how
homely and humble they seemed. Down the short drive, through the iron
gate, through the farm gate, the bearers staggering a little under the
weight of lead, the little cortège passed two by two. A broken-hearted
lover, a grief-stricken father, and a dozen sweet girls, their eyes and
cheeks streaming with tears. Kitty, their girl-friend was dead, dead,
dead! The words rang in their hearts in answer to the mournful tolling
of the bell. The little by-way along which they went, the little green
path leading over the hill, under trees shot through and through with
the whiteness of summer seas, was strewn with blossoms fallen from the
bier and the dolent fingers of the weeping girls.

The old church was all in white; great lilies in vases, wreaths of
stephanotis; and, above all, roses--great garlands of white roses had
been woven, and they hung along and across. A blossom fell, a sob
sounded in the stillness; and how trivial it all seemed, and how
impotent to assuage the bitter burning of human sorrow: how paltry and
circumscribed the old grey church, with its little graveyard full of
forgotten griefs and aspirations! This hour of beautiful sorrow and
roses, how long will it be remembered? The coffin sinks out of sight,
out of sight for ever, a snow-drift of delicate bloom descending into
the earth.



CHAPTER X.


From the Austin girls, whose eyes followed him, from Mr Hare, from Mrs
Norton, John wandered sorrowfully away,--he wandered through the green
woods and fields into the town. He stood by the railway gates. He saw
the people coming and going in and out of the public houses; and he
watched the trains that whizzed past, and he understood nothing, not
even why the great bar of the white gate did not yield beneath the
pressure of his hands; and in the great vault of the blue sky, white
clouds melted and faded to sheeny visions of paradise, to a white form
with folded wings, and eyes whose calm was immortality....

A train stopped. He took a ticket and went to Brighton. As they
steamed along a high embankment, he found himself looking into a
little suburban cemetery. The graves, the yews, the sharp church spire
touching the range of the hills. _Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust
to dust_, and the dread responsive rattle given back by the coffin lid.
He watched the group in the distant corner, and its very remoteness and
removal from his personal knowledge and concern, moved him to passionate
grief and tears....

He walked through the southern sunlight of the town to the long expanse
of sea. The mundane pier is taut and trim, and gay with the clangour
of the band, the brown sails of the fishing boats wave in the translucid
greens of water; and the white field of the sheer cliff, and all the
roofs, gables, spires, balconies, and the green of the verandahs are
exquisitely indicated and elusive in the bright air; and the beach
is strange with acrobats and comic songs, nursemaids lying on the
pebbles reading novels, children with their clothes tied tightly about
them building sand castles zealously; see the lengthy crowd of
promenaders--out of its ranks two little spots of mauve come running
to meet the advancing wave, and now they fly back again, and now they
come again frolicking like butterflies, as gay and as bright.

Under the impulse of his ravening grief, John watched the spectacle
of the world's forgetfulness, and the seeming obscenity horrified him
even to the limits of madness. He cried that it might pass from him.
Solitude--the solemn peace of the hills, the appealing silence of a
pine wood at even; how holy is the idea of solitude, find it where you
will. The Gothic pile, the apostles and saints of the windows, the deep
purples and crimsons, and the sunlight streaming through, and the
pathetic responses and the majesty of the organ do not take away, but
enhance and affirm the sensation of idea and God. The quiet rooms
austere with Latin and crucifix; John could see them. Fondly he allowed
these fancies to linger, but through the dream a sense of reality began
to grow, and he remembered the narrowness of the life, when viewed from
the material side, and its necessary promiscuousness, and he thought
with horror of the impossibility of the preservation of that personal
life, with all its sanctuary-like intensity, which was so dear to him.
He waved away all thought of priesthood, and walking quickly down the
pier, looking on the gay panorama of town and beach, he said, "The
world shall be my monastery."





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